Category: Career

4 “Compliments” Interviewers Give—and What They Really Mean

4 “Compliments” Interviewers Give—and What They Really Mean

4 "Compliments" Interviewers Give—and What They Really Mean

You had an interview this morning and you distinctly remember the hiring manager paying you a compliment. At least, you think it was something positive—right?

Well, there are a few comments that sound promising—until you translate them from hiring the manager to the normal person. Turns out that sometimes the interviewer is finding a nice way to tell you it’s not going to happen. So listen up and pay attention when you hear any of the following:

1. “You’re So Enthusiastic”

Translation: “You’re Freaking Me Out”

Enthusiasm is good: No one is going to hire someone who could care less about the work. However, a person who’s overly excited isn’t going to top any lists either. Do you think someone who’s starstruck by her company or her boss would feel comfortable being honest with the team and making tough (but necessary) decisions?

As Muse writer Richard Moy points out in “How to Keep Your Cool When You Interview With Your Dream Company,” you also need to do your due diligence and make sure the open position is right for you. If you answer each question by gushing over the company, the hiring manager will wonder if you’ve really thought it through.

So, feel free to share how long you’ve been following the company or why you personally admire its work. But don’t sell yourself short by acting like you’re a deranged fan who would just be lucky to work there. Make sure you spend ample time discussing the kick-ass applicant you are, and why you’d be a great addition to the team.

2. “You’re Not the Typical Candidate”

Translation: “I’m Not Sure You Can Do the Job”

“Yes,” you think, “I’m an individual!” And if you’re a non-traditional candidate—say you have less education than the position description calls for, or you’re changing fields—you should keep an ear out for these sorts of comments.

They translate to: “You don’t meet all of the qualifications.” So if the hiring manager says something like this, don’t give a two-word answer like “I know,” or even, “Thank you.” Take the opportunity to follow up with a strong line that emphasizes why that means you bring unique—and valuable—experience to the table. It sounds like this: “It’s true I’ve only worked in commercial real estate for two years. That’s because I spent my first three years out of school working in financial management. I use the lessons I learned counseling people on how they should invest their money every time I make a sale. ”

3. “You’re Very Persistent”

Translation: “I Need Some Space”

You know that following up is kind of a touchy subject for hiring managers. They appreciate someone who is timely and responsive, but they’ve also had to deal with one too many people who flood their inboxes asking for an update every 48 hours—for the duration of a six-week process.

While you want to be seen as diligent and on top of things, you don’t want to be seen as a pest. The fix is pretty straightforward: If you get this feedback, lay off a bit. Keep the faith that if you are the person he wants for the job, the hiring manager will reach out to you. If he has a follow-up question, he’ll reach out to you. (And if you’ve already been exchanging emails, you know that your correspondence goes through fine, so there’s no need to check in just in case of an overzealous spam filter.)

So, if the hiring manager says she’ll be in touch regarding the next round, give her at least a full week. And if you’ve already checked in once, you need to be patient—and use the time you saved to keep your eyes open for other opportunities.

4. “You’re Such a Great Ambassador for Your Company

Translation: “I Don’t Think You’re Ready to Move on”

It’s true: You fit in so well and are so loyal that it’s second nature for you to discuss an organization’s merits. How great is it that the interviewer recognizes that?

The answer is: It’s good and bad. In reality, a comment like this could mean the hiring manager thinks you’re too embedded to want to jump ship. For example, I once held a job I loved so much that, for years afterward, when people asked me about the organization, I’d say, “The program seeks to…and so we always…and we also…” (even though I didn’t work there anymore). By talking about what “we” looked for, I made it pretty clear that I still loved that job, probably more than the one I was interviewing for.

So, when you discuss your current responsibilities, talk about the work you do—and tie it to how it’s prepared you for the role you’re applying to. And when you talk about your current (or former) company, skip “we” and call it by its name, or say something generic like, “In a prior role,” or the “the program was designed to…”

Many hiring managers try to couch what they’re telling you in nice terms. These translations can help you cut through the niceties so you know what to work on to be a stronger candidate.

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4 Times Self-Doubt Can Actually Be Good for Your Career

4 Times Self-Doubt Can Actually Be Good for Your Career

4 Times Self-Doubt Can Actually Be Good for Your Career

Here’s a fact about self-doubt: Everyone has it.

Even some of the most famous people have suffered from self-doubt. Lady Gaga revealed in her documentary that she “sometimes feels like a loser kid in high school.” Arianna Huffington calls the negative self-talk in her head her obnoxious roommate. And like the supreme athlete she is, Serena Williams manages to pull through physically to overcome a negative mental state.

There’s plenty of great advice on ways to conquer it. But—bear with me here—it actually has some benefits if you learn how to think about it the right way.

