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The latest news on Careers from Business Insider

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    Mark Cuban

    Whether you're interviewing with an exec for your dream job or trying to impress your boss, getting powerful people to like you — Machiavellian as it may sound — is an important step toward getting what you want.

    While this may seem easier said than done, Columbia University professor Heidi Grant Halvorson explains in her book, "No One Understands You And What To Do About Itthe key is proving your instrumentality.

    "Instrumentality isn't about being nice — it's about being useful," she writes.

    To be seen for who you really are, proving your usefulness is really all that matters, Halvorson explains, pointing to research from the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado. Studies found that powerful people will perceive you more accurately when they feel it's in their self-interest because they're more likely to use their attention strategically.

    "In fairness, powerful people tend to be powerful because they have a lot of responsibilities and a whole lot going on," Halvorson reasons. "You have to be worth taking time and energy for, and powerful people have no reason to believe you are unless you give it to them."

    To prove the potential return on their time and mental investment, here are a few steps you can take:

    1. Understand what the powerful person needs and wants.

    Ask yourself: "What are her targets and goals?""Where does she need the most help?""Where is she falling behind the most?" Then contemplate how you can help ease these burdens.

    In the case of impressing your supervisor, "by prioritizing your own tasks in such a way that they provide assistance to your boss where he or she needs it most, you can dramatically increase your perceived usefulness," Halvorson writes.

    2. Go above and beyond.

    The most obvious way to be instrumental is to do everything that's asked of you, but most times anticipating a powerful person's needs takes you many steps further.

    The most useful research assistant in Halvorson's eyes was someone who had documents ready before Halvorson asked for them and took over thankless and frustrating tasks without being asked. "When she left my lab and moved on to graduate school, I was depressed for a week. That's instrumentality."

    3. Don't just list your good qualities.

    Powerful people don't care about your list of good qualities, Halvorson writes. They care about your goals and how they align with theirs.

    Be prepared to answer: "What are my goals?""Do they align with yours?" and "How can you be instrumental in reaching them?"

    SEE ALSO: 4 psychological tricks to instantly appear competent

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Mark Cuban: Why perfection in business is a bad thing

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    Susan Cain TED talk

    While the idea of public speaking may tie your stomach in knots, self-proclaimed introvert Susan Cain proves that even for the most reserved, the deed can be done.

    In 2012 the bestselling author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" took the stage at TED and spoke before an audience of 1,500 people — ironically enough —  about being quiet and contemplative in a society that favors entertainment. And she did so using a common psychological tactic.

    During a Reddit AMA, the champion for introverts shared her best tip for accomplishing the seemingly impossible:

    Practice until you're numb.

    In response to a question about how Cain prepares to speak in front of large groups, she responded, "Ohhhhh ... This has been the great challenge of my life."

    She went on to explain that these days she gives dozens of talks a year without feeling much anxiety, something she could never imagine being able to do without the psychological device called desensitization.

    Psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe, a pioneer of behavior therapy, believed that a lot of our behavior is learned, including our phobias, and, through new learning experiences, we can "unlearn" some of those fears.

    "You have to desensitize yourself to your fear of or discomfort with speaking by practicing in small, safe steps," Cain explained.

    She suggests enrolling in Toastmasters International, a public speaking organization where members can practice giving speeches and get feedback, which she did before her TED talk. She also canceled everything during the week leading up to her talk and hired an acting coach to rehearse with all day.

    "You need a group of supportive people to practice with, a group where you can screw up as much as you want without any real consequences," Cain asserted. "This is how I overcame my fear — little by little by little by little."

    And if all else fails, Cain admits to once swigging some Bailey's Irish Cream to calm her nerves before a public interview. Bottoms up.

    SEE ALSO: 16 things successful people do on Monday mornings

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Richard Branson Hates Public Speaking — Here's How He Gets Over It

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    F. Scott Fitzgerald was a notoriously terrible speller. So was Ernest Hemingway. And Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, and John Keats. And the list goes on.

    While being a very good speller often indicates high intelligence, and having very low intelligence usually predicts bad spelling, being a very bad speller does not necessarily indicate low intelligence.

    "The verdict is clear," writes Marilyn vos Savant in "The Art of Spelling: The Method and the Madness.""One does not reliably predict the other."

    But just because it isn't an accurate metric of brainpower doesn't mean people don't use it as one, which means that, for better or worse, spelling still matters.

    Inspired by the (British-inflected) Quora thread "What is the most misspelt word in the English language?," we pulled together a list of embarrassingly common errors.


    "Often to my surprise, I find a lot of well-educated folks will spell 'tomorrow' as 'tommorrow' or 'tommorow,'"writes Quora user Kyle Arean-Raines.


    One of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language, according to data culled from the Oxford English Corpus, "accommodate" has two C's and two M's.


    True has an E. Truly does not.


    It's "separate," not "seperate." Quora user Ashish R. Bhat says he was seeing the incorrect spelling so often that he began to doubt the correct one. Tip: Remember there's "a rat" in "separate."

    a lot

    If you have a large amount of something, then you have "a lot" of it — two words. "Alot" is nonstandard. It is, however, the name of an adorable creature that "Hyperbole and a Half" writer and cartoonist Allie Brosh made up "to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people's grammar."

    Alot Allie Brosh


    Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no A in "definitely." But according to a survey from OnePoll, it's the most commonly misspelled word in English. Remembering that the root is "finite" helps. If etymology doesn't work, webcomic "The Oatmeal" offers a handy phrase to help you remember.


    Unless you live a very specific kind of life, it's likely you're not regularly writing about restaurateurs. When and if you are, take note: The correct spelling has no N. "Restaurant" has an N. "Restaurateur" does not.


    There is particular shame in misspelling "misspell," so avoid it. The correct spelling has two S's, because, as "Barron's Pocket Guide to Correct English"explains, "prefixes are kept intact even when their final letter is the same as the first letter in the base word."


    Another one from Oxford's top 100 misspellings: "Necessary," which has one C but two S's. "Unnecessary," meanwhile, is frequently misspelled too. Because of the same prefix rule that governs "misspell," it has two N's: one in "un" and the other in "necessary."


    While it feels like "pronunciation"should contain the word "pronounce," it doesn't. The middle syllable in "pronunciation" is "nun." The middle syllable in "pronounce" is "noun."

    all right

    If something is adequate or satisfactory, it is "all right," two words. As Writer's Digest gently puts it, "'alright' technically isn't, well, a word."

    One of the world's foremost authorities on the English language, Bryan Garner, says this: "Alright for all right has never been accepted as standard" in American English. "The short version may be gaining a shadowy acceptance in [British English] ... Still, the combined version cannot yet be considered good usage—or even colloquially all right."

    matthew mcconaughey oscars alright alright alright


    Maintenance does not contain the word "maintain." Instead, the "ai" turns to an E. According to Google Trends, people in Missouri are particularly confused about this — it's the most frequently Googled spelling in the state.


    As with many English spelling rules, "I before E except after C" has plenty of exceptions (and Mental Floss has a guide to them here), but in this case, at least, the saying stands.

    occasion, occasionally

    More than a few Quora users admitted having trouble with "occasion" and "occasionally," which have double C's but not double S's.


