Category Archives: Cool Concepts

The crazy-easy way to start a gratitude journal – and some ideas on what to say

After talking about the benefits of gratitude journals last week, I promised I’d share my favorite online gratitude journal. Soooo, drumroll please:

Why I love it

  1. It is dead simple. It’s so simple, I don’t have to remember to use it. Happy Rambles sends me an email with the subject line, “What are you grateful for today?” I just reply with my answer, and away it goes, stored in my private account on their site.
  2. It’s a blast from the past. In addition to asking me what I’m grateful for, the email also includes a past entry and asks, “How good was this?”
  3. It’s consistent. Every night at 8 p.m., I know that little email will show up in my box, and it makes me take just a few minutes and think about the good things in my day.

How it works for me

You can reply in most any form — paragraphs, bullets, photos, even incoherent sentences if that’s your thing. It’s easier and less daunting for me to write three things in a simple numbered list, so that’s what I do. It usually takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.

It’s okay to focus on the small things

When I started out, I thought I might run out of things to say; being grateful for friends and family every night would get boring in a hurry.

But I quickly figured out that it’s more fun to focus on the small random things that make you smile or laugh. Here are just a few examples of quirky little things from my journal:

  • The yard guy who stops to pick up wind-blown trashcans
  • Fall moon on a periwinkle backdrop
  • Frozen strawberries
  • Getting a compliment on my new sweater
  • Negotiating with Time Warner
  • New sidewalk from my office to Rite Aid
  • Fresh, delicious, yummy-smelling bagels
  • New laptop battery

Bonus idea for job seekers

Use your gratitude journal as a way to record progress in your search. Make it a goal to have one positive piece of job-search news to report each night. It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe you found a new company to research, made a new contact, had a great conversation, figured out a new way to frame your skills, or got a target company to retweet something you said.

So, what are you waiting for? Pop over to Happy Rambles and get your own journal!


Need a jolt of pre-interview confidence? Put down your smart phone and head to the bathroom, says Harvard research

If you spend the minutes before your interview nervously tapping away at your phone, STOP! And watch this video.

OK, it was 17 minutes. Maybe you didn’t watch the whole thing.

Quick summary: Harvard research shows that our confidence and stress levels can change in just TWO MINUTES depending on how our bodies are positioned.

If you sit hunched forward — like you do when you’re reading news on your phone — your stress hormone (cortisol) levels rise and your confidence hormone (testosterone) levels decrease.

BUT, good news! If you spend just two minutes in a ‘power pose’ (the researcher’s term, not mine), you will see opposite effects. Stress levels decrease, confidence rises.

Even better news, the study shows that people who adopt power poses are more likely to get hired, largely because they come across as more charismatic and enthusiastic.

Are you now wondering how to pose powerfully? Look at the video image. She’s in a power pose. She’s standing up straight and tall, with her chest puffed out and hands on her hips. Her body takes up as much space as possible.

That’s why the researcher advises heading to the bathroom before your interview. You’ll be standing up on your way there, and inside, you’ll be able to spread out a bit without attracting weird looks from the receptionist.


From a grad that’s been there and landed a job: Navigating online job postings

A guest post from UNC-CH graduate Courtney Miller.

Searching for job postings on the Internet should never be your ONLY job hunting activity. Jobs posted online usually receive many applicants due to ease of access. Even if you have stellar qualifications, it may be difficult to make yourself stand out among other recent graduates.
Most of the interviews I got were a result of direct contacts I made through networking, including the job I currently hold. I applied for nearly 100 jobs online. Out of the jobs I applied for online, I was offered the opportunity to interview at eight of those places and actually interviewed at six. I was offered a position at two, and neither would be considered full-time gigs. With that being said, I’m going to offer some advice to maximize job searching online.

