Category: Career

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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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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7 Steps to Landing a Job You Love Before the End of the Year

7 Steps to Landing a Job You Love Before the End of the Year

7 Steps to Landing a Job You Love Before the End of the Year

Looking to land a new job before the ball drops in Times Square this New Year’s Eve? Then limber up. If you play this right, you could be waltzing into a groovy new gig by December. Even better? If you start right now, you very well might avoid the glut of “New Year’s Resolutioners,” who will wake up on January 2 and vow to make 2019 their year.

Two-thousand eighteen. Forget about waiting. Seize the moment and close the deal now. Do you want to take a run at it? Here’s a rough outline of what you need to do:

Step 1: Construct Your Game Plan

Before you do a thing, figure out the end game. Where, specifically, do you want to end up by December? Assuming it’s realistic (as in, you’re not trying to go from copywriter to surgeon), then start at the “land great job” moment and work backward. What steps need to occur in order for you to get from today to that new role? Who do you need to meet? What changes do you need to make to your resume, LinkedIn profile, and any other materials? Do you need to shore up any skills to make you a more attractive candidate?

Map out the big picture before you go racing out of the gates all willy nilly. And then, once you have the overall plan pulled together, break down each day or week into manageable chunks or tasks, so that you can ensure your efforts consistently point you toward the goal (e.g., “On Monday nights, from 6 PM to 8 PM. I’ll find three people at XYZ Company who may be important to know).

Most people (especially those with day jobs, family obligations, or both) have precious few windows of time in any given week. You want to make darned sure you’re making the most of every one of these windows.

Step 2: Get Your Paperwork in Order

Many job seekers will try and do the paperwork (resume, LinkedIn profile, online portfolio) first. Don’t do that. You need a plan first. You need to understand who your target audience is so that you can readily figure out what they’re likely going to care about the most. And then you need to modify your current resume (or scrap it and build a new one) so that it speaks directly to the roles you intend to pursue.

Study job descriptions that appeal to you and find the common threads. Do you see that three job descriptions call for strong problem-solving skills or advanced Excel capabilities? That’s a pattern. Make sure you showcase these strengths right near the top of the resume (in a summary section). Figure out the keywords that are common and specific to your industry or desired role (again, by studying job descriptions). Assuming you have strengths in these areas, construct an “areas of expertise” section that allows people to instantly see your relevant skills.

And then make sure your LinkedIn messaging aligns thematically with your resume. In fact, make sure that every tool you’re using to market yourself professionally positions you consistently and in a way that speaks directly to the types of roles you’re trying to land. No one is going to deduce why you make sense for a job; you’ve got to make your relevance smack-in-the-forehead obvious.

Step 3: Start Applying—the Right Way

Once you’ve got your paperwork in order, you may be very tempted to just sit back and start firing off applications through blind mailboxes. Resist.

I’ve counseled many frustrated people who have spent months sending out dozens of resumes week upon week, without hearing so much as a peep from potential employers.

Relying on this one method of job search can be the absolute worst thing you do when trying to accelerate a career transition. Instead, you’re going to be much (much) more successful if you begin finding, reaching out, and endearing yourself to people of influence within your desired field or at your dream company.

I’m not suggesting “Don’t ever apply for jobs via online applications,” because I know that’s unrealistic. But I am absolutely saying that, in tandem with this effort, find a few people on the inside who may be very beneficial to know. LinkedIn is a simple way to find them. Start with internal recruiters, would-be peers, and—if you can figure it out—the hiring manager. And build into your game plan a strategy for getting on their radar.

Step 4: Polish Your Interviewing Skills

When the phone rings with an interview invite, will you be ready? Heck to the yes you’ll be ready. Because you’re going to spend time before Interview Eve polishing your skills. I recommend recruiting a willing partner who will practice with you via phone, Skype, and face-to-face. You just never know which format your interviews will be in, so you’ll be wise to conduct a “dry run” through each common type.

What should your faux interviewer ask you? If you’re eyeing a large-ish company, head over to to see if prior candidates have posted actual interview questions (borrow these). If no, check out these questions. Take a run through and then ask your “interviewer” for candid feedback or constructive criticism. Better yet, record the session and review it yourself. The more comfortable you are with various interview formats and questions, the more at ease you’re going to be when the rubber meets the road.

