The New Networking Norm: Keys to Making Social Media Connections Count

The New Networking Norm: Keys to Making Social Media Connections Count

Networking ain’t what it used to be. Handshakes, hand-written notes, and a Rolodex sound like ancient history. But with all the obvious advantages of email, LinkedIn, and social media connections come one major downside: the risk of coming off like a creeper looms high at every turn.

It’s important to send the right message, especially on LinkedIn. The social network crossed the 500 million user mark in 2017, and according to the company’s Ultimate List of Hiring Stats, more than 75 percent of people who recently changed jobs used LinkedIn to inform their switch.

That all begs the question: What’s the proper networking etiquette online? Here are a few ways to maximize impact and minimize creep:

Start On the Right Foot

Connections without context are no good. Connecting with someone who doesn’t know who you are may expand your network, but it’ll do little to brighten your career prospects. So, rule number one: If you’re connecting on LinkedIn and you haven’t met before (whether that’s in person or over the phone), or you’ve met but there’s even a slight chance the other person won’t remember you, send a quick personal note with your invitation.

Briefly introduce yourself and explain why you want to connect. It may be that you’re fascinated by their job title and industry, and want to see their experience and insights. Or you may be interested in getting hired at their company or in their industry and you want to set up an informational interview. Either way, don’t slide into their connections without introducing yourself first.

Strike the Right Tone

When you reach out, be transparent but not desperate. It’s OK to state your intention upfront, just do so politely and unassumingly. For example:

Hi Name,

I just graduated UofX and I’m interested in starting a career in marketing. I came upon [company] while researching jobs on LinkedIn and would love to learn more about the company and your role. Would you be willing to talk sometime in the next week to share a little bit about your experience?

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Also, don’t make it weird. If you’re going to connect, don’t apologize for it. Starting a note off with “Not to be that person who messages you on LinkedIn…” or “Sorry to bother you, but…” will make the person on the other end cringe. Approach confidently, but be mindful of the other person’s perspective. For example, take into account whether they are more or less senior than you. If it’s more, show deference and be super respectful of their time and experience.

Finally, be you—professional-ish you. LinkedIn is professional but not that professional. Intros are less formal than they’d be on email, so it’s OK to write short messages that get to the point. Quasi-cover letters and unsolicited job applications, on the other hand, are not welcome.

Share Good Content

If you have connections, you have an audience. Take that opportunity to post interesting and insightful content you find online. Think of what you post as part of your online “brand.” And to that end, before you post, ask yourself, is this on-brand? Would I roll my eyes at this or click on it if someone else posted it?

Sharing content gets you on connections’ feeds, which is a nice way to remind them that you exist and to entice them to refresh themselves on what it is that you do by clicking through to your profile.

Not sharing content means people may—sorry, but—forget about you and will only find you from search or when they have a reason to look at your profile. Worse, spamming your connections with an overflow of poorly thought-out posts may render you persona non grata in their network.

When other people post good content, like it or leave a comment. People pay attention to who likes their posts. This is another subtle way to remind them that you exist so that if and when you do reach out, it’s not weird.

Fill Out Your Profile

The only thing worse than an internet ghost (no online presence) is an internet outline (internet presence but scant details). If your profile has no picture, lacks information or connections, or has no summary, you’ll raise eyebrows among connections. Be sure to:

Write a solid summary. Aim to convey your current role and your general career aspirations in a line or two.

Upload a headshot.

Fill out the basics. Where you’re based, your education and previous jobs are a must.


Reviews and endorsements are gifts. Reciprocate them! It’s not weird to ask someone to leave you a review, but if you do, leave one back as a courtesy. If someone leaves you an unsolicited review, return the favor. The same applies to skills endorsements. This builds goodwill among close connections (the ones who know you well enough to leave a review or endorse you) and improves the impression your profile imparts on less-familiar connections.

Networking norms change so fast it can be hard to stay on top of what’s kosher and what’s not. But, these tips can help you build and manage a social media presence with meaningful connections you can leverage when you need to (without being creepy!).

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10 Things to Do for Your Career by 35

10 Things to Do for Your Career by 35

10 Things to Do for Your Career by 35

We’re all for flexibility. Going your own way. Paving your own path. Doing what works for you (and not doing what doesn’t).

We’re also big fans of not putting a timeline on things. We’ve even said that there are plenty of things you don’t have to have my 30 (or 40, or 50, or ever…).

