Grads: This Could Be Why Nobody Wants to Hire You

Stop blaming employers — it might be you, not them

It’s graduation season, a.k.a. job-hunting season for all the young adults with newly minted diplomas. After the inspirational commencement speeches, it’s time to buckle down and plunge into the working world.

If you’re in the market for your first “real” job, here’s the good news first: You’re graduating into the best job market we’ve had in a long time. Employers plan to hire about 10% more new grads this year over last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. But that doesn’t mean you can expect anybody to just hand you a job, warns Scott Williams, executive director of the Career Center at the University of Georgia. While they have, in fact, earned a degree and gained valuable experience, the only other thing they’ve earned or gained is an opportunity to compete for a job,” he says.

This is one of the biggest mistakes career experts say young adults make when embarking on the hunt for their first post-college position — but it’s not the only reason your career can experience a failure to launch. We’re assuming you know not to bring your flip-flops, your lunch or your mom to a job interview. Beyond that, executives and experts say there are a handful of common mistakes young job-seekers tend to make — often because of their lack of experience — that can keep you on the sidelines.

You’re a know-it-all. “[This] just comes off as fake,” says Jim Whitehurst, CEO of software company Red Hat. Don’t try to dazzle the interviewer with your knowledge — showing off is a turn-off. “Be yourself rather than acting like person that you think they will want you to be in five years,” Whitehurst says.

You flake out on your references. “Don’t make your references an afterthought,” says Joyce Russell, President of Adecco Staffing, USA. It’s going to look off-putting, at best, if you don’t have any former colleagues or bosses listed — even if they’re from an unpaid internship or volunteer position. You need to check in with your references before giving HR types their info. Forgetting to give them a heads-up is a seemingly small oversight that can kill your credibility. “Oddly enough, some applicants even include references who do not have many nice things to say about them,” Russell warns. Make sure you’re both on the same page. And remember, your friends and relatives are not references. Just don’t go there.

You abuse cut-and-paste. When CareerBuilder.com asked employers to name the top resume mistakes they see on a regular basis, two big ones were “resumes that were generic and not personalized for the position… [and] resumes that have a large amount of wording copied from the job posting,” says Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s chief human resources officer.

Your heart isn’t in it. No, you shouldn’t expect a job — especially an entry-level job — to fulfill your dreams, but if you’re just going through the motions to make your parents happy, for example, that’s going to come through in your job search. “Don’t focus on jobs that are… the most prestigious or that your parents want you to do,” Whitehurst says. Best case scenario: You break out the false enthusiasm and get hired. What then? “You’ll spend more time at your job than in anything else you’ll do,” Whitehurst points out. That’s a long time to put up a false front.

You’re lazy. “The job search is a very active process. Unfortunately, technology has made it almost too easy for students to ‘drop’ their resume and think they are done,” Williams says. While it might feel like an accomplishment to hit “submit” on an online job application, that’s really only the first step. You have to reach out to people you know, too. “Use your personal and professional networks — be sure to include LinkedIn — to make additional connections, learn about opportunities and research companies,” he says.

You take the first thing that comes along. No, you shouldn’t be super-picky at this stage of the game, but a survey from Adecco Staffing finds that long-term career growth is the most important aspect of that first professional-track job. “While getting your foot in the door any way you can is important… take a moment to assess an opportunity from a longer term perspective,” Russell says. Think about (and ask about) what kind of opportunity for advancement a job will give you, whether or not you’ll be given opportunities to develop professional education, an industry network and leadership skills. Not asking could telegraph a lack of motivation — or could end up stalling your budding career if you do manage to get the job. “These are all questions that you should be asking yourself before committing to a first job, so that you don’t make the mistake of getting pigeon-holed in a role with no growth potential,” Russell says.


TIME Careers & Workplace

These Are the Best and Worst U.S. States for Working Moms

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New York state tops the list, while Indiana remains at the bottom

How does your state stack up when it comes to supporting working moms and dads?

