INFOGRAPHIC: How to craft a cover letter worth reading

The cover letter. Perhaps the most controversial job search document. Okay, if not the most controversial then it’s at least the one that annoys people most. “What should I put in it?” “Do I really need to include this?” “Will anyone actually read this?” “What’s the point if I’m including my resume?”
Personally speaking, I always recommend including a cover letter, especially if the job is related to communications, marketing or any profession that relies upon you being well-spoken and having exceptional writing abilities.
Similar to the résumé infographic we created to show you the before and after, here is our infographic on cover letters and how to make one that is eye-catching to a hiring manager.
Based on your questions, we put together this wondrous–yes, wondrous–infographic, which you can click on to see the full version.

Hear employers’ advice on how to write a great cover letter:

How to Apply for An Internal Transfer

Is it appropriate to use office email to apply for a transfer?

girl at work with personal...
You may want to move on from your current job, but perhaps you are not aware that your best chance for a new job is to apply for an internal position. Many companies prefer to hire from within. Doing so not only means keeping an employee they like, it helps ensure any investment in training provided that individual stays at the organization and doesn't benefit a competitor.

What's the best way to apply to a job inside your company?

Find opportunities.

Your company likely posts positions on its website, but it may also list opportunities internally before advertising to outsiders. If you don't already know exactly how positions are posted, finding out should be your first priority. In this exploratory stage, you may not want to announce your intentions to everyone in the office, or to your boss, but a quick search on your company's website or a review of the employee handbook should provide the information you need about how to identify internal opportunities.

Don't forget to follow your own company on LinkedIn if it maintains a presence there, as it can be a great way to find out information about new job opportunities you may have missed.

Research your organization.

What kind of people does your company seem to like? You can learn a lot by talking to others who have worked in the organization a long time. What have their career paths been? Ask about their moves from one job to the next. Were they promoted? Did they take lateral moves to other departments? How supportive (or not) were their supervisors? Were there programs at the company they tapped into to help them plan and navigate their careers? Asking these and other questions can help you understand your organization's approach to internal transfers.

Prepare to explain your goals.

When you're seeking a promotion, it's easy to explain why you want to move from the job you have to the better opportunity. However, you may be considering a lateral move that doesn't come with more money or prestige. If that's the case, be ready to explain your motivations. Realistically, your goal may be to move away from a difficult boss, or perhaps you're hoping a new department won't expect you to work so many hours. Neither of these reasons are compelling from the institution's perspective, so be sure you plan a reasonable explanation that seems like a win-win. For example, you may explain that you want your skills to be more well rounded to enhance your ability to work with clients. Or, you have a very strong interest in marketing and believe your customer service background and skills provide a good foundation for being successful in the new department.

Talk to your supervisor.

Once you identify why you are motivated to look for a different position inside the company, and have seen at least one position that interests you, it's time to speak to your supervisor. Explain your goals and ask your boss to support your career plans. Keep the conversation very positive; do not indicate your desire to move reflects poorly on his or her leadership. Even if it does, it is not likely to help your case by sharing your feelings.

Apply for the job.

Yes, you can use your company email to apply for an internal position. Depending on the process, it may be the only thing that differentiates you from other applicants and will alert hiring managers that you're applying from within.

Even though you should have an advantage, don't rely on your internal candidacy to make the case for winning the job. Compose well-written and thought out application materials that describe why you are a good fit and how your accomplishments support your ability to do a great job in the proposed role. From the point of applying on, prepare and act as you would if you were seeking an external job. Take the process very seriously and plan ahead what you will say in an interview. Since you're an internal candidate, there's even more pressure on you to be able to describe how you can help the organization in the new role. Use every resource at your disposal to make a great case, and you could be moving offices before you know it.          

How to identify top performers: Tips for hiring your dream team

Dream team
What are the personality traits of a top performer? How can hiring managers and recruiters identify the makings of a successful employee? What does a true dream team look like? Don Fornes can tell you.

In the following Q&A, the founder and CEO of Software Advice discusses the research his company recently conducted that identifies the personality traits of successful employees, the four types of top performers, the roles they excel in and how to hire more people like them.

Q: What was the inspiration for your research around the “Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team”? 
Fornes: In the eight years we’ve been in business, I’ve picked up on some of the characteristics that make our top performers successful. I wanted to develop a more sophisticated understanding of our employees and applicants, so that we could hire the right people, put them in the right roles and manage them more effectively.

Q: How did you conduct this research and/or come up with these profiles?
Fornes: Through my day-to-day interactions with some of our top performers, I started to get an idea of their personality types, but I wasn’t sure if my ideas were quite right. So I commissioned a local psychologist, Dr. James Maynard, to help us. He met with each of these top performers and talked with them about their backgrounds, what makes them tick and how they prefer to be managed. It was an informative exercise, and the team seemed to really enjoy it. I think they liked getting the opportunity to explore their own minds. From there, Dr. Maynard shared his findings with me, and, with the help of our managing editor, Holly Regan, we researched each personality type further. Together, we published our “Psychological Profiles of the Dream Team.”

Q: How many different profiles did you identify? 
Fornes: So far we’ve identified four unique profiles: The Giver, The Champ, The Matrix Thinker andThe Savant. But there are a lot more out there. For the sake of what’s manageable and effective, however, we wanted to focus on profiles of the top performers who really make a difference in our business.

Q: Can a person fit more than one profile? 
Fornes: I think so. Dr. Maynard mentioned that, at the highest level of the organization, you have senior executives who fit multiple profiles. For example, you might have a CEO who is a Matrix Thinker but also exhibits many of the characteristics of a Champ. And, perhaps most importantly, senior executives have maturity, which allows them to leverage their unique strengths while keeping their weaknesses in check.

Q: Are there profiles hiring managers should avoid entirely?
Fornes: Of course. Sociopath comes to mind. But we haven’t really dug into those profiles. We’re trying to identify the ones that improve our business. In terms of the profiles we developed, hiring managers shouldn’t avoid any specific one. Instead, they should assess the maturity level of the candidate, where they fit on their spectrum and determine whether or not they’d fit the role and company culture.