So before you swat that “negative” feeling away and let it cripple your confidence, remind yourself of these four things:

1. Self-Doubt Motivates You to Keep Learning and Growing

Doubting yourself every once in a while makes you want to continue to better yourself—for example, questioning a skill you have and deciding to take a class on it or being unsure about a strategy and asking your co-worker for advice. Without it, your skills and knowledge would stagnate. There’s nothing like a little self-doubt to spur you to put in more effort, try harder, or pick up some extra training to stay fresh.

This ultimately makes you feel confident, sets you up to move forward in your career, and, better yet, opens doors that can lead to the discovery of a new field you might enjoy.

2. Self-Doubt Keeps You Humble

You’re human, which means that you’re aware that you’re going to make mistakes and not know certain things. And that self-awareness and honesty make you someone people can trust, count on, and feel comfortable working with. After all, no one wants to hire a narcissist—imagine the poor team skills!

Self-doubt also encourages you to see all sides of a situation—you’re willing to consider options outside your expertise and thus able to make smarter decisions. Think about it: When’s the last time you ran an idea by your boss or colleague just to be sure it was a good one? Did that conversation help you to refine and perfect your idea? Chances are it did—or at least forced you to ask yourself more questions and try different paths.

3. Self-Doubt Can Highlight Red Flags That Spur Action to Something Better

If you find yourself feeling really insecure about something, it’s possible that you’re working on something you’re not qualified to do or you’re in the wrong role or at the wrong company.

Knowing this encourages you to take actions to actually fix it. You might decide to move on to work that brings you more satisfaction. Or, you might decide to talk to your boss about your concerns. Either way, you wouldn’t improve your situation without a little self-doubt.

4. Self-Doubt Can Create More Honest and Transparent Conversations

If you’re doubting yourself, this can spur a much-needed conversation with your boss about your career trajectory, your workload, or your current assignment. Perhaps she’s given you a stretch assignment that’s caused you to feel anxious or said something in a meeting that put you off. An open and honest discussion might prompt her faith in your ability to overcome your fear and be the insight and boost you need to move forward.

Count the number of times you pursued something, anything—a course, a new hobby, a new job. Did you go into it with 100% certainty that you could do it?

Of course, you didn’t. But that bit of self-doubt made the experience that much more enlightening and challenging.

It’s OK to have self-doubt sometimes, and accepting that will put you in a healthier position to assess your career goals and refresh how they align with your strengths. Remember that everyone and everything is a work in progress, so the next time you feel a bit of self-doubt creep in, don’t let it overwhelm you—use it to your advantage.

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5 Better Ways to Describe Your Entry-Level Position on Your Resume

5 Better Ways to Describe Your Entry-Level Position on Your Resume

5 Better Ways to Describe Your Entry-Level Position on Your Resume

Describing an entry-level position on your resume is tricky. After all, there’s a good chance your main responsibilities aren’t super important to your company’s overall success. And they, therefore, don’t sound all that impressive to a stranger. While you might be tempted to make them sound bigger and better than they really are—don’t. That lie will catch up with you at some (embarrassing) point in the interview process.

But don’t worry, all hope is not lost! We’ve got five techniques for accurately, yet strategically representing your entry-level job.

1. Describe How You Furthered Company Goals

At the end of the day, you were hired for one reason: To make the company more money. That means no matter what you work on, you can highlight how it helps your organization achieve its goals.

Let’s say you’re a Client Support Specialist. Every day, you answer questions, solve problems, and follow up on complaints from customers.

So, how does that help your organization make money? Well, not only does what you do make customers happier (which drives brand loyalty), it also lessens the chance a frustrated customer will stop buying or using your product.

Once you’ve got your answer, it’s easy to turn it into a resume bullet:

Improved customer retention by providing warm, helpful, relevant customer support via phone, email, and chat.

2. Describe a Specific Incident

Everyone has a success story. Maybe it’s the time when a customer was so satisfied he sent you a handwritten letter, or the time your boss was so pleased with your work she told her boss, or when a couple co-workers officially named you “Most Helpful Person in the Office.”

These smaller success stories deserve to be on your resume, especially if you’re not far enough along in your career to have promotions or huge awards to mention.

Think about your “small but cool” successes (a.k.a, what you brag to your parents about after a good day at work). Then, turn it into a bullet.

For example, if you work in HR:

Played the key role in recruiting two interns to work full-time at the company after graduation.

3. Describe Who You Worked With

No job exists in isolation—and typically, entry-level employees work with a bunch of other people on their level. This is awesome for resume purposes because you can use it to display your capacity for teamwork.

Start by thinking about who you depend on to do your job, and who depends on you to do their job. After you’ve created a list, create a bullet that describes these relationships. (And note that you should use job titles rather than specific names.)

