Archive | June 2015

Four Words to Seem More Polite

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By: OLGA KHAZAN
In a touching Medium post a few days ago, the writer and programmer Paul Ford shared what he thinks is the secret to his politeness. In conversations with new acquaintances, Ford asks plenty of questions and lets the other person do the talking. He tries not to ask what they do for a living, but if it comes to that, he responds to their job description—whatever it is—with, “Wow. That sounds hard.”

“Nearly everyone in the world believes their job to be difficult,” he writes. He describes how this process once worked with a woman whose work is not something most people would consider taxing:

I once went to a party and met a very beautiful woman whose job was to help celebrities wear Harry Winston jewelry. I could tell that she was disappointed to be introduced to this rumpled giant in an off-brand shirt, but when I told her that her job sounded difficult to me she brightened and spoke for 30 straight minutes about sapphires and Jessica Simpson.
What Ford describes is known, in research circles, as empathy. It sounds simple, but it’s actually counterintuitive: If we humans are locked in a nasty, brutish, and short struggle for resources, why would we stop to give a hoot about each other?
But we do. Empathy is considered by many psychologists to be essential to cooperation, problem-solving, and to human functioning in general. Researchers have described it as “social glue, binding people together and creating harmonious relationships.” Empathetic people are more likely to forgive others for small errors, like running late. Asking narcissists to imagine themselves in others’ shoes can help shrink their big heads.

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Empathy helps people behave more generously, but some are worried that our society, with its Personal Brands and Snapchats, is losing this crucial characteristic. Recent research has suggested that college students have become less empathetic since the 70s, so much so that scientists are saying they should read great works of literature in order to better see situations from different points-of-view. Get out of the dorm and into the Gulag Archipelago, kids!

There are multiple ideas of what it means to be polite. The oldest, coined by the British philosopher Lord Shaftesbury in the early 1700s, holds that “‘politeness’ may be defined a dext’rous management of our words and actions, whereby we make other people have better opinion of us and themselves.” That is, we behave politely so as to boost our own social standing among our peers.

But I prefer the definition offered by Brendan Fraser’s Cold-War-era Prepper character in the 1999 feature film Blast from the Past: “Manners are a way of showing other people we care about them.”

Signaling that you understand how hard someone else’s situation is certainly makes you better at cocktail parties. But empathy—or “politeness,” or “manners”—isn’t just there at the start of interpersonal relationships; it also holds them together.

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Quote of the Day

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

– Warren Buffett

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How to Believe in Yourself

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By Leo Babauta

There was a long time when the lack of belief in myself was a major factor in my life.

I didn’t pursue an ideal career, or start my own business, because I didn’t think I could. I didn’t stick to habits because I didn’t really believe I had the discipline. I was shy with girls, I had a hard time making new friends, I didn’t assert myself in the workplace. I didn’t push past my comfort zone.

All because I didn’t really believe I could.

While I’m not free of self-doubt these days, I can honestly say I believe in myself like never before. That doesn’t mean I think I’ll never fail or quit: I will. Probably often.

And that’s OK.

The trick is that I learned it’s completely fine to try and fail, to put yourself out there and not be perfect, to say hello to someone and have them not instantly love you, to create something and have people judge you.

Failure, not being perfect, mistakes, not having people agree with me, not being completely accepted: these are not negative things. They’re positive.

How is failure positive? It’s the only way we truly learn. For example: you can read a book on math, but until you try it and fail, you’ll never see where your lack of understanding is. The best way to learn something is to study it a bit, then try it, take practice tests, make mistakes, then learn some more.

How are mistakes positive? They’re little pieces of feedback necessary to grow and learn.

How is being rejected positive? It means I’m growing beyond the absolutely socially acceptable realm. The best people in history were not socially acceptable: truth-tellers like Socrates, Jesus, Gandhi, Proudhon and Bakunin, Martin Luther King Jr., animal rights philosopher Peter Singer, unschooling pioneer John Holt, women’s rights activists, abolitionists, and many more.

These things we’re afraid of — they’re actually desirable. We need to learn to see them that way, and embrace them, letting go of the fear.

When we can get better at this — which takes a lot of practice — we can start to remove the things that hold us back.

