• I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the work you’re doing

    Sharing your gratitude for the people around you is a great way to help yourself, your career, your community, and your state of mind.

    At the end of this newsletter, I’m going to ask you to send a quick 3-sentence thank you to somebody, right now, to share how much you appreciated something they did, or achieved, or toiled over.

    It’s just a simple thing:

    “Jerry – just wanted to let you know that I’ve been through the terrific work you’ve been doing on Terrapin Station. I’m glad we didn’t listen when the other side said it was time for the train to “put its brakes on” — everything has turned out wonderfully . I’m looking forward to working with you next month on the Northbound Train account.”

    Showing gratitude is good for you.

    When you focus more on the good in the world around you, it actually puts you in a better mood, and a better frame of mind. Rather than dwelling on the errors, mistakes, and missteps of your co-workers, focusing on their successes, and rewarding and encouraging them for their triumphs — however small — actually makes you feel better. And that’s because it actually makes you better — with each “thank you” you become a more gracious, supportive, collaborative person.

    Showing gratitude now is way more effective than networking later.

    Too often, busy professionals wait until it is too late to build strong and effective relationships with peers and professional contacts. The worst time to reach out to someone after a long pause is when you need a favor. The best time is… today. And if you can share something appreciative, it will make all the difference.

    Showing gratitude makes you more effective.

    People want their work to be rewarded. Yes, in cash and equity, but far more importantly, in thanks and appreciation. When the people around you know that you are the type of person who will reward them in this most important currency of the realm, they’ll want to work with you and want to be on the receiving end of those little bits of glory. Entice them with your kindnesses.

    So please take a moment right now, think of somebody, something, or someone that impressed you in the past 24 hours, and send them a note to tell them what a great job you think they’re doing.

    It’s a great, and rewarding, way to start everybody’s week…

  • Three ways you’re sabotaging yourself

    While you’re reviewing the thousands of job openings and employers on TheLadders this week, here are three ways you just might be sabotaging your own job search (without realizing it)!

    1. Can a stranger read your resume?

    Print out your resume. Take the top third and rip it off. Hand it to somebody you don’t know.

    Can they tell you, without asking you any additional questions, what you want to do next?

    For too many of our subscribers, the answer is no. The reason is that you’re trying to do the wrong thing with the top third of your resume. You’re trying to tell people about your character and your abilities and your many, many different skills and your flexibility and too many things!

    You know what the person who is reading your resume is trying to find out?

    “Does this gal, or guy, want this job that I have to fill?”

    Obviously, given that you’ve spent the time to create a resume and send it to them, they know you want a job. But do you want this particular job?

    Is it something that you’ve done before? If so, did you like it? If so, do you want to do it again?

    Because you spend all of your time with yourself, it seems so very obvious that you want the type of job that you’re looking for.

    But strangers don’t know that. And, chances are, you’ll most likely be hired by a stranger.

    So it’s important that you make it easy for people who don’t know you.

    Show them, at the very top of your resume, what job you want, and why you’re qualified for it. You’re not naming every skill and experience, but you’re giving the reader a sense of what you can do.

    If they can’t tell, by reading the top third of your resume, what you want to do next, then you’re never going to get to the next step.

    2. Did you talk to a live person today?

    The internet delivers you news, information, funny cat videos, electronic books, fashionable shopping, and, via TheLadders.com, the latest and greatest job listings at the professional level.

    So… “hooray!” for the internet.

    But here’s the truth — the internet is not going to hire you.

    No, you’ll be hired by a living, breathing, thinking, smiling person.

    So the question is: did you talk to that person today? Did you try to?

    It’s important, while you’re searching, looking, peeking and applying to all those great jobs you find at TheLadders, that you also realize that you need to make talking to people, live, in person or on the phone, a priority.

    Have you called your old contacts? Returned the call from the company that perhaps you’re only mildly interested in? Have you taken a former colleague to lunch? Did you call back the recruiters you’ve met over the past six months? Drop by a conference?

    Connecting with people, live, in person or on the phone, is essential to getting hired. Too often, we fool ourselves into believing that self-directed activity is the best way to get hired. It’s not. Connecting with others is.

