5 Ways to Stand Out When You’re Competing With Really Qualified Candidates


By Caris Thetford

You’ve got your eye on an amazing opportunity. You update your resume, perfect your cover letter, and line up your references. So far, you’re doing everything right. But before you submit your application documents, ask yourself this important question: What sets me apart?

You may have an extraordinary cover letter and resume with strong references. Great—but there will probably be other candidates with very comparable documents. So if you really want the gig, you have to be bold and prove your worth—before you’re asked to.

When I was a college student and member of the campus newspaper staff, I participated in interviewing a candidate for Director of Student Publications. While perusing her application materials, I noticed something unique: a newsletter she created announcing her hiring. It demonstrated her design and writing ability, and it made a bold statement about her desire for the job—which she got.

I still remembered that director about 10 years later, when I really wanted an open position with my alma mater, but assumed there would be other qualified individuals who wanted it, too. I asked myself what I could do—beyond writing a standout cover letter and resume—to showcase my abilities.

I ended up developing and submitting a program proposal that demonstrated my ability to plan an event grounded in theory and research, my strong writing skills, and my ability to think creatively. Less than three weeks later, I started in the new role. The proposal had served the exact purpose I wanted it to: It caught the hiring committee’s attention, confirmed my abilities, and showed a level of drive and enthusiasm that none of the other candidates demonstrated in quite the same way.

To be bold in your job search, you need to provide quality information to your potential employer beyond what a standard cover letter and resume convey. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. My approach for a position in higher education probably wouldn’t work at a corporate accounting firm. So, how do you make this work for you and your unique situation? It comes down to simply providing evidence that you are the ideal fit. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Submit a “Pain Letter”

Follow the advice of Liz Ryan, and substitute a pain letter for your cover letter. A pain letter identifies a challenge the company is facing and explains how you, if hired, would solve that problem. This demonstrates an uncommon depth of company knowledge and your unique ability to solve problems—which can seriously boost your appeal as a candidate.

2. Connect With an Insider

Don’t rely on a recruiter to understand your value solely based on what you put on paper as your cover letter and resume. Find someone influential on the inside of the company and send your information directly to that person—or, depending on the relationship you form, ask that person to vouch for you. It’s a gutsy move (especially if you have no prior connection to that person), but a personal reference almost always results in a higher success rate than relying solely on your cover letter and resume to get you the job.

There are a variety of ways to connect with that influencer: Try connecting on LinkedIn, joining a professional organization he or she is a member of, or use your personal network to garner an introduction. Then, continue forging that connection by conveying your passion and the value you can bring to the role.

You could send an email or LinkedIn message, for example, that says:

Hi, John,

I was researching your company because I am applying for the open marketing position there, and I came across your profile on LinkedIn. I saw that you recently published a post about the BuzzFeed approach to viral content. I’m sending a link to a website I helped develop as a marketing intern for my university’s Division of Student Life, which used a BuzzFeed approach.

As you can see from the data I’ve included, it increased traffic to online campus resources by 25%, supporting your theory. I thought this site might be an interesting resource for you. I would be happy to provide you with more details if you are interested, and I would greatly value your support in my pursuit of the marketing position.

With this, you’re making a meaningful connection, without just asking for a favor.

3. Showcase Your Skills

A cover letter and resume can only go so far to describe what you can do; a portfolio provides concrete evidence of those abilities. Have you done a lot of writing in your previous roles? Don’t just tell an employer that you have strong writing skills on your resume; include samples of your writing in your portfolio.

You can bring this portfolio with you to the interview, but that assumes you actually get an interview. Instead, do yourself a favor and build an online portfolio that employers can access immediately when they receive your application materials. Your portfolio then becomes a tool that helps you land the interview, instead of something you showcase at the interview.

Plus, an online portfolio also allows you to include media that a traditional portfolio doesn’t. Do you have experience developing proposals and securing funding for projects? Include a proposal, timeline, and photos or a time-lapse video of the project in your portfolio.

4. Demonstrate Your Value

In addition to an online portfolio, consider submitting additional documents that can demonstrate your value to the company. Think about what the company needs, and develop something unique around that. For example, you could develop a proposal for a new program, an out-of-the-box marketing tactic, or a grant opportunity. The opportunities are endless—you simply have to use your knowledge of the company and your creativity to develop something relevant and realistic.

This approach will demonstrate your depth of knowledge of what the company needs and your ability to realistically meet those needs. It also proves your effort and enthusiasm—qualities that any sane employer wants in every employee.

5. Ask Bold Questions

When you snag an interview, you’ll certainly need to prepare for the questions that interviewer will ask you—but don’t forget that the interview is a two-way street. You should prepare a few questions of your own to help you decide if this is the right position for you and show just how interested you are in pursuing the opportunity.

This doesn’t mean you should be overly aggressive—but being willing to ask straightforward questions will show you know what you want. Lily Zhang suggests three strong wrap-up questions here.

I recently interviewed for a new opportunity on campus. I came to the interview with two proposals—one for a new counseling practicum position and one for a new student group—both closely aligned with the goals of the office. I hadn’t been asked to develop either item as part of the application process, but I saw an opportunity to showcase my potential impact in the role.

I closed the interview by asking one of Zhang’s bold wrap-up questions (among several other pointed questions), and in general, I did everything in my power to make it easy for everyone involved in the hiring decision to see what I envisioned for this new role and to understand that I had the experience to pull it off. And guess what? I started my new job April 13.

In your job search, you can submit the same old cover letter and resume like every other job seeker, or you can look for a way to stand out from the competition for all the right reasons. Will you make the investment in yourself?

