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

20 Career-Boosting Steps You Can Take Before New Year’s Eve

improve career by end of year

It’s finally December, and you’ve worked hard all year long. You wrote enough emails to fill a novel. You spent an average of seven hours a day on your computer. And, if you were working full-time, you probably spent 42 hours of your life battling traffic during your daily commute.

Whoa. If anyone deserves a chance to kick back and relax, it’s you!

But as tempting as it may be to spend the rest of December curled up with a big mug of cocoa, a snuggly blanket, and a never-ending Netflix queue, you probably want to avoid hibernating all month long.

Regardless of whether your job status is employed or unemployed, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of getting a jump-start on your career in the year ahead in the final days of the month.

Use the next few weeks wisely so that you can finish 2017 feeling clear, focused, and organized when the year comes to an inevitable close. (If you’re job hunting, this is an especially good time to get your ducks in a row because January is one of the best times to apply for a new job.)

Here are 20 career-boosting action steps to complete before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.

1. Write Down Your Wins

Make a list of your top 10 professional accomplishments from the past year. You can incorporate these “wins” into your resume the next time you spruce it up—employers love seeing descriptions of “accomplishments” as opposed to “duties.”

2. Congratulate Someone on Their Career Success

By celebrating others’ “wins,” you’ll reinforce the belief that you’re a positive, encouraging person—two qualities that are on every employer’s wish list!

3. Redesign Your Professional Materials

Order beautiful new business cards. And then, when that’s set, think about revamping your personal website.

4. Clean Out Your Inbox

Don’t just delete old emails and archive others. Take the next step and unsubscribe from mailing lists that waste your time.

5. Send a Thank You Note

Think of a colleague, manager, or mentor who helped or inspired you this past year, and let that person know you’re grateful for his or her assistance or inspiration. Sure, you could use email. But it would be better to use pen and paper. A handwritten note is a simple, classy way to make people feel special—and strengthen your professional network.

6. Read Up on How to Get Your Resume Close to Perfection

More specifically, read these 43 tips. They will only get you closer to getting that job you want. So, tweak your resume accordingly, or don’t be afraid to start over from scratch instead of building on one you’ve had for years.

7. Make That Revamped Resume Stylish

Find a beautiful new template among one of these 275 free templates and go forward with confidence as you send it out. (After tailoring it for each job, of course.)

8. Contact an Expert if You’re Lost

If you’re feeling stuck or don’t know where to begin, it might be worth it to pay an expert or hire a coach to get you past your obstacle.

9. Learn How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions

Your resume’s only doing the first part of the talking. The interview step is hugely important and not one that you can risk blowing. Prepare in advance by running through these common questions and you’ll likely ace it.

10. Update Your Professional Wardrobe

Make sure to purchase items that are both professional and industry-appropriate.

11. Invest in a Standing Desk

You won’t believe the health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It’s well worth speaking to your office manager about getting one for the office.

12. Reorganize Your Workspace

Remove clutter. Add beauty. Make a vision board or write a career manifesto and hang it above your desk.

13. Get on a Healthier Sleep Schedule

It’s no news that many Americans are sleep deprived, and being chronically tired is just as bad as going into work tipsy. The more rest you give yourself, the sharper and more productive you will be.

14. Google Yourself

Distasteful social media content? Snarky blog comments? That YouTube video that you uploaded during Mardi Gras circa 2009 still around? Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes, and make sure your online footprint makes a good first impression.

15. Take Your LinkedIn Presence to the Next Level

Start by adding a personal note when you send out invitations to join your network. You’d be surprised by how few people do this, so it’ll really make you stand out and get noticed.

16. Reach Out to Six People You’d Like to Connect With

Start lining up coffee dates for the first few weeks of January. (And before you go on any of them, make sure you know how to have the best coffee dateever.)

