TIME trade

It’s Time for Europe to Get Tough With Russia

European Union Foreign Ministers Meet On Ukraine Crisis
Flags of the European Union seen in front of the headquarters of the European Commission on March 03, 2014 in Brussels, Belgium. Michael Gottschalk—Photothek/Getty Images

Europe has a history of coming together in good times but not in bad. Think about the creation of the Eurozone, and the launch of the single currency, juxtaposed with the piecemeal policy reaction over the last few years to the Eurozone financial crisis. This tendency has been on tragic display recently, with the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet that carried numerous European passengers. This event should have strengthened European resolve to put more and tougher sanctions on Russia. Instead, it’s led to half-hearted measures doled out on a country-by-country basis. France is even going ahead with big deal to supply warships to Russia.

The key issue, of course, is that Europe is in very deep with the Russians economically, much deeper than the U.S. Or China, for that matter; The recent Russia-China gas deal was small potatoes compared to the business that the Europeans do. Europeans get about 30 percent of their gas from Russia, and are dependent on other natural resources, like oil and minerals, from Russia too. Indeed, the Netherlands, which lost more people than any European country in the crash, took in the largest share of those exports from Russia last year. They aren’t alone—German banks and multinationals do lots of business with Russia, and countries like the UK are a big destination for oligarchs looking to stash cash outside their home country.

That’s why it’s so crucial that European foreign ministers come together at their meeting over the Ukraine situation and Russian sanctions in Brussels. Until they are on board with more serious sanctions, particularly in the energy sector, it’s unlikely that the current rounds are going to make a serious dent in the Russian economy, which, as a recently Capital Economics report pointed out, still has a strong international investment position.

The bottom line is that Europe needs a much smarter and less Russia-centric energy strategy. As I’ve explained before, that’s a need that’s unlikely to filled by the gas rich US anytime soon. Rather it’s something that will have to be driven internally within Europe. It’s an opportunity not only for Europe to become more secure, but to prove to the rest of the world that it can work together and live up to the promise of the EU itself—in both good times and bad.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Doing This on Social Networks Could Cost You a Job

A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura
A portrait of the Facebook logo in Ventura, Calif., on Dec. 21, 2013 Eric Thayer—Reuters

With his Blurred Lines parody, Weird Al is onto something: America’s grammar stinks. And there’s strong evidence that it’s so bad, it’s costing us jobs. A new survey from CareerBuilder finds that about a third of HR managers say they’ve taken an applicant out of consideration because of “poor communication skills” on social media.

Yes, people know by now that posting pictures of them funneling beer or making racist jokes on Facebook will probably take them out of the running, but even the types of grammar errors Weird Al is skewering can be enough to cost somebody a job.

CareerBuilder says a third of the roughly 70% of HR managers who use social media to check out candidates have dropped them from consideration because of “poor communication skills.”

More than nine out of 10 HR professionals say they see poor communication displayed on candidates’ pages, says Susan Vitale, chief marketing officer at iCIMS, a talent acquisition company. “Job seekers should pay special attention to their social media profiles, ensuring all publicly accessible information is professional,” she says. “It’s difficult for a recruiter to ‘unsee’ these references.”

In other words, sometimes it’s not what you say online: It’s how you say it that can be a dealbreaker. We asked HR pros what would give them pause if they ran across it on an applicant’s social media page.

Bad or nonexistent punctuation: “If they can’t punctuate, if they can’t make a coherent sentence, then they are not, in my opinion, what we’re looking for,” says Thomas Anderson, a panelist with the Society for Human Resource Management and director of HR at the Houston Community College System. “If they don’t punctuate properly, you get a sense that the way they probably write all the time.”

Misspelled words: According to Vitale, 47% percent of recruiters say spelling errors are their biggest turn-off when reviewing a social media profile. Spell-check is there for a reason, people.

Incoherent rambling: “The employer is more apt to question your professionalism if you show a pattern of misspelled words… or your commentary seems rash, uninformed or non-cohesive,” says Jennifer Grasz, spokeswoman at CareerBuilder.

A stuck caps-lock key: “If they’ve got it all in capitals, that’s a big red flag… that indicates in social media or email that you’re shouting,” Anderson says. This is a widely known bit of online etiquette, so an applicant that isn’t savvy enough to pick up on this might have serious knowledge or social skills gaps elsewhere.

Using words the wrong way: Using words incorrectly can also trip you up in an employer’s eyes, Grasz says. If you’re not sure what a word means, look it up.

Texting shortcuts: It might be natural for people — especially young adults — to abbreviate words with letters or numbers when texting, but Grasz says it can be a turn-off for hiring managers if your conversations on social networks are riddled with this kind of shorthand.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Scientifically Backed Ways to Seem More Powerful

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Compassionate Eye Foundation/Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Mail clerk? Administrative assistant? Make the honchos look at you in a whole new light. Here’s how social scientists say you can make people think you’re more powerful.

