Are you on the hunt for more fulfillment and happiness in your career? Here are the best three books to help guide you towards Career Happiness
Like I said last week in “I Choose To Be Happy”, a few years ago I did a deep dive into the world of Happiness, specifically reading lots of books, listening to podcasts and challenging myself to work on feeling more joy and happiness in my everyday life. At the start I only focused on my personal life and it wasn’t until I picked up some of the following books that I realized that this idea of going after Happiness can be extended to the workplace.
Like many of you, I’ve believed the message that you should be content with what you have and that in order to be truly happy you just focus on just being grateful for the life you are currently living. And while I do think that going after something just for more money or a better title isn’t going to bring me happiness, the following books helped me realize that going after a career that brings more meaning to my life (and others) is not only okay but vital for my overall happiness.
I wanted to write this post because I know we all tend to hold ourselves back from pursuing our dreams – either from a fear of failure, an uncertainty of where to go or a feeling of worthlessness – and I want to provide some resources that can help you get unstuck and move your career forward.
Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar
Tal Shahar is a Harvard lecturer and psychologist, one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology, considered to be the newest branch of psychology looking at how to create optimal conditions allowing us to thrive (instead of just surviving as many other branches of psychology focus on).
Happier is a book that examines how we can attempt to create more time in our lives for meaningful activity and he provides many exercises that allow us to figure out how to find that meaning and how to start to live a more meaningful life.
I find that there is a message that exists that you can either go full on 100% into a career (as Tal calls it the “rat racer”) or 100% into happiness but that you can’t have both. What this book did for me was to show me that you can strive for career success while still having some “balance” and that can lead to happiness. Tal showed me that the message, that wanting success makes it impossible to also achieve happiness, is wrong and that you can actually have both. If you are striving for success in a way that makes your life meaningful and in a way that focuses on the journey not the outcome (the elusive I’ll be happy when…) then you are putting together a winning formula.
What this book did for me was give me permission to strive for that success in my career.
10% Happier by Dan Harris
This is one of my favourite books on Happiness and I always recommend it to clients, friends and colleagues. The story starts with an outline of Dan’s career working as a journalist in battle zones leading to a cocaine addiction and culminating with him having a full blown panic attack on air. The book then explores his search for answers – how can he learn to overcome his addiction, reduce stress but not lose his competitive edge so that he could still progress his career. He reaches out to all of the normal self-help gurus – Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle (in many laugh out loud moments!) leading him to Mindfulness Meditation.
He talks about how Mindfulness Meditation has allowed him to be more successful in his job, especially as it taught him how to respond not react to situations, how to manage stress and how to harness his competitive edge to greater success.
For me, I know that in order to try and give my 100% to my family, my health and my career that I need to ensure I’m taking care of my mental state which, for me, includes an active meditation practice. When I am meditating daily I notice a difference in my ability to handle difficult situations, my creativity and my stress levels allowing me to do all three more effectively.
While Tal gave me permission to strive for happiness through career success, Dan gave me a tool that sets me for success while reaching for the stars.
Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (and the follow up Happier At Home) was really my first foray into this world of Positive Psychology and Happiness. Those two books allowed me to make small changes in my personal and home life that led to joy. And her third book built upon that but for the first time it also had me focusing on how to take what I was learning and apply it to my day to day life at work.
Better Than Before is not a traditional book about Happiness, instead it is about habits and how the formation of habits can lead you to happiness or can lead you to despair. In it she describes her Four Personality Types (further explored in her most recent book, The Four Tendencies) that she has noticed when it comes to sticking to habits. You have the Upholder (habit sticker), Questioner (habit sticker ONLY if it makes sense), Obliger (habit sticker ONLY to make others happy) and the Rebel (habit sticker ONLY if they feel they aren’t sticking to expectations). What I love about this is that she gives tips and tricks on how to form or break habits based on your tendency, so as a Questioner I have to find habits that can withstand my critical eye! She also discusses the 10 Obstacles to Habit Formation, essentially the excuses we create to not stick to our new, good for us habits.
This book really helped me think about some of my work habits and allowed me to come up a plan on how to create some good habits (like administration) and how to break some bad habits (like using work to procrastinate from things like administration!).
Better than Before was really the next logical step for me, I now had given myself permission to go after my dreams, I had a tool that ensured I was able to manage the ups and downs that are natural in the workplace and with this, I now have the foundation of day to day habits that allows me to focus my mental energy on building and developing my coaching business.
These three books really helped me to get to where I am today and I hope that they help illuminate your next steps as well!
In case you aren’t a book reader, Gretchen’s and Dan’s podcasts which also provide some tips and help:
Happier – Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft
10% Happier – Dan Harris and a variety of guests
Have you read any happiness books that have really helped you? Drop a line in the comments to let me know.
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In case you didn't know, today is the #InternationalDayOfHappiness! Here is my story on how I made the decision to choose to be happy.
A few years ago I went through a big "Happiness" phase reading as many books as possible on the subject including Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness, Dan Harris' 10% Happier and Gretchen Rubin's books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. I spent a lot of time focusing on what I could do in my life to be happier. I began meditating, found more joy through running, focused on little traditions with my family and many other small things. And in general all of those little things worked, I became much happier. At home, in my personal life.
