To manage your image effectively, you have to think constantly about how other people will perceive you.

Are you wondering if you’re good at image management? Ask yourself how you responded to that first sentence. If you said to yourself, “I am not consumed by what other people think of me—I have enough self-confidence to just be myself,” then you are probably bad at image management.

Because it’s not so cut and dried as either being ruled by everyone else or just being yourself. In fact, managing your image is mostly just making sure that people see you as your true self and don’t get side-tracked by things that easily derail our perception of other people.

Here are three ways you need to manage your image and you might miss these opportunities if you’re not paying attention:

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Part of knowing where to steer your career is knowing what is changing in the landscape. In ten years, Gen Y will have taken over middle management. Maybe in five years, if my own office is any indication. But I am sure that Gen Y will run the show differently. And no matter your age, the more prepared you are for what’s coming, the more likely you will succeed in working with the new middle management regime.

1. Middle management will work longer hours.
Generation X is known for leaving work early to be with kids. There are a lot of forces driving this. First, Gen X was raised as latchkey kids, and as parents, we are very cautious about repeating this. So maybe we go overboard. Neil Howe and William Strauss call Gen X the “extreme parenting” generation, because the women are spending more time with their kids than any generation in history.

Generation Y will not parent as much. First, this generation was raised by helicopter parents, and not everyone thinks that was a great idea (although I think it’s fine). So Gen Y is likely to pull back a bit in the parenting realm. Additionally, we already see evidence that Gen Y is laid back when it comes to parenting. For example, an Xer is more likely to make junior eat green beans and a Gen Yer is more likely to think junior will eat veggies later in life without any childhood nagging.

What this adds up to is that Gen Y will feel like it’s okay to stay at the office during a school play. Gen Y will feel like it’s okay to work through dinner sometimes. The guilt factor for parenting will be lower than it is for Gen X. And this makes intuitive sense as well: Gen Y has more self-confidence all around than Gen X does because—and now, the world is circular—if you have good parenting, you grow up with good self-esteem.

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There are so many lists of books to read before you die, or before you turn 30, or before your job sucks the life out of you. But you probably wouldn’t need to depend on a list from someone else if you could just figure out how to pick your own.

The best way to get good at picking books to read is to know when you’re picking badly. And, believe it or not, this does not have as much to do with the quality of the book itself as it does with whether you are the wrong person to be reading that particular book. I’ve learned this by watching my own history of picking bad books. Here are the five biggest missteps in my literary life:

1. Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock
I was a latchkey kid with no TV. On top of that, we lived in a rich neighborhood where not a lot of other families had working moms, so kids were not allowed to come to my house, and there was no one to drive me to other kids’ houses. That circumstance put me at the library on most of my after-school days. I read a lot of great books; kids who hang out with librarians get the inside track.

But left to my own devices, I’d often pick up some Nancy Drew books. I started with number one—The Secret of the Old Clock. And I never stopped. I liked that they had an order, so I always knew which to pick next, and I could read them with only partial attention because every book was really the same story.

The reason they were such a waste of time is that what I was really looking for was a way to vegetate, escape my own reality and not have to think so much. What I was really looking for was a good TV show. I should have just told my parents. “Normal kids have a TV and we need one too, because I keep reading about the constipated relationship between Nancy and Ned and it’s bad for me.”

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At the start of our road trip to his cousin’s wedding in Illinois, the farmer says, “I have a present for you.”

He pulls out a book that is wrapped in the paper that wrapped the last present I got him: Lolita. Which he reads every time he sleeps over at my house. I knew that he would be too embarrassed to buy it himself because he is still unsure whether it is literature or porn.

He is a good gift giver. It is a romance novel: The Rancher and the Rich Girl, by Heather MacAllister.

“I found it at the library,” he says. “The story is exactly like our story.”

It’s true. The rancher does not want to be romantically involved with the woman, but he is great with her kid, and she wants to use her money to make the rancher do what she wants. Even the riding around the farm together, with her holding him too closely.

I like her immediately, and I start skimming the book, but then I am frustrated: “Where’s the sex?”

“Page 165.”

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Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and you can bet that there will be no big financial announcements. This is because Jews make up a disproportionately huge number of people in finance. So when the Jews take off work for Yom Kippur, there is not enough liquidity in the financial markets for anything really big to happen. As my hedge-fund brother says, “You don’t want to have to get anything big done in finance on Yom Kippur.”

I like learning this because I like being part of community. In general, it is lonely being Jewish. Not in New York City, where there are, really, more Jews than in Israel. But definitely in Wisconsin, where my son had to explain to a school administrator that Rosh Hashanah is a Jewish holiday.

There is part of me that likes being part of the community of Jews who almost all observe the High Holidays. But there is also part of me that appreciates being a minority, because you're different, and different often means special. And we all want to be special in some way, even at the cost of being a minority.

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Is no one going to say that Sarah Palin rocked the vice presidential debate? Who is so arrogant to think that they could do better with just five weeks’ preparation?

She did a great job. She memorized speeches that she trotted out in good moments. And she had such nerve! Most of us would be too shy to flagrantly disregard the question, but she knew that was her job. She knew her job was to give set up answers and fit them in the best she could, and she did that. She delivered her lines very well. She played to the camera. She was friendly, and charming, and eloquent as long as you didn’t mind that she talked about whatever she wanted.

The thing is that most of politics is not about giving the right answer. It’s about giving any answer the right way. The world is not bashing Kennedy for beating Nixon in the classic debate where Nixon wore all the wrong stuff and the wrong makeup and could have said anything and he still would have lost. No. No one is complaining about Kennedy’s dependence on style in that debate. And we didn’t generally bash Reagan for being a great orator even though we thought he was probably losing his mind even before he got to office. He was still a great orator and could deliver his messages in a mesmerizing way.

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Here's a guest post from Carmen Van Kerckhove. I have learned so much about race from her blog, Racialicious, that I asked her to write five tips for dealing with race at work. She always surprises me and this is no exception.

Rule 1: Don’t be colorblind.
People say this all the time: “I don't care if people are black, brown, purple, or polka-dotted. I don't notice color!”

But that's a lie. All of us notice variations in physical appearance that cause us to draw conclusions as to what race a person is.

Then why do people insist on claiming that they don’t notice color? Often, it’s because they are scared to death of being labeled a racist.

But here’s the thing. Noticing a person’s race doesn’t make you racist. What does make you racist is if you make assumptions about that person’s intellectual, physical, or emotional characteristics based on the race you think the person is.

More importantly, when you proclaim that you’re colorblind, what you’re really implying is that race doesn’t matter in America. Race still matters because racism is alive and well. Pretending otherwise negates the everyday experiences of millions of people of color in this country.

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Almost 95% of Jews do something to observe Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I want my kids to be part of this when they grow up, so the only way to do that is to model it for them now. Because it’s completely clear to me that people who believe in God are fundamentally more optimistic and more connected to community, and I want my kids to have that.

Also, I try not to work on the holidays because I want to be known, somehow, as a Jew who blogs about being Jewish. And if I’m going to do that, then I want to be known as someone who does not work on the holidays. It’s part of being Jewish, I think, to struggle with what to do on these days. So I want to struggle, too.

Every year it is hard for me to stay away from work, even when every year that I have worked has felt terrible. But even if I could feel okay working on these days, it’s not the person I want to be. Here's who I am right now: the person who just two years ago moved to a state I knew no one in, and then got a divorce. So I’m not exactly the queen of community right now. A holiday like Rosh Hashanah emphasizes this, but makes me more committed to fixing the problem.

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