Ambition is the first step towards success
I LOVE MY JOB!
What do filmmaker Steven Spielberg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, actor Matt Damon, musician Sting, actress Renée Zellweger and novelist Stephen King all have in common? They all majored in English, but they have used their education and skill sets in vastly different ways.
Perhaps you are at this crossroads, whether just graduating or changing careers. Like so many of us, you are struggling with the inevitable question, “What can I do with my degree?” The honest answer is: “Anything you want!”
For instance, if you majored in English, you know how to communicate which is a prerequisite for all kinds of jobs. You are well-rounded with stellar speaking and interpersonal skills, a clear communicator who can organize ideas logically and create strong arguments. Include analytical thinking, creativity, and research skills, and you’ve got all the essentials for a successful career.
Ready to see where your degree will take you? Check out the many references on this subject at your local library or bookstore. They often provide self-assessment worksheets and then discuss various career alternatives based on those results. These resources will also discuss how your transferable skills can be applied to a vast array of careers. For example, there are books on what you can do with a law degree, psychology degree, communications degree and so forth.
Despite twists and turns, steep hills, and plateaus, there is much joy to be had in the journey as there is in reaching our goals. May you always be who you are and do what you love to do.
YOUR PERSONALITY ID
You know you are in the wrong job when it is your version of the comedy film “Groundhog Day”– a replay of the same mind-numbing routine. Whereas, if you are doing what you were meant to do, then the prospect of Monday morning doesn’t fill you with dread on Sunday afternoon.
Ideally, you should wake up feeling energized looking forward to going to work. Seriously! You may even forget to eat lunch! When you love what you do, you’re bound to run out of time and more likely to lose track of time while doing it. You’re contributing. You’re learning. You feel that sense of accomplishment. In fact, you discover that you’re making a real difference once you start to associate with work as a part of your identity.
Understanding yourself is crucial when choosing or changing your career. When you are not sure of which path to choose, there are many aptitude and career assessments on-line that will give you a sense of where you should be headed. They can be a good start to identifying your next career.
Whereas some are free, others charge for results. These self-assessment tests can help you understand your strengths, interests, emotional intelligence, values, personality traits, and motivations more fully. Typically, you answer questions about what you like, or don’t like, what’s important to you, and what your strengths are. Then later on, you can explore these job options further through research, informational interviews, job shadowing and internships.
Are you feeling trapped in your current position? Knowing where you stand can empower you. When you spend most of your waking hours at work, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to own your own destiny?
Discover your calling. Create the life you want! As American writer Mark Twain once said: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
UNEMPLOYMENT ROLLER COASTER
On a sunny summer’s day, what could be better than the sensation of the tallest, longest and fastest roller coaster? If you are a roller coaster aficionado, you thrive on excitement and will spend hard-earned money for the most jaw-dropping extreme amusement rides. This ominous clickety-clack climb up to the top is followed by sheer ecstasy. Teetering on the brink of death, you are momentarily suspended in midair more than a hundred feet. There’s no end in sight, and the track up ahead is filled with uncertainty. Your palms grow sweaty with a white-knuckled grip squeezing hard on the retaining bar. When all of a sudden, in a gasp-inducing plummet, you descend to earth followed by a rapid hairpin twist and turn, going upside down through loops and a corkscrew in seconds.
In the front seats with arms up are wide-eyed thrill seekers who relish every blood rushing and heart palpitating moment. Choosing to sit in the back are other riders (in fear of derailment) with their eyelids clamped shut. While neither group has any more or less control than the other, their attitudes are different. Like them, we are able to monitor our attitudes despite the fact that we cannot control the inevitable peaks and valleys.
Few of us avoid this unemployment roller coaster. Yet, unemployment can be a blessing that provides us with many challenging possibilities, to change and to thrive. Since opportunities don’t come around often, take advantage of this one even if it might not seem like it at first glance.
You finally have the time to think about what you really want out of life. This is your chance to transform yourself into someone who is fulfilling a dream and following a passion. Learn from the past, plan for the future, but seize this opportunity today. Do what you truly love–what makes you happy and what enriches your life. Face your fears and enjoy the ride!
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Running is hard, but I love it. No wonder, so many runners’ faces are contorted into expressions of agony. Anyone who has run a race knows that it’s not easy–the burning lungs and the aching legs. Even so, my avid pursuit of running led me to the starting line. Just participating in an event with a good cause was inspiring in and of itself as was that free running T-shirt that I wore with much pride. With no thought of winning or even placing, I merely sought to push past my limits to reach my personal best. I increased my mileage and with time increased my speed. As I slogged along, it became more evident that running firmly had me in its grip. I entered many more races and eventually picked up the pace and persevered—one step at a time.
Ultimately, this is the race of our careers. We can either let things occur, or we can take the initiative. By making small choices every day, we can make things happen that will eventually result in a long-lasting positive change.
Consider these tried-and-true suggestions for staying on track while going full speed ahead: To begin with, get on with the activities that you can control. Set the alarm at the usual time, get up, get dressed and get going. Keep track of all your networking events, job searches, applications and interviews. Although a daunting task, create a job search strategy, and stick with it. Decide what you want to accomplish each day—the calls you want to make, the people you want to see and the paperwork that you need to complete. If you are not organized, you can easily overlook important application deadlines, confuse interview times, or completely forget to follow up.
It is often said that successful job-hunting can be a full-time job. So, commit to a block of time every day that corresponds with your employment status, as well as other demands on your time. Pace yourself. Set realistic goals, and let the quality of your job applications trump the quantity.
You have what it takes to stay out in front of the pack. You just have to dig deeper and rise above the rigors of the race. Press on!