    If you’re more of an introvert, more comfortable communicating by writing than by speaking, you can still connect with others. I’m not going to mislead you and say that it’s better, but it’s still sufficient if you write thoughtful, sensible blog posts, comments, emails and contributions on industry-related topics and threads. But it’s important that you’re connecting with others, not just yourself.

    When it comes to getting hired, you need to ensure that every day is a “talk to a person who could potentially hire me” day.

    Because eventually… they will.

    3. Email address

    What email address do you use professionally?

    If you’re using AOL, or your local cable provider, you could be inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot.

    Only 4% of new users at TheLadders sign up with AOL email addresses these days. If you’re still using AOL to represent yourself professionally, it could be sending a signal that you’re uncomfortable with new technology and that you haven’t prioritized keeping your skills up-to-date.

    Using your local cable provider’s default email — whether it’s bellsouth .net, optonline .net, or tampabay .rr .com — increases the chances of a typo leading to a missed connection. Because people don’t pay as much attention, or care, to what they’re typing after the ‘@’ sign, using less-familiar domains in your email should be avoided.

    Just over 49% of new users at TheLadders use gmail .com. Because Gmail is well-known for its utility, ease-of-use, and power, using Gmail as your address is a smart move that also sends the message that you’re up-to-date with the times.

    What’s before the ‘@’ sign is important too.

    Common ‘household’ or ‘joint’ email strategies such as ‘jimandnancy@’, ‘smithhousehold@’, or ‘dunphyfamily@’ are not good email addresses to use for your professional job search. Professionals are accustomed to writing directly to other professionals. Requesting that they email your spouse & kids when contacting you is awkward.

    The best email address is your first name, followed by a dot, followed by your last name, at gmail .com:

      phil.dunphy @gmail .com

    If that’s taken, then for the purposes of your job search, add next year’s number to your address:

      phil.dunphy.2016 @gmail .com

    You’re probably going to be using this email address into the New Year anyway and starting now makes you seem ahead of the times. And everybody wants to hire somebody from the future, right?

    So those are the three things you might be doing to sabotage your own efforts in the job search, Readers. Avoid them and prosper.

    I’ll be rooting for you!

  • Leonardo da Vinci’s resume

    Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an armorer, a weapons guy, a maker of things that go “boom.”

    And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

    So to celebrate Leonardo’s birthday this Wednesday, April 15th, I’d like to share his wonderful resume with you. You can click on the link below to see the full-size version.





    The translation of this letter is quite remarkable:

     

    “Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.

    1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

    2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

    3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

    4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

    5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

    6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

    7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

    8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

    9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

    10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

    11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
    Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

    And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.”

    What a fantastic piece of personal marketing! There’s none of his famous backwards-mirror writing here – this letter was intended to be read and to persuade.

    I’m a hopeless pedantic, so here’s what I think we can learn from Leonardo’s resume:

    You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements. He doesn’t mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard; he doesn’t provide a laundry list of past bombs he’s built; he doesn’t cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio.

    No, he does none of these things, because those would be about his achievements, not the Duke’s needs.

    Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what Leonardo can do for him.

    Now imagine being the Duke of Milan and receiving this magnificent letter from the young prodigy of Florence. The specific descriptives paint a vivid picture of siege engines and bombardments and mortars and trench-draining and bridges to defeat the enemy. You can imagine the scenes that ran through the Duke’s head as he held this letter in his hands and read through Leonardo da Vinci’s bold statements of capabilities.

    What Renaissance Duke wouldn’t want “kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; [that] can fling small stones almost resembling a storm”? Sounds pretty enticing.

    And that’s exactly what your resume needs to do, too. Not the laundry list / standard bio that talks about you, but the marketing piece that talks about the benefits to your future employer and how you fit into his or her needs and desires.

    So it turns out that even on his 563rd birthday, this remarkable fellow Leonardo da Vinci is teaching us about the future. What a genius…

    Here’s wishing you an illustrious week, Readers!

    As the Italians might say…

    Sto tifo per te!

