Genius Career Advice

Do You Need an Innovation Coach?

July 12th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Could a coach help you tap into your inner genius? Check out my recent post on futurethinktank about the value of innovation coaching.

The futurethinktank blog is brought to you by futurethink, an innovation research and training firm that helps companies put the principles of innovation into practice on a daily basis.

futurethink has also been a partner and client of mine for more than five years now. I highly recommend their innovation research and tools (many are free).

Get Creative at Work

February 9th, 2010

Written by Pamela Skillings

Grand Street: Painter
Image by moriza via Flickr

Are you a creative soul trapped in a cubicle job? Check out this article from Metro: Let Your Office Creativity Fly Free.

I shared some tips with Metro columnist Drew Hinshaw for the article. Creativity at work is one of my favorite topics and is also the focus of my upcoming New York University course: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur at Work.

I strongly believe that knowing how to tap into your creativity and use it in a business setting is essential to superstar success in any field (and especially for entrepreneurs). More to come on that…

I know my posts have been sporadic and short lately. That’s because my business is booming and my time for blogging here is limited. Check out the blog I write for About.com if you miss me. : )  Hope to be back and posting more soon.

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Dream Jobs and Job Nightmares — Work-Related Dream Analysis

October 30th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

During this week leading up to Halloween, a holiday designed to let you live out your secret fantasy or nightmare for the evening, I have been plagued by weird dreams about work. I decided to do some research and  it turns out that bizarre work-related dreams are very common. But what do they mean?

According to self-proclaimed dream analysis experts, if you are dreaming regularly about your job, it’s a good sign that your subconscious is trying to tell you that you’re overworked or feeling overwhelmed by career issues. This is why I have now scheduled an overdue vacation so I can start dreaming about Caribbean beaches instead of gray conference rooms.

Have you ever awakened from a twisted office nightmare that makes you fear for your sanity? After researching dream interpretations, I discovered that there are several very common work dreams. I bet you’ve had at least one of them. Read on for interpretations of what these job-related dreams may be telling you about your waking life.

5 Most Common Work-Related Dreams Explained


desk-sex-boss1) The Dream: Sex with Your Boss

I might as well cover the most exciting (or potentially horrifying) dream first, right? If you’ve been living in shame and confusion about sexy-time dreams involving your vile boss, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone. Many people dream about sex with a boss or authority figure at the office.

The Dream Interpretation

Maybe your boss just happens to be hot. Maybe you have a suppressed fetish for pinstripes and comb-overs.

On the other hand, sex in dreams can also be a metaphor. You may dream of sex with someone that you feel a strong chemistry with — even if the chemistry is strictly professional. Or your boss may represent something — authority, success, control. Your dream of hooking up with the boss may indicate that you want to connect with the part of you that he/she represents.

Years ago, my friend T. was troubled by a dream of very satisfying sex with her then-boss, who was not particularly attractive and about as far from T’s usual type as humanly possible. For weeks, she had trouble looking him in the eye without blushing. Actually, after hearing about the dream, I got a little giggly in his presence myself. We decided that the dream symbolized her eagerness to please her new boss (and to have him please her with a positive performance review).

2) The Dream:  Killing  Your Boss

But what if your dream self is more interested in homicide than hot sex? Have you ever dreamed about harming or killing your boss?

The Dream Interpretation

The straightforward interpretation here is that your dream self is acting on strong feelings of dislike or envy toward the boss in question.

Another interpretation is that your dream murder victim represents a part of you that you resent or hate. Maybe your boss represents a nightmare version of the future you. Then again, it’s possible that you just played a rousing version of Shag, Marry, Kill before bedtime.

naked-with-briefcase3) The Dream: Naked at Work

In this dream, you’re going about your business at the office when you suddenly realize that you’re completely naked. Oops.

The Dream Interpretation

There are a couple of potential reasons for your public dream nudity. The most common interpretation is that your nudity symbolizes feeling caught off guard. Perhaps you are currently overwhelmed with responsibilities or feel unprepared for a particular project or presentation.

If nobody else in your dream seems to notice your pantslessness, your subconscious may be trying to tell you that you are blowing your fears out of proportion and you’re the only one who thinks you’re out of your depth.

Alternatively, if the discovery of your dream nakedness makes you feel ashamed or  horrified, your subconscious may be reflecting feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment surrounding a secret that you’re keeping. read more…

Career Advice from The Rachel Zoe Project

October 13th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

taylorrachelzoeshowOkay, so I have been known to watch The Rachel Zoe Project. Don’t judge me. I can’t really tell you why I find it fascinating as I am pretty much a fashion idiot and most of the “characters” on the show are really annoying.

Maybe it’s because the show has proven to be a fount of fabulous and cutting-edge career advice in action.

For example, let’s look at Taylor’s genius strategy for getting promoted from her role as Rachel’s assistant to become the head of “branding” for Rachel Zoe Inc. (I’m not convinced Taylor knows exactly what branding means, but the girl had a goal and she went for it).

Here’s Tay-Tay’s  step-by-step process that is sure to help you score a promotion too:

1) Get a job working for a boss who has her own reality show.