But when it comes to your career, there are some things that we do recommend getting started on sooner rather than later. Not because some all-knowing career god out there says you have to, but because you’ll make your professional future—not to mention day-to-day work life—a whole lot easier.

So, do you need to check every box off this list by the time you’re 35? Definitely not. But, consider it a list of suggestions that, if taken, can have a really big impact on your career.

1. Really Refine Your Elevator Pitch

While it will obviously change from time to time, you should never have a hard time answering, “What do you do?” In fact, you should be so good at it that people will never forget.

So, really spend some time figuring out what message you want to get across when people ask about your career. Communication expert Alexandra Franzen has an exercise to help.

2. Know Your Superpower

Or, in other words, know the one thing that you’re truly amazing at.

Serial entrepreneur Tina Roth Eisenberg says that all the most successful people she’s met know exactly what they’re best at John Maeda, who led the MIT Media Lab and Rhode Island School of Design, responded with “curiosity.” Maria Popova, who curates the popular Brain Pickings blog, said “doggedness.” Eisenberg’s own superpower is enthusiasm. See how to find your own superpower, here.

3. Know Your Weakness

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s key to know what you’re not so great at. Not to make you feel bad—not in the least!—but to help you know who you should hire and work with to complement your skill set and what tasks you should delegate (so you can spend more time on what you’re great at).

On that note:

4. Learn How to Delegate

No one can do it all, and especially as you climb the career ladder, you’re going to need to know the difference between the things you should be spending your time on and the things you shouldn’t.

And, perhaps more importantly, be able to effectively and comfortably delegate to others—interns, staff members, your partner, your childcare provider, you get the picture. These 10 rules of the successful delegation will help you do it right.

5. Know Your Career Non-Negotiables

You’re going to have a lot of opportunities come your way in life, and you don’t want to waste energy agreeing to things that really don’t line up with what you want to be doing.

So, really be honest about what you want and need out of your career, and then come up with a list of non-negotiables that you can use as a guide next time you’re making a career decision. Writer Andrea Shields Nunez has some tips on creating them—and then actually enforcing them.

6. Do Something You’re Really, Really Proud Of

Whether or not it’s something you’ll be known for forever, something you get paid for doing, or even something you really want to do with your life, make sure you have something on your resume that, deep down, you’re really proud of.

7. Learn From Something You’re Not So Proud Of

We were going to add “fail at something” to this list, but that’s silly. Because, let’s face it, we’ve all failed miserably at one point or another.

What’s more important? Learning from that blunder and taking that lesson with you productively into the next stage of your career.

8. Stretch Your Limits

You know you can manage a 30-person meeting, but a 100-person multi-day travel conference? That might be stretching the limits of your skills.

Actually—this is exactly the type of stuff that you should try once in a while. After all, you’ll never really know how good you are until you step a bit outside of what you know.

9. Do Something That Really Scares You

This takes stretching your limits a bit further—we’re talking going way out of your comfort zone here.

Whether it’s speaking at a conference, going for a (big) promotion, or finally writing that memoir, why not try something that terrifies you at least once in the early stages of your career? As they say, big risks can lead to big-time rewards.

10. Get Comfortable With Getting Feedback

Hillary Clinton once said that her biggest piece of advice to young professionals is: “It’s important to take criticism seriously—not personally.” Meaning: Knowing where you’re not meeting expectations is the only way you’ll learn and grow as a professional, but taking every harsh word to the heart is a fast way to make your confidence crumble.

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4 Signs You’re Just Not Cut Out for the 9-to-5 Life

4 Signs You’re Just Not Cut Out for the 9-to-5 Life

4 Signs You're Just Not Cut Out for the 9-to-5 Life

So many of us were raised to a subtle beat (or loud gong) that went something like this, “Get good grades. Get into a decent school. Get a solid desk job (with benefits). Be happy.”

Problem is, for some people this formula doesn’t lead to career fulfillment at all. In fact, for some, it’s a formula that ultimately makes them want to crawl out of their own skin or run screaming from that solid desk job (with benefits).

Could this be you? What are some signs that you may, in fact, not be cut out for a traditional, 9-to-5 job?

Here are a few signs, plus what should you do if this becomes clear to you.

1. You Feel Like a Caged Animal When You’re in the Office

Sometimes, it’s not about resenting authority at all. For some who aren’t cut out for traditional jobs, it’s the endless sea of desks that makes them want to run screaming from the building.

I remember my own first corporate job. At first, it was all like, “Oh. Sooo cool. Look at all these important-looking people in these little cubby holes.” By about six months in, I was finding any excuse possible to get out into the fresh air. (“You need someone to go pick up lunch? On it!”)

