Now that I’ve read, and re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’m more conscious about what I keep and what I throw out. I’m hard-core now. Most birthday cards go in the garbage; we have a lot of birthdays and I saved the cards since when I was five years old, and believe me, I didn’t need to. Read more

When someone asks you, in an interview, “What is your weakness?” do not give a bullshit answer. Saying something like, “I pay too much attention to detail” is actually a terrible answer for someone who is getting hired to do detail work. It means you have a deficit in the exact area you’re tying to get hired for.

The best answer to the question is when you tell a truthful answer, because it’s very unlikely will be hired for the thing you are most weak at doing. For example, my weakness is details. I hate them so much that I simply don’t think about them. And if you talk to me about them, I tune you out. I get hired to think big picture. I get hired to create big plans with big results. So no one cares that I don’t do details.

Someone who is a production artist could say his weakness is finance. When people start talking about budgets, he just wants to back to his cube and work on design. So what if he doesn’t like finance? He is not getting hired to do it. Read more

Interview adage: If you can’t get hired being your true self, you don’t want to work there.

Life adage: If you’re not comfortable showing your true self then you probably have a disconnect between who you are and who you want to be. You really need to address that before it derails not only your career but also your relationships.

Here are three ways to make sure you stick to who you are when you interview:

1. Recognize that who you are is a moving target.
I find that showing my true self stems from knowing my true self. I am always learning about who I am, and then I always have to how I convey myself to other people—the two need to match, and I have found that it’s not so easy.

For example, we had guys come to put new roofs on old barn buildings.

The farmer told me that most of the buildings we are re-roofing are buildings people around here would tear down. People build new, shiny metal buildings now. Our yard full of old, wooden sheds, is something between a historic monument and an abandoned farm. Read more

This is what the farm looks like when you drive up to it.

For a while, I thought that the farm is really what I fell in love with. I felt an overwhelming sense that I belonged on this farm from the moment I got out of my car.

But also, the moment I got out of my car, I fell in love with the farmer.

And I did not fall in love with the farmer when I went to check him out at the farmer's market before I agreed to drive out to his farm. Which tells me that love at first sight is a combination of things: the right setting and right person. Read more

It is not lost on me that my blog is slowly becoming a platform to announce video chats. So I think I’m going to have to do some fast confessing so that you guys don’t all unsubscribe.

I’m getting married to the farmer. Yep. April 17. Well, not really. I mean, I can’t totally get married because at the beginning of Brazen Careerist, I funded the company by not paying my taxes, so I owe a ton of taxes, and if the farmer and I got married, the IRS would put a lien on his farm.

So we are having an unofficial wedding. Very small. I would tell you how small, but I am not allowed to write details about the farmer’s family. Suffice it to say that on my side, only two people are coming.

And my kids. The kids really want to see a wedding. They would actually like to see me dressed like Cinderella. Because that’s what they know about weddings and princesses, two things that my kids are pretty sure go together. Instead, we will just go out to dinner and bring a wedding cake. The cake will be extravagant, and that’s what will let the kids know something big has happened. Read more

How far you get, in almost anything, is limited mainly by your ability to ask good questions.

The problem is that we are not taught to ask good questions. We’re trained to answer questions. But only answering questions doesn’t make an interesting life. After all, if you have all the answers, and you’re spewing them all the time, then you are not learning anything new.

Asking questions is how we get smarter. One of the earliest signs of a child with Asperger syndrome is that they fall behind in their learning because they do not understand how to ask a question. It doesn’t occur to them that someone would have information.

And maybe all my blog posts are actually about my obsession with a good question. For example, my recent rant about how blogs need topics is really about how a good blog is based on a good question. (My question is: how can we make the the intersection of work and life better?)

Today I’m going to focus on the kinds of questions that back us into a corner.

1) The question that asks: What is the meaning of life?

I think a lot about how people ask questions because I get them all the time. Often, the questions are so vague and poorly framed that I can’t believe the person actually sent an email. Here’s an example of one: Read more

One of the biggest mistakes you can make going into an interview is thinking you'll do well because you're perfect for the job.

Everyone who got an interview is a potential perfect fit for the job. That's how they got through the resume screen. The interview is about something else: how you think, how you solve problems, how you react under pressure. And you are never quite sure of the quality the interviewer will focus on until you get a few questions.

Until now. Now Glassdoor has launched an interview resource where you can report what sorts of questions you got from a given employer. This is a great moment in altruism, really, because you are helping other people to get a job without knowing how doing so will help you. So I like Glassdoor's new idea right away, because of that. Because the very being of this tool assumes that people want to help each other.

