Career Top Tips

Harvey Specter’s top 10 career and life lessons

“Suits” is an American TV Drama, created by Aaron Korsch, that features a successful corporate lawyer named Harvey Specter and his degree-less associate Mike Ross. Harvey is known for his lavish lifestyle, winning mentality and corporate brilliance, which makes him a captivating protagonist for this storyline.

1.    “First impressions last. You start behind the eight ball, you’ll never get in front.”

At the beginning of season 1, Mike Ross confronts Harvey Specter about his seemingly careless attitude at work by coming and leaving work at his own time. Harvey makes it clear that this freedom and respect is earned based upon his track record and his legendary performance in his first few weeks at the firm. It is important to know that in the early stages of one’s career every success is a building block to your future career path. A successful and memorable impression can build a strong foundation for you to continue, because people will know of your abilities and value for a company.

2. “People respond to how you dress; so like it or not this is what you have to do.”

On the show “Suits” Harvey Specter is always seen wearing a three-piece tailored suit, and one of the first things that he instructs Mike to do is to get a suit from his tailor. The reason behind this is that Harvey understands that people will judge your personality based on your appearance. Your appearance will reflect the image you have of yourself, which others in your surrounding will pick up. This means that if you want to be taken seriously by your co-workers, clients or customers you have to dress in a manner that conveys both trust and authority. Hence, the physical facade of an individual can be a contributing factor to one’s success, because a solid appearance can boost your chances to succeed.

3. “I don’t have dreams, I have goals.”

Harvey Specter recognises the key difference between dreams and goals in that dreams are imaginary, whereas goals are reality. Obtaining goals requires actions and setting time limits to realise them. Dreams are thoughts in your head, which can go on forever without ever coming close to becoming reality. It is important to have big dreams, but one has to make sure that the goals are just as big, as ultimately dreams will never come true, but goals can.

4. “You don’t send a puppy to clean up its own mess.”

If you are a leader of a group you have to take responsibility for the actions of your subordinates, especially if they are still learning the job. As part of being a leader you have to provide guidance and help your people out of problems, because this mutual support system will not only strengthen him, but also yourself. Others will remember the time you helped them the next time you might need it.

5. “That’s the difference between you and me: you wanna lose small, I wanna win big.”

When opportunity presents itself one has to take charge and utilise it to the best of your ability. The problem with maintaining a cautious attitude by trying to minimise your losses is that it can be regarded as a weakness trapping you in a position, where nothing changes. Taking calculated risks can be an important factor in obtaining huge personal rewards. However, one has to avoid taking risks that might doom you, which means that the right balance is key and sometimes a little bit of luck will not hurt.

6. “Lying to me doesn’t protect me. It betrays me.”

Choosing to be always truthful allows you to gain the trust of others, upon which a stronger relationship can be built. In addition, someone that tells the truth will find it much easier to find other people that tell the truth in response. You might get away with a lie, but ultimately you will be in a worse situation.

7. “Winners stick it out when the other side plays the game.”

At Pearson Hardman, Harvey Specter knows that he is the best ‘closer’ at the firm, as his boss Jessica Pearson frequently mentions throughout the show. However, the hardest challenge is not becoming the best, but rather remaining the best. Harvey knows that in order to remain at the top he has to continue to win lawsuits and he takes great pride in winning each and every case. Specter’s unrelenting competitive attitude allows him to be on top almost every single time.

8. “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

When Mike Ross starts working at Pearson Hardman he works extremely hard, which impresses Harvey and prompts him to take him under his wing. Obviously Mike is very gifted: he was born with a photographic memory. However, he doesn’t solely rely on his God-given talents. He combines his skills with his industrious working attitude that makes him a great success. Successful people will push themselves hard enough, despite the fact that they might not be as talented as others.

9. ”I’m against having emotions, not using them.”

According to research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, emotion is the enemy of effective negotiation and negotiators. Being very emotional can become detrimental in future careers, as emotions can prevent people from listening attentively and processing information effectively. Nevertheless, emotions will always remain an aspect in business, and it can be something that you can take advantage of: for example, by reading your opponent’s emotions and adjusting your strategy accordingly, you might acquire information that you would not have gained through logic.

10.  “Be the exception to any rule.”

Rules are established as a tool to control and regulate the actions of individuals; but in the real world, rules can oftentimes be hurdles for your career progression. At school, following the rules usually meant that you would be successful academically. However, at the workplace, regulations may decelerate you in achieving a goal, which means that in selective cases breaking the rules might ultimately prove to be a necessary step. Harvey Specter chose to break the Harvard rule when he hires Mike Ross as his associate, because he identified his potential talent as a corporate lawyer. Hence, breaking a rule will mean less safety, but the potential reward might make it worthwhile.

Kevin Cao is a first year student at the University of Glasgow studying Economics and Economic & Social History. He is a contributor to Affairs Today covering articles dealing with the world of economics, politics and business.

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