  • Get advice and tips from alumni and professionals in your field on where to find postings. When you engage in networking activities with alumni or professionals in your industry, ask which Web sites are good to check for job searches. They may have some good insider-specific Web sites that aren’t widely publicized, which means less competition for you. If possible, try to join a local chapter of a professional organization. Many professional organizations offer exclusive online job postings.
  • Watch out for scams/fraudulent job postings. If a job posting sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Anything that reads, “Work from home and make $100,000 a month,” probably isn’t legit. Job scams are abundant on Web sites like, where any organization can post. If you see a posting from a company you’ve never heard of, check out the company’s Web site before you waste your time applying. If the Web site isn’t current or seems fishy, there may be a reason. You may also want to try typing in the name of the company and the word “scam” in the Google search box to see what comes up.
  • Consider moving the geographic location you want to find a job. If you want a job in New York City and your resume lists a Florida address, many employers will be weary of even bringing you in to interview. For jobs that have many qualified applicants, why would an employer pick a person who lives hundreds of miles away when there appears to be many qualified local candidates? In a down economy, employers don’t want to pay your travel or relocation costs. If you can’t afford to move to the city without a job, this blog suggests a few things to mention to get around this problem.
  • Social Media Postings. Set up a Twitter account and search for job Twitter accounts. Search by geographical location or industry. For example: DC Marketing Job Twitter: Also there are blogs that track industry job openings. One of my favorites is the DC Public Affairs + Communications Job Blog. I didn’t have as much success on Facebook; however I did know a lucky person who got a job at CNN from a Facebook posting, so it might be worth a try.
  • Create RSS Feeds for Job Postings. Setting up an RSS can save you searching time and brings you the information instead of the other way around. This Web site has some really great tips on how to create an RSS Feed that suits your job searching needs.
  • Create Job Search Agents. Take the time to visit the Web sites of the organizations you would like to work at the most. Even if they don’t have job postings that you’re interested in right now, many have the option of setting up a search agent that will e-mail you as soon as a new posting that fits your parameters is created.

Should you have business cards? (Hint: yes)

A reader wrote to me earlier in the week asking about business cards. She said,

I was curious if you’d ever written or researched anything about student business cards? UCS encourages them, but I’ve read mixed reviews online. What’s the communication field’s opinion of them? Have you used them in your own internship/job search? Are they really worth spending the money for?

The kind of cards she’s talking about are networking cards.

I have one, and they’re valuable for a few reasons, not the least of which being the confidence boost you get from having something to hand out. I speak from experience: I’ve been in a networking situation without a business card, and it is HIGHLY awkward when everyone else is exchanging and you’re not.

Other reasons are purely practical. It’s an easy way to exchange information with someone. You can also jot down notes on business cards about the person, which makes thank you notes and future networking endeavors go more smoothly.

What about content — what should you include on the card? They usually don’t list a title, but they do include:

  • Cell phone and e-mail. Denote cell phone with (c) or c., and please don’t write out “e-mail” — people are savvy enough now to know an e-mail address when they see one.
  • Web presence. Web site, LinkedIn, and Twitter and blogs (if you have them). Do consider your industry when including Twitter, though. Communications firms might be more open and even expect a Twitter listing, whereas more conservative industries (e.g. law, investment banking) might find it odd. And it goes without saying that your blog and/or Web site content should be professional if you’re going to include a link.
  • Your major and GPA. Tthe general rule is to include only 3.0 or better.
  • Your skills and your goals. These are best incorporated in a positioning statement.
  • What about your address? Irene Koehler at Almost Savvy says she doesn’t put her address on cards because so much work is done remotely now. For college students, it’s probably a waste of space because it’s likely your address will change (at least once) soon after graduation.

As far design goes, if you’ve used certain colors on your resume, use the same ones on the card for effective personal branding.

giles_BCYou can either design your own card (I did mine using Adobe InDesign) and upload it to be printed, or you can use a printing site that has design templates. Sites like VistaPrint and 123Print, with design and print capabilities, tend to be very affordable — like 250 cards for under $10 plus shipping. It pays to Google business cards and see who’s offering specials.

If you like the customized idea but are uncomfortable designing your own, you can try Moo cards, where you can upload  your own photos on the back of cards. Moo cards also come in a few sizes (the most popular is the MiniCard), which can help you stand out.

Although I think business cards will always be around (for confidence and personal branding), people are increasingly sending information digitally. Contxts has a system to do just that. I haven’t used it, but it lets you text your information to someone else and receive theirs. The info is automatically stored in a database. Pretty neat, and maybe a good addition to a business card (depending how tech-savvy the rest of the room is).

I’m a Web 2.0 success story!

I’m officially a Web 2.0 success story! You know the kind CNN has been talking about? I’m one of those!

As of Tuesday (5/26), I will be working as a social media strategist at the Durham-based company Optimal Resume. (If you’ve heard of it, maybe it’s because they handle UNC’s web-based resume service — and 400+ other schools’.) I’ll be tweeting, blogging and Facebooking about job-search strategies (sound familiar?) and helping people make the most of Optimal Resume.

I’d be lucky to have this job in any economy, but especially in this one. It matches my interests and skills, the company and environment are great, and I think I’ll be able to contribute and learn a lot.

So where does the Web 2.0 come in (aside from the job title)? Here’s a hint: even though Optimal Resume is based in Durham (where I’ve lived for the past two years), my connection to the company started in Maine.

Sherry Mason, a career counselor at Bowdoin College, introduced me to @OptimalResume on Twitter, which is really Optimal Resume’s COO, Dave McNasby. From there, we exchanged Twitter messages and set up a meeting. That was last Tuesday. Within a week, I became a proud Optimal Resume team member.

