The work world offers a continuum of means to stability. Huge risk takers might choose to pay off the Russian mob and try to corner to oil market in Siberia. If you’re looking for stability, you might try climbing a corporate ladder in a large, publicly traded company.

Climbing, of course, could lead to instability. The less valuable you are to the company, the more likely you are to be laid off, given mind-numbing work, or given positions that offer little flexibility. And those situations often lead to big instability.

But there are a few things you can do to make ladder-climbing easier. So here are three ideas, and one general tip: Pay attention to employment litigation – where the courts are systematically documenting what helps and hinders ladder-climbers as a way to protect minorities from discrimination.

1. Start somewhere good.
There are companies that are known for being respectful of employees and there are companies known for being embroiled in litigation from bitter employees.

Stay away from the latter. Daniel Gilbert shows that if the last girl liked the guy you’re dating than you’ll probably like him, too. It is not a big leap to apply this research to the workplace. If other people love working at the company, then you will too.

So talk to former employees and find out if they liked the company. (Current employees often have too much invested in their job to tell you the company stinks.) LinkedIn is actually a great way to find former employees of a given company. And most people will be happy to tell you if they loved their former match.

2. Get a sponsor.
In order to move up in a large company you need someone to guide you. A sponsor is someone who is a mentor, but it’s a specific type of mentor. This person is well-connected in the company, who will not only make you known to the right people, but will help you steer yourself within the company.

You find a sponsor the same way you would find a mentor. By networking, by approaching the person directly, or by asking your human resources department if there’s a company program you can join.

It is well documented that a sponsor works to get an employee up the ladder. And because of this, when a large company gets in trouble for not promoting enough minorities into senior management, one way they can remedy the problem (reg. req.) in a way that satisfies the courts is to establish a sponsor program for minorities.

This should be enough evidence for you to set up your own little program, for yourself.

3. Get into a line management position.
Corporations are set up to favor ladder climbing from line management rather than from support roles.

What does this mean? Line managers are directly responsible for generating money for the company (think product management or sales). Support staff, on the other hand, is responsible for making things run smoothly so the line managers can generate money (think human resources, public relations, or customer service).

Support managers generally do not have the profit-and-loss experience necessary for a top management position. Of all the CEOs who worked their way up the ladder, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with someone who made their mark on the company in a support role. And discrimination lawsuits have identified placing minorities in human resources and public relations departments as inherently career-limiting moves.

One of the most important pieces of climbing a ladder is creating a situation where you have enough clout to create a furtively flexible work life. (For example, a last-minute decision to go to a basketball game does not raise any eyebrows.) This is what will make ladder climbing palatable over an extended period of time.

Take a job that allows you to adding directly to the company’s bottom line, because if you can take responsibility for profits then you will get more leeway to create the kind of work life you want. And, that, after all, is the key to making a climb up the ladder a positive experience.

A lot of you know you’d like to be doing something more significant for your company, but no one is giving you the chance. This is your wake up call. You don’t need to wait for someone to bestow a title on you — you can take on a bigger role right now.

The key to taking on a bigger role is to have your current job under control. If you can’t handle your current job and another one, then you have to wait until you can change jobs. But if you get great at time management then you can do your current job and start doing another one without waiting for an invitation to climb up a rung on the corporate ladder.

Once you’re ready to take on other, more interesting work, you can use this three-step process to sidestep hierarchy.

1. Find a problem area in the company that no one is dealing with.
When I was in charge of online marketing at a software company. I knew that I wanted broader, operational experience, but it wasn’t part of my job description. So I got my marketing workload under control and then looked around for a trouble spot in the organization that no one was paying attention to.

I found tech support. The people were poorly trained, it was a huge cost center, and the company was growing at a rate that meant this problem would increase by 300% over the next year.

2. Come up with a solution you think you can execute.
I wrote a report that showed the problem and I outlined a detailed solution, with a timeline. I had no idea how to manage tech support. I outlined the solution by listing best practices that I got out of a management textbook, and my schedule was as broad as possible.

