Blog Posts by Marci Alboher, Working the New Economy

  • Create a team of advisors for your career

    Ever wish you had a trusted team of career advisors -- a group that would help you analyze whether to push for a higher salary, how to keep up morale during a job search, whether to go back to school for more training, or even how to handle little things like how to respond to an email that raises your blood pressure?

    For almost a decade, I've had such a team. It started with a small writing group that formed when I was transitioning from law to journalism. Before long, that group morphed into something even bigger. We edited each other's work and helped one another find the perfect publication for a particular pitch. We made sure that each of us had goals and stuck to them (e.g. get that book proposal finished by January). We shared our contacts so that we each had a deeper network than any one of us could have had alone. And we were always available for an emergency session on how to tackle any problem one of us faced.

    I often recommend this idea to anyone committed to career

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  • How to look like you're working when you're unemployed

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThere is a natural tendency to want to hire someone who is already working, but in this economy, how do you convince those who you want to hire you that you are already doing what they want you to do?

    When I decided I wanted to be a writing coach, I did two simple things. I added a "slash" to my business card (writer/speaker/writing coach) and to the signature line of my email address. Before I had even figured out the details of my coaching business -- what I'd charge, where I'd meet with clients -- people started asking me about my services. Within a couple of months, my coaching practice was off the ground.

    The business card and email signature work well if you're consulting or freelancing, but if you are looking for a full-time job, you'll need to use different techniques. Here are some other ideas:

    Offer your services for free. And choose your recipients carefully. When my friend Marcia Ciriello started a photography business, she offered to do my headshots for free. By doing

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  • Career advice for grads, and the rest of us

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesGraduation speeches are long on lofty advice, cliches that ring true, and humor: follow your dreams, be authentic, wear sunscreen. But they are often short on career advice. So now that we've all watched videos of the best of the lot on YouTube and shared them by email or on Facebook, it's time to get down to what new grads need to know about how to get a job and build a career. And since 50-somethings and 20-somethings are likely to be competing in today's market, most of these principles make sense for the rest of us as well.



    Think projects, not jobs.
    When you talk about work, the important thing is what you are working on, not where you're working. So don't focus so much on what job you are going to take, focus on what you'll be working on whether it's in a job, as an independent contractor, or in your own start-up venture. You will likely have many jobs and a couple of careers; the key is acquiring experiences and skills that take you to the next place you want to go.

    Experiment.

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  • 4 ways to prepare for a layoff

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesA few days ago, I got an email from a friend -- yet another -- who told me that he had just been laid off from his journalism job. The job losses in our field are so huge that there is at least one website entirely devoted to tracking the loss of journalism jobs day by day.

    My friend wrote that he wished he had done some planning before the ax had fallen, and he is not the only one feeling that way. Many people are in situations where they know layoffs are a possibility, yet they do little to prepare themselves.

    Here's a few suggestions I would have given to my friend had he called me before he got his official notice. But it's not too late. These things still make sense once a layoff is official.

    Go to the doctor. Even though COBRA (the federal law that allows unemployed workers to pay to continue the same health insurance provided by their employers) is available to certain employees, many people who are unemployed cannot afford COBRA and opt for a cheaper no-frills plan. Others

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  • An easy way to make tough decisions: 5 questions for Suzy Welch

    Several weeks ago, I saw Suzy Welch on the Today show talking about her new book, 10-10-10. The book offers a simple tool for making decisions in all corners of life.

    Here's how it works: When working through a decision, you let yourself go down various paths and you explore the way the decision could unfold on those various paths over the next 10 minutes, over the next 10 months, and over the next 10 years. Those time frames aren't meant to be exact; they are stand-ins meant to help you look at how the making of an important decision might affect the short-term, the medium-term, and long-term periods of your life.

    From the moment I saw that interview, I was 10-10-10-ing every decision, from whether to take a new assignment that threatened to ruin a pre-planned vacation, to how to confront a close friend who had offended me. My old standby of writing down pros and cons was quickly supplanted by this new method, and I've now tested it in scores of situations. In short, I'm a believer.

