A Millennial Workplace Manifesto

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Hey (Boomer/Gen X) Future Boss, I’m that annoying, selfish, selfie-taking and entitled future employee you love to hate – The True Millennial. Nowhere to run, you’ll have to hire me - or someone like me – very soon. We’re taking over, bro.

The trouble is, you’ve got me wrong. I’m not your enemy and not a parasite distraction – I’m your biggest asset.

Why’s that, you ask? I’m pretty good at what I do. That and I know what others like me want to buy, consume, believe and then invest in, talk about and value in their lives.

Who am I, really, Boss? I’m just a dude with a portfolio career who wants to make a difference in the world, do well, make a good name for you and for myself, get paid, get more responsibility, accomplish something, then get out. I’ve got big plans, you see. That doesn’t make me selfish – just pragmatic.

What do I want from you and from your company? I’ll tell you very frankly:

1) Radical Transparency.

Next time there is an All-Hands meeting, tell me what the different teams are doing. Why are they doing it, with what success or failure? Tell me the company financials, product details and the strategy. I’ll handle it just fine – big boy.

I want to hear about our marketing, our hiring and how the market looks. I want to know ahead of time what bonuses will look like and what I need to do to get a raise, a better title, people I will manage, and so on.

When you show me (not just tell me) we’re in glass house, I’ll think twice before throwing a stone.

2) Purpose and Mission.

Why are we here? Why are we doing what we’re doing, in the way we are? What are we working for all day and night? Why does my role here matter? What is the bigger purpose here? Tell me how we are saving lives or people’s time or money – better if all three.

This makes me feel like I’m doing something meaningful with positive impact on people’s lives.

3) Quick, pointed feedback on performance – both the bad and good.

If something’s off, I want to know ASAP to course-correct. Less formal and more regular is better.

There is nothing more that I appreciate than when you take your time (even a couple minutes twice a week) to motivate me and help me improve.

4) Drop the micro-managing.

Treat me like the capable professional you hired and just let me do my job.

5) Be flexible with using more of my skills.

I’m not just a one-hit Excel wonder or copywriting robot. Use me or lose me.

Toss me a bone – let me work on a side project with another team or another project where I know I can be instantly helpful.

It helps keep me motivated and feeling useful to the company – and will reliably improve your bottom line and make it more likely I’ll stick around a while.

6) Step up to the plate as a mentor or find me someone here who can help guide me in my career path.

This means meaningful one-one-one time outside of work – not just passing words exchanged at a team-building exercise or group lunch.

7) Drop the unlimited vacation policy.

In practice, this just means nobody ever takes off. Set an example by actually taking off time and encouraging us to do the same. It makes burnout less likely and helps us refocus, refresh and come back ready to take on new challenges.

8) Flat hierarchy or not, drop the corporate politics and two-faced appeals to culture and values.

Lead by example with radical transparency (#1) and by treating people like adults (#22) and with consistent decency (#23).

9) Make decisions quickly and transparently.

Make everyone aware of how (and why) we’re moving forward. That’s how you get my buy-in, no matter if we agree.

10) Mix up the demographics.

We need the gray hair and the tattoos, young grads and old fogies (seen The Intern?), women and men, people from different walks of life and backgrounds and industries, and everyone in between.

Don’t let it get stale and boring with everyone looking and sounding the same. Everyone (the company first) benefits from shared perspective and wisdom from all kinds of different people in the same space, working on the same problems.

11) Give me time and resources for meaningful professional development.

Sponsor me for a General Assembly course, online course or industry conference. I will forever be grateful for the exposure and experience. This is a big one.

12) Give me 10-20% of my work time for side projects.

Don’t just pay lip service to what Google does (or used to do well). Use this as a way to tap my creativity and I’ll find you new revenue streams, better, cheaper, faster ways to do things, build new products, etc.

Create an internal forum to gather and generate useful ideas from employees to help the company.

Let me pitch you or whomever in management on my ideas and how I’d implement them. If you approve, let me run with them in balance with my existing tasks.

13) Let me move around internally and outside of the company.

If I like what I learned from you, I’ll work with you again in the future on the same or a new venture.

Always be helpful to me in my career whether here or elsewhere and I’ll always return the favor. No need to burn bridges just because I feel I should move on when I decide to.

14) Drop the buzzwords and speak straight to me.

No more rocket ships, growth hacking, unicorns, Uber for whatever. No more synergies, efficiency, productivity, cost savings.

I get that you drank the Kool-Aid, but don’t make me drink it too. Speak plainly to me – or I’ll think you’re just another corporate tool or startup douche.

Oh, and drop that crappy NDA. It’s quite useless (unenforceable) and only breeds ill will.

15) Give me benefits I’ll actually… benefit from.

Let me choose them myself, first of all. Offer benefits that fit my lifestyle and family situation. Show me that the company actually cares about my health and wellbeing, not just my productivity and its own bottom line.

For example, help me pay off my student loans, offer a 401(k) and/or Roth IRA match. Help me manage my finances by offering credit monitoring, identity theft protection, HSA/FSA, other pre-tax investment opportunities.

Help me stay healthy by incentivizing earnings through walking 10,000 steps a day, not just with a cheaper gym membership. Start a pedometer competition with real rewards. Give me cash or good gift cards as inducement (Amazon, iTunes, etc.). The impact will be tremendous and long-lasting – both for me and you.

16) Don’t nickel-and-dime me on professional development, travel and other things important for my job and overall performance.

17) Stop offering gimmicks (foosball table and endless snacks).

We never have time to play foosball and just get fat from eating all day.

18) Judge me on performance, not the hours I’m physically present in the office.

A week-long, 8-hour-a-day+ face time requirement in the office breeds hypocrisy and contempt, not to mention poor quality of work, absenteeism and other evils. As long as I get the work done at a high level and remain motivated, much of the work I do can be done from almost anywhere.

19) Be flexible with letting me work remotely.

I often do my best work at odd times. I likely a have a kid, a wife, side projects, passions, volunteer activities. Sometimes it's best if I don't waste the time commuting in.

20) Be consistently the same inside and out.

Don’t be two-faced to me. I’ll see right through it.

Don’t hire two-faced people who’ll ruin your culture and drive the good people away. That’s the number one ingredient that makes or breaks a company’s success.

21) Include me and other team members in candidate interviews.

This ensures that the whole group buys in before you hire someone that doesn’t fit.

If I’m on the team, my opinion matters, so give me a voice on big decisions and hear me out. Don’t just inform me of new team members the day they start or big changes after the fact. This is a BIG red flag.

22) Treat me like an adult – with dignity, respect and by giving me real responsibility and runway to accomplish my goals.

Also, please respect my need for a life outside of work. Heard of “diminishing returns”? That is what happens when people work too many hours and start burning out.

Give me an opportunity to do my best work with other smart and highly motivated folks on an important problem here that has a real and positive impact on many people.

23) No need to be my best friend, but be consistently decent to me and everyone else around.

Start a virtuous cycle of decency and you'll reap the benefits many times over.

24) Encourage everyone to recognize each other for a job well done.

Make them write it down for review time and factor it into compensation and bonuses. Motivation will go through the roof.

25) Take hiring and HR very seriously.

Hire HR (and all other) people only when they “get it” and buy completely into the company’s mission, purpose and product.

HR should be crystal clear about what motivates me and other employees, what each of us wants out of working here and how to deliver it in return for my time, motivation and best work. None of us should be treated like a commodity if you want us to stick around.

