Four Simple Steps To Refresh Your Job Search For Spring

Spring has finally arrived — but has your next job offer?

If you’ve been slinging resumes for the past few months with no success, take these simple steps now to bring some of that spring cleaning spirit to refresh your job search. If you plant the seeds of growth now and tend to your job search diligently, the right offers will bloom for you soon.

1. Clean up your calendar

Before we look outwards, start by cleaning house. Begin with your calendar: how are you spending your time today, this week, this month? Does your calendar reflect your most current and important goals? Aare you setting aside time to focus on the work that’s most critical to your long-term growth (like developing the skillset that will round out your resume) even if it doesn’t come with a deadline or someone else holding you accountable? If not, where can you make adjustments to set the healthy boundaries you need to preserve your most precious resource?

In addition to considering how your calendar reflects your goals, pay close attention to how it reflects your target audience. Are you looking to get a job in the government sector after years working for nonprofits? When and where are you building relationships with people in your target industry?

Go through your calendar week-by-week to add networking events, conferences, and even casual meet-ups to your agenda. Traveling to make those a priority might even be well worth the expense since job search-focused travel expenses are tax deductible.

2. Reconnect with VIPs

Relationship-building is probably the best investment you can make in your job search. Back in 2013, TheNew York Times covered a trend in hiring that’s only increased since then: employers are increasingly relying on internal referrals for hiring. That means that building relationships with staff members who currently work at the companies you’d love to work for can be total game-changers for your job search. Make identifying and reaching out to these VIPs a top priority.

Keep in mind — cultivating real relationships means being reciprocal. Don’t only reach out when you’re asking for help. Instead, consider sending along a timely article related to your contact’s work or tip them off to events you think they might want to head to as well. Be a useful source of information to them and it’ll feel a lot easier asking your VIPs to do the same for you.

3. Refresh your online presence

That old adage of the tree falling in the forest applies to your job search, too. If you’re doing great things with your career but no one knows about them — do they count?

Make sure your online presence makes clear what your value proposition is to your dream employer. Go ahead and Google yourself! Think about what your search results would look like to an HR manager at one of your target companies. How would you help their team? How would your skills and experiences add value?

If your skills, experiences, and achievements aren’t clearly communicated online, you must learn to boast like a boss. Bragging online has never been easier, but make sure you proceed with tact. Use LinkedIn, Google+ (which disproportionately impacts your Google search results), and other social networks that make the most sense for your field to document your achievements over time. Intersperse your self-promotional updates with resources and information you’re sharing for the benefit of others, and be sure to share news directly related to your field to show that you’re staying current.

4. Make coffee meetings count

So you’ve been searching for months and diligently growing your network along the way. But are you putting that network to work for your job search? It’s time to make those coffee meetings count by making a clear ask for the support of your colleagues and friends.

  • Ask for an email introduction to their hiring manager.
  • Ask for them to drop your resume off on their boss’s desk for you.
  • Ask them to let you know of the next industry event or conference they’re heading to.
  • Ask for them to make a phone call to the hiring manager vouching for you if you’ve already applied.

Do not hesitate to follow up. Make it easy for people to help you by writing the email introducing you for them. Keep your closest colleagues up-to-date on your job search progress on the regular and of course, thank them for continuing to keep their ears to the ground for you.

By Emilie Aries

Emilie Aries is the Founder & CEO of Bossed Up and the co-host of Stuff Mom Never Told You, the fiercely feminist podcast by HowStuffWorks.
This column originally appeared on

Shared from The Ladders


How Taking a Step Back in My Career Helped Propel it Forward

I’d spent most of my career working toward becoming an HR Director, and I was well on my way to achieving that goal. But, man, was I unhappy.

And I know—we’ve all found ourselves in jobs that aren’t very fulfilling, but this was something more. I was downright miserable. I struggled to get out of bed, I was grumpy all the time, and it took every ounce of energy I had to get through a day at the office. After months of muddling through, I had to face up to a radical idea: Maybe this wasn’t the right path for me.

But how would I figure out what was without quitting my job and having space to think?

Along those same lines, how could I quit my job when I had bills to pay, a dog to feed, and a husband who was supportive of my decision to explore a new career path, but rightfully concerned about how we’d manage financially.

Knowing that I couldn’t last in my role much longer, we sat down and took a hard look at our budget and our savings. What could we do without? How much of our modest savings could we use to supplement my unemployment? We decided that we had enough saved up to cover about three months of time off. And, just to be safe, I lined up a part-time remote role that would supplement my income while allowing space for me to job search. I also made a timeline for myself. If I hadn’t figured things out within three months, I would go back to human resources.

I don’t want to downplay how scary or financially risky this choice was. I gave it a lot of thought, and it took some serious planning. It’s not something that everyone can do. I know that I was lucky to be in the situation I was in. And there’s no way I could’ve done it without a supportive partner (and I do mean that both emotionally and financially), as well as a savings account.

Not to mention, quitting my job and essentially walking away from the career I’d spent a decade building was really disorienting. How could I now not want something I’d spent so long working toward?

Even harder than wrapping my head around that was explaining this choiceto my friends and family. Some of the people I was closest to just didn’t understand, and I struggled with feeling like I’d made a huge mistake. I kept wondering, was I crazy to do this?

This is all to say that leaning into my career pause took a little time—both to explain to others, but also to justify to myself. But eventually, I started pushing myself to try new things and make the most of my time off. I started practicing yoga. I took up bike riding. I read inspiring books about people pursuing their passions.

But I didn’t stop there. I made a list of the things I loved to do and thought a lot about how I could use my existing skills in new ways.