Take up lots of space. MIT researcher Andy Yap says the way we stand and sit can give both those around us as well as ourselves the sense that we’re powerful. Specifically, what Yap calls “expansive poses,” where people adopt a wide stance when standing, put their hands on their hips instead of at their sides and stretch out their arms and legs when seated. “High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power,” Yap writes. “That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.”

Scientists who study the effects of these hormonal changes say they’re associated with status, leadership and dominance — and all you have to do is take up more space.

Tap into the “red sneaker effect.” This is why Mark Zuckerberg can get away with wearing a hoodie. Researchers from Harvard Business School studied how sometimes looking out of place can have a positive effect. “Under certain conditions, nonconforming behaviors can be more beneficial than efforts to conform and can signal higher status and competence to others,” they write. (They give the example of someone wearing a pair of red sneakers in a professional setting as an example.) Since most of us try to conform to social norms, we tend to think that people who deliberately don’t do so because they have enough social status that they don’t have to care what the rest of us think.

Use big-picture language. Yes, it pays to be detail-oriented, but when you communicate, think in terms of broader ideas, because it makes people think you’re more powerful. Researchers discovered that when people use abstract languages in phrases, sentences and short paragraphs, experiment subjects were more likely to perceive of them as powerful than when they used more concrete verbiage.

Call the shots on eye contact. Social scientists observe that people with lower status tend to make eye contact more than those with higher status — probably because the higher-status person doesn’t need to seek approval or isn’t as concerned with the other person’s response. More powerful people also aren’t afraid to break eye contact, according to Audrey Nelson, writing in Psychology Today.

“Investigators found that people who are more dominant break a greater number of mutual gazes than those who are more submissive or in the power-down position,” she says. Just as Andy Yap finds with our bodies, the amount of space a person’s gaze takes up also telegraphs how high they are on the social or corporate food chain.

Stand at the back of the elevator. In an Australian study, researcher Rebekah Rousi, a PhD candidate at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, observed people’s interactions in an office complex elevator. “As a result of 30 elevator journeys (15 in each building) a clear social order could be seen regarding where people positioned themselves inside the elevators.” She found that senior male staffers, who she suggests have a greater relative amount of power, tended to cluster along the back wall of the elevator.

MONEY Airlines

The New TSA Fee Should Change the Way You Book Flights

An airline passenger is patted down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent
An airline passenger is patted down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent at Los Angeles International Airport. Kevork Djansezian—Reuters

Airline passengers used to pay as little as $5 round trip in TSA fees. Now everybody pays $11.20, and you could be forced to cough up double that.

As of July 21, the TSA’s September 11 Security Fee structure has been changed, and all travelers flying within the U.S. will be paying more every time a flight is purchased. Passengers on nonstop flights must now pay $5.60 each way, up from $2.50, so therefore the TSA fee on a basic round trip consisting of two nonstop flights is $11.20, up from $5. Unfortunately, there’s no getting around that fee hike, which amounts to a 124% increase. The fees are automatically tacked onto the price of airfare.

In the past, fliers on nonstops paid less in fees than travelers on connecting flights: $5 for a round trip, versus $10. Now everybody pays $11.20, regardless of connections. So in addition to nonstop flights being superior in terms of saving time and avoiding possible delays and missed connections, there was the added bonus of saving a few bucks on the TSA fees.

Now that little bonus is gone.

Even so, it’s almost always still best to go with a nonstop, if possible. Sure, delays and technical troubles can happen on nonstops, but travelers are far more likely to encounter such hassles on connecting flights. With recent airline mergers, carriers have slowly been getting rid of the old hub-and-spoke systems at the same time they’ve been trimming back the overall number of flights. As a result, passengers are generally more likely to find nonstop flights to their destination of choice and more likely to run into extra trouble on connecting flights. (It’s less likely there will be another flight behind the one you missed, and even if there is it probably doesn’t have enough extra seats.)

By going nonstop, passengers also rule out the risk of being forced to pay extra TSA fees on connecting flights with unusually long layovers. In the past, budget travel experts sometimes recommended looking into flights with extra-long layovers as a tactic for saving money. The new TSA fee structure makes that strategy a little less worth the hassle. Now, if a connecting flight has a layover of four or more hours, fliers must pay $5.60 for each leg of the journey. So for a flight from, say, Providence to Los Angeles with a five-hour layover in Dallas, a passenger would pay $11.20 in TSA fees, as opposed to $5.60 to a passenger booked on a nonstop or on a connecting flight with a more reasonable layover wait.