26) Mix up the floor plan.

Don’t force everyone to work out on the open floor all day with no room to breathe or hear our own thoughts. Leave room for people to work solo, so they can focus better.

Now #KThanksBye.

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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.

 

6 Simple and Powerful Tips for Successful Salary Negotiation

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As the year's end approaches, so does your review. If you're like most, you're dreading having "the talk" with your boss. You know you're underpaid (especially if you're a woman). You feel the cards are stacked against you, even though you're good at what you do. The job market looks so-so. You're not in the role for long enough. You have no stomach for these things. You have a family to feed and bills to pay. It's not your personality to bargain.

All of a sudden, you are sweating just from thinking. Worry not. All that you need is... PREPARATION (and a glass of wine).

Negotiation isn't some black magic. There's an established process and a language and demeanor that it takes. All can be learned without extraordinary effort.

Negotiation takes good acting. If you're convincing, then you get the thing(s) you're asking for - the role, a raise, then maybe glory. So practice, practice, practice with a friend - or better, with a coach. If needed, fake it 'til you make it.

1. Know what you're worth.

Research Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, industry databases, premium job listings on LinkedIN and other places for how much your position gets paid within your company and by its competitors. Know the industry averages for the same years of experience, education and accomplishments.

Come armed with figures and specifics of what you've delivered since the last review. Know how this compares with the others on the team and in the company. Research what salary, bonus, benefits, etc. you could command in another similar company, perhaps a competitor. Speak to recruiters about similar positions elsewhere to get this information. This process will give you the confidence to ask for what you are really worth. If you're underpaid, you will know what you need to ask for to catch up to where you should be.

Always ask for a specific number ($10K, $20K, whatever it may be that you expect), not just "a raise."

2. Understand the full impact of NOT negotiating. Then start negotiating EVERYTHING.

Missing out on a raise of $10K in your first job out of college can mean missing out on $500K over a lifetime of working just as hard. Conversely, a $10K raise in that first job out can mean earning a whole house-worth, 10 cars-worth, 100 trips abroad-worth or even more, when you compound the interest.

Understand clearly - it's ALWAYS a big deal when you negotiate. It's important the first time and EVERY time.

Practice a Negotiation Mindset with no - or low - stakes.

Bargain for cheaper apples in bulk at the farmer's market. Negotiate a 10% discount at your favorite coffee shop. Go to a Middle Eastern market and bargain hard for every item you buy (it's expected and encouraged there).

With every win, your confidence will only rise to do the same at work.

3. Know the rules. Then push the envelope.

Is your company a startup (especially one that just raised a round of funding?) or is it a large corporation? Startup founders generally have much more discretion to give discretionary raises and bonuses. Corporations often have hard and fast rules around compensation, but even these are very often negotiable.

Ask HR, your team leader or anyone else knowledgeable about internal compensation guidelines. For example, is the yearly raise capped at 3% for next year? Do top performers in the company get a target bonus of 20%? Are bonuses performance-based (fixed at a certain percent) or discretionary to your manager or CEO?

Check your signed offer letter when you joined the company, if it's within the last fiscal year. If something isn't specifically spelled out as a fixed percentage or number (and often, even when it is), then it's always negotiable. Make sure to ask a reputable source, not just listen to internal gossip.

4. Be creative. Salary's not nearly everything.

In case you didn't know, your benefits constitute up to 30% of your total compensation. Health insurance alone can cost upwards of $15K per year for you and your family. How about your cell phone ($1,200 a year)? How about commuter costs ($1,300 in New York for a year of monthly Metrocards). How about a pre-filled FSA to spend as you wish? How about a 401(k) match? Extra vacation days?

Don't get stuck on the numbers for salary and bonus. If they can't raise either of those, push for other things to be covered or paid for. There is sometimes greater flexibility on this than on salary and bonus figures, which are often pre-set by band and performance review.

5. Make it easy for your boss to say yes.

Present your case clearly. Cite specific figures and accomplishments you've had in the past 6 months or year (ex.: negotiated a savings of $300K; brought on $100K of new business; saved the team 100 hours by automating an accounting process, etc).

Quote the average salaries for people in your position in the company, then at competitors and in the industry, at large. Ask for a specific number, title.

Always remain collaborative and friendly throughout the discussion. Never appear adversarial and make it clear this is the only time you're on the other side of the table. Yet, be firm and speak with conviction.

6. Negotiate on behalf of a group, not just yourself.

Are you part of a group of underpaid women at your company? Do you feel you've been passed over for promotions and raises unfairly in the past? Are you negotiating for your family's improved welfare? You are the leader of the cause, so take the mantle and run with it! You'll feel empowered.

When it comes to negotiation, the rule is simple: if you don't ask, the answer is always no. So always ask! You will be shocked how often people will negotiate - even your boss.

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How A Shy Kid Like Me Learned to Negotiate

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I grew up with a group of brilliant and strong women all around me, but they all struggled with something I think a lot of people deal with — they could not negotiate. And neither could I. My mother’s a professor with a science Ph.D. One grandma was a doctor in the 1940s. Her sister was as well. An aunt had been a dentist in the 1910s in Minsk.

My sister went from a fashion background to an MBA and business ownership and quickly learned the ropes.

I married a brilliant and strong woman who negotiates like second nature — and for pay, to great effect. The contrast, in some ways, could not be stronger.

The pain — tears from being passed over for promotion, for an increase, slights (perceived or otherwise), the silent anger and resentment due to words or acts by bosses who were inevitably all male — still sting today.

How could it be? I work SO hard! I know I am the smartest and best worker with the most ideas and publications, plus the most industrious of all of them — and still this.

And as a boy, all these aggressions were magnified. The women in my life had lived and managed through the hell of Soviet Stalinism and anti-Semitism, the compound stresses of an emigration and assimilation, plus divorce and worse.

How could it be that in America, the land where all of us are equal, they had lost their voice? Year after year, month after month, I was frustrated by the evil men I hardly saw.

Uncover Hidden Scripts

As for my own development, it took big system shocks to get the ship to sail upright and straight. I didn’t learn negotiation from my law school studies or from years in finance. It didn’t magically absorb from reading business books or blogs.

It took unpacking baggage from my childhood — with all its Soviet Jewish norms of culture and behavior — to uncover all the hidden scripts I had controlling my existence from afar. Selling was stigma, self-promotion being the lowest form.

Negotiation was beneath us — shameful commercialism. We were too cultured, too polite, for that. We suffered silently as martyrs but upheld ideals and moral rectitude. The world was turned against us and we couldn’t trust anyone.

But I also started seeing the benefits of asking for a better price, of asking for a better starting salary and title, of making small talk to ingratiate myself, of doing research on the person I was dealing with.

These were the sorts of small “infringements” I’d found so dastardly before. Once I had called a spade a spade, I’d had enough of martyrdom and misery.

In my wife’s culture, bargaining’s like hygiene. If you don’t practice it, you’re shunned and disrespected. The paradigm of shame is quickly turned up on its head.

If you don’t bargain and negotiate, you’ll be a failure, plain and simple. With this in mind, how can I possibly abstain and stay behind? For what? To please a set of vague ideals? No, thanks. Now, where’s my discount?

Practice Negotiating in Any Way

At first, to bargain was as pleasant as a kidney stone. I practiced in a market in Morocco, then in Israel. It worked! Success begat success, and I got bolder.