3 Brilliant LinkedIn Summaries That Will Inspire You to Update Yours Right Now


By Lily Zhang

Like your resume and your cover letter, you know that a LinkedIn profile is must-have in your job search. It’s not only a great platform for job seekers to showcase their work, but it also has the added benefit of having recruiters crawling all over it.

So, it makes perfect sense for people to optimize their profile’s potential. However, a surprising number of people ignore the most flexible and, arguably, most useful part: the “Summary” section.

I get it, though. It’s open-ended, and a blank canvas can be scary. To help you get a sense of what you can—and should—get across with your summary, here are three fantastic lessons (plus three great examples) to learn from.

1. Make Sure Your Personality Shines Through

From Jenny Foss

My business cards say such things as career strategist, recruiter and resume writer.

But when you get right down to it, I’m much more—I’m a marketer, an entrepreneur, a blogger, a social media strategist and a technical geek (ask me anything about robots, 18-wheelers or applicant tracking systems, seriously).

I’m also a big believer in the power of branding.

I believe that we, as humans, don’t buy “stuff.” We don’t make decisions based on features and benefits. We make decisions based on emotion, “gut feel” and brand promise.

We buy when we are moved. We buy when we are captivated and engaged to the point that we drop whatever it is we’re doing and say, “Oh, heck yes. I need me some of THAT.”

And so I teach people and companies how to create that reaction. I teach job seekers and corporations seeking new talent how to communicate their brands in memorable, engaging, and high personality ways, so that they will attract the right audiences and move them toward their core goals.

Specialties include: Job search strategy, career coaching, resume writing, recruiting, LinkedIn makeovers, copy writing, corporate outplacement, public speaking/presentations, social media marketing and branding. I’m also very good at Scrabble and I make a mean margarita.

I’m right over at jenny@jobjenny.com if you ever want to talk careers, job search or marketing. You can also find me at JobJenny.com.

Jenny Foss’ summary is unbelievable. It manages to cram so much personality into 250 words (or less!) that I feel like she’s a close friend, even though I’ve never met her before. Yes, LinkedIn is a professional social network, but that doesn’t mean you have to speak in the third person and drone on and on about how many years of experience you have.

Secondly, Jenny (see, I think I’m on a first name basis with her) has carefully woven in a pitch for her services without make you feel like you’re being sold something. The summary, rather than the experience section, is the perfect place for you to let people know what you have to offer. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to go into your experience too much since it’s right below the summary. Instead, dive further into your beliefs, motivations, or values—the intangibles that are generally harder to convey in your experience.

2. Make Sure You Have a Strong Pick-up Line

From Adrian Granzella Larssen

I’m not your average editor.

Of course, I have strong writing skills, geek out over traffic spikes, and proofread my own text messages. But I’m also a project manager, community builder, and team leader (and pretty good party planner, so I’ve been told).

My background, while extensive, isn’t traditional. As editor-in-chief and first official employee of The Muse—the career and job search platform that helps millions of people figure out what they want to do and thrive once they get there—I have built our publication, The Daily Muse, and fast-growing community from the ground up.

In the past three years, I’ve recruited an incredible team of 500+ freelance writers, career experts, and lifestyle contributors, garnered awards such as Forbes Top 100 Sites for Women and Top 75 Sites for Your Career, and created editorial content that readers truly, truly love. I’ve also significantly increased our audience (4 million UVs/month) and managed syndication partnerships with Time, Inc., Mashable, and Forbes, to name a (notable) few.

Currently, I oversee all digital content strategy and creation, including 50+ articles/week, videos, branded content, and The Muse’s education platform, Muse U. Previously, I worked at a university of a different sort, managing print and digital communications and editorial strategy for the George Washington University Medical Center.

In a nutshell, my passion for content is coupled with a love for big-picture planning and daily operational management. I’m not the editor who just wants to write. I’m the editor who actually wants to edit—and plan, ideate, and lead. This is what I do best and love most.

When I first saw Adrian Granzella Larssen’s summary, the idiom, “hook, line, and sinker,” came to mind. There was no way I wasn’t going to read the entire thing after that first line. If you want someone to take the time to go through your whole summary, consider writing an irresistible opening line, and then tying everything back to it. An old trick perhaps, but it works.

As the Editor-in-Chief of The Muse, it’s no surprise that Adrian has racked up some impressive accomplishments. That’s not what makes her summary so interesting, though. It’s actually the numbers that really bring the huge scope of the work she does to life. Don’t underestimate what a few numbers can do to highlight your skills and experiences.

3. Make Sure You Connect All the Dots

From Scott R. Murray

I got my start writing poetry and teaching fiction. I’m good with words and I get stories. Need a website that works, a brand that resonates and social media that’s human? I can help.

I have over six years of experience in higher ed and academic non-profit communications. I’ve also clocked five years of grad school, which totals thousands of writing hours. I’ve honed clever, clear and concise, so I can create content that informs, delights and inspires.

Teaching taught me the most: to work with people where they are, figure out their needs and show up prepared to add value to their lives. It takes passion and guts to run a classroom, imagination and humor to keep folks checked in, and empathy and patience to provide useful feedback.

I now employ these strengths in managing successful content processes, developing digital resources, and connecting virtual communities.

Below are links to projects I’m proud of: website collaborations, social media campaigns I’ve managed, news articles I’ve written, and shout-outs my work has earned. See something you like? I’m an InMail away. (Or a tweet @strangewander.)

I frequently present with Scott on how to best use LinkedIn, and we always use his summary as a model. His paragraphs are pithy, with each serving a clear purpose. Scott has a pretty unconventional background for a communications guy, but somehow, he’s managed to tell one cohesive story connecting his writing, teaching, social media savvy, and communications expertise.

