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The latest news on Careers from Business Insider

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    man laptop listening woman speaking explaining

    Coming across as competent isn't just a matter of looking polished and dressing the part.

    Turns out digging a little deeper and honing in on how you interact with others will yield far better results.

    When done right, appearing competent is an essential way to get ahead at work, writes Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson in her book "No One Understands You And What To Do About It." 

    It can help you win the trust of bosses, colleagues, and employees alike, which is key to having valuable allies at work.

    Here are Halvorson's four psychological strategies to conveying your effectiveness:

    1. Demonstrate your strong willpower.

    Would you trust a colleague that has a serious self-control problem with an important project? Probably not.

    A study out of VU University Amsterdam found that when you publicly engage in behaviors indicative of low willpower, your trustworthiness diminishes.

    While someone's personal behaviors would ideally remain personal, they suggest to outsiders whether or not the individual is able to adhere to the standards of any healthy relationship, which could include the ones you have at work.

    Whether you smoke, overeat, are perpetually late, or spend impulsively, to better convey competence to your colleagues, you either need to quit or at the very least keep it to yourself.

    2. Beware of seeming cocky.

    Whatever you do, don't confuse confidence with competence. While you can never have too much competence, there is a healthy — and unhealthy— dose of confidence to be aware of.

    no one understands you

    The dangers of overconfidence include being underprepared, setting unrealistic goals, biting off more than you can chew, and generally making bad choices, Halvorson explains. And all this leads to being the least popular guy in the office.

    Instead, convey a realistic sense of confidence that shows modesty. You'll be less likely to threaten your colleagues' self esteem, and your mistakes won't elicit nearly as many cheers from your cubemates.

    3. Use body-language to your advantage.

    Any easy way to appear more competent is by simply making eye contact while speaking. Studies have shown that those who do so are consistently judged as more intelligent.

    Halvorson also suggests speaking faster, gesturing and nodding, and sitting up straight, which have all been found to lead to greater perceptions of competence.

    Another interesting tactic is adopting power poses made famous by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. By standing or sitting in an expansive way (legs apart, arms spread wide, leaning forward) you're not only conveying confidence to others, but you're also triggering immediate changes in your body chemistry that make you more powerful, which Halvorson explains goes hand-in-hand with competence.

    "Adopting a high-power pose is a great way to subtly signal your competence — especially if you aren't the type to sing your own praises — while simultaneously providing a power boost to help you tackle your next challenge," Halvorson writes.

    Amy Cuddy Power Pose

    4. Emphasize what you can do, not what you have done.

    We have an unconscious bias to be more impressed with the "next big thing" than the "big thing" that's already happened.

    During a recent study by Harvard and Stanford researchers, participants evaluated two job candidates and determined their fit for a leadership position. Both candidates had equally impressive backgrounds, but one had two years of relevant job experience and high scores on a test of leadership achievement and the other had zero years of relevant job experience and high scores on a test of leadership potential.

    The study participants believed the second candidate — who had no experience, but great leadership potential — would be better suited for the job, which is not surprising considering how our human brains work.

    Our brains pay more attention to uncertain information, Halvorson explains, because they want to figure it out. This leads to longer and more in-depth processing of this information, and as long as the information available is favorable, the extra processing leaves us with a more positive view of someone's competence.

    So even if you have an impressive track record for success, Halvorson suggests focusing your pitch, whatever it may be, on your future, not your past. "It's what you could be that makes people sit up and take notice," she writes.

    SEE ALSO: Understanding these 2 personality types can make you more persuasive

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    for a good time call

    Operating a phone-sex hotline takes fortitude.

    The obvious reason is that being a sultry phone actress requires you to forget your inhibitions, embrace graphic sexual discussions, and oftentimes transcend taboos.

    But there are a lot of misconceptions out there about the payoff for this line of work.

    Movies such as "For A Good Time, Call" depict phone-sex operators down on their luck soon raking in the cash from their new ventures. And tongue-in-cheek articles often emphasize the upsides of the job, including flexible hours and the endless supply of funny anecdotes to share with your friends.

    But a recent Reddit AMA with an unnamed phone-sex operator reveals that, unless you truly love what you do, this job is not as rewarding as you'd hope.

    The 25-year-old mother and wife writes that she holds an office job by day and works from home as a dispatch phone-sex operator by night. While she says she loves what she does most nights, she also acknowledges that it is unlikely that she could fully support herself with this job alone.

    Here are some of the questions and answers from her AMA that shed more light on what it's really like to be a phone-sex operator. (We've edited questions and responses for clarity.)

    Q. How did you get hired?

    A. I did some searching online for phone-sex operator (PSO) companies. I applied to two that I felt seemed legit. I got a call a few weeks later, had a phone interview, and they got me set up to start working the next night.

    Q. What was the phone interview like?

    A. Not nearly as interesting as you'd think. It wasn't the backroom casting couch of phone sex. The lady pretty much just went through the contract with me, how they operate, etc. She didn't ask me for any kind of demo, but she did ask me if I was comfortable with elements of BDSM, playing other ages, if I could do any accents, things like that.

    Q. How much does it pay?

    A. I get paid 30¢ per min for time that I am actually on the phone. On a typical night I make 20 to 60 dollars; I could make more if I wanted to stay logged on longer, but I have my day job, too. It pays a bit better than my day job, but the money isn't guaranteed (some nights are just slow), so I won't be quitting my day job.

    Q. How are the call times structured?

    A. We have per-minute calls as well as blocks of calls. So if the dispatcher says a guy is a 5-40, that means I'm going to get paid for a minimum of five minutes. After that first five minutes it's per minute, and they round up. So if we talk for 17 minutes and 20 seconds, I get paid for 18 minutes.

    The blocks of time are ... well ... blocks of time. If a guy pays for a five-minute block and he's allowed to have two extensions, it means he's paid for the first five minutes. When it gets close to five minutes I ask him if he wants to extend. If he does, he's charged for the seven-minute block of time (the next block up), even if he hangs up at six minutes. The next block after that is 12 minutes. This becomes more important when you get to the higher blocks.

    Sexy woman with retro vintage phone in bedQ. How long does the average call last?

    A. I'd say my average call is probably around the 20-minute mark. Of course I have some three-hour calls and some three-minute calls.

    Q. Could you do this full time?

    A. You get more calls at night and on the weekend. If you were to do it during the weekdays, I don't know how busy you'd be, but I know you do still get some calls. The tricky thing about it is that you're kinda waiting around for calls. You can't really get into anything you can't quickly get out of. Webcams do pay a lot more and I've been thinking about getting into that, but the level of work goes up quite a bit, too. I'd actually have to wear what I say I'm wearing.

    Q. What are the job requirements?

    A. For my company at least you have to be 18, have to have a landline phone, you have to have internet connection and AIM installed, you have to have a clear phone voice, and you have to be willing to take the taboo calls. We're not allowed to hang up because someone is freakier than we like.

    Q. What does a typical day look like for you?

    A. My typical schedule is spending the mornings with my daughter, then I take her to daycare and go to work until 7:30 p.m. I come home and have dinner with my husband and our daughter, put her to bed, log in, then my husband and I hang out while I wait for calls. Usually we can manage to get in a little quality time between calls.

    Q. How do you balance having so little time for yourself?

    A. It's hard, I'll admit. The nice thing about being a contracted employee is that they can't tell you when to work. So if I want the night off, I just send them a message saying I'm taking the night off. I don't usually work on the weekends unless I'm bored and want to make extra money. I'm stretched pretty thin some days.

    Q. Are you open with the people in your life about your job?

    A. My friends and my sisters know about the phone sex, but I haven't told my mom.

    for a good time callQ. How does your husband feel about you talking to other men this way?

    A. My husband doesn't mind the talking, except that it interrupts our TV watching. He had to wait 40 minutes last night to resume the episode of "Bates Motel" we were watching. He isn't the jealous type, and he knows that it's just a job.

    Q. Will you ever tell your daughter about what you do?

    A. I will tell my daughter someday when she's old enough to understand it. I think how I explain it to my daughter will depend on her age. I think that explaining that mommy's job is to talk to people on the phone is a decent summary when she's young.

    Honestly, my day job is in a call center, so it's not really that different. As she gets older, if I'm still doing it, I'll explain more to her. I'm going to have to eventually explain sex, porn, all of that. I feel like this is just another extension of that.

    Q. How long do you plan on continuing this?

    A. I plan on doing it as long as it's still fun and I'm making money. It's really important for me that it's my choice to do it.

    My husband had a bad habit for a little while of saying things like "shouldn't you clock in now?" or "We can't go do xyz, you have to do phone sex," and I nixed that really quickly. If it's not my choice, if I feel pushed into it in any way, I'll quit.

    Q. What kind of callers do you usually get?

    A. An overwhelming amount of the guys I talk to fit into one of two categories. A) They are lonely and need some kind of connection. They need a woman to just laugh at their joke or listen while they talk. Or B) They are into something that they can't ethically explore in any other way but with another consenting adult (incest, bestiality, etc.) Sometimes the guys fit into both categories.

    telephoneQ. How do you handle callers who just want an emotional connection?

    A. It doesn't bother me to talk to the guys who want a connection. They tend to be a lot nicer than most. It's sad that talking to me is the highlight of their week for some of them, but I'm glad I can fill that role for them. It makes me feel more like a human being and less like a human fleshlight.

    Q. Do you have favorite customers?

    A. My favorite customer is a guy in his early 40s who calls me pretty regularly. We usually talk for a while before we get down to sex and then when we do he is always really sweet about it. He has a great sense of humor, and I think we'd actually make great friends in real life.

    Q. How about a least favorite?

    A. Least favorite customer isn't really a particular guy, more a type of guy, and I know them as soon as I get on the phone. He wants me to do crazy stuff ... then as soon as he gets close to finishing he just hangs up. These guys get the fake stuff. I'm not gonna get invested in someone who's going to hang up on me after four minutes.

    Q. Has a customer ever gotten angry with you?

    A. I had a customer get mad at me because he said I was confusing him with another guy and he was mad I didn't remember him, but I take pretty detailed notes so that doesn't happen.

    Q. How do you feel about your job?

    A. It depends on the night. Most of the time I love it!

    SEE ALSO: Marvel comic book writer explains how making people uncomfortable can help change the world

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 5 things you should never put on your résumé


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    Technology has transformed our offices and revolutionized much about the way we conduct business and do our jobs. As smartphones and smart boards have become ubiquitous, our markers have been left feeling, well, a little dumb. No more. 

    The "Smartmarker" from Equil uses your pre-existing whiteboard and allows you to share your marker strokes digitally over its app. If you benefit from hand-drawn graphics, or simply enjoy traditional brainstorming methods, this gadget may be for you. 

