Laurie Ruettimann was uninspired. She blamed others and herself for her unhappiness. That was 10 years ago, when she realized she couldn’t sit around and wait for change. She had to be her own leader.
Today, Ruettimann is a successful podcaster and LinkedIn Learning instructor. It’s also instructive that she has compiled life lessons into her book, “Betting on You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career.”
She talked with Chelsea Krost, a millennial expert, global speaker, LinkedIn instructor and marketing and branding strategist, during Krost’s #MillennialTalk Twitter chat about how to capitalize on Ruettimann’s insights.
When work is broken, people naturally ask what’s going on with their personal life. How do they show up for themselves and others? It’s tough to separate adversity at work from personal life. The threat of collateral damage is real.
“If your personal life is in turmoil, it will eventually affect your professional life,” Krost said.
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“I absolutely believe that work is only as good as your personal life,” Ruettimann said. “You can’t escape who you are. No job can hide internal chaos. The point of life is to fix it and get better.
“The good news is that you can work on yourself,” she said. “It has a positive carryover effect on your job. Fix you, fix work. That’s the equation.”
Sign of bad times
Finding yourself sitting still in your career when all about you are moving on is a sign that something isn’t right with you or your management.
“If you wait for a sign from someone else that your career is going well, that sign comes from Human Resources,” Ruettimann said. “Nobody’s got time for that. The biggest sign is Sunday Night Scaries or Monday Morning Dread. If you would rather disappear than work, you’ve got a problem.
“If you’re not meeting your personal goals, it’s time to ask yourself why,” she said. “It’s a bad sign when you can’t remember the last time work got you excited.”
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Another red flag is when things feel out of place.
“It’s when expectations of what you thought was your ‘dream job’ are not aligning with your current job or career,” Krost said.
Ruettimann takes a Grim Reaper perspective.
“Technically, all problems are short term and resolve themselves,” she said. “Then we die. What matters is the degree of anxiety and discomfort they cause.”
Those with successful careers have overcome rejection — perhaps many times. In sales, the saying is that each No brings you closer to a Yes. As motivating as that might be, it’s a tough pill to swallow when it’s your career that’s on the line.
“No is a complete sentence, but it’s also an invitation for you to think about why you’re hearing No and get to the root cause,” Ruettimann said. “Maybe it’s not simply No. Maybe it’s ‘not right now’ or ‘take another path.
“I am terrible with rejection, which is funny because I’m rejected regularly and push through, but oh man it’s so hard,” she said. “When you hear No, you can always ask for feedback. What would make it a Yes? Is there anything you can work on?”
Beyond only you
Rejection typically leaves a bad taste.
“Most of us are not comfortable with rejection,” Krost said. “It’s how we handle it that ultimately matters. Realize that sometimes it’s not simply about you, but that someone else might be a slightly better fit.
“Keep the job search process moving forward even when you ‘think’ you’re a candidate for a job,” she said. “Not putting all your eggs in one basket will lessen any disappointment and increase your opportunities.”
The biggest challenge is not letting a turn down affect self-worth.
“We have a hard time understanding that rejection doesn’t mean that we are any less valuable as a human being or in our professional life,” Krost said.
Just because your career is off the rails doesn’t mean you have to suffer.
“When your career is in the tank, it’s the best time to detach from work and focus on your well-being and happiness,” Ruettimann said. “What’s the worst that can happen? It’s already the worst.
“The best hobbies come from times of tension and turmoil,” she said. “Find something you enjoy, and double down on that. Get curious about the outside world.”
At the same time, be a glass-half-full person.
“Work at staying positive,” Krost said. “Don’t isolate yourself from your friends and family. We tend to lose sight of that when we’re dealing with a lot of stress.
“Keep active,” she said. “Working out or practicing yoga can help to improve your mood and keep you balanced.”
Stay true to yourself
Toxic work environments have a harmful impact on health.
“We say we can’t disconnect from work, but that’s a lie,” Ruettimann said. “Schedule time to disconnect and dare yourself to honor it.
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Professional help is also an option.
“Everybody believes in therapy, but sometimes it’s so hard to start up, carve out time and trust that you’ll get something out of it,” Ruettimann said. “Therapy is better than suffering in silence. Just give it another shot.”
Whatever means you use to keep safely away will help.
“While at work, maintain your distance from toxic conversations,” Krost said. “Focus on your work and not on gossip and drama.
“Arrive early so you don’t rush to make it to work on time,” she said. “Rushing creates added stress and doesn’t allow you to get your thoughts together and make the transition from your home to work mindset.”
Finances can foul relationships personally and professionally. Taking control of money can free up career opportunities.
“Set aside money in an emergency fund,” Krost said. “That eases the pressure of forcing yourself to keep going back into an adverse environment. Focus instead on more casually seeking alternatives.
“Set up a monthly budget and cut out all unnecessary purchases,” she said. “Stop using credit cards.”
Controlling financial assets
Entrepreneurs rely on good financial practices no matter how they slice them.
“When I first became a freelancer, I ran my business like it was a family-owned pizzeria,” Ruettimann said. “Getting my life on Intuit QuickBooks saved me so much heartache. That was worth the investment.
“My credit union was essential in helping me learn to budget for my business,” she said. “Financial literacy programs are everywhere. If you struggle, it’s time to take an online class.”
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If you’re stuck in your career, take the initiative to be the master of your work domain.
“I love LinkedIn Learning for opportunities to take quick classes and learn from experts,” Ruettimann said. “I also love libraries. They’re mostly open now. Go take a peek. Librarians miss you.
“All learning is valuable,” she said. “I’m going out of my way to watch lectures, find esoteric documentaries unrelated to work and view random TED Talks that would normally not appeal to me.”
Krost noted that LinkedIn Learning is a “great resource” that provides the opportunity to learn about topics without spending a fortune.
Careers are not set in stone. Workers change jobs much like college students change majors. Flexibility is good for careers as well as keeping your sanity.
“Determine what you are really passionate about,” Krost said. “What are your work values? If they don’t align with your personal values, you’re probably not going to be happy long term.”
Strength from inside
Career motivation ought to spring from within.
“Goals should come from your heart, not your boss,” Ruettimann said. “Goals make you a better person, regardless of your job.
“None of us knows what we want to be when we grow up,” she said. “Try stuff, fail, try again. That’s the way it goes. Make it fun, and you won’t suffer.”
If work outlook is bleak, Ruettimann suggests a totally radical course.
“Be a slacker,” she said. “It’s hard to get fired in America. Trust me, I worked in HR. Dare them. If you can’t be a slacker at your corporate job during a pandemic, when can you do it?
“Find a work buddy, and make a commitment to achieving a goal — 5K runs, hiking or even learning how to knit,” Ruettimann said. “Bond over activities outside of work. We’ve hit on that theme a lot. That’s because it’s correct.”
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