This is great advice - albeit a slightly contrarian view - from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. The expectation is that we should have a good idea of what our “passion” is very early - but it’s simply not realistic. The odds are much of your time has been spent in school and you haven’t really been exposed to a world outside of that environment. Even if you’ve found something you enjoy, chances are you’ll come across something even more fulfilling once you’ve left school.
In that sense, the onus should be less on you to “find” your passion, but rather to put yourself in a situation where your passion finds you. In order to do so, Jason Fried, author of Rework and founder of 37Signals, has some superb tips on how to do so.
“I discover things as I go and don’t think you can predict your passions. You don’t necessarily know what you’re going to be super interested in in 5 to 10 years. You just have to be open to being introduced to those things and that’s what I’ve been working on—keeping an open mind about things and not limiting myself.”
We underestimate the importance of expectations. Whether you’re buying a car, a pair of sunglasses, or a cup of coffee you’re not so much buying a product, but investing in an expectation.
You don’t buy a Toyota because you believe it’s the fastest car in production, you buy it because you expect that it will still be running 15 years from now. You expect your morning coffee from Starbucks to be fresh, hot, and made to order. That’s why you go there. Think how you would feel if your Toyota broke down after 3 years or if your coffee was lukewarm?
We’re often amazed when companies or careers stumble when they seemed destined for continued success. For instance, of the 500 companies that appeared on Fortune’s initial list in 1955 only 71 still remain. Some of the most well-known names (at the time) on that list have long since disappeared from it, such as Scott Paper, Zenith, and Warner Lambert.
The study of how companies can go from the pinnacle of their industry to the bottom in such a short time has become a furious topic of study, particularly in management circles. Of all the theories discussed, the idea that success itself is at the root cause is one of the more interesting.
In his article, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown suggests that companies and careers can suffer what he calls the “clarity paradox” that consists of four phases:
According to The Economist, almost 300m 15- to 24-year-olds are not working - almost a quarter of the world’s youth. The late Margaret Thatcher famously quipped “Young people ought not to be idle. It is very bad for them.” She was right.
Societies that leave their young workers idle in their formative years is problematic: young workers are more likely to struggle later in their careers, with lower wages and less job security as a result. It’s also a stark omen for the future of any economy, given an aging population will eventually be reliant on the goods and services that generation produces.
It’s tempting to only look at this from the perspective of less developed countries. However, it’s a big problem here in North America as well as other so-called developed countries. According to the OECD, there are 26m young people in ‘rich countries’ they count as “NEETS”: not in employment, education, or training.
Recently, a Forbes article discussed “The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness)” and labelled them as the principal factors that can erode even the grandest and most well-meaning of plans. They’re intended as a warning to those who only dream big, rather than do.
Conversely, and perhaps more interestingly, it also implicitly helps to identify the key steps on the path to success. For instance, what factors influence greatness and happiness? What elements consistently place you in a position to succeed?
Rather than focus on what we shouldn’t, the following compares the original list of “enemies” (found in brackets), with their polar opposites in order to generate a useful guide to achieving success and happiness.
Salary negotiation is one part dance, one part game, and all parts stressful. Remember, you are trying to maximize your return on your “perceived” value in the marketplace, and your potential employer is trying to maximize productivity for the least cost. The worst part of salary negotiation is feeling that your potential employer holds all the cards. Here are some quick tips that will tip the balance in your favour and give you some sense of control over your future:
1. Never bring up money first—virtually all employers have done their homework and have a pretty good idea of how competitive their salaries are in the marketplace. They also Twitter and use Facebook to find out how much your friends are getting, so typically you should not be surprised by the number. If they press YOU for a number, you need to ask yourself if they are bargaining in good faith. Say: “I am sure you have a range in mind that is commensurate with the role and responsibilities.” If they persist, you need to ask yourself if they are bargaining in good faith (or what else are they hiding.)
I guarantee you that if you can have ballsy conversations at work, you’ll not only be more successful at work but you’ll be happier in life altogether. The ability to have direct and honest conversations will get you a raise, get you the love of your life, get you to where you need to go. End of story!
Open Up a Diamond
Conversations are shaped like a diamond. They start with a sharp focus - a goal and intended outcome - and then open up to two-way dialogue. Seek to understand where the other person is coming from by asking her to self-reflect on why she believes what she does. Ask open-ended questions. Be sure not
to challenge the other person’s beliefs, but rather seek to understand with clarifying questions. Once you and the other person are ready to move into action, close down the diamond with solutions and commitments.
The Apprentice is just one big (and well televised) group interview. I’ve done my fair share of group interviews, each time advancing to the next round. I have to say, it’s a very interesting dynamic, being in a room of very capable and qualified people knowing that chances are it’s a zero-sum game; that if someone else gets it you will not.
That said, in my experience, group interviews don’t have to be the daunting exercise that some make it out to be. Below I will talk a bit about the kind of mindset and attitude that you want to have when in this situation. Bear in mind, that while this has worked for me in the past it may not suit your own personal interview style. At the end of the day, you want to do what makes you most comfortable so that you’re best able to exude confidence and shine.