    Yet another frequently confused case of double letters, "occurrence" makes Britain's list of top misspelled words, thanks to its double C's, double R's, and the ambiguous-sounding vowel in the last syllable. (It's an E.)



    "Why would something to remind you of a 'moment' be spelled 'memento'? Well, it is,"wrote an anonymous Quora user. A more nuanced explanation: "Memento" comes from the same root as "remember."


    "According to the pronunciation (not 'pronounciation'!) of this word, that middle vowel could be anything," one anonymous Quora user points out. But it isn't. Accordingly, remember: two I's and two E's, in that order.


    This one makes the Barron's list because of pronunciation confusion. Although some people say"schedule" as if it were a three-syllable word — sched-u-alit isn't, and it isn't spelled that way.



    Because it means very small, a lot of people think of "mini" and incorrectly spell this word as "miniscule.""But the word derives from the word minus; it has nothing to do with the prefix mini-,"says Garner.

    SEE ALSO: Your email typos reveal more about you than you realize

    Join the conversation about this story »

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

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    boss, employee, meeting, interviewCareerExcuse runs 200 different companies that all have one thing in common: they don't exist. 

    They don't have staffs. They don't make money. They're entirely fictional in every way.

    But for a fee, you can say you worked at one of them, and — even more valuable — they'll confirm you were a stellar employee while you were there.

    And according to Jennifer Hatton, senior partner at CareerExcuse, it's enough to do the trick.

    Her clients get jobs this way, she says, and to her, that's a good thing. "Some people see it as unethical, some people see it as fraud," she tells Business Insider. "But we don't see it that way, probably because we get to know the customers."

    The company tagline is "serving disadvantaged job applicants since 2009!" That's one way of looking at it.

    For between $100 and $200, the basic CareerExcuse plans get you between one and three fake, positive references from a job or jobs you've never had. (A premium "pro" service, which offers more established-seeming fake employment, costs extra.)

    They'll give you a fake company address, local telephone numbers to give out to prospective employers, and the promise that when those prospective employers call, they'll say positive, industry-specific things about you. Most customers stop using the service once they get a job, but some keep paying as a kind of insurance policy. One woman has been paying for over three years, just in case her boss ever did want to call.

    Hatton claims that in the nearly two years she's been with the company, no one has ever discovered the ruse. 

    referencesCareerExcuse is a bare bones operation.

    There's William Schmidt, who founded the company after he lost his own job as part of a mass layoff, started acting as a reference for former colleagues, and sensed a business opportunity. Hatton signed on two years ago after a 15-year stint as a mortgage loan underwriter and a nasty divorce, she says, because she believed in the company's mission. They have a few people who work on résumés — the company also offers a "completely legitimate" résumé-writing service, Hatton says — as well as a handful of "reference providers," including one in London and one in Australia.

    Most of their clients are people who are either trying to cover up huge résumé gaps, or who've had too many short-term employers and are trying to fake stability.

    "Our main clientele right now is IT executives, and they're pretty high-level," Hatton tells Business Insider, citing 6-figure salaries. The average customer, she suggests, is looking for something in the $60,000 to $80,000 range. 

    In a recent interview with the "Today" show, Schmidt says the company has placed close to 800 people in jobs."As a matter of fact, I landed two people a job this week," he adds.

    Hatton says their current client database has more than 2,000 names of people trying to fake their previous employment. They're people, she says, to whom "life has just been completely cruel."

    In her mind, CareerExcuse is less a fraud than a for-profit lifeline."There are many things that happen in people's lives, with [employers] going out of business, being laid off, managers just unrightfully firing you, sexual harassment suits — you name it, it happens in the workforce." 

    Hatton is clear that CareerExcuse can't compensate for lack of talent, and if you couldn't actually do the job you're trying to get, you'd be wasting your money to enlist their services. But if you do have the experience and skills to complete the job, "then I don't see why you shouldn't deserve a shot, just like the next person."

    Not actually having the background you claim to and then lying about it seems like one possible reason. But Hatton sees it as a warped kind of vigilante justice. "Without our services," she says, there are deserving people "who might not be able to get a second chance." The people they work with "work just as hard" as people that have developed real reference networks, Hatton maintains.

    Fingers crossedCareerExcuse doesn't actually check the skills a potential client claims to have in any way, but Hatton thinks people are overwhelmingly honest with them about their abilities. It's hard not to note the irony: These are the same people who are hiring professional liars on the internet.

    Though their business is lying, Hatton is clear there are lines they won't cross. They won't take on clients looking for work in government, medicine, childcare, or law enforcement — nothing where your employment would "put other people in danger." (Hutton doesn't note it, but Forbes points out that faking references for government employees is explicitly illegal. For most other fields, the legality is just very murky, and, as Motherboard reports, probably state-dependent.)

    They discourage people just out of college from signing up for the service. "You don't want to start off this way," she says. "Go get realistic experience, and then stay with it." They also won't take people they get a bad feeling about, or if they sense their "services are being used for anything other than an honest second chance."

    For customers, using CareerExcuse is a risky proposition, since it wouldn't be hard to catch a fake reference. "All it would take is one person to drive to that address and go to that office," Schmidt admits to Motherboard. There are, in fact, numerous ways the hoax could be discovered — a single suspicious hiring manager who checked the company on the Secretary of State website, for example.

    And, as Paul McDonald, senior executive director with the staffing agency Robert Half tells Business Insider, a manager finding out "your credentials don't align with those you've presented" would likely result in your termination. "You won't just lose a job — you'll damage your reputation," he says. That would put you back where you started: desperate, and in need of CareerExcuse, or one of its competitors.

    But it seems that reference checks, or at least the kind they're dealing with, are so formulaic that CareerExcuse doesn't raise any red flags. Given the demonstration of the service on a the "Today" show segment — "he's always one to take it upon himself to initiate the team," Hatton says, nonsensically — that seems surprising. If anything, fact that it apparently works casts doubt on the whole reference system. 

    CareerExcuse is not the answer, but the problem they're trying to address is a real one, and for Hatton, the ends justify the means. "It does make me feel good about myself to be able to help [people get jobs], whether I have to make a phone call and act like someone else and lie to help them do it."

    SEE ALSO: The surprising danger of being good at your job

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 clichés you should never use in a job interview

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    couch potato

    Outside the hallowed halls of your alma mater, you've tossed your cap with jubilation, stepped out of your gown, and you're ready for a new adventure.

    Then someone asks you, "So, what do you want to do with your life?"

    Panic strikes, and your mere moment of bliss is deflated by your lack of retort. You have no idea what you want to do with your life.

    Luckily for you, this crushing realization isn't the end of the world.

    Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group and creator of video course How To Get Hired, offers a few steps you can take to help you stay calm and move towards a career you'll love:

    1. Know this is normal.

    The first step to recovery is acceptance.

    Understand that the way to your dream career is not always a straight path, Kahn says — but what's important is that you're traveling in the right direction. "You may find in your career that the journey getting there is more fun than the destination."

    If this advice isn't consolation enough, consider the many success stories that began much later in life.

    Julia Child didn't learn to cook until her late 30s, and she wrote her first cookbook when she was 50. And Jon Hamm was working as a waiter at 29, not playing a philandering ad man trying to sleep with one.

