MONEY Careers

Surprising Ways Older Workers Find Second Act Jobs


If you're older and have been out of work for a while, try these strategies to land a new job

What’s the secret to landing a new job when you’ve been out of work a long time?

A new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute uncovered some surprising strategies that older workers are using to get back into the workforce.

That’s important because, while the job market is significantly better overall, the situation is still dismal for the long-term unemployed. The jobless rate for people out of work six months or longer is 30% vs. 5.5% overall.

Older workers make up a distressingly large portion of that group: 45% of job seekers 55 and older have been looking for work for six months or longer.

The AARP report examined the job search strategies that led to reemployment for people age 45 to 70 who were unemployed some time during the last five years.

It found big differences in job search strategies between older workers who landed jobs and those who are still not working.

The overall picture is mixed: Among those older workers employed again after a long time out of the workforce, some were earning more, getting better benefits, and working under better conditions. But for many, the jobs were not as good as the ones they had lost: 59% of long-term unemployed older workers made less money, while 15% earned the same and 25% made more.

So, what set the successful job seekers apart? These moves stand out.

  • Embrace change. Almost two-thirds of reemployed older workers found jobs in an entirely new occupation and women were more likely to find work in a new field than men. Of course, some of the unemployed didn’t choose to switch occupations. But for others, the change was a decision to do work that was more personally rewarding and interesting or even less stressful with fewer hours. Whether it was by choice or design, broadening your job search may pay off.
  • Go direct. Older reemployed workers were much more likely—48% vs. 37% of those still looking for work—to contact employers directly about jobs instead of just applying to the black hole of online job postings.
  • Network strategically. Everyone knows that networking is the best way to get a new job but apparently talking to everyone you know may not be the most effective method. While half of those who landed a new job reached out to their network for leads, only 34% of the unemployed used personal contacts at all. But the reemployed were less likely to rely on friends and family to find out about job opportunities, focusing instead on professional contacts.
  • Move fast. When hit with a job loss, many people use it as a time to take a break or think about what they want to do next. That lost time can cost you. The reemployed were much more likely to have begun their job search immediately or even before their job ended than those who are still unemployed.

A couple other surprising findings about what works and what doesn’t: Conventional advice is that the long-term unemployed need to keep their skills up to date if they are jobless for a while. While that can certainly help, additional training didn’t make much difference between those who landed a job and those who remained out of work.

As for social media: While 56% of the reemployed found job boards a good source of job leads, just 13% said online social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook were effective in helping them get a new job.

Among the most ineffective strategies: Using a job coach, talking with a headhunter, and consulting a professional association.

MONEY Financial Planning

4 Things You Need to Change Your Career

Want to change your career or launch a new business? A financial planner explains the four things you need.

A few years ago a client, Peter, came to me and said, “I’m doing all the work, but my boss is making all the money. I could do this on my own, my way, and make a whole lot more.”

Peter was an instructor at an acting studio. He was working long hours for someone else, knew the business inside and out, and felt stuck. He wanted a change.

We talked through his dilemma. Peter wanted to know what he needed to do to venture out on his own and start his own acting academy.

Many of us find ourselves daydreaming about making such a bold life change, but few of us do it. So what is stopping us from taking the leap? Why don’t we have the courage to invest in ourselves?

Peter and his wife, Jeannie, sat down with me to chart out a plan. We determined that they needed four major boxes to be checked for Peter’s dream business to have a real shot at success:

  1. Support from the spouse
  2. Cash reserves
  3. A business plan
  4. Courage to take the leap

Let me break these down:

1. Support from the spouse: Peter and Jeannie had to be in full agreement that they were both ready to take on this new adventure together. In the beginning, they would have significant upfront investments in staffing, infrastructure, and signing a lease for the business. Money would be tight.

2. Cash reserves: Peter was concerned. “How much money can we free up for the startup costs?” he asked. We discussed the couple’s financial concerns, reviewed financial goals for their family, and acknowledged the trade-offs and sacrifices they would need to make. We determined a figure they were comfortable investing in their new business. Then we built a business plan around that number.

3. Business plan: It has been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Peter and Jeannie needed a written plan in place so that their wish could become a reality. Their business plan would serve as a step-by-step guide to building and growing the acting academy. It included projections for revenues, expenses, marketing strategies, and one-time costs.

Once we wrote the business plan, we had one final step remaining: the step that so many of us don’t have the courage to take. Peter and Jeannie had to trust in themselves, believe in their plan, and…

4. Take the Leap: Regardless of how confident we are, how prepared we feel, and how much support we have, this is a scary step. We have to walk away from our reliable paycheck, go down an unfamiliar road, and head out into the unknown.

