5 Career Lessons from Harry Potter

Is it just me, or is there something about the holiday season that makes you want to curl up on the couch with cocoa and a Harry Potter book or movie?

The next time you’re drawn to re-reading or watching the series, keep an eye out for the many messages throughout that teach us about how to successfully grow and develop in our career.  

1.    Lead with your Strengths

We hear so much about how important it is to develop your strengths, and work through your weaknesses. But when faced with a challenge, the most successful people lead with their strengths.

In the Goblet of Fire, Mad Eye Moody is coaching Harry through the first task involving dragons in the Triwizard Tournament and the first thing he asks Harry to think about are his strengths. Harry immediately says that he’s good at flying. And since there’s no set way he has to retrieve the egg, he’s able to play to his strengths and double down on his natural talents. He ties for first place in the first task by using his broomstick.

What’s a natural strength of yours and how could you use it to overcome a career challenge?

2. Successful Teams Bring Different Perspectives & Strengths

It’s pretty clear how different Harry, Ron and Hermione are individually, and what a dynamite team they make together!

Hermione’s got focus and dedication to finding answers through research and information gathering. Ron brings much needed humor, loyalty and the ability to keep perspective. And of course Harry brings great gut intuition, and clear skill. On their own they’re all talented, but combined as a team they’re brilliant. Successful teams need different perspectives and bring different strengths to the group – it’s where different ideas, strategies, and innovation are born.

The first time you see their team dynamics play out is in the first book when they go down the trap door to recover the sorcerer’s stone. Hermione knows just the right spell to get them out of devil’s snare, Ron knows how to play the chess game perfectly, and Harry finishes the challenge by defeating Voldermort. Without Ron or Hermione, Harry might not have made it to face Voldermort.

Who are the people in your team who have very different strengths and perspectives than you? How could you work closer with them to bring more success to each of you individually and as a team?

3.    Create and Own Your Professional Development

We can’t expect there to always be someone looking out for us, teaching us, and helping us grow and develop. In order to really excel, we all need to seek out opportunities for ourselves, and spend time gaining new skills to bring us to the next level.

In book five, Harry, Ron and Hermione knows that Professor Umbridge isn't teaching them what they should or need to know in order to develop their skills at combatting the dark arts. What do they do? They're proactive and form a secret group to practice spells in the room of requirement.

And remember when Hermione wanted to take more classes than normal and Dumbledore gave her a time turner so she could increase her course load? That might be taking this point to an extreme, but if you’re passionate about your own education or growth, you must advocate for yourself and create your own openings.

What experiences or topics do you want to learn more about that would help you grow in your career? What would the first step be in creating this experience for yourself or learning more?

4.    Treat Everyone with Respect

It’s not stressed as much in the movies as it is in the books, but it is clear that how Harry treats the House Elves is much different than how others treat them; he genuinely respects them. Hermione even founded the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare during her fourth year to promote the liberation and rights for House Elves.

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.
— Sirius Black

Remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione end up in Malfoy Manor in the middle of book seven in a really sticky situation facing Bellatrix Lestrange and other Death Eaters? It’s Dobby, the House Elf that comes to save them. Dobby disappareates with them and bring them to safety. Dobby doesn't have to help them – he's a free elf. But because of how Harry treated Dobby in the past, Dobby genuinely wants to help because Harry had helped him previously.

You never know where someone will end up someday. Even if someone around you don’t treat others uniformly with respect, you don’t want to end up in a position in the future where how you treated someone in the past negatively comes back to haunt you.

How do you talk with your boss and your bosses boss in your current position? Do you treat those newer and more junior differently?

5.    Helping Others Helps You.

In many roles, like fundraising or sales, it may seem like you and your teammates are all competing for first place. It can be tempting not to give someone else a tip or provide some helpful resources when you can because it might help another outpace you.

Remember the second challenge of the Triwizard Tournament? Harry is underwater and tasked with saving Ron. He gets to Ron before the other champions reach the people they’re supposed to save, but he stays to make sure all four are rescued. It comes at the expense of winning first place, but he is awarded second place having saved Fluer Delacour’s sister. Plus he gets lots of kisses from Fleur for his noble deed.

It’s probably not a life or death decision for you at work but...

Think about when there are times you could help someone out that might actually reflect positively on you and give you extra points for being a team player. What actions or things could you do to help others?

Does reading this make you want to re-live all the stories and lessons of Harry Potter? Let us know what other career lessons you find in the wizarding world.