TIME Startups

9 Tips for Turning Your Invention Into a Business

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Start working on rolling out the business right now


Question: I invented something that I think has potential to become a business. What is one thing I should NOT forget to do next?

Get Real Feedback

“Your friends and family will probably support your idea even if it’s not so great. Find real people who are target customers for your idea, and see if they will actually buy it before you build it. You can use strategies like this to raise some early money from real customers who will help you make your product better than you ever could without their feedback.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Obtain Trademarks

“If you have invented something, I will assume you’re applying for a patent. What you should not forget to do is obtain as many trademarks as possible relevant to your invention and field. These could be marketing slogans and product names. Moreover, make sure to get related domains as soon as you have a chance.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Write a Business Plan

“Regardless of what you may have heard, business plans are not anachronisms — they are still relevant. Strategic planning is key to startup success; without it, you’re lost. Unfortunately, a good product isn’t everything. Without a plan and the ability to execute on that plan, even an invention with the greatest potential will wind up dead in the water.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Validate Demand

“Most products fail because people don’t actually want them and/or are not willing to actually pay money for them. When you think you have a great idea for a product or business, you should immediately validate or invalidate that there’s actual demand for that product. “The Lean Startup” methodology gives a very specific plan for doing just that.” — Danny Boice, Speek


“No seriously — start working on rolling out the business ASAP. Over the last few years, I’ve witnessed too many people with good ideas waste time writing a detailed business plan only to never get the idea off the ground. Do the minimum you need to do to prove you actually have a real business. Get some customers; get feedback. ” — Janis Krums, OPPRTUNITY

Make Your Early Users Happy

“Your invention may have all types of applications, but it’s important to focus on the application(s) for the set of users you’ll make very happy — enough to create buzz around your product or service and get customers to eventually pay you.” — Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind

Check to See If It Exists

“I can’t tell you how many fab ideas I’ve had, especially in the shower, that I’ve looked up online only to find they already exist. Although it seems like the most logical and simplest next step, it is surprising how many people don’t take the time to do it. If the business idea already exists, the next question to ask is: Can I build a better mousetrap? If yes, do it. If no, skip it.” — Erin Blaskie, Next Dev Media

Be Patient

“Make sure there is demand for your invention. Make one prototype, and then try to bring in orders rather than making a ton of product and trying to sell it. Make the prototype, take photos, accept orders and market. When you have enough orders, start building. It’s the Kickstarter approach: Build one, and then sell.” — Jim Belosic, Pancakes Laboratories/ShortStack

Focus on Sales

“Get sales. Do whatever it takes to collect revenue. This process will validate your invention and get you on the road to making it a successful product.” — Thomas Cullen, LaunchPad Lab

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Things to Say Instead of ‘Because I Said So’

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Because they’re not the best words to manage by

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

They were the four most dreaded words of your childhood: “Because I said so!”

But now, as a manager making tough decisions and enforcing changes, you hear the same phrase slipping from your lips. You want to address your employees’ concerns, of course—but at the same time, you can’t afford to spend hours debating every facet of every decision you make.

At some point, you have to stop debating and start moving forward. And that’s when it becomes all too easy to assert your managerial power by letting those four words rip.

But, as your elementary-school-age self knows, those are frustrating words to hear. And they’re not the best words to manage by, either. As an effective leader, you truly do want your employees to buy into the decisions you’re making, rather than managing by force.

So what else can you say to keep your employees moving forward in the right direction—without spending fruitless hours debating your every move? Here are a few options.

1. “I’ve Decided to Do it This Way Because…”

First and foremost, what your employees are looking for is justification for your decision. They want to know that you’re not making changes simply because you have the power to do so.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to divulge every detail of the strategy meeting that led to each decision, of course—but you should be able to provide a clear, concise, and compelling reason for why you’re making the change.

If you can’t come up with an explanation beyond “Well, that’s the decision upper management made” or “That’s just the way things have to be,” then you haven’t asked enough questions yourself. Dive back into the reasoning behind the decision, or work with your boss to formulate a solid explanation that you can provide to your team—one that’s compelling, persuasive, and clearly shows why you’re enforcing this decision.