By a few years in, I’d had enough. I lasted a grand total of seven years before I’d flat-out had it. I needed freedom, and I needed space.

What to Do If You Feel Trapped

If your job truly requires you to sit in one space and stare at a computer all day (and you actually don’t mind the work), you may consider requesting the option to telecommute a couple times a week. This article includes templates and suggestions for starting that conversation.

If your role doesn’t really mandate sitting in one place every day, start planning your day (or requesting to do so) in a way that gets you out and about at least a time or two every day.

Monotony can crush even the brightest spirit. Find ways to break up your simple suggestions here. Or, if you know an office is simply a no-go, start investigating ways to apply to a field that has you, well, out in the field.

2. You Don’t Like Working Regimented Hours (or Having a Regimented Life)

Similar to the feeling that a cubicle may give you, being required (or nearly required) to punch in and out each day can make you feel like you have no say in your career or life. And having no say may make you want out, stat.

What to Do If You Despise Set Hours

Of course, there are many roles that simply require you cover a shift. If this is your job (and it’s making you nuts), you may want to consider a new position or line of work. Businesses that run shifts need shift workers. No getting around that.

However (and this is especially true if you’re a top performer), if the imposed hours are arbitrary—done because this is what everyone does and has always done—perhaps you could put together a proposal that shows your boss how you can achieve your goals outside of the current schedule.

Use care with this approach, of course. (Keep in mind that your boss may long for a similar scenario but be too afraid to push it with “the powers that be.”) But if you do it strategically and in a non-pushy manner, you may just find your idea is heard. And, hopefully, approved!

3. Spreadsheets Make You Crazy

I recently worked with a client who was having a heck of a time finding a new sales role. It was a mystery to me at first, because she has so much going for her. But as we spoke, I began to realize that, while she loves selling, she hates (understatement) all the paperwork and reporting that goes along with it.

In fact, she doesn’t just hate it—she’s terrified of it. Thus, every time she gets into a conversation with a hiring manager (for another sales job), they get as far in conversation as the spreadsheets and then she’s out.

The companies she is eyeing simply don’t want a salesperson who can’t or won’t also do the necessary behind-the-scenes work.

What to Do If Paperwork Makes You Pout

Whether you’re afraid of the paperwork (or the technology you need to know how to use to complete it), or simply annoyed about having to do it, here’s the reality: It’s probably not going away.

Whether you’re working for someone else or for yourself, your job will likely require at least a certain amount of reporting, documenting, data entry, or number crunching. I don’t care if you’re on Wall Street or running a landscaping crew, business is business and it requires paperwork.

That said, if you truly abhor it, consider finding ways to delegate, outsource, or get support on the stuff you simply do not want to do. If you’re weak on the technology or tools that power the paperwork, ask for training, or invest in it yourself.

If you’re at the bottom of the ladder and can’t just delegate, see if you can trade tasks with a co-worker. Maybe they hate something you don’t mind and it could be a win-win for both of you.

Few of us adore paperwork, but it’s a part of a business. So, either get comfortable with it or get it off your plate.

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Starting Your First Job? How to Stay Organized and Sane

Starting Your First Job? How to Stay Organized and Sane

 Starting Your First Job? How to Stay Organized and Sane

Like many other young professionals, I have a jam-packed schedule. A typical week for me consists of working at my 9-to-5 job, volunteering at two nonprofits, happy hours and hikes with friends, networking at professional events, getting in some “me” time, and even doing some contract work.

And I love this pace, but when I first made the transition from college to working world, I found that balancing a new job, a personal life, and a new city—and staying happy doing it—was a pretty big challenge. Sure, I did a lot in undergrad, too, but there’s something about adding a full-time job into the mix that requires a different approach to scheduling, planning, and organization.

If you’re feeling the same way, here are a few things I found immensely helpful in balancing my first few post-grad months.


Recognize Your Needs—and Meet Them

You’ve heard this advice in college, but here it is again: Know what you, personally, need to succeed.

Many of my friends from college struggled with the transition because they thought being in the “real world” meant being a whole new person than they were in undergrad. And yes, while your lifestyle—everything from your schedule to your social life to your living situation—will be very different from the past four years, you are still the same person. So, the things you needed to succeed while you were in college will likely be the same things you need in a job setting.

