8 Key Career Lessons Grounded in Positivity

Career Lessons Grounded in Positivity

Today, check out eight career lessons grounded in positivity that have helped me be more productive, more successful, and stay just a little more sane.

Career Lessons #1: Be nice, and get a lot more done.

I strongly dislike the phrase, “You are too nice.” In my experience, nice is good, nice is welcomed and nice is productive! Even if you love what you do for a living, work is stressful. No one is paying you to just have fun ALL the time. So why not maintain a positive attitude, play nice with others (even people you don’t exactly want to bestie-up with), and get more done?

One thing I have found from always striving to maintain my cool and smile at work, even when others are getting a little edgy with me, is that I just get more done. Plain and simple. People are more likely to help me, to answer my questions, and to put my requests before those of others. Plus, the workday is just a lot more pleasant with a smile on your face, and around people who are not afraid you’re going to bite their noses off for every little thing. No one likes a crabster at work, even the crabsters themselves!

And no, being nice doesn’t mean being a push-over. It just means putting a little extra effort into understanding the stresses of others in different roles, being receptive to questions and to mistakes (you make ‘em too!), and always being willing to talk through any issues to ultimately accomplish your goals.

Career Lessons #2: Find intrinsic motivation.

You can’t always wait for accolades, compliments, smiling faces, and lots of dough to motivate you to do a good job. Besides, these things are not part of the everyday. On most days, you just have to look inside yourself to stay motivated and produce good quality work.

One thing that has always worked for me is that regardless of outside stressors (outside of myself), I refuse to put my name on bad work if I can help it. So when the goin’ gets tough, I motivate myself with the thought of producing high quality work, not because someone is going to come by and start clapping for me or hand me a wad of cash, but just because that’s the way I roll. It makes me feel good and it gives me purpose. Plus, it is something I can control.

Career Lessons #3: Be helpful.

Please never, ever say to someone, “That is not my job.” Say it to yourself, with your inside voice if you like, but never utter those words. Job descriptions are never going to be 100 percent comprehensive, and hey, stuff comes up, so relax, roll up your sleeves, and always be willing to help. Besides just being good Samaritan-like to do so, this also helps your co-workers and managers build trust in you. And when you need a little hand, others will be more likely to be there and give you what you need.

Career Lessons #4:  Be a rock star problem solver.

I don’t care what anyone says. Whether you have five years of experience, 10 or 25, no one knows everything, especially in a world where things are constantly changing and evolving. Don’t worry so much about having all of the answers, and just practice being a rock star problem solver.

Don’t have the answer to that email right now? Not really sure how to attack that huge project your boss just emailed to you? Heck, maybe you don’t even know what she/he is talking about. That’s OK. Kindly express that you’re not sure, and say you will do a little digging and provide an update soon. Then, go. Research, ask, and think. You’re a smart cookie. You’ll figure it out.

Made a mistake? That’s OK too. Focus on rectifying it instead of drowning in self-pity and making excuses. I have noticed time and time again that everyone understands we make mistakes, but no one likes a terminal attitude. Unless you are conducting surgery, there is usually a way to make a situation better, fix a mistake and find a better way. Take a minute to feel bad, and then get to fixin’!

Career Lessons #5: Find a good balance between salary and passion.

Unfortunately, passion alone doesn’t pay the bills, and salary alone doesn’t buy happiness or feed your soul.  When thinking about what career to go into or change over to, or what job to take, try and find a good balance between passion and salary. Don’ take a salary you can’t live on to do something you love, and don’t take a job you hate just because it pays a lot.

Take me for example. I am a writer to the very depths of my little heart. It’s what I have loved to do since I was a kid. It is what drives me, excites me and fulfills me. So I chose a career in marketing which allows me to write but doesn’t leave me livin’ the starving artist life. For a girl who already comes from poverty, that is just not cute ya’ll. This way, I make a good living at something I enjoy, and still get to do what I absolutely LOVE most days. Sometimes, when I’m stressed about money, I think I should have been a pharmacist or a lawyer, and make more money, but then where would my HAPPY be? It’s not worth it. Just find a balance.

Career Lessons #6: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Don’t do something wrong just because you’re afraid to ask questions. Again, none of us know everything. Plus, we all have different ways of learning and absorbing information. I know it can be hard especially if you tend to be a little shy like me (hard to believe, right?!), but suck it up, and ask. When the job gets done the right way the first time, everyone will be glad you did.

Career Lessons #7: Show a little personality.

Take some time to scope out your surroundings, and the personalities of your managers and co-workers, but don’t be so afraid to show a little personality. We spend a lot of our lives at work, so why spend it putting up a front? Save your energy for the actual work, please. Of course, you always have to gauge what is appropriate and what isn’t in your particular professional environment, but don’t think you have to be such a robot all the time. I’m fairly certain companies realize you’re human. It’s OK to tell a tasteful joke, add a little professional flare to your attire, and just be you. And if your environment doesn’t allow you to be even a shadow of your actual self, I’d venture to say you are in the wrong profession or the wrong company. Just a little bite for thought.