Soon — unemployed — I dared to bargain for a higher starting salary with my new boss. I brought the facts and numbers to the table and firmly asked for $10K more, plus changes in the contract. Next thing I knew, I got exactly what I wanted!

Another time, I turned a contract role into a full-time gig (with benefits, 401(k) matching, paid cell phone and more) with one quick call directly to the CEO. As it turned out, he is a masterful — and merciless — negotiator. I learned a ton from working with him and then negotiated huge discounts on rent and software for the company.

Another factor is necessity, that mother of invention. When you have student debt the size of icebergs and you call Manhattan home, you quickly start asking always for a better, cheaper, faster way to do things — NOW, not later, not tomorrow.

The Answer Will Often Be “Yes”

The urgency takes hold of you and steels your confidence. Why not? If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no.

Quite often, actually, you get a yes. This may be because others have an expectation bias and have already committed to the cheaper sale. Maybe the person has the mindset that negotiation is a sin, just wants to let go and wash their hands of it.

With salary and benefits, there’s often extra money budgeted for you. A title can be fungible, depending on the context. When making deals with vendors, you do often find more leverage in unexpected places.

Ask, and you often will receive — some extra benefits for cross-promotion, a strategic partnership or other smart win-wins. It is your job to be creative.

Stop Believing Negotiation Myths

It is a fallacy, assuming always that the other side won’t budge. You’ll often find that humans are just human in the end. They often want to please, be nice and helpful to you, but you have to ask.

It’s also foolish to keep thinking that to bargain is unprofessional. Think of it as a trial project for your boss. If you can stand up for yourself and bargain with him, then you’re showing:

  • Confidence
  • Business sense
  • Thoughtful preparation
  • Interest
  • Commitment

If these are not the very traits your boss is looking for, then don’t go work for him!

Winning Negotiation

The key to winning a negotiation is an understanding of terms of business and in yours and others’ motivations and desired results.

First, know exactly what you’re worth to bosses, vendors, clients. Do research on your market, the true price and markup. Ask people in the industry.

Be bold, take risks — but do it smartly and with preparation. The boundaries when making deals are often far beyond your mind’s own limits on yourself.

Take paper and a pen and write down what you want to get across. Note your thresholds and stick to them — the more specifics and real numbers, the better.

Now, find a partner who you can practice with beforehand. Ideally, this is a friend or spouse who’s been a boss or vendor rep or business owner and a devil’s advocate.

You want someone who’s people-savvy, observant and experienced, with sense of body language and your weaknesses and strengths. Get him or her to tell you how you come across.

After this, work to fix the problems your friend has pointed out. Then, go in and get what’s yours.

Develop the Negotiation Mindset

The negotiation mindset, when compounded daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, has a tremendous upside. Practice negotiating in your everyday transactions — at your grocery, your coffee shop, on Craigslist.

Find coupon codes online, use Amazon to check for the cheapest price. Once you attain this mindset, you will find that others cannot take you for a ride. You sniff out scams and don’t fall prey to marketing so easily.

Granted, it can be daunting at first to speak up and to overcome your limitations, but immensely powerful. You’re losing absolutely nothing in the back-and-forth and often winning self-respect and boldness to achieve much greater things.

Know what things really cost. Set concrete terms. Be confident. You will be shocked how often you will win.

After a while, negotiation is a pleasure and a habit, much like brushing your teeth. The only things you have to lose are misery, frustration and your own stumbling blocks.

The money in your pocket and a healthy sense of self are great fringe benefits as well.

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

With this in mind, it is imperative for women (and men) to bargain and negotiate. Ten thousand dollars left on the table now can mean $500K abandoned over a career.

A lower title can slow one’s growth and progress by a magnitude. Take ownership of how you come across to bosses and executives, as well as business partners and your clients.

Often, the very thing you dread (negotiation) is precisely what the other side is looking for. In other words, you often can’t afford NOT to negotiate this time and every other time.

Do all the hard work now. Then practice, practice, practice, and you’ll reap the benefitsimmediately.

Now, to get back to all the brilliant and strong women in my life. Among them are war journalists, executives, top scientific experts and consultants, engineers, high-end lawyers, bankers and VCs, product managers and others.

Time after time, I’ve heard how in “The Talk” with Mr. Boss, Executive or Client, they just freeze.

Meanwhile, males with worse degrees and grades, work ethic and experience would leapfrog them, negotiate and win big salaries, promotions, titles, contracts, deals. They did all of this despite appalling manners, sexism and a nauseous basket of fraternity behavior.

Stand Up for Your Worth

Over the years, these women have turned to me with their frustrations about men at work — male managers, executives, etc.

How much frustration, tears and disappointment (and time) could easily be saved through simple training and unpacking baggage, plus a little research? Hundreds of thousands left at the table, better titles, better lifestyles, plus a sense of worth and fairness?

Ladies, lift up your heads! There’s nothing alpha-male, shameful, risky, or arrogant about acknowledging your true worth and sticking to it in negotiation. Like all good things in life, it takes determination and a plan.

If you don’t change, you will forever be a slave to your own doubts and hidden scripts. It is a heavy — and unneeded — burden.

If (and when) you do, the world is yours, no matter if your debt or unemployment or the other circumstances seem to hold you back. To paraphrase Hillel the Elder, if you don’t stand up for yourself, then who will stand up for you?

And being yourself, who are you if not for yourself? And if not now, then when?

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[This is also a post on WorkAwesome.com]

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Yuri Kruman is a healthcare entrepreneur, published author and blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com, based in New York.

12 Strategies Women Must Know to Nail Their Year-End Review Negotiations

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It's nearing your year-end review. You're really good at what you do, but when it comes to your negotiation skills, you freeze. You might have even taken one of those negotiation courses back in business or in law school, maybe even college, way back when. But what's the use? You feel you have no leverage. You're in the company maybe a year or 18 months, or maybe even less. You'd hate to rock the boat too much.

You've always kept your nose clean, done your work and then some. You're not one of those alpha dogs, always obsessed with self-promotion. You feel that good things come to those who do great work, work well with teams, collaborate, not steal the show.

Congratulations, you've convinced yourself - out of potentially $500K over the course your career, perhaps a handful better titles,  more responsibility, advancement of the type you've always dreamed.

You've fallen prey to hidden scripts - those nasty little parasites that feed on insecurity, uncertainty and fear inside your head. Don't feel too bad - all of us have them, often since our childhood.

Now that you're an adult and savvier about the "real world," it is time to stop the madness. There is too much at stake NOT to negotiate. Plus, it is neither rocket science nor impossible for introverts, the risk-averse, the modest and the shy, plus those without "the guts."

I'd know a thing or two about this paradigm. Before I ever went against the grain of childhood shyness and low self-esteem, I viewed negotiation as the province of the alpha male, the Middle Eastern market, the car dealership, the back-room politician.

In business, these illusions quickly withered. When I transitioned to the finance/operations function for a startup, suddenly it was my role to drive down prices, to negotiate with vendors and the landlord. I started trying to bargain at the market on a trip to Casablanca and then Israel.

I then successfully negotiated with the CEO (a master negotiator himself) to go full-time, instead of contract, with a $15K bump in salary and benefits, plus more responsibility that at my prior job. While there, I managed to negotiate down $45K (23%) from a vendor's original offer for an ERP system and $17K (6%) on rent over 5 years for our new office. This, after being too shy and scared to bargain for an apple at the market just a couple months before.

After a while, it was an actor's game, except with higher stakes. The first and most important rule is simple - if you never ask, the answer's always no!

