Want To Grow Your Career? Try This.

Go grab a cup of your favorite coffee. This article is going to be a long one.

Go ahead, I’ll wait here.
All set? OK, let’s get started.
What if I told you there was a relatively painless way to guarantee both your personal and professional growth?
What if this method required absolutely no monetary investment?
What if you could do this in as little as 2 hours a week?
Well, such a technique does exist  and just about all of us had it mastered by the time we got to second grade. Have you guessed it yet? That’s right: Reading. There is no more sure-fire way to get better at doing your job than by some strategic reading of books, magazines and blogs in your professional area.
The cost? Nothing, as long as you have a library card and an internet connection, and if you’re reading this you must have internet- even if it’s only -shudder- dial up. If you don’t have a library card, then shame on you. You first job after finishing this is to go down to your local library and remedy this situation. Not sure about the value of a good library? I’ll let Neil Gaiman  convince you otherwise.
Yes, reading is that important. Not only will you make sure you are up on the most cutting edge research and techniques in your field, you’ll also be better prepared to have the kind of networking conversations, both online and off, that get you noticed.
For those of you whose idea of reading is pretty much limited to what shows up in your daily feeds let me help get you started. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when reading for career development.
1. Cast a wide net: We live in an age of information. Everywhere you turn there is more written content to take in. If this were 20, or even 10, years ago I would have advised you to subscribe to some professional journals and newsletters and that would be that. However, the internet has birthed a thousand new voices in every field imaginable, both in terms of online writing in web magazines and blogs as well as new books that are supported by those online platforms.
Search far and wide for the best material. Ask those a bit higher up the food chain than you who they read. You’ll be surprised by how willing people are to share writers whom they value.
2. Be intentional: While all reading is beneficial, if you want to get the most out of your professional reading, spend a little time creating a list of what is important in your field. Just because there are thousands of new voices, that doesn’t mean all of them are worthy of your time.
Fortunately there are a lot of tools to help you do this. Search your profession in Amazon and look at the top ten best sellers. These are the books people in your area are reading and talking about, so start there . Some other great tools for online content are Google Blog Search and Technorati. Type in your field and see some of the best blog authors out there discussing your very profession. Make a list of books and sites that are interesting and influential in your profession and make this your reading list.
3. Make it part of your schedule: If you are really going to get the most out of your professional reading you need to be sure it is a regular, non-negotiable, part of your week. For those of you who are regular readers this will not be a big problem, but not all of us are readers, and that is OK. If you need some motivation to kick-start the habit I suggest penciling in 2 hourly sessions at the local library. This way you have to leave your house and go someplace where distractions are minimal. And if you are going to spend an hour reading- what better place?
OK, so at this point, hopefully, I have convinced you that some intentional reading is worth your time. But I don’t want to leave it there. I want to give you some concrete advice as to where to start. Below are a few of my personal all-time favorites that can be helpful to you no matter what your career.
Book number one: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink. This book was truly a game-changer for me. For those who don’t know, by day I am a middle school English teacher, and Drive completely changed how I view student motivation. But this isn’t a book just for teachers- in fact, there is only one short chapter on education. Most of the book deals with motivation in the business world.
Money quote: “One source of frustration in the workplace is the frequent mismatch between what people must do and what people can do. When what they must do exceeds their capabilities, the result is anxiety. When what they must do falls short of their capabilities, the result is boredom. But when the match is just right, the results can be glorious. This is the essence of flow.”
This book is especially useful for managers and supervisors- or those of you who want to eventually be managers and supervisors. I guarantee you’ll get more out of your staff, and make them happier about it in the process.
Book number two: Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work. At first blush this looks like a book for creatives. (Yes, I just used the word ‘creative’ as a noun. Upping my hipster cred.) However, the advice to engage with your network, be generous and share, cuts across a wide swath of professions. It isn’t just artists and writers who can show their work. It’s all of us.
Money quote: “The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning in front of others.”
Want an easy way to start? Create a simple blog and start keeping a log of what you read. Share a quick thought or two. Put up quotes that strike you as important. Then share your posts on your social media of choice. That’s all there is to it. You are now putting yourself out there as a professional who wants to improve, who wants to grow. I guarantee that is exactly what employers- and your supervisors- want to see.
Book number three: Start: Punch fear in the Face, Escape Avergae and Do Work that Matters. I know, the title is a bit much, but what you’ll find inside is solid advice to level up your career. Trust me, if you really want to move on to the next level of success, this is the pep talk you need.
Money quote: “You don't need to go back in time to be awesome; you just have to start right now. Regretting that you didn't start earlier is a great distraction from moving on your dream today, and the reality is that today is earlier than tomorrow.”

