Career Advice: Be a Tortoise, Not a Hare


PictureThe Super Workers: over your lifetime, you’ve probably known at least one or two of these people. They are the ones who are always succeeding in their careers, moving forward, making an impact and getting that promotion. So what do they know that the rest of us don’t?

Simple. They’ve turned an old Aesop’s fable most of us heard when we were children into the best career advice of all time. These workers have learned that when it comes to work, it’s much better to be a tortoise than a hare.

Just to refresh your memory in case you’ve forgotten, the hare spends his days boasting to everyone about how fast he is. Finally fed up, the tortoise challenges him to a race, which the hare readily agrees to. When race day arrives, the hare bursts from the starting line and gains so much ground on the tortoise that he decides to take a nap. Of course he doesn’t wake up until the tortoise is just about to cross the finish line, when it’s too late to catch him.

From this tale the phrase “slow and steady wins the race” was born. But Super Workers have taken a few other lessons from The Tale of Tortoise and the Hare that helps them succeed in their careers.

Career Advice From the Tortoise
Don’t Over Promise In the beginning of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the hare spends a lot of time telling everyone how fast he is … which makes him appear even more foolish when he loses the race. We’ve all seen this happen in the real world too: an employee, company, or consultant promises the world, and then the actual end result is anything but.Super Workers never over promise. In fact, it’s more likely that they under promise and over deliver. This means they take careful inventory of what’s going on in their world, and they know what they can and can’t deliver. Then they communicate those expectations to their bosses, co-workers and clients accordingly, so that no one is surprised (unless it’s in a good way).

Know Your Strengths In the days following up the race, you don’t hear about the tortoise going to the gym, buying fancy new running shoes, or hiring Usain Bolt to be his personal running coach. In other words, he doesn’t try to become the hare or beat him at his own game. The tortoise knows what his strengths are – being slow and steady – and he uses those to win the race.

By approaching their careers this way, Super Workers are guaranteed for success. Rather than wasting time trying to imitate other professionals or acquiring skills and talents that don’t come naturally, they develop and grow the strengths that are inherent to them. Since this is probably why they were hired in the first place, it’s a win-win for everyone on their team.

Don’t Get Intimidated In terms of actual speed, the hare is obviously much faster than the tortoise. But that doesn’t keep the tortoise from challenging him to a race. The tortoise is confident in his own abilities, as well as the weaknesses of the hare. Even though it seems improbable, he knows he can win.

Super Workers are the same way. There have been times in their career when others told them “no,” “it’s not possible,” or “that’s not a good idea.” But Super Workers, like the tortoise, don’t let themselves get bullied or intimidated, even if the facts are stacked against them. When they know they’ve got a good idea, they stick to it, and the result is career success.

Keep Going It takes the tortoise a long time to get from the starting line to the finish line: pretty much most of the day. (In fact, according to the story, the sun is going down just as he wins the race.) And for a lot of that time he’s alone, with no one cheering him on or looking over his shoulder.

Super Workers know that work is the same way. They know that even though they’re not being watched or applauded every second, they have to keep putting their best foot forward at all times. They’re not looking for quick pay offs or easy rewards; they know that consistent, hard work is what brings about a successful end result.

Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you.