For example, if you know you need a full eight hours of sleep to function properly at 7 AM, then figure out how to get it—even if it means calling it an early night when your friends are still out. If you crave exercise to calm your nerves, make time for it—even if it means you’re not the first one in the office. I’ve never been skilled at multitasking, so I deal with it by setting a schedule that lets me devote different periods of the day to different aspects of my life.

Remember, you’re not doing yourself or anyone else any favors if you’re not on top of your game.

Organize Your Time

If you weren’t a time management guru in college—well, it’s time to become one!

The first thing I found very useful was making lists: From grocery lists (keep a basic one in your phone so you don’t have to recreate the wheel every week) to to-do lists (ideally separate ones for work, life, and anything else you have to go on) to pro-con lists (so helpful when you’re making a decision!), write things down. Do it daily, weekly, monthly—whatever works. Whether they’re formal or informal, online or on paper, lists are all about getting your thoughts down so you can visualize and conquer without fear that you’re forgetting anything.

In addition, I recommend organizing your big tasks—from projects at work to grad school applications to your friend’s bridal shower—with a timeline. Spread the work out over several days or weeks, making sure you have adequate time to devote to the task. Remember to prioritize and organize around the different activities on your plate, and give each one its own pocket of time. (Or, if you tend to be a procrastinator like me—who doesn’t work well with timelines—just set a couple of deadlines. Timelines only work if you stick to them!)

Stick to Your Priorities

If you’re like most, your highest priority is your job—whether it’s figuring out how to get ahead at your new gig or trying to find that first dream position. But, try not to let everything else fall by the wayside if it’s important to you, too. Just as your extracurriculars, your friends, and your hobbies were an important part of your college education, they’re an important part of being happy as a professional. I highly value my volunteer work and spending time with my friends, so I keep them high on my priority list, even if work is battling for my time and energy. Taking time to decide what you want out of life—and making those things a priority—will help you organize your schedule to maximize your happiness.

That said—don’t overload yourself. If you’re starting a side business, taking night classes to get a competitive edge, and trying to have a social life while still holding your new job—you may be in a little too deep.

I learned this the hard way when I tried to take on too many things when I first started my job while continuing to live the same lifestyle I embraced in college. And the best advice I got then was this: You don’t have to do it all. Really. Finding balance in your new life is about being honest with yourself, knowing what you can handle, and setting priorities based on what matters most

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How to Work From Home: Tips From People Who Do It Successfully

How to Work From Home: Tips From People Who Do It Successfully

How to Work From Home: Tips From People Who Do It Successfully

1. Get started early.

When working in an office, your morning commute can help you wake up and feel ready to work by the time you get to your desk. At home, however, the transition from your pillow to your computer can be much more jarring.

Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Simply getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Otherwise, you’ll prolong breakfast and let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.

2. Pretend like you are going into the office.

The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there’s no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting.

When working from home, do all the things you’d do to prepare for an office role: Set your alarm, make (or go get) coffee, and wear nice clothes. Internet browsers like Google Chrome even allow you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top — for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work.

“Get fully ready for the day and pretend you’re actually going to work. Otherwise, you might find yourself back in bed.”

3. Structure your day like you would in the office.

When working from home, you’re your own personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting scheduled to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out.

To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Google Calendar makes this easy.

“Are mornings for writing while you’re in the office? Use the same schedule at home. While you probably will get tasks done faster at home than at work, this structure will help keep you focused and productive.”

4. Choose a dedicated workspace.

Just because you’re not working at an office doesn’t mean you can’t, well, have an office. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch — spaces that are associated with leisure time — dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work.

“Have a place you go specifically to work. It could be a certain table, chair, local coffee shop — someplace that’s consistently your ‘workspace.’ It helps you get into the right frame of mind.”

5. Work when you’re at your most productive.

Nobody sprints through their work from morning to evening — your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. When you’re working from home, however, it’s all the more important to know when those ebbs and flows will take place and plan your schedule around it.

To capitalize on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them. Use slower points of the day to knock out the easier, logistical tasks that are also on your plate. Verily Magazine calls these tasks “small acts of success,” and they can help build your momentum for the heavier projects that are waiting for you later on.

“For me, the most productive times of the day are usually early in the morning or late at night. I recognize this and try to plan my day accordingly. Also, music that really pumps me up doesn’t hurt.”

6. Take clear breaks.

It can be so easy to get distracted as a telecommuter that you avoid breaks altogether. Don’t let the guilt of working in the building you sleep in prevent you from taking five to relax. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, however, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house.

