Post No.: 0857
Sometimes, after we graduate, we don’t know what we’re good at or will enjoy doing for a career. But it’s often not enthusiasm that leads to the choice of work we do but how the work we do leads to enthusiasm, or doesn’t i.e. it’s only by giving something a go will we find out whether we’ll actually know if it’s right for us as a career or not. Something we want to try can be initially attempted as a little side hustle? The point is don’t think that inspiration will simply come to you – go out there and try some things. Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. You’re the one who can craft a career that brings meaning, fulfilment and accomplishment to you.
Don’t just search for existing job posts or wait for opportunities to come your way – create them. Call (not email or write to) the most senior person you can get hold of in the organisation you want to work for. Tell them how you can specifically help solve a problem of theirs or how they should capitalise on your particular skills, motivation and energy. Precisely show them you have initiative (but do balance this show of confidence with humility).
Key aspects of satisfying jobs are a decent level of autonomy in how you do something, a high level of personal mastery, the level of impact you have on others (having meaning or purpose in your work or career is vital – if your ‘why’ is strong then you’ll have the resilience to deal with almost anything in order to reach your goal), and the connection you mutually have with your clients, co-workers and any others you interact with. So try to find, or craft as you negotiate, your next job to maximise each of those areas as best as you can (bearing in mind you probably won’t for all of them all of the time).
Many lower-level jobs have already been overtaken by automation, like store clerks and customer service representatives. Middle managers, too, are anticipated to become required less due to technologies that allow fewer middle managers to oversee more individuals, or technologies being able to effectively supervise all workers autonomously.
The world of work is changing fast due to AI, but the skills that are forecast to still be relevant regardless of increased automation include complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
To keep your job for as long as possible – maintain your indispensability to the organisation you’re in, do what’s asked of you but also a bit more, build relationships and your network (you may need to put in an extra effort to do this if you work from home), constantly seek feedback on what you could’ve done better, push a little out of your comfort zone to seek growth opportunities, and adapt yourself as the job changes or needs freshening. To grow, you’ll need to move forwards and take on new responsibilities, which may mean you’ll need to leave your current place however. Many people change not just companies but careers throughout their lives. Yet sometimes you can adapt right where you are.
You’re inevitably going to get snubbed and receive harsh feedback occasionally in life, but you can’t let it get to you – you’ve got to bounce back! You need thick skin. A touch of arrogance can occasionally be fine. Others aren’t always right or fair even if you must listen to them.
We mostly need resilience though. No one who aims high ever achieves everything they want (which means that if you’ve always reached your goals then you could probably be more ambitious in your career; albeit there’s nothing wrong with simply being content). It starts with believing we can be resilient. This means accepting that something has gone wrong, and we were at fault, yet being able to pick ourselves up again. Arrogance, on the contrary, might make us blame others for things, which means we don’t learn because we don’t think it’s us who needs the lesson. Learning from our failures isn’t always automatic because we don’t always admit to our errors, we get too busy with the next thing, or sometimes it’s hard to disentangle cause with effect to learn what we should do differently next time.
Admitting to our own mistakes to others as a leader makes it easier for others to admit to their own mistakes too, which takes the stigma out of it and prompts your team to take them as learning opportunities instead of things to deny or blame others with i.e. we lead by example. Our resilience also improves when we prepare ourselves for what’s coming, even if we don’t know what that might be – and the best way to do that is by constantly learning new things and networking.
You need confidence, but too much leads to hubris and mistakes. So you need humility, but too much leads to a lack of killer instinct or failing to sell yourself. Others will read you, typecast you, and so treat you accordingly too, like wishing to stab you in the back if you’re too supercilious, or passing you over for certain opportunities if you’re too meek.
For leaders, inconsistency is often criticised – yet another word for it is being adaptable. So sometimes you need to be stern and other times gentle, or paws-on and paws-off, or be competing and cooperating, or be the teacher and the student, or be persistent yet flexible, or display power or certainty yet some moments of vulnerability or uncertainty (this enhances trust and team bonding), or you cannot fear failure yet you can’t keep making mistakes, for instance. You need to focus on your strengths but your weaknesses may be what bring you down hence these need to be addressed too.
Great leaders or managers are okay with this duality or contradiction. Relatedly, they’re okay with holding multiple opposing views of the world simultaneously because they understand that the real world is complex. The application of nuance and subtlety are frequently apt. Something can work sometimes but not at other times. What makes sense to you might not for someone else. Simple labels or stereotypes are cognitively attractive for their simplicity but they limit our perspectives, horizons and opportunities to learn. So no matter how much you believe something to be true – ponder if the opposite may also hold some validity too?
