How to stay positive and optimistic for a successful career
Throughout school and university, you may have had some ups and downs. Exams might have knocked you back, friendships probably came and went, and you may even have clashed with teachers. Most of your life will have been taken up with education, but after graduation things change.
Graduating from university can bring its own set of personal challenges as the safety net is removed once and for all. You might find yourself thrust into the working world, uncertain and struggling to keep your spirits up. Getting rejected from job applications can put a downer on anybody, but sometimes even having a job can prove tough. It might sound trivial, but after a fairly flexible university lifestyle, the rigidity of reduced holidays, set hours, and specific tasks can be overwhelming.
Don’t be disheartened if you feel lost, though. It happens to everyone and is perfectly understandable. The thing to remember is that optimism and positivity are what you should focus on and aim towards every day. Here are some ways to stay that way in your career trajectory:
1. Picture the future
It can be a struggle to hold on to an image that isn’t actually in front of you. It’s much easier to pour your attention into the present and bemoan the circumstances that you are currently in. But it is one of the things that distinguishes humans from apes – the ability to reason that if you act on something now, then it will have consequences in the future. Use this evolutionary advantage to sway your choices and allow you to get through tough times at work with the knowledge that it will be worth it in the end.
2. Practise gratitude
Don’t roll your eyes. We don’t mean in a holistic ‘thank you to the Earth’ kind of way. Practise gratitude whenever you feel overwhelmed and pessimistic about your prospects by counting all the things that you are happy about, rather than focusing on the negative. This might be something small, such as a particularly great coffee you had that morning, or something bigger, like a project you are working on.
3. Don’t take your work home
It can be tempting, as a newbie, to put everything into your new job. This might mean you turn up an hour early and leave an hour late, taking your work laptop home to get extra jobs done and going to every single social event on offer. While all those things are great for getting ahead early-on, it is wise not to make them into a long-term habit. Having hobbies and a life outside work is important too, as a necessary aid for managing stress. If you neglect to leave work at work, then you will be in danger of letting it spill into all aspects of your life, leading to an inevitable crash and burn-out.
4. Look after yourself
At university there are sports teams, a gym on-campus, and a bit of extra time to fill with a fitness routine. Once you graduate you may feel as though there is little time to focus on your physical health and begin to let it slide. This is counter-productive, and your health should always be a priority. Find ways to look after yourself, even if that means getting up a little earlier to fit a yoga class in, or going for a run during your lunch break. There are many ways to sneak a bit of health and fitness into your day (even if that’s just a promise not to eat junk food during the week), so be aware of your actions and take control over your health.
5. Be proactive
The best way to feel in control over your career, is to actively take control. If you are looking for a job, then work out exactly what you want from a role. Be specific with your search, and look for opportunities that will be fulfilling in the long-term. If you have a job, then make sure that you are asking for reviews and appraisals, so that you know where you are with your progress and where you are heading. This will give you a basis to form your own personal goals and work towards them steadily. Having a proactive nature at work, or whilst job hunting will give you a greater sense of achievement and optimism towards your career.
6. Reward yourself
It is easy to get into the habit of only berating yourself for mistakes, and ignoring any successes. At work you might have a manager who finds it easier to pick fault in what you do wrongly, than commend you on what you do right. If you find that this is having a negative impact on you mentally, then you should take matters into your own hands. Get into the habit of noticing when you do anything that deserves recognition, and reward yourself in any way that you like. Even if it seems small and insignificant, it can have a huge effect on your motivation and general wellbeing.
7. Take time off
Don’t be a martyr. You might think that it looks good to work constantly without a break, nobody will thank you when you have to take unexpected sick days and leave everyone in the lurch. Take regular days off (even if it’s just one for a duvet-day) rather than pushing through until you burn-out. If you are still in the job application phase, take regular breaks from the frantic online searching and interviewing. Finding your first job can be a gruelling process, so if you find yourself feeling beaten down, just take a breather and do something for yourself once in a while.
You might not feel optimistic and positive every single minute of every single day, but if you make the effort to incorporate some of these tactics into your day-to-day life, then hopefully you will achieve long-term career success in a calm and measured manner.