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Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Be a realistic optimist
There are quite a number of motivational speakers and self-improvement books out there with a surprisingly simple message: believe that success will come easily to you, and it will. There is one small problem in this argument, however, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to stop anyone from making it: it is utterly false.
In fact, not only is visualizing “effortless success” unhelpful, it is disastrous. This is good advice to give only if you are trying to sabotage the recipient. It is a recipe for failure. And no, I’m not overstating it.
But how can this be? Isn’t optimism a good thing? Yes it is. Optimism and the confidence it creates are essential for creating and sustaining the motivation you need to reach your goals. Albert Bandura, one of the founding fathers of scientific psychology, discovered decades ago that perhaps the best predictor of an individual’s success is whether or not they believe they will succeed. Thousands and thousands of experiments later, he has yet to be proven wrong.
But there is an important caveat: to be successful, you need to understand the vital difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. Put another way, it’s the difference between being a realistic optimist and an unrealistic optimist.
Realistic optimists (the kind Bandura was talking about) believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their own ability to get things done.
Unrealistic optimists, on the other hand, believe that success will happen to them — that the universe will reward them for all their positive thinking, or that somehow they will be transformed overnight into the kind of person for whom obstacles cease to exist. (Forgetting that even Superman had Kryptonite. And a secret identity that took a lot of trouble to maintain. And also relationship issues.)
One of the clearest illustrations of the dangers of unrealistic optimism comes from a study of weight loss. Psychologist Gabriele Oettingen asked a group of obese women who had enrolled in a weight-loss program how likely they felt they were to reach their goals. She found that those women who were confident that they would succeed lost 26 pounds more than self-doubters, as expected.
But Oettingen also asked the women to tell her what they imagined their road to success would be like — if they thought they would have a hard time resisting temptation, or if they’d have no problem turning down free doughnuts in the conference room and a second trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet. The results were astounding: women who believed they would succeed easily lost 24 pounds less than those who thought their weight-loss journey would be no walk in the park.
She has found the same pattern of results in studies of students looking for high-paying jobs after college, singles looking to find lasting love, and seniors recovering from hip replacement surgery. Realistic optimists send out more job applications, find the courage to approach potential romantic partners, and work harder on their rehabilitation exercises — in each case, leading to much higher success rates.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
You know that myth about Pandora? he gods give her a box and tell her not to open it—which, when you think about it, is the one way of ensuring that she will.
So she unwittingly releases all the troubles of the world. At the bottom of the box, though, is something else: hope. And it’s still there when she closes the lid.
I used to think: Oh, hope, big deal. It couldn’t have been an invisibility cloak or the ability to teleport or a genie who looks like Keanu Reeves?
I have a new slant on that myth after reading Srinivasen S. Pillay’s remarkable book Life Unlocked, in which he draws from neuroscience to present strategies in overcoming fear.
Some of the best life advice I ever got was this: Whenever you make a decision out of fear, you will regret it. I’ve applied that to writing, to relationships (and the end of relationships), to life.
I’ve learned to separate my fears from my intuition and, at times, to follow my intuition through the fear. I’ve learned that love is a powerful antidote and can scare the demons back into the dark—but according to Pillay, the main enemy of fear isn’t love.
When we send the action centers of our brain hope-based messages, they direct our attention and set our focus in very different ways than when we’re operating from fear-based messages.
As Pillay puts it, it’s like switching off the light that shines on the fallen tree trunk blocking our path and switching on a light that shows the way around it.
Hope is much more than wishful thinking. Hope is a way of moving through the world.
Pillay describes it as an hypothesis about the potential of the human unconscious. Hope quickens our imagination and prompts us to ask the right questions, acknowledging the challenges we face while searching out surprising answers, creative solutions, unexpected pathways that lurk beneath the fallen leaves.
It’s why successful people tend to be optimistic people. They rely less on existing facts to get what they want—or justify why they can’t get what they want—and use the blade of hope to carve out new facts, the kind that allow them to reach their goals.
