TIME Business

6 Rules That Should Be Guiding Your Career

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Daniel Pink’s The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need conveys a number of principles about the world of work that everyone should take note of.

Why? Though Pink doesn’t bog the story down with academic research, all of his core ideas are backed up by plenty of studies, many of which I’ve posted about in the past.

So what does he have to say? Six simply-stated concepts:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It’s not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

So let’s break these down and explore what they mean and why they’re so effective.

1) There is no plan.

As Pink explains, you can’t plan your career too far in advance because there are too many x-factors.

In the world of work we do things for two reasons: instrumental and fundamental. Instrumental reasons are things that get us from point A to point B — whether we enjoy it or not. Fundamental reasons are ones we consider inherently valuable — doing something we care about or believe in, even if we’re unsure where it will take us.

Which one is the better choice? Pink explains:

“The dirty little secret is that instrumental reasons usually don’t work. Things are too complicated, too unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen, so you end up stuck. The most successful people — not all of the time, but most of the time — make decisions for fundamental reasons.”

What does the research say?

The most obvious type of person who would fit into the fundamental category would be artists. Despite low pay and high unemployment artists have higher job satisfaction than most people. And it’s not due to personality. In fact, if anything, artists are more likely to suffer from depression and other mood problems. And yet they’re happier with their careers.

It is hard to predict where life will take you: 35% of college graduates end up in a job that was not their major.

What’s the number one thing people regretted on their deathbed?

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

That’s a strong argument for acting on fundamental reasons.

2) Think strengths, not weaknesses.

“Successful people don’t try too hard to improve what they’re bad at. They capitalize on what they’re good at.”

What does the research say?

This is one of the primary points that management expert Pete Drucker, author of The Effective Executive, hammered home in his writings:

First and foremost, concentrate on your strengths. Put yourself where your strengths can produce results. Second, work on improving your strengths… In identifying opportunities for improvement, don’t waste time cultivating skill areas where you have little competence. Instead, concentrate on—and build on—your strengths.

Pink also directly references the work of Martin Seligman. His research has shown that people who use their signature strengths, those things they are uniquely good at, experience more “flow” on the job and are happier at work:

The more signature strengths were applied at the workplace, the higher the positive experiences at work. This study showed that character strengths matter in vocational environments irrespective of their content. Strengths-congruent activities at the workplace are important for positive experiences at work like job satisfaction and experiencing pleasure, engagement, and meaning fostered by one’s job.

3) It’s not about you.

“…the most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.”

What does the research say?

Those who are other-focused are happier.

Via Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy:

“Researchers have: they’ve found that happy people are ten times more likely to be other-oriented than self-centered. This suggests that happiness is a by-product of helping others rather than the result of its pursuit.”

Happier people are more successful — and that’s causal, not correlative:

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

We become more successful when we are happier and more positive. For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.

4) Persistence trumps talent.

That one is pretty straightforward. :)

What does the research say?

How much does natural talent control what you can achieve in life?

In ~95% of cases, it doesn’t.

Via Mindset: The New Psychology of Success:

“After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.” He’s not counting the 2 to 3 percent of children who have severe impairments, and he’s not counting the top 1 to 2 percent of children at the other extreme… He is counting everybody else.

What makes the best musicians? Nothing but hard work:

Via Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else:

One factor, and only one factor, predicted how musically accomplished the students were, and that was how much they practiced.

I’ve posted exhaustively on the 10,000 hour theory of deliberate practice, “grit” and what it takes to be an expert. The best resource for that is here and the best books on the subject are here.

5) Make excellent mistakes

“Too many people spend their time avoiding mistakes. They’re so concerned about being wrong, about messing up, that they never try anything — which means they never do anything. Their focus is avoiding failure. But that’s actually a crummy way to achieve success. The most successful people make spectacular mistakes — huge honking screwups! Why? They’re trying to do something big. But each time they make a mistake, they get better and move a little closer to excellence.”

What does the research say?

Making mistakes can be vital to improvement.

Via Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation:

“The errors of the great mind exceed in number those of the less vigorous one.” This is not merely statistics. It is not that the pioneering thinkers are simply more productive than less “vigorous” ones, generating more ideas overall, both good and bad. Some historical studies of patent records have in fact shown that overall productivity correlates with radical breakthroughs in science and technology, that sheer quantity ultimately leads to quality. But Jevons is making a more subtle case for the role of error in innovation, because error is not simply a phase you have to suffer through on the way to genius. Error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. De Forest was wrong about the utility of gas as a detector, but he kept probing at the edges of that error, until he hit upon something that was genuinely useful. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.