2. “Let’s Address Your Biggest Concerns”

When you initially explain a decision, your team may not necessarily be focused on the big picture—but instead, simply that the go-forward plan is different than what they currently know.

I can’t count the number of times that in response to a newly implemented change, my employees would tell me “But the old way worked just fine” or “We never had any issues with the way we used to do it.”

But, those aren’t actual concerns about the decision. They’re just complaints about having to experience change.

As the manager, you have to urge your team to narrow in on what they’re actually concerned about. Are they worried they won’t get enough training in the new process? Do they think a new workflow will take time away from their other tasks?

These are things you should be able to address—because ideally, you’ve already thought them through.

3. “This is the Way We’re Going to Try it First

The key word here is, of course, first. This gently asserts your firm decision, while still letting your employees know that if it doesn’t work out the way you anticipate, you’ll be open to revisiting the issue down the road.

Acknowledging that you will be open to feedback in the future will help you get your employees on board for the time being—and, once they try it your way, they may find that their initial concerns aren’t as significant as they first thought.

It’s fine for your employees to ask for more information. But for the sake of your team’s productivity, at some point, you have to actually start moving forward with the plan. By addressing your employees’ concerns quickly and directly, you can get them on board to start making progress.

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7 Truths About LinkedIn Everybody Needs to Know

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There is real power in Groups

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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.

LinkedIn has evolved to become one the most important and most prevalent resources for professional networking available. Used by more than 313 million people on an international scale, it’s no wonder why the social network has, for many professional networkers, replaced traditional forms of meeting and socializing.

Whether you network for job opportunities, sales prospects, or just overall experience, it’s true that LinkedIn can enhance your efforts–but it’s important to acknowledge a few considerations about the platform before you get too deep in your strategy.

1. Not everyone on LinkedIn wants to network.

This is a basic rule you’ll need to follow if you want to stay in the good graces of your current and potential connections. New LinkedIn users sometimes get excited about the notion of making new connections, and start reaching out to people they haven’t met before. While some users also love the idea of meeting new people and connecting with strangers, others are offended by it, and may feel as if their privacy has been disrespected if they receive such a request.

Obviously, you want to avoid such a scenario, as it could irritate a potential connection. Instead, focus on connecting with people you’ve already met, or connections of people you’ve already met. Make sure to let each potential connection know how you found them, and why you want to connect with them.

2. People will judge you based on your profile.

Your profile is the first thing your new connection will look at, and if you haven’t met in person before, it’s going to form their first impression of you. I don’t need to tell you how important first impressions are. Building out your profile is the best way to leave your new (and potential) connections with positive thoughts of you.

What exactly makes a good profile? There are dozens of rules and hundreds of nitpicky options you can look at, but the fundamentals are mostly intuitive:

  • Customize your profile URL so it’s not just a series of random letters and numbers.
  • Make sure your profile photo is a professional-looking headshot where you look your best.
  • Fill out your profile with as much detailed information as you can without becoming long-winded and boastful.
  • Include personal recommendations from others, if possible.

3. Your personal brand should be treated like a brand.

A brand is a created identity, and while yours should be based on your real personality, it should also be refined and treated like a professional company brand. As you network more on LinkedIn and engage in different discussions with different people, your audience and your network should all receive a consistent experience. That means your image, your personality, and even your language need to be in sync with each other.

Developing your personal brand will give people the consistent, desirable experience they want, and eventually, they’ll want to come back to you to repeat that experience. Connect your LinkedIn profile with your other social media profiles, and widen your audience while keeping your personal brand uniform. It’s good to show some of your unique personality, but do remember that LinkedIn isn’t a place to make emotional or personal updates–it’s a professional network, first and foremost. For more information on building a personal brand, see my article, “5 Steps to Building a Personal Brand (and Why You Need One).”

4. People will notice spam and advertising.

Most connections, and most people in general, hate the idea of being advertised to. The second they understand that a message was specifically constructed to sell them on something, the authority and credibility of the message are immediately destroyed. If any of your messages or connection attempts are seen as spammy or as attempts to advertise your company or personal brand, your audience will immediately turn away from you.

