TIME career

How to Cope at Work When Life Gets Hard

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The trick for equilibrium is to remember the bigger picture

I started my first job in advertising six weeks after losing my younger brother to a car accident while he was at Vanderbilt during his sophomore year. To this day, the pain of losing my brother takes my breath away, and looking back, I don’t know how I made it through the difficult time. Life seemed so cruel and unkind, but some how with little steps forward I was able to survive. Eventually, I thrived in advertising in New York, it was the perfect place for me in my 20s/early 30s.

Life can be cruel and unkind, and is rarely fair. We live in the real world—not the ideal world. Work can be a stalwart rock during times of turmoil or it can bring chaos into your personal life. The trick for equilibrium is to remember the bigger picture. A few tricks of the trade:

1. Your boss is not your therapist.

Many people are perfectly comfortable with sharing every detail of their life in the workplace. If you talk to your boss like she’s your best friend, you’ll be taking your relationship into a personal “gray” area. You don’t want to create a dynamic where your boss thinks that every time you need to talk to them, it’s going to be an hour long therapy session. You might start finding that your boss is “busy” more so than usual and you’ll lose work-related face time. While you should give your boss a heads up that you’re dealing with some personal issues, make sure they know you’re handling it and that it won’t affect your performance.

2. Make time to deal with what’s going on.

Set aside time outside of work to deal with what’s going on. This can be anything from keeping a journal, to seeking a therapist, to joining a support group. The goal here is to actively work through your issues and not suppress what you’re going through. Everything seems impossible during these tough times, but finding a network of people who have a similar life experience can help immensely.

MORE The Telltale Signs of a Quarter-life Crisis (and What to Do About It)

3. Focus on small tasks.

Breaking down a difficult task into small parts will help you stay focused and finish a project. It can be tempting to procrastinate during the chaos, but procrastination just takes away your ability to succeed. You always have the time you need to do a project right without the last minute crunch. Every morning, review your to-do list and focus on the toughest projects right away. Finishing a difficult task in the morning will to give you a feeling of accomplishment before lunch. It’s critical to your success to be a go-to person who can accomplish tasks in a timely manner.

4. It’s ok to take a break.

A mental break in the middle of the day to feel the sun on your face, or people watch, or just let your mind wander is necessary. These mental breaks can help you re-energize and think more clearly. It can also help you to see other functioning people. Everyone has their issues, but everyone winds a way to deal. You can too.

MORE How to Survive a Computer Crash

5. Use music.

Music and movies can provide the perfect escape during a difficult time. Find the soundtrack to this moment in your life. Make a playlist of songs that are speaking to you. Pick up a new album that’s the opposite of what you usually listen to. Read a new genre of novels. Your life has changed completely, so you might want to seek new inspirations along the way.

During difficult times there isn’t one panacea that can cure you. It will take many small and arduous steps to thrive once again. You are building a well of inner strength that will stay with you throughout your life journey. After all, in life and work, sometimes it’s all about the journey.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME career

GM CEO Mary Barra’s 5 Tips for Starting a New Job

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, attends the Buick Avenir press conference on Jan. 11, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.
Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, attends the Buick Avenir press conference on Jan. 11, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Paul Warner—Getty Images

'Put the customer at the center of everything you do'

LinkedIn Influencer Mary Barra originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Mary on LinkedIn.

The typical American worker now holds more than a dozen different jobs over the course of their career. Most Millennials expect to hold even more – as many as 15 or 20, according to a survey released last year by the executive development firm Future Workplace.

I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career with one company, General Motors, which has never failed to challenge me or offer opportunities for growth. And yet, within GM, I’ve held more than a dozen different positions in everything from engineering and manufacturing to communications and human resources.

The take away, for me, is that whether you spend your career working for one company or 20, you need to hone your ability to start strong in each new position you hold. Here are five things I focus on whenever I start a new assignment.

Put the customer at the center of everything you do
Whether you work in accounting, engineering, or sales, whether you’re straight out of school or an EVP, remember that by focusing on the customer you will drive better performance. Their needs should inform every decision you make. If the voice of the customer isn’t already reflected in your new position, find ways in your first 90 days – and every day after that – to ensure that it is.

Listen to your team
The first 90 days is your best opportunity to earn the respect and trust of the people with whom you work. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Be open, seek solutions, and listen more than you talk. When you value what others say, they start to open up, and that flow of ideas leads to better results.

