TIME Careers & Workplace

10 States Where Life Is Just the Best Right Now

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Based on the nine determinants of well-being—education, jobs, income, safety, health, environment, civic engagement, accessibility to services and housing

This post is in partnership with 24/7 Wall Street. The article below was originally published on 247WallSt.com.

The United States is one of the world’s most prosperous economies, with a gross domestic product that exceeded that of any other country last year. However, a vibrant economy alone does not ensure all residents are well off. In a recent study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), U.S. states underperformed their regional counterparts in other countries in a number of important metrics that gauge well-being.

The OECD’s newly released study, “How’s Life in Your Region?: Measuring Regional and Local Well-Being for Policy Making,” compares nine important factors that contribute to well-being. Applying an equal weight to each of these factors, 24/7 Wall St. rated New Hampshire as the best state for quality of life.

Click here to see the 10 states with the best quality of life.

Click here to see the 10 states with the worst quality of life.

Monica Brezzi, author of the report and head of regional statistics at the OECD, told 24/7 Wall St. considering different dimensions of well-being at the regional level provides a way to identify “where are the major needs where policies can intervene.” Brezzi said that, in some cases, correcting one truly deficient measure can, in turn, lead to better results in others.

In order to review well-being at the regional level, the OECD used only objective data in its report, rather than existing survey data. Brezzi noted that current international studies that ask people for their opinion on important measures of well-being often do not have enough data to be broken down by region.

For example, one of the nine measures, health, is based on the mortality rate and life expectancy in each region, rather than on asking people if they feel well. Similarly, another determinant of well-being, safety, is measured by the homicide rate rather than personal responses as to whether people feel safe where they live.

Based on her analysis, Brezzi identified one area where American states are exceptionally strong. “All the American states rank in the top 20% of OECD regions in income,” Brezzi said. Massachusetts — one of 24/7 Wall St.’s highest-rated states — had the second-highest per capita disposable household income in the nation, at $38,620. This also placed the state among the top 4% of regions in all OECD countries.

However, the 50 states are also deficient in a number of key metrics for well-being. “With the exception of Hawaii, none of the American states are in the top 20% for health or for safety across the OECD regions,” Brezzi said. Minnesota, for instance, was rated as the third best state for health, with a mortality rate of 7.5 deaths per 1,000 residents and a life expectancy of 81.1 years. However, this only barely placed Minnesota among the top third of all regions in the OECD. Similarly, New Hampshire — which was rated as the safest state in the country, and was 24/7 Wall St.’s top state for quality of life — was outside the top third of all regions for safety.

Across most metrics the 50 states have improved considerably over time. Only one of the nine determinants of well-being, jobs, had worsened in most states between 2000 and 2013. Brezzi added that not only was the national unemployment rate higher in 2013 than in 2000, but “this worsening of unemployment has also come together with an increase in the disparities across states.”

Based on the OECD’s study, “How’s Life in Your Region?: Measuring Regional and Local Well-being for Policy Making,” 24/7 Wall St. identified the 10 states with the best quality of life. We applied an equal weight to each of the nine determinants of well-being — education, jobs, income, safety, health, environment, civic engagement, accessibility to services and housing. Each determinant is constituted by one or more variables. Additional data on state GDP are from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and are current as of 2013. Further figures on industry composition, poverty, income inequality and health insurance coverage are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Data on energy production come from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and represent 2012 totals.

These are the 10 states with the best quality of life.

10. Wisconsin
> Employment rate: 74.8% (9th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $29,536 (23rd highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.72 per 100,000 people (15th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 73.6% (2nd highest)

Based on nine distinct well-being measures, Wisconsin is one of the top states in the nation for quality of life. Like nearly all top-ranked states, Wisconsin’s housing score was quite high. A typical home had 2.7 rooms per person. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of households had broadband Internet access, both among the higher rates nationwide. Residents are also more politically active than people in a majority of states. The state reported a 74% voter turnout rate, better than almost every other state.

9. Washington
> Employment rate: 67.8% (21st lowest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $31,307 (16th highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.55 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 65.6% (16th highest)

Nearly four in five Washington residents had broadband Internet access last year, tied with New Hampshire for the highest rate in the country. Washingtonians also enjoy exceptional air quality and a relatively healthy environment. Just 4.1 mg of airborne dangerous particulate matter per cubic meter was recorded in the state, nearly the lowest level of pollution measured. Washington also leads the nation for renewable energy production, with more than 1,012 trillion BTUs produced in 2012, far more than any other state.

ALSO READ: America’s 50 Best Cities to Live

8. Maine
> Employment rate: 72.7% (11th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $28,333 (22nd lowest)
> Homicide rate: 1.88 per 100,000 people (8th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 68.6% (9th highest)

Based on OECD metrics, Maine — which advertises itself as “Vacationland” — is far more than merely a tourist destination. Like more than half of the best states for quality of life, Maine received a nearly perfect score for its housing. Maine homes had an average of nearly three rooms per person, more than all but one other state. Spacious households are likely favored by Maine residents as the state’s long winter can keep people indoors for long periods. And while heating costs can be a burden, falling U.S. crude oil prices have considerably reduced the financial strain of buying home heating oil, which is more-widely used in Maine than in any other state.

