How to love the work you do

By Susan Ricker
How to love the work you do

There are plenty of benefits to loving your job, which can reach far beyond the actual hours you’re on the clock.
As Ray White, author of “Connecting Happiness and Success,” says, “When people love what they do, they are happier and more successful. They work longer hours, make more friends at work, spend most of their time thinking about how to do things better and talk to everyone about what they do, which provides them with lots of diverse ideas on how to do their job even better. Their job becomes intertwined in their life rather than separate from it, and they excel because of it.”
Even if you don’t love your job, there it can still have a positive effect on your life. . “The job may not be your passion,” White says. “It may just enable your passion. Your job can be how you earn enough money to surf or play music. So you are not passionate about the job, but you are passionate about what it enables you to do. The key is to put your job into the perspective of your passions or dreams.”

Craft your job
Whether you’re passionate about your work or what it enables you to do, there are ways to improve your career outlook and how you spend your time in the office. White suggests “job crafting,” or reshaping the responsibilities you hold, as well as your attitude toward them.
“How can you make adjustments in your job so it leverages your strengths, calls on your passions and changes the boring and routine tasks?” White says. “I often use the example of our janitor who doesn’t think her job is to clean bathrooms, it is to keep the ‘kids’ — her name for our young workforce — happy and productive. She makes sure they have coffee in the morning, clean dishes and re-arranged furniture to help them be productive. Last week she pulled furniture out of an old storage room and set up shelves for the people whose desks were getting overcrowded. She changed her job to be something she was passionate about.”
This kind of attitude adjustment can be as large or small as you’re willing to try. “As part of job crafting, you can also turn boring routine tasks into contests with yourself or others,” White says. “If you did 100 entries yesterday, how can you do 150 entries today and maintain the same quality?”

Make connections
Improving how you do your job and how you see your responsibilities is a critical first step in loving your job. But what else can you do to ignite the passion? White recommends looking for the connections. His challenge to job seekers and workers alike: “Do they connect with the vision and values of the company? Does the company purpose give them something bigger than themselves to pursue, for example, an alarm company making the world safer? Do they connect with their friends and teammates at work? Can they be passionate about helping their co-workers succeed or help their team complete a big project? Can they connect with all the things they can learn on the job or the opportunity for travel and/or career advancement? Can they get excited about the opportunities for them to take on and accomplish huge projects with seemingly insurmountable challenges?” These are all questions you can ask yourself, and if you don’t like the answer, you have a great jumping off point for what to change.

The bottom line is not to look at everything you hate about your job, but to find what your job provides for you. After all, as White says, “It is not about the job; it is about how they look at the job and how they choose to create the connection between their jobs and their lives.”

How do employers test an applicant’s skills?


4 job search tips from Google

By Anthony Balderrama


Mastering your job search – in layers

By Guest Contributor
job search seeking employment concept background

By Beth Tucker, president and CEO of KNF&T

There are several avenues prospective employees can take to find their “perfect” job. However, many still choose to rely solely on submitting résumés online, which is a mistake. Any recruiter or HR manager will tell you they don’t get to the majority of applications, due to automated processes such as applicant tracking systems and the sheer volume of résumés received. While submitting online is often a requirement, prospective employees need to think about their job search in layers. In addition to submitting a résumé online, there are several different avenues a prospective employee should incorporate into the job search mix. Below are some you should pursue as you look for your ideal job.

There is no time like face time
Attending events to network and meet different contacts is an important aspect to any successful job search and one prospective employees should take seriously. Further, if you are interested in a particular company, you should make the extra effort to seek out events that are important to the company’s employee base and try to engage with those individuals that may be able to potentially serve as references for you.
College connections
While fall is often the time of year people place an extra emphasis on their college ties through homecoming events and reunions, do not lose sight of the importance of those connections year round. In addition, as you hone in on a particular company, be sure to research where the executive team and/or your prospective manager went to college. A common college bond can go a long way in fostering a job-winning connection.
The company you keep
Hopefully, since you first started in the workforce, you have been building a referral base. If you haven’t, you need to. While you may not have referrals within your target company, external referrals go a long way in helping to validate your fit within a role. Depending on the position you are seeking, the types of referrals may vary — and they do not need to be from a previous manager. They can be focused on your management style (from someone who has supported you); client relations skills (from a former client) or general character/team player attributes (someone who has worked with you).
Taking social seriously
We all know social media engagement can have a significant impact on a job search. Not only do you need to be careful with what you publicize socially (to avoid a negative perception), engaging with certain groups can help catapult you into the right sphere of influence within a company. The majority of companies have a LinkedIn page. Take a look at the groups where employees are members and start to engage with them. Not only will it put you in a positive light with those who are seeing you interact in groups germane to them, but you will be well-versed on the topics they want to discuss come interview time.
Get to know the hiring manager
Once your online application is submitted, you should try to make an effort to follow up directly with the hiring manager for the position. There are likely hundreds of other applicants that submitted via that same online form. Stand out from the crowd by sending up a follow-up email directly (if you have access to the information). Other avenues to consider include engaging with them over Twitter or they have been mentioned/quoted somewhere, let them know you noticed. Although — always be careful not to be too aggressive. You do not want to come off intrusive.
Test the waters with temping
As you start in the workforce, there are many options that are presented to you. How do you even know which is the right one? Many have found success with temping at their desired companies. Through temping, you can see if the company (and position) is a fit for you and they can see if you are equally a fit for them. Commitment is minimal and can lead to long-term satisfaction and growth for both the employee and the employer.

Get out there!
As a prospective employee, you don’t necessarily have to do all of the above to ensure success, but I do encourage you to consider a mix of these activities. By doing so, you will be able to rise above he sea of online applications and potentially land your dream job.

