I recently had the chance to interview my friend and Money Magazine’s Online Career Expert of the Year, Alexandra Levit, about something she calls career blind spots and the book she just released on the topic by the same name. Here’s what unfolded…
In Blind Spots, you explore the ten biggest myths of business success. What made you decide to write this book?
I decided to write Blind Spots because I was tired of reading silly theories and platitudes dispensed by business and career authors who sell their work by giving these myths credibility and by telling readers what they want to hear. I wanted to be honest with people about what will render them successful in today’s business world, not yesterday’s. I wanted something out there other than overly provocative advice that hasn’t worked for anyone I know, like quitting your job tomorrow and starting your own business the next day, or marching into your boss’ office and announcing that he should appreciate your individuality.
What’s your favorite myth and why?
I have personally experienced most of the book’s myths myself, so they are all favorites in a way. But overnight success is the first myth I debunk in the book because it’s one of the most widely held beliefs. It’s also hugely misleading, and adopting this idea that you can easily become an overnight success could actually be quite damaging for your career and life. The truth is simple. There are very few – if any – genuine cases of overnight success. The majority of successful people have dedicated themselves to a goal and persevered for a long time, experiencing several setbacks before reaching a high level of achievement that is finally noticed and talked about by others.
What do you see as the greatest obstacle facing employees over the next 1-2 years
The greatest obstacle is finding meaning in their work – up to 80% of the employed are currently unhappy with their jobs. This dissatisfaction can be an opportunity because it prompts you to take action to learn a new skill or take on a new project through your job or volunteer work. People have to remember that finding one’s passion takes time and a lot of exploration, and you have to be motivated to undertake that journey.
You say that your goal is to help people hone their positive traits like authenticity, perseverance, and self-awareness. What’s the first step to take in this regard?
The first step is to recognize what you don’t know, and where you can improve. A lot of what it takes to be successful is already a part of who you are, and with a little self-reflection and the course-correcting offered in Blind Spots, you absolutely have the power to cultivate the skills and attitude that will take you wherever you want to go.
What is your best advice for prospective entrepreneurs?
If you want to start a company, the motivation fueled by being bored with your work or hating your boss won’t be enough. You’ll have to think hard about the marketplace need your product or service addresses and be prepared to work at a variety of tasks to bring it to fruition. Also, you’ll want to really consider whether the entrepreneurial lifestyle will work for you personally, as it requires a certain type of personality and mindset.
If all the platitudes are wrong, then why do people keep writing them and why do other people keep buying into them?
An incredible overnight success story (for example) is rare, but very sexy, and like an urban legend, it is easily talked about and passed down. And people love to consume these stories because it’s like thinking they might win the lottery. They figure that the rare scenario has to happen to someone, even though they know deep down it probably won’t be them.
The title of your book – Blind Spots – literally means something that’s in front of your face, but you cannot see it. What can we do to better see what’s in front of us on a daily basis?
We can pay more attention to the immediate and long-term results of our attitudes and behavior, and pick up on cues from other people. And when the cues are too subtle, we can ask for more feedback outright. It’s scary to come face-to-face with our own flaws, but this is the only way to improve and grow and rid ourselves of troublesome blind spots.
[FTC Disclosure – You should always assume that pretty much every link on this blog is an affiliate link and that if you click it, find something you like and buy it, I’m gonna make some serious money. Now, understand this, I’m not talking chump change, I’m talking huge windfall in commissions, bling up the wazoo and all sorts of other free stuff. I may even be given a mansion and a yacht, though honestly I’d settle most of the time for some organic dark chocolate and clean socks. Oh, and if I mention a book or some other product, just assume I got a review copy of it gratis and that me getting it has completely biased everything I say. Because, books are like a drug to me, put one in my hand and you own my ass. Ethics be damned! K, you’ve been warned. Huggies and butterflies. ]
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