That’s exactly why I constantly show off his summary and refer to it. The summary is the place for you to connect the dots of your experience—and this is an example of exactly that done incredibly well.

There are plenty of good LinkedIn summaries out there, but these three just happen to be my favorites. They also happen to be longer than many. You might not necessarily need to write as much to get your story across. But, whatever you do write, remember to imbue some of your personality, have a hook, and tie it altogether. It’ll make all the difference.

The 7 Best Tricks to Sounding Confident (Even When You’re Not)

man speaking on stage

By Jayson Demers of Inc.

Confidence can carry you through a lot in life. It can help you perform better in job interviews, appear more authoritative when addressing a crowd, and land more deals and partnerships in your business. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel confident 100% of the time, and when we do feel confident it doesn’t always project outward in ways that enable us to succeed.

During the course of conversation, there are several tricks you can use to make your words sound more authoritative and to address your audience with greater overall confidence. Here are seven of them.

1. Speak More Slowly

Some of us speak faster when we’re nervous. Some of us are naturally fast talkers. Regardless of your motivations, conscious or subconscious, speaking too quickly indicates a lack of authority or a lack of confidence. In addition, while speaking quickly, you’re more likely to make mistakes in your enunciation, and you have less time to think through your words. Focus on speaking more slowly in your conversation, allowing your words to draw out and giving your sentences a weightier rhythm. Your audience will have more time to digest the words you’re speaking, and you’ll be less likely to make any critical errors that compromise your speaking integrity.

2. Use Pauses to Your Advantage

Using pauses is another strategy that can help you speak slower, but it’s effective in its own right. Work on creatively using pauses to give more impact to your speaking. For example, if you have an opening for a public presentation that’s eight sentences long and you make a significant point after sentence three, throw in a sizable seconds-long pause. It will add more weight to whatever your last sentence was and give your audience time to soak it in. It also gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and prepare for the next section of your speech, adding to the total amount of authority and confidence you project.

3. Avoid Asides

In a scenario that allows for preparation, such as giving a speech to a public audience, asides are fine. You have advance time to prepare them, determine if they’re relevant, and include them if they are. In more natural conversations, however, improvised asides can be damaging. For example, if you’re in a job interview and you answer a question directly, then spiral into a related story about something that happened to you a few years ago, it could be a sign that you’re nervous and looking to fill conversational space. Instead, focus only on what’s immediately relevant.

4. Lower Your Vocal Range

Take a look at some of the most famous speeches throughout history, at currently popular politicians, and even at local newscasters. You’ll find that most of them have lower tones of voice, and this is no coincidence. People tend to view speakers with lower speaking voices as having more authority and confidence. As much as you can, practice speaking in a lower tone of voice. Don’t force yourself or you’ll sound unnatural, but if you can get yourself a tone or two lower, it can make a real difference.

5. Improve Your Posture

Body language is just as important in conversation as the words that leave your mouth. Whether you’re sitting or standing in front of your audience, work to improve your posture. Stand or sit up straight with your shoulders back, and keep your head held high. This will make you appear bigger and more confident, and will help you feel more confident as well. Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of aligning your body so you can breathe—and therefore speak—more efficiently. Posture can demand a lot of work, so make sure to practice in advance.

6. Gesticulate

Gesticulation—the practice of using your hands and arms to punctuate or enhance your verbal statements—is another valuable body language strategy. Speakers who use body language actively in their presentation tend to be viewed as more confident and more authoritative than those who do not. Obviously, different hand gestures can signal different things, and if you simply wave your hands wildly in front of your audience, it may make you come across as out of control. Instead, focus on reserving your hand gestures for your most impactful words, and try to keep your movements reserved and under strict control.

7. Talk More

The conversations that matter in our lives—whether they’re in the form of a public presentation or a business negotiation—are somewhat rare. But that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for those meaningful conversations in our everyday lives. Seek out new opportunities to communicate with others whenever you get the chance, and in any context. Put these speaking strategies to practice and focus on improving your abilities over time. The only way to get better is to plunge in and keep working at it, so sign up to be a public speaker when you can and strike up conversations with strangers wherever you go.

The beauty of these conversational tricks is their sheer practicality; they can be used anywhere, in almost any context where you’re speaking to one or more other people. Experiment with them by practicing on a friend or a colleague. Over time, they will become second nature to you, and your natural speaking voice will convey a greater overall level of confidence and authority.

What to say when the hiring manager asks, ‘Can you tell me about a time you failed?’


Be careful.

We recently solicited readers to submit their most pressing career-related questions.

With help from Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” we’ve answered the following: “What should I say when a hiring manager asks me to talk about a time that I failed?”

This is a tricky question that can throw a wrench into an otherwise stellar job interview, Taylor says. “No one enjoys talking about work failures, and the interview is the last place you want to showcase your most memorable job blunder.”

The question may be asked in a variety of ways, referring to your worst mistake or biggest challenge, she says. “But no matter the phraseology, the goal of this behavioural question is to gauge your ability to be self-reflective, acknowledge mistakes, take risks, and learn from a setback,” Taylor explains. “Since it’s a common interview inquiry, you should have a couple examples committed to memory — and remember to focus on the lesson learned.”

Here are some tips on not failing the failure question:

Be direct.

It can be tempting to be evasive with a non-answer, such as, “I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve rarely made any major mistakes in my job.”

“A response like that would in fact qualify as it’s own misstep, because misjudgments are just part of the workplace landscape and humans have not yet been classified as infallible,” says Taylor. “Your honesty would be in question. So be straightforward and genuine with your response, and make sure there’s a silver lining.”

Use specifics.

