The final episode of Game of Thrones will be broadcast this evening, unless you’ve already ‘acquired’ it or got up at 3 am to watch it. To commemorate a moment most of us hoped would never arrive we’ve raided the Career Blog archives to re-publish this spoiler free article, written in 2015. There have been significant story-line developments since then of course but this blog still has relevance in terms of what this classic series can teach us in terms of managing a career.
So, can any nuggets of careers wisdom can be gleaned from the turmoil, political intrigue, violence and other unsavouriness which takes place in the Seven Kingdoms and beyond? Somewhat surprisingly there are lessons which are worth thinking about. This is my take on what a small selection of characters from Game of Thrones can teach us about building a successful career.
Tyrion Lannister – The Importance of knowing your strengths and your weaknesses.
My favourite character! Tyrion is not without his faults; however throughout the series he has demonstrated superb self-awareness, understanding both his gifts and his limitations. He often advises other characters to reflect on their strengths but few do it quite as well as he does. He understands that his skills don’t lie in battle and never will. He possesses an aptitude for diplomacy, understanding others, (often to manipulate them), and strategic planning. Sometimes he has to fight but his leadership and forethought are what saves the day, not his contribution to the actual fighting. So how can this be applied to careers? Being able honestly and effectively to appraise your own strengths and weakness, gives you an advantage in planning what roles might suit you, and how you might best succeed. There is often a certain amount of experimentation required to understand what you are good (and less good at). Work experience and extracurricular activities at university help. If you use all your experience to reflect honestly on yourself then your answer to, “Why do you want to work for us” will be compelling. Check out our blog post on this too.
Ned Stark – Understanding what you are getting yourself into!
The fact that he is played by Sean Bean should have forewarned me about his fate! Actually, it came as a genuine shock when he lost his head on the steps of the Great Sept. So what went wrong? Quite simply he failed to understand the environment he was getting himself into. Ned certainly had the measure of himself and understood his strengths and weaknesses, but he didn’t understand court intrigue and the power play in Kings Landing. He didn’t know who’s interests lay where, what motivated other players and what people’s goals were. So what can we take from this? Mistakes while trying to secure a graduate job are thankfully not going to end in public execution! But understanding the environment you’re entering is still absolutely crucial. How do organisations make their money? Who does what and what are each department’s responsibilities? In terms of careers we often refer to this as commercial awareness (we run workshops on this topic so check them out on Myadvantage) and we have blogged about it before several times. If the first step in planning a successful career is understanding yourself, the second is understanding the environment you are going to be entering and how you are going to fit into it. You don’t have to rely on a network of spies to find out how a company operates (although a bit of legal networking can help). Try researching the internet or come and talk to Careers.
Daenerys Targaryen – Listening to advice, and learning from experience
Daenerys has so far had a rather varied narrative (and inspired people to name their children after her). At the beginning of the story, she seemed to be in rather an unenviable position. Eating that horse’s heart certainly looked challenging! Somehow though, she has found herself taking on the role of queen and ruling in what (by the standards of the series) is a just and fair manner. So how did she do this? Well two things which really helped her get there. Firstly she has had help, support and advice from others. She didn’t always follow the advice but she sought it and listened. Secondly she learned from, and reflected upon her experiences. During the course of the series she has made mistakes but has learned from these and moved on.
So, the career lessons here?
Seek advice from everyone. You don’t need to follow it but it helps to get a picture of what other people’s perspectives are. Your lecturers will be great at giving advice on working in higher education but might not necessarily be the people to ask about corporate consulting.
Accept your mistakes as learning opportunities. When you hear graduate recruiters talking about resilience this is part of what they mean. We learn from honest reflection.
Demonstrating this to employers will make you a far more desirable candidate.