Airfarewatchdog.com founder George Hobica gave the Arizona Republic an example of a recent flight deal that would be affected: $197 for a winter season round trip from Newark to a choice of destinations in the Caribbean. “The catch,” the article explained, is that “travelers had to stay overnight in Miami in both directions.” So their layover would obviously be more than four hours—so they’d get hit with double the usual fees.

Fliers booking multi-stop itineraries—usually for business purposes, but not necessarily—will also feel the impact of the new fee structure more so than others, as they’ll have to pay at least $5.60 for each leg of the journey, rather than as little as $2.50 in the past. Depending on the traveler, number of stops on the itinerary, and the reason for the trip, this might not necessarily be a deal breaker. But it absolutely should factor into the decision making process.

TIME Aviation

Malaysia, the World’s Unluckiest Airline, Will Now Struggle to Survive

Malaysia’s national carrier was already in a weak financial position. Now its future is highly uncertain

+ READ ARTICLE

Only four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished somewhere in the Indian Ocean with 239 passengers on board, Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, causing the loss of another 298 souls — an unprecedented blow to a major international airline. Even a robust operator would have trouble overcoming twin disasters like that. But the fact is that Malaysia’s flag carrier is in no financial shape to absorb these catastrophes. In fact, analysts wonder if it will ever be able to recover.

“The outlook is very dire,” says Mohshin Aziz, an aviation analyst at Kuala Lumpur–based Maybank. The airline, he fears, “won’t be able to survive beyond the year in its current form.”

The next months could prove humbling for an airline that had grand ambitions. The Malaysian government had high hopes that its national carrier would compete with the region’s best, and invested much money and emotion into building it. But Malaysia Airlines got badly squeezed in the fiercely contested Asian airline industry. Its cost base is too high to compete with lean and mean budget carrier AirAsia, also based in Kuala Lumpur. At the same time, it lacks the prestigious brand image to raise its ticket prices and take on East Asia’s more premier airlines, such as Singapore Airlines and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific. As a result, the company has been bleeding for years. The airline’s Kuala Lumpur–listed parent, Malaysian Airline System, has racked up losses of more than $1.4 billion since 2011. Management has tried cutting costs and improving service to turn around the airline’s fortunes, but such efforts were making only minimal progress.

Now whatever hope remained may get dashed by the two crushing tragedies. Analysts are concerned that the fallout will scare passengers away from flying on the airline, or force management to discount tickets to convince them to book — reducing revenue either way. That could push the airline’s fragile finances to the breaking point, causing “the ticking time bomb to explode,” says Daniel Tsang, founder of consultancy Aspire Aviation in Hong Kong. That reality will likely force Malaysia Airlines to take more drastic measures to stay afloat. Even before the latest crash over Ukraine, CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told shareholders in June that the MH370 incident “sadly now added an entirely unexpected dimension, damaging our brand and our business reputation, and accelerating the urgency for radical change.”

There are options, but all are equally unsavory. Mohshin believes that Malaysia Airlines will have to greatly shrink its business, perhaps eradicating most of the international routes it flies, to focus on the more profitable parts of the operations. “It will never get back to the large size it was before,” he says. “The sooner they accept that fact, the better off they will be.” Tsang says that bankruptcy proceeding would be a “pretty good option” for Malaysia Airlines. That process would make it easier to strip out more of the legacy costs and make the airline more competitive.

What happens next ultimately depends on the Malaysian government. A state-controlled investment fund owns a majority of the shares in the carrier’s parent company, and that makes the future of Malaysia Airlines a political issue. The airline’s powerful union has been able to fight off previous efforts at radically overhauling the carrier and analysts say that rescuing Malaysia Airlines this time will require a high degree of political commitment. Still, if Malaysia Airlines manages to streamline its operations, it may live to fly another day.

“The restructuring will be painful for a lot of people,” Tsang says. “But a phoenix can rise from ashes.”

TIME brics

The BRICS Don’t Like the Dollar-Dominated World Economy, but They’re Stuck With It

World For Money
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

The latest summit of the world’s leading emerging markets took more steps toward replacing the U.S.-led global financial system. But change will come very, very slowly

When the BRICS get together for their annual summit — as they did last week in Brazil — they always make a lot of noise about changing the way the global economy works. They have good reason to be frustrated. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are gaining in economic power and crave the political clout to match, but standing in the way is a global financial system organized by the West and dominated by the U.S. They’re forced to conduct their international business in the unstable U.S. dollar, making their economies swing back and forth with the winds of policy crafted in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The West has ceded influence in institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) only grudgingly. To them, today’s financial system is out of touch with the changing times, and ill-suited to support the world’s up-and-coming economic titans.