RIDE THE ELEVATOR TO THE TOP
Can you sell yourself in less than a minute? One of the first things to do when starting your job search is to craft the “killer” elevator speech. It can make or break your chances of landing your dream job.
The elevator speech is so named because it a compelling, memorable synopsis of your expertise and credentials in the time span of an elevator ride. It highlights your uniqueness and the benefits you can provide.
A great elevator speech can make a lasting first impression at job fairs, networking events, and online, such as LinkedIn. The elevator speech also gives you the confidence in introducing yourself to hiring managers or recruiters who use the common interview query: “Tell me about yourself”.
Floor 1 – Start with a HOOK that piques their interest causing them to ask, “How do you do that?” “Hi, my name is______. I coach small business owners on strategies they can use to work smarter, not harder.”
Floor 2 – State WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO. “Did you know that the major frustration for entrepreneurs is the lack of time to do everything that needs to be done the way they want it? Managers can find it challenging to stop procrastinating and to let go of the pursuit of perfection that holds them back from real success. I advise time-challenged business owners as to how to protect and budget their time: by getting organized, setting priorities, delegating effectively and ultimately becoming more productive and profitable.”
Floor 3 – Include HOW YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE. “When clients know how to schedule their time appropriately and manage external time wasters, they will then have the time they need to grow their businesses and feel less stressed.”
Floor 4 – End with a specific CALL TO ACTION. Encourage them to schedule a meeting or ask for a referral. “I’d love to schedule a time when we can talk more about your challenges and explore how we may be able to work together.”
Are you making the most of your opportunities to share your career aspirations with the world? When opportunity knocks, don’t be left speechless.
NOT ALL OF OUR SUPER HEROES WEAR CAPES
Can you imagine waking up each morning knowing that you are actually making the world a better place? In a recent survey, that was the top career goal for workers of all ages: to bring about greater justice, quality of life and equality for others.
All in all, people want to feel that they are making a real difference, especially when it comes to the jobs that they do. Regardless of your job title, feeling that your work matters, even in small ways, can increase your job satisfaction and productivity. Sometimes this involves just changing your perspective as to how you are, in fact, having a positive impact on the lives of others.
Unfortunately, most people need to work to pay the bills, and so often, that requires doing something that they may not completely enjoy—at least for a while. Irrespective of whether you enjoy your job or not, most likely there are some redeeming aspects to it. There’s a chance that someone else can benefit, either directly or indirectly. Either way, you can make a difference for someone else, and you don’t always have to do it because you get paid to.
In fact, why not do something for nothing? When an upscale hair stylist isn’t cutting hair for the rich and famous, he’s traveling around giving free haircuts on his day off to homeless men and women. He believes in making a difference in people’s lives, the best way he knows how. Whatever your career, pro bono work is a great way to be useful and improve the destiny of others who might not otherwise be able to afford your services. Simple things can work. Any help matters, regardless of how small it is. It can have a huge impact on someone else.
Although we don’t have to choose a career that involves directly helping others in order to make a difference, we certainly can. There are many different jobs that help people and many more that we may have never before considered. Social workers, occupational therapists, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and teachers certainly make a difference, along with many others.
When we realize just how much people are being helped, we will find a greater purpose and be more motivated to care about the work that we do.
HOW TO GET A JOB WHEN YOU HAVE NO EXPERIENCE
Most everyone can relate to this Catch-22: You can’t get a job without experience but you can’t get experience without having a job. Overcoming this conundrum can be especially challenging for aspiring young professionals or stay-at-home parents re-entering the workforce. You are confident in your abilities if only you were given a chance, but the hard part is getting an opportunity in the first place.
When you apply for any job, you will be evaluated on both your soft skills and track record. Your potential is demonstrated by characteristics such as your attitude, enthusiasm, work ethic, communications skills, and a willingness to learn. Beyond this, however, there are strategies that will enable you to talk about your experience, not just your potential.
GET CREDENTIALS. After choosing your field, find a respected credential-granting school and pursue it in the form of a specialized degree or targeted training.
BE CREATIVE. Even if you don’t have a technical or specialized degree, you can still stand out from the crowd. Volunteer or intern at a start-up that will give you the opportunity to do a wide range of activities which will help you discover your niche in the labor market, develop new skills and hopefully, useful contacts.
START AT THE BOTTOM. If you are a college graduate, you may feel overqualified for many entry-level jobs. However, you have to start somewhere. Starting at the point of customer interface, whether in customer support or sales, will give you a valuable opportunity to learn–the jumpstart you need to transform your life.
In order to get a job with no experience, you need to leverage the experiences that you do have, relate your skills to your experiences and then explain how those acquired skills are transferable to other jobs and industries. Bear in mind, what employers care about the most is what you can do for them, not where you acquired the skills or whether or not you were paid to learn them.
IQ + EQ = SUCCESS
Hiring managers often say they value this skill more than either IQ or technical ability. What is it? Emotional intelligence (EQ) is projected to be one of the top 10 fastest growing job skills by 2020. Why are candidates with higher levels of emotional intelligence so in demand? There are five reasons.
Self-Awareness: We all probably know people who demonstrate a self-awarenessof their own strengths and limitations and how their actions affect those around them. A person who is self-aware has the courage to look at themselves honestly and to learn from constructive criticism, far more than one who is not.
Self-Regulation: People who self-regulate exercise restraint when needed. They think before they act. They have the ability to see things from another person’s vantage point, and as a result, make better judgements as to how decisions will impact others. Not only do they have better-developed coping mechanisms to stress but they also exhibit kindness, flexibility, integrity and the ability to say no.
