TIME Careers & Workplace

15 Exceptional Ways to Kick Your Productivity Way Up

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Here's how you can quickly get on track

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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.

Being productive is a great thing. Not only does it increase your self-confidence and sense of well-being, it can also make you more effective and your company more profitable. The ultimate reward for keeping your focus and being productive is more free time for you. And who doesn’t want more free time?

Everyone hits productivity lows, which is OK as long as they don’t last too long. Here are 15 ways to kick your productivity into high gear.

Don’t know where to begin?

1. The first step is to create a to-do list. When is the best time to create a to-do list? At the end of your workday while everything is still fresh in your mind or Sunday night after (hopefully) a restful weekend. This allows you to shut out work completely once you’re home for the night or weekend and to hit the ground running with your list in hand the next morning. It’s always a good idea to keep some paper handy during your workday to take notes and add things to your to-do list. This allows you to clear your head by getting those thoughts onto paper so you can continue to focus on the task at hand.

2. The next step is to choose one difficult, possibly longer task on your list to complete first. The sense of achievement you experience from checking off that one really hard thing on your list helps set the tone for the easier tasks to follow. They will feel like a walk in the park after you’ve tackled the hard stuff.

When is the best time to be productive?

3. A lot of this depends on who you are as a person. It is often suggested that we get up early and get to work while things are still quiet—less office chatter, fewer interruptions, just peace and solitude. Although this advice is good for some, it’s not good for everyone—we’re not all early birds. You need to dig deep and figure out when you are most productive. Maybe it’s closer to noon when you begin to feel the stirrings of being alive and able to produce. The point here is, don’t push through your to-do list during times when you tend to be the least productive—choose those times when you function at your best. Save easy to-dos for your less productive times of the day.

Hit a wall?

4. Take a walk outside and get some fresh air. Even a five-minute walk can wake you up and make you feel rejuvenated enough to dig back into work.

5. Take time out to clean and organize your desk and perhaps redecorate.Sometimes the clutter, the dust, and the really dirty keyboard can be a distraction. It’s amazing how cleaning your desk and making it an organized, beautiful place to work again can boost your productivity. Consider a new chair or adding some plants or a fish in a small bowl. Research has proved that the simple addition of a plant can increase productivity by 15 percent.

6. Take some time to browse the Web–look up things that are of interest to you.Research has shown that if you take a short break to surf the Web—say five to 15 minutes—you will feel refreshed and ready to throw yourself into work again. You may even find new inspiration and think of a new way to get through the current to-do.

7. Try laughter. Watch a couple of skits from Saturday Night Live or some other comedy show you enjoy, even if for only five minutes. Laughter increases productivity and makes you feel happier too.

8. Stand at your desk, stretch, and try deep breathing for at least five minutes. A good recipe for deep breathing: Inhale through your nose while counting slowly to 7; hold your breath for another slow count to 7; and then slowly exhale through your mouth for a slow count to 7. Go through this process 7 to 10 times. Now pat yourself on the back for completing your first meditation session and because you feel much better and can get back to work.

9. Take a snack break–the high-protein, high-fiber variety. This kind of snack—search the Web for ideas—will give you the brain boost you need for increased productivity. Sugary, high-carb snacks just bog you down and make it more likely that you will want to take a nap instead of work.

10. Stay hydrated. The older you get, the harder it is to sense that you’re thirsty. Dehydration can cause sleepiness, confusion, irritability, and other side effects (another great Web search opportunity). What is the best way to hydrate? Water—keep it handy at all times and keep drinking the stuff. It will help you maintain your focus, stay awake, and keep your productivity on high.

11. If your wall is still up, try taking a nap for up to 20 minutes. Yes, you read that right. Go to your car, a couch, or other place you feel comfortable—and take a nap. Naps as short as 15 minutes can increase alertness, improve your mood, and get your productivity juices flowing again.

Do you multitask?

12. Don’t. Research has shown that multitasking can be a productivity crusher, causing wasted time and more errors. Boost your productivity by focusing on one to-do at a time instead of switching from task to task. Occasionally, you will have to switch tasks if something hot hits your desk. Just make this the exception and not the norm. Better to place that hot item at the top of your to-do list and finish what you were doing first, thereby keeping your productivity from ending with a screeching halt.

