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Confused About Your Career? Why That’s Good & What To Do Now

Confused About Your Career? Why That’s Good & What To Do Now

Do you ever pine for the Middle Ages? Oh, those lovely medieval times when life was so limited. How great it must have been to have someone shove a rake in your hand and tell you to go dig potatoes all day long.

Life must have been great when you didn’t have the stress of figuring out a career. No, you just were told: “You’re a blacksmith. You’re a beer wench. You’re a princess.”

There’s no confusion.  You just get on with your potato hoeing, and life is good.

Right?

Uh, wait. What if you don’t like being a potato hoe? Tough potatoes, kid. Who do you think you are?  A minstrel? No. You’re options are limited, so suck it up.

OK, so that’s not what you want.

What you want is to stop feeling confused about your career path. You want certainty that you are doing what you were meant to do and that you will be successful.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, thinking that you should have this all figured out by now, come with me.

I will tell you why you are confused, why this confusion is a good thing, and what to do about it now to feel fulfilled and excited by your life.

The Source of Your Confusion

Every summer for the last 8 years, I have taken groups of teens backpacking and camping in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. We go deep into the woods for up to 22 days at a time, carrying our food and gathering our water from creeks.

We hike an average of 4 miles a day, and the students learn how to navigate. I don’t guide them; they have to learn how to read the land, read a map, and use a compass so they don’t get lost.

The Appalachian Mountains is one of the hardest places in the world to navigate. There was a time when these mountains were taller than the Himalayas, but erosion over time has worn them into beautiful, rolling, feminine mounds. There are very few peaks to climb to use for triangulation, and in the summer, the lush foliage can make it nearly impossible to see for more than a tenth of a mile.

As a consequence, one rolling mountain knob looks like another. It takes practice to learn to read the subtle distinctions of the land.

Additionally, the maps we use are from 20 years ago, at best. In twenty years, any man-made structure can change. Roads and trails can be re-routed. So you can’t trust the map.

Finally, the compasses that we use go out with hundreds of students and get abused. Sometimes the compass might work well, other times no.  It can’t be fully trusted, either.

Imagine a dozen 14–16-year-olds, most of whom have never done anything like this before (probably never even used a map before), hiking through the woods with limited abilities to understand the world around them, inaccurate maps and potentially faulty compasses.

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Again, I don’t guide them. They work together to figure it out after I teach them the foundational skills.

If they make a mistake, I let them get lost. They have to learn pretty quickly or else they may end up hiking an extra 10 miles because of the mistake.

This is bad news for me, because I have to hike it all with them, knowing we’re going the wrong way the entire time.

Why do I let them get lost? Isn’t that mean?

No. In fact, it would be mean not to.

One crucial navigating skill is learning how to recognize that you are lost, figuring out where you are, and deciding what to do next. If I rescue them or they think I will rescue them, they stop thinking critically.

By letting them get lost, I am teaching them significantly more than showing them the way.

So what does this have to do with you?

You are doing the same thing right now.

Why You Are Confused About Your Career

You are trying to read the subtle distinctions between careers with very limited understanding.

Should I go to law school? What is the difference between a business and entertainment lawyer and a defense attorney?

I want to work with kids. Should I be a teacher, a social worker, a pediatric doctor, or a camp counselor?

Is it better for me to get an MBA or just start my own business?

I have the training, but what’s my niche?

When you don’t know what it’s actually like to be in each job on a daily basis, everything blurs. To a novice, every mountain looks like the next, so how are you supposed to choose?

Plus, you too have an unreliable map that was made 20 years ago. Many people are training for career possibilities that will be obsolete in 10 years. If you trained to be a librarian, you may find yourself a bit screwed right now.

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Technology is rerouting the trails and roads we’ve used for centuries. How are you supposed to confidently invest in the education and training for a career that may not exist in a decade?

And remember that faulty compass?

Did you know that adolescence actually extends to the age of 25 for the average person? What biologically signals the end of adolescence is when your brain fully links up into it’s optimal functioning. Before that, your brain isn’t wholly equipped to make strategic risk-management and predictive decisions by applying past knowledge to current problems.

That means your brain is not a reliably functioning compass until then.

Now, when do most of us decide about our careers? When we are in college around 19 or 20.

We put enormous pressure socially and financially on a 20 year old to have highly attuned internal guidance to make a decision that will determine the destination that we call destiny.

Yet we don’t even legally allow them to decide whether they can have a glass of wine with dinner.

Does this make sense? No!

It’s no wonder that I talk to parents of 20-somethings every day who are deeply concerned that their bright, talented child seems direction-less. “Where did we do wrong?” they ask.

You are not alone if you feel lost in the woods with limited abilities to read the land, holding an unreliable old map, using a faulty compass.

Why It’s OK to Be Confused About Your Career

Are you looking around the terrain of your life wondering, “How did I get here? Is this where I want to be or is this just where I ended up?”

The sheer panic drops down on you when you feel lost and confused.

Ah, man.  I made a huge mistake. I’ve wasted all this time. How could I be so stupid!