Write specialized messages for your audience–in your profile, in your connection attempts, and in your discussion comments. Make sure people know that you aren’t just trying to reach out to them for artificial connection building or a blind attempt to get more business. Be yourself, and write unique messages with unique content to avoid seeming robotic or impersonal. No matter how good you think you are at subtly advertising, people will be able to detect it, and you’ll lose credibility when they do.

5. A personal touch goes a long way.

Just like in real life, people on LinkedIn crave personal acknowledgement, and if you give it to them, you’ll wind up in their good graces. You’ll want to start each possible connection on a note of personal interaction; when you request to connect with a new person, write them a message about why that connection is important to you, and include personal details so the other person knows you’re being sincere. Sending the default “Hi, I’d like to connect” message will make you seem distant and unapproachable.

Then, follow up with your connections on a regular basis. If you see it’s someone’s birthday, someone’s work anniversary, or someone’s new job or promotion, send them a congratulatory letter. Take every opportunity you can to build your relationship with tiny personal touches. Over time, your connection will grow much stronger.

6. There is real power in Groups.

Don’t just stick to personal profile updates and private messages with your connections. Use the power of Groups to boost your potential network and reach people you’ve never met in a familiar setting. Sign up to be a part of as many Groups as you deem appropriate. Learn the intentions and etiquette of each group, and get involved by starting discussions and responding to comment threads that are already in progress.

The real opportunity in Groups is getting the chance to introduce yourself to new people without the breach of etiquette that comes in blindly reaching out to new connections. In a Group setting, people will become familiar with your personality and authority, and it’s highly likely that you’ll attract new connections without any outbound effort. For more on using LinkedIn Groups for marketing, see my article, “The Definitive Guide to LinkedIn Groups for Marketing.”

7. Face to face meetings are still important.

Interpersonal connections can’t thrive exclusively on social media. While the digital environment gives us a great platform to start new connections, and easily follow up with ones we’ve already made, face-to-face meetings are still important to build camaraderie and deepen those relationships. It’s not always possible due to geographical limitations and schedule restrictions, but whenever you can, try to schedule a lunch meeting or a cup of coffee with your most important–or your newest–connections.

You’d be surprised how much a face-to-face meeting can mean to a person, even in the digital age. It’s not a mandatory requirement for LinkedIn participation, of course, but LinkedIn members who do connect outside the platform tend to be more successful than members who operate exclusively in the online world.


Don’t let these truths scare you away from LinkedIn; when used correctly, it’s a great tool with few, if any, major drawbacks. But the availability of such a powerful social network also warrants a new set of rules of etiquette. Once you become more familiar with the way LinkedIn works and the best ways to reach out to more connections, you’ll be able to build your network of professional relationships and take advantage of everything the platform has to offer. For more information on how to use LinkedIn in your marketing initiative, grab my eBook, “The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.”


TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is the Most Effective Way to Approach a Slacking Colleague

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Don't get mad and ask a simple question

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

“You’ve had three months to do this project. I gave you extensive directions, asked you if you needed help on four separate occasions, and checked in with you on a weekly basis. What do you mean we’re not going to be ready for the event on Saturday?!?”

That’s what I wanted to say to my employee who approached me explaining that she didn’t, in fact, have things ready for Saturday’s event. Instead, I paused for a beat, smiled, and said:

“Thank you again for agreeing to lead the charge on this—I know how busy you are! It sounds like we have a lot of ground to cover before the event on Saturday. What ideas do you have for making up that ground? I know you’ll be able to make this a success, which is why I chose you for this role in the first place.”

I’m the editor-in-chief of an online magazine. We have a staff of 70 and an intense publishing schedule, so it’s a huge role—and I delegate a lot. Unfortunately, those I delegate to aren’t always as invested as I am.

A couple of months ago, I would have used the first approach on my slacking team member. However, I quickly found that getting angry—although satisfying—didn’t motivate my staff. Instead, they would get defensive and resentful.