Q: In undertaking this research, did you learn anything that surprised you? 
Fornes: One thing that surprised me was how every personality type is sitting within a spectrum, where one end is powerful and positive, and the other can be destructive and negative. For example, The Champ is driven by a twinge of narcissism. Their self-confidence empowers them to do great things, but it doesn’t take much for that narcissism to become too strong and manifest itself in damaging behaviors. Again, their ability to control these negative impulses comes down to maturity. We found that the same is true for Savants who struggle with interpersonal skills, Givers who can be passive-aggressive and Matrix Thinkers who can devolve into chaos.

6 ways to make your next presentation outstanding

Knowing how to create an effective presentation means you'll always be able to get your message across to your audience. To really succeed, keep in mind that the focus is on the presenter, not just on the materials, says Andrew Dlugan founder of, a public speaking website. "Remember that you are the presentation," Dlugan says. "It's not your slides or your handouts that your audience has come to see. If it were, you could just e-mail them a softcopy."

Here are 6 more ways to create an outstanding presentation.

1. Stick to a clear outline
Organizing your presentation in an easy-to-follow manner can make it easier for listeners to understand your point. Customize a framework that includes "a beginning where you tell your audience exactly what it is that they will take away from this talk, a middle that includes the details and explanations, and an end that ties it all up with a restatement of purpose, and you send them off with a distinct call to action," says Adria Firestone, a presentation and voice expert. As you go through your presentation be sure to stick to the organization structure and avoid going off on any tangents.
2. Learn more than you need to
It's always best to over-prepare for a presentation and have a deep knowledge of the subject, Dlugan says. While you don't need to share everything you know with the audience, it can come in handy when addressing their questions or concerns. "This will allow a presenter to handle related questions in a Q&A session in a credible manner," he says, though he warns against overloading the audience with info unless they've asked for it.
3. Do some "market" research
Create a presentation that's effective by understanding the demands of your audience, says Sherri Thomas, author of "Career Smart -- 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand." To do this, Thomas suggests speaking to key members of the group about their expectations prior to when you actually have to present. "What many presenters don't understand is that your audience knows what they want, and they may not be able to focus on what you're saying until they get that information," she says. "The less resistance and more support you have in a meeting the easier your presentation will be."
4. Throw in a few telling anecdotes
"Whatever the subject matter, using laughter and storytelling can be a great way to keep your audience interested," Firestone says. Pick an anecdote that's both concise and make sure it fits the framework of your presentation. "A story illuminates and makes your point unforgettable," Firestone says. When telling your story be sure to share something about your own life and experience, adding in a bit of biographical information can help you further connect with the audience.
5. Don't make technology your entire arsenal
Whether you're using a new iPad app or simply scrolling through PowerPoint slides, it's important to use it as an aid not a crutch. "Don't be upstaged by your technology," Firestone says. "No matter how magnificent your technology, there is nothing like a live enthusiastic human sharing valuable information." To avoid mishaps practice using the device before the presentation has started -- especially if you'll be presenting in an unfamiliar space.
6. Vary your tone
If you're dreading the presentation or simply bored by it, the tone of your voice is bound to reveal your true emotion. Keep this in mind and exaggerate your enthusiasm during the presentation by varying the tone of your voice. While you don't want to come across as fake, use your voice to demonstrate that you're truly excited about the subject matter.        

Had Big Career Success & Now Struggling To Get A Job? Here's What To Do...

Tips for convincing employers you're not too experienced

Image by Shutterstock
Welcome to the "AOL Career Luck Project." Inspired by you, our readers, this new weekly series offers practical advice by showcasing real-life examples of career makeovers. Learn to create your own career luck using the tips and techniques given to project participants. Every Thursday.

Meet Charles.

After 20 years in sales, and then running his own business for a short while, Charles is now struggling to find a job. He's hitting all the local networking events and has applied to hundreds of jobs online. However, it's only landed him four interviews and no job offers. Recently, he befriended a woman in HR at a business networking breakfast. Charles asked her if she'd be willing to give him some candid feedback on his resume. Imagine his surprise when she agreed. Even more surprising to Charles was her honesty. She told him the following:
I've seen you at multiple networking events and I know you had a long career in sales followed up by owning your own company. I can tell you right now nobody wants to hire you because they think you will be too difficult of an employee.
And she's right. When you've owned your own company, or had a long, prosperous career, (or both in Charles case), your success can work against you when looking for a job. Here's why...

Business Owners & Highly Successful Professionals Have A "Persona"

As you climb the ladder of success, people watch you go up. They see you reaching new levels of professional and financial satisfaction. So, when they see you've climbing back down (i.e. closed your business, lost your job, etc.) and are now looking to start over, they assume you won't be very happy until you are right back up at the top of the ladder.

Let's face it: Why would you have climbed in the first place if you didn't want to stay there? Or, go even higher? That's why many employers will avoid hiring someone with a lot of experience and success. They fear you will be:
  1. Unhappy with the more basic roles and responsibilities of the job.
  2. Leave them as soon as you can make more money.
  3. Want to be in charge and feel compelled to always speak up and share what you think should be done - even when it's not your authority to do so.
Even if you feel certain this doesn't describe you, employers will continue to assume you'll be this way until you change their misguided assumptions.

Create Some Career L.U.C.K. for Your Professional Identity

Charles needs to be proactive and start to spread a message amongst his network that shows how recent experiences have taught him he wants to be an employee again. He also needs to prove to all those he networks with that in spite of his past success, he is not high-maintenance. (Here's an article on LinkedIn that shows you how to deal with being called "overqualified," which is often an employer's code for "high-maintenance.)

Let's breakdown what he should do:

Locate the Problem - Charles started his own company when his former employer got bought. Instead of finding a new employer, he thought with all of his years of experience and customer relationships that he should be in business for himself. He quickly learned he couldn't compete with the bigger competitors and had to close up shop after several years.

