Reading time: 3 minutes and 33 seconds
Less Ordinary Living is sharing 15 secrets to career success in the 21st Century - click here to subscribe and get them delivered straight to you.
Secret 4: Don’t take it personally
“I believe that one becomes stronger emotionally by taking life less personally. If your employer criticizes your report, don’t take it personally. Instead, find out what’s needed and fix it. If your girlfriend laughs at your tie, don’t take it personally. Find another tie or find another girlfriend.” -Marilyn vos Savant
The old adage says that “business is business – it’s nothing personal”. This is a healthy lesson for the world of work.
Whether you’re an employee, temp, contractor or entrepreneur, you’ll face criticism, rejection, anger, fear and disappointment in the world of work.
- Your brilliant project that you worked all night on will be torn up by the partner.
- Your best customer will suddenly quit with no explanation.
- Your boss will unload on you for no reason.
- Everyone in your new workplace will treat you like a pariah and make you get the tea.
How does anyone survive this?
The answer is to not take these things personally. A few thoughts that have helped me with this:
1) Most people spend their entire lives in a self-obsessed bubble, barely noticing people around them. If someone is ignoring your email, 90% of the time it is not because they hate you, but because they are too busy worrying about buying their new house, the fight they had with their husband, or which pair of shoes to wear today. Don’t take it personally
2) Knock-backs, failures and rejections are great. They mean you are trying. The more you fail, the more you are likely to succeed. The rejections don’t mean you are doomed to eternal failure. They mean you weren’t the right person at the right time, this time. Keep knocking on doors and the right one for you will open.
3) You always have a choice. If things are getting out of hand and consistently unbearable, you have a duty to yourself to find another way to make a living. There are always better choices.
Secret 5: Ask for help (and give it back)
“I’m just no good at asking others to help – I feel like I have to do it myself”.
If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this phrase, I’d be writing this post on the beach in Waikiki, rather than on a train in Wakefield.
If you’re an expert in everything, skip this step. If you’re a normal human being then you’ll have strengths and things you’re not so good at.
Whatever you are hoping to get out of work – enjoyment, learning, growth, meaning – there will be times when you need to ask for help.
It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to in helping out. Since I started my business, I’ve had friends and acquaintances help me with my marketing strategy, my PR approach, my web presence. I’ve had a huge amount of feedback and help from people I really respect.
In my office based days, I got help on any number of things – how to use Excel, how to deal with a difficult team member, what to do when the boss melted down 24 hours before the end of a long project. Without this support, I’m not sure I’d have made it through and I certainly wouldn’t have learned much.
The bottom line is learning to ask for help can make you better at your job, help you learn and grow, help you enjoy your work more and build solid relationships that can transcend jobs and even go beyond work. Learn to ask for help.
In return, help others generously if you can. Do your best to genuinely and graciously give back when you are the expert. If you believe in karma, its good karma – if not it’s just the right thing to do.
And, no this lesson doesn’t clash with Secret Number 1 (You get out what you put in). You will only get help if you know exactly what to ask for and who to ask. You have to actively seek the right help at the right time.
Secret 6 Know why you are at work
If you haven’t seen the movie Office Space, it is one of the best films ever made about the world of work. In this scene, the hero Peter tells the management consultants about his typical day at work.
Peter is the ultimate demotivated employee – “The truth is I probably only do about 15 minutes of real actual work” Peter’s attitude is “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that I don’t care”. He has no motivation to be at work.
The average human works for somewhere in the region of 75,000 hours during their career. There is no right answer for anyone to be at work, but without a good reason to be there it can become soul destroying.
Some of the most important reasons to be at work include:
- Doing something meaningful – making a difference to the world around you
- Learning something new – developing new skills that you can use profitably
- Doing something you enjoy – work can provide energy and fun
- Enjoying and being surrounded by great people – finding a great work culture
- Making a good living – this is a good reason to work, but on its own sometimes this isn’t enough
Knowing why you are at work provides the motivation to get out of bed every day, and to get through the inevitable tough times. If you’ve been spacing out for an hour a day and living on Facebook in the office, it may be time to take a long hard look at yourself and figure out a better way to get through those 75,000 hours.
If you want to get started figuring out why you are working, click here to find out more about career coaching.
Photo credit: Taylorkydd (Flickr Creative Commons)