Strengthen your team
One of your responsibilities as a leader is to ensure that you have the right people on your team. Expect and demand an all-in commitment from everyone. If you don’t have the right people, you’re not doing your job – because you’re too busy doing their work. If you have an employee whose unhappiness is holding back the team, help him find happiness somewhere else.

Take personal responsibility
If you inherit a problem with your new job, don’t dismiss it as the last person’s legacy. Never hide behind your newbie status or use it as an excuse to put off what needs to be done. Own the problem, develop a plan to fix it, and address it head on. Your team’s reputation depends not just on what you do right, but what you do if something goes wrong.

Adapt and learn
At the end of the day, your success will largely be determined not just by how good your plan is, but how well you adapt to meet the changing needs of the customer. Adaptation really comes down to one thing: leadership. And a big part of leadership is being able to look over the horizon and anticipate the changes to come.

In this series, professionals share how they rocked — or didn’t! — the all-important first 90 days on the job. Follow the stories here and write your own (please include the hashtag #First90 in the body of your post).

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME career

How to Fight for Your Right to Leave Work by 6 PM

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Give yourself a break

Question: I leave work every day at 6:30 PM — because I come in at 8:30 AM, and working for 10 hours is enough for one day and one brain. I meet deadlines, and I don’t leave anything undone that can’t wait until the next day. But, sometimes it seems like there’s an unspoken competition at work over “who stayed the latest.” Every morning, other women are like, “OMG, I was here till 9!” or “I was here till 11 PM.” I always respond with something like, “I can’t believe you stayed so late! You’re crazy!” — which I guess just encourages them. How do I keep my regular work hours without feeling like I’m in last place in the who-stayed-the-latest race? I worry that everyone around me will think I’m a slacker for wanting to head out on time.

Answer: In the halcyon days of my youth, I attended a fancy-schmancy Liberal Arts College — the kind with no frats and a tuition that I’m still pimping my Etsy page to pay off. (There’s a strong market for throw pillows.) Before you roll your eyes and close this window, there’s a reason why I’m telling you this.

Each year, at finals time at said fancy school, there was a contingent of students who basically moved into the library. Now, studious and stressed-out college students wouldn’t normally draw my ire, except these Poindexters reveled in their misery. They would prominently display their piles of comically oversized tomes and Red Bull cans, shuffle around the Harry Potter-esque grandeur in slippers and clouds of anxiety, loudly bleat about how long they have gone without a shower. At first, I assumed that these students had incredibly rigorous course loads, that I was “doing college wrong.” But, as I began to recognize certain drowsy faces as people from my classes, classes I was preparing for while still showering and sleeping fairly regularly, I realized that the library was a place of performance. These students wanted to be seen: They loved to gripe about surviving on cigarettes and coffee for three days, just to see the combination of awe and pity flutter across our faces. Being busy and stressed was more than just a state of being — it was a declaration of worth.

MORE Is Cards Against Humanity Actually Racist — Or Just Joke Racist?

I have a hunch something similar is going on with your coworkers. If they are routinely staying in the office that late and their responsibilities don’t differ that much from yours, either they aren’t being productive during the work day or they’re just staying late to stay late. Whether consciously or not, we use busyness as a way to show our significance and importance: I’m needed, I’m necessary, I toil selflessly for the good of the company.

And while I’m being hard on these 11-PM-ers, it’s not exactly their fault. It’s capitalism’s fault. (Can’t you tell that I listened to punk rock in high school?) The economy is sluggish, the job market is tough, and everyone who’s managed to stay steadily employed feels lucky. And so we Assistant Assistants to the Junior Head Marketing Manager take on ever-growing amounts of responsibility, check our emails 24/7, and allow the boundaries between public and private and day and night to blur. But, by doing that, we’re inadvertently helping to perpetuate the problem: If everyone answers emails at 11 PM, people start to expect prompt replies to the emails they send at 11 PM. By remaining plugged in and accessible even after the after-shows have aired, your coworkers are creating a new, unattractive standard. It’s no surprise that you’re feeling the pressure.

MORE I Want To Support My Trans* Best Friend — But I’m Not Sure How!