“In order to be believable, you need to explain the scenario, choices made, what failed and why, and the takeaway, in a substantive way,” she explains. “By being too general or flip, you may appear disinterested or disrespectful.”

Employers want to know that you’re capable of taking smart risks and are not afraid of challenges. Showing that you boldly face any setbacks with tenacity to improve is a highly valued trait.

Don’t go overboard.

You can be specific and also be concise. “This is not the time to capture the interviewer’s attention with a disastrous oversight or soliloquy of self-hatred,” Taylor says. “Rehearse your answer so that you get your points across quickly and clearly. Consider using the recording feature of your smart phone to evaluate not only content, but also the length of your response.”

Show you can handle mistakes, learn from them, and move on.

Be strategic.

Make sure your example illustrates a benefit to your career. Avoid talking about mistakes that never offered any redeeming value or lesson, or one that would open a can of worms.

“Also make sure that your response doesn’t hit a hot button, such as the one time you missed a project deadline when meeting deadlines is a key hiring criteria,” she says.

Focus on the lessons learned.

This is critical in acing this tough interview question, Taylor says. “Hiring managers want to know that you know how to face your mistakes, learn from them, and move ahead. They want be assured that given similar circumstances, you’d handle things differently.”

This is a chance to show how you turned the proverbial lemons into lemonade.

Example: “The client became concerned that we weren’t doing X and began getting competitive quotes. I realised that it’s important to share real issues with a client early on rather than wait. Later, that helped me regain their trust and build other business as well.”

“Despite the negative slant of this question, you have an opportunity to shine by illustrating your interest and ability to overcome challenges,” Taylor concludes.

24 LinkedIn Rules You Might Be Breaking

LinkedIn Rules - LinkedIn Tips and Etiquette - The Muse

By Aja Frost

Back in the day, etiquette rules were fairly simple. Always send a thank-you card. Don’t put your elbows on the table. Hold the door open for other people.

However, social networks have made matters much more complicated, and Emily Post isn’t much help when it comes to online etiquette. That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate list of LinkedIn dos and don’ts. (Thank-you card not required.)

Do: Connect With People Right Away

It might be considered desperate or creepy to friend someone on Facebook right after you’ve met that person, but LinkedIn has completely different rules. I’ll chat with someone for 10 minutes at a conference, leave to attend a session, and request to connect with him or her as I walk away. The longer you wait after the meeting, the less likely people are to remember you. So don’t feel weird—send that request.

Don’t: Try to Connect With Someone When You’re Not on His or Her Profile

Say you’re scrolling through LinkedIn’s list of “People You May Know.” Underneath each person’s headshot and title, you’ll see a blue box that says “Connect.” Don’t click it—you won’t get a chance to customize your invitation. Similarly, if you’re looking at search results, you’ll see a blue connect box to the right of each person’s info. Using that button won’t allow you to make your request unique. The only way you can change the connection request is if you click “Connect” when you’re on someone’s profile.

Do: Personalize Every Single Connection Request

If you take one thing away from this article, it should be customizing your requests.

Which would you rather get from a co-worker: “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn,” or “Hi, Sam! Congrats on getting second in the hackathon. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next.”

Most of the time, the person you’re requesting will accept whether you use the default message or not. But tailored messages make people feel special. It’s worth the extra effort.

Don’t: Send Requests More Than Twice

After three weeks of my internship at a small media company, I’d finally gotten the chance to sit down with the CEO for an informational interview. We ended up talking for 90 minutes, not 20, and I walked away confident she’d remember me. Yet months and months went by—and she still hadn’t accepted my LinkedIn invitation.

While I was tempted to “remind” her by withdrawing my request and then sending a new one, I decided not to. Being pushy would only make her more likely to say no; besides, LinkedIn automatically reminds the person you’ve asked if he or she hasn’t yet answered your invitation.

Finally, last month, she became my connection. (I’m guessing she had a huge archive of unanswered requests she finally went through.) I’m relieved I didn’t badger her.

The takeaway: Be patient. Re-sending an invite will only lower your chances for success.

Do: Use LinkedIn as an Alternative to Informational Interviews

The informational interview is a wonderful resource—but as Muse writer Elliott Bell points out, it’s hard to convince strangers to set aside a portion of their lives to meet you at Starbucks.

If you’re approaching someone who you already know is really, really busy or unlikely to say yes, consider sending him or her a LinkedIn connection request instead.

Here’s what I’ve used:

Dear Influential Person,

Your work for X Company is unlike any content marketing I’ve seen before. If you had a spare moment, could you tell me what it’s like to build custom content for high-profile brands like Pepsi and CitiBank? Specifically, how do you maintain editorial integrity while accomplishing the client’s goals? I’m hoping to go into content marketing and would appreciate any takeaways you may have.

Thank you so much,

Aja Frost

About half of the time, I’ll receive a response, and sometimes, our online conversation will actually evolve into a real informational interview.

In any case, it’s ideal for getting insight from people who otherwise might not have time for you.

Don’t: Neglect to Look at Someone’s Contact Policy

Maybe you’ve hunted down your role model or someone who works at your dream company. AsMuse writer Lily Herman explains, “Before you click the ‘Message’ button and declare your admiration, make sure you check that person’s profile to see if there are any specific requests about messages.”

Some people prefer email over LinkedIn for inquiries, some people don’t want to hear from strangers at all, and some people (like career expert Larry Kim) will talk to or connect with virtually anyone!

Do: Connect With Recruiters

If you’re looking for a job, one of the first steps you should take is finding recruiters in your industry and connecting with them.

In your request, explain you’re actively seeking new opportunities and would love if he or she could pass along any relevant ones. You can also explain you’d be happy to call upon your network if the recruiter needs any candidates for other positions.