    2. Consider your strengths.

    Seriously ask yourself, "What skills do I have to offer?""What are my strongest personality traits?" and "What do I do best?"

    "Lean in the direction of your strengths," Kahn says.

    3. Think about what type of work environments excite you.

    In college, did you thrive in large lectures or small classes? Did you perform better on group projects or individual assignments? This could indicate the size or type of company you'd prefer.

    If you did better in large lectures, perhaps you could work for a large, established company. If you preferred more intimate seminars, maybe you see yourself at a small startup. You could also consider working on a small team within a larger company.

    Also consider whether you prefer to be autonomous or supervised.

    4. Make a list.

    Write down the job elements and tasks that you enjoy and those that you dislike, Kahn says.

    Do you like talking to people, thinking in the abstract, working independently, and using your brain more than your feelings? Maybe you should consider a career as a reporter.

    Certain careers are better suited to different personality types.

    personality wide riverNext, write what is the most important part of a job to you. Do you care most about salary, status, or the job tasks? Also, are you more attached to the job description or the industry?

    When looking for jobs, refer back to this list to filter through the positions you should and shouldn't apply for.

    5. Contemplate your level of education.

    You may be interested in learning a new skill, and some jobs will require additional training or education, either now or in the future, Kahn points out. And with an estimated 1,855,000 students earning a bachelor's degree this year, every little bit of edge counts.

    Be on the lookout for certification classes, online courses, seminars, or even graduate schools that could set you above the competition or help you explore out a different area of interest.

    6. Look at your experience level.

    Be honest with yourself about the job experience you have to offer and at what level you can enter the fields you're considering, Kahn says. You may be interested in a coordinator or manager position but have to first look for an assistant job.

    7. Reach out to your network.

    One of the most invaluable things you can do is to talk to someone in the industry or job that you may be interested in pursuing.

    Ask friends, family, family friends, professors, alumni groups — really anyone in your network you can reach out to — to help you set up an informational interview with this person. Then soak up as much as you can about what she does, the steps she took to get there, and any advice she can offer for success.

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

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 smart questions to ask at the end of every job interview

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    young people working computers

    The best things in life may be free, but that doesn't mean they won't take time, sweat, and perseverance to acquire.

    That's especially the case when it comes to learning important life skills.

    In an effort to ascertain which talents are worth the investment, one Quora reader posed the question: What are the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

    We've highlighted our favorite takeaways.

    1. Time management

    Effective time management is one of the most highly valued skills by employers. While there is no one right way, it's important to find a system that works for you and stick to it, Alina Grzegorzewska explains. 

    "The hardest thing to learn for me was how to plan," she writes. "Not to execute what I have planned, but to make so epic a to-do list and to schedule it so thoroughly that I'm really capable of completing all the tasks on the scheduled date."

    2. Empathy

    "You can be the most disciplined, brilliant, and even wealthy individual in the world, but if you don't care for or empathize with other people, then you are basically nothing but a sociopath," writes Kamia Taylor.

    Empathy, as business owner Jane Wurdwand explains, is a fundamental human ability that has too readily been forsworn by modern business.

    "Empathy — the ability to feel what others feel — is what makes good sales and service people truly great. Empathy as in team spirit — esprit d'corps — motivates people to try harder. Empathy drives employees to push beyond their own apathy, to go bigger, because they feel something bigger than just a paycheck," she writes.

    3. Mastering your sleep

    There are so many prescribed sleep hacks out there it's often hard to keep track. But regardless of what you choose, establishing a ritual can help ensure you have restful nights.

    Numerous studies show that being consistent with your sleep schedule makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up, and it helps promote better sleep in general.

    sleeping woman couch

    4. Positive self-talk

    "Ultimately it doesn't matter what others think of you," writes Shobhit Singhal, "but what you think of yourself certainly does, and it takes time to build that level of confidence and ability to believe in yourself when nobody else does."

    On the other side of positive self-talk is negative self-talk, which Betsy Myers, founding director of The Center for Women and Business at Bentley University, believes can slowly chip away at your confidence.

    5. Consistency

    Whether you're trying a new exercise routine, studying for the LSATs, or working on an important project, Khaleel Syed writes that consistency is vital to maintaining any kind of success.

    People often stop working hard when they reach the top, he explains, but to maintain that top position, they have to work harder and be more consistent in their work.

    6. Asking for help

    "I once was told in a job interview, 'You can't have this job if you can't ask for help when you need it,'" Louise Christy writes. "Naturally, I said I could. Later, I found out that the previous person with that job had screwed up big-time because he was in over his head but couldn't admit it and didn't ask for help."

    She explains that knowing when you need help and then asking for it is surprisingly difficult to learn and do because no one wants to be perceived as weak or incompetent.

    But a recent study from the Harvard Business School suggests doing so makes you look more, not less, capable. According to the study authors, when you ask people for advice, you validate their intelligence or expertise, which makes you more likely to win them over.

    7. Knowing when to shut up — and actually doing it

    "You can't go around whining about every other thing that seems not-so-right to you in this world," writes Roshna Nazir. "Sometimes you just need to shut up."

    There are many instances when keeping to yourself is the best course. "When we are angry, upset, agitated, or vexed," writes Anwesha Jana, "we blurt out anything and everything that comes to our mind." And later, you tend to regret it.

    Keeping your mouth shut when you're agitated is one of the most valuable skills to learn, and of course, one of the most difficult.

    man laptop listening woman speaking explaining

    8. Listening

    Along with shutting up comes listening, says Richard Careaga.

    "Most of us in the workplace are so overwhelmed with things to do — instant messaging, phones ringing. I mean, our brain can only tolerate so much information before it snaps," Nicole Lipkin, author of "What Keeps Leaders Up At Night," previously told Business Insider.

    One tip for active listening is repeating back what you heard to the other person. "It makes things so much easier when everyone is on the same page," she said.

    9. Minding your business

    "It takes ages to learn and master this," writes Aarushi Ruddra.

    Sticking your nose into other people's work isn't helpful and wastes time and resources, she says. "You have no right to put forth your two or four cents, even if you are the last righteous person standing."

    10. Mastering your thoughts

    To do what you want to do and accomplish what you want to accomplish, you need to consciously direct your thinking, writes Mark Givert.

    "The challenge is that we are the product of our past experience and all of our thinking is the result of this," he says. "However, the past does not equal the future."

    SEE ALSO: Here's the single best way to get a powerful person to like you

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Billionaire John Paul DeJoria reveals the investment mistake that cost him over $1 million

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    Video game player controller grand theft auto

    In the realm of "dream jobs," video game tester ranks pretty highly for a significant number of people.

    But if you dream of endless days spent playing your favorite video games, you'll be sorely disappointed.

    As an unnamed video game tester explained during a recent Reddit AMA, success as a QA tester in the video game industry means taking your job seriously and meeting high expectations.

    The tester, who goes by the user name HigherCalibur, said he's been working in the industry as a quality assurance tester for about 10 years, and during his time he's worked for several different companies and has been credited on more than 30 game titles.

    Here are some questions he answered during the live chat that provide a fascinating glimpse into the world of video game testing. (We've edited questions and responses for clarity.)

    Q. How did you get started?

    A. I had a friend in customer support at EA Games who knew a guy in Human Resources that brought me in on a group interview. I made it through that and the two weeks of training they put the newbies through, and I started my first testing job.

