TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Morning Routines That Will Improve Your Day

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Try one once a week for the next month and see how your days could be different

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Many of you probably have morning routines similar to my standard one: Hear the alarm ring, wake up in a fog and hit snooze a couple times, finally get out of bed, rush through some combination of getting-ready activities, maybe grab some food, and then head out the door

Not the most exciting. And, no matter what yours is, well, it’s a routine. And, while doing the same things morning after morning is often necessary, it’s also not the most inspiring way to get your day going.

So, last Friday I decided to try something different. I woke up an hour earlier than I usually do to go to DAYBREAKER, an event held in cities around the world that is dedicated to “starting your day off unlike anything else” by holding a sober dance party at 7 AM.

It was an adventure. And while the event itself was nice, what was really great was the notion of swapping out my standard morning drudgery for something a little different and, dare I say, fun. While I was definitely tired the rest of the day (see: waking up an hour earlier), I also came into the office feeling more refreshed, sharper, and like I had a little creative spark that I didn’t have after my standard subway commute.

Even if you don’t have DAYBREAKER in your city (or aren’t really the dance party type), there are plenty of ways you can shake up your morning for a more inspired workday. Try one once a week for the next month and see how your days could be different.

1. Have That Coffee Meeting First Thing

I tried this once recently as well, and it totally transformed my morning. There was someone I had been looking to meet up with for a little networking coffee and, instead of trying to squeeze it in during work hours or meeting up when I’m tired at the end of the day, we decided to meet first thing in the morning. Instead of starting my day sorting through my inbox, I had a lovely conversation and made a new connection—and I was still in the office before 10. Not only did I come into the workday with ideas swimming through my head, I was in a much better mood than if my only morning social interaction had been with my grumpy neighbor on the subway.

Nobody you’re trying to network with? Try just getting up early to go out to breakfast with a friend, SO, or even co-worker. You’ll strengthen relationships andstart your day off a little differently.

2. Listen to a Podcast While You Wake Up

I don’t listen to a ton of podcasts, but I want to get more into them. I also have a really hard time pulling my brain out of the sleep fog and my body out of the cozy bed in the morning—but I don’t just want to let myself fall back asleep and into the snooze cycle.

So, one night, I queued up an interesting-sounding podcast, and as soon as my alarm went off the next morning, I rolled over and groggily pushed play. This week I’m listening to the “Bored and Brilliant Challenge” and by the time the five-minute podcast episode was over, my brain was fully on and feeling inspired, and I was ready to get my day going. For longer podcasts, I’ll often get up five or 10 minutes in and finish the episode while I get ready or during my commute in.

The right podcast will be able to teach you something new, inform a challenge you’re working on, or just get you thinking—so why not do this right from the start?

3. Create Something

Instead of reaching for your phone to read the news first thing, reach for a pencil and paper. Or a little piece of clay. Or even ingredients to make yourself a tasty breakfast.

Then write. Draw. Shape or make something. Play a little music. It doesn’t have to take long, and it doesn’t have to be big—or even good, for that matter—but you’ll be starting your day by engaging a part of your brain that many of us don’t get to work with often. And I have a hunch it will help you see the rest of your day in a different light.

It’s ideal to use your hands (and not your screens) to wake yourself up gently, but if you’re not really an artsy person, try waking up early to dedicate time to a side project before work. Do some coding. Write a post for your blog. Whatever it is, it will probably make you even more inspired to wake up—and start your day with something you’re excited about.

This is just the start—there are plenty of ways to shake up your morning and jumpstart your day. Tweet us @dailymuse if you have a morning non-routine that you love!

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How Doing Work You Hate Can Benefit Your Career

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Here are three things to cling to when you think nothing good will come of it

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

I started taking pictures to capture quiet moments. Little details. Good light. Untold stories. I didn’t get into picture taking to make goofy faces (and bad jokes) to keep a hangry lil’ toddler smiling through an afternoon family session. But a girl’s gotta eat. And people love flattering photos of young love at golden hour. So, smile!

When I first started taking on work that I didn’t love, I felt like a total sellout. I would call my mom and wail that I was “compromising my artistic integrity” and that my work would never be the same. Lots of question marks and existential questions about purpose and truth filled the pages of my mind (and my journal). But, after a few months of doing work I hated, I began to see growth in the work that I loved…and hated.

Now, I’m not trying to encourage you to seek out work you dislike. If you can accept work that fits with your mission and vision 100% of the time, then by all means—be the exception to the rule. But, in the off chance that you might have to take on work you dislike (or even flat-out loathe)—here are three things to cling to when you think nothing good will come of it.

1. Doing Work You Hate Forces You to Stop Dreaming and Start Making

In a perfect world, you would only write, design, and strategize for the projects of your dreams. All the beautiful ideas floating around your head would be shaped and formed in everything you got paid for—your dreams actualized in yourportfolio and your bank account. What bliss!