I had to change my tactics. That’s when I discovered the magical question: What ideas do you have for… (finishing this on time, placating the customer, responding to the client, doing things better in the future, whatever else you think is required to fix the thing you messed up)?

This question is effective for multiple reasons:

  • It forces the person you’re asking to acknowledge he or she has created a problem.
  • It gives him or her an instant way to alleviate that problem.
  • It asks him or her to think of more than one solution.
  • It makes you seem understanding and sympathetic.
  • It allows the person to be less defensive, since you’re not being accusatory or suggesting you’ve lost faith in him or her.

When I asked this question to the woman organizing Saturday’s event, she responded:

“I’m busy, but that’s no excuse! So is everyone else on our staff! I know I let you down, but I’m going to focus all my energy into making this event happen. First, I’ll call every caterer in the area to see who’s still available. Maybe we can offer them free publicity so they’ll ignore how last-minute it is? Also, I was thinking…”

There’s no way I would’ve gotten a reply this helpful if I had listened to the urge to yell at her.

Even if you’re not in a position of power, you can still use this principle—just slightly alter the question. Say you’re the one who’s messed up. After owning your mistake and apologizing, ask your supervisor, “What would you do in my situation?”

Once again, it’s effective in a variety of ways:

  • Your boss is now looking at things from your side, making him or her more empathetic.
  • You get at least one potential solution.
  • You show you’re serious and proactive about fixing your mistakes.
  • You’re flattering your boss by asking for his or her opinion and help.

When I realized I’d made a promise to a client I couldn’t keep, I immediately went to my supervisor, explained what had happened, and said, “I’d love your insight into how to handle this. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” She thought for a bit, then gave me a three-part plan for making it up to the customer.

This technique is especially useful when you have no idea how to resolve a conflict—and don’t want to admit your cluelessness.

As both a leader and an employee, I used to think I needed to have all the answers. Now I’ve found I just need one question. Problem solved.

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TIME Careers & Workplace

Why a Personal Website Is Your Best Asset (and How to Make It Good)

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It's a small move with a big difference

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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.

I see a lot of résumés—from friends, prospective FinePoint collaborators, and associates. A résumé is great, but it’s static—it signifies only one page of who you are as a person.

Nobody can or should be reduced to a page, especially in this age of multiple careers and diverse interests. Showcasing yourself on an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper is increasingly difficult. And it shouldn’t be how it’s done anyway.

Being in the business of helping founders and leaders with their personal brands, voice, visibility, and profiles, one of the things I nearly always recommend is a personal website. But this isn’t true just for clients; it’s true for everyone. You need your own site no matter what the level of your career. Having a personal page should be considered by everyone. So whether you’re in college or a CEO, not having a personal website is a missed opportunity.


There is only so much you can control online, particularly when it comes to your name and profile. There are things you can barely control (like a person whose name is close to yours who happens to have great SEO), and some you can, like LinkedIn. However, with platforms like LinkedIn, you’re still limited to their layout, their buttons, their prompts. You can’t edit the code on your Facebook page, and so, by having your own website, you are in 100 percent control of the conversation surrounding you. And that’s nearly the only time that happens.

Not only are you in control but you are able to show your personality, character, color, animation, video, audio–not to mention accolades–and they’re all displayed, in a way that is unique to you. Think about your professional goals–and then about what you can put on your page to highlight why and how you can get there.

Personal websites get people jobs. I hired someone flat out because of her website (it was a play on Beyonce’s, so I just had to).

The technicalities

There are a ton of easy-to-use platforms–such as Wix, Weebly, or WordPress–for creating a personal site. All of these services are free (at least at the basic level), and make producing your website a lot easier than it looks. This is the biggest reason, clients tell me, that they don’t have their own websites–fear of the technical aspects. But it’s just not that hard. You can also hire great designers, but for the first version you can always play with looks and layouts on your own with one of these programs.

Ten years ago I interviewed for an internship at a PR firm, and I remember the CEO saying, “If you don’t remember anything else, at least buy the domain of your name.” (I guess I didn’t remember much else, but I did remember that.) Buy every iteration–.co, .org, .me. You never know what will happen: Someone with a name similar to yours could become famous (for good or bad), or someone could potentially harm your online reputation by using your name in a URL.