    Q. What do you do all day?

    A. A lot of people ask if all testers do is play video games all day, and that would definitely be a no. While I do work on video games most of the day, I definitely don't play them like a normal, sane person would.

    My objective is to break the games in any way possible and to report anything that breaks to people on our programming, design, or art teams (generally referred to as "devs").

    For example, I've had to do what is called "matrix testing" for fighting games, which is where you test every character against every character on every stage. Then there's "functionality testing," which means making sure game features work according to design documentation.

    I also don't test the game itself all day. I have meetings to attend, emails that need to be sent out and replied to, bugs to report and regress, and all of the other stuff you would assume someone in a normal office job would need to do. I just do it at a place that makes video games.

    Q. What does testing look like in a typical day?

    A. Usually my day starts out with regression testing, which is when I see if programmers successfully fixed a bug previously found. We get a new build (version) and refer to our bug tracker database to find anything that developers claimed they fixed. Anything fixed gets closed, anything not fixed gets reopened, noted, and sent back to the person who claimed to fix it.

    After that, we usually just go through any game features that are a priority to check. These tasks are typically sent down from the production team, since they manage and oversee the project itself. Anything that needs "hands-on" attention at that moment gets it.

    Finally, if nothing needs our direct attention, we usually just engage in "open" testing. That depends on the individual tester, to be honest. I personally like doing organic playthroughs using as few cheats or dev commands as possible in order to make sure the user experience is where we want it.

    Some folks pound on specific systems. Some folks go through all of the text with a fine-toothed comb. Any bugs we find, we simply write up and send off to the member of the dev team responsible for fixing the particular issue.

    Q. What skills do you think are most useful for a QA tester?

    A. Being able to keep your cool in a frustrating situation is key. Crunch time is one of the most mentally draining and awful situations you can be in. But if you thrive in stressful situations, then you've definitely got the mental fortitude to handle the job.

    You also need to be a very skeptical, analytical person. Never take someone's word for it. If someone says something is working properly, check it anyway.

    Being a flexible thinker who's able to pick something apart without knowing what it is or how to make it yourself is also key.

    man laptop listening woman speaking explainingLastly, being able to communicate with different kinds of people is vital.

    I've had to learn how to communicate with artists, programmers, and designers, all of whom think very differently and have to be handled in different ways.

    Programmers might prefer a blunt, direct approach, but that will typically put an artist into a defensive mindset.

    Knowing how to communicate with people is extremely important because you're telling them how something is broken on a daily basis and, if they don't understand what you're trying to communicate, then you're wasting time that could be spent fixing the issue.

    Q. What's the pay like?

    A. Usually pretty low. The industry standard where I live is around $16 to $18 an hour, but those places are rarely looking for testers these days, and almost never hire people with no experience. More often than not you're going to start at around $10 an hour.

    Q. What are the benefits like?

    A. Usually you don't get benefits, but since the state of California just required all businesses to provide benefits to workers after 90 days, now even contract employees are getting health benefits at least.

    As for other perks we usually get free copies of whatever game we work on and other free game-oriented swag. I have so many game t-shirts from stuff I've worked on, it's kind of crazy.

    Q. Are most of these positions contract-based?

    A. Yes. It's very, very rare to find a QA position that is direct-hire. However, most of them are now contract-to-hire positions and around three to six months per contract. After this you're evaluated and hired on permanently if you work your butt off and get along well in the team environment.

    Q. Any advice for breaking into the industry?

    A. You kind of have to know where to look. There are a small handful of staffing agencies that work to get people their first jobs in the industry. I would also suggest checking out Linkedin for anything temporary since the temp jobs are usually for new people trying to break in.

    I should mention that QA is a good starting point but is usually not a career. You should definitely look at what you want to do in the industry now and take steps to get there. Want to be a designer? Make something. Want to be an artist? Make something.

    Q. Are there any games you dread testing?

    A. Yes. God, yes. For every game I have enjoyed working on, there are three or four games that just make me want to claw my eyes out. Most of them are kids games, adaptations of ancient arcade games for modern platforms, or games that are just bad.

    Video game player controllerThe six months or so for normal testing cycles are mind-numbing if you didn't find some way to enjoy what you're working on. This is usually made worse if there's a "cooler" project going on at the same time. You become jealous of those people who look like they're having more fun and enjoying their job.

    Q. Do you have a say in what games you test?

    A. Pretty much, but you really need to know people and be able to have an "in." Most of the time, it's because you know and are friends with the lead on the project. Yeah, it seems immature, but games QA is very cliquey. One of the reasons I started smoking in the first place was to get into the smoking circle at work and socialize with that group.

    Q. Are more than 80-hour workweeks a real concern?

    A. More than 80+ hour weeks are usually only the norm during crunch time, which, sadly, does still happen far too often.

    Q. How do you feel about the lack of job stability?

    A. I know QA is extremely volatile and there's no such thing as job security. If a company hires a ton of contractors, then they usually keep on anyone they like and ditch the chaff. But that's just how it is. One day you can be filing a bunch of crash bugs, the next your contract is up and you're filing for unemployment. It happens.

    unemployment office layoffs jobsQ. What's the best and worst part of being a QA tester?
    I love the fact that I get to work on games for a living and that everyone around me has a passion for games. I love my job, and I love that I've been able to work with the people I have. Some of my closest friends are people I've met doing this job.  The thing I dislike most is that it's incredibly hard to move one's career forward. That can be a deal breaker for some.

    Q. Do you play the games you test in your down-time?

    A. I rarely, if ever, play a game I tested outside of work. The only exceptions to that are "Soul Calibur 3,""Tekken: Dark Resurrection,""Star Trek Online," and "Neverwinter Online."

    Q. Has the job affected your enjoyment of gaming?

    A. I've long since learned to "switch off" after work so I don't pick apart something I enjoy. That said, I definitely don't play games as much as I used to. Binge gaming is a rarity for me these days, and I almost never go out and buy the newest game release. The last game I bought on launch day was probably Warlords of Draenor (released in November, 2014) and before that was Space Marine (released in September, 2011).

    Q. What's your favorite game and why?

    A."Mega Man 2." Not only does it have my favorite soundtrack from any of the Mega Man games, but I have very fond memories of playing it with my Dad, passing the controller back and forth between lives, reading off the passwords from the screen after beating a stage so he can put it down in his notebook.

    I've always been a huge fan of the "Mega Man" series in general because I like the concept of defeating an enemy to get their powers and using those powers to exploit the weakness of another boss.

    Q. Favorite movie based off a video game?

    A."Street Fighter." Hands-down the best G.I. Joe movie ever made. Seriously, watch it again and just assume both armies are the Joes and Cobra — It'll blow your goddamn mind. Also, I love watching Raúl Juliá and Jean-Claude Van Damme ham it up.

    Barring that? Probably "Mortal Kombat." In my opinion it's still the best translation from game story to movie ever (a game about a fighting tournament becomes a movie about a fighting tournament).

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    StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels

    It's easy to have vague goals. It's hard to define them.

    But according to StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels, mapping out a concrete timeline for yourself should be one of the first things you do when you start a new gig. 