So in their summit, from July 14 to 16, the five BRICS announced two major initiatives aimed squarely at increasing their power in global finance. They announced the launch of the New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, that will offer financing for development projects in the emerging world. The bank will act as an alternative to the Washington, D.C.—based World Bank. The BRICS also formed what they’re calling a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, a series of currency agreements which can be utilized to help them smooth over financial imbalances with the rest of the world. That’s something the IMF does now.

Clearly, the idea is to create institutions and processes to supplement — and perhaps eventually supplant — the functions of those managed by U.S. and Europe. And they would be resources that they could control on their own, without the annoying conditions that the World Bank and the IMF always slap on their loans and assistance. Carlos Caicedo, a Latin America analyst at consulting firm IHS, noted, for instance, that the New Development Bank “has the potential to match the role of multilateral development banks, while offering the BRICS a tool to counterbalance Western influence in international finance.”

In theory at least, the BRICS possess the financial muscle to make that happen. Four of the BRICS — China, India, Brazil and Russia — are now ranked among the world’s 10 largest economies. (South Africa, not a member of the original constellation of BRICs as conceived by Goldman Sachs, comes in a distant 33rd.) Yet the reality is more problematic. The BRICS at this point are simply not committing the resources necessary to make anything but a dent in global finance.

Research firm Capital Economics estimates that the New Development Bank, with initial capital approved at only $100 billion, could offer loans of $5 billion to $10 billion a year over the next decade. Though that’s not an insignificant amount, it’s far lower than the $32 billion the World Bank made available last year. The situation is the same with the currency swaps. Set at a total size of $100 billion, the funds available would be a fraction of those the IMF can muster.

That’s assuming these initiatives ever get off the ground. This sixth BRICS summit is the first to produce anything beyond mere rhetoric, and it remains to be seen if they can cooperate on these or any other concrete projects. Despite their common distaste for the U.S.-led global economy and desire for development, the BRICS share as many differences as similarities. They have vastly diverse levels of development and types of political systems, and the bilateral relations between some of them are strained. India and China, for instance, routinely spar over disputed territory, while Brazil sees China as much as an economic competitor as partner.

Beyond that, all of the BRICS have serious economic problems to deal with at home. The new government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be hard pressed to implement the reforms necessary to jumpstart the country’s stalled economic miracle. Growth in Brazil, South Africa and Russia has been even more sluggish. China’s growth has held up, but it suffers from rising debt, risky shadow banking and excess capacity. And now Moscow has to contend with sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe over its aggressive policy toward Ukraine. It may soon face even greater isolation as the world probes its connections to the separatists in Ukraine, who reportedly downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 with the loss of nearly 300 lives.

Meanwhile, whether they like it or not, the BRICS will be stuck operating by the rules of the U.S.-led world economy for the foreseeable future. There is simply no other currency out there that can replace the U.S. dollar as the No. 1 choice for international financial transactions. China has dreams of promoting its own currency, the yuan, as an alternative, and has made some progress. But the yuan can’t truly rival the dollar until China undertakes some fundamental financial reforms — liberalizing the trade of the yuan and capital flows in and out of the country. That’s far-off. And until then, China’s massive reserve of dollars forces it to continually invest in dollar assets. Even as Beijing bickers with the U.S. over cyberspying and regional territorial disputes, it has been loading up on U.S. Treasury securities — buying at the fastest pace on record so far this year.

Still, the steps taken during this latest BRICS summit point to what may be the future of the global economy. Though their initiatives may be small and tentative now, they signal an intent to remake the global financial system in their own interest as they continue to grow in economic power. Perhaps one day it’ll be the U.S. that does the complaining.

TIME Economy

New Data Show Faster Job Growth in States With Higher Minimum Wage

Labor Secretary Perez Discusses Raising Minimum Wage During Visit To DC Restaurant
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, second left, and Representative George Miller (D-CA) visit a Sweetgreen restaurant to discuss minimum wage, June 16, 2014 at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Findings could undermine the argument that raising the minimum wage hurts job growth

New data show that the 13 states that raised the minimum wage this year are adding jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.

State-by-state hiring data released Friday by the Labor Department reveal that in the 13 states that boosted minimum wages at the beginning of this year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85 percent from January to June. The average in the other 37 states was 0.61 percent, the Associated Press reports.

The findings could undermine the argument that raising the minimum wage hurts job growth, a view held by major conservative lobbies. The Congressional Budget Office reported earlier this year that a minimum wage of $10.10 could bring 900,000 people out of of poverty, but would cost 500,000 jobs nationwide.

“It raises serious questions about the claims that a raise in the minimum wage is a jobs disaster,” said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research. The job data “isn’t definitive,” he added, but is “probably a reasonable first cut at what’s going on.”