Being guided into mistakes during training led to greater confidence and overall better learning than being taught to prevent errors.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

In one experiment where 90 people went through a software training program, half were taught to prevent errors from occurring, while the other half were guided into mistakes during training. And lo and behold, the group encouraged to make errors not only exhibited greater feelings of self-efficacy, but because they had learned to figure their own way out of mistakes, they were also far faster and more accurate in how they used the software later on.

One of the best ways to improve is to keep making little risky bets.

6) Leave an imprint

“…when you get older and look back on your life, you’ll ask yourself a whole bunch of questions. Did I make a difference? Did I contribute something? Did my being here matter? Did I do something that left an imprint? The trouble is, many people get towards the end of their lives and don’t like their answers. And by then it’s almost too late.”

What does the research say?

Visualize your funeral and consider what you would want friends to describe as your legacy is an excellent way to clarify what is really important to you and what you want to achieve.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality.

9 minutes in to his famous Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs discusses the importance he placed on thinking about death during life:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.”

Scientists now agree he was on to something:

Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies.

Summary

Six lessons:

  1. There is no plan.
  2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
  3. It’s not about you.
  4. Persistence trumps talent.
  5. Make excellent mistakes.
  6. Leave an imprint.

Also, Dan Pink’s other book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is one of the best things I’ve read in the past few years. (You can check out my notes from it here.)

Join over 90,000 readers and get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Be Resilient: 8 Steps To Success When Life Gets Hard

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

How To Make Your Life Better By Sending Five Simple Emails

 

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Business

How to Achieve ‘Flow’ in Your Work

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You want to be experiencing “flow.” It’s when you’re so wrapped up in what you’re doing that the world fades away:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity… The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described… as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.

When do you usually feel flow? It’s when you’re challenged but not beyond your skill level. Passive activities don’t create flow. Neither do overwhelming challenges.

Via Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life:

Flow is generally reported when a person is doing his or her favorite activity – gardening, listening to music, bowling, cooking a good meal. It also occurs when driving, when talking to friends and surprisingly often at work. Very rarely do people report flow in passive leisure activities, such as watching television or relaxing.

There are a handful of things that need to be present for you to experience flow:

Via Top Business Psychology Models: 50 Transforming Ideas for Leaders, Consultants and Coaches:

  • Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
  • Immediate feedback.
  • Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between personal skill level and the challenge presented.
  • Strong concentration and focused attention.
  • The activity is intrinsically rewarding.

Finding that balance between challenge and skills is best illustrated by this chart:

This balance creates a pleasurable state for our brain. We’re not happy when our mind wanders and we’re not happy when we’re doing nothing. We’re happier when we’re busy.

 

What can you do to increase the flow you feel at work?

First, figure out what brings you flow already and think about how to maximize those moments. Dan Pink offers an excellent exercise to help with that

Via Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:

Set a reminder on your computer or mobile phone to go off at forty random times in a week. Each time your device beeps, write down what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and whether you’re in “flow.” Record your observations, look at the patterns, and consider the following questions:
  • Which moments produced feelings of “flow”? Where were you? What were you working on? Who were you with?
  • Are certain times of day more flow-friendly than others? How could you restructure your day based on your findings?
  • How might you increase the number of optimal experiences and reduce the moments when you felt disengaged or distracted?
  • If you’re having doubts about your job or career, what does this exercise tell you about your true source of intrinsic motivation?

Second, do your best to take your regular work activities and add in the factors that create flow.

Via Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life:

…almost any activity can produce flow provided the relevant elements are present, it is possible to improve the quality of life by making sure that clear goals, immediate feedback, skills balanced to action, opportunities, and the remaining conditions of flow are as much possible a constant part of everyday life.

Third, significantly increasing the amount of flow you experience is often the result of using your unique talents — your “signature strengths.”

Via UPenn happiness expert Martin Seligman’s book, Authentic Happiness:

  • Identify your signature strengths.
  • Choose work that lets you use them every day.
  • Recraft your present work to use your signature strengths more.
  • If you are the employer, choose employees whose signature strengths mesh with the work they will do. If you are a manager, make room to allow employees to recraft the work within the bounds of your goals.