If nothing seems to be working

13. Sometimes the problem is constant distractions. Shut off the email ping, put a Do Not Disturb Sign on your office door, or wear some headphones to shut out the noise. Research has shown that each distraction can cause up to a 20-minute delay in productivity. This can really add up, with multiple distractions decreasing productivity significantly.

14. Take a vacation. Not just a long weekend–a real vacation away from it all. If you can, take a couple weeks. Two weeks is optimal for complete recovery from the stresses of work. It’s amazing how real time away from work can give you a whole new perspective and research has shown that even a weeklong vacation increases reaction time and productivity.

15. Last resort. Perhaps you are having trouble with productivity because you simply don’t enjoy what you’re doing anymore. Think about your current work choice—is it still resonating with you? Do you ever feel excited about your work? If the answer is no, it may be time to find a new job or career entirely. If you can find your real passion in life, your productivity will go through the roof without your even trying.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Mark Zuckerberg’s 10 Best Quotes Ever

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech in Jakarta on October 13, 2014.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg delivers a speech in Jakarta on October 13, 2014. ROMEO GACAD—AFP/Getty Images

The best from the ever-quotable founder of Facebook

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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.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg is a true pioneer in the realm of technology. Time has named him among the top 100 most influential people in the world, and his personal wealth is currently estimated at more than $34 billion. (A portion of that wealth, he just announced, will be dedicated to combating the Ebola virus.) Zuckerberg famously launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room in February 2004. Today, the social network has, on average, over 800 million daily users, and was most recently valued at $200 billion, Time reports.

In honor of the wunderkind’s unprecedented success, here are 10 of his best quotes to inspire entrepreneurs in any industry. (We’ll admit, some of them are just as out-of-the-box as Zuckerberg himself.)

1. “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” —From an October 2011 interview at Y Combinator’s Startup School in Palo Alto, California.

2. “The question isn’t ‘What do we want to know about people?’ It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?” —From a November 2011 interview with Charlie Rose.

3. “I literally coded Facebook in my dorm room and launched it from my dorm room. I rented a server for $85 a month, and I funded it by putting an ad on the site, and we’ve funded ever since by putting ads on the site.” —In the same Charlie Rose interview, Zuckberg spoke about the social media giant’s humble beginnings.

4. “A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” —From a speech given to his colleagues at Facebook about relevance, as reported by The New York Times.

5. “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” —In an interview with Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, Zuckberg opened up about innovation, management, and more. Recently, however, he announced that Facebook would be changing this motto.

6. “This is a perverse thing, personally, but I would rather be in the cycle where people are underestimating us. It gives us the latitude to go out and make big bets that excite and amaze people.” —The entrepreneur offered his thoughts on dealing with skeptics, in an interview at TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF conference in September 2012, as reported by Forbes.

7. “People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don’t really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard.” —From a Stanford University speaker series on hiring the right people, given October 2005.

8. “People don’t care about what someone says about you in a movie–or even what you say, right? They care about what you build.” —From an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer in July 2010.

9. “In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.” —Also from the October 2011 interview at Y Combinator’s Startup School in Palo Alto, California.

10. “The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’ … Unless I feel like I’m working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I’m not going to feel good about how I’m spending my time. —From Marcia Amidon Lusted’s biography Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Creator.

Envious of the tech prodigy’s entrepreneurial success? Take his advice, and start breaking something today.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Biggest Myths About Being a Great Leader

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A lot of people who think they understand leadership have fallen for some common myths and misconceptions

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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.

Whether it’s the cause of business-school orthodoxy, or maybe it’s the odd directions of media attention or maybe it’s just a quirk of the popular imagination, there are so many myths that people believe about leaders and leadership.

The truth is leadership is a privilege—maybe even a calling. It’s something that has to be earned and learned over time.