Over the years, since I was young, the many (brilliant, fearless) women in my life would come to me with their frustrations about bosses, lack of meritocracy and inability to get past fears and insecurities and all the rest, especially with negotiation. The men would simply never go admitting it.

Here are the strategies I've counseled them to take. I have used them myself with great results.

1. Write down your hidden scripts. Make sure to name all of them, spare none. Once you acknowledge having them ("I can't negotiate," "I'm not cut out for it," "I'm simply never good enough," "I do not want to rock the boat," etc.) you start to understand that these are just opinions, hardly facts. Are these scripts carried down from family or friends? Are these based on past episodes that are no longer relevant?

Now, you can start to change these harsh opinions on the subject of yourself. Ask friends what you are good at. Write down the tasks at work that make you feel more fulfilled. Write down the favorite role you play out of all your work responsibilities. Are you always making sure others are thriving? Are you at your best when delegating to others and managing them? The subject matter expert everyone consults? Focus on outlining and hammering your strengths before you lash out at yourself for (perceived and real) faults. This way, you will be better balanced and equipped to eliminate your negative scripts.

Keep one critical point in mind. Your performance at work does not equate to your performance as human being, whether it's good or bad. Being a good human doesn't guarantee being a good worker or team mate. Being a good team mate and worker doesn't make you a good human being. Both take work, but don't mix them. Business is business and your personal life is personal.

2. Write down your work accomplishments throughout the year (and before that, as applicable) in as much specific detail as possible (e.g., saved the company $100K, trained 5 new employees in Excel, saved your manager an hour a day by automating 2 reports, improved client retention by 20%, increased revenue by 15%). Imagine that negotiation with your boss is actually an audition and a chance for you to demonstrate your value. This will be your biggest "leverage" in the negotiation.

Managers and executives see your impact on team and company through the lens of concrete numbers, not how nice a person you are or how much everyone loves having you around. Speak their language and they'll take you more seriously and include you in the club of people who "get it," one of "them." This makes it easier for them to make decisions raising your salary, promoting you and otherwise pushing you up and through to the next level.

3. Know your partner (not "opponent") in negotiation better than you know your best friend. Was he or she a frat brother or sorority sister in college? Is your manager married or single? Kids or no kids? From Ohio or New Delhi? Likes his coffee black or with a little milk? Went to the same college as you or in Australia? What motivates him or her - money? family well-being? women? men? fame? customer satisfaction? cheaper/better/faster work? technology? What is the person's culture? What is their negotiating style? How does he or she view women? How do they view you based on the language (both spoken and body language) they use with you? How about your peers? How does your manager relate to you in comparison with the others on the team?

Without appearing to pry, these are things you should already have bothered to learn and understand by asking your manager directly or observing through their interactions with you and others, through social media presence, etc. No human is a complete mystery and most are actually quite boring, conventional and predictable.

The goal here is four-fold:

a. to create a real rapport with your manager based on shared background, interests and goals. This requires demystifying your manager and ingratiating yourself on a real human level with the person without appearing to pry, pander or "suck up." In the end, it's all about making yourself appear and sound (and act) like a partner in your manager's success, not his or her opponent or roadblock.

b. to tell them what they need to hear from you in a way that's cooperative and non-threatening, showing you have incentives aligned with his or hers and that what you're asking is both reasonable and in the best interest of the team, company and manager himself (not just your own selfish interest) and

c. to find the manager's trigger words for success in what you're asking. When you know his or her specific goals, you can then frame what you're asking in a way that shows clearly how giving you what you want will concretely help your manager to achieve what he or she wants.

4. Be clear about what you're asking. Is it higher salary? Higher title? A higher bonus? All three? More responsibility? Chances to prove yourself? Be as specific as possible when communicating. Show evidence (see #8 below) to back up your request.

If the answer is no (never presume it will be! When you actually ask, unexpected doors often open for you.), what will you ask for as a backup? If you can't have more than a set raise, perhaps you want more days off or better perks or better health coverage? If the answer is no, immediately ask what are the specific steps you need to take to earn that higher salary, title, bonus, more responsibility, etc. This shows you're not just asking to ask, but are committed to making it happen, helping the company

5. Proactively take the sting out of the coming review. Review yourself first! Take criticism from your manager in stride. Nobody performs flawlessly. Before the negotiation, you should know (and have written down) your own weaknesses and strengths, things you've done well and things you haven't. Anticipate where the challenge will come and have a ready answer for each point.

Coupled with your highly specific achievements during the year (See #2 above), this will help you parry your manager's words, stay on your feet and continue with your objectives in the negotiation.

Most importantly, remember that (within the realm of the possible - see #8 below), granting your wish for a higher salary or title or bonus or better benefits/perks, etc. is often a very easy decision for the manager. Just asking often opens the door to getting what you need.

6. See the review for what it is - a DIALOGUE, NOT a monologue (like your interview to get in the company). Be ready for any scenario. If you believe the dialogue is not going to go well, then start opening up new windows for opportunity. Contact recruiters, if you have to. Talk to friends in other companies where you may want to work. Even if you come nowhere close to switching companies, you will give yourself psychological breathing room. This will help you parry whatever feedback you receive, whether negative or positive, and continue with your objective in the negotiation.

7. Control the negotiation yourself from the start. Speak first to build confidence and take the initiative. Begin by thanking your manager for sitting down with you to discuss your performance. Restate your commitment to the team and company, your love of working with the team to solve problems and create value. This will already blunt the impact of any negative feedback and will enhance any positive feedback coming your way.

8. Do careful and diligent research on your company's average salaries for your position, the average progression to the next title, average bonus figures (and how much of it is based on personal, team and overall company performance) and any other relevant industry, city and state averages. Use Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, speak to others in the company that you trust to know these things.

How much room is there within the company for the boss's discretion to increase your salary, title, bonus, perks, benefits, etc.? Make sure not to ask for things that that the manager can't give you. Only ask for things that are within the real of the possible. Make it as easy as possible for him or her to say yes to your request(s).

Invoke authority - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary at your title in the industry and at competitors and other specific figures in your negotiation dialogue.

Know your company politics down cold. What is the expected time for a promotion and expected raise? How does your review compare with that of others on the same scale?

9. Start working on your body language ASAP. Perception is reality. When your posture is bad, you don't speak up, you're overly emotional or overshare your personal life with co-workers, don't smile sincerely and don't project confidence, you are sabotaging your own daily performance and how others perceive you. It's a slippery slope, but luckily, it's also reversible.

Practice standing up straight with your shoulders open, stretching your arms up and out, lifting your head up and smiling. Close your eyes and imagine doing something outdoors that you really love and makes you happy - walking in the wilderness, skiing on a mountain, whatever it may be. Imagine doing your favorite activity that you're better at than anybody you know. Is it writing? Running quickly? Drawing? Put yourself there and run through the activity for at least a minute or two.

Create space for yourself to be in control. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Invigorate your lungs. Do this right before going into the negotiation - in your closed office or bathroom stall. Always put yourself in the best of frame of mind possible right before you negotiate.

Breathe in and out slowly and deeply for a minute before speaking. This lowers your voice and makes you feel and seem more authoritative.

Prepare yourself to look and feel confident RIGHT before the negotiation by standing up straight and tall with your hands on hips or arms spread open in a position of power (e.g., in your office or restroom stall). This shoots up your endorphin level, making you feel instantly more confident and putting you at ease. Try one of these power poses.

