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 Careers & Workplace

Your Email Is Killing You: 9 Ways to Survive

TIME.com stock photos Computer Keyboard Typing
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Here's what to try instead

startupcollective

Question: If you believe that email can be a productivity killer for your employees, what strategies have you implemented as a manager to make sure that your people do not get bogged down from accomplishing “real” work?

Standardize Subject Lines

“Client requests often come in at all hours of the day, and in order to ensure we can work on projects and not just respond to email all day, we like to use “URGENT” and “FYI” in our subject lines. This helps identify issues that need to be addressed immediately and notifies us of emails that can wait until a more convenient time.” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Kill Long Threads

“If an email thread goes past three replies, then I prohibit continued back-and-forth nonsense. Pick up the phone and have a conversation instead of wasting time on paragraphs of spell-checked pontification. Keep email actionable, brief whenever possible and easy to read.” — Seth Talbott, CEO and Startup Advisor

Use P2 Instead

“P2 is a WordPress theme we use internally for all communication. Instead of sending an email, just make a post to P2. It cuts out on long email threads. It’s searchable and indexable for later. And it’s way more transparent.” — Wade Foster, Zapier

Implement a 5-Minute Limit

“You cannot let emails accumulate. So, if you can answer the email in fewer than five minutes, you should answer it immediately, and stop procrastinating.” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Create Mailboxes For Tasks

“We have established a ticket system, and we are gradually moving away from using emails because it is a productivity killer. In the meantime, we have created new mailboxes where scheduled daily tasks are delivered to keep our general email accounts clean. We also ask our employees to immediately unsubscribe from emails that are distracting.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Hang Out on Google

“We leverage Google Hangouts a lot in our work. We can set up immediate, unplanned chats where we can talk things through and move on, rather than cluttering inboxes with hundreds of messages that may be misinterpreted and take much longer to respond to in writing. Just talk to each other, and drive on with business!” — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Track the Productivity Metrics

“At our company, we track all the productivity metrics of our employees. One particular metric we track is the amount of time spent on email. So, as an example, I spent 16 percent of my workday on email. As a general rule, we try to keep email use under 20 percent, and if it’s at anything over that, we look at what that person is doing.” — Liam Martin, Staff.com

Unplug

“Spend 60 minutes offline. At Lemonly, we have a mandatory hour in the day offline. No email, no Skype and no browsing. This is the most productive hour of the day for most of our team, and people focus on larger projects.” — John Meyer, Lemonly

Set Up Your Space For In-Person Collaboration

“We encourage our team to talk to each other to quickly resolve issues instead of waiting on an email answer. This means being respectful of your team and not interrupting unless the question is really worth the interruption. We have found that this helps us remove obstacles more quickly than using email, and it keeps communication flowing internally.” — Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s How You Can Answer ‘Is There Anything Else You’d Like Us to Know?’

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Either make the final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position

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

Sometimes you can tell when you’re making a really good impression during an interview. But, let’s not get cocky. We both know that as you’re wrapping up, full of confidence and eager to move forward in the process, you’ll get hit with something out of the blue, like, “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?”

“Only that you should hire me—immediately!” is, unfortunately, not usually what interviewers are looking for. So, what are they seeking when they toss this your way? A couple things, actually.

Really—Is There Anything Else?

Good news! Interviewers aren’t actually out to get you with trick questions—or at least most of them aren’t. Usually, they really are interested in what you think your strengths are or how you handle failure. Given that, your interviewer very likely just wants to give you a chance to mention anything that he or she has neglected to ask you. After all, most hiring managers are not expert interviewers. They’re experts at whatever their actual job is.

This means that you should take this question as an invitation to mention anything relevant that you didn’t get a chance to. Try starting with, “We’ve definitely covered a lot already, but I do want to mention my experience with…” This last thing might be a relevant experience that’s a bit older or a skill that you’ve honed that was never brought up in conversation. If this goes into a longer discussion, that’s great. If not, conclude with something like, “And, of course, I just want to reiterate how excited I am about the position.”

