My #1 Piece of Job Search Advice


Searching for a job can be stressful. If unemployment continues for months, not only does it take a toll on your bank account, but also your self-esteem, confidence, and relationships.

Like most people, over my lifetime I’ve experienced job loss for myself, close family members, friends, and colleagues. Based on my experience, I usually offer this piece of advice:

Don’t get too high when things look good, don’t get too low when things don’t go your way.

Too simple? Perhaps. But conducting a job search is like riding a rollercoaster, only without being able to even see when the peaks and valleys are approaching.

Some weeks are awful

  • You send out a dozen resumes and don’t get a single response
  • You make it to the final round of an interview, only to have the company give the job to someone else
  • You’re watching every dollar, and then find out your car needs costly repairs
  • It seems like the world is out to get you

Other weeks are full of optimism

  • You apply to your dream job and they want to bring you in for an interview
  • At a networking event, you connect with three different people with job openings
  • You rock a phone interview and they now want to meet in person
  • Everything is coming up roses

It’s easier said than done, but avoid the tendency to get caught up in every high and low.

Your hard work pays off with an interview at a great company? Resist posting it on Facebook and telling every family member about the progress of your search right away. Although it feels good to talk about a small win, keep things in perspective, to avoid feeling even worse if it doesn’t work out.

Likewise, try and temper the doom and gloom when things aren’t going your way.

The job search is a rollercoaster. Hang on tight.

The Simple Sentence You Need To Say at the End of Your Interview To Make Your Job Search Less Stressful


Two truths about job searching

  • The process can take a very long time
  • The experience can be very stressful

How long does it take?
While there are certainly stories out there of “Quit on a Friday, had a new job on Monday,” there are enough tales of “hurry up and wait” that I covered the topic fully in Wait For It… Why the Job Search Process Takes So Long.

How stressful can it be?
The main concern here is a spiraling effect. The longer you go without work, the more likely you are to become depressed, unmotivated, and dejected, which in turn will have a negative on your future prospects.

Have you been in this typical interview scenario?

Let’s say you find a great company and have your first interview on Monday, April 1 at 2pm.

You meet with Human Resources and they like you, so you’re also passed along to two additional managers. The interview goes great. It seems like a perfect fit, you have excellent rapport with everyone, and by 4pm HR is shaking your hand and showing you out the door.

The primary thing you should do is to finish strong. Emphasize your enthusiasm about the position, bring up a topic that came up during your meetings, and conclude by commenting how one of your top skills is a perfect match for what they’re looking for.

The final thing most people usually say

As you’re heading out the door, what most people usually say is:

“What are the next steps in the process and when can I expect to hear back?”

A typical response from HR would be:

“We’re really trying to fast track this, so you’ll definitely hear back from us in the next few days.”

You’re thrilled with that response, shake hands excitedly, and head home.

The simple follow-up sentence you should say to save you stress

In this scenario, it is now 4pm on a Monday, and HR has indicated they will get back to you in a few days (assuming Wednesday or Thursday), so the simple sentence you should say is:

“That sounds great. If I don’t hear back from you by Friday afternoon, would it be ok if I followed up with you?”

The inevitable the answer is “Oh sure, no problem at all! But you should really hear from us well before then.”

They don’t know it yet, but they’re lying.

NOTE: Adjust your response as necessary. If it’s Thursday the 10th and they say you’ll hear something “early next week,” ask if you can follow up a week from now (Thursday the 17th).

Book a call

What happens when you DON’T ask that question

Here’s the stressful timeline:

  • Monday: You go home filled with excitement over the interview.
  • Tuesday: You talk to some friends and tell them how well the interview went, saying there’s an outside chance you might hear something today.
  • Wednesday: You start checking your email and phone more often. What did they mean “a few days?” Does that mean two or three?
  • Thursday: OK, today is the day. Your significant other calls you in the afternoon to see if you’ve heard anything back yet. You haven’t. You start to get stressed and fear the worst. Maybe they found a better candidate. You don’t sleep well.
  • Friday, 11am: Clearly today is the day that you will get that call. However, there’s still no word as the hours tick by. You think about emailing HR to find out the status. Or maybe calling. Would texting be weird?
  • Friday, 2pm: You get back from lunch and no email. You ask your friends, “Should I call them? Is that annoying? Will I look desperate?” Their general response is mixed. Some say, “They said they’d get back to you, better not bother them.” Others say to call. Your stress builds.
  • Friday, 4pm: Now you’re really starting to stew. “I can’t believe they haven’t gotten back to me yet.” Your thoughts start to get negative. “You know, I’m not sure if that’s such a great place to work anyway.”
  • Friday, 5:30pm: It’s clear they’re not getting back to you today. As you head to happy hour, your optimism starts to border on anger. You meet up with friends, who all cheerily ask, “So what’s the deal with the new job? Do you have an offer yet?”
  • Friday, 7:51pm: You’re drunk. You spill your drink. You realize you are going to miss the 8pm train, so you’ll have to wait for the 9:13pm.
  • Saturday: It really starts to bother you. As you see other friends, they’re all excited to hear what happened with the big interview from Monday, but all you can say is that you thought it went well, but now you really have no idea.
  • Sunday: Your mom calls. Did you hear anything? Are you eating your vegetables?
  • Monday: You make it until 3pm without a response before finally breaking. In a worst-case scenario, you fire off an email that has an angry undertone that you are annoyed that they said they would get back to you, but didn’t.
  • Tuesday: Things don’t end well.


What really happened

In reality, here is what probably happened on the HR side of things:

  • After your interview Monday, your interviewer spent the rest of the day catching up on email, then went home.
  • She met with another candidate on Tuesday, and the candidate for Wednesday asked if they could reschedule for Thursday.
  • HR calls for a meeting on Friday to discuss everyone’s feedback, but forgets that one of the managers is taking a 3-day weekend, so they plan to meet after lunch Monday.
  • That Monday afternoon meeting goes well, but when HR returns to her desk, there are a bunch of fires to put out and then she needs to head out early to see her son’s Little League game. She plans on contacting all the candidates Tuesday morning.
  • Just before she leaves, she gets your email, which seems a little bitter and angry. Hmm, perhaps not the type of person we want to hire here.

