Category Archives: Career

Being a jerk won’t get you a promotion

Source: UPI, Aug 2020

According to a new survey of personality traits and career success, being a jerk isn’t the secret to climbing the corporate ladder.

The results showed “disagreeable” participants — college and graduate school students, at the time of the survey — weren’t more likely to have achieved success than their more agreeable counterparts almost a decade-and-a-half later.

“Disagreeableness is a personality dimension that involves the tendency to behave in quarrelsome, cold, callous and selfish ways,” lead study author Cameron Anderson told UPI in an email.

Anderson and his colleagues found disagreeable people were not more likely to rise to positions of power within their respective organizations, regardless of the work environment — whether at a law firm, hedge fund or insurance agency.

“The main takeaway is that being a jerk — being nasty, selfish and bullying — did not help people attain power,” Anderson said. “The most surprising [finding] was the consistency of this null effect.”

“Being disagreeable did not help people attain power in any context, including in organizations where you think it might help them, such as more combative organizational cultures that are competitive and cutthroat,” he said.

Researchers found that as a personality trait, disagreeableness is quite stable — jerks today are likely to be jerks tomorrow.

Are You Pursuing Your Vision of Career Success — or Someone Else’s?

Source: HBR, Aug 2019

You’ve checked all the boxes. You’ve graduated from the right college, held the right internship, flourished in the right graduate program, and landed the right job at the right company. You’ve followed the path that everyone else told you would be the one to lead to success — to your dream job — only to find that your dream job doesn’t feel so dreamy after all.

a 2015 study by Gallup showed that only one-third of the American workforce feels actively engaged in their work.

One-third of Americans over the age of fifty —nearly 34 million people — stated that they were seeking to fill their time with some professional (paid or unpaid) purpose beyond just the self.

What Makes a Good Job Good?

If you’ve determined that your dream job is not really all that dreamy, it may be that you have done all the right things along everyone else’s path to everyone else’s definition of success, only to realize when you’ve moved into a new age or life stage that the great life you built was meant for someone else.

Consonance is when what you do matches who you are (or who you want to be). You achieve consonance when your work has purpose and meaning for you.

The elements of consonance are calling, connection, contribution, and control:

Calling is a gravitational pull towards a goal larger than yourself — a business you want to build, a leader who inspires you, a societal ill you wish to remedy, a cause you wish to serve.

Connection gives you sightlines into how your everyday work serves that calling by solving the problem at hand, growing the company’s bottom line, or reaching that goal.

Contribution means that you understand how this job, this brand, this paycheck contributes to the community to which you want to belong, the person you want to be, or the lifestyle you’d like to live.

Control reflects how you are able to influence your connection to that calling in order to have some say in the assignment of projects, deadlines, colleagues, and clients; to offer input into shared goals; and to do work that contributes to your career trajectory and earnings.

Creating Professional Luck

Source: HBR, Aug 2020

How can we cultivate this “smart luck”? By setting hooks and planting bombs. These two practices can help us flex our serendipity muscles at any time. Here’s how to deploy them.

Setting Hooks

Serendipity hooks help people get interested in you and help you learn what you’ll find intriguing about them. The process starts when you use memorable or engaging talking points, whether in the park or on Zoom.

When Oli Barrett, a London-based entrepreneur, meets new people, he sets several hooks aimed at surfacing overlaps with the other person. If asked, “What do you do?” he will say something like, “I love connecting people, have been active in the education sector, and recently started thinking about philosophy, but what I really enjoy is playing the piano.”

That reply includes four hooks: a passion (connecting people), a vocation (education), an interest (philosophy), and a hobby (playing the piano). If he merely responded, “I’m in education,” the potential for others to connect the dots would be quite small.

But by setting several hooks, he increases the odds that the listener will respond with something like: “What a coincidence! I’m thinking about starting a company that is all about connecting people. Let’s talk!”

Hooks allow others to find and latch onto something that relates to their lives or what they’re looking for, making serendipity more likely. Setting them is easier if we “have our story straight”: What are we passionate about, and what could we contribute that is relevant to the other person?

We can also give others the opportunity to set hooks. One way is to ask questions differently and be open to unexpected answers.

Imagine being at a (virtual) conference and meeting a new person. You might go on autopilot and ask the dreaded “So, what do you do?” That tends to box your conversation partner into a corner.

