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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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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

Reference

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