    Produced by Justin Gmoser

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    Bill SimmonsThe first time I read Bill Simmons was in the earliest days of his ESPN tenure; I was a displaced Bostonian living in New York City, and it was a thrilling experience, all that incorrigible homerism splashed up against the gaudy yellow backdrop of the late Page 2.

    I don’t know how else to start an essay about Bill Simmons other than in the first person, since that’s where he lived, or lives; in the wake of news of Simmons’ impending and apparently involuntary departure from ESPN, it’s already hard not to write about him in the past tense.

    In the 14 years he spent at ESPN, Bill Simmons transformed himself from an out-in-the-weeds curiosity (“The Sports Guy”) to the most influential sportswriter of his generation. Now he can die in peace, as he’s frequently remarked, even though that’s almost certainly the last thing Simmons is currently planning on doing.

    His rise was meteoric and at least partially enabled by circumstance: Simmons’ tenure at ESPN saw the four major Boston sports teams win an astounding nine championships, most memorably the 2004 Boston Red Sox run, which inspired some of the best writing of Simmons’ career, later collected in a New York Times best-selling book.

    But he also worked, relentlessly hammering out column after column that showed a preternatural grasp of how sportswriting was changing in the digital age, a groundbreaking cocktail of passion, persona, stamina, and approachable eccentricity. “Simmons’ writing is distinguished not by its Olympian distance from sports but by its almost tender intimacy,” wrote Bryan Curtis in a 2005 Slate appreciation.

    Bill Simmons and Kobe BryantHe anticipated the rhythms of an emergent and massively consequential online sports fan culture, and quickly came to set those rhythms himself. Rambling, snarky play-by-plays of draft telecasts, theoretically suspect but absurdly thorough rankings of pro basketball players’ hypothetical trade values—it was impossible to tell if Simmons invented the audiences for these things, or just awakened and united them.

    Like most, I was initially shocked by the news of Simmons’ split from ESPN, but it now strikes me as inevitable, necessary, and potentially the best thing to happen to Simmons since January’s Super Bowl, at least. At the crux of the Simmons-ESPN divorce is an issue that’s plagued the Worldwide Leader throughout the writer’s tenure: namely, whether ESPN is in the business of sports journalism, or in the business of promoting the interests it ostensibly covers.

    There was the 2006 debacle Bonds on Bonds, in which Bonds and his lawyers were given editorial control of an “all-access” documentary series that aired at the height of the slugger’s PED controversy; there was LeBron James’ The Decision, a disastrous one-hour special that sought to alchemize breaking news into corporate synergy; there was the network’s endless hyping of Tim Tebow, which culminated in a bizarre, pro bono infomercial; and, of course, their infamous withdrawal from Frontline’s landmark CTE documentary League of Denial in 2013, a decision widely rumored to have been made under pressure from the NFL.

    Bill Simmons Sports Influence ListA lot of the negativity directed at Simmons over the years has always had a tinge of jealousy.

    This last instance is most instructive to Simmons’ current situation. Last fall Simmons was suspended for three weeks by ESPN for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar, then daring his bosses to suspend him for doing so. The surface gloss was that Simmons was punished for biting the hand that feeds him, but he was really suspended for biting the hand that feeds the hand that feeds him: ESPN is in bed with the NFL to the tune of nearly $2 billion per year. News of Simmons’ nonrenewal came on the heels of another anti-Goodell rant, this time on Dan Patrick’s (non-ESPN-affiliated) radio show last Thursday.

    Simmons was fired because he refused to subsume his own brand into ESPN’s, which is increasingly indistinguishable from the brands ESPN protects. Simmons has always been a brand first and foremost, and I don’t mean that as a criticism.

    This is, after all, what most writers are after; we often prefer more polite words like style and voice, but ultimately we’re all out there trying to carve out (and profit from) a space that’s inimitably our own and no one else’s. There’s a reason that Norman Mailer—a headstrong, sports-obsessed, and vaguely Simmons-ish figure in his own right—once titled a collection of his own writing Advertisements for Myself.

    bill simmons nba draft 2013Simmons’ brand was always clearer and sometimes crasser than most, the truth-to-power outsider who wrote from a fan’s perspective, a loquacious and opinionated everyman prone to hyper-referential and overly capitalized Ewing TheoriesLevels of LosingRetro Diaries, and movie-quote-themed listicles.

    At best, his lack of access—and, crucially, lack of deference owed from that access—made him a sort of ersatz Spartacus for a more cynical brand of sports fan, skeptical of establishment narratives and unafraid to splash around in the waters of conspiracy. For a relatively late example of this, see his 2013 column “Daring to Ask the PED Question,” a tormented and probing thought experiment that comes shockingly close to a deconstruction of sports fandom—and Sports Guydom—itself.  

    In recent years the quality of Simmons’ column has gotten worse, sometimes to the point of being unreadable. Drew Magary’s takedown in Deadspin this past March, delicately titled “Bill Simmons Is a Name-Dropping Waste,” was both scathing and not entirely unfair.

    Stretched insanely thin by TV work and other non-writing commitments (his hugely popular podcasts, 30 for 30Grantland), in his worst moments Simmons has become a lazy writer prone to rehashing gimmicky and uninsightful conceits ad nauseum; an inveterate name-dropper who confuses proximity to famous people with reporting; a self-mythologizer whose columns sometimes read like a Retro Diary™ of Bill Simmons reading his own archive.  

    bill simmonsOf course, a lot of the negativity directed at Simmons over the years has always had a tinge of jealousy. His everyman shtick lends itself to the charge that anyone could do what he does, even if no one else ever has. And the fact is that all of the problems in the above paragraph have been enabled by his bosses, if not demanded by them.

    ESPN is a stardom machine, and as Simmons’ own star grew he became increasingly enmeshed in the ESPN system of celebrity maintenance. In recent years he’s been rubbing elbows with the likes of Jalen Rose, Doug Collins, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant. Yeah, Simmons wrote and talked about these friendships too much, but Simmons always wrote and talked too much about his friendships with everyone—this is a guy who’s spun two of his college buddies, JackO and Joe House, into C-list media properties.

    For ESPN, Simmons’ ex-jock name-dropping wasn’t a problem so much as vertical integration, a sort of snowballing fame game.

    Bill SimmonsIt’ll be interesting to see what comes next, and the transition almost certainly won’t be smooth. To pick just one sticking point, Simmons has been the premier NBA writer of the 21st century, and leaving ESPN will surely (and sadly) hamper his access to the league.

    But getting away from the ESPN machine, the network’s constant and clumsy attempts to superimpose its brand onto his own, might well be the best thing for Bill Simmons the writer, who is better than we’re currently inclined to remember. One of his most rightly celebrated columns is completely un-sports-related, a eulogy for his late dog Daisy, better known as the Dooze. The piece ends thusly:

    The day after The Dooze left us, our little boy woke up and my wife carried him downstairs to feed him like she always does. I was still half asleep and could hear her footsteps. Then I heard this: "Day-zee. Day-zee." That part didn't make me sad. The part that made me sad happened three mornings later ... when my wife was carrying him downstairs again and he didn't say anything.

    That’s awfully good writing. It’s honest, it’s direct, it’s poignant, it fills the heart and breaks it and connects us to each other in doing so. At his best, this is what Bill Simmons did, and might continue to do in a new space—he just needs a change, a push, a “Juvenation Machine,” to borrow from his own capitalized lexicon.

    I have no idea what that change will look like, which is as it should be: it’s his chapter to write, his weird and singular road to continue. In 14 years at ESPN, Bill Simmons was always a brand of his own, and never a company man. Of a writer there are far worse things to be said. 

     

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    procrastinate

    Procrastination is, in essence, stealing from yourself.

    The reason goals are so hard to reach, many psychologists think, is because each person believes they are really two people: Present Me and Future Me. And to most people, Future Me is much less important than Present Me. Present Me is the CEO of Me Corp, while Future Me is a lowly clerk.

    “Instead of delaying gratification,” people “act as if they prefer their current self’s needs and desires to those of their future self,” write psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California in a new study in Psychological Science

    Why put that money in your 401(k) when you want those shoes now? Why not eat that cupcake today when swimsuit season is still a good six weeks away?

    So Oyserman and Lewis asked themselves: What if people could be made to think of their future selves as more connected to their current selves? What if Present Me was forced to imagine exactly how Future Me will feel the night before the big paper is due, and Present Me had never bothered to start?

    Through a series of experiments, Oyserman and Lewis found that if subjects thought about a far-off event in terms of days, rather than months or years, they seemed like they would happen sooner. For example, the authors write, something like a friend’s wedding “seemed 16.3 days sooner when considered in days rather than months and 11.4 months sooner when considered in months rather than years.”

    Screen Shot 2015 05 17 at 1.07.13 PM

    In a series of follow-ups, the researchers sought to determine whether people would take action sooner if they were told a certain event was happening in X days rather than (X/365) years.

    For example, participants were told to imagine they had a newborn child, and that the child will need to go to college in either 18 years or 6,570 days. The researchers found those in the “days” condition planned to start saving a whopping four times sooner than those in the “years” condition, even when controlling for income, age, and self-control.

    Thinking about far-off events in terms of days, it turned out, did make a person more able to feel for his or her future self—a self who has, after all, the same wants and needs. Perhaps those Rent kids were onto something when they measured a year in 525,600 minutes.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Woman speaking answering question

    Proving your worth during a job interview is stressful enough as it is, but when a hiring manager asks questions like "How much are you currently making?" it can be especially disconcerting when you feel undervalued or underpaid in your current role.

    After all, this could very well be the reason you're considering leaving your job.

    In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, a quarter of Americans confess they are unhappy with how much they're paid. And another recent Gallop poll found 42% of Americans are either making the same or less money than they were making five years ago.

    As Steven Steinfeld, career and job search coach and author of "3 Steps to Your Best Job Ever!" explains, your salary history isn't all that relevant since your new job and company will never be exact matches with your last job and company.

    But while these questions have little relevance to your new-hire potential, they still get asked, which is why it's vital to come up with a plan of action.

    Here's what you'll want to do:

    1. Know your worth

    "By doing salary research and knowing your market value you can break the cycle of being underpaid," says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad."

    Steinfeld recommends researching salary trends and ranges for your job in your geographic area on websites like Salary.com, PayScale.com, BLS.gov, Glassdoor.com, and Indeed.com. He says you should check at least two of these sites before you head into your first interview.

    2. Dodge and weave

    Steinfeld says to avoid answering questions about current salary if possible until you are offered the job, which is when salary negotiation should begin. Instead, say, "I am open," or "I am flexible."