Career Lessons #8: Fake it ’till you make it.

Finally, always remember to fake it ‘till you make it baby! It’s taken me a while to really see myself outside of the career-less world I come from. Throughout this learning process, I’ve really had to muster the confidence, self-motivation and strength to believe that I belong here in this corporate world just like any other, more privileged individual. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that the education I was fortunate enough to receive and work my booty off for means I will never be stuck in the bonds of what could have very easily been. So no matter what your particular obstacles are, believe in yourself, push through the doubt, and make it happen!

And remember, a little positivity always goes a long, long way.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Confessions of An Achievement Junkie

Image

This week I’m feeling that old familiar feeling that only really escapes me occasionally. For me, that feeling is restlessness. It creeps up on me often, and maybe it’s the result of many years of school, moving around, constant change, and constant achievement. I always think I want stability, but a few months into a routine, and the dream wagon in my mind begins to churn its wheels again. They are so loud and abrasive that it’s almost impossible to ignore the noise.

For the better part of my 20s, I was always working on or finishing up some degree or other (I LOVE to learn!), starting new internships or jobs, moving, ending and beginning chapters, losing weight, movin’ on up, getting that big raise. And now that I’m here, in a good, stable place, and it’s time to settle into my career, into routines, into life and bills and errands, I am struggling to sit still.

The blogs can’t write themselves fast enough. My book can’t seem to move forward as fast as I’d like. My motivational author/speaker career seems so far off in the distance, although sometimes I feel like I can almost touch it. My professional challenges can’t seem to stay challenging enough to keep me excited. I want more, higher, better, all the time, and it’s hard to keep up.

On the other hand, I get tired, I can be totally lazy sometimes, and I’m not always as motivated as I’d like. After a full day’s work, the gym (when I make it there), errands, etc. it can be hard to put as much time into everything I want to accomplish as I’d like. But nevertheless, my mind is always going, always planning, scheming, dreaming. Sometimes I think this restless nature and accomplishment obsession will be the end of me, but mostly I realize it’s what keeps me so alive.

You see, I never want to get too comfortable. Coming from an environment of mediocrity, complacency and routine, comfortable is my absolute worst nightmare. Although it might make me crazy sometimes, I never want to lose this fire, and this unquenchable need to do more, reach new destinations, experience more out of life.

Sure, I realize complacency might be the easier route today, and sometimes I wish I was more comfortable with simplicity and routines, but in the long-run choosing restlessness will undoubtedly create a much more full and satisfying life. And that’s what we’re all after in the end, no? So as I struggle with my own restlessness, my message to you is to embrace it, fire it up, and let it drive you. Don’t try and quiet it. Don’t put out the flames. Definitely don’t listen to people who tell you you’re asking for too much out of life. They are just asking for too little.

I wholeheartedly believe that restlessness will lead you to something amazing. I know it will get me there. I’m not sure when or exactly how, but I know it will.

Tell me, do you ever feel restless?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

3 Ways I Never Gave Up

Chicago-20130127-01411

I’ve never been a huge fan of the word NO. It just always seemed too limiting to me, and little by little, I discovered that NO is usually nothing more than an easy way out; nothing more than a test of how fast I, or anyone, will give up.

When I was younger, I remember asking my overly strict father to give me a good reason why I couldn’t go to the movies with friends. I held a job since I was 15, I was an excellent student, I was a responsible kid, and I deserved a YES. After all, I wasn’t asking to go to a rave or anything outlandish for a 16 year-old. So I’d say (in Spanish), “Give me a logical reason why I can’t go, and I will let it go. I don’t even need money to go. I make my own.” Dumbfounded, more often than not, he’d budge and say YES. Why? Because you can’t fight logic, and most of all, it’s hard to fight that kind of gumption from a teenager. It might be important to mention here that I grew up being terrified of him, so standing up for myself was an even bigger deal. I think it was the beginning of a life of fighting NO, even when I was shaking in my boots while doing it.

So how do you fight NO? It’s simple. You fight NO by never giving up, by not allowing others to define your limits for you, by showing people you really want IT (whatever that IT might be), and by demonstrating that you’re worth the YES. To illustrate my point and hopefully inspire a little NO warrior action in you, here are three ways I fought NO and never gave up (I’ll share more examples in the future). I’ve briefly discussed some of these situations here before, but I really want to take a fresh look at them through a “never give up” perspective, so here it goes.

1. When I applied for my first master’s program with the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, I was denied acceptance based on one factor. I’m a horrible standardized test taker, and I just wasn’t cutting it on the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). The rest of my academic record was impeccable, but the test weighed more, and there I had it, a big ugly NO staring me in the face.