Government resources that can give your job search a competitive edge

By Selena Dehne

The Labor Department's Occupational Outlook Handbook is a rich source of information that can help you plan your education and career and excel in the job market. But unless you're a career development professional, librarian or educator, you might not even know what the OOH is, let alone how to use it.

Here's a crash course in what you'll find in the OOH and how to benefit from its information.

The leading source of critical decision-making information
The OOH contains information-packed descriptions of nearly 290 major jobs in the United States. These descriptions discuss the nature of the work, work environment, job outlook through 2020, required training and education, related jobs, earnings and more.
The OOH can be accessed online at You can also find this information in book format from JIST Publishing at your local library or nearest bookstore. For a format that's even more engaging and reader-friendly, check out the EZ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

1. Five ways to use the OOHMichael Farr, founder of JIST Publishing, said, "I consider the Occupational Outlook Handbook one of the most helpful books on career information available." In his latest book, "The Quick Résumé & Cover Letter Book," Farr pinpointed the following five ways to use the OOH in career planning and job seeking.

2. To identify the skills needed in the job you want. Look up a job that interests you, and the OOH will tell you the transferable and job-related skills it requires. Assuming that you have these skills, you can then emphasize them on your résumé and in interviews.

3. To find skills from previous jobs to support your present objective. Look up OOH descriptions for jobs you have had in the past. A careful read will help you identify skills that can be transferred and used in a new job. Even earlier jobs can be valuable in this way. For example, if you waited tables while going to school, you would discover that this requires the ability to work under pressure, deal with customers and work quickly. If you are now looking for a job as an accountant, you can see how transferable skills used in an apparently unrelated past job can support your ability to do another job.

4. To identify related job targets. Each major job described in the OOH lists other jobs that are closely related. Each description also provides information on positions that the job might lead to through promotion or experience. And, because the jobs are listed within clusters of similar jobs, you can easily browse descriptions of related jobs you might have overlooked. All of this detail gives you options to consider in your job search as well as information to include in the summary section of your résumé.

5. To find out the typical salary range, trends and other details. Although you should almost never list your salary requirements in a résumé or cover letter, the OOH will help you know what pay range to expect and which trends are affecting the job. Note that local pay average and other details can differ significantly from the national information provided in the OOH.

To get more specific information on related jobs. If a job interests you, it is important to learn more about it. Each OOH job description provides helpful sources, including a cross-reference to the O*NET career information, related professional associations, Internet sites and other sources. 

When do I bring up my baggage in a job search?

Susan Ricker, 

Just like in dating, job searching can sometimes cause you to look back on your past at some of the baggage you've collected. But while your date may be forgiving of poor communication skills or your fear of commitment, hiring managers aren't necessarily as understanding.
So when you bring baggage to your job search, such as gaps on your résumé or looking for jobs out of state, you'll have to discuss the subject carefully and at the right moment. To help figure out timing, consider these tips for addressing your job-search baggage.

Save the cover letter for why you're qualified
A cover letter may seem like a natural place to address any concerns a potential employer may have, but in a competitive job market, your first impression can't be made up of reasons to doubt your capabilities.
"This weakens your application right from the start," says Cheryl E. Palmer, career coach and owner of Call to Career, a career coaching firm. "My advice is to keep it positive in the cover letter and avoid touchy issues. If you have a strong résumé, the recruiter will follow up with you, and if they have questions about your background, they will ask those questions during a screening interview. But with the cover letter and résumé, you at least want to make the first cut."

Addressing résumé gaps
If there are gaps of empty time on your résumé, an employer will likely be curious as to what you were doing. Palmer suggests waiting for the interviewer to bring this up -- but be sure to have an answer ready. "The answer that you give needs to be clear enough so that it does not provoke more questions," she says. "So if the company that you worked for closed, and you were unemployed for a period of time after that, you need to explain that the company closed and tell the interviewer what you did in-between jobs. Hopefully you can truthfully say that you were doing contract work or updating your skills by obtaining a certification."
As Palmer mentions, employers want to know that your career was a part of your life even when you weren't working, and they want to know how you stayed involved with your field. Whether it was volunteering, pursuing more education or simply reading industry publications, show how you made the most of your time.

When you're overqualified
There are plenty of reasons a job seeker may be interested in a position that's a rung lower on their career ladder. Just know that interviewers will want to understand your reasoning. Yes, you can bring your experience to the role, but if an interviewer believes you're only interested in the job until you can find something better, he probably won't take the risk of hiring you. Instead, point to why this match makes sense.
"If you have been in management but are being interviewed for a staff position with no managerial responsibilities, you may talk about how you realized that you prefer to be in a position where you can focus on being an individual contributor and do your best work. After all, not everyone is cut out to be in management," Palmer says. "Or you might enthusiastically talk about your interest in the mission of the company that you are applying to instead of focusing on the fact that it is a step backward for your career. The bottom line is that you need to convince the interviewer that your taking the position will be a win-win for both parties."

Bringing up relocation
By applying for a job that's a significant distance away from you, you may think it's obvious that you're willing to relocate. However, employers can sometimes see this as a gray area in a candidate's qualifications.
To help take away doubt, Palmer says, "Typically, when it comes to relocation, you are competing against local candidates. And not all employers are willing to pay for your relocation. If you are in a position to pay for your own relocation, and you know that the employer will not do it for you, it is appropriate to mention in the interview that you are willing to relocate at your own expense. This will put you on an even playing field with local candidates."

5 Things You Should Do Right After You're Fired

Know that you will be OK.

Box packed with desk objects

By Jacquelyn Smith

Getting fired is one of the most difficult things a professional could face in their career - especially when it's completely unexpected. And, as entrepreneur James Altucher points out in his recent LinkedIn post, the days following aren't much easier.

