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5 things you tell yourself about your career that are wrong

Nicole Smartt

Though it has been popular the last few years to razz millennials for being lazy, narcissistic and entitled, I have seen the behavior attributed to this group in all age groups in the workforce.

With drive-thru restaurants and subscription services for everything from groceries to diapers, we expect to have what we want when we want it. However, we can not expect to be effective or successful if we apply the instant gratification equation to the working world.

To do good work, it still takes the basic building blocks: dedication, honing your skill set, listening to constructive feedback, improving and growing.

How do we do this in a digital age, a world that promises endless opportunities for instant gratification? Here are five recommendations you should reconsider as antidotes to ineffectiveness:

If you don’t like your job, just find a new one

It is a common misconception that this kind of change is easy to make and that if you are unhappy in your job, you should abandon it to do something else. Slow down.

There are a couple of issues to consider before you jump ship: first, what is it about your job that you do not like? Is it really your job, or is it your attitude? The new job may sound appealing and perfect, but it could also end up feeling the same as your current position.

Try changing your attitude first, then consider changing your job if you find that it still feels like the culprit.

Do not work too hard

Wait, say what? Since when shouldn’t we work too hard? Consider this: who defines “too hard”?

Growing up, my dad worked from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and weekends to provide for his family. Nowadays when you work at that pace, people around us think we are crazy. I’m not saying you should work the hours my dad did (although it got him very far); I’m saying show up and give it all you’ve got. The result will be that you’ll feel more accomplished and more fulfilled.

The early bird gets the worm

Nope, that’s another fairy tale. I know people who rise early and are working by 5:00 a.m., but they aren’t producing as much as their co-workers who get in at 8:00 a.m. or even 9:00 a.m.

It is not about being first in and last to leave; it comes down to what you’re doing during those hours. That’s what creates your actual success. We all have the same hours in the day.

From an early age, it was bestowed upon many of us that we needed to be early risers. They are supposedly more productive, more successful, and it demonstrates strong work ethic too. It’s great to arrive early to work, but this is less than half the battle.

It is what you’re doing during the hours that will set you apart. If you are showing up early to take long coffee breaks, play around on social media and read the newspaper, how is that making you more productive? Learn to capitalize on your most productive work hours. Learn, too, how to describe your optimal working style to ease any team tension that could potentially arise.

Success gets easier. Just keep going

There are ways success can become easier: by building a strong network, putting systems in place and so on. But there is always a new challenge around the corner. The higher you climb, the harder your challenges become.

When I was a receptionist, my challenge was picking up the phone of a 15-line phone system by the third ring and deciding what to do for the caller. When I was a recruiter, my challenge was finding great candidates for employers. As a sales rep, my challenge was finding employers needing talent, and ensuring we provided them with quick and quality service. As an owner, it’s all of those challenges, plus many more.

People have an assumption that the higher you climb, the more money you make and the easier your job gets. Truth is, success is tough to achieve, and it stays tough. This is why so many do not make it.

Find a work/life balance

This one issue seems to be the topic of many blog posts, HR conferences, and expressed needs from employees. You can achieve a work/life balance.

Here’s how: when you’re at work, be at work. When you’re home, be at home.

With the distraction of cell phones, it’s easy to get sidetracked at work with a ‘like’ here, a ‘follow’ there, and an ‘Oh, I’m just going to check Betty Ann’s page’. Save it for your lunch break.

When you’re at work, be focused and productive in order to maximize your time. You’ll end up having less work to take home with you. And for those already maximizing their productivity, you have to decide what you want. Climbing up the ranks is not always an 8-5 job. People can preach it all they want, but what I’ve seen in the working world is that expecting to get ahead often requires extra time in the office. Focus and dedication are your go-to responses.

Every one of us comes to the business world with preconceived notions about how work should work. We may expect to have to work far harder than we end up actually having to work. We may expect to walk in the door and right up to the corner office. The danger here is when we refuse to let our perspectives grow.

No matter what our initial misconceptions are, we can be prepared. Evaluate how you think things should go, ask lots of questions, and let go of expectations that simply aren’t true.

If you show up ready to have your mind changed and ready to do the work, you’ll do fine. Stay true to your roots, don’t get trapped up in the hype, and just keep moving forward is the best advice I can give you on your journey to true career bliss.


This article, entitled “5 things you tell yourself about your career that are wrong”, originally appeared in e27.

Nicole Smartt is the owner of Star Staffing. She is the author of the book “From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead at Work”.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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