But, no ma’am. I wouldn’t stand for it. I knew I was just as capable of completing that program as other applicants with higher test scores, and I firmly believed I deserved a spot. So, I fought, and wrote a letter to the Dean that started out something like this:

Dear Dr. Treise,

They say 90 percent of life is just showing up. This is me showing up.

Then I went on to explain that my rejection seemed unfair in light of an otherwise impeccable academic record, and the fact that I was passionate about the degree I wished to obtain. I asked her not to judge me based on one day and one test, but on a lifetime of hard work and dedication instead.

So what happened? I can’t remember the timeline exactly, but I think it might have been about a week after I sent the letter that I received a phone call from Dr. Treise herself expressing her awe at my initiative and personally welcoming me into the master’s program I had originally been rejected from. I finished that degree with a 3.77 GPA, and a successfully defended Project in Lieu of Thesis despite an abysmal GRE score. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder in my life, but I wanted it, and I did it.

Bam. NO? I don’t think so!

2. Moving to Chicago from Miami took me about three years from ideation to fruition. It seemed like everything and everyone was against me. My family did not support it, and neither did my dire financial situation. Lots of people around me told me I was crazy, and that I should accept the life I already had. Say whaaat? That is super limiting talk, and this girl just doesn’t play that.

Despite all the negativity, I’d apply to jobs, get interviews, and get close to an offer, but at the end of the day I wasn’t local, and thus came the rejections. At some point, I started sending hard copy resumes and cover letters to employers asking them for an opportunity to speak to them, and explaining that I wasn’t looking for relocation assistance (heaven knows I needed it, but I’d figure it out when the time came). I even scrapped together some money to come visit Chicago and setup appointments with employment agencies. The answer was still I’d have to move first. Then, in one of my last desperate attempts, I applied for a 10k private loan to make the move. DENIED.

Finally, the idea came to me that I had always wanted an MBA, so why not now? That would be my ticket to Chicago. So I used my tax return to start the process, take the GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test), apply to several schools, etc. Here again, worst standardized test taker possibly EVER, so I bombed.

I was shattered. I’d never get into an MBA program now. I cried for a few days, and then I got right back up, and began devising my next plan. I borrowed the money to re-take the test, and this time I did a little better; good enough to gain me an acceptance from one great school, even if it was on probationary status.

So I made the move, and lived off of loans, part-time work/internships and entry-level jobs until I finished the degree and got settled into a great full-time position at the right level and for a lot more than I had ever made before. Plus, I was off academic probation within one straight A quarter, and was hugely successful throughout the entire program.

NO? I won’t make it? I’m not smart enough? Errrrr. WRONG.  I still made it ya’ll.

3. Back in 2009, life was ROUGH. Nothing seemed right. I was broke, heartbroken, lost and confused. I’d worked so hard my entire life, and it just didn’t make sense to me that I was struggling so badly just to make ends meet and keep my spirits up. It was then that I slowly started to awake to how my humble upbringing, lack of parental support, and history with emotional abuse had really affected me. There were days when something as simple as grocery shopping seemed like climbing Mount Everest. I remember oceans of tears, and a feeling of hopelessness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

But I kept chuggin’ along. I stayed focused on my escape to Chicago. I kept working through the tears, both at my day job and freelance writing at night. I scrapped money together to visit friends in other cities and take a few breathers. I pushed through the hopelessness, and I fought, because I always knew it had to get better, and there was something bigger waiting for me.

And now, if that Sonia met this Sonia, she wouldn’t even recognize her. I have taken control of my life, my surroundings and my feelings, and I’ve been on HAPPY Street for close to three years now. Of course, I have bad days. That will always be a part of life, but now I have the tools to recover faster.  Plus, I’ve learned to seek more love from myself than from any outside source, and now I’m not so vulnerable to the things I cannot control.

Sometimes I think what if I had given up then? What if I had taken all of life’s NOs and ran with them? I would never have been able to enjoy the person I’ve become, the life I’ve built, the wonderful people I’ve met, and this frequent feeling of JOY that fills my heart where a lot of sadness used to live. And there we have it folks. The moral of the story is you should never let others define your limits. Just because someone else might not have been successful in a similar endeavor, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a better way.

Do you have a fighting NO and never giving up story you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it, and others can surely benefit from it as well. Come on, give it to me!! 🙂 And remember, success is not always about being the smartest person in the room. More often it’s about hard work, perseverance and heart.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Success is My Only Mofo Option, Failure’s Not

Yes, I just quoted Eminem. He’s a little hood. I’m a little hood. He comes from nothing. I come from nothing. He dreams big. I dream big. Plus, let’s be honest. Papi is just plain SEXY (don’t judge me). Also, can I say mofo on my blog? Hey, at least I kept it classy and didn’t use the real word. But anyway, let’s not get too far off the path here.