Keeping track

Having a personal website means you can also use it for your own purposes, not just to show others who you are. A personal website can house and track interesting projects you’re working on and media mentions of you or your company, or it can keep all of your writing in one place. I use my site as a database for everything I’ve written in the past nine years, as well as everything that has been written about me. This is easy for business development emails, but it also allows you to really take a look over the work that you’ve done. All in one spot. Whenever I write something new, I immediately put it on the site. By making that a common practice, I don’t have to try to remember pieces I wrote five years ago.

Show, don’t tell

You can talk yourself blue in the face about a work experience, but nothing proves in an interview or meeting that you know how to produce a great video like one you created that someone can link to, send around, or watch to see what your skillset is like. A personal website isn’t restricted to pieces written and accolades, but can also display your side interests, hobbies, photos, and more.

It’s all about creating the conversation, versus having to control and change the discussion. A personal website is the easiest way to assert who you are, and to display it.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Success Is Controlling How You Spend Your Time

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Successful people control how they spend their time—and the money is just a nice thing that comes along with that

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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.

I blew the mind of one of my Babson College students this morning.

Like most people, he believes that success is measured by how much money you have and how much money you make. By that measure, there is no single individual who is the world’s most successful.

After all, Bill Gates—whose net worth totaled $79.6 billion according to Forbes‘s January 29, 2015, tally—probably has the most money, but I sincerely doubt he makes the most money every year.

That title probably goes to a hedge fund manager. For example, Ray Dalio—who runs $120 billion (assets under management) Bridgewater Associates—pulled in a cool $3 billion in personal earnings last year, according to Forbes.

But if you believe that success means both having the highest net worth and getting paid the most every year, then neither Gates nor Dalio is successful.

That’s because the pursuit of the most wealth or the highest annual income is success only if you keep winning every year. Otherwise, you are going to spend time trying to figure out how you can get to be number one—rather than taking pleasure in what you have achieved.

Simply put, unless you’re top dog, the unpleasant view never changes.

It is for this reason that somewhere along the way, I figured out a different definition of success–success is controlling how you spend your time–that blew the mind of my student this morning.

Just to be clear: I am not declaring a vow of poverty. In fact, I believe that for many people, controlling how you spend your time is the kind of success they can achieve only after they have earned enough money that they no longer have to worry about paying their bills.

Many people never achieve that level of financial security. But I do not believe that a net worth of $80 billion is necessary to get to the point where you can cover your likely future obligations.

If you get there by doing what you want to be doing and it makes you happy, then I consider you successful.

But if you get there by working a grinding job that pays well but makes you miserable, then you need to stop and ask yourself whether you should get off the hamster wheel and figure out what you really want to be doing with your life.

My advice to the student was to think about what he has enjoyed doing in the past and what has been less interesting to him. Based on that self-assessment, I suggested that he should make some guesses about what he would like to do.

He should then apply three tests to those hypotheses:

  • Am I passionate about the work?
  • Am I one of the world’s best at doing this work?
  • Will the market compensate me well enough for it?

Generally, people do not know whether, say, investment banking, consulting, running a startup, or asset management will satisfy all these tests.

Therefore, I advise students to seek out informational interviews with people in those fields. The networking practice they get in trying to set up these interviews will be inherently valuable.

Once they set up such interviews, I advise them to ask people how they would answer the three above questions.

For example, in the informational interviews, students might ask the following:

  • In your company, are there people who are really passionate about their work? What do they do differently than those who are mostly there to pay their bills?
  • In your field, what are the key things that the most talented people do that differ from the ones who are merely competent?
  • Is the compensation that people receive in this field satisfying or frustrating? What is the difference between people in your company who feel fairly compensated and the rest?

If students conduct 10 to 15 such interviews, they should be able to assess whether they would be happy working with people in that field.

And it would be even better for them if those informational interviews led to internships that would allow them to immerse themselves more fully in those fields.

