Cultural intelligence is sensitivity to the variety of traditions, habits, beliefs, values, attitudes, expectations and assumptions that exist within different cultural groups, and an acceptance that those qualities within any such cultural group are as meritorious as one’s own. So let’s look at Cultural Intelligence and how it can affect your career.

In our increasingly global and mobile world advantages accrue to those individuals and organizations that are able to meet members of different cultural groups and truly treat them as equals. Is there even one of us who at least a few times a week does not comes up short and precipitously make a value judgment that this or that patient, or colleague, or practice organization is not as good as we are?

“The biological function of intelligence is to protect the organism from bodily risk and to satisfy its wants with the least possible chance of recording failure on the environment”. [Thurstone, L. L. (1924). The Nature of Intelligence. New York: Harcourt Brace. Page 162]. This superb definition is robust enough to withstand the many varieties of intelligence we now allow for. If I treat a patient from a different cultural background than my own, and I am insufficiently sensitive and accepting of them, is there not a high likelihood of a “failure on the environment”?

How we succeed or fail as professionals caring for our clients is of ultimate importance. But of almost equal importance is how we interact with colleagues from other disciplines, colleagues from within our own discipline who come from different ethnic cultures, or different educational/training cultures, or, in the increasingly intertwined industrial complex how we engage with individuals industries, as pointed out in many career cruising jobs options. you may well ask your self: “How did we get to this point“?

When we fall short as human beings the reasons lie overwhelmingly in our shortcomings in qualities such as understanding, tolerance, and sensitivity, and much more rarely in qualities like competency and caring. Being tuned in to the importance of cultural intelligence would smooth out many of the bumps in our work lives.

Goodness of cultural fit & career choice success

With the assumption that fundamental qualifications and competencies are in place, it is the degree to which we can tune into and work comfortably on the same wavelength as the prevailing culture of our profession, our individual specialty, and our particular practice or employing organization that most determines whether we will succeed or struggle.

If realtors tell you that the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, the three most important words in career success are fit, fit, fit; goodness of cultural fit, that is. Think how you want a new pair of shoes to fit. You want to leave the shoe store with a pair that is perfect or so nearly so that a minimum of breaking in is required. Too big or too small – take a pass. Too wide or too narrow – likewise. Any ultimate deficits in the choice are entirely yours – you convinced yourself that your feet would not mind being pinched, that the look was really you, etc.

There may be value in conceiving of each substantive career choice you make as if it was the one and only pair of shoes you were going to have in your entire work life. Think then of the care you’d give in deciding what your needs were in the footwear department. Think of the scrutiny you’d give the shoes to see if they met those needs. Consider also the ongoing attention you’d give to shoe maintenance. Is this now fear of success or fear of failure... Just give it some thought.

If at a junction point in your professional life and actively considering whether you should embark on a new career direction, think carefully about the following issues:

1. How well do you know yourself and how honest are you about your strengths and challenges in making career choices both in the past and currently?
2. How rigorously did you examine your current profession/field of interest/employing practice or healthcare organization and how honest did you think agents of that latter practice organization were when you were hired?
3. To what degree have you allowed for evolution in your interests as your life and career evolved?
4. To what degree have you created the personal flexibility to be able to say: “That was a great pair of shoes for that part of my life, but now it’s time for a change?”

When I speak with physicians unhappy with their current work milieu, I find it much more probable that their preliminary research, including self-examination, was insufficient than due to some withholding of information on their practice or institution’s part. Take also a look at some anti-travel guides. This my positively affect your attitude as well. Thinking through the issues raised above can reduce the risk of a poor career path choice.