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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Keep Your Eyes Off the Prize—and 3 More Career Clichés to Rethink

Most of us joke about clichés, but I have to admit, there are some that really do offer great bits of wisdom when it comes to your career—if they were tweaked just a bit.

The way we work today is vastly different than career life even 10 years ago. And just as our offices, attire, and attitudes have changed, so should our words of wisdom.

For some modern career inspiration, take a look at these fresh takes on old clichés.

1. Think Inside the Box

While the idea of thinking outside the box is great, sometimes that’s not what matters most. In fact, so many of us are so fixated on being original, we tend to forget the basics.

I see this all the time with job seekers who want to go above and beyond in their applications—using infographics, video resumes, or creative ways to stand out—but forget that they’ll also need to have a well-crafted resume and know the interview basics to land that dream job. Sure, you’ll still need to be creative when thinking inside the box, but don’t for a second believe that constraining yourself to a set of parameters means you can’t be successful. It’s those boxes you’ve got to check first.

2. Keep Your Eyes Off the Prize

Have you ever had someone tell you that the minute they stopped trying so hard suddenly everything fell into place? Well, that can happen with your career, too. Sometimes we get too focused on the end goal to make the kind of progress that’s needed to get there. So, instead of always focusing on the future, try keeping your eyes off the prize, and focused on the present.

For example, if your career goal is to be promoted to VP of sales, set your sights on becoming a well-rounded manager, effective communicator, and expert relationship builder. You’ll find that by focusing on what you’re currently doing—and not the prize—you’ll achieve a lot more than just the end goal.

3. Talk Ain’t Cheap

Yes, we all know actions are important, but let’s not forget about the power of effective communication. Understanding how to connect with your colleagues and clients is uber important—especially when the majority of our communication is done electronically. In fact, how you communicate is often what people notice about you over anything else, so knowing how to talk, write, and speak up in an effective, powerful, and professional way is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Learn how to get your point across—and listen—effectively, and you’ll discover talk is anything but cheap.

4. Give it 10%

You’ll rarely hear anyone tell you not to give 100%, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you should do. In today’s modern work environment, most of us are expected to go full-steam ahead, all the time. But that’s not really effective long-term.

Save yourself the risk of burning out by weaving in a few “10%” days every month to refresh and reset. What does that mean? Slow your pace, and try focusing on just a subset of your work. You’ll find that when you cut out all the other noise, you can excel on a smaller set of tasks with a fraction of the effort.

You’re going to get loads of advice throughout your career; some of it will be great, and some that you’ve heard a million times before. But, if you keep an open mind and rebel against the standard, boilerplate advice, you’ll find the proof is not in the pudding—but in your paycheck and career satisfaction.

Photo of pencil and eraser courtesy of Shutterstock.