Back-to-school time isn’t just about your coursework. It’s also about your future.

With that in mind, here are eight steps you can take at the beginning of the college year to lay the groundwork for your career. Follow them and you may just do justice to the amount of time you spend sitting in a classroom.

1. Don’t stress about your major.
College teaches you how to think. If you’re good at thinking and learning in any given subject, you’ll be prepared to do the same in the workforce. You won’t be an expert at anything after college — that’s what grad school is for. So just pick a major and get decent grades.

Also realize that you’re going to change careers at least three times in your life anyway, so having a major that’s relevant to all your future careers is virtually impossible.

2. Recognize that law school can be a crutch.
It’s scary to be a good writer and good thinker and have no idea what you’re going to do with your life. But that isn’t necessarily a sign that you need to go to law school.

A huge number of people go to law school for misguided reasons, so be sure you know precisely what you want to do with your career before pursuing that JD. Otherwise, the loans you’ll have taken to get it will make your second thoughts about being a lawyer a first-class financial disaster.

3. Help your parents organize their network.
Sure, everyone tells you to network in order to get a great job, but who are you going to network with? Your fraternity brothers? Of course not.

Their parents, however, are a different story. Everyone’s parents have friends, and the charm of the baby boomers is that they want to be involved in every little aspect of their kids’ lives. So get your parents to put all their contacts into a tool like LinkedIn. That way, you can go through the list and systematically network for your own benefit.

4. Join the cheerleading squad. Really.
Cheerleaders are great salespeople. It’s probably self-selecting — after all, introverts don’t run onto the football field at halftime and jump around.

But when companies recruit at colleges, they often cater to cheerleaders in the same way that they cater to athletes. Both types are high-performers in the workplace, so join a team to do well in your career — and, yes, the cheerleading squad counts as a team.

5. Make time to read “Getting Things Done.”

True, you won’t get graded on this assignment in school. But you will in life.

The way to reach your goals is to keep yourself working productively toward them. Productivity is a skill, and in the adult world you’ll be competing with the samurais of productivity, so get started on building your skills by reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.”

6. Learn your strengths.

One of the best ways to find meaningful, fulfilling work is to understand what your strengths are. There’s no single job that’s right for you, but there is a single type of job — the type that allows you to be your best self by leveraging your best traits.

So use college to discover your strengths and practice applying them consciously. That way, when it’s time, matching them to a job will be second nature to you.

7. Take a class in positive psychology.

The best way to make a happy career for yourself is to know what really makes you happy. And here’s a newsflash — it probably isn’t your career itself, but the general level of optimism you have.

This is what you’ll learn in a positive psychology class. If one is available at your college, it’ll provide you with the basis for defending your decisions to your parents about things like taking time off to travel, getting bad grades so you can start a business in your dorm room, and following your girlfriend to Idaho instead of going to grad school.

8. Learn to be vulnerable.

When your career demands that you lead, or inspire, or even just connect with the people around you, the best way to do so is to show your vulnerabilities. Not all of them, and certainly not the most pathetic ones. But some.

Because the only way to connect with people for real is to open yourself up a bit. Don’t be the big man or woman on campus — be someone who’s approachable and authentic.

It’s not easy. First you have to know something about who you truly are, and then you have to project that true self to others. This is the hardest thing to learn in life, so start in college and you won’t be lost later in life.

The last time I wrote about losing weight was right after I had a baby and my agent told me that I would kill my career if I went on speaking engagements. “You look terrible” is what she told me. And I lost forty pounds in two months.

This time, things were not so dramatic. If nothing else, I am tall enough that no one would notice ten pounds up or down on my body. But still, ten pounds is ten pounds. And I lost it by changing how I do my job.

Here are three changes I made in how I work that, in turn, changed how much I weigh:

1. I stopped letting work slip until the last minute.
I know people think they are creative under pressure. But in fact, time pressure stifles creativity. One of the joys of being creative is going up paths that surprise us. But when you are under a tight deadline, the risk of going down an unsure path is too risky because it might not work and then you’ll miss the deadline.