I hope this article has inspired you to do some quality, career-boosting reading. Do you have a book you’d recommend? I’d love to hear. Hit me up on twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn and let me know. I’ll make sure to share your suggestions with my audience. (Giving you credit of course. See? Networking in action!)

Use Your Job Application to Tell a Story

*This post first appeared on Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals.

What do Batman BeginsThe Lord of the RingsHarry Potter and your resume all have in common? A need for context.
Any good movie provides a context, or a frame, for viewers to understand the main character and his actions. The context is not only what motivates the main character and allows him to overcome great obstacles; it’s also how the audience relates to that character’s story.
Batman’s frame is his parents’ death. In The Lord of The Rings, the frame is Frodo and Sam’s friendship, and in Harry Potter, it’s Harry’s status as an outsider. Just like these Hollywood blockbusters, your resume needs context to tell your story, too.
You probably already know your resume has less than 10 seconds to grab someone’s attention. By adding context, you give hiring managers a frame for your experience and accomplishments so they can quickly digest your story.
Often a strong frame can actually shape how potential employers understand your skills and qualifications. So spending a little effort to set the stage is well worth it. And since almost all communication and job applications are online these days, it’s easy to set up your stage.
Take these three simple actions to frame how recruiters and employers will view your story:

1. Show employers you’re more than a name

What’s your desired job title? Writer? Marketing Specialist? Business Analyst?
Whatever it is, add that title behind your name in your email from field. Yes, that’s it. Easy, right?Simply go to your email settings and change your name to something that alludes to the position you want.
For example, if you’re in sales, then you’ll want to send employers emails from John Doe — Sales Leader. Even before the recruiter or hiring manager reads your email, you set an expectation. Right off the bat, you identify yourself as someone who can help them with their sales.

2. Reinforce your brand at the end of your email

Once a hiring manager has read your introductory email, you’ll want to make two things clear. First, make sure your email signature matches your from setting. Then, directly below your name, include a link to your your LinkedIn profile. Make it easy and seamless to find out more information about you.
Of course, your LinkedIn profile should also carry the same context, or frame, to fully take advantage of the branding opportunity. So double-check that your LinkedIn headline matches your email from setting and signature.
There’s a reason all those infomercials run a fake timer to insist you to “call now before time runs out!” Advertisers know they have a limited window of time to get someone to act. When it comes to the job hunt, you’re in the same boat as those informercials.
If you can convince an employer to act — to visit your LinkedIn profile as soon as they finish reading your email — then they’ve already invested more time in you than they do with the average applicant. Once a potential employer takes that step to learn more about you, you increase your chances of them wanting to get to know you better in an interview.

3. Make your resume file name more memorable

Too often, job seekers call their resume file resume.doc. While this may make sense sitting on your personal desktop, a recruiter who receives hundreds of resumes a day won’t feel the same way.
Make it easier for them to remember who you are and what you do. Use the same title you used for your email from setting. For instance,Jonh_Doe_Sales_Leader.doc.
Remember the key is to make sure every time they see your name, it’s associated with what you do. That’s how you start your story. Then, your resume simply unfolds that story.
Now you have a surefire way for employers to view you as a sales professional, IT specialist or project manager before they know anything about you. You’ve created a frame through which they can view your experience. Hey, it works for Hollywood; why not you?

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With Resumes, Shorter is Better, Unless It Isn't

Confusing title, right? Stick with me for a minute and I'll explain.

By now everyone has heard the rule- make sure your resume fits on one page. I have said it myself more times than I can count. One of the most common client questions is about how you can manage to fit you life story onto one page.

The first thing I tell them is- you don't. You don't write your life story that is. A resume is a targeted advertisement with just one goal: to convince the reader that you are the one who can solve their problems. In order to do that, and do it well you need to be concise.

  • Bullet points, not paragraphs.
  • Soundbites not sentences.
  • Strong verbs, not lists of adverbs.
  • Kill all your "the"s and "a"s.
But sometimes this advice just doesn't work. Sometimes you'll need more than a page to really sell yourself. No matter how tightly you craft your soundbites, no matter how ruthless you are with the excess adverbs, you are still going to need more space. 

It's OK. It happens. Something we resume writers need to do a better job of communicating is that while there are rules in this game, sometimes those rules need to be broken. There are exceptions.

The bottom line is that everyone is unique and their resume (or LinkedIn profile) should reflect that. As long as you are targeting your document directly at a specific job opening and are not including a lot of non-relevant detail, then you'll be fine.

So, should you keep your resume to one page?

Yes, until you shouldn't.

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