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What Is Job Satisfaction?

June 30th, 2020

I remember speaking in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2011 (9 years ago!!), for the years ago. I think it was me and Dan Schawbel in front of maybe 200 or 300 people. It was really quite fun and charming. Southern charming. I was waiting for someone to drop the “bless your heart” bomb, but no one did.

Look how young I was here :p

Jason Alba Charlotte Pronet 2011

I guess I left the South unscathed, then.

Anyway, the morning of the presentation I was driving through downtown Charlotte. I didn’t know what to expect from Charlotte, or downtown Charlotte, but I soon learned that they (whoever they is) regards Charlotte, North Carolina, as “the Wall Street of the South” because a bunch of financial institutions had major offices (or headquarters?) there.

Downtown Charlotte was beautiful. Massive buildings… not like New York City, but much bigger than what I was expecting. I remember beautiful architecture and a clean city.

I also remember, on that early morning drive, passing people at bus stops waiting to catch their next bus to work. I was going to speak to some three hundred people about getting a job while I passed dozens of people waiting to go to their job that morning. Every single person I passed looked… gloomy. Unhappy. The morning was beautiful but there was like individual dark clouds over these poor people who had to go clock in.

The irony was I was about to enter a conference venue with hundreds of people who couldn’t go to work because they didn’t have a job… and they were HAPPY! I was there to give them wisdom or ideas on how to land their next job, and they seemed happy to be there. Was I just there to trick people into being miserable?

No… no, of course not. I know that many of the smiles were because people were finally getting out of the house, and having something to look forward to in the job search. I realize that being out of work is miserable, and many of the people in that audience would have gladly traded places with the bus stop people.

Lately, in my work with Snowfly Incentives, I’ve been thinking a ton about employee satisfaction. Actually, I thought a lot about it when I worked at Bamboo HR, and was working on creating an academy of sorts for HR practitioners. My boss was a thought leader in the HR/culture space and working with him was an honor and a privilege.

Employee satisfaction. We talked about it from the perspective of HR and managers and leaders, creating a culture and environment where employees loved coming to work and brought their best selves to the job. Increases in employee performances and impacts on employer brands and retention were regular conversation topics.

But my roots are in the job search and personal responsibility for OUR OWN career management. So this morning I was wondering, what is OUR role in our own employee satisfaction?

This is a critical question

If you believe that you need to take care of your career (career management), why do you think you should let your company determine your satisfaction level?

Own it. Figure out how to have your own satisfaction.

Will your company do everything right for you? Nope. No company will. There will always be problems. Even in the best of times in my career I’ve had things at my employer I would have liked to have different. A jerk I had to work with, an unfair decision about who gets to do things, lower compensation or raises than I felt were fair, etc. The list could go on and on.

I watched people whine and moan and complain about these things. Really, they are little and inconsequential, but when we obsess about them and talk about them we feed them and make them bigger.

We let this feeding hijack our satisfaction. We empower the little things to contribute to our work misery.

I’m not saying we need to be ignorant, ignore everything, and play Work Polyanna. I’m just saying let’s be intentional about what we decide will give us satisfaction.

Here are some ideas:

Get a hobby. People say to follow your passion and the money or a rewarding career will follow. I don’t agree. If you can monetize your passion, and that remains your passion for the entirety of your career, great! Congratulations! But for the rest of us, my advice is to find a hobby. Do you want to write, create, travel, watch, eat, cook…? Find your hobby(ies) and spend time on them after work hours.

Spend time with humans (or pets). When I was at Bamboo they were really big on work/life balance. More than once an executive would walk past me after 5 (like at 5:01) and tell me to go home, the work would be there tomorrow. Go home because there is much more to life, and mental and physical health, than working late. There are plenty of studies about the importance of socializing with others. Of course this can be done at work, but I suggest you figure out how to do it outside of work. Be around others. Laugh and cry, give and receive. Human interaction is powerful and we need it more than we think.

Decide. Decide who you are, and what you are after, and what makes you happy. I believe a lot of times we haven’t decided what we want in life and that leave a gaping whole for our boss and culture and society to tell us what will make us happy. That is a mistake. Figure out who you are. “Find yourself,” as they say. Make some decisions. Own yourself. Don’t look to others for satisfaction or validation. When you don’t need the approval of others life becomes more simple.

Grow. Figure out how you can progress. I grew up thinking that you have phases in life, one of which is your growth phase. This is when your body grows, your brain develops, and you suck as much information as you can through the education system. Then, after college, you enter a new phase where you have a career and perhaps a family. No one told me this but I think I assumed you didn’t really learn, at least the way you did in school, once you were done with that phase. I’ve learned that is far from the truth. I love learning, whether from books, conferences, chats with experts, and just trying new things. If you feel stagnant then enroll in a course or do something to really dive deep into an area and grow. You have the world at your feet (or fingertips, on your smart phone) and the same amount of time as the rest of us. Own your personal growth.

