All posts in Career

  • What Makes a Good Blogger? (Plus an Announcement, Which I’m Pretending You Care About)

    macbook
    image courtesy of tobiabischoff

    If you’ve spent a few seconds on this site, you know I’m going through a quarterlife crisis. I’ve pretty much done every self discovery exercise possible, taken all skills assessments, read my face off on career advice, begged for feedback from friends and family, and tried anything out there to figure out what to do with my life.

    So at this point I probably have more self knowledge than anyone on the planet, and….yes, I’ve made a decision about my career. (Squeal!) But we’ll first talk about what you came here for: characteristics of a good blogger.

    As I reviewed my talents as identified by the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment, I picked up on something: I was basically born to blog. Looking at the things I’m good at made the reason I put so much time and effort into something that pays me next to nothing very clear: my “career” as a blogger is a perfect fit for my natural strengths.*

    I started wondering what other innate abilities might lead a person down a blogging path. Here’s what I came up with.

    Note: I use words like “good” and “serious” and “successful” to describe a certain caliber of blogger below, but I’m aware we all have different definitions for the terms, inside the blogosphere and everywhere else. For the record, I’m thinking of people like Chris Guillebeau, Emilie Wapnick, and Penelope Trunk when I use these words. Also for the record, I do not believe any of them describe me. Yet.

    And, the announcement is at the bottom. So if you don’t care about what makes a good blogger, go ahead and scroll.

    AND: this is a long-ass post, so if you’re planning to skim, read “Sense of Responsibility” and “The Announcement.” I’m reading over everything right now and that’s definitely where the good stuff is.

    Curiosity & Intellectual Qualities

    Bloggers explore ideas, starting in their own mind. Sometimes a conclusion is reached and the concept is articulated via blog post; other times the exploration continues “out loud” in the blogger’s writing, inviting readers to contribute and build a discussion around the topic. Whatever the case, it seems to me a blogger is probably constantly wondering, pondering, reflecting…and enjoys working toward the discovery of truths. Essentially, I think good bloggers are good at thinking.

    Love of Learning

    If you’re perpetually looking for answers and information–as it seems most bloggers are–you probably really dig reading, researching, and just generally figuring things out. More than that, though, I think it’s quite likely the serious bloggers derive satisfaction from the process of learning itself, rather than the end goal of a definitive solution or sufficient level of understanding. Sometimes, knowledge isn’t immediately (or perhaps ever) applicable, and remarkable concepts can come together from bits of accumulated information way down the road. Someone who sets out to learn only when the destination for the data is defined probably wouldn’t be comfortable with the lack of purpose seemingly attached to the effort.

    Input Habits

    The folks at Strengths Finder call a knack for collecting, organizing, and archiving things “input.” This is kind of boring so I don’t really feel like writing a lot about it, but basically, it seems logical that a blogger–whom we’ve now established thinks a lot and learns a lot–would need the ability to effectively process large amounts of data in a way that makes recalling or locating them later (like for use in a blog post) relatively easy, right? There are probably several good methods out there; some are discussed in the comments section of this post.

    Confidence

    You put shit out there when you’re a blogger, and there are always going to be people who don’t like your shit. Always. People attacked me as a writer and as a person (which is kind of hilarious. Not that big of a deal, people.) when an an article I wrote made it to AOL’s homepage–I don’t expect this to ever go any other way. I could absolutely stand to beef up my confidence in general, but when it comes to my writing and my ideas, my skin’s a little thicker. If it weren’t, I think the backlash that comes with blogging in any meaningful way would crush me.

    Doggedness & Patience

    I launched Alternative Badassery in January after half-ass blogging on two other domains for about three years. I knew I wanted to take it to the next level this time–to regularly produce content, spread my message, and change lives. A little experience, a lot of prep time, and a ton of research effectively set my expectations in terms of the work ahead of me and the traction I wouldn’t be able to make quickly. I imagine the successful bloggers out there are real go-getters with tremendous amounts of patience–there are always a million things you should be doing, and often, a gigantic amount of effort does NOT yield a gigantic amount of results (especially when you’re still a no-name).