For the rest of the list, please go to 24/7WallStreet.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Email Rules That Will Change Your Life

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Adhering to these handy rules can help you stand out from the pack

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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.

It might be one of the least sexy skills on the planet, but the ability to weave a flawless email is an enviable trait. Because so much of communication is derived from nonverbal cues such as body language, an effectively-written email is particularly important: without those nonverbal cues, emails can so easily get misinterpreted, at best leading to minor misunderstandings, and at worst, derailing important business projects.

Depending on what type of job you hold, email etiquette can vary significantly. In many corporate cultures, the tone is formal and messages are very matter-of-fact, whereas other companies are accustomed to informal interactions involving smiley faces and cute “xoxo” sign-offs. But wherever where you work, one thing remains the same: your email manners matter.

Here are 5 general rules to follow to master the art of emailing:

  1. Be direct.

If your inbox is anything like mine, chances are it’s flooded by a ridiculous number of emails per day. Given that, it’s imperative that all your outgoing emails have a clear subject line. Also, in the body of the email make sure you get to the point using as few words as possible. Lengthy messages typically scare more people off.

“It’s very simple; emails should deliver information and, if needed, send out a call to action,”says Deb Merry, marketing expert and entrepreneur.

Speaking of delivering information efficiently: when a long email exchange morphs into a new topic but the subject hasn’t changed, it’s time to edit the subject to make the thread easier to find in the future.

  1. Know your audience.

Lindsey Pollak, email etiquette consultant and author of Getting From College to Careerexplains, “Your e-mail greeting and sign-off should be consistent with the level of respect and formality of the person you’re communicating with.”

Pollak advises writing “for the person who will be reading it–if they tend to be very polite and formal, write in that language. The same goes for a receiver who tends to be more informal and relaxed.”

Before reaching out to any potential clients or customers, it’s important to do your homework. In other words, you need to develop a mental image of who they are and what they’ll respond to, and write your email accordingly.

  1. Add a personal touch.

Adding a personal touch is usually very effective. For example, if you are reaching out to an author to request a book for reviewing, it’s a good idea to compliment some of his previous work. Not only does it make him feel good, but it shows you put in the effort to learn about him. Who wouldn’t want to do business with someone like that?

If you’re using a tool like Salesforce or Contactually to send out a number of emails at once, be sure to personalize before sending. A mass mail that feels like a mass mail is a major turn-off.

  1. Follow up and express your gratitude.

In many cases, your initial exchange will require a follow up. It’s one thing to establish a connection, but learning how to maintain relationships is another skill entirely.

Following up after a pitch meeting? A short, unique email showing your appreciation for the other parties’ time will go a long way. Responding to press? Your follow up “could be as simple as a quick email or tweet saying thanks, or it could be following up with feedback about the coverage,” Crew Blog reports.

Follow-up emails are a great opportunity to say thank you and leave on a positive note so you can continue doing business together.

  1. Don’t just ask–give.

Whether you’re following up with someone or just checking in with a contact you’re out of touch with, it usually feels less obtrusive if you try to add value in some way. If there is a product they might be interested in, let them know. If there is news relevant to their industry, let them know. If you have a suggestion for their business that can help them improve their profitability, let them kn- well, you get the idea.

You never want to be the type of contact who only gets in touch when you want something; that’s a great way to keep your professional network small.

Of course, these are just my top five. How would you rate yourself on the email etiquette scale? What else would you say has been a key to your email success?

 

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Biggest Motivation Killers and How to Fix Them

It happens to every team

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

It happens to everyone: sitting at your desk, you realize that you lack any motivation whatsoever to get any work done. Good luck being productive when this motivation slump hits hardcore, infecting your entire office.

The only long-term fix for a lack of motivation is to find the motivation killers in your workplace and eradicate them. Whether it is an awful office space, a micromanaging boss or a lack of clear goals, getting to the source of the problem can boost productivity for your entire team.

Related: Motivate Your Employees in 3 Steps

Check out the infographic below, compiled by status reporting software Weekdone, to learn about the top 10 motivation killers and how to banish them from your office. Then, make the fixes and get back to work.

Motivation killers
Entrepreneur

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Phrases SEAL Teams Simply Do Not Accept (Nor Should You)

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MILpictures by Tom Weber—Getty Images

“Sorry I’m late”

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.

While the parallels between special operations and business closely mirror each other in some regards, there are also glaring differences. The most significant difference I’ve found in the year plus that I’ve been out of the military is what is considered acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.

In a SEAL Team room, for instance, there are (legal) mementos collected from high-level missions, pictures from past training trips, and photos to memorialize fallen teammates. On the other hand, a corporate culture is not likely to hang the suit and tie of the CEO whose company you just acquired, nor will there be pictures memorializing past employees who worked at the company for six months.

Related: The 6 Words That Are Holding You Back

Of the social norms that differ between the two professions, nothing is more apparent than the definition of what “acceptablemeans. What is normal in the SEAL Teams, for instance, is typically considered abnormal elsewhere (go figure). Here’s a quick rundown of 10 sayings I did not hear in the Teams and the reasons why:

1. “I can’t do that.”

