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Have a Plan, But Keep It Flexible: Thriving Professionally After a Medical Diagnosis

When someone is diagnosed with a serious health condition, it impacts several important areas of their life, including work. A person may start to wonder:

– How do I balance work and medical treatment?
– What can I expect from my employer?
– What are my legal rights?
– What do other people do in this situation?

One common misconception is that people who have serious illnesses do not want to work. The results of a 2018 survey of cancer patients and survivors commissioned by Cancer and Careers show otherwise. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents said working through treatment helps or had helped them cope. Each person’s reasons for wanting to work vary and are often multifaceted. For some, a steady income or access to benefits drove the decision to stay on the job, while others found in their work a sense of normalcy or purpose during prolonged or intensive medical treatment and recovery.

As you think about your own reasons for working following a diagnosis, here are some strategies to make it easier to thrive professionally while undergoing treatment and recovery:

Plan for Managing Side Effects at Work

Have a conversation with your healthcare team about the specific details of your treatment and how it might affect you at work. Be sure to share specifics about the mental and physical demands of your job.

Discussing common side effects of your treatment and how to manage them can help you make informed decisions about work accommodations you might need, such as modifying your schedule, making changes to your physical workspace, etc. Keeping a work diary to monitor how you feel throughout the day/week can also help you figure out how side effects might be impacting your work — and then find ways to address them.

Understand the Relevant Laws and Study Your Options

The law is one of the many tools you can use as you figure out how to navigate work after a serious medical diagnosis. Federal laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as well as certain state laws, may be applicable and can create a framework of support.

For example, under the ADA, your company might be required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with serious health issues to help them continue to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Sometimes small adjustments can be all it takes to help you work while undergoing medical treatment.

Keep in mind that even if your employer isn’t required by law to provide you with an accommodation, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Typically, companies want to retain good employees, so it never hurts to ask for what you need to stay on the job. It’s also important to learn about your company’s policies on disabilities, flex time, telecommuting, and related matters before you disclose your diagnosis at work.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Sharing Your Diagnosis

Whether to tell your employer and/or coworkers is a very personal decision, and you should weigh several factors before you make a choice, including:

– What treatment side effects are you likely to experience?
– What does the law require and how might it work in your favor?
– What is your work environment like?

Answering these questions can help you figure out whether you want to disclose — and, if so, what and when. Generally, you are not obligated to share any information about your health (though there are some exceptions). If you do decide to share, start by talking to those with whom you’re most comfortable or those who will be most useful in creating a workable solution for you (possibly your supervisor and/or HR). If you think you may need to request a job modification, you might have to provide some information about your health issue, although not necessarily an exact diagnosis.

Create an Action Plan

Having a plan can help restore your sense of control, but keep it flexible because things may change over time. Start by making a list of everything you need to do; breaking each task up into small parts can make things less stressful. Next, prioritize the tasks on your list and accomplish them one by one. Try to avoid multitasking, and be sure to delegate tasks when possible.

Setting Professional Boundaries

Knowing your limitations is important as you balance your work and health needs; you don’t want to feel overwhelmed. Although it might feel difficult to decline certain requests, there are ways to say no in a professional and team-oriented way — e.g., “I appreciate that you thought of me for this project, but I’m a bit swamped this week and am concerned about my ability to get this back to you in a timely manner.”

A serious medical diagnosis can lead to a wide range of treatments, side effects, and recovery processes, so it’s important to weigh all those factors and make the right decisions for yourself. While it’s difficult to know all the variables that may come into play when you are facing health challenges at work, there are things you can think about, organize, and communicate to get the information, clarity, and assistance you need to thrive.

Rebecca V. Nellis is the executive director of Cancer and Careers.

13 Go-To Hacks for When You Need a Boost of Creativity

Article by YEC

Creativity inspires us. It gives us purpose and direction, providing a way to pursue goals and establish dreams.

However, creativity does not always come naturally, particularly during moments of stress. Sometimes, even the most creative minds need a little help to get that spark back.

Boosting your creativity can be a simple matter of taking a step back and discovering what works best to motivate you. For more insight, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council about their go-to hacks when they need a boost of creativity. Here is what they said:

1. Learn a New Skill

When you need a boost of creativity, usually your unconscious is having difficulty surfacing to your consciousness. To circumvent this, learn a new skill.

For example, if you’re struggling with writer’s block and you normally write technical pieces, take a quick course on how to write comedy. It frees up your ability to think and changes your perspective enough that you can tap into creativity.

 – Klyn Elsbury, Shark School

2. Go on Social Media

If I need a boost of creativity, I like to go on social media to take my mind off of anything technical. Immersing myself in something completely different gets the wheels in my head turning and encourages me to think differently. It’s important not to focus on one thing for too long, and social media helps me do just that.

– Jared Atchison, WPForms

3. Write Things Down

When I need a boost of creativity, I like to brainstorm by writing things down. I write down anything that comes to mind — thoughts, feelings, ideas, concepts, and so on — without giving it much thought.

Afterward, I read my list. I always find that at least one of my random thoughts can inspire some creativity.

– Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

4. Go for a Walk

It’s incredibly simple, but don’t let that put you off. Studies have shown that walking increases creativity.

Every time I catch myself in a slump, I take a 20-30 minute walk near the office without trying to force anything to happen. As you walk, you’ll slowly ponder on the problem you’re trying to solve, and you are likely to come up with a unique angle as you do. Worst case, you come back to work refreshed.

