Job Seeker Blog

The 15-minute daily habit that will change your career

Austin Kleon, best-selling author of Show Your Work, tells us how to create a “daily dispatch” that, over time, adds up to something profound.

Growing up in rural Circleville, Ohio, in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Austin Kleon couldn’t have known how the social networks of the future would enable him to easily connect to the writers and artists who were his heroes at the time.

But the artist, recent SXSW keynote speaker, and author of Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered, was still eager for ways to interact with those worlds. At 13, he wrote to punk collage artist Winston Smith, who responded with a 14-page letter, the first exchange in years of correspondence. Last year, Smith was doing an open studio in San Francisco, and the two met in person—this time as peers.

“The best thing about putting your work out in the world is that sometimes you get lucky and get to meet your heroes,” says Kleon. “You start out as an apprentice, and you might not become a master, but you enter that world.”

The punk scene of which Smith was a part has influenced Kleon’s work in other ways. The concepts in Show Your Work!, he says, were influenced by Kleon’s study of the DIY and punk rock scenes—people creating ‘zines for their favorite bands and printing off copies at the local Kinkos.

“The technology is really important, and we all have tools that turn us into media producers now,” he says. “But what’s more important is attitude and spirit, that attitude of jumping into the world you want to join and making your own thing.”

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9 resume mistakes that might cost you a job

Some may be obvious, like watching out for typos and misspelled words, but others - like cookie-cutter copies or file names - might be more sneaky mistakes you’re making when looking for a job.

While good old paper may seem passe in the digital age, LinkedIn hasn’t completely replaced the old-fashioned resume.

“Resumes are the heartbeat of a career search,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, a career and workplace adviser at Glassdoor. “If done well, your resume will tell your story and sell you.”

And that hasn’t changed with the rise of high-tech options. “Even as technology has advanced and changed the way job seekers find open positions, the resume remains an integral part of the hiring process,” adds Matt Tarpey, a career adviser with CareerBuilder.

Then again, a less-than-stellar resume can also work against you. To keep that from happening, we asked Barrett-Poindexter, Tarpey, and Maele Hargett, an executive recruiter with Ascendo Resources, to highlight the most egregious resume mistakes they see over and over—and explain how you can avoid these missteps.

1. MAKING GRAMMATICAL ERRORS AND TYPOS
There’s no room for sloppiness. According to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, 58% of employers identified resumes with typos as one of the top mistakes that led them to automatically dismiss a candidate.

“In this day and age, there really is no excuse for a number of grammatical errors,” says executive recruiter Hargett. Common errors she sees include misuse of words (“your/you’re” and “lose/loose”), words spelled incorrectly (“business” and “finance,” if you can believe it), and overuse of punctuation (namely, commas).

“Don’t solely rely on spell check,” she says. “It’s helpful to get a second set of eyes on your résumé after you’ve reviewed it yourself.” She suggests reaching out to a trusted mentor or colleague in a similar industry, or if you’re a student, using the resources at your college career center or local library.

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The hidden qualities and tiny tricks that make someone an influential leader

Find your balance

Experts say you only have a few seconds to make a first impression. What exactly happens in those few seconds that determine whether someone likes or respects you?

It turns out, when others are sizing you up, they’re measuring your “strength” and “warmth,” characteristics, according to communication strategists Matt Kohut and John Neffinger in their book Compelling People, which is currently being taught at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools.

Strength is your capacity to make things happen with skills and willingness while warmth is the sense that you share the same feelings, interests, and view of the world as the person you’re speaking to.

“The discovery of strength and warmth that John and I had came from our early clients,” says Kohut. “They were either very accomplished and smart people to the point that they seem only interested in themselves and come off very cold and unfeeling. Or they were the nicest people in the world, but they were falling all over themselves apologizing and we feel like they won’t be able to deliver when the shops are down.”

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How Music Affects Your Productivity

Music has a way of expressing that which cannot be put into words.

It is for this reason (and many more) that music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity—but does music itself help one to create?

This is an important question to examine, because music has increasingly become apart of the modern-day work session.

The soldiers of yore may have faced insurmountable odds to the sound of trumpets, but we desk jockeys are typically left to fend off our piling inboxes with nothing more than iTunes.

With so much of our work now being done at computers, music has become an important way to “optimize the boring.”