Lastly, practice smiling regularly (and sincerely). Work hard to consistently find the positive in people you have to work with and overlook the negative. Remind yourself regularly of activities and people that make you feel good about yourself. Do these activities and re-connect with these people often.

Appear friendly as much as possible without watering down your position or confidence therein. The two are never mutually exclusive. Find the happy middle ground and practice being friendly, even while maintaining your ground.

Throughout the negotiation, maintain good posture, without dramatic posing.

10. Work on the words you speak. Be clear and concise and remain upbeat and down to business, as much as possible, but never humorless. Nobody likes to have Debbie Downer around. Get the cynical humor, high emotion and gossip out of your system and keep away from others around you that do.

Let others assign you to positive stereotypes (hard worker, "gets it done" every time, nice person, clean nose), not negative ones (gossip, depressive, etc.). Always appear well-balanced and relentlessly positive, above all. Don't give your manager or anyone else the tools with which to write you off, keep you down and under-paid and under-utilized, as well as below your own potential.

Always make sure to finish what you start. Don't let negative feedback knock you off your horse (you've now prepared yourself to hear it - see #5 above). Just keep going and finish your list of objectives in the negotiation. Make sure to get in all your points and finish on a positive note, thanking your manager for the feedback and looking forward to creating more value for him or her and the company.

11. Drop any illusions that negotiation is the same, being a woman rather than a man, regardless of whether negotiating with a man or a woman. Humans stereotype instantly and often have strong biases based on background and experience (hence, the need for careful research - see #3 above). This simple human fact is hardly an automatic impediment, but it does present different ways of getting to where you need to be in the negotiation. You absolutely don't need to obsess about "thinking and acting like a man," although certain elements of effective behavior may seem similar to male behavioral stereotypes.

Be aware of the silent stereotypes and prejudices hovering in the background - and transcend them or use them to your advantage! If your boss sees you as a threat to take his or her place, go out of your way to show your commitment to the team and company and his or her success. If your boss appears to think you're a "feeble and helpless woman," it can actually be a big advantage when you impress him or her on the spot with confidence and negotiation ability with the best.

Women tend to better in negotiations when they are seen (and see themselves) as negotiating for a group of people, not themselves (unlike men, for whom this is completely expected). What group do you represent? Under-paid women in your company and industry? Negotiate for the good of a group, not yourself. This will strengthen your position and decrease push-back. Invoke authority whenever possible - someone higher up in the same organization, average salary for your title in the industry and at competitors.

12. Practice, practice, practice the negotiation and get feedback from people you trust who will be frank and honest with you. First, cultivate the thick skin to take the advice as helping you to progress well beyond where you are now. It's a process and won't happen overnight. Start the process as long before your review as possible.

Beware asking close friends or family for frank and honest feedback. They will often hold back for fear of offending you or making it seem that they look down at you. The best alternative is to find an experienced coach specialized in giving frank feedback and teaching the methodology to overcome your fears and hidden scripts, create good habits of self-perception and outward appearance and to negotiate with confidence, knowledge and insight into what works well for women in your industry specifically (plus, armed with any information on company, team and your manager, specifically).

Record yourself in the practice negotiation, if possible, so you can see for yourself how you look and sound. Discount your own bias to put yourself down. Ask for feedback from someone else who can give you an honest opinion (and always take it in stride).

Prepare a detailed list of accomplishments and points you want to get across in the review.

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Now, when you go in for your end-of-year review, you will be armed and ready with the information and the confidence you need to blow your manager away. I'll be rooting for your success, as always!

Are there other important strategies you’ve used to negotiate effectively as a professional woman? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

 

14 (Deeper) Questions You Should Be Asking During Your Interview Process

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W7RWLHPKX4 The interview process (whether for a job, a second date, a business deal, even for quality advice) is never just a one-way street. You might be sweating, nervous or excited. Doesn't matter.

You REALLY want your future boss (or girlfriend, business partner, mentor, even friend) to like you, but you can't forget the basic premise - you're either getting value for your precious time and energy investment or you're wasting time. Never presume that a good company means a good manager or team - for you. Each situation's different and must be seen as such.

Your preparation's everything. Do your homework! Ask the hard questions now. If things don't work, it can be painful parting and restarting elsewhere.

Not only do good questions show your thoughtfulness and curiosity, but also a commitment to high standards. To demonstrate these shows your interviewer that you care and won't say yes to anything. That is a signal that you're capable, prepared and have a clue about the way things work - you're mindful.

Over the years, I've interviewed at countless companies - both large and small and in between - in law and finance, healthcare and consulting, startups, banks and hedge funds, young and agile teams and older, more established ones, people of every generation, age and gender.

Both from mistakes and positive experiences, I've learned to look for what's important in the process of the interviews, as well as research - both the before and after. One must be very careful what to ask - as well as what to hold back to yourself and find the answers on your own.

Here are the things I've learned that are the most important for a person interviewing to know about his or her role, team and company before he or she signs on the dotted line to start:

1) How does your manager-to-be resolve conflicts? What is his or her personal style - conciliatory? Domineering? His/her way or the highway? Ask him or her!

2) What Professional Development opportunities exist for employees on the team and company as a whole? In other words, how much opportunity will you have to grow in your role? How much do they care about keeping their employees' perspectives fresh and relevant?

3) How solvent is the company financially? It may be the greatest company, team and boss in history and you as a worker may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but if the company's finances are poorly managed or in danger of poor cash flow and/or revenue management, you'll be in deep trouble and soon if you start there. Check very carefully how the finances look, because if they're bad, your head could be on the chopping block in the next cycle of layoffs.

4) Do your manager- and team-to-be pass the beer test? You'll be spending a hell of a lot of time with these people (more than with your family, likely). You better make sure you can not just stand them, but will actually enjoy their company, work ethic, humor (or lack thereof, more likely) and blather. Do team members talk about others behind their backs? You'll be the "others" soon enough, then. Are they dull, humorless cubicle dwellers or bro-me-all-day-bro frat boys fresh out of college? Know exactly what you're getting into if joining and that you won't be the odd man/woman out

5) How easily does management take suggestions for improving the company's bottom line, strategy and/or execution? If nobody cares or bothers to listen to people in the company, then you'll be in an echo chamber  while working there. If this is important for you, think twice before joining a company where internal feedback is not treated as a strategic asset.

6) What are your maybe-future-boss's biggest pain points? What can you do to make his or her life easier with your skills and experience solving similar problems? If the two don't align well, it's not a good fit. Also, what are the biggest challenges this role would face?

7) What do you need to do to hit the ground running and hit it out of the ballpark (to use two annoying sports expressions you'll hear often on the job) in the first 100 days? Can you do this and will the process make you happy and fulfilled?

8) What will this role look like 3, 6, 12, 24 months down the line? How will it evolve, if at all? Also, how has this role changed in the past? What does a successful candidate look like for this position right now? These are all critical things to know in order to nail your first 100 days and beyond.

9) What keeps the manager and other interviewers at the company? Why did they come here, in the first place, when they had other choices? Get the interviewer to tell you his or her story. Carefully note the tone and level of sincerity when these questions are answered. If the answers are clearly scattered BS - or otherwise Kool-Aid of the worst sort, then it may be a sign of lack of communicated vision/mission by leadership - or otherwise of working in a cult. Been there, done both. No, thanks.

10) What is the performance review process like here? Is it formal? Informal? Quarterly? Annual? Is there continuous feedback? What metrics will I be measured by? If the level / frequency of feedback and performance review are inadequate for you, don't join.