  • Seeking VP, Anything

    “Oh, I’m looking for anything,” you might tell well-meaning friends who ask.

    It’s a problem.

    Because in today’s economy, no employer is looking for a “VP, Anything”, or a “Director of Whatever Needs to Be Done.” They’re looking for an experienced professional who can solve specific problems.

    When you’re thinking about moving jobs, you need to have a brief, pithy assertion of who you are and what you’re qualified to do. It’s important that you be able to explain to an old colleague, or a new connection, in 30 seconds or less, what it is that you’re looking for.

    That’s called an “elevator pitch” – a concise statement of your abilities and goals that can be shared in the time it takes an elevator to go to the top floor.

    Vague and general aren’t helpful:
    “I’m a saleswoman”, or…
    “I’m in logistics”, or…
    “I’m a finance guy”, don’t work because they don’t explain succinctly what you need and how your audience can help.

    No, in the 21st century you need to be more precise and more concrete. You need to describe what you’ve done and what you’re looking to do… specifically.

    So it’s not “I’m a saleswoman” but rather…

    “I’m a sales management professional looking to lead a 100+ person sales organization, and am particularly interested in opportunities leading sales teams going through the transactional-to-relationship-selling transition.”

    It’s not “I’m in logistics” but rather…

    “I’m a logistics team leader who specializes in driving efficiency improvements in established groups, bringing down the cost of production year after year.”

    And it’s not “I’m a finance guy” but rather…

    “I’m a finance guy who enjoys rationalizing finance teams in multi-unit businesses and creating metrics and operating procedures that partner with the business to drive understanding of the underlying levers of growth.”

    You need to be specific and concise in your description of your ambitions, so that your network contacts, your future boss, or an HR recruiter can understand how and where you’ll add value and improve the business.

    So please, avoid the easy temptation to say that you’re looking for anything, and be specific in your job search. It’s the best way to let people know how to help you, and to let companies know how you’ll help them.

    I’m rooting for you!

  • Hired!

    Thousands of your fellow subscribers have found new jobs in March on TheLadders!

    They say “in like a lamb, out like a lion” about the month of March, Readers, and this March of 2015 has been a lion!

    Once again, we’ve had more activity from employers and recruiters on TheLadders this quarter than ever before.

    Why? Because TheLadders professionals are interested in a new job, and behave respectfully. While the typical job posting on LinkedIn or Monster gets hundreds (thousands!) of unqualified applications, the typical job at TheLadders gets just 14 applicants that are targeted, relevant, and interesting to the HR person or recruiter.

    So while we don’t have the space to share them all, here are a hundred of the top positions landed by your fellow subscribers through TheLadders.com in the past months:

    Title Salary Location
    VP of Finance $160K San Francisco, CA
    Senior Director of Operations $155K Michigan
    Associate Director $140K New York
    Talent Management Director $175K Berwyn, PA
    Senior Director Talent Acquisition $160K Freemont, CA
    Director of Finance $100K Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
    Infrastructure Manager $140K Austin, TX
    HR Director $115K Syracuse, NY
    Molecular Oncology Account Executive $85K Minnesota
    Manager $155K San Francisco, CA
    Sr. EHS Auditor $110K Deerfield, IL
    Sales Manager $125K Chicago, IL
    EHS Manager Americas $98K Hartland, WI
    Sr. Contract Sales Rep $83K Charlotte, NC
    Director Product Management $168K Shelton, CT
    Regional HR Director $125K Illinois
    Director, HR $125K Marietta, GA
    Marketing Services Director $165K Chicago, IL
    Staff Engineer $67K Moorestown, NJ
    Process Engineer $80K Georgia
    Account Executive $75K Burlington, MA
    Head of Direct Acquisitions $135K Miami, FL
    CFO $275K New York
    Senior Benefits Attorney $110K Marietta, GA
    Sr. Program Manager $137K Cleveland, OH
    Facilities Director $90K Columbus, OH
    Wealth Advisor $156K Indianapolis, IN
    Director of Human Resources $110K St. Louis, MO
    Director, Product Management $150K Boston, MA
    General Manager $80K Omaha, NE
    VP of Sales $125K Los Angeles, CA
    VP of Technology $155K New York, NY
    QHSE Manager $120K Houston, TX
    Network Security Administrator $75K (redacted)
    Stimulation Consultant $117K Denver, CO
    Risk Manager $70K Charlotte, NC
    Market Manager $115K Wauwatosa, WI
    VP Sales $77K Boston, MA
    Software Quality $90K Englewood, CO
    National Media Relations Director $160K Chapel Hill, NC
    Director Sales Operations $180K Blue Bell, PA
    IT Communication Leader $178K Chicago, IL
    Private Banker $60K New Braunfels, TX
    CFO $215K McKinney, TX
    Director of Operations $110K Michigan
    Sales Director $92K Albuquerque, NM
    RAS $41K Boise, ID
    Account Executive $40K Baltimore, MD
    Director of Manufacturing $120K Wisconsin
    Sr. Relationship Manager $115K Arlington, TX
    Director of Business Development $120K Seattle, WA
    Supply Chain Manager $114K Ayer, MA
    Sr. Manager $145K Los Angeles, CA
    Trader $135K Indianapolis, IN
    IT Operations Manager $120K Brandon, FL
    Director of Emergency Management $70K Houston, TX
    Manager, Program Management $127K Kingsport, TN
    Modeling and Simulation Engineer $105K Charlottesville, VA
    Vice Pesident International Sales $130K California
    Director, Medicaid Consultant $180K Atlanta, GA
    Sr Director of Operations $120K Atlanta, GA
    VP Human Resources $125K Plano, Texas
    CHB manager $85K Laredo, TX
    Sr Account Manager $150K Canada
    Customer Service $45K Wichita Falls, TX
    Regional Sales Director $164K The Woodlands, TX
    Business Development Manager $100K Phoenix, AZ
    Consulting Partner $187K United States
    Senior Software Engineer $115K Phoenix, AZ
    Director $150K Florida
    Sales Director $106K Philadelphia, PA
    Director of Real Estate $140K Columbus, OH
    Senior Consultant $130K Atlanta, GA
    COO $200K St. Louis, MO
    Senior Project Manager $125K Lakewood, CO
    Vice President, HR Business Partner $150K Atlanta, GA
    Engineering Manager $110K Torrance, CA
    Director of Sales $140K Somerset, NJ
    Vice President $150K Mooresville, NC
    HR, Business Services $100K Kansas City, MO
    Marketing Manager $100K Louisville, KY
    Strategic Advisor $89K Chapel Hill, NC
    Sr. Program Manager $140K Michigan
    Plant Manager $130K Indiana
    Senior Client Executive $130K Michigan
    Experience Manager $83K New York, NY
    Director $100K El Paso, TX
    Sales Director $150K Denver, CO
    VP Procurement $180K Jacksonville, FL
    Director of Client Services $150K New York
    HR Business Partner $75K Columbus, OH
    Insurance Representative $80K Dartmouth, MA
    Sales Consultant $180K Washington, D.C.
    Field Service Manager $84K Dayton, Ohio
    Director of Residential Development $185K New York
    Director of Strategic Development $130K Houston, TX
    Sales Executive $40K Charlotte, NC
    Director of Case Management $89K New Mexico
    Sr. Operation Manager $125K Waukesha, WI
    SVP, Research & Analytics $185K San Francisco, CA
    Senior Business Analyst $90K Brooklyn, NY
    Director of Operations $170K Denver, CO
    Sales Director $175K Atlanta, GA
    Senior Director $140K Washington, D.C.
    Sr. Director, Business Development $150K New York
    HR $117K Atlanta, GA
    Account Manager $75K Boston, MA
    Sales Manager $77K Boulder, CO



    Good luck in your search this week!

  • A favor to ask

    Last week, I took you on a tour of TheLadders headquarters in New York City. Despite a first-day-of-Spring snowstorm here in Manhattan, our hearts were warmed by your many kind comments!

    So, each year after taking you on a little photographic tour, I ask a favor in return:

    Would you mind sending us a photo of yourself for our walls here at TheLadders headquarters?