A new report out Wednesday from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research rates the 50 states on a Work & Family Composite Index, which factors in access to paid leave, support for dependent and elder care, cost and quality of child care, and the gender gap in labor force participation for parents of young kids.

The best grade in the report went to New York State, with California coming in at No. 2 and Washington, D.C. at No. 3.

On the flip side, Indiana got the IWPR’s worst grade, followed by Utah and Montana.

You can find the full, sortable list of all the states, including grades, scores and rankings here.

Before residents in the high-scoring states get too excited, it’s worth nothing that even New York, the highest-ranked state, only scored a “B” from the IWPR. The group points out that 40 states scored a zero on the Paid Leave Index, meaning workers have no statutory rights to paid family leave, paid medical leave, or paid sick days.

Support of working moms has become increasingly important as their ranks have grown. Now, nearly half of children in the U.S. have a breadwinning mother who either brings in the money entirely on her own or, if she’s married, contributes at least 40% of family earnings, according to the IWPR.

Paid leave and child care are particularly hot-button issues. Not surprising when you consider this stat from the Department of Labor: 62% of mothers who gave birth within the last 12 months are in the workforce.

The work and family report is part of the IWPR’s larger series, Status of Women in the States: 2015.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

This Is the Coolest New Trend in Business Cards (Yes, Really)

Business cards
Paul Hudson—Getty Images/fStop Rotary address book and business cards

Somehow they're not dead yet

A Toronto-based artist has discovered that coloring can be a business-friendly venture.

Dorota Pankowska, a photographer, artist and designer, has come up with a creation she calls Crayon Business Cards. The cards, which took just about a month to create, are made from four to five crayons each. And because they are made of crayon, they can of course be used to draw and color.

Pankowska’s portfolio, which includes other art projects, can be found here.

Interestingly, though we live in a digital age, news stories from major organizations admit that the traditional business card refuses to die out. Last year, when The Wall Street Journal reported on a new smartphone app that would help share contact information between phones with the flick of the thumb, it pointed out the technology would face a challenge trying to overthrow a business rooted in paper. Bloomberg struck a similar theme in a 2012 story entitled “How Business Cards Survive in the Age of LinkedIn.” At the time, it said the business card remains a growth market, even as LinkedIn and smartphone apps should swoop in and make their usage increasingly less relevant.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.


There’s a Super-Simple Trick to Getting Smarter

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It takes extremely little effort

Trying to brainstorm the solution to a thorny problem or want to invent the next big thing? When you need the kind of thinking that takes you from worker bee to the corner office, look in your closet: A new study finds that being dressed formally improves people’s ability to engage in abstract thinking.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person… and how people perceive themselves… but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the authors write.

There’s already lots of evidence and advice out there about how what you wear impacts your attitude. People who work from home are told to ditch the sweats, and HR types view job applicants who are dressed up as opposed to dressed down more positively. But the authors of this study wanted to push it further and explore the question: Can what you wear change the way you think?

The answer, in a word, is yes. In a series of experiments, dressed-up subjects were more likely to think outside the box, make less-obvious correlations and think about topics more broadly than their dressed-down peers.

“By that we mean, basically, holistic or big-picture thinking — so not focusing on the details but seeing bigger ideas, seeing how things connect from a more high-level perspective,” lead author Michael Slepian, research fellow and assistant adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Business School, tells New York magazine.

For instance, subjects asked to describe an action like “locking the door” while wearing casual clothing were more likely to use concrete terms like “turning a key,” while their dressed-up counterparts had a greater tendency to use more abstract terms like “securing the house.” Dressing up makes people think more creatively.

“Wearing formal clothing was associated with describing actions in more meaningful ways, as well as more frequently perceiving meaningful relationships between objects and categories,” the authors write. They say that people wearing more formal outfits have greater conceptual, perceptual and global coherence, three hallmarks of more abstract thought.