17. Choose a Skill You Want to Improve in 2018

It could be public speaking, time management, or creative writing. Sign up for a class, seminar, weekly writing group, whatever makes sense for you and whatever might get you motivated. Then decide how you’re going to develop that skill. Block out the time on your calendar now.

18. Read a Few Career-Boosting Classics

I recommend Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. More of a listener? Subscribe to a smart podcast or two. Mmm. Brain food you’ll actually start to crave.

19. Fill Your Inspiration Tank to the Brim

Read these 45 beautiful pieces of career advice. Or these 50 inspirational quotes that’ll make you feel ready to take on the world. Or, at least your personal goals.

20. Write Out Your One-Year Plan

Whether you’re looking to make a move or are currently satisfied at your job, figure out what you plan to do to take your career to the next level. Maybe it’s telling your network you’re looking to make a move. Or, perhaps it’s getting a promotion (and a raise!). Whatever it is, figure out how you’re going to make it happen.

And if you do only one thing? Make an effort to re-connect with people you admire. Strengthen the relationships in your professional network. You never know how one follow-up emailthank-you note, or holiday card might impact your career.

By: Suzanne Gelb, PHD, JD

Article originally published on The Muse 

The Perfect Template for Writing a LinkedIn Article That Makes You Sound Smart

 LinkedIn Thought Leadership

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

Bonus: We’ve already done the legwork for you. Head on over to this free worksheet to fill in this outline.

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?

It’s not exactly scientific, but this approach works. If you’re just cutting your teeth as a writer, try these resources:

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!


[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.

Establishing yourself as a voice in your field takes time, which is all the more reason to get started already. Stop sitting on your best ideas! Even if you don’t identify as a writer, give the steps above a shot, and then keep at it. The more you put your ideas out there, the sooner you’ll start getting noticed by influential companies (and people) in your industry.

By Erica Breuer

Article originally published on The Muse

30 Free Ways to Find the Answer to “What Should I Do With My Life?”

How to Find Your Career Passion for Free

When I was trying to figure out what career to pursue after my military service, I dove headfirst into the world of “finding my passion.” After spending almost five years in a career field (army intelligence) that had literally nothing to do with my college degree (television and film production), I wanted to make sure my next career lined up with my future intentions, interests, and, hopefully, passions—of which I have many!

I think I read, listened, and watched at least a year’s worth of material, which involved a real mental struggle and plenty of “soul searching.” I even considered going back to college but realized that wasn’t right path for me (and not simply because I didn’t want to be responsible for student loans, though that was a big factor).

There’s no question that it takes time and effort to find your passion, purpose, career path—whatever you want to call it—but it doesn’t have to cost you an arm or a leg (or a new degree).


Reading was my preferred method of exploring potential career paths. Fortunately, there are a staggering amount of career advice books and articles available (thank you internet), so you could say I had my work cut out for me. And thanks to the library, I could pick up almost any title for free.

Here are my top picks:

1. Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger

Skeptics of the MBTI personality theory might have their minds changed with this book. I read this after working several jobs (where I was extremely unhappy in every role) and realized the outlined scenarios for my personality aligned almost perfectly with what happened in my career.

2. The Pathfinder: How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success by Nicholas Lore

For those who love taking quizzes aimed to help you reveal inner truths about yourself, this book has over 100.

3. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Skeptical about even trying to “follow your passion?” The author of this gem argues that gaining expertise in any profession is the key to a passionate, purposeful life.

4. What Color Is Your Parachute? 2017: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard Bolles III

And for the traditionalists, this book has been a cornerstone of career counselors for decades and can lead you to discover the best career for you.

5. How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life) by Roman Krznaric

Geared toward mid-career path changers in particular, Krznaric offers real-life examples and practical advice for thriving.

6. The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

If you’re longing to connect your passion (or figure out what exactly it is and how it works) with the needs of the world, pick up this read.

7. Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One by Jenny Blake

Figure out how to leverage your current expertise and training into an area you’re more interested in (without having to start from scratch) is called pivoting, and Blake breaks down just how to do this in bite-sized steps.

8. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Maybe you’ve an inkling what you’d like next in life, but aren’t sure how to motivate and get yourself to that next step. This one outlines why grit is the answer.

9. 4 Moves to Make if You Still Have No Idea What You Want to Be When You Grow Up by Leslie Moser on The Daily Muse

In this article, Moser outlines actions you can take today to help figure out what to work toward tomorrow.

10. Happy, Smart, Useful and How To Do What You Love and Make Good Money by Derek Sivers on Silvers.Org

After all the heavy reading, quiz-taking, and mental angst I went through, this post was a breath of fresh air to me. Simple and to the point, it helped me narrow down my list of potential future careers.

11. 7 Lessons About Finding the Work You Were Meant To DoFrom TED Talks

Find your calling, or fight for it? Dozens of personal interviews go into these seven best lessons.

12. A 30-Something’s Guide to Finding Purpose (Without Quitting Your Job) by Dorianne St Fleur on The Daily Muse

Finding your purpose isn’t about suddenly waking up one day, realizing you hate your job, and then promptly changing careers. It takes a little more than that.

By: Nina Semczuk

Article originally published on The Muse

How to Design a Dream Job in Tech

tech job

Working on a tech team is a good place to be.

Six of the top 10 happiest jobs in America are in tech, and the field claims nearly half of the nation’s highest paying jobs. Plus, employer demand for tech professionals is greater than the current supply of qualified candidates. In fact, there are so many open positions in this sector that a Brookings Institution scholar who’s studied the skills gap argues that the field cannot wait for new graduates, but needs adults who are already working in other capacities to switch careers.

And why not? The tech sector’s long-term outlook shows no signs of slowing, so anyone who joins this field can look forward to a promising future. And even if you aren’t already in tech, it’s entirely possible to change course. I’ve spoken with teachers, administrators, and even a social workerwho have successfully transitioned into tech careers—and not one of them plans to leave their new field.

Melissa Omet is another person who didn’t originally plan on joining the tech workforce but says her non-traditional path ultimately worked in her favor.

“It armed me with soft skills that have complemented the hard tech skills I gained later,” she explains. After earning her degree in history, Melissa accepted her first job at a global professional services company, planning to pursue a consulting career. She realized early on, though, that she’d prefer to join a company so she could gain deeper industry and technical knowledge. This led her to accept a role at A&T, leading a team of network technicians—the beginning of her career evolution into tech.

“Once I started dreaming in C++—literally programing an ATM machine in my sleep—I knew this was where I belonged,” she says. So how did she get to that point? By understanding and capitalizing on what she enjoys and is good at, and then figuring out what company fit in to her goals. Let’s dive in.

Explore What You Like Best

Curiosity launched Melissa in to her tech career. In fact, her first role at AT&T didn’t require her to have a deeply technical background, but being in that atmosphere gave her a strong desire to learn.

“My eyes were opened, and there was no going back. I loved the technical field,” she says. While she could have settled for a hands-off management style, Melissa took a boots-on-the-ground approach. She shadowed the people who worked for her and took on every opportunity to better understand the technology behind AT&T’s network.

To get closer to a job you love, take a page from Melissa’s book. Identify what you enjoy and look for ways to sate your curiosity. Research different fields to explore your interests, talk to people in tech about how they got where they are, and look for employers that help their employees explore and pursue different career paths.

Hone in on Your Strengths

Melissa had strong business acumen and demonstrated leadership skills, which she used both to land and expand upon her first role at AT&T.

“Understand what you’re good at and capitalize on those strengths,” she says. “Also reflect on your weaknesses so you can then improve them or surround yourself with people who can fill those gaps.” Melissa explains that she’s naturally inquisitive and an avid reader, which helped her learn new tech skills and stay informed about her industry.

You should also consider what transferrable skills you’ve developed, Melissa suggests. She notes that demonstrating these types of abilities to future employers can lead you into different parts of a business—even across industries.