My boss was happy to give me responsibility for tech support because no other managers wanted it and he didn’t have budget to hire a new manager. But he didn’t change my title. He just said, “Okay, you can do that. Thanks.” No formal announcement.

3. Convince a team to help you.
I gathered up the three tech support people and explained to them that I understood their problems – being overworked, having no supplies, having constantly breaking products to support, etc. I told them I would help them fix these problems. They liked that, so they got on board to help me.

Then, before they could start doubting my ability to manage tech support, I asked each of them what they wanted from their job. Each had different answers. One wanted more money to support his daughter, one wanted management experience, one wanted less stress on the job. I made a plan to show how each of them could meet those goals.

The outcome: By the end of six months, I had done such a good job turning around tech support, that my boss gave me seed money to start my own company.

This last part is very important. When you are looking around your company for something new to do, don’t look for the perfect, dream job. Look for a job that will let you grow and show people how talented you are. This is the kind of situation that leads to huge opportunity.

This week’s Business Week just hit the stands, and what do you know? My blog is featured.

Lindsey Gerdes wrote a great summary of my blog, proving to me that other people can write a better summary of our work than we can write ourselves. (Yes, this is why you should hire someone to write your resume.)

Anyway, for you Business Week readers who are stopping by to check things out, Gerdes highlighted these posts:

Navigating the quarterlife crisis

How to turn down a job offer

How to manage your image

The first person to congratulate me about the piece in Business Week was Joyce Lain Kennedy.

This was no small moment for me. She was my silent mentor for years. I say mentor in the loosest sense of the word because (violating one of my own pieces of advice) I never contacted her. I thought she was too big to pay attention to someone like me. (Note: Don’t ever do this. Try contacting everyone. Most people will give you advice if you ask a specific question.)

Joyce Lain Kennedy is the most widely syndicated career advice columnist in the country. Probably in the world. Newspaper syndication is very complicated. Not that you shouldn’t try it. You should. But beware, because people like Kennedy have been there forever and sit on small empires. I studied her patterns, trying to figure out syndication. And, to be honest, I studied her column topics trying to figure out what the heck a career advice columnist writes about.

The problem was that I started out writing about my own career. Sort of like a well written diary. But then my company went bankrupt in the dot-com crash. Business 2.0, the magazine that was running my column, told me I was no longer that impressive — unemployed and pregnant did not look good. So I took my editor’s advice and stopped writing about myself. (Well, I tried to. You can imagine how hard that must have been.) Instead, I started writing straight-up career advice, like how to write a resume.

But my ideas ran dry after two or three, so I started stealing Kennedy’s topics: How to interview, how to write a cover letter… They are all classics, all good. She is a pro. I would write them the way a non-pro would write them — adding, for example, references to sex at the office that my editor would delete.

So then, five years pass, blah blah, and here I am, receiving an email from Joyce Lain Kennedy herself. And she sent her book to me. Autographed. It’s Resumes for Dummies. And it’s on a special, sentimental spot in my bookshelf, next to this week’s edition of Business Week.

Giving advice about careers is easier than taking it. People are always calling me on this — spitting my advice back to me at my most vulnerable moments. Like when I was late delivering my column five weeks in a row, and my editor said, “Remember that time you wrote about how being late is for losers?”

So I work hard at learning to consciously incorporate my own advice into my career.

The first time I did this was in an interview. I had just written a column about how the best way to end an interview is to say, “Do you have any reservations about hiring me?” If you say this at the end of an interview it gives you a chance to combat any misgivings — otherwise you just leave them there, untouched.

I remember sitting in the interview thinking to myself, “You should ask the question,” then I thought, “No. The question is so pushy and sounds like it’s right out of a book.” Then I thought, “You have to do it. Do it. Do it!”

So I asked the question and the moment unfolded like a textbook: The interviewer told me she was worried about my job hopping. I explained to her why I am a dedicated employee who delivers outstanding results wherever I go. And I got the job.