Instead, use broader openers, such as “What are you interested in at the moment?” or “What is your state of mind?” Such prompts may lead to serendipitous outcomes by allowing the other person to set one or more of their own hooks.

Hook-setting isn’t limited to private conversations. We can set hooks at events, even if we’re not the speaker — for example, by standing up during a Q&A and saying something like: “Thank you for the inspiring presentation. As someone who just went through [XYZ period] or who aspires to do [XYZ activity], I was struck by what you said about [XYZ topic]. What would you advise people like me to do?”

This gives the entire audience insight into how you and your life and career might related to theirs. In my experience, in a group of a couple hundred people, usually several will respond to such hooks by seeking out the person who set them: “What a coincidence! I recently went through XYZ as well….”

Planting Bombs

Through technology and spatial design, it’s possible to create entire containers of potential opportunity — what Mattan Griffel, an entrepreneur and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, calls serendipity bombs — by connecting with groups of people.

One tactic is to write speculative emails to people you admire. I know executives who do this, and you’d be surprised at how often the recipients of those unsolicited correspondences write back because they see some unexpected mutual interests or reasons to engage.

For example, an executive might have wanted to expand into exactly the area that a speculative email referred to. If you can’t find an email address, consider tweeting or using the InMail function on LinkedIn (which lets you send messages to people you don’t know). In many professional fields, academics are a good starting point for making connections. Their contact details tend to be on their university’s homepage, they usually know senior people in industry, and they are relatively open to making introductions.

Even with all the background information available to us with just a few keystrokes, we can’t know everything about a person, so you’re creating new opportunities when you plant this type of bomb. It’s a low-risk strategy to expand your network and nurture the conditions for serendipity. Even if nothing comes of it immediately, you are on your correspondent’s radar (assuming they read their emails, that is!).

You can plant serendipity bombs within organizations, too. One traditional way is to invite someone in a different department or function to coffee or a video call.

Leaders might pair people up randomly to get unexpected conversations started and, nowadays, to help overcome lockdown disconnection.

Our research has shown that companies and incubators have developed a myriad of similar ways, such as conducting postmortems (incentivizing people to share ideas that did not work out, which might “serendipitously” work out in other contexts) and using flexible space design (for example, placing the mailboxes of diverse people next to one another so that those people will “bump into” one another), to increase serendipity, especially in the context of uncertainty.

Success Through Serendipity

Most top executives will admit that they’ve achieved their position through not just intelligence and hard work but also luck. Still, we can all do a better job of creating unexpected opportunities and connecting the dots with others so that they can help us or we can help them. With a serendipity mindset, every interaction might open a new path — for finding love, meeting an investor, making a friend, forging a new interest, or landing a new job.

Google Disrupts Tech Credentials

Source: Inc, Aug 2020

Google recently made a huge announcement that could change the future of work and higher education: It’s launching a selection of professional courses that teach candidates how to perform in-demand jobs.

These courses, which the company is calling Google Career Certificates, teach foundational skills that can help job-seekers immediately find employment. However, instead of taking years to finish like a traditional university degree, these courses are designed to be completed in about six months.

“In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles.”

Get a certificate, find a job

One of the main criticisms of higher education through the years has been that universities don’t properly equip students with the real-world skills they need in the workplace, and leave them in debt for years as they struggle to pay back student loans.

In contrast, Google claims their courses, which would cost a fraction of a traditional university education, prepare students to immediately find work in high-paying, high-growth career fields.

The three new programs Google is offering, together with the median annual wage for each position (as quoted by Google), are:

  • Project manager ($93,000)
  • Data analyst ($66,000)
  • UX designer ($75,000)

Google claims the programs “equip participants with the essential skills they need to get a job,” with “no degree or prior experience required to take the courses.” Each course is designed and taught by Google employees who are working in the respective fields.

CS skills across China, India, Russia, and the United States

Source: PNAS, Apr 2019

“We assess and compare computer science skills among final-year computer science undergraduates (seniors) in four major economic and political powers that produce approximately half of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates in the world.

We find that seniors in the United States substantially outperform seniors in China, India, and Russia by 0.76–0.88 SDs and score comparably with seniors in elite institutions in these countries.

Seniors in elite institutions in the United States further outperform seniors in elite institutions in China, India, and Russia by 0.85 SDs. The skills advantage of the United States is not because it has a large proportion of high-scoring international students. Finally, males score consistently but only moderately higher (0.16–0.41 SDs) than females within all four countries.”

