Here’s the deal, you didn’t become good at your job without the help of someone paying their success forward somewhere along the way. Maybe someone gave you advice early on in your career that shaped your path, or perhaps someone went as far as opening a door for you that helped you land your dream job. Whatever it may have been, it took someone to pay it forward so you could move forward in your career.
When I reflect on my professional path, I can tell you that I wouldn’t be the Product Manager I am today without some CLASS and the valuable guidance I received from various individuals early on in my career, such as Cat Jefcoat, who taught me about the importance of building relationships. And that’s why I believe it’s not just important but essential to give from the very beginning of your career.
Whether you’re sharing expertise you wish you knew when you just started out or putting in a good word that helps someone move forward in their career, paying it forward doesn’t just benefit the receiver; it can also be valuable for the giver, a.k.a. you.
4 Reasons You’ll Benefit from Paying Your Success Forward
It makes you happier — if you’ve ever been part of a charitable event, donated money to someone in need, or just helped in any way you could, you’ve probably experienced some version of what Allan Luks coined as, “helpers high.” And paying your success forward brings out the same good feelings.
It boosts self-confidence — paying it forward can also improve your feelings of self-esteem and self-worth because you get to put your skills and talents to good use by helping others.
It reduces stress — don’t just take my word for it, studies have found that people who show kindness and concern for others had a 23% lower cortisol level (the stress hormone) compared to the average population. So, in theory, the more you pay it forward, the less stressed you’ll be.
It impacts growth — nothing cements your knowledge quite like teaching something to someone. Whether you’re sharing industry expertise or advice, you’re guaranteed to learn something new and grow.
What’s more? Every time you pay it forward, you inspire those around you to do the same — creating a ripple effect. So, before you jump back into business, as usual, take a moment to jot down all the ways that people have helped you in your career path thus far. Then, write at least three things you’re going to do to help pay your success forward this month. Ready, set, pay it forward!
Have you ever achieved something you were incredibly proud of, only to feel like you weren’t worthy or deserving of a seat at the accomplishment table?
Maybe you published an incredibly well-received article, or you got into the company of your dreams only to find yourself stuck in your head, doubting your abilities, and that you’ve somehow fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.
Then you’ve most likely struggled with imposter syndrome, which basically translates to doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud even though you’re successful at what you do.
Sure, on the one hand, I could argue that underestimating your values, skills, and accomplishments might hold you back. But when I compare imposter syndrome to the alternative of being overly confident, I could easily argue that the benefit of self-doubt is far more beneficial in helping you achieve your goals and move forward.
For one, having imposter syndrome keeps your ego in check. While confidence is great, nobody cares for the overly confident, brilliant a** in the room that thinks they’re all that.
You know the person that thinks they’re confident about a topic but doesn’t actually have the knowledge or experience to back it up. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a healthy dose of imposter syndrome over being the brilliant a** in the room any day of the week.
But keeping your ego in check isn’t the only thing imposter syndrome helps with. And here are several more reasons why having some self-doubt isn’t so bad after all.
5 benefits of imposter syndrome:
- Helps you be more open-minded — when you question yourself, you naturally tend to be more open to taking in and applying new information. As you can imagine, this can be incredibly valuable when you’re problem-solving, whether it be solo or with a team.
- Breeds more empathy — oddly enough, experiencing the feeling of being outside your comfort zone will be enough to help you relate or empathize with others struggling with similar thoughts. And if there’s anything this world could use more of lately, it’s empathy.
- Strengthens decision-making abilities — just like questioning yourself can help you stay more open-minded, sometimes it can also help you make better decisions. If you’re not convinced, just think about how much extra research you end up doing when you’re second-guessing yourself. And with more research and data at your fingertips, you’re more likely to make a better decision.
- Keeps you humble — unlike inflated confidence, imposter syndrome reminds you to find a balance between confidence and humility. Because at the end of the day, no matter how awesome you are at your job or successful you become, there’s ALWAYS room to learn and grow.
So next time you get hit with a wave of self-doubt, consider spending some time analyzing it further so you can truly make it work in your favor. After all, successful folks like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, or myself for that matter, wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for imposter syndrome propelling us forward.
If you think the best time to look for your next job is when you’re unhappy and feeling stuck with your current one, then think again. Because the truth is, the best time to test the market and look for your next job is ACTUALLY when you’re happy and content in your current role.
