Tag Archives: career goals

The Keys to Success in Any Field

by Kassandra Lamb

No, I’m not going to tell you how to dress or what to say to your boss to get promoted.

The way I define success in a career, and in life for that matter, is doing work that utilizes our talents and strengths and brings us satisfaction. So this post is about how to identify the job/career that will do that for you, and also the strengths you bring to that career and where you might need to bolster those strengths.

I was inspired by a recent post by author and editor, Jami Gold–What Helps You BE a Writer? She lists several internal traits and external factors that can help writers be successful (i.e., keep at it long enough to reap the rewards), and then asks her blog readers (mostly writers) to make their own lists of the things that help them stick with writing. (If you are a writer, definitely check out her post.)

What Helps You BE a Writer?

I’m going to give my list here, and in the process, extend some of her ideas to all careers.

Internal Characteristics
Under this category, Jami says: “We might have personality traits that help us want to be a writer, such as a love of storytelling or a desire to entertain, educate, or inspire others.”

I love that she starts off with this. Our jobs/careers need to satisfy some inner desire. That inner desire might be self-centered – just to satisfy our love of the task – and/or it may be more altruistic – to help others in some way or to make the world a better place.

painting of storyteller and children

Me in a previous lifetime.  (Brodtmann’s Geschichtenerzählerin, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve always been a storyteller, but the part of Jami’s sentence that rang most true for me was a desire to educate others. My life calling has been to help people, myself included, better understand our psyches and live mentally healthy lives. I fulfilled that calling as a therapist and then as a college professor, and now as a writer. I used storytelling in all of those professions – I told stories to my clients and students to illustrate my points and get past their defenses. And now my stories spread awareness of certain psychological disorders and issues in a pleasant and entertaining way.

So first and foremost, the work we chose must fulfill an inner desire about which we are passionate. If it does, we will (a) be satisfied by it and (b) apply that passion to learning to do it well.

Jami goes on to list a lot of inner traits – beyond talent obviously – that may help writers stick with it when the going gets rough. These range from being so clueless you don’t recognize the obstacles until you’ve stumbled past them (I can relate 🙂 ) to being stubborn, patient, and having a thick skin.

It is VERY helpful to objectively list the inner traits needed to succeed in any job/career we are considering. Then we can compare that list with our own strengths and weaknesses.

I am definitely stubborn, but patience has never been one of my virtues. However, writing was important enough to me that I had to do something to overcome my impatience.

Lacking a trait doesn’t mean we can’t do the job, but we do need to somehow compensate. For me and my lack of patience, two things helped. One, I am sooo stubborn that I refused to give up when my impatience made me want to quit (most often when I looked at my shrinking savings account; I was spending more money than I was making).

And two, I did an internal reframe. I told myself that I don’t need the money from writing. I’m retired with a decent income. I should think of writing, from a financial standpoint only, as a hobby. Retirees who can afford to do so put some money into hobbies; mine happened to be writing. That worked! I stopped ruminating over sales and focused on enjoying the writing and editing. (And eventually my bottom line did shift from red to black.)

As for a thick skin, I can’t say that I normally have this. But I have learned through the years to judge my own capabilities fairly honestly. I’m good at stepping back from what I have produced and comparing it to the objective criteria for good work, as defined in that field of endeavor.

And most important of all, I am good at focusing on those who like my work, rather than those who do not. And as long as the likers well outnumber the dislikers, I feel pretty confident that I’m doing a good job. So I can dismiss the one and two-star reviews as long as there are many more four and five-star ones. (And, thank God, there are.)

Which brings us to…

Support Structure
In Jami’s second category of things that help writers stick with it, she lists the support of family, friends, teachers, agents and publishers, readers, and, most of all, other writers.

That list pretty much applies to all careers. We are more likely to succeed if our families, friends, teachers, etc. (substitute bosses for agents and publishers, and customers/clients for readers) are behind us and are telling us we’re doing a good job.

But what if they aren’t? If our family members and friends aren’t behind us, then we probably need to rethink those relationships. Maybe we need to stop talking about our work with unsupportive family members, and maybe we need new friends if those we have are bringing us down rather than encouraging us.

As for bosses, customers and clients, if most of them like our work, then we’re probably good at it. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. If a boss dislikes your work without offering constructive feedback on how to improve it, but others have often praised it, then consider that it may be that boss, not you.

Dealing with unhappy customers/clients/readers is when we really need that thick skin. Keep reminding yourself that you do indeed do good work, but it may not be this person’s cup of tea, or they may be particularly picky. Try not to get defensive since that will only prolong your contact with them. 😉

The other support system Jami mentions, other writers, is also pretty darn important. I seriously doubt I would have stuck with writing or had the fortitude to get through the publishing process without the support of my friend (and cofounder of misterio), Shannon Esposito. And she introduced me to a wonderful online writers’ group that has been a Godsend more than once.

Likewise when I started teaching, I had a great mentor who kept me going through those early stages of self-doubt in a new vocation. She gave me guidance, but she also normalized the new things I was experiencing. One day I complained that the students just sat there staring at me during the lecture that I thought was the most fascinating of the entire semester.

Jean laughed and said, “Yeah, sometimes you do your dog and pony show and they just sit there.” I felt so much better. This also happened to her, an experienced teacher.

So find a support group and/or a mentor in the field, who will advise you but also cheer you on.

Other Tricks and Tools
Under this category, Jami lists miscellaneous helpful things – everything from gallons of coffee to extra skills we bring from other jobs and life experiences. This last item struck a chord with me.