When you send your brain the message, Yes, this is possible, it will go to work sketching out what Pillay calls “motor maps” to lead you through the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Keep in mind that none of this is likely to be easy. Then again, if it wasn’t difficult, or immensely difficult, you wouldn’t need hope in the first place.
Without hope, there isn’t any action.
A man at my gym was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors gave him about three months to live. Six on the outside. Chemo isn’t worth it, they told him. Think about your quality of life.
The man had a young daughter, and out of his love for her he decided not to go gently into the night but raging, raging all the way. He underwent chemo and revamped his diet. He showed up at the gym as often as he could. He lost his hair. He became scary thin. Three months passed. Six. One year. More. His hair grew back. He regained the weight. Another year passed. More. The doctors were amazed.
Then the ground opened up: The tumors came back, a staph infection felled him, and the disease raced too far ahead for him to catch it again. He died more than three years after his initial diagnosis.
But he got those three years. Time to spend with his daughter. Time for his daughter to grow to know him, to more deeply remember him when he was gone.
News of his death saddened me but also filled me with a kind of awe. That’s how you fight, I remember thinking. Even when you know you will lose in the end. (We all lose in the end. Death comes for us all.) You fight out of love, out of hope, out of everything you have. You fight out of the knowledge that every day—every single day of your life—is worth the battle.
But sometimes we’re afraid to fight—we keep our hopes small, so we won’t have to. We fear risk and disappointment and loss. Instead of using hope to counter the fear, we allow the fear to get ahead of us and shape our beliefs, our thoughts, our actions, our lives. And then we wonder why we stay stuck. Why we can’t seem to play a bigger game.
You can reset your life if you reset your attention. Thinking of the big picture can freak out your amygdala, which sees and registers it as threat. But, Pillay points out, you can think your way around this kind of fear by thinking small.
When you shift your mental energy from the big picture to the details of that picture, you shift to a different part of your brain. The amygdala calms the hell down. You can breathe and think and act again.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Because if you make enough money, people call you “eccentric” instead of “crazy.”
Yes, we all need to heed our callings, follow our north stars, and not settle for jobs, but pursue careers.
Thing is, during anyone’s career, sometimes it gets weird—and getting weird can pay off. Over at Forbes, Jason Nazar gets it done.
(Warning: these practices may work for these people, but this writer takes no responsibility for the strangeness that may cause in your life. Although, as a lifelong advocate of eccentricity, I encourage you to try them on.)
Argue: to steel your team’s beliefs. “In business you can’t turn over the reins to someone who doesn’t know how to defend their own ideas and plans,” Nazar writes. Like an ancient Sophist, you should argue with your colleagues about what they are thinking and doing. Debate forces them to articulate their own motivations and assumptions and do the same for you.
Confront:You need to be ready to call someone out. If somebody is bullshitting you, tell them. They need to hear it. Being endlessly deferential is a shortcut: instead of doing the hard work of advocating truth, you take the “easy” route of suffocating in passivity. And remember: you can train yourself to communicate better.
Be ruthless: It’s healthy to have high standards. Nazar mentions George Carlin: he watched the comic master berate himself in rehearsal for missing the timing of his jokes by a few seconds. Mastery is uncompromising. As a magazine editor once told me, you have to be willing to be great, which requires ruthlessness.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Wondering if the job you have now is “the one”—or just another stop on the way to something more fulfilling? Check out this list to know whether it’s time to settle in or keep moving.
This month marks the nine-month anniversary of the most natural and obvious, most joyful and energizing decision of my life: to fully commit 100% to my life’s work.
I’ve spent every day falling more madly in love with how I live my life and spend my time, the contributions I’m making to society, and the discomfort and growth that I feel each day.
My journey getting here was both arduous and enthralling. It was not at all straightforward. I had numerous experiences that collectively brought me here, teaching me what I’m capable of and showing me what does and does not resonate.