I put myself out there, offering resume writing and career consulting services to my network and seeking out contract recruiting gigs. Before I knew it, I was a freelance recruiter and had started a small resume writing business. My side hustles were doing well enough that three months away from the HR world turned into a year. I began to wonder what else I could do.

With each new experience, I became braver. I found myself saying yes to crazy things that I would never have done before. Like skydiving, a 40-mile charity bike ride, trekking through Patagonia, and selling almost all my worldly belongings to move onto a boat

I can’t stress enough how out of character these choices would’ve been for me just a year or two ago. Before quitting my job, I was not a risk taker. Now, I’m kind of in love with embracing things that scare me.

The facts are that the most interesting and exciting things that I’ve experienced since taking a step back from my career are all a direct result of embracing change.

I’ve learned that life can be an adventure, but only if you stop playing it safe all the time. You don’t need to quit your job to change the trajectory of your life. Just try making one change, then another and another. Maybe you self-publish an opinion piece on LinkedIn or start volunteering at a nonprofit that supports a cause you’re passionate about. Even something as simple as challenging yourself to speak up more at work or offering to plan your next department gathering can begin to shift your mindset.

Every time you experience yourself trying something new, you’ll get a little braver. And who knows where that will take you?

By Jaclyn Westlake

Originally published on The Muse

This Simple Exercise Will Help You Make Better First Impressions

Like it or not, the world’s built on first impressions. People’s perceptions of you—how much they remember or pay attention to you, whether they’re engaged by you, whether they’ll have or even want another conversation with you, what they’ll tell others about you, and why they may seek you out in the future—are all based on their initial encounter with you.

And knowing what kind of first impression you make involves a little self-awareness. But obviously, being self-aware doesn’t magically occur overnight. It requires you to understand the ways you shine and the ways you suck. You have to know your pitfalls and shortcomings. (We’re sure you don’t have many, but we all have things we can work on.) It’s worth taking the time to become though. Because when you’re self-aware, you learn to play to your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses.

This takes practice, of course. So, that’s why we suggest people start by taking inventory—as in make a list, check it more than twice, and write down your answers on a piece of paper. When you’re forced to write it down, you’re forced to be truthful with yourself.

This is for your eyes only (unless you want to share it with someone else), so we encourage you to be honest. By looking into yourself, you can determine what needs adjustment, what calls for just a little tweaking, and what works in your favor:

  • Do you understand the concept of personal space?
  • Do you exude confidence or arrogance?
  • Are you a listener or a talker?
  • Do your words carry weight or air?
  • Are you a good public speaker, or are you better online?
  • Are you comfortable walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation, or would that give you a panic attack?
  • How do others really see you upon first contact?
  • What sorts of things are you really bad at when it comes to meeting with people?
  • Do you need help getting organized?
  • Are you a good decision maker?
  • Do you take time getting back to people?
  • Do you hate conversations that aren’t about your interests or matters of importance to you?
  • Do you like small talk?
  • Are you naturally inquisitive or close-minded?
  • Have you ever changed your position on a deeply held belief?
  • Do you lie? If so, why? Is it because you want to feel self-important or because you feel like you need to keep up and fit in?
  • Finally, are you okay with what you’ve learned about yourself? Is there anything that bears correction?

So, now what?

Well, we’ve done this ourselves, by the way. And what we learned has helped us immensely in our own lives.

Scott, for example, often makes business decisions in the moment, but sometimes that’s been a negative in his life. Earlier in his career, acting quickly on introducing people backfired. He skipped critical thinking steps that could have avoided burning bridges or turning people off. After doing this inventory and realizing this, he’s changed the way he makes decisions. While he still makes business decisions daily, he rarely acts impulsively anymore.

Ryan, on the other hand, is a better listener than talker in group situations. This can be a strength and also a weakness, especially when more outgoing people are involved in a group conversation and his instinct is to take the backseat and let them tell their stories. “It’s great to be a good listener, but difficult for me to make an impression and drive the conversation in these situations,” he says. To compensate, he often carves out one-on-one time with the people who matter to him. Sharing a cup of coffee at a cozy café is probably more valuable than an open bar at a group networking event.

Try this exercise out for yourself and use it as a jumping off point to decide in what situations you shine, and in which situations you might not. The more you understand about yourself, the easier it’ll be for you to create those powerful connections and become a superconnector.

Excerpted from Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. It has been published here with permission.

By Scott Gerber & Ryan Paugh

Originally published on The Muse 

How to Get the Right Kind of Feedback in Your New Job (Because Your Success Depends on It)

The first 90 days of your new job are crucial to set yourself up for long-term career success. It’s where you make good on the promises you touted during your interview and set the stage for how people perceive you.

That’s why asking for feedback during this time is so, so important. It quickly demonstrates to your new boss that you’re invested, you’re committed to excellence, and that you’re in this for the long haul.

Plus, if done well, you can earn major brownie points that may help you get recognized later for opportunities to work on interesting projects or even advance more quickly.

Easy enough, right? Now that you know just how important your first 90 days are, here are some guidelines for how to ask for feedback to ensure you’re on the right path (or how to get on it).

When Should You Ask?

Eliciting feedback in these crucial first few days is a balance between giving your new manager and co-workers enough time to form concrete thoughts and opinions of you, while also being proactive in prompting feedback that will help you as you get onboarded.

Rule of thumb: Don’t expect a formal review by the end of week one. After that, it’s all a judgement call. How much real work have you actually had a chance to do? If you’ve just completed a big project or finished a tougher assignment, now may be the perfect time to ask for some input on how you did. Regardless of the above, don’t let three weeks go by without making the big ask.

A good rhythm for how frequently you continue to check-in will hinge on the volume and involvement of your work. That said, a good best practice is no more than once a week, but no less than once a month.

How Should You Ask?