But, let’s be real. Creating the work of your dreams doesn’t come along every day, and if you wait to create when the light hits just right, then you probably won’t make anything. Author P.D. James says, “don’t just plan to write—write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.” So, when you get discouraged about doing work you hate, remember that actually making something is better than dreaming about it.

2. Doing Work You Hate Challenges You to Think Outside of What is Comfortable

We create from what we know and what we love. And even the most innovative creators and makers get stuck in ruts and rhythms where they create the same work over and over. One of my junior high photography students, Nikita, loves surf photography. For the first five weeks of Photography 101 class, he would only take pictures of the water, waves, and surf. After five weeks of filtering through hundreds of images of the ocean and amateur surfers, I challenged him to do a portrait series of a family member.

No water, no waves, no surfing.

He hated it and took every opportunity throughout the week to remind me. Despite his reluctance, he came to class with the most beautiful photos of his sister, Tsungi. During class critique, one of his classmates said, “you should stop taking pictures of water, ’cause you’re way better at taking pictures of people.”

Leave it to a 12-year-old to tell it like it is. So, who knows. Maybe the work you “hate” will actually force you to create something better than the work you’ve been hiding behind this entire time. I’ve even found that trying something new entirely (like learning how to code so I can update my website or taking a photography class) helps challenge what I know and grow what I don’t.

3. Doing Work You Hate Pushes You to Pursue the Work You Love

The argument behind doing work you love is that if you love it—well, it isn’t work. But, when you spend multiple family sessions engaging moody teens to “look” like they love their parents, then you will crave one session of doing something you love. Doing work you hate pushes you to seek out the hours (and even minutes) in which you’re doing work that fills you up—and reminds you why you started making that thing in the first place.

So, if doing work you have forces you to create, challenges you to be uncomfortable, and pushes you to seek out the work you love—keep your chin up! You’re on your way.

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How Not to Answer ‘Why Are You Interested in This Position?’

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Maintain a good balance between talking about yourself and relating to the company

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Hiring managers don’t always say what’s on their minds, and sometimes this results in a less effective interviewing experience for you, the job candidate. But, regardless of how good or bad your interviewer is, you’ll very likely still get this question: “Why are you interested in this position?”

The reason for that is because your answer says a lot about all of the most important things the interviewer will be evaluating: your skills, your cultural fit, and your interest. In other words, this is definitely not a question you want to screw up. Here are four common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. You Never Talk About the Company

I recently had a conversation with a recruiter, and she shared this great tidbit with me about what she considers to be the kiss of death for interviews. When people answer, “Why are you interested in this position?” with something about being passionate about programming, writing, or some other skill with no mention at all about the actual company, it’s immediately a red flag. Think about it this way: You can bring your skills anywhere. The trick is explaining why you want to use them for this particular company.

2. You Only Say What’s in it for You

This mistake is particularly common because, well, this is what the question is asking for, isn’t it? Maybe this job would give you the chance to learn a lot about marketing, or it’s an opportunity to grow your quantitative analysis skills—that’s great, but it’s not what your interviewer really wants to hear. At the moment, the hiring manager isn’t the most invested in what’s in it for you; he or she wants to know what’s in it for the company. The solution? Align your interests and say something about your enthusiasm for using your skills to contribute to the company’s greater goal.

3. You Bring Up Points That Aren’t Relevant

In the heat of the moment, it can be really tempting to reveal that the office is actually quite close to your daughter’s school or how the company’s flexible hours policy would make it easier to carpool with your roommate, but don’t give in. These are nice perks, but (hopefully) they’re not the only reason why this position is exciting for you. Plus, you’ll be giving up an opportunity to share the more relevant ones.

4. You Answer the Wrong Question

Have you ever gone on a date with someone who wouldn’t stop talking about his or her ex? Well, turns out this happens during job interviews, too. Don’t be that person who can’t shut up about why you need to leave your old job, stat. Even if the reason you’re job searching is directly related to your previous position, focus on the future. Bring up the skills you’ve developed for sure, but no need to dive into the history of how you acquired them.

This seemly innocuous question is a surprisingly tricky one, especially if you try to answer it without first thinking about your audience. Read this to learn more about how to answer this question strategically. Then, get your story straight, and remember who you’re talking to. It’s just one question, but it can completely shape the way an interviewer views your candidacy.

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5 Ways to Transform Yourself Into a Leader

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Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

After months of effort, you finally land the promotion you’ve had your eyes on. On paper, it’s your dream job: You have a bigger team under you, more exciting responsibilities, a direct line of communication to the big boss, a salary that’sactually competitive, and of course, the highly anticipated corner office.

But the day-to-day reality isn’t unfolding quite as you’d hoped.

You’re getting apathetic vibes from your employees, and you don’t know why. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing—managing projects, directing traffic, juggling deadlines and budgets. You’ve even tried bringing cupcakes to the office, but your team’s energy seems to evaporate as soon as the sugar high wears off. You’re left wondering: What more could they possibly want?