2) Complain constantly about how hard you’re working and how mistreated you are (you are ABOVE unpacking boxes, damnit).

3) Belittle your boss and her clients (you are ABOVE photo shoots and fashion shows, damnit).

4) When summoned to a company meeting, refuse to remove your sunglasses and smirk and giggle when the new CEO speaks (you are above your boss’ husband and his weird haircut, damnit).

5) Accept promotion!

You see how easy that was? Ba-na-nas.

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Career Advice from Walt Disney

September 21st, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Mickey Mouse
Image by J.E.S. via Flickr

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

– Walt Disney

The young Walt Disney’s first business went bankrupt, but he didn’t give up on his dreams.

After returning to Kansas City after a stint as an ambulance driver during World War 1, Disney worked as a draftsman and inker in commercial art studios before starting his own small studio with a partner. The two made short advertising films for local businesses with a second-hand camera while working on their animation passion projects on the side.

Unfortunately, the company ran out of money after  a deal with a New York film distributor went sour and Walt was forced to declare bankruptcy  in 1923.

Despite this blow to the ego, Walt packed up his latest unfinished animation project and moved to California to mooch $250 from his brother Roy and set up shop with him in their uncle’s garage. Soon they were generating some  cash flow from producing short animated featurettes for Hollywood.

In 1928, Walt came up with the idea for Mickey Mouse. Mickey’s first film appearance in Steamboat Willie (1928) was a sensation. However, due to the costs of producing animated films, the business was “continuously in peril” for years.

Eventually, the money started rolling in. However, Disney went on to risk it all several times over the course of his career. He credited his early failure with giving him the strength to take big risks, which paid off in big rewards over the course of Disney’s very big career.

So if you have big talent and a big dream, but have been kicked in the teeth by the current economy, remember Disney’s advice. That kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you and if you can dream it, you can do it.

Read more about the life and career of Walt Disney.

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Labor Day Success Inventory — The Fruits of Your Labors

September 5th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

beachlabordayHappy Labor Day weekend! Labor Day was established in 1882 by the American labor movement as a yearly tribute to the contributions of workers.

Today, I also encourage my career coaching clients and students to think of Labor Day as a day to celebrate the joys of meaningful work (between cold beers and volleyball games). That means pausing to pat yourself on the back for the good work that you’ve done this year and give thanks for the opportunities that you’ve been given.

For those in transition or marking time in a frustrating job, it might also mean taking a step back to re-evaluate your long-term career strategy. Remember: You are not trapped. Even in this job market, there are opportunities. You may have to invest a bit more time and creativity to achieve your goals in a challenging economic environment. But that makes the achievement all the sweeter.

Whether you’re happily employed in your dream job or struggling to find a new path, I have a Labor Day exercise that will help you take stock of where you are and spark  some ideas for the next chapter of your career.

It only takes a few minutes and can totally change your perspective on labor. For best results, complete the exercise while relaxing on the beach, in the park, or in the backyard (with cold beer, iced tea, or frozen margarita close at hand).

The Exercise: 2009 Labor Day Success Inventory

The goal of the Success Inventory is to look back at your greatest successes in life so far. The easiest way to approach this is to divide your life into 3 or 4 segments — for example: birth to age 12, 12-24, and 24-46. For each stretch of time, list your most memorable accomplishments.

Think about school and job milestones, but also look beyond graduations, promotions, and awards. Think about learning to ride a bike, organizing a charity fundraiser, running your first 10K, knitting your first sweater.

What achievements are you most proud of? Which were the most fun? Which had you forgotten about until prompted by this exercise?

What’s the Point?

Come on, get out your notebook or open up a fresh file in Microsoft Word and start cataloging your shining moments so far. The results may surprise you.

My clients always tell me that they walk away from this exercise with renewed confidence and feelings of empowerment. During tough times, we often forget about all of the amazing things we’ve accomplished in the past and all of the challenges that we’ve already overcome.

This exercise can also help you spot some trends and patterns that merit further exploration. Why is it that all of the best moments in your life involved music? Isn’t it interesting that your biggest triumphs revolved around public speaking?

Does your current career give you opportunities to leverage your greatest talents? If not, how can you change that?

On Labor Day weekend, take some time to celebrate the fruits of your labors so far and think about what you want to achieve in the future. What will your legacy be? What do you want to celebrate next Labor Day?

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Genius may conceive, but patient labor must consummate.”

– Horace Mann, American educator

Here’s to another year of genius and patient (and fulfilling) labor.

P.S. If you’re in New York City, check out these other ideas for fun things to do over Labor Day weekend. After you’ve inventoried your successes, you’ll be ready to celebrate.

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Oscar Wilde (and George Costanza) on Productivity

July 8th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

Oscar Wilde“We live in the age of the overworked, and the under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid. And, harsh though it may sound, I cannot help but saying that such people deserve their doom. The sure way to know nothing about life is to try to make oneself useful.”

— Oscar Wilde

This quote struck me today. Oscar Wilde wrote these words in 1891, but they could easily have been blogged, tweeted, or podcast today.