Make sure you’re not building your own leadership on any of these commonly held myths and read on to uncover the truth:

1. The myth of entrepreneurial leadership

It’s easy to assume that all entrepreneurs are leaders, but just because someone has a great and timely idea and can organize and operate a business, the truth is they aren’t necessarily a leader. Even if you’re a world-class winner as an entrepreneur, you may find it hard to get people to see you as a leader within your organization. (This is a huge factor in the failure of so many start-ups.) You may need to work on your communication skills or expand your focus to include motivating the people on your team and helping them develop their own skills.

2. The myth of management as leadership

Another widespread myth is that leadership is equated with management. They’re actually two widely different (if interrelated) pursuits.

If you’re a manager, you’re focused on maintaining systems, processes, and best practices. But if you’re a leader, you’ll find that much of your time is spent working to influence people. They’re both important roles, but honestly they’re not the same thing.

3. The myth of trailblazer as leadership

Just because you’re standing in front of the crowd, you’re not necessarily the leader.
In fact, it may be a bad sign.

The best leaders take their place alongside their people, helping propel them forward to a shared mission and vision. They may even be behind them, watching their backs. There’s not a lot of apparent ego in the mix.

4. The myth of position as leadership

The No. 1 top myth about leadership is the idea that leadership resides in certain positions: If you’re a at the top, you’re a leader. If at the bottom, there’s no room for leadership.

In reality, the truth is, leadership has absolutely nothing to do with position, and you don’t have to look very far to find examples of leadership (good and bad) at every level. The warehouse worker organizing a holiday charity drive for her fellow employees? That’s a leader. The CEO who pockets a bonus, then heads off for a vacation so she’s not around when the salary freeze is announced? Not so much.

So the next time you see something typically labeled leadership, slow down and take a closer look.

1. True leadership is about influence, nothing more and nothing less.
2. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed or assigned.
3. True leadership can never be mandated, only earned.

And the best proof is not the leader’s personal success but the success of those who follow.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Surefire Ways to Write the Perfect Email Subject Line

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Doing it right is not as obvious as it might seem

No matter how well an unsolicited email is crafted, the cold reality is that it’s likely to end up in the recipient’s trash folder, unread, if the subject line falls flat. We asked executives who receive hundreds of emails on a daily basis how they decide — at a glance — which ones they deem worth a few seconds of their time to open and skim. Here’s what to put in your email subject lines to elevate them to click-worthy status.

A personal reference. “Jim Smith suggested I contact you” — this is the gold standard for unsolicited emails. Mentioning a mutual acquaintance the recipient knows and respects paves the way for you. Yes, this requires that you have a connection in common, so it’s not the easiest threshold to cross. But some busy execs suggest it’s worth the trouble to seek one out, because that’s the only prayer your email has of making contact with them.

“The people you most want to reach are the people who, by default, delete emails,” says Seth Godin, an author, entrepreneur and blogger who maintains that a mutual reference is the only way to crack a top prospect’s inbox.

A specific reference to them. “Ideally, it mentions my company, products or projects, proving that it’s actually specifically meant for me rather than a generic blast,” says Chris Anderson, the former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine who went on to lead tech startup 3D Robotics. “[Make it] something specific and relevant to what I do.”

An introduction to you. “When cold contacting someone I like to specify who I am in the subject line,” says Cal Newport, a Georgetown University assistant professor of computer science and author of four books about excelling at school and work. “For example, a common subject line of mine is ‘a note from a Georgetown professor,’” he says.

A reminder that you’ve met. Even if you’ve met the recipient before, a nudge to refresh their memory can keep you out of the trash folder, especially if it was a fleeting encounter or a long time ago. “I tend to steer people away from ‘great to meet you’ or ‘follow up’ email titles,” says Deborah Asseraf founder of experiental marketing company Popcorn Productions. “Instead, it should be ‘met you at event x’ — something that’s clear, concise and gets the intention of the writer across.”

What you want. “I appreciate a subject line that specifies what action if any is being asked from me,” Newport says. “This calibrates my expectations for an email and makes it less daunting.” If you’re looking for a data point, email address or some other request, say so upfront rather than making the recipient wade through your email looking for it.

Pertinent details. “In an age when we are all so strapped for time and used to text messages, I like to view my subject lines as a text message,” says LisaMarie Dias, who owns a new media marketing company. This works especially well if you want to remind somebody of an upcoming event or appointment, she says. “Even if they don’t open the email… they have seen the full reminder.”