When considering changing careers or jobs, we shouldn’t just consider the skills that obviously carry over but also subtler capabilities we may have honed in our previous work.

a SomedayIsHere FINAL (1)

When I was writing Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book, I was trying to figure out how to help novice writers improve their dialogue. This required some thought because writing dialogue has always come easily for me.

Then I realized that this wasn’t a natural talent I’d started out with. I had spent twenty years, as a psychotherapist, carefully listening to people. I knew how folks tended to phrase things. I’d also carefully observed body language and tone of voice – when a person paused or looked down, etc. – because all this gave me additional information about what was going on with them, beyond the spoken words.

So that’s the advice I gave to novice writers–observe, listen, pay attention to how people talk and not just what they say. But I’d already had a head start with this skill, because of my previous profession.

How about you? What inner traits, external supports and other skills do you bring to your job? Are there areas that need bolstering or compensation? Are you rethinking your current vocation?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Tipping Point and the Serenity Prayer

by Kassandra Lamb

This is the time of year when we set new goals, and/or recommit to old ones. Well-known blogger Jami Gold recently pointed out that some goals we have control over, and others we don’t. It’s important to realize the difference. Otherwise failing to achieve the we-can’t-control-this goals can be very discouraging.

This post is aimed mainly at my fellow authors, but I think it has relevance for everyone. For each of us in our work life, there are goals we can achieve via our hard work, and there are goals that we don’t have direct control over.

woman sitting on the side of a hill

Sometimes it just seems so hard to keep climbing (photo by Vaikoovery CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

And in most people’s careers, there is some goal that marks the beginning of true success–the point where you may still be climbing the ladder but the climb gets easier, and you become more confident you will eventually reach your ultimate career goals.

We’ll be much more able to climb to that “tipping point” with our sanity intact if we can differentiate between the controllable and not so controllable goals and outcomes along the way.

The Part I Couldn’t Control
For authors, the goal that is most out of our control is whether or not people buy our books. We can do things to control the quality of our stories–take craft classes, hire good editors, etc.–but a good story doesn’t guarantee sales.

When I first got serious about my writing, I suffered from a common ailment amongst writers–Write It and They Will Buy syndrome.

Hmm, not that easy. It isn’t enough to be talented at what you do (although that is an essential first step). Often, others have to notice what we are doing in order for us to receive the rewards we are hoping for.

So how to put yourself out there to be noticed without coming across as obnoxious?

The Part I Could Control
For authors, we are told to engage with people on social media and “build a platform.” So I did that. Another piece of advice was to get lots of stories out there in front of the public. Not a problem. I was already writing a series, and publishing two or more books a year.

Yet another idea was to do giveaways to get readers hooked and get some reviews for your books. So I did that. Doing blog tours and guest posts on other people’s blogs was also a good idea, I was told. Did that too.

Once you have enough books out in a series, yet another strategy is to make the first book permanently free. So I did that.

There's a reason why it's called The Serenity Prayer--because that's the tough part, accepting what we can't control (photo by Jerry "Woody" CC-BY-SA 2.0)

There’s a reason why it’s called The Serenity Prayer–because that’s the tough part, accepting what we can’t control (image by Jerry “Woody” CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Other Part I Couldn’t Control
Each time I did these things, I saw a bump in sales. But nothing to knock your socks off.

It was getting harder and harder to keep my spirits up. I told myself to think of it as a hobby (even though I’m quite serious about it). I would be writing anyway, because I love it. So if sales never took off, so be it. (Fortunately I have a pension; most writers don’t.)

That helped provide the serenity to cope better, but it didn’t solve the problem of sluggish sales.

Then I started hearing authors talking about their tipping point. That at some point something happened that tipped them over the edge, visibility-wise, and their sales were off and running. In each of these cases, there were components the author could control and some they couldn’t.

For some, it was getting reviewed by a book blogger with a large following (could submit to the blogger; no guarantee they would read the book and like it). For others, it was having their books associated with those of a big-name author in the “People Who Bought This Also Bought” box on Amazon (sometimes via a giveaway; often dumb luck). For one of our misterio press authors, it was investing in an expensive ad on BookBub, one of the best e-mail subscription websites for promoting books.

Several authors said that their sales turned a corner when they had published three books in their series. Others said it took five books before they experienced their tipping point.

Book 7 in my series was published last fall. Sales were okay but still less than stellar. I was starting to get discouraged again.

Then I bit the bullet and submitted that perma-free first book to BookBub–again something I could control, but not whether or not the book was accepted (they are picky and in high demand) nor whether the ad was successful. The book was accepted, which reassured me that the problem wasn’t my writing. I gulped a little when I paid the invoice for the ad, and then I started praying.

screen shot of perma-free first book

90 reviews and counting; still #5 in free psychological suspense category

The results were a bit slow to show up–a huge number of downloads of the free book, but only a medium-sized bump in sales of the others. That first book started getting a whole lot of reviews though, the vast majority of them good to great.

I was about to resign myself to this booby prize of more good reviews when things started happening. Sales of Book 2 in the series took off, and then Book 3, etc. I could track readers’ progress through the series. With the first book now high on the free lists at Amazon, thousands of downloads continued each week, and the other books are still selling well.

The climb gets easier after the tipping point  (photo by Derek Harper CC-BY-SA 2.0)

The climb gets easier after the tipping point (photo by Derek Harper CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Hallelujah, I have reached my tipping point!!

So to everyone, but especially to my fellow authors who may still be struggling along, I say don’t give up!

Keep trying different things that you can control, until something happens to propel you past that tipping point.

How about you? Are you clear about which of your goals you have control over and which you don’t? Have you reached the tipping point in your career?

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )