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I spend a lot of time sharing information on how to love your career. I talk about making thoughtful decisions, establishing a path and actively managing your goals. Related: The Importance Of Being Aligned With Your Work But, equally important, is avoiding those roads that will lead to inevitable career unhappiness. Sometimes, they’re hard to spot. But I’ve found five that are clear, unmistakable danger zones. Take a look below and make every effort to avoid these traps.


1. “...But I’m Good At This.”

So, it’s not something you want to do, it’s something you can do. I get it. Sounds good at first. Take advantage of your skills and all that. But sooner or later, it wears thin. I see this quite often with mid-career professionals. They’ve been chugging right along, doing what they do, and suddenly they realize they’ve been sucked into a void of discontent. Don’t dedicate your energy to something just because you have the ability. You deserve to be at least somewhat selective. And, if you desperately want to do something that you’re not naturally good at, you always have the power to advance your skills.

2. “...But I Need The Money.”

It sounds like such an obviously bad idea and yet, so many people fall for this one. Money isn’t enough to keep you happy for long. Yes, we all have financial needs that must be met. But, if that’s the sole reason you’re in your career, prepare for misery my friend. There are—literally—MILLIONS of ways to make money. Find something that offers another kind of satisfaction as well. Compensation comes in many forms and your paycheck is just one.

3. “Things Will Get Better.”

Staying the course and hoping things improve is a surefire way to waste time. If you’re in a career that’s making you miserable, it’s probably safe to say that things can’t change enough to make it worthwhile staying. Maybe they can. Maybe your awful boss will retire and you’ll be promoted and the company will be purchased by Google. But I like to encourage a proactive mindset. Do what you can to improve the situation and, if things don’t change significantly and quickly, start the process of moving on. Don’t stick with it just because you feel invested. Don’t fool yourself into thinking things will just magically get better with time.

4. “I’m Afraid.”

If fear is holding you back, you’re not alone. This is the number one reason people stay in careers they don’t enjoy. The unknown path is always scary. But be honest with yourself. If you never confront your fear, you’ll never know what could have been. You don’t want to look back on your life at the age of 70 and have regrets or questions. A few calculated risks lead to a life well-lived. Maybe not always an easy or expected life, but one you can be proud of.

5. “Nothing Else Would Be Any Better.”

This is the kind of thinking that takes over when you’re unhappy. You just give up. And it’s my job to remind everyone—yes, everyone—that there are ways to find happiness at work. No one is cursed with the miserable career plague. It’s a temporary state, IF you are willing to do the work. Don’t ever believe you’re stuck. The kind of thinking described above is normal and tempting. We all fall into these thought patterns on occasion. The good news is you can snap yourself right out of it. You CAN find career nourishment. [postriddle data_game="//www.riddle.com/Top10/Embedded/1836-10+%22Skills%22+that+shouldn%27t+be+on+your+LinkedIn+profile" data_width="100%" data_height="auto"]

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Everyone needs to feel their voice is heard and their contributions are important. Something as simple as sharing a drink the last hour of the day on a Friday with the team to recap wins and give praise can build camaraderie within the team.


All of the above are fairly simple to implement but can make a huge difference in morale and motivation. Have any of these tips worked well for young the past? Do you have other tips to motivate your creative team? If so, please share them with me!

Encourage curiosity. Spark debate. Stimulate creativity and your team will be better at handling challenges with flexibility and resourcefulness. Create a safe space for ideas, all ideas, to be heard. In ideation, we need the weird and off-the-wall ideas to spur us on to push through to the great ideas.

Sure, there are a ton of studies done on this, but here is my very unscientific personal take. When team members can make decisions about how they work on projects, they are more engaged and connected to the project outcome. When they see how potentially dropping the ball would affect the entire team, they step up. When they feel like what they are doing is impactful and valued, they are naturally motivated to learn more, and be even better team members.

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all style work when it comes to team motivation. I have found that aligning employee goals with organization goals works well. Taking time to get to know everyone on your team is invaluable. What parts of their job do they love? What do they not enjoy? What skills do they want to learn? Even going so far as to where they see themselves in five years career-wise. These questions help you right-fit projects, and help your team see you are committed to creating a career path for them within the company.

Most designers I know love a good challenge. We are problem solvers by nature. Consistently give yourself and your team small challenges, both design-related and not. It will promote openness within the team to collaborate, and it will help generate ideas faster in the long run. Whether the challenge is to find a more exciting way to present an idea to stakeholders or fitting a new tool into the budget, make it a challenge just to shake things up.

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