TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What Even the Most Absolutely Evil Boss Can Teach You

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Meriel Jane Waissman—Getty Images

You can learn quite a bit from misguided, wrongheaded, or simply hellish bosses

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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.

Many of us can point to former bosses and corporate heads who inspired us to become more well-read, better at communication, or more engaged because of their shining examples. But what about those leaders who shaped our behavior and management style because of the negative example they have set?

“We learn from everyone we work with, whether they’re good or bad experiences. They can be examples of things not to do,” says Gay Gaddis, chief executive and founder of T3, an Austin-based digital agency. “All of us have had people who were obstacles, who were bad examples. Sharing that is just as important as going, ‘Rah, rah!’ “

So, what have Gaddis and other executives learned from misguided, wrongheaded, or simply evil bosses?

The cost of a closed mind

When Gaddis was a marketing executive, her chief executive was overbearing, assumed he was always right, and failed to listen to others. During an economic downturn, Gaddis developed an idea on how to change the company’s direction to recover from the slump. She wrote a business plan and, full of excitement, presented it to her boss and mentor.

“He said, ‘I don’t support your plan and I’m not going to be a part of it.’ I was so shot down by that,” she recalls, that she quit to pursue her idea. “I learned that is a very important quality: you’ve got to listen to the people around you.”

Gaddis never would’ve thought to go out on her own if the door hadn’t been slammed so firmly in her face by the CEO. Indeed, his refusal to listen was part of her motivation to hit the ground running.

For the rest of the story, please visit Fortune.com.

MONEY Careers

What I Wish I’d Known About My First Paycheck When I Was 22

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When you get your first job offer, you can dig in and ask for more (nicely). Paul Kelly—Getty Images/Flickr Select

Earning every penny you're worth when you join the workforce can pay off for the rest of your life. So don't hesitate to negotiate.

For many people, negotiating pay is not a welcome task. In fact, almost half of U.S. workers simply accept the first offer. And when you’ve just graduated from college and are interviewing for your first real job, your focus is probably on landing the job, not demanding top dollar.

I’m here to say that more often than not it’s worth asking for a little bit more. I’ve been there, and if I could sit down with my 22-year-old self, there are a few things I’d tell her about that first salary negotiation.

Employers Expect You to Negotiate

The greatest fear I’ve heard people express is that a job offer might be rescinded if they try to negotiate the pay. As long as you’re respectful and reasonable, that’s very unlikely.

The prospective employer has already expressed interest in hiring you. As in any negotiation, they expect you to do just that—negotiate. It’s okay to simply ask if the salary is negotiable or to suggest a number that is slightly higher than what’s proposed. Most employers will have a salary range in mind when they make you an offer, not a hard-and-fast number. If they are first to float a figure, they usually won’t start at the top of that range.

The best thing you can do for yourself is come to that discussion prepared so that you know what an appropriate counter-offer would be. Do your salary research ahead of time. You want to know the potential pay range based on the job title, city, company size, and industry, as well as what you bring to the table—your education and any relevant experience. Negotiating blindly is not a great plan. Proposing a salary number that’s too high or too low for the position just indicates that you haven’t done your homework.

Your Salary Will Level Out Around 40

Typically, your biggest opportunity for pay increases is in the first 20 years or so of your career, so keep negotiating well. When PayScale delved into the data, we found that pay essentially goes nowhere after age 40, once you account for inflation. Your early career is when you have the most opportunity to rise up in the ranks.

Once you’ve reached a certain level in your chosen career, meteoric growth just isn’t as possible as it was when you were starting out. Additionally, even if you continue to see pay increases in your later career, if your raises are not keeping pace with inflation, you may not be able to stretch your paycheck any further year after year. In fact, it could be shrinking.

Not Speaking Up Now Means Working Longer

I know retirement seems a long way off, but the earlier you start considering it, the happier you’ll be later in life. According to the 2013 Wells Fargo Retirement Study, 34% of the middle class expect to work until they are at least 80 years old because they will not have saved enough for retirement.

You don’t want to be one of those people, do you? You want to be in the group that planned early so you can retire in your sixties and travel the world.

Even a small difference in starting salary could mean some serious money over the course of a career, according to a recent study by researchers at George Mason University and Temple University. The study concluded that “a 25-year-old who negotiated a starting salary of $55,000 will earn $634,000 more than a non-negotiator who accepted an initial offer of $50,000” (assuming a 5% average annual pay increase over a 40-year career.)