I’m happy to share that Peter and Jeannie’s story is one of great success. They faced obstacles and bumps along the way, but Peter persevered and succeeded in accomplishing his goal. He is now running a thriving acting academy with multiple instructors and a growing staff. If you decide to invest in yourself, you will need to take the four steps too.


Joe O’Boyle is a financial adviser with Voya Financial Advisors. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., O’Boyle provides personalized, full service financial and retirement planning to individual and corporate clients. O’Boyle focuses on the entertainment, legal and medical industries, with a particular interest in educating Gen Xers and Millennials about the benefits of early retirement planning.

MONEY women at work

How to Get Heard in Meetings

mouse talking into megaphone
Jan Stromme—Getty Images

Making your presence known during meetings can be tricky -- especially for women. These tips can help you make an impact.

It pays to contribute confidently in meetings. You don’t want to end up in a six-month performance review with a boss who complains that you “don’t speak up.” But it can be hard to speak up when others speak over you, interrupt you, and are apparently in love with the sound of their own voices.

There are ways around this — and I’m not talking about psyching yourself up in the bathroom mirror before going into a meeting. You don’t need to become louder and more aggressive. You don’t need to become part of the problem.

Read on for tips on speaking up and getting heard.

Interrupted? Interrupt Back

Soraya Chemaly in the Huffington Post wrote that there are ten words every girl and woman should learn:

“Stop interrupting me.”

“I just said that.”

“No explanation needed.”

But for a meeting involving your boss, “Stop interrupting me” is probably a bit harsh. You need to have some meeting-appropriate alternatives at the ready so you can get back to what you were saying before the interrupter runs away with the conversation (and possibly takes credit for your idea).

I’m a fan of the joking-not-joking approach. For instance, “Hang on, I’ve still got the floor.” Or even, “Do we need to use parliamentary procedure?! Hold the phone, buddy!”

Also, get in the habit of confidently turning attention back to other people who get interrupted. As in, “Hang on, Sameera wasn’t finished. Sameera?”

If you do this consistently for everyone, then even when you do it for yourself you’ll come across as someone with a good attention span and an appetite for order, rather than as someone seeking attention for herself.

And, of course, some of the people you lend a hand to will, hopefully, do the same for you.

Create a “Teaser” via Email

If the meeting’s agenda is set in stone (or a Google doc), and the person running the meeting doesn’t seem to care that you exist, pump up your contribution the way you’d promote an indie film you’re hoping becomes the new sleeper hit — with a teaser.

If it’s normal in your company to “reply all” with the group attending your meeting, wait for the email reminder about the meeting, reply all, and write, “Can’t wait! I have some ideas about how to solve the LogicCorp problem! Looking forward to everyone’s feedback.”

Ooh, teaser! Now it would be weird if the whole meeting went by and you didn’t contribute. You’ll get your opening. You’ve created suspense.

If the group email won’t work, try the same thing in person. Catch others who will be in the meeting later at the proverbial water cooler, and tell them, “I have some amazing data that will help us decide X.” If pressed about the “amazing data,” say, “Let’s save it for the meeting so we can get everybody’s feedback.”

Get on the Agenda

Do meetings just come and go, while you barely get a word in? Set the agenda.

Even if you’re the least powerful person in the room, you can often set some part of the agenda. Who called the meeting? Run into that person a few hours before the meeting and ask what the agenda is. If you get a vague answer (“Well, we’re just going to talk about…”), try something like, “Great, I’d like to make sure I get to share [this thing I’ve been doing] so we can all coordinate [other parts of the project]. Can we make sure we give that five to 10 minutes?” Or, “I’d like to give a progress report on X. Can I get five minutes for that?”

If what you really want to do is have your ideas heard and get credit for them, don’t say that, exactly. Couch it in language no boss could say no to. For instance, you’d like to give an “executive-level briefing” about Project X. Ooh, executive-level briefings are for important people! I want one of those!

If you can’t quite pull that off, “briefing” is still a great word. It puts the emphasis on the importance of the listener, which can help to get you airtime.

Practice Socially (Not at a Podium)

If you have trouble speaking up (or if the trouble isn’t yours, but rather a personality problem held by sexist coworkers), you’re going to want to practice.

But you don’t need to join Toastmasters. In fact, taking a public speaking class isn’t very good practice at all, because speechmaking is pretty much the only time ever that you get a specific amount of time to speak. This will not happen in a meeting. Even if you get 10 minutes on the agenda, it is quite likely that you will be interrupted and talked over during much of that time. You need to practice in a situation that is very much like a meeting. That is, a conversation with a bunch of power dynamics going on.