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  • Do women lack ambition? Chime in.

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesDo women lack ambition? That was the question posed by Anna Fels, in a 2004 article in the Harvard Business Review, and again at a provocative luncheon panel earlier this week in a room full of high-powered women lawyers at a New York City law firm.

    There were two panelists: Claudia Trupp, a criminal defense attorney and mother of three, whose new book, "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes," explores what it means to inhabit her two very different roles; and Fels, a psychiatrist, whose new book, "Necessary Dreams," examines the loaded question of women and ambition. Deborah Epstein Henry, founder and president of Flex-Time Lawyers, organized and moderated the conversation.

    To get things going, Fels set forth her thesis, which is that women have problems around ambition, which she defines as having two components: mastery acquired over a period of time and recognition for that mastery within a community. According to Fels, women don't have much trouble with the mastery part, but they get

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  • How to ace a telephone interview

    When employers want to narrow a pool of candidates, they frequently use telephone interviews to decide whom to bring in for in-person interviews. Telephone interviews are also becoming more popular as employers continue to tighten their belts. And while phone interviews are a cheap and efficient way to vet a candidate, they can also feel overly casual and detached. So if you know you are going to have one, it's important to give it some thought and not let the medium trip you up.

    Here are some tips for making the best impression during a telephone interview:

    Be prepared. Since a telephone interview is usually a test to see if you will make it to the next round, be as prepared for a phone interview as you would for one in person. That means, do all your research about the company or organization as well as the people you'll be speaking with during the call. And of course, work on your pitch for why you're the best candidate for the job.

    Dress up. Really. There's lots of evidence

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  • On Memorial Day, one veteran's job search

    For some time, I've been recommending a service called VisualCV to anyone seeking to create a free online resume. The concept works especially well for those who want to offers samples of their work by embedding links, audio or video files, html pages and photographs. Which makes this type of resume a natural for designers, media professionals, or actors. One category of worker I hadn't anticipated using these newfangled resumes was the military -- and in honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to put the spotlight on Deborah Richardson, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who is using VisualCV as she tries to transition to a civilian position.

    LTC Richardson, who is 46, hasn't looked for a job in 25 years and in that time she recognizes that much of the work of a job search has migrated online. As she prepares to separate from the military in July, LTC Richardson is in networking mode, trying to meet as many people as possible who can help her with her goal of finding a position using her

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  • 5 steps to an empty email inbox

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesEmail management is like dieting. You know what you're supposed to do, but you need a refresher now and then. And headlines promising "Three Ways To Tame Your Inbox," are as irresistible as those offering, "Five Foods That Will Change Your Life."

    Still, eating right is easier for me than getting email under control, which is why I've sampled every program around, from those offered by experts like David Allen, Gina Trapani and Merlin Mann
    to those by anyone else who claims to have the cure.
    If you're wondering why I'm qualified to give advice on this, it's because my inbox has held less than 20 messages for close to two weeks. That's like shedding two dress sizes.

    Full disclosure: like with dieting advice, there is nothing new here. I'm just delivering it in a new wrapper. But here's what's working for me now:

    1. Do not treat your inbox as your to-do list. That means you should avoid keeping unread messages as reminders. (Hat tip to career coach, Michael Melcher, for the handy

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  • How to negotiate a salary without tipping your hand

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesYou've gotten pretty far in a job discussion. You like them. They like you. And it's getting down to the nitty gritty. Then your prospective employer pops the question you've been dreading: "So what are you making now?" (or some variation like, "What were you making in your last position?") You freeze. You know that answering the question can only hurt you. It might peg you at a salary you feel you've outgrown or that you improperly negotiated. And you know that you're always supposed to let the other person name a price first in any negotiation.

    So what do you do?

    Avoid revealing your salary.
    Never reveal your prior salary, says Ramit Sethi, creator of the blog, IWillTeachYouToBeRich, and author of the recently published book of the same title. He is clear and unequivocal. "It's just none of their business," he told me. "You're focusing on a new job and if you reveal what you made previously, two things happen. First, you've laid out all your cards. Second, you're admitting that you

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