Just remember to invest that extra $5,000 in a 401(k) plan or other retirement fund, especially if your employer offers a 401(k) match. Your 80-year-old self will thank you.

Lydia Frank is editorial director at PayScale.com, a site that provides on-demand compensation data and software to employees and employers.

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Will Sink You

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Image Source—Getty Images/Image Source

Makes these and hiring managers will cringe

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

By Lily Zhang

Cover letters don’t get a lot of love. And considering how tough it is to write a good one, it’s kind of understandable that people tend to throw them together at the last minute (or update one they wrote last month), attach it to their resume, and call it good.

But this, my friends, is the biggest cover letter mistake you could make. In fact, this document is the best chance you have to give the hiring manager a glimpse of who you are, what you bring to the table, and why you—above all those other candidates—are the one for the job.

Don’t give up your chance to share your best qualifications in a fresh, unique way. And while you’re at it, don’t make these seven other common cover letter mistakes I see all the time.

1. Starting With Your Name

How do you start a cover letter? Let me set the record straight now and say it’s not with, “My name is John Smith.” Unless you’re already famous, your name just isn’t the most relevant piece of information to start with. Not to mention that your name should be listed on your resume, the sign-off in your cover letter, and in other parts of your application.

Instead

Start with a relevant qualification as a way to introduce yourself. If you’re a recent grad with a passion for environmental activism, go with that. Or, maybe you’re a marketing professional with 10+ years of healthcare industry experience—introduce yourself as such, and connect it to the position you are applying to. (Here’s a bit more about kicking off your cover letter with an awesome opener.)

2. Rehashing Your Resume

If your cover letter is basically your resume in paragraph form, you’re probably going to need to start over. Your resume likely the first thing a recruiter looks at, so you’re wasting your time (and the recruiter’s) if your cover letter is a harder-to-read version of something he or she has already seen.

Instead

Focus on one or two (OK three, max) examples of your work that highlight what you can bring to the position, and try to help your reader picture you doing the work by really diving deep and detailing your impact. You want the hiring manger to be able to imagine plucking you out of the work you’re describing on the page and placing you into his or her team seamlessly.

3. Not Being Flexible With the Format

Remember those three paragraph essays you wrote in middle school? Your cover letter is not the place for you to be recalling those skills. Rather than fitting your message into a particular format, your format should be molded to your message.

Instead

Consider what message you’re trying to get across. If you’re going to be spending the majority of the letter describing one particular relevant experience—maybe that three-paragraph format makes sense. However, if you’re thinking about transferable skills or want to explain how your career has taken you from teaching to business development, a more creative approach could be appropriate. I’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across.

4. Going Over a Page

There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. Unless you’re applying for a managerial or executive position, it’s unlikely a recruiter would look beyond your first page of materials anyway.

Instead

Keep it concise and, ideally, wrap up around three quarters of the way down the page. Remember that you’re not trying to get everything on one page—you’re trying to entice the hiring manager enough to bring you in for an interview. Think of your cover letter as the highlights reel of your career.

5. Over Explaining

Are you a career changer or doing a long distance job search? No matter how complicated your reasons for applying to a job are, it would be a mistake to spend an entire paragraph explaining why you’re moving to San Francisco from New York.

Instead

If your reasons for applying to a position would be made clearer with some added explanation, add them in, but keep them short. Limit yourself to a sentence either in the first paragraph or the last paragraph for a location change, and no more than a paragraph to describe a career change.

6. Focusing Too Much on Training

Maybe you just finished your master’s degree or finally got the hang of coding. Great! But even if your most relevant qualification is related to your education or training, you don’t want to spend the majority of your time on coursework. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience—what you can walk through the door and deliver on Day 1.

Instead

Certainly mention your educational qualifications if they are relevant, but focus the bulk of your cover letter on experiences. Even if your most relevant experience is education, present it more in the form of projects you worked on and job-related skills you gained, rather than actually explaining course content.

7. Sharing Irrelevant Information

Cultural fit is one of those big buzzwords in the recruiting world now, and there’s no question that it’s important to tailor your cover letter to each company to show your compatibility. But it starts getting a little weird when you start writing about your bowling league or active social life. (And don’t try to tell me this doesn’t happen—I’ve seen it.)