Sure, I know this advice may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Having worked for several companies, I can tell you that interviewing for another role when you’re dissatisfied with your current one can erode your confidence, make you more anxious about the interview process, and even hinder your performance. And that’s precisely why I started taking a different approach to job hunting. After all, an opportunity can only come knocking if you’re willing to entertain walking toward the door.
Not only did interviewing at other companies help me fine-tune my interview skills, but it also helped me build self-confidence, expand my network, gain insider knowledge, and see my value in a new light (including how other potential employers equated this value with a higher compensation bracket).
Interested in doing the same? Here are five reasons why you should ALWAYS be interviewing for your next job (yes, even if you’re 110% in love with your current role). And if you’re not in love with your current position or company, trust me when I say that sometimes the best thing you can do for you and your employer is quit. But that’s for another blog post.
5 Reasons You Should be Testing the Job Market Even When You’re Happy
- Sharpen your interviewing skills — no matter how much you practice answering interview questions in your spare time, nothing sharpens your interview skills quite like answering those questions in real life. By doing so, you’ll build up a diverse repository of standard questions you could have predicted as well as some curveball questions you otherwise wouldn’t have expected. Thus increasing the likelihood of you confidently answering whatever question comes your way.
Build self-confidence — it’s simple, really. The more you learn about a company, industry, or yourself, the more confident you’ll start to feel. And confidence is exactly the kind of skill that’s always in high demand no matter what company you work for.
Expand your network — whether you’re meeting with interviewers, potential team members, or company leaders, every interview is truly an opportunity to expand and grow your network. Even if you don’t get the job offer, the connections you make could open doors for you down the road. So, make it a point to not only connect during your interview but follow up with said connections via email or LinkedIn (just don’t forget about LinkedIn etiquette).
Gain insider knowledge — interviews are also an excellent opportunity for you to do some of the interviewing to gain some intel. Instead of just focusing on the questions you may get asked, think about what kind of specific questions you want to ask about the process, systems, culture, etc. And then put your findings to work at your current company.
See how valuable you really are in the marketplace — while there’s no denying your value is defined by what YOU believe about yourself, interviewing at other companies can shed some light on how the marketplace values your skills (or perhaps where you might fall short). The worst-case scenario is that you’ll walk away knowing what skills you need to improve upon. Meanwhile, the best-case scenario is that you’ll have an offer to leverage with your current employer. Just remember that money is not everything if you’re unhappy or working in a company with a toxic culture.
So, whether you’re looking to sharpen your skills and network or leverage your offer with your existing company, there’s no time like the present to dust off your resume, update your LinkedIn profile, and book your next interview. After all, you have nothing to lose. And EVERYTHING to gain.
What comes to mind when you think of empathy?
For me, empathy is all about removing barriers to understand where someone else is coming from (even if I don’t always agree with them) by choosing to see THEIR feelings, thoughts, and experiences from THEIR perspective versus my own. Similarly, it’s also being understood on the same level by my colleagues, friends, and family members.
Of course, to fully understand and appreciate the role empathy can play in your life, you need to clearly understand what it is (and isn’t), why it’s so important, and how you can make it a part of your day to day life.
So, what is empathy?
Mariam Webster defines empathy as the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences in either the past or present without having the feelings, ideas, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.
Unlike sympathy, which often means feeling sorry or bad for someone else’s suffering, empathy requires you to feel and share someone else’s feelings without making it about you. Or in the words of Brené Brown, “it means to be able to see the world as others see it.”
But why is being more empathetic even more important today than before?
Let’s face it; so much has changed in the past year and a half. Within a short period, millions of people had to deal with an overwhelming amount of change. From losing loved ones and facing financial hardships to learning how to adapt to new norms like working remotely for the very first time, there is no shortage of challenging times that we all collectively had to endure in recent months.
But all of this change is much easier to navigate when there’s mutual empathy or understanding of someone else’s feelings or experiences present. Having the ability to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes not only helps you make better decisions as a professional leader but allows you to build better relationships rooted in a deeper understanding, compassion, and trust.
And I noticed the impact leading with empathy had on me firsthand when I started practicing it with my team members. After making the time to get to know my team one on one, I began not only to understand what drives their decisions but think about my choices differently — leading to greater collaboration, a boost in team morale, and even improved productivity.
