Via Forbes : Valuable Career Advice These Business Leaders Would Give Their Younger Selves
Every year around this time, I can consistently expect three things to happen: my seasonal allergies begin to flare up, my DVR gets locked into NBA playoffs and my LinkedIn inbox starts getting flooded with messages from college students who are nearing graduation and want career advice. In this article, we’ll focus on the third one.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 3 million college students will earn their degree at the end of this school year and most will prepare to enter the workforce. How do we ensure this generation is armed with the guidance they need?
The LinkedIn messages I receive usually involve questions about how to navigate the job market. What is a reasonable and appropriate entry-level role? How do I find a good mentor? Should I prioritize a job with a flashy title over a job I would love doing? How long should I stay in that role before looking for the next opportunity?
I always try my best to respond and customize advice for people who contact me about readiness for the professional real world. However, since tailored advice isn’t always feasible for a large audience, I went searching for some general, yet less obvious, suggestions that could benefit a broader audience.
Building on the ideas I provided last year, I wanted to expand the knowledge pool and get advice from some smart and successful people in my network who have some unique words of wisdom to share. I asked what career advice they would offer to their younger selves or family members and the insightfulness of responses was invaluable.
Here’s what they told me about picking the right career path, finding the right mentor and getting in the right mindset to land the career of your dreams:
Lawrence Cole, head of mid-market lead gen sales, U.S. Northwest at Google, said this:
“Be mindful about the roles you take and the scope and level of responsibility they expose you to. Early exposure to seniority and the strategic systems of a business will pay off mid-career and beyond in the level of responsibility that organizations are willing to give you. The sooner you are able to check boxes such as leading teams, managing other managers, managing large budgets, creating a big vision and mobilizing a large team of people to execute it, the better.”
David Belden, executive talent partner at Andreessen Horowitz, suggested this:
“Meet with people who have the job that you want and ask them for advice on how to get to a role like theirs in the future. This is of course a great learning opportunity, but also has the potential to spark an informal mentee-mentor relationship, which can be invaluable to career development.”
Navid Zolfaghari, vice president of sales at Branch Metrics, provided this perspective:
“Regardless of how skilled or talented you are, you won’t be successful if you don’t produce. Learn to love what you do, outwork everyone, and have a growth mindset.”
Jeanne DeWitt, head of North American revenue and growth at Stripe, shared this advice:
“Always work for someone you can learn from. And, understand the difference between a mentor and a sponsor — if you don’t have someone in the organization actively supporting the acceleration of your career (a sponsor), you’re heading down a longer road.”
Rashaun Williams, general partner of the MVP All-Star Fund, offered the following:
“I wish I was more focused on being excellent and an expert at my current job instead of focusing on the job I wanted but didn’t have. Also, don’t make important decisions solely based on your emotions. How you “feel” changes minute by minute. Consider your spirit, mind, physical comforts AND emotions when making big decisions.”
Angela Benton, entrepreneur and founder of NewME Accelerator, said this:
“Don’t stress about not having it all figured out. Social media can make us think that we’re the only one not “trending up and to the right.” Focus intently on where you are at now and use this as leverage while everyone else is focused on projecting where they want to be rather than where they actually are.”
Michael Espada, senior global commercial manager at Sims Recycling Solutions, provided this perspective:
“If you find a good boss early on, support them completely and ride the coattails to the top. Eventually, you will know when to step out into visibility and your boss will likely help you do that.”
Did any of these words of advice resonate with you? If you are among the millions of students nearing graduation or you are simply undergoing a career change, my hope is that you can leverage these wide-ranging nuggets of advice to improve your job prospects.
One of the core tenets of success is being able to learn from the lessons and failures of others. These accomplished business leaders all have undoubtedly experienced their fair share of professional ups and downs, so any shared advice should be viewed by you as an available shortcut on your path for personal success.
Via Forbes : Preparing to make a major career change can be like parachuting out of a plane—thrilling but also terrifying. These days though, career transitions are not uncommon. According to a Harris survey, only 14% of U.S. workers believe they have the perfect job and more than half want to change careers. Leaping into unfamiliar career territory requires courage and planning. Yet it seems like many people spend more time planning their vacations than their careers. As Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Here are some tips that will help set you up for success when getting ready for that big career change.