    Sense of Responsibility

    I mentioned I’ve been blogging for over three years–I’ve never been able to explain why. I just feel like I’m supposed to. That’s the only way I’ve ever been able to describe it that sat well with me. I feel like God gave me ideas and a way to communicate them, and I’m being a total shit head by not fulfilling my duties if I don’t write. I don’t even like writing that much when I really think about it. It’s difficult and frustrating and time-consuming and exhausting. (Really. I am worn out when I finish a post.) But if I’m not blogging, I feel like I’m procrastinating on a to-do the universe has assigned me. I can’t quit blogging when I try. I’ve tried a million times in the past. (I felt like I should just give up completely if I weren’t going to whole-ass it.) I always, always come back to it, though. I imagine the good bloggers feel this drive, too.

    ***

    The Announcement

    It may be obvious: I am committing to making Alternative Badassery my future career. I am committing to getting the products and services (ebooks! courses! consulting! so many other ideas!) I have in my head out into the world. This is both a completely logical and totally irrational decision, depending on how you look at it (good fit vs. financial security).

    I gained another insight from the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment: judging from my natural talents, I’ll never find a career that’s a good fit for me. At least not in the traditional sense of the word “career.” There is no pre-packaged job out there that makes sense for Cassie. This conclusion, after the months of searching and evaluation, is now undeniable to me. I must build my own career and business.

    This possibility had occurred to me before. I’ve decided before that I should work for myself…and then I started getting chicken. I started feeling silly, and started looking for a more stable option that would still be a good fit. It doesn’t exist. When I looked at my list of talents, the suspicion that doing my own thing is the answer came back. But I have so little trust in myself in terms of professional decisions–I’m scarred by my own bad career moves–that I needed someone else to confirm it. Penelope Trunk did. (Yes, I did a career coaching call with her, and yes, it’s absolutely worth the money. And even more wild than you’d imagine.) In her words, “You don’t fit in to how we pay people…”

    “I think you think the whole thing’s bullshit…” she noted later in the conversation, of the attitude I have about the concept of employment. She’s right. Ultimately, if I’m being totally honest, I think almost all jobs are stupid. I think the goals of most businesses are unworthy in the scope of life, and I think the time employees spend working to fulfill them is absurd. I’ve said it before (in my newsletter) and I’ll say it again: you can’t make me believe we were put here to do things that suck.

    I want to make lives better, and I want the opportunity to make every second of my life meaningful. It’s possible to make a huge impact on the world through traditional employment, sure, but that second bit–the overwhelming desire to do meaningful work only–makes it a terrible setup for me. You ask me to create a spreadsheet and I feel like I’m dying. ‘How is this improving lives????!!!!! We are not on earth to do things like this!!!!!!!’ If my feelings could talk, that’s what they’d say.

    So, here we go, friends. I have so much work to do. Should be a good-ass time.

    *I guess now I’m going to ditch the quotation marks.

    ***

    Discuss

    What else makes a good blogger? What role or line of work do you feel responsible to the world to fulfill?

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  • Why Nice People Shouldn’t Work in Customer Service

    customer
    image courtesy of 10ch

    Note: This is an article I originally wrote for Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals, where it first appeared.

    Employers love to put nice people in customer service positions. Especially if they’re authentically nice people—I’m talking about the kind it’s impossible to get mad at because they’re just naturally so dang polite and pleasant. It’s obvious they genuinely want to solve everyone’s problems, and they’re working really hard to make it happen.

    This setup makes sense (put nice employees in front of clients = a no-brainer) and works out well for all involved—except you, the sweetheart professional.