Sound familiar?

Guess what I tell my students when they realize they are lost?

Congratulations! You rock!  This is awesome! What great opportunity you have now!

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Why is getting lost a good thing?

Congratulations, you’ve gained experience you didn’t have before.  You didn’t intend to explore this path and discover this waterfall, but you did.  You wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.  You didn’t waste time. You gained know-how and perspective.

You rock because you figured out that you are lost. Many people never will. Or if they recognize that they are lost, they just ignore it, heading in the wrong direction forever.

You rock because you are aware NOW. That is a skill. Not everyone will use that skill effectively.

You rock because you are thinking. You rock because you are brave enough to see the truth.

That feeling of confusion is not telling you that you did something wrong. It’s telling you that you are on the verge of doing something right. (Oh, that’s good. Want to Tweet it?)

This is awesome because now you get to practice how to figure out where you are and where you want to go next. Not everyone will get this opportunity—not because it’s not available to them, but because they avoid it.

Learning how to figure out where you are and deciding where you want to go feels scary when you don’t do it often. You can feel paralyzed that you will make the wrong decision.

To feel successful in life, you have to learn to be an expert at this. Any parent, spouse, student, learner, business owner, leader, pilot, president, commander, artist—to be successful, they must learn how to recognize when they are off track and decide the new course.

Recognizing that you are lost is actually very exciting! Now you get to create a whole new possibility. What a great opportunity!

What To Do Now

Obviously, you care about your life and your career, or you wouldn’t be confused. Confusion can only happen if you care. When you don’t care about something, you’re just, “Whatever.”

“Whatever” is not confused.

But you are confused. Therefore, you rock.

Celebrate yourself and get pumped. Your life is ripe with possibility.  You can create anything you want.

Now, consult an expert. Great navigators love to share what they know. They are proud of what they’ve learned, and they know that navigating is hard.

Look around you. Do you see anyone who has the life or the career you want? If not, there’s this thing called the Internet. Keep looking until you find someone.

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Ask them how they got there. Ask them what they learned along the way. What was a key lesson for them? What tripped them up? What was difficult? What was easy? What do they love about their mission and work? What are the challenges they face?

Also, if you enjoy talking with them and can help them address any of their challenges, offer to help. Use any talent or skill that you have (especially the ones you learned while you were lost) to serve them, and they may find that they are compelled to help you, too.

If you don’t like talking to that person, keep looking until you find someone with a career that inspires you who you enjoy talking to.

Also, get a coach.  This person can be someone you pay or not.  It could be the same person as the one who inspires you. Whoever it is, they need to have a great understanding of the terrain you are in and have a sincere desire to serve your best interest without judgment.

Their personal identity should not be involved at all, which is why parents are not the best choice here. Even lovely parents are not good coaches in this sense. They have bias because they feel intimately connected to your past selves.  You need someone who can focus on the present and the future.

When you get off-track, they shouldn’t fix it for you. You need someone who can stand by you in the midst of your frustration and have faith that the figuring-it-out pain is crucial to your learning process. They will help, but they shouldn’t rescue.

In the meantime, if you have a job or you are going to school, show up and be outstanding. Give your full enthusiasm and talent to each task and interaction. You know that this current situation is not forever.  Any experience or skill you gain will just make you that much stronger and more prepared when you do decide where you’re going next.

The Future’s So Bright—You Know The Rest

Alright, my friend, I’m excited for you. It’s time to step up and lead yourself into the future. In the end, no matter what path you take, you are still creating your life. Have fun with it!

Nothing has more of an impact on your life than you. When you decide to do something, you are unstoppable.  There is no dream that is beyond you. You have the creativity and the will to push and push and PUSH until you breakthrough.

You’ve woken up and seen the truth.  Don’t go back to sleep now.  Don’t let yourself settle for less than you deserve. Don’t confuse “confusion” for “error.”

You are in exactly the right place at the right time to experience everything you’ve been seeking.

Focus on what you’ve learned.  Focus on what you can give.  Focus on how you can best serve.  Focus on your joy.

Have faith that anything you focus on, you will hit.

You can learn to read the terrain. You can learn to work with an unreliable map. You can learn to overcome an untrustworthy compass.

After all, I’m not still lost in the woods, am I? No. Every group of teenagers I’ve ever worked with has learned to navigate successfully under these conditions.

And they ain’t got nothing on you.

Featured photo credit: o0o0xmods0o0o via morguefile.com

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Published on September 18, 2018

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

1. Show your appreciation

In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

2. Communicate effectively

Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

3. Be open to dialogue

Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

4. Provide constructive criticism

Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

5. Conduct one-on-ones

Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

6. Build training programs

In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

7. Offer growth opportunities

Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

8. Reward them

Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

9. Encourage team outings

Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

10. Involve them

Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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11. Set meaningful goals

In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

12. Empower them

You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

13. Deal with conflict

A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

14. Implement a flexible work culture

Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

15. Host engaging activities

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

16. Maintain a positive work space

Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

17. Avoid discrimination

Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

The bottom line

Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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