11) What are the company's strategic goals and how does management plan to reach them? What sorts of new product or product lines are being launched to gain or maintain market position? What's in the pipeline that I should be excited about? Lack of ideas may be a sign that things are headed in the wrong direction.

12) What is the team that I'll be working with like? What are their personalities and backgrounds? What other departments will I be interacting with? What should I know about the team? How about career progression for people on this team? Are you hiring or downsizing on the team? Who will be my direct reports?

13) What is the work environment like? Is it an open floor plan or cubicles / offices? Is there a pantry? What kind of office and / or team activities do they do? Is there a formal vision or mission statement that they have? Do people collaborate a lot of contribute independently? What's different here from any other place you've worked?

Pro tip: When you get into the office for the interview, ask for water and walk around, if possible, to see how people interact (and if they're friendly), how they look (formal or casual, stressed or chilled out, hipsters or suits, young or old or a mix, etc.), what the lobby and pantry look like, where the management sits (in the same place as everyone else or in their offices).

14) Is there anything about your experience or skills that concerns the interviewer (especially manager)? Address this right away with examples of how you would ramp up quickly by picking up a certain skill or level of experience you're missing. Worst case, address this in your thank-you note. What are the next steps in the process? What is their timeline for hiring someone? Any other questions they haven't asked of you yet?

And while this list is not exhaustive, it's a very good start. There are always industry- and company-specific questions you should ask if they are particularly important for you to be answered. The main thing is, don't be afraid to ask.

What NOT to ask: salary (negotiate later, when you know they want you), work hours, vacation policy, perks and benefits, etc. These are not relevant until you get an offer.

Now go out there and interview with confidence! I'll be rooting for you. And as always, let me know if YOU have any (interview-related or any other) questions.

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Are there other important interview questions you've asked before choosing where to work next? Please share them with the Community in Comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

18 Pro Tips to Manage Stress (Sustainably, For Life)

P1000458 It's Monday yet again. You are behind at work, already stressed. The weekend was amazing, but now this. You're sick and tired of being this anxious, with the growling stomach and the sweats, the jumpiness and lack of focus. What to do?

I've been a worrier since I could worry, probably at 5. Here's how I've learned to deal with it. Throughout the day, I:

1) Walk briskly and a lot - regularly and throughout the day. I walk my daughter to her daycare, to the subway. After I'm in the office, I walk at mid-morning, then at lunch and then mid-afternoon. Ideally, it is the same time every day, but even if impossible, I make a point to walk. Even inside the office, I would rather get up and walk over to ask questions that to email. Brisk walking is just as effective as most exercise, without the impact or the risk of injury.

2) Put on my favorite music. The Mozart channel on Pandora helps me focus. Choose your own. It should be music that can put you at your ease and yet excite you just enough to power through the morning work. Toward the end of the day, around 3 (when circadian rhythms are generally low and you need a pickup), I put on jazz (Red Garland channel on Pandora). Again, whatever helps you to improve your mood and power through. Music is very powerful to improve your mood (or mess it up completely, if you don't choose well).

3) Meditate or pray. After I'm up and clean and dressed, I meditate and pray. Sometimes it's by myself and other times, in synagogue with others. I practice gratitude and pray for family and friends, for sustenance, for health and bodily integrity, for life itself, for guidance and for strength. This helps align my purpose and my mission with whatever comes that day, throughout the week, no matter what. This way, I always know why I am doing what I'm doing, even if it's stressful, boring or annoying.

4) Take breaks to stretch every 45 minutes to an hour, max. Sitting's slow death. Your muscles start to lost their tone. Your posture sags. Your resting heart rate goes down. I stand with my legs out, arms stretched and move side to side to stretch the arms and back. I stand up on my calves, back down, handful of reps. I move my neck around from side to side and front to back several times.

5) Filter my information flows effectively throughout the day. In order to stay sane when faced with hoses of emails and requests and articles and data, I organize my email and set up filter rules to know where I can find any message on any subject, from any person. I filter feeds on LinkedIN and on FB so that when I take my break at lunch and check them, I am looking at the news from sources that I want and useful articles from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, EurekAlert, etc. I regularly prune the feeds, unfollowing the people and the information sources that are wasteful. You set yours up whatever way you like. Unfollow people that contribute only photos of vacations or cat videos or other junk. Focus your information feeds for only things you need and move you forward in life. Cut down your email to a minimum. Unsubscribe from shopping emails and newsletters you don't need. Cut out the fat and junk.

6) Avoid negative people. These are the gossipers, the jealous, Debbie Downers, people that talk too much and about nothing useful, waste my time and drain my energy. Life is too short. My time's too valuable. There are too many things to do. Move on.

7) Keep a running journal. Whether by email, on paper or a post-It, I always write down my ideas for writing, business, things to do, agendas, goals and things to work on. Not only is this helpful as a record of your thoughts and history, but it's a useful means to move you through great stress and changes, scary thoughts. It helps you organize your thoughts, calm down, refine and craft a strategy for moving forward. It's great therapy.

8) Always organize my things. Aside from information flows, my work space is well-organized, my files easily accessible. The house is reasonably clean, the dishes washed, the trash is taken out. The mind gets cluttered easily and stressed if things can't be found with ease, if there's frustration around cleanliness and order. You don't need butlers, even maids for this. Just keep your things in order and clean up right after meals. Schedule cleanings every week.

9) Always prepare and optimize your time and things. Make lunch and pack it before bed. Go through my notes before the meeting. Check LinkedIN to remind myself about the guys or girls I'm meeting. Make an agenda. Write a project plan. Fill in the details. Do my research. Practice speaking. Always be mindful.

10) Prioritize experiences ahead of things. Experiences are what makes life interesting and fun and meaningful, not clothes or cars or real estate. I stop and smell the roses with my daughter, go out with my wife, sit down to write each day. I spend the Jewish Sabbath with good friends and neighbors. I go for coffee with entrepreneurs to hear ideas and give my own. I get the greatest value from relationships and books. This doesn't take much of a budget or of planning, just my motivation to live life.

11) Don't compare myself with anyone. Not because I'm so special, but because my mission in this life is totally unique, just like yours is and every other person's, equally. G-d and my parents gave me certain traits, some things I'm good at and some others that I'm awful at. Each person is this way. The only thing that matters in the end is what you do with what you have been given. What does it matter that your friend has better shoes or that your sister's smarter? Make the best of what you have. Each person has his path in life.

12) Try hard not judging others harshly; judge them favorably. I have no clue what they have been through in their lives and why they are the way they are. The less I judge, the less I am frustrated with the world and ultimately, my own failings. Each person has his ups and downs, his merits and his failings. Live and let live. Life will be easier for you.

13) Forgive myself. I may be far from perfect, but I'm not a useless shmuck. I push myself, I try my best. I have my highs and lows. Of course I fail a lot, but I have learned to live with it without debilitating doubts about myself. This may be the single hardest thing to practice daily, but it's critical.

14) Don't stress about the things I can't control. Whether it's getting sick, a tax assessment, water damage, hurricanes or terrorism, I've learned to live and focus on the things I can control. There is no point wringing your hands, being superstitious, trying to control your fate. Either your faith will carry you if you believe in G-d or if you don't, you'll think it's arbitrary and all meaningless. Live life as best you can; the rest is up to the Creator.

15) Do the hardest tasks in the morning, when I have the most energy and focus. Small (or even big) wins set me up well for the day to accomplish what I need to do. Motivation is everything. Never waste the day, especially the first half, which is the most valuable. Otherwise, you'll be frustrated and that will snowball into further stress.