Need some examples? “Some of mine, for instance, are leading large-scale operations and successfully navigating union environments,” she says. “Various industries and types of roles can benefit from those skills.”

Marry Your Passions and Strengths with Your Company’s Needs

Melissa’s advice is to proactively guide your career—taking actions without necessarily needing to be told. In her first role at AT&T, the company needed a leader. She filled that need, but also wanted to learn about the technology so she sought out ways to do so.

She also suggests looking for a company that offers reskilling or skills pivoting programs and pursuing foundational knowledge by taking an operations role. Finally, she says that to ensure you’re matching your desires with your company’s needs, you need to sell yourself.

“Articulate and display what you already bring to the table, especially your transferrable skills, and how you plan to close any gaps,” she says. “Then share your approach for learning a new technology and show proof that you can master it for your new role. Give the hiring manager a good reason to take a risk on you.”

Take it from Melissa: Starting a challenging new role and molding it around your strengths and passions may just be the more rewarding work experience you could have. And don’t forget about your soft skills and other skill sets. They may just give you the edge you need to begin your dream job in tech.

By: Ann Shaw

Article originally published on The Muse

How a Little Gratitude Can Help You Get Ahead at Work

Thanksgiving is just days away—and in between thoughts of casserole recipes and how to navigate your annual family dinner, you’re probably also thinking about all you have to be grateful for.

According to Alison Green from Ask a Manager, this is the perfect time to let your co-workers know how much you appreciate them—and why. “Showing gratitude to colleagues can build stronger relationships and help you get better results in your work,” Green writes.

Just think: When a co-worker has shown appreciation for something you’ve done to help him or her, you’ve probably been more likely to help that person again in the future. And when he or she hasn’t shown that gratitude, you probably haven’t gone out of your way to lend a hand again.

Plus, showing thankfulness helps improve the quality of the relationship as a whole. “People tend to feel warmly and positively toward people who appreciate them,” Green says, which can have a positive effect on future networking, references, and your interactions at work in general.

Suddently feeling thankful? Try these four ideas to show your appreciation.

1. Give a Straightforward (and Specific) Compliment

A standard thank you may not be extraordinarily creative, but it works—and that’s the important thing.

You want to make sure your co-worker knows you appreciate her? Walk up to her desk and give her a genuine, straightforward thank you. To make the most impact, mention what you’re specifically grateful for

“Christine, thank you so much for jumping in and helping me with my presentation yesterday. I know it was a late night; I really appreciate you taking the extra time to make sure it was perfect. I couldn’t have done it without you!”

Face-to-face, specific, and full of appreciation—it’s sometimes the only thing someone wants to hear.

2. Speak Up in a Team Meeting

An individual, face-to-face thank you is personal and effective, but there’s also room for more public appreciation—and a team meeting is the perfect place to recognize someone who’s helped you out recently.

It doesn’t have to be big and flashy. Try working it in naturally, like as part of a project update that you were going to give anyway: “The project’s right on track, thanks to Joe, who reviewed it and helped me adjust the intro and conclusion—and I think it really hits the nail on the head now.”

The public (but not over-the-top) recognition will make your colleague feel extra special—and it’ll help boost his or her value within the team. (And if you’re truly struggling for ideas, check out this list.)

3. Bring in a Treat

I know. It seems a little silly—and perhaps a tad reminiscent of your elementary school birthdays when you brought in cupcakes for the class.

But then again, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate a donut or a cup of coffee that’s not from the lukewarm pot that’s been sitting idly on the counter for the past two hours. Simple as it may seem, a treat with a quick “Just wanted to say thanks for your help with the Smith account. I couldn’t have done it without you!” goes a long way to make a co-worker feel appreciated.

If that still seems a little awkward, swing for enough for the entire team, then throw in a personal note: “Hey everyone, I brought in some doughnuts to say thanks for your hard work this past week—especially Sarah, who really came through in the 11th hour for me on a big client account.”