Make sure it’s for the right reasons
Start by determining whether the problem is your career or your workplace. Remember that a career change is very different from a job change. The fact that you can’t stand your cranky micromanaging boss or your coworkers isn’t a good reason to make a major career transition. If you used to like your job in the past, but now you hate it because you have a new manager, chances are you’re not ready for a career overhaul. Know that the grass isn’t always greener. Dig deep within yourself to understand why you crave a career transformation. A significant career change should be born out of a desire for things like fulfillment, happiness, freedom and flexibility among others. Make sure you are running towards something you love and not away from something you hate.
Do your homework
Confirm that your dream career really is what you imagine it to be. Join professional associations and network with your future colleagues. Attend career-specific conferences. Tap into your personal contacts and talk to family, friends and mentors to gather as much information as possible. Learn what opportunities and challenges exist in the new career you are considering through informational interviews. If possible, shadow professionals or better yet volunteer or work part-time in the new field you are contemplating to get a sense of the daily grind. You will also want to understand upcoming trends as well as compensation. If after extensively researching your new career choice it still seems like the right fit for you, you can move on to examining how your current skill set translates to your future profession.
Take an inventory of your skills
Whether you know it or not, chances are you have valuable skills that are transferrable to the new field. For example, if you’ve been working in the corporate world and want to start your own business, you probably have an established reputation, valuable contacts and hiring practice—all of which will serve you well as an entrepreneur. Also, take note of areas where you may be lacking and work to fill in those gaps. Your new career may require you to go back to school for some additional education to supplement the skills you already have. If that is the case, you may even consider completing those requirements while you are still in your current job. By taking small steps rather than making an abrupt change, the transition will seem less overwhelming and easier to manage.
Taking steps to prepare financially for a career transition is critical. It is highly likely that in the early days of your new career your income may drop slightly or even significantly. You’ll want to examine your expenses closely and reduce or eliminate any unnecessary spending. Separate your needs from your wants. Ideally, you will want to set aside at least six to 12 months of living expenses to provide a cushion as you ramp up in your new career. Depending on what field you are transitioning into, you can investigate grants, scholarships or loans to assist you in getting up and running. It may also be wise to meet with a financial advisor at this stage to get a professional opinion and learn about other options that may be open to you.
Create a plan
A goal without a plan is just a dream. To make that dream a reality you’ll need to devise a concrete set of milestones with target dates to hold yourself accountable. This is the roadmap that will get you from point A to point B. Establish your short-term objectives (those that will take 12 months or less) as well as long-term ones that will take longer to achieve. Also, identify whether any barriers may interfere with your ability to reach your goals in the stated timeframe. For example, if your goal is to be a web developer, but you don’t have the training, it’s time to start researching educational programs. The most important thing is to write your plan down. Writing down your plan in detail will increase the odds that you will actually accomplish it. Tony Robbins says, “write your goals down—not on a computer, but on paper, or in a journal. There’s something that happens when we write something down.” In fact, in a study conducted by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, more than 70% of the participants who wrote down their goals had accomplished them, compared to 35% who kept their goals to themselves and didn’t write them down.
Remember it’s a process
Making a major career change is a process, not a destination. Remember that success doesn’t happen overnight so don’t get discouraged. The key is to celebrate small wins along the way. If you don’t celebrate small milestones, you are going to lose the motivation and drive to continue. So, the key is to tie how you feel not to your long-term goal but to the progress that you are making. The better you feel about yourself and your progress, the more likely it is that you will continue to put in the work that will help make your dreams a reality.
Via Goalcast : 4 Steps to Finding a Dream Job that Actually Makes You Happy
If doing what you love every day while getting paid for it is the ultimate career dream, then why do so many of us give up on that dream when we become adults?
Some may say that work is work, and that getting your dream job is just that, a pipe dream, but I have to respectfully disagree. If you have the necessary patience, coupled with a bit of persistence, there are steps you can take to get the dream job that you’ve always wanted.