So, did HR blatantly lie when they ASSURED you (twice) that they’d get back to you in a few days? No.

It’s just that things take time. Issues arise. Everything takes longer than you think.

What happens when you DO ask that question

Here’s what happens when you DO ask the question:

“If I don’t hear back from you by Friday afternoon, would it be ok if I followed up with you?”

  • For the next few days you’re certainly hoping for a response, but you’re not anxious when you don’t get one.
  • When Friday comes, you don’t need to agonize about what to do, or whether you’d be bothering them or looking desperate by checking in, because they’ve already given you permission to do so.
  • In fact, it may even help your case because you put out a promise on Monday, and made good by following through on that communication.
  • You send a courteous note asking if they have any progress to report, and wish them a good weekend.
  • In most cases, HR will respond quickly and apologize, explain what happened, let you know the new schedule, and say that you should hear back on Tuesday.
  • You’re free to enjoy your weekend.


So, does this mean that you’ll definitely get the job, or that there won’t be future delays down the line? No. In fact, you might need to repeat the process, inquiring about the next time frame when you should check in.

But when you can find a very easy solution to a very common problem, every little bit helps.

Book a call

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

The December push: Finish the year strong, reap the benefits all year long


When you look at your career calendar, it’s easy to see December as a forgotten month. You stumble into the first week fresh off a Thanksgiving food and shopping hangover, and once the 20th hits, you’re days away from Christmas, which rolls directly into New Years. The “out of office for the rest of the year” and “let’s touch base in January” replies fly fast and furiously.

But before you put on your Santa hat, take a moment to cross off a few things on your wishlist and propel your career forward.

Here are 7 career tips to finish this year strong:

1) Summarize your accomplishments

I consistently advise people to keep a running list of accomplishments throughout the year, updating a text file or Google Document with notes about key projects, revenue numbers, and praise from supervisors. You have been taking meticulous notes all year, right?

Wait, why are you looking at me with a blank stare?

OK, so while there’s a good chance that you haven’t been diligent about jotting down notes all year round, that means now is the time to do it. Go into work an hour early one day and dig through your calendar, your email archive, and other files to really summarize your accomplishments for the year.

  • Did you launch a new project?
  • Sign up several new accounts?
  • Earn any special degrees or certificates?
  • Speak at an event?

Make sure you have all the details in one place, save out any graphics or website screenshots, and tally up any revenue that you brought to the company. You can also go a step further and add it to your resume or LinkedIn profile.

2) Connect with clients

Early December is a great time to reach out to clients you haven’t communicated with in awhile. You’ll catch them before the holiday rush and your name will be top of mind.

Many times companies will be trying to use up the last of their budgets, so see if there’s any final business you can close to finish strong and pad your bottom line.

3) Plan for next year

While you’re still in work mode, reflect back on the last 12 months. How many of your goals did you achieve? And more importantly, why or why not? After doing an honest assessment, set personal and professional goals that you want to achieve.

Depending on your position, think about goals for others — people you manage, your department, or the company as a whole. When you return to work after the holidays, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.


4) Scan the conference circuit

One of the most important aspects of business is having a strong network of connections. One great way to do that is to stay up to date on the latest industry conferences.

This will keep your skills sharp, allow you to connect with new friends, keep an eye on your enemies, and get you out of the office once in awhile to see the big picture. Plot out some of the top conferences you usually attend, and then dig deeper to find some new ones.

5) Find out what you’re worth

You might be 100% content and happy in your current position, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep an eye on your future. Set aside an hour at home one weekend to take a spin through current job postings in your industry and look up the recent compensation numbers on

Keeping up with the latest hiring trends doesn’t mean you’re “cheating” on your current company, you’re merely making sure your skills are up to date and you’re being paid fairly for the work that you do.


6) Ask for that raise

Now that you have your accomplishments in hand, know your goals for the future, and have researched the latest salary numbers, it might be time to ask for that raise. Keep in mind that companies often lock down budgets around this time so don’t wait too long.

If you’re able to show that you’ve accomplished several goals, made the company money, and are a top performer in your group, you can push for the extra funds still sitting in the budget that your co-workers are too lazy to ask for. (Here’s the Salary Tutor GamePlan).

7) Relax and regroup

Congratulations. You’ve stepped up and finished the year strong, which sets you on the right path to reap the benefits all of next year.

Enjoy yourself at the holiday party (go easy on the spiked eggnog lest you find yourself regretting your diatribe to the boss about the lack of a foosball table), plan some downtime, and relax with friends and family. You’ve earned it.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

When to Turn Down a Promotion

Know when to give your boss the thumbs down
Know when to give your boss the thumbs down

Getting a raise.
Climbing the corporate ladder.
Receiving a better title.
Taking on more responsibility.
Advancing your career.

These are the accomplishments that most people in the workforce strive to attain.

Countless resources exist to guide you every step of the way, from entry-level newbie through middle management and all the way up to the executive offices.

How much heartbreak and anger has been exercised lamenting when things don’t go as planned?

  • Why can’t I earn more money?
  • I can’t believe I got passed over for that promotion!
  • My boss is so incompetent, I could do so much better!

So if you are ambitious and fortunate enough to get tapped for that big promotion, there’s no question you’re going to jump at the opportunity, right?

Not so fast.

How many times has history favored someone that has succeeded by doing exactly the opposite of what everyone thinks they should do?

  • In the stock market, when every broker is worked into a frenzy over the next new thing, taking a contrarian view can often lead to profits.
  • When every sports fan and member of the media analyzes the lineups, breaks down the stats, and insists there’s no way that Team A can beat Team B, maybe it’s time to lean the other way (insert your favorite dramatic upset here).
  • When Porsche announced that they’d be launching a bulky SUV for 2003 (the horror!), I remember thinking it was a colossal mistake for the brand. This was a company with a racing heritage that crafted high performance dream cars that made 15 year-olds buy posters and 40 year-olds tap their retirement accounts. The result? The Cayenne made up 57% of Porsche’s sales the next year, and might have saved the company in the long run.

So it was with great interest that I saw Georgetown University professor Cal Newport speak at a conference and take the opposite view of the “climbing the corporate ladder” tradition, which he talks about in his blog Study Hacks.

He told a story we’ve heard numerous times.