Plain English. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, says “obviously commercial emails, spam or boring headlines” go straight into his trash folder. If your email subject sounds like a sales pitch, is stuffed with jargon or overwrought prose, your recipient isn’t going to take the time to parse your message — they’re just going to ignore it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Habits That Will Actually Change Your Life for the Better

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Do these five things, and watch your mindset change

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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.

Why do most people fail to stick to something challenging, like losing weight or getting in better shape? They don’t start small. They immediately go all in.

They change everything, which pretty soon results in not changing anything.

Why going all in never works

The temptation to go all in is understandable. Take losing weight. Losing weight is hard. So we decide the only way to succeed is to adopt a complicated, comprehensive program of diet and exercise that requires significant changes.

And within a day or two at most that comprehensive program starts to feel oppressive. Sticking with every single change starts to feel impossible.

So we start slipping.

First we slip in small ways, like when we’re running behind one morning and don’t have time to cook egg whites so we gobble a couple of doughnuts in the car. Or our kid has a school event so we can’t fit in our evening jog. Or we need to bring work home so we don’t have time to stop at the gym.

And soon nothing has changed. We’re back where we started. Well, not quite where started–now we also feel bad about ourselves for failing to stick with something we committed to doing.

Sound familiar?

Most comprehensive weight-loss programs work. Most comprehensive fitness programs work. The problem doesn’t lie with the programs–the problem lies in the fact those programs require such major changes to our daily activities and lifestyles. It’s impossible to make every change overnight. So when you miss a workout or screw up a meal it starts to feel like you’re failing completely.

And soon our comprehensive program is in tatters and we think, “If I can’t do it all, there’s no sense doing any of it.”

So we quit.

Here’s a better approach. Don’t immediately go all in. Don’t waste your time adopting the latest trendy diet or the current fitness fad. No matter how incredible the program, go all in and you’re incredibly unlikely to stick with it.

Instead, just start with making a few simple changes to your day. You’ll lose a little weight, feel a little better, and then find it a lot easier to incorporate a few more healthy habits into your routine.

Building slowly over time will help you create a new lifestyle–in a relatively painless way–that you will be able to stick with.

So for now just make these five changes:

1. Drink a glass of water before every meal.

Everyone needs to drink more water. That’s a given. Plus when you drink a glass of water before you eat you’ll already feel a little more full and won’t be as tempted to eat past the point of hunger.

2. Eat one really healthy meal.

Pick one meal. Just one. Then change what you eat. If it’s lunch, eat one portion of protein that fits in the palm of your hand, a vegetable or fruit, and four or five almonds.

I know that’s not a lot of food, but it’s healthier than what you’re eating now and, just as important, it lets you take small steps toward better controlling your portions at every meal.

Other examples: Pack a can of tuna and two apples. Or bring a skinless chicken breast and some cucumbers. Just make sure you prepare it ahead of time–that way you won’t have to decide to eat healthy. You just will.

3. Use your lunch to be active.

It doesn’t take 30 minutes or an hour to eat. So make your lunch break productive.

Go for a walk. (Better yet, find a walking buddy or do like LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner and have walking meetings.) Or stretch. Or do some push-ups or sit-ups.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do something. You’ll burn a few calories, burn off some stress, and feel better when you climb back into the work saddle.

And you’ll start to make fitness a part of your daily lifestyle without having to add to your already busy schedule.

4. Eat one meal-replacement bar.

OK, so most protein bars taste like flavored sawdust. But most are also nutritious and low in calories, and they make it easy to stave off the midafternoon hunger pangs you’ll inevitably feel after having eaten, say, a light lunch.

Don’t get too hung up on nutritional values; just pick a bar that includes 10 or 15 grams of protein (think protein bar, not energy bar) and you’ll be fine.

Eating a midmorning or midafternoon meal replacement bar doesn’t just bridge the gap between meals; it’s an easy way to get in the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently, another habit you’ll eventually want to adopt.