If you’re a UX designer, that would be something along the lines of:

Work closely with UI, visual, and motion designers, UX researcher, front-end developers, and product manager to create visually appealing, easy-to-use, entertaining mobile app.

4. Describe What Your Superiors Said

Most people don’t know you can use the praise and positive feedback they’ve gotten from their superiors on your resume. But you definitely can—it’s a great way to reinforce one or two of the traits that make you a great employee.

Hopefully, you’ve been tracking and recording all the nice things your managers have been saying to you in your performance reviews. If not, no worries! Grab a sheet of paper and write down all the compliments you remember receiving. For more material, you should also take a look at emails and performance review records.

Let’s say you’re a sales rep, and your boss is always raving about how you can forge a genuine connection with any client—even if the two of you seemingly have nothing in common.

In resume bullet form, this would look like:

Recognized by the supervisor for the ability to create rapport with every client, which led to higher sales and greater client satisfaction.

(The keyword? “Recognized.” You want to stay away from “honored” or “awarded,” since those imply you got an official award!)

5. Describe Your Job in Numbers

If you’ve been reading The Muse for any period of time, you probably know we’re big fans of quantifying your resume bullets. However, when you work in an entry-level position, this isn’t so easy to pull off. After all, you probably didn’t “save the company $4K a month by reconfiguring expense tracking process” or “decrease client churn rate by 20%.”

That’s okay! You don’t need accomplishments to quantify your bullets—you can also use duties.

For example, if you’re an assistant editor, think about how many pieces you edit each week.

Edit approximately 15 articles per week for style, content, clarity, grammar, and formatting.

Or if you work as an office manager:

Promote tight-knit team culture by creating, planning, and executing 3 company-wide events per year.

If you’re still having trouble, write down your most time-consuming or important responsibilities. Then for each one, ask yourself, How much?

As you can see, there’s no reason why your entry-level job can’t sound awesome.

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4 Challenges You’ll Face as the Least-Experienced Member of the Team

4 Challenges You’ll Face as the Least-Experienced Member of the Team

4 Challenges You’ll Face as the Least-Experienced Member of the Team

You just started a new job and you’re so excited. There’s just one catch: You’re clearly the least experienced person on the team.

Maybe you’re the youngest, or maybe you’ve changed careers, or maybe you just made an internal transfer.

Whatever the scenario, everyone around you knows their work like the back of their hand, leaving you feeling like you’re lagging behind. While that’s not the most comforting or enjoyable feeling, the fact is you’ll face challenges specific to having less experience. But since you know that, you can be prepared for—and address—the four most common issues.

1. Challenge: You Have Imposter Syndrome

When you learn co-workers have a lot more experience than you, your first thought might be, “OMG they made a huge mistake hiring me.”

But, unless you lied on your resume (in which case, yes, it was a huge mistake), your new employer knows you’re new to this kind of work. And they decided to hire you anyways.

That means they see great potential in you and believe you can do this. (It’s true: They’re not going to put their neck on the line for someone they think will fail.)


The first step is for you to believe in yourself, too. You’re here because you threw your hat in the ring—and probably put in a lot of legwork applying. So, reconnect with the ambitious self that thought you should go out and apply for this role. What did you argue made you qualified? Lean on those traits!

Second, if you notice anything you feel especially nervous about, see if you can’t bolster those skills. Take a class or reach out to a new colleague or a networking contact and ask how to develop the skill you feel you’re lacking.

2. Challenge: You Think You Know it All

Some people fall on the other side of the spectrum, and this challenge threatens to derail you even more because it’s harder to self-diagnose. Maybe you know you’re the least experienced, but you think “I got this!” and therefore have zero interest in listening to others, learning from their prior experiences, or asking for help.

As you can imagine, this can hurt you in many ways.

First, you don’t have the benefit of institutional knowledge. Maybe your idea is brilliant—and that’s why someone pitched it six months ago, only to see it fall flat for an unforeseen reason. But you won’t be able to learn from that if you steamroll their feedback.

Second, it’s not going to gain you many friends. Often, there’s a degree of paying your dues when you’re new. While it’s not always the most stimulating work, it can go a long way to garnering respect among your colleagues and making you look like a team player.


By all means, be confident and share your ideas—but don’t confuse that with acting like you’re the smartest person in the room.

One of the best things you can do is work on your listening skills. During a brainstorming session, don’t aim to be the first one to speak. Instead, listen to what your colleagues have to say and see if you can support, build on, or ask to learn more about their ideas.

Additionally, ask for help and feedback, instead of going it alone and guessing. Admitting you don’t have all the answers not only makes you more approachable, but it makes people more likely to trust you when you say you know what you’re talking about.