Uncover the Issues - Entrepreneurs are seen as very independent. After all, if you have the courage to start your own company, you must have the confidence and belief in your abilities. The downside is that employers will assume that you wouldn't do well as an employee now that you've had a taste of entrepreneurship. They see you as potentially being bossy, opinionated, and tough to manage.

Create New Plan - Charles needs to proactively spread the message that his experience owning his own business taught him to appreciate working for an employer. He must be able to articulate clearly why he would rather rejoin the ranks of the employed. It might sound something like this.
Owning my own business was a powerful experience that taught me a lot about myself professionally. After all those years in sales, I thought being an entrepreneur would be a good fit. But, what I learned is I prefer being part of something bigger. I missed having a team of colleagues and an abundance of resources that working for a larger company provides. I also gained a whole new respect for managers and executives running these organizations. Having been in their shoes, I now see all that goes into running a company and feel I can support the management team's goals better as a result. Now, I want to take this experience and channel it in to my next job. I am really looking forward to getting back to work with a firm where I can leverage my skills and abilities to get them results.
By sharing his experience and all it taught him about how hard it is to run a business, managers will see Charles as an excellent person to have on their staff because he was humbled by the experience. They know he will have greater respect for them as a result of it.

Know Your Next Steps - Charles needs to create a bucket list of companies he wants to work for and focus his networking on meeting people who work there. Then, he can share his story and seek their advice on the best way to earn an interview with their company. The more he can connect and tell his story, the more likely he'll be to get people to refer him to jobs. It's very important he use this technique because applying online won't work. The Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and the recruiters will most likely skip his resume for the reasons listed above. Charles needs to go around the process and have in-person conversations with people who can hear his messaging first-hand. This will have a greater impact and help him get in front of hiring managers faster. (For further reading on this subject, here's an article that shares the importance of avoiding a common face-to-face networking mistake.)

Charles is a talented professional who enjoys working hard and achieving his goals. He's learning now that his track-record of success brands him as someone who employers think wouldn't be a good fit due to the "too many cooks in the kitchen" cliche. They assume he'll act in charge and expect too much. It's up to Charles to market himself differently so he can prove to employers he would be more than happy as an employee.          

Find a New Job Even When You Work Odd Hours

Don't let the graveyard shift keep you from job hunting

Getty Images
Do you work two jobs or odd hours? Are you a freelancer, but you'd prefer a more traditional job? Perhaps you're sick and tired of your unconventional schedule and hours, but you can't figure out how to break out of your current work situation. You've heard that networking is the key to landing a new job, but you don't have any time to attend events or hob nob with people who may be able to influence your job opportunities. Is there hope for you?

There is, if you're willing to take a few key steps to manage your career. If you continue on your current path, you may eventually luck into a new opportunity. However, finding a new job that fits your best-case scenario isn't likely if you don't make a concerted effort.

How can you find a new job when you're so busy keeping up with the odd hours or inconvenient oddities of the job you have?

Make a plan

You're never going to get anywhere if you don't know where you are going. Having a general idea that you'd like "better hours" or a "different" job is a first step, but it's not specific enough to help you make a change. Write down exactly what type of job you want. Include target companies, hours you'd like to work and what you want to do. Don't be afraid to be very specific. Once you specify your goals, it is much easier to reach them.

Research people

Even if you work odd hours, you can turn to Google or LinkedIn at any time of the day or night to research people who work in places where you want a job. If you're already using LinkedIn, see if the company has a page there and determine if you have any contacts that connect you to people who work there. Look in LinkedIn's advanced search to find possible contacts, and investigate the "Education" section to see if you should connect with fellow alumni. Don't forget to check out Groups. This is a great place to meet new people, and your odd schedule doesn't prevent you from connecting with new people who may be able to refer you to job opportunities.

Expand your network on your own time frame

One thing a lot of people don't realize: even if you can't meet people in person, when you connect online and share information and resources, you can win friends who may open their networks to you and help connect you with opportunities. No matter what type of work you do, there is likely to be a community online of people who can help you along the way.

For some professions, it's most obvious to turn to LinkedIn's groups to connect, but what if your profession doesn't have an obvious professional arena? Look for interest groups unrelated to work. Do you have a hobby or interests that could help you connect with people you don't know online? Search Facebook or Google+ for an interest group. Maybe you like to cook or are passionate about ultimate Frisbee. Even if you can't participate with in-person groups, you can still extend your network. Look on Twitter to see if there is a chat about something you like to do. Even if you can't attend a Twitter chat "live," you can still connect with the people who participate and get to know them online.

Network everywhere

The best networkers look for opportunities to meet new people wherever they go. In the grocery store at 2 a.m? You probably have something in common with the person in the line behind you. At the gym in the wee hours of the morning? Say hello to people working out beside you. You never know how a smile and a hello can influence your future.

Don't ask for a job

Even if your primary purpose for using social media may be to increase your network for job opportunities, avoid telling people you're looking for a job when you first meet them. Even though you've heard you should let everyone you meet know you are looking for work, it's better to get to know people first and share your professional goals later. If you play your cards right, you could be quitting that job before you know it.          

How to Answer 5 Interview Questions You'll Be Asked If You're Unemployed

The employed get bonus points just for having a job

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Job seekers who are currently employed carry a little extra leverage when they sit down at the negotiating table. If you're looking for work and you have a job already (no matter how terrible your position may be), employers often assume your skills have a high market value.

Some employers stubbornly place greater confidence in a candidate if someone else (no matter who) wants to keep them onboard. There's not much logic to this assumption, but there it is.

So where does that leave you if you're unemployed?

And, even more importantly, how should you approach interviews if you've been out of work for a long time?

If you've been on the market for six months or longer, get ready for skeptical employers to present you with any of these five questions. Understand what the interviewer is asking and practice your answers prior to the interview so you won't be caught off guard.

