10 Tips for Your Professional Survival Kit

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Half the battle is remembering to remember!

Here are a few tips and tricks to remember as you navigate your workday.

1.0) Focus on the war, not the everyday battles. It’s important to define the end result in your work life based on growth not promotion. It could be to take on more responsibility at work, specialize your duties, grow your skills in a certain area or to evolve your position. Once this piece is defined it becomes easier to strategically navigate the everyday battles.

We often forget that there is a time and place for everything and many times we have to shift in our workday. We have to shift from speaking to listening, leading to following, enforcing to understanding, to even just hunkering down and riding out the storm throughout our workday. Not every battle has to be a bloody one with casualties. Sometimes the best way to battle is to stay positive, calm, say “ok” and keep it moving. You don’t have to win EVERY battle in order to win the war. Choose your battles carefully.

2.0) Take the time you need to succeed. Don’t let other people rush you especially when you will be held accountable for the outcome and ask for what you need in order to be successful. Taking the time that you need to succeed involves defining your own terms of professional success and consciously celebrating your accomplishments, which brings me to my next point…

3.0) Develop interpersonal rituals to celebrate your accomplishments. As humans, our need for recognition fuels our productivity, which is all part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What happens if recognition doesn’t exist in our professional environment? Developing our own individual interpersonal rituals helps to feed our need for recognition without having to receive constant external value.

4.0) Admit when you don’t know something. One of the biggest things that we have to change in organizational culture is the ‘know it all’ syndrome. We must begin to value everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. In every organizational eco-system there are many different types of people and personalities as described in Ginny Whitelaw and Betsy Wetzig’s book ‘Move to Greatness‘. You have the movers & shakers, the knowledge junkies, leaders, followers and everything in between. Guess what, there should be a place for everyone but we have to understand each other and not try to put everyone into the same professional box. True accountability and success comes when we play to the strengths of those in our workforce and foster curiosity in our organizational culture.

5.0) Remember the bigger picture. Focusing on the bigger picture is as simple as remembering the why in what you do. Why did you choose the field of work that you are in? What drew you to it and excited you about it? Hold onto that and redefine it as you grow in tenure within your field.

I had a long journey from high school to attaining my master’s degree. I worked in the retail industry for a long time before going back to school and also while in school… it was tough. Retail is long hours on your feet and constantly dealing with relentless customers. Everyday I had to remember where I wanted to go and to learn as much as possible everyday. I wrote out a mantra and read it every morning before I went to work. Those words that I read everyday started to come true. I began to make true connections with people and guess what it impacted my sales numbers. I was able to start digging myself out of debt and put away savings. I ended up getting promoted, which looked better on my resume. I started to build my livelihood on this bigger picture and as I look back I see how far I’ve come and I’m grateful.

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

– Helen Keller

6.0) Take the time to ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions because ultimately you are the one that’s going to be held accountable for the end result. Never let the ‘know it all’ syndrome hold you back. Growing your skills requires constant learning and interaction. Ask evolved questions based on what you’ve researched; that outline specifically what you know, what you don’t know and any gaps or obstacles that you are encountering.

7.0) Stay connected to the things that make you happy about your job. I love that new job feeling. You love everyone, you love your workspace and everything is good. It’s the ‘honeymoon’ phase. Revisit the glory days and what made you happy about your position when you first started. Use that coupled with gratitude to follow the yellow brick road back to happiness.

8.0) Don’t assume. We all worry to some extent or another what other people think of us. Some do it less and others more. It’s important to have a balanced perspective of external viewpoints. Sometimes healthy criticism from trusted sources can help us grow but if you’re driving yourself crazy trying to figure out what other people are thinking about you or your work either ask or move on. Don’t drive yourself crazy or make assumptions. Do a ‘pulse check’ if necessary and ask if a specific piece of work is meeting expectations and base your findings on facts not feelings.

9.0) Never be afraid to reboot even if it’s counter cultural. I had a friend that was afraid to go to lunch because no one in her office ever took lunch. Guess what it’s their loss! It is not a victory to work through lunch, work weekends or work late into the night. It’s defeat. Do what you need to do to in order to be at the top of your game.

10.0) Seek to inspire. Share your story and seek to inspire people around you. I’ve been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 3 years now and I usually show up to class pretty ‘shell-shocked’ after a full day at work. One week, my instructor told me a story about lobsters. Because a lobsters shell is hard it must shed its shell in order to grow. Between molts the lobster’s flesh becomes densely packed within its shell, and a new shell is laid down inside the old. It’s a painful and messy process that is necessary for growth. After hearing this I was inspired and reminded yet again of a powerful lesson… pain is necessary for growth. Inspiring those around you will in turn inspire you.

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