3. Challenge: You Catch All the Low-Level Tasks

Some grunt work is par for the course. It may even be useful—giving you a foundation so you’ll understand higher-level tasks that you’re going to be assigned in the near future.

However, you don’t want to be taken advantage of, and some people can tend to “dump” meaningless tasks on less-experienced colleagues. While you want to be seen as someone with a good attitude, you don’t want these tasks to distract from your actual job.


The best way to handle this challenge is to use open communication. Talk to your boss about the reality of balancing these annoying to-do with your other work. Ask her to help you prioritize your task list, and if she can share how these tasks add value to the team or your future work.

If you have colleagues who keep asking you to pitch in, see if you can use these assignments as an entry point to more engaging work. Say, “I’m happy to help with [x], and I’m also able to [y] and would love to make a larger contribution to the project…”

4. Challenge: You Need More Time

Phrases like “get up to speed” and “catch up” are time-related for a reason. As you know, you’ll be more efficient at a task the 10th time you do it—and even more so the 100th time.

But your co-workers may forget that the database isn’t intuitive, or that, before all of the shortcuts are committed to memory, you’ll have to keep clicking in and out and cross-referencing. If you aren’t allowed enough time, you’re in a perpetual state of scrambling.


This challenge has an easy fix, because there’s no shame in wanting to get things right—or being new. So, often all you need is to give a simple reminder: Say, “I’m new to [whatever’s taking you a while]. Do you have any suggestions for how I could do [process] faster?”

Then, ask if, in the meantime, you could have extra time for that task—stressing that you want to do it correctly. This’ll also give them a chance to tell you if time’s a factor and they’d rather have it done than perfect.

You’ve leaped to the next level and now are feeling a little out of your league. Take heart that’s how it feels at the beginning. But soon enough, time will pass, someone new will be hired, and they’ll be coming to you with questions.

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The 6 Sales Interview Questions You Will Get Asked (and How to Answer Them)

The 6 Sales Interview Questions You Will Get Asked (and How to Answer Them)

The 6 Sales Interview Questions You Will Get Asked (and How to Answer Them)

For many salespeople, selling a product or service is second nature. But, closing the deal on a job interview can sometimes feel like a tough sell.

Fortunately, some of the same skills it takes to be a successful salesperson can help you become the perfect job candidate. Among those skills is preparedness—like knowing what interview questions might be coming your way.

So, to help you close that interview deal, we’ve rounded up some of the most common sales interview questions. Read on, and prepare to ace them!

1. Tell Me About a Time You Lost a Sale

Every salesperson has lost sales. That’s unavoidable. But, what matters is that you can easily admit this—and that you recount a loss with optimism, rather than pointing a finger at others. Interviewers want to know why you think the loss happened, and what you learned from it. Salespeople who can turn lost sales into learning opportunities are ideal job candidates. Those who talk about who or what was to blame… not so much.

Bonus Tip

It demonstrates self-awareness to point out a personal flaw and how you’ve overcome it. A good answer might be, “I didn’t fully understand the customer’s pain points. Now, I always ask these additional discovery questions, and I’m better able to meet customers’ needs.”

2. Walk Me Through a Sale You Closed

This is not the time to talk about an easy sale. Interviewers want to see how methodically a candidate approaches the complex sales process, and how they overcome challenges.

Choose a sale that was a bit of a struggle and required clever problem-solving. And it shouldn’t be all about you, you, you. “I would also expect them to demonstrate how much of a team player they are,” says Laurie Spieler, VP of Sales for marketing data provider Lusha. “It is concerning if they only speak about how they were responsible for the win.”

Bonus Tip

“I offered a discount” is not how your sales story should end. Interviewers want to know how a candidate elevated the value of a product, not how the customer convinced them to undervalue it.

3. Tell Me About Your Targets

Sales is a numbers game. Sales candidates should be able to rattle off their quotas, goals, and what their final numbers were. “Our advice to candidates is to know your numbers and where you stood within the team,” says Sabrina N. Balmick, Marketing Manager for sales recruitment specialty firm ACA Talent. “Everyone is looking for salespeople these days, and everyone wants the cream of the crop—as a salesperson, your numbers can potentially help you shine.”

Bonus Tip

Interviewers are looking for competitive salespeople, and team sports are how many salespeople first learned to balance competitiveness and teamwork. Mentioning a background in sports never hurts, especially if it helps you connect with your interviewer.

4. How Should a Commission Plan Be Structured?

Some companies offer high commission, low pay. Others do the opposite. There’s also profit sharing, territory volume pay, and many other options. The right answer to this question isn’t about telling a prospective employer what to do; it’s about demonstrating that you get the company’s goals and priorities—and how they align with yours.