    "We talk about budgets, we talk about planning your finances," he points out. "But what a lot of people don't do is plan out the next 12 to 18 or 24 months of their careers." That lack of planning can be costly, both professionally and existentially.

    He's seen it happen, he says: people join a company without an agenda, and "2 to 3 years go by, they come up for air, and they ask themselves, 'well, what am I still doing here?'" 

    Having an agenda provides a metric for evaluating your success. "When I see seasoned execs join a company," Bartels says, "a lot of times they have 12-month plan, and they're constantly checking back in and saying 'have I achieved what I set out to do?'"

    That's the other key: a plan only helps if you use it.

    It's not as simple as it sounds, and to figure out your own roadmap, Bartels recommends starting with the company's. He encourages new hires to get information — a lot of information. "Ask for a redacted board deck, ask for a product roadmap, ask for a 24-month plan," he says. That's especially critical if you're working in the startup world, he says, where financials aren't public, and information tends to be tightly controlled.

    "It's at 60,000 feet," he acknowledges, but that's the point. Having a strong handle on the big picture is your first metric for figuring out how you're going to contribute to that vision — and get what you want out of the job.

    "I see a lot of people committing to 12 to 24 months, and after 36 months, they come back to me and say, 'now I want to grow,'" Bartels says. That's not wrong. The mistake is waiting 3 years to get started.

    SEE ALSO: This exercise might be critical to your success

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    NOW WATCH: 7 clichés you should never use in a job interview

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    Serena Williams

    It's Wall Street internship season, and that means that over the next few weeks, hundreds of eager students will descend on the banks for their first taste of life on the Street.

    They come from Ivy Leagues and state schools alike. Some have more finance experience than others. But they all worked hard to get stellar grades and ace their interviews.

    So how did they land their offers — and how did they ultimately choose which banks to go with?

    It starts with leverage.

    One incoming summer analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, described how she managed to turn a consulting offer into an internship with a competitive team at bulge bracket bank.

    In her sophomore year summer, the analyst managed to score a Deloitte internship for the following summer. But she knew she really wanted to get into banking, so she used that offer, which had a November deadline, to get an accelerated offer with a small investment bank in her hometown.

    Then, she said, "I was like, 'Oh wait, I was raised in [her hometown] and I've been here forever. I kind of want to try going to New York.'"

    So she started networking with all the alumni she knew at bulge bracket banks.

    One offered her a "super day"— an important step in the application process that usually follows a first-round interview. During a "super day" students are invited to a bank’s headquarters for a full day of back-to-back interviews with different vice presidents and managing directors.

    The summer analyst got an offer following that super day with only two weeks to respond — one of which was a holiday.

    She used the offer to score interviews and super days at a handful of other firms in that time. But in the end, she wound up taking the original offer.

    It's all about that first offer.

    That summer analyst's story is not uncommon.

    For many Wall Street interns, getting an offer fast from a top firm is key, regardless of which bank it's with.

    Here's how one Deutsche Bank intern put it:

    "There's the upper echelon ... the bulge bracket banks, but outside of those, they're all very similar," he said.  "Deutsche was just kind of one of the ones I got into early."

    He said the bank "hooked" him in with an early interview and offer and only gave him one week to decide.

    The first intern described the leveraging thing like a snowball effect that allows you to land one interview after another. But ultimately, she said, there's only one end goal for young Wall Street hopefuls:

    "They want that offer as soon as possible."

    Did you land a Wall Street internship this summer? How did you decide which bank to go with? Send us an email at We can keep you anonymous.

    SEE ALSO: 19-year-old who turned down Goldman Sachs says other students are 'lazy'

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    woman business More and more companies are moving away from top-down hierarchies and toward more collaborative models. 

    In what might be the buzziest example in recent memory, Zappos ditched managers altogether, as part of their high-profile transition to Holacracy, an alternative model structured around "self-management." 

    But while Zappos may be extreme, it's hardly alone.

    Not every company is ditching the very notion of management — far from it — but there is a mass migration toward flatter structures and looser hierarchies. 

    And according to research by Raina Brands, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, that shift could be particularly good for women in leadership positions. 

    In traditional hierarchies, it hasn't necessarily been easy to be a woman in charge, in large part, Brands writes, because we expect those leaders to "exhibit power, dominance, courage, and boldness"— all traits we tend to associate with men. (Lest one assume those stereotypes have gone away by now: Back in March, the New York Times reported that among S&P 1500 companies, there in fact are fewer female CEOs than there are CEOs named John. There are also fewer female CEOs than CEOs named David.)

    "Even if men and women behave the same," Brands tells Business Insider, "there's still this attribution bias. We just tend to think of men as better leaders." 

    Except, Brands is finding, it may be more complicated than that. 

    Her recent study, published in "Organization Science," suggests that male leaders are perceived as more charismatic (and therefore more inspirational and motivating) only in centralized networks— those star-driven organizations with "clear pecking orders and stratification of status and power."

    But in more cohesive networks — the kinds of places where "everybody goes to everybody else for advice," Brands explains —  female leaders are actually seen as more charismatic than men. 

    In one experiment, Brands and her colleagues had participants make assumptions about a fictional leader's abilities in centralized vs. cohesive networks. When the network was centralized, people found "Michael" more charismatic than his doppelgänger "Michelle."

    When the network was cohesive, though, people saw "Michelle" as the more charismatic one. 

    And the researchers found the same assumptions played out in real life: Participants working in very hierarchical organizations saw male leaders as more charismatic, while participants working in dense networks attributed more charisma to female leaders. 

    ACA meeting employeesOn one level, that's evidence that gender stereotypes are alive and well and living in our offices. Across the board, we seem to perceive leaders as more charismatic when they fit with our gendered expectations.

    Just as we expect leaders of hierarchies to exhibit traits we associate with men, we expect leaders of more cohesive networks to "strive for intimacy and solidarity"— traits we tacitly associate with women.

    On another level, though, Brands' findings suggest good things for the future of women at work. The organizational models that favor "more cohesive and collaborative styles of leadership" are exactly the organizational models that are on the rise. And these, Brands says, "are the organizations where we’re really going to see woman emerge as leaders."

    But there's no need for the Johns and the Davids of the world to panic, she promises. "This doesn't mean that men are in trouble, because what we find is that cohesive networks help everyone."

    Her research shows that everyone is perceived as more charismatic when they're surrounded by a cohesive network. "It's just that it helps the women more than it helps the men."

    SEE ALSO: If you want to seem smarter, pick up the phone

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    NOW WATCH: Forget the Apple Watch — here's the new watch everyone on Wall Street wants

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    Art students

    On the surface, the financial prospects for certain majors look grim.

    According to a report from Georgetown University's Center on Education in the Workforce, college students who major in education, social work, most of the arts, and many of the social sciences, go on to earn less— significantly less — than their STEM-studying, business-concentrating, and economics-focused peers

    But a new tool from TheLadders, a career matching service for professionals, has good news for once and future artist majors, education majors, and aspiring anthropologists: you are not doomed to a life of ramen noodles. At least, not necessarily.

    They crunched the data on more than 800,000 of their members, looking at each person's undergraduate concentration, and what that person is earning now.

    Based on their sample, the supposed gulf between business majors and music majors isn't much of a gulf at all. In large part, that's because what people studied when they were 19 doesn't hold all that much sway over what they're doing now. 