    If hiring managers persist, ask about the salary amount they have budgeted for the position, Steinfeld suggests. You could say, "This job is very different from my last job and the compensation package at my last company included a bonus program and extremely good benefits. If you tell me how much you have budgeted for the position, I can tell you if it is in the range I am expecting."

    If you're lucky, Steinfeld says they could mention a number higher than what you were expecting.

    3. Highlight your function, not your pay

    When your current job title doesn't reflect all you do in your current role, which often goes hand-in-hand with being underpaid, Steinfeld suggests giving interviewers your current title but also including an explanation of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

    Kahn says a functional title that better encapsulates your duties can also be added with your actual title on your résumé. "The key is to make sure the functional title you select is not inflated in any way," he cautions. You could put the functional title in parentheses, italics, or following a dash.Job InterviewAnd don't forget to emphasize your work accomplishments by highlighting how much revenue or cost savings you've generated for your current company, he says.

    4. Give a desired range, not a concrete number

    If hiring managers continue to press you for a number, rather than tell them exactly how much you make, you should focus on the salary range that you have researched for the position you want.

    Steinfeld advises you give a wide-range based on your research and never include a number lower than what you would accept.

    If, for example, the salary range for the position is between $60,000 and $75,000, but you won't accept less than $65,000, you could say, "My current salary is in the high 50s, but based on my experience and the salary range in this area for this position, I would be comfortable earning between $65,000 to $80,000."

    5. Stay positive

    Throughout your discussions, shy away from negative talk and focus on your future advancement. "The last thing you want to do is make excuses or throw your former employer under the bus," Kahn says.

    SEE ALSO: What to say when the hiring manager asks, 'What motivates you?'

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    joffrey season 4 game of thrones

    Power inevitably changes people — sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

    It warms our hearts when we see CEOs share their fortunes with their employees and give back to the community in a big way. These acts of social responsibility and accountability are positive byproducts of power.

    Sadly, though, this isn't the only way people respond to power. Sometimes it can get downright ugly.

    "Being in a position of power relative to those around you certainly does change you — not necessarily in an evil way, but there is a definite shift in how you see things when you are in the driver's seat," explains Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson in her book "No One Understands You And What To Do About It."

    Whenever you have control over resources others desire, you wield power, and there are many different ways you can process this:

    The good

    When you feel relatively powerless, you're primarily concerned with holding on to what you've already got, resulting in more risk-averse thinking, Halvorson writes.

    But when you feel powerful, you tend to think about the bigger picture in more creative ways. You're more optimistic, self-assured, and geared towards problem-solving and tackling tough challenges.

    Different research shows that feelings of power usually lead to better performance, especially when it comes to completing complex or difficult tasks that require persistence.

    Conversely, the powerful are worse at completing mundane, menial tasks, usually because they feel the task is beneath them. This is why they tend to be more selective about the jobs they complete.

    negotiating tipsPowerful people are better at completing complex tasks for a few reasons. For one thing, they tend to feel responsible to the people they have power over. They're also motivated because they feel more individually identifiable than someone without power, which often translates to wanting to set a good example for others.

    Power also stimulates a part of the brain in the prefrontal cortex that psychologists refer to as the brain's executive function. Studies have shown participants to be better able to control their attention, plan future behavior, and take goal-oriented actions after they are given power over the outcome of others.

    Another great byproduct of power is the resilience it gives you. Compared to the powerless, powerful people are slower to show that their willpower and energy have been depleted, meaning they can keep working longer than the average person.

    The bad

    While being more optimistic and willing to take risks can result in bigger gains, this kind of thinking could also be construed as reckless depending on the risks taken.

    Researchers from Columbia Business School, for example, found that the powerful not only prefer riskier business plans with bigger potential rewards, but are also more likely to "hit" during a game of blackjack and engage in unprotected sex.

    When in a position of power, you're more likely to focus on the potential payoff than risky behavior or the potential dangers, Halvorson explains. "If you aren't a particularly good judge of when to take a risk, power can get you into big trouble."

    The ugly

    A group of Berkeley researchers found a scientific connection between power and "jerkiness."

    In one of the Berkeley studies, drivers of high-status cars like Mercedes and BMWs cut off other drivers 30% of the time, compared to only 7% for the lowest-status cars. They also failed to yield to pedestrians almost half the time.

    no one understands youAnother study proved powerful people are indeed more likely to take candy from a baby. When given permission to take sweets intended for children down the hall, college students who saw themselves as having high socioeconomic status took about twice as much candy as the poorer participants.

    The researchers believe power has a somewhat dehumanizing effect on people, and the powerful are more self-focused and less empathetic.

    In fact, MRI studies of the brain indicate that people who feel powerful show far less motor resonance, which allows you to imagine things from the perspective of others, than the relatively powerless.

    "It's not so much that (powerful people) think they are better than you as it is that they simply do not think about you at all," Halvorson writes.

    Interestingly, this isn't only true of the notoriously rich and famous. It happens to anyone when they feel a sense of power, if only for a moment.

    SEE ALSO: 4 psychological tricks to instantly appear competent

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    AP899359620415

    NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A Supreme Court ruling on Monday could lead the way for employees to file more lawsuits to fight back against the expensive mutual fund options and fees chosen by their employers in their401(k) plans.

    The Supreme Court ruled in a 9-0 decision that Edison, a Rosemead, Calif. public utility company, had a “continuing duty to monitor” the options they offered employees for their retirement plan. The decision will likely set a precedent for additional lawsuits in the future as employees have been fighting back against high 401(k) fees.

    The employees of Edison had sued the company, arguing that they were forced to use more expensive investment options when Edison could have offered lower cost funds.

    The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had thrown out the suit originally, because by the time the employees sued, these investment choices had been offered for over six years and it was past the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court held that the claims were not barred by the six-year statute of limitations for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a federal law.

    In its ruling, the court said “a trustee has a continuing duty to monitor trust investments and remove imprudent ones,” said Justice Stephen Breyer. The statute of limitations did not apply in this case, because the company continued to offer the same expensive mutual funds years after they were first chosen in 1999.

    While the high court did not give guidance on how often investments should be monitored or by whom, this means companies will need to develop processes, said Michael Graham, a partner in the employee benefits group at McDermott Will and Emery in Chicago.

    “This puts more direct onus on employers to set up and maintain a process to be in compliance,” he said. “This seems like a win for plaintiffs.”

    This decision will likely result in additional lawsuits which will try to clear up the issue of “what the duty to monitor really means,” Graham said. “It provides a wake-up call for employers to make sure they have the benchmarks and processes in place to document their continuous monitoring of investments and fees going forward in an effort to satisfy their fiduciary duties and avoid litigation.”

    The case has been sent back to the lower courts in California, which will determine whether Edison’s actions constituted the breach of fiduciary duty that the employees originally sued over.

    This ruling is good news for employees who have been frustrated by the scant alternatives companies have offered in their retirement plans, resulting in a limited number of mutual funds with high fees and conflicts of interest.

    “The Supreme Court ruling has opened up the floodgates to lawsuits and with this ruling it will be easier to sue an employer over breaching the fiduciary duty,” said Grant Easterbrook, co-founder of Dream Forward Financial, a new low-cost 401(k) plan based in New York. “It is significant that the Supreme Court chose to rule on this case in the first place and then came out unanimously in favor of employees. That sends a strong message.”

    Retirement

    Retirement plans should be regulated by the Department of Labor to determine which fees are reasonable and how they are disclosed to employees instead of through the court system, said Jamie Fleckner, a partner and chair of ERISA litigation at Goodwin Procter in Boston.

    “The court system is not a good mechanism to affect larger goals,” he said. “This is an important threshold for plaintiffs and may embolden some lawyers to bring more cases.”

    While there is a not a “one-size-fits-all approach,” some employers believe they have the resources and expertise to manage retirement programs, because they “know their employees best,” while other businesses outsource these benefits, Fleckner said.

    The Supreme Court ruling is a win for employees, because “employers have an obligation to continually monitor whether or not the plan is cost-effective and employers can't just set up a plan once and forget about it,” said Easterbrook.

    Employers need to revamp their exiting plans to provide more transparency on their fees, provide funds with lower costs and regulate the conflicts of interest.

    “More 401(k) administrators will be forced to change their business model,” Easterbrook said. “If your clients are being hit with lawsuits, you will be forced to address the issues with high fees, conflicts of interest and transparency. The industry is ten years behind where it should be.”

    Employees have been fighting back against high 401(k) fees and recent lawsuits have proven that the courts are siding with them. Other lawsuits in the past few years have settled in the favor of the employees. Even financial services companies are not immune from this growing issue. Ameriprise Financial, the Minneapolis-based financial services company agreed to pay $27.5 million while Lockheed Martin, the Bethesda, Md.-based defense firm paid $62 million. Other lawsuits include Nationwide, the Columbus, Ohio insurance company, Fidelity, the largest 401(k) plan administrator in the nation and based in Boston, ING, the Amsterdam-based bank and International Paper, the Memphis pulp and paper products company.

    Fees Add Up Quickly

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    The fees assessed in 401(k) plans are complicated, so examine the plan carefully. The first set of fees are the ones assessed by the mutual funds and 401(k) plans are “notorious for using very expensive mutual funds often, because the plan sponsor or the employer receives a credit against the fees they pay to manage the plan from including these funds, said David Twibell, president of Custom Portfolio Group in Englewood, Colo.

    The fees “can eat up nearly 30% of your retirement savings over ten years, even a seemingly small annual fee such as 1.27%, which is the average U.S. mutual fund fee,” said Mitch Tuchman, managing director of Rebalance IRA in Palo Alto, Calif.

    A second category of fees are those that are passed through to the participants by the employer. They can vary quite a bit, because the company has wide latitude in deciding which fees to pass onto the employee participants, said Twibell. In some cases, the employer picks up all the fees, but more often than not, the employee foots most of the bill.

    The two fees add up, with some employees who end up paying over 2% in additional management and administrative fees, which is $2,000 in unnecessary fees on a $100,000 retirement account each year.“Imagine someone who keeps their funds in their former employer’s plan for a decade or two, which happens more often than you might think,” Twibell said. “Now we’re talking as much as $40,000 in unnecessary fees. There aren’t many people that can afford to throw away that kind of money for no real purpose.”

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    alarm clock

    The refrain by Irving Berlin, "Oh, how I hate getting up in the morning," can ring in my head if I wake up feeling like I have to rush to get out the door. That's why I try to stick to a bedtime routine that allows my mornings to be just a little bit more relaxed.Who couldn't use an extra 15 minutes of calm in the morning?

    To shut your body down for the day and get a restful night's sleep, it's important to put routines into place. This enables the body to relax and recognize that it's time for bed. Here are some recommended steps.