    For you, the arrangement is stressful and trying and leads to major job dissatisfaction. Here’s why:

    Nice People are Sensitive

    Customers are loud, abrasive and impatient. They’re rude. There are exceptions, of course, but anyone who’s worked even one day in a client-facing position knows that people coming to customer service are usually upset. And for some reason, many clients find it acceptable to take their frustrations out on you, the well-meaning customer service employee, as if you’re intentionally out to make their experiences with your company crappy.

    The main problem with this is that you internalize the insults and absurd accusations and take it all personally. As a truly nice individual, you absorb this non-personal angry venting and blame yourself for the issue. The more customers you work with, the worse you feel.

    Nice People are Easily Flustered

    All you want to do as a nice person is make the client happy. That’s a difficult enough endeavor on its own, but when several customers are barking commands at once, your people-pleasing brain starts smoking. All these clients need help, and most of them are mean about it, and you so desperately want to take care of all of them immediately—but the high level of negative input impairs your ability to problem-solve.

    And so you bounce around from complaint to complaint, attempting to put out each fire but getting pulled away before it’s out by a larger one—and ultimately, you hardly accomplish anything.

    At the end of the day, you reflect on all the issues you weren’t able to resolve and doubt your capabilities as a professional.

    Nice Introverts Have it Even Worse

    Extroverted people get their strength from speaking with others. Chatting and interacting excites and enlivens them. Introverts, on the other hand, find too much verbal communication tiring. It leaves them mentally exhausted, and they need some alone time to recharge.

    It makes sense, then, that if you’re an introverted employee in a customer service position—where interacting with other people is the name of the game—you’re at an increased disadvantage. Not only is your “niceness” working against you, but you’re also operating in an environment that depletes you of energy.

    A nice customer service employee leaves work feeling offended and doubtful; you, the nice introverted customer service employee, leave work feeling offended, doubtful and drained.

    The Exception: When Customers are Awesome

    There are situations in which darling you working in customer service is a beautiful scenario for all parties. For example, let’s imagine you work for a charity, and your clients are donors or volunteers. Or maybe you’re employed by a Hawaiian resort, where your customers are vacationers.

    If the clients are participating in a feel-good activity, or are arriving at the scene already in a fantastic mood, it’s likely those conversations are going to go swimmingly. That’s a win-win-win for the customer, the employer and you.

    Bottom line: know yourself well and navigate the professional world accordingly.

    And if you’re honestly nice, stay far, far away from most customer service roles.

    ***

    Discuss

    Have you worked in customer service? What other jobs should nice people avoid?

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  • This Woman Just Changed Your Whole Career Plan

    penelope trunk
    image courtesy of eschipul

    No one has influenced the way I think about career like Penelope Trunk. Not even close.

    Her ideas are so big and so smart, and she manages to kill my dreams and inspire me in a span of two minutes, while covering the same topic. Penelope’s changed everything I thought I knew about professional life.

    As I brainstormed key takeaways from her work to include in this post–originally intended to pay homage to all her views that have had an effect on me–I realized there’s no way I’d be able to highlight the many lessons learned and insights gained from hours of browsing her archives, and decided to categorize them.

    These are the career-related ones.

    Don’t Go to Grad School

    My newsletter subscribers know how tough this message is for me to accept, as just a couple of weeks ago I shared with them a gigantic meltdown I recently had about academia. The gist: I had compiled hours of research on my personality and talents (because my quarterlife crisis is totally not over. Yay!), presented it to John, we both very clearly saw academia as the best career path for me, and then almost immediately realized it was a completely unrealistic goal due to life circumstances that are beyond the scope of this post. And I took it hard.

    But maybe I shouldn’t be so upset–Penelope argues that in general, working toward anything more than a bachelor’s degree (and maybe even that) is a waste of time and moneyIt’s not like higher education institutions have a stronghold on all the world’s information, and if you’re looking to learn more about something–pretty much anything–you can learn it for free by picking up a book or doing research online. How many employers would love to hear that? “No, I didn’t go back to school, I just know all this because I’m ambitious and disciplined enough to teach myself.”