Don’t: Ignore Recruiters When You’re Not Looking for a Job

You could be completely satisfied with your job and have no expectations of leaving for the next 20 years. You still shouldn’t ignore recruiters—it’s impossible to know what will happen to your workplace, so you should cover your bases.

If a recruiter messages you to share a job opportunity, be very honest and say you’re not looking for a job. However, you should leave the door open for future contact. For example:

Dear Recruiter,

Thank you for reaching out! I am not looking for a job at this time, but I’ll be sure to update you if that changes. In the meantime, would you like me to connect you with a contact of mine who is open to a new role? He has similar qualifications and could be perfect for the job you described. Please let me know, and thank you again for your inquiry.


Do: Connect With People Who Work at Your Dream Company

You’ve heard that the best way to get noticed by a company is to come in via a referral, so absolutely use LinkedIn to help you get in front of people who work at your dream employers.

Say you wanted to work at the Muse. Type “The Muse” into LinkedIn, and then refine the search by choosing the option to only see people currently employed by the company.

If you’ve got a first degree connection, woo-hoo! Here’s how to ask for a referral.

Maybe you only have a second degree connection. Go ahead and contact your first degree contact (the mutual connection), and ask him or her for an introduction.

No shared connections? That’s OK. Here’s how to get around that problem using LinkedIn groups.

Don’t: Connect With the Hiring Manager

During your pre-interview research, you find the hiring manager’s profile and figure you’ll request her to show how interested you are. Or maybe she already interviewed you, and it went great—so you figure you’ll connect and send her a note thanking her for your meeting.

Don’t do it. As a hiring manager once told us:

“There is nothing inherently wrong with it. But it just feels like they are putting the cart before the horse. I feel uncomfortable because we don’t really have a reason to connect. If I loved a candidate, it wouldn’t stop me from hiring them, but if I was on the fence, it would sway me to go in another direction.”

Do: Turn Off Your Activity When You’re Updating Your Profile

When you’re giving your profile an overhaul, you don’t want to bombard your connections with dozens of updates. Go to your LinkedIn Privacy and Settings page (found by clicking on your photo in the top right-hand corner) and finding the option to “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts” underneath Privacy Controls.

After you make your changes, turn your activity broadcast back on so people can see when you get a new job, add new skills, or have a work anniversary.

Don’t: Post Too Much or Too Little

One of my connections is a “super user” when it comes to LinkedIn—and not in a good way. Every day, he posts two or three articles, advertises his personal site, and publishes on LinkedIn Pulse. If he did just one of those, it wouldn’t be a problem, but I got tired of having my newsfeed clogged up with his activity. I ended up blocking him. (To block people, go to their page, click the upside-down blue triangle to the right of their picture, and choose “Block or Report.”)

His case is rather unique; most people don’t post enough on LinkedIn. As a general rule, aim to post a couple of times per week, and no more than once per day. You’ll stay visible without annoying your network.

Do: Congratulate People (the Right Way) When They Update Their Positions

On the upper right side of your homepage, there’s a box where LinkedIn shows you all of your connections who have recently added new jobs, celebrated a work anniversary, or changed a photo.

It’s tempting to merely “like” the status or write a quick “Congrats!” but you won’t be doing yourself any favors in terms of networking.

To network meaningfully, you have to show some effort. Writing a thoughtful comment—rather than a bland, generic one—will not only strengthen the connection between you and the professional you’re addressing, but it will also make you look good to everyone who sees your comment in their newsfeed.

For example, when one of my contacts became a staff writer for a well-known magazine, I wrote, “I can’t wait to read your pieces! Your writing is always clear, concise, and engaging, and your choice of topics is always spot-on. The magazine’s editors are lucky to have you.”

The extra effort is minimal, while the effect on our professional relationships is big.

Don’t: Congratulate People When They’re Updating an Out-of-Date Profile

Now, you’re all excited to write great comments on all your connections’ statuses. However, be careful.

If someone is updating an out-of-date profile, you’ll look silly and inattentive for congratulating him or her for getting a job he or she has had for years.

Or say your contact got demoted or fired. He might change his title from “Corporate Analyst at X Company” to “Seeking new opportunities.” You probably don’t want to congratulate him on his misfortune.

Bottom line: Make sure you’re congratulating people on the right things.

Do: Give Endorsements When You Can

While I don’t believe endorsements are quid pro quo, I absolutely think you should endorse people with whom you’ve worked closely. I make a point of going to my co-workers’ and supervisors’ profiles periodically to check which skills they’ve added. For example, if I watched my boss give an amazing presentation, I’ll recommend her for “PowerPoint,” and “public speaking.” It’s a much more meaningful way to give endorsements than arbitrarily recommending a person for every skill he or she has listed. Think of how fun it would be to write a great report and then get an endorsement from your colleague for “trend analysis” and “research.”

Of course, you shouldn’t feel like you have to endorse anyone just because he or she endorsed you. In general, I only endorse people for skills I know they have—otherwise the entire system is pointless.

Don’t: Be Afraid to Ask for Endorsements

Maybe you’re trying to emphasize your social media skills on your LinkedIn profile, but only a couple people have endorsed you for “Twitter,” or “Facebook,” or “social networks.” Don’t be afraid to send your contacts a message asking them to endorse you for those key skills. When I did this, I picked around eight people I knew had seen me use my target skills, and messaged them:

Dear Contact,

Hope you’re doing well! I’m trying to flesh out my LinkedIn profile and would be so grateful if you could endorse me for storytelling and creative writing. Of course, if you’re too busy or feel uncomfortable with that, I completely understand.



