How to Create a Kick-Ass Resume That You Can Send to Anyone Who Asks for It

You just told your friend that you’re going to start the job search and she enthusiastically responds with, “Send me your resume, I’ll send it around.” Or you find an “in” at your dream company and are told just to email over your resume, despite there being no relevant positions available. How do you send something as powerful as possible when there’s nothing to “tailor” your materials to?

The solution is easier than you’d think, because that was actually a trick question. There’s always something you can use as a guide. With that in mind, here are three things—other than a clear position description—you can use to help shape your resume.

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How to Show You’re Truly Excited for a Job in a Cover Letter (Without Coming Off Desperate)

You can debate whether cover letters are dead as much as you’d like, but that won’t change the fact that some hiring managers will continue to read them, and to those people, what you write still matters. Knowing that, it’s worth taking some time to think about what message you want to send.

And no, the message shouldn’t simply be “Hire me.” Everyone’s application can be summed up with those two words. The best examples always have a “because” attached that explains why you deserve to be hired.

In other words, if you were to distill your whole letter into one line it would be: “Hire me, because I have a ton of relevant experience,” or “Hire me, because you’re a two-person company and I know how to wear a ton of hats as things evolve,” or the ever-popular, “Hire me, because I’m incredibly excited about this position.”

As you may’ve noticed, that last line isn’t quite as strong as the first two—at least not off the bat. While it shares why you’re interested, it doesn’t mention what you’d bring to the role. It only covers your passion for the position. Sure, you’re excited about the position, in love with the company, and obsessed with the industry. But while your goal may be to distinguish yourself as someone who’d go the extra mile because you genuinely care, you end up blending into a crowd of notes that read more like fan mail.

Don’t get me wrong: Enthusiasm can be a strong selling point. But you have to package it correctly so that it speaks to how you’d be a capable hire. Here’s how to reframe three of the most common (and worst) lines:

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9 Smart Moves to Make When Nothing’s Going Right in Your Job Search

Your job search is dragging on—and on—and nothing seems to be clicking. You’re sending out a massive number of applications, and no one is calling you in for an interview. Or you’re landing a ton of interviews, but you’re never getting an offer.

It’s disheartening, and you may be tempted to give up, because what you’re doing just isn’t working. But instead of throwing in the towel, check out these nine tips to shake up your routine: They could just make the difference.

1. Go Back to the Drawing Board

In her article How to Apply for Fewer Jobs (But Land More Interviews), Muse Writer Kristen Walker shares the “‘nine-out-of-10’ rule.” The idea is that you only apply to jobs that you like enough to rank as a nine, on a 10-point scale.

This way, you can redirect the energy you’re spending applying to positions you’re only slightly interested toward ones you really want. It’ll give you more time to research companies, tailor applications, and prepare and follow-up during each stage of the process. This should eliminate the feeling of futility that your resumes are going nowhere.

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3 Times You Should Tell Your Boss That It's Actually Not Your Best Work

Everyone has an occasional crisis of confidence. You’re about to turn something in, and you wonder, “Is it good enough?” Then, your next thought is, “Do I need to say something to my boss?”

There are definitely times when it’s just a bout of impostor syndrome; and by ignoring your inner critic, you avoid a situation in which your manager would’ve loved your work, but because of how you frame it, she starts to question it, too. However, there are other situations in which you need to speak up, so you can get the guidance you need to make something better.

It’s not always easy to tell one scenario from the other, but here are three times you should always be honest that you’re unsure of what you’re handing in:

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3 Email Templates That'll Make Asking for a Favor Feel Less Awkward for Both People

All too often, people make requests for your time or expertise that just aren’t feasible. It’s why Muse Founder and COO Alex Cavoulacos wrote a helpful article with advice for declining an email introduction you never agreed to.

Once you’ve been on the receiving end—feeling uncomfortable with an ask to connect a distant contact with the most impressive person in your network, or dreading a call for someone to pick your brain when you don’t have the time—you become more sensitive to not wanting to put others in a similar position.