Data tells us that today’s employees want a lot more out of their jobs. In our increasingly educated workforce, employees are no longer satisfied to punch a clock and collect a paycheck. They don’t want to blindly follow instructions handed down from the manager; they want to feel empowered. In fact, recent research shows that teams managed by motivators perform better than those that are too heavily controlled by a designated supervisor.

In short, employees want a Tony Robbins, not a Donald Trump.

No one is saying you need to convene a daily kumbaya circle, but there are some practical steps you can take now to up your game and elevate yourself from a manager to a leader.

1. Leaders Know How to Listen

Leaders listen to everyone, even those who might not have as much “experience” as other people in the room. In my last corporate job, I worked for the CSO of a Fortune 100 company. At team meetings, he would sit back quietly while the VPs jockeyed loudly for his approval. He would let them monopolize the forum for a little while, and then he would turn his attention to someone who hadn’t bothered to try to compete with the dog and pony show. “What do you think?” he’d ask, giving that person all of his attention. It brought out the best in the quieter people, and it humbled the louder ones.

The best leaders treat brainstorming as a democracy of ideas. One way of getting more invested participation from your employees is to introduce a weekly team meeting where new ideas are solicited from each person. This is a great way to strengthen the team mentality, showing your employees that you want and welcome their brilliance. (Here are a few more strategies for listening better.)

2. Leaders Know the Difference Between an Amateur and a Pro

Leaders earn their stripes through consistent displays of professionalism, not by taking the shortcuts we so often see from amateurs. According to Steven Pressfield, author of Turning Pro, “the difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.” The amateur calls in sick when he’s had too much to drink the night before; the professional shows up early and does his best work, even if his physiology is hating him. If it means he has to give 150% to get the job done, that’s what he gives it. The leader takes full responsibility for his actions and, by doing so, imparts the message to those around him that they need to do the same.

3. Leaders Leave Their Egos at the Door

A true leader does whatever is required to get the job done. If that means manning the copier, making the midnight coffee run, or assembling folders, that’s what the leader does, even if his paycheck and title suggest such jobs are “beneath” him. This approach not only guarantees that the work gets done; it also does wonders for the energy levels on the team.

One way to implement this is to pay attention to the unique brilliance of each employee on your team. If you see that people are exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. If you’re coming up blank on ideas for them, ask them what they’d like to do more of. They will respect you for getting your hands dirty, and they’ll appreciate you for making them feel seen and heard.

4. Leaders Live Outside Their Comfort Zone

Playing a big game doesn’t always feel natural or comfortable, but it’s a choice that true leaders make again and again. As kids, we are often conditioned to go with the grain and to avoid disrupting our environment. We often keep ourselves from really being seen, and from being different. The problem here is that this encourages us to grow into very average adults who only feel comfortable when we’re playing small.

I’ll never forget the moment I stepped backstage at TEDxBerkeley. As the least seasoned speaker at the time (hello, I went on after Guy Kawasaki), I thought I’d definitely be the most nervous in the room. Boy, was I wrong. The whole group backstage—best-selling authors, innovators, serial entrepreneurs—were all panicked. Nothing this rewarding can possibly exist in your comfort zone, and it’s the leaders who are willing to wake up daily, stepping outside of theirs.

5. Leaders Have Emotional Fitness

Emotional intelligence—the ability to read and connect with just about anyone in the room—is great, but it doesn’t sustain you in times of uncertainty and instability. It wasn’t until I became a career coach that I learned the importance of emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is your ability to flexibly endure the ups and downs of business and life. The difference between managers and leaders is the way they react to and process the failed deals, the lost clients, and even the busted refrigerator in the break room. Managers freak out, sending tiny ripples of panic and chaos through the rest of the team. Leaders tap into an inner Buddha, an unwavering stillness that empowers them to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

If I could impart one final insight on you, it’s this: Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t. In exchange for giving more of themselves, they reap much bigger rewards.

They are also patient. Pressfield says, “our work is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days is nothing.” If you are committed to becoming a true leader, don’t be discouraged if the situation doesn’t change overnight—leadership, like all forms of self-improvement, is a journey, not a destination. True leaders understand that it’s not about where they go; it’s about who they become.

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3 Ways to Achieve Your Biggest Goals

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Use these effective and integrated tips to track progress and achieve your goals

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

This year, instead of just setting goals, I resolved to meet more of them, and I eagerly went on a quest to narrow down the best tips.

Achieving your goals isn’t an exact science. However, there are certain tricks that can greatly increase your likelihood of success. The three tricks I’ve discovered—focusing on keystone habits, pinpointing deeper motivation for change, and using technology to analyze and celebrate progress—can help you transform vague career and personal resolutions into actionable habits. Here’s how.

1. Set Keystone Habits

The first mistake people make, especially at the beginning of the year, is trying to achieve too many goals all at once. The second mistake is expecting immediate progress. It’s pretty unrealistic to think you’ll start eating better, working out, and getting eight hours of sleep—overnight!