So practice:

  • Push past your discomfort, growing your discomfort method.
  • Put yourself out there, and be OK with not knowing if people will accept you.
  • Stick to a habit, not listening to the negative self-talk that normally holds you back.
  • Stick to it some more, and learn to trust yourself.
  • Go into situations not knowing, and learn to be OK with that.
  • Learn through repeated attempts that it’s OK to fail, that you can be OK in failure.
  • Learn through repeated experiments that you are stronger than you think, that you are more capable and more tolerant of discomfort than you think.

And in this practice, you will find yourself. And realize that you were great all along.

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JOBS OF THE FUTURE: WHERE THEY ARE, HOW TO GET THEM

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DESIGNER, DEVELOPER, DATA SCIENTIST ARE ALL PREDICTED TO BE IN-DEMAND JOBS IN THE COMING YEAR. HOW TO LAND ONE? NOT THE WAY YOU THINK.

Two years ago, I asked a college-bound 18-year-old what kind of job she’d like to have after earning her degree. “I don’t know,” she told me, adding, “I don’t think it’s been invented yet.”

Turns out, she was probably right. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects health care and construction jobs to grow as baby boomers age in greater numbers and the economic rebound gives people the confidence to build new homes, the jobs of the future aren’t so easily defined.

According to a recent study by online job matching service TheLadders, the fastest growing jobs are in user experience design, iOS and Android development, and business intelligence—some of which didn’t exist before 2007.

The study, which gathered key word search data from among its 6 million members, also found that middle management jobs are being phased out. Among the top 10% of growing jobs, less than 2% of titles contain the word “manager” or “director,” which points to a trend that you can still be a professional in a high-paying position, but the end game isn’t a gold plaque with a management title tacked to your name.

Mark Newman, CEO of digital interviewing service HireVue, says the company is witnessing similar trends as it helps place people with companies such as Hilton, GE, Chipotle, and others. “Overall, HireVue is seeing that jobs of the future are design and data scientist jobs,” he says.

WHEN YOUR COLLEGE MAJOR TAKES YOU SOMEWHERE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

As it turns out, the path to these in-demand positions is as new as the jobs themselves. Though plenty of design jobs are filled by those with graphic design skills, Newman points out, “HireVue has seen that those with backgrounds in psychology and anthropology are also very successful, as they have skill sets that serve them very well in the field, including attention to detail, user empathy and visual design skills.

Kate Swann, the chief operating officer at Blue State Digital, a digital and technology agency that spearheaded digital efforts on the Obama campaigns in 2008 and 2012, is one who took an arts degree into an entirely different career. Swann says her masters in performance studies helped her look for the larger patterns in how cultures work.

It’s a good skill for her current position and one that’s allowed her to see a shift in how design agencies think about what makes a good candidate. “Looking for people who have made unexpected moves in their career or education is a good way to identify risk takers and lateral thinkers,” she explains. “Companies such as Frog Design [where she also worked] and Blue State Digital understand that the best candidates aren’t always the ones who move predictably from point A to point B.”

Amanda Augustine, job expert at TheLadders, says that sometimes it helps to take a first job in something that appears to be unrelated. “If you enjoy branding and marketing and love connecting with people, then a role talent acquisition might be an interesting avenue to explore,” she says noting the current trend where recruiters must also become marketers. “They not only have to be able to read people, but they need to build, manage, and advertise their organization’s employer brand to promote their corporate culture and entice the right type of candidates to want to join their team,” Augustine explains.

And while Apple and others are famous for starting out of a garage, your garage band might hold the key to employment in another industry. Steven Aliment, director of Engine Management at Boeing Commercial Airplanes was a musician for years before joining his employer.

“A band is like a small creative shop where you need to be both creative and commercially appealing under pressure,” he explains, and teamwork is essential. “Listening, understanding each other, trying, failing, until you get it right,” says Aliment. Not to mention learning how to engage an audience is like marketing to customers. “For me, showmanship in that context was a spring board to industrial showmanship in sales and marketing,” he contends.

THE INTERNSHIP IS THE NEW ENTRY-LEVEL POSITION

Some companies such as Facebook have even started recruiting high school students for their internship programs to stay ahead of the competition, notes Augustine. “We’ve found that more and more “entry-level” positions now require anywhere from one to three or even five years of experience,” she says, making the internship the new entry-level position.

Augustine advises trying to get an internship in social media if it involves helping build and manage social media campaigns for the organization because it’s often behind a business’s marketing, recruiting, and customer service strategies.