Do: Be Generous With Giving Recommendations

By generous, we definitely don’t mean with the truth—we mean in how many you give. You may feel way too busy to respond to every single recommendation request you get. However, if you don’t have time to write someone a great one, there’s no shame in asking him or her to write it for you.

For example:

Dear Former Intern,

Thank you for the recommendation request—I’d be happy to write you a review! Would you mind sending over a “brag” list of your qualifications and achievements for my reference?
Thanks so much,


Don’t: Feel Obligated to Recommend Sub-Par Employees

However, you have no obligation to recommend people who don’t deserve it. Suppose you get a request from a woman who used to work with you who failed to pull her weight in group projects, showed up late, and left early. Everyone in the office was happy when she left for another job. Now she’s asking for a recommendation. Since she’s in your industry, you don’t want to burn any bridges, but you also don’t want to give her a review she hasn’t earned—which could harm your credibility.

You might be tempted to just ignore her request, but that’s a little passive-aggressive and unprofessional. (Don’t forget she’ll be able to see her pending request!) Instead, send a polite but honest message.

“Say something like, ‘Listen, I’m not the right person,’ or ‘I’m not the right fit for this, but good luck,’” recommends Jodyne Speyer, empowerment guru and author of Dump ’Em: How To Break Up With Anyone From Your Best Friend to Your Hairdresser in a great article about turning down a reference request. “Don’t give a laundry list of reasons why you can’t do it. Just get in and get out. Be prepared for the ‘why?’ but don’t allow for any room for them to fight you on it.”

Do: Send an Awesome Recommendation Request

I conducted a mini-experiment.

First, I asked five colleagues for recommendations using LinkedIn’s default: “I’m writing to ask if you would write a brief recommendation of my work…”

Then, I asked five similar colleagues for recommendations using customized messages, like Muse columnist Jenny Foss recommends:

Hi Jill, I hope everything’s going well in Texas! I’m writing to ask if you’d be willing to write a LinkedIn recommendation for me that highlights my crisis communications skills. Ideally, I’d love for you to outline the experience you had with me through the Def Con 5 initiative last year in Tulsa. I’m working hard to transition into a senior communications role, and most of the employers I’m considering put a strong focus on crisis communications.

After one week, only one person in the first group had recommended me—versus four people in the second.

When you’re requesting recommendations, be as specific as possible. The more details you share, the easier your connection’s job will be.

Don’t: Forget the “Remind” and “Withdraw” Buttons

Under your recommendations page, you can see your pending recommendation requests. There are two options: You can remind your connection you’ve asked for a request, or you can withdraw it.

I use the remind option if it’s been a couple weeks and the person I’ve asked is someone I’m fairly confident won’t resent a friendly nudge. LinkedIn lets you edit the original message; I’ll usually preserve the body but add to the top:

“Dear So-and-So, I know you’re busy, so let me know if I can help by writing a potential draft for you! Thank you again, Aja.”

There are some people it would be inappropriate to remind—usually because they have way more rank then me, or I only know them in a very professional sense. In those cases, I’ll withdraw my request after it goes unanswered for a couple months.

Do: Remove or Update Recommendations You Don’t Like

Maybe your boss does answers your request, but you can tell she wrote it in the five minutes between her conference call and another meeting. It’s lukewarm, completely generic, or even incorrect. A bad review isn’t better than no review at all, so take it off. To do this, un-check the small box next to the recommendation. LinkedIn will remove it from your profile until you choose to show it again.

Suppose your job responsibilities have significantly changed in the two years since your manager recommended you. Find his or her recommendation and hover your mouse over it. An option to “Ask for changes” will appear underneath. Send a message saying you’d love if he or she could update your recommendation to reflect your [insert achievements here] as well as your [insert new duties here].

Don’t: Forget to Thank People Who Have Recommended You

If someone has taken the time out of his or her day to recommend you (even if it’s copying and pasting your “sample” recommendation), he or she probably expects some recognition. You can send a LinkedIn message expressing gratitude for the kind words, give your own recommendation, or (my favorite option) hand-write a thank-you note.

Do: Respond to Recommendation Requests From People You Don’t Know Well

It’s always bizarre when near-strangers ask you to commend to their work. Again, you could ignore them, but why accrue the bad career karma? Instead, say:

Dear Person I Don’t Know,

I appreciate that you value my opinion enough to ask me for a recommendation request! Unfortunately, I have a policy of writing recommendations only for people with whom I’ve worked closely. If we ever get the chance to do so, I’d be more than happy to recommend you.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.


Don’t: Ask a Ton of People for Recommendations at Once

Foss, who’s a recruiter, says she looks at the dates of each recommendation on a candidate’s profile. If they’ve all come in at the same time, she assumes they’ve sent messages to half their LinkedIn network in a last-minute attempt to build credibility.

Instead of going from zero to 60, Foss recommends spacing out your requests so they look like they’re coming in organically. I usually stick to one request a month.

5 Tech Skills That Will Help Your Career (No Matter What You Do)

Designer computer

By Kelli Orrela

Almost every single job out there involves being online in some capacity. That means that, at some point in your career—this year or 30 years from now—you’ll likely have to access the back end of a company site, a blog, or an email marketing service.

Did that sentence scare you?

Don’t worry, it’s not as hard or as complicated as it sounds. Especially once you master a few of the basic building blocks. No, you won’t magically transform into Steve Jobs or Marissa Mayer overnight, but you can gain enough knowledge to talk credibly about website development and design. And that new knowledge might impress your current boss or a future hiring manager.

So, skip the Facebook stalking for a while and spend that time boosting your digital know-how instead. Here are five basics you can get started on right now.

