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10 Tips to Help You Write a Better Cover Letter

10 Tips to Help You Write a Better Cover Letter

What makes a cover letter effective and what doesn’t? That’s what you have to know to compete for a dream job. But first, let’s define a cover letter. What is a cover letter, anyway?

A cover letter introduces your resume and can act as your first marketing tool. It spells out why you’re submitting your resume; and, more significantly, why you are qualified for the position.

Here’s one important matter you should not miss — your cover letter creates the first impression. Aside from your resume, the employer’s first encounter of you is embodied in this document. Everything about it represents you so by all means, and by saying this I mean, I’m dead serious — do everything in your power to stand out using this particular letter.

Additionally, this document should help to showcase your strengths and help set you apart from the crowd. It should be tailored to fit the open position. Not to forget, your covering letter should address the job’s requirements.

Likewise, and based on experience, the tricky part is getting the employer to sit and allot time to study your cover letter from among the hundreds of cover letters sent by other applicants. This is your best chance to showcase your brand; and to market yourself as a professional. Go, differentiate yourself. Do it with your cover letter.

10 Tips for a Better Cover Letter

Recently I’ve been reading through dozens of letters from people who are interested in working together, and I want to share some insights regarding what makes for an effective cover letter and what doesn’t.

If you consider these tips from the employer’s perspective, I think you’ll agree that most of them can be considered common sense. However, my experience thus far suggests they aren’t commonly applied. Because most people make these avoidable mistakes, I’ve been rejecting about 80% of applicants based on their cover letters alone.

Most of the time, the mistakes people make in their cover letters are actively disqualifying them. So I don’t even need to look at their resume or CV.

While these tips are based on my recent personal experiences, I believe they’re general enough to be of value to others.

1. Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes.

Nothing says loser like a cover letter filled with spelling and/or grammatical errors.

What do such mistakes convey to a potential employer? They suggest that you do sloppy work, that you don’t pay much attention to detail, that you don’t care enough to do a good job, that you’re uneducated, or that you’re not very bright.

That one minor typo that sneaks through even after proofreading probably isn’t a big deal. Some may see it as a negative strike, but employers understand that mistakes happen and that perfection isn’t a realistic standard. However, if you have several spelling mistakes in your letter, or if your grammar sounds like you haven’t passed the 3rd grade, that’s likely to hurt your chances.

What if you’re applying for a job that isn’t in your native language? I still think you should make the effort to provide a quality cover letter and resume without spelling or grammar mistakes.

I’m used to communicating with non-native English speakers because 50% of my readers live outside the USA, and I’ve been doing business internationally since the mid-1990s. On a personal level, I’m impressed with people who can communicate in multiple languages. That said, it still makes a poor impression when you send a cover letter and resume with more grammar and spelling mistakes than most native speakers. This suggests that you may have difficulty communicating with other team members.

I’m not saying that you need perfect English skills. I’m simply saying that you shouldn’t let yourself be disqualified so easily by sending a poorly written cover letter. Don’t let your use of language betray you.

Take the time to have a native speaker proofread your cover letter and resume and correct any mistakes. This doesn’t take much extra time, but it could mean the difference between getting a follow up call vs. being disqualified as a poor communicator.

Think of it this way: If an employer has to decide between you and another equally qualified applicant, and the other person has an error-free letter while yours contains many mistakes, who has the advantage?

Speaking personally, I’d be very unlikely to follow up with someone who sent me a cover letter that showed poor English skills, even if it was obviously sent by a non-native speaker. I’m going to favor people who show can communicate well in the primary language of my company.

This is an easy mistake to avoid, so don’t be foolish or lazy here. If you simply provide an error-free cover letter and resume, that alone is probably enough to place you in the top 50% of applicants. Not doing so puts you in the bottom 50%; that’s the half that won’t get a callback.

Someone may think it’s ironic that I give such advice when my articles often contain typos. I do fix typos when people report them, but the nature of my work makes typos a lesser concern; I don’t compete with other bloggers to minimize typos. But perhaps I’d be interested in hiring people with a better eye for catching mistakes than I have. 

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:)

    2. Express long-term interest.

    Businesses are built by people who stick around. From an employer’s perspective, there isn’t much value in working with someone who only wants to work for a few weeks or even a few months.

    Hiring someone new is expensive. It takes time to filter applicants, interview them, and find suitable people. It takes more time to train and mentor them. Initially many employees produce negative value — they drain more value out of the company than they can provide.

    High turnover is a problem for many companies. If you have a turnkey business that relies on unskilled workers who get paid minium wage, then high turnover may simply be par for the course. But for many small businesses or for businesses in creative fields, having stable, long-term workers is much better.