Of course, I’m not alone in my observation. Research has shown that empathy makes people better managers, workers, family members, and friends all around.
Best of all, I have five easy exercises or, as I like to call them, empath-cises that you can do to be more empathetic.
5 ways to be more empathetic
Make the time to listen actively — active listening is the practice of making the other person feel heard and valued. It often involves listening attentively, paraphrasing back what was said, and withholding any judgment and advice along the way.Engage with new people — I know you might think you know what someone else’s life is like, but the truth is, you have no idea until you talk to them. So, invite a co-worker or neighbor you don’t know well for an in-person (or virtual) coffee/lunch. Instead of keeping the conversation surface level, challenge yourself to go beyond the small talk and ask them to tell you more about their background, experiences, and routines. You might be surprised by what you discover. For example, maybe you’ll learn the reason your co-worker always leaves early or shows up late is that they’re taking care of an aging family member or a child with special needs or that their commute requires them to take multiple buses just so that they make it home at a decent time. If you’re not comfortable striking up a conversation, try following new people on social media that have different backgrounds from you (like another race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). And then do the work actually to engage with their content to learn more about them. Walk the talk — one of the best ways to dip your toes into empathy is to put on someone else’s shoes and walk the talk. In other words, put yourself in the position to experience what someone else is experiencing by attending a support group on an issue you want to understand better, volunteer at your child’s school, or take on some of the responsibilities your partner often takes on. Acknowledge your biases — I talk a lot about the importance of acknowledging unconscious biases (and taking action to overcome them) as they pertain to ending racism and being a good ally. However, owning your biases and taking action is also one of the key ingredients to connecting and building meaningful relationships with just about anyone. If you’re not sure where to start, you can ask yourself the following questions:
Take the “I” out of empathy — instead of internalizing someone’s experience and thinking how you would feel if it happened to you, focus on understanding the experience from their perspective. Doing so changes the dynamic of the conversation and gives you more insight into what someone is truly going through.
- When was the last time I had to think about my race, ethnicity, gender, religion, ability level, or sexual orientation?
- When consuming most types of entertainment, how often do I see or hear about characters who represent me?
- How often am I in social settings where most people are different from me?
Want to share your own experience with empathy or have more tips on being empathetic? Leave a comment below or send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re working for a company or running your own business, there’s a good chance you’ve utilized some version of a backlog to help you prioritize a list of the things you need to accomplish in the future. There’s also a good chance your backlog has actually held you back more than it has helped you get ahead.
I mean, think about it…
A backlog is supposed to be a list of things you or your company need to do next to support a larger strategic plan. However, from my experience as a Product Manager, it often becomes just an extensively long list of everything you or your company thought needed to be done (emphasis on thought). And the longer the list gets, the more outdated and challenging it becomes to maintain, prioritize, and truly deliver on the goal(s) you initially set out to achieve.
The good news? You can get ahead by leaving the backlog behind. And I’m sharing three reasons why you should ditch the backlog like me once and for all.
3 Reasons You Should Leave the Backlog Behind
It slows down productivity — the longer your list gets, the more time it takes to groom. And if you’re not careful, managing and reshuffling work for you or your team members can become as much a part of your day as the actual work you were supposed to complete, thus only slowing down productivity for everyone involved in the process.
It stunts creativity and innovation — by simply relying on the backlog instead of listening to what your users actually need and want, you’re far less likely to bring solutions to the table that actually matter. Because at the end of the day, the issues your users cared about a year ago probably look quite different compared to the issues they currently care about. It creates tunnel vision — while it can certainly feel like you’re getting somewhere when working through your list, the reality is that you’re handcuffing yourself to something that is doing a disservice to you and your users. As a result, this can create tunnel vision and take what you’re working on in the opposite direction of where you want to go — leading to additional rework, delays, and cost down the road.
So, what’s the alternative?
The fact is what’s truly important will always come back up and make it to the top of the list. However, it’s also helpful to carve out time to constantly review so that you and the company or team can adequately gauge the evolution of the project, product, or milestone before deciding what direction you should take it next. At the end of the day, you should always be moving forward and never become stagnant.
Because if you can’t remember what task you need to focus on next, there’s probably a good chance it’s not much of a priority. And if there’s a task that you can’t stop thinking about, well, then it’s safe to say that you never needed a backlog for it to begin with.