SnowboardersIt used to be your workplace identity was tied to your company. “An IBM man” is a phrase that comes to mind. Companies kept track of best practices, hot management ideas, and recent innovations in the business world.

Today our identity is separate from our company. We manage ourselves with the care that used to be reserved for special product lines. We realize if we don’t care for our career no one else will. And we cannot depend on a corporation to keep up to speed on ideas. We have to stay on top of new ideas for ourselves.

So, here are four ideas that you should consider using to guide yourself:

Pick a pace that’s right for you.
Today waiting the typical three to five business days for a package to arrive seems like an unbearable amount of time to some people, and news travels in real time — text-messages sent from parties to bloggers at home, ready to post.

Alexander Kjerulf self-published his book, Happy Hour is 9 to 5, because he thought the typical publishing cycle was too long. “I’m an impatient sort of guy,” he says. The book sells well on his blog, and he feels certain he did the right thing, for him.

Fast all the time isn’t right for everyone all the time. Adrian Savage, author of the book, Slow Leadership, writes daily on his blog urging people to accept that often workplace success comes from downshifting into a slow gear for a while.

Sloppy networking leads to sloppy results.
The founders of the professional networking site LinkedIn tell people in no uncertain terms that building a network has to be about people you know well. Yet every day thousands of LinkedIn users invite near-strangers into their network.

Newsflash: People you don’t know cannot vouch for you. People you have not connected with in an authentic way will not be move to help you when you need it. It doesn’t matter how full your LinkedIn account is, or how heavy your Rolodex is, if you haven’t really connected with these people, it’s not a network.

The opposite is true as well. If you build a strong network, its effects will ripple. Josh Boltuch, Elliott Breece and Elias Roman spent their last semester at Brown University launching Amie Street, a new model for selling music online. They had no marketing budget to get the word out, but they did have their network.

“We sent a few hundred emails to friends and family.” The crux of the marketing pitch? “We told everyone that a requirement for being our friend is to sign up for our site.” A few weeks later, without saying anything to the founders, someone told Mike Arrington about Amie Street.

Arrington has one of the strongest networks in startup America. Getting your startup on his blog TechCrunch is like getting your book on Oprah. And there was Amie Street, right there on Mike’s blog one day.

The next day, Amie Street had thousands of registered users.
What can we learn from this? That solid networks make solid results.
The Amie Street founders had a network that cared deeply for them — their friends and family. Mike Arrington’s network is truly dedicated to helping him find the best new startups. Amie Street is a success today because it started with a truly meaningful network.

Get away from jerks or become one.
If you want to enjoy your work, surround yourself with people who are enjoyable. Most people can tell an obnoxious person right away. But even in light of one of those horrible interviews, candidates often tell themselves they can work with jerks and not be affected.

“If you think you are going to change them, it won’t happen. It’s easy to resist at the beginning, but if you work with an asshole you’re going to become one” too, says Bob Sutton, professor at Stanford University, and author of the book, The No Asshole Rule.

Rude interactions have five times the impact on your mood that
positive interactions do. Sometimes you can encourage rude co-workers and bosses to be more positive. But not if you’re dealing with the worst cases.

How can you recognize those types you need to get away from? Sutton says they are addicted to subtle putdowns, interruptions and they use sarcasm as a way to make a (supposed) joke.

Respect your unconscious decision-making skills.
When you try to make a well-formed, thought-out decision, you will probably do a bad job unless the information in front of you is very limited, according to Ap Dijksterhuis, professor of psychology at Radboud University Nimengen in the Netherlands.

He found that in situations with a lot of variables, like which soccer team will win the World Cup, people consider too much irrelevant information–which city the game is in, for example–at the expense of more important information–such as the track records of the teams.

The good news is that our unconscious minds are very good at processing lots of information. We have known for a while that trusting our gut is a good idea. But Diksterhuis’s research (subscription required) shows that sleeping on a problem gives your unconscious time to sift through information and actually makes our gut decision better.