    1. Tidy up.

    It's no fun walking into a dirty kitchen to make breakfast. Take time in the evening to wash the dishes and pick up around the house. Pick your clothes up off the floor and put them away. When you take just 15-20 minutes to clean up at the end of the day, it can make a big difference in how the house looks and how you feel in the morning.

    2. Prepare what you need in the morning.

    Gather pertinent files, books and notes. Place anything you have to take with you in the morning near the front door. Some people like to check their email in the evening. Respond only to those messages that need your immediate attention. With this task out of the way, your day will start more quickly.

    3. Plan your meals ahead of time.

    If you take your lunch with you, prepare and pack as much as you can the night before. Invest in a programmable coffeepot that awakens you with the aroma of a fresh brew. Lay out the breakfast dishes and flatware. Place the cereal box on the table, or program a small overnight crock pot filled with oatmeal. Your breakfast will be steaming hot when you arrive at the table. Choose to start the day with a more nutritious and filling choice than simply drinking a cup of coffee on the go.

    4. Lay out your clothing.

    Check the weather forecast and lay out your clothing for the next day, including shoes and accessories. Make sure your shoes are polished and your outfit is wrinkle-free and ready to wear. You'll feel more put together when you don't have to make rushed decisions or search for the iron. Have cosmetic and grooming items organized and within easy reach. If the forecast calls for rain, place an umbrella and a raincoat by the front door.

    5. Stick to a regular bedtime.

    When you maintain a regular bedtime, your body starts to wind down by a certain each day. A half hour to an hour before bedtime, shut off all electronic devices (including the cell phone), lower the lights and engage in an enjoyable activity, like reading.

    According to studies, the glow of electronics stimulates the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls sleep activities, and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. In addition, these devices cause cognitive stimulation and stress, producing cortisol, a stress hormone that can block sleep.

    Aim for at least seven or eight hours of sleep. When you do this, you'll awaken more refreshed and ready to go.

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    Asking for a raise

    LinkedIn Influencer Bernard Marr published this post originally on LinkedIn.

    Whether you're looking for a new job or hoping to negotiate a raise at your next performance review, understanding where your salary falls as compared to other workers in your field can be valuable information.

    When you start researching salaries for your position, remember to shoot for developing a range, rather than discovering an exact number. Salaries will vary widely based on many different factors, so aim for discovering the low and high end of the salary range for your position.

    It's considered gauche to simply walk up to someone and ask how much they make, so how can you find the information you need? Try these five strategies: 

    1. Check wage websites

    Search sites like Salary.comJobStarTrueCareersWageWeb and the Department of Labor Statistics (in the U.S.). For nonprofits, check guidestar.com. These websites can provide a good starting range for your research. These websites make salary research much easier, but they may not feature your exact job description, and won't take into account many factors like location or experience.

    2. Ask other people in your field.

    If you know people in similar jobs, you can ask for their experience. Of course, it can be rude to just ask what they make, so say things like, "Does this seem about right to you for an annual salary?" Or, "Does this seem high or low to you?" You may also be able to get a sense for where your company falls on the spectrum: do they tend to pay near the top of the range, or closer to the bottom?

    3. Look for similar positions on online job boards.

    This can be hit or miss, as job postings don't always list a salary range or starting salary, but some do, and they can help you start to see a range. Remember that many times these jobs could be entry-level, and may be at the low end of the range because of that. You also have to consider where the job is and whether the company is similar to yours.woman laptop

    4. Contact professional organizations.

    Many fields have professional associations, unions, or even just unofficial groups on sites like LinkedIn where you can ask for a general salary range for your position. Some of these organizations will have websites that helpfully list salary information, while you may have to reach out personally to others

    5. Look up government salaries.

    In the U.S. and other countries, government salaries are public record, so if you can find a parallel for your position, even if it's not perfect, it can help you get a sense of the salary range. You'd be surprised the variety of jobs that fall under government umbrellas — from chefs and janitors to social media experts and data analysts.

    Remember to factor in your own experience, education, and location when thinking about your own salary range. For example, someone working in London will likely make more than someone working in a rural village, even for the same work. Likewise, certain organizations automatically reward employees who have higher level degrees with higher salaries.

    It is worth checking your salary from time to time to make sure you are not falling behind. Often the people who stay with one company for a long time are the ones that fall behind and don't get the salary they deserve, simply because they don't check the going rates and fail to ask for a rise in line with that rate.

    SEE ALSO: What to say when you're underpaid and a hiring manager asks, 'How much do you make?'

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    Commanding respect

    LinkedIn Influencer Dr. Travis Bradberry published this post originally on LinkedIn.

    Leadership is the art of persuasion—the act of motivating people to do more than they ever thought possible in pursuit of a greater good.

    It has nothing to do with your title.

    It has nothing to do with authority or seniority.

    You're not a leader just because you have people reporting to you. And you don't suddenly become a leader once you reach a certain pay grade.

    A true leader influences others to be their best. Leadership is about social influence, not positional power.

    If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

    You don't even need to have people reporting to you to be a leader. A janitor can influence people and lead just as a CEO can.

    Likewise, anyone can become a follower, even while holding a leadership position.

    If you're a slave to the status quo, lack vision, or don't motivate everyone around you to be their absolute best, then you're a follower. Even if you happen to have a leadership title, people won't follow you when they see those behaviors present.

    A senior executive who creates unnecessary bureaucracy, locks himself in his office, and fails to interact with others in any meaningful way is no more a leader than an antisocial software engineer who refuses to do anything but write code.

    Of course, the real question is—are you a leader or a follower?

    To find out, you need to ask yourself some very important questions. Think carefully as you respond to each one, and you'll soon know for certain.

    1. Do you go above and beyond? 

    Followers do their jobs, and that's it. No matter how good they may be at those jobs, it rarely occurs to them to go beyond their basic functions. Leaders, on the other hand, see their job descriptions as the bare minimum—the foundation upon which they build greatness. Leaders see their real role as adding value, and they add it whenever and wherever they see an opportunity.

    2. Are you confident? 

    Followers see the talents and accomplishments of other people as a threat. Leaders see those same talents and accomplishments as an asset. Leaders want to make things better, and they'll take help anywhere they can find it. Leaders are true team players. They aren't afraid to admit that they need other people to be strong where they're weak.

    3. Are you optimistic? 

    Followers see the limitations inherent in any given situation; leaders see the possibilities. When things go wrong, leaders don't dwell on how bad things are. They're too busy trying to make things better.

    4. Are you open to change? 

    Followers are content to stick with the safety of the status quo. They see change as frightening and troublesome. Leaders are maximizers who see opportunity in change. Because leaders want constant improvement, they're never afraid to ask, "What's next?"

    5. Are you decisive? 

    Followers often hesitate to act, out of fear that they'll do the wrong thing. Leaders aren't afraid to make a call, even when they're not sure if it's the right one. They'd rather make a decision and be wrong than suffer from the paralysis of indecision.

    Woman Presentation

    6. Are you accountable? 

    When mistakes are made, followers are quick to blame circumstances and other people. Leaders, on the other hand, are quick to accept accountability for their actions. They don't worry that admitting fault might make them look bad, because they know that shifting the blame would just make them look worse.

    7. Are you unflappable? 

    Followers often let obstacles and mishaps throw them off course. When something goes wrong, they assume the whole project is doomed. Leaders expect obstacles and love being challenged. They know that even the best-laid plans can run into unexpected problems, so they take problems in stride and stay the course.

    8. Are you humble? 

    Followers are always chasing glory. Leaders are humble. They don't allow any authority they may have to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don't hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won't ask anyone to do anything they wouldn't be willing to do themselves.

    9. Are you passionate? 

    Followers are trapped in the daily grind. They go to work and complete their tasks so that they can go home at the end of the day and resume their real lives. Leaders love what they do and see their work as an important part of—not a weak substitute for—real life. Their job isn't just what they do; it's an important part of who they are.

    10. Are you motivated from within? 

    Followers are only motivated by external factors: the next title, the next raise, the next gain in status. Leaders are internally motivated. They don't work for status or possessions. They are motivated to excel because it's who they are. True leaders keep pushing forward even when there's no carrot dangling in front of them.

    11. Do you focus on titles? 

    Followers care a lot about titles, both their own and those of the people they work with. They're very conscious of who outranks whom, because they lack the skill and motivation to create leadership from within. Leaders, on the other hand, focus on what each individual brings to the table, regardless of what's printed on a business card.

    man laptop listening woman speaking explaining

    12. Are you focused on people? Followers focus on what they can achieve individually. Leaders are team players, because they know that greatness is a collective feat. A leader is only as good as what he or she can achieve through other people.

    13. Are you willing to learn? Leaders, while confident, know that they're neither superhuman nor infallible. They're not afraid to admit when they don't know something, and they're willing to learn from anyone who can teach them, whether that person is a subordinate, a peer, or a superior. Followers are too busy trying to prove they're competent to learn anything from anyone else.

    Bringing It All Together

    Take another quick look at the questions above. There's not a single one about title, position, or place on the org chart. That's because you can have the title and position without being a leader.

    You may have worked for someone who fits that description. And you probably have colleagues who serve in leadership roles without a title.

    Leadership and followership are mindsets. They're completely different ways of looking at the world. One is reactive, and the other is proactive. One is pessimistic; the other is optimistic. Where one sees a to-do list, the other sees possibilities.  

    So don't wait for the title. Leadership isn't something that anyone can give you—you have to earn it and claim it for yourself.

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    ProductivityLinkedIn Influencer  originally published this post on LinkedIn.

    When it comes to productivity, we all face the same challenge — there are only 24 hours in a day.

    Yet some people seem to have twice the time; they have an uncanny ability to get things done. Even when juggling multiple projects, they reach their goals without fail.

    Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose. —Thomas Edison

    We all want to get more out of life. There's arguably no better way to accomplish this than by finding ways to do more with the precious time you've been given.

    It feels incredible when you leave the office after an ultra-productive day. It's a workplace high that's hard to beat.

    With the right approach, you can make this happen every day.

    You don’t need to work longer or push yourself harder — you just need to work smarter.

    Ultra-productive people know this. As they move through their days they rely on productivity hacks that make them far more efficient. They squeeze every drop out of every hour without expending any extra effort.

    The best thing about these hacks is they're easy to implement. So easy that you can begin using them today.

    Give them a read, give them a whirl, and watch your productivity soar. 

    They Never Touch Things Twice

    Productive people never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an email or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention you should act on it, delegate it or delete it.

    They Get Ready for Tomorrow Before They Leave the Office

    Productive people end each day by preparing for the next. This practice accomplishes two things: it helps you solidify what you’ve accomplished today, and it ensures you’ll have a productive tomorrow. It only takes a few minutes and it’s a great way to end your workday.

    For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned. —Benjamin Franklin

    They Eat Frogs

    “Eating a frog” is the best antidote for procrastination, and ultra-productive people start each morning with this tasty treat. In other words, they do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.