Don’t pounce at the water cooler or in the bathroom while your boss is washing her hands. Reach out to your manager via email or in person and request a meeting directly. Explain what the meeting is for—people will appreciate having a heads-up so they can prepare ideas ahead of time.

Try something like, “I’d like 15 minutes of your time to talk about how you think things are going so far with me. Are you satisfied with what I’m doing, and the work I’m producing? Is there anything I can be doing differently?”

What Should You Ask?

Give your manager suggestions on what you want to hear, such as, “How am I integrating within the team?” “Am I operating at the speed you need me to?” or “How is the quality of my work? Any development areas you have already identified that I can work on?”

This is also the time to coach your manager on what you need in terms of resources. Would you benefit from regular one-on-ones or additional training? Perhaps a tracking system that you and your manager have access to to share what you’re working on?

Who Should You Ask?

Besides your boss, co-workers are also a great resource for feedback. While it doesn’t need to be as formal as with a manager, try crafting an email along the lines of, Hey, I’m loving it here so far, and would love to get some feedback from you to make sure I’m setting myself up for long term success. It’s really important to me I’m doing a good job and making a good impression.

The reality of soliciting feedback is that it may not always be 100% positive. So, prepare yourself mentally. All your good intentions will immediately be nullified if you go into “defensive” mode. Keep your ego out of this conversation and stay open and non-judgmental.

Then, send a follow-up email thanking your manager or colleague for their time and candor, and briefly outline your takeaways and any next steps you plan to take. Implement any areas of improvement right away and follow-up with your boss to make sure the adjustments you’re making are correct and noticed.

We know there’s a lot to learn in your first 90 days. You’ve got new systems, technologies, faces, and names to remember, and so much more. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Incorporating this advice displays maturity and commitment on your part, and will also give you a good indication of whether you’re doing well, or need to make some adjustments before its too late. Regardless of what you learn, it will empower you to excel in your new role.

By Jessica Vann

Originally Published on The Muse

How to Answer the 31 Most Common Interview Questions

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what a hiring manager would be asking you in your next job interview?

While we unfortunately can’t read minds, we’ll give you the next best thing: a list of the 31 most commonly asked interview questions and answers.

While we don’t recommend having a canned response for every interview question (in fact, please don’t), we do recommend spending some time getting comfortable with what you might be asked, what hiring managers are really looking for in your responses, and what it takes to show that you’re the right man or woman for the job.

Consider this list your interview question study guide.

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?

This question seems simple, so many people fail to prepare for it, but it’s crucial. Here’s the deal: Don’t give your complete employment (or personal) history. Instead give a pitch—one that’s concise and compelling and that shows exactly why you’re the right fit for the job. Start off with the 2-3 specific accomplishments or experiences that you most want the interviewer to know about, then wrap up talking about how that prior experience has positioned you for this specific role.

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2. How did you hear about the position?

Another seemingly innocuous interview question, this is actually a perfect opportunity to stand out and show your passion for and connection to the company. For example, if you found out about the gig through a friend or professional contact, name drop that person, then share why you were so excited about it. If you discovered the company through an event or article, share that. Even if you found the listing through a random job board, share what, specifically, caught your eye about the role.

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3. What do you know about the company?

Any candidate can read and regurgitate the company’s “About” page. So, when interviewers ask this, they aren’t necessarily trying to gauge whether you understand the mission—they want to know whether you care about it. Start with one line that shows you understand the company’s goals, using a couple key words and phrases from the website, but then go on to make it personal. Say, “I’m personally drawn to this mission because…” or “I really believe in this approach because…” and share a personal example or two.

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4. Why do you want this job?

Again, companies want to hire people who are passionate about the job, so you should have a great answer about why you want the position. (And if you don’t? You probably should apply elsewhere.) First, identify a couple of key factors that make the role a great fit for you (e.g., “I love customer support because I love the constant human interaction and the satisfaction that comes from helping someone solve a problem”), then share why you love the company (e.g., “I’ve always been passionate about education, and I think you guys are doing great things, so I want to be a part of it”).

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5. Why should we hire you?

This interview question seems forward (not to mention intimidating!), but if you’re asked it, you’re in luck: There’s no better setup for you to sell yourself and your skills to the hiring manager. Your job here is to craft an answer that covers three things: that you can not only do the work, you can deliver great results; that you’ll really fit in with the team and culture; and that you’d be a better hire than any of the other candidates.

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6. What are your greatest professional strengths?

When answering this question, interview coach Pamela Skillings recommends being accurate (share your true strengths, not those you think the interviewer wants to hear); relevant (choose your strengths that are most targeted to this particular position); and specific (for example, instead of “people skills,” choose “persuasive communication” or “relationship building”). Then, follow up with an example of how you’ve demonstrated these traits in a professional setting.

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7. What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

What your interviewer is really trying to do with this question—beyond identifying any major red flags—is to gauge your self-awareness and honesty. So, “I can’t meet a deadline to save my life” is not an option—but neither is “Nothing! I’m perfect!” Strike a balance by thinking of something that you struggle with but that you’re working to improve. For example, maybe you’ve never been strong at public speaking, but you’ve recently volunteered to run meetings to help you be more comfortable when addressing a crowd.

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8. What is your greatest professional achievement?

Nothing says “hire me” better than a track record of achieving amazing results in past jobs, so don’t be shy when answering this interview question! A great way to do so is by using the S-T-A-R method: Set up the situation and the task that you were required to complete to provide the interviewer with background context (e.g., “In my last job as a junior analyst, it was my role to manage the invoicing process”), but spend the bulk of your time describing what you actually did (the action) and what you achieved (the result). For example, “In one month, I streamlined the process, which saved my group 10 man-hours each month and reduced errors on invoices by 25%.”