– Karl Kangur, Above House

5. Research Other Brands

One of the best ways to find inspiration and trigger creativity is by researching other brands. Avoid competitors and, instead, look at what companies in similar industries are doing with their customer service, marketing, and design. Browse their websites, social media profiles, and customer reviews to see what they’re doing differently. This knowledge can help you ideate new ways to improve your business, too.

– Firas KittanehAmerisleep

6. Have Dinner With a Diverse Group of Smart People

By bringing people from different backgrounds together to break bread, you will spark amazing conversations. When business leaders, engaged citizens, sharp engineers, scientists, artists, social entrepreneurs, and others come together for innovative exchange and big thinking, you will definitely receive a personal boost from these creative conversations.

– Eric MathewsStart Co.

7. Play Video Games

I like playing video games because it diverts my mind to a different way of thinking, which allows me to come back later and do something more creative. It’s stimulating for me and provides the outlet I’m looking for to give my brain a break.

– Angela RuthCalendar

8. Listen to a Podcast

There are thousands of podcasts to choose from that cover all different topics and use different approaches to connect with listeners. I like to listen to storytelling podcasts that have nothing to do with work when I need to unwind. It refreshes my mind and activates other parts of my brain. Listening to something completely different from what I’m working on sparks my creativity.

– Chris ChristoffMonsterInsights

9. Listen to Music

Whether listening to it or playing it myself, music is my go-to hack when I need a boost of creativity. It’s hard to focus your thoughts sometimes when you have so many things on your mind. When I listen to music, I can just relax and focus on the song. That’s when the ideas come more easily.

– John TurnerSeedProd, LLC

10. Play With Your Kids

Kids have a never-ending supply of creativity. I’m constantly inspired by the way my almost-2-year-old makes everything fun. He finds ways to use and play with things I would have never considered. When I need a creative boost, I play with him (blocks, painting, reading, etc.), ask him questions, and draw inspiration from his endless fascination with the world.

– Brittany HodakKeynote Speaker

11. Take a Power Nap

A short nap can reset your brain and get you in the right frame of mind for creating. I usually take a 20-minute nap if I’m feeling creatively bankrupt.

At first, you’ll find it difficult to nap when thinking about a project, but a short nap helps fuel creativity more than staring blankly at your screen ever could.

– Blair Williams, MemberPress

12. Try Sensory Deprivation

Improving your focus through sensory deprivation can be a great boost for creativity. While going for a walk is a simple way to do this, a lot of entrepreneurs and professionals go so far as to use sensory deprivation services like Urban Float.

Whatever you do, when you get rid of the overstimulation of the environment around you, it becomes easier to achieve clarity and creativity.

– Andy KaruzaFenSens

13. Write a Top 10 List

When I need a boost of creativity, I develop a top-10 list on the topic. The first seven ideas are usually fairly easy to come by. It’s ideas 8-10 where I slow down and really have to think. The boost of creativity kicks in after all the easy ideas are out of the way, and then you’re stacking on good ideas or something completely outside the box.

– Richard Fong, Bliss Drive

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Fall Into Routine: 5 Ways to Have a More Productive Autumn

There’s no better time than the fall, the season of heading back to school and new fiscal-year possibility, to create new routines or recalibrate old ones.

As a successful entrepreneur, I use routine to set myself up for productivity. Routine is the key to maintaining focus on your goals and preventing yourself from falling prey to impulse and circumstance. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Create an Exercise Routine

Regular physical activity is a nearly universal habit of successful people. It’s no wonder why, as exercise offers a host of benefits, from improving your mood and helping you sleep better to fighting stress and promoting a long, healthy life.

For years, I’d been in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning, but surgery to repair an old injury knocked me out of that habit. Now I’m working on my new exercise routine, which starts the night before. I set out my workout clothes by my bed and leave my bag by the garage door. When my alarm goes off, I don’t have to do any thinking at all — I just pull on what’s already laid out, grab my bag, and head to the car.

2. Create an Email Routine

When I return from my workout, I pour myself a coffee and go through the emails I received over the course of the previous night — but I don’t answer any of them. Not yet.

Instead, I head to the shower, where I do my best thinking. I let the emails burble around in my head as I devise responses and hatch plans. Sometimes the epiphanies I get in the shower are so good that I have to write them down — and to make that easy, I’ve installed a whiteboard and markers on the wall of my shower. (It works! Try it!) After my shower, once I’m dressed, it’s back to the laptop to tap out the replies.

Your system doesn’t have to involve a shower, but you do need some sort of routine to stay on top of all those new inbox arrivals.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Create a Routine for Important Meetings

The worst feeling in business is standing up to pitch a client and realizing you haven’t adequately prepared. That’s why I’m a maniac for planning ahead.

The night before an important pitch session, I’ll think through everything. What am I going to say? How will I begin? What if the client has this or that question? I’ll even set out what I’m going to wear. I’ll print off the documents I need to review, place them in my briefcase, and set my briefcase by the garage door. The next morning, I’ll ensure I’m at the client’s office building a full hour before things start. By arriving early, I build in time to glance over my notes so that I’m ready to go by the time we’re in the conference room shaking hands.

4. Create a Productivity Routine

The biggest mistake you can make when you first sit down at your desk is trying to conquer the world. That only sets you up to accomplish absolutely nothing.

Instead, ask yourself: What are the three impactful tasks I can accomplish right now? They should be easy tasks that build up to a bigger win. Every day when I sit down at my desk, the first thing I do is get out my yellow sticky pad and write down three things I can accomplish within the hour. Once I’ve done those three things, the feeling of accomplishment powers me through the bigger tasks of the day.