I became acutely aware of this when I started blogging. The immediate feedback one gets from blog traffic made me understand that there was a direct relationship to how much pressure I felt while I was writing and how successful the post was. I also noticed that when I felt pressure to write quickly I ate to cope with the pressure.

Once I stopped writing late at night under intense pressure I ate much less at night.

2. I stopped checking email when I was with my kids.
For the most part, I maintain a schedule where I work seven days a week 8am to 2pm. Then I am with my kids from 2pm to 8pm. And I usually work after they go to bed. Almost everyone is very nice about respecting the schedule.

But still, I was checking email all day. Sometimes because I really needed to, but mostly it was a way to take a break from being with the kids. The kids are hard. Email is easy. Please, don’t send me emails about how I should take the kids to the park. I’m not saying I don’t love my kids. I’m saying that it’s more fun to play email lottery to see if something great came in than to watch kids chasing each other up and down slides.

The worst part about checking email when I am with the kids is that I feel bad ignoring them. But the second worst part is that I sort of check out when I check email and once I check out then my junk-food guard is down, and I find myself watching kids and checking email and eating Cheetos all at the same time.

I instituted the no-checking email so that I could be more present with my kids. But the lucky side benefit was no more junk food.

3. I stopped working late at night.
The first lunch meeting I had with my first publisher was all about book marketing. We talked about how sometimes my editor thinks of a title and then asks an agent to put together a book based on that title.

“Like what?” I asked.

She said, “Like, Sleep Away the Pounds! How To Lose That Last Ten Pounds…. In Your Sleep”

“Ooooh,” I said “That is a good title.”

For the rest of the lunch the editor and the publicist and I all talked about that book. What it could be. The publicist pointed out that he stays up late working but he never really gets anything done except eating. He thought he should just go to bed.

I thought that was probably true for me, too. And I pointed out all the research that says the people who do not get enough sleep are at risk of being fat.

That conversation happened a year ago. And, ironically, I then proceeded to get less sleep than any year of my life because I stayed up all night doing stuff to promote my book.

But recently I decided to make a rule for myself that I have to get the recommended six or seven hours of sleep a night. This means I had to get used to not working as much. I had to decide to simply not do some of the work I had. But the life benefits have been worth it — including giving up that extra meal that slips in between dinner and bed.

So that’s how I lost the weight. And it’s been very easy to keep off because I did exactly what you’re supposed to do to lose weight: I changed how I live my life rather than how I eat my meals.

But here’s what really gets me excited: I learned so much about self-discipline.
There is great research about how if you add self-discipline to your life in one area, self-discipline seeps into other areas of your life as well. This is important because positive psychologists are always saying that self-discipline is a key factor to making ourselves happier.

So I always want more self-discipline in my life. And I absolutely found that when I became more disciplined about how I deal with my sleep and eating, I became more disciplined about working out. For the last year I have had clear goals for regular episodes of running, weights and yoga. But I have generally failed at achieving these goals on a regular basis. Something always interferes.

But over the past two weeks, when I have been very conscious of changing how I conduct myself during the day for work things, my exercise regimen has improved as well, as a sort of unintended side-effect.

So here’s my pitch to you to try something new. Try being just a little more conscious. If you become more conscious in one part of your life, you will be able to affect positive, conscious change in many parts of your life with relative ease.

By Ryan Healy – For the past six months I have been maintaining my blog, Employee Evolution. At this point I realize that the decision to start a blog is hard, but writing regularly is harder. So here is a list of tactics I’ve used to maintain a full-time, corporate job along side a full-time blog.

Be Realistic
Before I started Employee Evolution, I did a little research and realized four posts was a minimum. I also realized there was no way in hell I could maintain a 45-hour-a-week job and create a successful blog without completely stressing out.

One night during one of many career conversation with my good friend Ryan Paugh, I had one of those “ah ha” moments. I asked if he wanted to create a joint blog, and he immediately agreed. Now I can write four posts a week, but two is sufficient if it’s a busy week at work. Being realistic before starting has allowed my blog to continue growing six months later. And I am stress free, kind of.