If somebody had said this in the team room then he would’ve found himself cold, wet and duct taped. Unless a physical handicap is present, replace your “can” or “can’t,” with “will” or “won’t.” There’s always a way. Find it.

2. “Sorry I’m late.”

You don’t hear this in a culture of accountability because expectations are set, and if they’re not met then there are repercussions. Not to say that expectations don’t change, but it’s not for a lack of effort in fulfilling them.

3. “I don’t know.”

While admitting uncertainty is perfectly fine, the statement alone leaves much to be desired. Instead, try saying “I don’t know yet, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” This latter part is what demonstrates a proactive mindset and a willingness to work, rather than leaving your ambition open to interpretation.

4. “I’m going to HR.”

Nobody cares. Unless the issue is illegal, immoral or unethical, solve the problem yourself. HR is there to facilitate company strategy, not arbitrate turf wars between employees.

5. “Schedule it with my EA.”

While not all SEAL Teams are created equally, there is an equal dispersion of accountability that team members are expected to uphold. Namely, if you take care of your personal business then your personal business will take care of you when it counts. Having unpacked (emotional) baggage only gets heavier the longer you carry it around.

Related: The 2 Words Entrepreneurs Should Avoid

6. “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

Feelings? What’s that?

7. “Let’s talk this out.”

There is nothing like the camaraderie between SEALs. Nothing else even comes close to paralleling the tight bond, unity and cohesion found amongst men who live, eat, train and fight together. Having said that, some people just need a good whoopin’ once in a while to keep egos in check, and teammates are no different. Confronting difficult issues and learning from them is what turns mediocrity into greatness.

8. “Hold my calls.”

The train doesn’t stop for you. Get on or get off, but you are no more important than the guy (or gal) next to you. Once you’re done with your share of the task, see who else needs help.

9. “Let’s hold off on this issue until the next meeting.”

I’m all for collecting the facts, but nothing decides itself. There comes a point where too much data leads to analysis paralysis, and decision-making gets delayed until the elegant solution arrives — and it never does. Pushing off decision-making authority or accountability only leaves a larger snowball of complexity to have to deal with later.

10. “I just found this awesome PowerPoint template!”

Everybody’s “primary weapon” is different — carpenters use hammers, chefs use ingredients, announcers use their voice. Whatever your weapon of choice, make sure it’s always ready to go because second chances don’t come by too often.

What are you favorite office sayings?

MONEY job hunting

The 7 Social Media Mistakes Most Likely to Cost You a Job

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Dado Ruvic—Reuters

Jobvite's latest social recruiting poll shows exactly what hiring managers are looking for when they check your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts.

Your Facebook postings might win over your friends—but they could also cost you a job, a new study finds.

Recruiting platform Jobvite has released the 2014 edition of its annual Social Recruiting Survey, and the results might be disconcerting to those who tweet first and ask questions later. The data shows 93% of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social profile before making a hiring decision.

And that review matters: 55% have reconsidered a candidate based on what they find, with most (61%) of those double-takes being negative.

According to respondents, the worst thing you can do is make any kind of references to illegal drugs. That should probably be common sense—but in case it’s not, know that 83% of recruiters say doing so is a strong turn off. (Perhaps more interesting: 2% of hiring managers think it’s a positive.) Also on the “obviously don’t do this” list are “sexual posts,” which 70% of recruiters say will count against you (only 1% are fans). Two thirds told Jobvite that posts including profanity reflected poorly; over half didn’t like posts on guns, and 44% saw posts about alcohol as concerning.

“Okay,” you say, “but I keep my nose—and my posts—clean, and I wouldn’t think of making any of the 10 stupidest social media blunders MONEY recently wrote about. So what have I got to worry about?”

Well, you might want to take another read of what you’ve written: 66% of hiring managers said they would hold poor spelling and grammar against candidates.

You might also want to consider keeping your political affiliation to yourself, since slightly over 1 in 6 recruiters said that was a potential negative.

And hey, while you’re revising your LinkedIn profile, polish your halo a little: Jobvite’s survey said that information about volunteering or donations to charity left 65% of recruiters walking away with a positive impression.

The survey also showed what other positive qualities recruiters are seeking on social—although the results aren’t that surprising. Respondents said they try to determine things like professional experience, mutual connections, examples of previous work, and cultural fit.

The study also lends some insight into how recruiters use different social networks. LinkedIn is clearly the king of the hill—79% of respondents say they have hired through the network, vs. 26% through Facebook and 14% through Twitter. Nearly all hiring managers will use LinkedIn for every step of the recruitment process, including searching for candidates, getting in contact, and vetting them pre-interview.

In contrast, Facebook is primarily used for showcasing the employer’s brand and getting employees to refer their friends. About two-thirds of recruiters also use the network to vet candidates before or after an interview. Twitter appears to be the platform least used by hiring managers, and is used similarly to Facebook, but with less of an emphasis on candidate vetting.

No matter what the platform, however, the takeaway for workers is clear: Best be vigilant not to post anything you wouldn’t mind an employer or potential employer seeing. Make sure to check your Facebook privacy settings, but don’t depend on them because they’re known to change frequently.