A better approach is to identify and build keystone habits, an idea outlined in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. As an article on A Life of Productivity explains, Keystone habits, “create a chain reaction; changing and rearranging your other habits as you integrate the habit into your life.” They have three characteristics: They “give you numerous small senses of victory,” “serve as the soil from which other habits grow,” and “give you energy and confidence to do more.”

If you want to be healthier, for example, one good keystone habit might be waking up earlier. It’s a pretty easy change, so you’ll start each day with a small victory. Also, with more time for yourself each morning, you’re more likely to reach your other goals—like cooking a healthy breakfast or getting to the gym. Finally, this change is energizing, because it will empower you to make better choices in other areas of work and play.

Looking for a new keystone habit? I highly recommend beginning and ending each day with meditation. Whether you’d like to run a marathon or get a promotion—meditation carves a focused time each day to mentally prepare for your morning run or engage in elevated thinking about your work.

2. Discover Your True Motivation

Napoleon Hill, author of Think And Grow Rich, writes that, “the starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” Behind every goal lies a deeper reason that is motivating your desire for change or achievement. Whether your goal is financial freedom or moving to the C-suite, knowing the deeper reason is vital to reaching your desired result.

Unfortunately, these greater reasons for career or personal change often get lost amid the daily noise of emails, events, and immediate deliverables. Without them, it’s easy to become discouraged. Even if you’re steadily maintaining your new habits, what will happen you face challenges or a plateau?

Say you’re looking to change fields, and you’ve diligently set aside time every Sunday for job-hunting. But, after a month, you still haven’t secured an interview. Unless you can hold onto the deeper reason why you’re searching for a new job—perhaps you want to do work that you’re passionate about—you may consider giving up.

In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains that there is a significant chance of relapse (even after you’ve successfully replaced old habits) when you’re under pressure. So, in times of increased stress or challenge, do the following: Create a vision board that includes pictures and words that illustrate exact goals and feelings. Write down specific and detailed reasons for each new goal on a piece of paper, and place it where you can clearly see it each day. Make these visual sources of empowerment immediately accessible, and openly share them with friends, family, or like-minded peers.

3. Use Apps for Accountability

The success of any viable corporation is measured through daily accountability, quantifiable progress, and recognition of smaller—as well as larger—milestones. Likewise, your year-long goals should be broken down into measurable pieces, during which time you hold yourself accountable and celebrate achievements.

There are many user-friendly apps to track progress toward personal and professional goals, using real-time data. For fitness, Seven challenges even the busiest person to do just seven minutes of high-intensity workouts each day for seven months—using no more than a chair, a wall, and your own body weight. This app guides you through the workouts with illustrations, timers, and spoken instructions while tracking your progress on graphs and calendars. Charlie App makes meeting prep painless by syncing with your Google calendar and doing automated research on your new contact. The app combs the internet and sends you a one-pager on your contact’s social profiles, bios, interests, and as well as their tweets and common connections. And Wunderlist lists daily priorities, sets reminders, and categorizes tasks.

At the end of each month, use the aggregate information to study your progression and highlight any areas needing attention. Then, make the journey more meaningful by celebrating growth, small or large. Spotlight mid-year achievements with a special trip or treat. Send thank you gifts or take friends who’ve been there for you out to dinner. Balancing the discipline and professionalism of a business mindset with gratitude and self-love creates a motivating environment for growth.

Every new goal is an opportunity to grow, personally or professionally. Use these effective and integrated tips to track progress and achieve your goals.

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4 Ways to Bounce Back From an Unproductive Day

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While you can't be perfect all the time, these exercises can help you get back on track

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

The clock on the bottom right-hand corner of your computer screen says 4 PM—but that can’t be right.

Can it?

Considering your day so far has consisted entirely of chatting with co-workers, half-listening to a conference call, and catching up on the day’s headlines, it just doesn’t seem possible that you could be an hour from the end of the day—with absolutely nothing to show for it.

Ideally, this doesn’t happen often—but the occasional inexplicably unproductive day does happen. (To everyone. Seriously.)

Now, with a to-do list twice the size it was this morning and a boss not-so-patiently waiting for deliverables, one thing’s for sure: You can’t have a repeat of this tomorrow. So what can you do to ensure you bounce back from an unproductive day? Try these tips.

1. Get Something Done Today

If you leave unfinished tasks on your to-do list, there’s a good chance they’re going to hang over your head and cause anxiety until you return to your desk tomorrow—it’s called the Zeigarnik effect.

There’s no way you’re going to finish everything on your to-do list, even if you stayed all night. But, being able to cross even just one task off your list can give you a peace of mind and a taste of encouragement that you’ll need tomorrow to push through the rest of your unfinished work.

So take a look at your list, and pick something that can be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Hunker down and commit to finishing that one task before you leave. It may be a small step, but it’s a step toward a more productive tomorrow.

