10 things the CIA can teach you about your career
By Maryann Karinch
All of the following points reflect the kind of engaged and intelligent behavior you will readily find at the CIA. They capture not only what makes things work at the agency, but also why people who join tend to make service at the CIA a career.
1. Commit to the work. What you do is not who you are, but who you are has chosen to be here now and pursue this work. Keep your commitment. Caring about your organization’s purpose helps your commitment to your work stay strong.
2. Build trust with colleagues, clients and competitors. You cultivate allies by establishing trust. Consistency in expression and behavior is an asset and contributes to your organizational effectiveness.
3. Mentor and seek mentoring. For your professional development, learn from experts who have demonstrated an interest in the growth and strength of the work force. Likewise, help others to build their skills, appreciation for the organization’s mission and team spirit to reinforce the company in image and reality.
4. Get it right. Whatever the task in the field or at your desk, see it as an essential piece of the company’s work. Do your best, ask for critiques, then send it in.
5. Encourage dissent in yourself and others. Healthy dissent is the lifeblood of a dynamic, forward-looking company. A bias for inaction out of fear of criticism undercuts the ability to solve a problem or explore opportunities.
6. Listen and reflect. You never know what you may hear, learn or discover anew unless your mind and ears are open. Meetings, trade shows, phone conversations, e-mails, Web searches — all kinds of events and people offer potentially valuable information. Systematically collecting and analyzing it is the core intelligence function and an invaluable tool for any company.
7. Commit to continuing education. Take advantage of learning opportunities provided by or supported by the company, but don’t stop there. Stay sharp through exposure to trade literature and events, blogging and honing so-called “soft skills” through organizations like Toastmasters. You want to be intellectually fresher than the competition.
8. Know the agenda. Whether it’s a staff meeting, lunch with a prospect or a trip, nothing happens without an agenda. If it’s not yours, then it’s someone else’s.
9. Have a bias for action. You can turn on a dime, but the bigger your organization, the harder it may be. Do what you can to develop organizational readiness for action. Always lean forward.
10. Identify and cultivate shared values. A team with shared values can work together despite differences in methods and agendas. Factors such as integrity and high performance standards engender cooperation and smooth the way to productivity.
Maryann Karinch is the author of more than 17 nonfiction books, including “Business Lessons from the Edge,” “Business Confidential” and “How to Become an Expert on Anything in Two Hours.”