Archive | February, 2019

Common Interview Questions: How Much Research Should I Do?

February 28, 2019


Question: I landed an interview at a company that I’m excited about. The interview process is moving really fast so I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to do a deep dive into the company or the position. How much am I really expected to know about the company during my interview? How much time do I really need to spend researching?

Answer: This probably isn’t the answer you want to hear, but the more research you do the better! Think of all the things that could go wrong if you don’t do your research: You could show up to a laid back start up in a suit and tie. You could mention a product or service that recently got a lot of flack in the news. In the worst case you could offend someone terribly.

There are many reasons why researching a company’s history, mission, products, and recent headlines are helpful. You have a much better chance of landing the position if you fit in with the company’s culture and the company’s needs, and you have an understanding of the industry. The only way you’ll really understand these things is if you do your research. If you can chat with other employees before hand, even better. See if you’re connected with anyone on LinkedIn or if someone in your network can put you in touch with a friend of a friend.

Image via luckey_sun/Flickr.

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5 Planners That Can Help You Get Organized This Year

February 26, 2019


Sure, Google Calendars, Microsoft Outlook, and iCal keep us on track. But there’s still something nice about writing down your schedule in a paper planner. And lucky for us, paper planners have gotten way better than the ones of our middle school days. Choose from daily, weekly, and monthly journals plus awesome additions like goal setting, motivational quotes, and more.

The Passion Planner
In this planner, you’ll find more than just the days of the week. A journal, goal setting guide, worksheets, and more guide you toward leading a more purposeful life and career.

The Bullet Journal
While there is an official planner available for purchase, bullet journaling is a movement. Learn the super simple method that will keep you on task and get you back to the basics. Many have taken bullet journaling even further by designing their own personalized planners from scratch.

The Day Designer
If you like taking things one day at a time, this planner will help you nail down your life hour by hour. It also highlights three priorities for each day along with other prompts to keep you focused on long term goals.

The Panda Planner
With over 4,000 four-star reviews on Amazon, the Panda Planner is clearly a hit with its users. While keeping you on task, this notebook has a focus on positivity and productivity with room for daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

The Simplified Planner
Another hour-by-hour daily planner that will keep you focused through the week. The spiral design allows this hardcover planner to easily sit open on your desktop so you can always see what’s coming up next.

Image via Duc Ly/Flickr.


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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Emails Actually Get Read

February 21, 2019


On an average day you likely read 200 emails, and you spend about two and half hours per day doing so, according to Forbes. That’s a lot of emails–too many emails. It’s no wonder people have to skim through their inboxes to survive. But how can you make sure your emails not only get opened, but actually get read? Here are some tips.

  1. Write very specific subject lines. A detailed subject line keeps the receiver and the sender on topic and is easier to search for later. This means you can keep the conversation going on one chain instead of sending sporadic emails that branch off into other topics and priorities.
  2. Keep it brief. While still being polite, get right to the point. The shorter, the better. Emails are not replacements for phone conversations. Keep it concise and suggest a phone conversation if there are too many details.
  3. Increase the readability. Bullet points, short paragraphs, and bolded actionable items make your emails easier to read.
  4. Don’t respond right away. Often our first response might not be our best response. Both the sender and receiver can benefit from a little breathing room. A delay could give someone a chance to simmer down if they’re feeling angry. Or inspire someone to be more proactive instead of relying on someone else’s email response. And it may even allow you to come to a better more thoughtful response. Carefully written, well thought out emails are more likely to be read thoroughly than hastily-written, indecisive blabbering.
  5. End with instructions, not questions. Instead of proposing a question at the end of your email, such as “Should we meet in person to discuss more?” just make a decision and propose something like “I can meet up tomorrow at noon to discuss more if you’re available.” This will prevent follow up emails and conversations that are dragged on far beyond their need.

Image via Marie-Chantale Turgeon/Flickr.

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How to Be Productive When You Work From Home

February 19, 2019


Whether it’s a sick kid, bad weather, or simply a Friday, working from home is becoming more acceptable in the workplace. But for those who are used to cubicle life, back-to-back meetings, and interruptions from coworkers, working from home can feel so different. It’s quieter. No one’s watching you. For once, you actually have some time to get work done! It’s easy to see why you’d feel so out of your element. If you’re  having trouble staying productive, follow these tips:

  1. Set up a work space. It doesn’t have to be a traditional office or desk. A kitchen table works just fine. (And is probably better than a couch or bed.) Wherever it is, designate a certain area for “work” so when you sit down, you know it’s time to stay focused.
  2. Take a lunch break. Use your lunch break to walk around the house and tackle all those errands or social media websites that have been distracting you. Throw in a load of laundry, check Facebook, sweep the floor, swipe through Instagram, unload the dishwasher… If you know that you’ll tackle these tasks during your lunch break, you won’t waste precious work time doing them.
  3. Have an end of day routine. It’s hard to end your work day when you’re working from home. If you can’t close the door of your home office, be sure to shut off your laptop and put it away. Before that, run through your agenda next week or whatever else you usually do at the end of the day.

