So you’ve been in your current job long enough to know the drill and you’re ready to step up. Perhaps you're bored, crazy ambitious or you just need higher digits on that monthly pay cheque - don’t we all - it’s a promotion you’re after, but how do you go about getting one?
Whether you’re uneasy about putting yourself forward or confused as to why you’ve not smashed that glass ceiling yet, we’ve compiled a list of the best TED Talks for career development. TED Talk smash hits that will help blow away those mmms and ahhhs and give you a kick towards a ‘yes, I got this.’
1. Remember, you’re already basically a unicorn
As the fast talking CEO of Good Think Inc, Shawn Achor points out in his talk The Happy Secret to Better Work, we look at happiness in totally the wrong way. The general story goes that we need to work hard at school to get into university, work hard for the job we want, and then work hard to get promoted… and so it continues.
We go through life thinking in this way, seemingly to achieve some kind of mythical, nirvana like state of ultimate happiness. It’s as if we’re constantly chasing that happy unicorn to ride into the sunset, but there’s always another damn hurdle in our way.
Well, Achor has news – like Mark Corrigan procrastinating over Project Zeus and then jumping out the window to hide in the car park - this isn’t a productive way to think. Literally, our brains function better when we appreciate how happy we are already. By reversing the 'hard work equals happiness' equation, we can reap the rewards. Studies show that we’re more creative and work faster when our brains are filled with happy dopamine - and therefore, a promotion is far more likely.
This talk provides helpful tips for daily methods to get happy, which surprisingly isn’t just scoffing a whole box of Maltesers - sorry. Give this talk a quick watch and you’ll soon be flying higher and happier than Pharrell with a kite.
“If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully as we're able to work harder, faster and more intelligently. We need to be able to reverse this formula so we can start to see what our brains are actually capable of. Because dopamine... turns on all of the learning centres in your brain allowing you to adapt to the world in a different way."
2. Live Life From A New Perspective Like Panic! At The Disco
It’s time to rock on like Brendan from Panic! at the Disco and, like their song says, ‘live life from a new perspective’. While brand identity expert Rory Sutherland may not have the rock ‘n’ roll allure of Brendan - he know’s how to rock when it comes to shifting your perspective. In his talk Perspective is Everything, he addresses the distinction between reality and perception. Demonstrating how it’s our psychological perception that really matters to get overall satisfaction. This applies to how we view our autonomy and ourselves, but also how others perceive us too.
Let’s say your colleague Gary gets a promotion after spending half his time checking his fantasy football account, while you’re slogging away wondering how he managed to pip you to the post. The answer may lie in the fact that Gary already walks around as if he owns the place. Psychologically, he already views himself as having greater control - and others will too.
This doesn’t mean you should start boasting about your 80s dancing abilities à la David Brent in order to be more memorable. But it does mean that you should reframe yourself in order to be in the running for a promotion. You could make sure you're catching up regularly with your boss so that they take note of your recent achievements. Stand out in a good way i.e. through your behaviour, not by donning your Lady Gaga or Pimp Daddy getup - and you might find that you’re rewarded for your hard work.
“… the power to rebrand things - to understand that our experiences, costs, things don't actually much depend on what they really are, but on how we view them - I genuinely think can't be overstated."
3. Pitch it like Paddy with the power in your hands
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy is a big fan of the power pose. But before you start beating your chest and throw your leg up on the desk in your next meeting - not recommended - watch her talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. You’ll discover how open poses can significantly boost your confidence and help you prep for an interview or important meeting - even when noone is watching.
Cuddy demonstrates how getting into the habit of open poses can actually affect the chemistry in our bodies, and produce the hormones needed to reduce stress and improve our self belief. The key here is to think more Usain Bolt – open, strong and ready for action - and less Donald Trump – who tends to puff out like a pouting pigeon.
Just make sure if you’re practicing in the toilets at work, your interviewer doesn’t walk in and catch you in a superhero pose.
“Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes… Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it.”
4. Zoom out to look at the bigger picture
You’re working hard, producing great results, but you’re still not going anywhere. It’s SO infuriating - not to sound like a human meme, but - you got this, right? You’re confident and talented, so what’s missing?
In her talk The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get, CEO and founder of Leading Women Susan Colantuono hits on a key aspect of leadership that is frequently ignored. But it’s simple: you need to zoom out and look at the overall picture. Where does your business need to get to, and how are you going to make it happen?
Without this kind of strategic thinking, you can work your socks off and still never get past middle management. Although this talk is primarily aimed at women, the key lessons apply to everyone. Whether you’re a highflying leadership junkie or a mild mannered middle management mouse, this talk will help you be more lion and get that promotion.
“… we have to begin to focus more on developing and demonstrating the skills we have that show that we're people who understand our businesses, where they're headed, and our role in taking it there. That's what enables that breakthrough from middle management to leadership at the top."
5. Use your almost achievements to your advantage
Was that promotion almost yours but someone else got it? Or perhaps you went for a job with more responsibility, got through to the final rounds but you just didn’t get it. We’ve all been there, what you want is always within reach, but you feel extra rubbish for having lost out so narrowly.
Switch your perspective and there is actually a positive here if instead you focus on your proximity to that goal, rather than seeing it as a missed target. This is the lesson that art historian Sarah Lewis shares in her talk, Embrace the Near Win. She explains that once you see how near you’ve come to achieving your initial aim, you begin to realise that a lot more is actually possible - and that awareness is far more valuable in the long run.
Like a top wingman on a night out, this talk will spur you on and help you learn from ‘nah not interested mate’ brush offs, so you can reach new heights and bag your match. After this talk you may well decide to move on to another gaff and nab an even better role elsewhere. As Yoda says, “You must feel the Force around you.”
“Success motivates us but a near-win can propel us in an ongoing quest… The reason the near win has a propulsion is because it changes our view of the landscape, and puts our goals, which we tend to put at a distance, into more proximate vicinity to where we stand.”
Get watching in prep for that promotion
It’s perfectly normal to want more. If for you that means getting a promotion, then don’t let those nagging fears or insecurities get in the way. Think back to a moment in your childhood when you dared to ask for more [insert favourite snack here] and got it. Asking for more can be scary, sure, but it’s always worth the risk when you get your just deserts.
These TED Talks for career development should give you the zingy boost you need, helping you to shift your mindset and prepare to nab that promotion. Think of them like a row of delicious ice cold cocktails you can down to reap all the benefits. Without the risk of any dodgy drunken office party scenario taking place as a result.
If you’re looking to shake things up further and boost your confidence, you could also check out our list of Empowering TED Talks to inspire a career change.