Setting up for a dream career

Updated: Nov 23, 2019

I’m going to steal a cliche and term used by Apple Computers, I think different.

I see the world through a communication lens all the time, comparing everything to either a marketing objective, corporate culture initiative, visual design approach or ease of interactivity. I don’t do it to judge or be clinical of the world around me, I just find it fun analysing how our society is crafted… and I talk about it A LOT!

The reason I’m bringing this up is because the people I love and whom hang around me, and for the most part have no idea what I’m talking about, have to see and hear me jabber on about stuff like this every day.

I recently read an article on about motivation and mindfulness, balancing a career with personal life and the importance of switching off. There is nothing special about this advice – I’ve read the same things close to a million times from hundreds of career websites – but one thing these authors never confront is when you can’t switch on at work to begin with, how do you function the balance? How do you balance seeing the world through your training, while keeping you social / personal life fulfilled?

I’m not an idiot. I know my mates don’t want me to explain how visual design is manipulating us every day and guides us to think a certain way, and that it’s not “really cool” how supermarkets use floor tiling to pull you into shops subconsciously. I know most people don’t care or it bores them, but I have to vent, explaining and use what I know. I have to use my brain in the way it was trained. I imagine hanging out with me is a lot like this at times;

The questions I keep asking myself is ‘How does someone balance six years of study about all these things without an outlet to explore them?’

Lets take a step back and explore that article, looking at all main points through this lens. I’m not going to repeat the advice gave, just reinterpret using advice I follow and have been given.

Motivate yourself to face the day

Find a way to make your career journey move forward each day. Some call it a side hussle, but it doesn’t have to revolve around money or hussle. Just as Dory says, “Just keep swimming” and make sure you don’t stop moving along in your process everyday. The sign you’ve nailed this is when the feeling at the end of the day shines and you know you’ve grown a little.

A few months ago I had a chat with my boss’s boss about growing my career. One thing he said that really stuck with me was ‘No matter where you’re working, what you’re directly doing, you can learn new skills which will help you get to where you want to be’. Every day is an opportunity to push on, to progress on your career path so be motivated to see the opportunity in each day.

Put your work in perspective

There is an ongoing joke on r/choosingbeggers on Reddit which has the punch line ‘you can’t pay the rent with exposure!’ and never forget that… but remember, don’t expect a million dollar job with just a degree. You’re going to need to put in some hard yards off your own back. No matter what you want to do, you will need to prove yourselves and while it might be a lot of work, don’t forget to volunteer your skill-set to the world – such as at local charities or clubs – so you become adapt in using them.

There is an incredible quote from Bear Grylls – this comes from his book ‘A Survival Guide For Life’, highly recommend* – which fits perfectly here;

The will to win means nothing without the will to train.

Motivate yourself to have a hand on the pulse – but be careful not to be used. Be humble, keeping perspective of the big picture and know where you want to be, not just where you are now. Always keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Create an enjoyable work environment

Your work space isn’t just the place where your boss pays you to be from 9 till 5, Monday to Friday, it can be a desk in your study or your local coffee shop. Find something about it which drives you too it and make going into that space something enjoyable and purposeful.

While this advise was meant for diet and exercise, these words from personal trainer and chef Luke Hines fit perfect here. The mentality of being your best self starts with you feeling like your best self, so make sure you point focus, control and pride into your work environment, and “look the part”. This isn’t the “fakin’ it till you make” spill, this is about building your space as you build yourself and having something tangible which keeps you motivated, real and on track with your goals.

Chalkboard painted Desk at Google HQ
Google recently hosted a company competition for its staff to spiff up their shared workspaces. This is the winning solution, which incorporates chalkboard paint, greenery and Android accessories. SOURCE:

Make your breaks count

Switching off and just enjoying yourself can be magical. With your hand on the pulse, sometimes you think to make it, you’ll need to use them 10 and 30 minute breaks to do something productive… and this can be true but don’t forget about having a break in the mind. Using the minutes you have to yourself to reply to emails or practice a new skill will leave you burnt out eventually. And if you’re burnt out, you’ll never be your best self – ever!

So, don’t spend your break thinking about what you’re going to do on your break, just do it. Go for a walk, eat a healthy lunch, meditate, be alone with nature. Find zen in yourself in those few minutes of serenity before the stresses of live come barrelling back.

Remember, you have your workspace representing your career and growth journey, and you have your job providing you with stress and money. Take 10 and just find yourself in your breaks and stop revving the motor for a change.

Taking a break isn’t wasted time, its about rewarding your progress… Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield says it best;

CH Quote

Plan your time well

When eight hours a day goes to paying the rent, this one is most important for people who are not practicing at work what they’ve trained to do. Every single mentor book, self help article or TED talk about career growth have said you need to plan your day, your tasks. Put what needs to be done in writing so you can see it – there is science to this but I don’t have a link yet as it’s on my to do list.

Get a to-do list happening – go digital with ToDoist, and/or Google Tasks. Plan to add to the list every day and make sure you set perimeters to your tasks which are achievable – ‘be better at math’ or ‘get a new job’ shouldn’t be on your list as they mean nothing obtainable on their own. Writing a great to-do list is such a big topic and I’m going to write a whole article on it, but for the time being check out this article by Greatist author Shana Lebowitz, ‘How to Actually Get Sh!t Done With a To-Do List’.

Switch off once you leave work

When you have a space, a time and way to apply your training, you need to train yourself for when it’s okay to use them. This one only works if you do the five above because if you don’t harness your energy and time correctly, you won’t be able to switch off properly. Leaving work shouldn’t be considered a metaphor for you. In your physical work spaces you need to be switched on so you can became your best-career-self but your friends and family need you to be you. Train yourself to know when you are on the clock, and off it, even if there is no clock.

When you leave it, you leave it. Simple, but takes practice.

If you have any more suggestions, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you on one of my other posts. One of my favourites is this deep dive into Instagram, let me know what you think.

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