Are you at a career crossroads?

Work today is changing at a fast pace. We all need to become far more entrepreneurial and outward facing. It's tough out there. Sharpen these skills and you'll notice an immediate impact on your productivity levels and the choices you are making about your career.

Career crossroads
Career crossroads
(Image credit: Rex Features)

Work today is changing at a fast pace. We all need to become far more entrepreneurial and outward facing. It's tough out there. Sharpen these skills and you'll notice an immediate impact on your productivity levels and the choices you are making about your career.

We are living in times of unprecedented change and exciting opportunity. The tools and technologies we use at work, technology itself, economic cuts, increased workload and information overload, performance-based work and short-term contracts as well as juggling home life and relationships are making a huge impact. It’s a wonder we can survive in such a harsh environment, never mind thrive. But thrive we can, and women, especially are in a unique position to do just that. Why? Because the skills and competences you need right now are all interpersonal ones. Ones that will help you stay one step ahead in the midst of change and uncertainty. Ones that you naturally have already and can develop more.

You’ll always be one step ahead if you can strengthen each of these skills:


• Open your mind. An open mind allows fresh ideas to come in and can help you with your plans and goals – answers and solutions will come more quickly. You’ll see opportunities others might miss, discount or neglect. How to have an open mind? Challenge any limiting beliefs you hold, become more aware of your own ‘mental scripts’ and challenge your own ‘rut’ thinking. If your ‘usual’ way of responding to something is comforting, inviting, familiar, try changing it and see what happens.

• Improvise. Don’t over-think and second-guess every single thing that you do. Practise being spontaneous, so accept that last-minute invitation, change your plans, walk into the presentation smiling with confidence knowing you will do well (as long as you’ve put in the work of course!). Grab that opportunity – it may not come again.

Become more adaptable day-to-day and you will be better equipped to deal with the bigger changes that are coming your way.

Critical thinking

• Question assumptions. Wherever the assumptions come from, question them. Critical thinkers are curious and look to find the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind everything. Become more forensic when presented with a situation – try to work out where assumptions are being made.

• Learn how to deal with ambiguity. You may like things to be crystal clear, but the speed of life, business intertwined with global factors and technology mean that you might never get to know all the variables. Get comfortable operating in an environment where change is constant and fast decisions are required.

Critical thinking skills can make a big difference. Many of us are flitting from thing to thing stuffing as much as possible into our days but we can be so much more efficient, creative and effective by building critical thinking into our day-to-day.


• Slow down. Build in reflection time and mindfulness as much as you can. Rushing from one stimulus to another makes you less empathetic to others. If nothing else, try being still and silent for a short time and breathe deeply. You can do this whilst waiting for a train instead of automatically pulling out your smartphone.

• Start listening. Really listening, without interruption or judgement. Try it the very next time you have a conversation with someone and watch the difference it makes.

Empathy is not about being ‘soft’ or sympathetic. It helps us develop dynamic relationships. And your relationships are now your only true sources of competitive advantage. Our natural instinct is to focus on ourselves but empathy can be developed.


• Be responsible. Start being more accountable. Keep promises and do things that you said you would do. Make commitments to stick to them instead of making excuses.

• Be boring. Being consistent and predictable may sound boring but in our world of uncertainty, rapid change and roller-coaster lifestyles, being consistent and reliable are positive attributes because they demonstrate integrity.

Your integrity has a positive ripple effect on your fundamental relationships, decisions and life direction. Integrity is rewarding because you can be your authentic self and ultimately, do and achieve more.


• Work out your explanatory style – monitor how you respond to events in your everyday life. What is your default response if something does not go according to plan or you get some bad news? Take some time to understand yourself – you’re the only one you can.

• Forget positive thinking – it’s exhausting apart from anything else! The way to healthy positivity is through knowing yourself and taking responsibility and action.

Optimism isn’t something that some people just ‘have’ and others don’t. We all need to start learning healthy optimism through becoming more self-aware.

Being proactive

• Light up the room. Just for one day be a light, not a judge; a model, not a critic. Choose to be part of the solution, not the problem. Try it the next time you are in a meeting or having a conversation. Work on the one thing you have control over – you!

• Commit to being proactive. Think of something you have coming up where you might not normally take the initiative. What would be a proactive way to respond? Do that.

Proactivity is crucial, even when things are going well. We all need to up our proactivity to lead more rewarding lives.


• Celebrate failure. You will always miss 100% of any opportunity you don’t take so you might as well take them! And celebrate any failure – that can be a launch pad for change and the best way to learn absolutely anything.

• Take more risks – Making mistakes builds resistance. Say ‘yes’ more to opportunities and ideas that come up around you.

You may not think you are naturally resilient but by doing simple things each day you will start to deal better with setbacks and change.

The Advantage by Emma Sue Prince is published by Pearson, available now, priced £12.99. Find out more at

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