Monday, November 25, 2013

My Movies for Career Inspiration

It's Thanksgiving week already. Hopefully you have time to sit down with a good movie after the tryptophan kicks in. If you do, here are a few of my favorite movies for career inspiration.

Pirates of the Caribbean, the first one. It's all about the point where the British stop calling him the worst pirate they've ever seen and start calling him the best. Sometimes we just have to believe in ourselves until people see us for the pirate that we really are.

The Hobbit. Get out of your comfort zone. When the wizard comes knocking and the dwarves raid your pantry, just relax and go after some treasure already.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. A classic with Steve Martin and John Candy. Good for those coping with insane coworkers or bosses. Sometimes the insane people have good reason for being annoying.

Die Hard. Young Bruce Willis, and Alan Rickman in something other than Love Actually during the holidays. A double win! Saving the day doesn't necessarily mean being the most popular person at the office Christmas party. Sometimes it's the guy behind the scenes. Like, way behind the scenes.

Edward Scissorhands. One more with Johnny Depp. Diane Wiest is the queen of transferable skills. Meet a frankenstein creature on the job? Break out the pancake foundation. Also, Edward himself is a classic example of turning your most freakish quality into a job.

World War Z. I love Brad, I really do. Feel like your job changes by the minute? Here's some inspiration for adapting at work. Also, it's never bad to count to ten, for whatever reason.

Just a few I love. More ideas here and here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Mini-Guide to Fiction for Your Career

Career reading doesn't always have to be nonfiction. Settle back with some good literary fiction to improve your career, because research shows you'll do better on interviews with a little Alice Munro.

Loved this piece about which novel to read before your interview!

Know your Myers-Briggs type? Match yourself to the lead character in literature with this piece. I'm Anne of Green Gables.

When you're feeling like telling your boss off, nothing beats a little Bartleby.

Or, for a more modern take on a career slump, I like the surreal and funny Kings of Infinite Space, by James Hynes.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Passion Then Career? Or the Other Way Around?

So you're sitting at your desk, wondering if this is all there is. You've been at your job for a few years and it's lost its novelty. Or you thought you were majoring in the right subject, but now you're not so sure.

Sometimes we treat passion for our work as a resource that slowly (or not so slowly) runs dry. Stamped out by idiot bosses, cruel multinational corporations, the vagaries of a crap economy. But what if it doesn't? What if passion could grow over time as you gain in competence?

I dug up an old Cal Newport post on this. Newport teaches computer science at Georgetown, but also writes about ways students can succeed and be happy. Based on his reading of recent research, he believes passion follows hard work and mastery of a skill. I believe it too. It's why I don't go crazy giving people a billion assessments, or get hung up on their Myers-Briggs type. There's so much more to choosing a career.

In a sense you have to earn passion for something. You start with a hunch that you might like a type of work, might be good at it, and then you set out to learn how to do it.  As you advance in your career, you can trade your skill for more autonomy and quality peers. These are the makings of a satisfying life.

Sounds simple, but careers can derail on several fronts. Maybe you chose the wrong skill to try to master. Maybe everyone is trying to master it too, and you're beginning to resent the competition. Maybe you decide to trade mastery for salary but didn't pay so much attention to finding autonomy. Maybe prestigious titles trumped finding the right situation for you.

And what gets lost in the whole "follow your passion" approach to careers is the fact that there are things that we are better at than other people. It's hard to see your own talent clearly in a world where everyone gets first place trophies, and grades are inflated, and we're all encouraged to have good self-esteem. Failure is hard to detect. A lot of failure isn't loud and embarrassing, it's quiet and polite. No one tells anyone they stink anymore. (And I think that stinks, but that's another matter).

I see so many people dabbling in so many things. They have too many interests, and no dedication to any one pursuit. They're afraid to make a decision, so they double and triple major and burn out on academia altogether. Add to that the trouble we have focusing on any one thing while we text, tweet, and YouTube our way through the day, and we have a mess on our hands.

We need to have the courage to commit to something and give ourselves a chance to love it. A scary proposition. The risk!

But I thought this recent post at Harvard Business Review is right on about making decisions. We need to focus less on the moment of decision-making and instead see a decision as something we can make a success. We don't just decide on a career and then sit back and watch it magically materialize around us. We need to work for it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Persisting In Spite of Rejection and Failure

Any career change, job hunt, or career decision requires one thing: persistence. Persistence in the face of rejection from your top choice of employer, from the one person you think could help you decide between consulting and art school, from the professor you thought would write you a recommendation. It's tough to keep going.

Rejection is failure, plain and simple. And failure can be a skill that you can get good at. Successful failure, if you will. And if you get good at failure, you will persist.

One of my favorite takes on failure.

One of my favorite failure stories: Climber Alan Hinkes, one of a select few mountaineers who have reached the top of the world's highest peaks, once sneezed so hard he slipped a disk and had to abort a climb. That and more interesting  failures here.

Finally, some tips on what to ask yourself after rejection during your job hunt.

Have a good one!