Self-Motivation: Notwithstanding disappointment, emotionally intelligent people are resilient, optimistic, and productive. They love a challenge, and because of their positive attitude, they are very effective in whatever they do.
Empathy: A person with empathy is good at identifying with and understanding the wants, needs, and viewpoints of those around them. They are caring, compassionate people who are an asset in building trust and cohesiveness in any work place. They are the ones that others want on their team since they make other people feel good.
People Skills: It’s usually easy to talk to and like people with well-developed social skills, another sign of high emotional intelligence. Those with strong social skills are typically team players who know just what to say and how to say it. They are active listeners as well as masters at using tact, showing respect and building rapport.
In this globalized workforce, people who show a greater ability to adapt to change, manage their emotions, and work well with a diverse range of people will become even more sought after than ever. The good news is that unlike IQ which remains constant, EQ can always be learned and developed.
DON’T BE A DO-IT-YOURSELFER
Is it always true that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself? Not necessarily. We considered the cost of hiring an expert to fix our plumbing leak, but it was such a non-emergency event that we couldn’t justify the cost. There was no broken pipe or flood or we would have called a plumber in a nanosecond. Though not our expertise, we knew we could figure it out all by ourselves. Naively, we felt confident that this five-minute project would be more satisfying if we did it on our own. After all, we were not trying to re-plumb the entire house for goodness sakes.
It’s just a simple home improvement project, or so we thought, which eventually had to be redone by a licensed plumber. When it comes to being a do-it-yourselfer, there’s a thin line between being fearless and foolish that has been crossed more times than we care to admit. Is there a lesson to be had in all of this, you ask? This brings me to the real point: plumbing is a metaphor for a larger dialog on this growing trend to “do-it-yourself.”
Whatever the undertaking, many of us naturally like doing things ourselves, but we can all too easily get in over our heads. Just as most of us shouldn’t be our own doctor, lawyer, electrician, or mechanic, we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be an expert at everything. Some things are best left to professionals who do this for a living. In fact, using the services of a career coach might just be worth the investment that ensures we have a competitive, value-driven resume that sells our credentials and opens doors. If you are still using a do-it-yourself resume without success, maybe it’s time to rethink this.
Nearly every job seeker that attempts to write their own resume finds it difficult, if not impossible, to know: what to include, what to leave out, and what to emphasize. They fail to write for their target audience. Instead of an accomplishment/outcome-based resume that demonstrates your value, many resumes are simply travelogues of where you have been. Your resume should be more about the skills you gained, the problems you solved, and the contributions you made to the success of the company.
Instead of delaying the start of your job search AND the start of a new job by endlessly fine tuning your resume, simply hire a pro. If you compare the salary lost from a prolonged job search with the cost of job search documents that expedite the process, you will find yourself financially far ahead. This is one of those times where it pays to go to an expert. A professionally written resume is an investment—well worth the money. It can save you much time, aggravation and missed opportunities. Like running a race, we all need an expert—a coach to give us that competitive advantage to make it to our finish line.
What is it about you that makes you the best hiring choice? You’re not like everyone else. So, your resume shouldn’t read like everyone else who’s competing for the same job.
Employers want to hire people who can quickly contribute to their company’s growth by delivering a strong return-on-investment (ROI). If you haven’t considered the benefits that companies get when hiring you, your search could take forever. Here are 5 ways to build an interview-generating, brand-reinforcing resume:
- Before you can define your brand, you first need to identify your target audience. What kind of job are you seeking, what companies do you want to work for and how best can you meet their needs?
- To make sure that your efforts are not wasted, bear in mind that the TOP THIRD of the first page will determine whether or not you make the first cut. In order to do so, top load your resume with accomplishments and quantifiable results that are applicable to the target position.
- Personal branding is based on authenticity. Your brand is your reputation–the combination of your career identity, values, passion and image. Your branding statement defines who you are, your promise of value, and showcases what sets you apart from others. Think of it as your sales pitch.
- Always lead with a hard-hitting personal brand statement that describes your ROI value. Then, judiciously integrate a powerful quote from a recent performance review followed by 3 or 4 short value-driven bulleted statements.
- Since every job deals with numbers to some extent, quantify your accomplishments, whenever possible. Even if you can’t correlate revenue to your specific job, provide the numbers that you can. Remember, the key to landing an interview is to show: How many, how much and how often?
Like it or not, creating a strong personal brand is crucial to building a successful career. It will open doors to unique opportunities when employers want what you do–in the way that you do it.
Situated in urban settings, street musicians have become part of the landscape. While most are nondescript, this particular musician was like none of the others. This one had a gift.
It was an inconvenient time at the Metro station that Friday during morning rush hour. Otherwise focused with smart phones and coffee cups, thousands of pedestrians hurried past the unseen and unheard violinist. Never was there a crowd nor was there any applause.
Unknown to the commuters was the fact that the fiddler was actually an internationally acclaimed virtuoso playing the most enduring masterpieces on one of the most valuable violins ever crafted. His name is Joshua Bell, and his performance was a social experiment on misplaced priorities conducted by The Washington Post. Simply put: if we do not take the time to savor the best music ever written from one of the world’s finest musicians, then what else are we failing to appreciate?
For most people, overwork has become the norm and for some, a badge of honor. Experts agree: the compounding stress from a never-ending workday can be harmful to our productivity, health and overall happiness. People who do manage to balance their work-life have a stronger sense of values, who they are and what is important to them. While work-life balance means something different to every individual, there are strategies to help you find the balance that’s right for you:
WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Play to your strengths and outsource the rest.
MAKE EXERCISE A MUST-DO, NOT A SHOULD-DO. Only when we engage in activities that are physically challenging and mentally restorative, will we live happier, healthier, and more productive lives.