For more on flow, check out these books:

 

Related posts:

What does it take to become an expert at anything?

6 things that will make you more productive

Which people are most likely to experience “flow”?

Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

MONEY job search

How to Cold Call Your Way to a New Job

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Get a stranger to give your career a boost with these three easy steps from career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Cold calls are not just for salespeople.

In the course of your job search, business launch or other career transition, you will need to reach out to people you don’t know. You may be looking to get their insights, to expand your network, or to get information you need to make you a better candidate.

Don’t be afraid. If you’re respectful of their time, you focus on your commonality, and you are specific in your ask, you should be able to engage a stranger’s attention fairly easily. Use this three-step guide to a concise but captivating cold call or email.

1. Establish your common bond.

The first thing you have to do is introduce yourself. But don’t just default to your standard professional introduction. Pick the description of yourself that establishes what you have in common with the person you approach, even if it’s not career-related. For example, I’m a Money.com blogger but also a business owner, career coach, recruiter, Barnard graduate, wife, mom, stand-up comic, et cetera.

If I am approaching a Columbia alum, I may open with Barnard graduate, even though I attended years ago. If I contact a journalist, I may open with Money.com (or some other publication if we both wrote for that other one).

The best choice is dictated by the person you are contacting, not what you typically use as your pitch.

2. Explain why they are “the one.”

In the above example, the Columbia or journalism connection is the first step in my hypothetical cold call, but it’s still incomplete. There are lots of Columbia alums and lots of journalists. Why am I contacting this particular one?

Perhaps I read an article that cited them. Perhaps they work in a company or in an area that I am researching. Perhaps they gave a talk somewhere, and I am following up on something they said.

You need to explain why the person you are contacting is unique, so there is urgency for this person in particular—not some other alum or journalist—to get back to you.

3. Pick a small and specific request.

Once you have established a common bond and explained to your cold contact why he or she is the only one who can help you, you need to explain how he or she can help.

Your ultimate goal may be a job or a sale or a career change. But don’t ask people for any of these.

A job lead, for example, is too big a request this early in the relationship. This is also not a specific enough request: Does it mean you want to speak to HR? Are you inquiring about a particular opening? Are you asking this person to hire you?

Your new connection won’t be able to get you directly to your end goal on the first call, but there are many small, specific steps in-between that he or she may be able to help with.

For example, if you reach out to someone because they work at your dream company, ask about the organizational structure of the specific department you are targeting. Ask about the person who runs that group. Ask about projects in the pipeline or key objectives. The answers to all of these questions will enable you to better position yourself for the job, but these requests are not in themselves about getting a job.

By asking for a job, you put your cold contact on the defensive. By asking about the business, you demonstrate that you care about making an impact.

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 will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

 

TIME psychology

How to Be Happy at Home and Fulfilled at Work

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Do what you’re good at.

Using your “signature strengths” — those qualities you are uniquely best at, the talents that set you apart from others — makes you stress less:

The more hours per day Americans get to use their strengths to do what they do best, the less likely they are to report experiencing worry, stress, anger, sadness, or physical pain…

Using your strengths makes you feel better:

Americans also gain a boost in positive emotions the more they use their strengths. The more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.

Using your signature strengths on a daily basis can make you significantly happier for months.

Via The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work:

When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their signature strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they became significantly happier and less depressed than control groups. And these benefits lasted: Even after the experiment was over, their levels of happiness remained heightened a full month later. Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.

A job that lets you use your talents will make you consistently happier at work:

The more signature strengths were applied at the workplace, the higher the positive experiences at work. This study showed that character strengths matter in vocational environments irrespective of their content. Strengths-congruent activities at the workplace are important for positive experiences at work like job satisfaction and experiencing pleasure, engagement, and meaning fostered by one’s job.

Increasing the amount of flow you experience at work is largely the result of using your unique talents. That may be one of the reasons the most creative people focus on doing what they’re good at:

Via Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Ghandi:

(2) Creative individuals leverage their strengths. They determine their strongest area and build their achievements around these potent intelligences. They do not worry about what they do not do as well; they can always get help from others and perhaps barter their areas of strength with those who have complementary skills.

 

Related posts:

What’s the secret to enjoying your work?

What 7 activities does Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor recommend?

What 6 rules should be guiding your career?