And that’s a good thing, because if you’re extra thoughtful, they’ll notice and be more inclined to help you when they can. (Not only that, but if you always give other people an out, it’s less awkward when you decline a request from them that doesn’t make sense on your end.)

So, here are three templates to ask for a favor—in a way that lets the other person say “no” and still save face:

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3 Great Lessons You Can Learn From Working With People Who Drive You Crazy

We’ve all worked with someone who’s not winning any awards for how he or she interacts with others in the office. Whether it’s the boss who plays favorites, the co-worker who has no boundaries, or the recent grad who doesn’t take work seriously; there will often be a teammate who brings you down.

Your first thought may be to seek out strategies to work with this person as little as possible. And yes, that’ll help keep you sane. But if all you focus on is cordially coping with his or her bad habits, you’re actually missing out on a major learning opportunity. That’s because, just like that incredible boss or inspiring teammate who teaches you skills you’ll never forget; working with that person who drives you crazy can also be really valuable.

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How to Be Productive at Work (Even if You Got Nothing Done all Morning)

It’s been proven that productivity is higher in the morning than it is later in the day. So, when the hours before lunch don’t go according to plan (your commute is unnaturally long, a meeting runs way over or emails take hours longer than expected), it’s natural to feel like the day will only go downhill from there.

However, a wasted morning doesn’t have to devolve into a worthless day. Here are three easy ways to get back on track based on your current mood.

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The Pain-Free Way to Keep Your Resume Updated and Ready for Anything

The logic behind updating your resume is a bit of a riddle. Unless you’re actively sending out applications, you’ll put off revising it until tomorrow. But all too often, great opportunities appear unexpectedly, and you’ll wish you’d edited it yesterday.

That’s because you might not be consciously looking for a new job, but then you see an amazing opening (with a fast-approaching application deadline). Or, you’re invited to join a panel or connect over email with a prestigious contact, and you need to attach your resume. And your heart sinks a bit as you realize you haven’t even opened it since you landed your last position over a year ago.

So, you set out to update it in a hurry, accepting that you’ll have no time to adjust how it’s organized, or even to send it to a friend for proofreading. The best you can do is try to see if there’s anything major you should add (like a new side gig or volunteer role), but otherwise you leave it pretty much as is. Sure, that’s not the worst thing in the world, but there’s a better way.

The trick is to spend a few minutes each month making sure your resume is up to date. I’m not suggesting you overhaul it every four weeks: Seriously, you’ll drive yourself crazy! Instead, I’m suggesting a line here or there and then reading it out loud. By making these three updates each month, you’ll be 100% prepared the next time some great opportunity comes along.

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4 Tough Job Search Truths (That You Just Have to Accept)

You embark on a job search because you want a new (better) position. It’s the very opposite of an “enjoy the journey” endeavor. You’re not in it because of the joys of interviewing: You’re sticking it out for the end result.

But like so many goals that involve an arduous process (going back to school, training for a long-distance race, launching a side gig), there are days when you just want to quit. You want to cut through the inefficiencies that are there “just because,” and find a friend and a bottle of wine so you can rant about how stupid and hard it all is.

On the bright side, you’re completely entitled to the friend, the bottle of wine, and the rant. But, that daydream of opting out of every annoying part the job search process? While pretty much everyone would agree with you that certainly aspects totally suck, they too know that there are boxes you just have to check to be considered for a new role.

With that in mind, here are four hard search job truths you’re going to have to accept in order to be successful.

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How to Respond to an Email That Didn't Answer Your Question

You followed the best practices to get a response to your email, including shortening the overall length and simplifying your language. But you still didn’t get back the response you needed.

Maybe you asked a series of questions and got back a two-word, “Sounds good!” Or you could have asked what to do next and received a reply with no indication of how to move forward.

These kinds of cryptic emails are nearly as inconvenient as receiving no response at all. You need to follow up to get the information you were originally looking for, but you also have to be diplomatic about it. You can’t simply type back, “Could you re-read the email, pay attention to the paragraphs I spent so much time preparing, and answer my questions directly?”