1. Know what you want
It’s not enough to have a general idea of what you want to do. Sure, when you enter a new industry, you might not know enough about it to make a definitive decision about where you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years. But once you’ve started to familiarize yourself with how a sector works, you need to decide how you will contribute to it so that you can start executing on some sort of plan.
The best place to start is to focus on the things that you think you’re good at.
If you work on developing a skill that you’re already naturally disposed to, it gives you the confidence to keep trying new things, and to make mistakes. That’s the first step to truly mastering something, and to making a successful career out of it.
2. Build relationships with people who do what you want to do
The fastest way to learn something is to talk to 10 experts on the topic. So it follows that the best way to learn about what it takes to build a successful career is to talk to the people who got where you want to be.
There are many people who are happy to take the time and talk to someone who asks for their help, especially if they’re just a few years ahead of you and remember what it was like to be in your shoes.
3. Provide value to people while building on your skills
Getting introduced to people who can give you advice is great, but if you want to accelerate your career, you have to continue to provide value to the people who have helped you on your path.
But what do people really mean when they say, add value to others?
One example is being open to using your own network for someone else’s benefit. Even if your network isn’t very big yet, you know people with skills or knowledge that someone else does not have. So whenever you meet someone new at an event that you want to maintain a relationship with, think about one or two people in your own network that might be relevant for that person to talk to. Even if it’s simply to share some expertise. Once you make an introduction, that person will see you as a connector and they will be more likely to remember you if you reach out to them asking for help down the line.
A simple way to add value to someone you want to build a relationship with is sharing information, even just an article, about a topic you know they care about. You don’t need to do this all the time, but just keep in touch.
The purpose of adding value is to give something before you ask for something. When you’re ready to switch your career or pursue a sought-after job that fits your skillset, ask for introductions to the leaders in the organization, rather than simply applying on a job board and hoping for a response.
The person on the receiving end is much more likely to make an introduction on your behalf if they trust you’re a thoughtful person who will make a good impression and reflect well on them. If you only met them at an event once and never followed up, then there’s no reason for them to trust you because they don’t have enough information about how you operate.
4. Find a target and pursue it relentlessly
Without step one — knowing what you want — it’s impossible to have the focus and intention required to pursue anything that’s truly worthwhile. Once you know what you want, and you know who the “movers” in the industry are, it becomes much easier to know how to channel your persistence.
The best advice I ever received about how to get your dream job is to show the organization what it will be like to work with you. In other words, show them the output of your work before you’re even hired.
You won’t want to do this for every job you pursue, but the effort is worthwhile for the ones you truly want.
Let’s say that you’ve used every networking trick in the book, and were able to actually get the attention of an important person in the industry who can offer you the job you’ve been dreaming of. Take this as your chance to stand out from everyone else.
Talk to someone in the company and find out what critical problems they’re trying to solve, and try solving one of them. If they’re too complicated to solve quickly, send some insightful suggestions and explain how you would go about solving the issues yourself to prove that you can do it.
The best example I heard of someone doing this was a young person who wanted to get a job at a tech startup he loved. The company needed a sales and business development person to get small businesses to buy their technology.
He spent time researching potential prospects for the startups, and he simply reached out to them and asked if they would ever use the product. He didn’t sell anything, he just wanted to assess whether he could actually get a small business interested.
After getting 10 companies to say they were interested, he went back to the startup and showed them the list of 10 potential clients he could bring them tomorrow. It was enough to prove to the startup that he had the skills to do the job.
Doing what you love is a goal we take for granted as children, but it’s also a dream that many people give up on once they start working and see how competitive any good opportunity really is.
When something is competitive, by definition, the only way to have a shot at it is standing out in some way. So don’t just do what people expect you to do as you progress through your career.
Be brave enough to prove yourself and ask questions when you need it, and eventually someone will listen.
Via The Muse : How to Write a Cover Letter: The All-Time Best Tips
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Every time you sit down to write one, you probably browse cover letter examples online, get overwhelmed, and think something to the effect of: Does anyone really read these? Wouldn’t it be so much easier if I could just let my resume speak for itself?