A talented employee was recognized for their accomplishments and offered:

  • A better title
  • More money
  • More responsibility managing a team

The problem is, those three things often come with three downsides:

  • More stress
  • More hours
  • Less time actually doing the things you love, both on and off the job

Case 1

In this case, not only did the employee deny the promotion to a higher title, she counter-offered dramatically, saying she would rather spend more time working independently on the projects she was best at, didn’t want to manage a team, and wanted to cut back on her hours, shifting to 4 days per week so that she could pursue a degree in her spare time. Amazing!

Case 2

In the mid 90s when the US economy was unstable, a coworker told me that her father continually refused raises from his employer. Why? He was content financially, loved what he was doing every day, and was concerned that if his salary kept escalating every year, he would become too expensive and be laid off in favor of someone younger and cheaper.

Case 3

I’ve also worked with people that simply get really good at one thing, come in every day and do that one thing, and then go home. For years on end.

For some people (myself included), that would seem like torture. I picture an assembly line worker whose only task was to put the left rear wheel on a Cadillac for 15 years. Yet, some people enjoy having a set routine and being a master at one task.

I saw this with a coworker that was a graphic designer, doing a lot of the grunt work. Yet, he didn’t want to move to doing user interfaces, he didn’t want to manage anyone, and he didn’t want to take on more responsibility. He loved his job, he loved his life outside of work, so he was content to just stay the course.

The key in these situations is to find out what makes you truly happy. If a simplified day job allows you to enjoy the other parts of your life more, why not go that route?

In Mr. Newport’s example, work/life balance and pursuing a degree trumped managing a team and having a corner office. He emphasizes that there are two rules that enable you to get to this point:

1) Master a skill that is rare and valuable
2) Cash in the career capital this generates for the right rewards

These employees had worked incredibly hard to become highly skilled in a specific area … enough to be recognized for a promotion. The difference is, they proposed a non-traditional way to be rewarded. Note: these tactics are not likely to work for an employee just starting out, or one with skills that can be easily replaced.

Bottom line:

You still need to work hard, become skilled, and look to advance your career as much as possible. But at some point when you near the top of the corporate ladder, take the time to look around and survey the landscape to make sure the next step is the best direction for you. Thumbs up!

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

Use a Sniper Rifle, Not a Shotgun Approach: The Advantages of a Highly Targeted Job Search


Maybe it’s the zombies

When interviewing young professionals just out of college, one of my favorite questions to ask is:

“So, what other companies are you interviewing with?”

At first glance, it’s a strange question. In many ways an interview is like a first date, as both parties try and see if there’s a mutual connection. So asking what other companies they are “seeing” is the equivalent of asking who else they’ve been dating.

The real reason for the question is to see how focused their job search efforts are.

In many cases, their approach to getting a job is like a shotgun… load it up, start firing at will, and see what hits — kind of like what happens in zombie movies.

And while the shotgun is just one of the top weapons of choice for the zombie apocalypse (yes I did research on this), I would argue that for a job search, the better tool is a sniper’s rifle.

When you’re trying to get your foot in the door for your first job, the shotgun/zombie approach seems to make sense. You don’t have any experience, you’re looking for your first break, so just get anything and then you can adjust your career path from there.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to use a shotgun in the beginning.

For example, I was hiring for a Technical QA job at a computer startup.

Good candidates: Rattled off a list of detail-oriented positions they had interviewed for — with other software companies in the area.

Bad candidates: Told me how they interviewed at a non-profit on Monday, a bank on Tuesday, a law office on Wednesday, and a yoga studio on Thursday.

Having diverse interests is fine and exploring many options can be worthwhile, but most companies are hiring for a specific need, and will hire the person that best fits that need.

The good news is, as you gain experience in your career, it makes it easier to increase your focus.


Steps you can take to focus your job search

  • Step 1) Do an honest assessment of what you’re good at. What is your unique ability that you can bring to a job?
  • Step 2) Determine what types of companies and industries need that ability
  • Step 3) Narrow the list down to brands that you identify with. Where are places that you’d like to work in terms of culture, fit, and location?
  • Step 4) Find out if there are job openings at these companies that match your skills
  • Step 5) Rather than battling the masses with an online job form, spend the majority of your time researching, networking and using social media to find a connection within the company
  • Step 6) Follow this path as far as you can to get an informational interview to learn about the company’s needs, or ideally a meeting with a hiring manager for an open position
  • Step 7) If this leads to a dead end with your top choice, move on to the next company on your list and repeat. After several weeks if you get through your entire dream job list, go back and politely follow-up with the first company.

Benefits of a sniper approach:

  • It saves time because it allows you to focus on only relevant jobs that fit your skills vs. applying for anything that looks close
  • It increases the power of your network, because all of your friends and colleagues know exactly what you are looking for, making it easier to let you know when a match comes along
  • It increases the chance for a successful interview, since you are only applying for jobs that are a great fit for you
  • When you ultimately land that job, the chances are higher that you’ll be happier and more successful because you’ve found a job you really wanted at a company you’ve chosen, not one that happened to be advertised online


Your ability to target jobs increases with experience

I’ll put my money where my mouth is and give you an example with my own career. Yes, when I started out, I had more of a shotgun approach. But as I gained experience with each successive job, it gave me leverage to become more and more targeted with companies I really wanted to work for.

Phase 1: Shotgun, scattered approach
Just out of college and desperate for a job in a down economy, I reached out to any company with a job opening. As a Computer Science major, while I did focus mainly on tech companies, I sent my resume out at will. I was lucky and beat the odds: after landing my first position, HR later told me that my resume was chosen out of more than 500 applicants.

Phase 2: Geographically targeted approach
A few years later but still in my 20s, I wanted to move to a different part of the country and work in the internet industry. I knew the exact type of job I wanted, then targeted three relevant cities (San Francisco, Seattle, and Austin). I built a unique online profile to set myself apart, and landed a job in Seattle.

Phase 3: Highly targeted approach
After 8 years at the same position, in my late 30s, and with 15 years of experience under my belt, I knew exactly the type of company I wanted to work for. I had a broad network of contacts and made a short list of just 7 companies that I admired and wanted to work for.