Though I’ve known for many years that my purpose is to unlock human potential, it took me some time to fully embrace my intuition, to figure out how to actualize this vision, and to build the courage to lean into my fears. (And it’s still, and always will be, an ongoing learning process.)
I’ve made the mistake of plunging headfirst into a business commitment that wasn’t fulfilling, spending more time trying to make it work than actually getting stuff done. I’ve felt red flags early on in a startup but waited nine months to listen to my intution. I’ve put off my own ideas to help others actualize their visions because it was less scary. Though I would relive my mistakes all over again in a second (and I believe making more mistakes helps you grow and gain confidence), I’d love to save you some time and energy along your journey.
Inspired by an article by MeiMei Fox about finding “the one” in love, and based on my own experiences and conversations with friends who are in love with how they work, live, and play, here are 8 signs you’ve found your life’s work:
1. It doesn’t feel like work.
Your life’s work is not a “job”—it’s a way of living. Your work enables you to create the lifestyle you want for yourself and your lifestyle includes your work. You frequently stop and think to yourself, “Wait, am I seriously working right now?” You can hardly distinguish between work, play, and life—as they are all intertwined. In everything you do, you are constantly pursuing your vision of optimal living.
2. You are aligned with your core values.
Your life’s work is an extension of your beliefs and worldview. You live in integrity because what you do is in accordance with who you are. This alignment will inspire you to move a small mountain if that’s what you have to do to realize your vision. Every day you work to manifest and actualize the world you imagine because by making it so, you’ll make the world more alive, beautiful and well.
3. You are willing to suffer.
Passion comes from the latin word ‘pati,’ which means ‘to suffer.’ Your life’s work is less about following a passion and more about your willingness to suffer along the way. The journey will be immensly challenging at times. You’ll be exposed to unexpected challenges and setbacks and you may endure hardship, rejection, and sacrifice. These roadblocks will motivate you. In fact, you see the short-term pain and discomfort as tremendous opportunities for learning, growth and depth; they’re critical to appreciating the beautiful and joyous moments.
4. You experience frequent flow.
You naturally and often fall “in flow,” deeply immersed by your work and the present moment. At 1:13 p.m. you realize five hours have gone by since you looked at the clock last. Or, you look up and realize it’s 12:21 a.m. and your instinct is to keep creating. Flow isn’t something you have to force; it just happens.
5. You make room for living.
Your work provides you the ability to live fully and enjoy life. Though you feel captivated and enthralled by your work, you make room for healthy routines like fitness, connection, spontaniety, and play. These activities re-energize and enable you to live a holistically fulfilling life.
6. Commitment is an honor.
When you discover your life’s work, the question of commitment is easy. There is no hestitation or analyzation as to whether or not the work is right for you. Your heart says yes. Your mind says yes. Your body says yes. Commitment to your work feels like breahting. You cannot imagine spending your time dedicated to any other purpose.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Whether a person is looking for a new career change or is a student getting ready to graduate into the real world, here are just a few jobs that offer longevity and job security.
Unless a person is an independent contractor, chances are the job position they are in is one they want to keep long term. This is especially true in light of the rough economic hardships that have hit the job sector in all industries. The key to staying employed is to find a career choice that is always in demand, can be considered “recession proof” and that makes an individual more valuable the longer they have held that particular position.
Whether a person is looking for a new career change or is a student getting ready to graduate into the real world, below are just a few jobs that offer longevity and job security.
Despite the financial crises of previous years, one thing is clear: people need someone they can trust to help them plan for things like retirement and investing decisions. Financial advisors have the option of working for themselves or as part of a firm. Either way, this occupation involves assisting and educating clients about their financial choices and what their present day decisions could mean for the future.
As long as a list of solid clientele is built, financial advisors have the opportunity to stay in business and keep their skill set and knowledge in demand.
The justice system isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, which means plenty of room for paralegals now and in the future.
As key players in aiding lawyers with their case loads, research and preparing for upcoming trials, without paralegals, the job of a lawyer would be much more difficult and the justice system wouldn’t operate like the well oiled machine it currently is.
