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10 Keys To Get Through A Career Crisis

10 Keys To Get Through A Career Crisis

Dealing with a career crisis is a topic that has a very personal application to me. It is very real because I experienced one, and it had a profound impact on me. So much so that I literally wrote a book about it.

I had to deal with a major crisis early on in my career as a corporate lawyer. The crisis was simple: I found myself very discouraged and depressed at the prospect of doing law for the rest of my life. I truly disliked it, and I wanted to make a career change to something that brought me fulfillment.

The problem was that I initially didn’t know what to do. I had spent almost a decade obtaining the necessary education to become a lawyer, not to mention well over several hundred thousand dollars in real and opportunity costs to get my education. I had to really soul search and redefine what I believed about myself and what I wanted to accomplish in my career. The result was a tremendously empowering process, and in this article I will share 10 of the insights I learned in leaving law to find empowerment as an entrepreneur, consultant and writer.

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1. First, determine if it is a real crisis or simply a trying experience.

Not everything is a career crisis, and all careers have challenging times, even careers that are “right.” Just because your career is engaging, generally enjoyable, and personally meaningful doesn’t mean that it won’t have its challenging times. That’s life. Life is about change and challenge. So before we look at major changes, we should determine if this is a “crisis” or if it is simply a challenge. The answer will determine the steps we take next. A crisis could very likely lead to a career change. A challenge is an opportunity to dig in and develop grit, courage and persistence. It is a character moment.

2. If it’s just a challenge then remember your why.

It’s just a challenge if you still love the career and you want to get better at it and progress to the point of mastery. If you find yourself in a career “challenge” but you don’t want to leave the career, then simply remember your “why.” Why did you get in this career in the first place? Expanding on that, what have you yet to accomplish in this career? What have you yet to learn? How can you improve and grow? What does success in this field mean to you? Go back to the fundamentals of your why. When you do this you’ll gain resolve and courage to move forward beyond the present challenge.

3. If it’s a crisis don’t get discouraged, but know you’ll need to make a change eventually.

It may not be simply a challenge. It may be a full-blown crisis. That’s what happened to me in law. I knew without a doubt that law was not right for me, and I needed to do something else with my life. If you find yourself in the same position, don’t get discouraged. No one said you had to get it right on the first go (although it can feel discouraging to have to change, especially after you have educated yourself for a certain path). Stay positive: you can make a change, but know that the change is inevitable.

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4. It’s a crisis if your values are not aligned with what you are doing.

What do you truly value? What is unique about you? Do you like to create? Do you value teaching? Are you a contributor? Do you uniquely value freedom? Does your current career align with your unique values? If no, then you’re on a dangerous path. I realized that the things I valued most were freedom, communication, contribution, and adventure. Law didn’t provide that for me. Entrepreneurship was a better path. Do a values analysis and compare it to your current career.

5. Take full responsibility, only you can create a solution.

I can’t stress this point enough. Resist the urge to blame. Don’t blame your boss, your current employer, your parents. You are where you are because you made choices. You can get to a new place if you simply make new choices. You are the solution. If you blame someone for where you are, you are actually giving away your power. You are giving away the solution. If someone is to blame, then you have no power to change. But you do have power to change, and to accept the responsibility.

6. Change is never easy, take courage.

If you are in a full-blown career crisis you’ll have to do things that require courage. However, each action that you take that requires courage builds your courage a little. The first step might just be to admit to yourself that you are not happy and that you need to make a change.

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7. Keep composed and remain calm, good things will come.

Action holds anxiety at bay. I know from personal experience that a career crisis can be terribly stressful. Try your best to stay calm, and when you feel the anxiety, just take more action. Keep yourself healthy, move and breathe, take care of yourself. Stay composed because your actions will be most effective when you are calm in your mindset.

8. Be realistic in your expectations.

Being real is very empowering. It is realistic to suppose that all careers, even ones that are aligned with your values, will have their challenging moments. It is realistic to suppose that if you make a change you may not initially make as much money as you were making in the career that you hated. If you’re leaving a secure pay check to build a business, it is realistic that the business may take a little longer than you think to get going. But that doesn’t mean that you should quit. It just means that businesses often take a little while to get going. Be realistic in your expectations.

9. Take the long view.

This is a powerful strategy. If you take the long view, then little challenges won’t get you down. This is another test for whether you are in a career that is right for you. Do you want to master this field? Are you willing to work for years and years to become great at this? If you choose a career where the answer to these questions is yes, then you are on a good path. If you’re only concerned about the short term and the pay raises, you should seriously consider whether or not you need to make a dramatic change.

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10. Your work matters, so find work that is personally meaningful, independent of money or status.

Your work matters. Work gives us self-confidence and a sense of purpose. Don’t discount the intrinsic value of doing work that is personally meaningful. So much of our world is focused on getting more money and being recognized for our success, but these conquests are often hollow victories and they don’t have the depth of meaning that doing personally satisfying work does. When you find that career in which your actions are intrinsically meaningful, you are on the path to a lifetime of empowerment and fulfillment.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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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

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