Can You Summarize Your Qualifications for Me?

Okay, your interviewers might not be consciously thinking this when they ask you if there’s anything else you want to share, but they’ll definitely appreciate it. Plus, summarizing your qualifications for your interviewer means you won’t have to be that person who says, “Nope, there’s nothing else to know.”

Begin your response with, “I think we’ve covered most of it, but just to summarize, it sounds like you’re looking for someone who can really hit the ground running. And with my previous experience [enumerate experience here], I think I’d be a great fit.” The key here is to not go into to much detail since, ideally, you’ve covered it all already. After you’ve made your case for being a good fit, finish up by pointing out your enthusiasm for the company—this is a great way to wrap up an interview, and it just never hurts.

Whether you do have something else to bring up or not, use the “Is there anything else you’d like us to know?” question as your invitation to finish strong. Either make that final point about your skills, or really spell out how your experiences make you an excellent candidate for the position. Whatever you do, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

How You Can Turn a Job Rejection Into Another Job Offer

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Every opportunity is a networking opportunity, and every job interview can lead to a job

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

Having managed a fellowship program, I know what it’s like to meet an applicant and think she’s awesome—but not quite as qualified as someone else. Often, I would go out of my way to help these candidates—pointing them toward other resources or, if they really impressed me, introducing them to the manager of another program or someone at Career Services.

Turns out, this can happen in the real world, as well.

Many would say that, when you interview for a job and find out you don’t get it, that’s the end of the story. But think about it: If you’ve made it to the final rounds of an interview process, you’ve clearly impressed the hiring manager. And, having spent several hours discussing your work experience, skills, and goals, you’ve built a professional (albeit new) relationship. So, why not use this person as a tool in your ongoing job hunt?

Recently, I did just that. After a great (but not so great that it landed me the job) interview process, I networked with my interviewer and asked him to connect me to other positions. And it worked.

Read on for my story and the steps to take if you want to try this approach for yourself.

Step 1: Rock the Interview Process

Every stage of the hiring process is an opportunity to make your best impression. For starters, I stepped out of my comfort zone and wrote a more creative cover letter than I ever had before. (I referred to this article while I wrote it!) I wanted to get noticed—and I did.

My application skipped past the job I was applying for and was sent to the CEO. He said he’d like to talk to me about a different position—designing and running the program I’d applied to write for.

I took copious notes during my phone interview, after which I was asked to submit a proposal for how I’d run the new initiative. I’d been burned by such an assignment a few weeks prior: I’d been asked to come up with solutions to fix a program as part of a hiring process—and the person interviewing me took my ideas and cut off all communication. But this ask felt a lot more legitimate, and I decided the opportunity was worth the risk. I couched it in a way that made sure I was still the piece that made the proposal work together, but made it enough of a window into my thinking that he could tell that I could hit the ground running and do something special.

I submitted the proposal, made it to the final round, and then, I didn’t get the job. It could have ended there—but it didn’t.

Step 2: Look for Positive Reinforcement

Here’s where got me thinking: You always hear that your network is a critical piece of your job search, because your network is made up of people who believe in you. So, what happens when you win someone over, make her believe in you, but simply aren’t applying for the right post at the right time? What happens when she thinks you’re talented, but that you just couldn’t do a specific job as well as someone else?

Over the course of this hiring process, he got to know me better than someone I’d meet an event and follow up with over coffee. He had insight into my critical thinking, people skills, writing ability, and strict adherence to deadlines.

I knew this CEO believed in me, because he told me so. He told me he loved my cover letter, because it showed passion. When I submitted my proposal, he praised me for being the first applicant to turn it in (despite being the last one to interview and therefore having the least amount of time). When he reviewed the proposal, he said I had great ideas. Even when sharing that I didn’t get the job, he took the time to tell me that he had no doubt I could do it, but I had lost out to a firm who already had an entire staff in place. He even ended my rejection email wishing me success and saying, “I hope our paths cross again.”

So, I knew he was a fan of my candidacy.