Go out to dinner with a male partner, friend, or your brother. Tell him ahead of time you’d like to share some interesting things you’ve been working on, because you haven’t talked about work in a while. Think over a five to 10-minute update. Plan ahead of time what you’ll say to deal with interruptions. For instance, “Oh, I want to hear about that, but let me finish my story.” Or just, “Hold up, I wasn’t finished.” Of course you’ll get normal conversational interludes and feedback, but stay on-message like a politician: You specifically invited someone out for the purpose of giving your update, so bring the conversation back on track and make sure you get your airspace. And then, of course, return the favor and listen.

Then, try it in a group. If you don’t have a social event with six friends planned anytime soon, join a Meetup on some random topic where you’ll be the new person. Maybe even pick a group that seems mostly older, or mostly male. And then show up at that Barnes & Noble cafe and make your opinions about The Fountainhead known. Did you get steamrolled and have a terrible time? Better at the Objectivist coffee klatch than at work. Pick another Meetup and keep at it until you can hold your place in any room.

Think Posture, Not Just Body Language

There are a lot of mixed messages out there about professional women and body language.

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power poses tells us that standing in a “confident posture,” even when we don’t feel confident, can affect cortisol and testosterone levels in the brain (oh please, why did I even go to college when I could have just upped my testosterone!).

However, I am opposed to advice that tells women to try to puff themselves up to look larger, like blowfish. What is the point of advice that, when applied to women, will allow most women to come in a distant second to most men, at best? Furthermore, pop culture telling women to be smaller and business articles telling women to seem larger — well, it’s a bit of a double bind, isn’t it?

Casey Erin Clark, who runs Vital Voice Training in NYC with Julie Fogh, also finds fault with the artificial power pose:

“We’ve all heard that stress can cause a fight or flight reaction — but there is a third response, and it’s the most common one we see: freeze.

You know those “low-power pose/high-power pose” example pictures? Yes, sometimes we do shrink when we get nervous — but we also see clients who find that formula of good posture and then lock into it. Contraction (freeze) is about tension, whether you’re crossing your arms and receding into your chair or standing in a full-out ‘power pose.’ Neither reads as compelling, and locking into ANY position prevents you from accessing your full breath, voice, and physical presence.”

Also, here is a picture of Sheryl Sandberg standing with her ankles crossed, like some kind of submissive sucker — it seems to have worked out pretty well for her.

There’s something to be said for body language. However, if you are small, you are not fooling anyone by trying to act tall — or worse, sitting like you have giant testicles that need an airing. Everyone looks better with good posture, though. Here’s a tip from Julie:

“Want to ‘take your space’? Think direction, not destination. Space originates from your center (core, lungs, ribcage, back), not peripherally (Wonder Woman arms). Practice breathing into your back. It seems simple, but it’s seriously effective.”

Be Concise and End On Point

Most of the little speeches people make in meetings would be more powerful if they simply ended sooner. For instance:

Typical: “I’m not sure that assigning two new people to the project is the solution. If we do this, we may just be prolonging a project that ultimately isn’t going to work, and we lose the opportunity to put the new talent where it counts. So I think we should consider some other options. Not that the new people aren’t great….”

Better: “I’m not sure that assigning two new people to the project is the solution. If we do this, we may just be prolonging a project that ultimately isn’t going to work, and we lose the opportunity to put new talent where it counts.”

If you’ve made your point, simply stop talking. Make (piercing!) eye contact with the other person. You’ve made a point, ended decisively, and you expect a meaningful and on-topic response. Don’t pad your statement with softening, relationship-building conversational chitchat that just trails off at the end.

Sometimes I find that I’ve already made my point, and I’ve even gone a few words past — usually something like, “So, well, I really think….” I just stop right there, mid-pointless sentence. It’s abrupt; that’s okay. Then I say something like, “So is 5,000 the right number or should we go higher?” or “Can I count on your support?” Prolong your command of the situation by asking a direct and specific question (not, “So what do you think?”).

When you say something meaningful and follow it with a bunch of wishy-washy, wasted verbiage, you’re training people to think that half of what you say doesn’t matter. Don’t do it. Cut the crap. Say what you mean. Then stop.

Jennifer Dziura is the founder of GetBullish and the Bullish Conference.

This article originally appeared on

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MONEY Self Employment

This is What it Takes to Make $2,000 a Week Working on TaskRabbit

See how the company's "elite taskers" earn big money doing other people's errands

Moving is the worst. Yard work is the worst. Building IKEA furniture is the worst.