    They Fight The Tyranny Of The Urgent

    The tyranny of the urgent refers to the tendency of little things that have to be done right now to get in the way of what really matters. This creates a huge problem as urgent actions often have little impact.

    If you succumb to the tyranny of the urgent, you can find yourself going days, or even weeks, without touching the important stuff. Productive people are good at spotting when putting out fires is getting in the way of their performance, and they’re willing to ignore or delegate the things that get in the way of real forward momentum.

    Time is what we want most, but what we use worst. —William Penn

    They Stick to the Schedule During Meetings

    Meetings are the biggest time waster there is. Ultra-productive people know that a meeting will drag on forever if they let it, so they inform everyone at the onset that they’ll stick to the intended schedule. This sets a limit that motivates everyone to be more focused and efficient.

    The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. —Michael Altshuler

    Microsoft redmond corridor meeting

    They Say No

    No is a powerful word that ultra-productive people are not afraid to wield. When it’s time to say no, they avoid phrases such as I don’t think I can or I’m not certain. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.

    Research conducted at the University of California in San Francisco shows that the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience stress, burnout, and even depression. Learn to use no, and it will lift your mood, as well as your productivity.

    They Only Check E-mail At Designated Times

    Ultra-productive people don’t allow e-mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.

    They Don’t Multitask

    Ultra-productive people know that multitasking is a real productivity killer. Research conducted at Stanford University confirms that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time.

    But what if some people have a special gift for multitasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multitask and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multitaskers—those who multitask a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multitasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multitaskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another. Ouch.

    Multitasking reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully.

    They Go off The Grid

    Don’t be afraid to go off grid when you need to. Give one trusted person a number to call in case of emergency, and let that person be your filter. Everything has to go through them, and anything they don’t clear has to wait. This strategy is a bulletproof way to complete high-priority projects.

    One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week. — Charles Richards

    They Delegate

    Ultra-productive people accept the fact that they’re not the only smart, talented person in their organization. They trust people to do their jobs so that they can focus on their own.

    Delegation

    They Put Technology to Work for Them

    Technology catches a lot of flak for being a distraction, but it can also help you focus. Ultra-productive people put technology to work for them. Beyond setting up filters in their e-mail accounts so that messages are sorted and prioritized as they come in, they use apps like IFTTT, which sets up contingencies on your smart phone and alerts you when something important happens.

    This way, when your stock hits a certain price or you have an email from your best customer, you’ll know it. There’s no need to be constantly checking your phone for status updates.

    Bringing It All Together

    We’re all searching for ways to be more efficient and productive. I hope these strategies help you to find that extra edge.

    Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, "Emotional Intelligence 2.0," and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, TIME, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

    If you'd like to learn how to increase your emotional intelligence (EQ), consider taking the online Emotional Intelligence Appraisal test that's included with the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 book. Your test results will pinpoint which of the book's 66 emotional intelligence strategies will increase your EQ the most.

    More from Travis Bradberry:

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    elon musk

    The business of business isn't really all that complicated. While there is, of course, specific knowledge required for specific industries, this post encapsulates everything that you'll need to know to survive and thrive in the business world.

    The lists below are adapted and condensed from my recently published book, "Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know."

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

    1. How to Become More Optimistic

    1. EXPECT something wonderful to happen every day.
    2. TREAT people as you'd want to be treated.
    3. DON'T waste breath fighting about things you can't change.
    4. CONCENTRATE on the job at hand, not the results you seek.
    5. ASSUME other people mean well.
    6. AVOID depressing people and conversations.
    7. EAT something delicious every day.
    8. TURN OFF the background television.
    9. ADOPT an attitude of gratitude.
    10. REMEMBER that the best is yet to come.

    2. How to Eliminate Stress

    1. CULTIVATE the patience and perspective to let go of your results.
    2. FOCUS on what you're doing now rather than the results.
    3. IF you're overworked, negotiate a more reasonable workload.
    4. CUT your hours to the "sweet spot," which is about 40 hours a week.
    5. AVOID people who won't or can't control their own stress.
    6. FIND a place where you can work quietly away from distractions.
    7. TURN OFF news programming that's designed to rile you up.
    8. TURN DOWN projects that you can't do well.
    9. STOP arguing with fools and strangers online.
    10. ARRANGE tasks consecutively rather than trying to multitask.

    3. How to Overcome Fear

    1. CONFRONT your fears head on to reduce their power.
    2. IMAGINE dealing with the fear to make it less daunting.
    3. REMEMBER that fear is just excitement in disguise.
    4. USE fear to spawn the energy you need to perform well.

    4. How to Cope With Rejection

    1. REALIZE that rejection is just a difference of opinion.
    2. UNDERSTAND that rejection only hurts because you let it.
    3. REMEMBER that every rejection moves you closer to your goal.
    4. KEEP other opportunities in reserve so you can quickly move on.

    5. How to Rise Above Failure

    1. CREATE goals that motivate you to achieve something possible.
    2. ALWAYS write goals down; display them where you'll see them.
    3. DECIDE by saying "I must..." or "I will..." rather than "I'll try...."
    4. BREAK your big goals into smaller, measurable milestones.
    5. CHECK whether you're moving toward or away from your goals.
    6. WELCOME setbacks because they'll hone your plan.
    7. REMEMBER that the only true failure is failing to take action.

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CAREER

    6. How to Achieve Your Dream Job

    1. KNOW what would constitute your dream job.
    2. FIND role models and incorporate their way of thinking.
    3. HAVE the courage to sacrifice your security.
    4. LEARN to sell your ideas and yourself.
    5. CREATE a plan and start executing it today.
    6. ADJUST your goal as you learn more about yourself.

    7. How to Attain Career Security

    1. LIVE below your means until you've got six months of income saved.
    2. DEVELOP expertise that makes it less likely you'll be fired.
    3. CULTIVATE new opportunities and record them in an escape plan.

    8. How to Get More Done Each Day

    1. DON'T take calls from people you don't know, unless you're working in telesales or product support.
    2. USE email instead of time-consuming voice mail
    3. LIMIT your chitchat with co-workers.
    4. TURN OFF "alerts" that interrupt your thinking.
    5. KEEP TRACK of how you spend time; that's half the battle.
    6. REMEMBER that 20 percent of your actions produce 80 percent of your results.
    7. ONLY DO the 20 percent that produces the 80 percent of your results.
    8. PRIORITIZE based on what accomplishes the most with the least effort.

    9. How to Use LinkedIn Effectively

    1. YOUR personal brand will define how people see you.
    2. GET a professional portrait and expunge unprofessional ones.
    3. CUSTOMIZE your résumé to match your career goals.
    4. SOLICIT recommendations that are realistic and relevant.
    5. AVOID blogging, unless you're being paid to do so.
    6. KEEP your irrelevant opinions off the internet.

    devan linkedin profile photo

    10. How to Land a Job Interview

    1. CREATE and sell your own job description, if possible.
    2. GET a current employee to recommend you, if possible.
    3. CUSTOMIZE your résumé to match the job description.
    4. EXPLAIN "who I am" in terms of the specific job.
    5. DESCRIBE specifically how you helped former employers, not what you did.
    6. INCLUDE benefits that echo phrases from the job description.

    11. How to Ace a Job Interview

    1. DON'T put all your eggs in this one basket.
    2. FIND out all you can about the hiring firm.
    3. DEVISE questions that show you've done your research.
    4. REHEARSE answers to the standard questions.
    5. WEAR what you'd wear if you worked there; don't be late.
    6. GET the offer, then decide whether you really want the job.

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR EMPLOYEES

    12. What Great Bosses Believe About Their Jobs

    1. BUSINESS is an ecosystem, so cooperate, don't fight.
    2. COMPANIES are communities, so treat people as individuals.
    3. MANAGEMENT is service, so make others successful first.
    4. EMPLOYEES are your peers, so treat them like adults.
    5. MOTIVATE with vision, because fear only paralyzes.
    6. CHANGE is growth, so welcome rather than shun it.
    7. TECHNOLOGY eliminates busywork and frees creativity.
    8. WORK is fun, so don't turn it into a chore.

    13. How to Create Loyal, Effective Employees

    1. MANAGE individuals, not numbers.
    2. ADAPT your style to each person.
    3. MEASURE what's truly relevant.
    4. ONLY one priority per person.
    5. STAY even-tempered.
    6. TAKE responsibility for your low performers.
    7. SHARE your thoughts and ideas.
    8. ASK questions rather than providing answers.
    9. TREAT everyone as equally as possible.
    10. DON'T expect more than you're willing to give.
    11. EXPLAIN the reasoning behind your decisions.
    12. DON'T prevaricate, decide now!

    14. How to Hire a Top Performer

    1. KNOW exactly whom you're looking for.
    2. CONSTANTLY seek viable candidates.
    3. LOOK for character, not experience.
    4. RESILIENCE is the mark of potential greatness.
    5. SEEK out the self-motivated.
    6. ATTITUDE is all-important.
    7. DON'T settle for canned references.

    15. How to Hold a Productive Meeting

    1. HAVE an agenda before you meet.
    2. PROVIDE background information.
    3. DON'T let the meeting meander.
    4. DOCUMENT what decisions were made.

    16. How to Offer Constructive Criticism

    1. ADDRESS undesirable behaviors when they happen.
    2. OFFER praise, then identify the behavior you want changed.
    3. ASK questions to understand the "why" behind the behavior.
    4. AGREE upon a plan to change the behavior.
    5. MONITOR and reinforce the changed behavior.

    17. How to Redirect a Complainer

    1. SCHEDULE a conversation when they try to start one.
    2. SET the agenda for the conversation as a "problem-solving" session.
    3. LISTEN respectfully to the entire complaint.
    4. ASK what the complainer plans to do.
    5. CONFIRM that your advice is truly wanted.
    6. PROVIDE your best advice (if it's wanted).
    7. END the conversation at the first "Yeah, but...."

    lebron james complaining game 6

    18. How to Fire Somebody

    1. TELL it like it is without the biz-blab.
    2. SHOW empathy for your co-workers.
    3. EXPLAIN why it's happening, as far as you legally can.
    4. CUT quickly, heal, and move on.

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR COWORKERS

    19. The 10 Types of Annoying Coworkers

    1. WAFFLERS can't decide, so force the issue.
    2. CONQUERORS must win, so make them team leaders.
    3. DRAMATISTS crave attention, so ignore them.
    4. ICONOCLASTS break rules needlessly, so avoid them.
    5. DRONERS are boring, so find something else to do.
    6. FRENEMIES sabotage, so keep them at arm's length.
    7. TOADIES are irrelevant; be polite but ignore them.
    8. VAMPIRES leach energy, unless you stay upbeat.
    9. PARASITES steal credit, so track who's contributed.
    10. GENIUSES are all talk, so pester them until they deliver.

