Why boring jobs are popular

You might think that the only reasons people choose boring jobs is because it’s a bad economy, they need money, and they have no choice. New research shows those aren’t the only reasons, though.

Money, it turns out, does play a role in selecting boring jobs, but not always for a reason you’d think. Some people pick boring because they feel they should get paid more for the additional effort of an interesting job. Even if the monetary difference between a boring job and an interesting job isn’t enough to sway the decision, people will pick a boring job over an interesting job if the boring job involves less effort.

This study – conducted by Peter Ubel and David Comeford at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business – could have a big impact on peoples’ willingness to open businesses. Starting a small business is inherently a labor-intensive proposition. Although the monetary rewards can be pretty significant, the endeavor can also be a complete financial flop.

If you want to be happy in your career choice, though, Ubel and Comeford suggest ignoring the inclination that you should get paid more for working more hours. Comeford said, “I can see lots of good reasons why your gut would tell you not to work unless you get paid more than you’d get for doing nothing, but the lesson I take from these studies is that that reaction risks leaving you bored and unhappy.”

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5 way to get your boss like you

Here are another five excellent ways to get your boss to like you:

Communicate the same way your boss does.

That is, if your boss likes to use email, take the hint and email instead of calling. Go along with it if your boss prefers phone calls, or face-to-face conversations, or telepathy – okay, probably not telepathy. Even if your boss doesn’t state a preference for a specific mode of communication, usually they will tend to use the method they find most comfortable, so you should take note of their habits and follow suit. Similarly, if you talk in the same style as your boss does – be it rather casual or highly technical – your boss will be more drawn to communicating with someone who they see as communicating and thinking similarly.

Be meticulous about following through.

Following through on things that your boss thinks you may – or that someone else normally would – forget about can help you make a great name for yourself. Do not, however, promise to do things in an effort to have more things to follow through on and then forget to do so. Don’t promise to do things that you may not actually do; it’s better not to promise at all than to promise and fail to deliver. However, following through on little things – like returning phone calls or updating old charts or contact info – can make a good impression and help promote the idea that you’re very organized and detail-oriented.

Be early.

Be early to work, be early on deadlines. Just be early. It’s kind of obvious advice, and probably advice that you’ve heard before – but that’s because it works. Being late never creates a good impression, but being early does just that. Sometimes, things happen and life gets in the way and you end up being late – but if you consistently allow yourself enough time to be there early, then that won’t happen as much.

Have data.

Being able to drop relevant data into a conversation can help you look well-prepared and well-informed. Obviously, exactly what data you should have on hand depends on your field of work, but in general having data is useful – not just proving points but for scoring points.

Make a note of anything that you have in common.

If your boss happens to reference shared interests or preferences, mentally store them away. Sometime when it fits into conversation, you can reference your similar interests or preferences and it’ll be a great way for your boss to connect with you.

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Thrive, Ariana Huffington and Success

In 2007, Ariana Huffington was working all day and half the night for her 2-year-old media creation, The Huffington Post. She was only getting around four or five hours of sleep a night and was driving herself to the brink. Then, one day she collapsed from exhaustion and smashed her cheekbone on the corner of her desk. That was what ultimately led her to write Thrive, a book that has been dominating non-fiction bestseller lists since its release this past March.

In Thrive, Huffington talks about defining success. She considers whether money and power are really the best ways to measure success – and ultimately concludes that they are not. Although money and power are ways that traditionally measure success are thoroughly incomplete without concern for one’s well-being. Within the concept of well-being, Huffington includes inner wisdom, compassion, and more. If money and power are the two usual metrics to measure success, then well-being is the third metric. Huffington is so enamored with the idea that she’s created a new section on the Huffington Post site called “The Third Metric.”

Huffington focuses on how to achieve this new kind of wellness – this third metric – in her advice. One of her big pieces of advice is that people need to unplug. Western workplace culture, she said, is toxic in the way that the fact of constantly being reachable means that work is permitted to completely take over one’s life.

Huffington writes that 20 percent of people use smartphones during sex, although she herself once traveled with two BlackBerrys on two different networks so that she would never be out of touch. As more than one critic has observed, Huffington is the person most in need of her own advice. That being said, her advice is valid and she talks candidly about her problems and the little ways in which she has changed her life to help achieve the third metric. She writes that she no longer charges her phone next to her bed and says that she sleeps more now. She meditates and no longer turns on the news first thing upon entering the house.