First off: Yes, we can assure you that cover letters do, in fact, get read. In fact, to some hiring managers, they’re the most important part of your application. And yes, while it would be easier to let your resume speak for itself, if that was the case you’d completely miss the opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, showcase why they should hire you, and stand out above all the other candidates.
Ready to dive in? To make sure your letter is in amazing shape (and crafting it is as painless as possible), we’ve brought the best advice on writing a cover letter into one place. Read on—then get to writing!
Cover Letter Basics
Write a Fresh Cover Letter for Each Position
Yes, it’s way faster and easier to take the cover letter you wrote for your last application, change the name of the company, and send it off. But most employers want to see that you’re truly excited about the specific position and company—which means creating a custom letter for each position you apply for.
While it’s OK to recycle a few strong sentences and phrases from one cover letter to the next, don’t even think about sending out a 100% generic letter. “Dear Hiring Manager, I am excited to apply to the open position at your company” is an immediate signal to recruiters and hiring managers that you’re resume-bombing every job listing in town. Mistakes like this can get your application tossed straight in the trash.
But Go Ahead, Use a Template
That said, there’s nothing that says you can’t get a little help. Try some basic cover letter templates, or one that focuses on your skills.
Your Cover Letter Greeting and First Paragraph
Include the Hiring Manager’s Name
The most traditional way to address a cover letter is to use the person’s first and last name, including “Mr.” or “Ms.” (for example, “Dear Ms. Jane Smith” or just “Dear Ms. Smith”). If you know for sure that the company or industry is more casual, you can drop the title and last name (“Dear Jane”). And if you’re not 100% positive whether to use “Mr.” or “Ms.” based on the name and some Googling, definitely skip the title.
Never use generic salutations like “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam”—they’re stiff, archaic, and did we mention that cover letters need to be customized? If you can’t figure out the specific hiring manager’s name, try addressing your cover letter to the head of the department for the role you’re applying for. Or if you honestly can’t find a single real person to address your letter to, aim for something that’s still somewhat specific, like “Systems Engineer Hiring Manager” or “Account Executive Search Committee.”
Craft a Killer Opening Line
No need to lead with your name—the hiring manager can see it already on your resume. It’s good to mention the job you’re applying for (the hiring manager may be combing through candidates for half a dozen different jobs), and yes, you could go with something simple like, “I am excited to apply for [job] with [Company].” But consider introducing yourself with a snappy first sentence that highlights your excitement about the company you’re applying to, your passion for the work you do, or your past accomplishments.
The Main Event
What to Put in the Body of Your Cover Letter
Go Beyond Your Resume
A super common pitfall many job seekers fall into is to use their cover letter to regurgitate what’s on their resume. Don’t simply repeat yourself: “I was in charge of identifying and re-engaging former clients.” Instead, expand on those bullet points to paint a fuller picture of your experiences and accomplishments, and show off why you’d be perfect for the job and the company.
For example: “By analyzing past client surveys, NPS scores, and KPIs, as well as simply picking up the phone, I was able to bring both a data-driven approach and a human touch to the task of re-engaging former clients.”
Having trouble figuring out how to do this? Try asking yourself these questions:
- What approach did you take to tackling one of the responsibilities you’ve mentioned on your resume?
- What details would you include if you were telling someone a (very short!) story about how you accomplished that bullet point?
- What about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done?
Think Not What the Company Can Do for You
Another common cover letter mistake? Talking about how great the position would be for you and your resume. Frankly, hiring managers are aware of that—what they really want to know is what you’re going to bring to the position and company. Try to identify the company’s pain points—the problem or problems that they need the person they hire to solve. Then emphasize the skills and experience you have that make you the right person to solve them.
On that note…
Highlight the Right Experiences
Not sure what skills and experiences you should be featuring? Typically the most important requirements for the position will be listed first in the job description, or mentioned more than once. You’ll want to make sure you describe how you can deliver on those key priorities.
Another trick: Drop the text of the job description into a word cloud tool like WordClouds, and see what stands out. That’s what the hiring manager is looking for most.