Instead

A better way to show that you’re a good cultural fit for the job is to focus on values—not activities. Mine company websites for the way they describe their company culture, then use that intel to show how your own values align. (Here’s some moreon how to show you get the company culture in a cover letter.)

For the companies that have moved away from a cover letter requirement, an additional opportunity to show off what you have to offer is lost. But, for those that require cover letters or at least make them optional, you should absolutely make the most of them—and, of course, avoid these all-too-common mistakes.

Read more from The Muse:

What to Do When You’re Just Not That Into an Idea Anymore

The Best Ways to be Productive When Your Energy is Gone

What Your Facebook Profile Says About Your Personality

MONEY Careers

How to Impress Your Boss When You’re Never Face-to-Face

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How do you kick butt at work when you never lay eyes on your boss? Columbia Pictures—Courtesy Everett Collection

Q: I work in a regional office and report to someone who works at headquarters. How do I maintain a good relationship with my boss if we never see each other?

A: Getting your job done and done well is the foundation of a good relationship with your manager. But if your boss doesn’t see you every day, you may be missing out on opportunities to advance, says Ellie Eckhoff, a vice president at ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm.

“When you’re out of sight, you’re not going to be top of top of mind when it comes to landing important assignments or even promotions,” she says. If you can’t stop by your manager’s office for an impromptu chat, you have to work harder to connect on a personal level and build up trust, and it’s up to you to find ways to foster that connection.

Check in with your boss regularly, and don’t do it all by email or instant message. Research into how we communicate finds that about half of comes from non-verbal cues; 38% is the tone of your voice. Set up a regular time to talk by phone to give updates on projects and plan out future assignments.

Obviously going to headquarters regularly helps. “Get as much face time with your boss as you can,” says Eckhoff. But you may have to be creative about coming up with excuses to show up, especially if your company’s travel budget is tight.

Attend important meetings in person, sign up for on-site training classes, or volunteer for a team project that requires you to visit the main office. Another tactic is to attend conferences that your boss is going to and catch up at the event’s social functions. If your travel budget is limited, make trips that will give you the most interaction with your boss the priority.

Your manager shouldn’t be the only one you know at headquarters. Build relationships with colleagues who can help you navigate office politics and keep you informed about what’s going on behind the scenes. Recruit a mentor who works closely with your boss and can talk you up. Check in with these co-workers regularly and make lunch or drink plans ahead of your visits.

As for connecting on a more personal level, you don’t have to be a cyber-stalker to find out more about your boss’ life. “Simply reading his LinkedIn profile may help you find common ground if you know where he went to school and companies where he used to work,” says Eckhoff. Following him or her on Twitter may spark topic of conversations too.

You’ll have to go the extra mile to get to know your boss — and, more importantly, have him or her know you. For your career’s sake, do it.

Have a workplace etiquette question? Send it to careers@moneymail.com.

MONEY Careers

Make Sure a Friend’s Unemployment Doesn’t Ruin Your Friendship

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Melissa Ross—Getty Images/Flickr Open

Millennials and new college grads still face a tough job market, and that can create strains in your social circle. Follow this script to keep everyone happy.

You and your best friend graduated from the same college and moved to the same city at the same time. But while you landed a promising entry-level position, your friend’s been out of work for months. Even though you know that shouldn’t affect your relationship, you’re starting to feel that the two of you are drifting apart. Or maybe you’re simply sick of hearing yourself repeat the same chirpy platitudes (“I’m sure something will come up!”).

As millennials and new grads enter the job market together, one friend’s unemployment can easily become a point of tension. Landing a position is an uphill battle for some young job seekers. The unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds stood at 10.5% in June. Although that number has been on the decline, it’s still higher than the overall unemployment rate of 6.1%

“This mirrors a lot of other life-stage issues, whether it’s getting married or getting pregnant. One person is moving forward, and the other one is stuck,” says Ken Clark, a certified financial planner and psychotherapist.

The good news? You can take steps to ensure that your relationship doesn’t crumble as your friend scrambles for a job. No matter how long this stretch of unemployment lasts, here’s what you can say (or not say) to preserve your friendship.

YOU SAY: “A couple of people are coming to my place for happy hour this week—want to join?”