And remember, just because your social media postings haven’t hurt you yet, doesn’t mean they won’t. When MONEY’s Susie Poppick talked to Alison Green, founder of AskAManager.org, she had a simple message to those unconcerned about their online presence: “To people who don’t lock down their accounts because ‘it’s never been a problem,’ I say, you don’t know whether that’s true.”

Read next: 10 Job Skills You’ll Need in 2020

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Questions to Ask When You Don’t Know What You Want to Do With Your Life

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Sometimes your dreams aren't what you think they are

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

I started college as a musical theater major, but by the end of my freshman year, I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a career on stage. I dabbled in psychology before finding my calling in marketing.

A friend of mine, on the other hand, started her career as a marketer. But after picking up running, she’s in school to become a physical therapist. Another friend has been a software engineer by education and profession, and he recently transitioned into data science.

The thing we all had in common? At some point, we thought we had it all figured out—until we realized that our dream jobs weren’t our dream jobs anymore, and we had to start all over to determine how we wanted our career paths to look.

When you don’t know exactly what you want to do, planning for the future can feel totally overwhelming. But here are some of the questions we asked ourselves that helped not only point us in the right direction—but also plan for the future of our careers.

What Am I Really Passionate About—and Why?

When I first decided to change my major, I considered psychology, because I’m fascinated by the mind. The thing is, I’m not so fascinated by listening to people’s emotional problems, and when I did some further digging, it looked like a career in psychology probably meant becoming a counselor. After pinpointing what I loved about the mind—the ways our brains make connections, process information, and form memories—I realized that a career in marketing, which is all about understanding people’s motivations, would be a better fit.

Along similar lines, when my friend started running, she thought she wanted to become a fitness instructor, but realized that she wasn’t passionate about motivating people to get in shape. Instead, she was passionate about making the body work like a well-oiled machine, which led her to the more medically based physical therapy.

As you consider your next career move, you should think about what makes you excited to wake up every day—but don’t stop there. For every interest or passion, really try to pinpoint what about it gets you most excited. It’s also helpful to try out some things that will let you explore your interests a bit more—think volunteer projects, side hustles, and informational interviews. Pay attention to what moves you—and what you think might move you, but doesn’t. The goal is to dig until you reach the foundation of the passion. (If you need help with this step, The Muse’s five-day email based “Discover Your Passion” class can help.)

What Does My “Dream Job” Look Like?

Now, this doesn’t mean just the title or compensation—you should consider all facets of a job when thinking about your ideal career. For example, do you prefer a structured and heavily regulated environment, or an unstructured and creative environment? Do you want to wear a suit, uniform, or jeans to work every day? Do you want to work remotely, travel to different cities, or go to an office? Each of these questions significantly impacts the types of roles you’ll be looking at.

You’ll also want to consider what the role might look like in one year, three years, or even 10 years. One of my friends, for instance, is a Navy pilot (she flies helicopters on aircraft carriers!), and she’s at a critical junction in her career. She loves flying, and she loves the next three to five years of her path, which includes training others to fly. But, she’s concerned about her job when she reaches the 10-15 year mark, as advancement means that she’ll be on a ship for most months out of the year.

So, as you consider how you want to advance, take a look at what the career trajectory looks like. Will you stay focused in one specific skill or topic, or would you prefer to be more of a generalist? Will you need to at some point start managing others and give up the tasks of producing yourself? (This is especially important for creative professionals to consider.) Are promotions and pay increases based on experience, or do they require specific skills and credentials, like going back to school?

While you never really know how your role will evolve over time (or even what jobs might be available in the future!), it’s important to explore how the role tends to change as you advance.

How Does This Job Fit Into My Life?

As Rikki Rogers explains in her article, “Does Your Dream Job Fit Into Your Dream Life?” a job that makes you happy doesn’t always lead to a life that makes you happy. In her case, becoming a college writing professor would mean that she’d likely be living in a small town, thousands of miles away from her family, so she opted for a more versatile role in marketing communications.

The lesson: It’s key to look at your career choices in the context of the rest of your life—relationships, hobbies, family commitments, even things like fitness and spirituality. I actually put together a “life satisfaction spreadsheet” that ranks the top five things that made me a happy, healthy person, and allows me to weigh my satisfaction in those areas. It’s particularly helpful each time I consider a career move, allowing me to see how the change would affect me in all areas of my life.

Once you’ve answered the big-picture questions about your career, it’s time to put them into action. Again, it’s often helpful to test drive a career path before jumping in head first—here are five simple ways to do just that. Research what education and credentials you’ll need to advance, meet with people in the field to get their advice for breaking in, and ask for targeted assignments as you look to build your resume.

It’s impossible to plan for every step along the way, but asking yourself big-picture questions about what you want from a career can help you chart a path at any stage.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Why ‘You’re Getting a Bonus’ Is Actually Horrible News

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Sounds good. Often isn't

So your boss just said, instead of a raise this year, you’ll be eligible for a bonus. Great, right?

Not so fast. Companies today are increasingly turning to bonuses instead of raises, and while it might seem like pretty much the same thing, there are some big potential drawbacks for workers.