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9 foundations of a successful career

Weather you’re in high school and starting to look down the path your life will take, or you’ve had a job or two and looking to turn it into a career – we have some foundational advice for helping you to get started or keep moving in your career. This publication is an overview; there will be a book , which explain each of these items in detail that will follow. So with that, let’s go ahead and get started:

1. Drive

This is the place inside one’s psyche that pushes them toward their goals, whatever they are. It’s that “get up and go” that everyone has, and it’s usually related to one’s employment being aligned with one’s passions. If you find yourself lacking in this area, it’s usually because what you’re working on is not aligned with your passion. Not to worry, there are exercises you can do to help illuminate your passions and get you pointed in the right direction to take advantage of your natural drive and desire to be productive.

2. Super Goal

Goals are of utmost importance because it’s how you set your direction and determine steps toward the career of your dreams. You should start by looking at how you define success in light of your career. There’s no way to say if you’re successful or not if there’s no goal to measure against. While you can’t plan out every facet of your life, “Super Goals” refers to your life goals, or what some people call the bucket list. Your career will allow you to be financially stable enough to accomplish these things.

3. Keep Learning

Education is often the best place to start when you’re looking at building a foundation for your career. Not all professions require a degree, but most will require at a minimum a high school diploma or bachelor’s degree. The key with education really is that you must continually develop and fine-tune your skills, it’s not over when you’ve gotten the degree. Technology is a fairly easy place to stay in the know, and it’s always coming up with something new.

4. Charisma

This is something really important to at least understand, if not embrace. You’ll likely have a manager whose job it is to support you and help you be successful, so understanding their role in your career is worth a few moments notice. Additionally, if you’re the “leadership” type of person (not everyone is), it will be useful to include these aspirations in your goal setting. Perhaps looking into some management courses would be a good idea for you too, though all the leadership training in the world will not force you to be charismatic. Charisma is what the most successful leaders in the world possess.

5. Love what you do

Most people don’t get to work their dream job, or even like the company they work for. The important piece here is to find something about your job or people you work with that you love, also to look for employment that aligns with your passions in life. There are few feelings better than truly loving your life’s work, and feeling good about your contributions to the company and to the world around you.

6. Fight for your goals

A successful career is built on the ability to get where you want to go and accomplish your goals. This path is not the easy one, and is filled with obstacles, distractions, and off-ramps. You must fight internally and externally to achieve true success.

7. Have fun

Anywhere you work you’ll need to find a way to have fun, otherwise you’ll be miserable and have a bad attitude impacting those around you as well. Even if it’s a grunt, thankless job, there is a way to find the silver lining and have some fun!

8. Be good to people

An important characteristic for anyone looking to have a career where you work with other people (which, let’s face it, is a majority of the options out there). It is important to be able to recognize emotions in other people and be able to respond appropriately. Much of this quality is natural, but there are some things a career minded person could actively do to make these skills stronger.

9. Sound work-life balance

This is critical for any type of employment you may choose. Weather you’re the CEO or the brand new sales guy – it is important to make time for yourself and your family while growing your career. Otherwise you run the risk of burning out!

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Do you need a career change?

Everyone experiences some amount of work-related frustration. But how do you tell when that frustration is serious enough to merit a career change? Here are some important questions you can ask yourself.

Are you always exhausted?

You can be exhausted for legitimate medical reasons or simply because you’re spending so many hours on work, even if it’s work that you enjoy. However, you can also find yourself feeling exhausted when you aren’t pulling long hours at the office and when there isn’t an underlying medical issue. If that’s the case, then you definitely need to look at your job as the possible culprit. If your job is so terrible for you that it’s making a negative impact on your life, then you really

Does your salary no longer make up for your job?

Although you may be hesitant to change careers because you have a regular income in your current career and don’t know what your next career might bring, at some point your hatred of your job may make it worthwhile to take a risk and switch.

Does it bother you that your career doesn’t have impact?

Some people are okay with not feeling like their career has impact, but for many people that’s a very important aspect of work. If your career doesn’t have the impact you’d like – or, even worse, if you feel that the impact is negative – then you might want to consider a career change. Feeling that your job has an impact can be a big part of job satisfaction for many people, so for some people it can have a huge effect on your level of happiness.

Does it just feel wrong?

This can be a pretty nebulous question to evaluate, but sometimes you’ll know that you’re in the wrong career because you feel like you’ve done everything right, done everything that you were supposed to, and maybe even ended up where you thought you wanted to – but now that you’re there, it all just feels wrong.

Do you feel like your thinking is out of sync?