To my mind, my students will achieve success only when they are happy in their work—and to do that, they must be passionate about it, excel in their field, and receive positive recognition from the market.

I don’t know Gates or Dalio but it seems to me that they control how they spend their time—and the money is just a nice thing that comes along with that.


5 Networking Mistakes That Keep You From Getting Ahead

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Every single roundup of career advice out there talks about the importance of networking. Less talked-about but just as important is doing it correctly. You might think you’re doing all the right things by hanging out near the boss at the sales retreat or passing out your business card to everybody you meet at the trade show reception — but in reality, bad networking technique can do as much damage to your career as not networking at all.

Here are some common pitfalls experts warn against falling into.

Relying on online social networks. Yes, LinkedIn and its ilk can be a great way to further your network, but the point of networking is to actually, you know, meet people. James Jeffries, director of career development at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, says this is a mistake young workers especially need to be conscious of, since they grew up having simultaneous online and real-life relationships. “As networking becomes synonymous with online networking… they can neglect the importance of actually meeting up with people for coffee, making a phone call, or showing up at an event. So far online connections have not supplanted these traditional interactions,” he says.

Staying in your comfort zone. Mingling with others at corporate, industry or alumni functions isn’t going to be nearly as effective if you just hang out with people you know. Yes, it’s a good idea to catch up with acquaintances, but unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone and meet new people, you’re limiting the effectiveness of your networking, says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at mobile career network TheLadders. “Casual networking events at local watering holes can quickly turn into mini-reunions with the friends you already see on a regular basis,” she says in a post on the company’s blog. Augustine says you should set a goal of talking to three new people at every event you attend. “They have the most potential to expand your network the furthest,” she says.

Doing the business-card “drive-by.” Some people take the other extreme when it comes to networking. They’re so determined to meet as many new people as possible that they have it down to a science: A quick introduction, handshake and then they’re pushing their business card into the person’s palm and moving on before the other person can catch their breath. “Networking is not a race to distribute as many business cards or get as many cards as possible,” career coach Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta advises on the blog of her consulting firm, OliveBlue. To be effective, networking needs to be about relationship building, not card collecting. It’s not and will never be just a numbers game.

Focusing on what’s in it for you. “Networking can be described as the process of interacting or engaging in communication with others for mutual assistance or support,” Akpoveta says. The mutual part is key here. If you’re always asking what somebody can do for you, it’s going to get old quick. Find out what the other person needs or is interested in, and make that happen. “We need to change our mindset from focusing on not just what we can get, but to also what we can give,” Akpoveta says. If you’re known as a person who can deliver, people are more likely to remember you — and more likely to reciprocate when you’re the one asking for a favor or a referral.

Not following up. This sounds like a no-brainer, but how many of us have been rifling through a desk drawer and stumbled across the business card of someone who would make a great contact — if only you’d emailed them back when you met them months ago. “Think of each networking event as a speed dating exercise,” Augustine says. “If you get someone’s phone number but never call them afterwards, the evening was a waste.” Shoot off a quick note following your meeting. It doesn’t have to be elaborate: Just say, “Hi, it was great meeting you. I wanted to make sure you had my contact info, too, because I’d like to stay in touch.” Even a brief email can get the ball rolling.


These States Have the Most Jobs For College Grads

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You'll never guess which little states hold the biggest opportunities

New college grads looking for work online have the best shot at getting jobs in Massachusetts and Delaware, a new study finds.

Since as many as 90% of jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher are advertised online, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce took a comprehensive look at online job listings around the country to figure out where the jobs are, along with what types of jobs they are.

As might be expected, large states with big populations — notably, California, Texas, and New York — have the most online job ads, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Georgetown did a deeper dive into the data to see which states have the most online job ads relative to the number of working, college-educated residents, providing a more accurate measure of the labor market for bachelor’s degree-holders in each state. “Strong job growth doesn’t necessarily translate into good job prospects [because] job growth also tends to bring increased competition,” the report points out.