1. Why did you leave your last position? And why did you leave the one before that?

Translation: If she's out on her own and she'd rather not be, then what is she doing wrong? Maybe the clues lie in her departure from past positions. I'll ask her about past employers, then I'll read between the lines and try to determine if she's a dedicated worker and good performer who's easy to get along with.

How to answer: Keep your responses positive and focus on what you learned from your positions.

2. Have you been interviewing much?

Translation: Have you been actively looking for work? And if so, how are other employers responding to your resume?

How to answer: Be honest, but recognize that your potential employers will want reassurance that you've been aggressively searching.

3. What else have you been doing while searching for a job?

Translation: The employer wants to make sure you've been working hard to develop your skills and pursue goals, whether you have a job or not.

Now is a great time to talk about your volunteering gig, the fund drive you organized, the open source community you joined or the family member you've been taking care of.

How to answer: Make sure you come off as a busy and ambitious person, not a couch potato.

4. How has your time off affected you as a worker? Will you be ready to jump back in and be a leader?

Translation: The employer is trying to find weak points in your self-description. She's also trying to get a sense of how you approach challenges, how you might fit in with the company culture and how you would handle the responsibilities of this specific position.

How to answer: Keep your answer as honest as possible. Pause for a few seconds to organize your thoughts before you speak.

5. What can you tell us that might allay concerns about your lack of employment?

Translation: We like you, but we see a red flag. Why aren't you already employed? What's wrong?
How to answer: This question may seem upsetting, but it's actually a brilliant opportunity in disguise. This is your chance to deliver your elevator pitch, the 30-second speech that tells employers about the talents, skills and contributions you can bring to this position that no other candidate can. 

11 ways to help your job search in 5 minutes

5 min job search
You may not think you have enough time to make progress in your job search. But if you’ve got five minutes, you can move your search forward with any of these 11 actions.

1. Replace the objective statement. “Replace the objective statement at the top of your résumé with a branded headline that conveys your value to the reader, i.e., ‘Registered nurse committed to providing safe, effective patient care,” says Laurie Berenson, certified master résumé writer and founder of Sterling Career Concepts LLC.

2. Connect with your network. “Connect with one person from your network with whom you haven’t spoken in at least one month,” Berenson advises. “Pick up the phone, too — don’t rely on emailing.”

3. Update your social profiles. “Update your LinkedIn profile content for two reasons: First, to keep it current, but also so the activity puts your name in front of every one of your contacts as a network update on their home page,” Berenson says.

4. Conduct research. “A lack of basic understanding of the agency’s mission and/or philosophy shows a lack of preparation and interest,” says Natasha R.W. Eldridge, founding partner and director of human resources for Eldridge Overton Educational Programs.

5. Make your voicemail more professional. “Remove ringtones and silly voicemail recordings from voicemail,” Eldridge says. “I am not going to leave a professional message on the voicemail of an applicant that has music blasting as a ringtone. It shows me that job searching is not a priority.”

6. Prepare for the interview. “Preparation is everything,” says Bruce A. Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing Ltd. ”Make up a list of the questions you do not want to be asked; then answer them in the company of a friend. Tell the friend you want honest feedback to make certain that you are giving confident, credible and professional-sounding answers. Once you are comfortable with the difficult questions … you will be more than prepared for the ‘easy’ questions.”

7. Join industry associations. “Contact and join a local professional association,” says Raina Kropp, HR talent partner at Vistage International. “Sometimes you can get student or in-transition discounts. Don’t be afraid to ask. These are the people you want to network with since they could be your future manager or colleague.”

8. Clean up your résumé. “Remove irrelevant experience from your résumé,” says Katie Niekrash, senior managing director of the recruitment firm Execu-Search. “While the summer after college that you spent scooping ice cream may have been the best [time] of your life, it doesn’t really apply to a career in finance. Pick and choose your relevant experience, and tailor it to the job you’re applying for.”

9. Get your references ready. “Prepare your list of references before the interview,” Niekrash says. “Once you have confirmed your two to three references, create a simple document that lists all the relevant information the employer would need to know about them — name, title, contact info., etc. Bring this document with you to all your interviews, so this way, if the hiring manager asks you for your references, you’ll be prepared and look organized.”

10. Stay organized. “Create a master list for all the jobs you apply for. The key to a successful job search is organization,” Niekrash says. “To do this, create an Excel spreadsheet that contains a row for each job you apply for, and include these columns: the date you applied; the company; the contact; the position for which you applied; how you applied; if, when and with whom you interviewed; when you should next follow up or what your next steps are; and the current status of the application. Creating this document should only take a few minutes, and updating it as you proactively apply for jobs should only take a few seconds.”

11. Proofread your materials. “Read your LinkedIn profile, résumé and other job-search materials backward,” says Karen Southall Watts, business consultant, coach and speaker. “That’s right — read from the last sentence to the first sentence. This editing technique forces you to examine each sentence separately and keeps you from skipping over mistakes because you know what you meant to say next. By reading your materials backward, you can avoid those common typos and errors that plague all of us when our brains go faster than our typing skills.”

Soft Skill: Accepting and Learning From Criticism

We need to have a talk about your job performance

You might remember the first time you were ever truly criticized. Maybe it was at school, during recess, some doofus calling you a dork and lobbing a medicine ball at your head. Maybe one of your siblings regularly tore into you as a kid, causing you to cringe internally even when you get together as adults. Whatever the case, most people are not naturally suited to receiving criticism, whether it's some deep-seated Freudian response or a general species-wide aversion.

At the same time, knowing how to take criticism well is an important quality in an employee, and if you respond to the smallest critique by shutting down (or lobbing a medicine ball at someone's head), you're doing yourself a major disservice. Fortunately, AOL Jobs has rounded up the best posts about receiving criticism from around the web, so take a look. And don't worry: this won't hurt a bit.