Step 5: Fine Tune Your Strategy

As you roll forward with your research, your conversations with people of influence, your interview—you’re going to learn things. And these things might suggest fine-tuning your strategy, your resume, your specific tactics.

Don’t be so great-balls-of-fire with plowing forward that you fail to refine, adjust, and amend your game plan along the way. Commitment and tenacity are so important, but rigidity puts you at risk for missing an important clue or opportunity to improve your game.

Step 6: Kill it on Your Follow Up

Even if the interview goes spectacularly well, you’re not done when you walk out of the meeting. You still need to seal the deal. An immediate, killer thank you note will help you do just that. And I’m not talking about a day or two afterward. I mean, park your rear at your computer on that same day and send personalized emails to each person with whom you’ve met. Call out something specific that you discussed, affirm your interest, and if needed, clarify anything that you think maybe wasn’t covered well in the interview. (The same goes for any networking meetings you go on.)

Speed and customization win with thank you notes. Your competition will wait a day or two. Trump them, every time.

Step 7: Prepare to Negotiate Like a Champ

Whether the offer comes in on week seven or week 15, your final order of business is to negotiate like a boss. Assuming you have written an offer in hand, you hold a fair number of cards at this stage of the game. You know they want you. You know they value your capabilities and envision that you’ll be a success. They’re eager to seal this deal.

This is when you’re in the very best position to negotiate. If certain aspects of the offer aren’t in line with your needs, goals, or bottom line, then approach (enthusiastically) with a proposal that outlines what you want, why you’re asking for the modified terms, and why this will provide a solid return on investment for your future employer. Remember, they don’t want to hear you whining about your car payment or rent at this point. They want to see where you’re coming from, and what they’ll get in exchange if they sweeten the pot on this offer.

Also, as you request what you want, make sure you affirm your excitement about coming on board. You want them to feel like they’re so close to landing the big fish, not like you’re going to be an endless pain in the rear.

Certainly, your transition plan may not unfold in this exact manner. But you’ll learn things and meet new people along the way. So, you’ll adjust your plans and to-do list accordingly.

But the key takeaway is this—you still have time to make a job change in 2018. Mobilize now, then bask in your successes come December.

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7 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

7 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

7 Reasons You Didn't Get the Job

“I’m sorry—we’ve actually made an offer to another candidate.”

It’s a phrase any job hunter hates to hear, especially when the days drag on after your initial interview, and you begin to wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”

Of course, most of us already know the tried-and-true etiquette for landing your dream job: Don’t forget the cover letter. Make sure your social media accounts are up-to-date.

But what other little hobgoblins of job hunting can really trip you up?

We spoke to hiring managers to find out the real reasons good applicants can get the ax—and seven told us how potential hires they’ve interviewed have talked themselves out of a paycheck.

1. Lack of Follow Up

“Not providing good follow up is almost always a killer,” says Meghan Keane, vice president of editorial at Alloy Digital. “I’m always surprised when I have an interview with someone I really like, and they don’t follow up. No thank you note. No outreach. It usually means they aren’t interested in the job or aren’t as good as I thought.”

The reason this matter is that it’s a good indication of how you’ll perform on the job: “When you’re actually working with someone, you need them to be responsible,” she says. “If they can’t get back to you when they really want to be hired, would they be responsive on a daily basis?”

The Takeaway 

Be prolific in your thanks. After every interview, send a follow-up note, says Keane. Even if you immediately hear that you aren’t getting the job, send a thank you for the consideration. Even if the person interviewing you was rude and you wouldn’t take the job had it been offered, send a thank you because it’s the right thing to do. And if you don’t want the job, do it simply because you never know where your interviewer will land next.

2. Not Knowing Your Audience

You’d think there are certain things that would be givens, like not trotting out any big, red flags that could put the kibosh on your getting the job. “In our business, you have to be dedicated to the country and the military,” explains Scott Maddox, site manager at a national defense corporation. “Not to mention, you have to be able to pass a background check. I had one applicant who slyly mentioned that he does everything in his power to not pay his taxes. I couldn’t believe he would say something like that to a company that works with the government.” 