PRIORITIZE YOUR WELL-BEING. Taking time off to live a more balanced life, like anything else, is a skill. It requires a commitment and a change in mindset. We get better at it the more we do it, but we must make it our priority.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Contrary to popular belief, scheduling time off is not a luxury. Instead, it is essential for your overall health.
Time is our most treasured commodity that we will never get back. Thus, make time for something you love, other than work, and give it all the time that it deserves. You owe it to yourself.
BUILD A NETWORK–BEFORE YOU NEED ONE
Let’s be honest. Most people spend more time filling out online applications, submitting resumes and writing cover letters than they ever do in networking. When it comes to networking, just about everyone reaches out for help only when they absolutely need to. Yet, did you know that most experts consider networking the most effective way of getting a job? What is networking and why is it so important?
Career networking involves using personal, professional, academic or family contacts to assist with your job search, career goals and learn more about your chosen field. Networking is all about talking to people that we do know who can vouch for our past performance and potential and then willingly connect us with people that we don’t know–but should.
Networking is not the same as asking for a job. Instead it is an exchange of new perspectives, referrals, and recommendations. You’ll learn more about your industry–its future and its challenges. Your network can likewise give you advice on career fields, the job market, where to look for jobs and even review your resume. The possibilities are endless.
In addition to the fact that approximately 80% of jobs are never advertised, only a small percentage of job seekers actively search for those unadvertised jobs. In other words, if there are 100 job openings, only 20 of those are advertised and being actively pursued by many more job seekers than the other 80 job openings.
Bear in mind: It’s not what you know, and it’s not who you know that matters. It’s all about who knows YOU! If a job opening does come up, the first strategy is usually to ask existing staff whether they know of anyone who would be a good fit for the job. Employers typically prefer to hire a person who has been referred to them by someone that they already know.
Here’s the takeaway: When done properly, networking is a predictor of success. Those most successful at it build genuine, long-lasting relationships and give more than what they receive. When we make ourselves available as a resource for others, we treat them as we would wish to be treated by those with whom we network.
LET THE NUMBERS DO THE TALKING
On average, hiring managers spend 6-seconds reviewing each resume. So how do you stand out from other qualified applicants?
- A sure-fire way to impress every hiring manager is to include not only what you do but also how well you do it. If you want to increase your odds of getting an interview, write an achievement-oriented resume that includes examples of results, outcomes and benefits to your employers.
- It’s all too common to neglect mentioning “how often, how many, or how much”. Yet, no matter what industry you’re in, there’s always something on your resume that can demonstrate your value through numbers.
- Anytime you can quantify your achievements in terms of percentages, numbers, dollar amounts, or time, you will give them more credibility as well as underscore your potential.
- While that may sound simple enough, what if you are more of a people-person and less of a figures-person? If you work in certain fields, you will readily have access to metrics such as sales volume, market share and profitability. On the other hand, let’s not overlook the people-oriented numbers like: increasing the loyalty of existing customers, negotiating a better deal from suppliers, and suggesting a new time-saving process to streamline procedures.
- How do you know that you have done a stellar job? Don’t be modest. Did you receive a promotion, award, or recommendation? Were you selected for special projects? Did you participate in a solution that improved customer service, enhanced efficiency, saved time or money, or increased revenues?
This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you have made a tangible difference. When you play the numbers game, you will better convince prospective employers that you should be part of their equation for success.
WHY YOU ARE THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR THE JOB
Most of us can relate to being interviewed for our dream job, but somehow, we were passed up. Where did we go wrong? Look at it this way. You are as qualified to do the job as other candidates who are also being interviewed, but the winning candidate must be more than just qualified. How can you make yourself stand out?
The interview process is all about answering this one question: Why should we hire you instead of one of the many other well-qualified applicants? Your interviewer is asking you to sell him on you as the best person for the job. This is no time to be self-deprecating. However, most of us are not used to selling ourselves and can all too often sabotage our opportunities with avoidable mistakes. The following suggestions should help:
- First of all, remember that employers hire workers to solve problems. All you have to do is: think back over your career and determine those unique qualities that differentiate yourself from others. Determine the needs of the business, and then, make yourself so invaluable that they can’t imagine hiring anyone else.
- Next, use anecdotes of how your past experience is transferrable. This will show that you have thought through how you would fit within the organization. Even if you are changing roles or industries, it is often more impressive when a candidate can make seemingly irrelevant experience seem so very relevant. Your answers should reflect that you know what the position requires and that you are the right person to do the job based on your most impressive strengths.
- Tailor your answers to indicate that you understand the work culture, that you will fit in with the team and that you will be able to make the hiring manager’s life so much easier from the get-go.
- Above all, if you really want to work at a particular company, make your enthusiasm known. You never want an interviewer to second-guess your interest in a position. Therefore, be sure to include it in your cover letter, share it at the interview, and then reiterate it in a follow-up thank you email.
What’s not to love about passion, initiative, a solid work ethic and first-rate work?
YES, YOU CAN!
Aerodynamics theory has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bumblebee cannot fly. Why? Its body mass is simply too big in proportion to its wings. Yet, the bumblebee, not knowing this, flies anyway. Like the bumble bee, we don’t come equipped to fly.
Obstacles are inevitable for all of us, but how we overcome them will determine our career success. By setting SMART goals and having the right attitude, we can better succeed at what is seemingly impossible.
- Set Smart Goals. Never let obstacles become an excuse to simply give up, nor hope that things will somehow work out on their own. Instead, take a chance and take charge. Turn your obstacles into opportunities by having SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based).
