Are You Wasting Your Potential?

Are You Wasting Your Potential?

We have a huge problem. A lot of huge problems, actually, the world is full of them. Climate change, poverty, unemployment, bad drinking water, bad politicians, malaria, obesity, cancer, animal abuse, traffic, affordable housing, air quality, poaching, disaster preparedness, the plight of the pandas, the list goes on and on. There is an endless stream of problems to be solved in this world. But the problem I care about the most, the one that causes me to soapbox in the car or at the bar or interrupts my zen bathtime, is the problem of you: You are not living up to your potential. 

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What Your Parents Want...You Don't Really

What Your Parents Want...You Don't Really

The thought of disappointing them puts you in actual physical pain, that's how bad you want them to be happy with your choices. They raised you. You respect them. They love you. They paid for school, maybe. You love them. And they have some very particular ideas about what you should do with your life. But you...don't want to do that. 

Maybe you don't know exactly what you want to do instead, but it's clear it isn't what they are thinking. How do you get out of this situation? How do you respect them, love them, show them that you want them to be happy, while also doing something that will make YOU happy? 

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How to Fail (Part 2): The Recovery

How to Fail (Part 2): The Recovery

There are lots of ways to fail, you could do something quick and catastrophic (like crashing your car), or simple and slow that didn't quite turn out the way you thought (like crocheting a hat that turns out to be too small), or by doing nothing at all (like not responding to an invitation to a concert with friends and regretting it). All of us fail, and according to popular business literature and my own blog, we should being doing more failing. Failing is healthy, it builds resilience, and gets us to try new things, without which we would never learn and grow. 

But that doesn't take away the sting or the misery when it happens. So when you fail, whether it's catastrophic, slow, or by doing nothing at all, how do you bounce back? How did I bounce back? 

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It's Not Your Resume That Matters, It's Your Purpose

It's Not Your Resume That Matters, It's Your Purpose

It is accurate to say that my job is to help other people get jobs. I do that by helping you craft a stand-out resume that shows off your skills, by helping you write a cover letter that doesn't sound just like everyone else's, by modifying your LinkedIn profile, and by answering interview questions with perfection. 

The thing is, the mechanics of all that don't really matter. Not really. The thing that matters more than any resume edit or cover letter sentence or interview answer is the level of interest and purpose and energy you bring to the job opportunity you want. 

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How To Fail (Part 1)

How To Fail (Part 1)

"I think we're going to lose the business," he texted me. I had asked my entrepreneur friend how work was going. "It's gotten worse," he said, and then that. "I might have to go get a job," he added. 

My friend is a young entrepreneur, really proud of and excited by the fact that he's a business owner, and to lose a business and have to go back to work is absolutely a failure, no doubt about it. It's probably what most of you are afraid of if you're thinking about starting your own business. Because, what do you tell your parents? And your friends? And what do you say in your interview for your next boss? And if you fail at something what does that mean for who you are? 

We have a lot of fear of failure and a lot of social shame associated with the idea of something that isn't successful. Ours is a culture that worships success, only wants to hear about success, and expects that you will be successful in everything that you do. We talk about bootstrapping and working hard and how, if you put in the time and the effort, success will come to you. Failure isn't in our cultural narrative. 

And so, when you do fail, it's impossible. So impossible that you avoid trying or doing things that might lead to failure simply because you really don't want to deal with those consequences. What does this look like in action? When I was in university I avoided taking French, even though I'd always wanted to learn it, because I was worried it would be hard and it might drag down my GPA. In fact, the list of things I've always wanted to learn and haven't is long and riddled with fears, because I really like to be good at stuff. I'm a person who is good at stuff. 

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Salary Negotiation Landmines (And How to Work Through Them)

Salary Negotiation Landmines (And How to Work Through Them)

Ugh, salary negotiation. I know how hard this is, even when you know you're supposed to do it and even if you've done it before it can still be hard (trust me, it's still hard for me, too!). I think it's hard because it triggers so fears about whether you'll be liked, respected, and whether you'll still be able to get the job if you ask for more. My earlier post on Salary Negotiation and Self Worth tackles some of that. But if you still really struggle with salary negotiation, and most of us do, I have a few more tips that can help you get through it and hopefully to a resolution that feels good for both you and the person making your offer. Here we go: 

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Don't Go To College Just Yet

Don't Go To College Just Yet

"I'm not sure what I want to study, is there a good general degree I can take?" one of my students asked. She was on campus to explore her options to study and dropped in to see me for some advice on how her choice of major could impact her career. "What do you mean by a general degree?" I asked. "Well," she said, "I really don't know what I want to do so I'd like to study something broad that will give me the best chance at a job when I'm finished." Ah. Right. No. Don't do this. 

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The First Job Career Crisis

The First Job Career Crisis

You graduated. You made the choice. You started working. And now it's been about, oh, six months, maybe less, and you thought you'd be happy. You thought you'd feel this sense of "Yes! Good choice! Right job! Go me!" But instead you feel "meh, it's not great..." or even "This sucks." But why? And what would be better? What do you do now? 

I see this a lot and you are definitely not alone. Pull up a chair, there is a way forward. Here's your 6-step guide to fixing it. 

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First Steps to Working Abroad

First Steps to Working Abroad

Living and working abroad is one of the most rewarding, terrifying, uncomfortable, exciting things I've done in my life. Most expats I talk to say something similar, it's a way to grow yourself beyond what you thought was possible for your life and your career, and a chance to add value globally and not just in your home community. It's a great way to get more comfortable with risk, grow your network, and to learn. It's an amazing opportunity, and if it's something you want to do even a little bit, you should go for it! Here's how to get started. 

