5 TED Talks to Boost Your Career

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As a career coach, I recommend TED talks to my clients to inspire, motivate, and help them problem-solve. At their best, TED talks are vitamins for your mind, injecting you with energy and ideas so you can approach your work or studies with a new perspective.

Below are some I find myself recommending lately, each with a slightly different way of helping your career. Watch these if you want to:

Stay Relevant

Anthony Goldbloom is the CEO and co-founder of Kaggle, which works with more than 600,000 data scientists and hosts machine learning competitions to test the limits of AI. They’ve worked with companies such as Facebook and General Electric. Goldbloom’s talk is short, sweet, and a pet topic of mine. I firmly believe we don’t talk enough about machine learning and artificial intelligence in career planning. Machines are changing the way professions work, and we as workers need to think about what we can do to avoid being automated out of a job. Goldbloom defines endangered jobs as those that use frequent, high volume tasks (like grading papers, bad news for teachers). But if work involves dealing with novel situations, we stand a chance at beating the machines. Great, short talk.

Deal with the Glass Ceiling

Vanessa Loder talks about claiming your power and visualizing, not exactly uncharted TED territory. But her personal account of being an overachiever and a perfectionist and her three-point approach to overcoming those traits is worth watching. Her talk targets women struggling with career advancement, but it’s relevant to all workers, especially for those who believe they need to be hard on themselves to get things done.

Make a Tough Decision

Ruth Chang is a philosopher, and watching her talk is a bit like watching the goblet scene from The Princess Bride. As the dreaded pirate Roberts would say, truly she has a “dizzying intellect.” And where she goes is worth following. If you’re faced with a big decision with options that all look good (or bad), and you’re trying to puzzle the choice out with logic, this talk may give you a new way of making that decision.

Imagine Your Future

Anab Jain’s talk does two things for me. First, it’s a great example of what someone looks like when they’re in love with their work. If you believe that work is just work, that no one loves their jobs and you should just buckle down and suffer for the next 30 years, watch how she talks about what she does.

At film studio/laboratory Superflux, she designs scenarios of the future for a living, applying them to problems like climate change and drone technology advancements. Fascinating stuff. But more importantly, she outlines a key part of making decisions. Tangibly interacting with the future consequences of our decisions helps us with our decisions today.

This is great for imagining the consequences of keeping all our gas-fueled cars on the road indefinitely, but it’s also a technique for imagining your career future. You’re pretty sure you want to pursue investment banking, for instance, but have you seen what it’s like to do that job for a day? I’ve visited some of the big firms, and what I remember best are the pristine lobbies the size of cathedrals, but in the back offices, the cubicles are stained with pizza sauce from all those late nights of work. Those folks are logging serious hours, and you want to be sure you can picture that in your life, including the messy details.

Find tangible ways to imagine yourself in a future job, and you can give yourself the information you need to make your decisions today.

Face a Tough Audience

So, my clients are probably tired of me going on about Adam Grant, but I’m fascinated with him right now, and this is TED talking at its best, turning common wisdom on its head.

Grant is the youngest tenured professor at Wharton, and he did this talk a little while ago on powerless communication. That’s right, not powerful. Powerless. He talks about being assigned to teach grizzled, war-weary military pilots about his research. Spoiler alert: they hated him. He had spent some time trying to impress them with his credentials and it backfired.

Then he tried a different approach; he revealed a human side of himself. In this talk, he outlines ways to reveal your shortcomings and vulnerabilities to be more likable and get your message across. The key is to keep those vulnerabilities unrelated to your area of expertise. This is advice to consider especially when you’re the youngest (or youngest-looking) person in the meeting.

What are your favorite TED talks on career topics? I’d love to hear about them.

Meredith Tseu
Meredith Tseu

Meredith Tseu has worked as a career coach at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School’s Harbor East campus. She also has a private career-coaching practice, MLT Career Services, based in Ellicott City. When she isn’t binge-watching TED talks, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

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