2. Take a Break, Then Strategize

When you leave for the day, take your laptop (or, if you don’t have a portable work computer, your to-do list) with you. No, you don’t need to work all night from home. You should absolutely leave the office, take a break, eat dinner, and relax.

But before you turn in for the night, take a few minutes to plan out your day for tomorrow. Figure out what your priorities are, what you need to tackle first, what you can delegate, and what, if anything, can wait for another day. Set goals for yourself throughout the day, so you know exactly what you want to accomplish, and by when.

With a plan already made, you won’t have to waste any time in the morning figuring out how to make the day a productive one.

3. Figure Out How to Get in Your Productive Zone

When you’re back in the office the next day, it’s time to get serious. You have a lot of work ahead of you—essentially, two days’ worth of tasks to be completed in a normal workday (or at least, as soon as possible).

But after a ridiculously unproductive day yesterday, how can you switch gears? According to Erin Greenawald, the answer is beast mode. “It’s when you’re in the zone, nose to the grindstone, with no question about whether you’ll go check Facebook for just a second (the answer is no). It’s when nobody dares to come up and bother you because they can sense your hyper focus and determination.”

How you get into beast mode, however, is different for everyone—but could involve music, working near a hardworking peer, or creating a deadline for yourself.

Doesn’t sound like your thing—or don’t want to spend valuable time figuring out what works for you? Try a classic, proven productivity strategy like the Pomodoro technique. Whatever you do, figure out how you can get the most quality work done within the day.

4. Going Forward, Find a Better Way to Manage Your Time

If this doesn’t happen to you often, don’t sweat it. With a little extra effort, you can easily recover from an unproductive day.

But if you find that you’re wondering where the day went, day after day, you might want to take a closer look at how you’re spending your time. Consider creating a time budget and auditing where your extra time goes, or for the more visual types, try filling in a personalized wheel of productivity.

With one of these simple exercises, you may be able to pinpoint exactly where you can focus to get back on track to 100% (OK, maybe 95%—we can’t be perfect all the time) productivity.

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9 Myths About Confidence That Are Holding You Back

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Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be an extrovert to be confident

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Have you ever met somebody, either in a social or professional situation, and been amazed at how much confidence that person projected? Did you then walk away from that encounter and tell yourself, “he was probably born confident,” or “she’s obviously an extrovert, so of course she’s confident,” to find a rational reason for this person’s perceived social advantage?

Confidence is something that everyone strives for at work and in life. Yet, as much as it’s something many of us endeavor to get, there are also a lot of misconceptions or myths surrounding confidence. And if you start to believe these myths, you can feel that confidence is unattainable, or just not for you.

Today, I want to take you through nine of these confidence myths to overturn them once and for all. It’s time to step over these misconceptions and allow yourself to feel confident inside so you can move forward and achieve the goals you’ve set for your life.

Myth #1: You Need to Be Born Confident

Absolutely not! Nobody is born confident. Confidence is something you develop as you go through life and as you put yourself in new situations or new environments. When you see others who ooze confidence, they weren’t born that way. They acquired their confidence by confronting challenging situations, pushing their boundaries, and doing things they thought they’d never be able to do—all things you can do to grow your confidence as well.

Myth #2: You Can’t Fake Confidence

Wrong. Just ask Amy Cuddy and her colleagues from Harvard University and Columbia University, who studied the impact of using specific poses on your own feelings of power. In summary, they found when you adopt high-power poses for two minutes, it increases your level of testosterone, decreases your level of cortisol, and makes you feel more powerful and less stressed. Basically, you can make yourself feel confident by simply changing your body language! For more, check out Ashley Cobert’s advice on how you can fake more confidence in meetings.

Myth #3: You Have to Be Successful to Be Confident

No way! In fact, this works the other way around; you have to be confident before you reach success. Otherwise, you’ll never believe that you can achieve it. Confidence is something you have to tap into and find at the beginning of your journey toward success. Even if all you can tap into is a small amount of confidence, that’s okay. As you move closer toward your goals, that inner confidence will naturally grow stronger and stronger.

Myth #4: You Have to Be an Extrovert to Be Confident

Wrong. Being an extrovert doesn’t always mean you’re confident. You can be an unsure extrovert, just as you can be a confident introvert. Most people believe you have to be an extrovert to be confident because we often associate being an extrovert with being the center of attention or life of the party. But confidence isn’t all about being the most talkative person in the room. It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and being happy with the achievements you’ve made in your life.

Myth #5: Confident People Have No Insecurities

Untrue. Insecurities are a part of everyday life. Whenever we’re faced with the unknown, it’s human nature to feel a little insecure. Just because you might have self-doubt or feel unsure when you’re changing jobs or moving to a new city, it doesn’t mean that you’re not confident. The key is to keep moving forward anyway.

