3 Career Advice Tips We Can Learn From Game of Thrones

by Jason Provost on July 10, 2017

(Be warned. Major spoilers up through season six ahead!)Career advice from Game of Thrones

As we head into the final, two-part season of HBO’s thrilling fantasy epic, Game of Thrones, all things are coming to a cataclysmic head. Daenerys Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons,” — along with a massive fleet that includes many of the characters — sails for King’s Landing to take back the Seven Kingdoms and the coveted Iron Throne from the newly crowned Queen Cersei Lannister. Jaime seems terrified of his sister and her drastic power play. Arya Stark seeks to reunite with her family after making a vengeful return to Westeros. Meanwhile, in the North, Sansa Stark and Jon Snow (newly acclaimed “King in the North”) along with Littlefinger have taken back Winterfell from the Bolton usurpers. Bran has assumed the mantle of the Three-Eyed Raven and has made quite the discovery (R+L=J). But most importantly, the White Walkers and Wights threaten to overtake them all. At long last, Winter is finally here.

The characters who have made it through six seasons have done some things right to stay alive. After all, there have been at least ninety notable character deaths that can be ranked by how sad each one makes you.

What can we learn from the characters of Westeros? Furthermore, what lessons can we take from the show and apply in our careers? Let’s dive into it a bit and explore three pieces of career advice that we can learn from Game of Thrones.

Don’t bring “Shame!” onto yourself. Have some integrity.

Manipulation. Backstabbing. Lies. Orchestrating the demise of others. These are all steps taken by Cersei Lannister in her ruthless ascent to the Iron Throne in becoming CEO of Westeros. But could she have done things differently? Sure she had two children taken away from her. And sure her co-worker, Maergery Tyrell, affected Cersei’s work/life balance by making her life a nightmare. But burning bridges — or in Cersei’s case, most of King’s Landing— to get ahead is not the smartest thing to do professionally. Eventually, it’s all going to catch up to Cersei. Right?

But what is professional integrity, and why is it so important? In a recent article by The Balance, Susan Heathfield writes “a person who has integrity lives his or her values in relationships with coworkers, customers, and stakeholders. Honesty and trust are central to integrity. Acting with honor and truthfulness are also basic tenets in a person with integrity.”

Having integrity is about not taking shortcuts. It’s about communicating clear and truthful information. It’s about having composure during stressful situations. It’s about giving credit to others when it’s due. And most of all it’s about doing the right thing.

To take that last point a step further, professional integrity is about doing the right thing when people are — and are not — looking. You might even think your integrity is going unnoticed because it’s not something people necessarily talk about much. But that’s probably not the case.

Are co-workers coming to you with sensitive information or asking advice on how to solve a tough problem? Are you looped into projects overcoming business challenges because of your reputation and expertise? Have you given a straight answer to a client because of a costly mistake in or out of your control? These are clear signs that you have strong professional and personal integrity.

Employers are looking for these traits as well. Heathfield writes, “Integrity is one of the fundamental values that employers seek in the employees that they hire. It is the hallmark of a person who demonstrates sound moral and ethical principles at work.” A quick Google search for “integrity company value” will populate thousands of companies who preach integrity as a core company value. Recruiters are even asking candidates questions about ethics and integrity during interviews.

So when it comes down to it, having professional integrity matters. If you have it, take stock in the ways you’re exemplifying it. If you feel like integrity is something you can afford to work on, take a self-assessment and set some goals on how you can improve. By practicing integrity, you’ll see a change in your environment and in your co-workers. Besides, who wants to be involved in some sort of nasty professional “Shame! walk” situation? Well, not that extreme. But you get the point.

Keep your blade sharp.

In Game of Thrones, most of the realm (save for a handful of The Night’s Watch at the Wall) has largely ignored what’s been going on outside their immediate environment. Their focus has been battling and conspiring for power of the Iron Throne. All the while, an amassing army of White Walkers loom, threatening to envelop Westeros and render the petty infighting among the major Houses insignificant. Basically, sitting upon the Iron Throne will be irrelevant if there won’t be people or places to rule.

