Monthly Archives: March 2017

Prove You’re as Smart as Your Resume Says You Are

Do you know what an Allen wrench is?

The engineer my friend hired a few years ago didn’t—despite his degree.

His employment status changed after that. You see, it’s one thing to be able to list a college, graduate program, or certificate on your resume. Competence is an entirely different matter, however.

What does this mean for you? How do you prove that you’re as smart as your resume implies? I’m glad you asked.

Keep Learning

There’s simply no replacement for learning. Certainly there are traditional routes you can follow to further your education like attending grad school or enrolling in an intensive course.

But it’s silly to assume those paths are the sum total of a good education. Growth is a constant and lifelong process, and information is more accessible than at any time in our history. You can take free online classes, listen to podcasts, watch videos, read voraciously, listen to audiobooks—the list goes on, and the variety of topics which you have access to is endless.

And certainly, since you have access to endless topics so long as you have an internet connection or a library card, you don’t really have any excuses.

Continuing to learn and push yourself is the best thing you can do if you want to be marketable. And, it’s not only good for your career and your brain (obviously), it’s also great for your self-esteem.

Put in Effort

You may be hearing your mom’s voice right about now, or maybe the voice of a teacher or mentor from your past. You know what? They’re right, and I can’t over-emphasize this.

Anyone can sign up for a class. Anyone can show up and sit through the class. It takes effort to actually draw as much knowledge as you can from that class, to apply that knowledge outside of the classroom (whether virtual or brick and mortar), and to build on that knowledge.

Effort separates the mediocre from the exceptional, and the amount of effort you put into expanding your knowledge is entirely, completely up to you.

The same goes for collecting credentials. I know some folks with long strings of acronyms after their names who are truly exceptional, and others who are not so exceptional.

Earning certifications or licenses can look good on paper initially and can certainly be a worthwhile investment. But anyone with five minutes of work experience knows a credential is only as good as the person behind it.

Demonstrate Mastery

Speaking of proving something, when you invest in your education, consider how you can go beyond just telling a potential employer or your current manager that you’ve completed a degree or earned a license, for example, and instead demonstrate your knowledge and skills.

After all, you’ve poured the time, energy, and money into bettering yourself. For heaven’s sake, don’t make anyone guess at whether or not you’re qualified. Show them that you are.

Because at the end of the day, it’s not what’s on paper that matters most. Yes, the paper gets you in the door, but that’s all a resume is—a foot in the door. It’s what you can do that matters most.

Employers don’t create jobs as favors to hand out to nice people with sleek applications. They create roles because they need something done that ultimately impacts their bottom line. It doesn’t matter how many accolades you have if you can’t do the work.

Finally, when you’ve completed a degree, program, or course, don’t think of it as reaching the finish line. I often tell new college graduates, “This is just the beginning. Your degree is a launchpad for much, much more.” Where you go in your career and how you move forward depends in no small part on how you handle yourself.

Keep learning. Keep challenging yourself. Keep building relationships across industries, gaining knowledge across industries, and looking for new opportunities.

You can’t stagnate if you’re always learning. And you won’t be stuck trying to figure out what you want to do and where you want to go in your career if you’re regularly exposing yourself to new things.

Do Differently if I Could Start My Career Again

My career over the past seven years hasn’t been perfect—in fact, we could all agree that if we had the chance, we’d probably turn back time and do certain things a little bit differently.

Alas, this isn’t possible (otherwise someone please tell me where can I get one of those time machines). However, I have learned several valuable lessonsthroughout my experience that might help you as you navigate your own career.

Pst—you’re not too late to do any of these things!

1. Invest Less in Materials, More in Your Mind

The trajectory of your career will be largely based on how you decide to spend your initial paychecks. You’ll be tempted to spend it on getting a nicer apartment, upgrading your clothes, and going out to fancier restaurants.

While these aren’t necessarily bad things—you deserve to treat yourself every once in a while—you might want to think about spending your money on knowledge instead. It’ll not only give you the greatest return on investment, but also be the one thing that lasts over time.

There are certain skills that are applicable to any job, such as communication, knowing how to effectively read and write, building strong relationships, networking, and time management, while there are obviously others that are more specific to your industry.

To expand on any of these, you have several options for investing your money (instead of having a luxurious weekend away)—you can take an online class, or buy a career-boosting book, or even hire a career coach.

2. Make Health a Number One Priority

Health is the foundation that accelerates everything in your life, including your career. It elevates your creativity, energy, and grit to get through the inevitable ups and downs you’ll experience.

For far too long, I struggled to find breakthroughs in my career because I was neglecting my health, both mental and physical. This led to having less willpower and discipline during my day, and thus being less productive over time.

Prioritizing your health isn’t just a one-time task. It actually has to take priority over everything you do. That means scheduling it into your calendar, making investments to buy the right food and exercise regularly, and even giving up other bad habits.