1. Image Editing

Photos aren’t just for selfies and Instagram. They’re also an important tool for marketing, technical documents, and of course, a company’s online presence.

If you can do a little image editing with tools like Photoshop, you can:

  • Resize images for blog posts or websites
  • Crop images for social media headers or profiles
  • Create images for online marketing campaigns, emails, and digital newsletters

For quick and easy image editing, check out Pixlr, a photo editor you can use for free on the web or mobile devices. Or download a free 30-day trial of Photoshop and try the free tutorials on the site.

2. SEO

There’s no getting away from the fact that most people head to Google when they need information nowadays. You can help your company take advantage of that fact by understanding how SEO (search engine optimization) works and how it can improve your company’s business. If your company has any kind of online presence, SEO can only help it.

With a bit of SEO, you can:

  • Optimize images so they’re also searchable
  • Create links that best describe what’s on your site
  • Write content that gets you noticed by search engines

To start unraveling the secrets of SEO, check out Google’s free “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.”


HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is what’s used to put content on websites or web-friendly emails. You probably won’t be able to build a whole site after studying HTML for a few hours, but you will be able to do surprisingly important tasks with only a handful of code.

For example, with HTML, you can:

  • Finally correct the typos on your company’s site
  • Put content in a CMS (content management system) like WordPress
  • Write marketing emails with a service like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor
  • Create links to track the performance of marketing campaigns

You can learn HTML basics and even create your own web page in the free Skillcrush 10-day Bootcamp. You’ll also learn interesting and useful tech terms along the way that’ll wow your colleagues when you start casually tossing them out.

4. CSS

CSS (a.k.a., Cascading Style Sheets) is like the yin to HTML’s yang: It’s the code that formats and styles HTML content. By changing just a little CSS, you can completely change how a web page or other digital content looks.

If you know CSS, you can:

  • Create an email newsletter that matches your company’s brand
  • Style blog posts so they’re easier to read
  • Customize a Tumblr or Squarespace theme
  • Change the appearance of entire web pages

Check out this quick explanation of CSS to take a look at some actual CSS code. Then, have some fun playing with CSS live in the CSSDesk online editor.

5. Website Inspectors

Once you know more about websites and digital content, you can go behind the scenes with a website inspector. This is a tool that lets you see all the code that web pages are built with and—get ready for this—even edit it if you like. (Don’t worry though. The changes you make will only show up on your computer, so you won’t bring the internet down with your tweaks.)

Using an inspector is a great way to understand more about HTML and CSS—and to see how changes look before you make them on a “real” site.

Two of the most popular inspectors are Mozilla’s Firebug and Google Chrome DevTools, both of which are free. And you can get going with both inspectors with just a couple clicks by installing theFirebug Lite extension for any browser or right-clicking on any web page in Chrome to bring up DevTools.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick the building block that looks the most interesting to you, and set aside time this month to learn the fundamentals. You might even realize that you’ve discovered a new passion and decide to get a foundation in tech to advance your career. Or not. Either way, learning new tech skills can only help your career.

How to Behave Like a Mature, Professional Adult When Your Co-worker Becomes Your Boss

By Avery Augustine

5 Ways to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking for Good

man speaking at a meeting

A former FBI hostage-negotiation trainer’s 7 tricks to talk your boss into the salary you want



Negotiations are tricky, and often intimidating.

“People worry about coming off as pushy, greedy, manipulative, or entitled,” says Mark Goulston, a psychiatrist, author, and former FBI hostage-negotiation trainer.

“At a deeper subconscious level is your fear not just of being told ‘no,’ but of your reaction to being told ‘no,’” he says.

Goulston now works as a business advisor and consultant using the skills he honed in his negotiation-training job. He coaches executives and employees at big corporations, including GE, IBM, and Goldman Sachs. One of his specialties: salary negotiations.

His advice for anyone about to enter a salary negotiation: “Put aside any fear of being seen as any of the negative ways above, or a fear of being told no, and focus on why you believe you deserve a greater salary, how much you feel you deserve, and why you feel you deserve it,” he explains. “And be able to back up your claim. The more facts and numbers you have to support it, the better.”

We recently asked Goulston for tips on how to win a salary negotiation. Here’s what he shared:

1. Always have a ‘BATNA.’

You always want to have a BATNA, he says. This is a Best Alternative To a Negotiation Agreement, which is essentially just a back-up request. If you ask for a $US10,000 raise and your boss says no — propose a different package you’d be just as happy with, such as a $US6,000 raise, plus an extra week of vacation.

2. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

“Think in advance of all the responses your boss might give to your request, and plan out how you’ll respond to each,” Goulston says. This will require you to do some homework.

3. Consider the timing.

Think of several examples of when your boss has said yes to something and when they have said no, and figure out what factors drove them to their decision.

Was it the way you asked? Was it the time of day? Was it after you closed a big deal?

Consider these things and use that information to determine the best place and time to have the salary conversation.

4. Assume you’re dealing with a ‘receiver,’ not a ‘giver.’
Most people are “receivers” who are not willing to give — unless you ask, he says.

“But too many people have trouble asking for what they deserve and are entitled to,” Goulston explains. “Most just wish for it to be spontaneously given to them without having to ask. As a result, many of these people feel hurt when they are not offered the money they deserve.”

Never assume you’re dealing with a generous person — a “giver” — and always speak up about what you want.

5. Be direct.

When they tell you whatever their answer is, remain calm, look them in the eye, and say: “You know as well as I do that these conversations are usually a negotiation. So, I’d like to tell and show you why you should give me more.”

6. Ask, ‘Why?

If your boss throws out a number first, politely ask them how and why they decided on that particular amount. Try to do this without offending them or putting them on the defensive.

