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My Best Advice on Career and on Relationships

Choosing a career, landing a job, finding a romantic partner, parenting and more

Key points

  • Choosing a career needn't be as complicated as is widely assumed.
  • Networking is a prime job-search technique only for some people.
  • Career success increasingly requires public speaking ability.
  • Whether to land a job or find an appropriate person to date, we need to be more honest than is typical.
Kevin White, Noun Project, CC
Source: Kevin White, Noun Project, CC

If this were my final post on Psychology Today, I’d make these points. They’re the ones my career and personal coaching clients have found most useful. At some point, they’ve all been said in this blog, sometimes more than once, but this post aggregates them.

Choosing a career

It needn’t be complicated. You already know whether you’re more of a word, people, data, artistic, or entrepreneurial person. You already sense whether you want a white- or blue-collar career.

With just those factors in mind, scan the indexes of the free Occupational Outlook Handbook and/or my not-quite free Careers for Dummies. Each of those books profiles 300+ popular careers. Read perhaps the half dozen of those profiles that most intrigue and for any that continue to be of interest, consult the additional website listed at the end of each profile. Do that and you will have more wisely chosen a career than most people do. Another plus for this quick approach: It gets you started on your career, which is usually wiser than sitting on the sidelines waiting for the career to descend like manna from heaven.

Why can I be so cavalier? Because within broad categories like those mentioned above, job and career success usually depends far less on the career than on the particular job’s boss, coworkers, if you work on meaningful projects, ethics, pay, and job security. Put your effort into getting great training and then in taking the time to find a job with those attributes.

Landing a job

One size doesn’t fit all. Great networkers should network and even cold-contact prospective employers. But people who haven't networked well may be wise to focus on identifying great-fit job openings on sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and your professional association's site. Then craft a cover letter and resume that proves that you really are a good fit. In the interview, I encourage radical honesty: volunteering your weaknesses as well as your strengths. That will get you rejected from the wrong jobs and accepted for a right one.

Succeeding on the job

Onboard well by getting expectations clear from your boss. Also, set up one-on-ones with coworkers to learn what’s important but isn't in the employee handbook. Try to get a visible early win, for example, at a meeting, propose an idea that builds on your boss’s idea, and it gets adopted.

When you have the power to call a meeting, think twice. Hold a meeting mainly when real-time group input is important. When interaction isn’t key or the input isn't very time-sensitive, it's usually wiser to query the group by email. Also, much meeting time is wasted on people giving updates, often self-aggrandizing dog-and-pony shows. Reports could also usually more efficiently be made by email.

Try to develop public speaking skills, whether by joining Toastmasters or simply by practicing your talk only with an index card listing your main points. Unless you’re a government leader, where every wrong word will be used against you, don't script it. That leaches the crucial chemistry from your talk.

Self Employment

It’s embarrassing but 20 years after I came up with this idea, it’s still my favorite: non-food carts in office building lobbies or at mass transit terminals. Sell the winning local team’s t-shirts and hats, umbrellas when rainy, romantic gifts at Valentine’s Day, etc. Why is that idea so good? Minimal cost, minimal expertise, and it's scalable: Run the first cart yourself for a month or two, so you really learn the business. Then find a location for a second cart, perhaps having a trusted friend run it. Keep expanding until you’ve made enough annual income. Then either keep the business at that size or sell it to someone who’d like to expand further.

Finding a Romantic Partner

Use dating apps wisely. Write an honest profile—That will screen out the wrong people and screen in right ones. Reach out to people who seem quite compatible. Have high standards—There are countless fish in the dating-app sea. If your first impression of a person is that s/he's not right, it’s usually wiser to turn your attention elsewhere than to try to “fix” the person.

Get set up. The people who care about you are likely to screen-in good fits, and they know the person they're setting you up with, so there’s less chance of dissembling.

Go to an ongoing activity where your Mr./Ms. Right might be: a course, volunteer activity, or at work, although that can be risky if not prohibited. Your chances of meeting someone right is greater because you get to see the person ongoing, unlike for example, at a bar, dance, or concert.

Parenting

My favorite parenting tip is to build intrinsic motivation. That means that your child chooses to behave not for a reward or fear of punishment but because it’s the right thing to do. You can foster intrinsic motivation by, when a misbehavior occurs, rather than yelling or punishing, invoking a sense of responsibility, for example, “This is the third time I’ve asked you to clean your room and each time you say you will. I know you want to be a responsible person and a good member of the family. Okay?”

So, is there anything in the foregoing that you'd like to try?

I extemporize on this on YouTube.

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