And, finally, a bonus habit to toss in once a week:

5. Have fun completing a physical challenge.

It would be great if you could consistently hit the gym four to five days a week, but if you’re starting from zero instantly transforming yourself into a gym rat isn’t realistic.

Instead, once a week pick something challenging to do. Take a really long walk. Take a long bike ride. Take a testing hike.

Just make sure you pick an accomplishment, not a yardstick. Don’t decide to walk six miles on a treadmill; that’s a yardstick. Walk the six miles to a friend’s house. Don’t ride 20 miles on an exercise bike; ride to a café, grab a snack, and then ride back home.

The activity should be based on an accomplishment; it’s a whole lot more fun to say, “I hiked to the top of Bear Mountain,” than it is to say, “I walked five miles on the treadmill at an 8 percent incline.” Accomplishments are fun; it’s like they’re things you decided to do. Yardsticks are boring; it’s like they’re things you had to do.

Every time you complete a weekly challenge you will have burned calories, improved your fitness level, and reminded yourself are still capable of doing some really cool things.

Once you accept you are still capable of doing cool things–no matter how much you’ve let yourself go physically, it’s true–you’ll find all the motivation you need to make a few other positive changes.

And one day you’ll realize you actually have gone all in … and you didn’t even notice.

TIME Careers & Workplace

8 Questions You Have to Ask During a Job Interview

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Don't be afraid to grill hiring managers. Chances are, they're hoping you will

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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.

Earlier this month, I was interviewing a prospective designer for my company. The candidate asked, “Who does wireframing for your app, the product team or the design team?” A simple question. But it kicked off a great discussion about our processes and how he could contribute to the team.

I remember thinking, “Hey, we are already working together…” This candidate is now an employee and a good fit for our company. His simple question opened the doors for us to have a genuine conversation about each other’s motivations, needs, passions, and work philosophies. In my 20-plus years in the recruitment industry, I am still surprised by how rare this crucial conversation is in a job interview.

There’s no doubt candidates who ask questions have a better chance at landing their dream job. Here are eight of the best questions I’ve heard from candidates:

1. What role will I fill?

When it comes to an employee’s role in a business’s strategy, the job title explains only so much. You are filling a void on the living, breathing team. Is this company hoping for an ideas person, a mentor to other employees, a creative force, a rule follower, a rule breaker? Get to the specifics of “who” your position is supposed to be.

2. Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?

Use this question to explore the expected level of engagement. Are you more comfortable being in a low- or a high-impact role? Do you want to be in a role that is universally respected within the company or are you OK being the undercover hero?

3. Who would my colleagues be?

The best interviews include three to four team members. If that is not the case in your interview, use this question to gain insight into team dynamics and personalities. These are the people you will spend every day with, so they need to pass what Tom Gimbel calls “the airplane test“—someone you would enjoy sitting next to on a long flight.

4. What would I be doing that makes your job easier?

This question has two benefits—you will find out who is going to lean on you the heaviest and what you will need to do to keep the other teammates happy. The answers to this question will be the immediate problems each team member is hoping you will solve.

5. What are additional important skills I will need to do this job well?

What are the soft skills needed for this particular job? Find out if the company needs someone who is also a self-starter or works well in teams. This is also an excellent time to bring up any additional skills you have that are appropriate for position.

6. How does the company measure success?

Identifying how your progress in this position will be measured will give you a better idea of whether or not you will be successful. Get specifics on what your deliverables will be per project. Ask about common work habits of people who have had this position in the past whom the company considered successful.

7. What would you expect from me this month, in three months, and in a year?

Chances are that your employer has a trajectory for your role in mind. Find out what you will need to deliver in the next coming months. Ask yourself if this pace feels doable for the way you work.

8. What is your mission?

This is one of the most important questions you can ask. Research shows that employees are most happy when their goals align with those of their employers. Get philosophical here and find out why you are both here in this room and if you want the same things.

Repeat your questions for each hiring manager you meet, because you will get different responses from different people. As a CEO, I am often the last person in the round of interviews. It happens time and time again that I will say, “Do you have any questions for me?” and get a polite “No, I got a lot of my questions answered.”

I didn’t get my questions answered though. Keep the conversation going. If you want to work for my company, you have to ask for it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Hate Mornings? 6 Small Changes That Will Fix Everything

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Here are quick remedies to the biggest obstacle to having a perfect day

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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.