“This is an opportunity for candidates to show an understanding of a ‘win-win’ scenario, and an appreciation that any commission structure should not only reflect their performance but also be tied to broader company objectives,” says Laurie.

Bonus Tip

Most employers are looking for partners who can help grow the company, not sales mercenaries who hit targets at any expense. It’s frustrating for interviewers when candidates talk about commissions with only themselves in mind. Avoid that, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

5. How Do You Organize Your Day?

The correct answer is going to sound a little boring. Be boring. Sales jobs have plenty of excitement, but there’s a daily grind to the work, too. It takes organizational skills and endurance to get to the thrilling moments. Interviewers want to know a candidate is willing to put in the hard, unglamorous work. “I always ask about the average daily number of cold calls, how many results in appointments, and how many become customers,” says Bruce A. Hurwitz, executive recruiter and career counselor for Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

Bonus Tip

It’s okay to admit that these are monotonous tasks. What matters is that you do them anyway, and that closing sale makes them worthwhile.

6. Tell Me About Myself and My Company

Okay, this is not a direct question an interviewer is likely to ask. It is, however, something they want candidates to do to demonstrate their research chops. Learn everything possible about the company and product, and weave your knowledge into the interview.

Bonus Tip

Read up on the interviewer, too. Noting that you share an alma mater or know someone from their hometown isn’t an exercise in flattery; it shows you know how to prepare for a sales call.

In the end, an interview is just a sales meeting—the candidate is the product, and the interviewer is the customer. Treat it as such, and prepare for these questions and you’ll close the deal.

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6 Ways to Make Your Next Performance Review Way Less Painful

6 Ways to Make Your Next Performance Review Way Less Painful

6 Ways to Make Your Next Performance Review Way Less Painful

Even if you’re a stellar employee, performance reviews can be a surprisingly draining process. Whether you’re sitting across from your manager panicking about all those times you came in a little (or a lot) after 9 AM or filling out a self-appraisal form, going over everything you’ve done in the past year and then topping it off with goals for the next is all just a bit overwhelming.

But turns out, there are a couple things you can do throughout the year to make this process a whole lot less stressful. Starting today, add these simple tips to your daily routine, and you’ll be totally prepared for a fantastic meeting.

1. Track Your Job Responsibilities

Look over your job description and create a spreadsheet of all your current responsibilities. Set aside time once a week (or month) to fill in each time you go above and beyond under the appropriate response.

Don’t be picky. For example, if you went out of your way to meet with one additional stakeholder for a particular project, write it down. It’s hard to know what examples will prove most useful come review time.

2. Pay Attention to the Extras

Of course, it’s just as important to track the accomplishments that don’t fall within your job description. Whether you add an extra column in your spreadsheet or create a separate list, write down those extra things you do that make the office run more smoothly.

Did you help out with a search committee for a new position? Lead the charge on your department’s volunteer day? These contributions definitely impact the office but might be easy for you to forget, especially if they’re just second nature to you. Either record them separately or be fastidious about putting them in your calendar to keep some sort of record.

If you’re not sure how to approach tracking your accomplishments, try out the handy worksheet.

3. Create a Brag Folder

If lists and calendars aren’t your things, one super simple way to keep track of things you’ve done well is to create a brag folder in your inbox. Anytime you get a note complimenting you on a job well done or a thank you note from a grateful client, pop it in that folder—and when review time comes, it’ll be easy to comb through the accolades and find the best ones.

Set Goals for Next Year

Another common component of performance reviews is coming up with your professional goals for next year. Aside from making sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), you can prioritize by making sure to…

4. Track Those “Want-to-Dos”

You know those projects you want to tackle, but never have time to? It might be streamlining a particularly annoying process or reaching out more regularly to your less pushy clients. If you take an extra second to write them down every time one occurs to you, you’ll have a list of appropriate and useful goals to choose from when the time comes for you to think about objectives for next year.

5. Look Toward the Future

Think ahead to the future roles or responsibilities you’re interested in. Try former Muse editor Erin Greenawald’s career management strategy of checking out other jobs throughout the year (even if you love the one you have) just to see what’s out there that might interest you and what the necessary skill sets are.

Once you get a sense of what positions pique your interest and what qualifications you want to beef up, you can start to set your goals for next year. For example, if most of the positions you’re interested in require management experience, one of your goals might be to supervise the summer intern.

6. Tackle Your Blind Spots

To successfully propel your career forward, you also want to make sure nothing is holding you back. Keeping track of areas that challenged you this year (maybe in that spreadsheet you’re going to create with job responsibilities) can help you set goals that address a professional weakness or a gap in your knowledge—before they become a problem when you’re being evaluated for a promotion.

These goals can be more professional development oriented—such as learning a new technology or gaining experience public speaking—or focused on soft skills, like getting better at delegation. Just make sure to connect your own development back to how it benefits the office.