Now, I take my advice more often, though it’s still hard. Last week I was writing an email about a job I want, and I wrote, “Just checking to see if you had a chance to read my proposal.” Then I thought, hmm. That is not very positive and inspiring. So I changed it to, “Please give me a call so we can discuss how I can make your company launch a success.”

The second phrasing sounds a little crazy because I never talk that way to friends. But I really do stand by my advice that direct mail philosophies work, and requesting a specific action and providing a specific benefit are very important — Tell people what you want from them so they can give it to you. (Update: it worked. The person called, and I got a great partnership deal.)

Each of us has an advisor inside of us that we can listen to as a way to do better in this world. Hiring a career coach has helped me a lot, but my experience tells me that it’s also important to develop your own, inner coach. Here are four skills I have developed for coaching myself:

1. Talk to an imaginary coach.
If you pretend you’re talking to someone else then you have to explain what you’re doing in much more detail than if you were mulling it over in your head. The result is similar to writing down a problem – more clarity about the problem leads to more clarity about the solution.

2. Ask yourself better questions.
If you get stuck doing step one, ask yourself the most cringe-inducing question that someone else could ask you. Then answer them. The quality of the questions you ask equals the quality of the conclusions you draw.

3. Pretend to give advice to someone else.
Pretend someone else is asking you the same question. What would you say to them? It’s easier to give someone else a hard dose of reality than to give it to ourselves.

4. Believe in your ability to make positive change in your life.
You can’t coach yourself until you believe that you’re coachable. As always, believing in yourself is half the battle.


Here is a message for people who say office politics don’t matter: You will die a slow, painful career death. This is because there’s no getting around office politics, and mastering them is essential to being able to steer your own career. Don’t take that as bad news, though, because mastering office politics is good for your soul. Really.

Office politics is inescapable because it’s about dealing with the people. A small percentage of people are mentally unable to understand office politics. The rest of you need to get with the program. Because where there is a group of people — anywhere, even on the playground – there is politics.

Let’s say you pack up your bags and go work in a national park, with trees and rivers and no cubicles. There will be politics about who has to take care of hikers when it’s raining and who gets to stay dry, and if you are bad at politics, you will be wet every time.

Politics is part of society. And my guess is that you want to participate in society (at least) so that you can support yourself. But people who are good at politics are generally empathetic (they understand who needs what) and they have good self-discipline (they can moderate themselves so they are pleasant to be with.)

Most people who hate politics think they have to change who they are to succeed. Really, though, anyone who is being their best self — kind, considerate, expressive, interested in others — will do fine in office politics.

So get to know yourself. Saying you just can’t do politics is giving up on being your best self. And wait, there’s more good news about office politics. If you really take a look at what’s going on over there at the water cooler, people are not jockeying for power, they are hobnobbing for projects. That’s right. For most people in today’s workplace, office politics is about getting the best opportunities to learn and grow; the best projects, the best training, the assignments that build skills the market values.

Office chatter with the vapid goal of getting power over other people is, frankly, a little offensive. But it is hard to fault people for wanting to grow and learn. In fact, I find more fault with people who care so little about personal growth that they won’t spend the extra energy politicking to get themselves on good projects.

Maybe you are convinced, but you are feeling at a loss to get started. Here are four things that people who are good at office politics do:

1. Make time for it — both in terms of face time, and time alone to analyze the face time.

2. Listen. How can you learn anything when you’re talking about what you already know?

3. Have genuine interest in other people. Each person is interesting if you are interested enough to ask the right question.

4. Practice empathy. This means putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes all the time. And not judging them.

Maybe you’re still thinking of being the person at the office who abstains from office politics. Realize that you won’t last long – in the office, that is. Putting your head down and doing your work is a good way to ensure that you don’t connect with anyone. This situation is deadly in a world where people are hired for what they know and fired for who they are. People need to get to know you in order to like you.

The act of making yourself likeable is office politicking. You shouldn’t have to be fake if you are a genuinely nice and interested person. If office politics requires you to do something that feels fake, consider that you were not likeable in the first place. For you, office politics is training ground to teach yourself to be likeable, and, as a side benefit, you will save your job. For others, office politics is the time at work when you get to be your best, true, self in search of more learning opportunities and more human connections.