Law firms both large and small are always in need of paralegals, ensuring this career choice is a practical and secure one.
Public Relations Specialist
As long as reputation matters in society, public relations specialists will always have a job opening available. Depending on how successful a public relations specialist is in representing their client in a favorable light, the working relationship can last for years and even decades, especially in the case of celebrities and large companies/corporations.
People have a desire to know what’s going on, what the latest buzz is and who the next person will be in the spotlight. Because clients can’t take on these tasks themselves, they’ll require the skills and expertise of public relations specialists that know they’re putting their reputations into the best and most capable hands.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Find yourself catching every little sniffle that your co-workers sneeze your way? Here’s how to stay healthy in the office year-round.
Keep things sanitary. This is as much for your good as for the people with whom you share enclosed spaces. Make sure you wash all your community dishes thoroughly before putting them away. Properly store your lunch and other food in the office kitchen, and keep track of what you’ve put in there so nothing stays long enough to grow mold.
Keep a bottle of sanitizer on your desk that you can pump onto your hands whenever you’re around a sick co-worker (but maybe wait until she leaves your office to apply), and spray down your keyboard every few weeks to clear it of dust and germs.
And don’t forget to wash your hands! It sounds silly, but many people don’t wash them for the appropriate length to get rid of germs and bacteria that could be harmful. Experts recommend you wash your hands with soap and water for the amount of time it would take you to sing “Happy Birthday” at a normal speed. Since you’re most likely to pick up the flu or another illness on your hands and then transfer the virus to your face, this can greatly reduce your risk of getting sick. An experiment conducted at the University of California – Berkeley a few years ago found that students touched their eyes, nose or lips between three and 104 times over a three-hour period. Reduce your risk by keeping your hands clean.
Promote healthy activity. Rather than eating at your desk and playing Words with Friends on your break, go outside and get some fresh air. Better yet, coax a colleague into walking with you daily on your lunch hour. Walking can reduce your stress, boost your immune system and help you live longer.
If you’re the boss, consider implementing a health and wellness program. From weight-loss programs and smoke cessation help, to on-site yoga classes or paid gym memberships, these types of perks may reduce the number of sick days your staff takes and cut down on your health insurance costs. More companies are being proactive in wellness care, rather than paying more for health insurance to pay for treatment costs like doctor visits.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Do people pay attention to spelling and grammar today? More than you may think!
Even busy résumé reviewers who barely have enough time to read your full cover letter and résumé are likely to notice spelling errors.
Your email, cover letter, application and résumé are often the first impression you make. Spelling and grammatical errors suggest you don’t care enough about the job to double check your work, or worse, that you lack attention to detail.
Commonly Misspelled Words
Some misspelled words are not necessarily caught by spell check because the misspelling is also a legitimate word. Double check your work for these common and avoidable misspellings.
Manager (not manger)
Assess (not asses)
Led (not lead)
Maintenance (not maintenence)
License (not lisence)
Liaison (not liason)
Lose (not loose)
Be sure to double check your online profiles for misspellings and typos. And when sending correspondence, do not spell the company or contact name incorrectly. That’s a sure way to get your information tossed into the recycle bin.
Common Grammar Mistakes
Grammar is equally important. In fact, Kyle Wiens writes in a Harvard Business Review blog post: “Applicants who don’t think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren’t important.”
Take your time and review your work for these commonly confused words.
Your vs. You’re
“Your” shows possession, such as “your salary requirements.” “You’re” is a contraction of “you are,” as in “you’re excited to learn more about the position.”
Than vs. Then
“Than” is used to compare different things. For example, “The results of the campaign were five times greater than previous marketing initiatives.” The word “then” has several different meanings such as “at a point in time.” Used correctly, it might look like this: “The project continued, then, due to changes in client requirements, ended immediately.”
They’re vs. Their vs. There
“They’re” is a contraction of “they are,” “their” indicates possession and “there” specifies a location. Here are examples for how to use each properly:
“They’re ready to embark on a new adventure.”