Accepting criticism

Don't wait until your boss to come to you. Ask for regular feedback on how you're doing, so you're not blindsided by a less-than-satisfactory performance review (or worse, layoffs). Maybe this sounds a bit like asking for punishment--and yes, it might be a little uncomfortable at first--but it pays to have a thick skin.

If you show up to work an hour late every day, looking like a caveman and smelling like last night's tacos, you might want to take a step back and evaluate the attitude you bring to work every day. Regular reality checks can help you understand criticism before you get it, and focus on what you need to change.

You can't control when you're going to receive criticism, or how it's going to be delivered. What you can control is how you react: do you cover your ears and start humming "The Star-Spangled Banner," or do you listen and attempt to absorb what's been said to you? If you find yourself in a painful situation, you can always talk it out over margaritas later.

When a boss criticizes you, they're not looking for you to defend yourself--they're looking for you to listen to what they're saying. So don't say, "Wow! I'm surprised and upset to hear you say this!" Say, "Wow! This is incredibly helpful, and I will continue to focus on these areas of improvement!" Except, you know, don't say it exactly like that.

Dealing with bad criticism

Not all criticism is constructive. Sometimes it's rude, snide, or unnecessarily withering; even when it's delivered by a fellow employee (rather than your boss), you still need to remain tactful in your reaction. Try to understand what they're saying and focus on the problem itself, rather than the personality clash that brought it to the surface.

The delivery may be flawed, but that's not to say there isn't any truth to what's being delivered. Try to divorce what's being said to you from its emotional content, and you might just find that there's something to learn. Even if it's buried beneath an avalanche of four-letter words.

Getting better

So your year-end review didn't go the way you were hoping. Maybe some of the things your boss told you were hard to hear, but try not to take it too personally. Instead, think of it as a game plan to move forward, and hopefully wow 'em next time.

Rather than fearing criticism, try to embrace it. We're not talking about a personal attack, here. This is an opportunity for you to get better at what you do. Ideally, people dole out criticism not because they think you're a weak link, but because they see your full potential. That's something we should be thankful for--even if getting there is a bit painful.

4 career lessons we can learn from 'New Girl'

While many of the show's topics border on the absurd (for example, character Nick Miller meets someone at the bar where he works who claims to be "Nick from the future"), sometimes you can actually glean a real life lesson out of an episode, such as having Thanksgiving in the wilderness just to prove your manhood will ultimately backfire.
Alright, that might not be such a revelation, but when it comes to the careers of the show's characters, there are some true lessons to be learned. Here are four of them.

Lesson No. 1: Don't let setbacks discourage you
Early on in season two, Jess learns she's been laid off from her elementary school teaching job due to budget cuts. While the news hits her hard, Jess is determined to move on. She takes on a job as a "shot girl" at a party thrown by roommate Schmidt. Given her sweet, somewhat innocent demeanor, she's not so good at the job. She finally starts acting a little more wild, and it works, winning over the crowd's approval. But even after finally getting the hang of the job, she realizes this isn't who she really is -- she's meant to be a teacher.
The lesson? The job market is tough. You may find yourself in a situation where you've been laid off or you just can't seem to find a job in the field you want. While there may be circumstances where you need to take any job you can get, that doesn't mean you should let go of the idea of pursuing your passion. Continue seeking out opportunities that excite you. Take classes to help build your skills. If you keep working at it, you'll eventually get to where you want to be in your career.

Lesson No. 2: Don't try to be someone you're not just to impress co-workers
Jess does eventually get a job at a new school. She quickly discovers that there's a clique of "cool" teachers, and Jess makes it her mission to get in good with the group. These teachers could be considered "mean girls," and they drive Jess to drink, make fun of her principal and eventually sneak into the principal's yard and get in his hot tub. They get caught, but Jess gets them off the hook by convincing the principal they just wanted to hang out. But it's a close call that could've cost Jess her job.
The lesson? If you're new to a company, you may want to do anything you can to fit in with other co-workers and make friends. While it's not a bad thing to have some camaraderie with your fellow colleagues, and it's nice if any of those relationships turn into friendships, you shouldn't try to force yourself into situations that may make you uncomfortable just to fit in. At the end of the day, you're there to do your job and be professional, and any friendships made are just a bonus.

Lesson No. 3: Don't be afraid to make a change
Ever since roommate Winston's basketball career ended, he's struggled to figure out exactly what he wants to do with his life. After working odd jobs, he eventually lands a promising position at a sports radio station. He finally has some stability and is doing well at work, but through some soul searching (read: drinking at a bar), he realizes that he isn't happy and wants to try something new. Just because the job seemed like a good opportunity given his sports background, that doesn't mean it was the right fit. He doesn't know what he wants to do, but he's willing to explore different options until he finds what makes him happy.  
The lesson? You may have worked in the same career for a while, and you've gotten comfortable. You're good at what you do, and you're on your way up the ladder. But something is still missing -- you don't feel fulfilled. If that's the case, it may be time to make a change. While change is scary, sometimes it's good to challenge yourself, especially if it means that you'll ultimately end up doing something that you truly enjoy.

Lesson No. 4: Address issues with a co-worker -- professionally
Schmidt, who works in marketing, is told he has to help train a new team member, Ed. Ed is an older man and seems to be eager to learn all he can from Schmidt. Schmidt underestimates Ed's savviness and treats him as if he doesn't know much about marketing, or the world. Ed plays along, and Schmidt confides in him about a big idea he plans to pitch to his boss. Yet at the next team meeting, Ed steals Schmidt's idea. The idea intrigues their boss, who asks Ed to write up a more formal plan. Schmidt ends up sabotaging Ed's presentation, but Ed vows that he'll get back at Schmidt.
The lesson? Sometimes a workplace can get competitive. You may even find yourself in a situation where a co-worker tries to take credit for something you did. Yet while the issue should be addressed, there are more professional and ethical ways to handle it than sabotage. Try first to talk to your co-worker and explain your concern. There's a chance that it could end up being a misunderstanding; perhaps he didn't purposely mean to steal your idea. If you find that this continues to be an issue, you should bring it up with your boss, but do so tactfully. Ask for a private meeting, explain the situation, bring examples, and see how your boss wants to handle it. You should never resort to unethical behavior to solve an issue with another co-worker, because you may end up being the one who gets into trouble.

