Three Career Lessons we can learn from Bernie Sanders


According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans think of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “dishonest” and they “dislike her,” and they consider Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont “socialist” and “old”.

On the positive note however, Sanders has also been described as a fresh face and honest who cares about people and the middle class. He is also viewed as personable and intelligent. And maybe it’s these qualities which have contributed his recent popularity in the polls. According to the 5-day rolling poll results from Reuters released on February 23rd, Sanders has the support of 41.7 percent of voters who identify as Democrat compared to Clinton’s 35.5 percent. The poll sampled 998 voters from across the country who identify as Democrats or as independents who lean towards the Democratic party. This is his largest lead in the primary so far.

So what’s driving Bernie Sanders popularity, and what career lessons can we learn from his race to the White House?

1. Be Authentic

Sanders practices what he preaches so to speak. He has strong opinions he believes are worth fighting for, and historically, he has already established himself as a champion for many of the causes he lobbies for, having lived through civil rights sit-in protests, spoken out against climate change, pushed for an increased minimum wage, and advocated LGBT rights. You only need to check his political record to see his stance on policies and issues.

According to the 2016 Industry & Productivity Report, released by Bolste, more than a quarter of the entire American workforce is unsatisfied with their current circumstances. As the Chinese Philosopher, Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” How can you achieve that? How can you find authenticity in your career? Explore your interests and passions. Figure out what your talents are. Understand better your morals and values, the issues that get your blood boiling and your adrenaline pumping.

By being more honest with yourself, you can begin to better understand career paths which better meet your personal passions and carve out an authentic, more fulfilled career.

2. Don’t play dirty

Sanders has been quite vocal on his refusal to produce attack ads on his opposition, a decent move which has paid off. In doing so, coupled with his resistance to accepting cash from super PACs which often fund these ads, he has proven that, unlike his opponents, he can stand true to so much of the policies and issues he is passionate about. Sanders also refuses to fall into interviewer traps set up to pit him against his opponents and instead diverts these conversations towards his policies and the issues that voters should be keeping at the forefront.

Sanders’ reluctance to get ahead by discrediting his opponents reflects that if you’re confident enough in your abilities, you don’t need to succumb to foul play. Focus on building on your own skill set rather than watching what the competition is up to by learning to network better, proactively connect with co-workers, practice how you communicate, pay attention to organizational trends, and learn how to ‘choose your battles’.

3. Dare to be Different

Sanders’ new brand of ‘socialist democracy’ differentiates him from the other politically indistinguishable nominees. Standing out from the crowd is a good thing. It encourages people to reconsider the status quo, and it commands a certain fearlessness – one of the most notable marks of effective leadership. Notions such as breaking up the banks, doubling the minimum wage and implementing a universal healthcare system are quite removed from his opponents’ plans for the country. However, Bernie Sanders’s surging popularity reflects the far left’s dissatisfaction with the American political system and that’s where he is gaining his edge.

You can apply this mindset to your career, whether that’s in the job search or in your current role. Companies need fresh perspectives to keep them going and a talented pool of fearless candidates and employees with their fingers on the pulse of new and emerging techniques and technology.

There you have it, own what makes you unique, follow your passions, find something you care about, and bring something new to the table in your career choices. Let the others ‘feel the Bern’ of your success without knocking them on your way up the career ladder. The 2016 presidential election campaign trail is one huge exercise in personal branding, check out this article for some advice on what we can learn on managing our personal personas from this year’s candidates.

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