5. Create a Routine to Evaluate Your Routines

No one is perfect, so allow yourself to make mistakes without giving up on routines. Instead, set up a time on a weekly basis — like Sunday after dinner — to examine how you’re doing. That Thursday when your 5:30 a.m. alarm rang out and you turned it off, rolled over, and slept until 7 — what exactly happened there? Did that routine failure have anything to do with the previous night’s late business meeting? Next time, let’s cut things off by 10 p.m.

In other words: Your routines need a feedback loop. Examine the instances you didn’t adhere to them, and then improve.

Many people dismiss routines as boring, the products of uncreative minds. That’s destructive thinking. The best routines are all about delivering simplicity to yourself to liberate you from temptation, impulse, and directionless inefficiency so you can focus on productivity.

Michael Contento is the CEO of My Blue Umbrella. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

How to Build a Bigger Retirement Nest Egg With Your Side Hustle

Financial experts recommend you save $1-1.5 million to retire comfortably. If that number sounds impossible, you may be part of a national trend. According to the US Government Accountability Office, 48 percent of households headed by someone aged 55+ have no retirement savings at all.

If your retirement fund isn’t as large as it should be, launching a side hustle can be a smart way to boost your income and rectify the situation. Here’s what you need to know and do to get ahead:

Track Your Earnings

Side hustles are great because they’re so flexible. Whether you drive with a rideshare company or become a freelance writer, you can work when it’s convenient for your schedule. You can also scale your work up and down to meet your needs. Over time, you could work up to earning thousands of dollars each month.

Because side hustle income can be so variable, diligently tracking your earnings is important. It’s a good idea to open a separate bank account and business credit card solely for your side gig income and expenses so you know exactly how much extra money you have coming in each month.

Consider using a program like QuickBooks, Wave, or FreshBooks to manage your income and expenses. Having a clear picture of your income will help you budget accordingly so you can invest more of your earnings into your retirement fund.

Set Up the Right Accounts

If you have an employer-sponsored 401(k), make sure you contribute enough to get the full employer match. That’s free money you’d otherwise leave on the table.

If you’re operating a side gig with the intention of using your earnings to boost your retirement savings, consider opening a new retirement account in addition to your 401(k). By doing so, you’ll be able to contribute money beyond the maximum allowed by a 401(k). Some options for your side hustle earnings include:

  1. Traditional IRA: With a traditional IRA, your earnings grow tax-deferred, meaning you only pay taxes on investment gains once you start making withdrawals when you reach retirement. If you’re not covered by a retirement plan at work, you can deduct your total IRA contribution on your tax return. You can contribute up to $6,000 per year ($7,000 if you’re aged 50 or older) into a traditional IRA.
  2. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA: Any self-employed individual, including someone with side hustle or freelance income, can open up a SEP-IRA. You can contribute up to 25 percent of your compensation or $56,000 for 2019. Contributions made to a SEP-IRA are tax-deductible and tax-deferred.
  3. Roth IRA: With a Roth IRA, you make contributions with after-tax dollars. As a tradeoff, your contributions grow tax-free, and you can withdraw money from your account without having to pay federal taxes on it as long as you’re 59.5 or older. As of 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000 per year ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older), so long as you fall within the IRS’s income guidelines.
For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Getting set up with these accounts can be easy. You can even open an IRA with an online brokerage firm or robo-advisor like Betterment, Wealthfront, or Wealthsimple.

Remember to Pay Taxes

If you’re earning income from your side hustle — even if only small amounts or you’re only paid in cash — you have to pay taxes on it. If you make $600 or more from a single source, the company that paid you must send a 1099-MISC form detailing how much you earned. However, you owe taxes on any money earned even if it totals less than $600.

You’ll also have to pay estimated taxes each quarter or be subject to costly penalties. If that sounds like a hassle, you can adjust your withholdings on your W-4 at your full-time job to take out more of your income for taxes. By doing so, you can avoid having to pay estimated taxes.

To prevent any surprises, it’s a good practice to set aside 30 percent of your side-hustle earnings in a separate bank account for taxes. That way, you won’t have to raid your savings account when tax season comes around.

Automate Your Savings

Once you’ve opened a retirement account and set aside money for taxes, make sure you deposit regular contributions into your retirement account. You can manually put your earnings into your retirement account whenever you get paid, but it’s both smarter and easier to set up automatic deposits. By automating the process, you ensure money is consistently contributed to your retirement fund no matter what.

If you’re behind on retirement savings, starting a side hustle and investing your earnings in a retirement account can be a smart way to catch up. Whether you decide to deliver groceries or walk dogs, you can boost your income and build a solid nest egg.

Kat Tretina is a freelance personal finance writer based in Orlando.

Why You Should Think Like a Salesperson When Hunting for a New Job

The art of sales and the art of securing a job aren’t all that different. Both center on your ability to hold a meaningful, mutually beneficial conversation.

Both also have reputations for one-sidedness. Salespeople and hiring managers are often seen as prize-grabbing characters trying to get what they want while offering little in return. That couldn’t be further from the truth: Both selling a product and winning a job offer are two-sided transactions that should leave both parties better off.

