Years ago, I dreamed of being a full-time career advice columnist. You can’t work around human resources professionals for twenty years without learning a thing or two about how to succeed without even trying.
But career advisors are a dime a dozen, and very few of them make money by writing. Some of them do coaching. Many of them are resume writers. And while most of them are right and offer solid advice, very little of what they publish resonates with the broader market.
That sucks. People won’t pay attention to (or pay for) common sense.
So here are ten truths about work that I have learned from my colleagues and mentors. You get them for free because they’ve been bubbling up in my brain.
- The bar is low. You only have to work 5% harder than the average employee to yield better results.
- Relationships move markets and careers.
- Be interested in solving problems. Fix jammed printers and talk to unhappy customers.
- Be candid. Forthrightness will always beat the buzzword du jour.
- Never ask a question you can answer yourself.
- People remember two things: if you are late for a meeting or if you smell like body odor.
- Your job is whatever your boss asks you to do, and it’s always bigger than your job description.
- There is no policy manual or handbook that can force you to act like an adult.
- Kindness is the best office currency.
- You only have your word. If you compromise your integrity, it’s over.
Some of these points are more challenging than others. As I read through them, I cringe at how many mistakes I’ve made during my lifetime. If you are in a career rut, or if you have some ongoing conflict at work, my single biggest piece of advice still stands: get some emotional distance between yourself and your job.
Struggling at work? Get a hobby, find a new job or spend more time with your kids. A wholly differentiated human being, with varied interests and skills, doesn’t have a meltdown about her job. She shrugs her shoulders, hugs the people who matter, and forgives those who cause trouble.
And if you’re really struggling, try starting a blog and offering career advice. It’s the single best way to get clarity on your own values and beliefs about work and life.