It’s been absolutely zonks since we featured a Successful Brit in Toronto, maybe because we’ve all been caught up in the excitement of the Pan Am Games or something.
What made you decide to choose Toronto as a city of choice? Did you plan a permanent move, or wanted to “try it for a while and see how it goes” and it turned out to be longer than planned?
My decision to move here came at a time when I was searching for “more” — more from my career, more ways to see the world, and more opportunities for myself that I knew wouldn’t be possible from my relatively small Scottish hometown.
It’s been nearly two years now and I’m excited to see what’s next!
What steps did you take to land your first Toronto job? Did the infamous “Canadian experience” hinder you in any…
I am lucky enough to be under the direction of a group of passionate, ambitious individuals who want nothing more than to see their business – and its people – excel.
I strongly believe that the first step to being successful in a business begins with having the same values and goals as those who lead. During the first few minutes of my interview, my director said: “This is not a nine to five job.” And I thought, “good.” Because that wasn’t what I wanted.
For me, work is not, and never has been, sitting in front of a computer and counting down the hours until you get to go home. In order to be good at something – really good at it – you have to believe in it. You have to believe that every single minute you spend in front of that desk is valuable and rewarding and worthwhile. It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to want to be really good at your job if you hate it.
So where do you start?
1. Don’t let negativity drag you down
One of my directors lives by a saying: “don’t let toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and get them out of there.”
That person who’s complaining about having to do overtime? Ignore them. What’s so terrible about having a few extra hours to help you keep on top of your workload and a few extra dollars in your pay check the next month?
Negativity is contagious and if you let the trivial gripes and grumbles of others get to you, it can have a damaging effect on the way you feel about work – and, ultimately, yourself.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
I have at least four close colleagues across the span of my company that I know I can always count on for a positive attitude and a helpful idea.
How can you tell how those people are? They are the people who leave you feeling energised and motivated after a conversation – not worried and overwhelmed. Even at the busiest, most demanding times, those people will offer a helping hand or a fresh approach to a problem. Strive to be one of those people and they will gravitate towards you.
Do your best to keep these colleagues close – they are invaluable to your company and to you. They are going places, and you might just get to go with them if you try hard enough.
3. Be your own brand
We are the Twitter generation. But don’t let the deluge of articles about “lazy millennials” tell you otherwise – this is not a bad thing. Stop tweeting about your weekend regrets and start filling your feed with industry news, interesting articles, and occasional updates on what your company’s been doing.
On social media, we are what we post – whether we like it or not. You don’t have to censor yourself (too much) and you definitely don’t have to lose your personality – you just have to use it properly. Be engaging, responsive, and genuine; you’ll soon build a loyal following of like-minded people who are interested in communicating with you and hearing about what you do.
If you’re serious about doing this, you can use TwitWipe to erase your Twitter history (don’t let the questionable name put you off). Once you’ve done that, get yourself set up on Klout or Buffer, where you can curate relevant content and schedule your tweets to post at times when they are most likely to be noticed.
This doesn’t stop with social media, though. In “real life” conversations, be a positive ambassador for your company and yourself and you’ll soon begin to see the benefits.
4. Persevere – even when you feel like giving up
Have you ever woken up and felt like crawling back until the covers for the day? I have.
Even if you love your job, there are days every now and then when, for whatever reason, you just don’t want to drag yourself out of bed. Make a cup of coffee, get it together, and walk into the office with a smile on your face.
Being reliable and consistent helps to build trust with your colleagues and lets them know that they can count on you. With any luck, they’ll return the favour!
5. Learn how and when to say, “no”
If you are proactive in taking on additional work or are often the first employee to step forward to lead a project, others will begin to see you as the “go-to” person when they’re looking for extra help with something. This is an achievement – it means that people view you as helpful, capable, and supportive.
But there will be times when a colleague asks for your assistance with something and you’ll know that while you’d like to jump in and save the day, you already have too much on your plate.
It’s instinctive to want to help in such situations but agreeing to do so can often have an adverse effect – it isn’t worth taking time away from more pressing matters to your detriment if you can let someone else with more workload flexibility step in and be the hero.