I leveraged my social media network to get an interview for a position at WIRED that I saw advertised online (note: I didn’t fight with all the other applicants online, I went through my network instead). While I didn’t get that specific position, once I had an “in” I nailed the interview and was referred to another opening that was at a higher level and an even better match.

Phase 4: Bulls-eye
When you think about it, the most targeted job search is not finding the best job on the market for you, but rather creating the job yourself. I left the corporate world in 2011 and started my own company, allowing me to do exactly what I wanted to do for work.

So when it comes to pursuing your dream job, target the companies you want to work at, narrow your focus, and oh, watch out for zombies.

Need career advice for designing a targeted job search or negotiating your salary once you’ve found that dream job? Let’s talk.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

5 Design Tips to Set You Apart, Land a Job, and Get Paid


Design matters

Whether you consciously think about it or not, design has an influence on the decisions you make every day — the phone you use, shoes you wear, and websites you visit.

Why is it then, that the concept of design still seems to be in the dark ages when it comes to job-hunting?

Many people think that great design is too expensive, but my feeling is that design is an investment.

If you’ve got the knack for it, it’s worth it to take classes and become skilled with the latest software. If it’s not your thing, find a designer that you enjoy working with and that understands your style and build a long-term relationship with them. It will be worth every penny.

Here are 5 overlooked design tips to help you stand out from the pack, land a job, and get paid:

1) Spruce up your resume

Does your Microsoft Word-templated resume have your name and address at the top, a summary of skills, and your work experience in chronological order? Congratulations, so does nearly every other job-seeker going for the same position as you.

If there’s one document that has survived the test of time, it’s the chronological resume. And why not? For the vast majority of people, it’s familiar and it works.

But in a competitive job market, sometimes you need to zig when everyone else is zagging. At minimum, for the love of Times New Roman, do SOMETHING that makes your resume stand out a bit… change the typeface, play with different font sizes, and add a horizontal line or two. Going a little bit further, add some elements of color, reversed text, and even an icon or two.

Sites like LoftResumes can create a resume that stands out
Sites like LoftResumes can create a resume that stands out

Taking it to the next level, re-envision the resume and give it a full design makeover. For $99, will take your blah resume and make it come alive.

The most radical transformation would be turning your resume into an infographic. You can head over to Cool or do a Google search for cool looking infographic resumes, or head over to a site such as

A word to the wise here: Many job boards and in-house screening systems are set up to review hundreds of resumes at a time, using algorithms to scan for matching keywords for open positions. If all you have is a graphic-only resume, you might be passed over.

The solution is simple. Have two versions of your resume. If you’re applying directly online or to a generic email address, go conservative and send your text-only version.

However, you DO know that upwards of 80% of jobs are found through networking, right? When you have a specific connection within a company and are able to email someone directly or leave it with them in person, take the opportunity to set yourself apart.

2) Get a professional headshot photo

When’s the last time you were asked to upload a photo of yourself to the web? Last month? Last week? Today? As the social web has exploded, the number of places that you show your true self has increased as well.


If you’re looking for work, having a professional photo on your LinkedIn profile will give a good first impression to a hiring manager. As you progress in your career, you might be asked for a photo for your company’s website, a conference badge, a story in your college alumni newsletter, or for a bio if you’re speaking on a panel.

But the uses don’t end in the corporate world. Here are just a few sites that ask for a photo: Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, Airbnb, Gmail, Skype, online dating sites, commenting systems, message boards, instant messaging, chat, and the ‘About Me’ section of your blog.

Note: This doesn’t mean that the photo has to be boring. Sure, you’ll want at least one close-up and head-and-shoulders shot while wearing a business-appropriate suit or jacket, but providing a shot that emphasizes your area of expertise and brand can make an impression as well.

Kelly-Senyei-JustATasteFor example, my friend Kelly Senyei is an amazing chef, on-camera host, food blogger, and the author of a great book, Food Blogging for Dummies. So of course it makes sense for her to have a great photo of her in the kitchen, not in the boardroom, for her website Just A

  • So if you’re a chef? Get a great photo creating your signature dish in a busy kitchen
  • Non-profit fundraising manager? Get some shots with those that you love helping
  • Yoga instructor? I’m sure you can figure out the best “pose”

Low on cash? At least find a photography-loving friend with a DSLR that can give you something better than your one-handed self-shot from your iPhone. But for a few hundred dollars, investing in a pro that knows proper lighting and composition is worth it.

3) Customize your Twitter background

If you’re active on Twitter and are going to list it on your resume, take a moment to customize the background. Nothing says “I don’t care” more than not making the effort to change the default graphic. If you’re in a full-on job search, go ahead and say so on the page and make it easy for people to contact you.

A boring Twitter background says "I don't care"
A boring Twitter background says “I don’t care”

This goes for your bio as well. I once announced a job opening to my Twitter followers and got a response from someone saying they were interested, but when I clicked through to their profile, the tagline in their bio said “Slacker extraordinaire.” Not a good way to start things out.

4) Create a cool business card

Remember the part about networking? If you’re doing it right, you’ll be meeting lots and lots of people in person. Carrying copies of your resume is a little too forward, and do you really want to rely on someone typing your multi-syllable email address into their smartphone accurately as you shout it into their ear while at a loud party?


Create a business card for yourself, and make it a good one. There are plenty of great sites out there, such as, (my favorite), and Moo Cards. Best of all, the prices start at… FREE.

But once again, you get what you pay for. Sure, you can have a basic white card with black text with your name, email, and phone that doesn’t cost you a thing. But for just a bit more, you can get a full-color, 2-sided, glossy card on thicker stock that will leave an impression.

Put it this way… even if you spent $400 on design and $100 on production to print up 1,000 business cards that said “web developer for hire” and the FIRST card you handed out resulted in a job paying $50,000 a year, would you be upset over the money spent and 999 cards you needed to throw away? I didn’t think so.

5) Create your own website. Today.

The question today isn’t IF a hiring manager will do a Google search on your name (studies report 75% of companies are required to do so), it’s what they will find when they do it. Who wouldn’t want to help control what people see and put their best foot forward?