- Live In The Present. Much of our angst in this life is due to our tendency to either live in the past or in fear of what the future might bring. We can better cope with the uncontrollable when we focus more on what we can do than on what we cannot. Today is all we have. All we can control is our own behavior–right here and right now.
- Focus On The Positive. Having a “gloom and doom” mindset can paralyze and even divert us from our sense of purpose. When we concentrate more on what is not working, our stress and fear levels can soar. Yet, holding on to hope can be a powerful motivator. It’s what keeps us positive, restores our joy and facilitates in achieving our dreams.
- Become An “Overcomer”. Tough times never last, but determined people do! Fearless people are at ease with challenges, disappointments, and rejections since they see these events as merely detours to their final goal.
Bumblebees are not designed for flying. In theory, they should not be able to even get off the ground. Yet, everyday millions of these creatures defy the odds as scientists just wonder how. In spite of insurmountable odds, the bumblebee calmly goes about fulfilling its calling and enjoying its life. And so should we.
Along California’s rocky coast is a grove of some of the biggest trees in the world–the redwoods. These majestic titans are over 2500 years old—some over 300 feet high and fifty feet in diameter. You would think, considering their size, that trees so large would have a deep root system reaching down hundreds of feet. Yet, this is not the case at all since their roots are relatively shallow. Instead, for every foot in height, the redwood trees send roots not down but three times the distance, outward. So when the storms rage, their root system is so intertwined with the other redwood trees that it literally holds each other up.
Likewise, we are interconnected and reliant on one another as teammates. Having team players who are willing and able to put the team’s interests above his or her own is at the heart of every successful organization. A powerful team with a powerful interlocking system can indeed make a powerful difference. Here are five ways to be a more effective team player:
- BE RELIABLE & RESPONSIBLE. Honor your commitments. Produce high-quality work in a timely fashion.
- BE OPEN-MINDED. Be an active listener and receptive to other people’s perspectives as well as their constructive criticism.
- APPRECIATE OTHER PEOPLE’S DIFFERENCES—their work styles and diverse personalities. Understanding how each of your colleagues works best can make you a better team player.
- BE FLEXIBLE. Closely related to patience, flexibility allows team players to roll with the punches and pivot effectively when the project requires a course correction.
- CELEBRATE YOUR PEERS’ SUCCESSES. One of the easiest ways to create authentic relationships is to give credit where credit is due.
A team that works well together can succeed together and produce great results. Want to get ahead at work? Help others to succeed.
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER RETIRE
When are you too old to keep working? Or, are you? Has retirement become our default choice? Have we been brainwashed into accepting a work-free lifestyle? You might want to rethink your plans to exit the workforce.
- People are happiest and maintain their best health when engaged in challenging, meaningful work. Research has shown that people who retire have lower life expectancies than those who continue to work. Remaining in some form of employment, even part time work, gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth—a reason to get up in the morning. As a result, you will stay fit and better able to ward off health problems later on in life.
- Working in a career you’re passionate about makes life more meaningful. The greatest benefits come, predictably, from having enjoyable jobs—jobs that are flexible, provide autonomy and give people the feeling that they’re valued and are having a positive impact. Continuing to work keeps people engaged and requires learning new skills.
- You love your job–or you should. If you don’t, is it retirement you seek or is it probably a change in careers? It is never too late to change our lives. Even so, change starts today. If we continue to put it off, we may suddenly realize that life has passed us by, and the evolving workforce doesn’t want or need us anymore. Hence, we need to live life on our own terms while we still can.
- If you derive satisfaction from your job, why consider retiring just because you’ve reached a certain age? Retirement is not Warren Buffett’s idea of living. Buffett remains the CEO of his highly successful company Berkshire Hathaway and is also one of the richest men in the world. Buffett, who is 87 years young, recently remarked that he’s “tap dancing to work every day” and that “it doesn’t get better than that.”
Without a doubt, we will live longer, healthier and overall happier lives if we never retire. If we really love our work, we can’t imagine life without it.
how to succeed DESPITE a difficult boss
Congrats! You’ve just landed that coveted job that seems like a dream come true. This is the job that you’ve always wanted, but more and more, you are feeling unhappy, undervalued and unfulfilled. These may be warning signs that your manager could be the problem—and not you.
Most everyone has dealt with a difficult boss at some point in their career. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the worst boss you will ever have may turn out to be the best. Sometimes we can learn the most from the worse ones. Difficult bosses provide invaluable opportunities for developing leadership skills and are well-known for modeling the way not to do things.
Whether the person you work for is a micromanager or a bully, has anger management issues or is obviously incompetent, you still can make the best of a bad situation. Before you start planning an exit strategy, rethink how you can succeed:
- Help your boss to succeed. In the long run, making yourself indispensable and someone your boss can rely on to help them do their job better is a valuable asset.
- Become self-motivated. Commit to taking responsibility for your own successes and failures regardless of your manager’s shortcomings.
- Always take the high road. Stay upbeat and engaged while maintaining a professional demeanor. If you approach them with respect and a sincere desire to make things better, you can hopefully create more trust and collaboration.
- Set strong boundaries. You either have to draw a line between your life and your work, or eventually you’re going to have to choose between one or the other.
- Don’t be a victim. Above all, always stay true to yourself and your values. If you have made numerous good faith attempts but to no avail, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you did your absolute best.
If it is time to move on, leaving an intolerable situation can indeed be liberating. What is more, some of the lessons that will impact us the most will come from bosses who impressed us the least. If we use that wisdom, we can someday be the boss we wish we had had.