President Barack Obama has supported raising the minimum wage, saying that it will help the economy and businesses.

Some economists said that data was inconclusive and that it’s too early to say whether minimum wage hikes hurt job growth. The rate of job growth was the highest in North Dakota, where the local oil and gas boom has spurred the economy but there has been no minimum wage increase. “It’s too early to tell,” said Stan Veuger, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “These states are very different along all kinds of dimensions.”

[AP]

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 3 Most Important Words You Should Learn Right Now

How To Ace A Job Interview: 7 Research-Backed Tips
Chris Ryan—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Hard to say—but very important

One thing I’ve learned at Buffer is that being open to not knowing things seems to be the best way to learn quickly and teach others at the same time. So many of our biggest hits on the blog have come from saying, “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

On many matters, we haven’t any authority.

Is this an OK way to get by?

We’ve found great success in not knowing, and there’s no reason why you can’t, too. While we can certainly see the value in establishing yourself as an authority in your industry, being the answer-man or answer-woman isn’t the be-all, end-all of your options.

You can survive and thrive by embracing “I don’t know.”

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The leading authorities on not knowing

An interesting phenomenon occurs when you’ve been not knowing things for as long as we have. You become an authority on not knowing.

That seems to be the case here at the Buffer blog. We’d like nothing more than to be known as a go-to source for social media content. When you think about social media, we’d love for you to think of us!

At the same time, we understand that we may not be authorities on everything social media—we may not have all the answers right away, near at hand.

And that seems to be alright.

Instead of being authorities on social media, we can be authorities on thorough research, fascinating statistics, and personal experience. In other words, there is more than one way to cement yourself in the minds of your followers beyond traditional authority. If we can earn a reputation as a go-to source for social media content by embracing what we don’t know, then the opportunity’s there for you to do the same.

If you aren’t able to claim authority in your chosen field, you can still seek after a subset of authority. You can be an authority on:

Find whatever it is you’re good at, and become the best you can be. Soon enough, your Facebook and your Twitter and your blog will be known for the quality, exceptional work you do, regardless of what it is that you don’t know.

The authority pyramid

So maybe authority means more than expertise, influence, and confidence. If we expand our definition, we can each find our own path to authority, however it may look.

Impostor syndrome: We all feel like we don’t have all the answers

I’ve had moments where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for my job. Have you had these moments, too?

We’re not alone. Psychologists call this impostor syndrome, and it applies to those of us who are unable to internalize accomplishments. Despite outward evidence that we’re great at what we do, we’re convinced that we’re frauds and undeserving of our place.

This level of “I Don’t Know” is more common than you might think. The term has been around since the 1970s, and researchers believe that up to 70 percent of people have felt the effects of impostor syndrome at some point.

If you’re interested in finding out if you have any characteristics of impostor syndrome, you can take the Clance Impostor Scale survey and see where you land. For each statement in the survey, you mark how true it is of you. For example,

  1. I tend to remember the incidents in which I have not done my best more than those times I have done my best.
  2. I often compare my ability to those around me and think they may be more intelligent than I am.
  3. At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.

Part and parcel of impostor syndrome is the feeling of not knowing—the lack of expertise that we’ve been talking about so far. Via the Crew blog, here is a simple illustration that shows how impostor syndrome feels:

Impostor Syndrome chart

In the same Crew blog post, Andrea Ayres explains what the manifestations of impostor syndromemight look like, how people may compensate for feeling like a fraud. Do either of these sound familiar to you, whether you’ve done them yourself or witnessed them from colleagues?

Overdoing: When people prepare to an almost obsessive level, putting in much more effort than is realistically needed in order to ensure they don’t fail

Underdoing: People will under prepare or put off doing something until the last minute so they can blame any possible failures on a lack of readiness, as opposed to their actual ability. If you don’t really try you can’t really fail, right?

Of course, neither of these outcomes is preferable. Overdoing will lead to pressure and burnout; underdoing will lead to poor quality and performance.

With the prevalence of impostor syndrome being as great as it is, there must be a better way to survive and thrive while feeling like you don’t have all the answers. Here’s one way that we’ve found.

Giving yourself permission to not know it all

I believe part of the reason for the pressures of impostor syndrome is that there is a stigma around not knowing something. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t have all the answers, it’s because somewhere along the line you learned that it’s best to have all the answers all the time.

Not only is this impossible, it might not even be the best way to go about it.

I’m fortunate to work at a place that embraces the “I don’t know.” Buffer’s values highlight the fact that it’s okay to not have all the answers. We phrase this in terms of curiosity, improvement, listening, and humility.

Here are some choice phrases pulled from our Buffer culture slide deck:

You take the approach that everything is a hypothesis and you could be wrong

You approach new ideas thinking, “What can we do right now?”