While your friend looks for work he or she may pull away from you or your group of friends. It’s normal—many people are embarrassed and reluctant to spend money on socializing when they’re unemployed. But if you notice your friend hasn’t been around much, try to draw him or her back into your social circle.

“A sensitive friend should take a leadership role among their circle of friends,” says Clark.

If your group of friends tends to spend a lot of money at bars or eating out, subtly push for a change. Invite a close group over for drinks at your place, or suggest a half-price movie or a free concert you can all attend. If spending time together doesn’t mean spending money, your unemployed friend may find it easier to join in.

“People have a tendency to self-isolate when they’re trying to be careful with their money,” says Amanda Clayman, a financial therapist and author of financial behavior blog The Good, the Bad and the Money. “Go above and beyond in terms of making offers to your friend.”

YOU DON’T SAY: “How’s the job hunt going this week?”

Avoid the impulse to dig for details on the job search. Trust that you’ll hear when a major development comes up.

“Stuff doesn’t change that much in a week,” says Clark. “If you’re asking more than once a month, it’s too much.”

That said, don’t stop checking in. Retreating from your friend could cause him or her to become even more isolated.

“Your presence and availability is huge for someone who’s hurting,” says Maggie Baker, a psychologist specializing in money and relationships. “The worst thing you can do is pull away.”

YOU SAY: “I could really use a running partner tomorrow.”

Be aware that unemployment can quickly give way to depression. Exercise is an easy, natural way to shake the blues. Invite your friend out for a brisk walk or run with you. It’ll give you two time to talk one-on-one and help your friend re-energize.

“Physical exercise outside is both beneficial and free,” says Clark. “You’re helping elevate her mood, decreasing anxiety, and building your relationship.”

YOU DON’T SAY: “I can give you feedback on your résumé if you’d like.”

You might want to offer to help edit your friend’s résumé or forward job listings that seem relevant. Tread lightly. Your offers could backfire if they come off as condescending.

“Just having a job doesn’t make you an expert on résumés,” says Clayman. “Don’t presume that you have the solution.”

Instead, make a gentle, broad offer to help in any way you can. Beyond that, let your friend’s reaction guide you.

“Usually if people are scrambling to find whatever work they can, they put off a very strong signal. If you aren’t seeing them ask for help, better safe than sorry.”

Read more Face to Face columns:

 

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

113 Best Pieces of Career Advice You’ve Never Heard Before

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Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

Everything you need to know, nothing you don't

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

By Scott Dockweiler

Thankfully for your careers (and our jobs), there’s always new advice out there, and this week we went in search of just that. Check out the articles below for a collection of the most unique (but seriously helpful!) advice we’ve ever seen—but never heard before—along with our favorite tip from each article.

Read on to get inspired—and get the know-how you need to get ahead.

You don’t become a star doing your job. You become a star making things happen.

  • These 23 nuggets of wisdom will help you out no matter what level you’re at or industry you’re in. (Mashable)

Just when you think you’ve got it 100% right, you can be taken down.

It’s not what you know—or who—it’s who knows what you know.

Do the jobs no one else wants to do.

Take pride in who you are, but leave room for the pride of others…

Whether you realize it or not, you’re self-employed.

Never, ever cook fish in the office microwave.

Read more from The Muse:

What to Do When You’re Just Not That Into an Idea Anymore

The Best Ways to be Productive When Your Energy is Gone

What Your Facebook Profile Says About Your Personality

TIME compensation

These Are the 15 Highest-Paid Women in America

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Safra Catz, co-president of Oracle Corp. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last year was a banner year for executive compensation

Corporate America is still largely run by men. But women are catching up. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Sixty percent of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees.” Female leaders have dominated headlines in recent years, leading mergers, overseeing IPOs, acquiring companies, and defining their organizations’ overall strategy. So who are these powerful women? Research engine FindTheBest studied public company filings with the SEC to find out, compiling the following list of the 15 highest compensated female executives of 2013.

Perhaps the best-known name from the list above is Sheryl Sandberg, who served as VP of sales and operations at Google before joining Facebook as COO in 2008. The Lean In author has since helped Facebook through a shaky IPO and refined the company’s increasingly important mobile strategy. She earned $16.1 million in total annual compensation in 2013.