"You can't meditate. You can't exercise. You can't eat healthy. You can't shave. Or bathe. You can't even take deep breaths," he says. "None of that stuff helps, you think. None of that immediately deposits money in the bank. None of that brings back your self-esteem."

Altucher, who has been fired "so many times I can't list them all," says his one piece of advice that does help is this: Do just one thing today. And then do one thing tomorrow. And one the next day. And so on.

Here are five possible things you could do in the days following your firing to get back on track:

Keep a regular schedule. Get eight hours of sleep; wake up early; exercise; take a shower; put on a suit; go into the city; and walk around, Altucher suggests. You need to keep things as "normal" as possible during this tough time by staying busy and active. You don't want to sit home and sulk.

Have lunch with someone you haven't seen in three years. Altucher says meeting up with someone you haven't seen in a while injects new blood into your system. "You need a total transfusion to get rid of the infected old blood." Plus, it's a great way to network and let people know you're on the hunt for a new job.

Treat yourself like a one-man business. Find your "customers" (places or people you might want to work with), and then come up with a list of 10 or more ideas for each customer that can make them money. "This way you keep your idea muscle intact," Altucher says. "Pitch your ideas to that customer if you can. If you can't, move on to the next customer."

Make a list of all expenses you can slash. You were just fired. This may be a financially difficult time for you. Spend one day figuring out your new budget. You don't know how long it will be until you have a steady income again, so you'll need to be cautious with your spending.

Let go of your resentment. "You are going to feel resentful about people at your old job. They wronged you." But remember that they're also just trying to survive, he says. Make lists of all the good qualities your old boss and coworkers have, and send each of them an email telling them why you think they are good at what they do. Also, thank them for the opportunity to work with them and for anything they may have taught you.

"No matter what, do that one thing. Get the blood moving. Get the heart moving. Then the rest will follow and you will be OK," Altucher concludes.

Click here to read the full LinkedIn post.

10 Skills Everyone Needs To Thrive In Today's Job Market

Employers stress soft skills, new study says

By Mariya Pylayev

There was once a time when all anyone had to do to get a job in America was to prove they exist – i.e. they just had to show up. So the legend goes, anyway. That was before my time and seems inconceivable to me and others my age.

Today, jobseekers need an arsenal of expertise, including those curious things that very recently became known as "soft skills." Your ability to cuddle a fluffy bunny doesn't qualify as a soft skill, unfortunately. Soft skills are "skills in dealing with and communicating with people effectively," according to a Merriam-Webster's New Words and Slang submission.

These behavioral competencies are also known as interpersonal or people skills, and they are more important than ever in a job market brimming with diploma-sporting jobseekers duking it out a shrunken pool of good jobs. Even having an in-demand "hard skill" like mechanical engineering is not enough to guarantee you a job offer on its own anymore. Most employers – 77 percent – say soft skills are equally important as hard skills, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Careerbuilder.

It's fortunate that mastering these skills will not require you to carve out time and money to go back to school or take an online course. You can practice wherever you go. Try them out at your job, at networking events and even at the dinner table with family or with friends.

1. Accepting Criticism

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

Seek out criticism, but don't embrace your flaws, says AOL Jobs contributor Tom Siebert. It's tough at first. You may feel like you're being torn apart from the inside out when your boss tells you your weekly reports can be difficult to read or your coworker says you're prone to interrupting people when they're speaking, but it's the best route to self-improvement. It's better than being slammed with these issues in your performance review, or worse - never learning about them at all and struggling to understand why everyone else seems to be advancing while you're stagnating. So, get used to seeking out criticism and don't get defensive or mopey. That's never pretty. Own your development.

Master this soft skill.

2. Flexibility

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

One result of globalization has been the rapidity with which the world around us changes. The modern workplace requires employees to think on their feet and to shift gears when the moment calls for it. This means updating your skills and learning new ones as often as you can. Bill Harnett, another AOL Jobs contributor, says his readiness to adapt to change gives him "a tremendous amount of confidence when facing seemingly impossible challenges."

Master this soft skill.

3. Problem Solving

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

Slim-staffed organizations across the country are sounding the call for crafty thinkers to join their teams. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers some sobering data to back this up: Work that requires high-level problem-solving skills, such as management and professional work, are becoming more prevalent, while jobs that involve mid-level critical thinking – nursing, retail, service, craft and trade work – are taking a hit.

Master this soft skill.

4. Self-Confidence

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

J.T. O'Donnell, the mastermind behind AOL's Career Luck Project, put it best: "Self-confidence is about impressing the only person that really matters: yourself." Confidence in yourself comes from within, but it has profound influence over your actions and achievements. To believe you can do something is the first step to actually doing it – a mindset that will help you take on challenges and advance your career.

Master this soft skill.

5. Work Ethic

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

Of all the skills on this list, work ethic is the most timeless in that it's been coveted for as long as there have been jobs. What is new is its relative scarcity, especially among the youngest workers, according to recent reports. You can interpret these findings differently, but that doesn't change the fact that the people with the hiring power think this crucial skill is declining. You can use this to your advantage.

Master this soft skill.

6. Working Well Under Pressure

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

"Must work well under pressure" is a common line in many job listings. Even if some job descriptions don't specify this, everyone finds themselves racing to meet a deadline at some point. Having the ability to handle pressure and manage stress will help you overcome inevitable rocky humps in your career path in a stride.

Master this soft skill.

7. Teamwork

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

Collaboration and coordination have become increasingly important as work tasks have gotten more complicated. There are specialized algorithms to appease, incomprehensible data sets to parse, new technology to wrangle. Workers are assigned highly specialized parts of whole projects. The entire team feels the weight if one person shirks their responsibilities. AOL Jobs editor-in-chief Laurie Petersen aptly likened a work team to an orchestra: "One sour player can ruin it all by demanding too much attention or trying to play a completely different song."