Applying for a Job Like a Salesperson

Whether you’re aiming to become a sales manager, a barista, or a teacher, taking a page from the art of sales could give you the boost you need to make an impactful connection with your future employer. Here are some ways to apply successful sales thinking when plotting your next career move:

1. Do Your Research

They say a great salesperson can sell ice to a polar bear, but the truth is that successful selling means figuring out what people want and showing them why your product will help them get it. The same holds true when you’re selling yourself as a potential hire.

You’re not going to appeal to everyone (and why would you want to?), so it’s vital to do your research into the company’s mission, its culture, and the particulars of the role. You need to figure out whether you have what the organization is looking for and whether this employer can offer what you want.

2. Leverage Your Connections

Experienced sellers start the sales process with the people they already know, because buying is an emotionally driven experience based on trust. This is why social selling is so effective: Buyers are able to get to know and trust the faces behind an organization.

Despite often being presented as rational and quantitative, hiring is just as emotionally driven as sales. Decisions are largely made on instinct, the perception of shared values, humor, and loads of other variables that people aren’t even consciously aware of. While there are some exceptions, a good rule of thumb is that people hire based on emotion and justify their decisions with logic.

Use this sales tactic to your advantage by reaching out to people you already know who could help you get out of the resume slush pile and closer to the decision-makers. The strength of your network can lead to new opportunities — and get you in front of the right people to seize those opportunities in the first place.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

3. Be Prepared to Provide Value

The best salespeople don’t just think about their own needs when they’re on a call, nor are they thinking about their paycheck, their commission, or their reputation. Instead, they focus on the needs and wants of the person on the other end of the phone.

We’ve had candidates come in and talk about interesting marketing campaigns we’ve done, offer feedback on our go-to-market strategy, or seek us out during relevant conferences. When a candidate is really interested in and dedicated to what my company is doing, I’ve occasionally given that person a shot even if I wasn’t yet confident in their skill set or experience.

In the job market, the most impressive candidates are not the ones who wax lyrical about their own achievements — they are the ones who ask informed questions about the company’s work to find out what the company needs. These candidates identify specific company projects and discuss how their own skills align with the company’s strategies. The best candidates understand that hiring is a two-way process and that it’s critical for an opportunity to be a fit for both parties.

4. Practice Your Pitch

Salespeople don’t always work from a script, but by researching, planning their approach, and considering the questions that may arise during a sales interaction, they give themselves a leg up and appear more confident and knowledgeable. Similarly, a little practice can do wonders for your interview performance.

Prior to the interview, prepare a list of questions the hiring team might ask. Explore sites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and company blogs to get a sense of what the hiring team might be interested in. You don’t necessarily need to rehearse your responses, but you should have a general sense of why you want this job and why the company should want you. Figure out what makes your experience and technical skills unique. A lot of other people are likely to have the same baseline skills, so it’s important to be able to articulate what makes you stand out.

In addition to functional skills, employers are increasingly looking for new hires who possess soft skills, or the ability to work collaboratively and communicate effectively with a team. More than 90 percent of talent professionals say these skills matter just as much as hard skills, so make sure to include your soft skills when you make your pitch.

As you think about the next step in your career, look to the tried and tested patterns of great salespeople. Prepare yourself by thoroughly researching potential employers, leveraging relationships, and figuring out how your skills and experience can help companies reach their goals. This will put you in the best position to secure that new job.

Greg McBeth is the head of revenue at Node.io.

Make Your Side Hustle Worth Every Minute With These 5 Principles

From driving for a rideshare company or tutoring online to reselling items on eCommerce sites or working at a local coffee shop, there are plenty of side hustles to earn extra money in the gig economy. However, all these side hustles take energy, focus, and time away from other things, such as leisure or time with loved ones.

You may be hustling to grow your savings, to get out of debt, or to have a creative outlet, but that doesn’t mean you also suddenly have extra hours in the day. If you’re committing some of your time away from your nine-to-five to a side hustle, follow these five principles to maximize your earnings while still having time for yourself and the things that are important to you.

1. Find Something You Actually Enjoy

In a survey by The Hustle, only 51 percent of respondents said they loved their primary jobs, while 76 percent said they loved their side hustles. If you aren’t thrilled with your day job, having a side hustle that is focused on what you love can provide a valuable creative and emotional outlet. Also, it’s much easier to make money doing something you love.

There are side hustle opportunities in nearly every hobby or field of interest. You could pet sit, do handyman jobs, or help restaurants prep food. You may have to try a few different side hustles to find the one you enjoy the most, but if you’re sacrificing your free time for a weekend side job, you may as well do something you enjoy.

2. Set a Goal and Stick to It

It can become tempting to take a break from your side hustle if you’re tired from your full-time job or would simply like to enjoy your free time. However, you started a side hustle for a specific reason: to accomplish your personal goals, whatever they may be.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

To keep yourself on track and motivated, write your goals down, pen to paper. Be sure to set specific goals. While getting out of debt is a great objective to have, saying “by the end of the year, I want to make $10,000 a month” is even better. Then place that paper somewhere you can easily and regularly see it — a bathroom mirror, your car’s dashboard, or the refrigerator, perhaps. This list of goals will remind you of your vision and, therefore, keep you accountable and working hard at your side hustle.

3. Think Like a Small Business

It’s easy to get excited about extra money showing up in your bank account, but keeping track of your hours and expenses as you’re working your side hustle is imperative for hitting your goals.

For example, if you’re driving for a rideshare service, tracking your expenses might reveal that your bottom line is being demolished by car repairs or gas prices. Seeing an extra $2,000 in your bank account per month may feel fantastic, but examining the related expenses will clarify the true return on your investment.