FAILING FORWARD: Your Story of Success
Face it, no one likes to admit they’ve failed. Yet, setbacks are inevitable for all of us, even to those universally thought of as always winning. Ever notice that all great success stories are also stories of great failure. As a matter of fact, those who are highly successful are people who have failed the most. They come from all walks of life but have shared one characteristic in common: a personal commitment to their own career success. What can we learn from them as to how to risk mistakes and bounce back from our setbacks?
- Keep Expectations Realistic. Although not easy, we need to accept failure as a part of the path to success. It makes it easier to move forward when we recognize that we are going to make mistakes. It’s a part of the learning process which strives for continuous improvement by actively learning from our collective wins and losses. Learning about what doesn’t work is just as valuable as learning about what does work–often more so.
- Take Calculated Risks. Be aware that without risk there is no reward. In other words, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Giving ourselves permission to not succeed at every task, perfectly, every time creates an opportunity for self-improvement and for greater success in the long run. When we realize that it’s okay to fail so long as we learn from our mistakes, then we are more willing to take more risks. As a result, we try new things to see if they will work. If they don’t work, then at least we’ve tried and learned from our experience. Chances are that when we willingly take risks, we will eventually succeed more often than we fail.
- Never Internalize Failure. Every achiever is someone who has failed, but in spite of that, they kept the right perspective. Instead of taking it personally, they realized that setbacks are merely a momentary event—neither fatal nor final. Every story of success is a story of risking failure yet never being defined by it.
The takeaway is clear: The best lessons in this life do not come as a result of always winning the race but instead from learning how to run it. If we spend our lives avoiding any risk of failure, we will never have the opportunity to discover all that we were capable of achieving. Keep failing forward!
is your new job a bad fit?
Remember when an aspiring journalist (Andy Sachs) walked into the office of Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief at Runway Magazine. From the get-go, Miranda dismisses Andy for her lack of passion and requisite haute-couture. Although not a cultural fit, Andy still proves that she has the skills of a candidate worth considering. Not only does she meet her boss’ high expectations but also displays an outstanding level of commitment toward her job. Initially, we may have taken The Devil Wears Prada at face value, but the film is more than a chick flick. There are valuable career lessons to be had:
- STRIVE TO BE YOURSELF. Make sure to always research the position and the company as well as to answer questions authentically to avoid a potential mismatch. Interviews go both ways; so, be prepared to interview the employer to make sure that it’s a good fit for you. If the company has values that differ from your own, you may want to reconsider moving forward with the position.
- DARE TO TAKE RISKS. Whenever possible, we should always make the most of the opportunities that come our way. Even though they take us out of our comfort zones, risks can help us to discover all that we are capable of doing.
- DRESS TO IMPRESS. In any environment, the way we dress does matter. It’s a reflection of who we are. Once Andy gets her makeover, she becomes more confident in her ability to excel at her job responsibilities.
- NEVER LOSE SIGHT OF YOUR DREAMS. Andy always remembers why she’s working at Runway and reminds herself of where she eventually wants to be.
- STAY TRUE TO YOUR CORE VALUES AND INTEGRITY. If we are expected to be basically available whenever we are conscious, then we need to set boundaries. Toxic work environments can undermine that which makes our lives worth living.
Like Andy, our initial jobs may not be our dream jobs, but yet, there’s always something to be learned from all of our experiences. Every job will teach us skills and lessons that we can apply throughout our lives. All in all, we can definitely relate to Andy’s struggles–her determination and desire to excel. As she finds her true-self, she at last discovers her real passion and eventually earns respect from her boss.
how to stay active at our desk jobs
Is sitting the new smoking? Most of us have heard this, but is it really true? Recent studies have found that people who sit the most, compared with those who sit the least, have a greater risk of disease and death. Even if we diligently exercise at least 150 minutes each week, it is not enough to counteract the damage sitting can do to our health and productivity.
The challenge is to make time for physical activity as an integral part of our daily routine. So what do we do? Remember Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” comedy routine? Do we do walk-lunges around the entire office while high-fiving bewildered co-workers? Possibly not! Consider instead the following approaches for staying active at your desk job:
- Consider using an activity tracker to motivate you to move more and keep track of your progress in achieving your goals.
- Walk or bike to work. If you ride the bus or subway, get off a few blocks early and walk the rest of the way. If you drive to work, park at the far end of the parking lot. Then, take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Do subtle stretches to improve your range of motion and posture while reducing pain and providing stress relief.
- Schedule micro-breaks at least every hour. Instead of sitting, stand and pace while talking on the phone. Chat face-to-face instead of by email or phone. Hold walking meetings instead of in the conference room.
- Trade in your desk chair for a firmly inflated balance ball–either a stool or a chair. By active sitting, you will engage your core muscles which will improve your balance and posture.
- Stand up and work. A standing desk converter allows you to easily transition from sitting to standing and then back again. Standing is definitely better than sitting, but moving is even better than standing.
- Convert to an active work station. Skype calls, web research, emails, phone calls, and even typing can be done while walking slowly at a properly adjusted treadmill or using a mini exercise bike or even standing on a desk balance board. These options are designed to engage our core and increase our heart rate while flexing our hips, knees and ankles.
We must keep moving despite our desk jobs. Our bodies are designed to move. Since all movement counts, the little changes here and there can go a long way. Not only will we feel the difference but also be better versions of ourselves for it!
DARE TO LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE!
Feeling stressed, overworked or overwhelmed? We may have long ago given up on having any personal time. It’s tempting to think that we are too busy to have a hobby, but we may have more time than we think. So often, we create this illusion of busyness whereas we may be wasting time–binge-watching TV or scrolling through social media. If we are stuck in a rut, what we need to do is to get a hobby that will not only enrich our lives but also benefit our chosen careers.