    For example, here's a sampling of the more popular careers and salaries for Ladders members who majored in electrical engineering:

    • Engineer (Average salary $107,432)
    • Software developer (Average salary $124,641)
    • Operations manager (Average salary $123,610)

    And here's the sample of what people undergraduate political science majors are doing now:

    • In-house counsel (Average salary $122,487)
    • Sales and marketing representative (Average salary $121,328)
    • Attorney ($122,329)

    Meanwhile, here are some of the more popular jobs and salaries among oft-maligned art majors:

    • Marketing representative (Average salary $108,143)
    • Graphic designer (Average salary $97,643)
    • Creative director (Average salary $113,565)

    student studying laptop outsideOf course, there's are some important caveats: while these numbers are drastically more hopeful than the numbers in the Georgetown study, which show studio art majors earning, on average, something more like $42,000 by mid-career, they're also skewed.

    The Ladders isn't working with a random data set; they're working with the data from their membership base — a membership base that's significantly higher-earning than the general population. That helps explain one of the most striking thing about the numbers — they're pretty consistent across majors. 

    Notably, too, a significant number of these people aren't working in the careers they might have envisioned for themselves at 18. (One job that doesn't appear, for example, on the most common jobs for art majors: studio artists. Then again, working painters probably aren't using TheLadders.)

    But in some ways, that's exactly the point of the tool. "If you really want to succeed," TheLadders' Jade Clark explains, "you wouldn't want to look at the average. You'd want to look at what the people who made it did."

    It's not that you will earn six figures with your studio art degree — on that front, the Georgetown data is much more representative. The point is that it's possible.

    SEE ALSO: Why the future of work is looking bright for women

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    StumbleUpon CEO Mark BartelsKnowing when to step up is key to good leadership. But there's another skill that's at least as important — and much more difficult to master.

    The best leaders, explains StumbleUpon CEO Mark Bartels, don't just know when to step up — they also know when to step back.

    "What I try to do is differentiate between being in control and being in command," Bartels says. "I still make this mistake sometimes — I think they mean the same thing. They don’t." 

    Being in command, he explains, "means you’re comfortable giving up control to people you trust." That's why he considers hiring the most important part of his job: it's essential to find those people who can go off and make day-to-day decisions without asking his permission. 

    But, as Bartels acknowledges, giving up control is easier said than done. Over the course of his career, he's identified a handful of management techniques that help him to feel good about loosening the reigns without letting go.

    1. Communicate. A lot.

    "Every Monday morning, we have an executive meeting," he explains. "The meeting is not a status update meeting," he stresses. Status updates are sent around before the meeting even starts, freeing up valuable facetime to make decisions as a group. "By doing that on a weekly basis, we're all aware of exactly what's going on," Bartels says.

    2. Be available.  

    "If you've got a question, swing over to someone's desk, and ask a question," he advises. "Don't send an email." Yes, it's occasionally disruptive, he admits, but "it's amazing how much you learn by osmosis." 

    On the flipside, when you do get emails, respond to them quickly. "If someone has a question, whether it's a compensation question or an organizational question, don't park it — respond. Even if the answer is, 'I'm not going to tell you.'" People appreciate a quick response, he says, and an prompt reply — even if it's negative — "stops things from just sitting there and growing."

    3. Create transparency.

    Bartels feels the company's Google-inspired anonymous Q&A has been essential for keeping the company on course without micromanaging. Once a week at lunch, employees can ask anything they want. That can mean questions, but it can also mean comments, anxieties, or kudos. "It can be a little uncomfortable," he says, "but it gets it out there. I'd rather have it out there and deal with it head on than have it simmer beneath the surface, which is more unhealthy." 

    SEE ALSO: This company will sell you fake credentials to get a real job

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    High school students and their parents might do well to spend a little more time perusing the materials of their in-state public universities, and less time pouring over the catalogues of coveted private schools — especially if they're trying to get the biggest bang for their buck. 

    According to a projected forecast from the research firm PayScale, public universities will provide a significantly higher financial return on investment than their private counterparts. 

    Already, "public colleges (as a group) out-perform private colleges for financial ROI by 13%," they write. In 2015, the 20-year net return on a bachelor's from a public school is about $490,000. For a private school, it's closer to $430,000.

    And if tuition increases and wage growth continue at their current rates, that gap will only grow over the next decade.

    By 2025, they predict the 20-year ROI gap between public colleges and private ones will reach 24%. (More about their methodology here.)


    A decade ago, private colleges were "typically the better bet in terms of financial return on investment post-graduation," writes PayScale's Lydia Frank. But the landscape has changed, and "what we've seen is that a school's brand is much less impactful for alumni than it used to be," Frank tells Business Insider.

    Going to college, she notes, is almost always worth it. But the potentially astronomical costs of doing so are a "huge factor in terms of a graduate's ultimate ROI"— and on average, the scale tips in favor of public institutions. 

    That doesn't mean private universities never pay off (and this study from the MacArthur Foundation provides a nice defense of liberal arts colleges), but Frank says it does suggest that private colleges probably aren't worth going into debt for — even for elite brand-name schools. 

    SEE ALSO: 11 apps that will make you smarter

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    Need to bust out a tie for an important meeting? You may remember some of the classic knots, but these 3 will keep you looking sharp at the office.

    Produced by Justin Gmoser. Special thanks to Devan Joseph

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    We know you need to network to advance your career, but we also know that an awful lot of networking is boring and pointless

    How to reconcile the contradiction? Shift your thinking, advises Salli Setta, president of Red Lobster. It's a lesson she wishes she had learned earlier.

    "I used to think networking was this thing you did if you wanted to 'get ahead,'" she tells Business Insider. But networking, she has learned, doesn't have to mean aggressively selling your skills — and it shouldn't.

    Instead she encourages people to think of networking as a learning opportunity, a chance to figure out how you can do your job better.

    The point, Setta says, is to "advance your thinking in areas where you may not be as advanced as other people." That means exchanging ideas, not business cards.

    Salli Setta Red LobsterShifting your paradigm doesn't just take the awkwardness out of the enterprise — it also helps you figure out whom you want to network with. The people you want to be meeting are the people who have mastered something you haven't mastered yet, she says.

    Developing those skills should be your goal, Setta says. And while you can think about addressing your weaknesses, and you can read about addressing your weaknesses, ultimately "it's about finding out who in your area is best at the thing you're working on" and connecting with them.

    Not only is it more productive form of networking, she says — it's also less a less awkward one. You have a concrete reason to be talking to people besides nebulous ambition.

    "To me, networking isn't so much about trying to get ahead," Setta says. "It's about trying to open up your eyes to the possibilities of what's around you." That means harnessing the talents of people in your orbit "to help you see problems differently, to you help solve problems differently, and to build skills that you may not have." 

    SEE ALSO: The surprising danger of being good at your job

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    NOW WATCH: 6 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter

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    Paleontology may be one of the coolest careers to break into, but it's far from the easiest.

    As Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic writer Brian Switek laments, while some people develop other interests, quite a few "would-be" paleontologists simply didn't know where to start.