According to HR consulting firm Aon Hewitt’s annual Salary Increase Survey, more than 90% of companies now have what’s called, in HR jargon, “variable pay,” a category that can include signing bonuses, awards for individual or team performance, profit-sharing and the like. Nearly 13% of companies’ payroll budget, on average, is going to variable pay this year. This is a significant increase from Aon Hewitt’s pre-recession data and the trend is expected not only to continue, but to grow larger.

In the meantime, companies are still doling out raises with a relative eyedropper; last year, the average was below three percent for white-collar professional workers — a little better than the puny 1.8% it hit in 2009, but not by much.

“Based on historical trends and based on the indicators that we see — both economic and HR indicators — we think the level of spending on salaries will continue to be flat for the foreseeable future, and the level of spending on variable pay will continue to rise,” says Ken Abosch, compensation, strategy and market development leader at Aon Hewitt.

While bonuses have always been a part of the pay structure for certain jobs, like those in sales, Abosch says this trend is across the board. “We’re seeing it in pretty much every sector, including higher education and not-for-profits,” he says. So if you haven’t had your raise replaced with a bonus yet, that could be coming.

For businesses, there are a few advantages to giving bonuses instead of raises in today’s lackluster recovery. The biggest is that it’s not a permanent commitment. They dole out the money once, and they only have to repeat it if certain performance benchmarks — benchmarks which can and do change regularly — are met. Since bonuses and similar performance incentives are often viewed by workers as a sort of add-on perk, they can also be used as a “carrot” to motivate workers, and they can give workers a perception that they’re more in control of how much they earn.

That perception isn’t really based in reality, though: Performance metrics often include company-wide targets. You might be the best help-desk associate or accountant in the building, but if somebody in the corner office makes a bad decision, the company’s bottom line could tank and you can kiss that bonus goodbye.

That’s only one of the problems that switching raises with bonuses has for workers. “It impacts pensions and retirements,” Abosch says. Certain benefits calculations are based on your salary, so even if you’re getting the money in the form of a bonus, it’s not counting towards these important ancillary calculations. And if you lose that job, your unemployment benefits are calculated based on — you guessed it — your salary.

That’s not all. If you’re looking to take out a mortgage, buy a car or obtain any other kind of financing, the lender is going to look at how much you make. Depending on their underwriting practices, bonuses may or may not get the same weight as a fixed salary. The result? You could wind up paying higher interest on your loan, or even be denied outright.

TIME Careers & Workplace

There’s No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance

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Chris Ryan—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

A mixture of the two creates value in a way that neither does on its own

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

As parents settle into the new school year — a time for new schedules, new activities and new demands — the pressure to balance life and work is ever present. But to suggest there is some way to find a perfect ‘balance’ (i.e., to focus equal time and attention on work and home) is impossible in my mind. Or to put it more bluntly – the whole concept of work-life balance is bull.

I’m still a parent when I walk into work, and I still lead a company when I come home. So if my daughters’ school calls with a question in the middle of a meeting, I’m going to take the call. And if a viral petition breaks out in the middle of dinner, I’ll probably take that call, too.

And that’s okay — at least for me and my family. I have accepted that work and life are layers on top of each other, with rotating levels of emphasis, and I have benefited from celebrating that overlap rather than to try to force it apart.

I refer to this as the “Work/Life Mashup.” In tech-speak, a “mashup” is a webpage or app that is created by combining data and/or functionality from multiple sources. The term became popular in the early days of “Web 2.0,” when API’s (application programming interfaces) started allowing people to easily layer services on top of each other – like photographs of apartment rental listings on top of Google maps. There is a similar concept in music, where a mashup is a piece of music that combines two or more tracks into one.

One of the key concepts of a mashup is that the resulting product provides value in a way that neither originally did on its own; each layer adds value to the other.

Now, I’m not suggesting this is a guilt-free approach to life. People – and especially women – who try to do a lot often feel like they do none of it well, and I certainly suffer from that myself. But I have learned over time that how I feel about this is up to me. How much or how little guilt I experience at work or at home is in my control.

I also realize that the concept of a mashup is a lot easier (and perhaps only possible) for people with jobs where creating flexibility is possible. With these caveats in mind, here are some things to think about to create a work/life mashup early in your career: add value and don’t ask permission.

For the rest of the story, please go to Fortune.com.

TIME Workplace & Careers

3 Little Words You Should Never Say

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Easy to blurt out, hard to take back

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

You’re in a meeting, just wrapping up your status update, and things are going well. The group seems reassured that you’re on top of things. Then, just as you’re about to close your laptop and head for the door, your boss’ peer asks, “How are projections looking for Q2?” Your boss nods in your direction and suddenly, all eyes in the room are back on you.

Blurting out a panicked “I don’t know!” may seem like the path of least resistance in an uncomfortable moment—but if you want to be taken seriously as an emerging leader, you should ditch that phrase and learn what experienced leaders say when they don’t know the answer.

Saying “I Don’t Know” Costs You Credibility and Influence

I once spoke with a woman who was truly an expert in her field—the only engineer on her software team with a PhD. But despite her technical chops, people kept sidestepping her and going to her boss with questions that she could have answered.