Know when you are the most creative
Coming up with ideas for blog posts takes a good amount of creativity. I have my creative moments, but I would never be mistaken for a creative genius. This lack of creativity has caused me to pinpoint the times when, for whatever reason, I am able to tap into my right brain.

I usually have great ideas in the shower. I’m not sure if it’s the water waking me up or the clear head from a good night sleep, but some of the best ideas seem to come in the shower.

The shower is great, but nothing beats a long run to get my creative juices flowing. The time from when I stop running to when I walk into my apartment is like a one-man brainstorming session. I realized this about two months ago, and ever since I have increased the length of my runs so I can stop about a mile from my apartment. Often I forget half of everything by the time I stop sweating and grab a pen and paper, but half of those interesting ideas are always better than none.

Create deadlines
Creating deadlines is crucial to getting blog posts completed. I have been unbelievably lucky that I have a weekly deadline for Brazen Careerist. But if you aren’t accountable to someone else, it can be easy to slack off. Create your own deadlines and hold yourself accountable. Sure it takes some self control, but it’s good for you. I make sure to have at least one post finished before Monday morning roles around. If it’s not done, I skip Entourage and write until it’s done.

Another option is to ask someone to create a deadline for you. Because I know the value of having a weekly deadline imposed by someone else, I am able to push my partner, Ryan Paugh to complete one post by Sunday night as well. This is a self imposed deadline by him, but he also feels accountable to me. And no matter who you are, it’s much easier to get something done when someone else is relying on you.

Don’t forget why you’re blogging
Everyone starts a blog for a different reason. Some start a blog to share their subject matter expertise on a given topic, some start a blog to share all their crazy ideas with the world and others of us blog about a subject because it could lead to new, exciting opportunities. I fall in the latter group, and I constantly remind myself of this.

It’s okay to skip a day
We all have times we simply cannot write well or are to busy with work to write a good post. Don’t put up a bad post. Quantity is good, but quality is king. Chances are your readers won’t even notice a missed day. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a pattern.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

When I founded my first company I didn’t have time to find someone to date, but I knew that I wanted to get married. So I followed all the advice I had read about how you should tell people what you want in order to get what you want. I started telling everyone that I wanted to get married, and a lot of people set me up on dates.

But things did not go well. Almost every guy I went out with ended up wanting to do business with me. (Yes, I went into business with one of them.) And often when I met with an investor about the next round of funding for my company, our meeting (that was invariably at some swanky restaurant he owned) turned into a date by the end of the evening.

I started questioning the idea that I should be so frank about looking to get married. Life is one big negotiating opportunity, and I saw I was not doing well. Also, I noticed that men don’t generally ask for what they want. The classic example: They ask you out to lunch when what they really want is sex.

There is so much written about how women are not as good at negotiating as men are. Lots of studies show that women don’t even start negotiating — nine times out of ten, men will ask and women won’t. And when women do negotiate, they don’t get what they want as often as men do.

There is no solid research to tell us the why behind the poor negotiations. Most people who toss around ideas about why women don’t ask, toss around some version of the idea that women don’t like conflict: Women like to collaborate; women are caretakers.

I don’t believe this, because in a relationship, women are typically more comfortable with conflict than men are. In fact, women are more likely than men to bring up conflict in a relationship. And men are more likely to withdraw from conflict. (This last link is so fun. It’s dating tips for guys from – a site that is always right on target about how women think.)

Anyway, I think the reason women do poorly in negotiations is that women assume you should ask for what you want, but men know that’s not how the game is played. Men know that you need to be aware of what you want, but that’s not necessarily what you ask for.

So then it makes sense that men negotiate more than women because women are facing conflict head-on and men are not. It’s much easier to approach someone you are not going to instigate conflict with. So negotiations work best when you don’t assume you need to ask for exactly what you want.

Think of the sex example: If a guy approaches you for sex, you hang up on him. If he approaches you for lunch, you think he’s very sweet. And then later you have sex.

Salary is another situation where you are better off not asking for what you want. In salary negotiations, you always want to wait until the other person gives the number. Even though you know what you want, if you say the first number, your counterpart will tell you it is higher than he or she was planning to pay, no matter what the number is.