You may not necessarily like your coworkers or bosses as people, but you should feel like your patterns of thought are compatible. If your way of approaching problems is completely different from everyone else’s, that can be a valuable skill, but if it isn’t appreciated it can just make your job experience miserable. It’s not uncommon to dislike your coworkers, but you should at least be able to work with them and communicate effectively.

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Why get an MBA

Business school is often a detriment to aspiring business professionals.

You might think that sounds ridiculous, given that many great business people praise the educational quality and priceless benefits of attending business school. However, there were just as many wildly successful and inspiring businessmen and women throughout history that didn’t see the value of business as a piece of academia. Consider people like Andrew Carnegie, Coco Chanel, David Ogilvy, Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Sean Combs, Steve Madden, Walt Disney, and Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. None of those people graduated from college, let alone attended business school. Obviously, inspiring, innovative, wealthy, and successful business personalities don’t necessarily need the academic backbone of business school.

This is the point where the debate reaches a stand still. There are pros and cons to both theories; there are certainly good points to business school, just as there are bad aspects of leaping into business without formal training. Those of us who have studied the evolution of business theory can see that this debate is likely to continue for a very long time, perhaps forever. That being said, there is clearly a gray area between those two opposing viewpoints, and as mentioned earlier, the lines are sufficiently blurred at this point. Some combination of experiential learning and the genius of ignorance can be both tempered and supported by an updated version of business school dogma.

In light of our modern obsession with easily consumed wisdom and instant gratification, two semesters’ worth of business school textbooks clearly won’t appeal to many aspiring business moguls. On the other hand, leaping blindly into the world of business without some semblance of direction or an overarching philosophy is both foolish and costly. Somewhere in the middle is where most of today’s biggest stars of business find their path. Whether their success comes from their wise mentors or from the sweat and tears of earlier failures, this modern MBA identity is contemporary and constantly in flux, respecting the speed of change in this new landscape, yet also recognizing the need for direction and stability. That duality of nature in modern business professionals is what makes them so fascinating, and what encourages so many new people every year to plunge into the choppy waters of the business world.

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How humor can boost your career

Some people think of work as a place that should be devoid of humor. Work and play, however, don’t have to be entirely mutually exclusive. In fact, there are some really good reasons why bringing a little humor with you to work can actually help boost your career. Here are just a few of those reasons:

1. Humor helps relieve stress. Humor actually changes the way that your brain perceives stress factors. Once you inject a little humor into your worldview, bothersome co-workers or clients just become amusing anecdotes for later instead of depressing annoyances.

2. Humor helps creative thinking. Humor helps you see the world less rigidly and removing the rigidity from your thinking seriously boosts creativity. Humors is both relaxing and inspiring, so it helps foster the right creative mentality you need to be the most productive team members you can be.

3. Humor helps build trust. Because humor makes you seem more likeable, it will also make people more likely to trust you. When you display your sense of humor, people detect the authenticity in your approach and they are more likely to find your trustworthy than your more reserved counterparts, who may come off as distanced or stuck-up.

4. Humor increases productivity. By helping create a work environment that is cheerful, your employees or co-workers will spend less time thinking about how long it is until five o’clock and more time thinking about how to offer maximal contribution to the company. People will approach their work with more passion, and in turn be more productive and offer better results.

5. Humor is a great equalizer. Humor makes you seem human, so if you’re an administrator or boss trying to connect with your employees, humor is a great way to do just that. Of course, it probably goes without saying that humor at the expense of your subordinates or co-workers is NOT a good idea.

6. People will like working with you. Bringing a good sense of humor to your job can really help with team-building. People want to like the people they work with – and when your co-workers like you, you will find your job to be more enjoyable. Again, though, don’t offend people with your humor.

7. Humor can help your customer relations. Just as humor can help humanize company leaders, humor can also help humanize your company as a whole. Humor can help your truly connect with your customers in a way that can generate a large loyal following.

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Why is empathy important for your career

Medieval knights had the benefit of suits of armor to protect them at work. We dress for success but our up-to-date fashion does not protect us from the slings & arrows we may encounter in our workday. Nor do uniforms: in fact, if you wear a uniform, you may find yourself the target of frustration and anger. The bus driver deals with short-tempered commuters. Service staff in the restaurant deal with demanding customers. Customers deal with other customers – the pushy ones confront the polite ones.

In every form of interaction, there is a chance of misunderstanding, unmet expectations, or disappointment. There are situations that try us and people who frustrate us. We can maintain our personal balance in dealing with the situations and people by empathizing with them.

