How to get the benefits you deserve in your job offer

Samantha Stauf contacted me on Twitter and wanted to share her experience finding a job with her English degree and making sure that you get the employee benefits you deserve. Here is her advice. 

When I graduated a couple years ago, I got a job at a pawn shop. I’m sure I could’ve done better if I actually tried to market myself, but I couldn’t be convinced that my English degree could garner anything better.

During my interview, my interviewer’s eyes lit up as she read my CV. “You’ve got an English degree! That means you can use words well, right?” A part of me died as I nodded and forced a smile. “You bet!” I said. So I spent the next 6 months telling people their priceless family heirlooms were actually phony costume jewelry and not worth anything and I watched the light in their eyes fade. But the employee benefits were outta sight! … Literally. I did not see any.


7 Unexpected Ways to Save Money as a Grad Student

Heidi is a reader of this blog and personal finance enthusiast. I’m currently writing a book on personal finance (very slowly) and asked her to share some more excellent tips. You can get more finance tips from Heidi at the excellent blog

Today I’ll talk about 10 best tips for saving money. There are a ton of money-saving tips out there already, but I won’t bore you with the obvious tips like “stay at home and watch Netflix instead of going to the movies.” These are tried-and-tested things you can do to radically lower your expenses for a short period of time of a few months.


The Most Important Piece of Advice for Picking a Career


how to pick a career


A friend of my became a graphic book artist. He draws beautiful pictures and creates new things everyday. He isn’t rich. But it appears he is happy. The other day, I commented on one of his new creations, telling him “it was always a secret dream of mine, to be a graphic novel artist.”

Now, my father, who saw this on Facebook, is a talented landscape painter. He phoned me and said to me, “You have worked out your career now. You have a good job and you’ve sorted out all of that. But these creative dreams they won’t go away and they’ll keep bubbling up. I promise. Just draw 15 minutes a day. You’ll get good and you could create a graphic novel.”

You see my father followed his bliss. And I love him for always pushing me to follow mine. He is an artist and when I was growing up  he taught children art and painted at nights. He creates everyday. He has never won massive fame or earned huge amounts of money. But he makes the same as most and has been able to create his art. That’s worth a lot, I think.

The point of this story is that you can never really orphan your true ambitions. Because if you do, you’ll be miserable and unhappy, no matter how much money you make. You’ll live between being and the promise of becoming and the older you get, the more you’ll want to get out everyday.

The most important career advice is simple. Don’t focus on your passions. They can be misleading. Instead, focus on your core strengths.


11 Excuses That Stop You From Becoming a Writer


Today, I take a break from career advice to talk about excuses like ‘I want to become a writer but don’t have anything to say’ and other excuses preventing you from becoming a writer. 

I wrote this article for myself to remind myself of all the excuses and lies I tell myself, preventing me from actually trying to write something meaningful.

#1 You need to have something to say

I work in advertising. One thing I’ve learned is that the ideas and stories come once you start creating and pushing through the cliche garbage at the top of your mind. You will never create a story until you take that first stab.

I read an interesting interview with George R. R. Martin, the original author of the Game of Thrones series. He said that his novels began with a single scene in his mind. It’s not like he invented the entire world and plot-lines before he ever started.

Ideas come to those who start. Start creating. The big ideas will follow.


Budgeting tips for broke English majors, freelancers, & grad students

Heidi is a reader of this blog and personal finance enthusiast. As I’ve really come to love personal finance over the last few years, I asked Heidi to offer some advice for broke English majors and grad students who want to create a budget. This post offers some practical advice about how to create a budget when your income is irregular. You can get more finance tips from Heidi at the excellent blog

I used to imagine freelancing as the perfect lifestyle; working anytime and anywhere you want, having no boss, and receiving as much money as you want, or rather, can.

As I started freelancing, all these expectations turned out to be very close to the truth, except for the money part. I found out that managing clients and projects takes a lot of time – time that would otherwise be spent on productive things like, well, making money. I believed that I can’t make a budget because of my irregular income and so I easily burned away all my monthly income.


Want to get ahead in your career? Four principles you’ll find in 90% of personal development books.


Last month, there was a very inspiring career thread on Quora. The topic was “I am in my late 20s and feel I have wasted a lot of time. Is it too late?”