So, what to do? Keep resisting! As long as your boss hasn’t said anything about your work schedule, don’t give in to the crazy. Opt out. Take a lesson from the woman who taught you to grab life by the rhinestones, Dolly Parton. As she sings in “9 to 5” (which is just a jangly, countrified version of The Communist Manifesto, if you ask me), “It’s enough to drive you crazy, if you let it…” And, she’s just talking about an eight-hour day — imagine what Comrade Dolly would say about staying past dinnertime!

And, if you’re one of the many chronic 11-PM-ers, whispering, “I wish I could quit you” to your computer: Give yourself a break. There are other ways to show your value than staying hyperconnected. In fact, unplugging and getting a good night’s rest will undoubtedly increase your productivity and present-mindedness during normal work hours. Boost your work-life balance by giving yourself a firm curfew and turning off your phone at the same time each night. Inform your boss, colleagues, and clients of this new cutoff point and, I assure you, they’ll adapt. Train yourself: Just because you see an email notification doesn’t mean you have to take care of it right away. Unless it’s time-sensitive or you truly have a ton of work to do, fight the urge to shoot off a quick reply or burn the midnight oil. Surely, the overnight janitor won’t miss your sighs and manic stare that much.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME career

6 Tips for Writing Better Emails

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Learn to perfect your email writing skills

Email is a double-edged sword. It’s fast and convenient, but your words are permanent and could potentially come back to haunt you. Here are 6 things you need to know about writing emails in a professional setting.

1. Be comprehensive, yet direct.

If you address loose ends from previous emails and anticipate the information the recipient needs/wants to know, you’ll eliminate the need for multiple emails. To be comprehensive, think of the who, what, when, where, why, and how for each point you want to make.

Use bullet points, lists, or separate short paragraphs to highlight information in a digestible format, and remember to include attachments mentioned in the body of the email.

2. Be accurate and specific.

This tip applies to the body of the email and the subject line, which should never be blank and always complement the current email you’re writing.

Include and double-check dates, times, and names. Make sure the day of the week matches the calendar date, and clarify time zones. If you are scheduling a telephone call, identify in your initial communication who’s to initiate the call.

MORE Subject Lines That Will Get Your Emails Read

3. Be free of grammatical errors.

Don’t rely only on the spelling and autocorrect function. Read the email to check for spelling, grammar, and word usage errors. Then re-read your email.

4. Use the proper tone.

Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, and read your email again. Are you being too demanding, inflexible, accusatory, judgmental, formal or informal, or apologetic? All of these tones can be off-putting. Women, in particular, are sometimes too apologetic; say “sorry” once and move on so as not to undermine your authority.

Finding the right tone can be tricky, but it is achievable. Here are a few examples:

When asking for a deliverable to be due by a certain date:

BAD: I need the document by close of business tomorrow. (Too demanding)

GOOD: I would appreciate you emailing me the document by X date. Please let me know if you have any concerns.

In a work environment, you’re on a team. Being too demanding can backfire, causing your reports to lose respect for and resent you.

When you’re starting your email:

BAD: How’s it goin’?! (Too informal)

GOOD: I hope you’re doing well.

Being too informal in your language might detract from your authority. At the same time, being too formal can make it difficult for the recipient to find a human or emotional connection with you.

5. Focus on the recipient.

Be clear about why you are emailing this person; briefly state it at the beginning and end of the correspondence. At the end of the email, also let them know that you’re available to be of help to them. Here’s an example:

BEGINNING: I’m inquiring about partnership opportunities between Company A and Company B.

END: I look forward to exploring with you the possibility of Company A partnering with Company B. Let me know how I can be of help.

MORE 5 Email Secrets That May Change Your Life

6. Consider context and world events.

To ensure a personal connection and show some humanity, don’t isolate you and your recipient from the greater picture. If you learned that your recipient won an award, congratulate them. If you are emailing someone in December who you know celebrates the same holidays, include “Happy Holidays!” at the end of the note.

Finally and before you press “Send,” if you have any concerns putting your thoughts in writing or believe another mode of communication would be more efficient, pick-up the phone or meet with the individual in-person. Words have tremendous meaning, and you do not want to run the risk of having your words misinterpreted.

