Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Posted June 16, 2014, by Vivien Luu

It’s the game that’s killing productivity and delaying deadlines. Yep, we’re talking about Candy Crush Saga. It’s got 93 million of us hooked worldwide as we forgo work, study and even family to journey to places like Pudding Pagoda and Bubblegum Bridge on a daily basis. 

If you clicked on this article then you know exactly what I’m talking about. You play Candy Crush too. You love it (which also means you hate it), and you’re reading on because let’s be frank, you’re wondering ‘what career lessons could possibly be found in the game that teaches us to love chocolate freckles and loath liquorice whorls?’ 

Well, you’d be surprised at the pearls candy pieces of wisdom we’ve unearthed from this unlikely source. And if you’re not convinced, remember that King, the company that brought us Candy Crush, is currently worth a jaw-breaking $7 billion, with its co-founders and investors raking in anything between $168 million to $3.25 billion each year.

Yeah, we could probably take a lesson or two from these guys. Right? 

Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Lesson #1: Think ahead 

This one’s pretty straightforward. To get ahead in the game (any game that is, be it life or Candy Crush) you need a strategy.

Early on in the game, this doesn’t apply so much. You’re still a newb; just realising that jellies are bad and discovering how to make striped candy delights. It’s not hard to breeze through the levels without much fuss.

It’s the same early on in your life. You can prank your teacher, skip class, sleep through your lectures and still graduate from primary school, high school, uni or TAFE without trying too hard.

But come mid-game, things start to get trickier (particularly after the introduction of chocolate and cake bombs). This is when you need to plan ahead. No strategy equals no progress. And we all know how frustrating it is to be stuck in the same place (like the universally hated Level 140!) for too long.

‘To formulate your own strategy you must know who you are and what brings you life satisfaction,’ says Pam Macdonald, National Executive Committee member of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA).

‘With that in mind you can set a course to achieve a career that has meaning for you and delivers you job satisfaction.’

According to Macdonald, who is also the director of HR consultancy firm Broadspring Consulting, it is important to have both a game plan and strategy in place – the two are slightly different.

A game plan acts as a roadmap for your career. Once you figure out where you want to head, you can plot out how to get there. This is ideal for those who have found their career calling and are now looking to establish themselves.

A strategy, on the other hand, is particularly helpful to individuals who are making a career transition as it’s the chain that links everything you do.

Macdonald says having a strategy ‘makes navigating a career change a lot easier and also provides you with some good frameworks to respond to the question of “tell me why you joined X company or took Y job.”’

It’s a great reminder that you’ve only got limited moves and limited time, so don’t aimlessly wander through your career – having a strategy and game plan will help you plot out the bigger picture. 

Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Lesson #2: Network, network, network 

Candy Crush might be a solo venture, but when things turn sour and you’re out of lives, it’s handy to have some generous friends on standby to be your lifeline.

The game’s Facebook ‘lives request’ function teaches us a valuable lesson: if you want to get ahead in the game, you’ll get there quicker if you reach out to the right people, and only if you reach out to them in the right way (ceaseless requests will only get you blocked).

HR professionals and career consultants alike agree that networking is absolutely essential for a positive career trajectory.

‘Networking is critical for those interested in standing out in today’s stagnant economy,’ says Ari Kaplan, founder of career strategy agency Ari Kaplan Advisors.

‘It helps to reveal hidden opportunities, foster deeper connections with prospects, and build momentum that is critical for producing results.’

Macdonald agrees, and says that networking is particularly important for job hunters who are struggling to tap into the hidden jobs market.

‘If a candidate knows someone who is known to the hiring manager and has positive things to say, well that can only be a good thing.’

Her tip is to be consistent when you network so that you build a good reputation and are ‘known for credible reasons.’ She recommends leveraging social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and The Loop, but in a consistent and professional manner.

‘Be conscious of who may see your social media activity – do the comments and photos present a friendly and human side to your personal one or are they discordant?’

At the end of the day, networking could lead to your next big project or dream job – after all it’s not what you know, but who you know. 

Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Lesson #3: We like pats on the back

Delicious! Tasty! Sweeeet!

It’s the sound of success, and oh how sweet it is. The lavish praise heaped upon us after we successfully complete a level is perhaps the cleverest aspect of Candy Crush’s game design. Why? Because it keeps us coming back for more.