You’ll also need self-awareness, which means knowing yourself and not fooling yourself. So book yourself 15 minutes some day this week to do some self-reflection. Ask and answer questions like how are you feeling right now? Why are things going the way they are at work or at home? Are you on track with your personal improvement efforts? What problems have recently arisen? Will you deal with them or let them go? What’s going well?
Do understand that for literally everyone who becomes successful, it takes a village. These are the people who’ve helped you and/or presently help you in some way, like family members, friends, teachers, mentors, coaches, colleagues, business partners, support staff, bosses, customers, maybe spiritual leaders – and many others more, massively or moderately, in your life. They help you practically and/or emotionally. They help you move forwards in life in the way you want it to. You can count on them! Woof!
Therefore are you cultivating and expanding that village? Are you reciprocating by being a part of other people’s villages too? As you think about the next steps in your career or life, are you missing any relationships that might be able to help you accomplish those steps i.e. who can or might help you on your path? Howl you approach them? How might you fill in any gaps?
Think about your legacy too. When you’re elderly, what’ll people think when they remember what you’ve done for or taught them?
…But do remember that your career is only one aspect of your life. Success in life as a whole involves a healthy balance of career, relationship, social, family, leisure, personal time and good health. So it’s fine to be seriously future-looking and forward-planning but never neglect your personal, leisure and social relationships in the here and now.
Even within each day, try to set and stick to clear boundaries between your career, play and personal life. Totally detaching and relaxing from one’s work, and the quality and type of the relaxation, are vital. When you relax properly, you don’t think about work at all; otherwise you’ll still eventually feel fatigued. Relaxing times totally refresh you so that you’ll have a full stamina wheel and concentration again when you return to work.
It can depend on one’s level of extraversion but ‘passive breaks’, like watching TV, are okay but aren’t as effective as active ones like going out and socialising. Constant fatigue will lead to depression so increase the shared social fun in your life. Even for introverts – exercise. Keeping active is one of life’s greatest paradoxes – the more energy you put into it (up to a point), the more energy you’ll feel you have left for the other parts of your life!
Blaming your work could indicate a ‘work dependency’ (analogous to a drug dependency) – this is identified by an excessive involvement at work at the expense of other areas in your life. Delegate more if possible, and be less perfectionist. Satisfaction from work shouldn’t be more important than your health or home life.
‘Binge working’ or having compressed hours, days, weeks or even months working (e.g. 12-hour shifts on 3 or 4 days then taking the rest of the week off) may suit you and your type of work. (When we ‘work hard then play hard’ though, after a long time off, we can find it difficult to instantly get back into a working frame-of-mind again. In such cases, remind yourself of what the work means to you and its impact on others you care about.) Regardless, everybody needs to have regular time away from working. Feeling ‘tired constantly’ is a sign of overexertion, and applying further sheer effort won’t cure this in the long run – just like one can over-train in the gym and start to reverse one’s performance gains. Tiredness may indicate boredom, frustration or being ‘tired of it’. Don’t reach exhaustion to force yourself to take a break. Choose to take a break regularly. Beware of the rare but real risk of ‘sudden death’ from stress (or grief, anxiety or anger). And work cannot make up for, mask or permanently distract you from any problems in other parts of your life, because ignoring a problem won’t mean it doesn’t exist and it won’t necessarily mean it’ll go away on its own.
‘Enthusiasm’ is different to ‘addiction’. So like with any addiction – the work must enhance life rather than take away from it. Addiction or obsession concerns how people respond if they don’t do the thing they desire to do, more than how they behave when they do the thing they desire to do i.e. do you feel okay not doing it as when you are? Work addiction makes you unpopular and this won’t bring you success either.
Working does tend to improve self-esteem. But note that work comes in many different forms, including being a househusband/housewife and looking after the children even if one doesn’t get paid for it. And others should understand that. So maybe daily purpose and contribution are the actual factors, rather than something being formally classed as ‘work’, when it comes to self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be paid work to be work, and some work will only pay off in the future i.e. is an investment, such as education and early entrepreneurial endeavours or experiments.
Woof. You don’t have to ‘live up to expectations’ or outdo or impress others in your career. Your senses of meaning, fulfilment and accomplishment are individual to you.