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Career Advice

From Marc Cenedella
Marc Cenedella

The world's leading venture capitalist of today shared the career advice below almost a decade ago. While the advice is targeted at the young, I think the experienced ought to pay heed.

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My single best career tip

Good Monday morning,

I started writing this newsletter back on August 25th, 2003, which makes this my 400th week doing so. I've learned a lot of tips and tricks over that time and thought I'd share with you the best single bit of career advice that I've picked up in all my years.

Between writing this newsletter, writing an Amazon Top 50 best-selling book, studying what works and what doesn't, and travelling around the country to speak with standing-room only audiences of professionals like you, I've been incredibly fortunate. I think careers are so important and such an important part of your life that I've made it my life's work to find the best advice to help you.

So in thinking about what makes "my best career tip" I thought about what makes a career tip great:

Is it easy for people to believe instantly? Or would it require specialized understanding, study and research?

Is it easy to do pretty quickly? Or does it take effort, cash, and time? A really great tip should be very easy to do.

Is it easy to determine if the advice was successful for me? Or is it unclear immediately and it takes time, data, and explanation to understand how it helped?

A really great tip, like my best tip, would have to be easy to believe, to do, and to measure.

An example of great career advice that (despite being true) is not a great tip is, "You must get your resume professionally written." Yes, I know your resume is adequate and your cousin's friend in HR at IBM said it looked great, and you used it once on an interview and there didn't seem to be any problems, but… trust me… you're not getting the biggest bang for your buck out of a self-written resume. And with enough time, I can explain it to you and show you the data.

But that's exactly why it's great career advice, but a bad "tip".

So my best career tip for my 400th week of writing career advice newsletters is this:

You know that part of the interview 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 over the years. Why?

Well, the interview process lends itself to our becoming self-absorbed and talking only about ourselves.

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 an interview if they pull out six pages of typed, single-spaced questions.

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".

Subscribers like you say the interviewer's face lights up when they ask this question. I have heard time and time again from our four-and-a-half million subscribers how effective it's been in interviews:

And it's got all the hallmarks of a great tip: it's easy to do, easy to understand, and easy to measure.

So thank you, Dear Readers, for all you've done for me over these past eight years, and I will continue to do all I can for you, now and in the future.

Have a great first week of May!

I'm rooting for you,
Marc Cenedella, CEO & Founder

Marc Cenedella's Twitter You should follow me on Twitter here: @cenedella

P.S. From the archives: The Importance of Mentors

P.P.S. Want to see what I wrote to my 50,000 recruiters and HR friends last week? Click here to read: "28% of people in the USA who make over $100,000 are signed up on TheLadders."

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