It’s true: Once you have your health together, everything else comes easier.

3. Learn How to Best Manage Your Time (Whatever That Means for You)

How we spend our time ultimately determines how much we accomplish in our lifetime. While 30 minutes here or there getting sucked into Facebook or taking one too many coffee breaks doesn’t feel like much, it can start to add up in a bad way.

The thing is, how you manage your time is something only you can figure out—everyone works through their to-dos in different ways.

The best time management tactics I’ve learned over time—that might help you get started—are usually the simplest. For example, you can try scheduling everything into your calendar so each task has a specific time frame for completion.

Or, you can try the “One Thing” strategy of asking yourself, “What’s the onetask I can complete that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

Or, you can try one of these six better productivity hacks for people who don’t love the “famous” ones.

We can’t control how time passes, but we can maximize it to be, do, and achieve more.

4. Treat Every Relationship as Life-Long

The person you meet today may be someone you work with two, five, or 10 years from now. He or she could be an employee you want to hire, a potential business partner, or even your future boss.

When you treat every relationship as a lifelong relationship, you’ll be more giving, more patient, and more pleasant to be around.

To practice this daily, you need to focus on giving first without expecting anything in return. This might mean checking in with someone you met at a networking event via social media or over email every few months to see what’s new with them. Or, setting aside time in your calendar to regularly have lunch with team members.

And, you never know how even the most insignificant relationships will help you down the road. For example, because she stayed in contact with a networking connection, Ann Shoket, author and former Editor-in-Chief at Seventeen Magazine, turned a one-time meetup into the job that launched her career.

5. Think Bigger

One of the most common regrets I hear from successful people I interview is that they “didn’t think big enough.”

Many of the things we want in our lives will come to us as long as we give ourselves the permission to receive them. I’m sure there are things you have in your life today that five years ago you only dreamed about.

Whether you’re looking for a promotion, a new career opportunity, or a better life overall, it starts by thinking 10X bigger and raising your standards.

Template for Writing a LinkedIn Article That Makes You Sound Smart

Call it thought leadership, call it authority marketing, call it anything you’d like. Positioning yourself as someone who has useful ideas—and is ready to share them—is a sure-fire way to build your personal brand.

Sitting on your best stuff and hoping someone notices your experience? Not so much.

So, if you’re looking to build your credibility, jump into a new industry, or impress the pants off hiring managers, this crash course will show you the best way to share your ideas!

1. Choose a Topic

People tend to overcomplicate picking what they’ll write about.

If you’re job hunting, just ask yourself: “What area of my expertise is most valuable to my dream company? Which ideas can I share to show them I know my stuff?” Now, if you’re simply looking to reinforce your brand, you can move past writing content that shows off your skills and write an article that also reflects your work style, values, or personal philosophies.

And, of course, with anything you write, you want to present valuable resources and a relatively fresh perspective on your topic.

Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • What challenges do people face in relation to [topic]?
  • Where do current mindsets and solutions totally miss the mark?
  • Are there three to four tips or solutions your audience should try? (Outline why people should try each one and how to overcome snags along the way).

Doodles, question marks, and scratch-outs—or their digital equivalent—mean you’re on the right track. Remember, you’re not writing the article just yet. You’re just getting thoughts on the page and figuring out which one of your ideas actually has enough to it that you could craft an article around it.

2. Lay it Out

I’m not here to teach you how to be a better writer, but I will fill you in on my process, because it makes crafting a 500+ word masterpiece a lot less daunting.

Really, all you have to do is think of your article like a series of fill-in-the-blanks. Write down the following categories:

  • Title
  • Intro
  • Idea #1
  • Idea #2
  • Idea #3
  • Conclusion

Dumping and organizing your ideas is easier when there are a few sections on the page to catch them. (Oh, and some pieces may revolve around one or two points—that’s OK, too.)

3. Get Writing

I know: Finally!

Start by filling in a working title that describes what you’ll generally be writing about, knowing the whole time that you’ll refine it once you’ve worked through your ideas on the page.

Next fill out each of your idea blanks. These should be the main ideas or tips you’ll be sharing. Start with just the sub topics, then circle back to flesh out each one with your ideas. Don’t get too concerned about how one section impacts another. You can weave everything together as you edit.

I know it seems backwards, but fill out your intro and conclusion last. Waiting until I’ve worked out my ideas in the body of an article helps me open an article on a stronger note (because I know what’s to follow), and filling out my introduction and conclusion blanks at the same time keeps my message unified from end to end. Try it once: You’ll love it!

Finally (and most importantly): Walk away from your computer!

Eat lunch. Talk a walk. Sleep on what you’ve written.