Also an ex-Google exec is Marissa Mayer, who left her position as a VP in 2012 to help bring Yahoo—then floundering to stay afloat—back above water as CEO. During her first year, Mayer acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion and saw Yahoo’s stock prices rise by 73 percent. She returned $3 billion back to shareholders through selling Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba (a Chinese e-commerce company) and, in the process, made $24.9 million for herself.

Another powerhouse from the tech world, Meg Whitman made $17.6 million in 2013. Although she’s the former CEO of eBay and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman’s credentials extend beyond tech. She’s held executive positions at a swath of companies including Hasbro Inc., The Stride Rite Corporation (a footwear company), Bain & Company and Walt Disney. She also ran for CA governor in 2010.

Although Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Meg Whitman are among the biggest household names for female execs, none of them took the spot of top earner. Number one went to the CFO of Oracle, Safra Catz. Not only did Catz make more than did any other female executive ($44.3 million), but she topped the The Wall Street Journal’s report of the highest paid CFO’s in 2013, earning more than every male CFO. This article was written for TIME by Kiran Dhillon of FindTheBest.

MONEY Workplace

Meet America’s Most Beloved CEO—Too Bad He Just Got Fired

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AP

After the wealthy CEO of a supermarket chain was fired, thousands of workers walked off the job in protest—some getting fired themselves. What's up with that?

Workers understandably tend to go on strike or protest for selfish reasons—more pay, better benefits, improved working conditions. Over the last week in New England, however, thousands of employees at Market Basket, a supermarket chain with 71 stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, have been sticking their necks out (and in some cases putting their jobs on the line) in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, who was the company CEO until he was fired in June.

Rallies pushing for “Arthur T.” to be given his job back were held at the Market Basket headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass., on Friday and Monday, drawing upwards of 5,000 protestors. Meanwhile, the shelves of many Market Basket locations have gone barren, as there are too few employees still on the job to stock them. At least eight employees were fired over the weekend related to the protests.

“I have no regrets—I would do it all over again, and I leave the company I love with my head held high in the knowledge that there wasn’t a single thing more that I could have done,” said Tom Trainor, a Market Basket district manager who was one of the leaders of the protest, and who was fired, according to Boston Magazine. “I knew the risk but I also knew that I was fighting for something much bigger than myself. I was fighting for my family, for Arthur T. Demoulas, a man that I have tremendous respect, loyalty, and admiration for.”

In an era overrun with CEO hate and 1% bashing, such comments—and the actions of all those who have put their jobs in jeopardy—are nothing short of astonishing. When CEOs are in the news nowadays, it’s often because of things like their astronomical pay packages, or that they’ve insensitively laid off thousands of employees in a memo.

The backstory of how Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted in June, alongside a pair of other experienced high-level executives for the family-owned company, is a complicated tale. The CEO was fired by a board led, believe it or not, by his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. Apparently the family has been feuding about control of the business for years, with the battles for power including tactics that seem like they would only be found in fiction—fake identities, secretly taped meetings, and more.

Amid the struggles for control, it’s overwhelmingly clear where employee loyalty lies. Arthur T. was known for treating employees, who were not unionized, particularly well, with good benefits and above-average pay. More important, he was renowned as something exceptionally rare in high-power executive ranks: He’s just a good guy. During the rallies, employees spoke often about Arthur T. always having time for his workers, including frequent attendance at their family weddings and funerals.

“He’s George Bailey,” Trainor explained to the Washington Post, comparing Arthur T. Demoulas to the beloved savings-and-loan manager played by Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. “He cares more about people than he does about money.”

That’s probably not something they teach in business school. Nonetheless, several academics have been monitoring the Market Basket situation, and they’ve noted that many lessons can be learned about how the controversy is playing out. Michael Roberto, a management professor at Rhode Island’s Bryant University, wrote that “every CEO should wish that his or her employees would stand up so forcefully for them even at great personal risk.”

The board that ousted Arthur T. and fired the employees leading protests, on the other hand, seems to have its priorities wrong, and seems tone deaf to how this plays with the public. “The Board has badly miscalculated by firing managers who objected to the CEO’s dismissal. It only added fuel to the fire,” noted Roberto. They also drastically underestimated the importance of maintaining company values and low employee turnover, Roberto wrote.