You have probably said one or more of these sentences at some point or another. And therein lies the business model for TaskRabbit, a web platform launched in 2008 that specializes in connecting people who need chores done with people willing to complete them.

Consumers in markets where TaskRabbit operates—19 U.S. metro areas and London—simply have to enter information about the task at hand, pick a date and time slot to have it done, and select from a short list of people who are oddly willing to schlep your stuff, rake your yard, or build your unpronounceable shelving unit.

Most of us hate running our own errands, let alone other people’s. So what’s in it for the 30,000-odd people who’ve signed up to be Taskers? A flexible workday is one perk of the job, according to Jamie Viggiano, vice president of marketing for the company. She notes that 60% of Taskers come to the platform wanting to be in control of their own schedules

Oh and then there’s the money, which isn’t half bad. Taskers set their own rates and those who fully commit to the platform, roughly 10% to 15% of them, can earn $6,000 to $7,000 a month, according to Viggiano.

We spoke to three of the company’s “elite taskers” to see just what it takes to earn those big bucks, the perks and pitfalls of the job, and the goofiest tasks to which they’ve subjected themselves.

  • Brian Schrier

    working for TaskRabbit

    Age: 45

    Location: San Francisco

    Tasker Since: 2014

    Why He Started: I had a friend staying with me, and he got a job with TaskRabbit. He was always coming home every day bragging about it and wanting to show me things on his app. So I decided to close down my petition management company and start working for TaskRabbit instead.

    Hours: I typically spend half the week living and working on my boat in Napa, and the other half in the city completing tasks.

    His Rate: $150 an hour for any kind of job; he’s willing tackle most types of TaskRabbit jobs, from shopping to carpentry and construction.

    How Much He Makes: My first week, my take home earnings were $1,500. Once I realized I could do it, I started to average a little over $2,000 a week, or $6,000 to $7,000 a month. I think I can do even better than that, too.

    Craziest Job: I got paid $70 an hour to fold t-shirts for a start-up company. They were supposed to come folded, and the company was desperate to get them folded before an event. It taught me that if someone is desperate enough, they’ll pay what they need to pay to get people to help.

    Best Job: The first time I got a hug from a client was amazing. I don’t remember what the task was, but it was something that was easy for me and just overwhelming for the other person. Also, the first time someone fed me. A lot of times when a task goes long, you have to clock out to go get food. This client just realized I’d been working for a long time and they brought me a sandwich. I’ve dealt with a lot of really nice people doing TaskRabbit.

    What He Likes About Being a Tasker: I have the freedom to do everything I want to do. I live on a boat, and I started doing a major maintenance project on it. I can’t imagine getting a job and within a month or two pulling the boat out of the water and undertaking this project. Also, there’s always a last-minute friend gathering, and not every job can accommodate that.

    What He Doesn’t: Not having any kind of backup if something goes wrong, but TaskRabbit does offer different perks from insurance groups they’ve aligned themselves with. Also, I kind of miss having coworkers. But you do end up experiencing and learning a lot of things from this diverse crowd of people you’d never normally meet.

  • David Cordova

    David Cordova
    David Cordova

    Age: 31

    Location: New York City

    Tasker since: 2012

    Why He Started: I had just lost my job in the finance industry, and a friend mentioned that he read about this website TaskRabbit in an article. Originally, I started to work with them as a way to have a little extra cash coming in.

    Hours: About six hours a day, but it depends how long the tasks take. Jobs normally run two hours, and I try schedule two to three a day. I try to stick to Monday through Friday, but recently extended through Saturday.

    His Rate: $25 an hour for events and $60 or $65 an hour for heavy lifting tasks and furniture assembly; $80 an hour for moving. I bought my own van and raised my hourly rate because I have to pay for gas and tolls. But it pays off; no one has a car in New York City!

    How Much He Makes: I can make about $500 to $750 a week. When I really push hard, I can make close to $4,000 a month.

    Craziest Job: Stroller bouncer! I had to stand outside of a school for one to three year olds and tell the nannies and moms where to park their strollers. I did it for eight days. I felt like a bouncer, like I was outside of a club. It was like, “If you guys don’t move that stroller, I’ll have to kick you out!” The looks I got from the nannies and affluent women were something to behold.

    Also, I also picked up some admin work, but the company didn’t really need administrative assistance. They just needed people to sit there, so when clients left the building they wouldn’t walk through an empty room.

    Best Job: One time I helped a girl move at eight at night. Whatever setup she had arranged cancelled on her. She posted to the platform that she, her mattress and her stuff were on the street, and she needed some immediate help. Within a half hour I was there, picked her up and helped her move. She was like, “You really, really helped me out tonight. You don’t know how much this means.”