Let’s jump to real life for a moment. In June 2017, we added 222,000 jobs to the economy. At the time of writing this, the Professional & Tech Industries boast a 2.8% unemployment rate, which is considerably lower than the national rate of 4.4%. On paper, things have been trending in the right direction. Pretty good right? Now let’s apply the Game of Thrones major theme of all things coming to a head.

Not to get all doom and gloom here with this analogy, but consider the U.S. job market is Westeros. Much like the TV show and Daenerys’ rise to power, things seem to be pretty straightforward in the job market battle for a lower unemployment rate. For years, unemployment has been in steady decline.

Yet a problem exists we’ve not dealt with in our American economy — a skills gap in technologyThis looming problem can be considered the U.S. workforce’s “White Walkers.” A workforce without skilled tech workers feels empty. To fill the void, keep your skills as sharp as a blade.

White-walking around without the necessary skills to keep the industry moving forward will be sure to bring a winter to the world of tech.

Is this situation more frightening than this guy? Absolutely. But as a professional, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself against these metaphorical “White Walkers.” Stay ahead of the “dead,” keep your skills alive and growing. Try this:

  • Keep an eye on the job market. Do some research on your industry and find out how the skills gap is hurting certain industries, businesses, or positions. Do you need to pivot your career in another direction? This will open the door to many new types of jobs and increases in some existing ones — especially in the IT and engineering fields. This is why continuing education is so important. So, you should…
  • Keep your skills up to date. It’s vital to stay on top of the latest industry trends. Are there new skills you should be learning in your profession? Many employers offer ongoing training opportunities. Alternatively, there are a number of e-learning websites offering free or low-cost classes in most any software, technical or soft skill. Don’t expect that a training opportunity is going to fall in your lap. Make it a point every 4-6 months to assess your own skills, see where the gaps exist and have a plan to upgrade.
  • Take drastic steps when needed. Don’t put off the inevitable. Are you worried your job might be in jeopardy? Maybe it’s time for a 180-degree career change. IT and engineering jobs could be two industries to consider. Why not check out a coding boot camp? It may (or may not) be a right fit for you. And depending on where you live, you might be in an environment ready for some fresh talent.

Make alliances with those who can help you conquer your Iron Throne.

The point is that it’s hard to become King or Queen of your career without a little help from others. So how can this be done? Yep, you guessed it — networking.

Networking is about building relationships with professionals inside — and sometimes outside — of your industry. It comes in many forms and includes meeting people in person and online forums. The ultimate goal is to make a lasting connection that can help you in your quest for professional glory through development, advancement and camaraderie.

It’s also about helping other people in their quests. For example, in GoT the Martells and Tyrells are really only leveraging Daenerys’ power so they can get some sweet revenge on the Lannisters. Otherwise, they’d remain mortal enemies. And that’s pretty great for the story.

Here are some simple ways that you can begin to network and start winning career victories and seeing success in your professional story.

  • Attend national and local events, such as industry conferences, meetups and professional happy hours. Yes, it can be awkward at first. Why not invite a colleague to join you? There’s no shortage of in-person networking opportunities. You just have to know how to look for them.
  • Join an online network. Not all networking is done in-person. Optimize your LinkedIn profile and join some discussion groups. In addition to LinkedIn, do a Google Search for virtual networking forums in your industry and jump into the discussion. Online networking will keep you on top of industry trends as well as boost your personal brand.
  • Pay it forward. Networking isn’t a one-way street. Not only should you be asking for advice and references, but make sure you’re helping others. Get to know others and offer references to those you can vouch for.

Lastly, don’t forget about connecting with a recruiter: your own “Hand of the King.”  Whether you’re passively or actively searching for a new opportunity, or are content in your current role, recruiters can be a great resource for networking and job resources.

For example, Modis has a national presence with recruiter working to connect talent to top companies in the IT & Engineering space. They’re always helping professionals uncover skills sets and the correct salaries and even offer training courses to expand a person’s knowledge base.

Okay, enough with the career advice. Is it Sunday yet? 

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