However, I ignored a large part of my life. My career. I think in large part I was conditioned that I couldn't have it all. I had a job that gave me freedom, gave me flexibility and I was doing something that I was good at. However, it didn't leave me feeling fulfilled. And during stressful times in my job I couldn't sleep, laying awake for hours stressed out and worried. I stopped meditating, because I became too afraid to tap further into that unrest and unease, I was scared of my own thoughts. I would feel sorry for myself and then I would feel guilty for feeling sorry because I didn't have it so bad and who was I to think that I deserved it all. It was a vicious cycle.
Then things changed. My grandfather passed away, someone who strived for it all, someone who in his 80s searched high and low for a company that would let him skydive and when he couldn't find it he "settled" for paragliding! As clichéd as it sounds, his death woke me up. Well technically I was already awake, one of the many sleepless nights worrying and stressing now with an added layer of grieving. Why was I staying with something that didn't leave me feeling fulfilled? I wanted to help people but wanted to continue to work from home and for myself. So I made a choice. I chose to make it happen. I chose to try and work my hardest to have it all.
From that day on I put in the work. I found Classy Career Girl's podcast and did my own introspection on my interests, motivations and skills. Realized that this is what I had wanted to do all along. I began conducting informational interviews with other career coaches, finding mentors, learning about starting a business, designing my own webiste and am still learning so much every day. And I am still recruiting, as I have a client I love, meaning I am working longer and smarter each day to make it all happen (2019 update: no longer recruiting!!). At night though, I meditate (I'm not scared of my thoughts anymore), and go to sleep feeling satisfied and fulfilled. Because I made my choice and make that same choice everyday. I choose to be happy.
If you are feeling unhappy in your current job, you can make a choice to change! Don't know where to start?
How about a free 5 day challenge with 5 training videos, a supportive Facebook group and everything you need to Find Your Way to Career Happiness.
Going by the statistics alone, chances are you have not been chosen for an interview that you should have been, meaning you have missed out on an opportunity. What do I mean by that? Well 72% of resumes submitted to jobs are read by an Application Tracking System and of those 75% are immediately disqualified, even if a person has the right experience!
To me, as a career coach and resume writer, those stats are just downright scary. To a job searcher you may feel like it is a losing battle and will either stay put in a boring job or settle for any old offer because you think that dream job is out of reach.
I don’t want that and you don’t want that, so I did the work and the research. I’ve listened to podcasts, read countless articles, reached out to Talent Acquisition friends to find out what you need to do to optimize your resume and your LinkedIn profile in order to get noticed!
First off, what is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), well it is a computer system that reviews and compares your resume (and sometimes LinkedIn) to the job description and gives you a grade based on how you match up. Then the candidates are ranked and a list is created that is sent over to the recruiter who then scans through the ones that scored the highest, on average only about 25% of the total number of applicants.
To start off, I wanted to caution against coming up with some sort of wacky workaround just to get seen. At the end of the day a person will eventually review your resume. Some scams I’ve seen are filling white spaces on your resume with keywords in white so that they aren’t seen by a person but will be picked up by the ATS, sneaking keywords in (like learning to code in Java) and filling out your experience with keywords and nothing else. The thing is though, you still won’t get interviewed if you aren’t a qualified match for the job whether the ATS puts you through or not!
So I sorted through all my research and have compiled a list of how to optimize your resume and LinkedIn profiles. Make sure you read to the end, there is some key information at the bottom of each section.
How to Optimize Your Resume
How To Optimize LinkedIn
So I know a lot of people optimize LinkedIn for recruiters and some have started to optimize for ATS but there are some things I’ve discovered in my research in talking with my peers within large organizations that I haven’t seen or heard about in my research. I’ll start with the basics of what you need to do with your profile and then go into the new findings.
After you have done the above, do a search. Plug in the keywords and job title of the role you applied for. Narrow down on location. And see where you land. If you land on the 3rd or later page, then you have work to do. The goal is to end up on the first or second page.
Okay, you have done all the hard work on filling your resume and LinkedIn with relevant information and keywords and you still didn’t get the call. Well there could be another reason. A new function on some of the Application Tracking Systems is to scan your connections and your engagement. I know what you are thinking – what?! I know I thought that too. The reason for this is to establish how well connected you are within the industry. They want to see a decent number of connections and they want to see a good amount of connections within the industry. They also want to see how engaged you are within the industry, so are you liking or commenting on relevant posts and are you posting content/status updates relevant to the industry.
Now I’m not suggesting you go out there and engage and connect with everyone within any industry for every job you have applied to. If you have completed my 5 day email course then you will know that I’m a big believer in focusing your work where it matters. So if there is a specific company within a specific industry (or even just a specific industry) that really excites you start there. Also, through my course, you know that I am also a big believer of networking and leveraging LinkedIn for that purpose. So by using LinkedIn to reach out to people within a specific industry and then engaging on their shares/updates and posts or commenting on articles they have also commented on, not only are you increasing your network as it looks to the ATS but you are creating valuable connections that will help lead the way to a fulfilling career!
I hope those tips help. Let me know – engage on my Facebook page or through LinkedIn. If you want to sign up for my free email course you can do so below or my clicking here.
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Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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