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4 Ways You’re Making Your Job Way Harder Than it Needs to Be

4 Ways You’re Making Your Job Way Harder Than it Needs to Be

4 Ways You're Making Your Job Way Harder Than it Needs to Be

You know that work is supposed to be challenging—but there’s no way it’s supposed to be this challenging.

Even the simplest of tasks take you twice as long as anybody else in your office, and you’re beginning to think that you’re the problem.

Here are four ways that you might be making things way harder than they need to be.

1. You’re Clinging to Outdated Processes

Change is hard—I get it. Sometimes it seems way easier to hang on to your standard way of doing things than to adjust to your company’s new process.

But, here’s the thing: That change was probably introduced because it’s better and more efficient. So, white-knuckling that tired and outdated workflow is really only slowing you down—not to mention frustrating your colleagues.

The Fix

Figure out what you need to do to familiarize yourself with that new approach. Do you need a tutorial from a team member who has already mastered that piece of software? Do you need to write detailed instructions for yourself so you remember what to do next time?

Getting up to speed can take a little work, but I’m willing to bet it won’t be long before you’re glad that you did it.

2. You’re Seeking Everybody’s Stamp of Approval

Personally, I thrive on confirmation that I’m on the right track. It not only makes me feel like I’m knocking things out of the park, but it also prevents me from sinking too much elbow grease into something that’s heading in the wrong direction.

However, if your boss has already given you the go-ahead, that should be enough for you to move forward. You don’t need that same affirmation from every department manager, your entire team, and even the UPS delivery guy. Seeking that is only adding unnecessary bloat to your work.

The Fix

Perhaps much of your desire to get a stamp of approval from a dozen different people is the fact that you aren’t sure who has the final say on whatever project you’re working on.

When starting a new task or assignment, figure out exactly who is the key decision maker. That will give you the confidence you need to move forward—without hearing from absolutely everybody involved.

3. You’re Forgetting Previous Feedback

You’re beginning to feel like you have to complete every assignment twice. There’s your original attempt, and then your second one after everybody has torn your work apart with a red pen.

Revisions and constructive criticism are inevitable. But, you might be adding extra hassle by not remembering or implementing feedback that was offered previously. There’s nothing more frustrating for you (and everybody else!) than needing to change the same thing time and time again.

The Fix

You need to keep better track of those suggested changes so that you can remember them moving forward.

Start a simple feedback log for yourself—it can be as straightforward as keeping a document within easy access on your computer. Treat that as your cheat sheet, where you can reference changes that were suggested previously and ensure that you incorporate them into your future assignments.

4. You’re Planning for Every Possible Scenario

There’s nothing wrong with being a planner—in fact, there are plenty of times when it will serve you well. However, it’s also far too easy to fall victim to analysis paralysis.

Overanalyzing every potential pitfall or roadblock means you’ll continue to delay getting started on a project—not to mention seriously stress yourself out.

The Fix

Just get started. It sounds simple in concept, but can actually be pretty difficult for those of us who like to plan for every last scenario. But, if you’ve been carefully plotting every last slide of that presentation to your company’s board of directors, give yourself a kick in the pants and begin by creating a few slides and dumping some information into them.

Rest assured, you can still make tweaks and changes down the line. But, at least you’re finally putting pen to paper, so to speak.

If you absolutely can’t squelch your compulsive desire to plan (guilty as charged), set a designated planning period for yourself. Once you hit that end date, you just need to get the ball rolling.

Work isn’t always easy—that’s why it’s called work. But, it also doesn’t need to be insanely complicated. However, when it comes to keeping things simple and streamlined, we can be our own worst enemies.

Keep your eyes open for these four common situations when you’re making things way harder than they need to be. When you recognize one? Make the necessary adjustments and get ready for a little less stress in the office.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Take Your 5-Year Plan—and Throw it Away

5 Reasons Why You Should Take Your 5-Year Plan—and Throw it Away

5 Reasons Why You Should Take Your 5-Year Plan—and Throw it Away

We’ve all heard about the importance of career planning and goal setting, but what if it’s actually keeping you from growing?

Planning is imperative to succeeding at work, in life, and with your health. But when does planning become restrictive to improvement? If you find yourself stagnant from over-planning, you could benefit from stepping away from your checklist of to-dos. Here are five reasons not to have a five-year plan.