Join 25K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME career

Watch John Oliver’s Hilarious Take on the Gender Pay Gap

The monkey part is priceless

John Oliver’s on a roll these days. After his spot-on critique of the situation in Ferguson in Sunday’s episode, he eviscerated all the excuses given for gender pay gap, and the insanity about nitpicking over whether the gap was 77 cents or 88 cents or 96 cents or whatever. His point is that any pay gap is a problem, even if it’s only four cents.

Watch all the way to the end to see a hilarious fake ad for “Ladybucks,” or money for women that’s worth less than money for men. And click here to see our take on how much each bill would be worth if it had a woman on it instead of a man.

TIME career

Women: What Does Success Mean to You? Take Our Poll

For most women, the definition of "success" is constantly changing. How does yours stack up?

A new national poll conducted for Time and Real Simple asked women how they define success and what it takes to get there. The results revealed that a woman’s view of success changes significantly as she ages and is heavily influenced by whether she wants to have children. Young women tend to be more ambitious, with 73% saying it was “very important” for them to be successful at work, compared to 37% of women in their 60s. And while 48% of 20-somethings said they cared about being promoted within their company (compared to 20% of women in their 60s), 57% of older women said being spiritual was important to success (compared to 42% of younger women). In other words, older women tend to have a much broader and less conventional definition of success. (You can read more about our poll here.)

How does your definition of success compare to other women’s? How different are women from men in the way they think about their careers? Take this quiz and find out:

(These results were based on the interviews conducted by the polling company Penn Shoen Berland with 1000 women and 300 men from May 16, 2014 to May 22, 2014.)

TIME career

How Cinnabon President Kat Cole Went from Hostess to COO: 9 Tips for Success

Courtesy of Kat Cole

And why it can be useful to eavesdrop in the ladies room

These days Cinnabon President Kat Cole spends her time running a $1 billion dollar baked goods company, but she started out as a teenage daughter of a single mom, hostessing at a Hooters restaurant to make money during high school. By 19, Cole had mastered all the different jobs at Hooters, so she was sent to Australia to help open a new location there, and that’s when her career took off. Cole says there are people who think “there’s no way a 19-year old gets that opportunity, she must have been sleeping her way to the top.” Besides the fact that the accusations are ludicrous (and all five of Cole’s bosses at Hooters were women), Cole says those kind of charges are just another example of why we need more women in business. “What’s sad about this is that you have so few examples of women moving up, so the only way to fill in the gaps is filth,” she says.

Take Our Poll: What Does Success Mean to You?

Cole, 36, moved to the Atlanta-based Cinnabon in 2010, where she now oversees one of the world’s most famous bakery franchises with more than 1,100 locations. So what kind of advice does Cole have for other women who want to climb the corporate ladder?

1) Inspire your staff: Cole attributes much of her success as a manager to her ability to make her staff feel confident. “I help people realize they’re capable of more than they know, and I do this in three ways: by being positive and hopeful, by creating comparisons, and by getting my hands dirty.” She says she has a basic knowledge of how to do every job at every Cinnabon, so she knows where her staff is coming from.

2) Get the full picture: Cole says the people outside the corporate offices often have valuable insight. “I ask the same two questions of the staff in every Cinnabon I visit: ‘What do our guests ask for that we don’t have?’ and ‘if you could, what would you change about this company?'”

3) Solicit feedback: “Use your empathy as your strength. It can help you understand the lens through which others see you…Whenever I leave a meeting, I pull one person aside and say, ‘Give me one thing that I could have done differently to be more effective.'” Cole says that specific wording is very important: it shows an openness to learning, it limits the advice to ‘one thing’, it asks for a suggestion instead of a criticism, and the phrase ‘more effective’ is much more neutral than ‘better.’

5) Get good intel: Cole has some ingenious tactics for taking the temperature of her colleagues during meetings or conferences. “At breaks I would go sit in the ladies room stall and listen to the conversations, because sometimes I learned about dynamics I hadn’t known about before.” Even the smallest thing could be helpful, even something as simple as grumbling because the presentation is going on for too long. “Information is power, and it allowed me to be a more effective facilitator.”

6) Don’t wait for the right time to speak up: Holding back in meetings is something men don’t think to do, Cole says. “Only women would think a thought and then think, ‘when is a good time to say this?'” Cole says she once refrained from speaking up about a reservation she had about a project, and it ended up costing the company a lot of money. After that, she promised herself, “I will never be in a room where someone was paying me for my brain and not bring my whole self. We’re not going to leave the room until I’ve shared my thought.” But how can you steer the conversation if the moment to speak up has already passed? Cole says it’s simple. “I say, ‘before we leave, I’d just like to add one thing…'” in order to bring the conversation back on track.

