I have spent my professional career recruiting and hiring talented individuals for mostly Fortune 500 companies. Over the years, I have witnessed some people greatly succeed and while others unfortunately fail and then seem to consistently struggle thereafter. I have made job offers to a few people who I thought who had tremendous potential only to be surprised when they failed a drug screen or when a prior criminal offense came back to haunt them.
Today I want to share with you two core values that I have learned through my own personal experience resulting in hardship that you must have and hold onto: Integrity and Character. Having these qualities will affect every aspect of your life and determine your long-term career success.
Integrity is defined as the possession of firm principles: the quality of steadfastly adhering to high moral principles, ethics and professional standards. Integrity really is the virtue of being good without being watched. It will shape your reputation as a student and an employee.
Noted author and leadership expert John Maxwell explains it well: “Integrity is the foundation of a leadership. It’s who really I am. It’s my inward person that reflects to the outside world. Integrity is not a given factor in everyone’s life. It is a result of self-discipline, inner trust, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations in our lives. Image is what people think we are, but integrity is what we really are.”
The benefits of having integrity are endless. Having it will give you great confidence. It will not only effect your career but every friendship and relationship you have, because when we know someone has integrity, we know they can be trusted and counted on to do the right thing. There can be no friendship without confidence; and no confidence without integrity.
Deep down, I truly believe that each one of us knows the difference between right and wrong but there are constant temptations to take short cuts to success instead of choosing honesty and the strong work ethic that it takes to be successful.
One of the truest tests of integrity is its bold refusal to be compromised. At some point in our life and career, we have to draw a line in the sand and decide before we get into a challenging situation the difference between right and wrong. It’s true that if you don’t take a stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
We all struggle daily with situations that demand immediate decisions between what we want to do and what we ought to do. Having integrity establishes the ground rules for resolving these tensions. It determines who we are and how we will respond even before the conflict appears.
It has been said that “Hope of dishonest gain is the beginning of loss”. That doesn’t just refer to a loss of money. It also means loss of self-respect. You can achieve great fame and wealth but if you’ve lost respect for yourself, what do you really have? The people who sleep best at night are the ones with a clear conscience.
Billy Graham stated: “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
If a person has a private character problem, it will eventually reveal itself in a public way. We have seen so many sports figures, politicians,, and other celebrities demonstrate this recently. I have learned in my own life that adversity doesn’t build character, as much as it reveals it.
Dr. Martin Luther King stated: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Your character is the result of hundreds and hundreds of choices you make which gradually turn who you are, at any given moment, into who you want to be. If that decision-making process is not present, you can still be somebody. but only have temporary success, not long lasting success.
Character is not something you were born with and can’t change like your fingerprints. In fact, because you weren’t born with it, it is something that you must take responsibility for creating. Character is built by how you respond to what happens in your life. Whether it’s winning every game or losing every game. Getting rich or dealing with these very challenging times.
Here are some key points to consider:
The late, great Zig Ziglar said: “What you do off the job is a key in determining how far you will go on the job. Ability and talent can take you the top, but it takes character and integrity to keep you there.”
You will build a successful career, regardless of your field of endeavor, by the dozens of little things you do on and off the job. With integrity, you have nothing to fear, because you have nothing to hide. You will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt. With both fear and guilt removed you are free to be and do your best.
The words you speak are determined by what goes into your mind. To build and develop our character, carefully choose the movies you watch, the music you listen to, and the books you read.
I don’t know who said the following, but it is so true:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
You can get everything money will buy without having these values, but you can’t get any of the things money won’t buy: love, joy, patience, peace of mind, great relationships, and so many more truly important things without having integrity and character.
So carefully choose your friends, the people that you admire, as well as the role models and mentors in your life, for they will help shape your character and destiny. Also, don’t fail to realize that your on-line behavior can jeopardize a prospective employer from hiring you. A good question to ask yourself is: What is my on-line reputation? Would I feel comfortable having a potential employer look at my entire Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter accounts? I strongly recommend that you clean up your internet profiles because employers will reject candidates based on information that was discovered on those sites and others like them.
In closing, get the courage to say no and to face the truth. You will never go wrong doing what is right. These are the magical keys to living your life with integrity. Integrity is simply what we do, what we say, and what we say we will do.
Because no one will ever question your character, if your integrity is not questionable.