For more tips on professional writing, see “Your Crash Course on Professional Writing.” Make it your goal this year to send quality e-mails.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME advice

How to Not Sweat the Small Stuff

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Learn to use these 4 simple concepts in your everyday life

As a retiring worry wart, there are times I’m faced with minor issues, personal and professional, that seem to drive me crazy, but are really not worth the added stress. I used to destroy myself over every little problem that arose in my life, from completing homework to witnessing unethical behavior to chipping a newly painted nail. But with observation, insight, and honesty, I began to identify what was worth stressing over and what was not. Below are some helpful concepts that I’m learning to use and practice in my everyday life.

1. Think.

Take a moment, breathe, and think again. Think about the issue and what’s causing you more stress. Then think to yourself about how this will really affect your life. Some of the worst decisions come from acting too quickly. Think through the consequences or the possible outcomes of this problem.

2. Question.

How will this event truly affect your life in the long run? I tend to talk to myself in situations like this and ask myself these questions. Saying it verbally out loud makes it more realistic and helps me think through the question and develop approaches and solutions to the problem.

MORE 6 Steps For Handling High Pressure Situations With Grace

3. Remind.

Remind yourself that this isn’t personal and stop acting like it’s the end of the world, because it’s not. Reassure yourself that this too shall pass and there are worse scenarios that could be happening to you; like you could be battling an illness or losing your job. Being stuck behind that school bus on the way to work is not the end of the world.

4. Learn.

Find ways to cope with your stress and learn from this experience. I think I’m a stronger woman today because I learned how to deal with not sweating the small stuff in my collegiate years as a student, sorority president, and part-time worker. I had a lot on my plate and I had to learn how to manage my time and not take everything so personally.

Being able to admit and identify that you worry about too many things is invaluable. Once you identify this, you can use these ideas to resolve it. During my sorority recruitment, I connected with a potential new member (who is now my sorority grandlittle) over our OCD issues. She was experiencing the same things and we could laugh together over our stress. We established a great friendship, and now 6 years later with each of us living on different coasts, we’re still helping one another. It’s easy to talk to someone you know thinks the way you do, and by talking about your issue out loud, you’ll be able to develop a plan to tackle them on your own.

MORE How to Stop Feeling Like You Should be Farther in Life by Now

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

TIME advice

What to Order When Taken Out to a Restaurant for Your Job Interview

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Eat a bit before hand, so you can focus on answering the questions, and not on the food

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

When on a job interview, it’s usually safest to follow the lead of your host. The interviewer is often sussing out if the candidate is a “fit” for the job. You want to show that you will fit in well with the established culture of the company.

And an easy way to develop quick rapport is to mirror the other person. People tend to trust people who are similar to themselves. If you act like they do, it puts them at ease. And when people are comfortable, the conversation will run more smoothly.

So, if your host orders a 3 course meal with dessert and coffee afterwards, it’s safe to order the same. If they order an appetizer, order one too. You want to be eating, or at least appear to be, when they are eating. It’s often awkward to be eating while the other person is not.

Similarly, even if you are starving and they only order a salad, stick with something lighter. You don’t want to be too focused on finishing your meal when they are done with theirs, and are focused only on asking you questions. Now is not the time to order the most expensive item on the menu, if they are only ordering the soup.

I’m a vegetarian, so I’m not about to order a steak just because my interviewer is. However, if they order the steak, I’ll try to order something more substantial.

Interviewers may suggest an interview out of the office, to catch you with your guard down. Remember this is an interview. Eat a bit before hand, so you can focus on answering the questions, and not on the food. And don’t come to the interview with a growling stomach. Eat slowly. Don’t talk with your mouth full of food.

It gets tricky if your host orders an alcoholic drink. In college, a friend of mine made a disastrous, and hilarious, mistake. He was on the final round with a fancy firm, for a prestigious position. A partner of the firm invited him to lunch. The interviewer order an Arnold Palmer, which is an iced-tea and lemonade mix. My friend, mistakenly thought it was an alcoholic drink, similar to a Long-Island ice-tea. He wanted to show that he was mature and could hang with the crowd. He ordered a gin and tonic.

The host kept getting refills of his Arnold Palmer, which is pretty typical with ice tea. And so my friend kept getting refills of his gin and tonic, which is not so typical. He got really drunk at lunch, and couldn’t drive himself home. The interviewer had to call him a cab. He did not get the offer.

