Managing Your Career

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Let Your Mind Wander

Leisure time does two important jobs for us. Recharging is the obvious one. But it can also heighten our powers of creativity, given the cognitive benefits associated with letting our minds wander — and that gives us an edge over AI in the battle for jobs. Kellogg professor Adam Waytz makes this research-based argument in “Leisure Is Our Killer App,” the lead article in MIT SMR’s package on talent in a digital age. Check it out, along with the other pieces, in the fall issue of the magazine.

Older and Wiser? How Management Style Varies With Age

The starting point for managing age diversity is to develop a basic understanding of cross-age differences in working style. The authors found that management style varied more with age than with any other characteristic in their survey. Younger managers prefer narrower approaches to management, while older ones tend to work through others and focus on the big picture. Being attuned to style differences can make it easier for individuals to navigate their working relationships effectively.

Five Strategies for Investing in Your Career

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Whether you are a long-tenured leader in your organization, a new manager, or an individual contributor with rising responsibilities, it’s always valuable to take stock of your career path and make investments for the future. These five strategies offer practical steps for motivated employees looking to stay ahead of the pack.

Leisure Is Our Killer App

How can we avoid being automated out of our jobs? When recommending areas for development, experts tend to focus on two broad classes of skills that distinguish people from machines: sociability and variability. But homing in on those areas can lead to burnout, leaving us even more vulnerable to obsolescence. Leisure can mitigate these effects. Beyond reducing burnout, leisure is a uniquely human activity that robots cannot perform, and it might actually make us better thinkers and workers.

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Do Men Know More About Salaries?

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When it comes to salary transparency, one widely held belief is that women have a harder time collecting salary information than men. While some research suggests this may be true in some cases, collective research has not tackled a fundamental question: Are female employees truly less informed about salaries, or is this just a stereotype?

Free Reading Spree to Kick Off Spring

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MIT SMR is dropping its paywall on March 5 and 6; all content will be freely available to visitors online. The open site is one way to thank our readers and our authors. By periodically providing free access to leading-edge insights and research, we can help spread the ideas far and wide — which means more managers can use them to run their organizations and teams more effectively.

Career Management Isn’t Just the Employee’s Job

Now that companies have replaced rigid hierarchies with flatter, more fluid structures to promote agile ways of working, they have also made it harder for employees to chart a path for growth and advancement. This challenge is also a concern for employers, who must — for the sake of engagement and retention — show high performers how they can progress within the organization. Analytics can help highlight opportunities for getting ahead.

Self-Reports Spur Self-Reflection

The disadvantages of asking people to rate themselves are obvious. For instance: You could fake your way to a higher score, or you might lack self-awareness. But self-report surveys have advantages, too. They make data collection efficient, and nobody but you has 24-7 access to your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. And here’s another benefit many people don’t consider: The act of answering the questions can promote greater self-awareness, which opens the door to self-development.

What to Do When Industry Disruption Threatens Your Career

Volatility in an industry should concern not only the companies within it but also the people who work for them. To stay ahead of developments that may disrupt your professional life, you must make two evidence-based diagnoses: How volatile is your industry? And what explains the volatility? The answers will equip you to disrupt your own career preemptively.

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Leadership Lessons From Your Inner Child

Examining childhood traits such as boldness, experimentation, and resilience may help leaders access these qualities in service of their leadership roles. Rather than trying to learn how to be more creative or innovative, learning how not to lose the innate creativity and curiosity within us is more effective.

It’s Time to Make Paternity Leave Work

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Longer life spans are the new normal, and many people alive today will live to be 100 years old. How will we use that time? One option: Rather than working full time for decades and then spending our later years with our grandchildren, we could redistribute some of that projected time from our 60s and 70s into our earlier decades and spend more of it with our children. For fathers in particular, this would be a radical life decision.

How to Get Others to Adopt Your Recommendation

When a business is growing fast, decisions can get lost in the fray — especially if it’s unclear that a decision even needs to be made. People in the workplace bring recommendations to four audiences: a manager or top executive (those who approve a recommendation), and peers or a broader set of stakeholders (those who execute a recommendation). To sell an idea and get others to take action, you have to understand what your particular audience needs to hear.

MIT SMR Summer Must-Reads

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The most popular articles from the MIT SMR archive reflect the depth and range of management challenges our readers face in areas such as innovation, leadership, strategy, and technology. Authors of these “must reads” include MIT Sloan faculty Nelson Repenning and Donald Sull, plus Clayton Christensen, Albert Segars, Michael Schrage, Sam Ransbotham, David Kiron, Philipp Gerbert, and Martin Reeves.

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The Challenge of Scaling Soft Skills

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We understand a lot about how to develop the “hard skills” of analysis, decision-making, and analytical judgment, but we know a great deal less about the genesis of “soft skills” like empathy, context sensing, collaboration, and creative thinking, which are becoming increasingly valuable in the workplace. Understanding the obstacles to developing these soft skills and then addressing those barriers is crucial for our schools, homes, and workplaces.

The Mindsets of a Leader

Researchers have identified six distinct mindsets that contribute to leaders’ portfolio of leadership styles by asking one simple question: Whom do the leaders serve? Identifying these mindsets can help companies recognize how the leader’s styles are helping — or hurting — their performance.

Managing the Distraction-Focus Paradox

The seductive clamor of social media is a workplace reality from which there’s no retreat. Those who’ll succeed in this distraction-filled world as managers and innovators must combine two seemingly opposing traits: They must to be able to absorb information from many sources and to focus intensely. Together, these apparently contradictory qualities comprise the skill set for managing your most valuable personal resource — your attention — in a hyper-connected age.

The Time for Retraining Is Now

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None of us know how our technological future will unfold. But whether there will be a net increase or decrease in jobs overall, it’s clear that these will be different jobs, requiring different skill sets. We need to act now to enable current employers and employees to gain the skills they are going to need in the brave world of AI technology.

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