It turns out that the tech-savvy PhD was in a job that required her to represent the department in senior-level executive meetings where it had been deemed acceptable—even encouraged—to interrupt whoever had the floor and fire a rapid stream of tough questions at him or her. No matter how meticulously the engineer prepared for the meeting (and firing squad), she would inevitably fumble, lose her composure, and say, “I don’t know. I’ll ask my boss.”

Just like that, she had inadvertently trained people to go to her boss with their tough technical questions. It turns out that Dr. Phil was right when he said, “We teach people how to treat us”—and that this is especially true when it comes to establishing credibility and influence at work. Every time you say “I don’t know,” you teach people not to come to you next time.

“I Don’t Know” is Not an Answer—or an Option!

Once, while at a professional crossroads, digital marketing executive Dr. Patricia Fletcher reached out to a mentor for help. When her mentor, Jeanne Sullivan, a seasoned investor and corporate board member, asked what Fletcher would do in a hypothetical situation, Fletcher began her response with “I don’t know….”

Sullivan cut her short, reminding her, “‘I don’t know’ is not an answer. The correct answer is, ‘I don’t have enough information to answer your question.’”

Fletcher now looks back on this as one of the best pieces of advice she’s ever received. “When it comes to business, there’s no such answer as ‘I don’t know,’” she says.

Prepare a More Powerful Response

In the business world, a person who speaks with confidence is likely to be perceived to be competent.

Writing for ForbesWoman, negotiation and leadership expert Selena Rezvani suggests, “Rather than turning to ‘I don’t know’ as a default, prepare yourself with some more powerful responses.”

Wondering what your options are? Here are four powerful options I recommend you commit to memory:

  1. “I don’t have enough information to answer your question.” —Jeanne Sullivan, founding partner of Starvest Partners (and Dr. Patricia Fletcher’s mentor)
  2. “Good question. I’ll find out.” —Chris Turkovich, principal program manager
  3. “Based on what we know today, my thoughts are…” —Selena Rezvani, leadership author, speaker, and consultant
  4. “I don’t have the data at hand, but I’ll get it to you later today.” —Senior software engineer

The PhD software engineer from the story above practiced these responses while standing in front of a mirror until she was able to stand her ground when fielding a tough question. Now, when pressed for an answer, she looks the inquisitor in the eye and responds in a way that builds her leadership presence and authority. And now, colleagues and execs alike know to come to her—first, before her boss—with technical questions.

Communicating with confidence is part of a leader’s job. To join the rank of truly exceptional leaders, upgrade your communication toolkit and eliminate your “I don’t knows” in favor of more powerful responses.

TIME Careers & Workplace

42 Ways to Make People Like and Respect You

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Own up to your mistakes… and then explain how you're going to fix them

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

We all want to be liked, yes. But—perhaps more importantly in the workplace—we all want to be respected.

Respect is so important when it comes to your career development. It comes into play when the higher-ups are considering your ideas, when they’re choosing people to participate in projects, and—yes—when they’re thinking about who’s getting promotions or raises.

But too often people associate earning respect with, well, not being very nice. We’re here to tell you that’s not often the right approach. Instead, try some of the ways below that you can make sure your colleagues like and respect you. You’ll be on your way to being seen as a leader in no time.

1. Do Your Job and Do It Well

The most basic way to get respect? Don’t spend your time worrying about getting respect, and instead spend that time doing your job really, really well. Get a reputation for being really good at what you do, and word will surely get around. As career expert Jennifer Winter explains, “It’s hard to ignore results, and when you’re striving for the respect of your colleagues, one of the best things you can do is show you’ve got the right stuff.”

2. Never Be Late or Miss a Deadline

Along similar lines, get a reputation for being incredibly dependable. That means, any promise you make—be it a date to finish a project, an appointment, or anything else—you keep.

3. Dress Up (the Right Amount)

You know the whole “dress for the job you want” spiel? While, yes, you should dress a little nicer than you’re expected to, don’t dress up so much that you look out of place or like you don’t fit into the culture. So if your company has a casual dress code? Avoid the sweats, but avoid the suit, too.

4. Treat Everyone With Respect

In order to get respect, you have to give it—and not just to the higher-ups. People will pick up if you’re nice to the bosses but mean to the receptionist or delivery guy, and think you’re a brown-noser rather than a genuinely good person. Aim for the latter.

5. Make Friends With the Right People

Seek out relationships with others in your organization who are well-respected and well-liked. And we’re not just talking about higher-ups here—think anyone who has a great reputation around the office.

6. Be a Connector

Know someone at another company who may be able to help with a problem a co-worker is facing, a friend who may be a great sales lead, or anyone else who you think could move the company forward? Introduce them! Doing this shows off that you have an impressive network—but also that you’re willing to share it in order to help others.

7. Invite People Along

If you got an invite to a snazzy event or are planning on networking after work one day, consider inviting along someone from work who you think might enjoy it. She’ll be thrilled you thought of her, and you’ll get a chance to get to know one of your colleagues a little better.

