How to Use Your “Power” to Get Ahead

How do you define power?

powerful women

Can you recall a time where you made something happen?  You got into a school, you passed a difficult exam, your contributions were published, you finished a marathon, or you made the cut on a team or got hired from multiple job interviews.

These examples of success show that efforts which are parlayed into a strategic game plan can produce a powerful result.


Have successful professionals always been successful? Take Francesca Gino. An Associate Professor at Harvard, she is considered by many to be a superstar. But things did not always look so bright for her: two years in a row she gave job talks at a number of top 10 schools and universities, but got no offers from those schools. Yet, in 2009, everything suddenly turned up roses; she got offers from Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, and New York University. What had changed? Well, clearly she was older and wiser. But she also changed her pre-talk ritual: before each campus talk and interview she sat down and wrote out a reflection of a time in which she had power.



This example raises the possibility that merely recalling a time in which one had power–a solitary, anonymous, internal task–can transform people in the eyes of others and even change professional interview outcomes. Inspired by Gino’s example, an experiment was created to test whether priming power increases success in the job application process, from writing an application letter to being interviewed, even when interviewers are unaware of the power manipulation given to applicants.

The results? Power priming (recalling a situation where you were powerful) increased the odds of acceptance by 81% compared to baseline and by 162% compared to low-power priming (recalling a situation where you weren’t powerful) .

powerful people

The current findings have potentially important practical implications. Like Francesca Gino, applicants may be able to boost their career prospects by engaging in a pre-interview process of recalling a time in which they had power. The current research thus seems to offer hope to millions of job and school applicants around the world — tap into your inner sense of confidence by recalling an experience with power.

Stay on your style game.





Source: Galinsky, Adam D., Joris Lammers, David Dubois, and Derek D. Rucker. “Power Gets the Job: Priming Power Improves Interview Outcomes.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 49 (2013): 776-79. Print.

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