Character and Ethics: Necessary Ingredients for Career SuccessAug 16, 2010
The most defining moments in our lives and careers are how we act in a crisis, in response to pressures, or in response to a mistake. All we have to do is look at the news to see the biggest problems are usually the result of covering up a mistake rather than admitting it and accepting the consequences. The fastest way to ruin your career and undermine all you want to achieve - whether you are President of the United States, manager of a hedge fund, team leader on a consulting engagement, or hold an entry level position - is to make a mistake and try to hide it.
As our careers develop the decisions we make increasing appear pit different values and obligations against each other creating a moral crisis. The consequences of the decisions we face become bigger and bigger moving from embarrassment to reprimand to job dismissal to jail. You might start out your career with having to decide to admit you made a mistake in the client presentation. As your career develops you may have to decide whether the results of an analysis should be changed to keep the $10 million client happy or be able to close the $10 billion deal.
The key to long term career success is to act ethically to each decision you make along the way. Each time you act in a way that you know is ethical you build character and it is easier to face the next bigger decision. When you compromise and fail to do what is right then you it becomes easier for you to act in the same way in the future. In fact, people soon discover that you will behave in this way and will bring work to you that may be questionable putting you in the same situation over and over again.
A common question in business interviews is to describe an ethical dilemma you have faced and how you acted. It it well worth you time to give serious though to this question. We are often presented with questions that seem unclear or situations where we're asked to do something we know is wrong. How do you respond?
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