Armed with a list of accomplishments and a strategy for creating new goals for the upcoming year, you’ll be totally ready for performance review season. Good luck!

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One Super Easy Way to Make a Great First Impression at Your New Job

One Super Easy Way to Make a Great First Impression at Your New Job

One Super Easy Way to Make a Great First Impression at Your New Job

There’s so much to think about when you’re starting a new job. In fact, you’ve probably already made a list to help you make a great first impression at work and it might be looking a little long for your taste. But there’s one super easy and extremely important thing I’ll bet isn’t on there: Practicing your introductions.

That’s right. Introducing yourself may sound like something you’ve got down—you’ve been doing it for years, after all. But when it comes to those early intros to all your new co-workers, you probably want to have a plan. Because first-day you are going to be nervous enough without having to ad lib your way through these crucial meetings.

“The most important thing in a new job is to be able to introduce yourself. That initial intro really sticks with your co-workers,” says Muse Coach Eloise Eonnet. And you can’t necessarily expect them to make it easy for you. “People at the office don’t know how to make newcomers comfortable,” Eonnet says. So think about what it is you want to share with your new colleagues, “because if you don’t, no one knows what to ask you next.”

The good news is that you have so much more control than you think over how these initial conversations play out. And just a little bit of preparation here will go a long way. In other words, this might just be one the fastest but most impactful item to complete on that pre-job to-do list.

“What do you want to say about your previous experience, briefly?” Eonnet asks. What’s the first little story you want to tell about yourself that’ll not only help your co-workers get to know you but also help you direct those first conversations to areas where you feel comfortable?

Maybe you want to say a thing or two about your previous role and company and mention that side hustle you’re passionate about. Or maybe you want to talk about where you grew up or the neighborhood you live in.

You should have some sense of the culture by now to gauge whether you should keep it strictly about your professional experience or mix in some fun personality. If you’re entering a very formal, corporate environment, you might want to stick with your past experience, what you’ll be doing at the new company, and what projects you’re especially excited to work on.

But if you’re heading into a more casual environment, you can probably also tell people about how you follow baseball religiously, make jewelry in your free time, or love to scout out the best ice cream in the city (and are happy to share your recommendations).

For example, if I could rewind back a few months and practice my intros for first conversations before I started my job at The Muse—a company I knew encourages employees to bring their whole selves to work—I might share that I was coming from Newsweek, where I was a staff writer covering everything from news to culture to science. I’d probably mention how excited I was to start at The Muse and dig into writing and editing stories about careers and the workplace. And maybe I’d throw in the fact that I’m a huge dance nerd who makes a habit of going to watch shows here in New York.

The most important thing is that you feel ready and comfortable sharing a few tidbits to get those first chats going. So spend a little bit of time thinking about what want to say and then actually practice with a friend or family member. It’ll be much easier than thinking up the right details on the spot when you’re already nervous.

Because besides making a stellar first impression on your new colleagues, you might just start the process of turning those co-workers into friends.

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12 Pieces of Advice for New Grads That Everyone Should Take

12 Pieces of Advice for New Grads That Everyone Should Take

12 Pieces of Advice for New Grads That Everyone Should Take

As a soon-to-be college grad, I know that the world of work can catch you unawares. In preparing for the job search, I’ve found that experienced professionals often have a lot of great advice to dispense (also some not-so-great advice, but that’s an article for another day).

And it’s true that sometimes the wisest tips don’t come from experts, but from real people with real stories. So, with that in mind, The Muse team asked the LinkedIn community what wisdom they’d bestow on recent grads.

And upon reading all the tips, I couldn’t help but think that anyone—and really everyone—should read them, too. So with no further ado, here are my favorites:

1. Remember These Four Words

Be positive, principled, pro-active, and productive.

-Rakesh N.

2. Discover Yourself

Consider this job a journey to learn about yourself. The purpose is to grow as a human being; to discover what you’re good at, what you love to do, and what you dislike.

Discover your why, and you’ll become happier and more passionate in life!

-Carol L.

3. Be Open to Change

Don’t get discouraged when a job you really want does not pan out for you. It just opens up doors to other opportunities.

-Mitchell M.

4. Don’t Hide From Mistakes

Be honest. Not sure about something? Ask questions. Screwed up? Own up!

I’ve always valued someone willing to learn, and we do that in different ways. I’ll always highly regard someone willing to be honest about their mistakes because we learn from those just as much as our successes!

-Samantha DM.

5. Keep Moving Forward

Learn to hear feedback and never let it fester. Instead consider it, take what works, and move on.

-Heather J.

6. Learn From Everything

Remember every moment is an opportunity to learn from everyone around you, no matter their title.

