Are You Leveraging Neuroscience In Your Career?


We all try to leverage what we can to enhance our careers, and lives. Whether it’s eating healthier, getting more sleep, exercising more, or continuously learning, we’ll take any advantage we can get our hands on. But we hardly talk about neuroscience; our neuroscience, and we can use it to our advantage. Why is that? Neuroscience is the scientific study of nerves and specifically how they (the nerves) affect our learning and behavior. However, for the purpose of this blog, we’re going to think of neuroscience as the science of our brain. In a world where change is rapid, the need for understanding social behavior - and its/our neuroscience - is becoming more and more important, especially to one’s career.

So, lets talk about how you can leverage neuroscience to your advantage. Specifically, lets look into key indicators of emotional stability and instability, and how you can take control of them in an effective and strategic way. One model, SCARF, focuses on how individuals collaborate and influence each other, and the ways in which our brain provides a reward or threat response. Its main focal response points include:

  • Status: The word status represents the social standing that we as individuals hold in relation to others; to ourselves.
  • Certainty: When we are certain of things, we’re more comfortable; capable.
  • Autonomy: Autonomy is the belief of having control over our environment. When this happens, we feel less threatened, and can thrive
  • Relatedness: Relatedness ultimately determines the perceived trust of an individual or organization (whether they are in or out of our circle).
  • Fairness: Being treated with perceived fairness is ultimately rewarding to our brains. We feel as if we’re equal; enough.

In each of these domains of social experience there are two responses in which our brain responds; we either see them as a reward or a threat. And as we begin to understand the nature of each individual domain, we all can begin to protect ourselves from the threat responses; maximizing the reward responses.

So, lets talk about a few of the domains, and how we can minimize the threat responses within them, while maximizing the reward responses.

(1) Status:

As we discussed earlier, status simply represents the social standing that we as individuals hold in relation to others. Now, it’s important to understand that it can be very easy to threaten someone's sense of status, even by simply giving advice, suggesting that someone is ineffective with a task, or by having a micro debate. An example of this may be a job interview. In said interview the interviewee may see the interviewer as of a higher status, thus having a fearful or timid response.

Some ways to protect your status, and the status of others around you include:

  • Give others the opportunity to give themselves feedback
  • Ask questions; don’t make assumptions
  • Plan important conversations ahead of time; don’t just execute them at random

“When I look at a person, I see a person - not a rank, not a class, not a title.”

(2) Certainty:

Uncertainty creates discomfort, and discomfort can be negative in many different ways. An example of this may be a job seeker who doesn’t fully know what they want in a career or position (they are uncertain). Because of this, their tendencies and conversations come out as broad and not focused.

Some of the ways you can combat discomfort in yourself and your business include the following:

  • Create a plan or strategy
  • Break things down into bitesize objectives
  • Identify clear expectations

When things are mapped out, certainty is fostered. Just by having a plan, you can create perceived certainty for you and your business, and ultimately build a reward response for your brain.

“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.”

(3) Fairness:

Fairness is not about right vs. wrong; many situations can be equivocally both. What’s important for us to realize is this: Perceived fairness in the workplace, or in your career, helps provide unity, and things that are perceived as unfair generate a negative response.

An example of this may be one of the following situations:

  • The company is downsizing, but leadership is making more than ever. Fair?
  • A colleague works the same amount of hours as you, but they make 75% more. Fair?

“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.”

As you continue to leverage neuroscience to your advantage, it’s important to remember that you are wired for specific responses; to perceive things as rewards or threats. Through understanding the SCARF model, you’ll be able to better control your responses, and tailor them towards rewards. You’ll also be able to help others do the same.

For more questions on how neuroscience can influence your career for good, schedule a complimentary 30-minute strategy session.



Rock, D. (2008), SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, NeuroLeadership Journal, Issue One