So, if your host orders an alcoholic drink, it’s probably safest not to, and say you have to drive. If it’s a happy hour interview, stick to just ordering one, and only drink less than half.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is a nice, safe choice for your meal when you are taken out on a job interview?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

What Unemployed People Do With Their Time

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While most of unemployed people spend a sizable part of their day job-hunting, plenty of others seem to, well, futz around

Last September, after I got fired from what was painfully close to being my dream job, I was gripped by aimlessness, malaise, and more than a little self-loathing. I imagined myself jobless, penniless, and miserable for the rest of my days. Then, I decided to seize this less-than-shining, underemployed moment to pursue my dream of writing full-time (in my case, as a freelance culture, news, and lifestyle journalist).

Though I was nervous about taking the leap into a profession that’s notoriously competitive and unlucrative, I felt ready to try something new: to work from home on projects of my choosing, without a Big Boss breathing down my neck. I’m lucky to be semi-successful at the freelance thing, because losing or eschewing a traditional job doesn’t always unfold so smoothly for everyone, millennials included.

MORE Lessons I Learned From Getting Fired

Traditional jobs can be hard to come by for millennials — who are shaping up to be the most educated generation in history (but not the most employed; in 2014, 9.1 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds were unemployed). While the job market is picking up for many, that uptick isn’t necessarily helping millennials, for whom job security has been rocky throughout most of their adult lives. As Andrew Hanson, research analyst at Georgetown University, said back in July, “Young people are the first to be let go by companies in a recession and the last to be let back in.” As of July 2014, millennials made up a whopping 40 percent of America’s jobless masses (that equates to 4.6 million people, in case you’re curious).

As usual, the statistics for women lead to a more complicated narrative. For women 25 to 54, unemployment is 30%. The number of working women has climbed overall during the later part of the 20th century, but those numbers have been sinking since 2000, partially due to economic trends, but also to a recent rise in stay-at-home parenting. (Notably, in wealthier areas, like the Salt Lake City suburbs and the Upper East Side of New York City, rates of women working are lower than in other US regions.) Rates of female unemployment are also higher in more rural and poverty-stricken regions, of course, like the Deep South, Appalachia, Northern Michigan, and various locations in the middle of the country. (Education, or lack thereof, plays a major part.)

MORE Why Getting Pregnant Cost This Woman Her Paycheck

Plenty of American men are jobless, too (in November, 5.4 percent of men over the age of 20). Unemployed guys, reports The New York Times, work out less and feel that they have worse relationships with their families than when they were members of a workforce. Women, on the other hand, are “more likely to say that their health and their relationships with friends and family have improved since they stopped working.”

Maybe that’s because, according to this New York Times interactive that documents the average daily activities of 147 unemployed men and women aged 25-54, females tend to spend a lot more time doing housework and “caring for others” than their unemployed dude counterparts; women spend a whopping six hours on both, while men spend less than three each.

And though plenty of unemployed people spend a sizable part of their day job-hunting, plenty of others seem to, well, futz around. They tend to sleep more than their working peers (slightly more than an additional hour), and devote much more time to entertainment like TV and movies — especially the men. Out of the 65 people who spent more of their day watching movies and TV than doing anything else, 46 were men; only 19 were women. And both men and women sans jobs “spend about 1.5 times as much time socializing as the average employed person.”

MORE Why It’s So Hard To Make New Friends

The day-to-day lifestyles of the thousands of Americans eschewing traditional 9-5 workplaces — either by choice or necessity — look dramatically different from those with “normal” jobs, indeed. But as more millennials struggle to find and hold onto jobs in a competitive, overcrowded market, it seems likely that their everyday habits will be forced to evolve, whether that includes six hours of TV, socializing, traveling, care-taking or…something else altogether.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

MONEY Workplace

The Trouble With Being Friends With People Who Work For You

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Should a boss be friends with his or her employees?

A: Treating employees like pals didn’t always work out for Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott character on The Office, but you can be friends with people who work for you—if you set boundaries.

“When you’re working side-by-side, day after day with people, it’s perfectly natural for friendships to develop,” says Brian Fielkow, a CEO of a Houston logistics company and author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence By Creating A Vibrant Culture. “Some people believe work and your personal life should be separate. But most people don’t want to just punch a clock every day.”

Indeed, there’s lots of research that shows that having work friends is good for business. People with office buddies tend to be happier, more productive, and less likely to quit. Even workers who aren’t thrilled with the job itself are happier when they have friends at work because it gives them someone to vent to and reduces stress, according to Michael Sollitto, assistant professor of communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and author of a recent study on workplace relationships.