Here’s how this works. Being dressed up is like any other formality in that it creates what social scientists call “social distance.” We perceive an outfit like a suit and tie as less approachable than, say, jeans and a T-shirt. That sense of distance prompts people to view a question or task in front of them from a greater distance, too. The result is more broad-based, abstract thought.

Being more dressed-up than others around them can also make people feel more powerful, which also jump-starts a more big-picture, creative thought process. “When you’re in a position of power, you don’t have to focus on the details,” Slepian tells New York.

TIME career

7 Ways to Make Yourself Look Older at Work

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Go for the 'power palette'

Sure, there are tons of articles out there that share tips for looking younger. But what about those of us baby-faced gals who actually want to add years to our look? How do you go about looking more experienced for your first job out of college, or during an important interview? Here, Gretta Monahan, New York-based president and CEO of GrettaStyle and author of Style and the Successful Girl, shares her best fashion and beauty tips for looking more experienced in the office.

What go-to work looks should young professionals have in their closets?

It’s all about a tailored, polished look, Monahan says. A blazer or cropped, structured jacket exudes a look of power. Pair it with a sophisticated pop of color such as plum (see next question) rather than a blouse in neutrals like black or white (and even blue).

Which pop of color is best for accent pieces?

Go for the “power palette,” which Monahan describes as jewel tones like lapis, plum, dark green, and red. Avoid “bubble gum” or “candy” colors, she says, as they can come across as young. Also, keep shimmery pieces to a minimum.

Which styles should be avoided?

Overly trendy looks can come across as juvenile. For example, even if relaxed, baggy pants are au courant, a shapeless outfit at work can give off the impression of low confidence and trying to hide in your clothing, Monahan says. Likewise, overly casual looks can also scream inexperienced. Even if the company dress code is sneakers and jeans, it’s always a good idea to be a step or two dressier—at least when interviewing, she says.

Are ponytails a bad idea?

Ponytails can make a woman look younger or older, depending on how they’re styled. A “younger” ponytail is worn high on the head (think: post-workout), while a low, sleek pony with a side or middle part can exude glamour and experience, Monahan says. Similarly, braids aren’t necessarily off-limits if pulled into a polished look like a braided chignon.

What about haircuts?

There’s a reason the “lob” is such a popular look. “If you want to go for a classic look, you can’t deny that a bob or a lob above the collarbone really gives women a crisp, professional feel—young women, especially,” Monahan says. A bob works with almost every face shape and can be worn straight or with a slight bend.

Is natural makeup the best way to go?

Yes—remember that people want to see you, not your makeup. “What you don’t want to do is look like you’re wearing nighttime makeup during the day,” Monahan says. You can add a little drama to either your lips or eyes, but not both. Avoid a lot of shimmer, which can also make you look younger.

Are there any accessories that can add a few years to your look?

“I think glasses are an amazing addition, accessory-wise,” Monahan says. “They deliver a smart message.”

Jewelry can also add to the power look, but don’t go overboard with endless bangles and a cocktail ring on every finger. Monahan adds, “Too much sparkle or too many stones can dominate someone’s attention, and you don’t want that.”

This article originally appeared on Levo.com.

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4 Basic Principles of the Art of Negotiation

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Ask questions and really listen

Answer by Mira Zaslove on Quora.

I’ve spent the majority of my career negotiating. I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I’ve also learned from some great negotiators. Something surprising: better negotiators focus more on the other side, than they do on themselves. Instead of telling other people what to think, they ask questions, and really listen.

Following are some basics:

1. Once someone says yes, shut up!

You’d be surprised how often smart people make this mistake. What usually happens is that they are trying to prove their point, not to negotiate. Great negotiating is more about listening than talking. Once you’ve said something, you can’t take it back. Be careful with your words. I’ve gone into negotiations prepared to give the other side something, only to have them talk me out of it.