Most of my girlfriends who make more than $100K a year were cheerleaders in school. We are from all over the United States. We are from all different types of companies. Only a few of us can do the splits. Yet we all bounced in short skirts and cheered for boys.

I chalked this up to coincidence until I conducted further studies:

Study #1 The education study
I was never the kid who got A’s. I was the kid who developed arcane strategies to pass class. An example: For my high school junior thesis — which was an amazing (for a high school junior) 15 pages — I leveraged my debate-team evidence on torture weapons in Somalia to compose a paper on ethics, which was not particularly well written but was well received because of the perceived time spent researching.

After hiding my academic mediocrity for years, I was gathering bios for a business plan when I realized that I was surrounded by business geniuses who had been mediocre students. I removed everyone’s education credentials from the plan — even those for the guy who was very high up in a prominent worldwide company.

Conclusion: Success in business and success in school are not linked and do not require the same skills.

Study #2 The personality study
When I worked in software marketing my company had a training day. The whole company piled into a hotel that was too fancy for an all-company meeting unless there was something bad coming.

The CEO announced that one of the most common downfalls of fast-growing companies was poor communication. He told us that the corporate psychologist on stage with him would make sure our company did not have this problem.

Then the psychologist gave us all personality tests.

We circled words. We filled in boxes. We tried not to look at the page of the person next to us when the person next to us might notice.

We graded ourselves because the psychologist promised, “There are no wrong answers. We’re finding out who we are so we can communicate that to our teammates.”

I glanced at the CEO to make sure that given the choice of perfection or power, he also chose power: I didn’t want to admit to power mongering if the other power mongers would not.

The results, surprisingly, were not surprising. Once we understood the basics, everything fell into place. The psychologist told us that people are motivated by one of four areas:

1. Power and achievements
2. Friendships and other relationships
3. Having fun
4. Keeping peace and finding truth

Conclusion: All senior managers at our company were motivated by power and achievements — except the VP for sales, who was motivated by relationships.

Cheerleader conclusion
After analyzing these two in-depth studies, I have concluded that while a position on the dean’s list does not necessarily signal a good business career ahead, a position on the cheerleading squad does.

A girl who joins the cheerleading squad is a performer, a leader, and has a nose for where the power is. In high school, money is not the issue — boys are. And girls on the cheerleading squad get more of this currency than girls on the dean’s list.

So when your daughter wants to be a cheerleader, discourage it, of course. For all the same reasons that my friends and I do not put pictures of ourselves as cheerleaders on our desks at work.

But Peggy Orenstein writes, in her New York Times article What’s Wrong with Cinderella?, that there is no discouraging girls from wanting to be princesses. So I think there is probably no discouraging girls from wanting to be cheerleaders, either. In that case, the good news is that the cheerleader thing is a sign of good things to come.

A few months ago, I was interviewing this guy, Ben Casnocha.

The first thing you need to know about Ben is that he started a company when he was fourteen. And it’s still around today, four years later. Ben doesn’t run it, but my point is that it’s a real company.

But no, wait, that’s not my point. This next paragraph isn’t my point either, but I’m going to tell you anyway: Ben’s company, Comcate, helps governments do stuff online. Nothing particularly notable about that except that it’s exactly what my second startup did. So while my own governments-go-online startup was going bankrupt in the dot-com crash. Ben was in his sixth grade classroom making a success of that very business.

Ben does not know this. I nearly fell on the floor when I was on the phone with him, and it was all I could do to keep the interview going. But now, whenever you see me grandstanding about my three companies that I started, you can recall that I’m also the one who was outmaneuvered in my business by a kid in junior high school.

But anyway, I digress. Ben is a very humble and interesting guy, and he’s hard to not like. So during the interview, I asked him how he meets people to mentor him. This is what he said, “Mostly face to face. Not through the more traditional ways like blogging.”

TRADITIONAL? I had to pick myself up off the floor again.