When someone asks how much money you want, a way to get out asking directly for the very high salary you really want is to say things like, “I want to consider the whole package not just salary” or “I want to make sure we are a good match before we talk about salary.” This forces the other person to give a number first, and then you can say you want more.

My friend Chris Yeh gave me another good example of when you should not ask for what you want: Founding a company. He said if you want advice, ask for money, and if you want money, ask for advice. For those of you who have dealt with investors, you’ll recognize that this is exactly how the world of startups works.

And based on my own experience of trying to date while running a startup, I think this might be true too: If you want to go into business with someone, ask them on a date. And if you want to date someone, go into business with them.

In the information age, when almost everyone in every office is a knowledge worker, we’re paid to process information. And since there’s an infinite amount of information, there’s an infinite amount of work. For everyone.

So your boss is probably giving you enough work every week to fill three weeks — if you let it. If you work a certain way, it could also fill only three days.

My point is that people who feel overworked in some respects choose to be overworked. Here are some choices to make instead.

1. Force your boss to prioritize.
Because processing information is not an objective task, you can do a good job or a bad job or any kind of job in between. Which is to say that you don’t have to do a great job with everything. You can’t, right? Because your boss is giving you too much work.

So you have some choices. First, you can try to force your boss to prioritize. Say to him or her, “If you want me to do project z perfectly, then you need to get projects w, x, and y off my plate.”

Maybe your boss will think project z is so important that he or she will clear your plate. But most likely, your boss will say, “Forget it. You need to do everything.” This is an open invitation to start experimenting with cutting corners.

2. If your boss won’t prioritize, do it yourself.
Please don’t tell me you don’t believe in cutting corners. It’s the layman’s term for prioritizing, and you probably perfected it as a way of life in college. In fact, cutting corners is what college teaches best.

Over the course of a semester, you were assigned sixteen 400-page books to read, plus you had to write papers about them. You also had to show up for classes to find out what was going to be on the tests. Of course, there was no way you could read all 6,400 pages you were assigned — that would be impossible in the allotted time.

So you figured out what you could skip. You determined that the best way to get out of the reading was to go to the lectures, because professors lecture about what interests them, and their tests reflect their interests.

Now back to your workplace, where you have too much work to do. Here’s how the losers handle it: They complain about being overworked. They keep accepting more work, and trying to do it perfectly, and complain. And their bosses keep dumping it on them and saying there’s nothing they can do about the workload. Meanwhile, neither of them is prioritizing, neither of them is taking responsibility for the situation, and each is blaming the other.

If you boss insists on giving you more work than you can do, you should start cutting corners. Do everything very quickly, and ignore the idea that it needs to be done perfectly — it can’t all be done perfectly. Your boss refuses to prioritize for you, so you’ll have to do everything as best as you can.

3. Get comfortable with ignoring some tasks.
For some of you, even doing things less than perfectly will take too much time. In this case, you’ll have to blow some stuff off. So experiment and see which things can fall through cracks without anyone noticing.

You already do this. Someone at work sends you an email demanding a response. But before you have time to reply, another recipient does so, so you just delete the original message. Try this approach with work you’re not a central force on and see what happens.

4. Stop complaining before it ruins your life.
I can already imagine the comments flying about this column. Some of you will say that you’d be fired for following the above advice. But what’s your choice? You’ve already told your boss you have more work than you can get done in a day, and he or she didn’t scale back. Do you want to continue to just complain about it every day? Probably not, because complaining is toxic.

Besides, do you really want to work 15 hour days to get extra work done for a company that doesn’t respect its employees’ time? Why should you give up your personal life because your boss can’t prioritize?

Instead, take control of your life and create a situation where you stop complaining about having too much work. If you’re fired for not doing all the work, you probably didn’t want to work at the company anyway. And if you’re not able to scale back, consider that you might over-identify with your job to the point that you’re working harder than you need to because you can’t imagine not being perfect.

5. Take responsibility for being overworked, then change it.
OK, suppose you love your work and you’re happy working 15-hour days. That’s fine. Just don’t complain about it.

