As a young and relatively new business owner, I am drawn to anything that has the words ‘career’ and ‘advice’ in the same sentence. To me, learning about how I can become a better leader, coach, writer, and person is what I’m about. But I’ll be the first to admit I like to follow the paths that have been set before me. Sometimes stepping outside of the norm can be scary.
Like anything, though, when you learn to build your own road you reap the benefits. If you are constantly doing and following what everyone else says and believes, you’ll never truly identify what makes you you. And you’ll never really understand what sets your business apart.
Everyone is a guru, an expert, a consultant, an entrepreneur—but what defines the energy, skills, expertise, products, and experience that YOU put into the world?
Sometimes the most useful advice can be what you don’t quite expect.
Here are five pieces of counterintuitive career advice that I’ve learned, and would highly recommend to anyone—regardless of your professional journey.
1. Stop following your passion.
Be your passion. It’s not about chasing things you love without actually creating a lucrative future for yourself. It’s more about actively becoming the exact thing that you love and want to do, plus assessing what really works for you (or doesn’t).
So often people waste precious time pursuing a dead-end dream because they don’t have the drive to keep up with it when the road gets tough. They want to be good at their passion, but they perhaps don’t have the ability to (financially, physically, mentally etc.) right now to really get there. Or maybe they have the ideas, but aren’t willing to step out or put them into practice.
Instead of thinking that you have to follow these passions down winding, difficult roads, empower yourself to be that passion in the present. You love photography? Take photos. You want to write? Start a blog. Stop overcomplicating it!
Don’t glorify a move to a new city to ‘start’ your career—get a job in the field right here, right now. Don’t up and quit your full-time gig and lose financial security to ‘finally do what you want’—pick up that side hustle while employed until you are ready to make that leap.
And listen to what you’re actually good at. Sometimes just doing the things you love is fun, but not productive. Maybe your photography passion will be just that—a passion—and not necessarily a career move. That’s okay! It’s more about focusing on your strengths and building those, than thinking you have to do what everyone else is doing.
The world says ‘follow your passion,’ and while the sentiment is there, you can’t abandon the reality of your life. You need to work (and work hard!), you need to make moves right now rather than waiting for the ‘dream’ to manifest itself, and you need to be smart about what you’re investing in or missing out on.
2. Stop trying to find your ‘path.’
It’s not about finding a path—it’s about creating one. If you’re looking for something to fall into your lap, if you’re waiting for the ‘right’ time or opportunity, or if you’re focusing on others to blaze the trail for you, you’ll never figure out what you’re meant to do.
Stop trying to find your path. Become the path. Walk the talk, make mistakes, move forward, fall down, and continue. You’ll get there.
3. Stop trying to collaborate all the time.
This is counterintuitive career advice that needs to be taken in stride. Partnerships and collaborations will almost always be beneficial. But if you find yourself falling into the trap of collaborating so much that you’re focusing less on developing your personal brand, then you’re in trouble.
A collaboration should add to your career, not take away from it. You should be pursuing connections that will build you, rather than be one-sided or distract from your message.
Having an audience you can tap into, working with others, building brands alongside another person/company—these are great things! But make sure that everything you’re committing to and engaging with is aligned with your success.
4. Stop asking people how they got to where they are.
When it comes to your professional journey, no one can write the story for you. While it’s great to network, tap into mentors, and listen to people who have been-there-done-that, you also have to make sure to listen to yourself, too.
You know what’s best for you and for your company/business. In fact, you know your business better than anyone! Getting thoughts, feedback, and advice is valuable. But it shouldn’t control you.
Stop asking people to tell you exactly how they got to where they are. Although there’s always something to learn, it’s not about other people’s paths—it’s about yours. The sooner you focus the lens on YOU, the sooner you’ll forge your own trail. (And others will soon follow!)
5. Learn the value of ‘Do Not Disturb.’
Everyone is preaching the value of work-life balance lately, and that’s because we’ve become a society that’s so infiltrated with social media, electronics, and the internet we’ve forgotten how to disconnect.
If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you know better than anyone that a lot of your life is online. Sometimes it’s hard to turn off, to stop scrolling through feeds, to ignore emails past 5pm, etc. But if you truly want to be successful, you have to.
Turn off your notifications, shut off your phone, and turn on ‘DND’ after a certain time. If applicable, offer an alternative line for emergencies. Otherwise anything pressing can be handled later.
Electronics and social media shouldn’t rule your life—don’t let them.
Featured Image Credit: Isabela Kronember