    Also the heavy lifting for some of my… seasoned clients. If I called them old, they’d hit me! When you’re in someone’s home, helping them out, it’s rewarding. You’re building things for people that actually matter. I’ve built dollhouses for children, and the child would come out and have a look that just says, “Yay! Thank you!” Those are the jobs that put a smile on my face when I’m walking away.

    What He Likes About Being a Tasker: The ability to work when you like and setting your own hourly rate really gives you control over your day and the amount of money you make. I’ll never go back to a 9 to 5.

    What He Doesn’t: The only downside would probably be the same downside as all independent contractors – a lack of benefits. But I’m married, so I get them from my wife.

  • Jonathan Lal

    Jonathan Lal
    Jonathan Lal

    Age: 28

    Location: San Francisco

    Tasker since: 2014

    Why He Started: I was looking for something with a flexible schedule, and something that I could start and stop easily if I needed to. I’m waiting for an internship in the medical field to start, and I wanted something I could easily stop when it kicked in. I’ll still do a little on the side. I can go to an internship in the morning, then do TaskRabbit on evenings and on the weekend.

    Hours: In an average week, I work 25 to 30 hours. Most days I set my availability from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but sometimes I set it 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

    His Rate: I adjust it based on the skill needed to complete a task. I tend to do a lot of furniture assembly and minor home repairs. For that I charge $35 to $45. When I’m a personal assistant it’s $26 and product testing is $25.

    How Much He Makes: I average between $500 and $750 a week.

    Craziest Job: I’ve done some pretty cool tasks. I helped out at a media event for the opening of a park by Union Square in San Francisco, and I got to meet the mayor.

    Best Job: I had one where I actually got to help a guy propose to his girlfriend. There’s an outlook that has a really good view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I was on the phone with him and able to set up a blanket, pillows and a bottle of champagne. And she said yes, so it worked out for everyone! I also did one not too long ago where I delivered flowers. It’s neat because you get to see the person enjoy the experience right then and there. I kind of look for tasks like that, where you can bring about really good customer service to the person.

    What He Likes About Being a Tasker: I definitely think some of the benefits are flexibility in schedule and flexibility in pay. TaskRabbit is a good company and they take care of their employees. You don’t feel like you are out there by yourself; you feel like you have someone backing you and supporting you.

    What He Doesn’t: There are some things I don’t like about the app, but nothing major.


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MONEY job search

This is How You Write a Perfect Post-Interview Thank You

Thank You Note
Janice Richard—Getty Images

Make sure it includes these 4 things

In my recruiting experience, I came across very few thank you notes—which is a shame.

A thank you note is one more opportunity for candidates to stay front of mind with employers. Sending a timely thank you note shows professional courtesy and follow-through (one hiring manager I worked with knocked out candidates who didn’t send a thank you!). Plus, a well-crafted thank you note is a marketing tool that can promote your candidacy after memories of your interview have faded.

The best thank you notes go beyond simple gratitude. Here’s what a productive thank you note includes:

1. Personalization by Name and Quote

Don’t just write to HR or your immediate hiring contact.

If you have met several people, write an individual letter to each and every interviewer, and quote or paraphrase something specific they said. “Dear Alan, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. I particularly enjoyed hearing about your upcoming project with Really Cool Builders…” If you have a panel interview and meet several people all at once, still write individual notes.

A personalized thank you deepens your relationship with that person and enables you to maintain that relationship separately long after the hiring process plays out.

2. Reiteration of Your Strengths

If a particular interview response seemed to resonate or there was something you discussed that elicited strong interest, build on these items in your thank you note.

You might share another related example or point to additional ideas along the theme of what you discussed. This reminds the interviewer(s) why they liked you. “My experience working with creative at Really Funky Advertising seemed to dovetail exactly with what you need for your designers. In another role at Really Inventive Copy, I supported the creative team….”

3. Shoring Up of Your Weaknesses

At the same time, if there was a hiccup in the interview—a question you stumbled on or a strength you failed to highlight—address this in the thank you.

Let’s say you were asked for an example of when you worked with finance and operations, as opposed to creative, and you didn’t think of anything or you gave one example but thought of a better one after the fact. Include the additional information in the thank you: “I’m excited that the opportunity gives me the chance to work with creative, finance and operations. At Really Stylish Retail, my role as the planning analyst meant I supported our finance team on forecasting, budgeting and trend analysis. This also involved the operations team as I reviewed inventory levels and logistics…”

4. A Suggestion to Meet Again

When you’re introducing new information, include enough so that they realize you have more to say, then invite yourself to a future meeting so they can hear more about it: “As you can see from these additional roles we didn’t get to discuss, I have more to share and would love to schedule another meeting to go into detail.…”

In addition to more of your own experience, you might add an idea you have or point to a relevant article and suggest you discuss these further.