Do I Have To Disclose My Medical Condition To A Potential Employer?

What an employer can and can't ask about your disability in an interview

Weighing up the candidate's qualities

An AOL Jobs reader asks:

Your columns are extremely educational and full of information. Thank you from an appreciative reader. I may have missed this, but when applying for a job, is it necessary to disclose any medical conditions? I am a Diabetic Type 1, and use a pump, which could bulge through my clothes, though I take care to avoid that.

I was hired by a high-end jewelry store one month ago, and after working for 10 days, was told by HR, that I was "not a good fit." No other explanation. Needless to say, I was devastated. I am a University graduate with a B.A. and have always worked diligently. Does this business have a right to dismiss me?

I'm so pleased you enjoy my columns! Thanks for letting me know. Your question addresses an important issue about disabilities. In general, you should not disclose any disabilities when applying for a job. The potential employer is not supposed to ask about any disability until it makes what is called a "conditional" job offer. For details on how the Americans With Disabilities Act works and who is covered, read my article 15 Things You Need To Know About Disability Discrimination.

Let me explain how a conditional job offer works.
  • Employer can't: Your potential employer can't ask any questions about any medical issues or require a physical examination before making a job offer. Prohibited questions would be things like, "Will you need any accommodations to perform this job?" "Do you have any medical conditions that would limit your ability to perform this job?" "How long will it take for your broken arm to heal?" or "What medications are you currently taking?"
  • Employer can: The potential employer may ask if you are able to perform the job before they make a job offer. For instance, questions like, "Are you able to perform all the duties of this job with or without accommodations?" "How would you perform this job task?" "Can you meet our attendance requirements?" "How many Mondays did you miss work other than holidays and scheduled vacations?" or "Do you currently use any illegal drugs?" If you come to the interview with a broken leg, it's not unusual for the interviewer to ask what happened, but they can't get into details about what treatment you had, how extensive the break is or how long it will take to fully heal.
  • Conditional offer: If you get a job offer, it may well have conditions, like passing a drug test or a physical agility test. At that point, the employer can ask if you need any accommodations for a disability. Once you get the job offer, that's the time to disclose if you need any reasonable accommodations. If you need, for instance, a CCTV to help you see your computer screen better, that's something to disclose before you start working. If the employer doesn't want to provide the accommodation, they'll have to show an undue hardship. Make sure you've passed any tests and received an unconditional offer before you give notice at any existing job. You don't want to give notice only to find out the offer was withdrawn.
  • Reference checks: The employer can't ask anything from your references that it can't ask you. Questions about whether you needed accommodations, took Family and Medical Leave or needed time off for medical conditions are not allowed. How will you know if they ask? You probably won't. That's a major problem with the law, but if you have a good relationship with your former employer, they may tell you. If you get a call saying, "Wow, they asked me lots of questions about your medical condition," then that's a red flag that something illegal happened.

If the employer finds out about your disability either at the interview stage or after you've been hired and then withdraws the offer or suddenly fires you, then you may well have a disability discrimination case. If you think you were a victim of disability discrimination, I suggest contacting an employment lawyer in your state to learn more about your rights.

7 Tips to Go From Newbie to Superstar

If you help your boss succeed, you will succeed

 By Jay Kilberg 


You're the new kid on the block and you want to quickly make your mark transitioning from rookie to rising star. First -- kudos to you. If you define your job as keeping your head down and going through the motions so you can get to Friday at 5, you're doomed for career mediocrity or probable termination. In today's competitive world, you need to go that extra mile to truly differentiate yourself from the rest of the herd. You have to have that fire in your belly and truly want it.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way to help quickly take your career to the next level: 

1. If you help your boss succeed, you will succeed.

You want a big raise and a promotion? Do what it takes to get your boss a big raise and a promotion. You accomplish this by understanding what your boss's goals are for the year and then being instrumental in achieving them. If you're the key to making your boss a star, then you will be one too.

2. If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

No manager has the luxury of carrying dead wood. You need to step up and add value. Volunteer for the critical project that no one wants to take on. Bring forward new ideas on how to delight customers and boost retention. Come up with ways to help the business do its work smarter. Be the "go to" person when an important assignment needs to get done right.

3. Anticipate what needs to get done and just do it. 

If you wait around for someone to tell you what to do you will soon become expendable. Be proactive and take initiative. Understand the strategic direction for your business and help your team get there faster by determining what needs to get done and just doing it. Always try to anticipate and stay one step ahead. As the Great One hockey legend Wayne Gretzky put it: "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."

4. Always be learning. 

Just because you graduated doesn't mean you stop learning. What are the key trends driving your industry? What new technologies are emerging that could be a game changer? What new ideas or frameworks can you apply to help transform your business? Take advantage of all the professional development stuff your company offers. Sign up for a workshop to build new skills. Be a voracious reader. Be open to new ideas and ways of thinking. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut, listen and learn from others that know more than you. Commit to being a lifelong student. Knowledge is power.

5. Build trust.

Do you keep your word? When you commit to taking on a project do you deliver on time and on budget? Do you have a reputation for unquestionable integrity? Can you be counted on to actually do what you say you are going to do? The answer to all of these must be an unequivocal YES.

6. No surprises. 

No boss worth their salt likes surprises. Although it might be unpleasant, it is dramatically better to bring bad news to your boss's attention immediately so the damage can be managed and controlled. The longer you wait, the higher the likelihood that the problem will be bigger and your credibility will be questioned (see 5 above). If you smell something rotten, let your boss know before everyone dies of food poisoning.

7. Be positive.

Yes, it's work, but it's not a prison sentence. Be a high-energy positive person that people enjoy working with and want to be around. Smile. Be professional, but have some fun. Love what you do. Research shows that 75 percent of job success is driven by your level of optimism. Create a mental model that says, "I'm fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm going to make the most of it."