4. Email the Boss

Part of your job as an employee is to make sure your boss knows how awesome you are—but it’s even better if your co-workers do that for you.

One of the most meaningful thank yous I’ve ever received came when a co-worker emailed my boss (and copied me), explaining how I’d been a huge help to him with a client situation over the past couple days and that he wanted to extend his gratitude. He forwarded it to his supervisor, and all of a sudden, my good dead was known throughout the department without me having to say a word.

So if you want to thank a co-worker, consider sending an email to his or her boss. The compliment on its own will make your colleague feel appreciated—but knowing that the boss also knows what he or she has done makes the gratitude even more meaningful.
A thank you to your colleagues doesn’t have to be a big show—but displaying your appreciation will help your relationships, your quality of life at the office, and your ability to continue receiving your co-workers’ help in the future.

By Katie Douthwaite Wolfe

Article originally published on The Muse

Repeat After Me: You’re Allowed to Quit for Selfish Reasons


In a perfect world, you could just walk away carefree from a crummy job. Well, technically, there would be no crummy jobs in a perfect world—but just go with me here.

The real world, however, is never so simple. If your family depends on your income or the insurance coverage your job provides, kicking open the exit and rushing through in a blaze of righteous glory probably isn’t realistic for you.

Or, maybe it’s not so much that others depend on you, but you’ve overheard your mom humble bragging about you or you’ve seen your significant other beam with pride when talking about the work you do. Or, maybe you’ve just busted your tail to climb the proverbial ladder, and you’re struggling with what it would mean if you forgo everything you’ve clamored for.

As the person who carries my family’s insurance, I completely understand the “I can’t just quit,” mindset. But no matter what dynamics are at play, it’s still your life, your career, and your peace of mind on the line. If you want out of your current role and the only thing holding you back is guilt, you have peYou’re Allowed to Quit for Selfish Reasonsrmission to be at least a little selfish.

That may bring to mind a dramatic scene, but putting yourself first doesn’t have to be this dramatic all-or-nothing situation. In fact, taking good care of yourself really isn’t selfish at all. When you’re at your best, you’re more productive at work and a better family member and friend in your personal life.

If you’re still not convinced you can do it, keep reading for a few tips that’ll make it a little easier to swallow:

1. Avoid Assumptions

Whether you’re assuming you can’t tell a loved one that you’re miserable for fear of disappointing them or assuming you’re stuck forever in a job you hate, you’re playing a dead-end game.

Instead, ask yourself, “Do I really know this? If so, how do I know?” You may be surprised when you force yourself to qualify your assumptions.

It looks like this: You tell yourself you’re stuck in your job because you need your paycheck to pay rent. But when you sit down and take a hard look at your budget, you realize that between your savings and picking shifts up at the coffee shop on the weekends, you could actually take three months off to find a new job.

Another approach that can help you shake harmful assumptions is to ask yourself, “What would change if this isn’t true?” This allows you to at least entertain alternate scenarios.

What would you do differently today if you didn’t need that paycheck for rent? Would you go back to school? Get a job in a different field?

When you mull over what you could do if your assumptions are untrue, you get one step closer to going after what you really want.

2. Clue Your Loved Ones In

If someone in your life’s deeply invested in your career, you may feel tempted to stay mum. You don’t want to cause your loved ones any embarrassment or disappointment. You certainly don’t want to upend their lives.

Time for a reality check: Think of the person you love most. How would you feel if they were suffering and didn’t feel like they could tell you? Right. Give your people some credit. Just like It’s your job as a friend to support your loved ones when they need you, it’s their job to do the same for you. Let them do their job.

Maybe they can only provide sympathy and moral support; that’s more than you had when you were pretending all was well and suffering in silence. They may also surprise you with an idea or insight you hadn’t considered, or even a professional contact.