Develop Your Passion

Source: Psychological Science, May 2019

Do we truly find our passions, or develop them over time? (You can probably guess where this is going.)

The researchers found that people who hold a fixed theory had less interest in things outside of their current interests, were less likely to anticipate difficulties when pursuing new interests, and lost interest in new things much quicker than people who hold a growth theory. In essence, people with a growth mind-set of interest tend to believe that interests and passions are capable of developing with enough time, effort and investment.

“This comes down to the expectations people have when pursuing a passion,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “Someone with a fixed mind-set of interest might begin their pursuit with lots of enthusiasm, but it might diminish once things get too challenging or tedious.”

One important step to change our approach to potentially new passions is to redefine failure as the catalyst to change and improvement, rather than as a final destination.

When you look to successful people you admire, study them not only for their victories and achievements, but also for how they overcame failures and changed as a result of them. (Click here for more advice about learning from your failures.)

And when you’re pursuing new passions, remember that the process itself and the steps you need to take are just as important as your end goal. Temper your expectations and build failure in to your plan, then learn to recognize and celebrate small milestones along the way.

Communicating More Effectively

Source: Fast Company, Jul 2020

Five research-based actions For Individual COmmunications

To strengthen individual communication with coworkers, clients, or family members.


What if someone accuses you of “not delivering for the team” or “not helping enough around the house?” Our instinct is to argue and defend. Instead, ask questions like, “What do you need most from me right now?” or “Can you tell me more?” Then carefully listen to the answer and clarify your understanding.


Vague complaints inflame, but specific examples instruct. Instead of saying “You’ve been distracted and unresponsive,” you might try, “Yesterday when you joined the Zoom meeting, you said you hadn’t completed the all-employee email, so I agreed to do it.” Then get the other person to share their view by asking: “What was going on for you?”


Nothing signals integrity like acknowledging that you are part of the problem (“In my zeal to get a small business loan, I’ve not been taking a meaningful role around the house, even though my schedule is more flexible than yours.”) It’s hard to stay angry with someone who’s owning their accountability. The power of agreeing that you are part of the problem shifts the conversation from combat to cooperation.


This is a very emotional time, and sharing vulnerable feelings connects you with others. Self-disclosure (“I’m sometimes overwhelmed with fear for my health”) is the greatest predictor of successful relationships—and that’s what sharing vulnerable feelings does.


Pave the way for a relationship reboot by saying, “I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and I believe I can do better. Can we try again?” When you decide on a do-over, remember to use the above four micro-communication behaviors.

Eight research-based strategies for Teams

To boost the inner fabric of a team and ensure that everyone in a meeting speaks, everyone feels heard and understood, and everyone is committed to the solutions that come forward.


Turn on your team’s creative instincts and bring meaning to their work with questions like: “How can we create more inclusive community engagement?” or “What virtual solutions can we offer our clients?” A productive, engaged team does more than complete basic tasks.


Reticence to participate is magnified when people experience online videoconferencing. Two minutes of silence before you ask team members to speak allows them to collect their thoughts and brings quieter people into the discussion.


Inviting each person, in turn, wipes out awkward silences and ensures that everyone participates. If people don’t speak during the meeting, that’s when there are “meetings after the meeting” where agreements can become unraveled. (But do let people know that it’s okay to say, “Pass, for now,” and contribute later.)


Assign a recorder to use Zoom White Board or screen share Microsoft Word to list all ideas as they are contributed. This creates a “group memory” that everyone can view together.


Aim for 45 seconds to make a Point; give a Reason; share an Example; offer a Summary. “I believe our customer service reps should be able to send customers video links showing how to perform simple repairs at home (Point). This will cut down on service calls and create grateful customers (Reason). Recently, the pilot light went out on my gas fireplace and a YouTube video showed me what to do (Example). So, video links can cut back our service calls while improving our customer service (Summary).” Remember: The power of a personal example is immense.


When you use our suggestions, there will be fewer silent members, but it’s important to let everyone know their voice matters.


Ask: “What do we agree to already?” rather than squandering time focusing on smaller areas of disagreement. Remember: What you look for is what you find.


Each participant gets 20 seconds to say, “This is what I’m feeling and thinking from our meeting.”

McKinsey Consulting Rates

Source: ProPublica, Jul 2020

Hiring McKinsey is a famously expensive proposition, even when compared with its leading competitors. A single junior consultant — typically a recent college or business school graduate — runs clients $67,500 per week, or $3.5 million annually. For $160,000 per week, you get two consultants, the second one mid-level.