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9. Tell me about a challenge or conflict you’ve faced at work, and how you dealt with it.

In asking this interview question, “your interviewer wants to get a sense of how you will respond to conflict. Anyone can seem nice and pleasant in a job interview, but what will happen if you’re hired and Gladys in Compliance starts getting in your face?” says Skillings. Again, you’ll want to use the S-T-A-R method, being sure to focus on how you handled the situation professionally and productively, and ideally closing with a happy ending, like how you came to a resolution or compromise.

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10. Where do you see yourself in five years?

If asked this question, be honest and specific about your future goals, but consider this: A hiring manager wants to know a) if you’ve set realistic expectations for your career, b) if you have ambition (a.k.a., this interview isn’t the first time you’re considering the question), and c) if the position aligns with your goals and growth. Your best bet is to think realistically about where this position could take you and answer along those lines. And if the position isn’t necessarily a one-way ticket to your aspirations? It’s OK to say that you’re not quite sure what the future holds, but that you see this experience playing an important role in helping you make that decision.

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11. What’s your dream job?

Along similar lines, the interviewer wants to uncover whether this position is really in line with your ultimate career goals. While “an NBA star” might get you a few laughs, a better bet is to talk about your goals and ambitions—and why this job will get you closer to them.

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12. What other companies are you interviewing with?

Companies ask this for a number of reasons, from wanting to see what the competition is for you to sniffing out whether you’re serious about the industry. “Often the best approach is to mention that you are exploring a number of other similar options in the company’s industry,” says job search expert Alison Doyle. “It can be helpful to mention that a common characteristic of all the jobs you are applying to is the opportunity to apply some critical abilities and skills that you possess. For example, you might say ‘I am applying for several positions with IT consulting firms where I can analyze client needs and translate them to development teams in order to find solutions to technology problems.’”

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13. Why are you leaving your current job?

This is a toughie, but one you can be sure you’ll be asked. Definitely keep things positive—you have nothing to gain by being negative about your past employers. Instead, frame things in a way that shows that you’re eager to take on new opportunities and that the role you’re interviewing for is a better fit for you than your current or last position. For example, “I’d really love to be part of product development from beginning to end, and I know I’d have that opportunity here.” And if you were let go? Keep it simple: “Unfortunately, I was let go,” is a totally OK answer.

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14. Why were you fired?

OK, if you get the admittedly much tougher follow-up question as to whyyou were let go (and the truth isn’t exactly pretty), your best bet is to be honest (the job-seeking world is small, after all). But it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. Share how you’ve grown and how you approach your job and life now as a result. If you can position the learning experience as an advantage for this next job, even better.

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15. What are you looking for in a new position?

Hint: Ideally the same things that this position has to offer. Be specific.

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16. What type of work environment do you prefer?

Hint: Ideally one that’s similar to the environment of the company you’re applying to. Be specific.

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17. What’s your management style?

The best managers are strong but flexible, and that’s exactly what you want to show off in your answer. (Think something like, “While every situation and every team member requires a bit of a different strategy, I tend to approach my employee relationships as a coach…”) Then, share a couple of your best managerial moments, like when you grew your team from five to 15 or coached an underperforming employee to become the company’s top salesperson.

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18. What’s a time you exercised leadership?

Depending on what’s more important for the the role, you’ll want to choose an example that showcases your project management skills (spearheading a project from end to end, juggling multiple moving parts) or one that shows your ability to confidently and effectively rally a team. And remember: “The best stories include enough detail to be believable and memorable,” says Skillings. “Show how you were a leader in this situation and how it represents your overall leadership experience and potential.”

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19. What’s a time you disagreed with a decision that was made at work?

Everyone disagrees with the boss from time to time, but in asking this interview question, hiring managers want to know that you can do so in a productive, professional way. “You don’t want to tell the story about the time when you disagreed but your boss was being a jerk and you just gave in to keep the peace. And you don’t want to tell the one where you realized you were wrong,” says Peggy McKee of Career Confidential. “Tell the one where your actions made a positive difference on the outcome of the situation, whether it was a work-related outcome or a more effective and productive working relationship.”

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20. How would your boss and co-workers describe you?

First of all, be honest (remember, if you get this job, the hiring manager will be calling your former bosses and co-workers!). Then, try to pull out strengths and traits you haven’t discussed in other aspects of the interview, such as your strong work ethic or your willingness to pitch in on other projects when needed.

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21. Why was there a gap in your employment?

If you were unemployed for a period of time, be direct and to the point about what you’ve been up to (and hopefully, that’s a litany of impressive volunteer and other mind-enriching activities, like blogging or taking classes). Then, steer the conversation toward how you will do the job and contribute to the organization: “I decided to take a break at the time, but today I’m ready to contribute to this organization in the following ways.”

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22. Can you explain why you changed career paths?

Don’t be thrown off by this question—just take a deep breath and explain to the hiring manager why you’ve made the career decisions you have. More importantly, give a few examples of how your past experience is transferrable to the new role. This doesn’t have to be a direct connection; in fact, it’s often more impressive when a candidate can make seemingly irrelevant experience seem very relevant to the role.

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23. How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?

“Choose an answer that shows that you can meet a stressful situation head-on in a productive, positive manner and let nothing stop you from accomplishing your goals,” says McKee. A great approach is to talk through your go-to stress-reduction tactics (making the world’s greatest to-do list, stopping to take 10 deep breaths), and then share an example of a stressful situation you navigated with ease.

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24. What would your first 30, 60, or 90 days look like in this role?