The first few minutes of your morning are the most important of your day and can set the tone for positivity and productivity. Ideally, you have an app or clock that taps into your natural circadian rhythm and wakes you during your “best time” within a certain window. Getting jarred out of a deep REM slumber to the sound of a blaring alarm clock sets you up for a negative day brimming with fatigue and crankiness.

But getting the right alarm clock is only part of the battle.

Here are six ways to start your morning better while kicking bad habits that destroy good sleep hygiene.

1. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of no screen time

Besides turning off an alarm that might be on your phone, resist the urge to check your email or social media. It sets you up for a day of being enslaved to technology, and your morning time should be reserved just for you. This might mean disabling notifications on your home screen so you’re not tempted by that Facebook update or mounting emails.

2. Swap out the coffee for lemon water

Lukewarm water with a fresh lemon squeezed into it has numerous benefits–but you need to drink it first thing in the morning. It starts your metabolism, which burns fat while sustaining muscle, cleanses your mouth and throat, and gives you a boost of energy. Then wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, drinking, or eating. This might be a toughie for caffeine addicts, but you can manage 30 minutes and it’s a great way to reduce the need for a coffee fix.

3. Sit up correctly

There are many “bad ways” to get out of bed, but only one best way, if your body allows for it: Roll over onto your right side, then push yourself up into a sitting position before standing with a straight back (no hunching). It’s the gentlest way to get up, takes the pressure off your heart and back, and is a great, easy ritual to start your morning right.

4. Set and affirm your goals for the day

While stretching in bed or prepping your lemon water, set some feasible goals for the day, but limit them to three. This might include packing your lunch instead of eating out to save money, committing to that noon yoga class, or scheduling the doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off.

5. Stretch

It seems so obvious, and yet so many people ignore it. You can do this in bed, using a simple stretched-out-legs-and-arms-overhead movement. You can indulge in a supine twist on a padded floor, or you can practice whatever feels right for as little or as long as you like. Your body’s just been booted down for hours–you can’t expect it to be warmed up, energized, and raring to go right away.

6. Meditate

Don’t skip over this one just because it sounds boring or like you don’t have time for it. Meditation is only as strict, long, short, boring, or annoying as you make it. A “successful” meditation in an entire lifetime might be only a few seconds. However, sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on clearing your mind–even if it’s for less than a minute–can help your mental clarity and spiritual well-being and set the stage for the day.

You probably already know which morning habits aren’t serving you, so why keep doing them? Instead, focus on what really makes your mornings better and prioritize them.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Job Search Tricks That Will Change Everything You’ve Been Doing

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Invaluable advice from the pros

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

Finding the right job opportunities—and standing out in a competitive market—is tough. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools and hacks out there that are built to help you find your dream job, more quickly and easily than ever.

From an app that helps you optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems to a site that’ll keep all your applications in order, here are 10 tools and tips you’ve probably never heard about that can give your job search a serious boost.

1. Create a Twitter Job Search List to Track Job Listings From Thousands of Sources

Every day, recruiters are tweeting jobs they need to interview candidates for—making Twitter a seriously untapped resource for job seekers. To make sure you’re in the know about these leads, create a Twitter job search list that includes recruiters, hiring managers, company hiring handles, and job search websites. Then, review their tweets daily for potential opportunities.

2. Use JibberJobber to Keep Track of Information You Collect During Your Job Search

It’s easy to get disorganized during a job hunt. So, use a free tool such asJibberJobber to keep tabs on everything that’s going on. You can track the companies that you apply to, note each specific job that you apply for, and log the status of each application (date of first interview, date thank you letter sent, and so on).

3. Use LinkedIn Resume Builder to Create an Updated Resume Fast

If you’re like me, your LinkedIn profile is much more up to date than your actual resume. But if you need to update your resume fast for an available opportunity, don’t spend hours on your computer. Instead, export your LinkedIn profile into a classy looking resume using LinkedIn’s Resume Builder.