- When we participate in Community Theater or a Revolutionary War Reenactment, we are connecting with like-minded people. We become more well-rounded as we engage in new challenges and experiences. Having a hobby—something that matters to us beyond the routine of home and work—can make us more interesting to the people that we meet.
- Undertaking a challenging hobby like a grueling marathon or Taekwondo is a way to discover capabilities that we never knew we had. At times, we may need to push past our limits and get out of our comfort zones to do so.
- Education doesn’t just occur in the classroom. Engaging in a new hobby like Sudoku, chess, photography or woodworking can keep us inquisitive, improve our creative problem solving skills and impact our smarts. Having a passion in life can provide a well-needed respite from our daily grind.
- Like Zumba, Yoga and Pilates, hobbies can be a great stress reliever that can provide a healthy, productive distraction. Hobbies are not about pleasing others or even self-improvement. Rather, they are your “me” time–a source of joy.
- Exploring a hobby can give us a sense of purpose and gain a better understanding of who we are—what we like and dislike and what is most important to us. From volunteering at an animal shelter to tutoring disadvantaged youth, passionate pursuits can enhance our self-fulfillment.
We might not all end up to be ballerinas, major league ball players or whatever else we dreamed of being as children, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot still pursue other activities that we love. Living our best can really be a matter of fun and games!
STRATEGIES FOR YOUR JOB FAIR SUCCESS
Too often, many job seekers would rather apply online than attend a job fair. Yet, did you know that some of those online jobs have already been filled internally? At a job fair, you will be speaking with employers who actually have openings, who are actively hiring and who specialize in your industry. Job fairs provide an opportunity to meet with recruiters who not only have an impact on hiring decisions but also whose access would typically be restricted. Here’s how to succeed:
- TARGET YOUR EFFORTS. Research what companies will be there and choose a few that best fit your interests, background, and skills. Determine which open positions are relevant in order to tailor your resume more specifically to those particular jobs.
- GET THERE EARLY. Arrive at the beginning of the event, when it’s less crowded. Introduce yourself and include something about your background and/or skills as well as what you want to do. For example, “I’m Matt Larson. I have worked in marketing for several years. I would love to discuss how my marketing communication and social media skills might be a fit at your company.”
- REHEARSE YOUR ELEVATOR SPEECH. Treat this as a mini interview, your one and only chance to sell yourself to the recruiter. By using anecdotes, demonstrate your value in order to address their major concern: “What can you do for them?”
- EXPAND YOUR NETWORK. One of the most under-rated activities at a job fair is to share advice and contact information with other attendees. As a result, you can learn about other industries and opportunities where your current skillset is in demand along with job market trends.
- FOLLOW UP. By asking key questions and taking notes, you will have the talking points to use for follow-up emails. Be sure to give recruiters your resume, and find out the next step in the recruiting process. Then, remember to ask for the recruiter’s business card along with expressing your appreciation for their time.
Nothing beats a face to face meeting–whether a college internship fair or event for seasoned professionals. If you are strategic, you can make job fairs work for you.
HOW JOB SHADOWING CAN BENEFIT YOUR CAREER
Wouldn’t you just love to “test drive” the career of your choice, the same as you would before purchasing a brand new car? Actually you can–without the commitment of a long-term job or internship. No matter how old you are or where you are in life, job shadowing may be your opportunity to try out a profession that you have always wanted to explore further.
- Given the fact that informed decisions usually yield the best results. Job shadowing can provide real world experience, whether you are a student interested in a particular career or an adult considering a job or career change. As the name implies, job shadowing offers a chance to gain “first-hand” knowledge—to observe the day-to-day activities of someone working in a position, career or industry that is of interest to you. Job shadowing usually entails a tour of the facility, a discussion about job responsibilities, attending meetings and anything else a professional can “show and tell” in the workplace.
- You can discover your true passions—what really motivates you. This invaluable experience not only provides exposure to different occupations but also to different ways companies operate and their respective cultures. Job shadowing will give you the chance to experience a job’s rewards as well as its daily stressors. What better way is there than to learn about a particular career path, industry, company, or role than by actually experiencing it yourself?
- In the working world, it’s all about making the right connections. Who knows? This could be exactly the career game-changer you didn’t know that you really needed. Your college’s career center, alumni relations staff, professional associations or your local chamber of commerce can all be instrumental in helping to arrange a job shadow. Ultimately, being proactive in seeking out opportunities demonstrates that you’re a go-getter who is passionate about the right career fit.
Too often, people regret the career choices they have made because their dream jobs did not turn out to be exactly what they had envisioned. The way to prevent this from happening is to “test-drive” the career of your choice to see if it’s right for you. Before you move full speed ahead, make sure you first take it for a spin!
WORLD’S GREATEST INTERN
With internships, there is never a guarantee of a full time job. However, it is a well-known fact that many companies do retain a large percentage of their interns as entry-level hires. What better way is there to know how a person is going to perform and fit into the overall culture than to have them already doing work for the company?
For ambitious college students looking for a summer internship, the key recruiting time is February through April. Those who apply early always improve their odds. They are competing for an opportunity to hone skills, build resumes and make connections that increase their chances of landing a job. By graduation, these students who have interned are more likely to feel confident that they have found a career path that works best for them. Here’s how to be the best intern ever:
- SHOW COMMITMENT. Since different organizations have different expectations regarding employee behavior, it is crucial to learn about and conform to the corporate culture. Do whatever it takes to get your work done well—by making efficient use of your time, showing initiative, and above all, avoiding office politics.