Start by explaining what you’d need to do to get ramped up. What information would you need? What parts of the company would you need to familiarize yourself with? What other employees would you want to sit down with? Next, choose a couple of areas where you think you can make meaningful contributions right away. (e.g., “I think a great starter project would be diving into your email marketing campaigns and setting up a tracking system for them.”) Sure, if you get the job, you (or your new employer) might decide there’s a better starting place, but having an answer prepared will show the interviewer where you can add immediate impact—and that you’re excited to get started.

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25. What are your salary requirements?

The #1 rule of answering this question is doing your research on what you should be paid by using sites like Payscale and Glassdoor. You’ll likely come up with a range, and we recommend stating the highest number in that range that applies, based on your experience, education, and skills. Then, make sure the hiring manager knows that you’re flexible. You’re communicating that you know your skills are valuable, but that you want the job and are willing to negotiate.

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26. What do you like to do outside of work?

Interviewers ask personal questions in an interview to “see if candidates will fit in with the culture [and] give them the opportunity to open up and display their personality, too,” says longtime hiring manager Mitch Fortner. “In other words, if someone asks about your hobbies outside of work, it’s totally OK to open up and share what really makes you tick. (Do keep it semi-professional, though: Saying you like to have a few beers at the local hot spot on Saturday night is fine. Telling them that Monday is usually a rough day for you because you’re always hungover is not.)”

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27. If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?

Seemingly random personality-test type questions like these come up in interviews generally because hiring managers want to see how you can think on your feet. There’s no wrong answer here, but you’ll immediately gain bonus points if your answer helps you share your strengths or personality or connect with the hiring manager. Pro tip: Come up with a stalling tactic to buy yourself some thinking time, such as saying, “Now, that is a great question. I think I would have to say… ”

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28. How many tennis balls can you fit into a limousine?

1,000? 10,000? 100,000? Seriously?

Well, seriously, you might get asked brainteaser questions like these, especially in quantitative jobs. But remember that the interviewer doesn’t necessarily want an exact number—he wants to make sure that you understand what’s being asked of you, and that you can set into motion a systematic and logical way to respond. So, just take a deep breath, and start thinking through the math. (Yes, it’s OK to ask for a pen and paper!)

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29. Are you planning on having children?

Questions about your family status, gender (“How would you handle managing a team of all men?”), nationality (“Where were you born?”), religion, or age, are illegal—but they still get asked (and frequently). Of course, not always with ill intent—the interviewer might just be trying to make conversation—but you should definitely tie any questions about your personal life (or anything else you think might be inappropriate) back to the job at hand. For this question, think: “You know, I’m not quite there yet. But I am very interested in the career paths at your company. Can you tell me more about that?”

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30. What do you think we could do better or differently?

This is a common one at startups (and one of our personal favorites here at The Muse). Hiring managers want to know that you not only have some background on the company, but that you’re able to think critically about it and come to the table with new ideas. So, come with new ideas! What new features would you love to see? How could the company increase conversions? How could customer service be improved? You don’t need to have the company’s four-year strategy figured out, but do share your thoughts, and more importantly, show how your interests and expertise would lend themselves to the job.

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31. Do you have any questions for us?

You probably already know that an interview isn’t just a chance for a hiring manager to grill you—it’s your opportunity to sniff out whether a job is the right fit for you. What do you want to know about the position? The company? The department? The team?

You’ll cover a lot of this in the actual interview, so have a few less-common questions ready to go. We especially like questions targeted to the interviewer (“What’s your favorite part about working here?”) or the company’s growth (“What can you tell me about your new products or plans for growth?”)

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Originally published on The Muse

By The Muse Editor

Changing Careers Is Scary, But This Advice Will Get You Past the Fear

If thinking about changing careers makes you feel paralyzed and overwhelmed with self-doubt, you’re not alone. Making a transition is undeniably scary, disruptive, and difficult.

Research on stress shows that the brain biologically perceives changing jobs as one of a category of life changes that pose a threat to its survival. In fact, the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale found that making a career change is one of the 20 most stressful things that happens in your life, just behind the death of a close friend.

Why is making a career change so fear-inducing, so intimidating?

Well, for starters it often requires a ton of effort. This is industry-dependent to some extent, and it also depends on the change itself, but it’s typically not a walk in the park.

For example, are you trying to become a product manager after having worked as a journalist? Or are you excited about carving out a career in marketing though your background is in education?

Even if you don’t need to go back to school, a job transition and search take time and energy—it’s like having a second full-time job. Using smart strategies like strategic networking, mastering your professional pitch, and investing in a coach can help.

But there’s fear beyond the time and financial commitment. It’s scary to re-define your identity in the professional world, where your job title can impact who you define as your peer group, your promotion potential, your career trajectory, or your reputation.

Thus, we often engineer excuses so that in the end we stay put—even if we’re, frankly, miserable. Once you recognize the fear response as trying to protect you from failing, you can make a decision to just go for it.

You can say to heck with self-doubt thoughts, like “What if I send 100 resumes out and don’t get a single interview?” “What if I suck at this?” or “Yeah right, I’m not just going to contact a hiring manager out of nowhere.”

The only way to grow is to overcome the fear of changing paths. You can acknowledge the critical yet protective internal voice in your head, but decide that you’re not going to let it control your actions.

Here’s how:

1. Cut Off Fear at the Pass

Head off fear’s paralyzing grip at the pass using advance preparation. Before you do anything else, write out a list of all the reasons a career transition is a “must do” for you and everything that scares you about it.

Allow yourself permission to word vomit every complaint, frustration, injustice, or betrayal for ~45 minutes to help illustrate for yourself why it’s non-negotiable for you to make a move. Use this like an inspirational manifesto, and put it somewhere you can see it and re-read it when your fears or inner saboteur pipe up.

This simple and straightforward worksheet can help you get started.