Asking for an explanation will force them to really think about whether their offer is fair — and it can help initiate the negotiation conversation.

7. Take it all the way to ‘no.’

You may not feel comfortable with this, but until or unless you receive a “no” response from your boss, you’re probably asking for too little, Goulston says. “So push the case until they say no and then pause, be very calm and poised and say, ‘What didn’t I achieve or accomplish, which if I had would have caused you to give me another answer?’”

It might be that the company has policy where they cap raises at a certain percentage, and therefore there’s really nothing you or anyone else can do about it — but it’s worth asking, anyway.

5 Ways to Transform Yourself Into a Leader

Career Guidance - 5 Ways to Transform Yourself Into a Leader

By Ashley Stahl

After months of effort, you finally land the promotion you’ve had your eyes on. On paper, it’s your dream job: You have a bigger team under you, more exciting responsibilities, a direct line of communication to the big boss, a salary that’s actually competitive, and of course, the highly anticipated corner office.

But the day-to-day reality isn’t unfolding quite as you’d hoped.

You’re getting apathetic vibes from your employees, and you don’t know why. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to be doing—managing projects, directing traffic, juggling deadlines and budgets. You’ve even tried bringing cupcakes to the office, but your team’s energy seems to evaporate as soon as the sugar high wears off. You’re left wondering: What more could they possibly want?

Data tells us that today’s employees want a lot more out of their jobs. In our increasingly educated workforce, employees are no longer satisfied to punch a clock and collect a paycheck. They don’t want to blindly follow instructions handed down from the manager; they want to feel empowered. In fact, recent research shows that teams managed by motivators perform better than those that are too heavily controlled by a designated supervisor.

In short, employees want a Tony Robbins, not a Donald Trump.

No one is saying you need to convene a daily kumbaya circle, but there are some practical steps you can take now to up your game and elevate yourself from a manager to a leader.

1. Leaders Know How to Listen

Leaders listen to everyone, even those who might not have as much “experience” as other people in the room. In my last corporate job, I worked for the CSO of a Fortune 100 company. At team meetings, he would sit back quietly while the VPs jockeyed loudly for his approval. He would let them monopolize the forum for a little while, and then he would turn his attention to someone who hadn’t bothered to try to compete with the dog and pony show. “What do you think?” he’d ask, giving that person all of his attention. It brought out the best in the quieter people, and it humbled the louder ones.

The best leaders treat brainstorming as a democracy of ideas. One way of getting more invested participation from your employees is to introduce a weekly team meeting where new ideas are solicited from each person. This is a great way to strengthen the team mentality, showing your employees that you want and welcome their brilliance. (Here are a few more strategies for listening better.)

2. Leaders Know the Difference Between an Amateur and a Pro

Leaders earn their stripes through consistent displays of professionalism, not by taking the shortcuts we so often see from amateurs. According to Steven Pressfield, author of Turning Pro, “the difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones.” The amateur calls in sick when he’s had too much to drink the night before; the professional shows up early and does his best work, even if his physiology is hating him. If it means he has to give 150% to get the job done, that’s what he gives it. The leader takes full responsibility for his actions and, by doing so, imparts the message to those around him that they need to do the same.

3. Leaders Leave Their Egos at the Door

A true leader does whatever is required to get the job done. If that means manning the copier, making the midnight coffee run, or assembling folders, that’s what the leader does, even if his paycheck and title suggest such jobs are “beneath” him. This approach not only guarantees that the work gets done; it also does wonders for the energy levels on the team.

One way to implement this is to pay attention to the unique brilliance of each employee on your team. If you see that people are exceptionally good at something, offer to take some work off their plate so you can free them up to make better use of their skill set. If you’re coming up blank on ideas for them, ask them what they’d like to do more of. They will respect you for getting your hands dirty, and they’ll appreciate you for making them feel seen and heard.

4. Leaders Live Outside Their Comfort Zone

Playing a big game doesn’t always feel natural or comfortable, but it’s a choice that true leaders make again and again. As kids, we are often conditioned to go with the grain and to avoid disrupting our environment. We often keep ourselves from really being seen, and from being different. The problem here is that this encourages us to grow into very average adults who only feel comfortable when we’re playing small.

I’ll never forget the moment I stepped backstage at TEDxBerkeley. As the least seasoned speaker at the time (hello, I went on after Guy Kawasaki), I thought I’d definitely be the most nervous in the room. Boy, was I wrong. The whole group backstage—best-selling authors, innovators, serial entrepreneurs—were all panicked. Nothing this rewarding can possibly exist in your comfort zone, and it’s the leaders who are willing to wake up daily, stepping outside of theirs.

5. Leaders Have Emotional Fitness

Emotional intelligence—the ability to read and connect with just about anyone in the room—is great, but it doesn’t sustain you in times of uncertainty and instability. It wasn’t until I became a career coach that I learned the importance of emotional fitness. Emotional fitness is your ability to flexibly endure the ups and downs of business and life. The difference between managers and leaders is the way they react to and process the failed deals, the lost clients, and even the busted refrigerator in the break room. Managers freak out, sending tiny ripples of panic and chaos through the rest of the team. Leaders tap into an inner Buddha, an unwavering stillness that empowers them to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

If I could impart one final insight on you, it’s this: Successful people are simply willing to do what other people aren’t. In exchange for giving more of themselves, they reap much bigger rewards.

They are also patient. Pressfield says, “our work is practice. One bad day is nothing to us. Ten bad days is nothing.” If you are committed to becoming a true leader, don’t be discouraged if the situation doesn’t change overnight—leadership, like all forms of self-improvement, is a journey, not a destination. True leaders understand that it’s not about where they go; it’s about who they become.