If your hourly rate works out to be less than what you’d like, you may need to adjust. Also, if the costs of operating your side hustle are eating away at your bottom line, it may be time to reconsider your line of work.

4. Manage Yourself, Not Just Your Business

While you’re racing to make that next dollar, the hustle can slowly eat away at your physical and mental health. According to a survey by Side Hustle Nation, the second-largest pain point of those managing a side hustle is “time/energy.”

For most American workers, the workday ends after eight hours. For side hustlers, the grind never stops. Numerous studies show the negative side effects of overwork and lack of rest, from lowered productivity to cardiovascular disease.

Remember to take time for yourself. If you don’t, you run the risk of not only hurting yourself, but endangering your performance in both your side hustle and your full-time position.

5. Use a Business Credit Card

If you’re incurring expenses associated with your side hustle, you may want to consider a small business credit card for yourself. With a small business credit card, you’ll be able to earn rewards or cash back, along with having the ability to easily separate your personal and business expenses.

For example, if you drive as a side hustle, you could apply for a business card that rewards fuel purchases. If you rent a room in your house but need to complete some repairs, you could find a card that rewards you for home improvement purchases. These earnings can help grow your bottom line with little effort or time on your part.

Whether you’re trying to grow your earnings, get out of debt, or quit your full-time job for something better, there are endless side-hustle opportunities. But while there are benefits to having a side hustle, there are also downsides. Be sure to take care of yourself, and be aware of the small details. Having a heftier bank account is great, but your full-time position and your health are even more important.

Brett Holzhauer is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.

The 3 Keys to a Successful, Sustainable Career in IT

The current mantra is, “Everyone should learn to code.” The problem is most people interpret that to mean “Everyone should become a programmer.” Like many professions, programming takes a certain combination of talent and skills that not everyone possesses.

For example, when I (Cal) was younger, I decided I wanted to learn to play the guitar. My parents bought me one, and I started to take lessons. It lasted about four weeks.

I had a guitar. I could hold a guitar. I could strum the strings. I had everything necessary to begin playing the guitar — everything except one important thing: a desire to play the guitar that was strong enough to motivate me to practice.

Passion Matters

Physically, yes, I had everything I needed to play the guitar. What I was lacking was passion.

Software development is a lot like playing a musical instrument: The best make it look easy, but only because they’ve had years of practice first. More to the point, software development requires a commitment to learning the basics, then learning how to properly apply the basics, then learning new things based on your experience, then — you get the point.

Passion is a cornerstone of a successful career as a software developer. Passion for creating something. Passion for solving a problem. Passion for adding value to a project or company.

Your Track Record Matters

But while passion will get you started, it will only carry you so far. I (Cal) have a passion for first-person shooter video games. Ever since I played the original Team Fortress, I have been hooked. Most weeks I will log 4+ hours of playing.

That said, I’m not very good at it. I am certainly not good enough to compete professionally. I’m not even good enough to be part of a clan. I love playing, though, even if my KDR is usually not even an integer.

To move to the next level, I would need a track record of success. This is where many people trip up in the world of programming: They think that because they have a passion for software development, they should be able to build a career.

Doctors spend the first few years of their careers working the worst jobs in the profession. They don’t walk off the stage and immediately start performing open-heart surgery. It takes a lot of doing the hard stuff first, things like being the on-call doctor and working the emergency room on the weekends. These are not glamorous jobs. These are not fun jobs. These aren’t even well-paying jobs. However, they give a doctor something they need: a track record. A doctor can point to their time in those jobs and say, “See, I know what I am doing.” Then they can go on to the fun/high-paying part of being a doctor.

Just as a doctor has to prove they can do what they claim they can, software developers have to prove they can solve problems with code. Unlike doctors, though, software developers have a lot of options for how to do that. The easiest option is to get involved in your favorite open-source software program and:

  1. Check out the repository
  2. Find a bug you think you can fix
  3. Write the code
  4. Submit a pull request
  5. Go to step one
For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

The more you do this, the more complex of a bug you will be able to fix. Soon, you will become a regular contributor and will have a body of work you can reference to prove you can do the job. The second but no less important attribute of this method is that your favorite software project is better off because it has a new contributor adding value.

This kind of work is much more important when you are just starting out than if you have a career you can point to. It is also more difficult to do when you are just starting out. If you have no track record, it will be more difficult to convince project owners to accept your pull requests. Still, the experience you gain will be invaluable.

Being able to show a track record of building useful things is a cornerstone of a successful software development career.

Value Matters

Once you have your software development job and have started your software development career, you need to be able to prove to your current and future employers that you can deliver value.

Most companies do not hire people altruistically. It would be a better world if they did, but the fact of the matter is that companies have to stay in business to keep employing people like you. To stay in business, they have to create something of value for which others will pay money. Therefore, for you to stay employed, you have to deliver something of value to the company.

In the case of software developers, the value we deliver is not the code we write, but the problems we solve for customers. If the code we write does not solve a problem the company can monetize, then it is not valuable.

Once you get a job, and once you get settled in, start looking for ways you can add value to the company and its products. Sometimes, value is created by doing the things nobody else wants to do, like documentation, unit testing, etc. Backfilling these important software development artifacts creates value because not only are you adding to the project, but you are also freeing up developers who know more about the project to work on the problems you are not yet qualified to work on.

Being able to deliver value to the users as well as the company is a cornerstone of a successful software development career.

Every successful software developer has these three things: passion, a track record, and the ability to deliver value.