- BE SELF-MOTIVATED. Doing only what is expected of you is not enough to be noticed; instead, you need to go above and beyond. It is safe to say that you will be rewarded with both trust and greater responsibility if you are someone who strives for excellence in everything you do. If you are willing to achieve beyond what is required, you will not only be appreciated but also remembered.
- POLISH YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS. Strive to build personal connections by considering how your message impacts other people. Show that you are an active listener who not only acknowledges but also values the viewpoints of others.
- DEMONSTRATE AN EAGERNESS TO LEARN. As an intern, employers do not expect you to know everything about the job or industry. Therefore, ask thoughtful questions: the more you ask, the more you will learn about the job and how the industry operates.
If you are fortunate enough to land an internship with a company that is already looking to hire from their internship program, you need to do everything possible to improve your chances of getting hired. Your future awaits.
HOLIDAY NETWORKING CONVERSATION STARTERS
‘Tis the season to start conversations. Holiday gatherings are great opportunities for job seekers to build relationships and make meaningful connections. You RSVP, select a host or hostess gift and then dress to impress. Yet, what about adding some conversation prep to your pre-party checklist?
Maybe you don’t consider yourself the schmoozing type. However, as the date of your next holiday event approaches, having the perfect opener might just give you the confidence to reach out, make someone else feel at ease, and maybe even make that career-changing professional connection. Consider using some of these conversation starters to make the most of your time at holiday parties, including professional and industry social events:
|Be straightforward. “Hi! I’m new to the company and don’t know many people here. I’m Stacey. What’s your name?”|
|Open with the topic of food: “Have you tried any of those appetizers yet? Any recommendations?”|
|Offer sincere compliments. “I appreciate how tech-savvy you are.” “You are very creative.” “You always ask great questions.” “I love your sense of humor.”|
|Ask open ended questions and then listen: “So, are you from this area or from somewhere else?” “Any new innovations happening in your industry?”|
|Make it about the location: “I’ve never been here before. How about you?”|
|Get personal: “How do you know the host/hostess?” “Do you know most of the people here?” “Where are you celebrating the holidays?”|
|Ask about their job: ““How did you decide to do what you do?” “What do you love the most about your job?” “How is your business going?”|
Keep in mind, the ultimate goal of networking is not to compete in collecting the most business cards or launch into your “elevator speech” at the holiday party. Keep your introduction simple, and find something that you both have in common. If you meet someone that you would love to add to your professional network, simply send them a LinkedIn connection request or set a follow-up meeting for coffee or lunch.
No matter who it is, treat each and every person as if they could offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. Happy networking!
A GREAT WAY TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR!
Getting a challenging new job ranks high on many people’s lists of New Year’s resolutions. While some naysayers would have us believe that this is a sheer waste of our time, many studies show that the very act of making resolutions improves our chances of success. However, making resolutions is only the first step; you need a strategy if you want to make a career change.
How long does it take to find a job? Probably longer than we anticipate! There are so many variables that can impact the length of time it takes to find work. While some factors are beyond our control, others can be altered by our choices.
As simple as it may sound, the real key to finding a job faster is being organized. Studies have shown that methodical people with a healthy dose of perseverance are more likely to achieve their goals, than those who are not. To increase your chances of success:
- SET GOALS. Setting tangible objectives is crucial because it gives us something to work towards at each step of the job search process.
- PRIORITIZE. Since time is our greatest commodity, we need to concentrate on those tasks that more closely align with our endgame.
- AVOID DISTRACTIONS. Eliminate the non-essential activities, and instead, conduct your job search as though it is your full-time job.
- CREATE A ROUTINE. Until it becomes second nature, focus on your ultimate goal by following through with a systematic plan.
- BE OPTIMISTIC. Maintain a positive, forward-thinking, goal-oriented attitude while celebrating your victories and milestones achieved.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2021? Moreover, do you have a plan for achieving them? The choice is simple: to get that challenging new job, you need to first get organized. Here’s to the best version of ourselves!
Celebrate National Compliment Day!
When was the last time you complimented someone or received a compliment at work? We all enjoy getting compliments whether it be praise, encouragement or congratulations. Complements are powerful. When delivered in the right way, a complement can completely change a person’s life. And yet, what is it about giving and receiving compliments that mystifies even the most socially adept among us?
- If we want to make a positive impression at work, we need to BE EAGER TO PRAISE OTHERS. Not only do compliments reassure people but they also strengthen relationships. They are a sign of respect. What’s more, employees actually function better when their efforts are noticed and valued. In fact, studies have shown that compliments can improve productivity and reinforce positive behavior. Our appreciation and encouragement can reveal natural strengths in new employees and those making an extra effort or accomplishing difficult tasks.
- Many know how to flatter, but few KNOW HOW TO GIVE POSITIVE FEEDBACK EFFECTIVELY. While we don’t need to be experts at giving complements, we must recognize the worth in other people and their work. Thus, whatever we say should be heartfelt and the more specific the better. Always bear in mind that a compliment that works well in one context may be inappropriate in another. So don’t overdo it or overthink it, but above all, be authentic.
- SIMPLY SAY THANKS. Paradoxically, many of us find it much more difficult to receive a compliment than to give one. All too often, we downplay our successes instead of graciously accepting compliments by just saying, “Thank you. I am really pleased with how it turned out.” The bottom line is: learning to accept compliments gives us the opportunity to see ourselves as others do.
When we show our appreciation and give credit for a job well done, it can indeed have a profound impact besides making our spirits soar. The more we compliment others, the better we will get at it. And as a result, the better we will feel about ourselves, our colleagues, and our work. Why not brighten someone’s day today and every day in honor of National Compliment Day on January 24th?