8. Use “I” Less

Studies have shown that people tend to use the word “I” more frequently when communicating with people they feel are more powerful than them. Want to level the playing field? Monitor your use of “I.” The people you’re speaking with will view you as more powerful without ever knowing why.

9. Ask for Help

While many people may think asking for help hints that you don’t know what you’re doing—earning you less respect—it can actually work in your favor in several ways (if done right). First, it shows the person you’re asking that you respect his or her opinion. Second, it will show that you’re productive enough not to waste tons of time trying to figure it out yourself. Finally, it shows that you care about your work (and your professional growth) enough to admit when you don’t know something—and then learn from it. For more on how to do this right, check out Winter’s advice.

10. Take Something Off a Colleague’s Plate

Have a little extra time? Ask your boss or another colleague if there’s anything you can help out with or take over for them. They’ll appreciate the lighter load, and your proactive willingness to help will not go unnoticed.

11. Listen—Really Listen

Nothing will make people lose respect for you quicker than if they feel like your focus is always somewhere else when they’re talking to you. So next time you’re in a conversation, make sure you’re really engaged. Adopt open body language, don’t let other things distract you, and ask validating or clarifying questions to show you’re paying attention. For more on upping your listening skills, check out career coach Lea McLeod’s advice.

12. Ask People “How Are You?”

Being all business all the time won’t make you very well liked. So take the time to ask people about their lives as well! You’d be amazed how good a simple “How are you?” can make someone feel.

13. Remember Things About People

Taking note of small details about people—their spouse and kid’s names, what they’re doing over the weekend, their hobbies, where they’re planning to vacation, and the like—and then asking them questions about those things or referencing them in conversation can be a surefire way to up your brownie points. It shows that you really listed, took the time to remember, and overall care about them as people. Have a terrible memory? Try Muse COO and productivity expert Alex Cavoulacos’ trick for remembering anything about anyone.

14. Own Up to Your Mistakes

Explains Winter: “I know, it sounds a bit counterintuitive, given you want your clients to think you’re a genius, but trust me: They know nobody is perfect. In fact, your clients will probably get a bit suspicious if you never, ever, make a single mistake. Admitting when you do, however, shows them you’re confident (and humble) enough to face the music. In my experience, that’s a trait most people respect.” (Hint: This applies to your boss and co-workers, too!)

15. …And Then Explain How You’re Going to Fix Them

That being said, simply saying you messed up and then not doing anything about it isn’t going to garner you much respect. Instead, when you ’fess up, make sure to come with a plan for how you’re going to fix things. And if you’re not sure what to do? Try to at least come up with a few options and then ask the person you’re talking to for his or her thoughts on the best course of action (see point #9).

16. Seek Out Feedback

Show that you know you’re not perfect and are constantly looking to improve and grow yourself by regularly seeking out feedback from everyone around you. And this isn’t just something for your annual performance review: Try setting up monthly meetings with your boss, team members, and even direct reports where you can solicit open and honest feedback from them about what you can be doing better.

17. Give Feedback, Too!

It doesn’t hurt to dole out some feedback from time to time, too. Obviously, you don’t want to become the office critic, but giving colleagues the occasional dose of constructive criticism shows that you’re committed to helping everyone around you grow and be the best professionals they can be. Here are a few tips on how to give this advice without seeming like a jerk.

18. Never Say “It’s Not My Job”

Notice the trash is overflowing? Take it out. See your colleague struggling to carry all the stuff for the conference booth? Grab a bag. Showing that you’re willing to pitch in on small things—even if they’re not part of your job description and may be beneath your capabilities—shows that you don’t think too highly of yourself and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to help the company succeed. And that’s something that people can respect.

19. Anticipate Needs

“‘I’ve actually already started on that’ is music to your manager’s ears,” explains Muse career expert Katie Douthwaite, “It means that instead of waiting for him or her to ask you to do something, you’ve already thought of it and taken action.” You obviously can’t anticipate everything, but thinking of things your boss commonly asks for or that will make his or her life way easier is a good place to start.

20. Do Small Nice Things for People

Whether it’s grabbing an extra coffee on your way to work for your boss (or your intern!) or getting some flowers for your colleague’s desk when you know she’s had a rough day, small gestures like this can speak wonders to your character.

21. Say “No” More Often

Really! While you may think jumping at every opportunity is the way to gain more respect, the opposite is actually more often true—especially when you don’t have time to do what you’re being asked to do right. “When you become known for having the guts to speak your mind, put a stake in the ground for the sake of everyone’s success and find better ways to navigate the rough waters, you’ll land as a person people respect, a leader,” explain leadership trainers Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin. So when you don’t have time, show that you respect your time and the quality of your work too much to agree. Other people will follow suit. Nervous to say it? Try these strategies for turning people down nicely.

22. Have an Opinion

Agreeing with everything everybody says won’t make people think of you as a leader. Instead, have a well-thought-out opinion on things, and don’t be afraid to bring it to the table. Whether it’s an idea about a new product or service or a thought on how a process can work better, people will appreciate you thinking of ways to help the organization improve.