16) Take time off from devices. No phone, computer, nothing before leaving home. No phone, computer, tablet, TV screen after 7 PM. There's nothing like abstaining from the constant onslaught of updates and information coming through devices. And most importantly, I take (an actual) and digital Sabbath every Friday night to Saturday night. This is time completely free of devices and is used to catch up with family time, friends and neighbors, plus to reflect on life and what's really important and meaningful in it, what I need to do to improve as a human being.

17) Sleep well and regularly, every single day. There's simply nothing better for bad stress than a good night of sleep. See what I've written on the subject.

18) Maintain a stable and sustainable routine, with room for variation, new experiences. Life is a crazy up-and-down. Because I've crafted and continue tweaking my routine, I always have a structure to the day and week that keeps me going through whatever stress, surprises, unexpected news. Without this, I would become jello, shrink away from life, depressed and miserable.

Now go chill out, you crazy anxious and hot mess! I'll see you on that walk around the park :)

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Do you have other strategies for beating stress, anxiety? Please share with the Community in Comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

– –

Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

How to Find Out What You Are Meant To Do in Life

DeathtoStock_NotStock2 The vast majority of people – likely yourself, included - are not happy with their job and not engaged at work. You’ve seen Venn diagrams galore about the sweetspots between what you’re good at and your passion and what pays well and the like. Maybe in college or in high school, you took ASVAB or another long assessment that spits out ten possibilities of jobs you might want to consider.

And yet, you’re sitting in your cubicle and wondering what is it that you’re meant to do in life. What do you want to be when you grow up? Your mother’s voice rings in your head. Yet still, you have no magic answer. At times you seriously doubt there is an answer possible.

A part of you, in fact, just never wants to grow up and to focus on one thing. Deep down, you never quite believed in that annoying maxim that your parents and your teachers drilled into you, that says you have to choose and stick with your profession for your life or drift away, become a failure. There is a wisdom there and also folly, equal in their measure.

As we well know, Millenials pursue portfolio careers – they can be product managers and writers or risk analysts and DJs. There is no simple definition of profession anymore, as well. Most people change careers and jobs like gloves. There is no longer a straight path to glory or fulfillment, save for a few fields. There’s no such thing as meritocracy. Your personality and sense of politics are equally (if not, in fact, much more) important for advancement than your brains and execution.

Allow me to propose a heresy - life’s meaning doesn’t have to stem from work! It is a paycheck and an occupation and a means to learn, contribute and perhaps enjoy. There is no biblical commandment for your job to be your all-consuming purpose. There is your family, your hobbies, church or synagogue, non-profit work, whatever it may be.

But no, come on, you say. I’m young and smart and energetic and I know that I can be successful if I only knew where to apply myself. That may be true. Even if you are not a prodigy from childhood, you can easily still bloom much later and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Think Warren Buffett and Ray Crock, Mark Pincus and a thousand others who created famous brands and giant value late in life.

You may be in your twenties, thirties, even older, if you’re reading this. Many of us pursued name brands of companies, degrees and fancy titles, but are unfulfilled. There has to be a better way.

Here’s my approach:

1) Beyond the many tests of personality and culture fit, there is the question of your role. A role encapsulates what motivates you in a given situation.

What role – that is, opposed to title - do you really, truly, actually enjoy in any situation?

Are you the expert who excels in giving consultations on in-depth details and who analyzes trends?

Are you the silent helper in the background who makes sure the others are on track and doing well?

Are you the planner that can carry off the complex project plan?

Are you an inborn manager and delegator, telling people what to do and how?

Are you the Type A CEO who lives by mission and are hell-bent on achieving it?

Or are you the observer who enjoys his writing far removed from business action?

You may be all these things in some capacity, but which one gives you real enjoyment in the moment?

 

2) Once you have narrowed down a favorite role, you can move on to adding value.

In what capacity can you help others best and thrive? In what capacity would it be easiest for you to make things cheaper, better, faster and kick ass and come home happy after a long day?

Are you a stickler for the right word in the moment? Then try marketing or writing.

Are you in inborn salesman, full of energy, who loves convincing other people that it’s time to buy, buy, baby? The sky’s the limit, GO AND SELL!

Do you enjoy forecasting profits or new trends? Then maybe you should be a data scientist in your favorite field.

Do you see years ahead of everyone and outwork all the rest to get to where you want to be? You might be the right person to go off and start something yourself.

 

3) Once you collect the evidence to show yourself what you enjoy the most, you can go on to mapping it to function in a company by title. Don’t fixate on the title, but on job description. Will this involve a lot of things that get you up all bright and early, thrilled to run to work? If not, keep looking.

 

4) Next, industry makes sense by what you value most. Everyone likes to say that they enjoy helping people. Those in the medical professions want to cure, improve their patients’ health. Investment bankers want to raise the capital for companies to grow. Climate researchers want to turn the tide and save the planet. Sometimes the industry is not so terribly important.

What medium or context is it that excites you most for doing your best work?

You could be crunching data in a healthcare startup, just as well as finance or at Uber.

 

5) Next, go and research companies where you might want to work. It doesn’t have to be the Googles, Apples, Ubers of the world – at least not right away. Often, your break can come inside a tiny startup or established, boring player, where the degrees and fancy titles carry much less weight than motivation, problem-solving skills and good experience.

The best way to get information is, once more, from people on the inside. These are the folks who get your resume directly past the tracking system and into the hands of the HR / recruiter. They are the ones who know interview questions, preferences of the hiring manager, the team dynamic and company culture. NEVER take the company’s own marketing at face value. Read Glassdoor and other reviews, keeping in mind that most reviewers tend to be either quite pissed or drunk with Koolaid. Stay skeptical until the end – at least until the ink is dry on your new contract with the firm.

 

6) Now that you’ve done your research and reflection, you can start to strategize.    

What is the shortest path to get to that specific role inside your chosen industry?

First, focus on the practical. Can you get in a sponsored hackathon and then get hired directly? Great, go for it.

Or can you take a General Assembly course for it? It might be worth the money, then.

How about taking MOOCs for credit – would that show your interest and dedication to potential employers? How about being active in industry groups on LinkedIN and in real life?

Depending on what role you want, you may be able to network your way into a job without much (or any) prior experience. Ask questions on Quora to get a straight-forward, no-nonsense answer from high-end professionals in the field.

Next, read all the books you can about the path the leading lights have taken to start out and grow, excel at the particular profession that you chose.

Before you rush to spend your hard-earned money (or take student debt) for a degree, for courses or for boot camps, go online and find the high-end free resources recommended by professionals (see Quora).

Contact the people in your network in the field who do exactly what you want (over LinkedIN, through  alumni network or another way). Take them to coffee and prepare good questions about paths to get there and the tasks and functions of the job, then companies and titles, then how to interview and what to know, etc.

This is the crucial process of intelligence gathering. If you don’t do it well, you’re liable to get the wrong ideas, spend too much money and get lost. Those working in the field (not academics in the field) generally have their nose to ground, a set of realistic views and expectations.

That said, beware of doctors hating medicine, those angry, burnt-out lawyers, bored accountants and the other misfits who are stuck – naysayers, who are not your friends. Talk to the doers, people with large networks and portfolio careers. They generally have the clearest and most sober view of things. Get second, third and fourth opinions, always, as a rule.