Showcase Your Skills
When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t straightforwardly sell you as the perfect person for the position—try focusing on your skills instead. That skills-based template we mentioned before will help you do just that. (Psst: You can also take this approach with a skills-based resume.)
…Not Necessarily Your Education
New grads, especially, often make the mistake of over-focusing on their educational backgrounds. At the end of the day, what hiring managers care about most is your work experience (and yes, that can be volunteer or internship experience, too)—and what you can walk through the door and deliver on day one.
Don’t Apologize for Your Missing Experience
When you don’t meet all of the job requirements, it’s tempting to use lines like, “Despite my limited experience as a manager…” or “While I may not have direct experience in marketing…” But why apologize? Instead of drawing attention to your weaknesses, emphasize the strengths and transferable skills you do have.
Here’s what that might look like: “I’m excited to translate my experience in [what you’ve done in the past] to a position that’s more [what you’re hoping to do next].”
Throw in a Few Numbers
Hiring managers love to see stats—they show you’ve had a measurable impact on an organization or company you’ve worked for. That doesn’t mean you have to have doubled revenue at your last job. Did you bring in more clients than any of your peers? Put together an impressive number of events? Made a process at work 30% more efficient? Those numbers speak volumes about what you could bring to your next position, and make your cover letter stand out.
Used sparingly, great feedback from former co-workers, managers, or clients can go a long way toward illustrating your passion or skills.
Here’s an example of how you might weave it in: “When I oversaw our last office move, my color-coded spreadsheets covering every minute detail of the logistics were legendary; my manager said I was so organized, she’d trust me to plan an expedition to Mars.”
Be Open to Other Formats
If you’re applying to a more traditional company, then the tried-and-true three-to-five-paragraph format probably makes sense. However, if you’re gunning for a more creative or startup job—or need to explain to the hiring manager, say, how your career has taken you from teaching to business development—a different approach could be appropriate.
Here at The Muse, we’ve seen cover letters use bullet points, tell stories, or showcase videos to (successfully) get their point across. One woman wrote a cover letter from her dog’s perspective. This professional even turned hers into a BuzzFeed-style list!
Finding Your Voice
How to Strike the Right Tone
Cut the Formality
We know, you’re trying to be professional. But being excessively formal can actually backfire on you, career expert Mark Slack points out: “It makes you seem insincere and even robotic, not anything like the friendly, approachable, and awesome-to-work-with person you are.”
Even when you’re applying for a very corporate role, there’s usually room to express yourself in a conversational, genuine way.
Write in the Company’s “Voice”
Cover letters are a great way to show that you understand the environment and culture of the company and industry. Spending some time reading over the company website or stalking their social media before you get started can be a great way to get in the right mindset—you’ll get a sense for the company’s tone, language, and culture, which are all things you’ll want to mirror as you’re writing.
Go Easy on the Enthusiasm
We can’t tell you how many cover letters we’ve seen from people who are “absolutely thrilled for the opportunity” or “very excitedly applying!” Yes, you want to show personality, creativity, and excitement. But downplay the adverbs a bit, and just write like a normal person.
Don’t Let Your Fear of Bragging Get in the Way
If you tend to have a hard time writing about yourself, here’s a quick trick: What would your favorite boss, your best friend, or your mentor say about you? How would they sing your praises? Then write the letter from their point of view.
Your Final Words (and Final Edits)
Keep it Short and Sweet
There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, for resumes and cover letters alike, don’t go over a page. In one survey, more than two-thirds of employers said they preferred a cover letter that’s either just half a page (around 250 words) or “the shorter the better.”
It’s tempting to treat the final lines of your cover letter as a throwaway: “I look forward to hearing from you.” But your closing paragraph is your last chance to emphasize your enthusiasm for the company or how you’d be a great fit for the position.
For example, you could say: “I’m passionate about [Company]’s mission and would love to bring my [add your awesome skills here] to this position.” You can also use the end of your letter to add important details—like, say, the fact that you’re willing to relocate for the job.
We shouldn’t have to tell you to run your cover letter through spell-check (you should!), but remember that having your computer scan for typos isn’t the same as editing. Set your letter aside for a day or even a few hours, and then read through it again with fresh eyes—you’ll probably notice some changes you want to make. You might even want to ask a friend or family member to give it a look.