    20. How to Earn the Respect of Your Peers

    1. BE yourself rather than your role.
    2. SHOW interest in other people.
    3. SHARE the limelight.
    4. DRESS and groom to match your ambitions.
    5. PAUSE before speaking to mentally frame your thoughts.
    6. SPEAK from your chest without verbal tics or an end of sentence rise in pitch.

    21. How to Play Clean Office Politics

    1. FIND OUT what other people need and want.
    2. BUILD mutually useful alliances with those you can trust.
    3. KEEP TRACK of the favors you owe and the ones owed you.
    4. USE your alliances at key points to help achieve your goals.

    22. How to Recruit a Mentor

    1. MENTORS crave to teach people what they've learned.
    2. SEEK OUT mentors who have experience and skills you lack.
    3. ASK for advice and let the relationship develop.
    4. BE KIND when you outgrow the relationship.

    23. How to Shine in a Meeting

    1. TREAT meetings as a possible way to advance your agenda.
    2. AVOID meetings that don't serve your own agenda.
    3. DECIDE whether each meeting will be useful or useless.
    4. EITHER decline to attend or prepare well; no in between.
    5. TAKE notes, so you can speak coherently when it's your turn.
    6. SPEAK confidently, and, if appropriate, segue into your agenda.
    7. PUBLISH your own "minutes" of the meeting.

    24. How to Cope with an Office Bully

    1. DON'T try to calm the bully down or apologize.
    2. INSIST on respectful, professional behavior.
    3. IF the unprofessional behavior continues, leave the immediate area.
    4. COPE with your own emotions privately.
    5. REVISIT the issue at a later date.
    6. DECIDE whether the relationship is worth it.

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS

    25. The Five Rules of Business Communications

    1. KNOW your reason for communicating.
    2. PICK a medium that's appropriate for the other person.
    3. SIMPLIFY your message for easy mental consumption.
    4. EDIT out all buzzwords and corporate-speak.
    5. AVOID jargon, unless dealing with fellow experts.

    Commanding respect

    26. How to Have a Productive Conversation

    1. KNOW the reason you're having a conversation.
    2. IGNORE your internal dialog.
    3. LISTEN carefully to the other person.
    4. CONSIDER what was said and echo it back.
    5. RESPOND with something that adds to the conversation.

    27. How to Write a Compelling Email

    1. KNOW what decision you want made.
    2. EXPRESS that decision as a conclusion at the beginning.
    3. SUPPORT that conclusion with simple arguments.
    4. PROVIDE evidence to bolster each argument.
    5. REPEAT your conclusion as an action item.
    6. WRITE the subject last and include a benefit.

    28. How to Create a Great Presentation

    1. LESSEN stage fright by speaking to individuals, not the entire audience.
    2. PLAN OUT an emotional journey for the audience.
    3. FLAG the places where the audience will feel emotions.
    4. BUILD a story that creates the emotions in that order.
    5. ARRANGE everything into a simple structure.
    6. MAKE slides relevant, short, simple, and readable.
    7. CUSTOMIZE your presentation and rehearse it.

    29. How to Deliver a Great Presentation

    1. STAND UP rather than remain seated when you speak.
    2. CHECK your equipment in advance.
    3. HAVE somebody else introduce you.
    4. SET AND RESPECT a time limit.
    5. AVOID "warm-up" jokes, unless you're a comedian.
    6. ADJUST your presentation to the "feel" of the room.
    7. SPEAK directly to audience members.
    8. DON'T meander and skip.
    9. MAKE eye contact with multiple people.

    30. How to Work a Room

    1. BE CURIOUS about people and what they do.
    2. WHEN ASKED, describe yourself in terms of the value you provide.
    3. IF the other person seems uninterested, move on.
    4. EXPLAIN how you're different from the competition.
    5. IF the other person seems uninterested, move on.
    6. OPEN a conversation to assess mutual needs.
    7. IF interest continues, ask for a real meeting.

    31. How to Negotiate a Deal

    1. DEFINE what's on the table in the deal.
    2. DECIDE what's important to you and what's not.
    3. HAVE reasons why those things are important to you.
    4. RESERVE a plan B, so your hand isn't forced.
    5. LET the other person open the negotiation.
    6. WORK together rather than digging your heels in.
    7. CREATE a deal that reflects what you both value.
    8. STOP negotiating when the bulk of the deal is defined.

    HOW TO MANAGE YOUR BOSS

    32. The 12 Types of Bosses

    1. VISIONARIES are inspiring but can act like jerks.
    2. CLIMBERS want to get ahead, so expect no loyalty.
    3. BUREAUCRATS hate change, so document everything.
    4. PROPELLERHEADS love gadgets, so become an expert.
    5. FOGEYS want respect, so recruit them as mentors.
    6. WHIPPERSNAPPERS are insecure, so don't make suggestions.
    7. SOCIAL DIRECTORS love consensus but may suddenly explode.
    8. DICTATORS make fast decisions but cause disasters.
    9. SALES STARS would rather be selling, so let them do so.
    10. HATCHET MEN execute layoffs, so get another job pronto.
    11. LOST LAMBS need your help but may get dependent on you.
    12. HEROES are rare, so enjoy them while it lasts.

    meeting, boss, coworker

    33. How to Keep Any Boss Happy

    1. DO what you say you'll do.
    2. KEEP your boss in the loop.
    3. CARE about your quality of work.
    4. ACCEPT decisions when they're made.
    5. SOLVE problems without whining.
    6. BE concise and clear.
    7. MAKE your boss successful.

    34. How to Get the Best from Your Boss

    1. COMMUNICATE what you need in order to do your best.
    2. KEEP your manager informed of your progress.
    3. MAKE a case for keeping you in your job.
    4. ENSURE that everyone knows how much you contribute.
    5. UNDERSTAND your boss's goals and desires.
    6. CULTIVATE a common interest.

    35. How to Ace Your Performance Review

    1. FIND OUT what you must accomplish and document the conversation.
    2. TRACK and report on your accomplishments against your metrics.
    3. WRITE your performance review draft or provide "inputs" to same.
    4. IF the boss attempts to renege, insist on some other reward.

    36. How to Handle an Unreasonable Request

    1. BE flexible about what's unreasonable.
    2. IF you accept the task, negotiate something in return.
    3. CULTIVATE the courage to say no.
    4. REMEMBER that once you do it, it's part of your job.

    37. How to Ask for a Raise

    1. DON'T bother discussing what you need, want, or expect to be paid.
    2. BASE your proposed raise on your financial contribution.
    3. LET your boss know how much it would cost to replace you.
    4. GATHER information to buttress your case.
    5. ESTABLISH a discrepancy between your value and your pay.
    6. FIELD objections, so they reinforce your case.
    7. PUSH until you've gotten a commitment with a number.

    Excerpted and adapted from the book "Business Without the Bullsh*t," by Geoffrey James.  © 2014 by Geoffrey James.  Reprinted by permission of Business Plus.  All rights reserved.

    SEE ALSO: 7 short books that are worth more than an MBA

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    writing by a window girl woman lady journaling

    It only takes seven minutes to change how you approach your day.

    Using the routine described below when you get to work will make a world of difference in your productivity, your attitude, your success, and your health.

    It's like the approach you make to the tee on a golf course. You plan out how you will hit the shot, which is more important than the actual swing.

    Before you start your day, this routine will provide the right mindset. Will you follow it?

    Note: I'm going to call this routine "The Seven," as in, "Did you do your Seven this morning?" Feel free to borrow that term or send me ideas on a better name.

    1. Before you start: Prepare

    First, you need to find a quiet place. Hint for those who work in a cubicle farm: This is not at your desk. And it's not in the car, because there are too many distractions.

    At a busy startup, it might be a foyer or a balcony. You might have to arrive earlier in the morning to make this work. You'll also need a journal. Make sure you have one, and that you have a pen. Also, wear a watch. You will want to time yourself and finish up within seven minutes.

    2. Minute one: Clear your head

    I won't get into any religious issues or get preachy here, and I'm not even encouraging meditation, but every person on the planet who has to work for a living needs to follow this basic routine. You have to clear your head.

    That phone you use to check your messages constantly or that iPad that's stuck to your hip? Get rid of them. They are not part of this morning routine. Clearing your head just means being present as you prepare for the day.

    3. Minute two: Breathe a little

    Again, you may have a different way of dealing with the stress you feel in life. However, breathing deeply creates a calming effect in your brain and helps you focus.

    Intentional breathing is important at all times of the day. For this routine to work, you have to stop and settle your thinking and get into the right frame of mind. Just sit quietly and breathe.

    4. Minutes three through six: Write notes and draw

    You've heard all about journaling, but the process I use is not just journaling. I write in a journal all day, right after I get up in the morning and have coffee, at night before bed, and during meetings and at conferences.

    I'm not just talking about journaling. I'm talking about writing down the first few thoughts you have after you've arrived at work but before you've started on the day's tasks. Draw a picture or doodle an idea.

    It's a way to figure out what is important, and what is stressing you out. It is a record of your preparation and a way to help you look back and see, for these seven minutes, what was really important. Make sure you don't get too focused on the writing and not enough on the thinking.

    5. Minute seven: Debrief

    After you write a few notes, keep track of the time and make sure you allow about one minute at the end to debrief. What does that mean? Just look over your notes a second time. Think about what you wrote and why, and make a brief plan--in only 30 seconds--to act on one of the items on your list. Just one. If you jotted down a note to deal with a conflict or to finish a report, decide to focus on that task and make sure you are intentional about addressing it.

    That's it. Seven minutes. I'm really interested to find out if you use this routine in the morning before you start working. Follow the plan for at least one week. Then, send me a note about what you learned and how it all worked out. I promise to respond.

    SEE ALSO: 16 motivational quotes from lesser-known entrepreneurs

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    Steve Jobs point

    As new graduates prepare to enter the "real world," colleges and universities gather them into auditoriums to absorb wisdom from great leaders.

    Most of that wisdom is forgettable. A lot of it is clichéd. (Dream big! Follow your passion!) But some of it resonates — even years later, even if you're not graduating, even if you haven't graduated in years.

    We've collected some of the best advice from some of the best speeches in recent (and not-so-recent) memory, worth reading and listening to for any grad — or anyone looking for a little guidance.

    Max Nisen and Lynne Guey contributed to an earlier version of this article.

    Sheryl Sandberg: If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Just get on.

    Addressing the Harvard Business School class of 2012, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg began with a story from her own career: the time she almost turned down the offer to join Google because it was too low-level. She explained to then-CEO Eric Schmidt that the job didn't meet her criteria.