What I’m saying is that if you complain about having too much work you should look in the mirror — it’s your own fault, and you can change the situation by drawing boundaries at work. Be an adult by taking responsibility for your time, and complain only when you have a solution.

Star performers don’t talk about being overworked, they talk about time management. The best time managers excel at it because they’re good at figuring out what they don’t have to do. The best time managers have the confidence to say, “I’ll still be a star even if I don’t do that task.”

This reminds me of Gina Trapani, who edits the Lifehacker blog. Gina and three other editors put out a publication that has more readers than just about every local newspaper in this country, and many national magazines. Surely she’s a very busy person. But her productivity tips belie a Zen-like balance in which she isolates the most important things and lets other things languish if need be.

Want an example? In order for Gina to blog every day, she has to keep up with hundreds of other bloggers so she knows who to link to. These blogs come to her via direct feed. What does she do when she’s falling behind and blog posts are piling up? She clears out her in-box and starts over. “If something’s really important,” she said at a panel I attended, “someone will email me about it.”

This is great advice from someone who’s succeeding in an area where most people would succumb to information overload. Clearly, the way to do good work is to know when it’s time to not do it.

By Ryan Healy – Video resumes are the hot new topic in recruiting these days. It seems that everyone has an opinion. And job listing sites like CareerBuilder have even launched video resume services.

At first glance a video resume seems like a natural step in the recruiting process. But here are five reasons why video resumes will be a short-term fad:

1. Looking good on camera is a learned skill
Professional newscasters, anchors, and reporters, go to school for years to learn how best to present themselves on camera. Others of us have never practiced. We don’t know how to sit, we don’t know what to wear, we don’t know where to look, and nobody has taught us how to appear relaxed.

As I recently found out in a brief media training session, there are actually people who teach you all of these things before an on air interview. And, I can promise, they are not cheap! If video resumes become the norm, colleges will be forced to create semester long classes on how to present yourself on camera, and those of us out of school will need to hire personal media trainers just to get a job. For most people these are totally unnecessary expenses.

2. Written communication is more important
The majority of my co-worker interaction takes place via email or instant messenger. This is true for most large technologically advanced companies, and the trend is only going to continue. Phone calls are a rarity and face to face meetings are even rarer. Having face-to-face people skills is important when selling or giving live presentations, but in general, written communication is much more critical.

More and more companies are finding a wide range of benefits to promoting remote work arrangements. These new ways of working lead to decreased one-on-one communication and increased written communication. Occasionally I will receive an email with misspellings or terrible punctuation, and this typically makes me think the person is not up for the job or just plain lazy. So ditch the camera and create a blog to show recruiters what you’re all about.

3. Most jobs never require you to be on camera
How many jobs actually require you to be on camera? I can’t think of more than a handful. Unless you are a media professional, public relations expert or high-level figure in a large organization you will not be on camera. Even if you are in one of these positions, you better believe you will be professionally trained for hours before going on camera.

Further, lets face it, we are all different. Some of us are a little shy, some might panic alone in front of a camera, and some are energetic, charming and charismatic. These traits don’t necessarily have any bearing on how well we will perform our jobs as a desk jockey. If the average person will never be on camera during their career, why does it matter how they appear in a video?

4. Video resumes will lead to discrimination lawsuits
Most recruiters spend less than a minute looking at a resume. When receiving a typical paper resume, that one minute will be spent actually reading the words on the page and judging an applicant based on skills, prior experiences and education. If a recruiter spends less than a minute watching a video of a potential candidate, it will be impossible not to notice if the person is white, black, Hispanic, Indian or anything in between.

Whether they want to or not, this brief first impression will play a role in deciding whether or not to pursue a candidate. “Just don’t even deal with them,” says Dennis Brown, an attorney from San Jose, Calif. “This is one of those instances where a little bit of unnecessary knowledge is dangerous,” Rightfully so or not, somewhere along the way, video resumes will turn into a discrimination suit that recruiters and companies want nothing to do with.

5. You can see all my pictures on Facebook
If the real issue is that recruiters want to see pictures of their candidates, all they need to do is jump on Facebook or Myspace. Type in the candidate’s name and check out all the pictures you would like. I highly doubt that recruiters have the time or desire to stalk recruits on Facebook, but if it’s really important, you don’t need a video resume to get a sneak peak.