If you need some extra help, you can check out how the wording sounds to others using Hemingway. Paste in your text, and the app will highlight sentences and sections that are too complex or wordy, use passive voice, or are overloaded with fancy vocabulary when simpler words will do. You don’t have to take all of its suggestions (maybe “facilitate” really is the best word choice there!), but it’s a handy way to check the readability of your letter.
Remember, one spelling or grammar mistake can be all it takes to turn off the hiring manager—especially if writing skills are an important part of the role you’re applying for.
Have Someone Gut Check It
Have a friend take a look at your cover letter, and ask him or her two questions: Does this sell me as the best person for the job? and Does it get you excited? If the answer to either is “no,” or even slight hesitation, go back for another pass.
Via Forbes : How To Create A Portable Career
A portable career is one that can be done from anywhere – your living room, your corner coffee shop, or even your favorite hammock in the Caribbean islands.
The term is often associated with military spouses who find themselves moving frequently while attempting to build a meaningful professional life. But a portable career is an option that is open to essentially anyone with a marketable idea and a WiFi connection. If this sounds like an enticing opportunity, here’s how to get started:
Understand the culture. Working independently can be extremely freeing. This is a huge part of the appeal, but it also means that you’ll need to be ridiculously organized, disciplined and motivated. If these words do not exactly define you, there may be ways to bridge the gaps through technology or work partnerships. However, building a customer base involves building trust, which means you need to be reliable.
Know your options. While many portable careers are held by individuals who work as contractors or independents, there are many organizations that welcome remote workers. In fact, some companies – such as WordPress (Automattic) and FlexJobs – do not have offices and instead operate with 100% virtual work forces. If you want the geographic freedom, but with some structure and foundation, this may be an alternative to explore.
Assess your strengths. There are a variety of careers today that can be portable, at least in part, so a helpful initial step is to evaluate your skills, interests and the market to find the intersection (what I call your “Plan A”). You need to be competent so people want to purchase your services, and there needs to be a market for what you’re selling. The more focused you can be in defining your Plan A, the easier it will be to develop your portable career.
Generate options. There are certain trades that lend themselves to portable careers, with roles in the field of technology being the obvious ones such as SEO consultant, web designer or programmer. But even if your talent lies in healthcare, teaching, plumbing or closet organizing, you can still create a portable career. For some fields, you may need to plant yourself in a location for 6 – 12 months versus continuously moving, but that may fit perfectly with what you’re looking for.
Assess feasibility. Once you know your “Plan A”, it’s important to look at the practical matters such as start-up and maintenance costs, or even how you’ll get your snail mail. It may be a dream to be a writer working from Paris, or to set up shop as a life coach living in Costa Rica, but there may be work visas to obtain or certain taxes that need to be paid. Plus, getting a bank account can be challenging as a non-resident and may be required for the basic necessities if you plan to stay in a foreign country for any length of time.
Fill in the gaps. Technology paved the way for many portable careers and is the heart to making several of them work, even if it’s just managing a website to market your business or using an online invoicing system. While some roles require much greater tech aptitude than others, it will be helpful to close any critical gaps before embarking on a full-time portable career. There are many free online training resources such as MOOCs and YouTube videos, plus in-depth virtual instructional and certification programs to explore.
Set your goals. Before you quit your day job or stop your job search, if you plan to create a portable career on your own, start with building a plan for success. This should include monthly sales goals, a detailed strategy for marketing including clearly identifying your target customers, an overview of your services, a pricing model, anticipated expenses, and how you’ll deal with competition, legal challenges and accounting matters.
Dive in. There is a key point at which a business idea becomes a reality and that is usually with the first paying client. You may decide that starting your portable career as a side hustle is a wise choice. This trial run will allow you to test your business idea, identify any costs or skills gaps you’ve missed, and begin to build some client testimonials for marketing.
In today’s market, the sky really is the limit. We no longer need to wait to be chosen to start on the path to our dream. All it takes is a little creativity and planning, and the courage to begin.