    And that's when he gave her advice she passed onto the newly minted MBAs: "Get on a rocket ship."

    "When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves," she recalls him saying. "And when companies aren't growing quickly or their missions don't matter as much, that's when stagnation and politics come in." So take note: "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat. Just get on."

    Watch the full speech here.

    Transcript



    Salman Khan: Live your life like it's your second chance.

    The Khan Academy founder urged his fellow mega-achieving MIT grads to not lose sight of what really matters. 

    "Imagine yourself in 50 years," he advised the class of 2012. Reflecting back on your life, "you'll think of all the great moments with your family and friends," he said. Then you'll look back on your regrets. You'll wish you laughed more, loved more, danced more, appreciated more, he said. You'll wish "that you better used the gifts you were given to empower others and make the world better."

    Then he posed a thought experiment: what if a genie could take you back? What would you do differently?

    Now, do that. "You really do have the chance to do it all over again," he said — starting right now. As of today, "you can be the source of positivity that you wished you had been the first time around."

    Watch the full speech here.

    Transcript



    Neil Gaiman: Do the stuff that only you can do.

    Acclaimed British author and artist Neil Gaiman's advice to the 2012 graduates of the University of the Arts is holds true whether you're a painter or a poet or a nurse practitioner.

    "The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you," he advised. "Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can."

    "The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself," he warned — "that's the moment you may be starting to get it right." 

    Find the full speech here.

    Transcript



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Woman Studying with LaptopScience confirms what high-performers have known for years: It's not easy being so competent.

    A new study from Duke's Fuqua School of Business suggests that people with high-self control — the kinds of people who remember birthdays and choose the salad instead of the fries, who take on extra projects at work and resolve conflicts easily — might actually pay a price for those virtues.

    "People always talk about how having high self-control is a good thing," says researcher Christy Koval Koval, a PhD candidate and first author on the study, published in this month's "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology." And in many ways, it is a good thing: "Go-getters get what they go after," she points out. "They're better at goal pursuits. They make very good relationship partners."

    They're also better off financially than their less disciplined peers; they tend to be in better health; and generally have higher quality personal relationships.

    But all that comes at a cost: High-self control people, the researchers found, end up burdened by their own competence.

    For one thing, people will expect more of you — whether or not that's actually a valid expectation. In one study, Koval and her colleagues asked undergraduates to rate how well they expected a fictional subject to do academically based on whether or not he accidentally binged on new music at the iTunes store.

    In another, they asked people to assess how good that fictional subject was at his job — based on how good he was at saving for a new apartment. The results were the same: the more self-control people exhibited, the more people expected of them.

    To be fair to the rest of us, that's not an irrational assumption, the researchers point out: self-control does predict good performance. Nor is it all bad for the achievers — it is nice to be depended upon. But by expecting more of those people, we may be burning them out, Koval says.

    That's because while the researchers found we tend to assign high self-control people more work — which, again, makes sense — it's not actually any easier for them to do that work, even if it seems that way. Tasks are just as effortful for high self-control people, Koval explains — it's just that they're better them. "They persist longer," she says. "They might adapt better strategies." But while science might appreciate you, your boss probably doesn't. People tend to underestimate how much effort go-getters put in.

    employees, meeting, work, office

    All that leads to a problem: high self-control people feeling more burdened by their work relationships then their less disciplined peers. They sacrifice more for the coworkers, the researchers found, even when those sacrifices come at the expense of their own goals. And that same dynamic plays out in romantic relationships. Being reliable is draining.

    Which doens't mean go-getters should stop go-getting. The benefits of high-self control still far outweigh the costs.

    But managers (and co-workers, and romantic partners) should take note: if you take those high self-control people for granted, you may risk losing them. While relying on go-getters might be a good short term strategy — they'll get stuff done — in the long run, Koval suggests, they "might become dissatisfied with this burden we're placing on them."

    Accordingly it's essential to recognize them for their (probably underestimated) efforts. They need to feel "a return on the effort they're putting in," she says.

    SEE ALSO: One easy way to seem a lot smarter to hiring managers

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    silicon valley

    This article by LiveRamp CEO Auren Hoffman originally appeared on Quora as an answer to the question: What are some red flags that signal you should walk away from a start-up job?

    There are hundreds of red flags that should stop you from joining a start-up.

    Rule #1: Never trust your gut to do something (like join a start-up or get married)—make decisions to affirmatively do something with strict data analysis. But ALWAYS trust your gut on NOT to do something. If your gut tells you to not work at a particular company (or to stop dating someone), trust it implicitly as your gut is much better at saving your life than it is at figuring up upside opportunities. Essentially your gut is very good at making sure you don't get eaten by lions.

    Don't get eaten by a lion, shark, or any other predator.

    Rule #2: Assuming you have options, make sure you know what you are optimizing for when you are joining a company. When you get competing job offers, you need some heuristic on how you will choose. Are you optimizing for growth? For fame? For money? For power? For making the world a better place? For learning? For stability? Understand your end goals so you can develop a function to choose what the upside is.

    Rule #3: Figure out what your no-go points are and make sure you find them out for each company you are talking with (by extensive due diligence and questioning).

    For instance, you might hate working in a culture of people that yell at each other. That might rule you out of over 50% of the high-performance companies. So it is good to know about yourself. You might hate organizations that micro-management people. Or you might hate orgs that have no management. You might hate new management structures like holacracy. There is someone on this Quora thread who mentioned he would hate working for an introverted CEO—of course that means he would hate working for Mark Zuckerberg or Barack Obama—but it is good he knows that about himself.

    Remember that the red flag for your success in an organization could be a huge positive for someone else. As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. So make sure you understand yourself and figure out what type of culture you will thrive in, what you can tolerate, and what you definitely cannot endure.

    SEE ALSO: These are the 13 hottest startups that have launched so far this year

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    web developer

    We're all guilty of it — exaggerating some of the skills on your resume to catch the eye of a potential employer. But some developers may be amplifying their skill sets a little too much, according to one recruiter.

    Developers and engineers will often list skills on their resume that they can't really back up with solid experience, Tyler Mikkelson, a team lead for recruiting firm Mondo, told Business Insider.

    So, for example, a candidate may list a particular skill or type of technology that he or she has worked with 10 years ago, or has maybe been exposed to but hasn't really worked with in-depth.

    "If that technology does appear on a job description that you're applying for, you have to be willing to discuss it," Mikkelson said. "Even if it's not maybe in your bread and butter tools that you're using now, it's still something that you should brush up on prior to interviewing." 

    It's not a tactic that applies to the tech industry specifically, but Mikkelson says it's prominent in tech because candidates know that recruiters are looking for hot buzzwords pertaining to specific programming languages or skills.

    "If they put certain trendy technologies on there, they’re more likely to get interviewed," he said. "They’ll maybe include it in the technologies used section or technology skills section, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve used it in depth."

    There's another red flag Mikkelson notices among tech job candidates that isn't quite as common, but still noteworthy. 

    "You'd be surprised at how many candidates don't brush up and do a lot of research on the company at which they're interviewing," Mikkelson said. 

    This is largely because engineers and developers are in such high demand that they often feel like they're a shoe-in.

    "At times, a client may pass on a candidate because they didn't come off as overly interested in the interview," he said. 

    Programmers and developers are certainly in high demand — in November, the average base salary for a developer in the United States hit an all-time high. A study from The Brookings Institute that was published last summer provided some insight as to which programming languages are in the highest demand.

    SEE ALSO: 11 common tech myths you should stop believing today

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    I missed the window to buy the cap and gown for graduation.

    I don’t know when this period of time started or ended, simply that the time started and has already ended, and I am no longer able to get a cap and gown. As it turns out, all of those emails that read “URGENT: GRADUATING SENIORS MUST READ” in the subject line were urgent, and graduating seniors were supposed to read them.

    A stern-faced woman clasps her hands on the University bookstore counter that separates us. “Ma’am, I have no control over who decides the dates that we give out the caps and the gowns.”

    “Are you sure there aren’t any sitting in the back? Like, maybe someone who wasgoing to graduate but then had an overdose or death in the family or something?” I flash her my best smile.

    “Next time, pay attention to university emails.” She sashays away to another counter, before I have a chance to point out the flawed logic of her “next time” argument in the given context.

    I missed the window, and my mother is going to kill me.

    The cap and gown thing is just the beginning. College graduation is awful. The movies lie; the Hallmark cards deceive. It’s not that romantic tossing-of-caps moment. Instead, it’s the part in the movie where the protagonist looks down, touching his hand to his stomach only to find blood, thinking, “When did I get shot?” When did I get old? Why do I have to leave now, right when I finally figured out how to properly annotate a bibliography and to pour a beer that isn’t half foam?Beyond the general sadness and nostalgia of exiting the only point in your life when yoga pants and crop tops are appropriate everyday attire, graduating from college is seriously, debilitatingly stressful. Most of this stress derives from one major symptom that manifests early and never goes away: questions. Where are you going next? Why are you doing that? Who are you doing it with? I don’t know when I was supposed to learn these answers, but I must have skipped lecture that day.

    GettyImages 473803300

    Despite receiving them nonstop, I am never fully prepared to answer these questions. Sometimes they reveal truths that haunt me, like the moment I realized I didn’t know the purpose of my major.

    That moment happens in the fall of my senior year, when I am on the phone with my sister as I walk to class, and I can tell my parents have been pressuring her to give me the and look how well I turned out! speech. Like, “Hey, Jimmy, I know you’re having a tough time with that heroin business and all, but hey, I never made the varsity squad for the basketball team, and look how well I turned out!”

    I missed the window, and my mother is going to kill me.

    So she’s telling me all about the people who work in her office and how they all have different backgrounds and majors. But she’s going out of her way to ignore the difference between those people and me, being that her coworkers have a strong grasp on math and statistics, whereas I recently left a $40 tip on a $20 check due to some technical difficulties with carrying a decimal.

    “... And anyways, there are plenty of English majors in the office ... “

    “Lauren, I’m not an English major.”

    Slight pause. “You’re not?”

    “Are you joking?” I stare at my phone. “I’m a history major.”

    Longer pause.

    “... Is there a difference?”           

    Later on, I would blame my quick hang-up on a malfunctioning satellite in outer space. What really happened was a frantic thumb against the “End Call” button, followed by an even more frantic Internet search of the difference between history and English majors. I found no answers on the topic, which did nothing in the way of reassuring me.

    What’s your major?

    In high school, I planned on a pre-med track in college. It was an easy answer with a steady plan, a paved road through college with a pre-packaged lifetime tied in a bow. I was recruited to college for athletics, and I ended up at the University of Virginia. I warned my coach that I would be taking lab courses, slugging through organic chemistry exams and studying for the MCAT. But my brain is not wired to memorize the periodic table. I dropped that plan quickly, but not before it gave me two Cs on my transcript and what felt like a mild case of PTSD after dissecting a cat named Sally.

