Caesar’s Bridge Across the Rhine - A Lesson for Today’s Job Seeker

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During the Gallic War of 55 BCE Caesar built a bridge across the Rhine to set an example of Roman power, ingenuity, and reach. Much has been written about this and it is studied in military schools as a masterpiece of strategy, but what does this teach us today?

When Caesar reached the Rhine, he was offered the use of boats from an allied tribe, but instead he chose to build a bridge to make a lasting impression on the war-like tribes on the other side of the river. This was important because he estimated that his enemies outnumbered him at least four-fold. With a bridge he could move his troops across the mighty river much faster, safer and at will. Despite the engineering difficulties, sabotage, and the constant threat of attack, the bridge was built in just ten days, a feat that still baffles engineers today.

Now Caesar was free to campaign on the other side of the river, his enemies fled before him, and when he was done, he marched his troops back across and destroyed the bridge so the enemy could not follow. Two years later, Caesar returned and did it again with similar results. In doing so, he planted his flag in enemy territory effectively demoralizing the opposition to his campaign.

The same strategy can be taken in today’s competitive job market. For example, a programmer will have the expertise to develop a better application than a competing programmer. Once done, it leaves behind something that makes a statement of skill. If the clients want more, they will have to hire that programmer again, just as Rome would have to call on Caesar again to quell the warlike tribes of Gaul and Germany.

Programming is just one example, but it can apply to any other field as well. A public speaker could put on such a show that would set the bar for any other speaker. A project manager could complete a project faster and more efficiently than another less skilled PM could. A cooling & power engineer could design a data center that is more efficient and less expensive to run than the competition. A highly skilled grant writer could generate more grant funding than her/his nearest competitor, etc.

There are many other examples, but the fact is that taking the time to create something that stands out in one’s field of expertise plants a flag in such a way that clients will keep asking for it. Next time an important work opportunity presents itself to shine, remembering why Caesar built that bridge might just make that difference in being asked to come back and do it again, and perhaps lead to a permanent position.

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This blog post was previously published in The Gigster 'Zine, our free newsletter discussing new and innovative part-time opportunities & strategies for anyone with a college degree. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.
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