Then, come back to polish your new content. Which parts need more detail? What can you trim? Would it make more sense if Idea #1 came before Idea #2? Where could you use more personality?

And don’t forget: Many people with published articles or interesting blogs aren’t operating alone. They bounce ideas off more experienced friends or team up with freelance editors to make sure their stuff is top quality.

Hire an editor on Fiverr if you have to. Sneaky? Some might say so, but others would probably call that very smart. Another option’s to ask a friend to look it over for typos, and share any questions they have.

4. Share It

Publishing your article and sitting back to wait for some viral action sounds too easy, right? That’s because it is. But don’t worry, you don’t need to become an SEO guru or social media strategist to get your article some well-deserved attention.

One of the easiest ways to create some traction for your piece is to directly reach out to your network and ask them to share your article. You message might look something like this:

Hi [Name],

I just published a new article that I think might interest you. It’s called, “[Title].”

Here’s a link to it: [Link].

Thanks for taking a look; I’m excited to hear what you think of it!

Best,

[Your Name]

Make your article a visible staple in your personal brand by sharing it across your social media platforms and network, but don’t stop there.

Plug it into your email signature “Check out my latest article at [Link].” Include it within your resume, or as part of your interview follow-up: “You mentioned XYZ during our chat. My latest article might help with…”—you get the idea. You worked hard on this bad boy, so don’t let it go overlooked, even if it means leveraging a little shameless self-promotion.

Best Times It’s Actually OK to Break the Rules at Work

I recently read a newsletter by Raghav Haran, job search strategist and B2B content marketer, on how he picked up a new language in eight weeks and bypassed his college’s requirement that you need two years of language classes to graduate.

In his story, he wrote something that really stuck with me:

[Our] whole lives we’re told to ‘never take shortcuts’ and ‘be patient.’ If I took the advice most people told me, I would’ve wasted two full years of my life taking these extra courses, and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition money…Down the road, I started seeing similar things happen in other areas of life—some people hack their way to fast promotions in their career, while others ‘work their way up.’ Some people make career leaps and land jobs they were unqualified for on paper, while others wait to get the ‘right experience’…I learned that those who are afraid to ‘break the rules’ a little bit and test unconventional strategies end up wasting way more time (and sometimes waste more money) trying to find success.

It’s true, right? We see people all the time breaking the rules at work and not suffering consequences, but rather being rewarded for their daring nature. And, some rules need to be broken to leave room for more exciting opportunities.

Well, not all of us have the luxury of going rogue. Maybe our jobs require us to consistently follow a schedule or strategy, or our boss is overbearingly set in his ways.

So, how can you take some risks in a role that limits your creativity and innovation? Here are some situations where it’s OK to set your own agenda (within reason, I’m not your boss after all):

1. When You’re Not Given Strict Guidelines

When your boss doesn’t give you specific instructions on an assignment, or is only interested in the end result—a revenue target, a users goal, a set number of new clients—they probably care little about how you get there, just as long as you do.

That being said, there are some rules you definitely have to follow. Maybe there’s a script for what you can and can’t say to prospects, or a pool of people only you’re allowed to reach out to. But if you keep these in mind, the rest can be up to you to innovate a bit.

2. When You’re Given the Go-Ahead to Run With a Project

On the flip side, if your boss gives you explicit permission to run with a project as you wish, that’s not only your green light to get creative, but also an indication that they want to see you—if not, require you to—take ownership of your work. This means you should be breaking rules when you see more potential for growth, both for you and for the company.

3. When There’s Clearly a Better Opportunity

Along with this, if you see your team losing out on a better opportunity because they’re stuck in their ways, this could be your chance to prove breaking the rules a bit is beneficial for everyone.

Note: This scenario applies to smaller, less significant things—say, switching up your meeting routine or skipping a deadline to work on something more important. I’d take a guess that you don’t have the authority to make huge changes to your department or company’s strategy without asking for permission or getting all your information straight first (but more on that later).

4. When the Old Rules Are Obsolete

Your company may shift its focus constantly—especially if it’s young, smaller, or part of an ever-changing industry. This means that guidelines that were important a month ago may not apply now. And when they become obsolete, this opens up doors for you to explore new strategies, perspectives, and projects.

Of course, before you do anything out of the ordinary, understand why your company decided to change course and what the new rules are so you’re not overlapping with current processes or chasing after an irrelevant dream.

5. When You Ask for Permission

Finally—and this applies to all of the situations above—when you ask for something, sometimes you get it (crazy, I know!).

If you can make a case to your manager that certain rules need to be broken—it’ll help productivity, it’ll help you better reach your goals, it’ll make it easier to collaborate with other teams—you just might sway them to change their ways, and, even better, get them to help you out. And, by getting their permission first, you’re saving face if it doesn’t work out, and avoiding the fallout of going behind their back.