I’m often asked for advice on certain career or professional decisions that people have to make. I’m straddled with giving my opinion and wanting people to make their own choices. I’ve learned to ask questions to help people make the right choice and squash their fears.
Courage Over Fear
Fear is an emotion, just like all of your other emotions. It has no special meaning other than the meaning you choose to give it. It has no special power other than the power you choose to give it. As a matter of fact, it’s not special at all. It’s just an emotion. You can choose to focus on that emotion, or another. You can listen to fear, you can stay paralyzed by it and do nothing at all.
Or, you can choose to focus on courage, also an emotion. If you do not do what your fear is telling you to do, you allow your courage to propel you forward.
Most people think that to have courage means the absence of fear. But even the most courageous are fearful. I don’t think you can have one without the other. What need is there for courage if not to conquer our own fears. Once we understand that fear and courage are emotions that co-exist and we simply choose to focus on one over the other, we can begin to shorten the amount of time it takes to make good choices and think like a champion. Learning to nurture this over your adult career is the path to advancement, satisfaction, and a life of abundance.
A Winning Hand
When you choose courage over fear, you’ll speak up, sign up, buy, sell, branch, take the leap, write the letter, have the talk, ask her out, etc. Try the 10/10/10 analysis from Chip and Dan Heath’s book Decisive. Ask yourself, how would you feel about that decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months from now? How would you feel 10 years from now?
This quick analysis can help you keep your emotions in check. In the moment, emotions can be so white hot that they take over the truth about how our choices can define our future. By thinking about how we want to feel 10 months or 10 years from now we are putting fear in the back seat and grabbing the steering wheel ourselves.
Using 10/10/10, you may find that your decision to face your fear leaves you feeling anxious 10 minutes from now, but relieved or empowered 10 months from now.
It can lead us to that ah-ha moment. This is choosing courage over fear. The possibilities are endless. Your energy intensifies.
This is not to say that short-term emotion is the enemy. It serves a purpose. However, with a 10/10/10 analysis you are giving yourself the opportunity to ensure that your short-term emotion is not the only card in your hand.
Clearing Our Lenses
Many times when we are stuck on a decision we are trying to make for ourselves, it is caused by the emotions that are fogging up our lenses. We are stuck on how that decision is making us feel right now when what we may need to do is remove our own emotions from the decision. Often the first question I’ll ask myself when making a tough decision is am I choosing from fear or courage? When giving advice to one of my students I’ll often ask myself, what advice would I give my son or daughter in this situation? Removing our own emotions from the decision-making process can quickly bring about clarity.
If you don’t have children, ask what advice would I give my brother, sister, favorite cousin, best friend, spouse, etc.? If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. Have you ever noticed how clearly and freely we give advice to friends and family? You may be amazed at how quickly the choice becomes clear.
You have to expand in order to reach new heights. But that capacity needs to be poured directly into your decisions, not spread thin by old habits. Preparation and passion are keys to success, but making good choices transforms a broader focus into laser focus. Make the desire to take your capacity the next level intrinsic. It may be helpful to journal your decision making process so you can learn how to think more clearly in the moment. Be creative and believe in yourself regardless.
Don’t let some past mistake keep you focused on the emotion of fear. Since the choice is yours anyway, why not break fear and choose courage?
Read about making great choices at work in John's book No Shorts, Flip-flops, or Sunglasses: How to Make the Most of Your First Real Job. A portion of the proceeds go to Children's Dyslexia Centers.
I have interviewed thousands of young adults and every year I have countless people show up to their interview wearing a t-shirt and shorts, sunglasses, flip-flops and a funky baseball cap turned sideways, or in a tube top and cutoffs. Dressed for the beach is not the way to make your first impression in an interview. Depending on the time of year, I’ve seen sweats, ripped jeans and sneakers, or the worst…Crocs.
Don’t get me wrong—unless you’re applying to be the drummer for a rock band or a Hooters waitress, it’s exactly the wrong way to dress for a job interview. But, I’ve learned, because I work with so many young people—it’s not your fault and you aren’t dumb. You just haven’t broken the code yet. Nobody explained it to you.
I also know that what you look like does not define who you are, nor does it predict whether or not you’ll be successful. I’ve discovered that there are plenty of smart, motivated, and engaging young adults hiding behind costumes of self-expression, or who appear to be careless about their appearance. We can fix the rest as we go. I’ve given many a chance to prove me right and I’ve been very pleased with the results.
You’re no Mark Z…yet.
It’s true that we live in a society that has become informal in many ways. When I applied for my first job as a dishwasher at a little backwater restaurant in central Pennsylvania more than twenty years ago, my father explained that no matter how mundane a job it may be, I should always wear a tie to an interview, to show I was serious and respectful. Today, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg—not yet 30 years old—can attend a shareholder meeting of Facebook in a t-shirt and hoodie and no one thinks anything of it. But you’re not Mark Zuckerberg. You are a blank slate on which anyone who meets you for the first time is going to write their first, and lasting, impression. You might be a future Mark Zuckerberg, or destined to become an Oprah Winfrey, but what people in business are going to see, in their mind’s eye, is at best a clueless kid, not worth their energy and resources.