When the numbers are crunched in a way that takes into account the number of workers, a clearer picture of job opportunities emerges: Massachusetts, Delaware, Washington state, Colorado and Alaska have the highest number of ads seeking candidates with bachelor’s degrees or higher per worker, respectively. Higher still is the nation’s capital: Washington, D.C. has three times the national average of online job ads relative to workers with college degrees. “The college-educated job seeker who is willing to move to a state with a high concentration of job ads per worker has a greater likelihood of landing a job than remaining in or moving to states with fewer job ads per worker,” the report says.

West Virginia residents with college degrees, in particular, might want to think about relocating: This state has the weakest online job market, followed by (respectively) Rhode Island, South Carolina, Mississippi and Hawaii. The good news is that the states with markets higher than the national average are geographically disparate, with most regions represented.

When it comes to the kinds of jobs employers looking for college grads are trying hardest to fill, the story is the same as it’s been since the recovery in the labor market began. “We found that two large occupational clusters – managerial and professional office and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – dominate the online college labor market, accounting for three out of every five online job ads,” the report says. Employers in the industries of consulting, business, financial and healthcare services are responsible for more than half of all the online job postings seeking college-educated candidates, while STEM jobs have more than three available job postings for every worker, more than twice as many as any other field. The states that saw the biggest growth in STEM jobs between 2010 and 2013 are Wyoming, Missouri and Wisconsin, and relative to the number of college-educated workers, Georgetown says Delaware, Massachusetts, and New York offer the best job prospects for college grads with STEM degrees.


TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Tips to Increase Clicks and Shares on Your Social Media Posts

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Different social media have different moods

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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.

Have you ever tried to unravel the mysteries of what makes a blog post or article go viral, capturing readers’ interest so that they share it again and again across social media platforms?

To explore this question, the content marketing company Fractl teamed up with content analyzer Buzzsumo. They reviewed shares of 1 million articles from 190 top publishers (including this one) across five social media platforms over six months–2.7 billion shares in all. The findings were thought-provoking (check out the full report at the bottom of this post):

1. Different social media have different moods.

It turns out 70 percent of the 500 most-shared items on LinkedIn were positive in sentiment. Similarly, 65 percent of the top shares on Pinterest were positive. That contrasts with Twitter, where only 40 percent of the top 500 shares were positive, 46 percent were negative, and 14 percent were neutral. Google+ was only slightly more upbeat, with 45 percent positive stories, 38 percent negative stories, and 17 percent neutral.

On Facebook, negative stories were much more successful, making up 47 percent of the top 500 most-shared, with 36 percent positive, and 17 percent neutral. Correct for the relatively uplifting effects of Buzzfeed, Upworthy, and ViralNova, and you have an even darker mood: Only 30 percent of the most-shared stories are positive, and 57 percent are negative.

Does this mean that LinkedIn users are happy-go-lucky souls and Facebook users are incorrigible curmudgeons? Not necessarily, the study’s authors warn. “The emotional landscape of each network may be more a reflection of the publishers who are succeeding best at sharing on a particular platform,” they note. Still, it seems likely that matching the emotional mood of your content to the prevailing mood of shares on each platform may help you get more attention and more page views.

2. Surprise and mystery always appeal.

Wondering just what sorts of stories or posts will appeal most to readers? Analyzing the pieces’ headlines only, the researchers discovered what many readers already know: Pieces that make you go “huh!” as in “I didn’t know that,” or “huh?” as in “I want to know more,” are always the most popular. “Headlines that incorporated surprise and built on the reader’s feelings of curiosity dominated the Top 10 regardless of topic or content format,” the study’s authors report.

But if you’re tempted to write clickbait headlines whose stories don’t deliver the goods–don’t. Keep in mind that we’re looking for shares here, and not just fooling people into clicking a headline and then regretting it. You’ll get nowhere unless readers find your content compelling enough to read through and pass on to their friends.

3. No surprise–Facebook dominates shares.

Well, of course it does. With 1.3 billion active users, there are so many more people on Facebook than any other social platform that it can’t help but have many more shares than the others. Still, although Facebook has about 62 percent of the total users of the five social media platforms, it gets about 82 percent of the shares, indicating that users are either more engaged with Facebook, likelier to share content there, or both.