    You see, we work all day on the internet, which means we don’t get to see you, our customers, in person. And what with the long hours, heartfelt dedication and total commitment to seeing you land your next gig, it makes an enormous difference to us when we can put a face with the, ummm, email address.

    So I’d like to ask you to do me a favor and send along a high-resolution photo of yourself to photos@theladders.com.

    Each year, about 10,000 subscribers like you send in their photos, and they now grace our walls, hallways and conference rooms. Our favorites have included the Marine in Iraq on a camel, the sportsman with a turkey, the subscriber who crossed the Alps on a bicycle in an eight-stage road race, and the loads and loads of pictures we get of families – at holidays, on vacations, at Opening Day, or just hanging out. Understanding that we are responsible for helping you and your family really hits home with the team here at TheLadders.

    Oh, and please be sure to include a little blurb – your name, hometown, your profession, and how you’re using TheLadders for your career – when you send your pics along to photos@theladders.com.

    We post your pictures along our walls and in our conference rooms to give our people a daily look at the folks we are helping. You can imagine how powerful it is during meetings when our customer is right there in the room with us.

    So please send along your high-resolution photo – we print them out at 8″ x 10″ size. It would mean a lot to me and to the team, and we’ll “see” you soon!

  • Meet the people working for you

    Each year, I take you “behind the scenes” at TheLadders headquarters here in Manhattan so that you can have a peek at the people working hard to help you find your next job.

    Our building in the famous SoHo district of Manhattan was an originally a printing house.
    Welcome to TheLadders HQ.
    Each morning at TheLadders begins with scrum teams meeting for stand-ups. Scrum teams are cross-functional teams that focus on specific customers and products.
    Here’s Kat, Director of Engineering, explaining our workflow.
    Our process begins with you, our customers. Listening to your needs and feedback on our products.
    From there, we “white board” solutions and map out the experience flow to make our product better for you.
    And then we build. Here’s Avital, Software Engineer, happy as a clam, writing code for TheLadders website.
    Our office’s open floor plan makes for easy-collaboration between teams.
    And allows the occasional 4-legged visitor free reign throughout the place!
    The tech team has a weekly conclave, a type of team powwow for thinking deep thoughts. This is a great opportunity for engineers to share their expertise and learn new skills.
    The week ends with “Beer Hall” – a company-wide gathering with libations.
    After a long week of hard work, it’s nice to share drinks and celebrate wins!
    Hope you enjoyed that behind the scenes look, and cheers folks!
  • I hadn’t realized I was doing it wrong until they told me

    Here’s an easy way to turn dreaded employment networking into deadly effective bonding:

    When you’re networking, ask for a reference, not a job.

    Whether you’re doing catch-up drinks or grabbing lunch to reconnect, your primary need is to get an ally, not a tally of job listings. Recruiting a helping hand to your search is your goal.

    So don’t ask your college friend if she knows of any jobs for people like you. How would she?

    And don’t ask your boss from two jobs ago if she has the names of any people who are currently looking to hire somebody like you. It puts her on the spot. Uncomfortably.

    No, instead, ask for a reference. Mention that you’re going to be moving on, or you’re already looking, or that you’re actively out on the street. Let them know the type of positions you are and are not suited for, and what you’re hoping to achieve in your next opportunity.

    And then ask them if – when it gets to that happy place in your search – if it would be OK to use them as a reference.

    By not putting them on the spot about specific job openings, you reduce the awkwardness inherent in the networking conversation.

    And by letting them know that you hold them in high enough esteem to potentially use them as a reference, you’re actually paying them a compliment.

    You’re also making it easier for them to say “yes”, and to feel good about themselves for being a good friend and helping you out with a little favor.

    All of which means that you have a new buddy in your search – one who’s going to be thinking about keeping an eye out for new opportunities and an ear open for fresh possibilities for their reference-able friend: you.

    It’s wins and grins all around.

    Now, this doesn’t work for just any old person you meet on the street. There’s probably a pretty good match between people you’d take to lunch and those you could ask to be a reference. So my advice would be to stick to asking those you know well enough.

