Category Archives: Career Advice

All blog entries that contain help or advice for people who are already in the first several years of their career.

Should I print personal business cards?


I fielded this question a few months ago at an event for job-seekers in Minneapolis: “Should I get personal business cards to hand out at job interviews?” Unfortunately for those in attendance, I didn’t give the best answer. In fact, I think I gave what amounts to a non-answer. Something like “every situation is different.” Oh, great response. Thanks for the insight, Charlie.

Sample card from moo.com

But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, and after consulting my friends at BrazenCareerist, I’ve solidified my position. It’s always a good idea to have a personal business card.

After posing this question to probably 50 different people in the last month, I heard three main objections, valid or otherwise. Actually, they were all invalid as far as I’m concerned. Here they are–the reasons not to print personal business cards:  Continue reading

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The tale of a man who tried to quit his job


So you want to leave your job. Searching for greener pastures? A boss who listens? More money? That’s cool–but it’s a tough row to hoe right now, given that there are few jobs available and scores of qualified and over-qualified candidates spamming their resumes all over the Internet. Here’s what happened to an acquaintance of mine a few months ago when he tried to quit.

This is posted with permission, because we both think it’s a good lesson and an even better story, though I’ve changed all the names and taken some liberty with the dialog to clarify the story (and because nobody recorded anything).

The Man Who Tried to Quit His Job

For 6 months or more, Eric was unhappy with his job. His responsibilities remained the same as they were when he started, 2 1/2 years prior. As a good employee who received average to high marks on his employee reviews, he felt he deserved a raise, a promotion, or both. He even asked the boss for different responsibilities to break the monotony of his day-to-day.

I met with Eric a couple of times during this period of unrest, and each time he expressed dismay at the unchanging state of his job and career. I let him vent for a while before we moved on to other topics, like fantasy football or the books we were reading. We didn’t dive deep into his work trouble–just typical responses to “How’s work?”

The last time I saw him, though, he had a different answer.

Charlie: “How’s work? Any better?” Eric: “Actually, it’s funny you ask. It is getting better.”
“What changed?”
“I quit.”
“What?!?”
“I went in to my boss’s office one Monday morning last month and told him I quit.”

(This is where it gets interesting.)

Continue reading

Anne Hathaway has T-Rex arms!


Did anyone notice how uncomfortable Anne Hathaway looked while hosting the Academy Awards? Maybe it was nerves, or maybe it’s because her co-host was wooden. But whether she was anxious or not, her body language did little to help. If there was an Oscar for using T-Rex arms, she would have won the hardware. Take a look at her performance:

See how her lower arms, wrists and hands are often caught between her waist and shoulders? This is colorfully called T-Rex arms. Uncomfortable or novice presenters share these traits: A) they don’t know what to do with their hands, and B) they want to hide behind something for security. This results in T-Rex arms, when the arms and hands are used, or sort-of played with, in front of the torso in a manner that does not pertain to the presentation.

Anne clearly doesn’t know what to do with her hands. And when she does have a germane gesture, she goes way overboard–another sign of discomfort. Watch at 00:46, when she proclaims that it’s “Hollywood’s Biggest Night!” It looks like her arms finally release all the potential energy she built fiddling around her waist. Could you imagine Meryl Streep doing that with her arms? No. Not just because she’s more mature and reserved, but because she’s more comfortable and confident. T-Rex arms are a clear differentiator between confident and nervous presenters. Continue reading

Can I get people to like me more?


I like some people right away. Others take a while, though I may end up liking them more in the end. Why is that? And how do others react to me when we first meet? I did a little research on how to get people to like you, and here are ten of the top tips, in no particular order:

1. Give sincere compliments and thanks. Everyone knows a suck-up, but it’s pretty easy to give honest compliments even if you’ve just met someone. Clothing and accessories are a sure bet. “Hey–that’s a great bag.” Personal traits or characteristics work, too. “I admire the team you’ve built. They work together so well.” “Thanks for introducing yourself. I appreciate that you went out of your way.”


2. Ask lots of questions. Most people love to talk about themselves. It’s their favorite topic. And one of the first lessons in sales is that the person asking the questions is the one in control of the conversation. Asking questions to get to know someone you just met is a sign that you’re interested in them, and we’re all more apt to like people who take a shine to us, right? Continue reading

US Air’s disturbing practices


In recent months I’ve flown US Airways a few different times, and learned a valuable lesson about pestering people.

Unless I go out of my way to make it so, there are few places in my day-to-day world where I have complete, quiet alone time, largely without interruption. Airplanes are one such place, which is why, when I fly, I enjoy my alone time to the fullest, and I prefer not to be pestered. So that I don’t get in the way of a row-mate’s bathroom excursions, I always select the window seat even though, at a leggy 6′ 4″, the aisle would be far more accommodating. Before longer flights, I cut my water intake so I don’t have to get up myself, and I generally don’t take a beverage from the service cart when it makes the rounds. I use my time to escape into a book, catch up on my magazines, or work. US Air, however, isn’t on board with my plan. Continue reading

5 reasons you’re not getting promoted


Few promotions and even fewer raises have been doled out in the last two years. But if you find yourself watching other people get promoted while you toil in the same position for what seems like far too long, one or more of these reasons may apply to you.

1. You’re not doing more than your job. When promotions are scarce, you have to work even harder to get ahead. That doesn’t just mean being the best at your job–it means doing more than what’s asked of you. You’ve heard of “exceeding expectations,” right? A common phrase when giving performance appraisals, it’s a step above “meets expectations.” The problem is that expectations are set based on the job description. So if you’re expected to achieve an 85% accuracy rate, and you hit 92%, you’re exceeding expectations. But that just means you’re really good at your current job–it doesn’t mean you’d be good in a new position. You need to do something that isn’t even remotely expected of you.  Continue reading

10 questions to ask your boss


 

Not this kind of boss

Building a rapport with the big cheese is an integral part of success–it never hurts to have friends in high places, and leadership is in the best position to provide performance appraisals and suggest options for career development. Here are ten questions to help on both fronts:

 

  1. What are two or three important things for me to focus on learning or improving in the next 3 months?
  2. How do you define success for this position?
  3. What can I do to make your job easier?
  4. (If the boss held your position in the past) What did you think was the best part of this position? What was the hardest part?
  5. Do other companies have this position? How do they implement it?
  6. Why do you like working here?
  7. What’s the hardest part about your job?
  8. What is something you know now that you wish you’d known at my age?
  9. What do you do when you want to get completely away from work?
  10. Is there any additional training I can take, or particular topics I could educate myself on?

Demonstrating commitment to the job and a personal interest in your team is a great way to get a leg up, and these questions are an easy start.

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