 

**DISCLAIMERS**

It is worth noting that at different stages in your life, you’ll likely want to be in different roles. You’ll find completely different things enjoyable when 22 than when you’re 30, 35 or 45. Exiting college, you are hungry for experience through solid training. You may already know exactly what you want from life or you can struggle through crap jobs, self-doubt until you’re sick and want to change direction. This easily can happen at the age of 30, 35 or 40, even later.

Consider this example. At 22, John starts his job at Google as a Junior Product Manager. At 24, he moves to LinkedIN and there gets his break, leading a team to build an awesome feature that affects a hundred million people, At 27, he’s recruited as VP of Product at a healthcare startup and begins to take the plunge. Here, he begins to build a team to take on cancer through great diagnostics. At 30, his equity stake is worth $3 million and he cashes out after the IPO.

After 2 years, he moves into the dark side, a VC firm, Kleiner Perkins. From his new perch, he is an expert and thought leader, now investing in healthcare and tech. He gives TED lectures and advises startups on their product strategies. After 5 years investing and an awesome record, he plunges back and starts a company with friends from college. He’s got 2 kids, a wife.

His interests, priorities and worldview have completely changed – several times - since 22. Once he got married and had kids, family's meant the most to him, his job taking a backseat.

Each person's finances and circumstances, personality and motivations may be different and change with time. The key's to keep things in perspective. It's great to love your job, but not at the expense of family and loved ones - or your health. Life is a trade-off, but a lack of balance brings great harm.

Not all of us (frankly, quite few of us) can have a straight path as our friend John mentioned here. Most of us will go from job to job and career to career until we reach apathy, complacency or maybe a small share of transcendence along the way. The bliss is really in the journey, often hard and bumpy, crooked as in Snakes and Ladders.

It gets quite hard and harder to amend directions in your life once you have family and kids, so try to get your stuff straight earlier. That said, it’s never quite “too late.” Think of those Buffets and Ray Crocks, Mark Pincuses and all the other fabulously successful late bloomers.

Enjoy the ride, stay humble and stay firmly on the ground, Marty McFly!

I’m rooting for you!

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Are there other tips and strategies you’ve found useful in finding your ideal job or career? Share them with the community in the Comments section below.

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Like what you see? Visit BlueprintToThrive.com for more great strategies and tips for better health and wealth, plus improved productivity.

Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

How To Decide If You Want to Work In a Startup (or Stay Corporate)

DeathtoStock_NotStock5 How To Decide If You Want to Work In a Startup (or Stay Corporate)

Many of us have been there. Tired of the boring job at a large company, resigned to being ten levels under management with no room to grow, running in place, not growing as a human being. We start to daydream - what if I was a Startup Guy or Startup Girl?

Immediately, we think of airy lofts and open floor plans, tons of snacks, open vacation, equity, being buddy-buddy with the founders, helping build an awesome product that will change the world, etc. We talk to friends who work at startups and they seem so driven and excited all the time. I want my freedom! Screw this corporate crap!

Now, back to earth. Just like in any other company, a startup job can be amazingly rewarding - or pure hell.

Here's what to look for when you think of jumping to a startup:

1) How do you look at risk? Is it excitement for you or a heart attack? Are you gung-ho about new challenges and run with them and own the problem or are you used to doing what you're told?

Frankly, can you survive if suddenly, the company goes under or the job doesn't work out? What if your job description changes drastically? How flexible are you to go get coffee/donuts, even if you're high in management? If suddenly the founders need to pivot or to cut the workforce, it could be a sudden shock.

If you're ok financially and otherwise with this scenario, then it could be for you. Don't take the startup gig it if you can't take the sudden changes in direction, moving quickly, daily shifts in mood and job description. 

2) How do you work? Are you methodical and thorough, harping on every detail to perfection? Then stay away.

Or are you of the 80/20 mindset, focusing on things of greatest impact first and then the rest? This might be for you.

Do you take ownership or do you always defer to others? If it's the first, then you might be a Startup Guy or Girl.

3) What is your learning style? Do you learn best by doing or through books and manuals and specialized trainings? A startup job will often have you doing things well outside of your comfort zone (what you learned in college, what you did in previous jobs, etc.) If learning things by doing is your forte, working for a startup might just be the thing for you.

4) What sort of people push you toward doing your best work? If you're not used to Type A, crazy people cracking whips around you, you will not enjoy it. Startups are different, but their founders tend toward having a very strong vision and a mission. If you're not in line, then often, you'll be yelled at, overruled or sidelined.

5) How stable is the company, especially its finances? Have the founders built companies previously? Have they worked successfully as a team before? How much does the company have in the bank (runway/burn) to achieve its mission and how well is this money being managed?

6) How do you get along with the founder(s) and the team you would work with? Make sure to take the beer test, ask detailed questions and OBSERVE their behavior, above all. If you don't like how people treat each other or how they react to stress (ask!) or other aspects of the culture, then it will wear you down and burn you out. Is the startup full of mature adults or a bunch of bros? It often depends on your function. FInance will be quite conservative and experienced people, whereas the Product Team and Devs will often be 20-something hipsters or bros. Know with which teams and people you would be working and make sure to meet them and estimate how well you can work with them.

7) Where can you grow in your role? Up or out? Don't settle for vague answers from founders. If you're a Product Manager, you will want to grow into a Director of Product Management, for example. If you're an account manager, you may want to become a Sales Director down the line. Be clear in where you want to go and that the founders and management know it and are on board with helping you reach your goals.

8) What is the company's mission and how closely aligned with it is the vision and the execution? Why do you want to work for a startup? Is it because you identify with the mission or because you're after the equity? Don't be seduced by wanting to "change the world" or the Perk Trap or "moving fast and breaking shit."

The work is often insanely hard and the hours beyond crazy. Equity almost always vests after a year and even then may not be worth anything. Too many free snacks make you fat and sick. You can't actually take as much vacation as you want (you'll be fired immediately when you try). Most of what you do will not come close to changing the world. You may want to move fast and break stuff, but there are always constraints like money and hours in the day and personality conflicts.

9) How happy will you be just to lay out your everything on the line for the company and learn as much as you can and work with super-smart people on an important problem (unless you're building yet another video or chat app) and then walk away? In the end, this is by far the greatest benefit, unless you actually build something world-changing, your equity actually vests and is actually worth something.

10) Does your family situation give you breathing room to work for a startup? If you're a single, urban 20-something, you have little to lose except sleep and hair and life enjoyment. You'll be fine. If you have a family and commitments, then it may not be the best bet to work for a startup, given the insane hours and constant stress and often unpredictable schedule. It takes a toll on you because you live your job (or you lose it).

In the end, there is no magic formula for whether it makes sense for you to take the plunge. An overwhelming number of startups fail each year. Nobody but you can decide what lifestyle you want or what skills you want to learn, with what people to work or what your mission in life is.

That said, if you are lucky to find a startup job that aligns with your mission and values and gets you in the door, working with amazingly smart people on an important problem with money and a great team behind you, ABSOLUTELY GO FOR IT!

Your life will never be the same and despite the hellish stress, it will open a wealth of opportunities for you. Just know, the startup journey ain't for the faint of heart.

Are there other factors you've found important in deciding whether to jump to a startup? Tell us in the Comments below. We would love to hear from you.

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Follow us @Blueprint2Thriv

Yuri Kruman is a Healthcare Product Manager, published author, blogger at BlueprintToThrive.com and health tech entrepreneur based in New York.

*The views expressed herein are his own*

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