Networking Online

Source: WSJ, Jun 2020

Prioritize quality over quantity

Let’s explode one myth: that networking online is about casting a wide net. Resist the illusion that you can make a ton of new contacts with all the time you’re spending online. Think in terms of quality, not quantity.

By “quality” I don’t mean looking at metrics like how many followers an influencer has. I pay attention to people whose work interests or inspires me, whose posts resonate, or whose life and professional experience gives me a fresh perspective.

… focus my attention on the small number of people I find most interesting or valuable, so that I can engage with them regularly; it’s easier to form new connections by interacting with 10 people on a regular basis

Network in a way that feels true to who you are

Are people wowed by your intellect? Think about how to share digestible nuggets of that brilliance in online posts or updates. If your brain power typically comes to light in the discussion after a meaty talk or lecture, look for virtual events focused around a thought leader, where there is plenty of opportunity for peer-to-peer conversation or Q&A.

Do you win people with warmth and charm? Focus on making individual, personal connections before you scale up to large-group interactions. If you’re at your best when you’re one on one, skip online events and groups, and reach out directly to the people you want to meet, asking for a video or phone date so that you can connect on a topic of mutual interest.

Amplify other people

It is easy for online networking to feel like a bunch of people shouting for attention—which is why you will stand out if you’re amplifying other people’s voices instead of just competing to be heard. Share what other people have said, maybe adding a comment of your own, and make that at least half of what you share. It will make you more appealing to engage with, too.

One of the things that’s really amazing about social media is that you may actually get to know the people who inspire you. Try resharing an article by a business leader you admire, with some reflections on what their work has meant to you, and why you admire them. Just keep that kind of thing to an occasional indulgence: There is nothing more off-putting than a social-media feed that makes it look like you’re just tagging industry star after industry star.

As you start to follow and engage with people who have a big professional presence, you’ll probably notice that generosity fuels generosity. People who share their knowledge and insights generously tend to build and engage bigger followings. So, along with amplifying others, be prepared to share your own ideas in updates, blog posts, videos and conversations.

Look for ways you can be of service

At a time when so many people are struggling financially, professionally or emotionally, cold calls or sales-y emails may come off as insensitive. You may fare better by reaching out around a community-service project.

the simple effort of trying to do some good brought us all together and provided tangible professional benefits.

Indeed, that desire to be of service should guide as much of your online networking as possible. Face to face, you can get away with some pretty direct requests for favors, if they’re delivered with tact and charm; online, it’s easy for incoming requests to feel like a siege by inbox.

Rather than thinking in terms of putting favors in the bank, think about how you can be the most helpful; the kind of person others feel grateful to know and eager to connect with. That means looking at your skills, knowledge and relationships, and thinking about where they can be uniquely valuable.

Let go of the line between ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ relationships

Many of us were taught to keep things crisp and professional in the workplace, but online, all that professionalism just comes off as cold and calculating. Instead, let yourself be warmly, casually human; you’ll be a lot more appealing if you seem like an actual person. And letting go of the line between “business contact” and “friend” means you’ll form stronger, more durable relationships.

If you can let yourself be informal and vulnerable, rather than businesslike or transactional, you’re much more likely to form a human connection—one that will turn into a sincere, continuing relationship.

Standing Out from Other Job Applicants

Source: Fast Company, May 2020


Having one résumé that goes out to everyone is a mistake, no matter how fancy the formatting. Today, you need to tailor your résumé specifically to each job and company you’re pursuing,


Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that you can make a positive difference for them, Poepping says. So, as you do your homework about the company, think about the way its needs intersect with your greatest wins—and be prepared to talk about them, she says. “The best way to differentiate yourself is to understand the pain of the person you’re speaking to,” she says.

This may require thinking on your feet and being prepared with various anecdotes that relate to issues the interviewer brings up. Get beyond platitudes. Be ready to explain what you’re really good at and how you’ve used that to make a difference at employers in the past, she says. Make it easy for them to see what you can do for the team.


Since most interviews are remote now, Willets says it’s also critical to practice the technology you’re going to use. Find out the platform you’ll be using beforehand and find a friend to test it out with you, if possible.


When He is looking at candidates, the ones that truly stand out have the technical skills, but also have strong communication skills. He wants to hear about tough conversations you’ve had or times when you’ve solved a problem. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.