Designer Steve Fisher shows what an awesome personal website can look like. Img via
Designer Steve Fisher shows what an awesome personal website can look like. Img via

True story: I was once speaking to a group of students about the importance of owning their own domain name (ie, when job searching. I quoted the stat above, talked about how a good search result could help push down negative results (ie, those beer pong photos from spring break), and the fact that it was very easy and very cheap to do so.

The next day on the classroom chat board, someone posted “Does anyone know of any free places to register your name? All the ones I found require a credit card.”

Now, I could understand if I had said the following… “Building a website is very important to getting a job, even though it takes about 40 hours of work and costs about $3,000.” I get it, students are poor. Free is better than paid.

But in reality, it takes less than 10 minutes to set up a very simple website, and the cost is about $12. A year. It was very difficult for him to argue that $1 per month was not a good “investment” toward building a brand and increasing the chances of getting hired.

But what stuck with me is that creating a website still seems like a daunting and intimidating task for many people. Don’t let it be. (I ended up recording a step-by-step tutorial to walk them through the process, and it was only 7 minutes).


I won’t get into the entire process here, but will give you a few links to explore.

Options for starting your own website:

What if my name is common and someone already has it?
Great question. I went ahead and listed out 7 suggestions if your website name is already taken (and 3 things not to do), such as using another extension (.co or .net) or adding a modifier to your name.


There was a time when you were judged by the college you went to and the grades you received, which were presented on a crisp resume printed on thick ecru-colored paper. And in some locations and some industries, that may still be the case.

But more and more, those that succeed are the people who are able to set themselves apart and prove that they are more than just words on a page, and are able to tell their story in a unique way on paper, in person, and on the web.

Still confused?

I understand, you still have questions.

  • What do I wear for my headshot photoshoot?
  • How do I set up a blog?
  • Can I design a website that looks really cool, and not just job-focused?
  • Wait, what’s the difference between and
  • I need someone to hold my hand!

Don’t worry, I have experience helping people just like you, and a network of contacts that specialize in everything listed above. Drop me an email and let’s discuss the best way to create an online presence for your job search.

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for Affiliate links used if available.

5 Ways To Advance Your Career During Summer


And suddenly, Summer.

Coats go into storage, you’re buying sunscreen by the gallon, and your mind instantly shifts from spreadsheets and status meetings to suntans and sandy beaches.

However, just because you can finally exchange your snowsuit for your swimsuit, it doesn’t mean you should ignore your career for the next few months.

Here are some tips to maintain your good standing at work while maintaining your tan.

1) Take a vacation

Just because your boss is jetting off to his lavish ocean-side villa each weekend, that doesn’t mean you need to set up a beach chair in your cubicle for the next few months. If you have vacation time, take it.

This is something that many people struggle with, especially the Type-A personalities among us. With the boss out of the office, some would argue the benefits of staying at work and getting caught up on all their projects.

Here’s why that doesn’t make sense. A study from staffing agency Robert Half says 39% of American workers won’t use all their vacation time. If you’ve worked hard to negotiate your pay, your title, and your benefits, why leave any perks on the table?

Working too hard and NOT taking a vacation can lead to career burnout and elevated levels of stress on the job. Even the best employee can’t operate at peak performance at all times, so take time off to recharge your batteries, and come back from the break even more productive.

Trust me, all those items in your inbox will still be there when you get back, and before you know it, you’ll once again be cursing reports of 8-12” of snow and a wind chill factor in the teens.

2) Diversify your summer reading

Listen, I’m not going to tell you to go cold turkey and completely abandon your US Weekly magazine, the latest spy thriller, or the steamy romance novel topping the best-seller charts while you’re sitting by the pool.

But summer is a great time to mix in a business book that can help forward your career. Some of my favorites?

  • The 4-Hour Workweek for putting your work life in perspective
  • Strengths Finder 2.0 for analyzing what you’re best at on the job
  • The $100 Startup for some entrepreneurial inspiration
  • Who Moved My Cheese? for a simple classic to help you deal with change
  • Check out more of my favorites in the Salary Tutor Bookstore

So when you’re heading to the beach, skip the books about “Lean Diet” and instead pick up “Lean In.”

3) Double down on networking

When it comes to expanding your realm of business connections and advancing your career, there are two rules that always rise to the top:
1) The vast majority of jobs are found through networking
2) You need to build your network before you need it

summer-wedding-coupleSummer activities present some unique opportunities you might not have at other times throughout the year. Instead of meeting the person in the suit and tie (and scarf and overcoat) stuffed into the folding chair next to you at a crowded conference in February, strike up a conversation with the guy next to you in cargo shorts and flip flops while you wait your turn for the next burger coming off the barbecue grill.

Whether it’s a summer wedding, backyard fireworks, or a concert in the park, expanding your social circle can often lead to business leads or job offers once the dog days of August are over.

Or, if you’re eager to get right into search mode, use your summer Fridays to go on interviews, just to see what’s out there.

4) Review your plan

Have you been so focused on your day-to-day job that you haven’t looked up from your desk in 6 months? Plan a long weekend away to really take stock of where you are in your career.

Ask yourself some honest questions:

  • How has your job changed in the past year?
  • When was the last time you got a raise or promotion?
  • Is your career advancing the way you want it to?
  • And simply, do you like doing what you’re doing?

What if you assess where you are and don’t like what you see? Are you working in a job you don’t enjoy, with co-workers you can’t stand, and a manager that stresses you out? Or maybe you just realized that the career you are in is not a good match for your skills and passions.

For many businesses, the summer months of July and August are much slower, both in terms of business and hiring. Take advantage of this time to prepare for a career change:

  • Update your resume
  • Create a web presence and a portfolio of your best work
  • Go on informational interviews to learn more about new opportunities
  • Research the market value for salaries for someone with your experience

When September rolls around and companies renew their focus, you’ll be ready to go.

5) Expand your skills

After a long day of work, it’s all too easy to come home, plop down on the couch, and catch up on the latest reality show, sporting event, or cheesy sitcom.

But as the season finales unfold (with a shocking twist!) and the pro hockey and basketball champions are named, resist the urge to delve into reruns all summer. Instead, allocate a few evenings a week to taking classes and updating your skills.

