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Career Advice From My Younger Self

Career Advice From My Younger Self

Although growing up sometimes means defining a career, earning more responsibility, and hopefully more money, does it have to also mean losing the enjoyment of pleasures once appreciated? Year after year, I find myself caring more for the paycheck at the end of the week, retirement fund, and health insurance more than I do other things. Of course, I can still say with confidence that I’m a quite happy person and thoroughly adore my life. However, the meaning of a job and work, a place that I spend a majority of my time, doesn’t really mean to me what it once did. Even though changing jobs frequently and working for almost nothing isn’t a viable option outside of high school and college, I feel that revisiting the struggle of this time could be incredibly enlightening. Let’s imagine this, if my younger self could give my current self some career and life advice, what would I say?

You Aren’t Your Work

My younger self would definitely say this because during a majority of my late teens and early twenties I was working as a barista, day care employee, and customer service rep. While I did learn quite the array of crucial life skills throughout my employ at these miscellaneous jobs, I always understood that the job was separate from my home life. This is something that is much harder for me to comprehend at this time. I tend to take work home with me, not only physically, but mainly emotionally. Since I can now envision my line of work leading to a career, I tend to take it much more seriously.

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So, what would my younger self have to say about that? I think she would say, “You deserve to enjoy time to yourself”. Making a good impression at work doesn’t have to mean stressing so much or working harder than you should. Do outstanding work while you’re at work. This way you don’t have to worry at home if you did every little thing that there was to do. I never doubted my work ethic for a second in my younger years. I know I do excellent work now, so why is today different?

She would also scoff at the fact that I tend to wear my emotions from the day on my sleeve. I can’t recall a time in my past when I came home from a long day at the office (meaning coffee shop) and took my bad day out on anyone else. My younger self would laugh at me for being so “adult”. “It’s just a job”, she would say, “family and friends and fun are what is important”. In other words, “Live life (not work) you dummy”.

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Meet New People

One of the best things about working a ton of starter jobs early on was meeting new people and making a lot of friends. Getting the chance to hang out with people that you might not have been able to otherwise is really a special thing. Once a career is built, so to speak, a chance for stagnancy comes alive. Doing the same thing after work each day or always hanging out with the same people can become the norm. Chances are that some people from your past just didn’t align with where you are anymore.There is no rule that says people aren’t allowed to keep making friends their entire life. There also isn’t a rule (or shouldn’t be) about where you can make new friends.

I’m to go out on a limb and say that I’m more anti-social now than I have ever been. I know that in my teens and twenties I was much more shy and unopinionated, but I made friends like crazy. Now, I’m not afraid to speak my mind and I know what I want (for dinner, in a partner, with this part of my life…mostly). However, I don’t know how to speak to people at all. Even if I am friendly with people at work or elsewhere it is so much harder for me to say the words, “Hey do you wanna hangout?” Back then, I know for a fact, it wasn’t this difficult. I didn’t judge others so harshly. I didn’t try to figure out if someone might fit my life perfectly before even trying to befriend them.

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Forget About the Paycheck

When I was the most broke that I have ever been, I was totally fine with it. I knew that I was going to have to live with the fact that I had no money and that’s just the way that it was. Nowadays, I get anxiety if I don’t have my usual safety blanket of benjamins keeping me warm. Even though this was rough from time to time, it always seemed to work out. I’m absolutely not saying, “throw abandon to the wind and burn all your cash” because that’s just idiotic. What I am saying instead is to just find pleasure by other means. That old cheesy saying, “money doesn’t buy happiness” is ruthlessly true.

Without a doubt, the best moments in my life come from enjoying what I am doing and spending time with the people I really want in my life. Even if your job isn’t exactly a picturesque dream, finding joy in a career that you are masterful at should be more of a focus than anything else. Working to get to the end of the day or the paycheck at the end of the week is just not a way to live. Unfortunately, I find myself just mentally waiting for the end of the day from time to time. Again, I know that I am a hard worker. So, for me I should really be bragging to myself about the great work I got accomplished this day or week. Even though that might sound pretty lame, just think of it this way, every awesome thing that you accomplish can be added to your resume of life.

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If at the end of each day your only accomplishment is the money that was made or the idea of how to get to the next dollar, so be it. Although, consider this; a majority of our time spent each day (and realistically our lives) is spent in the office.

In conclusion, my younger self wouldn’t want me to be sitting at home alone, saving up money for nothing. My younger self would want me to do something – anything rewarding, have enough money to eat, enjoy good company, meet new people, and never think that I’ve got it all figured out.

Featured photo credit: Valles Barnepass i Hemsedal Skisenter/SkiStar via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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