Feel Stuck In a Job You Hate? Survival Skills to Endure & Move Forward

Designed by Dave Tappy for the Noun Project

Designed by Dave Tappy for the Noun Project

Productivity blogs and self-help books everywhere have given us the classic trope of a beaten-down-worker quitting their job in a blaze of glory and living happily after — but real life is much more complicated than that. Maybe you hate your job, maybe you just kind of dislike it. Or it may be a “placeholder” job while you finish school, look for a new one, or get a side project or start-up off the ground. Either way, as Alina Tugend in the New York Times shows us, there are things you can do to make it better, worth your time, or to help you get out wisely.

First, Tugend advises, try to figure out the reasons behind your dissatisfaction by making a list of what you don’t like — but don’t just say “everything,” go into specifics.

“If you hate your boss, write down the things you hate about her,” Ms. Rosenberg said. Do you like what you do, but dislike your colleagues or boss, or do you despise the actual tasks? Try to separate it out.

Got time to kill? Spend it building new skills instead of “serving time.”

What can you learn that you can put on your résumé? Computer skills? Public speaking? “If your company offers education benefits, use them to make yourself marketable,” she said. Even if your company will pay only $1,000, you can take a class at a community college.

Realistically, there may be times when you have to make the best of a bad situation until you can move forward again. 

If you’re stuck, are there particular tasks in your job that you like? Has your job changed so that you’re now doing a lot of things you find mind-numbing or off your career path? Is there any way to talk to your boss about this?. . . Look outside your job for positive feedback. Can your family and friends supply it? Perhaps volunteering or joining a professional organization can give you some sense of purpose if you can’t get it from your workplace, he said. When I was in a job and my supervisors insisted — unfairly, I believed — that I wasn’t producing enough, I found it helpful to document exactly what I was doing. This proved not only important in negotiations with the higher-ups, but also helped re-establish my own sense of worth.

Not sure whether you should stay and try to fix it, or go? See if it has the four pillars creative jobs need to be fulfilled. Struggling to find a new one? Even in this bad economy, there are ways to jumpstart your career.

Read the rest of the article over at the New York Times.

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How to Turn Creativity Into a Habit

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Lightning designed by Adam Whitcroft from the Noun Project

Creativity seems like a bolt of lightning that strikes almost completely at random. However, psychologist Robert Sternberg believes that’s not entirely true. On Fast Company, Sternberg explains that creativity can be made into a habit:

There are three basic factors that help turn creative thinking into a habit: opportunities to engage in it, encouragement to go after such opportunities, and rewards for doing so.

At a pragmatic level, this might mean finding a community of people who support and encourage your creative work….There is more, of course, to cultivating a habit of creativity than finding a community….Look for ways to see problems that other people don’t. Take risks that other people are afraid to take. Have the courage to defy the crowd and to stand up. Seek to overcome obstacles and challenges.

All it takes is a willingness to pursue creativity and, of course, the right environment to let it thrive. It’s all about persistence for many of us, he says. Read the full write-up on how to make creativity your new habit on Fast Company.

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When to Quit Your Job

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When’s the right time to quit a job if it leaves you feeling hopeless, exhausted, or like you’re wasting your time? How do you separate a day-to-day struggle from a larger problem? According to Chris Coleman, there are three clear stages for when it’s a good time to quit. Coleman tells us not only the stages, but also provides questions to ask yourself to see which stage you’re in, over on the CreativeMornings blog:

The turnover rate in creative jobs is much higher than the national average. A lot of this has to do with the “I want it now” mentality. “I deserve it.” “All my friends work at Google.” The moral of the story? Don’t leave until you have done the job. Ask yourself:

[Ask yourself the] question: Is there anyone here who will tell me the truth when I ask for feedback?

  • Most bosses hate to give feedback. If you want to know how you’re doing, ask.
  • Don’t settle for mamby-pamby answers. You’re looking for specificity and a neutral, open conversation.
  • If there’s no one who will tell you the truth, go.

Knowing when it’s time to go and when it’s time to suck it up (because you likely still have a lot left to learn) can be hard. Coleman’s three stages — from competence to judgement and finally to influence — provide us with some nice stepping stones. Best of all: her numerous example questions can help you identify which stage you’re at (and whether you really should call it quits).

Get all of the stages and valuable questions to ask yourself on the CreativeMornings blog.

