Career Lessons From Game of Thrones
If you haven’t been keeping up with “Game of Thrones”, you’re one of a select few. GoT has to be one of the most popular shows in HBO’s history, with new episodes drawing in tens of millions of viewers.
Naturally, we’re fans of the show. But as a consulting company, we like to look at something like GoT and imagine what kind of lessons we can learn from a business perspective. And as it turns out, there’s plenty of insight to be found.
1. Make the Right Alliances
This lesson is an overarching theme in GoT that so many characters can’t seem to internalize. Whether you’re in a business setting or a medieval fantasy world, you need to align yourself with the right people.
For example, none of us were psyched to see Littlefinger betray Ned Stark in season one, but from Littlefinger’s perspective, aligning himself with the Lannisters was a safer play than the Starks.
This might apply to who you hire, which vendors you partner with, or which coworkers you choose to work with on your projects. Take the measure of everyone you meet, and try to find partnerships of mutual value exchange.
(Bonus tip: Don’t renege on your alliances and expect to come out clean. Robb Stark learned that the hard way.)
2. Surround Yourself with Smarter People
Our next lesson, personified all-too-well in Tyrion Lannister, is to surround yourself with people smarter than you.
There’s a reason Tyrion survived for so long in the cutthroat world of Westeros. It wasn’t because he was strong (though he’s not bad with an axe), and it wasn’t because he was rich (though that did come in handy). It was because he was smarter than just about everyone he met. Tyrion earned himself a place as advisor to multiple lords over the series by proving that he was able to bring something to the table that nobody else had.
To bring it around to recruiting, consider the old hiring mantra stating that, if you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find better employees.
3. Demonstrate Leadership
If you have career aspirations that exceed your current status, it pays to be proactive and demonstrate leadership in your daily tasks.
Our example here is Jon Snow (a.k.a. Jon Starkgaryen, a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen). Jon was always destined for greater things than his baseborn heritage would suggest, but he has to work hard for his wins. He took initiative as the Old Bear’s personal steward. He volunteered to join the expedition beyond the wall to find his uncle Benjen. He took command during the wildling siege on the Wall, and more. (A lot more, actually, but we’re not writing his résumé for him.)
Your own journey probably won’t be as dramatic as Jon’s (and you’ll hopefully be stabbed less), but you can take a lesson out of his book all the same. If you want more, work towards it.
4. If You Get Knocked Down, Get Up
To understand the value of getting up more times than you get knocked down, consider Arya. She was in a tough situation in the first few seasons. Her family was fractured, she was forced on the run, and eventually, she was imprisoned and two steps away from being killed by torturers at Harrenhal.
Of course, if you’ve any of the late seasons featuring Arya’s return to Westeros, you know she came out all right. The same goes for you—and you don’t even need to get beaten down by faceless assassins to manage it.
There’s a litany of quotes out there about successful people who attribute their victories to perseverance. And given that the idea is a perennial theme throughout our media and our real lives, we think there’s something to it.
5. Never Stop Your Professional Growth
Shout out to Sam Tarly and his growth from Night’s Watch whipping boy to Grand Maester of Westeros. (Not yet true, strictly speaking—but come on. We all know he’s going there.)
Sam was in a tough position and realized that his only way up was to leverage the best tool at his disposal: his mind. Thus, he committed himself to education and personal growth, correctly believing that his keen mind would come in handy in lieu of his less-than-stellar physicality.
You can do the same with your professional growth. Even if you aren’t satisfied with where you are, look at your strengths, weaknesses, and what you need to do to grow. Reading professional resources is probably part of this (a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, after all) but we trust that you’ll be able to find your own path.