In all seriousness, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is one of my all-time favorite pump myself up songs, raps, whatever you want to call it. It’s real. It’s honest. And boy, can I relate. Why? Because I’ve always felt as if I had no option but to succeed, but to work harder than hard, dig deeper than deep. Because if I didn’t? I’d be totally, completely and utterly SCREWED.

Coming from a very low-income family with little formal education and a whole lot of dysfunction, I never had much support growing up like a lot of my peers did. And when I talk about support, I don’t only mean financial support, although money has definitely always been a significant factor in trying to get where I need and want to be. When I talk about lack of support, I also mean a lack of mentorship, of direction, of guidance – all those things I hear folks talking about having; all those questions and situations I’ve always had to answer and navigate for myself.

So growing up broke as an incredibly poorly told joke, things always seemed just a little harder. But I never let that stop me. I’ve worked a million jobs since I was 15, and I’ve always found a way to make it happen. Even if I barely make it, I’ve always made it. I’ve attained an incredible education, and built a pretty descent career and life for myself – full of a lot more progress and HAPPY than I could have ever imagined.

Still, when you start off at a disadvantage, that sucker balls up into the nastiest, meanest snowball you’ve ever seen, and it builds and builds. It builds up so much that even after three degrees, and 28 years of HARD work and hustle, I still find myself in an overwhelming amount of debt (guess that education has something to do with it), and always stressed out about money. I make more than a fair living now, and I am beyond grateful for it, but it can still be hard. I’ve never had anybody to count on in that sense or much help, and I still don’t. It’s just me, and just that can make you feel incredibly alone and overwhelmed at times.

But I keep fighting, every day, because it’s my only option. And in a weird way, especially for the last few years, as I’ve matured into and embraced this amazing lady named Sonia (yes, I just called myself amazing – it’s the greatest love of all, Whitney said so 🙂 ),  I am so grateful for the hardships. I’ve always had this insatiable drive and need to do more, do it bigger, make it farther, work a  little bit longer, and I’m pretty sure I owe that all to the situations and lack of that I’ve faced throughout my life. I’ve always known that if I don’t do it for myself, I might end up under a bridge (I kid, but not really), and that has driven me to my current success.

But that’s not all. In addition to money issues, there are always people obstacles to fight your way through. You know what I’m talking about. Those people that are constantly trying to put you down and tell you you’re not enough, you can’t do that, you’ll never make it there, you’re not worth it. And for me, unfortunately or maybe fortunately because it’s made so STRONG and such a fighter, that person was and is a very close family member (something I will definitely discuss more at length when I’m ready). Whether in the past or the present, it hurts like hell, and it is something I have to work through every single day, but you know what, I’ve fought through that sucker like a damn Gladiator, and I can stand tall and PROUD. I’ve proven time and time again that I am so much more than I was made to believe I was, and that is what you have to do too.

There will always be people, whether its family, colleagues, or even toxic friends that will try and question your aspirations, slow you down, make you feel like you cannot reach your destination. But you know what I say? Screw that! Always know who you are. Tell yourself as often as you need to. Write it on a damn mirror if you have to. But just keep it moving. And don’t focus so much on proving anything to them; focus on proving it to yourself instead. Nurture that relationship with YOU more than any other, because it’s the only one that you can count on unequivocally, forever, at all times.

If you’re not happy where you live, where you work or with your career, with your friends or your relationship, etc., trust your gut and make a change. Fight through the obstacles – they will only make reaching your goals taste that much sweeter. And always know you’re worth, know your talents and your strengths, know what you have to offer, and make those things work for you. Don’t let critics make you doubt yourself. I know it’s so hard. I still have to work at it too. I’m pretty amazing, but I’m not Superwoman here. Well, maybe on a good day. But anyway, are you catching my drift?

Even if you have been fortunate enough to have a little more help or guidance than I had, even if you have someone or something to fall back on right now, make success your only mofo option (Oops, I did it again. Dang, I think I just quoted Britney). Go out and create your very own, hard earned success. When you encounter “no” and violent opposition, and you will, find a different path, another option, and trust me, you’ll get THERE.

As for me, I’m going to keep chasing these dreams, trusting that I know who I am and that what I have to offer is valuable. No matter what anyone says, I will make it happen. I will keep it moving. I will fight through the bullshit, and I will come out the other side on top, sort of like Bey. Will you join me?

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

P.S. And just as a final little note, I’d like to give a little shout-out, as the kids say, to my friend Gaby who told me today that I’m doing something worthwhile by writing these blogs, and that I have a voice people can relate to. That right there is what’s it’s all about folks. Take your talents, go out into the world, and make a dent. It’s so worth it.