7) Celebrate failure: Cole says she encourages her team to focus on what they learned from mistakes, not what they lost by making them. She does this by saying things like, “thank goodness it happened with a 5-state deal, not a 50-state deal,” to focus on the lesson, not the damage. She says this encourages her team to take risks, because they know they’re allowed to fail sometimes.

8) Focus on doing your job, not whether people like you: Cole says one of the mistakes she made early in her career at Hooters was allowing a restaurant manager to get away with some incorrect protocol at his location, even though her job was to inspect each restaurant to make sure everything was consistent. “My desire for him to like me and trust me outweighed my commitment to doing my job,” she said. The very next day, her supervisor visited the location and realized she hadn’t inspected properly. “I don’t pay you to be nice, I pay you to do your job,” he told her.

9) Don’t waste energy worrying about being the only woman in the room: She tries not to think about it. “My body and brain was better used focusing on work,” she says, but she also thinks it’s important for women to have many examples to look up to. She notes that our brains light up when we see people like ourselves. “That’s why we need more diverse stories told,” she says. “We need more examples of the different paths to success.”

TIME career

What Not to Include on Your Resume

Resume - Refinery29
Refinery 29

This post originally appeared on Refinery 29.

When putting together a résumé, we usually wonder what to include — not what to omit. To start, don’t include a picture of your cat.While that might seem obvious, recruiter Kelsey Brown counts that image as one of the wackier things she’s witnessed in her job hiring for Trunk Club. She also says she’s seen driving capabilities listed as well as a “rap” a candidate submitted by mistake, neither of which helped the potential employee.Other résumé killers may not seem as obvious. Here’s what to leave off your résumé to best snag a recruiter’s eye.

Your Entire Life Story
A résumé is not the story of your life. Do not include every single internship, job, volunteer experience, extracurricular activity, class or skill in this document. Instead, tailor it to each specific job opportunity. Include the most relevant and recent work experience. Think about which activities and volunteer roles best demonstrate the skills needed for the position. And, consider breaking up your résumé into sections: Professional Experience, Education, Volunteer Activities, Leadership Experience, Skills and Interests are some examples.

Bland Vocabulary
Lose the boring action verbs and break out the thesaurus. Recruiters review tons of résumés every day and you need to make your accomplishments stand out with compelling language. Did you help put together an annual report? Great! Consider writing, “Designed and edited a 20 page annual report that was distributed to senior executives, the board of directors, funders and partner organizations.” Tell your unique story with strong action verbs and vocabulary.

(Related: 7 Cliché Phrases to Avoid on Your Résumé)

Fancy Formatting
Simplicity in formatting is key. “Sometimes candidates go slightly overboard with pictures, designs, and, oftentimes, ‘fluff’ in order to make their résumé look more aesthetically pleasing. Instead, this can easily become a distraction,” Brown says. Job seekers should focus on the content of the résumé and the value they will add to a company, rather than developing a fancy format. The exception: for highly visual positions like graphic designers, photo editors, or front-end developers, your résumé will help establish your individual brand identity. Keep it simple but unique to stand out.

References
Give yourself more real estate on the page by leaving off your references. Most of the time, employers do not even think about references until after the initial interview. Instead, use those extra inches to dive deeper into a job responsibility or showcase your skills and interests, which Brown says is her favorite part of a résumé. She once interviewed a female student who played hockey for the men’s hockey team. Those few lines conveyed a great deal.

An Objective Section
Old résumé wisdom says to include an objective line at the top of your résumé; however, it really is unnecessary unless you are changing career paths. Objectives are rarely that captivating and are often skipped over in favor of reading the professional work experience. A great place to include an objective-like section is not on your paper résumé but rather on your personal website or your LinkedIn summary. You don’t have that much space on a résumé to share your unique accomplishments, so be selective and thoughtful about what you choose to include. Other things to consider? Brown says to leave out the headshots and artwork — and definitely that picture of your cat.

(Related: How To Make Your Résumé Really Stand Out)

Whether you’re fresh out of college or just looking for a new adventure, the best thing about career-forming years is deciding what we want to do and how we’re going to get there. Fortunately, the resourceful folks at Levo League are full of advice & inspiration for forging your professional path. The social start-up promises to provide a backdrop for figuring it all out — no matter how you define success.