But you know what? That was eight months ago. And I’ve been blogging for a while now, and Ben has a point. It is very, very easy to meet people through blogging. And it’s very efficient — you never have to leave your computer.

Some of you are thinking you have no idea where to start. So look, here are the easiest instructions for starting a blog. Some are you are thinking it’s too time intensive. But you can grow a useful network efficiently from a blog that you post to only once or twice a week.

I think the networking benefits should be enough reason for you to be posting twice a week. After all, if you can’t afford two hours a week for networking, your career is in trouble. But here are three more benefits to blogging — these are goals you should have for your career anyway, and they’re goals you can reach by blogging only a handful of times a month:

1. You will force yourself to specialize.
You can’t really write a blog about everything. Well, you can, but it will suck. So you’ll need to pick a topic and stick with it. And just the act of doing that is good for you because specializing is good for your career. After all, you can’t be known for something if you are not specializing in something. And once you are known for something you have a lot more leverage to get the kind of work you want to be doing.

People who want flexible work schedule often think that being a generalist will give them a lot of wiggle room. In fact, it’s the opposite. A generalist is easy to find, so no one needs to bother giving you a flexible work schedule to keep you. But if you specialize you are not so easily replaced, so you can ask for more flexibility at work.

2. You will let people know you have good ideas.
One of the biggest complaints people have about their work is that no one listens to their ideas. Everyone wants to be a creative thinker, but not everyone feels like that sort of work is open to them.

With a blog, though, you show people your creativity. Got a lot of ideas? Good, because there are a lot of days in the week for you to fill on that blog. And instead of you running around the office complaining to people about your stifled potential, you can show people your potential by broadcasting your ideas. The best way to get hired to spew ideas is to spew them and get people interested.

3. You will show passion and commitment.
There is a lot of evidence to show that, all things being mostly equal, we have a proclivity toward hiring people we want to have sex with. But we also have a proclivity toward hiring people we like. And after all the Ford Models are out of the interview cue, the most appealing people are those who have passion and commitment.

Of course, if you have read any how-to-interview advice, you know you should always say you have passion and commitment. But people who have it exude it. And if you are a blogger, and post at regular intervals, you don’t need to tell people about your passion and commitment – it’s right there on the page.

Hannah Schufreider may seem an unlikely person to be teaching you how to manage your career. She is a 12-year-old autistic girl living in Haverhill. Her days are spent being a little bored in school, reading Manga comics, watching Hannah Montana on TV, and going to fencing class on the weekends. Sounds like a typical adolescent’s schedule.

But in one of those odd convergences of circumstances, Hannah’s successful strategies for dealing with her disability could be adapted by adults having trouble in their professional lives — particularly those who can’t seem to connect with others at work.

Think this is a bit much to swallow? The link between the two is socials skills. Is there always one person at the office who acts rudely during meetings? Do you shy away from interacting with colleagues because you’re not good at office politics?

Maybe that colleague, or you, have trouble reading social cues. Here’s where Hannah can help. People with autism usually have poor social skills. She has a form of it called Asperger’s syndrome, whose sufferers often have well-above-average intelligence but troubles with social interaction.

On the playground, other moms might see these kids and say something like, ‘Oh, how cute! He’s a little Einstein.’ At school, teachers at school may comment, “He doesn’t listen to anything anyone says. I don’t know how he is doing so well in my class.”

Autistic people behave in ways that are out of sync with other people. “I make terrible jokes because I copy stuff that I see on TV. I think it’s funny but my parents tell me it’s not funny,” says Hannah.

Most people are born with the ability to read nonverbal cues. Hannah cannot, so when people don’t laugh at her jokes, she doesn’t understand it was because they weren’t funny. Someone has to tell her.

A workplace corollary is when a colleague who makes a coworker the butt of a joke is clueless that the coworker has a fragile personality. Another example: you’ve worked months on a big project, and after talking about it for an hour, a colleague says, “forget it, that will never work.”

In these situations, a manager should take that person aside and explain what was inappropriate, says Beth Howell, vice president of human resources for EBSCO Publishing, a provider of print and electronic journal subscriptions.