Though it may be a fine way to avoid habituation, the question remains: does music actually make you more productive? More focused? More creative? Or is all that a placebo?

People like me need to know. For nearly all of my work sessions, I have music playing in the background. I once wrote 10,529 words on customer loyalty (how exciting) listening to nothing other than the SimCity 2000 soundtrack—and yes, more on that later.

Am I actively sabotaging myself, or is music spurring me to do better work?

Let’s take a look at the research.

MUSIC MAY HELP MAKE REPETITIVE TASKS EASIER
When evaluating music’s effectiveness in increasing productive output, one element to consider how “immersive” the task at hand is.

This refers to the variability and creative demand of the task—writing a brand new essay from scratch is synthesis work that demands a lot of creativity; answering your emails is mundane work that does not.

When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature, the research seems to suggest that music is definitely useful.

A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accure from the use of music in industry.

More modern studies would argue that it perhaps isn’t the background noise of the music itself, but rather the improved mood that your favorite music creates that is the source of this bump in productivity.

Music with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.”

The effects music can have in relation to repetitive tasks were further explored in this study, which showcased how assembly line workers displayed signs of increased happiness and efficiency while listening to music.

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Creating Job Satisfaction

Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.
– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

For many of us, the idea of having a job that is truly satisfying – the kind where work doesn’t feel like work anymore – is pure fantasy. Sure, professional athletes, ski patrollers, and golf pros may have found a way of doing what they love and getting paid for it. But is there actually anyone out there who dreams of sitting at a desk and processing paper, or watching products fly by them on conveyor belts, or working to solve other people’s problems?

Career dreams are one thing; practical reality is often another. When they happily coincide, seize the opportunity and enjoy it! Luckily, when they do not, it’s good to know that it is possible to get job satisfaction from a practical choice of career. Job satisfaction doesn’t have to mean pursuing the ultra-glamorous or making money from your hobby. You can work at job satisfaction, and find it in the most unexpected places…

The heart of job satisfaction is in your attitude and expectations; it’s more about how you approach your job than the actual duties you perform. Whether you work on the farm, a production line, in the corner office or on the basketball court, the secret is to understand the key ingredients of your unique recipe for job satisfaction.

Identify your Satisfaction Triggers

There are three basic approaches to work: is it a job, a career, or a passion? Depending on which type of work you are in right now, the things that give you satisfaction will vary.

If you work at a JOB, the compensation aspects of the position will probably hold more appeal than anything else, and have the greatest impact on whether you stay or go.
If you work at a CAREER, you are looking for promotions and career development opportunities. Your overall satisfaction is typically linked with your status, power, or position.
If you work at a PASSION, the work itself is the factor that determines your satisfaction, regardless of money, prestige, or control.
Inevitably, these are generalizations, and you will probably find that you get satisfaction from more than one approach to work. Being aware of the type of work you are doing, and the things you need for job satisfaction, will help you to identify and adjust your satisfaction expectations accordingly.


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Becoming Well-Liked at Work

Improve yourself and improve your career

IJoe Clueless (a real person whose name I’ve changed to protect the guilty) is smart, handsome, and hardworking. Yet he’s been let go many times from corporate jobs and now, at 45, is a substitute teacher.

Joe needed all these lessons. Perhaps even you could use one or two:
LESSON 1. Joe was unduly negative: “That idea will never work.” or “This company isn’t going anywhere.” Even if you’re right, you pay a big likeability price for each complaint. So, when tempted to be negative, assess whether the benefit is worth the likely liability: Is this person open to criticism? Have you criticized him too often in the past? How likely is it she’ll change her mind?

You also improve your risk/reward ratio if you criticize only when you can propose (tactfully) a likely acceptable solution. Otherwise, you’re just seen as a whiner.

LESSON 2. Joe assumed that his obvious intelligence justified a know-it-all style. Even if your statements are brilliant, that style unnecessarily demeans everyone else. And who knows, even you might occasionally be wrong. So, make assertions in a way that allows for the possibility you’re incorrect, for example, “I think (insert your statement.) What do you think?”

Rule of thumb: If your argument is rejected, take no more than one more stab at it. If that doesn’t work, drop it. Pursuing it further is more likely to brand you as stubborn than to change minds.

