3 Powerful Career Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jan. 16 is a day to honor the life and legacy of one of the most influential leaders in world history, civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we remember Dr. King, we’d like to share a few career lessons that can be learned from him.

  1. Have a Solid Plan

With the desire to end segregation and racial tensions in the U.S., Dr. King and many other civil rights leaders faced a long road ahead. Dr. King understood the importance of creating a solid plan to make equality a reality. For example, Dr. King was a participant in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. That effort lasted more than a year and led to a monumental court ruling that favored segregated buses being unconstitutional.

Career Lesson: Our goals may change throughout our careers but create a roadmap to track progress and identify accomplishments and challenges. Perhaps you want to work in a more senior role someday. If that is the case, the following steps may be taken:

  • Volunteering to take on more responsibilities in your current position.
  • Furthering your education.
  • Creating a solid portfolio to showcase your work and demonstrate that you’re ready for a promotion.


  1. Embrace Collaboration

Dr. King couldn’t make headway in the U.S. on his own. He needed to form alliances with others and use their skills to help advance equality across the country. Many people were needed to help organize peaceful protests and marches. It may sound cliche, but teamwork does make the dream work.

Career Lesson: One of the best resources for coming up with ideas to carry out a project or offering career guidance that can help you succeed can be your team members. Lean on coworkers to support you in your endeavors whenever you can. Healthy relationships between coworkers can be fostered by collaboration.


  1. Build a Lasting Legacy

Perhaps Dr. King is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered in front of thousands of people in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 1963. Did you know that Dr. King almost didn’t give the “I Have a Dream” portion of his speech? We’re grateful he improvised the powerful speech because the motivating words of change are still being felt, demonstrating how much of an impact his leadership and influence had during one of the most difficult times in U.S. history and how it continues to impact the world. Listen to or read the transcription of the 16-minute speech here.

Career Lesson: Whether you’ve been with the same company for years or have moved on to a new job, it’s critical to build a good reputation and do things on the job that will leave a lasting impression. Strive to be a good employee, treat others on the job with respect, and roll with the changes along your career path.

How has Dr. King inspired your life? Let us know in the comments section below.

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