So, try these phrases, which will help you get the answers you need (and help everyone save face).

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Easy-to-Remember Lines Unemployed Grads Can Use to Answer Questions About Their Future Plans

You did it: You graduated from college! And now, everywhere you go, you’ll be met with the same questions about your future plans.

Sure, it’s a nice break from having to explain Snapchat to everyone over 30; but these conversations can easily veer from predictable to awkward. That’s because if you already had a job lined up, you could just repeat the same canned speech about your start date, the company, and the nice person who interviewed you. But if you don’t have anything in the pipeline, it’s a lot harder to know what to say.

Thankfully, there are a few easy lines you reply with that may even lead you to a job opening!

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The Simple Mistakes That Are Stalling Your Job Search

It’s a job seeker’s worst nightmare: You have the right experience and you’ve found the right role, but somewhere along the way, you make a mistake that disqualifies you.

Now that you’re sufficiently scared by that scenario, you should know that most of these impossible-to-recover-from mistakes are also totally avoidable.The trick is knowing about these costly—but all too common, and often well-intentioned—errors in advance, so you can be sure to sidestep them as you go through the process.

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How to Balance Growing Your Professional Network and Keeping Up With Your Personal Contacts

More than three-quarters of recruiters find applicants via LinkedIn. Job seekers referred by a current employee land the job nearly 66 percent of the time. If you’re a career changer, someone in your desired industry can give you valuable pointers for submitting a successful application for a role in their field. And even if you have your dream job, your professional contacts remain important — there to share advice and resources, especially when you’re facing new or challenging situations.

In other words, you can’t overstate the importance of networking for your career. But in a time-crunched, maximize-every-minute culture, where are you going to find the opportunity to connect?

Muse writer Alex Honeysett suggests planning monthly events or finding a group on Meetup or Facebook to stay connected without a large investment of time. But even these doable options have never provided a lasting solution for me. I often find that when I’m in a pattern doing an excellent job keeping up with professional contacts, I’ll end up spending proportionately less time reaching out to loved ones. When I participate in career-oriented events, I invariably schedule them at the expense of social obligations to conserve energy. Likewise, on the weeks that I’m better about updating social profiles and inviting influential people to connect, I do a terrible job of replying to personal messages.

So how you do you build your professional network without simultaneously watching your personal connections languish? Here’s how to balance personal and professional correspondence, and network in a way that makes sense for you.

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3 Times You Should Take a Break from Looking for a Job

Often when a tough task isn’t quite clicking, you know the best way to change things up is to take a break. You’ll come back refreshed, with a new perspective that can help you break through a mental block.

And yet, so often when the job search is getting people down, they take a more-is-more approach. Your first 10 applications haven’t gotten a response? Send 15 more! You’ve been spending 30 minutes each day browsing open positions? Bump it up to an hour!

This motivation to double-down is understandable: If you’re actively searching, odds are you’re either unemployed or unhappy in your current role, so you want to know you’re doing all you can to find something ASAP.

However, the last thing you want to do is get in your own way. With that in mind, here are three signs you should back away from the search for a little bit, plus ideas for exactly how to do it.

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The Small Change That'll Make People More Inclined to Write You Back on LinkedIn

You’re on LinkedIn to network, and in some ways, it’s never been easier. The platform updates you when someone lands a new job, is mentioned in the news, or is celebrating a work anniversary. And taking it one step further, it’ll even create an automated message for you so you don’t have to spend too long thinking up what to say.

While that sounds like a great idea—because you can connect with less time and effort—it can actually backfire. I know because I recently celebrated a work anniversary, and my inbox is filled with one message after the next that reads, “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”

It’s a lovely thought, but in reality, that’s all it is—a passing thought. I feel like the sender—while being nice—didn’t take the time to write anything specific for me to respond to. So, I haven’t gotten back to anyone (which kinda defeats the entire point of sending the message). Maybe I sound cold, but I don’t think I’m alone in skipping past a form email.