Skills to enhance your career and life (Choose 1 from each category):

Formal classes
Maybe you’ve watched as co-workers with an MBA or other advanced degree leap-frogged over you for that promotion – and higher salary. This could be a good time to get back to school and expand that education, whether it’s an additional degree or a required certification for your industry. So if an MBA or grad school is in your future, sign up for a GMAT course or get the ball rolling.

New media skills
Whether you’re a dialed in tech geek that needs to know the absolute latest programs, or an older worker determined to stay up with the times, technology is constantly changing, and there are dozens of new media websites and programs to be mastered:

  • How to set up a blog
  • How to use Twitter
  • Effective use of LinkedIn
  • Photoshop / design skills
  • Digital video editing
  • App and mobile development
  • Writing and editing for the web
  • Web analytics and reporting

Passion project
If you’ve ever said “I’ve always dreamed of doing [passion project]” don’t wait another day. Various studies show the average American watches 3-5 hours of TV per day, so cutting out TV this summer would free up at least 20 hours a week to put toward your goal. Maybe it’s self-publishing a book, launching an online business, or volunteering.

Fun classes that also provide value at work
Expanding your skills doesn’t have to be seen as a chore, and might pay dividends in the workplace down the line.

  • Taking an improv comedy class with a friend might lead to more confidence speaking in front of groups at work and thinking on the fly
  • Learning to use your DSLR camera in a photography class will not only allow you to take better photos of friends hiking through the mountains, it could also give you an eye for great content for your company’s social media sites
  • Starting a food blog might be a great way to make sure grandma’s recipes are available to family members spread across the country, while the skills you learn (installing WordPress, basic HTML, uploading photos and videos) could translate to projects at work

As you read this, ask yourself what will be more important as the sun sets on summer… spending some time maintaining – and improving – your good standing at work, or maintaining your tan?

Note: A version of this article first appeared in a post for

Laid off: The first 6 things you need to do

Laid Off

It’s the relationship equivalent of “We need to talk.”

You stroll into the office on a Friday morning that seems like every other, upgrading to a large coffee to push away the headache from last night’s extra glass of wine at dinner. You comment on some reality show drama to your co-workers, then head for your desk to start the day.

However, your boss catches you just as you’re about to sit down, surprising you with the innocuous request:

“Can you step into my office for a moment? I need to chat with you about something.”

Ten minutes later your world is crashing around you. You know that your supervisor specifically explained the situation — it was as if they were reading off a script — but your brain couldn’t process all the buzzwords like “hierarchy restructuring” and “corporate reorganization” and “economic budget constraints” because your mind was racing trying to process the one truth that was abundantly clear:

You’ve lost your job.

Before you get ready to jump out the nearest window, there are certain things you can do right away to help things go a bit more smoothly. Here is a 6-step action plan.


1) Control your emotions

Everyone reacts differently in a crisis situation. In fact, emotions when losing your job are similar to unceremoniously getting dumped by your boyfriend or girlfriend: anger, confusion, disbelief, sadness, fear, and self-doubt.

We’ll start with the obvious and say that while angrily throwing chairs around might make you feel good in the moment, it’s going to reflect badly on your integrity down the line. Likewise for bursting into tears. Although it may be difficult, you’ve got to spring into action and think logistically.

Resist the urge to press for more details: Is this about my performance? What can I do to change this? What if I take a pay cut or vow to work harder?

In reality, all of these things have been considered already and the decision has been made. There’s nothing you can do about it, so focus on actions moving forward.

2) Evaluate your timeline

What to do when laid offIn cases with high-level executives or when sensitive company information is at stake, someone from Human Resources — and possibly security — may instantly appear to confiscate your ID and escort you out of the building.

In other examples, you’ll be asked to stay on staff for a few more days, allowing you to have a “soft exit,” wrapping up projects with existing clients and transferring knowledge to whoever will be taking over your job (always an awkward transition).

Determining which scenario is happening to you will dictate how quickly you need to do the rest of your tasks.

3) Back up your files

What a company fears most (besides the chair-throwing incident) is a disgruntled employee stealing private company information. To be clear, a scenario where a laid off salesperson grabs their “Rolodex” of client names with the intention of luring them away is both illegal and unethical. According to one study, 1 in 4 departing employees steal data when leaving.

Further complicating things in the digital age are the myriad of passwords that employees have for company servers or social media sites. With access to a company’s brand page on Facebook or Twitter, an angry employee can spread his displeasure to millions within minutes.


Again, I want to emphasize that I am not advocating taking any company property that doesn’t belong to you. The fact is, most employment contracts specify that everything you do and create while at the company is legally theirs. No questions asked.

However, what about retrieving personal information from your work computer? Is it a good practice to keep your work files and personal files completely separate from each other? Of course. But some people may not have a computer of their own. So if the only place the seating chart spreadsheet for your upcoming wedding resides is on your company laptop, your boss will usually understand.

In the middle can be a gray area. What if you work at a non-profit and there are photos of you at a charity event that you hosted for the company? What if you work at an advertising agency and edited an award-winning video, and want to use that in your portfolio? The relationship you have with your employer will dictate how these questions are answered.

4) Inform the people that work for you

When I was most recently laid off, it was very important to me that the four employees that I managed hear the news directly from me. They surely knew that something was up when they received an urgent request to drop everything for a meeting, and the news came as a shock to them. However, they felt better that they were able to hear the entire story first-hand, and then be able to ask questions.

5) Get everything in writing

There’s a good chance that the company is way ahead of you in terms of the details of your departure. Consider all of the possible elements:

  • Determining your last day
  • Receipt of your last paycheck
  • Claiming unused vacation time
  • Severance pay
  • Bonus eligibility
  • Continuation of health benefits
  • Retirement savings accounts
  • Unemployment assistance

There’s no way that you can process everything at once, so be sure they give you everything in writing. Do not sign anything until you’ve had time to go through all the details and ask any questions.

6) Control the message

This is one of the most important steps in the process, but one that few people consider. In the new economy, people are becoming their own media companies.

Even if they have a full-time job, they “market” and “advertise” themselves as they craft their own personal brand on Facebook, Twitter, online video, and photos.

What they need to do in this case is also be their own publicist.

control the message

It’s a sad fact that any kind of office turmoil will immediately be followed by office gossip. Human nature dictates that there will be some people thrilled to be the first person to inform everyone, “Did you hear the news? Joe and Sue just got fired!”