What I’ve learned over the years is that you are healthy, normal, hopeful young adults who may be compensating for insecurity, or anxiety about rejection, or maybe haven’t yet gotten the memo about never getting a second chance to make a first impression. Virtually every study of human psychology turns up the same result—the first thing you think when you meet someone new is how you tend to define them, forever. That’s why my grandfather who is 89 years old can look at his wife and still see the cute young girl he walked home for the first time on the streets of west Philly seventy years ago.
Freak flag…yay or nay?
So if your ears look like you just stepped out of a National Geographic special on the lost tribes of the Amazon, and the man or woman across the table wants to hire someone to work the geriatric products counter at a drug store, you might want to reconsider your career path or else get your lobes sewn back on. Either way, you’re just starting out. Why fly your freak flag if it’s going to limit your opportunities? Get the job, and then see how flexible your employer might be.
When making that first impression, bring a smile, a firm handshake, not too much make-up or jewelry, be dressed to impress, and look ready to start work tomorrow if necessary. Do some research on the company and find out what’s appropriate. Call the receptionist and ask what the dress code is.
Perfume or fragrances are out. There are people with allergies and that is not the impression we are after today.
Wear polished dress shoes, flats or low heals, and if you’re wearing a belt make sure it matches your shoes. A black belt with brown shoes is a no go. Oh, and save the stilettos and platform heels for girls’ night out.
If you have tattoos, great. Who doesn’t love a gnarly tatt? Wherever it is, unless you’re applying to work at a record store, cover it for the interview. Wait; do we still call them record stores?
Wear a white t-shirt under your dress shirt. Wear a tie, but if necessary, have someone help you tie it before you go. It’s cool to wear a shirt un-tucked to the club, but not to the interview. And double check that all buttons are buttoned. Not buttoning the buttons on your collar is equivalent to leaving your fly down.
Finally, make sure it fits when you sit. Jacquelyn Smith, a Forbes staff writer suggests that you "test drive your interview outfit". How to Dress for Your Next Job Interview. Something that looks good standing up may look super tight and uncomfortable when you sit. Do a quick sit test.
Give yourself the best chance of making the right first impression. Make the right decisions while your young so you can put yourself in a position to make amazing decisions when you’re older.
Creating your professional village is what’s also known as networking, a term that is over-used, worn out, and misunderstood. What many think of as networking is often the opposite.
Opposites do not attract
For example, it’s the opposite of networking to leave an event or meeting with your pockets stuffed full of business cards from people you’ve barely met, who you’ll have completely forgotten on the drive home, including that one man or woman you really did connect with.
It’s the opposite of networking to spend four hours on LinkedIn.com indiscriminately firing off unsolicited connect invitations to people you’ve never met, don’t know, and who probably share nothing in common with you. Most will delete your invitation with an annoyed growl. Some people won’t mind of course, but don’t confuse this method of gaining connections with the true power of building your network.
Networking is not about what others can do for you. It’s about what you can do for others. This has nothing to do with spiritual beliefs or philosophy. It’s just common sense.
Why would someone help you unless you’ve already demonstrated that you’re interested in helping them? Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Ask the right questions
The best way to find out if other people share your interests is to ask questions and then be a good listener. When they tell you what they do, a great question to ask is,
“What’s it like being a ________ (teacher, lawyer, systems analyst, etc)?”
People rarely take this level of interest and most people love to talk about what they do and why they do it.
This is where shy or quiet types often do well and where those who are gregarious, life-of-the-party types might struggle. It’s hard to learn what matters to others if you’re thinking about yourself, or to hear what other people are saying when you’re making yourself the center of attention.
My absolute favorite question to ask is, “What can I do to help your business grow?”
Most people have never been asked it and are stunned at first. But if the question is sincere, they are genuinely appreciative, even if they aren’t able to think of a way you can help at the moment.
If you make a habit of getting to know what other people are doing, think about, and need, you’ll quickly find that, in many cases, what you have to offer is the chance to connect them with others.
Adding value to others
You might meet someone who’s working as a realtor just when you learn that one of your other connections is getting ready to sell a house.
You might meet a young business consultant after you’ve connected with an entrepreneur who needs help with a business plan.
Each time you connect two people, you’ve created a neighborhood in your professional village. Each time you solve someone else’s problem, your value goes up and the people in your village become eager to find ways to show their gratitude—by helping you.
You’re connecting the dots. You can’t know what the final picture will be. No matter how carefully you may plan your career, opportunities you may never have considered will pop up. That’s part of the adventure of networking. You never know where it might lead.
In the end, networking is about cultivating productive relationships. Ask questions with the intention of adding value to others, and yes, you will get that sought-after business card.
Find out more in chapter 8 at www.ChampThink.com. Comment below with your favorite Networking Tips/Thoughts.
by John Wasserman
Proceeds benefit Children's Dyslexia Centers