One final note: People often ask me whether to send the note via mail or e-mail. I say the latter. E-mail ensures that the note will reach recipients in a timely manner.

If you’d prefer to mail a note—to use nice stationary or to include additional material—I’d still send a quick e-mail first, alluding to the upcoming material then follow up with the hard copy.

Snail mail can take a really long time to wind its way through large corporate entities. One time, a thank you card I’d sent to a mentor arrived months after I’d mailed it—and right before our next scheduled lunch!

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column appears weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Ways to Make the Most Out of Conventions and Trade Shows

Business networking conference
Getty Images

Take a look at these 10 simple tips for getting your brand out there at trade shows


Every startup CEO needs to sell. Nothing is more important than getting your product out in the market and finding folks to pay real dollars for it. There’s no shortage of sales approaches — emails, cold calls, networking events, catchy banner ads, knocking on doors, etc. They’re all worth a shot.

But I’ve found that for my companies, I get the best ROI from attending conferences, conventions or trade shows. In two days at a conference, you can achieve what could take months sitting at your computer, all in a fun location. I’m writing this surrounded by palm trees in Miami, where it’s 75 degrees.

As with anything else, it pays to prepare for a conference. Based on my experience, I’ve come up with 10 tips to help you get the most out of every conference you attend.

  1. Plan ahead. Figure out the conferences that work best for your business (hint: they’re rarely the hyped startup conferences like SXSW, although those are a lot of fun). You’ll be amazed by how many associations and trade groups there are in every industry. Get creative. Go where your competitors aren’t. Keep a running list of all the conferences you hear about, and prioritize that list based on two key metrics: Who you will meet and how much it will cost.
  2. Do your homework. Look through every detail on the conference website. Check out who’s sponsoring, speaking and exhibiting. If that information isn’t available on the website, look at last year’s program. Decide whether it’s a conference worth attending. And once you pull the trigger, plan for specific sessions. Leave plenty of time to walk the exhibit hall floor. I’ve found that the best time to do this is during a keynote speech you don’t mind skipping. The floor is empty, so vendors will spend more time chatting with you.
  3. Be frugal but smart. Don’t let a limited budget get in your way. Go to a few conferences as an attendee before shelling out the big bucks for an exhibit booth. Find conferences that are close to your home. When traveling, crash with friends or use AirBnB to save on hotels. Conference registration fees aren’t cheap, so always ask for startup discounts. They’re not listed on the websites, but the organizers may just hook you up. Even if they say no, they may offer to walk the floor with you to show you around and make valuable introductions.
  4. Schedule meetings. Reach out to industry experts, vendors, and conference organizers in advance. Introduce yourself and ask them for a few minutes of their time while you’re at the conference. I’ve found that sending an email and a LinkedIn message at the same time gets the highest response rates. Before sending out cold emails, check LinkedIn for mutual contacts who may be able to introduce you. And write concise messages (five sentences max)!
  5. Be persistent. You won’t hear back right away from most contacts. Conference speakers and organizers tend to be busy folks. Give it a few days, then send a follow-up note. If they don’t reply before the conference, don’t take it personally.
  6. Stay organized. I email anywhere from 50 to 200 people per conference. There’s no way to keep track of all those emails without a system. I use Google Docs spreadsheets, where I list all the key information for each contact (name, title, email, status, interesting facts, etc). Use whatever system works best for you to stay organized. And stick to it.
  7. Know what you’re looking for. On the plane to the conference, write down key objectives and critical questions. Then show up with a laser focus. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the overwhelming number of sessions, exhibit halls full of tchotchkes you’ll never use and free booze. But remember that you are there to learn and establish connections. Ask questions. Sales will come if you approach the conference with patience and humility. Companies want to help you if you’re a startup looking for advice, rather than a nagging salesman.
  8. Be social (media). You’re probably younger and more social-media savvy than the rest of the attendees. Use that to your advantage. Tweet about the conference using the official hashtags. I did that recently, and on the last day they presented a wrap-up full of attendee’s tweets. Mine kept popping up on the screen, and the presenter thanked my company for its “terrific tweets.” As you can imagine, this was great free publicity for us.
  9. Be social (-izing). Don’t get stuck on your phone or sitting in conference sessions all day. Networking events are where you’ll strike up those all-important conversations. Even if they cost an extra few bucks, sign up. Remember to bring lots of business cards, and go light on the vodka shots (unless you’re at the U.S. Drinks Conference, in which case the shots may be acceptable). And don’t just limit your socializing to the formal events. The more open you are to striking up conversations, the more doors you’ll open.
  10. Follow up. If you follow these tips, you’ll collect dozens of business cards at the conference. But that’s just the beginning. On the plane back home, write a personalized email to every contact. Briefly rehash what your company does and why it could be interesting for that contact. Send emails that are friendly, personal and short, and watch the replies fly in.