Market Basket’s current leadership has defended its actions in a few statements released to the media this week. “The individuals who were terminated took significant actions that harmed the company and therefore compromised Market Basket’s ability to be there for our customers,” read a statement from co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch. A later statement urged employees to return to work, according to the Boston Herald:

“We strongly encourage all associates to return their focus to Market Basket’s customers, their needs and expectations,” co-CEOs Felicia Thornton and James Gooch said in a statement. “We understand the strain and emotion facing Market Basket associates. … We are committed to earning the trust and acceptance of our associates and Market Basket’s customers and hope that our associates will judge us not on our promises, but on our actions as we move forward.”

Nonetheless, the situation appears to be damaging Market Basket’s relationship with employees and customers alike, who naturally sympathize with their middle-class peers who have walked off the job to support a beloved good-guy CEO. And one who, Boston columnists have noted, has made sure over the years that groceries are fresh, of good quality, and priced low. As of Wednesday, the Save Market Basket Facebook page, in support of Arthur T., had close to 60,000 Likes, more than double the total one week ago.

“The employees and the customers — they see themselves as the organization,” Daniel Korschum, a marketing professor at Drexel University, explained to the Washington Post. And they therefore feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for Market Basket. “The board and the new CEOs are seen as the outsider. It’s the exact opposite of what you usually see.”

Risking one’s job to save that of your boss, rather than going about your business or even pumping your fist when a high-paid CEO gets canned—that’s also the exact opposite of what we expect to see. But under the current circumstances at Market Basket, things make more sense.

“It’s been a very difficult time for the hard-working associates of the company this past few weeks,” Arthur T. Demoulas said on Monday, after remaining mostly quiet regarding the protests, according to the Boston Globe. He called for the company to rehire the employees who were fired, immediately. “I love these people very much.”

Another rally in support of Arthur T. Demoulas is planned for Friday, again at the company headquarters in Tewksbury, Mass.

MONEY Careers

How to Convert a Summer Internship Into a Full-Time Job

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Igor Emmerich—Getty Images

Start laying the groundwork now for your first step into the working world, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

Now that we’re past the mid-point of summer, it’s time to start planning how to turn that summer placement into a full-time stay. (Parents of summer interns, talk to your kids about this now!)

Even those who are interning just to experiment with the field should still act as if they want a full-time job. This way, if you do decide you like it there, you will have done your best to land an offer; if it turns out you don’t want to continue, you’ll be poised for a great reference elsewhere.

Here are five steps to take to position yourself for an offer at the end of your internship. These tips also apply to temporary staff looking to become permanent, as well.

1. Focus on the job you have. When I ran internship programs and temp/ freelance placement, I would always see a handful of hires who were so focused on converting to a permanent job that they spent more time lobbying for their next placement than focusing on the one they had. This is a big mistake. If you can’t do what’s already given to you, you won’t get more (and for the worst offenders, you might find yourself with an earlier end date). You must willingly, excitedly, and accurately do what is asked of you. You always volunteer for more and become known for being a generous, collaborative team player. You double-check your work and earn a reputation of being someone who minds the details. You get the job done, and people see that you always complete your work on time—or even early. You do your job well, so that another one (perhaps that permanent offer) is waiting in the wings for you at the end of your current placement.

2. Confirm the process. While your current job is priority numero uno, you still want to pay attention to next steps—that is, how does conversion to a full-time offer actually work at this firm. Many companies use their internship program and their temporary hiring as an entry point to full-time employment. Employers take it as a positive sign of interest when you inquire about the steps you need to take to be considered for full-time employment. Some companies have a formalized process, including a mid-internship and/or end-of-internship evaluation. Ask for this evaluation form— you want to know the criteria you will be judged on. If the process is more informal, ask your manager or the HR person who hired you what they would recommend you do—perhaps they’ll say to check in a few weeks before your end date or simply to submit for posted jobs on the company site.

3. Get regular feedback. Even if your company offers a structured evaluation process, you need to ask for regular feedback. Don’t wait for the middle of your internship or temp assignment either; ask for a weekly review of how you’re doing, especially in the first few weeks of your stay. You don’t know the company or your manager well enough to accurately gauge performance expectations. Asking for direct and candid feedback will ensure you can nip any problems in the bud. Even if you’re doing a great job, feedback is essential so you can do more of whatever it is that your manager thinks highly of. You also line up evidence of good performance for when you ask for that full-time job later on.