“Having hands-on corporate experience learning the thought process behind a company’s social media strategy will be valuable down the line,” she says.

Such internships can also be used to learn “soft skills” such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, and professionalism.

Patty Pogemiller, director of talent acquisition and mobility, Deloitte Services LP has seen an increase in demand for leadership and soft skills. “We look for people who have a demonstrated track record of leadership roles, an ability to think analytically, as well as outstanding communication skills,” she says, “We’re always looking for people who can collaborate and work effectively on diverse teams.”

THE SOCIAL GOOD STRATEGY

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps and other programs, volunteering for an organization can increase the chance of getting a paid job offer by as much as 27%.

Sarah Kunst, partner at Fortis Partners private equity firm, says millennials in particular are looking for something more fulfilling than a fast track to middle management. “They have seen the devastating effects of business run for greed and not greater good and they are inclined not to repeat those mistakes.”

But times have changed and so have paths to working with purpose. “While giving back used to mean a few years with Peace Corps or working at a struggling nonprofit, college grads now often have both crippling student loans and entrepreneurial curiosity,” Kunst observes.

To earn a living wage while being socially conscious, Kunst advises looking into organizations like Venture for America, a nonprofit that places grads in full-time startup jobs in cities like Detroit and New Orleans, or Hampton Creek, a food-tech startup that is reducing the carbon footprint needed to make protein.

SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR

It’s also perfectly acceptable to come in with an unusual resume, says John Budd, Yolo Candy cofounder and CMO. “We hired someone who started her career as a circus barker at an amusement park, then became a circus ringmaster,” he says. Not only did she have the soft skill of the right attitude, but she also has experience working in customer service, sales, event planning, and public relations/social media. “In this day and age, all companies need these disciplines and they just may find it all in the candidate who walked in smelling like cotton candy,” says Budd.

Working for a startup could accelerate the spark to start your own company. According to World Bank data, 30% of the global population may be working for themselves, even in strong economies.

That’s where Budd says it’s important to do cross-functional training in a variety of jobs. “No matter what the job, roll-up your sleeves and learn everything you can about these different functions. You’ll never know when that knowledge will give you the edge to succeed in your business or in your next job interview,” he says.

THE NEW IMPORTANT JOB SKILL: REINVENTION

Donna Svei, executive search consultant believes the real key is to hone the skill of reinvention if they want to be a success. “Companies aren’t explicitly shopping for that skill, but if they’re part of inventing jobs that didn’t exist five years ago, they’re hiring people who know how to reinvent themselves,” she says.

There was no such thing as a social media expert five to ten years ago, Svei observes, “Now there are thousands of them and, interestingly, very few of them were communications professionals in their last career.” Svei believes the current crop of social media experts are people who saw the opportunity and reinvented themselves.

Finally, says Budd, no matter how new the type of job, one thing hasn’t changed: “Just please remember to show up on time and dress appropriately for the interview.”

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That Was Easy: Life Hacks You’ll Be Glad You Heard About

We all know that college is tough, especially with the stress of life on top of hard classes. You deserve to have some things in your life simplified, so here are some life hacks that will help you through your college career.

On hold no more: Have you ever been faced with the daunting task of calling a company where you were put on hold… and stayed on hold forever? Well, wait no more! There is an app called the FastCustomer app, that will call the company for you and wait on hold. Once an actual person picks up, the app will call you and let you know.

Stuffy nose: Stuffy noses really suck, especially when you want to try and get some shut eye and feel like your mouth is going to dry out while your nose causes those awful congested headaches. To get rid of your stuffy nose, take a hot shower. The steam will help clear that baby right up. Salt water also helps, so if you live by the beach, get in the water! And if you like spicy food, that’s a for sure way to get those sinuses cleared up.

Public bathroom shyness: Especially in the beginning, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to take care of business in the dorm bathrooms. If you feel like you’re going to take a while, try and go really early in the morning — that’s when you are the least likely to run into people. If someone does happen to come in, simply lift your feet up so they can’t see your shoes, and wait until they leave. They’ll have no idea who’s in there!

Clogged drain: Is your drain clogged? While Drain-o is awesome, it can be pretty pricey, and is never in the house when you need it. To unclog a drain, all you need is 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar. Clog be gone.

No more dishes: If you’re too lazy to do dishes, use a tortilla as a plate. No dishes? Yes please. The fact that you can actually eat your “plate” is a pretty awesome concept. And tortillas go with a lot of stuff.