Yes, everyone should learn to code if they want to, but learning to code is not the same as being a successful software developer. To do that, you need more than a basic understanding of the rules, just like it takes more than being able to hold a guitar to be a successful musician.

Mario Peshev is the CEO of DevriX and the author of 126 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneurship Fad and the Dark Side of Going Solo. Follow him on Quora, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Cal Evans is senior consultant at E.I.C.C., Inc., and the author of Culture of Respect. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Together, Evans and Peshev produce the podcast No BS Engineering: Career Advice for Developers.

Perfectionism Can Sink Your Business — Here’s How to Manage It

Article by Cecilia Meis

Have you ever read a job listing that describes a search for a perfectionist? The hiring company must surely have the best intentions: It wants someone who will work hard to get the job done right.

But if the company truly demands perfection, it risks never getting the job done at all.

Perfectionism is one of those sneaky things that can either propel you into serious action or paralyze your ability to accomplish even the most basic tasks. Often, those who struggle with perfectionism have issues giving up control. These people have a deeply rooted fear of failure. Flying in the face of logic, unhealthy perfectionists believe that if they account for every what-if, they can make whatever task sits in front of them failure-proof — or they spend so much time planning and researching the task that they never start in the first place.

Below are some tips for refocusing your perfectionist tendencies toward better, more productive avenues:

1. Accept the Outcome

If you’re struggling with the thought of submitting a deliverable that you feel is less than 100 percent perfect, create a list of the worst-case scenarios. Will you lose your business? Will your reputation be ruined? Will you go broke? Probably not.

But will ruminating about this project keep you from other important work? Absolutely.

2. Shift Your Perspective

The positive side of perfectionism is that you possess a level of motivation and attention to detail that is unmatched by many. The trouble happens when you get so caught up in the details that you fail to see what you’re really trying to create. Show yourself some compassion and understand that perfectionism is neither a dirty word nor a medal-worthy attribute.

3. Choose Dedication Over Obsession

Entrepreneurs, especially new ones, have a deep desire to offer their product or service to the world just as they imagine it. This dedicated vision likely contributed to the entrepreneur choosing this path in the first place. That’s a gift.

However, you have to remember that being dedicated and thorough is not the same as being obsessive and ruminating.

4. Channel Your Energy Wisely

Getting something done is often more valuable than getting something just right. What is the point of being a perfectionist if your perfect work never sees the light of day?

Some entrepreneurs might have trouble letting go of a project as they move far past the point of diminishing returns. What other tasks requiring your attention have been ignored while you’re tinkering with and obsessing about a task that should have been done days ago?

5. Give Up Control

One strategy for recovering perfectionists is to purposefully cede tasks that once paralyzed them. If you already have a team in place, this should be a smooth transition. You hired these people because they already possess the knowledge and skills necessary to help your business succeed. Let them do their jobs, but also understand that mistakes are going to be made.

The Experts Weigh In

1. Julie Burton, Founder and CEO, ModernWell

As an entrepreneur, I believe that being honest about my struggles with perfectionism has been instrumental in the creation and growth of ModernWell. Although perfectionism can mask itself as “hard-working,” “detail-oriented,” and “holding high standards” — which are all important — the negative aspects of perfectionism can take a person and a company down.

The feeling of treading in unknown waters and needing to make your decisions using both knowledge and intuition — often without any real certainty — can be excruciating for anyone. I remember so many times being in tears and saying to my husband, “I don’t know what I am doing. This is all so scary and confusing.” And he, who has run a company for the past three decades, would reply with some variation of: “Welcome to the world of running a business. I feel that way every single day.”

Here’s my advice:

  1. Read every book by Brené Brown.
  2. Create an advisory board of people who will challenge you, help you develop confidence in your leadership, and offer trustworthy counsel.
  3. Create a safe environment for yourself and your team members to share feedback. Ask for help from team members when you are stuck.
  4. Be okay with delegating. Everything may not be done exactly how you would do it, but that doesn’t mean things won’t be done well. Be clear in your expectations with your team and understand that no one, including you, is perfect.
  5. Be compassionate with yourself and others. Perfectionism has a hard time living when compassion enters the picture. Embrace the human condition, which is most definitely imperfect.

2. Lance J. Robinson, Attorney

As an attorney who started his own small law firm, I felt the need to be a perfectionist. I wanted to help my clients every way I could, both as their lawyer and as a business owner. Although striving to be perfect can be a good thing, it can also stand in the way of your success.

Being a perfectionist can be stressful, both personally and professionally. If you spend all of your time and energy on perfecting your work, your personal life is bound to suffer. You may also spend too much time perfecting work that is already finished, which can slow you down and keep you from completing other important tasks. When absolute perfection is your goal, you will hesitate to take any risks.

To get over this, you need to find a happy medium. For me, this means making sure my skills stay sharp, trusting in my experience and expertise, and working hard to do my best. You will find that when you stay up to date in your field and focus on helping your clients, you don’t have to stress over being perfect.

3. Ketan Kapoor, Cofounder, Mercer Mettl

Trying to be perfect has often held me back. The first model of Mettl for cognitive and psychometric assessments took time because we weren’t sure it was perfectly ready to be launched and accepted into the market.

We worked hard to bring assessments into the market, and while planning content for our marketing initiatives, I still wasn’t sure if that hard-earned data was ready. I kept delaying. That content eventually helped us in an unprecedented way. Today, those assessments look very different from the ones we started with. They have been calibrated time and again to suit customer demands.

