Weird Career Advice That Works

Some years back, my youngest brother joined IBM to sell computer systems. Since I had worked in IBM’s computer sales, he asked if I could offer some tips about success.

“I have one major tip for success,” I replied. “It doesn’t depend on other people or any particular situation, and I guarantee it will enhance your chances of success. Here it is: When you move, move with purpose.”

To say he reacted coolly to my big tip understates the reality. In about a nanosecond, he puffed up into a full-blown attitude, condescension and all.

He snorted, if I remember the words correctly “That’s really dumb. That’s your big idea? Move with purpose? And that’s going to make me successful?”

“Yeah, that’s it. When you move, move with purpose. And before you get all high and mighty, you ought to try it. If it doesn’t work, feel free to cop all the attitude you want, but if you don’t even try it, don’t come whining to me if you mess up.”

(Big sisters have many, many duties. Attitude control tops the list.)

“Okay. So tell me what you’re talking about.”

Well, his reply made my heart smile, so I told him.

When you’re at work–whether at IBM or at a customer’s office–when you move from one place to another, behave as if getting to your destination carries importance. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the bathroom, to get a cup of coffee or to run an important meeting. When you move, move with purpose. Don’t shuffle. Don’t amble. Don’t stroll. Move with purpose.

There are, of course, some considerations. Don’t go crashing through the place knocking people over like ten pins. The maiming of co-workers is never a good career move. You’ll want to avoid that. Besides, that’s not moving with purpose; that’s acting like your pants are on fire.

Also, don’t behave as if you have blinders on, making the people you pass feel invisible. Brief pleasantries should be handed out with abandon, like free lemon drops. Ignoring co-workers or projecting self-importance will undo the benefits of how you walk. That sort of dumping on morale makes work miserable for everybody.

So be the nice guy who moves with purpose.

And here’s what happens: People’s perception of you will add a bunch of points to your IQ. They’ll think of you as more creative. They’ll mark you as a comer. And management will see you as somebody more dedicated to the job than the average bear. What’s really interesting is you’ll find yourself living up to those perceptions.

His face couldn’t decide whether to look skeptical, bewildered or altogether disbelieving, so he wandered off.

Several months later, though, we returned to the conversation.

“Sis, do you remember that stuff about moving with purpose?”


“It works. People think I’m some kind of hero.”

I silently took a mental victory lap.

“How does something that simple make such a big difference?”

“ I have no idea. I just noticed that it did.”

And now you know, too. You should pay the big bucks for advice as good as this.

Bette Dowdell worked as an IBM Systems Engineer, a small company consultant and started a software company–all the while teaching the Bible. Now she writes and speaks. To date, her books are How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying, The Christmas Invitation (e-book) and On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army. Bette keynotes on meeting life head on. Read more at . And while you’re there, be sure to sign up for a free, weekly e-mail subscription to Bette’s original quotes and start each week with a smile.

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