Free trials online: Want to get a free trial for something but don’t want to use your credit card — because you know you’ll forget to cancel before the actual paying kicks in or simply don’t have one? Use a Visa gift card! Well I know what I’m doing tonight: hello Hulu.

Oversleeping: Do you oversleep because you are either so passed out to the point where you don’t hear your alarm or you keep hitting snooze? Put your phone in a glass. This will amplify the sound of your alarm and will make it much more difficult to simply reach over and slide the snooze button. And if you manage to somehow sleep through that, I’m sure one of your roommates will graciously throw something at you.

Smelly room: If your room smells bad, attach a dryer sheet to a fan/AC unit and turn it on. It will be smelling fresh in no time. Also have Febreeze handy, or candles that are strong enough to work instantly.

Water balloon fight: Don’t you hate it when you want to have a water balloon fight, and instead of exploding on the person, the stupid balloon just bounces off? To prevent this, blow the balloon up with some air before filling it. This will ensure that it will pop on your target.

Beach hack: Going to the beach and don’t want your valuables to get stolen? Clean out an old lotion bottle and stick your phone, keys, and money in it. Because who would steal lotion? (Well actually…) This will allow you to enjoy your time at the beach without having to have someone stationed at the lookout.

Key identification: Have a bunch of keys on your key ring and can never keep them straight? Paint the backs with nail polish. The colors will help you differentiate the keys, and if you have to return the keys to a landlord or school housing later, you can use nail polish remover to get it looking back to its boring self.

Pancakes 101: Want to make someone breakfast that actually looks presentable? Put pancake mix in a cleaned out ketchup bottle for no mess and perfectly formed pancakes. This is also a great way to save the batter for another day.

No more burnt fingers: Want to light a candle but hate burning your fingers? Light a stick of spaghetti and light the wick with it. Who knew?

Coffee hack: Put coffee in an ice tray, so when you want to make iced coffee it won’t get watered down. Works with tea as well! This is way faster than making the drink and then waiting impatiently while it “cools” in the fridge, since you know you are going to get so impatient that you’ll end up drinking it at that gross luke-warm temperature.

Borrowing: If you are letting a friend borrow something from you, take a picture of them holding it, so you won’t forget who has it! We have so much to think about all the time that it is very easy to forget who has what. This would also be a great way to kindly remind them they have something, by sending the picture to them.

Moving tip: If you’re moving, put heavy things like books into suitcases instead of boxes. This will make it easier to transport, since you can roll the suitcase, and you won’t have to worry about the box ripping and spilling your content everywhere.

Presentation hack: Are you nervous about giving your presentation in class? Find a friend in your class that will ask you a question at the end, one which you will already know the answer to. Make it detailed so you’ll look extra smart, and it will take up time so not many other people will be able to ask you one.

Wi-Fi password: You can get the Wi-Fi password to most establishments if you check the comments on Foursquare. No more guessing for you (because you know you are horrible at that anyway).

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Quote of the Day

“Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.”

– Albert Einstein

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WHY OUR BRAINS CRAVE STORYTELLING IN MARKETING

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OUR GREEDY LITTLE BRAINS ARE HUNGRY FOR A GOOD STORY, SO IF YOU WANT TO MAKE THE SALE, FORGET THE DATA AND MAKE A PERSONAL CONNECTION.

What grabs your attention more: a list full of ingredients like acacia gum, oligiosaccharide, and glutemate or a story about one company’s mission to bring the tangy sweetness of a blueberry and the warming power of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables around the world?

While both speak to Kashi’s company mission of making healthy food available to everyone, the second choice seems far more compelling.

Click to enlarge

This makes sense, especially considering recent findings of a Nielsen study that show consumers want a more personal connection in the way they gather information.

Are we surprised, though?

Numerous studies over the years have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than the cold, hard facts.

When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.

What this means is that it’s far easier for us to remember stories than the cold hard facts because our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening.

In addition to this, our brains are insanely greedy for stories. We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming—our minds are constantly looking for distractions—and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us.

Top brands like LinkedIn, Coca Cola, Etsy—the list goes on—harness this science to their advantage through content marketing that focuses on the story.

While Americans consume more than 100,000 digital words every day according to this infographic from content marketing platform OneSpot, 92% of these consumers want to internalize those words in the form of a story.

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