Master this soft skill.

8. Time Management

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

"Who wants to look like a fool, walking about with one eye on a check list and the other on a clock?" asked contributor Erik Sherman. "I do."

A bit of planning and discipline go a long way in the workplace. You can train yourself to avoid falling prey to the common "planning fallacy," the tendency to overestimate your abilities and underestimate the time it would take you to complete something, and the hardwired urge to complete smaller, simpler tasks ahead of more time-consuming important ones. Is this difficult to accomplish? Not if you're consistent.

Master this soft skill.

9. Good Communication

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

When contributor Miriam Salpeter worked on Wall Street as a recent college graduate, she quickly learned the power of language. "Just one word out of place could give someone the wrong impression," she recalled. A study conducted by Millennial Branding found that 98 percent of employers say communication skills are essential. This is also an asset that employers claim the youngest working generation lacks. Miscommunication is frustrating at best. In the worst case scenario it can cost you a job.

Master this soft skill.

10. Positive Attitude

Source: Getty Images; more quotes

Positivity is infectious. Bill Harnett remembers a coworker who changed the tone of his workplace with her optimistic attitude. "You don't have to be the office cheerleader, but staying focused on solutions and looking at the glass as more than half full can make work more enjoyable and less stressful," he said. Optimists may get a bad rap, but that's only because of a common misunderstanding of the term. Positive thinking can be practiced alongside realism, and has been proven to boost productivity and lower stress.

Bouncing Back From a Bad Career Exit

How to answer the question 'Why were you let go?'

By CareerBuilder

Man sitting at a desk outdoors with his head back
By Susan Ricker

When most of us fantasize about leaving our current job, the details include outsmarting a terrible boss and being given his position and paycheck, or winning the lottery and never needing to work again. The fantasy usually doesn't include getting fired.

But if you find yourself making a bad career exit from your last job, whether it's your fault or that of your ex-employer's, it's still possible to bounce back and land a job that's a much better fit. Not sure where to start? Check out these career coaches' advice.

Don't make details public

Social media has leveled the playing fields between businesses and consumers, and everybody loves a story where an employee or consumer rightly calls out a bad business. But no matter how satisfying you think it may be to post your story on social sites, this is the time to keep your digital mouth closed and your head level.

"Avoid being emotional, and look at the situation as an opportunity to rebuild," says Stacy Lindenberg, owner and chief change agent of Talent Seed Consulting. "Don't vet your opinions or situation on social media...that is one of the worst things you could do, and will reflect negatively on you both at the time of your exit, and when you seek your next job."

Instead, constructively channel those emotions in a way that will help you find a position better suited for you.

Jacqueline Twillie, author, speaker, blogger and career coach, says, "Create a list of things that you learned from the experience and begin the job search with the lessons learned." Also write down what you didn't like about the last job, and what your list of must-haves is for your next job. This will quickly move your job search forward.

Don't bring baggage to your job search

Whether in your application materials or in an interview, it's essential to keep your attitude and how you present yourself as positive and capable as possible. Your cover letter should be directed at why you're excited about this future opportunity and how your goals and experience are a match.

If, during a screening interview or at a request for references, your last employer comes up, Twillie says, "Explain honestly that your value and the company's values no longer aligned and it was decided that your skillset could be best utilized elsewhere. Don't get into every detail, be honest but be brief."

Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide," adds, "If a boss's reputation precedes him or her, and the interviewer is fishing for 'dirt', here's a possible response: 'Yes, [ex-employer] is a tough boss but I learned a lot from her -- about setting and meeting exacting standards, working under pressure and following up. I learned from her that the devil is in the details. Those lessons were invaluable and I'm grateful for them.'"

The key is to show growth and maturity from the experience and avoid playing a blame game.

Be positive in front of future employers

This can't be stressed enough -- a professional attitude is the most effective way to bounce back from a bad career exit. But if the interviewer won't accept a short, vague answer in response to "Why did you leave your job?" then you better have a response ready instead of accidentally starting a rant.

Good thing Cohen has two strategies that can help. He says, "A multi-reason explanation is always best. If one idea doesn't resonate, it is likely another will. As an example: 'We've had a number of lay-offs and I'm concerned about my job; I also have a long commute and it would be great to devote that time on the road to work, it feels wasted now; I'm also eager to take on expanded responsibilities and that's not likely to happen in light of our current situation and the cost and headcount-cutting mood of the company.'"

But if it comes up that you left on bad terms, Cohen says, "You will need a defensible -- not defensive -- strategy to explain the departure. That's where you acknowledge what happened but you also provide some context that appears unbiased. An example: One of my clients lost her job when it was discovered that her boss was stealing holiday money intended for temp employees. Although she was not aware of his activities or involved in any way, management felt that she was guilty by association.

How did she explain the separation? By appearing to be honest, open, and transparent: 'My boss was accused of engaging in activities that I'm not at liberty to discuss and it was felt that I was too closely tied to him not to be separated, too. Despite the fact that I was in no way involved, it just feels bad. I understand why the decision was made and they were probably right to do so. I have a number of colleagues and other senior managers who will on my behalf and of my qualifications and integrity.'"