It’s the 21st century; the fact that we even consider a video resume to be the future of recruiting is almost laughable. It didn’t work in the ’90s, and now the success of YouTube has brought it into the public eye, but I’m sure we can get more creative if we try!

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.

One of the most popular goals among young people is to have their own company. This doesn’t mean people want to necessarily build the next Google or Facebook.

For many students this means smaller companies where you can have fun with friends while you think of cool ideas and then enjoy the steep learning curve of implementing those ideas. The most important aspects of a job for young people are flexibility and personal growth. And no job gets you that as effectively as starting your own company.

Part of starting a company is learning how to think and problem solve, and a classic college education teaches you that. But typically, colleges have prepared students to climb a corporate ladder upon graduation. And today we don’t even pretend that 40-year ladder climbs are an option.

Corporate jobs are more short-term, and sporadic— maybe something to do in between starting one’s own companies. But what can one do in college to pave the way for a career that includes entrepreneurship?

First, try to hang out with other students who have businesses, or ideas for businesses. At any given college, there is a group of students either thinking hard about entrepreneurship, or doing it. Hang around these people because they’ll teach you how to bounce ideas.

Entrepreneurs don’t have just one good idea. They have a million, and they test the ideas out on friends all the time, learning how to hone an idea and think critically until they find one that works.

The best way to come up with an idea is to try to solve problems, says Greg Boesel.

“I constantly find myself saying; there’s gotta be a better way to do this.” Then, he advises, if you think you have a better way, do 20 hours of market research to see if someone else has already tried that way.

Boesel’s current company, Swaptree, is an example of this process in action. He got the idea from a friend who returned from a visit with his mom with 16 used books he didn’t want. They were good books, but he didn’t know what to do with them. Swaptree is a company that tells you what people are willing to trade you to get the book, CD, or DVD that you don’t want.

If you don’t have an idea and you need to do something, go to a start-up to get yourself thinking in new directions.

James Ngai is a student at MIT, and he worked at a Boston music start-up while he had a full course load. Ngai is well aware that there are no long-term secure jobs in the workforce, so flexibility and broad skills are the key to success.

“Students want an open path career,” he says, “and getting start-up experience is a great way to ensure this.”

A year after getting his feet wet in someone else’s start-up, Ngai launched his own company, Campus Research and Recruiting, which helps companies understand why their recruiting practices fail or succeed and how they can be more effective.

How do you find one of those work experiences that give you a jump start in starting a company of your own? Use the career center. “This is a totally underused resource,” according to Lindsey Pollak, author of Getting from College to Career. “There’s a perception that career services only helps you for the companies that recruit, but career services have connections to tons of industries.”

And it’s not just about the networking. “It’s free career coaching,” says Pollak. And one of the keys to entrepreneurship is knowing your own strengths and how to leverage them.

Also, if you have your heart set on a start-up of your own, the best route might be the anti-start-up summer job. That is, something in staid, ladder-climbing industries like investment banking or consulting whose business models include spending tons of money on training employees. You don’t need to enter these industries after doing the summer program, and the education will serve you well when you finally think of a company you want to start.

The most important advice is probably to stay confident that things will work out for you. Just because you can’t start a company immediately doesn’t mean you won’t get a really fun job immediately. Remember that this is a very good job market for young people. In the book Recruit or Die, Chris Resto, internship director at MIT, spends nearly 300 pages describing to companies how they can attract top talent.

The recurring theme of the book is that young people have lots of choices and multiple offers, and only the companies that are smartest about what young people want will get them. What does this tell you, the candidate? That you should aim for a job that meets your needs.

What else does it tell you? That the most important thing to do in college is begin to understand what your needs are. Otherwise, you have no idea what you’re hunting for.

One of the ways I got my nearly disastrous financial life back on track was by reading a lot of economic advice online. It helps to be part of a community of people thinking hard about their values and their money and the alignment of the two. And it helps to read a wide range of opinions.

