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Best Advice: Take Jobs Others Don’t Want

I’ve received a lot of great advice on how to build a successful career, but it’s the following guidance from my grandfather that stands out as the best.

If you want to get ahead in your career, take jobs others don’t want but management wants you to have.”
No doubt this advice doesn’t sound overly pleasant, but I took it seriously, and when I was given an opportunity to put it to good use, he was right.

A few years after I joined Halliburton, an opening turned up for a country vice president position in Angola. It was a challenging assignment, and there wasn’t a long line of people who wanted to take on the work.

On my grandfather’s advice, I stepped up. Frankly, I was probably not management’s first choice for that position. But when they called on me I was willing to take it when nobody else would.

The Angola position presented several obstacles that I had to stretch to meet. My job started just as Angola was coming out of a 30-year civil war, and it was very much a developing country facing social challenges — a lack of infrastructure, high Malaria mortality rates, currency problems. These issues — each difficult on their own — in addition to the responsibility to deliver the latest and most complex deepwater wells to date, are what made the position a challenging assignment. But I was determined to execute on every demand I encountered.

As I’m sure my grandfather knew, stretching meant growth, and growth meant opportunity. Taking that assignment turned out to be one of my best career decisions. The position put me in the center of a huge recovery for our business, and because the environment was challenging I was forced to be engaged in every aspect of our business. This knowledge and experience led to a similar position in Indonesia, followed by leadership roles in one of our product service lines, the Gulf of Mexico region and business development. I then became Halliburton’s COO and last year president, 12 years from my Angola assignment.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve passed along the same advice to others. The rare few that take it do extremely well because they stand out, make a difference when the company is counting on them, and gain valuable knowledge that springboards them to bigger roles and more opportunities.


Author: Jeff Miller, President and Chief Health, Safety and Environment Officer at Halliburton

Nathan Jeffery
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