Research has proven that when we win games or gain a sense of accomplishment, it pings off the pleasure centre in our brains; the same area that lights up when you’re in a state of euphoria, or fall madly in love.

Simply put, humans crave praise and recognition – our brains are just wired that way. So whether you’re a line manager, executive director or entrepreneur, make sure you tap into this powerful human emotion.

In his 2012 TEDTalk titled ‘What makes us feel good about our work?,’ behavioural economist, Dan Ariely, emphasises the importance of recognition as a business tool for motivation and productivity.

‘By simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying “uh huh,” that seems to be quite sufficient to dramatically improve people’s motivations,’ he says.

Interestingly, through a series of social experiments, Ariely’s team also found that ‘ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes.’

While we wouldn’t recommend using words like ‘delicious’ or ‘divine’ to describe employee performance, a pat on the back can go a very long way.

Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Lesson #4: My bad! Embracing failure 

When you play Candy Crush, it’s inevitable that you will fail. You will fail to get the cherries and acorns to fall to the bottom of the screen. You will fail to eliminate all the jelly. You will waste hours of your life playing this ridiculous game… fail.

Most of us fear failure, but as the world’s most successful people will tell you: failure is crucial to success.

Emma Reynolds, co-founder and CEO of e3 Reloaded, is a huge advocate of failing.

In her TEDTalk ‘Failure is Awesome,’ Reynolds encourages us to embrace failure and view it as a tool for growth, rather than something to avoid at all costs.

‘Failure is awesome because it is powerful,’ she says.

‘When we fail, we acquire knowledge, we acquire strength, we acquire a determination to never fail again. If you don’t accept that you may fail, you won’t push yourself … you won’t grow. You’ll be mediocre.’

Rather than avoiding failure, she suggests we ‘fail fast, fail often and fail forward.’

Her formula for success is to: ‘Try something. Fail. Learn. Grow.’

By taking responsibility for your mistakes, reflecting on what you could have done better and pushing forward, you’ll be getting more out of your career.

After all, nobody reaches the Gummy Gardens and passes level 578 without failing a lot and learning from their mistakes. 

Sweet success: 5 career lessons from Candy Crush

Lesson #5: If it’s ruining your life, stop! 

There are too many ‘Candy Crush is ruining my life’ memes out there to count.

According to TIME magazine, the game is so addictive that players have ‘left their children stranded at school, abandoned housework and even injured themselves’ as a result of playing the game.

There’s a Facebook group that provides support for ‘addicts who have experienced severe difficulties in life as a result of this game,’ and a survey by Ask Your Target Market found that 32 per cent of respondents had ignored friends or family to play the game, and 10 per cent had become involved in an argument with a significant other over how much time they spent playing.

The solution to this quandary is a simple one.. If it’s ruining your life, STOP PLAYING!

It’s a funny and light-hearted analogy that underscores a fairly serious problem most of us will face at some point in our careers. When a job ceases to be fun, rewarding or satisfying – you need to stop.

Pursuing a career that fulfils you is absolutely essential, according to Macdonald.

‘When you are doing something you love, it is easy [and] effortless,’ Macdonald says. This translates to lower stress levels, greater productivity and more capacity to achieve.

But remain in a job that you hate, and you’re doing yourself disservice.

‘We spend far too much of our lives at work to be doing something we dislike,’ says MacDonald.

‘Putting yourself in an uncomfortable or distressing (work) place day after day is soul crushing.’

Unsurprisingly, working in a job you hate will also put your health at risk.

Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to love your job, love your life and kick butt at work and leading expert on workplace happiness, recently rounded up some scientific studies for the Huffington Post that proved just how much of a health hazard hating your job really is.

According to a range of studies, if you hate your job, you’re more likely to gain weight, have a lower immune system, be sleep deprived, have an increased risk of serious illnesses, and, to cap it all off, it’s likely to ruin your relationships with significant others. 

Sweet success here I come 

Navigating your way past cake blockers, and swiping candy across the screen definitely doesn’t sound like the conventional way to succeed in life; but with these lessons to chew on, your favourite time-waster just became your career’s best friend. 

Know a Candy Crush addict who’ll use any excuse to play? Send this article their way.

Vivien Luu
Vivien Luu

Viv is a writer who enjoys researching and writing about creativity, how the human mind works, and neuro processes. She values creativity above all else and admires people who pursue their career dreams, no matter the sacrifice. In her spare time, she binges on HBO shows and epic fantasy novels.

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