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What Star Wars can teach us about career management

What Star Wars can teach us about career management

Use the implicit wisdom and shared experiences of those inhabitants of a galaxy far, far away to raise your profile.

It's been really difficult using the Force to convince your HR manager or boss to see things your way: Your threats of turning fellow workers to the Dark Side sound hollow and that Jedi mind trick you've been working on for the past six months doesn't seem to be getting you anywhere. Your big promotion? You might as well be working in the Spice Mines of Kessel. So what's left? Use the implicit wisdom and shared experiences of those inhabitants of a galaxy far, far away to raise your profile and keep your reputation free from coworkers' derogatory "bantha fodder" references.

"You have failed me for the last time, Admiral." - Darth Vader

File Under: Employer Selection; Workplace Culture; Employee Grievances

Star Wars Moment: Several Empire commanders are either choked, threatened or murdered for challenging Imperial authority and/or failing on their respective missions. In one memorable scene in Episode V, Captain Piett is quickly promoted to Admiral Piett just after the former Admiral Ozzel is choked to death by Lord Vader, due to his clumsiness and stupidity.

Real-World Lesson: If your company's chain-of-command allows for the somewhat indiscriminate sacking and/or killing of employees for speaking up or failing on business initiatives, find a job elsewhere.

"I suggest a new strategy, R2: Let the Wookiee win." - C-3PO

File Under: CRM; Relationship Building; Networking

Star Wars Moment: C-3PO advises R2-D2 to allow Chewbacca to win at a space-age chess game aboard the Millennium Falcon. Wookiees can "pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose," advises Han Solo. "Wookiees are known to do that."

Real-World Lesson: Always allow your boss or most important customer to beat you at golf, get the best seat at a restaurant and tell the same story you've heard 30 times before.

"Execute Order 66." -Darth Sidious (a.k.a. Dark Lord of the Sith, a.k.a. Chancellor Palpatine, a.k.a. The Emperor)

File Under: Recruiting; Employer Culture

Star Wars Moment: The Army of the Republic troops, which eventually become part of the evil Galactic Empire, are all clones, and we see the failings of "clone behavior" and the disastrous outcomes. Order 66 results in a mass Jedi murder.

Real-World Lesson: Individuality and entrepreneurial thinking are typically underappreciated in most organizations today, but companies with too many clones (a.k.a. "yes men") rarely enjoy sustained business success.

"Soon you will learn to appreciate me." -Jabba the Hutt (and his gross tongue)

File Under: Workplace Culture; Networking

Star Wars Moment: Princess Leia must sport virtually non-existent "slave" attire in Episode VI as she is forced to sit at the side of Jabba the Hutt in his main audience chamber and sail barge.

Real-World Lesson: Even if you look like Princess Leia (circa 1980s!), don't wear a bikini (or any revealing garb, for that matter) to poolside corporate events-real-life Jabbas will be watching.

"It's very dangerous putting them together. I don't think the boy can handle it." -Mace Windu

File Under: Human Capital Management; Succession Planning

Star Wars Moment: The Jedi Counsel assigns an impressionable and unstable Anakin Skywalker, who is supposed to bring balance to the Force, peace to the galaxy, etc., to serve as the "personal representative" for Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to the Jedi Council. Never mind that Palpatine makes most Jedi Knights uneasy and fear for the future of the Galactic Republic.

Real-World Lesson: Not the wisest idea to allow the "chosen one" and the best hope for the future of your company to be mentored or influenced by an individual you don't fully trust.

"You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." -Obi-Wan Kenobi

File Under: Retirement Strategies; Succession Planning

Star Wars Moment: And aged Obi-Wan Kenobi allows himself to be struck down by his former apprentice Darth Vader, who chastises Kenobi: "Your powers are weak, old man."

Real-World Lesson: Sometimes "more seasoned" and "longer tenured" employees will be asked to "take one for the team." How graceful will your exit be?

"Commander, tear this ship apart until you've found those plans!" -Darth Vader

File Under: Project Management; Risk Management

Star Wars Moment: Rebels are able to acquire a secret set plans to the Empire's Death Star, and eventually exploit a weakness and destroy the moon-size battle station.

Real-World Lesson: If you've got to nail "The Big Project," think carefully about the worst, most gaping vulnerability in the project. And don't, under any circumstances, allow that vulnerability to leak out onto, say, the Internet.

"But beware of the Dark Side. Anger, fear, aggression-the Dark Side of the Force are they." -Yoda

File Under: Training and Development; Networking

Star Wars Moment: Yoda sagely instructs Luke Skywalker during his training on Dagobah, with guidance such as: "Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say.... You must unlearn what you have learned." Skywalker says that he'll try. "No!" says Yoda. "Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try."

Real-World Lesson: There's a wealth of value for you in listening to the wisdom of another, older employee's experiences-especially if that colleague has been mentoring others for 800 years. (Yoda wisdom for future Madoffs: "If once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny.")

"It's not fair." - Han Solo

File Under: Skills Development

Star Wars Moment: In Episode V, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and C-3PO are thwarted as they try to get away from the Empire (again) as the Millennium Falcon fails to make the jump to light speed. Damn hyperdrive! Solo makes a bold move and gets creative about hiding out from the Empire.

Real-World Lesson: Technology sometimes fails us when we need it the most. Also, be ready to try something radical and different with your career choices.

"You can either profit by this or be destroyed. It's your choice." - Luke Skywalker

File Under: Networking

Star Wars Moment: As our heroes are about to be pushed into the digestive tract of the all-powerful Sarlacc in Episode VI, Luke instructs Han Solo to stick close to Chewbacca and Lando because, as Luke says, "I've taken care of everything."

Real-World Lesson: If there's a rising star in your company and he gives advice or takes you under his wing, you'd better oblige him. (In other words: Stay close to the guy who's got the "light saber" in the company.)

"I'm looking forward to completing your training. In time, you will call me master." -The Emperor (a.k.a. Dark Lord of the Sith, a.k.a. Chancellor Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious)

File Under: Employer Selection; Industry Switch; Networking

Star Wars Moment: In Episode VI, during a verbal spat with confused and proud-papa Darth Vader looking on, The Emperor derides Luke Skywalker, claiming that his biggest weakest is his "faith" in his Rebel Alliance friends, and that Skywalker is foolish for not joining the Dark Side.

Real-World Lesson: If you have trust in your present employer's future strategy and coworkers' competence, don't let a rival employer sway you into joining his organization by using overconfident FUD.

"Did you hear that? They shut down the main reactor. We'll be destroyed for sure." - C-3PO

File Under: Risk Management

Star Wars Moment: At the beginning of Episode IV, storm troopers blast through the door of Princess Leia's starship and come charging in. The first ones through the door are killed by Princess Leia's loyal guards.

Real-World Lesson: There are times when it's a good strategy to be a "fast-follower" rather than the first one to jump to a new or risky assignment.

"I think she kinda likes me." -Luke Skywalker

File Under: Relationship Building; Office Politics

Star Wars Moment: During the Star Wars saga, siblings Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia share several confusing moments and kisses, as a bewildered Han Solo usually looks on.

Real-World Lesson: Working closely with family members can be confusing at times and emotionally difficult (especially when your twin sister looks that good).

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