Pay attention when things go well; pay extra attention when they don’t, and watch how people react to it. Build relationships with the people who face problems by being their solution.

-Anita S.

7. Make Connections

Your biggest asset is your network.

-Eddie M.

8. Be Patient

Networking + Resilience = Success

It won’t be easy but you have to start somewhere. This is just the first step on the stairwell, so don’t give up, and know that the best is yet to come!

-L. Nicole

9. Utilize Your Co-workers

Don’t be intimidated by your colleagues and superiors!

Remember that they were once in your shoes when they began their careers. Leverage their knowledge and experience and find ways to take what worked for them and adapt it to work for you.

-Lauren L.

10. Treat Everyone With Respect

Speak when you walk into the office everyday. Say good morning to your boss and peers as you walk past their offices, smile at janitors and receptionists in your office.

Don’t be so focused on getting ahead that it’s all business all the time. Treating people with humanity and integrity is most important.

-Brittany K.

11. Keep Your Own Counsel

Don’t assume that a co-worker won’t repeat your criticisms of a colleague. When asked how you feel about individuals in the office, be open and vague with your answers.

Always reserve judgment on your co-workers until you have enough time to make up your own mind.

-Nicholas G.

12. Prepare for the Future

Develop good time management habits early on. Your workload will only increase with time, and so will your responsibilities. Be ready when they do.

-Alicia M.

From making the right impression of getting a handle on time management, a new work environment can be tricky to navigate. And, that goes for anyone, no matter how high up the ladder you are.

So if you want to set yourself up for success, pay attention to these sage tips.

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Your 5-Step Plan to Getting a Promotion Without Having to Ask for It

Your 5-Step Plan to Getting a Promotion Without Having to Ask for It

Your 5-Step Plan to Getting a Promotion Without Having to Ask for It

Nobody likes having to actually ask for a promotion. Advocating for yourself is a lot harder than speaking up for others. The good news is, if your boss is paying attention and your actions are speaking for themselves, you may not have to ask.

You probably already know that doing good work is the single most effective way to show your boss you’re ready for more. (But it’s worth reiterating because if you skip this step, you’re going to have a hard time getting promoted.) Ideally, you should be consistently exceeding expectations in your current job. This means you do just about every task as well and as efficiently as it can be done, and you usually finish tasks ahead of schedule.

Once you’ve got that down, here are five more ways to prove you’re ready.

1. Consistently Do “Above and Beyond” Work

Exceeding expectations is only the start: You should also look for ways to add value through projects and tasks that are beyond your role. Find things that need doing that no one has had time for.

True story: Nels was a regional sales rep who regularly met his quotas and completed all the necessary reports. His group’s customer database was out of date and needed to be upgraded and scrubbed of old, bad data. The administrator was bogged down in a systems upgrade issue, so Nels asked if he could start work on making the upgrades and updates. Before anyone knew it, the job was done. Nels graciously shared the credit with the database admin and went on about his regular business.

Six months later, in a move that seemed pretty much out of the blue to him, Nels was promoted. But it wasn’t out of the blue; his manager had noticed several situations like the one above where Nels showed initiative to do extra work and share the credit with others. That’s the kind of employee managers look to promote.

2. Be Hungry for Growth, Not Status

Your boss will be far more impressed with your ability and desire to learn that he will with ego and ambition to improve your rank or status. Your hunger should be for the acquisition of skills and knowledge, not about a new office or a better title. That’s not to say you wouldn’t enjoy those things—after all, you’re human—but they shouldn’t be your primary motivation.

Resist the urge to talk about what you know or brag about how easy everything is for you. Instead, share what you’re learning, and be vulnerable and honest about it. If you’ve suddenly discovered a new way to do a task or job better, don’t say “I feel like I have my area wired”, say, “Just when I thought I had my area wired, I learned a whole new way to approach [a task] that I can now apply to how I do a lot of things. What a great lesson!”

This sounds like an employee who is ready for a promotion—because she’ll keep looking for opportunities to grow and thrive.

3. Work on Continuous (Self) Improvement

Think of it this way: You are your career’s biggest project. Get used to that idea.

As you reach new levels of mastery, take the time to pat yourself on the back. Then, roll up your sleeves and challenge yourself to do what you just did—even better.

Here’s the thing about continuous self-improvement: Most people tend to go for what they know they can accomplish, not what most needs improvement. Try to have the courage to see yourself objectively and work on those things that most interfere with your own success.

Unsure where to start? Ask your boss what you could be doing better, then work consistently to make those improvements. It’ll help you address any weaknesses that could serve as obstacles to a promotion.

4. Look for Long-Term Projects

Tasks that take longer to accomplish are, by nature, more complex. The further up the hierarchy you go, the more intricate your job will become.