Naturally, this got me thinking on what I would’ve responded to. It is just a work anniversary, it’s not like I needed flowers. And the answer’s surprisingly simple: One personalized line. That’s all—that’s the big secret. If someone had shifted the wording just a bit and mentioned anything about me, it would’ve stood out (and I’d have known the person was hoping I’d write back). Not to mention, one additional piece of information would’ve given me a jumping off point to respond.

To help you do this, I’ve come up with a few templates for you to use. And, it gets even better: Since this strategy doesn’t just apply when sending “congrats” messages, I’ve also included options for other situations.

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3 Ways to Increase the Likelihood Someone Will Reply to Your Email

In an article for The Atlantic, writer Joe Pinsker split email recipients into two categories: those who let emails pile up, unattended; and those who felt compelled to respond as quickly as possible. It’s certainly worth considering that some people, by habit, reply immediately and others do so in bulk several days later.

However, as the email sender, your primary concern is hearing back — regardless if it’s thirty minutes or three days later. After all, why would you bother sending an email unless you were hoping it’d be read? And, particularly if it includes a question or a matter for follow-up, you want to increase your chances of a response.

When the number of business messages received per day in 2015 averaged 76 "legitimate emails,” it’s no surprise that some get lost in the shuffle. To encourage others to reply, utilize the best practices below. 

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3 Times When Good Bosses Take a Step Back

You take a lot of pride in being a boss and in running a tight ship. There’s no time for confusion or for mistakes, so in an effort to avoid that you go out of your way to be extra clear and check in as often as possible.

As well-meaning as these efforts are, they can sometimes backfire. Over-communicating is at best a little annoying, and at worst, a reminder that you don’t think your team’s capable of getting the job done.

So, here’s a friendly reminder to give everyone you work with more credit. I promise that delegating isn’t akin to leaving someone on a deserted island. You can do this!

In fact, you can do this by starting to trust your team to do the following:

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3 Lines from Commencement Speeches That'll Help You at Any Point in Your Career

Graduation day’s right around the corner, which means various successful people will be delivering commencement speeches. And while their target audience may be 22-year-olds, they’re often doling out their very best advice—which can help anyone, at any stage in their career.

Whether you’re not exactly sure what you want to do or struggling to define success for yourself, here are three great lessons to remember:

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Why You Don't Speak Up at Meetings (and How to Start)

There are many reasons someone might be hesitant to speak up in meetings — fear of public speaking, being afraid of rejection or even worrying about the ramifications of disagreeing with your boss.

These are real challenges that shouldn’t be dismissed offhand. However, it’s a mistake to view them as obstacles you can’t overcome, because sharing your ideas is a critical component to advancement. 

Consider how much emphasis is placed on personal branding and visibility when you’re looking for a job. You update your social profiles, you get yourself out there and network, and maybe you even set up a personal website or begin routinely posting your thoughts on LinkedIn. You go out of your way to demonstrate that you’re someone who’ll bring a unique perspective to the company.

But once you’re gainfully employed, you go along to get along, thinking your boss will appreciate your agreeability. But the employees who stand out to managers are the ones who share what they’re thinking so their boss knows what they’re truly capable of.

So, with that in mind, here are two common reasons people don’t speak up at work (and how to overcome them):

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3 Reasons New People Aren't Responding to Your Networking Emails

Classic career advice works in a variety of situations, which is why you hear it time and again. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be subject to misinterpretation. Or applied in the wrong situations.

For example, some tips that are great for co-worker communication aren’t great if you’re a job seeker. Likewise, phrases that might open doors when you’re in an interview could immediately turn off a new contact you’re having coffee with.

If there’s one situation in which people seem to fall back on the wrong advice, it’s when emailing strangers. And not just any strangers, but strangers who you’d like to help you professionally. So if your message are going unanswered, read on for the advice you’re probably misinterpreting:


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