Rarely are the facts correct as gossip spreads.

The sentiment at best is “Poor Joe, he must be devastated” and at worst “I bet it was because he failed on his latest project.”

What follows is the outline of an email that I sent to employees in my department that I was close to, and the intention behind it.

Sample e-mail when laid off

“Hello, by now you’re probably aware that my job was eliminated this morning during the reorganization.”

[This addresses the situation, emphasizes the fact that it was a result of the restructure and not performance-based, and gives people words to repeat].

“However, I will be here through the end of the week to help with the transition. During this time, you don’t have to “tip-toe” around the issue so feel free to stop by.”

[When something like this happens in an office, people don’t know how to react. In my case, I immediately saw how awkward everyone was, as they didn’t know whether to avoid me or to console me. I broke the ice by telling them I was fine and this made sense to them since I was cooperating during the transition].

“In fact, rather than feel sorry for me, you’ll probably want to wipe the smile off of my face since I’m actually really excited. As you know, I have a myriad of side projects including my book, my blog, and speaking opportunities. I’ve already started researching working remotely from Buenos Aires.”

[Is this bragging a bit and putting a PR spin on the story? Yes. However, the reason it works is that it was 100% true. People knew of my side interests, I had already started developing a plan to quit my job in the next 6 months, and I ended up keeping my promise — I was working from a cafe in South America exactly 6 weeks later.]

If done right, the sentiment can turn from “that poor person lost their job” to “Hmmm, I kind of wish I didn’t have to work either.”

The gossip crowd loves when someone is blindsided by news, so another alternative would be to say “I knew with this economy no job was safe, so fortunately I’ve kept my resume up to date, I have a wide range of professional contacts, and I’ve already started planning out companies that I am going to reach out to.” The key here?

Show that you are being proactive about the news.

The final step I took was emailing a group of employees, vendors, and contacts outside of my immediate department. For me, this included the editor in chief of both WIRED Magazine and, the close staff I worked with in the San Francisco office, and all the various mentors and fantastic coworkers I had worked with in this large company over the past 5 years.

I quickly detailed the situation, said what a privilege it was working with them, and gave them helpful information on who to contact for my old obligations, and how to keep in touch with me in the future. Again, it really helps if this was true. I really did enjoy my 5 years there, and made a lot of good friends.

High-level executives don’t like to be caught by surprise with information, so they appreciate being told the facts right away and being in the know. Everyone can be gracious when things are going well, but taking the high road when situations change shows your true character should your paths cross again.

By following these action items, not only can you avoid burning bridges, but you can actually build some on the way out. That’s a good thing for any kind of relationship.

The new economy is here. Are you still using old job search skills?

“In these uncertain economic times…”

That phrase entered our lexicon within the past few years, becoming the default lead-in sentence for politicians, newscasters, and CEOs alike before delivering bad news about jobs or the economy.

The recession took its toll on the workforce in different ways:

- Many fell victim to cutbacks and were laid off, as an estimated 8 million U.S. jobs were lost from 2007-2010.

- College graduates that eagerly entered their freshman year in the fall of 2005 or 2006 when unemployment was around 4.6% walked across the stage and directly into a buzz saw of twice that rate in May 2009 and 2010.

- Those remaining hunkered down at their current jobs during the “budget freeze” era, accepting that “not getting laid off is the new getting promoted.”

When will the economy fully be recovered? No one can say for sure as various industries will rebound faster than others, and some segments have been forever altered.

One thing’s for sure, a lot has happened during this time. Whether you’re ready to redouble your job search efforts, determined to get that first job and move out of your parent’s basement, or have decided to search for greener pastures, it’s a good idea to make sure your job search skills have evolved to match the new economy.

The new networking

A common mistake some job-seekers make is spending too much time searching for the perfect position on job boards. In reality, studies have shown that upward of 80% of jobs are found through networking.

So while “” is fine for seeing what companies are hiring and what positions are in demand, a better use of your time spent online would be cultivating your network.

Clearly, many people got the message and built out their network during the recession. Between March 2008 and March 2011, jumped from 20 million members to 100 million, making it one of the largest social networking sites on the web. A new person joins every second.

Instead of: Shotgunning resumes to random companies that you might want to work for

Try: Target a handful of places where you’d love to work, then use LinkedIn to cultivate a broad network and find a connection to someone that works there.

Sitting down for a cup of coffee with your old fraternity brother’s cousins’s girlfriend might seem like a long-shot, but if she knows of a job opening that hasn’t been advertised yet, she can hand deliver your resume to HR and bypass hundreds of competing candidates.

The new resume

There are some basic tips to make sure your standard resume is up to par:

- Save it as a PDF format so that it can be universally read. There are still just enough differences in Microsoft Word versions and Mac vs PC conversions that someone opening your perfectly aligned resume with the Copperplate Gothic Bold font could see something quite different than what you intended.

- Name your document Firstname_Lastname_Resume.pdf.  If you name your file something generic (resume.pdf) or unique to you (Mktg-Res-RevisedVer3.4.pdf), it will get lost if a recruiter saves all the documents in one folder.

- Likewise, use a professional email address. is good. is not.

But the traditional resume is not enough. You should also have a web presence.

For writers, designers, videographers and other creatives, a professional looking, up-to-date website with examples of your work is a must.

But what about your average Joe? Having your own website presence gives companies a landing page when they Google you (and yes, they will Google you), and is easier than you think.

Step 1) Secure your URL

Head over to a site such as and register your name. Of course, the chances of the domain being available is a lot greater if your name is Horatio Knickerbocker vs John Smith, so you might need to get creative by adding your middle initial, a nickname, or another word such as “online” to the name.

Step 2) Set up your website

One of the fastest and easiest ways to set up a web presence is through a site called ( This allows you to add a description of who you are and what you do, a quick photo, and links to your social media profiles.

Step 3) Redirect people to your profile

Go back to and find a “URL Redirect” section under your account and point your personal domain name ( to the page that you created ( This gives you an easier to remember, more streamlined version that will appear higher in search engines.

Note: For a more robust website, see my article “How to Create a Personal Website.”

