I truly believe that TED talks are worth watching not just because they’re entertaining, but because the format is genuinely fantastic for fostering your professional development.
If you don’t believe me, here are five of the best TED Talks to watch that’ll get you moving in your career.
- Paco de Leon, “The Secret To Being A Successful Freelancer”
A staggering 63% of freelancers view themselves as less financially stable after getting into freelance, so if this is something that pertains to you, you may find “The Secret To Being A Successful Freelancer” very useful. De Leon’s TED talk speaks to our modern day economy and focuses on the obstacles freelancers face to make a living— especially those of whom are creatives.
As a creative herself, De Leon has a lot to say on the level of hardship you might face with these kinds of talents in our society. Though a musician, De Leon also had a history working in finance and founded her own financial planning agency, The Hell Yeah Group, designed to help freelancers and creatives take control of their own finances. Throughout the talk, she shares helpful insights on how to navigate the struggles that come with freelance work and make this type of work more profitable.
- Rob Cooke, “The Cost of Work Stress And How To Reduce it”
I personally find this to be one of the best ted talk videos because I am really passionate about burnout in the workplace. I can’t count the number of clients that have come to me in a state of not only emotional, but physical exhaustion due to their jobs.
Research shows that 40% of workers find their jobs to be anywhere from very stressful to extremely stressful. A quarter report that their job is the number one stress-inducer in their lives.
Now, while you shouldn’t expect work to always be a walk in the park (or to ever be a walk in the park, frankly), I am a firm believer that no one should be carrying work-related stress so much that it’s actively deteriorating their mental health and negatively impacting their relationships.
As it seems, Cooke agrees with me. Cooke’s background in health, wellness, and in the high-stress world of finance puts him in the perfect place to speak on balance and setting emotional and mental (not just physical!) boundaries between your personal life and your professional life.
As a numbers guy, what makes Cooke’s talk so unique is that he approaches the subject by highlighting that workplace stress could actually be 300 billion dollars a year!
He does a remarkable job of showing how workplace stress can cause things like bad nutrition and perpetual bad health, and how these factors can compound to less productivity, and ultimately, present a detriment to the economy. Thankfully, Cooke doesn’t just illustrate the problem, he proposes solutions. Those you can find out best by watching his talk!
- Nicaila Matthews Okome, “The Is The Side Hustle Revolution”
Another fantastic short-form talk from the Way We Work series, “This Is The Side Hustle Revolution” shares advice on how to turn a “side hustle” into a genuine source of revenue.
Speaker Okome uses the history of the word ‘hustle’ and ‘side-hustle’ to denote the difference between a hustle and a second job: a “side hustle” is rooted in your passion and an aspirational spirit, while a second job is merely a means to an end.
This talk is so great because Okome provides really valuable advice on how to grow your “side-hustle,” and therefore your actual passion, into a full-time, profitable business.
- Erica Joy Baker, “How Do We Bridge The Anxiety Gap At Work”
In this TED Talk, Erica Joy Baker shares her experience of being ostracized in the workplace. As a woman of color and a software engineer in the tech industry, Baker knows all too well the unfortunate but common experience of being made to feel as if you are the “other” in the workplace.
It’s no surprise that this kind of stress— on top of the stress that actually comes from the job itself, let’s not forget— causes lingering and seemingly insurmountable anxieties, even when you’re not actually in a professional setting. Baker, for example, admits that this kind of professional context caused her to second guess herself for reasons that are unjustified. It’s not that she was truly underqualified— it’s as uncomplicated but as detrimental as feeling like she didn’t belong.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that since Baker’s personal experience, there’s been a lot of focus on diversity in the workplace at a societal level. However, even though companies are trying to implement fairer hiring practices, these efforts are truly difficult to measure. In other words, we don’t really know how much things have improved, even when companies claim to want change.
This is part of the reason that I think Baker’s talk is so important. As a manager, she is always working towards creating a “psychologically safe” environment in which all members of their team feel they are best equipped to excel.
What you will learn from this talk is that to move forward, we need to listen closely to the perspective of brilliant people like Erica Joy Baker.
- Reshma Saujami, “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection”
Saujani is a deeply interesting woman. Her career as a lawyer and in finance makes her an expert on so many different subjects, and she doesn’t stop there: she is also the founder of Girls Who Code, which is an organization with the mission of closing the gender gap in technology education.
Of course, bravery is at the core of this talk, and it particularly focuses on the different lessons girls and boys are taught at a young age that negatively impact women in the future. As Saujani puts it, boys are taught bravery, while girls are taught to strive for perfection— but perfectionist attitudes can hold people back from taking risks that are necessary for professional growth and excellence.
Like Saujani, I believe that perfectionism is one of the biggest sources of professional paralysis. Instead of trying to be perfect, it can be helpful to think of our professional lives as an experiment— that requires risk taking along the way.
I hope you enjoy these Ted Talks as much as I did. If you’re feeling inspired, my Ted Talks are called “3 Questions To Unlock Your Authentic Career” and “How To Figure Out What You Really Want.”