1. Your Life Doesn’t Follow the Rules

Although that “perfect” path to success you’ve plotted for yourself may seem like the ideal way to guarantee you land exactly where you want to be, it can have the opposite effect in the long run. By planning a particular way to climb the career ladder, you set expectations for yourself many years down the line based on your current abilities—what may look incredibly unachievable now could be a skill or position you master in no time. If you stick to your plan too rigidly, you could end up squashing potential for growth that you didn’t foresee five years earlier.

2. Excessive Planning Makes You Inflexible

The word gets tossed around frequently, but being adaptable is truly becoming one of the most important characteristics in business. There’s a chance that what you do now may not even be a job in a few years, or that your current role will look completely different in a couple months than it does today. If you hold steadfastly onto the idea that your plan is perfect and nothing will get in your way, you’ll likely be left in the dust. Being adaptable doesn’t mean saying yes to everything that comes your way, but it does mean being open to the idea of change and embracing it when it inevitably arises.

3. Sometimes You Need to Make a U-Turn

You want to travel, work from home, start a side project, or go back to school—but three years ago you charted a plan for yourself that you’ve stuck to for this long, you can’t turn back now! Wrong. You can, and you should change course. It’s easy to shy away from big life decisions when they don’t fall nicely into a predetermined set of parameters you set for yourself years ago. It’s a little harder when you have no reason to say no to your dreams.

4. Thinking Long-Term Can Keep You From the Here and Now

Sometimes making a long-term plan is easier than making a short-term decision because it’s likely that a lack of clarity has, at some point, driven you to haphazardly make a big life decision. When you allow yourself to take time to think through what you truly want to be doing and why, your decisions will lead you down the path you want, instead of the one you nervously planned for many years ago.

5. Your Career Plan Should Never Dictate Your Happiness

What you’re happy doing now may not always make you happy—and that’s OK! Sure, not every day on the job will be sunshine and rainbows, but enjoying what you do is key to succeeding in work and life. Give yourself the flexibility to change your mind about the direction of your career and you’re significantly less likely to end up stuck in an unhappy day-to-day routine, all for the sake of “sticking to the plan.”

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6 Steps to Creating a Career Manifesto That’ll Propel You Toward Success

6 Steps to Creating a Career Manifesto That'll Propel You Toward Success

When we’re kids, we’re often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But now that you’re all grown, when’s the last time you asked yourself that question? And now’s the time when the answer is more important than ever—and that answer is your “career manifesto.”

Taking the time to write a career manifesto can be an invaluable tool in guiding you toward the career you always imagined for yourself. And research has shown that the mere act of writing down your goals can help you achieve them.

So, where should you start? Right here:

1. Take it Personally

Really, a career manifesto is more like a life manifesto. It’s important to think about what you want your life to look like before you can think about what your career will look like.

Consider questions like: Where do I want to live? What are my income requirements? Am I okay with working long hours? If having time for yourself and your interests outside of work is important, a plan to be a CEO or starting your own business might interfere with that.

Think realistically about the work-life balance you know will make you happiest. It’s a personal question and there’s no right or wrong answer, so be honest.

2. Go on a Mission

Your manifesto should start with a personal mission statement or a central thesis for you and your career. Take some time to brainstorm your values and skills, and recall sometimes when you’ve been happiest or proudest of your work.

Remember to think broadly and abstractly as you do this. Your career manifesto doesn’t have to be as specific as wanting to be the VP of Marketing for [insert company here]. More likely, it will be a general description of what you want to accomplish in your career.

For example, Amanda Steinberg, founder of, follows this mission statement: “To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net worth of women around the world.”

Do you want to educate others or be a mentor? Design, create, and build things? Maybe you’d like to be an innovator or a trailblazer. Having a broader, guiding idea will help provide inspiration, rather than produce frustration when a very specific goal seems out of reach.

3. Ask Your Friends

When you’re in the process of putting your mission and manifesto together, meet for coffee with a friend or colleague who knows you well. Take them through your ideas. You’ll be surprised at what they can share from an outside perspective.

Maybe their thoughts will reaffirm what you’d been thinking all along, or they’ll point out something you’ve never considered. My husband served this purpose for me and had some insightful observations on how I approach my work (even if I didn’t always want to hear them).

4. Write it Down

Once you’ve created a solid mission statement, brainstorm some goals that can lead you down the path it outlines. Put some pen to paper (or keyboard to Word doc) and write these goals down.

Start by dreaming big and imagining the career you want, including what your typical day would look like. Then come back to the present and start with some small, achievable goals for the short-term. What’s going to get you to that place? Think about what you’d like to accomplish in one, five, 10, or even 20 years from now.