    Suppose you’re an employer. One applicant says they’re looking for a summer job before they go back to school. Another indicates that they’re looking for long-term employment in your field. Who are you going to favor, all else being equal?

    I received one letter from a man who wanted to work together for just 3 weeks, during a specific window of time he’s available. It doesn’t make sense to follow up with someone like that when there are other people looking for serious long-term work.

    I’m not suggesting that you lie. If you’re only available for the summer, then be up front about that, and seek out seasonal positions. But if you see some possibilities for working together with an employer long-term, it’s wise to indicate that you may stick around if things work out. If you do the opposite by suggesting you probably won’t be around long, then it’s riskier for an employer to invest much in you.

    If you position yourself as a high turnover employee, you’re also likely to depress your income. High turnover jobs tend to be close to minimum wage. If a job pays well, it’s probably not a high turnover job. So if you’d like to earn more money, position yourself as someone who will likely be around for years if you like the work.

    No one expects you to commit up front to years of employment with a new company. You’ll have to feel each other out first to see if you’re a good match for each other. But at least suggest the possibility that if things go well, you may stick around. This makes you seem like a better investment. It can’t hurt your chances.

    This of course assumes that you truly want to build a serious career, not just find a job. If all you want is a job, then read 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job and then see if that’s still what you want.

    3. Apply locally.

    If you’re applying for work far from where you live, you’d better explain why in your cover letter. And your explanation should sound plausible.

    Otherwise the employer may wonder: Why is this person looking for work so far from home? Are they unable to find work locally? They must not be very good.

    Wanting to move to a new city to expand your horizons is a good enough reason. Lots of people move to New York City or San Francisco because they want the experience of living in those places. But if you’ve been living in your current city for years, and if there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for a major relocation other than the fact that you need an income, that just makes you look desperate and unworthy.

    When I get applications from people in other countries for positions that would require relocation and a special work visa, I cringe a bit. Hiring someone from out of the country is riskier and more complicated than hiring a local. It doesn’t make much sense to look so far away unless I’ve already exhausted local possibilities, first within my own city and then within my own country.

    Las Vegas isn’t a city for everyone. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for having people relocate here just to see if we can work well together. Naturally I’m going to start with local applicants for work that would be done locally.

    The only reason to go outside my city, state, or country is if I’m looking for people to work virtually (over the Internet), or if I need people with such talents that the local workforce cannot provide. All else being equal, I’ll hire someone local to me before I give serious consideration to working with people in other cities or countries. It doesn’t make sense to go beyond local if I can find good people locally.

    4. Paint a clear picture of your intended position.

    Some people send me employment-related letters that are so vague I honestly can’t tell what sort of work they’re interested in doing. These letters included phrases like, “I can do pretty much anything you need done.” Their resumes show a work history that has little or nothing to do with my field.

    Since these people fail to specify what they want, they put the onus on me to use my imagination.

    Unfortunately for them, I simply imagined myself dropping their letters into the recycle bin. That was fairly easy to visualize.

    If you don’t know what you want, you should develop a clearer picture of that first before you go around applying for work. Don’t expect potential employers to figure it out for you.

    It seems that some people mistakenly assume that raw enthusiasm and a willingness to work is enough to get them in the door. It isn’t.

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    Even if you’re looking for an internship, specify what type of internship you’re seeking. Are you a marketing student looking for a marketing internship? A programmer seeking a programming internship? Or an unfocused drifter looking for whatever? If you’re not clear, you’re positioning yourself as the latter. There aren’t as many quality internships for unfocused drifters.

    If I get a vague letter from a local applicant who seems otherwise intelligent, and it’s easy to meet with them, I may do so if I’m not too busy. Perhaps we can have a nice chat, and maybe we’ll figure something out. But for the most part, I’m just being social when I do this. The person hasn’t given me sufficient cause to seriously consider working with them, at least not yet. If we share common interests, I may meet with them just to see what comes of it and because I have that kind of flexibility. But if I’m busy or if this sort of thing comes from a non-local applicant, there’s no reason to follow up.

    Contrast these types of letters with someone who suggests something very specific in terms of working together. I received some great letters from web developers who want to upgrade my website. Their portfolios show a history of making websites for small businesses. It makes sense to follow up with these people. I don’t have to stretch my imagination to figure out how we might work together. They shared something clear and concrete to consider, something I can say yes to.