The experience taught me a powerful lesson: Success happens in the madness, not when everything is under control.

Chasing perfection is great as long as you know where to draw the line and can balance that pursuit with efficiency. A good measure of balance is to do the best work you can while expecting the learning curve that comes with failure and mistakes. If you continue to chase perfection, you’ll never fail — but you’ll also never start.

Versions of this article originally appeared in the September/October 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine and on SUCCESS.com.

Cecilia Meis is a full-time writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas. Besides SUCCESS, her work has appeared in Time Out Dallas, Rewire, Healthline, and others. Outside of work, she plays beach volleyball; attempts home cooking; and is ardently working toward making her cat, Nola, Insta-famous.

Forget Your Job Title: No Matter What Your Role Is, You’re in Sales

A firefighter, a professor, a computer repair technician, and a lawyer are having dinner together. Which one is the salesperson?

None of them, right? One is in the business of saving lives, another teaches, one fixes stuff, and the last one keeps people out of jail.

They’re not in sales. Or are they?

The fact is that every job is a sales job. Even yours.

What do you think the firefighter is doing when he visits an elementary school classroom to talk about the dangers of playing with matches or setting off fireworks? He’s selling children on staying safe.

What skills does the professor use when she tries to convince her students to power down their phones and take notes during her lectures? Sales skills.

If a computer tech does a good job and treats his clients — who usually come to him in distress — with kindness and patience, will those customers choose him again next time they need service? If so, he’s made a sale.

And the lawyer spends all day selling juries on finding her clients “not guilty” and judges on ruling in their favor.

No matter what kind of job you can think of, it has a sales component, at least unofficially. That means your job is, in part, a sales job.

If you’re like most people who haven’t chosen sales as a career, your reaction is probably something like, “Ick.”

Sales does have a bad reputation, but the fact is that we are surrounded by salespeople who are ethical and honest. Most salespeople do not practice the dishonest, manipulative, pushy brand of sales that created that bad rap. You don’t have to sell that way when you make those unofficial sales at work that you inevitably make even though your job title doesn’t say anything about “sales.”

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Most of today’s sales professionals practice consultative sales. That means they try to sell only what their clients need. They look for products and services that will solve a problem for the client or make the client happy. They don’t pressure or trick or lie to their clients. They figure out how they can get what they want — the sale — while giving the client what they want and need. They know that nobody likes to be sold, but they also know that everybody likes to buy. They figure out what each person they meet really wants to buy, and that’s what they sell.

The same strategy can work for people who aren’t sales professionals but have lots of opportunities to make unofficial sales at work. However, going from a mindset of “Ick!” to one that embraces selling as the most effective way to get a raise, a promotion, a thumbs-up for your business on social media, or another contract from someone you already work with might not be easy.

So ease into it. Here are four points to help you embrace your inner salesperson:

1. Realize That You Already Know How to Sell

In fact, you’ve known how since you were a kid. Children seem to innately understand how to get what they want from their parents. They figure out at a young age that being nice and helpful — not demanding and stomping their feet — will get them that special toy or a later bedtime. They also know that they need to ask for what they want, because Mom and Dad aren’t going to volunteer it. Those strategies can still work for you. Follow the Golden Rule when you ask for anything: Treat people as you would like them to treat you. Be kind. Don’t push. Ask nicely.

2. Not Only Do You Already Know How to Sell, but You Already Do It Every Day

Every time you encourage your child to pick up their toys, your partner to pick up the dry cleaning, or a coworker to pick up the slack, you’re selling. Every time they do what you asked, you’ve made a sale. It doesn’t matter that the transaction did not involve money.

3. Think of Selling as a Way to Help People

Everybody wants something. Once you identify the person who can help you get what you want, figure out not how you can sell that person, but what you have that can help that person. A professional who sells gutter shields, for example, has a product that can solve a huge problem for a homeowner with clogged gutters. A nonsalesperson who asks the boss for a big raise can offer to take on more responsibility in exchange for more money. A sale — official or unofficial — should create a win for the seller and a win for the buyer.

4. You Could Be a Superstar at Work If You Bring in Business, Even If That’s Not Your Official Job

Opportunities to bring in business are everywhere. Whenever you work with clients, find out what else they need. Ask what else you can do to help. Then, figure out if your company has a product or service that would fill that need, and offer it.

Before you say goodbye to a client after a satisfying work experience, ask that customer to refer your company to friends and colleagues and to write a positive social media review.

Be a walking commercial for your company, on and off the job. Employees who tell positive stories about their workplaces spread goodwill not only for their businesses but for themselves. The people who notice your pride in your company are more likely to contact you when they need its services.

Making a sale can and should be a positive experience for both you and the person you’re selling. There’s really nothing “icky” at all about trying to strike a deal that benefits everyone involved.

Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication, and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. For more information, please visit www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

So You Bombed: How to Move on After a Bad Presentation at Work

Have you ever had a horribly embarrassing public speaking experience? Were you mortified when you went blank in your high school French class when asked about Madame Thibeault’s small dog? Did you give a presentation at work and, when you looked out at the audience, become uncomfortably aware that most people were on their phones? Did you feel small, unseen, and unheard?

Whatever the circumstances, that painful memory may now be holding you back from great opportunities. As a public speaking coach, I’ve had many people come to me for help in recovering from bad public speaking experiences. Whether you’re haunted by a bad presentation from last week, two years ago, or even decades in the past, there is hope.