The Takeaway

Do your homework—and that means researching not only the particular company you’re interviewing with but keeping up on industry norms and trends. Then make sure that your behavior and the information you offer in the interview will help your cause, not hurt it. And, as a general rule of thumb, it’s almost always better to pay your taxes.

3. Being Overly Ambitious

“Of course we want employees who are ambitious and hope to move forward with our company,” says Jeremy Gates, research team leader at a pharmaceutical company. “But at the same time, I don’t want to hire an entry-level employee who isn’t going to be happy with the job she’s getting. I had one young lady who was extremely bright and very driven, but she didn’t ask a single question about what her position would be now. She was only interested in how quickly she could get promoted and our advancement opportunities. If you’re already looking at the job that you might be eligible for months from now, it tells me that you aren’t going to be satisfied with the position you’re getting.”

The Takeaway

There’s a fine line to walk between wanting to advance—and wanting it so badly you talk yourself out of a job you haven’t gotten yet. It is okay to ask a single question about this job’s advancement opportunities, or whether the company frequently promotes from within, but if you want to get hired, never announce that you don’t do grunt work, and do focus your attention on proving you’re the best candidate for the job in front of you.

4. Playing the Victim

“Every once in a while, I’ll get a candidate who just seems to have the worst luck at everything,” recalls M.C., a commercial banking manager. “They had to leave one job because of an ill parent, then they were laid off two months later, and then they had a personal health problem. They talk about their life as if it was a series of unfortunate events. And even if those events were out of the person’s control, all that negativity can be worrisome. Or maybe I just don’t want to bring their bad voodoo into the company. Really, I just feel like I’ll spend the next few years feeling sorry for them instead of managing them.”

The Takeaway

Yes, bad luck can happen to good people, but airing your dirty laundry in an interview never got anyone ahead. The bottom line is that you can’t expect a hiring manager to have time or energy to deal with your personal life, especially before you’ve even proven yourself. Remember: They’re looking for someone to make their job easier, and for someone who knows how to work through problems as they crop up. Save your sad tales for your most sympathetic friend and put your best face forward in a job search.

5. Neglecting Your Body Language

“Once you’ve done this for a while, you have an ability to read people by their behavior,” says Deb Niezer, COO of AALCO Distributing. “You look at body language, the way they speak, and the way they present themselves to show the whole picture. If they say, ‘I’m open to new ideas,’ but then sit with their arms and legs crossed, it’s questionable. If they say they have management skills but don’t carry themselves like leaders, it’s hard to trust that assertion. The details make the difference.”

The Takeaway

It’s not enough to talk the talk. Seasoned managers hear a lot of the same answers from prospective employees, so they have to look beyond the rhetoric to find people who really fit in with the company culture. That’s why professionals like Niezer pay attention to the subtler details, like how you carry yourself.

6. Dissing Your Colleagues

“For anyone looking to work in academia, it’s more about inspiring students or faculty than pleasing a boss,” explains the dean of a popular university. “Instead of talking about previous managers, I ask questions about how people manage those who work under them. One applicant said all the right things about working with other faculty members and the school administration, but when it came to talking about students, the applicant was dismissive, as if that was the last thing to worry about.”

The Takeaway

Anyone interested in management should realize that a reference from your assistant is just as important as a reference from your boss. Employers want to know that a boss can inspire the best from their workforce. Consider getting LinkedIn references from co-workers at your level and below, or listing someone at a similar level to you as a reference. And remember—you just might be working for them someday.

7. Lacking Confidence

“I remember a great candidate who went to an amazing school and had all the skills we would need, but she just reeked of desperation,” recalls Aaron Sapp, an attorney in the midwest. “Any and every job, she was ready to do. Whatever the pay, she was willing to take it. It seemed like she didn’t have any confidence in her work. It feels a little bad because you get the idea that she really needed the job, but at the same time, I don’t have the time to hold anyone’s hand or assure them that they were doing a good job. I look for people who know their worth and ask for it.”

The Takeaway

What some see as “accommodating,” your potential employer could see as a lack of confidence. While you obviously want to put your best foot forward, top-notch applicants shouldn’t feel bad about stating what they hope to get out of a job, pushing back against unreasonable demands, or refusing to accept less than a fair industry salary. After all, employers want to hire people who reflect a good image for the company, and knowing your worth is an important quality for any employee.

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