For Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, it is people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference in other people's lives. For Jennifer Dulski, president and COO of Change.org, it's the struggle. For Gretchen Rubin, author and of "The Happiness Project," it's reading.
Inspiration. It's what gets us up in the wee hours of the morning, compels us to try the thing that feels impossible and makes the missed Sunday at the beach worthwhile. Inspiration is what helps us to transition from a mediocre career to an exceptional one. If you've yet to find it, have found it and lost it, or want to gain the inspiration to work a little harder, here are some tips that will help you get there.
Inspiration begets inspiration. If you want more inspiration in your career, borrow it from others. Inspiration has a contagious nature and if you're lacking it in your own career you can catch some from others. Pick up the biography of someone you feel in awe of or someone who has done something that gives you even an inkling of "could I do that?" You may not turn into Mother Theresa, but her commitment to help others may, for example, inspire you to mentor the young woman down the hall. The flipside of borrowing inspiration is sharing it. What articles are you reading that you've found compelling? Tell your network about it. Upload photos, videos and presentations that you are most proud of to capture and demonstrate what you're working on to inspire others.
Get out and do something. People talk about inspiration with a capital I. They say the word with reverence, like you need to hold a séance to conjure it up from the Great Beyond. But here's the deal: You're not going to find, create or build any sense of inspiration sitting on the couch. Often people will mistakenly wait for inspiration to reach out and tap them on the shoulder when in fact inspiration requires action … by you. Whether it be tying a career goal to running your first mile or joining a group of fellow entrepreneurs, the action is both a trigger to and motivator of inspiration.
What's your why? At the root of inspiration is your motivation. If you've found your sense of inspiration dwindling, some of the most effective questions you can ask yourself are: Why am I doing the work I'm doing? Whom is my work impacting? How does it make a difference in the lives of others? Inspiration strengthens in direct proportion to its impact on others. If you've lost touch with your why, or can't even conjure up what it once was, there are two tricks to getting it back. The first is to volunteer to speak to a class. Call up your local high school or college and offer to come in and share how you got into your career along with some learning highlights. As you hear yourself tell the story of your career path, you are likely to catch a glimpse of it. The second is to connect with your industry-based network and ask them to share their why.
Beat boredom. The No. 1 enemy of inspiration is boredom. If you lack inspiration, the quickest cure is to learn something new. Whether it be a cooking class for fun, or a public speaking course for professional purposes, the act of putting yourself in a new and challenging position will not only help you learn a new skill, but it will rub off on the rest of your life. A strategy for deciding which professional skills to focus on is to review the LinkedIn profiles of industry leaders and see what they have listed. You can plan your career trajectory based on the skills you need to acquire, and that will ultimately lead to inspiration.
Are you inspired? See how you compare to others in the LinkedIn network.
Nicole Williams is the bestselling author of three books, the latest of which, "Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success," has been optioned by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, the producers behind the Academy Award winning films "American Beauty," "Milk" and "Silver Linings Playbook." Nicole is also LinkedIn's Career Expert. Nicole's role at LinkedIn is to help professionals understand how to enhance their careers using the LinkedIn network. The company she founded, WORKS by Nicole Williams, is the go-to resource for career-minded young women and was named one of Forbes magazine's Top 10 Career Websites for Women. You've seen her on TV – as a regular guest on "TODAY," "Good Morning America," and CNN – and in print, where her advice has appeared on the pages of ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire and the Wall Street Journal.