23. Respect Other Viewpoints

Caveat: Don’t dig your heels in the ground too much when it comes to your ideas. Instead, consider other people’s viewpoints, too, and be willing to compromise and work together to reach a solution that works for as many people as possible.

24. Speak Up

Nothing shows lack of confidence in yourself like mumbling. So speak up! PR professional Ashley Colbert explains, “To be taken seriously in a meeting, speak clearly, firmly, and loudly enough so that people can hear you. And avoid trailing off at the end of a sentence or using fluffy language like ‘I hope to have this done’ or ‘I think it will get results.’”

25. Avoid the Gossip Mill

If you’re known for regularly putting down other people, people will start thinking down on you. So don’t waste your time speculating about the lives of others. Instead, spend your time by the water cooler genuinely getting to know your colleagues—you’ll still be involved in the social side of the office, without tarnishing your reputation.

26. Never Waste Anyone’s Time

Get more respect by showing people you respect their valuable time. What does this mean? Don’t ask questions you can answer yourself, don’t plan meetings that you don’t need, and don’t take forever getting back to people. You get the idea.

27. Make Your Meetings Worthwhile

People are pretty skeptical of meetings, and so will likely think less of you if they think your meetings are a waste of time. Make sure you’re following the 21 unwritten rules of meetings to have meetings that people seriously find valuable.

28. Figure it Out Yourself

Instead of always running to your boss for help when faced with a problem, do everything you can to figure it out yourself. Even if you ultimately need approval before moving forward with a solution, it’s better to come to your manager with a plan for him or her to give an OK to than to come asking “what should we do?”

29. Never Say “I Don’t Know”

At least, not on its own. Simply saying “I don’t know” leaves the person asking you a question at a dead end and doesn’t make you seem very willing to help. Instead, offer to help figure it out, get more information, or direct him or her to the right person to help out. See leadership coach Jo Miller’s suggestions for better responses when you’re really not sure.

30. Become a Stellar Public Speaker

Learning to speak well will gain you respect in many ways. First, you’ll have the ability to present more confidently in meetings. Second, you’ll be comfortable speaking at industry events, giving you credit as a leader in your field. But finally, all this practice and training will give you a more powerful speaking presence even in day-to-day conversations.

31. Work on Communicating Both Warmth and Authority

Body language expert Amy Cuddy explains: “When we judge others—especially our leaders—we look first at two characteristics: how lovable they are (their warmth, communion, or trustworthiness) and how fearsome they are (their strength, agency, or competence).” This is a fine line to balance, but Miller has some ideas for how to do it.

32. Have Clear Work-Life Boundaries

People are likely to connect with you more if you understand the importance of not working all the time. So set clear work-life boundaries—and then stick to them! Whether it’s that you never check email on the weekends or you leave work by 6 to eat dinner with your family, if you’re upfront about your boundaries, people should respect them—and you.

33. Don’t Leave Right at 5 PM

That being said, don’t jet out of the office every day when the clock strikes five, especially if there’s work that really needs to get done. Have boundaries, but show that you’re willing to pull extra weight when it’s really important.

34. Learn Your Colleagues’ Working Preferences—and Follow Them

Have a chat with the people you work most closely with about how they work best, and find ways to help them achieve that. Maybe one prefers conversations to emails and will appreciate you coming over to her desk rather than sending a lengthy message. Maybe another needs quiet working time in the morning and will notice if you stop scheduling meetings during that time.

35. Be a Teacher

When a teammate or direct report is having trouble or does something wrong, instead of getting angry, get helpful. Walk him or her through how to do it. You’ll get better employees, and they’ll respect you for helping them grow.

36. Be a Mentor

Take junior employees under your wing—even if they don’t report to you—and help advise them on everything from company politics to career growth. Not only will the employees you’re advising gain more respect for you, but others will notice the gesture, too.

37. Help Out Newbies

When someone new joins the company, make sure to say hello and let him know you’re there if he has any questions or needs help—even if he’s not in your department. People all over the company will start seeing you as a leader in the company from day one.

38. Champion Your Employees

Have direct reports you’re proud of? Understand their goals—and do what’s in your power to help them achieve them! Whether that’s setting up a meeting with your boss because you know they want to grow at the company or helping them find opportunities to grow important skills, look for ways to help them succeed.

39. Manage Upward

By simply waiting around to be told what to do by your higher-ups, you seem like a follower—not a respectable leader. Instead, learn to tell your boss what you need to get your job done well. You’ll improve your performance and command your boss’ respect. Check out some tips for learning this elusive skill here.

40. Don’t Complain

Are you tired after a long day, and still have more to do? Are you sick of one menial task you seem to be stuck with? Never whine about it, at least not in the workplace. Having a positive attitude about your work is critical to making other people think highly of you. And if you really have a problem with something? See if you can come up with a proactive way to solve it.

41. Get Out in the World

People will hold you in higher regard if you don’t just do your job in a vacuum. So make sure to stay up with the latest and greatest in your industry. Go to events and conferences, and report back on what you learned. Get meetings with experts, and maybe even bring them in to talk to your team. Read relevant articles and share them around to help others.

42. Question Yourself

Great leaders are good at self-reflection. Check on yourself regularly with questions like these and always be looking for ways to be better.

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