6 job-search mistakes to avoid when finding your first job

By Robert Half
Job hunting
Launching your first job search is both exciting and bewildering. You’re eager to impress potential employers with your newly gotten experience and degree, but you’re afraid that you might botch it. Here are some common job-search mistakes that trip up many new grads — and tips for avoiding them.
Mistake No. 1: Neglecting your network
Although online searches, campus career centers and career fairs all have their place, harness the power of professional networking when searching for your first job. Consider joining your school’s alumni network or a relevant professional association in your industry. Talk to as many people as you can — neighbors, parents’ friends, members of your house of worship — about your career goals, especially if they’re in the same or similar industries.
Mistake No. 2: Being sloppy or too clever
If you’re serious about the job search, you will not only carefully edit your résumé and cover letter, but you’ll ask someone else to take a look, too. Read your documents out loud to make sure they sound professional; this is also an excellent way to catch mistakes. Often, one typo can get your application tossed off the short list.
It also doesn’t pay to be cute or clever. Yes, your application materials might stand out that way, but not always in a good way. See Robert Half’s “Resumania” column for other good advice and best practices.
Mistake No. 3: Sending out generic documents
When you come across that cool job post, don’t make the rookie mistake of sending out a one-size-fits-all application. If you want to land your first job, you have to do your homework.
Start by clicking through the company’s website. Search for recent news articles. You may also want to like their Facebook page and follow their Twitter feed. Then, tailor your résumé and cover letter to show how your skills and experience mesh with the job description, as well as the firm’s corporate goals and culture.
Mistake No. 4: Being careless about your online persona
Just as you conduct a Web search on the people that you’re interested in dating, potential employers will do a search on you. If you haven’t already, sign up with LinkedIn, upload a professional-looking profile photo and write a polished summary.
You also need to comb through all your other online profiles and social media posts, and scrub what you don’t want hiring managers to see. Even though you may have set all the right privacy settings in the beginning, we all know how frequently they can change. It wouldn’t hurt to give everything a thorough once-over as you start searching for your first job.
Mistake No. 5: Showing immaturity
After sending out personalized application materials, you’ll start hearing back from a few companies. Don’t give them reasons to doubt their judgment with unprofessional phone or email manners. That could cost you your first job opportunity.
Start by getting rid of the quirky or brusque voicemail message. Instead, record a pleasant and neutral one that’s appropriate for a job search.
Don’t forget to give your email the same treatment by having an address that is a variation of your full name — not a nickname, your hobby, an alternate persona or something worse. And if you have a quote or cute graphic automatically appended to the end of each email you send, you’ll want to delete that or change it to just your contact information.
Mistake No. 6: Being unprepared for interviews
You got a call for an interview, but you can’t just show up and expect to ace it. Now is the time to study. Anticipate the possible questions and rehearse the answers. Practice with someone to make sure your delivery is smooth, confident and on point. Realize that the interviewer may throw you oddball questions like, “If you could be any animal, which one would you be?”
Also keep in mind that many preliminary interviews are now done by phone — and that not all hiring managers will set up appointments before calling. Be prepared for job-related calls out of the blue. And when they do call, try to find a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted.

You may wonder how to get a first job when there’s so much competition for so few openings. By avoiding these common job-search mistakes, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success and a long, fulfilling career.

Can My Boss Do That?

Questions you've likely considered

View of two businessmen making funny faces
By Alison Green

If you've ever witnessed your boss doing something that seems unfair to you or a co-worker, you might have wondered, "Can they really do that?" They don't teach workplace law in school, and so collectively, Americans tend to lack understanding about what employers can and can't do where employees are concerned.

Here are some questions you might wonder about.

1. My boss told my co-workers what my salary is! Can she do that?
Answer: Yes. No law requires that your salary information be confidential, and your employer is allowed to share it with others if she wishes to. In fact, some companies share everyone's salary as a matter of course (and some people argue that doing so helps combat pay discrimination).

2. Can my boss tell me that I can't discuss my salary with my co-workers?
Answer: No. Despite the fact that many employers have policies that attempt to ban these discussions, the National Labor Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to prohibit employees from discussing wages among themselves.

3. My boss said that I can't take the day I requested off work, even though I have enough vacation time stored up to do it. Can he do that?
Answer: Yes. While your vacation time is part of your benefits package, your employer retains the right to approve or deny specific leave requests. That's because managers sometimes need to deny time off if it would leave your department short-staffed or cause problems during an especially busy time.

4. My manager told me I have to stop teasing a co-worker about politics. Doesn't that violate my right to free speech?
Answer: The First Amendment prevents the government from restricting your speech – but private employers are still free to regulate employees' speech. (One important exception to this is that employers cannot interfere with employees who are discussing wages or working conditions with their co-workers, as in No. 2 above.)

5. Can my boss deduct money from my paycheck for doing a bad job?
Answer: No, your employer cannot dock your salary for poor performance. Your employer agreed to pay you a certain salary when you accepted the job, and that wage cannot be changed retroactively as punishment or for any other reason. However, your employer can change your pay going forward, after warning you of the change and giving you a chance to decline to do the work at the new wage.

6. Can my boss give me a bad reference when I'm looking for a job?
Answer: It's legal for an employer to give a negative reference, as long as it's factually accurate. It's true that some companies, in an effort to avoid the headache of nuisance lawsuits, have implemented policies that they will only confirm dates of employment and title. As a result, many people have come to believe that it's actually illegal to give a bad reference. But corporate policies aren't the law (and often aren't even followed by the companies that have them).

7. My boss changed my job description and says that I have to do work that's dramatically different from what I was hired to do. Is that allowed?
Answer: Your employer can change your job description at any time, or direct you do work other than what you were hired for. The only time this wouldn't be true is if you had a contract that spelled out the work you were signing on for – but most workers in the U.S. don't have contracts and instead are subject to "at will" employment. This allows your employer to change the terms of your employment at any time.

8. Can my manager bully me, single me out for poor treatment, yell at me, or otherwise mistreat me?
Answer: Bullying or being a jerk is bad management, but it's not illegal. However, if your manager is treating you differently because of your race, sex, religion or another protected class, then you do have legal protection; that would violate federal anti-discrimination laws. But if your manager is just a jerk because she doesn't like you or is a hostile person generally, that's not against the law.

