Unspoken, critical rules you need to succeed

First the rules, then the behaviors for a thriving career

4 min readMay 16, 2021

The first rule of a good book review is to answer this question: Did the author do what he/she intended? In the case of The Unspoken Rules, the answer is a resounding yes. Gorick Ng’s work will change employees and businesses by revealing the “secrets to starting your career off right.” Formerly only available to the few, the secrets Ng reveals will give readers the skills to create better careers. And by default, positively impact businesses and productivity measures.

Don’t think of this book as a set of harsh rules that must be followed. It’s actually a framework for understanding the behaviors we all need to perform at our best in our chosen careers, along with concrete tools, examples and actions to make this happen.

Image courtesy this author, taken in her backyard.

The remarkable point about The Unspoken Rules is that it’s written not only for those transitioning from school to work, but for seasoned veterans who want to mentor new employees. And for veterans like me, who look back on their career with 20/20 hindsight and a new understanding of past experiences that might have been managed better had I read this book. There’s no time for remorse, only looking forward to a new comprehension of these rules.

I was particularly drawn to this book through an affinity to its author — I am one the few in my family to go to college, and like Gorick, the first generation. My grandparents came to this nation via Ellis Island to build a better life not only for their children, but their children’s children. I understand firsthand how difficult the workplace can be if you don’t know the rules of fitting in and getting ahead. Even college can be challenging when high schools haven’t prepared students for college-level coursework and experiences. Until reading The Unspoken Rules, I’d never considered what I missed, and how this knowledge might have benefited me.

As I read each chapter, I thought about how these concepts also have the ability to benefit companies on a broader scale by enhancing professionalism and building effective teams. Once we understand how to work together, everyone in the workplace will benefit.

You’ll find the book full of practical guidance, like the insightful graphics on pages 48 and 49 that reveal clarifying questions for those in learner mode:

  • “What did she mean by that term?”
  • “How does that process work?”
  • “Should I follow up?” (after attending a meeting)

These simple questions build our knowledge base and help us assimilate quicker, with better insight into our working environment. They can also help us be proactive in order to stand out while showing up as a team player.

Each chapter includes “Know This” and “Try This” sections that summarize key insights — ones you’ll want to keep close at hand in order to fully grasp these unspoken rules. I may build a one-sheet job aid of these helpful points!

One of the most fascinating chapters is “Know How to Tell Your Story” that goes beyond the standard elevator pitch concept. We each have internal and external narratives, and it’s key to understand both. Once we’ve drafted our internal narrative, we then tailor it to each external audience. It’s never one-size-fits-all.

I also appreciate the slender, yet critical chapter on managing appearances. Ng delves into the nuances of workplace dressing well beyond those classic 1970’s era manuals for “engineering one’s wardrobe.” His advice reminds us to be aware of what’s appropriate, then after we’ve become a trusted member of the organization, we can add authenticity and personal flair to our appearance.

This is the perfect place to introduce the important success concepts that flow throughout Ng’s book: the 3 C’s of Commitment, Compatibility, and Competence. Each chapter drives toward these main theories for how we’ll succeed in our workplace. As you might infer, being compatible with your new colleagues is part of learning how to dress appropriately.

The Unspoken Rules by Gorick Ng. Photo courtesy this author.

Ng points out the nuances of work and career that many of us miss. Subtle expressions or actions can be easily glossed over when we are anxious about the basics — our appearance or how to introduce ourselves to those we’ve never met. The basics revealed in The Unspoken Rules will help us become more aware, confident employees able to focus on our chosen career.

My copy of The Unspoken Rules is underlined and highlighted, with scribbled margin notes so that I can’t lend it to a friend. But I can tell everyone about this beneficial book, and perhaps buy them a copy. I highly recommend that you read it and also gift a copy or two. If you’re like me, you’ll consider past experiences, wishing they might have been different. But the next generation will be armed with these important, unspoken rules.

If you’d like to learn more about Gorick Ng or order the book, you’ll find more information on his website https://gorick.com