How to Get Ahead Using Career Game Theory

Stephen Miles: When you interview people and you ask them about their careers retrospectively what most people will say is stuff just happened to them.  “I was here.”  “I was lucky.”  They’ll attribute it to all sorts of things

If you think about your career and think about it broadly in terms of what am I learning, what is this position doing for me, how am I going to get to the next one, what is the most important next move for me and you think two or three moves ahead you can start to put yourself in advantageous positions to accelerate your career disproportionately. As opposed to sort of creeping along the floor you can start to sprint.

Before you set out on your own personal game theory you have to assess your own playing field and who is on the playing field:

Your Boss:

Does your boss want to be known for creating talent and being a net contributor of talent inside your company or organization or does your boss want to be known for really delivering outstanding results because although subtle it really matters for you as an employee because if they want to be a net contributor of talent they’re willing to rotate people through positions, coach mentor them and then if you will, set them free in other parts of the organization.  If they’re solely focused on delivering results then what they’re going to do is over hire people for the job and keep them in the job for as long as they possibly can because that is how you’re going to deliver results.  You’re not going to take any risk on people. So you as a person playing on that field needs to think about what are your boss’s motives and what are they known for.

Your Peers:

There is only one job, so you’re competing for that job with your peers and you have to assess what are their strengths, what are they doing that is disproportionate to what you’re doing and how do you position yourself to be the best candidate for the next job, so you have to assess horizontally if you will, the peer playing field. 

Your Subordinates:

If they choose you to go to the next job, do they have somebody to backfill?  Have you created a successor for yourself because if you haven’t, if you’ve made yourself indispensible, guess what, you’re probably going to be indispensible and, therefore, not moved. So you have to think about below are you creating the conditions to make it easy for you to move and allow your boss to make that move with you?  

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

The first step to applying game theory to your career is to assess your playing field and understand the skills and goals of all the different actors—your bosses, your peers, and your subordinates.

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