4. Put a Short and Unique LinkedIn URL on Your Resume to Stand Out to Recruiters

Instead of using the URL that LinkedIn assigns you with letters and numbers, customize it so it contains your name and the career field or job title you want to go into. (You can do this by clicking “edit profile” and clicking “edit” next to your LinkedIn URL.) This extra keyword will help when recruiters are searching for you, and sticking the URL on your resume will encourage recruiters to head to LinkedIn to learn more about you.

5. Use Resunate to See How Your Resume Scores on an Applicant Tracking System

Sick of not knowing if a human being is even reviewing the resume you worked so hard on? Resunate is web-based software that shows you how your resume would score on the applicant tracking system—and helps you improve it for every job you apply for.

6. Use SocialMention to Manage Your Online Reputation

While job searching, it’s important to keep your reputation crystal clear. To monitor what’s being said about you online, check out Social Mention, a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you across the web’s social media landscape in real-time.

7. Use LinkedIn Groups to Contact Someone You Don’t Have an Email For

If you want to contact someone at your dream company but can’t find the right contact information anywhere, check out the person’s public LinkedIn profile and see what groups he or she is part of. Then, join the group where you share a mutual interest. Once you are in the same group, you can send a message through LinkedIn. Just make sure you include something about your common interest in your message—it’ll make you seem like a networker, not a stalker.

8. Use Insightly to Manage and Organize Business Cards You Collect

Insightly is a free CRM system that helps you manage your key contacts and relationships—and it’s a great tool for your job search. After you meet someone, put his or her contact information in this system, and write down important information you learned from your conversation. Then, create a reminder in the system to follow up on a certain date in the future.

9. Use Contactually to Create an Automatic Follow-up System

A big job search mistake is to only focus on meeting new people and forgetting about the people you already know. In fact, it’s extremely important to keep up with your current relationships! Contactually helps you consistently reengage with the most important people in your network by sending you automatic reminders to email people you haven’t talked to in a while.

10. Update Your LinkedIn Status Daily to Stay Top of Mind

This will make sure that you’ll stay on the radar of everyone you know—read: that they’ll remember you when an available opportunity opens up. How to do this without being annoying? Share an article, a quote, or a project you’re working on. Other ways of showing up in the LinkedIn news feed are by getting recommended, by adding a new connection, by joining a group, or by changing your photo.
Put these simple “hacks” into practice, and you’ll quickly see an improvement in your job search results. Meaning: You’ll land that dream job oh-so-much faster.

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Things the Smartest Leaders Do

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Image Source—Getty Images

These simple strategies create organizations that are flexible, resilient, and attractive to top talent

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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.

In previous posts, I’ve described what smart bosses believe, what smart bosses know about people, and the words that smart bosses never say. This piece describes the specific strategies I’ve observed CEOs apply inside the most consistently successful companies:

1. They encourage diversity of thought.

Smart CEOs build organizations in which a diversity of opinion and background produce alternative approaches to solving problems and building opportunity.

Average CEOs build organizations in which everyone looks and thinks the same way. This reduces conflict but results in a brittle organization that can’t adapt.

2. They sacrifice their cash cows.

Smart CEOs realize that a successful product becomes obsolete even while it’s still selling well. As a result, they kill off and replace their most profitable products.

Average CEOs keep their cash cows alive even if it means that competitors will capture the next product generation.

3. They build symbiotic relationships.

Smart CEOs seek out situations in which customers and partners mutually benefit because everyone’s growth depends upon how well that she or he can cooperate.

Average CEOs think of business as a zero-sum game, where being a winner means that somebody else must be a loser, even if it’s a customer or partner.

4. They physically connect with employees.

Smart CEOs walk the halls, shake hands, and speak one-on-one with line employees, sincerely thanking them for their contributions.

Average CEOs send out pep-talk emails filled with biz-blab like “employees are our greatest resource.”

5. They encourage social interaction.

Smart CEOs encourage social activities with intergroup mingling. They want employees from sales, engineering, and finance (for instance) to know and like one another.

Average CEOs have management retreats in fancy resort hotels and give regular employees free passes to the local Six Flags park.

6. They foster hands-on community involvement.

Smart CEOs want employees to become involved in personally helping the local community deal with whatever problems exist.