5. Begin Anywhere

You’ve recorded your manifesto and goals. Now, evaluate them with regard to your current situation. Are you moving in the right direction? What skills do you need to be successful in your ideal job? What are you doing to acquire them?

If life in creative pursuit is a long-term goal, and you’re not finding that outlet through your day job, start carving out time away from work to create. Look into classes or certification programs to learn that skill you need to stand out at work. Develop a mentor or mentee relationship with someone whose career path you admire.

Start moving in the direction of your manifesto—even if your steps are small.

6. Allow Your Ideas to Change

If you look at your manifesto in the future and find your goals have shifted, revise it! You’re allowed to change your mind or have some tweaks along the way. But ideally, your manifesto has been written so broadly that it can apply to different jobs and career paths, because it has captured the essence of what will truly drive you, no matter the profession.

Now set your career manifesto aside, but keep it in a safe place. It’s the foundation that you’ll build your career on from this point forward. This isn’t going to dictate every second of every day, but it should serve as a guide when you need it.

If your job is starting to feel uninspiring or rote, pull that manifesto back out to remind you of where you’re heading. Use it to evaluate new opportunities, gain perspective, and inform your decisions.

You can begin right away, with the smallest of steps, to head down the path to your dream job. All you need is a good manifesto to guide you.


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5 Small Steps You Can Take to Get Your Side Project Rolling Today

5 Small Steps You Can Take to Get Your Side Project Rolling Today

5 Small Steps You Can Take to Get Your Side Project Rolling Today

We’ve talked a lot about side projects (like why you need to start one in the first place). But actually starting one is, um, hard—especially after you’ve been at work all day.

But if there’s something you feel compelled to get out into the world—from a book you’ve written to cupcakes you’ve baked—and you’re not able to do it through your day job, there’s only so much resisting you can do before you sit down and decide to actually do it.

I’ve been side projecting for more than three years, and there have been times when it’s been totally exhausting. But mostly, because I love and am so passionate about my project, the work energizes and inspires me—even late at night on a Tuesday. You just have to get past that first big step: getting started.

If you want to get the ball rolling on your side project without completely overwhelming yourself, here are five small steps to take.

1. Set Your Intention

Before you start anything, you have to get clear on why you’re starting this side project and what you want to get out of it. Are you throwing yourself into something you love just because it makes you happy, or are you throwing yourself into it because you eventually want to turn it into a career?

Getting clear on your why—no matter what that why maybe—will help you stay focused and motivated. Need a little reminder to keep you going strong? Write why down on a Post-it and stick it on your laptop or print it out and hang it somewhere you can see it while you’re working.

2. Find Your Space

Whether your side project is writing a book, handcrafting wedding invitations, or refurbishing furniture, you’re going to need a space to work on it. Is there a space in your house or apartment that you can make your own (even if it’s just a corner of the dining room table)? Or maybe there’s somewhere close by—like a library or coffee shop—that you can retreat to for a few hours a week.

Finding a dedicated space for your project, wherever it might be, will make the experience feel much more enriching and fun. Plus, having a place to consistently return to will make it easier to get work done

And if you’re able to create a quiet space at home, fill it with whatever inspires you—e.g., pictures, posters, or fresh flowers—to make the space feel even more like you.

3. Get Your Tools

What do you need to get started on your project? Paint? Books? A good desk chair? Lots and lots of flour and sugar?

The point isn’t to spend tons of money on getting yourself stocked; it’s more about setting up your space with the few things you need to make the experience feel exciting. Whenever I start a new project, for example, one of my favorite things to do is go shopping for journals and pens. It may sound lame, but I love the writing process so much more when I have new tools in hand.

4. Make a Plan—But Just for the Week

When I first started my side project, I created a calendar for myself with specific times and days that I was going to focus on it—and only it. That is, until week two, when something popped up during one of my dedicated side-project days and the whole thing stopped making sense.

Now, every Sunday, I take a look at the week ahead and I make a plan. Planning just a week ahead allows me to be both flexible and realistic about the work I plan on getting done. And it helps me prioritize the side project up against everything else that’s going on that week.

5. Find Other Side Project-ers

Beginning to build a community around your project will inspire you, keep you motivated, and give you other humans to turn to with questions that only other side-projectors could know how to answer.

Not sure where to look? Take it to Google and see if you can find any community forums dedicated to whatever it is you’re working on—like cycling or marketing. See if there are any Meetups or events in your area focused on your side project. And don’t forget the power of your own social media platforms and community. Let people know what you’re working on, and chances are someone will know someone (who will know someone) who is working on something similar.