To be clear, if you follow up with someone who hasn’t told you he believes in you, you’re wasting your time as well as his—and can easily cross into nuisance territory. It would be downright awkward to try to call upon an interviewer as a trusted connection if you never established a connection beyond setting a date and time for the interview.

But if you did have that connection? Proceed.

Step 3: Follow Up

So, I had just received an email that told me I did great, but didn’t get the position. I had three options: I could not respond; I could write, “Thank you for letting me know,” and leave it at that; or I could ask if he knew of any additional opportunities. Part of what inspired me to go with the third option is that I’d originally applied for a lower-level role.

So here’s what I wrote:

Thank you for your email and kind words. I enjoyed learning more about [company], and should there be a more appropriately suited writing or editing opportunity in future (including freelance and/or part-time), I hope you’ll keep me in mind.

It was brief. It was proportionate to the connection. And, best of all, it worked.

Four minutes later, the CEO emailed me back that he’d be happy to make an introduction to the firm he’d given the contract to. The next thing I knew, the co-founder of that firm emailed to say that I’d been referred by my new contact. She requested writing samples and said that she’d love to have me join her team.

Basically, the CEO had done the legwork for me. He vouched for my candidacy, and I ended up landing the job he referred me for.

Even better, that job gave me my start in the sector, and opened the door for additional paid writing and editing opportunities down the road—which I plan to tell him when we meet for coffee this week.

The moral of the story is that every opportunity is a networking opportunity, and every job interview can lead to a job—even if it’s not the one you applied for. So put your best foot forward, and if you know someone is in your corner, ask him to help.

Oh, and regardless? Always say, “thank you.”

More from The Muse:

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Failure

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Failure is not the opposite of success

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Question: What’s your best tip for overcoming the fear of failure?

Diversify

“When I have many irons in the fire, I feel far less desperation around the success of any one. In fact, it is their cumulative successes that has created our brand identity at RTC.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Embrace a Terrible First Draft

“We tend to compare our own blooper reel to everyone else’s highlights reel. Instead just start with a first draft and embrace the fact it might be terrible. But the second try or draft will be better, the third even better. For me the only failure is not improving (or trying in the first place).” — Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

Failure Is Not the Opposite of Success

“If you chose to do something and “failed,” you received valuable feedback on what to do or not to do in the future. If you chose not to do something (this most often takes the form of “waiting” or “thinking about it”), you are guaranteed to be in the same position until you decide to do something about it. Failure is progress. Stagnation is what should be feared.” — Brennan White, Cortex

Failure Is Growth

“The risks of starting and running a business are great, and there are times when you may be tempted to throw in the towel. However, it’s important to remind yourself that with every failure you experience in business, there is another lesson learned that will aid your company and team moving forward.” — Zach Cutler, Cutler PR

Travel Will Broaden Your Perspective

“Go to the Third World, get out of your bubble and realize that even if you fail, life is not so bad.” — Raaja Nemani, BucketFeet

You Won’t Succeed Without Overcoming

“If fear of failure is disabling you from trying or starting at all, then you won’t succeed or truly fail. Instead, you will remain the same — which in the business world is as close to failure as you can get without calling it that. Realize that by encouraging a fear of failure, you have failed yourself and your business because you will neither succeed nor improve with lessons learned.” — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

So What If You Fail?

“Most entrepreneurs are playing a high-risk game, so fear of failure comes with the territory. In the worst case scenario, you fail, but so what? It will free up your time to work on your next business, and you will have more knowledge about starting and running a business. Just remember: fear makes you human, and when you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up.” — Nikki Robinson, Gloss and Glam

Regret Is Worse Than Failure

“When I fear failure, one thing that never fails to overcome that fear is thinking about the terrible feeling of regret. Regret lasts much longer than failure, and it is a thousand times worse. When you fear failure and quit, be warned that regret will always be right around the corner.” — Phil Chen, Systems Watch

Failure Is Like Practice

“I try to think of failure like exercise or practice. You’re going to do things, and you’re going to be terrible at first. The more you do it, the better you will get as time goes on. You will learn a lot if you look at failure as practice.” — Henry Balanon, Protean Payment

You Must Fail to Learn Success

“Do something incorrectly. Make a mistake. Mess up. Then, learn from it. Don’t run from the failure. Evaluate your shortcomings, and use that to propel yourself into your future endeavors. If you never fail, you will never know when you’ve reached true success.” — Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Etiquette

How Not To Be an Entitled Millennial at Work

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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?