    You might think you’re limiting your chances by being too specific. But look at this from the employer’s perspective. If I get a few letters each week from people who are offering to do “pretty much anything,” they’re all going to blur together. None of them will stand out. This approach is generic and warrants a generic rejection.

    Now suppose I get a letter from someone offering to serve as my Logistics Coordinator for live events. They give me a list of things they can do. They build a good case for why they’re qualified to do this. Their resume shows some relevant work history. This makes it easier for me to imagine how I might fit this person into the company as a whole, making it more likely that I’ll follow up. If I don’t need to hire such a person just yet, then obviously I won’t hire them. But even in that situation, I’m likely to file their letter in case I need such a person down the road or if I decide to expand capacity in this area by bringing on a new person. And I may also follow up with something like, “Check back with me in 6 months. I may have something for you then.” At the very least, I’d be more likely to follow up with this person in some fashion.

    If you’re too vague in specifying what you want to do, you’ll be passed over. Employers are too busy figuring out how to hire, train, and integrate people who actually do know what they want. They don’t have as much time to help you figure out what you want. Figuring it out is your job, not theirs.

    Remember that most jobs are never advertised anywhere. You have the power to design and create your own position instead of merely responding to what’s being advertised. The advertised positions are generally much more rigid than what you can design for yourself, and they’ll also attract a lot more competition. When I ran my games business, I was able to find and hire everyone I needed without advertising any of the positions. I filled every position through my network of contacts.

    If you have any difficulty grasping the importance of defining your own work position, and especially if you disagree with it, read How to Order.

    5. Build your case to win.

    Think like an attorney building a case as to why you should be hired. Make sure your case is a strong one.

    When you’re seeking a rewarding long-term career, understand and accept that lots of other people are looking for the same thing. It’s a competitive situation, so you need to play to win. Being good isn’t enough. You need to be the best among the other applicants for your position.

    In a criminal trial in the USA, the mantra is “innocent until proven guilty.” This means that you’re assumed to be innocent unless the prosecutor can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Some people apply for work as if “employable until proven incompetent” is the mantra that applies. They provide pretty good cover letters and resumes, figuring that as long as they satisfy expectations and don’t screw something up, they have a reasonable chance of getting hired. They’re careful to avoid the obvious mistakes, and yet quite often they still lose. They lose to people who are willing to be unreasonable — unreasonably good, that is.

    That’s because the mantra that applies in the world of work is closer to the standard in civil cases as opposed to criminal cases. In a civil case, the standard is “the preponderance of evidence.” This means that whichever side builds the best case wins, and the other side loses. One side may build a great case and still lose if the other side builds a slightly better case. This may not sound fair, but such are the vicissitudes of life.

    Some people send me very good applications. However, a few surpassed the standard of very good. They provided something excellent — like a significantly longer letter explaining in detail how we might specifically work together. They didn’t merely offer up enthusiastic ramblings; they built a strong case for what we could accomplish together.

    If you hold yourself to an unreasonable standard of going well beyond what most people do, then even if you don’t come out on top, you’re more likely to get a follow up. The employer might even add an extra position to accommodate you.

    People with higher than normal standards are very valuable in the world of work. What employer would want to hire someone very good if they could hire someone outstanding?

    Being too close to the average (even the good side of average) isn’t such a great idea if you want to be hired for a competitive position. You want to be at least one standard deviation beyond that. If you’re good-average, you’re still in the slush pile. It’s too easy for a more competitive candidate to knock you out of the running simply by trying harder.

    If someone else could easily beat you by spending an extra half-hour on their cover letter, you’re probably going to be beaten.

    If you claim certain skills, back them up with solid evidence. Explain how you developed skills that aren’t conveyed by your education and work history. Don’t claim general skills like being a hard worker or being well-organized unless you can back them up. Share a quick story to explain how you’ve applied these skills. Otherwise you’re doing what so many other people do, and someone else that includes such evidence will make you look like a second-rate applicant.

    You don’t have to like the competitive aspect, but don’t ignore it either. If you’re going to compete, then compete to win; otherwise don’t bother.

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    6. Be professional.

    Present yourself as a competent pro — or at least an amateur on the rise. Employers want to hire competent professionals with strong skills. It’s too risky to hire people who position themselves as emotionally immature and unprofessional.

    I received several letters from people who:

    • complained about their previous employers
    • complained about their history, upbringing, current life situation, etc.
    • shared what types of work they’re sick and tired of doing
    • explained how under-appreciated and misunderstood they felt
    • told me how fed up they are with their unfulfilling lives

    This sort of thing may seem honest and open, but it’s really unprofessional. If you do anything like the above, you’re positioning yourself as an emotionally immature man-child or woman-child, not a serious professional. In my view any such applicant is an easy no, instantly disqualified.