Myth #6: Confident People Are Confident all the Time

Absolutely not! There can be periods of your life when you’re full of confidence and you feel you can take on the world. Then, there’ll be other times when uncertainty and self-doubt kick in. When I left Australia the last time to move to France, I went from feeling confident and “at home” to being uncertain almost all of the time. What I discovered is that confidence doesn’t hang around 100% of the time. It varies throughout life. And when you start to feel a little less confident, that’s when you really know you’re pushing the barriers of your comfort zone—and setting the stage to grow your confidence down the road.

Myth #7: Confidence Means You Like Public Speaking

Wrong. Barbra Streisand, who is known to suffer from stage fright, is a perfect example of this. Yet, she gets up on stage and performs with outstanding grace. Confidence doesn’t mean you have to like public speaking. But it does mean that you can find the faith to get up on that stage anyway. Why? Because you’ve practiced enough times to make yourself confident.

Myth #8: Confident People are Arrogant

Untrue. You can absolutely project confidence and authority without coming off as arrogant. This myth usually arises because people think they have to boast about their life to appear more confident to others. But in reality, it’s when you put yourself and your life aside and focus on the other person instead that you project the most confidence. Confident people don’t have to be the focus of the room. They’re happy and proud of their life achievements, so they don’t need reassurance from others.

Myth #9: You Have to Take Big Risks to Be Confident

Wrong. It’s not the size of the risk that’s important. What’s important is whether you’re pushing the barriers of your own comfort zone and doing things that are new for you. If you don’t often push your comfort zone, then a simple change, such as talking to the barista at your local coffee shop, will probably be a big enough risk for you to feel more confident. Then as you get more comfortable with smaller changes, you can move on to riskier ones.

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5 Smart Networking Strategies For Career Changers

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Take it step by step and remind yourself to be patient

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

Career changes can feel incredibly daunting. And networking for that change? Even more so. All your contacts know you for your current role and responsibilities, so how do you even begin networking effectively for your new desired role?

Like the career change itself, this particular step probably won’t be as dramatic as you might imagine (no, really). In fact, much of the networking you’ll be doing will be the same, with just a couple of exceptions—and these sometimes make things easier, not harder!

1. Let People Know

Even though many of the people in your immediate network won’t be in your target industry, you never know who might be in their networks. So let people know you’re thinking about making a change, and see if they know anyone you can connect with. (This “Help Me Find a Job” template can be easily adapted to a career-changing situation.)

Likewise with your social media network, especially if your career change is actually a fairly well worn path (think leaving your corporate job for a startup). You might just attract the attention of a recruiter and cut down on the networking you need to do.

2. Do Your Research

Even beyond your immediate network, you likely have more resources at your disposal than you realize. Before you start reaching out to people who are a little further removed from you, do your research. Does your university give you access to an alumni database? Have you searched on LinkedIn for people in your target role to check out their career paths? What are the professional organizations that are active in your area? This might not feel like networking to you, but it’s important to lay the foundation for your future efforts.

3. Find Others Who Have Done It

Once you get a sense of the different ways you’ll be able to meet more people, know that the most useful people for you to connect with are those who have already made the career change you’d like to make. LinkedIn can be particularly useful here, since you can see people’s career paths right there on their profiles. While reaching out to people who have an extensive tenure in the industry can be helpful to learn more about the trade, other recent career changers are often able to offer more strategic advice about breaking into your new field.

4. Seek Advice

Networking is hard work—especially the meeting people and talking to them bit—but magically, it’s actually easier when you’re new to an industry. Think about it this way: Networking is all about telling your story, asking questions, and getting advice. As a career changer, your story is going to be more interesting than most and, being new and all, you’ll naturally have questions and require advice. Use this to your advantage! Once you’ve looked up people to talk to, set up a bunch of informational interviews and go to town. (Here’s how to ask them and get a “yes!”)

5. Go to Industry Events

Finally, put yourself out there. Go to local events related to your industry. Professional organizations frequently have both social and professional development events—and you could benefit from both. Learn something new and create some luck for yourself. You might just end up in the right place at the right time and meet the person who ends up giving you your big break into the field.

It feels really big right now, but if you take it step by step and remind yourself to be patient, before long, you’ll be the one people reach out to wanting to learn about changing careers. Of course, you’ll still remember how intimidating it all felt and offer some words of wisdom or open a door or two. Right?

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How (Not) to Ask Questions When Applying For a Job

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Here are the dos and don’ts of asking a question during the application process

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

It’s one thing to prepare questions to ask at the end of your interview. You want to look thoughtful; you want to show that you’ve listened; and you may have a few burning questions about the way things are done around there.

But it’s a completely different story when you have a question before the interview even begins. For example, what should you do when the hiring manager asks for your availability on Tuesday, and then sends a calendar request for Thursday? Or what if you aren’t sure if a supplemental part of your application was received?

Not to make you (even more) nervous, but this can be a hit-or-miss situation. If you ask the question diplomatically, it will demonstrate that you could handle a tricky professional situation with ease. But if your email seems superfluous, over-eager, or condescending it will—not surprisingly—put a damper on your candidacy.

Read on for the dos and don’ts of asking a question during the application process.