I also experimented with various online financial tools, and while some were helpful, I realized that there are five common ones to use only with caution:

1. Salary comparison tool
The reason salary comparison tools exist is so people can make sure they’re getting paid enough. If you need to use such a tool, however, your career is in trouble.

First of all, most comparison tools give you an average salary within a 25 percent margin of error. If you don’t know what you’re worth within a 25 percent margin of error, that’s a problem.

Why not just compare salaries with friends who are in your field? If you’re in a business in which you have no contacts, you’re not worth the average amount anyway, because you’re so ineffective at connecting with people around you that you’re compromising your ability to add value to a company.

Finally, these tools presume an outdated notion that people work only for the money. Sure, money is good, but people rank other things as way more important. So until there’s a salary comparison tool that takes flexibility, opportunities for personal growth, and available health care providers into account, they’re not worth your time.

2. Cost of living calculator
The problem with this kind of tool is that it gives you information you can’t use. You need to know which city will make you happy, not which city will save you $20,000 in housing costs.

Let’s say you’re thinking of moving from San Francisco to New York City. They’re both really expensive to live in, so the difference in your salary isn’t going to matter. You should probably think harder about their respective cultures than about money; very few people fit in well in both cities, and most feel like they belong in one or the other. A calculator can’t tell you that.

Now let’s say you’re moving from New York City to Los Angeles. You’ll save money on housing, of course, but you’ll need a really good car.

In L.A., a BMW is totally reasonable. You’ll end up spending more time there than in your apartment. In NYC, however, owning a BMW is commonplace only among millionaires. For most New Yorkers, having such a car is absurd — they just don’t drive enough. But online cost of living calculators don’t have a “BMW: yes or no” option.

And what if you’re moving from Chicago to, say, Kankakee, Ill.? You can compare home prices and taxes, but here’s something a calculator won’t tell you: Whether there’s a Nordstrom store there. If you have to drive 100 miles to shop anywhere besides Target, then the cost of living calculator is pretty much irrelevant — the parameters of “living” change significantly depending on the services available where you end up.

Read the rest at Yahoo Finance.

When I was playing professional beach volleyball, running around in a bathing suit every day, you’d think I would have been more conscious than ever about my image. But at the start, I was generally oblivious.

In fact, when I was in my first Bud Light commercial, we were told to bring three bathing suits to the set. So the volleyball players stood in line while the costume person – or whatever her title was – picked out her favorite bathing suit for each of us.

When she got to me, I was sitting in the sand reading a book, and she said my not standing up was slowing everything down. If you have ever done a commercial, you know that things move insanely slowly, and the idea that I could slow down something that already moving at the speed of molasses made me laugh incredulously. She also did not like that.

Then I handed over my three suits and she said, “One-piece suits??!!?? Are you kidding me? You brought one-piece suits for a Bud Light commercial?!?!? Do you ever pick you head out of that book? !!? Do you know what this commercial is about?!??! It is not about your one-piece suits!!!

That moment drove home to me how important it is to think about image: what people are expecting me to look like. I always wore bikinis after that. I understood that that was part of my job.

When I started working in corporate America, I had to learn about image all over again. At first, I had no money for clothes, and I bought stuff at thrift shops. One day, at my Fortune 100 company, I wore a sweatshirt inside out, trying to make it look like a sort of dress-up sweatshirt, and my boss sent me home to change. I’m not kidding. I told her I thought it was absurd. She said, “Trust me. You don’t want to have this debate with human resources. Just go home.” So I did. And since I lived two hours from work, I took the day off. But I threw the sweatshirt out.

As my career progressed, I spent a lot of time on image, mostly because there were so few women doing what I was doing that I had no role models for how to dress. I hired a consultant to overhaul my whole look, and then when I was getting ready for my first meetings with venture capitalists, my partner (fifteen years older than I was) sent me to a coach to give me “polish”.

Image must be an issue for a lot of people because in my post about bed bugs, the most popular outbound link is actually ” great work clothes ” . And the post that has generated the most offers to me for free stuff was one about my shoes.

So it will surprise none of you that when CNN invited me to do an interview last week, I thought a lot about what to wear.