    Luckily, Robert T. Bakker, author of "The Dinosaur Heresies,""Raptor Red," and "The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs," and curator of paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Matthew T. Mossbrucker, director and curator of the Morrison Natural History Museum, and discoverer of the first baby Stegosaurus fossils, shed some light on how to get your start as a paleontologist during a recent Reddit AMA.

    First, there are a few myths and misconceptions that need dispelling. The first is that paleontologists spend all their time digging for dinosaurs.

    According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology website, "Paleontology is a rich field, imbued with a long and interesting past and an even more intriguing and hopeful future. Many people think paleontology is the study of fossils. In fact, paleontology is much more."

    Paleontology is divided into various sub-disciplines including the study of microscopic fossils, fossil plants, invertebrate animal fossils, vertebrate fossils, and prehistoric human and proto-human fossils.

    And as Bakker and Mossbrucker explain, there are many jobs you can hold within the paleontology field.

    Bakker says most vertebrate paleontologists make a living teaching geology or anatomy. "A few lucky ones" get full time jobs working in a museum. Fossils are also a hot commodity right now, since scientists can use them to teach basic science literacy, so fossil-sleuth could be a lucrative route.

    Generally, though, the pay isn't as much as you might hope.

    "Doc [Bakker] always told me to 'marry money,'" Mossbrucker jokes. "Seriously though, this is a calling. Most of us live a monastic lifestyle, while some took his sage advice."

    Psittacosaurus BonesAfter all this, if pursuing a career in paleontology is still your calling, Bakker and Mossbrucker have a couple tips before you pursue the required higher education:

    1. The best way to begin a career in dinosaurology is to start young. Bakker suggests studying living animals at a zoo or in your own backyard, filming them, and then using photo prints to sketch in the bones.

    "Find the nearest display of fossils — whether at the natural history museum, science center, or state/national park — and visit," Mossbrucker suggests. "While visiting, take a guided tour. Ask questions. Then, slow down, put the phone away and bask in the glory of the old dead things. Read the labels. (Seriously, nobody reads the labels...) and soak it all in."

    2. The next step is to volunteer, preferably in a program at your nearest natural history museum with a paleontology department. This will provide a chance to experience various aspects of what paleontology is all about and explore undergraduate programs.

    "Get involved with your local museum and get your hands dirty," Mossbrucker says.

    "In museums where I work — one huge, two small — volunteers are essential," Bakker says. "They find most of the specimens and do most of the tour-guide duties. In exceptional cases, volunteers are so good that we move heaven and earth to get a salary for them. And succeed."

    "This life is a calling and I'm grateful for every moment of it," Mossbrucker says of his job as a paleontologist. "I'm surrounded by interesting objects, curious people, and a constant stream of weirdness."

    SEE ALSO: Inside the 'dream job' of a video game tester

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    jack welch

    LinkedIn Influencer Jack Welch published this post originally on LinkedIn.

    How many people do you know who are truly happy at work? Are you one of them?

    We recently surveyed American professionals throughout the nation and learned that nearly a third feel trapped in their careers and passed over for promotions.

    Don’t count yourself among them.

    If you’re feeling stuck, here are six operating principles that can put you on the path to a stronger career trajectory — and, we hope, to the kind of success known as happiness.

    1. Find Where Your Passion and Skills Intersect

    We have a concept called Area of Destiny, which is the very rich territory at the intersection of what you are uniquely good at and what you love to do. That’s where you should be building your profession.

    2. Make Your Boss Smarter

    No matter where you are in your career, one thing never changes. Every day, it’s your flat-out responsibility to make your boss look good. You have to make him or her smarter — about your industry, your customers, your competitors, your products, and technology — all the time.

    3. Know When to Leave a Bad Boss

    Great bosses are generous bosses. If you feel your boss doesn’t in some way have your best interest in mind and want you to grow, you’ve got to have the confidence to move out.

    4. Give Yourself a Deadline

    Don’t let work feel like a grind. If you're unhappy — or you just aren’t all-in — you have to put a time-frame on how much you are going to put up with before making a change.

    5. Don’t Fear Failure

    The thing about failing — because you will fail if you take risks — is that you realize you don’t die. You just pick yourself up and keep going — and how fast you get back on the horse says a lot about you.

    6. Never Stop Reinventing Yourself

    Who wants to just “retire”? Banish that word from your vocabulary. You’ve got to constantly reinvent and take a chance on something you’ve always wanted to do — it’s what keeps you alive. You’re never done.

    Jack Welch is Executive Chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute at Strayer University. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute provides students and organizations with the proven methodologies, immediately actionable practices, and respected credentials needed to win in business.

    More From Jack Welch:

    SEE ALSO: Networking might seem painfully boring — but that's probably because you're thinking about it all wrong

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    signing declaration of independence art

    Writing the body of an email is the easy part. The hard part is signing off.

    Is "cheers" too casual? Too pretentious? Too British? Is "sincerely" timeless and professional, or stodgy and overly formal? "Best" seems fail safe — unless it's too bland?

    Perhaps, as Matthew J.X. Malady persuasively argued at Slate, we should just call the whole thing off and ditch the email closer altogether.

    But as anyone who has sat staring blankly at a screen, weighing "best" versus "all best" versus "all the best" knows, not signing off doesn't feel quite right either — especially if the context is professional.

    "Not closing seems way too abrupt," business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter tells Business Insider. "If you have a salutation, you should have a closing to balance it out."

    Will Schwalbe, one of the authors "SEND: Why People Email So Badly and How to Do it Better," agrees, pointing out that "we don't go around in life barking orders at one another and we shouldn't on email either."

    And manners aside, the email close serves a practical function. It helps "define the personality of the email's content," says Aliza Licht, VP of Global Communications for Donna Karan International and author of the career guide "Leave Your Mark."

    It's also an opportunity to define or redefine your relationship to your correspondent, Schwalbe adds. (A shift from "love" to "best," for example, indicates you may have a problem.)

    If we accept — at least for the moment — that email signoffs are here to stay, the question becomes which one to use, and in what contexts to use it.

    We had Pachter, Schwalbe, and Licht weigh in on 29 common email closings to help you sign off with minimal risk and maximal charm. 

    1. Thanks

    "Fine if it's for a favor the person has done, but obnoxious if it's a command disguised as premature gratitude," Schwalbe says. Licht agrees. It "comes off as not really that thankful," she says. While it doesn't particularly bother Pachter, the consensus is that you can probably do better. Skip.

    2. Thanks again

    Again, Schwalbe and Licht aren't fans. It's "even worse then 'thanks' if it's a command and not genuine gratitude," he says.

    3. Thanks!

    Everyone agrees that the what Schwalbe calls the "whole 'thanks' family" really only makes sense when you're genuinely thanking someone for an actual thing they did for you. That said, the exclamation pointed version is Licht's go-to for internal communication when she's expressing actual gratitude. It's happy and sincere, she says. (Schwalbe, too, considers himself a general "fan of exclamation points," within reason.)

    4. Thanks so much

    Licht and Pachter think it's fine. Schwalbe has had enough of my questions about the "thanks" family.

    woman on laptop5. Best

    I really want someone to argue that the ubiquitous "best" is actually terrible — a pleasantly contrarian opinion — but no one does. The "best" backlash is "a media-invention," Schwalbe says. All three experts agree that it's probably among the safest possible choices, inoffensive and almost universally appropriate.