9. I complained to human resources about my boss and asked them to keep it confidential, but they told my boss. Is that legal?
Answer: Yes. HR isn't obligated to keep what you tell them confidential, even if you request their discretion. HR staffers aren't doctors or priests, and you shouldn't assume confidentiality when talking to them. If they hear information that they decide needs to be shared or used to address a problem, their job obligates them to do that.

10. I gave two weeks notice at work, and my boss told me to just leave now. Do they still have to pay me for those two weeks?
Answer: A smart employer would still pay you for those two weeks, since otherwise they're signaling to other employees that they too will lose money if they give notice rather than quitting on the spot. But that's up to your employer – no law requires them to pay you for time you didn't work, even though you wanted to work out those final two weeks.    

5 Lessons To Learn On Your First Job

Prepare to be overwhelmed and underpaid on your first job

Young man in a new office
It's always exciting when a young person lands his or her first job, especially in this difficult economy. It's a time for celebration and not the time to tell them of all the pitfalls that lay ahead. Just as when a woman announces she's pregnant, you don't tell her about the pain of labor, you don't deflate a young person entering the workforce with tales (pardon the pun) of the pains of labor. But pains there will be.

Here are five real-life lessons I've watched Millennials learn the hard way:
  1. Bosses aren't Perfect. In fact, they may not even be smart. They are human, and humans make lots of mistakes. The odds are your first boss, and many bosses thereafter will be downright poor at their jobs. Expecting guidance and help from them may be wishful thinking. Real guidance comes in unexpected places ranging from colleagues to administrative assistants, managers in entirely different areas of a company, and even closer to home – relatives in the business world. Mentors are rarely a direct supervisor. Don't expect your boss to be one.
  2. Learning on the Job Means Teaching Yourself. The days of training anyone are long gone. Training budgets are non-existent, and with too many goals and too few resources, employers don't have the luxury of training teams. Employers expect workers to bring skills, talents and knowledge to the job, and hit the ground running -- even Millennials.
  3. Phones are for Talking not Texting. The odds are that you'll be working with many Boomers. Although Boomers are increasingly digitally savvy, they will be the first to admit that there is no substitution for picking up the phone. I've had Millennials work for me who had an absolute aversion to picking up a phone. Worse, when they did call, they wouldn't leave voice messages. Business still runs on conversations, not text messages. Learn to use a phone – often.
  4. Bosses Don't Give You The Time of Day. It's because they don't have the time to give. Unlike parents, they don't need to coddle, cajole, or have patience. They need to get work done and please their own higher-ups. They will try to spend time explaining, or motivating, but they don't have all day to gently prod you in the right direction. If you're not moving on your own accord, they'll cut the cord. There are too many people waiting to take your place, too many challenges to be met, and too little time to waste on getting you in shape.
  5. You Will be Overwhelmed and Underpaid. Your boss will show no mercy and pile on the work. You will likely start at the lowest salary they can offer and be asked to put in untold hours in return. Some will call it "paying dues." Others will call it "getting a foot in the door." Both are true. Your real job at-hand is to learn as much as you can in the shortest time to qualify for better positions -- likely with another firm. This is not a lifetime place of employment, just your first job.
When my kids went to college, my husband and I knew the lessons they would learn were far more than the academic knowledge shared in classes. The real lessons in college life range from how to live with a rotten roommate to doing your laundry on a regular basis.

Similarly, as my children have now entered the workforce, I have to remind them and myself that the lessons they are learning in their first year are very different than imagined. While they are gaining some expertise in their respective fields, they are mostly learning how to manage themselves.

From navigating difficult challenges to working with difficult people, and budgeting their time and salaries, they are learning the invaluable lessons that will remain with them throughout their lives, regardless of where their work lives take them.

Why Honesty Is Not The Best Policy At Your Exit Interview

6 reasons against speaking the whole truth

Two businessmen having a meeting
By Jacquelyn Smith

At some point between giving your two weeks notice and your last day, your employer will likely ask you to meet with HR for an exit interview. The purpose of this meeting is for your company to gather information about why you're departing. A tremendous amount of time, effort, and money is invested in hiring and training employees - so it is important for companies to ascertain what might be causing the turnover, says Teri Hockett, chief executive of What's For Work?, a career site for women.

However, Dale Kurow, a New York-based executive coach, says that oftentimes HR doesn't do much with the feedback they receive. They don't pass it along, and no organizational changes are made.

That's why some experts say there's no point in being completely honest in your exit interview. "You have nothing to gain, and potentially a lot to lose, depending on what you say," says executive coach Stever Robbins.

Here are six reasons you shouldn't be completely honest in your exit interview:

It won't matter anyway. If the problems or issues you want to bring up in an exit interview are fairly well-known at the company already; they seem to be systemic or long-standing; and you don't think any positive changes will come from your honesty, those are all good reasons to not be completely honest, says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs. "Stick to only those that you think would be helpful for the company to know about, and that you think they might be able to change."

You could end up burning bridges. You don't want to tick people off because you got carried away in the exit interview, Sutton Fell says. "Keep things positive, and bring up any problems from the perspective that you want to help the company to be better in the future."

Be especially aware that what you say about your manager and colleagues could get back to them, so if you are hoping for a professional reference from someone, think twice about bashing them in the exit interview.

"Also, realize that if you had a serious HR issue with someone when you were at the company, and didn't bring it up to your manager or HR department, that can also reflect poorly on you, not just the person you're pointing the finger at. Instead, keep it professional and productive," she says.

It could compromise any pending legal issues. If there are any pending lawsuits, less is more, Hockett says. "If the answers to the questions could in any way compromise proceedings, either decline the exit interview altogether or say 'no comment' when you're in the hot seat."

Furthermore, if you're planning to take some kind of action against the company, Robbins suggests you check with your lawyer to find out what you should or shouldn't say. "It's possible that things said at an exit interview can affect any case you plan to bring against the company."