    I sympathize that you may be looking to improve your life situation, and you may have had real problems with previous employers. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say those problems were beyond your control. Even so, it’s unwise to position yourself as someone who needs rescuing. This doesn’t make you look like a quality hire. It makes you look irresponsible. A new employer can’t verify that your ex-boss was an idiot.

    When an employer sees the above, they’re likely to assume:

    • If this person had conflicts with previous employers, they’ll probably have similar conflicts here.
    • If this person is willing to complain about their previous employers, they’ll eventually complain about me.
    • This person is unappreciative, ungrateful, and disloyal.
    • This person has an unreasonable sense of entitlement.
    • This person has a negative attitude.
    • This isn’t someone I’d want on my team.

    Again, I sympathize if you really are in a rough spot, but it isn’t appropriate to vent your past resentments in a professional cover letter if you’re looking for serious work.

    Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. When one applicant sends a letter complaining about their “poor me” situation, while another equally qualified applicant writes positively of how much they learned from previous employers and why they moved on without burning bridges, which person would you invite to join your team?

    A potential employer isn’t your therapist. Put your best foot forward if you want to be hired. Do you want sympathy, or do you want to work?

    7. Inject your personality.

    Cover letters and resumes are typically very bland. It’s likely that your potential employer will be looking at several other applications at the same time. I’ve been going through them in stacks of 10-15 at a time.

    If your communication style is just as bland as everyone else’s, it won’t help you stand out. But if you inject some originality and personality in your cover letter and resume, this can help you.

    For one, it makes you more memorable. If your letter is more memorable, you have a better shot of getting a follow up.

    Some of the letters I received expressed a lot of personality, such as a quirky sense of humor. I can’t speak for all employers, but I appreciate it when people do this, as long as they’re expressing positive aspects of their personality.

    You take a bit more risk when you do this, but I think it’s a reasonable risk. I respect people who do this. It gives me a more realistic sense of what it would be like to work with you. If you express your geeky side, your humorous side, or your creative side, then I can more easily visualize you as a real member of the team as opposed to a faceless applicant.

    A friendly tone is generally good, but don’t be so casual that you seem unprofessionally goofy. Make sure that each paragraph of your letter contains substance and value; cut the fluff.

    Another thing you can do to personalize your cover letter or resume is to include a photo. Since most people don’t do it, it’s one more easy thing you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Even a grayscale photo is nice. If you’re worried about discrimination based on how you look, then feel free to decline this suggestion, but keep in mind that if you do an in-person interview, your employer will eventually see what you look like anyway. If you show an employer what you look like, it’s easier for them to visualize working with you. I think this is a risk that should generally work in your favor.

    If you can express some of your skills through your cover letter and resume, do that too. Follow the mantra “Show me; don’t tell me” when possible. If you claim to have strong design skills, make sure your resume reflects it. If you claim to be highly creative, but your cover letter and resume look very bland and typical, that’s a mismatch that can work against you.

    On the other hand, I don’t recommend expressing aspects of your personality that could work against you. Try not to position yourself as someone dark and creepy who’d be difficult to work with in a team environment. For instance, don’t share your interest in collecting firearms unless it’s relevant to your work.

    8. Don’t play the destiny card.

    If an angel came to you in a dream and said you’re going to work for this company, or if you receive several synchronicities about applying for a certain position, please don’t put that in your cover letter. It may be exciting for you, but it can come off as immature and manipulative if you convey this to a potential employer.

    One problem is that when you do this, it’s not unique. It won’t impress any but the most gullible employers. Most of the people who play the destiny card aren’t going to get hired. So when you claim that your application was divinely mandated, you’re actually triggering a “don’t hire me” pattern by grouping yourself with others who weren’t hired. This is more likely to hurt you than help you.

    Another problem is that from an employer’s perspective, this sort of thing can come across as manipulative and border-line desperate. I’d like to believe that I have the free will to hire or not hire you according to your skills and qualifications. If you suggest that I’m supposed to hire you or that I’d be wrong, foolish, or mistaken to do otherwise, you’re going to trigger my B.S. detector. And I’ll drop your application into the recycle bin right along with the other divinely inspired ones.

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    If I happen to experience a major synchronicity with respect to hiring you, then great; by itself that wouldn’t be enough for me to say yes, but it might nudge me to take a second look. But your synchronicities are yours; they mean nothing to me. If you frame our potential working relationship as something that’s fated to happen, then I’ll provide you with a lesson in free will. Perhaps you were fated to apply and get rejected, so you can learn how to avoid this mistake in the future.