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The Importance of the Daily Check-In

Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

Question Designed by Rémy Médard for the Noun Project

On LinkedIn, entrepreneur Joris Toonders shares why taking 15 minutes a day to ask yourself these four questions — two first thing in the morning and two just before bed at night — is exactly what we need to improve ourselves. Here are the first two:

1. What are my goals today?

Most people have goals in the long term, but don’t translate them to the short term. If you want to grow your business by 20 percent in the coming year, what are you doing today to reach that long term goal? Are you really doing the right things today to reach those goals?

2. What are my challenges today?

Successful people set themselves challenges every day. It’s a way of living. You have to challenge yourself every day, to get the most out of you and become better, faster and smarter…

Try it yourself by setting an alert on your phone or computer to remember to answer the two questions in the morning and the two at night. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself thinking a lot more diligently about how you spend your time (and feeling better about the work you do) as a result.

Read all of the thinking behind Toonders insight (and get all four daily questions you need to ask) right here.

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How to Set Goals Like Google

What’s the best way to set goals? Google Ventures Partner Rick Klau says the best goals center aroundh Objectives and Key Results (or OKRs). Over on the Google Ventures blog, Klau explains the pillars for exactly how to set worthwhile goals using OKRs:

• Objectives are ambitious, and should feel somewhat uncomfortable
• Key Results are measurable; they should be easy to grade with a number (at Google we use a 0 – 1.0 scale to grade each key result at the end of a quarter)
• OKRs are public; everyone in the company should be able to see what everyone else is working on (and how they did in the past)
• The “sweet spot” for an OKR grade is .6 – .7; if someone consistently gets 1.0, their OKRs aren’t ambitious enough.

Watch Klau’s presentation in the video below to see how Google came to use OKRs and why they’ve proven to be more powerful than simply setting an average, to-get-done goal. Or read Klau’s story of how he first learned about OKRs on Google Ventures.

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Daunting Task? Take a Walk First.

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Chair designed by Loralee Barratt from the Noun Project

When faced with a daunting problem or large task, our instinct is to burry our heads until the job is done. On LinkedIn, Dr. Marla Gottschalk explains why that’s not always the best way of tackling problems. In-fact, she explains that we should occasionally walk away from the work:

You may not perceive fatigue, yet your mind may actually be exhausted. Rest of some form is required. In these moments, the brain may find the energy required to engage… Even at rest, our brains continue the quest to connect the dots.

Integrating periods of rest while you work on key problems is critical. You may find that a walk or meditation works for you….You might listen to your favorite pieces of music, read your favorite cartoons, game — but offer your brain the “down time” it needs. Whatever the activity you ultimately choose, the process is of no less importance. If you find yourself stressed and tired while working on a problem, take a moment to relax.

The brain is a fickle machine, but it’s fortunately one that continues to work on problems even while our consciousness is elsewhere. Stepping back to take a break might feel like moving backwards, but it’s often what your brain needs to actually move forward.

Dr. Gottschalk ends with a powerful reminder: “Above all, remember that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective.”

Read the full article on LinkedIn here.

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End Your Focus Drought

Crosshair designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

Crosshair designed by Phil Goodwin from the Noun Project

Between everything that nags at us during the day, it’s hard to stay focused on what matters most. Our lack of focus costs us time and lowers the quality of our work. Fortunately, Andrea Ayres-Deets of Ooomf has found a few ways to beat focus drought. She writes:

Do focus intensive tasks around your brain’s schedule

Your peak distraction times occur between 12 p.m.- 4 p.m. and you will find that you become sleepy at 2 p.m. Your brain’s energy reserves and alertness begin to slip during these times. You can work around this though.

Your brain handles tough cognitive loads best in the late morning hours (after 10 a.m.). At this point in the day your brain is fully awake, it’s (hopefully) fed, and humming along quite nicely.

In the afternoon try switching up tasks and going for a walk to snap your brain back into an alert and active state.

Chew gum

Yes, this sounds weird, but research shows that chewing gum increases the oxygen flow to the parts of your brain responsible for attention. It also improves your long term memory and injects a bit of insulin into your blood which may help give your brain that added energy boost.

Being able to find your ideal focus will allow you to not only get more done in a shorter amount of time, it can help you to produce better work too. Less distractions means your able to put all of your cognitive power into what you’re working on now.

Do yourself a favor and grab a pack of chewing gum then head over to Medium to read Ayres-Deets’ tips for getting your focus back.

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