3. Move Beyond All or Nothing

When it comes to a crappy job, it’s easy to get stuck in the belief that you must either endure your current torment or quit and ruin your life (and the lives of your loved ones). It’s rare, though, that we truly only have two options; life is simply too complex. Changing your language and thought processes around such scenarios can certainly help.

Try dropping qualifiers like “have to,” “always,” “never,” and substituting with “and.” “I have to stay in this mess of a job or I’m screwed because I lose my benefits” becomes, “I’m in a mess of a job and I need to keep my benefits.” It’s a subtle shift, but now you’ve moved away from “I have to do this or this” to recognizing what you need.

From there, you can begin thinking about how you might be able to make a change while keeping the benefits you need. That might mean you consider other options outside of your department, but still within your company that you hadn’t previously thought about.

Or it might mean you educate yourself about negotiating, particularly in regards to benefits, so you can consider a position with a new company without losing the coverage you need.

It’s not my intent to minimize or over-simplify a work situation that may be truly terrible or the reasons why you feel you can’t just up and quit. Rather, I hope this offers some hope that even in a complicated situation, you do have the right to care about your own needs, and that if you can make some shifts in the way you think about and approach the situation, you may find workable solutions. Because when you’re happy, that’s good for everyone.

By Caris Thetford

Article originally published on The Muse

How to Handle Advice Overload, According to the CEO of Birchbox

Birchbox ceo

I’m the queen of second opinions. I can’t buy a pair of jeans without sending a mirror selfie to someone else to get more input, I refuse to book a hotel without checking at least three different review sites, and I still struggle to send tricky emails without first running them by someone else on my team.

Because of this, I’ve ended up buying pants that I hate two weeks later, or staying at a hotel that wasn’t my vibe, or writing an email that didn’t really sound like me, all because someone else told me to. So, recently I’ve made it my goal to seek out advice with the goal of making the most educated decision, rather than seek it out to get my decision.

Which is why when I spoke to Katia Beauchamp, the CEO and founder of Birchbox, a subscription service for beauty products, about her ultimate life mantra, I was thrilled to hear she lived by the same philosophy:

“My best advice is to seek advice. All the time, you should ask people about their experiences and how they weigh options and pick paths forward. I made the mistake early on of not spending enough time doing this. Why? Because I was busy, for one, and because it invited so many different opinions and ideas—it made my head spin. I’ve since realized that it’s not about bringing someone in to actually get an answer. This is about gathering as much perspective as possible, and it should never stop. It is about learning all the time; it is the only way to speed up the journey of developing an even deeper sense of and instinct for what you are doing. Outside ideas are there for you to consider, to think about, and question whether you want to take pieces of them…it is up to you to use them to shape your vision, beliefs, and drivers.”

Many people talk about “information overload” and “decision fatigue.” But like Beauchamp, I choose to believe there’s another side to the coin—receiving options is liberating, with the right mindset.

As she explains, asking for someone else’s advice isn’t about getting the right answer out of them. Rather, it’s about adding perspective to your current situation so you can choose the right answer for you.

So, how can you ensure a second opinion doesn’t cloud your judgement? Consider these two things before reaching out:

  • What part of your decision are you unwavering on?
  • What part of your decision are you unsure about?

Going back to the jeans example, I may be certain that I want them in a dark wash, but unsure whether I should go with ripped or classic. So, when I ask for a second opinion, I can ask them what they think about the style to steer them toward helping me make that decision.

The same thing goes for career advice. People may throw ideas out there for the kind of job you should have, the kind of path you should take, the kind of responsibilities you should own, or the kinds of decisions you should make. You can let it overwhelm you, or you can pick and choose what you want to factor in, and let everything else fall to the wayside.

It seems silly, but it’s truly that simple. Once you see others’ advice as something you can take rather than something you have to take, the pressures off, and you can make decisions that align with your values.

As Beauchamp says, this will only help you develop stronger internal instincts—and ultimately a better sense of who you are.

By: Alyse Kalish 

Article originally published on The Muse