In these circumstances, it’s best to first ask how urgent the task in question is. Can it wait until next week? If so, great! If not, now is the time to:
Explain that you don’t feel you have sufficient time to dedicate to completing the task with the care and effort it deserves
Discuss the opportunity with a trustworthy, willing colleague and suggest that he/she gets involved instead
Saying “no,” when you should will eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress and your colleagues will respect you for having the responsibility and foresight to delegate when you need to.
When we were children, our parents and teachers told us that we could be anything we wanted to be. As we grow older, we begin to realise that this isn’t entirely true – but it isn’t far off the mark.
You can be amazing – or more amazing than you already are – at what you do. It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of hard work and, if you’re anything like me, countless late-night Starbucks sessions: but you can.
And if all else fails – I’m pretty sure you can find an article on the Internet somewhere that will tell you how to be really good at being a human burrito.
I overthink every single minuscule, seemingly unimportant detail when it comes to things I care about.
I care about work, so I always strive for perfection in everything that I do. If I’m pushed for time, I fret over being unable to proofread a proposal as many times as I’d like to before I’ve turned it in – even if I know that the spelling is perfect and the concepts are sound. If I’m pitching a new, slightly “out there” idea, until I hear feedback telling me otherwise, I worry that my colleagues will think it’s unrealistic or unattainable – even if my gut tells me that it’s good and I should believe in myself.
I care about writing, so I check over blog posts, reports, and even emails several times before sending them on their way. Before I began writing this, I spent ten minutes Googling whether to use “overthink,” or “over-think.” Seriously. (Thanks, dictionary.com!)
Overthinkers often spend time and energy planning for potential problems which never come to fruition. The upshot is that once that thing you’ve been getting worked up about has passed without complication, you ask yourself, “why was I so worried about that in the first place?” – but don’t. The act of overthinking can be invaluable in business and in life if you learn how to make it work for you, not against you.
Using your tendency to overthink to prepare yourself
As someone who meticulously weighs up the possible impact and effect of every conceivable consequence before making a decision, I know that overthinking can be a burden that rests heavy in your head – especially when you are faced with tough choices. (I’m not talking about having to make a split-second decision on whether you want a vanilla latte or a caramel macchiato when you’re one person away from the front of the queue at Starbucks – you’re on your own with that one.) However, a propensity for scrupulous planning and constant balancing of “what-ifs” can work to your advantage.
Overthinkers always have a contingency plan if something goes wrong. When a potentially problematic situation arises, I am rarely left wondering, “how do I handle this?” – because I’ve already considered an infinitude of ways in which a situation could develop and thought about how I would resolve or alleviate the result of those developments to create a positive outcome.
When you find your mind frantically cycling through the pages of an imaginary flipchart titled, “Things That Could Go Wrong,” step back and take a breath. For each of the potential issues that you’ve identified, think about what you would do to counteract or eliminate them. You can even write your ideas down if it helps you to organise your thoughts.
Knowing how and when to prevent yourself from overthinking
Overthinking can be draining – particularly when the subject of your excessively analytical attentions is something which is out with your control. The problem with overthinking is that you can’t just turn it off – if you are an overthinker, you will know that it is going to take time and discipline to learn how to stop yourself from being sucked into the quicksands of senseless stress every time something has you veering into imaginary flipchart territory.
The first step is learning to realise when your overthinking has shifted from productive to pointless. I figured this out the hard way years ago after spending several sleepless nights obsessing over an impending meeting then having to quickly gulp down three double espressos beforehand to get myself through because I was so tired.
Now, when I realise that I’m beginning to become consumed by futile overthinking, I try to distract myself and use my energy in a more positive way by:
Get comfortable in a tidy room with no distractions and lose yourself in the pages of a book. Write down unfamiliar words and look up their definitions. Scribble quotations in the back of a notebook and come back to them the next time you need to settle your mind. The benefits of reading are rich and plentiful and time spent with a good book is never time wasted.
Go walking. Go jogging. Go uni-cycling, if that’s your thing. Exercise is great for forcing you to focus on one thing, and one thing alone (which for me, means concentrating on not dying in a breathless heap while running through the streets of Toronto).
It sounds counterintuitive, but opening up your laptop and working through your emails or researching information for a new project can help you to regain a sense of control and can also be beneficial to your career. You can also scope out opportunities to assist a struggling or snowed-under colleague – and that’s a situation which works out well for everyone.
And even if nothing I’ve talked about helps – the world will always have double espressos.