People who miss social cues naturally have no idea they are missing them.

“Often employees don’t agree with the assessment. So the person speaking with them tries to give specific scenarios,” she says.

For example, instead of saying, “I feel you were too aggressive in that meeting,” Howell would say, “In the meeting on Friday when you said ‘X,’ did you notice there was not a lot of conversation after that point? I think you might have been a little too strong.”

Teaching people to read social cues is very, very difficult. So instead of trying to understand how to say things differently in a meeting, it might be more appropriate for these people to limit the time they spend in large meetings. Instead, they should concentrate on having one-on-one conversations or using e-mail.

People who are bad at reading nonverbal cues tend to fare worse when there are more people around, because there usually is that much more nonverbal communication going on.

Back to Hannah. She is most successful socially being in a smaller group of kids than in her regular, larger classroom. It’s easier for her to connect with one person and block out everyone else.

Writing is another good solution because the nonverbal affect isn’t present. For most people, this makes communication more difficult, and we add emoticons to make up for lost nuance. To someone who does not have strong social skills, written communication has a flat, straightforward affect, making a grave misunderstanding between the communicants less likely.

Hannah’s connection to the written word is almost life-saving in its intensity. When she has trouble in a given situation, she reads, and when she grows up she wants to be a writer. So take a tip from her — if you are on the receiving end of the ‘you’re-offending-people’ feedback, try communicating via e-mail instead.

A lot of people who have poor social skills say things like, “I don’t do office politics” or “I just want to be left alone.” But it’s very hard to maneuver through the workplace with this attitude.

The point is that people judge your work skills as incompetent if you are not likeable — no matter what your work skills are. It may not be fair, but it’s what people do. So if you want to keep your job, you need to do enough politicking at work to make people like you. Instead of saying you do not like being around people, try creating scenarios where you find people more tolerable. For example, Hannah seeks out certain people and groups she knows she’ll be more successful connecting with — such as at fencing class.

For those not succeeding with colleagues at work, the key is to figure out what environment would help them become more successful, as Hannah has. For someone with poor social skills, so much of their ability to function is dependent on the environment — no matter how small or severe the problem.

But perhaps the most important thing we can learn from treating kids with autism is that they are most likely to succeed if we help them use their strengths to work on, or compensate for, their weaknesses. We each have strengths and weaknesses, and we can each use this approach to make the difficult task of self-improvement a more positive experience.

I have a new column debuting on Yahoo! Finance today. I’m very excited.

Yahoo contacted me in November, right after I moved to Madison. And right after I signed the contract, they were all about the head shot.

This makes sense. Yahoo wants everyone to look good. Totally reasonable. If nothing else, there’s the fact that good looking people are more successful at work than ugly people. (Thanks, Jordyn)

So anyway, I sent Yahoo the photo you see here, on the sidebar. And they were not impressed. In case you don’t know the seriousness that is Yahoo! Finance, you can look at the headshots of the other columnists and see that my photo would have looked really unprofessional.

Probably because it is: My aunt took it of me and my cousin, at a party, eight years ago. So it’s not just kind of old, I also had to chop the photo up to get rid of the party and my cousin.

But I really love the photo. Please notice my eyebrows. They’re perfect. This photo is from the time in my life when the only responsibilities I had in the world were to run my company, please my venture capital firm, and look hot enough to find someone to marry. My eyebrows were always meticulous.

Yahoo insisted on a new photo. I immediately went into panic mode, worrying that I wouldn’t get one I liked.

I do know a thing or two about head shots. I had one taken in New York City when I was writing a column for Business 2.0 magazine. Here’s what happened: I gave birth on a Friday and they demanded that I take a photo on the following Wednesday. I said, No. Forget it. I am too fat. I said, Run an illustration of me until I lose the weight. They still said no.

So I capitulated. The night before the photo session I was up nonstop with the baby, but at 8 a.m., I went, baby in tow, because I had just read about how reliable people are reliable all the time and I wanted to be one of those people.