Sometimes it seems like everyone that I know is competing for the title of Busiest Human Alive (including me). It’s a thankless title that doesn’t even come with a tiara, but we’ve bought into the myth that true virtue lies in always completing your to-do list (and  quickly!) .

Your worth is measured by the number of hours that you work, the number of emails that you process, the number of people on your connections list, the number of tasks that you check off (and the amount of money that it all generates).

Is this obsession with productivity making us stupider? Only if you take it too far. I personally love being busy. But there’s a certain point at which I see diminishing returns from all of that activity.

My best ideas always come to me when I step away from the daily task list — when I’m taking a walk, reading a great novel, chatting with a friend over a drink, sitting in the park people-watching. That’s because I need space to process all of the stimulus, all of the new information that I’m taking in 24/7. I need occasional moments of quiet and zero productivity.  I need a long-lens view to  see the big picture, to make the interesting connections between the ideas swirling around in my head.

Productivity is a beautiful thing. But you need inspiration and creativity to fuel and channel that productivity into work that’s truly meaningful.

So don’t let your to-do list kill your brain cells. Summer is the perfect time to step away from that daily grind and invite your muse over for a visit.  Schedule some time for brilliance — read an intriguing book that has nothing to do with your job, make a dinner date with someone who challenges your brain, or take an afternoon to play hooky at the museum or lying in the grass with your journal.

Here’s another quote from the brilliant Mr. Wilde to help you remember what it’s all about: “I don’t want to earn my living; I want to live.”

georgecostanzaannoyedAnd if you work for a boss who frowns upon such frivolities as taking time to think, try a tip from George Costanza (a man not known for thinking or for productivity): “If you look annoyed all the time, people think you’re busy.”

Look annoyed, be happy.

Career Advice from Michael Jordan

June 21st, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

michael_jordan014“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

– Michael Jordan

I love this quote from Michael Jordan. For months, I have been researching the best practices of the most innovative companies and the most successful entrepreneurs. The most dramatic success stories all  include lots of failure stories along the way.

Fail and learn from your failures and keep moving ahead. Be like Mike.

Career Advice from Einstein — Is This Your Miracle Year?

May 18th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

einsteinIn 1905, Albert Einstein wrote a series of papers that changed our view of the universe forever. Historians refer to Einstein’s 1905 as annus mirabilis, the miracle year. In one year, Einstein discovered the special theory of relativity, the quantum theory of light, and the groundbreaking equation E = mc2 (and these are just the highlights…read more about Einstein’s Miracle Year).

He did all of this while working a 40-hour week as a clerk in the Swiss patent office. For those in career transition, the most interesting part of this story is what Einstein was doing before 1905.

Einstein as Office Drone

I already mentioned that Einstein was working as a patent office clerk — not exactly a job suitable for a genius. Well, the famous physicist didn’t even land that clerk job on his own. A friend had to pull some strings for him because Einstein’s university grades were so low (one teacher famously told him that nothing would ever become of him).

Einstein was barely making enough money to support his wife and young child. And in 1904, he was passed over for a promotion to patent clerk second class.

Luckily, the young genius never gave up on his passion for physics. Whenever he had a spare moment during the workday, he would jot down notes and hide them in a drawer that he jokingly called his department of theoretical physics. read more…

Twitter Idea Party with Barbara Sher

March 12th, 2009

Written by Pamela Skillings

I have been resisting Twitter for a while now.  I can see the addiction potential  and it scares me a little.

But I was finally inspired to spend a little more time exploring Twitter after reading about Barbra Sher’s ongoing Twitter idea party to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her landmark book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want.

Barbara Sher is an amazing person — brilliant, funny, and incredibly generous with her ideas. She also is the inventor of the concept of the Idea Party, which she has now moved to Twitter. An Idea Party is just a gathering of smart, creative people who get together to brainstorm and share resources. Each guest presents a wish or a goal and what obstacles are holding them back. Then everyone else chimes in with ideas, connections, and resources that could help. You see, Barbara believes that isolation is the dream killer and that  every one of us knows somebody who knows a shortcut to our goal.

On Thursday, March 12 (that’s today) and on Tuesday, March 19, from noon to midnight, New York time, Barbara will be hosting a TWITTER IDEA PARTY that you can jump into whenever you want, for as long as you want, for free.  Here are instructions (including instructions for those who need to set up a Twitter account first — it takes two seconds).

Bring a wish and an obstacle that is standing in your way. Then sit back and watch as people start tweeting ideas and solutions. Barbara will personally be there to offer advice for all twelve hours on both days (with just brief breaks to walk the dog). Believe me, this is a unique opportunity to get advice and ideas from a master. I will also be joining the fun later this afternoon (I will blame Barbara if I develop a hopeless addiction to Twitter as a result).

And mark your calendar for March 24, the official 30th Anniversary of Wishcraft.  Barbara will be hosting a 24-hour GLOBAL IDEA PARTY, which can be listened to via internet radio, and responded to by instant messaging. People will be able to call and IM from all over the world. Here’s a description of the party.

See you on Twitter.