Do Look for the Answer

In daily life, if you aren’t quite sure what someone means, it’s not uncommon to shoot him a quick email. But when you’re job-searching, something as innocent as a “Hey, how should I go about this?” email can reflect poorly on your candidacy.

Why? Because if the answer to your question is clearly listed somewhere on the website, you’ll look like you didn’t have the time, or interest, or initiative, or skills to solve your own problem. And that’s obviously not the impression you’re trying to make.

So, search high and low for the answer. If it’s not in your email correspondence, refer back to the website (or vice versa). If you’ve diligently looked for the answer and still can’t find it, then reach out—just be sure the question highlights your desire to find a solution (rather than your frustration). Think, “Could you clarify how I should submit this part of the application?” not “I’ve spent hours trying everything, but I just can’t figure out what you want, so could you please explain how you’d like this submitted?”

Don’t Show Off

Just as you shouldn’t ask a question when you could easily find the answer, you also shouldn’t ask a question simply to “show off.” Sometimes you have no choice but to ask for additional assistance or clarification (think: the hiring manager refers you to an attachment—and there is no attachment). However, inquiring about an obvious, benign typo highlights a lack of diplomacy (rather than superior attention to detail).

I understand where you’re coming from: You don’t want to ignore a glaring typo, because what if it’s some kind of test? You don’t want to look like you didn’t even notice!

The trick is to handle the situation graciously. You’ll probably sound rude if you write, “Are you sure you didn’t mean 12 PM, as opposed to 12 AM, which is what your email said?” Instead, just include the correct time in your response: “Yes, I am available at 12 noon. I look forward to meeting you!”

Do Ask a Critical Question

Before I scare you into thinking you should just figure it out, let me be clear that sometimes asking a question can make a big difference! Along with the times when it’s essential (e.g., it’s unclear whether it will be a phone, video, or in-person interview), there are also times when asking a question can give you a leg up.

Several years ago, I received an itinerary in a scheduling email that said the name of an alumni co-interviewer would be sent to me at a later date. I waited several days because I know how challenging it can be to negotiate the schedules of various stakeholders. But, when I still hadn’t received the name 48 hours before I was due to interview, I followed up and asked if it would be possible to learn his or her name (which I was sent shortly thereafter).

Armed with that information, I Googled him—and that actually came up in the interview! He said, “I Googled you, but all that came up was that you went to Franklin & Marshall [College].” And I said, “I Googled you too, and saw an op-ed you wrote!” which prompted an entire conversation.

Those bonding moments can go a long way—and it happened because I had the confidence to ask a question. So, if you have a question about something you were told would be clarified at a later time, or something that will change how you submit your application or prepare for your interview, don’t be afraid to ask. Just watch your tone: “Would it be possible to learn more about…?” comes off way different than, “I need to know…”

Don’t Bury Your Lead

So you have a relevant question, but how should you go about asking it? You may feel tempted to treat the email like a conversation and ease in—but this is not the best approach.

For example, you might think that writing, “Air travel is so unpredictable! The last time I flew my plane was delayed by two hours…” sounds warmer than, “I’ll be traveling on that day. Would it be possible to schedule the phone interview for the afternoon?” But burying your question won’t make you sound friendly; rather, you run the risk of your interviewer having no idea what you’re asking. And if that happens, you’ll have to reach out—again!

Keep it simple, keep it clear, keep it professional. And if you’re worried you’re being too long-winded, write out your email in a Word document, and then try to cut it by at least two lines.

The skills you display throughout the hiring process reflect on your candidacy. So, along with knocking your resume, interview, and thank you note out of the park; focus on intermittent communications like an email asking a clarifying question. It just could make the difference.

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8 Questions Successful People Ask Themselves

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Answering these questions for yourself will help you identify the areas of your life that will most directly affect your success

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

We all know that having a mentor is one of those things you’re “supposed to do” to be successful. But, the reality is that there aren’t nearly as many good mentors out there as there are people who need them.

What’s a guy (or gal) to do?

We suggest looking to the greats. We scoured the web for advice from the mentors we wish we had to figure out what aspects of our lives they would be drilling us about. Read below for eight crucial questions that your mentor would ask you, if you had one. Answering them for yourself will help you identify the areas of your life that will most directly affect your success, productivity, and overall well-being.

1. What Time Do You Wake Up?

There are 24 hours in a day, and you can use all of them. — Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric

Jeff Immelt is one of the most productive people in the world and one of the few CEOs who could have possibly filled the shoes of Jack Welch when he took over GE in 2001. Immelt is an intensely hard worker, claiming to have logged 100 hours per week for the past 24 years. Doing the math, if he works six days a week, that’s about 17 hours a day.

How does he do it?

By waking up at 5:30 every morning to do cardio, read the papers, watch CNBC, and send emails. This lets him get to the office before 7 AM and immediately start working on things that matter.

And Immelt isn’t the only insanely early riser; Business Insider has published a new list of high-profile CEOs who rise before 6 AM about twice a year since 2011. The most recent one includes names like Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) and Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks).