On the other hand, Twitter appears to be punching above its weight. Though the Pew Research Institute recently named it the smallest of the major social networks, Twitter saw four times as many shares as similarly sized LinkedIn.

4. It’s tough to get huge amounts of attention.

Even among top publishers, getting a lot of attention for content can be tough slogging. Ninety-three percent of the publishers in the study averaged fewer than 5,000 shares per article. and only two, BuzzFeed and ViralNova, averaged more than 25,000 each. But those two had impressive share rankings with more than 60,000 shares on average per article.

Why? Probably because they put a lot of thought into the science of garnering shares. This analysis of Buzzfeed and Upworthy by study author Kelsey Libert provides some clues as to what they’re doing right.

5. You can stop feeling guilty.

If you’re like most people (including me) you’re in a constant state of guilt over the many social media platforms you’re ignoring. I, for instance, have a Pinterest account that I never use, even though I’ve written about Pinterest.

I’ve been feeling bad about this, but it turns out there’s no need. Even for large publishers, it’s tough to get significant traction on more than one platform at once. Though the study’s authors set out to name the five best publishers at getting shared on multiple social media platforms at once, there weren’t enough to fill up the roster. My interpretation: It’s fine to limit your attention to one or two platforms.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Respond When Someone Asks You to Work for Free

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May your conversations go as seamlessly as possible

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

When close friends have career conundrums, I’m quick to ask more questions. Like a good friend should be, I’m eager to help.

But other times, I’ll get messages from people who I barely know or haven’t spoken to in years. The most astonishing are the ones from people I’ve just met or, in fact, have never met. They usually start with some polite greeting, move into a “realization” that I’m a career counselor, and then make a direct request that I have a look at their resume or talk (read: counsel) them about their careers—for free.

It’s a bizarre experience when someone asks you to work for free. It’s flattering at first to be recognized for your expertise, but it doesn’t take long to grasp that they don’t appreciate it enough to actually want to pay you what it’s worth. In the end, it feels pretty awful.

Sadly, it keeps happening—and it’s not just career counselors. This seems to be a rampant problem in creative industries, especially. Graphic designers, writers, photographers, and more all experience this on a regular basis.

So, how do you respond when someone asks you to work for free without screaming, “Would you ask your dentist to work for free?” I’ve spoken to a few more seasoned career counselors, and this is what I’ve come up with.

1. Assume the Best Intentions

It’s always easier to respond when you assume the best. In this case, assume that the person does want to pay you. If you’re interested in having someone as a client, respond with, “I’d be happy to help,” then go ahead and launch into your services, corresponding fees, and next steps.

Of course, these inquiries might not be the best place to be developing clients, since their initial assumption was that your work wasn’t worth payment. With this in mind, you may want to consider declining your services.

2. Say No

The next step, then, is to just say “no.” A mentor of mine suggested something along the lines of, “I’m flattered that you’re seeking my advice (or services), but unfortunately I’m not taking on additional clients at the moment.” This way you are clearly declining the request, but you’re also assuming the best in people by responding to them as if they were seeking to be your client.

3. Offer Alternatives

To ease the blow a little bit, since many times you will want to preserve what little relationship you may have had with this person, offer up other professionals who might be able to help. I’ve frequently directed people to other career counselors whose work I’m familiar with. This way, not only are you offering another solution, you might also have the opportunity to educate this contact about the value of your work (if, for example, the other recommended professionals have their fees posted on their website).

4. Throw in a Bonus

Finally, depending on your profession, you might be able to throw in a free resource to show that you care, you just can’t work for free. I’ll sometimes direct people to specific articles on The Muse or to a particular career assessment that I’ve seen help others in a similar situation. While I’ve seen others handle this in a much more statement-y fashion, I can’t bring myself to retaliate against someone who is probably going through something unpleasant at his or her job, or worse, doesn’t have one.

All that said, I still wouldn’t work for free, and I hope you won’t either. I’ve written quite a few of these uncomfortable emails, and they’ve all worked out. May your conversations go as seamlessly as possible, too. Good luck.

More from The Muse:

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