Happy hunting! Looking forward to seeing you at a conference soon.

David Adelman is the Head of Business Development and Growth Strategy at Snagajob, America’s largest marketplace connecting hourly job seekers and employers. Prior to Snagajob, David founded two video startups- Reel Tributes and ReelGenie. David graduated with an MBA from Wharton and an AB from Harvard, and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife Melissa and Shih Tzu puppy Samson.

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.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

MONEY women

5 Ways Women in Tech Can Beat the Odds


The biases many female technologists face are unfair — but women in STEM fields can still get ahead by using smart, unintuitive strategies.

These are tough times for women in technology. Female workers are flooding out of tech company jobs, a phenomenon blamed in part on the industry’s patterns of sexism.

A recent Center for Talent Innovation study found that women in science, engineering, and technology are 45% more likely than male peers to leave their industries. Many cite a feeling of being stalled in their careers and excluded from their workplace’s culture; a whopping half say their coworkers believe men have a genetic advantage in math and science. And 44% agreed with the statement, “A female at my company would never get a top position no matter how able or high-performing.”

Meanwhile, a gender discrimination trial now under way has highlighted the ways female employees can be shut out of high-level positions in Silicon Valley. Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao is suing her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, alleging that senior managers systematically excluded her and other women from promotions available to less-accomplished male colleagues.

Though it’s unclear whether Pao will win—the bar is high to prove gender discrimination, and the firm is arguing that she simply was not qualified for the role—her story has undoubtedly struck a chord among many women with experience in the tech world.

If these scenarios resonate with you (or someone you care about), there’s still some good news: Despite the odds against women in technology, both research and anecdotal evidence suggest there are approaches female techies can use to rise up. Here are five of them.

1. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

Most women in tech are pretty used to holding minority status at work. But that doesn’t make being the only female among many male peers any easier, says Kellye Sheehan, a Hewlett Packard senior manager and president of professional association Women in Technology.

“A lot of times I would be the only woman in the room, and I would notice patterns of male colleagues testing me,” Sheehan says. “One once tried to steal my employees and give me bad business advice.”

Being put in that sort of situation can feel like a Catch-22: If you fight back, you might be seen as overly sensitive or shrill, but if you do nothing, you could come off as weak.

Indeed, a recent study suggests that women with more “masculine” traits like self-confidence are seen as more competent than stereotypically “feminine” women—but they are also seen as less “socially skilled” and therefore suffer backlash effects.

The good news? The researchers found that when a “masculine” woman also exhibits social grace and self-awareness, she gets more promotions than other women and men. So while both men and women should of course keep it classy when they stand up for themselves, women have even more to gain by doing so.

As for Sheehan? She held off on responding right away and chatted with her husband, a fellow engineer, about how he’d handle the situation. He suggested she “throw a brushback pitch,” a move pitchers make in baseball to get batters to stop crowding the plate. That advice worked out, says Sheehan.

“In front of the group I said, ‘No, you can’t have Joe and Tom, and here’s why your advice doesn’t make sense,'” she says. “I spoke plainly and wasn’t overly aggressive and he stepped back immediately and said, ‘No harm meant.'”

2. Dream Big

A common mistake that female entrepreneurs make, says Women Who Code CEO Alaina Percival, is getting too hung up on the plausibility of their ideas. It makes sense: Being prepared with facts and figures seems like an important defense against those who don’t take you seriously.

“Women pitching to investors can be overly analytical, focusing more on reality than their vision,” says Percival. “The truth is you have to embrace a kind of ‘fake it til you make it mentality’ in tech. If you say your idea is worth 100 million dollars, an investor won’t ever imagine it as one billion.”

In fact, pitching yourself as a risk taker can really be a great move for women leading startup companies, a new study suggests. Researcher Sarah Thébaud of U.C. Santa Barbara found that switching a male name for a female name on a business pitch made people rate the idea lower, suggesting a bias against female entrepreneurs. But when she did the same experiment using proposals for especially unusual or novel startup companies, that bias was reduced significantly.