Managing complexity is different than just being smart; it’s about overseeing multiple tasks with variable goals and execution strategies. Learn to handle multi-layered projects by picking tasks that are progressively more complex.

Just remember you want to stretch yourself—not drown. So, if you are used to managing tasks that can normally be completed in a month or two, don’t sign up for a project that’ll take a year to complete. Look for a six-month one first.

When you show you’re adept at handling a more advanced project, you’re demonstrating that you could work at the next level.

5. Work on Your Collaboration Skills

Mid and high-level jobs usually mean working in group environments that depend less on being told what to do, and more on being able to make things happen without using your rank to achieve results. In every great team, there is at least one person who makes things click because he or she has the collaboration superpowers of listening, compromising, and mediating. Be that person.

So, practice your teamwork skills any chance you get. Contrary to popular belief, leading every group effort won’t show your boss you’re the best person to promote. To really impress your boss, show that you’re a true team player—one who can add value through supporting your colleagues as well.

It isn’t your boss’ responsibility to help you find your dream job—that’s up to you. But when any quality manager sees these attributes in an employee, he’ll want to find new ways to help that person grow (and that often means a promotion). Yes, you may end up needing to have a direct, and potentially uncomfortable, discussion with him about why you’re ready for a higher level position, but try these steps first and see what happens.

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How to Tell if an Internship Will Be More Than Just Fetching Coffee

How to Tell if an Internship Will Be More Than Just Fetching Coffee

How to Tell if an Internship Will Be More Than Just Fetching Coffee

We’ve all heard the internship horror stories. Those grueling days working with little to no pay in the heat of summer, trekking to get coffee for a terrible boss before organizing filing cabinets all day.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t have to be the case. You can land an awesome internship, but to benefit, you have to do your homework.

And to help you with said homework, we spoke to Melanie Kollmai, a Campus Recruiter for Philips in the greater Seattle, WA area. She gave us the scoop on how to find an internship that will help launch your career. So read on to start your first professional chapter on the right foot.

1) Dig Into the Job Description

The job description is the first thing you see for any role, and the details (or lack thereof) can say a lot about the substance of an internship. And the more specific an employer is about the job responsibilities and the team, the better. Established organizations follow a specific template, and hiring managers should be just as clear in a job description for an internship as they are with any full-time position.

Look for a specific format: a clear background on the hiring company, an overview of the role, a detailed description of day-to-day tasks and an optimal candidate profile—followed, of course, by application instructions. “Make sure that you’re looking at the team specifics and any projects you may be working on, in particular,” says Melanie.

Sometimes, companies interview interns in the fall for the following summer so they may not know the exact focus of your work. That said, there should be clarification on the scope of the work, which helps ensure you will get real value out of your experience.

Red Flags

Vague or short job descriptions, little to no detail about the purpose of the internship, very few details on day-to-day responsibilities.

2) Ask the Right Questions

The interview is your time to shine and to find out more about the internship and the hiring company. Melanie explains why this second part matters: “It’s important to remember that, not only is a company interviewing you, you’re interviewing them, too. It may be your first interview, but it’s important that you ask a lot of questions.”

Here are some interview questions that will give you valuable insight into the role:

As you go through each step of the selection process, try to gauge the extent to which the company’s answers align with your growth. The best internship serves as an introduction to the professional life and gives you structured opportunities and regular support.

“At Philips, interns have a mentor and a manager—they go to meetings and benefit from one-on-one collaboration, even with other teams,” Melanie explains. “They are expected to act as if they are full-time employees by taking ownership, driving their projects forward, and working seamlessly within their team and others.” Internships like that are endlessly rewarding and set you up for a bright career.

Red Flags

An unprepared interviewer, vague or incomplete answers to your questions, an unstructured program.

3) Talk to Former Interns

Beyond talking to the hiring manager, there’s another way to get really good intel on an internship: straight from the source. Consider asking the hiring manager if there are any former interns you can speak with to learn about their experiences. Given that they’re a year (or more) ahead of you, they can give a longer-term view of whether the internship contributed to their career and if so, how.

You’ll want to ask about the specifics of their day-to-day in the role and whether the internship aligned with their interests or degree. It’s also worth checking whether this temporary gig turned into a job offer, and if so, how they’ve found the company since then.

Nervous about asking the interviewer directly? Do some digging on LinkedIn. With the right search, you can find a few people who worked at the company in a similar internship and team. Reach out and ask if they have 15 minutes to talk about their experiences or if they could answer a few questions over email. Their insights will give you a neutral perspective from someone who has been in your shoes.

Red Flags

Former interns think the program was a waste of time, negative feedback about the position.

When an organization invests in a strong internship program, they’re investing in you as a long-term employee. These mutually beneficial situations can set you up for a career that builds on your degree and opens a door for your next steps.

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