    We may choose to work together, but we aren’t fated to do so. Don’t try to subvert a potential employer’s ability to decide. If you seek to be the best choice, then earn it without playing the destiny card.

    9. Express your greatness.

    Don’t position yourself as weak, timid, desperate, or needy. Do position yourself as an excellent choice in a competitive field.

    What do you excel at? Why should an employer hire you instead of someone else?

    Identify one or two qualities you possess that you’ve developed to a much greater degree than most people. Emphasize those qualities. Present them as strengths, and center your application around these strengths.

    For example, if you believe you’re very creative, then send an application that you’d expect to be the most creative one an employer will see this year. Otherwise you’re just blowing smoke; your creativity claim is weak.

    If you claim to be an excellent video editor, then why would you send a plain text cover letter? Send a video application, and make it shine. Or at least send a letter with a link to a video.

    Share that which makes you stand out from the crowd. If you’ve won some awards, share that. If you’ve published some articles in your field, share that too.

    If you can’t share anything that makes you seem different and better, someone else will. They’ll get hired. You’ll get ignored.

    10. Apply for work that matches your skills and experience.

    Don’t apply for work for which you aren’t qualified with a “what have I got to lose?” attitude. You’re just wasting people’s time.

    Apply when there’s a strong match between the position and your skills, experience, and goals. Otherwise don’t apply at all.

    One thing that’s actually impressive is when you share where else you’re applying to. If you send an employer a letter that you’re applying to them as well as 5 of their top competitors, they’re more likely to take notice of you. Some employers may want to hire you partly to keep you from joining their competitors, especially if you’re well qualified. This is particularly true in technical fields.

    Even if you manage to get a job for which you’re a mismatch, it’s unlikely to work out in the long run. And while you’re stuck in that mismatched job, better opportunities will pass you by because you’ll be too busy to notice them. Meanwhile, you probably won’t be very productive in a job you don’t really want to be doing.

    You’re responsible for your own career development. Don’t put the onus on potential employers to figure out who you are. No one else can give you a life purpose; you must figure that out for yourself.

    If someone applies to work with me, but their education and work history shows a mismatch with what I can provide, I can’t really take them seriously. I’ll hold out for a more qualified applicant. I’d rather keep a position vacant than fill it with someone who’s a mismatch.

    If you know that your resume won’t seem to be a good match for a new position for which you’re applying, you’d better explain that, and your explanation had better make sense. Otherwise it seems like you’re branching out in desperation because you couldn’t find work in your intended field. It also suggests that you don’t really know what you want, and you probably won’t be sticking around for long.

    Decide what kind of work you’d like to do. Build your education and skills in that direction, whether through formal university education or self-education (both are equally valid in my view). Then apply for positions that match your current skills and which will help you continue your career development.

    * * *

    I don’t think anything above is particularly controversial if you simply consider the hiring situation from the employer’s point of view. This POV is important to consider because it’s the POV that decides whether or not you get hired.

    You have the ability to create an amazing career for yourself, but only if you step up and do what it takes to make it a reality. Most people are unwilling to pay that price, and so they wallow in unsatisfying work. The price of fulfilling work may seem high, but it’s still affordable for those who accept that fulfilling work deserves a premium price.

    This article assumes that you seek meaningful and fulfilling work — a consciously chosen career that challenges you as opposed to a cog-like job to pay the bills. You aren’t likely to find such career positions advertised anywhere; it’s up to you to define and create them. But if all you want is a job, there are plenty of frappuccinos in dire need of frapping.

    10 Tips for a Better Cover Letter I Steve Pavlina

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    Anthony Dejolde

    TV/Radio personality who educates his audience on entrepreneurship, productivity, and leadership.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

    Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

    Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

    Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

    Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

    1. Make Time for You

    If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

    Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

    Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

    Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

    For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

    By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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    2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

    Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

    Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

    When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

    It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

    Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

    3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

    According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

    For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

    If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

    4. Work on Your Personal Brand

    Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

    Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

    What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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    Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

    Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

    5. Be Accountable

    Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

    For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

    When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

    6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

    All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

    Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

    Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

    It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

    7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

    Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

    It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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    This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

    If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

    To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

    For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

    You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

    8. Learn to Embrace Failure

    Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

    The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

    In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

    We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

    However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

    Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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    “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    9. Build Your Resilience

    Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

    Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

    Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

    In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

    Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

    10. Ask for Help

    It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

    No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

    My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

    1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
    2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
    3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

    Final Thoughts

    You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

    Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

    More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

    Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

    Reference

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