2. Be respectful

When you get an objection, don’t get defensive. Instead, ask for clarification. For example, if someone says they don’t like the strategy, ask them why. Ask for specifics. Seize objections as an opportunity to listen carefully, not to fight back. Don’t interrupt. Trying to win an argument rarely gets you what you want. Don’t be rude or pushy. Don’t negotiate if you are feeling emotional. Similarly, if the person you are negotiating with is in a bad or unreceptive mood, table the conversation. Respect people’s time.

3. Focus on common ground

Don’t assume you know what matters to the other person. They may view the situation completely differently than you expect them to. And great negotiators craft their negotiation based on what the other person wants, not on what they want. Do your research. However, don’t shove all your opinions down your counterparties’ throat. They may disagree with most of your analysis, and that’s fine. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost. Focus on where you agree. Changing somebody’s mind is difficult and exhausting. And it rarely works. Spend energy building on where you already have agreement.

4. Know what you want

I once managed someone who was very charismatic and likable. People wanted to help him. However, he rarely collected on this goodwill because he didn’t know what he wanted. Good opportunities are missed when you are unprepared. It’s hard to get what you want if you don’t know what it is. The best negotiators know what they want at every step. Negotiations are often give and take, so aim high. Give yourself some wiggle room.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the basics of the art of negotiation?

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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 Business

4 Important Pieces of Life Advice for New Grads

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Think of your career path more like a climbing wall than a ladder

LinkedIn Influencer Roger Ferguson originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Roger on LinkedIn.

At 22, the world is your oyster. The possibilities seem endless, and you’re eager to make an impact on the world. Here are my four top tips for how to go about it.

1. Develop – or continue developing – your human capital. It’s the key to your success.

Don’t listen to those who question whether a college degree is “worth it” anymore. The student debt challenge is serious, but it has not made a college degree any less relevant. Consider that the unemployment rate for people with a bachelor’s degree or higher is nearly half that of people with just a high school diploma. Moreover, jobs requiring a graduate or professional degree will grow faster than all other jobs through 2020 – so don’t be deterred from pursuing a graduate degree if your research tells you it’s a wise investment. (If you need help in making a cost/benefit determination, check out gradsense.org.)

2. Even when you have a diploma in hand, commit to being a lifelong learner.

To thrive in this time of rapid change, you must never stop learning and growing. But that doesn’t mean you have to be in a classroom forever. It’s more about the state of mind you bring to your work.

When you start a new job, see yourself as a student of the organization. Immerse yourself in the details, ask questions, and raise your hand for assignments that will expand your knowledge. Work hard to develop an expertise about the organization, its history, its challenges, its people, and its directions. Learn about your competitors and the wider industry you’re in. That kind of broad knowledge will enable you to make an impact on your organization – and advance in your career.

3. Think of your career path more like a climbing wall than a traditional “career ladder.”

Sometimes you need to go sideways to make progress. You may even have to move down the wall at certain points. The key is to keep growing and learning.

My career path has been anything but straight. I started out practicing law, and then joined the consulting world for 13 highly rewarding years. When I had the opportunity to serve as a governor on the Federal Reserve, I did not hesitate to accept. Since 2008, I have had the good fortune to lead TIAA-CREF. I have loved applying my talents to such a diverse array of positions and organizations. It’s been extremely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. But if I had started out with rigid notions about getting from point A to point B in my career, I would have missed out on many opportunities that have enriched my life.

4. Give your financial life the same kind of focus you give your work and social lives.

Your goal should be to achieve financial well-being, because without it, you’ll have a tough time making any kind of impact on the world. You can’t change the world if you’re worried about being able to make the monthly payments on your student loan.

Financial well-being is not about the size of your paycheck; it’s about having a clear vision for the future and confidence in your ability to get there. It requires a healthy dose of “financial literacy” – understanding the concepts of personal finance, knowing how to use credit wisely, and having a long-term financial plan. To boost your knowledge, take a look at startingout.tiaa-cref.org – a financial education site that TIAA-CREF developed to help young people build financial well-being.