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Want to Quit? Be True To Yourself

Want to Quit? Be True To Yourself

I resigned last month. I don't have another job lined up, and I don't have a specific plan for what will happen after my last day of work. This is the kind of thing your mom always advises against, and the kind of news that makes your friends say, "Really? Wow..." with a stone-cold look of "I'm not sure what to say because that sounds kind of stupid" on their faces. 

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Hate Job Applications? Don't Do Them.

Hate Job Applications? Don't Do Them.

Job applications suck, I know. They are time consuming, and if you are one of those nimble 21st century professionals who could be useful to at least 5 different types of roles (hint: you probably are), it feels like you have to reinvent yourself and all of your personal marketing materials each time you apply for something. And the agony of writing the perfect opening cover letter sentence? I know that pain. Set it aside and pour yourself a beverage, you have better options. 

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Job Searching for Work-Life Balance

Job Searching for Work-Life Balance

I started to get the sense that work-life balance would be a problem at this company when I noticed that the girl setting up my interviews was sending emails and meeting invitations at odd hours. I had been interviewing for a role at a Very Cool Tech Company, and the scheduler was sending me messages at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm. There were subtle signals that the pressure to meet the expectations of the job would be large. And then, the kiss of death, the phrase that made the work-life balance question clear: "This is not a 40 hour a week position." It was clear that it would indeed be much more than that. 

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When Work is Bad: Getting the Guts to Leave Your Job

When Work is Bad: Getting the Guts to Leave Your Job

"Every day is like being in an abusive relationship," Liz said of her job. She was miserable. And yet, not SO miserable that she had to leave immediately, only miserable most of the time. There would be some good days, a week or two that were fun or engaging. But mostly, she was miserable, and it was only getting worse. Her boss was terrible, either criticizing her behind her back or avoiding her entirely. Her motivation was shot and had been for months on and off. Instead of starting new projects she would job hunt at work, looking at listings online and thinking about leaving. Most days she couldn't muster the cheerful hello to her colleagues, and quietly went straight to her desk in the morning. She would question decisions instead of act on them. Sometimes she would argue, she just couldn't help it. "I don't think my manager is very happy with me," she told me. And at about 2:30 pm, she would watch the clock tick ever slowly toward the end of the day. She was slipping slowly into the void. 

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Should I Learn To Code?

Should I Learn To Code?

"Should I learn to code?"

Yes. 

I don't always say Yes to "should I learn" questions. I'm pro-learning in general, but there are times when, because we're talking about your career plans, you should focus your learning efforts on one thing over another. In the case of computer science, and programming/coding in particular, I can safely and assuredly say that this is a skill you should learn. 

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The Dark Side of Stability

The Dark Side of Stability

"So I think I have three options," he told me. "I can start my own company now, or I can go work for an established startup, maybe that has some stable funding, or I can get a job in corporate. What do you think I should do?" He had just spent the last 10 minutes telling me about his volunteer work with a local entrepreneurship organization, his desire to travel, and his participation in the campus incubator program. His passion was pretty clear: this was a man born to start something. So that's what I said.  

"Oh thank God. I really thought you were going to tell me to go work in Corporate." 

Why did he think that? Because that is what most well-meaning, middle-aged people (Just for the record, I am NOT middle aged...) would probably say. They might say - "Build your resume!", or "What about this grad program at XYZ Bank?" or "Your cousin just got a job at this consulting firm". They might encourage a young college grad to think about his student loans and go out and get a great job that will help him save up some money (because after all, the real estate market you know...). But there is a dark side to choosing that road. 

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Don't Have a Career Plan?

Don't Have a Career Plan?

"I sometimes wish I had a plan. I see my friends who are my age and are graduating with their PhD or their MD or their JD and I think "Fuuuuuuuu$!....", my 26 year old client agonized. Just two weeks later, I met with a recent graduate who lamented, "I feel like I'm the only one of my peers without a plan. I just want to know where I'm going."

I get a gut-punch feeling when I hear this because I remember it. I didn't have a plan, either, and those days of feeling lost in life's outer space really sucked. It's lonely out there. 

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Study This to Be Employable

Study This to Be Employable

"What classes should I take this year?" 

"What kind of education should a young person have to be employable?"

"What skills will get me a job?"

These are all questions I hear in my office and in my inbox regularly. And there are lots of ways to answer this question. I can encourage you to study what you are interested in (and you should do that), and I can use employment statistics to tell you which majors have the highest employment rate or earn the biggest salary. But there are themes in education that I think will serve you well to be part of the new working world. Because an education needs to not just get you a job in 4 years, it needs to build you up as a functioning member of society and the global economy for the next 50 years. So kids. Here's what you should study this year. 

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Social Media: Let Them Find You

Social Media: Let Them Find You

"I googled him but nothing came up," Lisa said to me, "isn't that weird?". 

"Yes." I had to agree. 

She was serving on the hiring committee for a job in our office, and wanted to learn more about one of the candidates. And I get it, with all the hype about your personal information and privacy issues and how all of your material could be used by corporations or employers, one possible reaction to all of this is to hide out in a digital bunker on lockdown. But Lisa's impression of this invisible candidate and his digital quietude was not good. "I mean, he doesn't have a social media presence. Like, at all," she said with disbelief. 

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