Just because something was true in the past doesn’t mean it will be true in the future. At one point in your life, you couldn’t read. Now you can. You don’t currently identify with that version of yourself who was unable to read, do you?

Or how about learning to ride a bike? If you’re like me, you wiped out a bunch and may even have scars on your knees and elbows as mementos from that time. But you pushed through, and now you are a competent bike rider. You can choose to relate to your public speaking wipeouts in the same way.

Stand-up comedians view totally bombing as a rite of passage. They accept that it will happen, and many feel that bombing actually makes them better. If you adopt that same mindset about public speaking, you already have that valuable experience under your belt!

Unpacking Your Narrative

During and after intensely negative experiences, we often create narratives that extrapolate from what happened. Check out this example:

“I was at my very first job. My boss asked me to give a presentation to the team. I had done some presenting in college, but I never really felt comfortable or knew how to prepare.

“In a college class, if I screwed up, it only affected my grade, and I knew I probably wouldn’t see any of my classmates again after the end of the semester. If I messed up at the team meeting, however, my boss would see and so would my colleagues. I would definitely have to face them again.

“I worked really hard on my slides and put a lot of information on them so I would always know exactly what I was going to say. The conference room was really packed, and I had to walk up to the front. I could feel everyone looking at me. I was so nervous. I could feel my face turning red and my heart pounding. I looked out at the group and saw that people already looked distracted or bored, like they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. A few of them were on their phones.

“And then there were tech issues. My stupid slide deck wouldn’t open. There was something wrong with the file. My boss told me to just give the group the gist of what was in the presentation. I was so overwhelmed. I faced the room and … went blank. I suddenly couldn’t remember any of what I had prepared. I uttered a few awkward sentences, said ‘I’m sorry,’ and then sat back down. I knew right then that I never wanted to be the center of attention like that ever again. I clearly wasn’t good at it.”

Let’s dig deeper. This story does contain facts like “I never really felt comfortable or knew how to prepare,” “I worked really hard on my slides,” and “there were tech issues.” However, not everything in this story is a fact.

Let’s look more closely at this sentence: “I looked out at the group and saw that people already looked distracted or bored, like they didn’t want to hear what I had to say.” We usually have no way of knowing what’s really going on for our audience members emotionally and mentally. Their expressions probably have absolutely nothing to do with us! This statement, then, is not so much a fact as it is a narrative the person created in their own head.

For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

In my mind, the most important sentence to take note of is: “I had done some presenting in college, but I never really felt comfortable or knew how to prepare.” This is what set the demoralizing experience in motion. People are often expected to know how to present and handle nervous energy even though they’ve received very little guidance or training on public speaking. Having compassion for yourself in this situation will help you start letting go of these painful memories.

Let’s also address the last two statements of the story: “I knew right then that I never wanted to be the center of attention like that again. I clearly wasn’t good at it.” This is where we can see the person has totally shut down their willingness to try. The person is completely intolerant of not being good at something — even if they never received adequate guidance or training! Ouch!

Statements like “I clearly wasn’t good at it” serve as protective mechanisms. It feels terrible when our peers see us lost and vulnerable. In response, our brains try to do everything they can to keep us from feeling that way ever again. However, these protective mechanisms often become prisons. We end up stuck, watching the world go by.

If you’re feeling this way, it’s time to make a jail break. Let’s look again at this story and create a new narrative, one where the person in question learns to be compassionate toward their own situation:

1. I had done some presenting in college, but never really felt comfortable or knew how to prepare: How was I supposed to know how to prepare if no one had ever taught me how? Of course this was challenging.

2. I worked really hard on my slides and put a lot of information on them so I would always know exactly what I was going to say: I did put a lot of effort into the slides, and I need to give myself credit for that. Going forward, I also want to put time into rehearsing so I can find ways to manage my nervous energy. Practicing will also help me understand my ideas on a deeper level. Then, if there are tech issues, I’ll still be able to share my thoughts.

3. I looked out at the group and saw that people already looked distracted or bored, like they didn’t want to hear what I had to say. A few of them were on their phones: There’s no way I could know what people were thinking or feeling. They have full busy lives of their own with plenty of ups and downs. Come to think of it, I usually jump on my phone, too, when I am waiting for something to begin. It doesn’t have anything to do with the speaker. I just want to see what’s going on in my world.

4. I was so nervous. I was so overwhelmed: Of course I was nervous and overwhelmed — I didn’t know what I was doing!

5. I faced the room and … went blank: I had no idea how to manage my nervous energy. I think that’s why I went blank. That makes sense!

6. I knew right then that I never wanted to be the center of attention like that ever again: I totally understand my vow to hide. A very normal reaction! But, if I spent time learning how to prepare and manage my nerves, I could likely become more comfortable with public speaking over time.

7. I clearly wasn’t good at it: Of course I wasn’t good at presenting! I didn’t have any guidance or experience. But with training, instruction, and encouragement, I could become better. I did learn to speak, eat, say “please” and “thank you,” ride a bike/play sports/play an instrument. It took time, but I did it. I can learn to do this, too.

After a bad public speaking experience, unpacking what happened and the accompanying arbitrary narrative of “what it means for the future” is a very helpful way to recover. It’s freeing to apply compassion and logic to the details. Adopting a new perspective on the matter can help you to heal, let go of the bad experience, and move forward.

Amanda Hennessey is the founder of Boston Public SpeakingSan Diego Public Speaking, and Boston Acting Classes and the author of Your Guide to Public Speaking: Build Your Confidence, Find Your Voice, and Inspire Your Audience.