“Their trip was canceled due to poor weather.”
“When they arrived in New York, they were the only ones there.”
It’s vs. Its
“It’s” is a contraction for the two words “it is.” When you use “its” you show possession of an inanimate object or gender neutral noun:
“It’s unusual to see such an amazing opportunity.”
“The company lost its key customer and my job was eliminated.”
Commonly Mispronounced Words
So you say you have strong communication skills, but are you mispronouncing any of these words? Prove you are a skilled communicator. Even if your written materials are flawless, poor verbal communication is a big turn off.
Note the “r”
February and library each have an “r” after the “b” and are pronounced Feb-roo-err-ee (not Febuary) and li-brer-ee (not libary)
Jewelry is pronounced joo – wel – ree not joo –ler –ee.
Incorrect pronunciation: or – ee – en – tated
Correct pronunciation: or – ee – ented
Incorrect: su – po – sa – blee
Correct: su – po – sid – lee
Justin Brown identifies these commonly heard mistakes in a post for Primer Magazine:
For all intents and purposes
Incorrect pronunciation: for all intensive purposes
Correct pronunciation: for all intents and purposes
Incorrect pronunciation: up – most
Correct pronunciation: utt – most
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
We’ve all been there – sitting across a desk from a complete stranger who will likely have a pivotal role in the future of our career.
Somehow these moments seem astoundingly surreal. After countless hours of study, internships and years of planning, your career journey has culminated in this one powerful conversation. Interviews can prove to be one of the most challenging of work life basics, where many of us would prefer an option to fast forward through the entire process.
Our problems with interviewing could be aptly described as complicated and deeply rooted. But, truth be told, many of our issues stem from how the entire process makes us feel; there is a lurking fear of being judged, a fear of the unknown and a fear of failure.
In many cases, there is the tendency for us to perceive that we have little control over the situation, when in fact we can contribute more to the equation than we realize consciously. This recognition can prove pivotal in mastering the process. Ultimately, we can prepare ourselves, by owning the elements that we can impact, including strategies to crystallize our career identity and bolster confidence. This requires us to take a look inward.
Here are a few ideas to help you align with this challenge:
Be authentic. The goal of an interview is to assess whether there is a match between you and the role in question. Be mindful of how you present yourself in the interview, remembering that you have a voice concerning the potential match. Rule No. 1: Be true to yourself. What do you really need to excel? Think of key workplace elements and what you require, making a promise to seek these out. (For example, ideal supervisory style, whether or not you thrive on a team or the amount of travel you can live with). Try not to drastically alter your “workplace success blueprint” during an interview, or you may find yourself in a role that ultimately does not suit you.
Hone your work life purpose. There is nothing more engaging than an impassioned viewpoint concerning work and career. Remember that in today’s world of work, employers are not only interested in your education, experience and skill set – they are evaluating the level of energy and directed thought that you will bring to the role (and the industry) in question. Sharing a bit of your direction allows a potential employer to see how you might develop and what you will bring to the table.
Adjust your body language. This may come as a surprise, but you can alter your interview experience through body language. Research completed by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, details how taking a physical “power pose” shortly before an interview can positively alter interviewer evaluations (see the Ted Talk). Power posing also appears to affect us physiologically, raising testosterone levels and lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pay attention to your body before your next interview. Are you sitting in a pose that appears small or closed? Adopt a power pose that reflects an increased level of confidence – it can affect your presence during the interview.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Clearly, you need to ramp it up to have any chance to land a new job. Competition is fierce, so you need to be ready to approach your job search differently from the other equally qualified applicants who want the same position as you.