Image via Matt Clare/Flickr.

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Common Interview Questions: What Should I Bring?

February 14, 2019


Question: My big interview is tomorrow. I know what to wear and what questions to ask, but I’m wondering… what do I really need to bring with me?

Answer: Always bring a few extra copies of your resume in case one of your interviewers hasn’t had a chance to glance at your credentials–or if you just want to doubly remind them exactly who you are. Remember, that you are likely not the only person interviewing for this position. Also, your interviewer is squeezing this interview in between meetings and work demands. In the same vein, consider bringing copies/visuals of your best work (if that’s relevant to your line of work).

It always helps to have a notepad and pen on hand so you can jot down any questions that arise during the interview, important information about the position, as well as the email addresses and names of those who you’ve spoken to. This all can fit into a simple writing portfolio, also known as a padfolio (found at office supply stores), or a professional looking tote bag or briefcase.

Might as well throw in a water bottle, breath mints or gum, a small snack to nibble on before your interview, and of course your (silenced) cell phone. What else do you usually bring to interviews? Comment below!

Image via Carla Escobedo/Flickr.

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Break the Ice with these Networking Conversation Starters

February 12, 2019


Whether you’re at a networking event, a conference, or a work function, you’ll likely need to spark up a conversation with a stranger. It’s the exact reason why so many people don’t love networking. But it’s such a crucial career skill (as we’ve talked about here, here, and here). The good news is that to network, all you need to do is speak one sentence. Really! Here are a handful of conversation starters that will bring you one step closer to foraging a new relationship.

What’s your story?

What do you do?

How did you get into the industry?

How long have you been in this industry?

What brought you here tonight?

How did you hear about this event?

Have you been to one of these events before?

What are you hoping to take away from this event?

Have you been to this venue before?

What do you think about this event so far?

What did you think of the speaker?

Do you mind if I introduce myself?

Where did you get that great bag/pair of shoes/jacket?

Which appetizer is your favorite?

Do you like networking events?

Image via Kasa/Flickr.

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How to Be a Minimalist in Work and Life

February 7, 2019


Everyone’s jumping on the Marie Kondo train and getting rid of piles of clothing, shoes, toys, and more that don’t spark joy at home. While the idea of “minimalism” may be a little off putting to some, organization experts like author Joshua Becker of the Becoming Minimalist blog may change your mind.

It turns out that minimalism isn’t just about getting rid of things. It’s about adding too–by taking away the unimportant excess in our life, you’re getting more time to enjoy the things you love. When your time isn’t spent caring for, consuming, cleaning, and stressing out about things, you have more time for family, friends, and, well, life. Here are some ways you can apply this thought process to your work life.

  1. Clean out the clutter. Get rid of the items on your desk that you don’t need, you don’t use, or that don’t make you happy. The goal is to give yourself some breathing room so you feel a sense of calm when you approach your desk each morning.
  2. Add a little happy. Now add some things to your workday that bring you joy. Keep in mind that things don’t have to be physical objects. It could be a framed photo of your family or it could be a non negotiable 15 minute walk over lunch time. Or a favorite podcast that you tune into on your way to work every day.
  3. Design your ideal day. If you could paint the perfect workday (from sunrise to sunset) what would it look like? Find ways to incorporate that happiness into your day and find a way to automate, remove, or simplify the processes, things, or people that don’t bring your happiness.
  4. Protect your time. Pick three priorities, mantras, or values that will guide you throughout the work week and help you more easily say yes or no to the pressures of the outside world. Stay focused and true to yourself and you’ll find more calmness and clarity in your life at work and home.

Image via Image Catalog/Flickr.

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How to Stay Excited About Your New Year’s Resolutions

February 5, 2019


It’s only February, but has your passion for your 2019 resolutions already waned? You’re not alone. There’s something about that first week of January that excites us and gives us the kick we need to get on the right track. (Maybe it’s just peer pressure!) But just a few short weeks later, we’ve often lost that motivation. These two steps can help you stay focused on your goals throughout all of 2019.

Step 1: Set a monthly goal.
Use the start of each month as a goal post. You can break one goal down into twelve steps or milestones (one for each month). Or try setting a small goal, or theme, for each month such as drinking more water in January or walking 10,000 steps each day in February. Conveniently, one month is about the exact amount of time that productivity experts believe it takes to set a new habit in motion.

Step 2: Grade yourself.
Hold yourself accountable! At the start of each month, check in and see how you’re doing. Or, if you need the motivation, keep track of your goals daily, like a star chart or a little X on a calendar so you can visually see that you’re staying on track. Read more about this tip in detail in our post on how to track your success and failures.

How else do you stay excited about your resolutions and goals?

Image via Bill Dickinson/Flickr. 


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