My last tip: Set realistic expectations for yourself and your project. If you’re only fitting in your work at night and on the weekends, you probably won’t be able to work as quickly as you could if you were dedicating all day, every day to it. But if it’s something you find energizing and fulfilling (which, ideally, you should), you can find a way to get it done.

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10 Marketing and Blog ideas for December

10 Marketing and Blog ideas for December

10 Marketing and Blog ideas for December

It’s officially the holiday season! How are you going to market your small business? Here are 10 ideas to kick off your marketing for the holiday season.

1. Festive Social Media Graphics

You decorate your tree, your house, and even your dog! Why not decorate your social media profiles for Christmas with festive graphics that you can make on Canva!

2. Host or Participate in a Toy Drive

During the holiday season, it’s important to remember those less fortunate than ourselves. Host or participate in a toy drive and encourage customers to do the same. Advertise your participation on social media by tagging the charity that you’re working with and asking them to retweet or share the post for a greater impact. Participating with other local businesses for the benefit of children is a great way to get your business name into the community. For a list of toy drives, check here.

3. Get Personal

Share pictures or stories of your family and holiday celebrations on your blog and social media. Do you have a favorite holiday memory that inspired you to open your business? What about a family recipe or tradition?

Bakers can share a video or recipe on their blogs. Photographers can post their family Christmas pictures on Instagram or Facebook and encourage others to do the same. Personal trainers should encourage clients and potential clients to join them on holiday road races through social media. Share your life with customers to engage them online!

4. Host a Party

Holiday parties are a great way to market your business during the holidays. Have an open house and extend your business hours one evening–make sure to update your blog and social media with these extended hours! Invite local customers and other businesses to stop by and mingle. Serve some food and drinks or get them donated by another local business! The more the merrier during the holidays and hosting a party is a great way to spread word-of-mouth marketing!

5. Dress up

Ugly sweater parties are popular during the holiday season, but why stop there?

There’s nothing that attracts customers like a fun attitude so take advantage of the festive spirit! Grab some reindeer antlers or wear Christmas pajamas if it’s appropriate for your business. Daycare centers can have fun dressing up and encourage a pajama day for students! Business professionals can have fun with a holiday colored tie or socks to get in the holiday spirit.

6. Gift Guides

A gift guide is a great way to market your business for the holidays. Write a blog post about gifts for moms, dads, kids, and friends!

The gift guide can include some of your products but the best way to sell your business is not to sell it at all. Instead showcase items that are related to your industry: Gift Guide for Accountants (tech gadgets, ties, fancy pen), Gift Guide for the Home Decorator (Christmas pillow covers, gold candlesticks, electric candles), or a Gift Guide for the Fitness Enthusiast (ice cleats for running outside, winter hat with Bluetooth headphones, Epsom salts for tired muscles). People are always looking for gift ideas! Show potential customers how helpful you can be!

7. Send Holiday Cards

Customers like to be appreciated. Send holiday or New Year’s cards or e-cards to your contact list. Marketing is about keeping your business on the radar of customers, new or loyal so that your business comes to mind when they need your services. Something as simple as wishing customers a Happy Holiday or Happy New Year is an easy way to get people to check out your website and keep your business in mind.

8. Tip or Product of the Day

Take inspiration from the 12 Days of Christmas and feature a tip or product of the day on their blog or social media. Fitness related businesses like personal trainers or health centers can give an exercise of the day to fight off gaining holiday weight. Flower shops can feature a wreath or bouquet of the day featuring different holiday colors or flowers. Restaurants and bars can showcase a cocktail of the day for the holidays.

9. Go Behind the Scenes

Show customers what your business is like during the holidays with video marketing! Are you a busy baker who is making cakes and cookies? Take customers into the kitchen with a video of preparations for the holidays. People are curious by nature and giving them a sneak peak of new products or behind-the-scenes action will set you apart from your competitors!

10. Photo Opportunity with Santa or a Winter Wonderland

Customers love pictures! Pictures are great for social media marketing! That’s a great equation!

Stage a photo opportunity at your store by inviting Santa to come or set up a winter wonderland for customers to post in front of. Everyone wants a picture with a gigantic polar bear so give customers the opportunity to market your business for you by having something fun to take pictures with! Pick up some props like Santa hats or tinsel garlands and let customers go to town with pictures! Make sure to include a hashtag with your company and share, retweet, or regram customers’ photos on social media.

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