4. Attend company-wide events (or make your own). Make an effort to meet people outside your immediate department. You might love your group and they might want to hire you, but what if there is no full-time position there? Many companies organize internship programming, which may include networking events to mingle with people from around the company or panel discussions that feature senior management or even new hires. If you’re temping, pay attention to any company-wide town halls or mixers you can attend. If none of these events are offered, ask your manager if you can be introduced to different parts of the company so that you can learn more. If you’re doing a great job, your manager will appreciate your interest.

5. Ask for the job. As you near the end of your short-term stay, tell your manager and/or HR contact that you’re interested in a full-time position (remember to confirm the process so that you know exactly whom to ask and when). People are busy, and if there is no formal process, they may dilly dally on what needs to be done to extend your time there. For students who won’t be taking full-time jobs till after the next academic semester or year, the company may overlook putting you in the system or confirming an offer for after you graduate. Sure, you can negotiate a full-time offer and process the details after you leave, but it’s so much easier and more seamless while you’re already in the company. You’re front of mind. You’re already in the payroll system. Don’t just leave before trying to finalize the conversion to full-time.

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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 will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

MONEY Small Business

The 4 Essential Traits You Need to Build Your Own Business

It's not enough to want to be your own boss. The founder of an advertising company explains the key qualities that go into being a successful entrepreneur.

Many people aspire to become entrepreneurs, but it’s not something that just anyone can do. To actually succeed you need more than a desire to make money or be your own boss. You need certain qualities.

Soon after I started my own business, Fortune Cookie Advertising, I began to identify crucial qualities that were fundamental if I wanted to succeed. While I had all of these four traits to some degree at the outset, I also had to consciously develop them over time.

1. A Clear Vision

This is the foundation of your business. Your vision may be based on a product, a service, or simply the desire to solve a problem for your customers. This is the “why” of your endeavor, and it must be relevant to the people you will be serving.

That’s why it’s not enough to want to be independent—your customers or clients don’t care about this. They care about your vision, which could be anything from wanting to build the most advanced computer operating system to wanting to find a fast way to deliver flowers around the globe.

Your vision may change, expand, or narrow over time, but you need to have one when you start. In my business, I started with the vision of being able to provide advertisers with an innovative way to get their message out.

2. The Ability to (Quickly) Pitch Your Business

If your business is straightforward, like selling books or changing the oil in people’s cars, it’s easy to explain. But some products and services are more technical or abstract. No matter what kind of business you decide to run, however, you should be able to describe it to prospective customers, investors, or even friends and family members in a few short sentences.

If this isn’t your strong suit, you might want to study the art of the pitch in terms of the movies. A screenwriter must be able to sell his or her idea to a busy and skeptical producer in a few minutes. Any new business owner should have the same ability. It shows that you not only know your business well, but can convince others of its value in language they can easily understand.

3. Persistence

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs in history failed at their first (and in some cases second, third, or more) businesses. Notable examples include Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, and even Bill Gates.

But perhaps the most famous example in history is Thomas Edison and his many attempts to design the light bulb. The quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” is often attributed to him. Hopefully, you won’t have to be quite as persistent as Edison, but the principle is the same. Many new ventures fail or experience setbacks, but you cannot let this stop you from trying over and over again until you devise the formula that works—you won’t get paid if you don’t.

At one point in our business, a computer failure resulted in the loss of hundreds of names of contacts, including customers and prospects. This data, of course, should have been backed up, but I had not gotten around to doing this. So my team and I had to manually rebuild the entire list. It was a painstaking process, but we recovered everything, and I learned a valuable lesson: Always back up!

4. Focus

This last quality is one that entrepreneurs need in abundant supply. You need to be able to see a project from inception to completion while overcoming distractions. You must be able to prioritize, set your own schedule, and meet your own deadlines. For people accustomed to having their tasks assigned to them by employers, parents, drill sergeants, or professors, this is a big change.

When I first started my business, it took me a few months to understand this. At first, I made elaborate schedules and to-do lists to keep myself on track. I still do that to some extent, but now it’s more internalized as I’ve gotten comfortable in the role of entrepreneur.

Almost everyone like the idea of being independent—in theory. The freedom to be one’s own boss is one of the most desirable things about starting a business. But only you can decide if you are focused enough to do it.

Shawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.

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.

More from the YEC:

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