You could ruin your reputation. It's perfectly fine to bring up less-than-positive aspects of working for the company, but an exit interview isn't an invitation to list every complaint you've got, Sutton Fell says. "Making yourself out to be a whiny complainer won't help you or your reputation moving forward." Even though you won't be working there anymore, your reputation has a sneaky way of following you around, especially if you want to stay in the same industry.

For example, Robbins offer this hypothetical: "Let's say you reveal something dysfunctional about the inner workings of your team that wasn't previously known. Your team gets reconfigured as a result. If people ever find out it was due to your exit interview (or even if they just deduce it), your reputation with those people could get trashed. In your future career, it could come back to haunt you," he says.

You may sound like a liar. "If your answer as to why you are leaving is different than what you've been saying all along, you can be labeled as deceitful," Kurow explains. The company will start to wonder what else you haven't told them. Thus, it's a slippery slope you don't want to climb.

You may come off sounding bitter. If you are exiting because of a toxic boss, anything negative you say will sound like "sour grapes," Kurow says. "Don't let bitterness about a dysfunctional boss be your license to get revenge during the exit interview. Unless there is a chorus of past exiting employees saying the same thing, it's more than likely that nothing will be done." And you may not be believed anyway if your boss holds a position of power in the organization, she adds. 

8 Power Poses That Make Successful Employees

Just assuming a confident pose will give you a power boost

It's the cheapest, most low-tech life hack you'll find.

Power posing: The act of taking a posture of confidence, even when you don't feel so confident, to make yourself more dominant.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy struck a chord in the business world at TEDGlobal 2012 when she gave a talk about the scientific evidence behind power posing. Her research showed that standing or sitting a certain way, even for two minutes, raises testosterone levels and lowers the stress hormone cortisol.

These immediate changes in your body chemistry can affect the way you do your job and interact with other people. They might even have an impact on your chances of success.

First, we'll walk through the science of power posing. Then, we'll break down which pose to use in eight common situations that affect your work success.

Some of the poses have names created by Cuddy; others we came up with. We asked some of Business Insider's tech reporters to test them out.

High-power posing is about "opening up," Cuddy says. You stretch and expand your body to take up as much space as possible:

Amy Cuddy/TED

It works across the Animal Kingdom. When primates feel powerful, they puff out their chests and extend their limbs to make themselves big.

Amy Cuddy/TED

It works for humans, too. Research shows that even people born blind raise their arms in a V shape and lift their chins slightly when they win a physical competition.

Getty Images; Composition courtesy of Business Insider

Meanwhile, people assume low-power positions when they're feeling feeble, helpless, or defeated. They close up, wrapping their arms around themselves and tucking their limbs in.

Getty Images; Composition courtesy of Business Insider

Power posing produces significant and immediate changes in your body's chemistry. After just two minutes in a high-power pose, your testosterone levels - the "dominance" hormone - can skyrocket 20%.

Amy Cuddy/TED

It will also cause your cortisol levels - the "stress" hormone - to fall sharply. When cortisol levels drop, people are better able to handle stressful situations.

Amy Cuddy/TED

High-power and low-power poses tend to complement one another in given interactions. One person is in charge, and the other isn't. See how Obama takes up space while Biden hunkers down in his chair.

Twitter/@blackpolbuzz378; Composition courtesy of Business Insider

Now, let's see how it's done.

FOR SLEEPING: Lie in an open position with your arms and legs outstretched.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Becoming more powerful starts the night before. It's time to nix the fetal position.

Sleeping on your side with your arms and legs pulled toward your torso is considered a low-power position, Cuddy says. You may wake up feeling sensitive and vulnerable without understanding why, which is not a good way to face a chaotic, competitive workplace.

The alternative power position, which we'll call "The Marissa Mayer," makes you feel bigger and, therefore, more powerful. You can also put your hands behind your head (á la, Marissa Mayer in her Vogue photo spread), which is a power pose that Cuddy often mentions in her talks.

FOR SPEAKING IN A MEETING: Tightly cross your arms across your chest and roll your shoulders back.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Doing "The Mr. Clean" can help drive home an argument in the boardroom.

Your shoulder posture in this position is pivotal in shaping how observers interpret the folded arms, according to Noah Zandan, president of communications-analytics company Quantified Impressions.

If the shoulders are rolled forward, others will interpret the arms as a sign of weakness, sending the message that you're scared. But if you roll those shoulders back and hold your head high, the crossed arms become a signal of confidence.

While you're at it, Cuddy says it's important when you raise your hand to extend your arm fully, taking up space, as opposed to resting the elbow on the table. Women tend to bend at the arm more than men.

FOR CLOSING A DEAL: Plant your hands on the table and lean forward.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
As you're rounding the last bend of your presentation and preparing to deliver the bottom-line offer, command the room with a position Cuddy calls "The Loomer." Leaning forward while standing shows you're engaged and in a position of dominance.

Cuddy named this pose in tribute to Lyndon B. Johnson. "Johnson was 6'4", and he used his stature very thoughtfully - to intimidate and seduce," she says.

FOR PITCHING AN IDEA: Rest your feet on the table, clasp your hands behind your head, and lean back.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
We call this one "The Obama" because the Commander in Chief can often be seen with his feet propped up on the Oval Office desk. (Many conservatives freaked out about the sanctity of the desk last fall.)

This is a tough one to pull off, but Cuddy assures us that resting your feet on the desk - preferably your own - and placing your hands behind your head can lead you to take more potentially profitable risks, like saying your next Big Idea out loud.

FOR INTERVIEWING: Plant your feet widely and stretch your arms overhead in a V shape.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Striking a high-power pose in your interviewer's office could come off as offensive, presumptive, and rude, regardless of how it makes you feel, Cuddy says. Here's the alternative, which she dubs "The Performer" in honor of Mick Jagger.