Such a finding is not immediately obvious. You might think that if a woman presents “a business idea that’s particularly risky, it might further undermine her ability to gain credibility and support,” says Thébaud. But instead, she found, “innovation signaled possession of the stereotypically ‘entrepreneurial’ traits and abilities women are otherwise perceived to lack.”

The takeaway? Don’t be afraid to share your bigger visions—they might just earn you big money.

3. Don’t Promise—Surprise

Conventional career wisdom is that you should always underpromise and overdeliver when trying to impress at work. That may seem especially true for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, who already have to overcome beliefs that they are less competent as leaders.

“You’ll often see, in a meeting of equal engineers, that women are asked to take notes,” says Percival. “Or when discussing a new position, people will use gendered language and say, ‘We need to hire a really awesome layout guy.'”

As a consequence, women may feel they have to do additional work to get the same recognition a man would get. But all extra effort is not created equal: Recent research suggests that you aren’t helped by going above and beyond what you commit to doing. That’s because the very act of making a promise mutes the potential happiness your boss or client will feel when you deliver—even if you exceed expectations.

The solution, according to study authors Ayelet Gneezy of U.C. San Diego and Nicholas Epley of University of Chicago: When you really want to impress, hold back on making any promises and just surprise people with your finished product.

4. Brag Better

It is often said that women in technology need to be better at “selling themselves” to compete with male peers, who typically find it easier to trumpet accomplishments. But that is easier said than done.

“Women are culturally expected to still come off as especially humble,” says Percival. “That makes it hard to overcome the embarrassment associated with bragging.” Sheehan agrees: “We stay quiet and hope that if we work hard and have lots of output, we will get promoted.”

The problem is that staying silent about your accomplishments often means you’ll get passed over, as others are rewarded with more responsibility and higher salaries.

Of course, the idea of boasting might make you uncomfortable—and rightfully so. (One of the criticisms Ellen Pao faced from her employer was that she was arrogant.)

One way to overcome your discomfort with bragging is to do it in writing, suggests Sheehan. You could send your boss an email, for example, documenting your team’s successes for the year, making it clear that you played a leading role. The benefit of email is that you can have a few trusted friends or colleagues read over it first, to help you fine-tune your tone.

And worst-case scenario, if you ever find yourself having to prove you were the victim of discrimination, it can’t hurt to have messages about your accomplishments—as well as your boss’s response—in writing.

5. Find Sponsors, Allies, and Resources

Many accomplished women in tech cite mentors and “women-helping-women” channels as key factors in their success. But getting ahead takes more than a little networking or advice. Having good relationships with your colleagues in general and garnering support from higher-ups makes a huge difference, says Sheehan.

“A mentor is someone who will teach you and help you learn and grow,” she says. “A sponsor is someone convinced of your abilities high up in the organization who will advocate for you when you are not there.”

A key factor in winning the support of bosses and coworkers is showing you are a team player and have a thick skin. Society teaches women to be sensitive to criticism, Sheehan says, so it’s especially important to show you are the bigger person after a disagreement. You might even want to take a page from the stereotypically male playbook and invite a difficult colleague (plus a group, if that’s less awkward) to grab a beer after work, which could allow you to hash things out in a more laid-back way.

Finally, consider the power of new female-friendly initiatives sprouting up all throughout the tech world. Half of women who leave the science, technology, or engineering industries keep using their training, whether at a startup, government or nonprofit job, or working for themselves. That suggests that opportunities outside of the box are growing more common.

For example, there’s PowerToFly, a company that matches women in technology with jobs they can perform remotely. Cofounder Katharine Zaleski has explained that she created the business in part because she felt biased against mothers in the workplace—until she became one herself.

“There’s a saying that ‘if you want something done, then ask a busy person to do it.’ That’s exactly why I like working with mothers now,” she wrote this week in a FORTUNE commentary. “If they work from home, it doesn’t matter if a kid gets sick.”

If you have tech skills you want to improve or showcase, there are engineering schools explicitly for women, such as Hackbright Academy, and contests like a new hackathon restricted to female entrants—starting today, March 6—in which women can compete for prizes like a MacBook Air or iPhone 6.

And when all else fails, don’t overthink it.

As Kelly McEvers at NPR wrote, perhaps the best way for women in tech to approach obstacles isn’t to “Lean In,” but “Lean To The Side, And Let It Pass By.” If you’re tired of all the unsolicited advice given to women in tech—as well as the balancing acts you’re asked to perform—just take a breath and remember you’re already beating the odds.

Read next: The 5 Best Ways Men Can #LeanInTogether to Help Women Get Ahead

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