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Don’t Clean Your Desk and 6 Other Pieces of Unconventional Career Advice (That Just Might Work)

Topics: Career Advice
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Some career advice might seem a little odd or unconventional at first glance. However, there is a lot to be gained from thinking outside of the box once in a while.

There are certain career tips that tend to get repeated a lot. Some of this “wisdom” can seem almost self-evident. You know that showing up on time to work is important and that it pays to work hard, for example.

However, there are some other pieces of advice that may seem offbeat or unconventional, but that can really help you accomplish your professional goals and feel happier at work and in your career.

7 Pieces of Unconventional Career Advice That Might Work for YOu:

1. Work alone

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Collaboration is a wonderful thing. A lot of new ideas are generated when a diverse group of individuals put their heads together. But, some people also thrive when they work solo.

For example, folks who do creative work might find that they’re able to concentrate better and produce more when they’re by themselves. In fact, it’s easier to get into “flow state” when distractions are limited. You don’t have to be creative, or do creative work, for that to be true. Interruptions also contribute to feelings of frustration and stress.

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“We did a laboratory experiment where people did a typical office task: they had to answer a set of e-mail. In one condition, they were not interrupted,” Gloria Mark of the University of California Irvine told Fast Company. “In another condition, we interrupted them with phone calls and IM. We used a NASA workload scale, which measures various dimensions of stress, and we found that people scored significantly higher when interrupted. They had higher levels of stress, frustration, mental effort, feeling of time pressure and mental workload. So that’s the cost.”

Other people do better when they’re able to work by themselves, too. For example, introverts are defined by their need to recharge and replenish their energies through spending time alone. These natural tendencies and preferences mean that these folks often work better when they’re permitted to be by themselves, at least for a large portion of the workday.

Do you work best when you work alone? If so, finding ways to spend more time working solo could help you to reach new heights professionally.

2. Be picky about bosses

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More than almost any other factor, your boss can make or break how you feel about your job. An inspiring boss can help you feel motivated to be your best at work. You’ll learn and grow as a result of working with someone who is passionate and skillful. On the other hand, a difficult boss can be a huge drag. You might love your work, in and of itself. But, the influence of a bad boss can shift all that and leave you feeling like running for the hills, even if you’re doing your dream job.

So, during the interview process, it makes a lot of sense to pay very close attention to the person or people you’ll be working for. Don’t just evaluate the job itself. Be sure to consider the people too, especially those in leadership roles. Don’t focus solely on making a good impression during these times. Remember that you’re interviewing them, as well.

Want more career advice about being happy at work? Read, “How to Be Happy at Work (According to Science.)

3. Goof off once in a while

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It’s important to behave in a professional manner while you’re at work. And, you need to get your work done reliably and consistently, too. But, you might stumble into some additional benefits if you can manage to do all of that and still find time to have some fun with your colleagues during the workday.

Having friends at work can be really good for your career, for a lot of different reasons. First of all, happy workers are more productive. Friends can also open up opportunities for you at work and help to expand your professional network for the future. And, having fun with your colleagues helps you enjoy your job more.

Also, there’s a certain camaraderie that can only be found with work pals because you have the environment, and the work itself, in common. They know your job, your clients and the ups and downs that come with it all like no one else. Therefore, professional friends can support and encourage each other in unique ways.

So, have a little fun at work once in a while. Building strong relationships with your coworkers isn’t a waste of time.

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4. Keep it simple

difficult conversations with employees
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Sometimes it can seem like professional achievement is more complicated than it is. In fact, there is a lot of value to keeping things simple.

Bill Gates admired this ability in Warren Buffett in an 2009 interview with CNBC, when he was asked about the best advice he every received from his friend and fellow billionaire.

“Well, I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from Warren. I’d say one of the most interesting is how he keeps things simple. You look at his calendar, it’s pretty simple. You talk to him about a case where he thinks a business is attractive, and he knows a few basic numbers and facts about it. And [if] it gets less complicated, he feels like then it’s something he’ll choose to invest in. He picks the things that he’s got a model of, a model that really is predictive and that’s going to continue to work over a long-term period. And so his ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.”

Try not to over-complicate things at work. Instead, think in simple, logical steps and be sure to communicate your actions and ideas clearly to others. When you run into problems and challenges at work, always keep in mind that the best solution might not be super complex.

5. Go to Fewer meetings

unconventional career advice

Here’s some unconventional career advice you’ll probably love following: go to fewer meetings.

Meetings are unpopular. In fact, 17 percent of workers say they’d literally rather watch paint dry than attend one. Still, they are a required part of office life for many employees.

If you’re required to go to a meeting, then you need to attend. But, if there is a way for you to cut back on your meeting time, you might want to consider doing just that. Attending fewer meetings and/or shortening the length of the meetings you do attend could help you be happier at work. It might even make you more productive.

The trouble with meetings is that they take up a tremendous amount of time. If an hour-long meeting is attended by 10 people, then 10 total hours of work time are being devoted to it. It’s easy to become frustrated with the drain meetings have on both your time and your energy. Thankfully, some organizations are looking into alternatives to traditional meetings. Switching things up a bit should help employees to be happier at work and get more done.

6. Have a messy desk

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Do you feel some pressure to keep a clean and orderly workspace? Maybe it’s because you want to make a good impression on others. Well, if your natural tendencies aim you toward a messy desk, you might want to consider letting it be. The clutter might not actually be doing you any harm.

Efficiency experts often claim that you’ll be more productive if you tidy up your space. However, research from the University of Minnesota, reported by Inc, demonstrates otherwise. The team found that study participants who worked in a disorderly space generated the same number of new ideas as the group who worked in a clean room. But, the messy-room group’s ideas were ranked as more interesting and creative by judges.

If your space is a little more cluttered than most, know that you’re in good company. Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs all kept famously messy desks. Historically, their habits painted a picture of a busy and active worker. A clean desk, some thought, signaled idleness and lack of passion.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” – Unknown (Often attributed to Albert Einstein. However, according to Quote Investigator, this is unsupported. Although, we know for sure that he kept a messy desk.)

7. Think for yourself

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Everyone is different. The career advice that works for some might not work the same for others. So, it’s important that you think for yourself and respect your own preferences when it comes to how you do your job.

Don’t worry too much about what others will think of isolated actions. If you do a great job on a consistent basis, your work and your performance will speak for itself. So, be yourself. Follow the career advice that works for you and leave the rest behind. Honoring your own unique style and your personal preferences will help you to be your best at work.

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