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Book Review: Your Career Game

I recently read Your Career Game: How Game Theory Can Help You Achieve Your Professional Goals by Nathan Bennett and Stephen A. Miles. Based on the title and reference to game theory, I expected the book would be a technical read and perhaps one that I only scanned for practical insights. What I found, was an easy to read book filled with many pages of interviews and practical straight talk about career progression. It was a definite value-add to my career journey and I found myself wishing I had read something like this in my twenties.

The interviews in the book are conducted with a diverse set of leaders from multiple industries. They are insightful as they dig deep into topics like mentoring, education, influence, political skill, and social intelligence. The business leaders reveal how they approach their career and the decisions they make. I found a few common themes within their responses. Most of them looked to expand the breadth of their experiences across different functional areas of a business. Many of them worked internationally, or saw international experience as a good opportunity to learn the core workings of a business. All of them had a close network of mentors to assist them with guidance in their maturation process.

Additionally, the authors go through several success factors for your career:

Understand the game better

If you consider the model that your career is a game, you need to seek to understand the game better. Just like a sports player must seek to understand the rules of their game to become a better player, professionals must  understand rules of the career game to better navigate its progression. This includes elements of self-knowledge, people skills, motivations, and intentions. There are are more players in the game than just yourself and there are rules from within and external to the organization that could effect the game.

Understand how different moves will affect your career

In game theory, the premise is to first understand all of the players in the game which may include co-workers, executives, your boss, and even your family. What are the interests of each of the players in the game? What do they hope to achieve? Once you understand the different players in the game then you can simulate the game based on the types of moves you believe they will make. As with a chess game, the best players think and simulate moves into the future rounds.

Improve you career agility

Your career agility is based on elements of your core make-up that allow you to react, plan, and make decisions based on your career. As I understood the author’s points in this section, you need to be agile in order to react to unseen circumstances and game elements that you didn’t anticipate.  Elements of your make-up that comprise your career agility include emotional intelligence, cultural intelligence, self-monitoring, influencing-up, resilience, empathy, authenticity, decision making, and political skill.  The bottom line is you need to understand yourself and you need to understand how to relate to others.