Empathy is a skill, much like any other. It may also be called a talent. What kind of skill? It’s a social skill. Some people are naturals; others appear somewhat clueless and need to learn. Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :  the capacity for this.”

“When we meet someone who is joyful, we smile. When we witness someone in pain, we suffer in resonance with his or her suffering,” says Matthieu Ricard (a French scientist, born 1946, who walked away from science in 1972 to devote his life to Buddhism.)

This example shows the wide sweep of empathy. Examples of empathy range from small gestures of everyday courtesy, to profound identification with a person or cause.

When we empathize with someone, we identify with that person. It’s different from sympathy. When we offer sympathy, we are separate. When we empathize, we are joined.

Regardless of where you work, you will come into contact with two categories of people: you co-workers and everyone else. You have an on-going relationship with your co-workers. You may have friendly connections with staff at the lunch counter, the coffee shop, your courier, the cleaning staff, suppliers, and your customers. Many people deal with customers in person, by phone, email, or all three.

Customer service reps get trained in how to respond to frustration, aggravation, and even insults. The language they use contains words of apology: “I’m sorry. I apologize.” They say, “I understand,” and “I would feel the same.” They offer support, reassurance, and solutions. It may be the 12th such problem they have encountered that day, but they communicate concern, and a willingness to help out.

Customer service reps know that concern is a key feature of service. They pay attention to the customer, show that they understand the issue, and offer solutions. What they are showing is empathy. You don’t have to agree. The essential element is to show that you are listening, and that you understand.

Empathy gets a lot of attention in today’s business world. Business leaders believe it is a valuable quality, which will improve the workplace, and as a result, help the business.

They are eager to climate of empathy in the workplace. One way of looking at it is, empathy opens doors that were previously shut tight. Empathy encourages communication; sparks creativity; and helps solve problems.

Empathy communicates respect and concern. Empathy requires time to pay attention to another person. Listening is one of the keys that unlock empathy. When you are with someone else, do you listen to them? What are your thoughts? Do you hear what they say, or are your thoughts on what to pick up for dinner, or which movie to order?

Empathy is the impetus for change. It is the force behind many non-profit organizations. With the growing sophistication of social media, we develop connections with people far away.

Empathy is based on knowledge – our awareness of another’s circumstances. Empathy can be a force for change on a small-scale or a large-scale social change. It enables an individual to form relationships. We now have the technology to form relationships with people thousands of miles away. We can see what they look like, and how they live. Our awareness of the reality of others’ lives is one thing. That’s knowledge. Our identification with them motivates us to act.

A brief search turns up many sites dedicated to making a difference, such as StartSomeGood, a crowd funding site “for non-profits, social entrepreneurs, and changemakers.” On this site, we learn “Empathy is so powerful that it can transform a faceless stranger, a statistic, into a unique individual with whom you now have a bond.” Corporations have their own initiatives, such as StartEmpathy at Ashoka’s Global Headquarters in Virginia. Crowd funding asks a little from many people. The combined efforts of many add up a significant resource.

Putting the spotlight on empathy marks a change in focus for workplace culture. Have you been told, “That’s business,” when you discussed a negative happening at work? It may have been that someone got the promotion you were expecting. Your company may be downsizing, or someone has been let go, seemingly for no reason. The for-profit business world has a reputation for paying attention only to the bottom line. Even non-profits, while they have high ideals, may not always carry their high ideals into their own workplaces.

People in the non-profit sector know how empathy helps them realize their goals of effecting change. It’s a powerful attribute. Even on a personal level, one individual can make a big difference. When many people join together, the effect can be earth-shaking.

Suppose you want to harness some of this power in your own life. If you are wondering about where you rate on the empathy scale, you can choose from many tests available online.

Another strategy is to watch empathy in action at your own workplace. Pay attention to how people interact. There may be one person who remembers everyone’s birthday. Someone else may cover for an absent employee on short notice. Watch not only what people do, but the reactions. Are there particular things that improve the morale of staff and the workplace climate? Do you have your own ideas of actions you could take?

You can practice to develop empathy. Social skills make relationships flow along smoothly. Much like learning to tip, or paying a compliment, at first, you may feel awkward. As you practice, you become more adept. Some people may be more empathetic, but you can learn, and you discover what feels natural for you.

There are ways to practice outside of work, and you may want to start get involved in a volunteer activity. The more opportunities you accept to encounter other people, learn bout them, and also learn about other cultures, the more you will develop your capacity for empathy. Empathy brings rewards, and in the business world, contributes to individual and group success.