To be sure, today’s 22-year-olds face some unique financial challenges, including student debt levels topping $1.2 trillion. But you can face any challenge and thrive with careful planning. Make sure that when you enter the working world, you have long-term financial goals, even as you deal with short-term goals like buying a car or taking a vacation. Most important, start saving when you’re young – because saving even a little bit on a regular basis can have a huge effect on your financial well-being. And if you truly want to make an impact, that’s probably the best advice of all.

LinkedIn Influencer Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, originally published this post on LinkedIn. Follow Roger on LinkedIn.

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 Business

Optimize These 3 Areas in Your Life for Highest Productivity

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Optimize your environment, mind, and process

Answer by Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, on Quora.

I’m a software developer, designer, and entrepreneur. I’m the co-founder of Asana, team productivity software that many great companies (e.g. Uber, Pinterest, Dropbox) use to run their companies. Back when I was an engineering manager at Facebook, I designed the internal team productivity tool that the company still relies on.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been obsessed with productivity for a long time.

Here are the tips that I’ve found essential to my creative output. Each tip relates to optimizing one of three areas: your environment, your mind, and your process.

Optimizing your environment

Turn off all distractions. The verdict is clear: “multitasking” makes people feel more productive, but research shows that it makes us less productive. The temptations of email are strong. But frequent interruptions make us dumber and it takes much longer than expected to get back on task. So when it’s time to focus,

  • Set your phone to Do Not Disturb. On iPhone: swipe up from the very bottom of the phone, and then hit the Moon icon.
  • Close all browser windows that aren’t directly related to the task at hand.
  • If part of your work is composing emails, get into a state where you can write them without seeing new ones come in. In Gmail, bookmark Gmail (filtered to show nothing)
  • Turn off email push notifications on your computer.
  • Log out of chat.

Find your flow time. If your day is constantly interrupted by meetings, it’s very difficult to get into flow, a state where you’re really jamming and go deep on complex tasks.

  • Add 3-hour “meetings” to your calendar where you’re the only attendee. Coworkers will schedule around these busy times, and you can get uninterrupted work done.
  • If you can, get your whole company to agree to a day per week where there shall be no meetings. At Asana, we have No-Meeting Wednesdays.
  • Track what times of the day work best for you for different activities. Do your hardest work during your “Superman time.” Here’s the process I used to determine that mine is from 10:00a-noon: Finding Your Superman Time.
Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 2.51.52 PM
Justin Rosenstein

Master your tools. If you use a computer all day, every time you reach for your mouse, it slows you down a little, and you lose a little bit of flow. You want to interact with your computer at the speed at which you think. Doing so requires learning the keyboard shortcuts of the software you used most.

  • Every time you find yourself using your mouse, see if there’s a keyboard shortcut. Usually it will appear right next to the menu item, or on the little tip that shows up when you put your mouse cursor over a button. On a Mac: ⌘ means Command, ⌥ means Option, ⇧ means Shift, and ⌃ means Control.
  • Use SizeUp to quickly rearrange your windows without a mouse.

Optimize your mind

One of my favorite books on this topic is Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal. Even the book’s name is a powerful reminder.

Take regular breaks. Common sense tells us that the more time we spend working, the more work done we’ll get done. But that’s just not true. Humans are not robots. Our minds need time to recharge. Research suggests that a 15-minute break every 90 minutes is a good rule of thumb for accomplishing more by doing less.

Meditate. Here’s how I picked up a daily habit.

Take care of your body.

  • Hydrate. At the beginning of the day, I put 5 tall glasses of water on my desk. I drink them all by the end of the day. Seeing them sitting there is a good progress indicator.
  • Eat well. A carb-heavy lunch is often a disaster for afternoon energy.
  • Take supplements. According to the book Power Up Your Brain:

• Vegetarian DHA: 1000mg daily
• Olive oil: 1tbsp daily
• Alpha-lipoic acid: 600mg daily, 30minutes before meals
• Coconut oil: Virgin, organic; 1 tbsp in morning
• Pterostilbene: 50mg morning & evening
• Sulforaphane: 30mg morning & evening
• Curcumin: 200mg morning & evening
• Green tea extract: 200mg morning & evening

  • Fast. One day a month to one day a week.
  • In short, make sure you’re using your time outside of work to get nourished, so that you have the energy to give it your all when you’re at work.