More from Refinery 29:

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s How to Creep Out of Work Without Anybody Noticing

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The muse

What do you do when you’re gainfully employed, yet dying to land a more interesting, more profitable job?

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

By Jenny Foss

You’re dying to tell your favorite client how much you’d love to work for her firm. But your boss and your client do yoga together. Surely they’d talk.

Your friend who got laid off two months ago just landed an amazing new gig. A recruiter found her via LinkedIn, and noted that she was both qualified and currently available.

So what do you do when you’re gainfully employed, yet dying to land a more interesting, more profitable, or more fulfilling role? How do you make it clear to key influencers that you’re “open to opportunities” without full-on outing yourself to your colleagues or, worse, your boss?

Think “The Art of Allure.”

Just as you might use subtle, yet intentional, methods to entice a romantic suitor, you can use the professional version of these same techniques to woo recruiters or other corporate decision makers—without your boss figuring out what you’re up to. Consider these:

1. Hint That You’re Available

Subtle hints can go a long way, and your LinkedIn summary is a perfect place to start. While you can’t come right out and announce that you’re looking (like your friend who got laid off did), you can present a call to action in the summary that encourages people to contact you and provides a very easy way to do just that.

Example: “I’m fascinated by all things digital marketing and enjoy meeting like-minded people. Feel free to contact me at YourEmail@gmail.com.”

As a recruiter, when I see that someone’s presenting his email address right in the summary, I assume he’s open to being contacted about job opportunities.

(Here are four more elements of a great LinkedIn summary.)

2. Be Interested

Everybody—and I mean everybody—likes feeling like their work matters and their efforts are being noted. Use this to your advantage. Approach people you think may be influential to your next career move in a way that is genuine, seems curious, and makes them feel important. Ask thoughtful questions about their own careers and contributions, in a way that suggests you’re just sincerely interested in their work, not looking for something from them.

By building rapport with those who may be beneficial to your growth, you may have the opportunity over time to reveal your specific career goals and interests—with less risk that they’ll rat you out to your employer.

3. Conveniently Appear in All the Right Places

Remember in high school when you just “happened” to walk by your crush’s locker at the precise moment he arrived each day? Coincidence? Of course not. You had that one figure out to the millisecond. (“Oh, hiiiiii.”)

Do the same now, minus the lockers. Figure out where the influencers in your industry hang out—both online and in person. Maybe it’s a regular meetup through your professional association, maybe a LinkedIn group or TweetChat. Wherever they congregate, consider stopping by, weighing in, or saying hello from time to time. The more you can get on the radar of people who matter to your career growth, the better.

4. Save Some of the Good Stuff for Later

Sharing every single thing about you on a first date isn’t alluring, it’s weird. A similar principle applies when you’re updating your LinkedIn profile as a means to quietly entice others. If you make a zillion updates all at once—especially if you do so without turning your Activity Broadcasts off—someone you work with is going to notice. And they’re going to wonder what’s up.

If you’re updating your profile with the hopes of positioning yourself as open to new opportunities, think seriously about editing in stages. Save some of the good stuff for later, so that you don’t out yourself as an obvious job seeker.

It’s not simple to simultaneously hold down one job while secretly exploring others, but if you’ve got some time to strategically allure the influencers, you might just land “the one.”

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10 Super Simple Ways to Be a Better Writer

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TheMuse

The written word is king. Time to get more comfortable with it

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

By Alexandra Franzen

Do you enjoy writing? Does it come naturally to you? Do colleagues praise you for your crisp, articulate, Nobel Laureate-worthy email updates?

Congratulations! Because if you work in an office or run your own business, you’re likely to spend about a quarter of your workday doing one thing:

Writing.

Oh, and that’s just the portion of your day that you’ll spend writing emails.

That figure doesn’t account for reports, proposals, best practice guidelines, blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets, texts, chapters of your forthcoming memoirs, that TED Talk script you’ve been tinkering with for the last 18 months, and the occasional hand-written “thank you” note.

We live in an era where the written word is King.

And if you’re going to write 40,000+ words this year—at minimum!—you might as well learn how to do your absolute best.

Here are 10 ways to become a better writer, right away.

(The kind of writer whose words get results.)

1. Get Clear

Before you sit down to write (anything), ask yourself: Why am I writing?