I went without showering, I brought one, black, dirty shirt, and I had not slept well for weeks. I walked into the room and there were seven people there to take care of all the stuff I needed: hair, makeup, they brought clothes for me, they had a caterer; it was amazing. There was a person in charge of making wind blow my hair. And the photos were incredible. No one would ever know how crappy I looked.

So when Yahoo said I needed another photo, I knew I wanted another miracle-working photographer, but I knew there would be no one in Madison who specializes in wind for hair.

I became a lunatic. Thank god I had signed the contract already because I was literally calling my contact at Yahoo three or four times a day stressing about how to do a photograph in Madison. Or Chicago.

Tech columnist Eric Benderoff writes in the Chicago Tribune about how online photos are the new self-portrait and a form of digital self-expression, and how people judge you as soon as they see the photo.

All stuff that made me a wreck about scheduling the photo for my head shot. But at the end of that article there’s a quote from a photographer who says, “If you portray yourself with honesty, people will respond to that.”

That sounds true to me. And you know what? I had the pictures taken in Madison. There was no wind and no catering, and I brought my own clothes. But I really like the result: Check out the new, Madison me.

I write a lot about how effective job hunters hunt all the time, and how it’s important to integrate this project into our life with their other personal and professional projects. And I write a lot about how networking is the new job hunt.

So I got excited that there’s a new category of job hunting software that emphasizes relationships and project management. I decided to write a review of this software and suggest which one you should use.

But then I realized that reviewing software is a difficult and very detail-oriented job, and I am pretty bad with details. So I asked my friend, technology journalist Dylan Tweney, to review the three products that looked best to me: Isabont, JibberJobber, and Worksolver.

In case you think you’re about to read a software review, you’re not.

Here’s my summary of his summary: Ignore all this job hunt software. Instead stick with tools you already use for your life, or tools that could actually integrate your job hunt with the rest of your life, which is how things should be.

Dylan has a lot of ideas about this: “For instance, you could learn how to use Microsoft Project or Access to track your job-hunting process. Or you could become an Outlook whiz and learn how to customize this program through software add-ins, like the Getting Things Done add-in, that will make you more productive and organized. Or you could use new, Web 2.0 project management applications like Basecamp or Backpack to organize your job search project.”

I liked this advice because Dylan has a more holistic view of managing the projects of our life, and job hunting is just one of them. I immediately checked out the stuff he mentions.

But here’s the rub: Many of the same people who are not getting jobs have no idea how to use Dylan’s favorite software to manage any project, let alone job hunt.

This is what I have referred to as the second tier of job hunters, and what people on the second tier are missing is new-millennium job hunting philosophies that job hunt software can teach.

JibberJobber, for example, does a good job of helping you to understand how to make your network the backbone of a job hunt, and walking you through the steps. (Me summarizing Dylan again. And believe me, he was way more technical and elegant.) And Worksolver does a good job of helping you to find new ways to think through the inherently messy interconnectedness of job hunting in order to sustain strong relationships. Dylan says JibberJobber is for anal retentives and Worksolver is for creative types.

In what has, at this point, become a really haphazard reporting of Dylan’s review, I will now summarize Isabont: Better looking than JibberJobber but not as thorough. So if you look at JibberJobber and the interface looks too complicated, try Isabont.

But here’s the bottom line. (From me, not Dylan.) You need to make a serious, software-based decision about how to keep track of your jobs and your hunts and your contacts over a long period of time. Or you will drown in post-it-notes and orphaned documents on your desktop.

You can use your current email folder system, to-do list system, and contact management system to achieve this task. If you do not have systems for this stuff, or the idea of it scares you, get your feet wet with job hunting software.
If you are comfortable with using standard productivity and networking software, then make sure you are establishing an expandable system for managing your job hunts and contacts.

Merlin Mann, who blogs at 43 Folders, once told me that what sets people apart at work today is their ability to manage information. So even if you do nothing after reading this post, just learning a bit more about software options for organizing your information is a big step toward making yourself stand out in the work you do.