You are suggestive rather than instructive, replacing phrases such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” with “perhaps,” “I think,” and “my intuition right now”

You seek first to understand, then to be understood

Does your company share this belief? I’d be interested to hear which perspective your work takes on the matter of authority and knowledge.

It certainly helps to have an employer so openly embrace the idea of not knowing. And at the same time, there is power in the individual assertion that you don’t have to know it all. Even if your company isn’t outspoken on the matter, you can change your personal philosophy and give yourself a break from chasing authority. You may find this new mindset refreshing, among the many other benefits of embracing the power of “I don’t know.”

3 incredible effects of embracing what you don’t know

“I don’t know” and trust

Jason Freedman of 42 Floors shared a story about a competitive hiring process where one of the key deciding factors for the candidate was Freedman’s openness about not knowing an answer. When Freedman said, “I don’t know,” the candidate was sold. Here’s the reason why:

When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.

Think about someone who always seems to have an answer for everything. You’ve maybe wondered along the way if he or she really could know all this stuff, right? But when you admit to not knowing, you give power to the things you do know. People learn to trust your responses to questions and to know they can get an honest answer from you at all times.

“I don’t know” and innovation

Stay hungry, stay foolish

This quote from entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi plays off the idea of embracing the power of “I don’t know” as it relates to curiosity—a key to innovation. Hashemi believes that being clueless and curious is essential to entrepreneurship. Without it, you no longer dream, tinker, and ask “why not.” In this way, knowing too much can actually be a detriment.

“I don’t know” and creativity

Would you hire someone with little experience in your industry? Common sense might say no; however, some would argue that inexperience might be just the thing a company needs.

Nils Sköld writes about this idea on Medium, telling how a lack of knowledge can actually be an ideal way to spur creativity and think outside the norms of an industry. Have you experienced anything similar to this?

My theory is this: when you know everything about an industry, you don’t know whats good for it. What an industry needs is people who have no idea on how it operates. People that don’t know that there are any rules. While it is good to break rules and to push boundaries, it’s much better to just never know that any rules exists.

Our key to not knowing: “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

In our experience, there’s a bit more to the matter of not knowing than simply embracing our lack of knowledge.

We’d be sunk if we stopped at “I don’t know.” That’s why we follow up by finding out.

Much of our blog content comes from experience. We hunt for answers to our questions (and your questions!) and we report back with what we find.

What we lack in authority on social media, we make up for by seeking input from our audience in chats and conversations and by approaching our social updates with a curious, open attitude.

Embracing “I don’t know” is an opportunity to discover. We’ve found that having an attitude of improvement, experimentation, and curiosity makes it such that there’s no need to worry about not knowing this or that.

If we don’t know, we’ll find out.

Over to you: In what ways has not knowing benefited you?

Having authority in your industry is great, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for growth. You can enjoy authority in many number of different ways from being the expert of experts to being the expert of your unique perspective.

We’ve embraced the power of “I don’t know,” and we’ve seen the benefits for trust, innovation, creativity, discovery, and so much more.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day and The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .
TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Amazing Pieces of Advice No One Ever Gave You

procrastination
Office worker playing with newtons cradle Image Source/Getty Images

The best advice for those looking to achieve great things is often the least repeated


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Career advice is in no short supply. In fact, you could probably spend the duration of your working life simply reading through the tips and advice already online. But as in all areas of life, the more common something is, generally speaking, the lower its value.

Many oft repeated truisms are more about wish fulfillment than reality (sorry peddlers of endless, uncritical “follow your passion!” posts). Plus, tips that everyone and their mother (and their college career counselor) knows are unlikely to give you an edge over the competition. So what are the true hidden gems of career advice, the truths that few people are willing to say out loud that can actually transform a mediocre career into a rockstar one?

That’s what a someone on question-and-answer site Quora wanted to know recently, asking: “What are a few unique pieces of career advice that nobody ever mentions?” The community responded with plenty of uncommon, thought-provoking advice.

1. Doing your job well is not enough.

Being excellent at your job is a surefire way to get ahead, right? Nope, say several responders, including Victor Wong, CEO of PaperG. “Most people assume just doing their current assigned job well is enough–so many associates at law firms think doing all the paperwork and litigation properly is the road to partnership, and many PR account executives think that getting a few articles written about their clients will earn them a promotion,” he writes, but “becoming a principal, partner, or senior executive with P&L-level responsibility requires a completely separate set of skills from entry and mid-level jobs.”

How do you make that leap? “To make the big jump to the next level, they’re really being benchmarked on their ability to deliver future value to the firm in ways that are not taught or explained to them: chiefly how much business are they are able to bring in,” he asserts. “People who can think of what to do and deliver are the ones who ultimately are more likely to get promoted to the top levels.”