    Being realistic, the widely offered and deeply wrong advice from the past decade that you should try to extract favors, concessions, names, jobs, and career assistance from people you’ve only met over the phone is not only useless, it can be counterproductive to your aims by antagonizing your broader network.

    By making your networking about compliments, you’ll find it pays dividends.

  • My single best tip

    In the decade I’ve been writing this newsletter, the single best tip I’ve given, that has come back to me over, and over, and over again, is this:

    When it gets to that part of the interview with your future boss where they ask, “well, do you have any questions for me?”, say yes, and ask:

    “How do I help you get a gold star on your review next year?”

    This bit of advice has helped more people in more interviews than any other bit of advice I’ve shared in the last decade that I’ve been writing to you.

    Why?

    Well, the interview process lends itself to self-absorption. We spend so much of the time talking about ourselves that we sound like one of those people who talks only about themselves.

    Or, conversely, we become “job analysis engineers” and ask all sorts of questions about the job and reporting structure and how it fits in with the company’s five-year plan and so on. I love getting questions from candidates in interviews, but I do have to admit I feel that they’re not quite getting the point of a “face-to-face” interview when they pull out six pages of typed, single-spaced questions and promptly bury their nose in their papers without making eye contact.

    We get so obsessed with the details of the job that we forget about the work.

    Working together and being a good addition to the team mean being concerned with how you are making the team successful. And that means being concerned with how much you are helping to make your boss successful.

    Asking this question shows that you have empathy. It shows that you have an interest in your boss’ career and future success. It shows that you are not just a self-absorbed “what’s-in-it-for-me” kind of person. And it shows that you know you are there to “give” as much as you are there to “get”.

    Dozens of subscribers have told me how the interviewer’s face lights up when asked this question. I have heard time and time and time again from our six million subscribers how effective it’s been in interviews.

    (And, remember, you want the vibe to be a cool & relaxed Vince Vaughn, not an obsequious Steve Buscemi.)

    The gold star question is an easy tip to implement in your job search: it’s easy to do, easy to understand, and it’s easy to measure.

    And that makes it my best bit of career advice in over a decade of doling it out.

    So thank you, Dear Readers, for paying attention, trying it out, and letting me know how it goes…

  • It beats working…

    Paul Graham is one of the smartest, most successful people in Silicon Valley, and recently wrote a post on “What Doesn’t Seem Like Work?

      “If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for. For example, a lot of programmers I know, including me, actually like debugging. It’s not something people tend to volunteer… But you may have to like debugging to like programming, considering the degree to which programming consists of it.

    The stranger your tastes seem to other people, the stronger evidence they probably are of what you should do. When I was in college I used to write papers for my friends. It was quite interesting to write a paper for a class I wasn’t taking. Plus they were always so relieved.

    It seemed curious that the same task could be painful to one person and pleasant to another, but I didn’t realize at the time what this imbalance implied, because I wasn’t looking for it. I didn’t realize how hard it can be to decide what you should work on, and that you sometimes have to figure it out from subtle clues, like a detective solving a case in a mystery novel. So I bet it would help a lot of people to ask themselves about this explicitly. What seems like work to other people that doesn’t seem like work to you?”

    If you think through the things that don’t seem like work to you, you’ll discover a pattern. Does talking to people all day long get you jazzed, but seem to drain others? Does cranking through a multi-sheet Excel spreadsheet give you a secret thrill when it all adds up at the end? Does managing all the headaches that go along with logistics planning drive others batty, but feel like an engaging puzzle to you?

    These differences in how you feel when completing a task or a project indicate an aptitude or skill. And that’s what sets you apart from others. We (mostly) feel better, perform better, enjoy it better, when we’re doing something for which we are well-suited. And that’s an important signal to you about where you’ll find the most rewarding work in life.

    Focusing on those areas where you are superior will lead to better results in your career. Too often, we waste time trying to bring all of our skills and capabilities up to the same level as our strongest talents. Not only is that unlikely to work, but it takes away from the time you have to master the skills and capabilities where you do have a gift.

    So this week, think about what doesn’t feel like work as you plan your next career moves.