Rules of Thumb: Holiday Shopping & Your Career

By: Knoel Kambak It’s December, which means the weather is getting noticeably colder, the daylight hours shorter and there is only a matter of weeks left to get your holiday shopping done. As I sit in my office at work spending countless hours online shopping for gifts for family and friends (note to employer: I am not spending countless hours online shopping for gifts) I realize that many rules of thumb that apply to effective holiday gift shopping also apply to success in one’s professional career.

Here are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind:

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. As much as I want to believe that a $20 appliance can solve dozens of my kitchen quandaries and provide me with a year-round beach-worthy tan, it will likely fail in all respects. I’m sure somewhere along the line you had high hopes for something you bought or received as a gift, only to have it not live up to the manufacturer’s promises. The same thing can happen in your career. Ever sought out a new job before? A job change is ripe for this rule of thumb. Usually new job opportunities are presented in the most positive light, but you need to be realistic as to what the opportunity actually entails.

You need to be skeptical about the details and realistic about your skill set. While the opportunity to become a C-level executive of a company with just a few years of experience under your belt sounds great, the realities of a real C-level position should tip you off that this may be too good to be true.

Seek out feedback. One of the best ways to address the problems described in the previous paragraph is to get feedback from others. In regards to shopping for gifts, reading online reviews and asking people you know that have used a certain product before helps prevent disappointment after a purchase is made. In your career, you can help prevent a poorly thought out job change through seeking out information from others (e.g. past and present employees of the prospective employer.)

There are also many aspects of your job performance you can improve and develop through feedback. Getting feedback on your work is typically part of your company’s processes (e.g. performance review from a supervisor) but getting feedback from clients and professional acquaintances should also be sought out, especially for feedback on presentations and “soft skills.” Many times the feedback you get from those outside of your company is different, and more useful, than internally. Plus it never hurts to have a wide variety of people providing opinions.

Think of others. In deciding on gifts for others, it is difficult to fully remove one’s personal preferences from the final decision. As much as we consciously try to pick gifts that someone else will like, the decision process is filtered through our own set of values and preferences, whether consciously or not. One way to overcome this is become a good observer. Pay attention to what the person you are buying a gift for talks about and how they talk about different items. You can employ the point from the last paragraph and ask some of the person’s friends what he or she might want as a gift based on what they have observed. Or you just cut to the chase, and ask that person what they would want as a gift.

Professionally, you should always consider your audience. Even if you just turn out sheets of numbers all day, someone else is relying on those sheets of numbers and you should try to include only the information that is important to the person(s) relying on it (and omit the information that is superfluous.)