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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.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Leadership Tips for Women in Tech

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Being a woman in the fast-growing tech space can work to your benefit

startupcollective

The tech sector is a notoriously difficult place to be a woman. A congressional report shows that only 7% of women-founded businesses receive venture capital funding. Every time we turn around, it seems there’s another gaffe that causes a rise within the community — this ranges from major companies’ lack of women in board positions to distasteful overheard conversations.

While most everyone in the tech sector has an opinion on the issue, for me, being a woman in the fast-growing tech space has actually paid off. In fact, I think that in most ways, being a female in tech has worked to my benefit.

Maybe it’s the dynamic between me and my co-founder Eileen Murphy Buckley, or the fact that we’re an ed-tech company that operates in a female-dominated industry (nearly two-thirds of teachers in the U.S. are women). I’d like to think it’s because we built an amazing product that helps great teachers teach better. So far, all signs point to the fact that we’re doing something right: ThinkCERCA is now available in schools nationwide, and we’ve secured $1.5 million in funding. We were a graduate of the Impact Engine Accelerator’s inaugural class, and we won the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Literacy Courseware Challenge in July 2013.

So how can you navigate the complex male-dominated tech world and succeed?

Combine Skill Sets

You have to be strategic about whom you partner with and bring onto your team. Our biggest success had nothing to do with gender. It had to do with our team’s unique combination of skills. I come from an entrepreneurial background, and have years of experience taking businesses from concept to launch, growing them in both revenue and size. Eileen is a teacher turned entrepreneur, and the former director of curriculum and instruction for a major school system. So while I brought the entrepreneurial know-how, Eileen brought the industry expertise and a firm basis of pedagogy and research. This helped us create a product that principals, teachers and students really need. Her deep knowledge continues to help us meet our core goal: helping students achieve college and career readiness.

I believe it’s this combination of skills that has not only helped us build a successful business, but also secure funding.

Never Shy Away From the Hard Stuff

So much of our success can be attributed to our dedication to our customers. Sometimes that means going against what others are telling you to do. While the ed-tech market continues to boom, there’s still the age-old problem of the chicken and the egg. Several investors wanted ThinkCERCA to be something it was not. They told us we either had to be a content publisher or a technology platform. Despite this feedback, based on our expertise and what our customers were telling us they needed, we decided to be both. Technology alone wasn’t the answer. Content alone wasn’t either. Focusing on both, and using a research-based approach, we have carved out a place in the ed-tech ecosystem and are poised for continued and rapid growth.

Build a Team of Mentors and Advocates

While Eileen and I have a great partnership, we have strived and will continue to work to create a team that complements our skills and builds off of what the two of us have created. We now have 16 people at ThinkCERCA whose expertise ranges from technology to sales to marketing. In addition, we’ve had an incredible group of mentors and advisors, such as Chuck Templeton, the former Managing Director of the Impact Engine accelerator. Our mentors have provided the encouragement we need but also given us hard-nosed doses of reality from time to time. Our mentors aren’t the people who always tell us what we want to hear. They’re always looking out for us and telling us what we need to hear.

As our business has grown, so have we. When we came together, Eileen was “the educator” and I was “the entrepreneur.” Now, we have both learned and have each assumed both roles. We are able to fluidly assume the voice of the customer and the voice of the business, which allows us to brainstorm and problem solve, and — most importantly — switch hit. Thanks to our complementary skill sets, dedication to our customers, and our refusal to accept the stereotypical limits that go along with being a woman in tech, ThinkCERCA is doing great things for the future of education.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

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