2. Obtain External Support

Trying to decide on–and execute–a career change in isolation can send your fear into overdrive and can make the entire process more painful. To create external encouragement and accountability, integrate friends and family into your search by sharing your “must do” manifesto with them. When you do, tell them that fear might try to derail you, and ask them to remind you of all these reasons why your job search is important and worth putting time and energy into.

If you don’t have anyone in your life who would make a stellar accountability buddy (or want help mapping out the steps to take) enlisting a career coach once you’re ready to start job searching can make your search as effective as possible.

Fear around career change totally sucks, but you don’t have to let it control your life. Instead, use it to develop resilience, courage, and grit.

As productivity coach Todd Herman says, “Fear can’t hit a moving target,” so pick a tiny action you can do today to prioritize your fulfillment and keep those fears from allowing your career to happen to you. Even something as simple as sending a connection request to someone you admire on LinkedIn or inviting a professional connection to grab coffee can be the first step in getting unstuck.

Still trying to figure out your path? Ditch the confusion for clarity by downloading The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Career That Fits You.

By Scott Anthony Barlow

Originally published on The Muse

Why Engineers Need to Embrace Personal Branding Now More Than Ever

Whether you’re a fresh graduate with a sparkly new B.S. in engineering or a seasoned pro with 15+ years of experience, you’re headed toward more competition when it comes to your next career opportunity. Enrollment in engineering programs and the number of engineering degrees awarded at all levels have been steadily increasing for years.

The good news is that while there are more engineers on the job market, there’s still a healthy demand for them—especially when it comes to specific niches. But in the more common fields, like UX or front-end development, you’ll want to make sure you stand out from the pack.

So how, exactly, do you do that?

Turns out, it’s not just about the skills and experience you have (although that’s obviously important)—it’s also about how you showcase them to employers. Or, in other words, how you embrace your personal brand.

In my last role, I worked in the marketing department of a global staffing firm with brands focused exclusively on engineering and IT. Why does that matter to you? I spent a lot of time researching and writing about how candidates can land their next gig, often through personal branding efforts. And now, grasshoppers, I shall bestow that knowledge upon you.

Steps to a Stellar Personal Brand

In decades past, brands were just for insurance, beer, and technology companies, but guess what? You get to be a brand now. And that comes with benefits. Not only will you have a better understanding of who you are and how you shine as a professional, but you may just have companies knocking down your door—er, bombarding your LinkedIn InMail—with new opportunities.

1. Start With Personal Reflection

Consider your strengths. What are you known for around your office? Are you a great collaborator? An innovator? Every project’s master planner? Do you have any distinct specialties? Ask your peers what comes to mind when they think of you.

Discover and distill what makes you unique from other engineers, and write it down. This, in short, is your brand identity. Ideally, it should not only be true, but also relevant to the current needs of the companies you’d like to work for. Oh, and it must be demonstrable, which leads us to…

2. Identify Avenues to Present Your Brand

It’s not enough just to have a brand identity on paper. You must show employers that you have a special ability or distinctive outlook.

Take LinkedIn as an example. Simply including your job title on your profile doesn’t show you’re a genius when it comes to product development and understanding customers’ needs. Instead, you’ll want to incorporate that strength into your summary or experience section—think, writing about a successful project and the role you played in it. Bonus points if a colleague writes a recommendation you on your profile that corroborates your brand.

Beyond LinkedIn, here are a few other strong ways to promote your brand:

  • Speak: Seek out opportunities to speak at industry events or educational forums that relate to your expertise and align with your brand.
  • Write: If you like to write, consider starting your own blog to share your thoughts on your field. Not up for the commitment of a blog? Reach out to sites that already have a following and pitch them a few ideas for a guest post.
  • Network: Of course, if you’re doing all the above, this will come naturally, but you can also attend industry conferences, trainings, and meet-ups to connect with others in your world. In addition, you can build relationships online, on Twitter, Quora, and focused LinkedIn groups.

3. Ensure Your Brand is Clear, Consistent, and Clean

No matter what you’re doing, you want to make sure that your brand comes through loud and clear on all channels—so whether someone sees you sharing a tweet or speaking in person, they connect you with your desired message.

How? Across your professional social media channels, write similar bios that highlight your main brand attributes, and use the same profile picture so people can connect that they’re all yours.

Then, bring everything together by building a personal website. Obviously, this is a great way to show off your technical skills, but it also lets you own your brand messaging through your layout and features, your bio, and a portfolio of your work and results. Don’t forget to link to all your social profiles from your website and vice versa.

Finally, if you haven’t already, Google yourself and make sure all the results are ones that help your message, not hurt it. A national study The Muse conducted found that 85 percent of hiring managers solidify their decision to hire someone based on positive Google results and 70 percent solidify their decision not to hire based on negative ones.

While it may seem like a lot, you’ll not only gain a “brand,” but a refreshed confidence, too. And this will make you more noticeable and attractive to the many employers looking for someone like you. With a clear personal brand, you’re more likely to land a role; and not just any role, but one that truly matches your strengths and outlook.

By Anne Shaw

Originally published on The Muse

5 Quick Tips That’ll Help You Get Better at Taking Risks

Early on in my advertising career, I was considering taking a marketing role at a major food brand. But, as I scanned the lengthy list of requirements in the job description, I thought to myself, “I don’t check off all these boxes.” Feeling somewhat defeated, I closed the posting and didn’t think much about it—until recently.

At Cannes Lions a couple of months ago, one of the speakers on a panel, advertising legend Charlotte Beers, shared the troublesome statistic that women need to feel that we meet 100% of a job’s qualifications before we apply. Men, however, only need to feel 60% qualified before hitting “send.”

 In other words, women are less willing to take risks on themselves.