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Eight Keys to Making the Most of Your Job

Be effective where you are

You think landing a great job is important? Even more important is whether you make the most of it. These rules show you how:

—Don’t let the cement dry. My daughter got a job in the White House. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was to answer letters to Socks, the Clintons’ cat. I told her: “Right now, your feet are in wet cement. Unless you get pulled out now, you’ll probably be stuck there. Tell your boss, ‘I’m willing to pay my dues but I believe I could contribute more. I’m a pretty good writer and researcher,” In two weeks, my daughter was writing Hillary’s daily briefing. Moral: Don’t like your first job description? Tactfully ask for a change.

—Be Time-Effective. Jiminy Cricket sat on Pinocchio’s shoulder, ever whispering advice in the long-nosed marionette’s ear. The most productive employees also have a little voice on their shoulder ever whispering in their ear, ‘Is this the most time-effective way?” Not, “Is this the fastest?” Not, “Is this the highest-quality?” But “Is this the most time-effective way?”

—Get credit. Get credit for your good work. Have a great idea? Don’t just tell your boss. Bring it up at a meeting. Have you created a draft work product you’re proud of? Consider sending it to respected colleagues for feedback…and to show them that you’re hot stuff. At evaluation time, ask, “I’ve kept a list of some work efforts I feel good about. Would you like to see it?”

—Get the truth and get it fast. Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companion, speaks of the imaginary Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. In real life, also, most people think of themselves as above average, which is why most terminated employees are shocked. So, from Day One, ask for candid feedback, not just you’re your boss but from respected coworkers, customers, etc. And when you get that feedback, don’t necessarily change, but truly consider it.

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Can Introverts Get Ahead in the Workplace?

3 steps introverts can take to highlight their talents and advance their careers.

Are you an introvert? If not, someone you know probably is. Studies show that one-third to one-half of Americans are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

While no one has an entirely introverted or extroverted personality type, people tend to be more of one or the other, experts say. Someone more introverted is energized by time alone, is an excellent listener, thinks carefully before speaking or acting, and prefers to express feelings in writing instead of talking, according to Beth Buelow, the Tacoma, Wash.-based founder of The Introvert Entrepreneur.

If you’re an introvert looking to gain ground in your career, you may be sitting on a gold mine. Leadership in the American workplace is imbalanced, some experts say, and in need of more introverted styles.

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7 Ways to Move Up by Moving Over

Over is the new up in many jobs and industries. Learn how to use lateral moves and other off-the-ladder opportunities for career catapults and avoid getting derailed.

Are you looking for that next career challenge but unsure how to get there? Climbing the corporate ladder might not be the only way. Today more than ever, a career detour just might lead to your career destiny. At every level — including the top — professionals, managers, and executives-in-waiting commonly zigzag through several lateral lurches before stepping up to their destination position.

Why has lateral become the new way to the top? The recession is partly to blame — the hierarchy in many companies flattened and compressed during the recession, effectively eliminating rungs that were previously part of the expected climb.

Because of this reality, it has become more important to “think sideways.” If you don’t plan ahead by considering lateral rotations as part of your career development plan, you may end up stuck on your current ladder rung indefinitely, unless you find a way to take a larger-than-usual step up. Yet paradoxically, exceptional advancement is less likely if you haven’t taken the time to boost your experience and confidence with lateral moves.


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Name-Dropping During an Interview

It might seem like a good idea, but think twice before you work a name into the conversation.

Usually knowing someone at a company where you’re seeking employment is a good thing. But dropping their name without any tact could rub a human resources official the wrong way and it might even cost you the job. “HR folks can sabotage a search if they feel one-upped,” said career coach Kelley Rexroad, a former human resources executive with more than 25 years of recruiting experience. “It is an ugly but true fact.”

Name-dropping is a technique that might seem smart during an interview, but experts say that most good hiring managers will see right through it and the ploy could backfire drastically.

“I have a saying given to me years ago by a friend: ‘You can’t unring a bell,’ ” Rexroad said. “Don’t name-drop until you need to. You could see the person you know in the hallway when you interview. If he (or) she speaks to you, you will get big points for not name-dropping.”

Chad Oakley, president and chief operating officer of the Charles Aris recruiting firm, has personally placed hundreds of people in 100K-plus jobs, but he says that some have missed out because of name-dropping. “If it’s done inappropriately, it can come across as egotistic and pretentious and can backfire,” he said.

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