But the rules are different when the relationship is between people on different rungs of the corporate ladder. “Friendships with subordinates can be dangerous for your career and for the workers who are your friends,” says Fielkow.

If you’re going out to lunch, grabbing drinks after work, or playing golf with people who report to you, perceptions of an uneven playing field can fester. “Employees who aren’t part of that clique may start to feel like your chummy pals have better access to you than the rest of the team and are more likely to receive special treatment,” says Fielkow. People may not respect you if you play favorites.

Your friendship with a subordinate can also color co-workers’ feelings toward that person. If your friend gets a promotion or a big raise, it might be chalked up to your relationship, not his or her merits.

Plus, workplace friendships can make it harder for you to do your job. “It may be difficult to be critical of a friend you manage,” says Fielkow. “What if you have to lay to lay them off?” And if the friendship goes sour, that worker could undermine you by sharing intimate details about your life.

None if this means you can’t develop close relationships at work. If a friendship with a colleague grows, agree on boundaries. Don’t talk about other workers or business issues when you’re outside the office. Don’t share company information before it becomes public knowledge.

And make sure that you’re equally accessible to all members of your team. Communicate regularly with people who report to you. Walk around the office. A simple “how was your weekend” at the water cooler can go a long way toward making you approachable. “Showing a personal interest in your employees’ lives can help you be a better manager and create an atmosphere where people get more out of work than work,” says Fielkow.

TIME Etiquette

How Not To Be an Entitled Millennial at Work

Businessman holding his head at desk
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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

What's that? You want to know what silently enrages me?


I’m not perfect.

I have issues.

I could stand to be more chill.

But I also know that there are thousands of people like me out there who are dealing with millennials (and sure, plenty of older people, too) on the daily. And we are silently screaming inside.

Why? Because we’re old. We’re tired. And we were yelled at a lot in various jobs we’ve had throughout our lives which have put all those adorable frown lines on our face, and then we were yelled at for looking upset, and then we were yelled at for not saying “thank you” when we were yelled at.

Wait a minute, it sounds like we were collectively abused. Well, maybe we were. But there is, I would maintain, a scourge amongst those who haven’t experienced this level of drudgery where there is a misconception that the World Revolves Around Them.

Don’t be that guy. Or do. Whatever. It doesn’t make a difference to me. But for the few out there who keep getting the death stare from your superiors and not knowing why, the folks who can’t seem to move upward no matter how hard you try, this article is just for you. (All of these messages I use as examples are totally made up, by the way. Language was compendium-ed to protect the innocent.)

#1: Unless you are the boss, no one cares what works best for you.

The problem: “Hi Mandy, what works best for me is if you could organize all your suggestions into one email so that I don’t have to go through these different emails one by one.”

My thought that I’m probably not saying aloud because I don’t have time nor energy to deal with the consequences of the preciousness fallout of delivering the hard news about how the world works: Hi friend, what works best for me is a million dollars transferred to my bank account before noon, so here’s my routing number and checking account. Oh that’s not going to happen for me either? Well, let’s get this straight. You are here to assist me, so I’m not here to make your life easier. It’s the other way around, champ.

Exception: Is your boss disorganized and computer illiterate and just doesn’t seem to have it together overall? Fine. Different scenario I’ll get into the next point. If what’s happening is that she’s just being inefficient and you think you could help her, then let’s give her that suggestion delicately in a way that lets her know that you’re going to make her life easier. But it’s not you just wanting to wriggle out of the work of being on the lower rungs of the ladder. That’s what you signed up for. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all survived.

#2: You probably do have amazing suggestions, but if you’re delivering them in a way that is non-empathic, lacking context, and delivering attitude, you’re muddying your (I’m sure) valiant effort.

The problem: “Hey Mandy, have you ever tried Skitch or InstaQuote or Mematic or Color Cap to create some of those little memes that you make to promote things sometimes? It seems to me that you’re making things so much harder for yourself to do it in Photoshop when it seems like Photoshop is, um, challenging? For? You?”

My thought: Yeah, I didn’t grow up with an iPhone attached to my umbilical cord, dude, but guess what, I’ve read great literature so bite me. Listen, I appreciate being given great tips, but when it’s done in a condescending snotty way, it just makes me want to spend my entire life savings on Photoshop courses in order to do anything to prove you wrong, because I am petty and small and a human being with a dumb-ass ego, and sometimes I just can’t suck up your attitude, even though I probably should because your suggestions are spot-on.