    6. All best

    Pachter notes that in general, the rule is that the more words you use, the more formal the closing, which makes "all best" slightly more formal than "best." Licht, though, isn't a fan of this one, calling it "too effusive."

    "Are you really sending ALL your best, or just some?"

    Still, it's a relatively safe choice.

    7. Best wishes

    "Ever so slightly more formal than 'all best' or 'best,' it's a good one for initial contact," Schwalbe says. Licht thinks it's "stuffy." Another pretty low-risk option.

    8. Sincerely

    "Is this a cover letter? Because otherwise, no," says Licht. "Very formal, and could seem cold if it follows more intimate sign-offs," Schwalbe cautions. But Pachter feels that it all depends on the opening salutation. If you began with "dear," then "sincerely" is appropriate, she says.

    9. Looking forward

    Totally fine, they agree — assuming you're actually going to see that person in the near future.

    10. Speak with you soon

    "Only if you really want to," Schwalbe says. If you do, though, it's a good option.

    11. Talk soon

    The more casual cousin of "speak with you soon," this one follows pretty much the same rules as its relative. If you actually will be talking soon, it's fine (though Licht isn't sold on it). If you don't actually plan to talk soon, it's insincere.

    12. More soon

    "You are committing yourself to a second reply," Schwalbe cautions. "Do you really want to do that? Or should you just take a moment and answer the thing properly right now?" Licht feels even more strongly. "Promises can be forgotten, she says. "Under-promise, over-deliver." Skip.

    art painting writing13. xx

    "Absolutely not," says Pachter, who feels it's just not professional. But Schwalbe says it has become "remarkably accepted even in casual (very casual) business correspondence."

    That said, it's "best to use in reply to someone else who is using and not initiate."

    Licht says she uses a version of it herself — "Aliza x"— for "friendly yet professional" notes, but agrees you have to have a "pre-existing close relationship." Use cautiously.

    14. xoxo

    Ironically, it's the hugs, not the kisses that make this one inappropriate. While "xx" may have a place in the working world, "xoxo" is "really for dear friends and people with whom you are even more intimate," Schwalbe says.

    15. Warmly

    A fan of the whole "warm" family, Schwalbe thinks "warmly" is less formal than "sincerely," but a little more formal than the whole "best" family, and Pachter likes it, too.

    Licht, however, is unimpressed. "Snorefest," she says.

    16. Warmest

    This one is unexpectedly controversial: Schwalbe likes it, Licht thinks it's a "double snorefest," and Pachter finds it "a little teenage." Tread carefully.

    17. Cheers

    "It's fine," Pachter says, though she's not sold on it. "It always seems a bit like you want to be Australian," Schwalbe says.

    To Licht, it seems "pretentious, unless you're actually British."

    Schwalbe suggests a test: would you say it to people in person? If so, go for it. If not, reserve it for the British.

    18. — [your name]

    Licht and Schwalbe agree it's "cold" and "abrupt."

    19. First initial ("A.")

    The problem here is confusion. "I personally don't like it," Pachter says. "What does it stand for? I guess it's okay, but it's not something I would do."

    Schwalbe points out that unless you know someone well, it's annoying because "you aren't telling them what to call you. If I do "W" people don't know if I'm "Will" or "William."

    20. [nothing at all]

    While it's "absolutely fine as a chain progresses," Schwalbe says, "it's nice to end the first volley with a sign off." Once a conversation is underway, though, Pachter approves of getting rid of both the salutation and the close.

    21. Yours

    "I never understood this one," Licht says. "Yours what?" If you are going to use it, though, Schwalbe says it's one of the more formal options, though it's not quite as formal as "sincerely."

    22. Yours truly

    According to Pachter's "more words, more formal" rule, this is a step above "yours." Still, Licht says it strikes her as "fake."

    23. Yours Faithfully

    "I always assume it's going to be a marriage proposal," Pachter says. Don't use it.

    24. Respectfully

    "A little stiff," Schwalbe says. "Also, it brings to mind, for people of a certain age, Diana Ross singing 'Upside Down.'" Unless you're addressing the President of the United States, Licht says it's too formal.

    If you do happen to be addressing POTUS, though, you're on the right track. A variation — "respectfully yours"— is indeed the standard close for addressing government officials and clergy, Pachter explains.

    pope barack obama

    25. Regards

    "Hate, hate, hate" says Licht, though she says she hates the supposedly more casual abbreviated version — "Rgds"— even more. "It's like you're so busy you can't even spell it."

    Schwalbe, however, doesn't mind it. "Nice" he says, noting that it's "a little formal." Think of it as equivalent to the "warm" family, he advises.

    26. Take Care

    Licht gives it a lukewarm "ehh," and Schwalbe says it provokes anxiety. "I feel this is akin to 'safe travels,' albeit with a slightly medical connotation." It makes him "a bit paranoid," he says. "Like you know I'm in danger and I don't."

    27. Looking forward to hearing from you

    A minefield of power dynamics, this one is "a bit presumptuous, but fine if you are doing a favor for someone," Shwalbe says. It's not fine, however, if you're the one asking.

    Plus, as Licht points out, it puts you in a "subservient position where you can't take action, but must wait for the other person's cue."

    28. VB

    Licht says that while this one doesn't seem to have made it across the Atlantic yet, her British colleague sees VB — for "very best"— a lot. It's "cooler and more casual," she says, though "some might not get it and think it's Victoria Beckham or something." Still, she says she could get behind it.

    29. As Ever

    This one is Schwalbe's personal favorite for repeated contacts. "There's something very reassuring about 'As ever.' It means, whatever you were, you still are that. Nothing has changed."

    SEE ALSO: Your email typos reveal more about you than you realize

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    leo wolf of wall street

    Interviewing with any Wall Street bank is not going to be easy. But there's one type of firm that may be even tougher than the others.

    Business Insider spoke with a Wall Street intern who interviewed with a ton of banks, including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Jefferies Group.

    The toughest wasn't any of the bulge brackets, but the boutique bank, Jefferies.

    That was by far the most technical interview, the intern said.

    "I think it's a general consensus that smaller firms tend to be a lot more technical," the intern said, because those firms have fewer resources for training.

    "So they expect people to have a decent amount of technical knowledge before they go in."

    Meanwhile, the bigger banks asked behavioral questions in addition to a few "standard" accounting questions — nothing that you wouldn't be expecting if you consult guides like Wall Street Oasis or Mergers and Inquisitions, according to the intern.

    Those banks can afford to be more focused on fit, the intern said, because "if you’re not good at modeling or financial accounting, or have never touched it, that’s something they can teach you because they have the resources to."

    From what we've heard about training at the bulge brackets taking place this month, there are actually quite a few incoming interns who have no background in accounting or finance. They tend to come from prestigious universities and are expected to learn quickly on the job.

    As for the smaller and midsize banks, it wasn't just the one intern who found them to be tough: "For Jefferies, when I talked to my friends, literally all of my friends were like, 'I bombed that interview. If banking is anything like this, I can’t do banking,'" the intern said.

    Have you been through the Wall Street interview process? Which did you find toughest? Send us an email at We can keep you anonymous.

    SEE ALSO: There’s one thing Wall Street interns care about more than which bank they get into

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