Overcome procrastination by facing discomfort. I don’t procrastinate because I’m lazy; I procrastinate because my highest priority task makes me subtly (or not-so-subtly) uncomfortable. When this happens you should:

  • Be honest about what’s making it uncomfortable. Explicitly, compassionately write down (or share with a friend) the exact source of the discomfort. Why does this feel so dreadful?
  • Identify one easeful next step.
  • I’ve written more on this technique at How to Overcome Procrastination by Facing Discomfort.
  • If you don’t have the energy to face the fear right now, then at least do the second-highest-priority thing on your list, rather than switching to Facebook. Prolific Stanford professors John Perry calls this “Structured Procrastination,” and attributes most of his success to it at StructuredProcrastination.com.

Optimize your process

Get clarity of plan. A lot of un-productivity arises from a lack of prioritization. It being unclear what you actually need to do to achieve your goal, and what’s highest priority.

  • Don’t do any more work until the next steps are 100% crystal clear to you, and agreed upon by everyone on your team.
  • Start by grounding in: What is our goal? Why do we want to achieve it? What are all the steps required to achieve it? Who’s responsible for each step? What order must they be done in?
  • Here’s more on how to get clarity of plan.

Buddy up. Some people love working alone, but, for complex tasks, I generally find it painful and prone to distraction.

  • Find a teammate who would enjoy collaborating. Sometimes tasks that would have taken me 2 days can be completed in 2 hours with the right partner. “Pair programming” is common in software engineering, but it works for anything.
  • Alternately, you can have a conversation with yourself by buddying up with a text editor or journal: start asking yourself the big questions and write out your answers. I’ve had long, strategic, and productive dialogues with my computer by simply writing out questions and answering them in free-flow form.

Publicly commit to a deadline. Harness peer pressure to your advantage. If an important task doesn’t have a natural deadline, I’ll tell people confidently, “I will send you a copy by end of day Friday.” Now I don’t want to look ridiculous in front of my teammates, so I will naturally make damn sure it’s ready for them by Friday.

Use software to track your work. Unsurprisingly, I believe Asana is the best place for this. Not only does it keep track of your own to-do list; it also manages the flow of work among the entire team, so you don’t need endless meetings to stay on the same page. And it keeps the conversations alongside the work, so you’re not constantly wading through emails to get the information you need.

Take time to reflect. Budget just a few minutes at the end of each day, and consider what went well and what went less well. Are there improvements you could make in your workflow next time? If every day you could get 1% more efficient, then by the end of the year you’d be 15x as productive.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some little-known productivity tips from various professions?

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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 Startups

These Are the Best Cities to Launch a Business in the U.S.

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From Memphis to Tulsa

When you think of the prime place to start a business, what springs to mind? If it has the word “Silicon” in front of it, the findings of a new study from Washington, D.C.-based personal finance platform WalletHub may surprise you.

The survey took a look at the 150 biggest cities in the United States to figure out where new companies were most likely to succeed and where they were most likely to fail. The city of Shreveport, La., came out on top, while Newark, N.J., came in at the bottom.

The cities were ranked based on their business environment and access to resources. WalletHub and 13 professors of business from colleges and universities across the country used a methodology system of 13 points, which included the cost of office space, employee availability, annual income, taxes, cost of living, the education level of the population and the number of small businesses per capita, among others.

If you’re looking for the least expensive office space, you might want to look into Toledo, Ohio. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City was found to have the most accessible financing and you’ll find the highest employee availability (the number of open positions minus the number of out of work residents) in Fresno, Calif.

For more information, check out the full list over at WalletHub.