Life is not a dress rehearsal. Do great things and enjoy the ride.    

How to Get a Job Without A Bachelor's Degree

You can get hired, if you know what to do...

Image by Shutterstock

 Meet Tim.

He served in our military and then took advantage of the GI Bill. But, because Tim wanted to get working, he opted for an Associate's Degree. He landed a job upon graduating. Then, after years of working for the same company, got laid-off.

He's since moved to a new city to be closer to family, but is finding it impossible to get a job. Why? Almost every job posting he feels qualified for has "Bachelor's Degree Required" listed in it. The result has been no interviews - and definitely no job offers.

Is it "back to school" for Tim? Not necessarily.

Tim specializes in Supply Chain Management. He has done a lot of continuing education in the form of courses and certifications. Also, his experience and level of position at his last job indicate he is more than capable of doing the work. Truthfully, the Bachelor's Degree most likely wouldn't teach him anything new. It just might make getting employers to pay attention to his online applications a bit easier, here's why...

ATS: The ultimate robo-recruiter. (And, that's a bad thing!)

ATS (applicant tracking systems) are used by many companies today. Especially, by larger businesses that hire for Tim's skill set. The corporate recruiters simply put in a set of criteria they are looking for (i.e. Bachelor's Degree), and then, as the applications come in, the ATS automatically screens out the ones that aren't a 100% match in skills and keywords. This means at least 8 out of 10 times, Tim's application is never even being seen by a human eye. All that time he spends applying online? It's a waste.

Career L.U.C.K. = Get past ATS with a little strategic networking!

There is something Tim can do to create his own career L.U.C.K. - watch the video below to learn how he can go around the ATS and find the best way to get hired without a Bachelor's degree.

Here's what Tim needs to do:

Locate the Problem - Tim has several problems. To recap, first, he has moved to a new city and has no existing professional network to leverage. Second, with only an Associate's Degree, he will automatically get eliminated by ATS, making online applications a near useless method for him to find a job. Finally, because he is currently unemployed, employers in the new city will naturally discriminate against him. Tim has to find a way to network with people directly so they can get to know him and see his true potential.

Uncover the Issues - Since applying online hasn't worked and Tim has no network to tap into, he is feeling as if he can only apply to jobs that will accept him with his Associate's Degree. This:

A) Limits his options severely.
B) Makes Tim feel bad about himself and his ability to get hired.

In short, Tim is experiencing a crisis of confidence and is frustrated to think that all his hard work, both in the military, and on the job after he got his degree were for nothing. That hurts his ability to put forth the kind of effort he'll need to get a new job. As months pass, if something doesn't change, Tim will find it harder to motivate himself to look for work. (This article shows how crisis of confidence can deeply affect your ability to succeed in your career.)

Create New Plan - Tim needs to go around the ATS. To start, he must do his homework and find companies in the area that hire for his skill set. We call this a "bucket list" - and it's the single best way to focus a job search so you can get real results. Next, Tim will leverage several aspects of his situation that will encourage people to want to network with him. In this case, the fact that he is a veteran and new to the area will enable him to make use of the "Welcome Wagon Effect." This is when professionals go out of their way to offer to help fellow professionals who are new to the area. Tim will use this approach to connect with people in his chosen field of Supply Chain Management that work at the companies on his bucket list. That way, he can ask them first-hand what it takes to get hired by their companies with only an Associate's Degree.

Know Your Next Steps - To keep Tim on task, I suggest he start with a total of 10 companies on his bucket list. He should find the top firms in the area and be able to back up with facts why they earned a spot on his list. Then, he'll research five employees at each company for him to target his outreach to. Using LinkedIn, Tim will be able to customize his requests to connect, using the information he gained while research each firm and their employees. This will statistically increase the chances they will accept his connection requests. Once they accept, Tim can follow up with an email seeking an opportunity to either chat with them by phone or exchange emails so he can get their guidance and perspective on what they think it takes to eventually earn a position with their employer. (This article offers step-by-step process for creating your own bucket list and the right way to ask for informational interviews.)

NOTE: He will not ask them for a job, or to refer him to one. Tim is simply asking for information that will empower him to customize his approach when applying to these companies in the future. However, by establishing a relationship with existing employees, Tim can hopefully leverage that down the line. Over 80 percent of all jobs are gotten via referral. So, to improve your chances of getting hired, it only makes sense to network with people who have jobs at the companies you want to work for!

Lesson learned? Remove the online roadblock!

If you are like Tim and don't have the degree, or perhaps other skills and experience listed on a job requirement, the chances you'll get hired when applying online are slim. The solution is to use the technique above to go around the process. It's the only way you can get the employer to overlook the criteria the set and realize you have the ability to do the job!

How to Get an Internship In High School

Students are expected to have real-world experience

high school student chats to teacher or counsellor
Getty Images
Career coaches have been advising college students about the importance of internships for decades. More recently, Baby Boomers have been encouraged to take on "adult internships" to help them transition to new occupations or enter a new field. However, the first-ever study on high school careers by Millennial Branding and says 50 percent of companies are creating high school internship programs this year and high school students are even more career-focused than college students. The study, "High School Careers," shows the importance of career development activities, such as internships and volunteering, for high school students who want to get into better colleges and find future employment.

How can high schoolers position themselves to be competitive for internships? Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and author of Promote Yourself, offers the following tips to enhance potential opportunities:

1. Ask your family members for help. "We found that 54 percent of parents have helped their children get work experience during high school," Schawbel says. Students should encourage their parents to introduce them to people they know who may help connect them to an internship, and parents should help high schoolers prepare for interviews. Schawbel suggests parents talk to their children about what to expect in work situations and to suggest how to make the most of the opportunity.

2. Attend networking groups and meetups. Go to and and join networking groups in your city. "By going to these events, you can start to establish your own network and differentiate yourself from your fellow high school students," Schawbel suggests. "Rarely will you see students attend events, so professionals will be more than impressed if you take the initiative."