    Related, while your main role in life is a student, and you’re spending so much time studying, you’re not exactly stacking up what employers truly care about: achievements.

    Now, if your intended career exists in academia itself, then yeah, it makes sense to get an advanced degree…except it doesn’t, because there are no jobs in academia.

    Don’t Listen to People Who Laugh at the Words “Quarterlife Crisis”

    When I acknowledged I needed to make a career change, and subsequently realized I had no idea what to do, I felt like I was dying. What made it worse is that I felt ridiculous and alone–I thought everyone else had their shit figured out. At least way more than I did.

    I was introduced to the quarterlife crisis concept on Penelope’s blog, and felt so much relief. I later used the term in a conversation with a middle-aged man who laughed so hard at the idea, and, because of the knowledge I now had, it didn’t upset me.

    Don’t Freak Out About the Possibility of Being Fired

    I’ve mentioned before that I have a history of ending up in jobs I should be fired from. You know how this makes me feel? Stressed beyond belief. And BROKEN.

    Actually, it used to make me feel broken, until I read about Penelope being fired from a lot of jobs, and her friend Melissa being fired a bunch, too. And then I thought, maybe I’m just part of this subset of people who aren’t good fits for most jobs. Plenty of successful people have been fired before. The universe will find a place for me.

    EDITED TO ADD: There was another section right here, but I deleted it. It was about women and work–a topic I’m still feeling my way around–and what I’d written suggested something I didn’t mean. I plan to revisit the subject in the future. Apologies to anyone who was offended; my intention was actually the opposite.

    Don’t Do What You Love

    I’ve come back to this post of Penelope’s over and over again, because it’s so radical, and without the information in front of me, more popular messages skew my thinking. (Another example is my initial resistance of following the Paleo diet. ‘But how could we have been told so often for so many years that grains are good for us is they really aren’t? But the fiber and the nutrients and…’ Eventually, you find truth, and the more you expose yourself to it, the more it sticks.)

    So we’ve been told to follow our passion and make the thing we love into a career. And Penelope and others are trying to tell us that’s poor advice. The idea is that it’s dumb to think we should be paid to do what we love, because we’re already doing it. For free. Because we love it. Not only that, but also when you make it your work, it starts to suck. You have to start making compromises and tough decisions and thinking like a businessperson instead of just enjoying your hobby, and you suck the love right out of it.

    So the better option is to do what you’re good at, and what will help you achieve the lifestyle you desire. And keep the thing you love untouched so you keep loving it and have a nice free time activity.

    I agree with all this, but I think it’s very complex. For example, pretty much everything I care about and everything I’m good at is represented in my role as a blogger. So it isn’t easy for me to identify some other skill I possess that I don’t use to run this site, and find a job that uses it, because my talents and interests are all at work here. Part of me thinks I should make this my career, because look, there is no better fit. The other part thinks I’d end up hating this thing I love if I do that, and I should find something unrelated.

    Clearly, I’m still sorting this one out.

    Don’t Dismiss Alternative Career Paths

    Penelope’s entire approach to career is unconventional. She challenges things we all just accept to be true, and points out flaws in common ways of thinking. I realized shortly after John introduced me to Penelope’s work that I could define “career” however I wanted. I could call being a mother my career. I could call a series of random jobs my career. I could spend 40 hours a week doing work that’s fine and say it’s my job…but actually call blogging my career.

    A career can be a messy mish-mash of roles, projects, and experiences. Likely, it should be. And really, following a traditional path can majorly delay your success.

    I guess overall, the theme of everything I’ve taken away from Penelope’s writing is that we’re screwing ourselves by failing to challenge “rules.” And hey, that’s what the Alternative Badassery philosophy is all about!

    ***

    Discuss

    Who has influenced your notion of career? What’s some unpopular advice that’s helped you?

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