Image: 'runners (cc)'

Image: ‘runners (cc)’

James Altucher, a popular blogger and all-around fascinating guy, gave some good advice as usual. After going through a long-list of famous people who reached success later in life, he ended with the advice that it really doesn’t matter. You don’t need success to be happy.

You might never have your “great” thing that you do. I’m not even saying “it’s the journey that one should love”. Because some journeys are very painful. And nobody says you get special marks in death if you wrote a great novel at the age of 50. Or came up with a great chicken, or a way to stuff lots of people into factories.I’ve stumbled and fallen and got up and survived enough that I’m sick of goals and purposes and journeys. I want to cut out the middleman. The journey. The desperation and despair that thinking of a “purpose” entails. Fuck purpose. It’s ok to be happy without one. You don’t need to pay with lots of unhappiness to buy happiness.

I think that is true. That said, I’m not ready to abandon my life goals yet.

When I first left grad school, I thought personal development was bullshit and snake oil. After reading a few of the better authors, though, I realized that most personal development offers very sensible advice. They don’t hide the work that goes into achieving great things.

Yet personal development is like personal finance or personal fitness tips. There are only so many things you can say. The basics are the basics.  People desire to be told a secret but the reality is that most success in life comes from action and a disciplined approach to improvement rather than searching the internet for another top 25 tips for ‘starting your novel’ post.

I’ve read dozens of these books now and hundreds of personal development blog posts.

Here are the four principles that I’ve found are common to most personal development. Follow them and you’ll see results in your career search.


For sale: Master’s degree in English. Never used.

My Dear Friend,

I’m writing this to let you know that I’m selling my Master’s Degree in English Literature. It has never been used and remains in exceptional, out-of-the-box condition.

So what will this piece of paper do for you?

I say this with absolute sincerity, purchase my MA from me and your life will change in unimaginable ways.

Here’s how.

Imagine you — a literary scholar!

One day, you are scrubbing toilets and earning minimum wage. Life is a meaningless hellscape. Then BOOM.

Suddenly, you are attending fancy intellectual parties, drinking wine under the plump stars with your new professor friends, and strolling down a campus pathway, your pockets lined with a lucrative teaching gig at a two-year college.

If this sounds like a fairy tale, then read on.


The Four Categories of Skills – Which Career Direction Will You Take?


Last month, I launched a 14-day course about skill developing and choosing the right career path. Below is a sample of a lesson. If you find value in it, you can join my email list (below and at the bottom of the page) and you’ll be notified when the free course is available again.


How to Pick a Career You Love: 5 Quick Techniques


I recently ran a free email course about picking careers and skill development. I’m about to collect feedback from the first participants and then will make the course available for free on my website. If you want to get the course when it is ready, just sign-up for my email list (on the left).

pick a career

Here’s a few techniques I shared in the course as well as a few other helpful sites for job searchers.

This is just a quick post. I will post more on the topic when I have time.


How to Stand Out in a Group Interview


“The problem with first impressions,” Oscar Wilde said, “is that they are almost always right.”

Like it or not, job interviews are about perception.This guest post below is by Victoria from, an Australian job search and recruitment firm, and offers some techniques for improving your interview skills. I posted this because the advice really resonated with an experience I had last summer.

Last June, I sat on the other side of the hiring table. As I helped select a winning candidate from about 10 people, I realized how small perceptual details mattered in my decision. You try to be objective, but the small details do influence you.

Your resume gets you an interview, but the job interview is about social and personal chemistry.


job interview  2


I can remember one job candidate that barely looked us in the eye. It was uncomfortable interviewing her.

But it wasn’t just the introverts that didn’t make a good first impression. Another extroverted candidate at first presented himself very well. He was confident and barely nervous. But as the interview progressed, he didn’t practice “balancing” (a technique discussed in the article below).

This led the hiring committee to believe he was arrogant and difficult to work with, a perception that his references later confirmed.

If you have an job interview, I can say from personal experience that the techniques below do matter. While perception matters, it can also be adjusted and corrected.

For example, an old professor of mine once said to me, “You have an annoying habit of disappearing deep into thought when you present to the class . . . I know you are trying to be a casual presenter and think of things on the fly, but like it or not public speaking is a performance.” That insight stuck with me and I’ve tried to correct that habit.

Your interview is also a performance and the best way to improve is with live practice.

Here’s the post . . .