My experience job hunting, as well as my work as the President of Berlin Cameron, a creative and experiential agency, got me thinking about the psychology behind this phenomenon. In the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get inspired by a number of female entrepreneurs. I’ve also served on the board of empowering organizations like Girl Up, and have started a division at Berlin Cameron called “Girl Brands Do It Better” to advance female founders.

And even with many of those I’ve met and worked with, how to take that first risky step has crept into conversations, and I wondered why.

I wanted to explore what sort of advice, or change in mindset, might help women to embrace their risk-taking side. So, I set out to discover what it takes to make that leap and dare to begin. I talked to experts, career coaches, and brilliant women who’ve launched companies across industries to find out how to get inspired and ignite new ideas.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Believe in Your Vision

Mentally investing in your own future is key.

“When people are stuck, it means that they are not connected enough to the end vision. If you think about a goal to run a marathon, the more connected you feel to that end vision, the more motivated you’re going to be,” executive coach Suzannah Scully, who’s worked with companies like Apple, Sephora, and Airbnb, told me.

She added, “If you have some limiting beliefs in your mind as to why this wouldn’t work out, explore those beliefs and figure out why you think it’s not going to work. I love the expression that a belief is just a thought you’ve had over and over again. It doesn’t mean that it’s true.”

2. Think Small

Any time you’re about to make a big leap, whether it’s putting together a deck to secure funding or working on an important pitch, the end result can be overwhelming. Setting small, easily achievable goals is one way to jump-start yourself.

Lisa Sun of the functional fashion line Gravitas agrees: “Set a goal every two weeks, even if it’s small things like opening a bank account for your business. After 10 weeks, you’ll be able to look back and have accomplished a lot.”

3. Check Perfection at the Door

Anytime you’re starting something new, the pursuit of perfection can be paralyzing.

“Choose action over perfection,” says 100 Days Without Fear founder Michelle Poler, who speaks all over the world about overcoming fear. “Women are perfectionists, and we have to let go of that desire to be perfect. We’re too afraid to fail ourselves—but when we don’t even try, we fail ourselves even more.”

You’re going to have failures, but try to learn from them and move on rather than chasing the impossible.

4. Find Your People

The importance of building a community’s crucial to opening your mind to take a risk.

“Surround yourself with others who are doing it—ask for help, don’t get stuck in your mind, and research, research, research. It’s one thing to have a great idea, it’s another to do the work, build out a business model, and thoughtfully go for it,” says Ashley Sumner, the co-founder of the female-focused co-working space Quilt.

Part of this is not being afraid to share your ideas and get feedback from others. “I’ve never had it come back to haunt me that I shared what I was thinking or previewed an idea with someone,” explains Katie Fritts, the founder of the luxury underwear subscription service Underclub. “If anything, it’s held me more accountable to do what I say I’m going to do.”

5. Make Fear Your Personal Force

No matter what stage you’re in in your career, fear’s going to be omnipresent. But everyone I spoke to agreed that it can be a great motivator.

“My job has been an exercise in flexing those muscles that I don’t usually flex,” Evvie Crowley says of the digital lifestyle publication, The Caret, she co-founded and launched this year. “I have an entrepreneurial drive, but it’s underneath a lot of insecurity. The best way for me to get over my paralyzing self-doubt is to keep pushing to make it a viable brand.”

Dee Poku Spalding, the founder of WIE Network and The Other Festival, added, “The first time you take a big leap of faith and it works is an incredible boost to your confidence. That gives you the confidence to do it again.”

After talking with all these women who’ve overcome the barriers that tend to hold us back, I’ve come up with a couple of insights of my own: Women are naturally good connectors who embrace community, as well as listen to and support each other.

So when it comes to taking risks, we’re a lot more equipped to do so than we think.

By Jennifer Dasilva

Originally published on The Muse

The Answer to: “Is it Nuts to Quit My Job Without a Back-up Plan?”

Quitting your job isn’t something you just do on a whim. Especially if you don’t have anything else lined up.

That’s why you’ve been waffling back and forth for weeks (if not longer).

And while I can’t tell you exactly what your next step should be, I can help you sort through whether leaving without a backup plan is a reasonable decision.

If you’re asking yourself if this is the right move, keep the following in mind.

Yes if: You’ve Been Building Your Network for a While

Know a dozen people you can reach out to for help finding a new job? That’ll definitely help you find your next position. (P.S. Here’s the networking email to send when you’d like help looking for a job.)

No if: You’re Planning to Start Networking Once You’re Unemployed

You don’t want to make your initial email a cold ask for a job. Instead, start warming up your network in the meantime. For help there, here are three better ways than “remember me” to start your email.

Yes if: You’ve Saved Up

Once you’ve got a few months’ worth of living expenses squirreled away, you can take the time to find a job that’s right for you, and not settle for the first thing that comes along.

No if: You’re Thinking: “I’ll Just Figure it Out”

You don’t want to jump into a job you hate to make ends meet or have to take out a loan. And remember, even if a great offer comes your way, it could be a while before they want you to start—and even longer before you get your first paycheck.

RelatedA Career Changer’s Guide to Switching Industries Without Going Broke

Yes if: You’re on the Verge of a Breakdown

A job that’s affecting your health—causing serious anxiety, panic attacks, or depression—isn’t worth the paycheck. (It’s also something you should consider discussing with a mental health professional, and this article can help you understand whether a mentor, coach, or therapist is the best person to talk to.)

No if: You’re Simply Ready for a Change

You deserve better. That said, it’s worth staying just a little longer if you’ve been miserable for a while and a few more months won’t drive you to your wit’s end—but will allow you to have a financial cushion. Try to make it through so that when you do give your notice, you have enough saved up to wait for a job you’re excited about.