While you don’t necessarily need to get this intense, it’s worth thinking about whether you’re using your time in the most productive way possible—and whether your habit of sleeping in could be holding back your success.

2. What Decisions Can You Stop Making?

I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. — Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook

In Zuckerberg’s first-ever public Q&A a few months ago, the question that most stood out was, “Why do you wear the same gray t-shirt every day?”

The quote above is his answer. He went on to explain his thought process behind decision minimization. Basically, making decisions takes energy, and energy isn’t unlimited; therefore making fewer decisions equals more energy for things that matter.

So, what decisions can you stop making? What small things in your life can you make more routine to preserve your energy for more important things?

3. What Are You Afraid Of?

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. — Steve Jobs, late CEO of Apple

When you think of the biggest innovators of the past century, Steve Jobs is inevitably one of the first names that comes to mind. This is a man who single-handedly transformed the tech industry (twice), the music industry, and the movie industry.

Jobs embraced failure and took risks. Not many people remember that Apple was on the verge of shutting down when he came back to the company in ’96. He took a $1 annual salary in his first year back at the company. Two years later, he released the fastest-selling personal computer of all time. Sounds like something that a lot of people would have been too afraid to do—but that led to great success for him.

Ask yourself: What are you afraid of? What fears are keeping you from doing what you know in your gut you need to do? It’s time to start identifying them and facing them to really reach your full potential.

4. What Is Today’s Single Most Important Goal?

You’re not going to do this forever. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. And if you do this really, really well, everybody will see that, and they’ll move you onto the next thing. — Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s

Don’t get me wrong: Long-term goals are important. But, the most successful CEOs got where they are today with a laser-like focus on the specific job directly in front of them.

If you had a mentor, he or she would ask you what you want to achieve today, this week, and this month, not what you’d like to achieve this year or in five years.

Here’s the simple truth: You can’t get to your one-year goals without doing your one-month goals really, really well. Plus, what you want in a year will probably be different than what you want today. So start thinking short-term; focus on doing what’s in front of you as well as you possibly can, and really succeed in it.

5. What Hard Thing Are You Not Doing Enough?

I don’t like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed. I don’t spend a lot of time doing my favorite activities. — Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers

This is why I disagree with people who claim that the secret to success is to “find your passion.”

While there’s merit in liking what you do, learning to like things you don’t like doing is far more valuable. That’s what Michael Dell is saying here—you have to do the hard or boring things you don’t like to get ahead. Then, instead of getting caught up on liking what you do day to day, teach yourself to like the results that what you do brings. Just because you don’t always love what you do, doesn’t mean it can’t be fulfilling!

Think about the tasks that you’re always procrastinating or avoiding. Are they ultimately critical to your success? How can you reframe them to focus less on the task at hand and more on the reasons that task is important?

6. What Easy Thing Are You Doing Too Much?

Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves. — Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People

If you need to spend more time doing the hard things, then what do you need to do less of? The easy things!

Although not a CEO himself, Dale Carnegie spent his life studying his generation’s most affluent and successful people, and this was one of his big takeaways.

Take time to identify all of your easy, low-energy tasks. You know, those things you always find yourself doing in the morning so that you can procrastinate on that really hard project until the afternoon. Yes, checking Facebook counts, even if it’s for business.

Start forcing yourself to get those low-energy tasks done during a pre-determined time in your early pre-work hours (see question one) or to wait until after lunch to even think about doing anything on that list.

7. Do You Really Need to Buy That?

Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Don’t forget Rule No. 1. — Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

Cutting expenses is a much faster way to wealth than boosting profits. That’s basic Business 101, and it applies to your personal life, too. However, most of us have never considered the simple math behind this rule.

In his best-selling book, The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, Andrew Tobias claims that if Ben Franklin were alive today, he’d amend his original “a penny saved is a penny earned” quote. Instead, he’d say that it takes two pennies earned to get back what you lose from one penny spent.


Because for one penny saved to be worth one penny earned, you’d have to pay zero taxes (which was true for Ben Franklin). Tobias argues that today we pay a lot closer to 50% of our income in taxes than we realize. So, for me to earn back the $50 I just spent on Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, I’ll actually have to earn an extra $100!

When you think about it like that, saving money makes a whole lot more sense. The next time you want to buy something, don’t just ask yourself if it’s worth it—ask yourself if it’s worth twice as much as the price tag. Whether you’re starting a business or just thinking about your personal finances, making sure every purchase is moving you toward your ultimate goals will really help you out in the long run.

8. How Are You Going to Implement the Changes That Need to Be Made?

I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature. — John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil

You’ve been asked the questions; now how will you implement the answers? Now that you know what you need to do to level up your career, your business, your wealth, or whatever else you want to improve, commit to doing it. The faster the better, but steady improvement over time is much more valuable than fast, huge changes that fall off later.

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Read next: 7 Insanely Productive Habits of Successful People

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