Before the interview, throw your hands in the air and widen your stance, as if you're soaking in the applause after an encore performance. Do it in the elevator or stairwell on your way up to the office, or in the bathroom before checking in with reception. Hold the pose for two minutes to set those hormonal changes in motion and give you the confidence you need to ace the interview.

FOR CONDUCTING AN INTERVIEW: Rest your arm on the back of your chair, keep your knees apart, and recline.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
"Lean in" by leaning back. It's the perfect way to assert your confidence and comfort level when grilling a job candidate.

This less bro-y rendition of "The Obama" emphasizes opening up the body, while keeping your feet on the ground. Cuddy named it "The CEO" after seeing a photo of Oprah Winfrey looking like a total boss.

Variations include placing your hands behind your head and resting an ankle on the knee.

FOR CHIT-CHAT WITH YOUR BOSS: Puff out your chest, plant your hands on your hips, and stand with feet hip-width apart.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
When your boss joins you in line at the K-cup brewing machine, you may feel your heart quicken as your mind scrambles to come up with a more interesting response to "How was your weekend?"

Channel your favorite superheroine and take what Cuddy calls "The Wonder Woman," a classic crime-fighting pose. Tilt your chin up to maximize the power trip.

This position has the opposite effect of touching your neck, which suggests anxiety or lack of control and is considered the lowest power pose of all.

FOR NEGOTIATING A RAISE: Pinch your lower eye lids.

Melia Robinson/Business Insider
The latest fad in body language is what photographer Peter Hurley calls "The Squinch."

Hurley's video, which has been seen more than 1 million times, demonstrates how slightly "squinting and pinching" the eyes makes celebrities instantly more photogenic.

"Confidence comes from the eyes," Hurley says. "So does fear." When we make those wide, deer-in-the-headlights eyes, we send a message that we're nervous. But tightening the palpebral ligament - bringing the lower eye lid up - shows your boss you know your worth.

Try pairing the squinch with one of Cuddy's high-power poses for a killer combo.

Baby boomers must learn how to sell their experience

By Wendell Brenner


As a career strategist with CareerBuilder, I’m on the phone with job seekers from all walks of life. Some  are just getting ready to leave college for the first time at 22 years old; others  have returned to school as a non-traditional student ready to start the next chapter of their working career, often in a brand new profession. Talking to baby boomers over the years, I learned one thing that is fairly consistent in all of our conversations – they’re usually not too comfortable with the idea of “selling” themselves.
The funny thing about this is that of all the people in the workforce who should have the most to talk about, it’s baby boomers. Years of experience and knowledge are what employers want to hear about. In our conversations, individuals of a certain age often find it awkward to talk about themselves. Perhaps this is the trait of a generation  who spent a lifetime believing that work should speak for itself. Yet, that kind of modesty just doesn’t cut it when hiring managers are looking to fill open positions in today’s competitive and fast-paced workforce.
One job seeker that I spoke to, Jackie, had worked for years in customer service oriented roles in Texas. When I spoke to her, she had just applied for a customer service specialist position and was told by the recruiter that, if hired, she was going to start out at $12.85 an hour. She was distraught. She felt that her 10+ years of experience were seemingly not doing anything to earn her more money.
As I worked with Jackie, I explained how her experience should make her more confident about being a fit for this position but also in her ability to openly negotiate for a better wage. I talked her through some of CareerBuilder’s salary data that is available in our Talent Compensation portal, as well as how to navigate the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to show her the average earnings for someone in her position with her level of experience and years of service.
Fortunately, when the hiring manager reviewed her résumé, they realized Jackie was overqualified for the entry-level position and offered her to start in a role that was actually two levels above the position she applied for, starting at $19.00 an hour. But had the hiring manager not reviewed or valued her experience, Jackie would be stuck.
With Jackie’s situation in mind, I see three things that all baby boomers should keep top of mind when on the hunt for a job:
1. Experience is an asset to any company. Forget talking about age and focus on all the things you’ve learned throughout your career. Have you managed projects or teams? Talk about that. What were tasks or projects you worked on where you went above and beyond to improve processes, reduce costs or increase output or sales? Many boomers feel age is a road block to interviews, but I remind them that experience matters most, so focus on what you have to offer to an employer, not what’s (theoretically) holding you back.
2. Learn how to talk about your career. Many baby boomers want to say that they just showed up and did the job that they were supposed to. The problem is that there’s so much to be said about the work ethic and level of personal responsibility many boomers feel toward their work. As you work on your résumé, be sure to list the facts and quantifiable points that made your work a success. It’s okay to talk about how your creativity, tenacity, commitment all made you a valuable employee in previous roles. Consider finding a mentor and working on practice interviews to help you get comfortable in learning how to “sell” your experience in the interview situation.
3. Networking to find jobs you want. Another scenario I run into with older workers who are looking for jobs is that they frequently apply for jobs that they don’t actually want. Whether that’s because they’d rather take any job that is available or that they’re too hesitant to let others know they need help in finding jobs they want, it’s a common but detrimental occurrence.
I remind job seekers to tell friends, family, local community members about their desire for a new job and that when you ask for help, you more likely to receive it. Find opportunities to talk to new people who may work for companies in your area that you’re interested in. Conduct informational interviews to learn about specific employers or roles. Once you’ve become comfortable in talking about how your skills and experience can help an employer during an informational interview, you’ll be ready to do the same in an actual interview.

The skill of talking about or ‘selling’ your experience is challenging and one that needs practice. But in time, you’ll find that it’s less awkward and it actually boosts your confidence about what you’ve achieved and accomplished in your career and helps you see yourself as a beneficial part of any team.

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