Yes if: You Can’t Pinpoint an End Goal

If this job has zero bearing on where you want to go and what you want to do, it’s not as big a deal if you burn a bridge.

No if: This Job Is a Stepping Stone on the Way to Something Amazing

Is there some major benefit that comes with staying put, like a transfer to the department of your dreams, a huge raise that’ll let you finally start saving for retirement, or a boss who knows everyone in the industry? Sometimes you have to do something that makes you miserable in order to get to something really great.

Yes if: You’ve Tried to Make it Work

If you’ve done your best to remedy the thing that’s making you unhappy and there’s still no sign of improvement, it’s time to give notice.

No if: There’s More You Could Do

Something—a micro-managing boss, a nosy co-worker, mountains of unnecessary paper work—is making you want to quit, but you haven’t tried to fix it. Try talking to HR, suggesting a new system to cut down on paperwork, or wearing headphones at your desk. You might be able to eliminate the problem without having to find another job.

Truth: Quitting your job without any idea what you’ll do next isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. With that said, it can also set you on the path to do what you’re meant to. So, at its core, this choice is about what’s riskiest—taking a chance or staying still. If you’re not quite sure, think of the questions above, and whether the “yes” or “no” answers resonate most.

Have a different question? I help people make (big and small) decisions. Learn more here.

By Nell Wulfhart

Article originally published on The Muse

Don’t Do It: 7 People You Should Never Put on Your Reference List

Career Guidance - Don't Do It: 7 People You Should Never Put on Your Reference List

I’ll never forget the first time I conducted a reference check that went south. At the time, I recruited and supervised volunteers for a nonprofit organization. I naively assumed this part of the process was just a matter of dotting my “i’s,” thinking, “What kind of idiot would list someone who doesn’t support him?”

Well, in one instance, the person I called didn’t know the person I was calling about. In another, the reference said something to the effect of, “Oh my God, she applied to volunteer with your organization?! No, no, no. I can’t recommend her.”

Since then I’ve had my fair share of bizarre experiences on the other side of the reference equation as well. One woman asked if I would provide one for her sister—who I had never met. Another acquaintance asked if I would recommend him because he was applying to a coveted, high-level position in my company, never mind the fact that he had been fired from multiple jobs, was never on time to anything, and had made an ass of himself in front of me more than once.

Having a bit more experience under my belt, I now realize that many people don’t quite comprehend the point—or importance—of a reference. This is not the professional equivalent of social media “likes.” Your potential boss isn’t going to assume it’s a set of endorsements; she’s going to contact the names on your list to dig for information about the type of employee you are.

Because I don’t want you to look like a fool when an employer contacts the names you’ve provided, I’ve compiled a list of people you should think twice before using.

1. You Haven’t Had Contact With the Person in Years

It’s best to use people who can talk about the amazing work you’ve done recently, your up-to-date industry knowledge, and your work ethic in general—lest a hiring manager wonder if you’re hiding something about your recent experience. Plus, you don’t want to use someone who may not actually remember you or the great work you did. If there’s someone from your past who’s so important that you believe including him would benefit you despite your distance, here’s a guide to help you reconnect in a way that increases your chances of getting a good reference.

2. You Don’t Know the Person

It might be tempting to ask a friend of a friend of a friend who works at your dream company to give you a reference. Don’t. If they don’t know you, anything they say will be a wild guess, and no sane person would lie to their employer for a stranger. If you want to leverage this loose connection, do it the right way by asking for an introduction and sharing information about yourself and why you’re a good fit for the company, in a gracious and non-obnoxious way.

3. You Don’t Know the Person Well

A vague acquaintance isn’t much better than someone you don’t know at all. She’s going to struggle to answer questions about you with any depth. When her responses are shallow and vague, your potential employer will wonder why you don’t have people who can speak intelligently about your experience and abilities. As with someone you don’t know, if your acquaintance works at your dream company, do your homework first if you want to include her.

4. You Never Actually Worked With the Person

Your references need to be able to talk about your professional accomplishments, how you handle challenges, your specific skills, and so forth. It’s okay if the work you did together was volunteer-based or connected with a student or community organization, especially if you’re a recent graduate or returning to the workforce after an absence. It’s not okay if there’s no actual work—just lots of fun times—in your history together.

5. The Person Has a Bad Rep

This is most important if you’re applying to a company where your reference is already employed. While you may not know another person’s reputation, you can make an educated guess by the way he talks about work. If it’s full of bitterness, complaining, and stories of confrontation, you might think twice about using him.

6. The Person Has Been Out of the Workforce for a Decade (or More)

There may be a person who worked with you previously, who you still know well, who could talk at length about how great you are. But if she’s out of the loop with current industry trends, her endorsement may be of little value because she can’t talk about your industry knowledge. If you do include her, be sure your others are current ones!

7. The Person Fired You

I wish I didn’t have to explain this, but I’ve actually been asked, “How do I deal with the fact that one of my references fired me?” There may be times when you can’t avoid a potential employer talking with a past employer with whom you had a terrible relationship. But you don’t have to serve that up on a silver platter by including them on a document you control. There’s no universal mandate that you have to use your most recent (or any past) supervisor for this. Sometimes an employer and employee clash and the relationship ends on a bad note. It happens. Unless you can’t get along with anyone, you should have other supervisors and colleagues who can vouch for you.
Compiling a reference list isn’t complicated—here’s how to do it. If you’ve invested the time building genuine relationships, it’s just a matter of asking the most appropriate people from your network if they’d be willing to support you. If they say yes, make it easy for them by providing a copy of the job description and your resume. Don’t forget to follow up with a thank-you, and return the favor if possible, so they will continue to be willing to help you when you need it.

Article originally posted on The Muse

By Caris Thetford