The new power suit

In simpler times, picking out an outfit for an interview was easy. For men, it was as simple as getting a navy suit, a crisp white shirt and a power tie. But now that some offices seemingly mandate hoodies and jeans as standard dress, things get complicated.

To be clear, when on an interview, you should always look as professional as possible, and in many cases that means a suit and tie. But the key is knowing your audience. A Wall Street finance job will be much different than a startup in Silicon Valley.

If a full suit and tie feels too much for the company culture you are meeting with, you could lose the tie. Another option is to keep the dress pants, dress shirt, and tie, but lose the jacket. And in some cases, the best mix of “casual yet respectful” is a dress shirt and jacket paired with a pair of new, clean, dark jeans.

Consider the advice of former Apple, Inc evangelist Guy Kawasaki, who encourages people to “dress for a tie” in business meetings. He says:

If you show up wearing ripped jeans a hoodie to a formal meeting where everyone else is wearing suits, you’re saying “I don’t respect you”… if you show up wearing a suit and oozing style to a casual meeting where everyone else is dressed down, you’re saying “I am better than you”… shoot for a relatively even match.

The new portfolio

The photos we take, the videos we shoot, and the journalism we read have all gone digital. No longer the sole realm of design and photography creatives, the portfolio has gone digital as well.

The concept is simple… why tell the interviewer about the skills you have, when you can do one better and show them?

- Are you a marketer that worked on an extensive online campaign? Take screenshots of the website, ad banners, and emails that were sent.

- Are you an event planner that hosted a successful event for a client? Display promotional materials, multiple photos from the day, and written testimonials from clients.

- Are you the director of fundraising for a non-profit? Wow them with a short video of the kids that your company is striving to help.

Best of all, you no longer need to lug in a heavy laptop, power it up, and find room on someone’s desk to display your highlights. With the advent of the Apple iPad and other tablets, you can create a compelling portfolio and simply hand the device to the interviewer for them to swipe through at their own pace.

The new negotiation

In the past, when pressed for salary requirements, you might have taken your current compensation, added 20%, and hoped for the best. Or took a wild guess at what the job was paying. Or outright lied through your teeth.

Now, technology has leveled the playing field. Sites like and give you up-to-date, competitive salary ranges for most every job in every industry. On the site, you can even see specific feedback on specific companies.

While many are hesitant to haggle over salary at all given the recent job climate, the fact is that if you do your homework and approach the conversation with data to back up your argument, most companies have wiggle room above and beyond their initial offer. The key is to ask.


As “these uncertain economic times” start to develop a bit more certainty, there are several key things that you can do to improve your chances at landing the job you want. Update your job skills to the new economy and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed.

Did your co-worker steal your raise?


The person sitting next to you at work has been acting peculiar.

Nothing dramatic… after all, you’ve shared the same workspace for years, worked on several successful projects together, and survived a round of layoffs back in 2009, coming out fine on the other side.

But it’s the little things…

  • There’s a new hop in their step as they go to and from meetings
  • You see them hanging out near the VP’s office more often
  • And that outfit they’re wearing today looks great on them… is it new?

Eventually you can’t help but think:

Did my co-worker steal my raise?

There’s no doubt the economy was down for the count in recent years:

  • An estimated 2.6 millions jobs lost in 2008
  • 32% of companies freezing salaries in 2009
  • Unemployment above 9% for all of 2010
  • The Occupy Wall Street movement highlights economic inequality in 2011

You’re thinking to yourself, “I can’t get a raise or ask for more money because the economy is still bad, right? Right?”

Well, for sure — no matter when you’re reading this — there will be some sectors that never recover. A renaissance in Detroit will probably take at least a decade, some housing markets are still out of whack, and some industries like publishing, music, and higher education will continue to face some form of disruption.

But as far back as December 2010, a year-end survey by research group Mercer found that a whopping 98% of companies said they planned to raise base pay in 2011.  And those salary freezes? Human Resources firm Towers Watson said only 5% of companies planned on doing so in 2011.

So yes, perhaps your boss is still holding the company line that “the economy is unstable” when you’re thinking about a pay increase.

Or perhaps it’s just an excuse in your head because you’re afraid.

What are three things you can do to get your piece of the pie?

1) Ask

The first thing to do is the easiest. Just because revenue is rebounding doesn’t mean companies are automatically giving across the board bumps in pay. They’re just not going to volunteer it. You need to ask. but you’ll need to do it the right way.

Let’s say you go in and complain that you need more money because your 401(k) tanked, the value of your house plummeted, and everything is more expensive. You whine about how cheap the company is for not giving you a raise for a few years, and you heard that Larry over in finance makes more money than you. Your boss says he’ll think about it.

Now let’s say your co-worker comes in with a plan, outlining the things that really matter:

  • Numbers showing how much the company made on their last project
  • Cost savings from the most recent budget numbers
  • Special training and certification that only they have

Who would you give the raise to?

2) Be a Rock Star

The good news is that raises are out there for some people. The average raise is usually around 3%.  The even better news is, since 2012 that’s finally beating inflation.


The way to stay in the black is to outshine your co-workers and be the Rock Star of the office. If you’re staying in your current job, your best bet for a larger increase is a promotion. How to pull that off? Take on tasks that make your boss’ job easier. Volunteer to work on high-profile or revenue-generating projects. Be a mentor to newer employees. Come in early or stay late. Stay up on industry trends. Present a new way to make the company money.

In short, make your work stand out so that your boss can’t help but reward you.

3) If you don’t like the answer they give, it might be time to test the market.

Even if you still enjoy your current job, going on an interview will let you know what your value is on the marketplace, and what skills are important. If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked, after you’ve updated that red power tie, make sure your other skills are up to date as well:

  • Refresh your resume – Paying special attention to new technology and social media skills you may have learned. Better yet, build a digital portfolio.
  • Tap into your network – Remember that upwards of 80% of all jobs are found through networking, and the web has made it easier than ever.
  • Hone up on salary negotiation skills – The HR manager on the other side of the table negotiates salary for a living. You don’t. But that doesn’t mean you should be unprepared and freeze up when they ask your salary requirements. Check out one of my courses or hire me as a coach to get back up to speed.

So if you look over at your co-worker and they’re sitting there with a smirk on their face – and using a cashmere mousepad – they may be making more money than you. It’s time to take action.