Average CEOs run contests to see which manager can arm-twist the most employees into donating money to United Way.

7. They increase flexibility by dispersing power.

Smart CEOs push authority as far down the organizational chain as possible, so that those closest to a situation have the power to make the best decisions.

Average CEOs obsess about checks and balances so that nobody takes a risk without first getting approval from higher-ups.

8. They encourage informality.

Smart CEOs create collegelike work environments in which employees feel relaxed, as if they’re among friends and mentors.

Average CEOs create factorylike environments in which everyone feels like a cog in the corporate machine.

9. They keep job descriptions fluid.

Smart CEOs let individuals, teams, and organizations define their roles as necessary to accomplish the job at hand.

Average CEOs expend vast effort writing detailed job descriptions and defining how the “system” is supposed to work.

TIME Careers & Workplace

The Hardest Job Interview Question—And How to Answer It

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Hill Street Studios—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

Here's how to start dealing with the dreaded query

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

Like the dreaded “Tell me about yourself,” the question, “Why are you interested in this position?” is sure to come up in an interview.

And, even if it doesn’t, if you want the job you should get this sentiment across regardless. So, really, there’s no way around figuring out how to string together a coherent thought about why this being in this position makes sense for you (and for the company).

Luckily, there’s actually a pretty simple way to go about answering this question effectively without having to go through every big moment or transition in your life and career that’s brought you to this interview. Here’s a smart framework for how you should structure your answer.

Step 1: Express Enthusiasm for the Company

First things first, this is an excellent opportunity for you to show off what you know about the company. You can talk all day about how excited you are about joining the team, but nothing will trump actually knowing a thing or two about the place you’re interviewing with. So, to prepare, spend some time honing in on what you know about the company and select a few key factors to incorporate into your pitch for why you’re a good fit.

Say you’re interviewing for a small quantitative asset management company. The start of your answer might sound something like this:

The first thing that caught my eye when I saw the position posted was definitely that it was at EFG Advisers. I know that you build a lot of your tools in-house, the team is small, and you run a variety of long- and short-term strategies in the U.S. equities markets using a quantitative approach.

Especially with smaller companies, it’s always impressive when a candidate knows a thing or two about what goes on at the company. And the best thing about this is you rarely have to go beyond reviewing the company website or having a quick conversation with a current or past employee to learn enough to sound like you’ve been following the company for a while.

Step 2: Align Your Skills and Experiences With the Role

Next, you want to sell why, exactly, you’re right for the role. There are two ways you can do this: You can either focus more on your experiences (what you’ve done before that brings you to this point) or your skills (especially helpful if you’re pivoting positions or industries).

Try to pinpoint what the main part of the role entails, plus a couple of the “desired skills” in the job description, and make sure you speak to that. Follow up your introduction to how excited you are about the company with why you’re a good fit:

But the part that really spoke to me about this position was the chance to combine both the programming skills I gained from being a senior software engineer and my knack for quantitative analysis in a position that actively lets me engage with my growing interest in investing and portfolio management.

Keep it short—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk about how you got your skills or relevant stories throughout the interview—and just focus on highlighting a couple key relevant abilities or experiences for the position.

Step 3: Connect to Your Career Trajectory

Finally, you want to show that the position makes sense for where you’re going in your career. Ideally, you won’t give the impression that you’re just using the position as a stepping stone. Show that you’ll be around for the long haul, and your interviewer will feel more comfortable investing in you:

I’ve been interested in switching to finance for a while now and have been actively managing my own personal portfolio for a few years. Joining a quant shop makes sense to me because I think it’s one of the few places where I’ll still be able to use my technical skills and spend my day thinking about finance. I’m really excited to learn more and see how I’ll be able to contribute the firm.

Of course, you don’t have to state specifically that you see yourself in the position for a long time. Just show that you’ve given some thought to how the job makes sense for you now and that it continues to make sense for the foreseeable future.
String these three components together, and you have a response that will impress on three fronts: your knowledge and enthusiasm for the company, your relevant skills, and your general fit with the position. Plus, this framework has the added benefit of not stopping the flow of the conversation the way going through your entire life story would.

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