I like to assume that people are generally polite and nice. Of course that shouldn’t change just because you’re in a group interview situation. However, perhaps because they’re too polite or perhaps because they don’t’ know an answer; I’ve noticed that often people will very easily defer to others. Remember that you’re there to land a job! So don’t be afraid to be the first one to speak when there’s the awkward moment after the interviewer lobs a question to the group.
We spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what it is we should be doing. Whether trying to define a specific career path early on or looking to make a switch in emphasis part-way through, it’s a consideration that never seems far from our mind. All the more reason then to make sure we’re getting exactly what we need from our work, aside from simple monetary considerations.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Bill Barnett entitled “Make Your Job More Meaningful” pointed to three distinct attitudes about work – jobs, careers, and callings. According to the article, identifying your own perspective can help you better define what it is you want from your own professional life.
Those that see their work as a “job” are working more for the money and derive less satisfaction and meaning from it.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but there’s more to serendipity than simple (and seemingly random) chance. In his brilliant book “Where Good Ideas Come From”, Steven Johnson explains that the term “serendipity” was first used by the English novelist Horace Walpole in 1754, where it had been inspired by a Persian fairy tale titled “The Three Princes of Serendip”. These quixotic princes were “always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Yet, as Johnson points out, discoveries are really only serendipitous if they’re meaningful to you in the first place. As such there must be some basis or connection that’s made with an event in the past that makes it serendipitous, otherwise you’re likely to let your discovery pass by without a second look.
He suggests a number of elements within our control that can create the right environment in which to foster and create serendipitous connections, whether in our professional or personal lives. They may sound obvious, perhaps even mundane, but their impact and influence is well documented.
We’re a society that lauds experts – the more specialized, the more impressive. In our careers we strive to become more specialized, because we’re told that as you acquire more expertise you become more valuable as an employee. Hence, your march up the career ladder is more assured.
What’s more, we’re obsessed with gleaning advice from these experts. When should I sell my house? What stock should I buy? How many jobs will the economy add next month?
Yet, in a world where everything is becoming increasingly inter-connected does it really still pay to be a true expert in one particular field? For instance, the property market in London could be influenced by any number of factors – the UK’s domestic economy, the price of steel in China, or Greece’s ability to manage its sovereign debt. How many UK property market experts understand the subtleties of all three?
The dreaded job interview is probably up there with going to the dentist and getting a flu vaccination on most people’s list of fun things to do. After all, there’s a reason why interviewing tips tend to dominate careers sections in any number of publications We know it’s rough for the interviewee, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the interviewer either. Handling one in-depth interview after another can quickly become exhausting, and getting disappointing answers from yet another promising candidate doesn’t do wonders for morale after half a dozen people have been through your doors. It doesn’t have to be like this.
There’s certainly a lot of effort expended in helping job-seekers ace tough questions, but there isn’t nearly enough focus on why particular questions continue to be asked in the first place. A successful interview requires as much effort from the interviewer as it does from the candidate, and as Forbes’, Lindsay Westly, once pointed out, a bad question can stop an otherwise great interview dead in its tracks. Want to make interviewing more enjoyable for both parties? Start by analyzing the questions you ask.
We give luck on its own too much credit. It’s something we point to in order to explain serendipitous events or even accomplishments. Some credit luck in landing them the right job, others use it to explain how they closed a big contract or to justify the success of their company.
Yet, luck remains a small part of a much bigger puzzle. Even winning the lottery, something most would consider pure luck, involves much more. Winners often have played dozens if not hundreds of times and it requires a certain amount of discipline to pick out your numbers each week and outlay the money in order to pay for the tickets.
I have learned the tough way that if you can get your boss to trust you, you are much likelier to have a successful career. Your boss can be your biggest ally (or not!) – the one who recommends you for cool projects, introduces you to the right people etc.
When I was starting my career my biggest mistake was thinking that I could change my boss or go over my bosses head. The likelihood of either of these tactics working is slim and also potentially dangerous. But if you still decide to go that way, ask at least three key mentors in your life. In the meantime, here are 3 shortcuts to getting cosy with your boss.
Shortcut#1Understand Your Boss
Interview your boss to learn her expectations of you and share your expectations with her. Do this every time you change projects, roles or companies. Use your first meeting to learn your boss’s priorities and to understand how she will assess your progress. Remember: Your boss has a boss, too.
If you are given the opportunity to run a project or are leading a team, you need to run an effective meeting. Most of us spend a week a month in meetings, a huge opportunity to harness the ideas of the group and motivate people to get things done. So here are 3 starter tips to creating engaging and productive meetings:
Stand-Up and Be Counted
This meeting style has been popularized by the agile software development methodologies. Have your team meet daily for five to fifteen minutes to sync-in on status. Try this literally standing up, which gives even the most diligent of soldiers a stake in ending the meeting before they pass out. Each team member takes a turn updating everyone, asking clarifying questions, but not using the forum for protracted discussion.
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