Another anonymous poster agrees: “You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen.”

2. Who you work for is hugely important.

We all wish we lived in a world where who you know matters less than what you can do, but that’s often not reality, and not always for unhealthy reasons. Knowing the best in the business often means you’ve worked with the best, and people rightly admire that.

“You don’t have to be passionate about the product you are selling. You don’t have to be in the most glamorous industry. You don’t have to work for the company with the best ‘brand’ identity or reputation in your chosen field,” insists Jeremy Boudinet, director of marketing for startup Ambition. What does matter is who you’ve worked with.

“Few things are as valuable as going and working for somebody that is going to want to teach you anything and everything they know. You’ll experience tremendous personal and professional growth if you have the best person mentoring you,” he says, so “figure out where the absolute best person to work for would be, and go work for them.”

3. … So is where you work.

Just like who you work for can deeply affect the fate of your career, where you work also has a massive impact. Just saying, ‘I want to work in software or sales,’ isn’t enough. Nor, as Boudinet point out, is it enough just to fill your resume with impressive company names. Your destiny is influenced greatly by the destiny of the particular organization that employs you. Don’t take a job with just any old company because it’s in the right sector or impresses your friends.

“Your career is a boat and it is at the mercy of tides. No matter how talented you are it’s a lot harder to break out in a sluggish situation/hierarchy/economy than a go-go environment. Even if you’re a superstar at Sluggish Co., your upside trajectory (more often than not) is fractional to what an average/below average employee achieves at Rocket Ship Co,” says an anonymous poster with the most up-voted answer.

4. Being seen as super busy isn’t always a good thing.

Think high achievers work endless hours and are continuously busy? Think again, writes Mira Zaslove, director of international sales and trading at FabExchange. “Ironically the busier you appear, often the less you will move up. I’ve seen smart and dedicated employees fail to get promoted, because they have taken on too much, are working too hard, and appeared too frazzled,” she reports. “If you appear stressed, people will think you aren’t prepared to take on more, and you’ll miss opportunities for new and innovative projects.”

5. Take a tour.

When plotting your first (or next) big career move, many of us think very abstractly, musing in solitude or in front of Google about the joys of our supposed dream jobs. But the truth is you can’t decide on a career without seeing the day-to-day reality of where and how you work–the concrete truth rather than the imagined reality. Don’t make decisions without actually going and seeing for yourself.

Alek Mirkovich, founder of campayn.com, once thought becoming an air traffic controller was a great idea, but then he took a tour of where he would actually be working. “Every single guy was BALD! Playing around with a simulator is fun, but apparently the real thing is stressful. Within 30 seconds I knew I wasn’t going to be signing up for this!” he remembers.

6. Don’t hide your failures.

Failures are seen less as a signal of incompetence and more as a sign that you’re willing to take a risk and innovate, according to Zaslove. “Your team will respect you and your career will accelerate if people understand what you are doing and that you are taking risks. Most people do not view someone as credible if they are giving advice and recommendations, but not walking the walk,” she claims. “If you show that you are willing to take risks, and publicly falter, your team will feel confident taking risks too. Lead by example.”

7. Execution matters more than plans or advice.

Many people are looking for the magic recipe of how to make their career take off, but many of the responders agree that there are some serious limits to what other people can tell you. “Advice (like ideas) is not in short supply, there is plenty of it going around,” writes coach Darren Beattie, for instance. “It’s not really the advice in the long run that matters, it’s the execution of the advice by the person being advised. The greatest advice ever in the history of the human race is absolutely useless if you act/execute on none of it.”

Or to put it another way, there’s no real roadmap that you can blindly follow. The trick is figuring out what to apply and what to ignore for your own personal situation. That same popular anonymous responder sums this idea up well: “Career tracks and meritocracies don’t exist: Your career is not a linear, clearly defined trajectory.”

What less well known bit of career wisdom would you add to this list?

Read more from Inc.com:

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

The One Trait That Guarantees a Good Hire

7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

TIME Companies

These Are the Companies With the Worst Customer Service

Wells Fargo has become the leading bank in home mortgages. Photo: Shutterstock

Not great

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This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247wallst.com.

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When it comes to companies we dread dealing with, we all know who they are. Let’s put it this way, would you rather go to the Apple Genius Bar to fix something with your iPhone or to the Bank of America teller to reverse a surprise interest charge?

It’s perhaps no wonder Bank of America leads the nation in bad customer service. The massive U.S. financial institution has made the Customer Service Hall of Shame every year since 2009.

In collaboration with research survey group Zogby Analytics, we polled 2,500 adults about the quality of customer service at 150 of America’s best-known companies in 15 industries, asking if that service was “excellent,” “good,” “fair” or “poor.”

