Having high personal drive will get you further, but only if paired with ownership, reflection, motivation, and other traits.

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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Five Traits You Need to Stand Out

Independent designed by Griffin Mullins from the Noun Project

Independent designed by Griffin Mullins from the Noun Project

Over at LinkedIn, entrepreneur James Caan gives us five important traits to have if you want to stand out in your career, including:

Self-motivation

There is an old saying that says if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards, and this is especially true in career terms. Are you somebody who is happy with your current skill set, or do you actively look to improve? If it is the latter, then you are exactly the sort of person most bosses look for…

Ownership

There is nothing better for a manager than to see his or her employees actively taking ownership of projects. Equally, nobody wants to be seen as someone who passes the buck. If something falls under your remit, ensure you are the one who sees it through…

Self-reflective

By having this ability to reflect – and sometimes criticize yourself – you are making sure lessons are learnt every step of the way.

What each of the traits Caan shares have in common is primarily related to personal drive. Those who are successful in their careers have the momentum to take full accountability and control of their efforts. Though, if they don’t have the momentum they need, they create it through self-reflection and focus.

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Move Long-Term Goals Forward with “Now” Deadlines

    Time by Cornelius Danger from The Noun Project

Time by Cornelius Danger from The Noun Project

Research indicates that we defer working on things based on how distant we perceive their deadlines. When we decide that something falls into the “future” category, we simply file it in our “someday” folder and eventually those goals are neglected. Unfortunately, that which is important is often inversely proportional to what’s urgent. To move priorities out of our “someday” folder, Amy Morin suggests imposing what she calls “now” deadlines:

Establish “now” deadlines. Even if your goal is something that will take a long time to reach – like saving enough money for retirement – you’re more likely to take action if you have time limits in the present. Create target dates to reach your objectives. Find something you can do this week to begin taking some type of action now. For example, decide “I will create a budget by Thursday,” or “I will lose two pounds in seven days.”

This is essentially a handy way of breaking down huge tasks into do-able, realistic bits. After all, time expands so as to fit the time available for its completion.

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The Single-Most Powerful Attribute All Geniuses Share

Creativity pie chart by James Clear

Creativity pie chart by James Clear

What separates the likes of Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, or Pablo Picasso from the rest of us? Over at Entrepreneur, James Clear argues it comes down to pure grit:

How do creative geniuses come ups with great ideas? They work and edit and rewrite and retry and pull out their genius through sheer force of will and perseverance. They earn the chance to be lucky because they keep showing up…

No single act will uncover more creative powers than forcing yourself to create consistently….For you, it might mean singing a song over and over until it sounds right. Or programming a piece of software until all the bugs are out, taking portraits of your friends until the lighting is perfect, or caring for the customers you serve until you know them better than they know themselves.

It might seem like an unfortunate answer, nobody wants to hear that the best way to do anything is to “work for it,” but the advice also shines as a reminder that genius-level ideas are obtainable, they just take work. Of course, knowing when to quit and when to grit are important as well.

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Molly Crabapple: Make a Career That Fits You

crabapple black

In a time when old institutions are restructuring or collapsing, artist and writer Molly Crabapple urges individuals not to change who they are to be “professionally viable.” There is no longer a system you can enter and be set until retirement. Instead, she suggests creating a career unique to you.

…focus in on your weirdness, your passions, and your f***ed-up damage, and be yourself as truly as you can. Express that with as much craft, discipline, and rigor as you can; work as hard as you can to build a career out of that, and then you’ll create a career that you love and that’s true to yourself, as opposed to doing what you think other people want and burning yourself out when you’re older.

Don’t change who you are to fit the work out there — find that work that fits you.

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Public Speaking 101: Focus on Your Topic & the Words Will Come

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

Icon by Martin Smith from The Noun Project

A study from last year confirmed that many people find public speaking to be more anxiety-inducing than death.  As such, when practicing for client pitches, boardrooms and the stage, we often nervously prioritize style over substance by focusing on how to say things (your tone, pace, gestures, etc.) rather than what to say.

John Coleman suggests that we reverse our approach by focusing on what to say, not how to say it:

Focus on memorizing key stories and statistics, rather than practicing our delivery. If you spend your time on how to say something perfectly, you’ll stumble through those phrasings, and you’ll forget all the details that can make them come alive. Or worse, you’ll slavishly read from a PowerPoint or document rather than hitting the high points fluidly with your audience. If you know your topic, the words will come.

Trust your knowledge of the subject matter. Pick your key points and let the words find themselves.

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What Do You Measure Your Productivity By?

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

Measure designed by Ryan Beck from the Noun Project

If you want to get more done in your day, venture capitalist Sam Altman says it’s all about figuring out your main priorities. After all, what you measure by is what you execute on:

Value gets captured by execution. . . I used to make a list of everything I got done at the end of the day. It was remarkable how I could feel like I had a really busy day and realize that night I got nothing done. . .

You build what you measure—if you measure your productivity by the number of meetings you have in a day, you will have a lot of meetings.  If you measure yourself by revenue growth or number of investments closed or something like that, you will probably have fewer meetings.

If you believe that going to space is the most important project for humanity, then work on it.  If you can’t figure out how to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, go work for SpaceX (joining a great company is a much better plan than starting a mediocre one).  If enterprise software is what you really love, then work on that.

And if, at the end of the day, you find that your list isn’t as long or doesn’t contain what you thought it would, Altman reminds us that it’s easy to change course tomorrow: all you have to do is re-direct your aim.

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