Best Cities to Start a Business Worst Cities to Start a Business
1. Shreveport, LA
2. Tulsa, OK
3. Springfield, MO
4. Chattanooga, TN
5. Jackson, MS
6. Sioux Falls, SD
7. Memphis, TN
8. Augusta, GA
9. Greensboro, NC
10. Columbus, GA
141. Anaheim, CA
142. San Jose, CA
143. Santa Ana, CA
144. Oakland, CA
145. Ontario, CA
146. Fremont, CA
147. Yonkers, NY
148. Garden Grove, CA
149. Jersey City, NJ
150. Newark, NJ

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

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15 Phrases You Should Say to Yourself Every Day

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"I'm not perfect—and that's OK"

Inc. logo

Everybody wants to get more done, but unfortunately all the time management tips in the world can’t help you overcome one of the biggest issues affecting your productivity—your attitude. Fortunately, it’s easier to change your mindset than you might think. All you have to do is change what you say to yourself.

Be honest–most of us have a constant negative monologue playing in our heads all day. You tell yourself how tired you are, how disorganized you are, and how much you hate what you have to do. But what if you told yourself something different? Whether you say it out loud or in your mind, what you say to yourself matters.

With that in mind, here are 15 phrases you should say to yourself every day to help you meet your goals:

1. “I’m going to succeed at _____.” When you tell yourself you’ll succeed at a specific task, you’re contradicting the self-doubt that could otherwise hold you back.

2. “I’ve been successful in the past.” Rehearsing specific past successes helps build self-confidence when you need to stretch yourself and try new things.

3. “I can overcome my fear.” Acknowledging your fear is very empowering, and making a choice to overcome it will give you strength and confidence as you face it. Remember, fear only has power if you let it.

4. “That wasn’t as bad as I thought.” Many times, the things we fear aren’t all that bad—even when they actually happen. By reminding ourselves of this, we empower ourselves the next time we’re afraid.

5. “I did something no one else was willing to do.” Big or small, there’s something you’ve done that no one else was willing to do. By patting yourself on the back for it, you strengthen your ability to maintain good habits.

6. “It’s my fault.” Taking responsibility for the things we did empowers us to apologize and make the situation better. Just don’t blame yourself when it’s not your fault!

7. “I got started!” The first step is always the hardest, and celebrating it is something we all do too little of. Congratulate yourself on getting started—every step from here will be easier.

8. “You’re awesome.” No one hears this enough, but it’s true of absolutely everyone. We all have different ways that we’re awesome, so take the time to remind yourself of yours!

9. “I don’t care what other people think.” The truth is that most people think about you far less than you’d assume. So, every so often, remind yourself that other people’s opinions don’t matter. Be true to yourself.

10. “They’re no different than I am.” When you start to judge others to lift yourself up, you’re giving yourself a false sense of pride. Instead, admit that everyone is more like you than you realize, and you’ll find yourself feeling less isolated and alone.

11. “I can do this!” Right before you step into a difficult situation or take on a challenge, tell yourself you can do it. Because if you believe you can, you’re right!

12. “This time is an appointment with me.” Many people don’t make enough time for themselves. Instead, find a time you can set an appointment with yourself—to look over goals, hit the gym, or just rest. Then keep it!

13. “I’m not perfect—and that’s OK.” Feeling like we have to be perfect before we can launch our business or take our next step in life holds many of us back from success. Take a second today to admit that you’re not perfect, and that that’s perfectly OK.

14. “That’s not my job, but who cares?” Being willing to step above and beyond your specific role is a great way to stand out and get noticed in your work and life. Even if no one knows it but you, you’ll feel great knowing you made a difference.

15. “You’re good enough, right now, just like this.” We all want to improve, move forward, and accomplish more. However, sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that we’re good enough, right now, today. You’ll feel relief and a sense of peace as you accept yourself for who you are.

Talking to yourself may sound like an odd thing to do, but it’s extremely effective. Most people have an ongoing monologue in their minds already—success is just a matter of making yours more positive. By saying these 15 things to yourself every day, you’ll be well on your way to being successful, accomplishing your goals, and getting more done.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com.

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