The last time I linked to a TV interview I did, a few of you wrote to me to say that I need to be more dressed up. “People who have authority usually wear a suit on TV,” one person wrote to me.

I’m not into the suit. I see it’s a sign of authority but I think it’s outdated to rely on something besides your ideas to get authority. If authority comes from something besides ideas, then the world becomes rankist. That is, discriminating against people in low rank, not because of what they have to offer, but because of where they are in the pecking order.

One thing blogging has really driven home for me is that today, real authority comes from what you say, not your credentials. I am fascinated by this. It’s the grand democracy in the blogosphere that some of my favorite bloggers are in their early twenties. And some of the worst blogs are from people who are actually in positions of huge authority.

The Economist notes that for CNN-type moments, Mark Zuckerberg wears a signature fleece and sandals, and Steve Jobs wears a black turtleneck and jeans. I like those outfits. They’re authentic to those guys. But I’m sensitive to the fact that women need to follow different guidelines than men do. If I dress like the guys, for example, the guys won’t like me.

So, I brought six shirts to the studio for the CNN interview. At the last minute, I decided that the important thing to me is authenticity so I should wear something I love. I chose my favorite black shirt that is sort of an expensive-flirty-dress-up version of a t-shirt. I think it looked good, though I confess to being unable to find the CNN interview online to link to it.

And yes, I know, you are not supposed to wear black on TV. They even tell this rule to all the volleyball players. But that’s for another post.

By Ryan Healy — Soaring education, housing and health care costs in recent years have made simply staying afloat in a large metropolis next to impossible without a huge salary and benefits package.

These rising costs are causing the well educated to “sell their souls” to law firms, investment banks, and management consulting firms to maintain the upper middle class life most of our parents provided for us, According to social critic Daniel Brook, whose debut book is The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner Take-All America.

I know what you’re thinking: Those college grads making $80,000 bonuses on Wall Street do not deserve any sympathy; They made a choice to live in the most expensive city in the country and they made a choice to work like slaves for a few years until they can retire to their yachts and country clubs.

But if you really look into the situation, Brook has a point. Wall Street I-bankers are certainly earning more than enough to simply “stay afloat,” but the rest of us are selling out for the sole reason of living in a “cool” city.

Junior year of college, I realized my passion was to become an entrepreneur. It didn’t matter. I sold out. I moved to the big city with the enormous rent payments. I took the decent paying job to support my living and partying expenses. Most people I know did the same. Some are content, some are looking for a way out, some are happy.

Some of us grew up with dreams of becoming artists, musicians or non profit executives. Regardless of the dream, most of us settled for the same thing; a decent paying job in an overpriced city. What I now realize from first hand experience is unless you’re an investment banker with semi-realistic plans of retiring at 35 with a couple million; the big city is overrated.

Is it really imperative to live on New York’s Upper East Side, San Francisco’s Marina or Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle? Why not say “screw you” to the boring job in New York and take the exciting job in Cincinnati, Ohio?

My friends from college, Matt, Cole and Adam, knew from day one they didn’t want to work for a corporation. They came up with an idea, raised some money and toured the country to find the best place for their first in a chain of restaurants called Fat Sandwich Co.

They opened in Norman, Oklahoma. All three are from the Philadelphia/New Jersey
area and all of our friends told them they would hate living in Oklahoma. Last
week Cole told me that none of them even want to move back to the east coast.

From the outside, cities like Cincinnati, Ohio and Norman, Oklahoma aren’t nearly as exciting or trendy as New York or San Francisco. According to Brook, and I completely agree, chances are we will just be able to “stay afloat” either way. Since that is the case, I will not hesitate to choosethe fulfilling, under paying job in a small city rather than grind it out during the week to party until 4a.m. on Friday with the rest of the yuppies in the big city.

My lease is up in two months and it’s finally time to pursue my passion. I want a relatively inexpensive city with good entrepreneurial opportunities. I no longer care about trendy bars; I have no desire to eat at expensive restaurants. Some things are more important. It’s time for me to make a decision, because there is no reason to be bound by geography or the “coolness” factor of a city.

Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.