Alan Corey, author of “The Subversive Job Search,” suggests you take it up a notch so you’ll be sure to have the best chance possible. How can you stand out subversively? Corey suggests trying the following:
1. Appear to be gainfully employed, even if you aren’t. You’ve likely seen statistics or heard people talk about how much more difficult it is to get a job when you don’t have a job. It’s ironic, but some employers do prefer to hire people who are not actively looking for work because they are already employed. Short of actually landing a job, what can you do to overcome this hurdle? Corey suggests you consider freelancing, by finding work online at sites such as Elance.com or Odesk.com. While the pay may be lower than you’d like, you’ll be actively engaged in projects that will keep you active in your field. And Corey notes, “When asked in an interview if you are currently working, you can reply in the affirmative.”
2. Target your application materials; don’t try to be a “Jack-of-all-trades.” It’s tempting to approach your job search broadly and list everything you’ve ever done on your résumé so you look well rounded. However, Corey says he believes you run the risk of appearing to be someone who can’t do one thing very well. Instead, he says, “Having some repetitive work-flow responsibilities and experiences on your résumé singles you out as an expert or industry veteran and thus, a top candidate.”
3. SEO your résumé. Search engine optimization is not just for websites. Corey notes: “Make it easy for employers to find you on LinkedIn and in résumé databases by using searchable keywords and phrases on your résumés.”
Use the terms your employers are most likely to search. For example, Corey suggests: “Use ‘MBA’ instead of ‘Master of Business Administration’ or ‘PMP’ instead of (or in addition to) ‘Project Management Professional.’” Research the best terms by viewing an array of job descriptions and by carefully reading online publications related to your industry and target companies. In-person research can also provide great insights into the key issues facing your industry and the keywords employers use to describe those concerns.
4. Be future focused. Job seekers don’t often consider the fact that the résumé is about the future more than it is about the past. While your job descriptions are important, it’s more important to connect directly with what your future employer wants. Corey suggests you commit to credentials and to getting the skills and experience you need to demonstrate the direct connections between the employer’s needs and what you offer.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The spring days are getting longer and warmer, flowers are sprouting, and recent economic reports show signs that the economy is bouncing back to life at long last. Now is the time to dispense with winter’s funk, take a breath of fresh air, and put some spring into your step.
You can reflect in your actions and personality the sense of newness and possibility inherent in this season. Here are five ways you can use this season to spring forward your job hunt:
1. Embrace the process. Put simply, it takes a lot of work to get work. It would be great if you could just post a resume on a job board, have your skills and accomplished noticed, and be recruited for the job of your dreams. Sometimes it happens like that, but less than 10 percent of jobs get filled this way. Instead, for the vast majority, this method is nothing more than a lazy person’s pipe dream.
Take a fresh look at what you have been doing. Ask yourself: “What has been working, what isn’t working, and what can stand some improvement?” With this insight, you can successfully reboot your job hunt. If you embrace the process of establishing a solid strategy, building your personal brand, targeting jobs that you’re highly qualified for, networking in-person, and working social networks like LinkedIn, you will energize your hunt.
2. Share the joy of others’ success. By monitoring your LinkedIn status feed you will often see people in your network post new positions they’ve landed. Use their success as an opportunity to touch base and offer your congratulations. You might ask what they did that helped them in their search the most, and in the course of conversation remind them of specific connections that they can help you establish.
3. Break out of your shell. This is the season of college alumni gatherings, professional organization programs and community events. You never know in advance how a common school bond, interest in a professional development program or shared concern for a nonprofit’s cause can build or boost a relationship. But it happens all the time.
This is also a great time to check out Meetup.com for groups in your area. The site makes it easy to sort events by date, location (within five or 10 miles of your zip code) and common interest/activity. Groups abound not only in Career and Business categories, but also in just about any other interest, hobby, cause or activity imaginable.
4. Volunteer. In springtime, nonprofit organizations push to obtain new volunteers for their programs and fundraising efforts. It’s great to get some volunteer experience on your resume, especially if by doing so you’re somehow utilizing your professional skills.
Offering your time and talent to a great cause or group is a proven path not only for “doing good,” but for your own professional development. Often, organizations hire people who have volunteered with them. Moreover, it is a way for you to create relationships with others involved with the organization, including donors or other participants who have connections in their own businesses and elsewhere.
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