3. Ask your high school. See if your high school administrators or teachers have any connections to companies that are offering internships. Your high school probably has the resources and connections that will help you get these opportunities, Schawbel says. If they don't, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

4. Apply for an internship online. is a source of high school internships. For example, Microsoft offers a paid internship program for 8 to 10 weeks only for high school students. Many of the top colleges also offer internships with online applications. For example, Boston University has a research internship in science and engineering during the summer for six weeks.

5. Do freelance work. Instead of applying to internship programs, Schawbel says, "You can also use sites like and in order to find work that matches your skills. In our study we found that about 40 percent of internships are administrative, but freelance work is solely based on your skills and you can have more flexibility with where you do the work. Do freelance work in order to build a portfolio that you can use to get into a better college."

How To Bounce Back From A Negative Performance Review

Deal with your emotions first, then move on to the reasons

Business woman on steps looking worried
Getty Images

By Vicki Salemi

If you're on the heels of a year-end performance review or getting ready for a new goal-setting meeting, welcome to the club. If your review hasn't exactly been stellar, the first reaction may be denial, anxiety or even outrage. The good thing is the process of sitting down with your boss creates an opportunity for honest feedback and consequently, a new game plan.

According to experts, a negative review isn't the be all and end all. Peter Handal, chairman and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, recommends looking at the big picture. "A review is a real opportunity to see how somebody important in your career, your supervisor, views you," he says. 

The first step for an employee approaching the review is to be a good listener. Considering your boss may not be the best communicator, he or she may be blunt. "Reviews aren't done as skillfully as they might otherwise be," Handal says. "A boss may say, 'Peter, you did a crummy job on this.'" Listen carefully to what's being said.

The immediate reaction may be to get really defensive and then block yourself off to the rest of the conversation. Craig Chappelow, a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership, says: "Emotions first, reasoning second. ... Your boss doesn't give you negative feedback to be mean or hurtful – it's their job. Do yours."

The only reason they're doing this is because they're interested in your success. "This conversation is for the purpose of helping you become more successful," Handal says. After all, the supervisor looks more successful when you're successful – you're both in this together. It's normal to feel hurt or angry. Chappelow recommends managing your emotions privately with a trusted individual. Whether you lean on a mentor or friend afterward, Chappelow suggests taking time to "cycle through the emotions this kind of bad news can bring." Monitor your reactions and try to identify what you're feeling. "It can be a very telling exercise and most people cannot move on to solving the problem if they don't take the time to reflect on their reactions and go ahead and have the emotional reaction," he says.

During the performance review itself, it's OK to acknowledge your emotions without letting them surpass your ability to be an effective listener. As the conversation keeps flowing, take copious notes especially if you're emotionally caught up in the moment – you don't want to miss any nuggets of insight.

That said, if your boss isn't providing specific examples, ask for some. Instead of giving your opinion or becoming defensive, Handal suggests saying, "Well, gee, can you give me an example of where I can improve or what do you think would be an example of something I have done well?" This engages your boss a little more into the discussion. He or she could be hesitant or maybe they haven't done this before. Your asking these kinds of questions will draw him or her out.

Instead of viewing this as a stressful situation, look at it as an opportunity to create a game plan to move forward. "Take a deep breath, be calm and think there must be some value to this conversation," Handal says. Figure out how to address issues that were raised. "This is a win-win – she's really interested in my success and then I can show my supervisor this is the way I'm going to address these things."

Chappelow adds: "It is a cliché to say that feedback is a gift – and it often doesn't feel like it in the moment – but it really is critical. We try to help the individual understand the importance of any feedback as a navigation point."

How to Land the Internship of Your Dreams

Internship opportunities await students who prepare thoroughly

group of students working on...

It's time to start looking for an internship if you want to be gainfully employed this summer, but how can you make sure you stand out from the crowd of other qualified applicants? The key? Know what you offer and be able to market your skills in a way that appeals to your target audience. Before you can start to choose the best places to look and actually apply, you should do some research so you are well prepared to know what you offer as it relates to what employers likely need.

Identify your special attributes
Before you apply for an internship – or any job – you should first take a long, hard look at what you have to offer. What skills do you have? How can you help employers solve their problems? What can you do better than most other people? Focus on these skills and identify the commonalities between what you offer and what your target employers need.

Choose keywords
Once you hone in on your skills and what employers need from you, carefully select keywords companies will use when they search for someone like you. Use job descriptions as well as information you can find on company profiles and via their social media sites to choose the words that will appeal to them.

Create a discoverable resume
Find job descriptions for internships that appeal to you (look at AOL Jobs,,,, and to start your research). Study them: what skills and accomplishments do they want successful applicants to have? Include the key words on your resume that prove you are the one for the job. Do not expect the person (or the applicant tracking system) that reviews your resume to assume anything you do not specifically include in your resume.

For example, if you want someone to know you are good at solving problems, specify problems you have solved, label them as problems and describe your role in overcoming challenges and accomplishing goals.

Create magnetic social media profiles
In your online profiles, use those keywords to write headlines, taglines and bios that make it clear how you can contribute. For example, in your LinkedIn headline, include some keywords as well as a pitch – a brief description of what you can do that makes you worth hiring.

If you're looking for a sales and marketing internship, for example, your LinkedIn headline may read:
Sales & Marketing/Customer Service Representative: multitask, prioritize, provide amazing service with a smile.
In those 110 characters, there are several keywords as well as a pitch ("provide amazing service with a smile.")

Use social media to expand your network
Tap into LinkedIn's "Education" section (find it under Interests). You can see where people who graduated from your school work today and where they live. Take advantage of opportunities to connect via groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, communities on Google+ and Twitter chats on Twitter. You may be surprised by how helpful people you've never met may be if they are impressed with you and your online profile.

Get started on these steps and stay tuned for more tips about how to apply for internships and avoid job search mistakes.

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