    In the first year of college, the admissions reps advise you to “Do What You Love.”

    I love to write. I love sports. I’m an excellent public speaker. But these answers aren’t sufficient. You’re supposed to answer with a buzzword: finance, medicine, law.

    The fall of my second year, I declared a major in history, then a second in foreign affairs, minoring in English as a war concession to myself. Science was tough, math impossible, but 40-page papers? Bread and butter. If I had to tread water in the murky depths of academia, I would over-compensate with sheer volume. I promised myself I would be the Taylor Swift of humanities, spewing out a new release of papers every two months, littered with pun-infested titles and sweeping rhetoric (“Hot N’ Cold: Why Gorbachev Was the Original Katy Perry”).

    But the guilt hung thick like fog. Even now, in my senior year, with both majors completed and a diploma on the way, I’m no closer to an answer for what my education means or why it matters.

    “What’s your major?” my roommate’s mother asks over soggy calamari at an overly priced restaurant near campus.

    The rubbery substance sits in my mouth. “I’m a double major in politics and history,” I say apologetically. “I’m also minoring in English.” I’m sorry.

    Why doesn’t anyone ever ask, “Hey, are you by any chance an asshole? Do you have psychotic tendencies? Any weird fetishes I should know about that may affect  the workplace atmosphere?”

    But no, I only receive the major question. Or worse: What are you going to do with your life?

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    I’m in the car with my parents over spring vacation my senior year. We are driving to dinner, and I am counting in my head to see if I hit triple digits before my parents bring up The Future.

    I get to 47 when mom turns around.

    “So, sweetie, any thoughts about this summer?”

    “I told you I’m going to apply to grad school.”

    She smiles and squeezes my knee. “You know, Antonin Scalia took a year off before he went to Harvard Law.”

    “Smart guy,” my dad pipes in. “Real smart cookie, that man is.”

    My mom has a habit of casually mentioning Supreme Court justices and finding ways to compare them to me. Like how Ruth Bader Ginsburg loves holding dinner parties, and don’t you love dinner parties too, Caroline?

    I smile back at my mom. 62, 63, 64 ... My parents are older than most. Both are in medicine, both having sustained a clear trajectory their whole lives. This yields two parents who have very little applicable advice about the job field in 2015. There are a lot of smiles, vague head nods, and me counting to the triple digits.

    What do you want to do with your life?

    I want to be my mother’s daughter. I want to stay this age so my parents can sustain those Supreme Court visions for me, and argue in favor of infinite possibility. I want to be sure of something. I want to feel like my education wasn’t a waste.

    As each day looms closer to graduation, I entertain the thought of maxing out my credit card on a plane so I can write looping letters across the sky: I DON’T KNOW, AND DON’T ASK.

    For a week in April, I wondered if I should volunteer. This was not met with the gratitude and awe that I was expecting. Instead, I got responses that felt like thinly veiled versions of: What, so you think you’re better than me?

    My friends stared back at me as I mentioned it to them over beers. “So you’re going to, like, travel?” Squinting eyes, shared glances.

    “Well, no, I mean, I’d find some sort of volunteer job. Like, at an orphanage or something.”

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    Muted smiles. Furious typing on a group chat I’m not a part of.

    I made a joke about becoming a yoga instructor with dreads and a parrot, and they laughed, perhaps relieved that I recognized there is a real world that I have to join eventually, the same vision of a proper life that we have all been gently guided towards.

    The questions conquer all.

    They keep me up at night, whispering of mortgages I haven’t signed and deadlines I haven’t met. As the seconds tick by, they grow in volume and multitude. If I don’t answer, they ask again. They punish. They are relentless.

    When you graduate from college, people demand answers of absolutes, of periods and colons. I can only speak in relativity, in brackets, parentheses, ellipses.

    What they hear: I don’t know what I want to do. I don't have a job yet. I am unsure.

    What I am saying: I am unsure (for now), I don’t have a job yet (nor does it scare me the way it scares you), and I would be okay with all of this if it wasn’t for the look on your face right now.

    My father calls me on the phone, two weeks before graduation.

    “Your mother and I will be driving down on the Thursday after next. We can’t wait.”

    I clear my throat. “Yep, pretty exciting.”

    Then, without preamble: “Don’t worry about the future, Caroline. Just enjoy this success. The rest will come.”

    His voice is sure and steady. He knows that I will be fine, because he has ensured it through his own life’s work, through decades of a career that has allowed him to provide for me and keep me safe, healthy, and happy. He doesn’t understand my fears—not fully. To be fair, I don’t understand them either. I can’t explain to him that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night afraid I’m going to stop breathing, choking over the opportunities I’ve missed and the doors that have already shut for me.

    I’m silent on the phone, and he cuts the white noise by talking about the weather they’ve had at home. I’m not sure if I want to cry or scream or thank him for his steadfast, relentless confidence in a future I don’t even know exists.

    “Just enjoy this moment. It will be gone soon enough.”

    The rest will come. You’ll succeed at whatever you do.

    What is his metric of success? Will he find me successful if I volunteer at an orphanage in Africa, or only if I accept that sales job with dental insurance and an annual bonus?

    I know my parents will worry if I don’t go to grad school. There will be hushed conversations, concerned glances, and untold days of counting but never making it to a triple-digit number before the questions come.

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    One of my final college papers was about human trafficking in the United States. Millions of girls ripped from warm beds every year. I wonder what questions they get asked.

    One can learn everything about a person’s life through the type of questions they have to answer.

    The questions people ask me, although posed with urgency that rings true, are lazy questions for a life that they expect will extend lazily into the future.

    What are your plans after graduation?

    I think about women my age across the world, living in war zones, without clean water, with husbands 40 years their senior. How would they answer?

    What do you want to do with your life?

    I think of the thousands of years of humanity that lie behind me, boys who went to war at 14, women who were beheaded for witchcraft. What they might think of that question?

    “Well, today I’m going to try not to die. And if I manage that, I’ll try not to die tomorrow.”

    This is a dramatic comparison, no doubt.  But here are facts: The future I fear—of a cubicle plastered with curling pictures, of a lukewarm marriage that ends in a heated divorce—is a self-indulgent nightmare. It is the stomachache after a meal too luxurious to digest properly.

    My junior year, a professor argued in my lecture class that it is pointless to subvert one’s experiences by comparing them to something arguably worse in theory. Your emotional pain is real, and its source is irrelevant. And that may be true. I have no way of confirming that the stress of chemotherapy is any more or less damaging than my Aunt Bette reminding me of my biological clock. Maybe they’re all the same neurons firing into the same synapses, giving us an equal and immediate sensation of urgency that distorts the sense of actual threat to our wellbeing. Maybe the need to pay off my student loans really is as emotionally exhausting as the need to buy groceries for my children.

    Maybe misery is relative, the questions abstract and the answers personalized, like the questions people ask me. But here is something that is absolute, questions concrete and answers visceral, like the questions that they don’t ask: Are you running out of water? Are you healthy? Are you afraid for your life?

    He doesn’t understand my fears—not fully. To be fair, I don’t understand them either.

    I could write an alphabetical list of the world’s ills and read it every morning, and at G for Genocide, I would be wondering which coffee place to go to later, because I like the place that makes the lattes extra foamy, but I always get that same barista there who puts whole milk in when I ask for skim, and yes, it makes the latte creamier, but it’s also extra calories, and since I won’t have time to workout later because I may have to stay late at work to make sure I get my annual bonus, it all feels like some sort of universal sabotage, and honestly, is the barista deaf or just stupid?

    I’m selfish. I know this. But the questions I am asked, and the answers that are demanded of me, do not require selflessness. They demand singular, relentless focus on self. My plans. My future. My choices.

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    When I am older, I hope I don’t look back and question why I didn’t fight for a higher base salary, or study harder for that entrance exam to graduate school.

    But I do hope I remember this feeling I had when I was young. The all-encompassing fear I felt that I had no answers to the questions of my life, coupled with the certainty that these were the most important ones to be asking at all. I hope I think about how childish and selfish these fears were, especially in the moment after my lukewarm marriage falls apart, and then again 30 years later, when I peel faded pictures from my cubicle wall on the day of my retirement.

    I hope I remember how long it took me to find out that these were the wrong questions to ask.

    When my daughter is browsing through college pamphlets and losing her appetite over the amount of white on her resume, I will ask her, “Are you healthy?”

    When my second husband pours a drink after a meeting with the accountant, after we learned that it’s worse than we thought, it’s going to be tighter than we thought, we are going to worry after we thought we would never worry again, I will ask him, “Are you going to live until tomorrow?”

    And when I am 90 years old, shivering in my floor-length fur coat and staggering against the weight of my diamond encrusted limbs, I will hobble over to the 20-year-old girl who’s also waiting for a coffee, and I will smile at her through my breathing tube and I will say, “Are you running out of water?”

    But first, I need to find a cap and gown.

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    procrastinate

    Procrastination is, in essence, stealing from yourself.

    The reason goals are so hard to reach, many psychologists think, is because each person believes they are really two people: Present Me and Future Me. And to most people, Future Me is much less important than Present Me. Present Me is the CEO of Me Corp, while Future Me is a lowly clerk.

    “Instead of delaying gratification,” people “act as if they prefer their current self’s needs and desires to those of their future self,” write psychologists Neil Lewis of the University of Michigan and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California in a new study in Psychological Science

    Why put that money in your 401(k) when you want those shoes now? Why not eat that cupcake today when swimsuit season is still a good six weeks away?

    So Oyserman and Lewis asked themselves: What if people could be made to think of their future selves as more connected to their current selves? What if Present Me was forced to imagine exactly how Future Me will feel the night before the big paper is due, and Present Me had never bothered to start?

    Through a series of experiments, Oyserman and Lewis found that if subjects thought about a far-off event in terms of days, rather than months or years, they seemed like they would happen sooner. For example, the authors write, something like a friend’s wedding “seemed 16.3 days sooner when considered in days rather than months and 11.4 months sooner when considered in months rather than years.”

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    In a series of follow-ups, the researchers sought to determine whether people would take action sooner if they were told a certain event was happening in X days rather than (X/365) years.

    For example, participants were told to imagine they had a newborn child, and that the child will need to go to college in either 18 years or 6,570 days. The researchers found those in the “days” condition planned to start saving a whopping four times sooner than those in the “years” condition, even when controlling for income, age, and self-control.

    Thinking about far-off events in terms of days, it turned out, did make a person more able to feel for his or her future self—a self who has, after all, the same wants and needs. Perhaps those Rent kids were onto something when they measured a year in 525,600 minutes.

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