There is a downside that must be recognized. We hear about work/life balance a lot. Bringing fun into the workplace and creating a climate of empathy are ways to create work/life balance. However, just as fun is not one person’s job at work, so too empathy can’t be one’s person’s response.

You may hear about a personal or work-related problem. You are not required to solve the problem on your own. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to contribute in some way to alleviate a problem. At one small office, one staff member lived in the vicinity of an explosion at a fuel depot. Staff members contributed as they could to helping out her and her family.

Being empathetic and compassionate are positive attributes: kindness, patience, and sensitivity bring positive benefits, but they can also sabotage your career. If you are in a helping profession, you run an even greater risk of feeling overwhelmed, either by the demands of your clients, you co-workers, or both. Here is where that suit of armor comes in handy!

If you are naturally empathetic, you risk taking on too much. Customer service reps hear problem after problem; complaint after complaint. They listen, but they also wear that suit of armor. They do hear insults. They do get abused. They are trained but they still need to protect themselves or their jobs would be impossible.

As a truly empathetic person, you must find a balance within yourself, or risk being burned out. Remember the reason why you are at work: your job. You have a job description. If you find you are really having difficulty, you can to back to your job description to help you set a boundary.

The powerful aspect of empathy plays a role, especially for an individual. For the empathetic person sees how effective he or she has been in dealing with tough people and tough situations. It can be difficult to stay back, or let other people handle things. If you are in this situation, you may feel you are losing by letting go. It can be a big change for you to step back, even if you need to do so to preserve you own health and well-being. Many people don’t know when to quit – they work too hard, and end up suffering, physically, mentally, or both. It’s the same with empathy. Empathy is good. Water is good too – but not if you have two feet of it in your basement.

When you are tuned in to others’ emotions, your own work can suffer. You may be distracted by people and situations that are not your concern. You may need to tune out, or turn the volume down, yet realize that you do not know how to do this. Your own feelings of concern for others blind you to your own needs. You may feel like helping, and at some point realize you have become the office “helper.” Here’s the reason why empathy is not just one person’s job: it’s too much for one person.

Empathy requires an action plan, the same as any other work-related initiative. If you are a business leader, and you want to climate of empathy in your workplace, realize that you need to provide support and resources. If these are not available, empathy can’t get established, and won’t play much of a role. It will remain a random, personal response, and it may be absent when it is needed most. People need to feel comfortable to respond appropriately in various situations. Those situations that require an empathetic response are often negative. It people are not prepared, and do not know how to respond, they may choose avoidance over empathy. This is not uncommon. “I just didn’t know what to say,” You hear. Or, “I didn’t know what to do.”

If you asked any supervisor, manager or leader what they wanted, they would say, “I want people to work together.” Some years ago a popular business buzzword was “synergy.”

It’s been awhile since we heard “synergy,” so we go back to Merriam-Webster. Synergy is “the increased effectiveness that results when two or more people or businesses work together.” That is exactly what we want! How do we get it? We’ve heard promoting empathy is one sure way.

It’s not entirely our fault we don’t empathize. At work, especially, many people are part-time, or on contract, or short-term, temporary workers. There may be few opportunities to interact with co-workers, or such interaction may have been discouraged. Also, when the society in general has a climate of loss – loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of skills, etc, people understandably focus on their own security. Factors in the workplace beyond make it difficult to empathize because we may not even know the people in the office.

A non-profit organization with many contract staff hired a consultant to conduct a survey of employee concerns, and then set-up a committee to work on specific projects. One project was an open house, which gave staff and board members an opportunity to work together promoting the organization and the work of its staff and volunteers. Securing funding was an on-going issue, and the open house gave the organization an opportunity to acknowledge the support of its funders. The same organization celebrated its 50th anniversary by publishing reflections from past presidents. Another initiative was to collect stories from members about their work, which were published in a series. The stories helped spread the word about the work of the organization, its members, and also created stronger bonds between staff and the members.

Your action plan for empathy at work—as with adding an element of fun to the workplace, creating a climate of empathy requires an understanding of the workplace culture, and choosing steps that will be acceptable to the staff. Make empathy visible. As with fun, staff needs to see empathy in action, and believe it is sincere, before they feel empowered to model this behavior.

For an individual, being empathetic helps built strong relationships. If you are not naturally empathetic, you can learn how to “turn it on.” If you are naturally empathetic, you may have to learn how to “turn it off.” Either way, you are learning how empathy can help contribute to your career success. You may still need that suit of armor, but it won’t have quite as many dents in it.

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