Now here’s the back story of how I met Sherry and why she introduced me to Optimal Resume.

When I joined Twitter in January, I was debating between going to law school and venturing into the real world — and my bio said so. I started tweeting what was on my mind, which included everything from law school essay topics to how I thought UNC’s Career Services could improve.

That’s how Sherry at Bowdoin found me. One day I tweeted that I thought UCS should teach personal branding, and she messaged me to ask what else I thought they should do.

A few days after I joined Twitter, I started this blog, and I asked Sherry for her input about content. As luck would have it, she not only helped with that, but as a former practicing lawyer, she talked with me about my law school decision. She’s one of the people who helped me decide it wasn’t for me.

Once that decision was made, Sherry and I kept in touch, tweeting and e-mailing occasionally, and one of those tweets was the introduction that landed me this job.

My story is a lesson in how it pays to be authentic and active in your social media use. Yes, I joined Twitter and started blogging because all the job-search articles said those were two keys to jump-starting a job search, but I didn’t blog and tweet what I thought employers wanted to hear, or just advertise that I needed a job.

I talked about things that interested me, things that were naturally on my mind, and I found a job (or a job found me, depending on which way you look at it) that matches.

For those of you who are worried about meaningless (maybe menial?) entry-level work, a Web 2.0 job search can be a great way to find an exciting, interesting job that fits your personality and goals. Just be authentic (within reason) and don’t try to be everything to everyone (that’s just good branding). At least that’s what I did, and it worked for me.

Cool concept: Personal board of directors

Sorry the blog went on a little hiatus. Now that graduation is over (congrats to the class of 2009!), I should be back more regularly, looking at everything from how to land a job via Web 2.0 to what to do when you have an offer on the table.

Hopefully, with graduation behind us and the big, real world staring at us, job offers will begin to roll in, and you (we) will be making big, exciting decisions. A great way to make those decisions easier is to have a personal board of directors. In much the same way companies have brands, and you have  a personal brand, companies also have boards of directors, and so should you.

A board for a company is an advising and decision-making body. I’m not suggesting that you ask your board to vote on every decision in your life. Rather, your board should be a group of trusted confidantes that you can turn to for advice and guidance.

This Fast Company article outlines the types of people you want to have on your board and how to utilize their strengths. You want:

  • A clarifier to ask questions
  • A connector to help you network
  • A challenger who moves you to action
  • A wise elder who has lots of experience under his or her belt

The article gives tips on how to get your board started, and when and how often to meet. They suggest including members that aren’t friends or family. So maybe you recruit a former professor, or someone who has the kind of job you might like to have in five years. Not only is it a great way to get new perspectives, but you build your network with solid relationships. Members can also be people you’ve met just online, through Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere.

In the interest of honesty, I don’t have a “board of directors” per se, but I am lucky to have people (family, friends and others) whose opinions I trust, and who graciously share their time and insights with me. Maybe your board doesn’t have to be so formal, either, but the idea is good: cultivate a network of people outside your peer group who have insights and abilities different from your own. It’ll pay dividends.

Note: Fast Company is a magazine for entrepreneurs, so this article is for a person starting a business. Don’t let that turn you off though — we’re all really in the business called Me, Inc.

Turn classes & projects into resume items

Before you burn that sociology notebook or forget about the 45 hours you spent on a class project, add it to your resume!

Not sure how? Check out these entries (called “resume phrases” in the label cloud) from SweetCareers, a blog written by Grace Kutney at Lawrence University’s Career Center. She gives samples of how you can turn classwork, projects, presentations and other campus involvement into valuable resume items.

The sample phrases are divided by type of involvement (like Greek life and working at the library) and major. Yes, there is even an entry called “Resume phrases for physics majors,” but you’ll also find history, sociology, art, marketing and PR examples (and more). She even includes sample verbiage that you can use.

Here are some examples:

  • Compared and contrasted _________ with _________ resulting in 8-page paper and 10 minute class presentation.
  • Utilized Lexis-Nexus, EBSCO Host, Jstor and other electronic databases.
  • Examined fundamental properties of crystalline solids from experimental perspective. (For the physics majors.)
  • Familiar with various techniques, including lithography, print making, digital imaging and sculpture.

The lesson learned? Almost anything you’ve done can be included on your resume. That’s an especially salient idea for people who may not have been able to complete loads of internships or take summer/part-time work in your field of interest.

A word of caution though: If you have worked in your field — through an internship or an actual job — that work experience will probably be more important and impressive to employers than anything you’ve done in class. So if you’re running out of space, classwork should be taken off first. (Actually, anything that isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for should be taken off first!)