Those with the highest percentages of “excellent” rankings make up the Customer Service Hall of Fame; those with the highest share “poor” ratings make up our Customer Service Hall of Shame. (See how the survey was done and full results on the last page of this article.)

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Many of the other companies with the bottom-rated customer service have earned spots on the Hall of Shame list in the past. Eight of the 10 companies in the Hall of Shame have made at least three previous appearances since 2009.

It is difficult for businesses in some industries to win consumer praise. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup — three of the largest banks in the country — received some of the worst customer service ratings in the nation.

For banks, the many fees they charge may contribute to a customer’s poor evaluation of a company. “As soon as you take out your Bank of America ATM card you get charged,” said Praveen Kopalle, professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

In addition to unpleasant and repeated charges and fees, these large banks engaged in questionable and often unlawful behavior that contributed to the housing crisis. For example, “[Banks] assured customers that [mortgage-backed securities] were actually good products when, in fact, they were pretty toxic,” Kopalle said.

Cable and satellite TV companies are another segment that has repeatedly received poor customer service ratings. Shep Hyken, a customer satisfaction expert, explained that these companies are often unclear about their service charges. “Customers get shocked when they get their bill,” Hyken said.

In some instances, companies have little incentive to offer good service. “If people really don’t like the customer service that they receive from telecom companies, they don’t have a lot of choice,” Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, explained. Without competition from other companies, “there is just not that pressure to deliver great service.”

Future consolidation in these industries may exacerbate the problem. Companies like AT&T and DirecTV, as well as Time Warner Cable and Comcast, are driving merger and acquisition activity that will likely close this year, pending government approval.

Many of the companies with the worst customer service, however, are still market leaders and manage to maintain impressive profit margins. Seven of the 10 companies in the Hall of Shame dominate their industries.

This is 24/7 Wall St.’s Customer Service Hall of Shame:

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10. Citigroup
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 15.3% (credit card), 15.1% (banking)

More than 15% of respondents said they had a “poor” experience with both Citigroup Inc.’s (NYSE: C) credit card and banking businesses.

However, Citigroup is hardly alone among financial institutions in receiving low ratings for its customer service. Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo had worse-rated banking operations. While missing from the bottom 10, Capital One and J.P. Morgan Chase also received low ratings.

The banking industry as a whole suffers from bad press, likely due to its involvement in the financial crisis. According to analyst Dick Bove, penalties, regulations and rule changes have made quality customer service even more difficult to deliver.

“The banks responded by taking away millions of credit cards from customers that they could no longer do business with on a profitable basis,” Bove said.

While customers gave Citi’s credit card and banking service low grades, the bank performed well overall in the Pew Charitable Trusts’ most recent annual survey on consumer banking practices. Citi’s policies include five of the seven “best practices” endorsed by the study.

MORE: The 15 Highest-Paying Companies in America

9. Wells Fargo
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 16.2% (credit card), 15.0% (banking)

More than 16% of survey participants said their experience with Wells Fargo’s credit card business was “poor.” Wells Fargo’s banking operations did not fare much better for customer service. About 15% reported a “poor” customer service experience for Well Fargo as a bank.

The company declined an interview. In written statement, it said that it was committed to improving customer experience, and that it was “always looking for ways to apply their input and further strengthen our customer service.”

Although Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) has largely avoided the financial crisis-related fines several of its competitors paid, it has not been immune to scrutiny. The bank, which is the largest provider of home loans, was sued by the Federal Housing Authority in 2012 for bad mortgages. Like other banks, continuous criticism since the financial crisis is likely a major component of Wells Fargo’s customer dissatisfaction.

According to Bove, bad press is only part of the problem. Strict regulations and large fines can have a considerable impact on customer relations as banks are forced to implement cost-cutting measures that may inconvenience consumers.

8. AT&T
> Pct. ratings “poor”: 17.5%

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is hardly the only mobile telephone company that received a disproportionate number of negative reviews for its customer service. In fact, all four of the nation’s leading mobile carriers were among the bottom fifth of companies evaluated.

Although the company’s record of customer service is spotty, AT&T has developed several initiatives designed to improve customer outreach. Among these, the company wrote in its annual report that it had 70 staffers dedicated to customer care on social media platforms. Additionally, last year AT&T streamlined its call center menus, cut waiting times, and trained specialized employees to handle smartphone operating system-related questions.

“Three or four years ago, the customer service at AT&T was very poor, but they really have come a long way,” Kopalle said. Now, “They pick up the phone pretty fast, they resolve your situation very quickly.” However, Kopalle noted that AT&T’s service is hardly perfect. “I think they still suffer from a number of dropped calls. That’s not really a good thing.”

For the rest of the list, go to 24/7 Wall St.

 

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