What’s the desired outcome that you want with this particular piece of writing?

Are you writing to brighten someone’s morning? Motivate your team to head back into the ring after a crushing defeat? Encourage folks to say “yes” to your new meeting time?

The best writing tends to have one clear, ringing intention. Choose it—and commit.

2. Get to the Point

In the business world, brevity is gold. (Related: Are Your Emails Too Long? Probably)

If you’re struggling to get to the point, take a moment to think about the person (or people) that you’re writing to, and create a roadmap for yourself by filling in the following statements:

The reason I am writing is:

What I want you to know is:

What I want you to do is:

Get those three points down pat. Then refer to them as you write to keep yourself on track.

3. Strip it Down

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Imagine that you’re writing for an audience of little kids—impatient, easily distracted, with zero tolerance for jargon.

You can practice—out in the real world—by having actual conversations with kids. Try explaining to a toddler what you do for a living, for starters. You’ll see, very quickly, if your elevator pitch is clear and intriguing—or not. (If not? Here are my tips for how to tell people what you do—and be remembered.)

4. Write From Your Happy Place

Ever notice how when you’re stressed out and trying to “force” yourself to write something amazing, it almost never works?

Research shows that getting yourself into a happy, relaxed state—think: taking a shower—is the key to creativity-on-command. When your body is experiencing a rush of dopamine, that’s when those a-ha! moments (“Ooh! I’ve got the perfect title for my presentation!”) tend to happen.

Can’t take a shower at work? No worries. There are plenty of other ways to get into your happy place before you sit down to write. Play energizing music, light a scented candle, bounce on an exercise ball—whatever it takes to help you unclench and relax!

5. Give Yourself a Time Limit

For most people, the longer you fuss over a piece of writing, the worse it gets.

When you have a clear reason for writing and feel happy and relaxed (see tip #4), your first draft is usually best. There’s no need to endlessly chew it over.

Clearing out your inbox, for example? Give yourself a time limit—say, two minutes per email—to prevent yourself from slipping into analysis-paralysis.

(You can set up a “smart playlist” in iTunes comprised entirely of two-minute songs, to keep yourself rockin’ along. When the song changes—hit “send” and move on!)

6. Ask, “What Would My Hero Write?”

If you’re struggling with a sensitive piece of writing where hitting the right emotional tone is essential, try channeling one of your personal heroes.

“What would Mister Rogers write in this situation?” “What would the Dalai Lama say?” “How would Richard Branson handle this email chain?”

7. Close Strong

Lost in a sea of never-ending email threads? Questions building upon questions, never leading to decisive action?

Try taking a decisive stance, rather than wrapping up your writing with an open-ended prompt.

Think: “In my opinion, the following approach is the best choice. If you agree, write back to say ‘yes,’ and I’ll get started.”

Not: “So, what do you guys think? I’m open to everyone’s input!”

8. Use the 7 Magic Words

“All I need from you right now.”

Kick these words up to the top of your correspondence, as in:

“I’m so excited that you’re going to deliver a keynote at our annual conference.

All I need from you right now is the title of your talk, a headshot, and your bio.”

These seven magic words give your reader a clear assignment, and put them at ease. (“Ahhh—that’s all? No problem. Done.”)

You can always add more information down below, if necessary (“Here are a few other things to know—for later.”)

9. Say it Out Loud

Whenever possible, read your writing out loud.

Does it sound like it was written by a human being or a cyborg? Are you stumbling over excessively long sentences? Catch any typos or duplicate words? If so, tweak and read it out loud again.

If reading aloud isn’t possible—because you don’t want to disturb your colleagues—try lightly tapping a finger on your desk or thigh as you silently read each word in your head. (It’s bizarre, but it works almost as well as reading out loud.)

10. Be a Daymaker

David Wagner, CEO of Juut Salonspa, often speaks about being a “Daymaker”—not just going through the motions at work, but actively choosing to be a source of positivity and encouragement. Choosing to make someone’s day.

With everything you write—every email, every text, every tweet—you have an opportunity to make someone’s day. (Or not.)

Often, all it takes is a few words of kindness, a thoughtful compliment, or the kind of insightful reminder that leaves people thinking, “Yeah. I needed that.”

Set “Daymaker” as your barometer of success—for your writing, and for everything you do.

Whether your writing is “perfect” or not, your intent will shine through.

 

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