What Traits Are Most Valuable in a Career?

If you read Thomas Friedman's interview with Laszlo Bock, How to Get a Job at Google, Part 2, you see that these qualities are the things that Bock discusses:

  • Grit, which I refer to as perseverance
  • Adaptability
  • General cognitive ability, the ability to think and solve problems

How does Bock look for those skills? He looks for some form of STEM: science, technology, engineering or math degree. Not just courses, degree. Why? They show that a candidate had the perseverance to stick with a difficult undergraduate program, that the candidate has analytical ability (yes, I admit of a certain type), and you can adapt those skills to whatever job you have now.

If you read the interview, you can see that liberal arts are important, but not by themselves. BTW, I have an English degree. I read Chaucer. The challenge there was not the same as designing device drivers, two things I did for my undergraduate degrees.

If you already have a technical background, great. If you don't, what now? Take classes, and more importantly, practice. Volunteer on some open source projects. Try something on your own. Go to code.org and see if you like coding. Don't do something you don't like.

Maybe Google or a place like that is not for you. But I have to tell you, I am not doing what I started doing over 30 years ago. Even if I had continued to write code, I would not be using the same languages, solving the same kinds of problems. I would have changed domains several times over. My adaptability has been key to my career success.

Being able to persevere to solve problems is a key piece of my success, too. The people who hire me as a consultant know that. The people who hired me as an employee knew that, too.

What's been essential to your career success? Now, if you are a hiring manager, turn it around and ask, what's been essential to the success of the people with whom you work? The answers might surprise you.

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