What I would love to hear instead: “Hey, I found these apps and sent you an email with all the links. I think they’ll make your life easier. Check them out, and let me know if it helps.”

#3: Check your language with your superiors. Did you just ask for a favor and then when your boss says she will help you but needs to do it later, you responded, “No problem”? Don’t do this. YOU’RE ASKING FOR A FAVOR OF COURSE IT ISN’T A PROBLEM; YOUR JOB IS TO JUST STAY GRATEFUL AND ACCOMMODATING.

The problem: You write your boss, “Could you write me a recommendation?” She writes back, “Sure, I can get to it later this month.” You write back, “No problem.”

My thought: Are you serious with this? Why didn’t you just write, “Thank you so much!”? Do you know who writes, “No problem”? The Head Boss In Charge, that’s who. The person giving orders. It’s especially obnoxious because you just asked for a favor, the boss said she would do it, and you just deigned to let her know that it was “no problem” if she turned it in later? No. Don’t do that. Save the HBIC attitude when you are HBIC but right now, practice these four magical, magical words: “Thank you so much.”

Mandy Stadtmiller is a writer and the Editor-at-Large of xoJane. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY job search

10 Ways to Speed Up Your Job Search

building blocks with social media icons on each side

Want to land a new gig in 2015? Then you'd better launch a personal marketing campaign, career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine says.

The start of the new year is traditionally a good time for hiring.

Yes, this means that job seekers should refine their résumés. But your C.V. is just one of multiple ways job seekers should market themselves. I can think of 10 more off the bat.

I know what you’re thinking: 10 tools, in addition to a resume, sounds like a lot of work

However, many of these build on each other and support the answer to “Why should an employer hire you?” And that’s a question job seekers must answer confidently and convincingly.

Here are the 10 things you’ve got to work on to help propel your search:

1. Social Media Profile

More companies are using social media to find candidates. When you update your resume, update your online profiles as well.

2. Social Media Activity

Don’t just change the details on your profile. Update your status, post an interesting article related to your line of work, make a comment that showcases your professional expertise. If you are looking for a job that requires social media savvy, having a static profile—however, updated—will not be enough without regular and relevant activity.

3. Headshot

You don’t need a professional to take your photo, but you do need a professional-looking photo. A photo on your social profiles makes you seem more personable. Also, from a practical standpoint, a picture can help you with networking—some people won’t remember your name after having met you once or a while ago, but they might remember your face.

4. Cover Letter

A cover letter is not a rehash of your resume. It enables you to highlight your most relevant and compelling facts. It helps you smooth over a story that includes employment gaps and/or career changes. It is a chance for you to make the case for why your dream employer should hire you.

5. Cover Email

You can’t just copy and paste your cover letter into the text of an email. It will be too long and too formal. A cover email is like a cover letter in that it highlights the best, explains away any red flags and makes a compelling case—but it has to do this in a fraction of the space.

6. 20-second Pitch

When you meet someone, you need to introduce yourself. What you say is part of how you market yourself. Keep in mind that your new connection ideally can introduce you to others, including possible employers. So what you say needs to be memorable and repeatable.

7. 2-minute Pitch

You also need to be able to talk about yourself in more than a 20-second sound bite. You may book a networking meeting over coffee and have the chance to share more about your background. Aim for two minutes. This is enough time to give the arc of your career, as well as highlight key accomplishments.

8. Your Pitch for Someone Else to Use

Your friend offers to help and will forward your resume or make an introduction at an event. What do you want your friend to say? Using your cover email and 20-second pitch, be ready with a version in the third person that someone can use to introduce you.

9. Portfolio

Of course, a writer should have clips, and a designer should have samples. But a software developer can showcase programs, a marketer can share a campaign, a consultant can share a slide presentation that summarizes the business case developed. Every professional can showcase their work in some way. A visual, tangible example is so much more powerful than a wordy explanation.

10. Personal website

You can pull all of these items together—social profile, social updates, headshot, short introduction, portfolio, and resume—in a personal website branded with your name. You can list your URL on your business card and résumé to point employers to additional information. A recent survey of over 15,000 job seekers by branded.me and The .ME Registry showed only 4% had personal websites, which implies just having a personal website would be one point of differentiation.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

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