I've sifted through lots of the questions and the first thing I noticed was that 90% of them are the kind you can study for. That's because they are all versions of common questions, just like those I see in books that list the 200 most common interview questions (here’s one). And, as always, you might think your interview will be a special case but it won’t be. You can learn the right answer for each question and just tailor it to your own career. Read more

Reference checks used to matter a lot. Fifty years ago. When people only changed jobs twice in their life, and they didn't know anyone outside of their company, it made sense that the second company called the first company.

Then, when it became clear that the first company could say one, tiny bad thing and then make this person unemployable (because they had only worked for one person their whole life), giving bad references basically became illegal.

So that pretty much put the kibosh on the usefulness of corporate references. Yet people still ask for them today. So here are some ways to get a good reference.

Get a ringer lined up ahead of time.

There is no rule that says you have to use your last employer as a reference. Explain to a prospective employer that you are giving the name of a person who knows you well and can speak to the issues this particular employer is interested in. Then give the name of a ringer. For almost a decade my favorite ringer was my boyfriend, who dated me and hired me and gave me glowing reviews even after he dumped me. Read more

I do a lot of interviews. At least two or three a week — ranging from CNN to local newspapers. And no matter where the interview is running, there are some things you need to know about doing a good one:

1. Be interesting. The questions people ask you are not really what they want to know. It's what they think will be interesting. They would ask you about the price of tea in China if they thought the answer would be interesting.

So your job in an interview is to give an answer that is entertaining and thought-provoking and all the other things that people like. You don't need to answer the question as much as you need to answer the need for interestingness.

2. Be short. The world does not have an unlimited attention span to hear how your mind works. So you can't think out loud in an interview and have everyone wait til you get to your point. Your point has to start right away.

Also, if you are short then you are more likely to be interesting the whole time. The longer you talk about a given topic the harder it is to keep someone's interest. In the PR world this is called “soundbite”. But really, you can use the sound bite technique everywhere — on radio, in a blog post, on a date. Read more

A lot of times we think we know what we’re doing in the job hunt, and then someone surprises us with information we didn’t think of. My latest bunch of surprises came from the book, What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here? by Cynthia Shapiro, who I have interviewed before, and she is always super smart.

So here’s some advice, based on the surprises I found in the book:

1. There’s one trick to all trick questions.
“All trick questions, even the really scary psychological questions, are crafted so that you will give a negative answer.”

The truth is that positive people are hired more often. And in an interview, people can show that they are that type of person by intentionally presenting their information in the most positive way.

So get all your bitching about your career out of your system before you get to the interview. And each time you are inclined to say something negative, change it or leave it unsaid. Once you get hired, there will be plenty of time to open the spigot of animosity if you need to.

But you work so hard on presenting yourself in your best light in the interview — why not attempt to extend that best you to your whole life instead of those two hours of interviews? People will like you better at work, and your positive outlook will help you to make all your experiences in life better.

2. A thank-you note is too late to express enthusiasm for the job.
“A hiring manager’s mind is made up in the first twenty minutes of an interview, and often nothing can be done to change that.”

During this twenty minutes, most hiring managers are subconsciously screening for enthusiasm. Because people want coworkers who are excited about their job. Ironically, though, most people who are interviewing for a job go into that interview unsure if they want the position, and they tell themselves they’ll make a decision based on the interview.

But if you decide to be enthusiastic about the job at the end of the interview or, worse yet, when you write the thank you note, you are way too late.

To solve this problem, go into the job convinced that you want it. Be enthusiastic about the job and get the job. You may decide later that you don’t want it. That’s fine. But this way you’ll have that decision to make. Note that this means the interview is not the time to ask difficult, probing questions about the company. Save those for after you have a job offer. Ask questions that convey a positive, sunny attitude toward your interviewer and the company. That will get you an offer.

3. No one will tell you that you’ve made a mistake.
“No one will tell you that your resume wasn’t up to par; it will simply land in the trash. No one will tell you that you said something that scared the interviewer during a phone screen; you’ll just never be able to get that person on the phone again.”

Part of the reason is that you never get feedback is it’s too high risk to tell candidates what they do wrong: There is little benefit to the company, since they are not going to hire you anyway, and there is the remote chance that you will bring up a discrimination lawsuit.

The other reason no one will tell you what you did wrong is because it takes extra energy to take time to help someone, and we can’t do that with everyone, so we help the people who look like the strongest performers. It’s like that axiom, “the rich get richer” but in this case, “the best candidates get better.” How to fix this in your own life? Ask for a lot of help from people who are in a position to help you.