I think satisfaction comes from shifting perspective, and each of these things help you shift. I invite you to rethink employee satisfaction and not wait for your company to provide it… seek it on your own. Your boss, the HR person, even the company might go away, but your responsibility to owning your own satisfaction will not.

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My Boss Put Me In Urgent Care #CultureMatters

June 26th, 2020

Once, for years, I worked for a bad boss.

Without naming names, because this person is still alive, I’ll tell part of the story.

I have a certain level of integrity. We all do.. even the worst people out there do. Maybe theirs is like 2% while yours is like 90%. Big lie? No way. White lie? Sure, why not. Do the right thing when it is easy? Of course. Do the right thing when it is hard, or even dangerous? Um… no, I don’t think so.

Our integrity is on a scale. Sometimes we have more. Some people have more. Circumstances can change our level of integrity.

The problem between me and my boss was a mismatch in integrity. I felt like there were certain things I WOULD NOT do, or things I WOULD DO every time. Like be nice. Like respect others, regardless of title. Like be honest. If you were to have asked my boss, he or she would have said the same thing. Of course be nice! Of course respect others! Of course be honest!

But saying those things vs. doing those things were different.

I found there was a gap in our levels of integrity. I could tell you stories but, again, I can’t have this traced back to the person or the company where I was.

Plus, I don’t need to tell YOU stories because you have your own stories. I’ve heard them as I traveled around the U.S. and spent time with job seekers. From Boston to San Diego, Seattle to Miami, I’ve heard about crap bosses. There is no shortage of bad boss stories.

So, back to my story. My boss and I worked pretty closely together. I found there were misrepresentations about what was happening with customers and our team and the product and the market and the finances and … just about everything. My boss came back from a meeting and said one thing… because of my new role I called the customer to say “thank you… I just heard that you agreed to _____.” I then got chewed out by the customer saying that absolutely not, under no condition did they agree. But my boss just told me that… and there was no way his or her words could be misconstrued.

Toxic CultureThis was lie number 4,771.

Everything was a lie. Really big stuff, really small stuff. Everything. While I am generally a pretty honest person my boss couldn’t make it a few hours without some grand lie.

Fast forward a bit, having worked in this toxic environment for a while.

Wait… you say that’s not a big deal? That doesn’t warrant toxic? I’ve thought about this a lot. The mismatch in our integrity was really, really bugging me. I did not like being in a meeting with someone I couldn’t trust. I did not like knowing that my boss might be misrepresenting our situation, or capabilities, our product, or me. If he or she couldn’t be trusted to tell the truth about the small or medium or big things, he or she couldn’t be trusted with anything.

One night I was flying home from a conference or customer meeting or something. I don’t remember where I was, or why I was there, but I remember connecting in Las Vegas. I think it was around 9 or 10 at night. I was exhausted. The airport was half empty, with other exhausted travellers. These were the business flyers who commuted a lot and weren’t there for a vacation. I remember standing outside of my gate and realizing “You are going to have a heart attack on the plane.”

Heart Attack On The Plane?

I’m not one to have those kinds of thoughts or feelings. But that night I just knew I might. I wondered if anyone on the plane would be a doctor or nurse. I wondered what training or equipment the flight attendants had. I wondered if I’d be on the news… if I’d die, or if this would just be a big sign that I needed to slow down.

All of those thoughts came out of nowhere and flashed through my mind in a few seconds. I wondered if I should not get on the plane and have a heart attack on the ground instead.

Heart Attack

My chest was tight. I was worried. But I just wanted to get home. So I got on the plane and … nothing happened. I had a normally, boring flight.

I landed, grabbed my luggage, and drove 30 minutes to my home. I kissed my wife, dropped off my bags, and said “I don’t feel good. I am going to urgent care.” I drove myself to urgent care and said some words about “tight” and “heart” and “chest” and found that when you say the right words you don’t have to wait. You don’t even have to fill out paperwork. They scoot you right into a room and hook up stuff that you don’t want hooked up. Cold gel, wires, beeping machines. It’s surreal, like in a movie.

I was able to relax knowing I was in a good place. Safe. Would be taken care of.

Finally, a doctor came in. He said “well, it looks like you didn’t have a heart attack. There is nothing abnormal about the rhythm.”

Relief and Ticked Off

He would soon explain to me that the pain I was experiencing was what he called a “pre ulcer.” That is, I didn’t have an ulcer (in my stomach) yet, but I was close. He told me I was stressed, and gave me some medicine. I was so mad.

I had gone through a lot of stressful situations in my life and had never had an ulcer. I remember hearing about kids stressed out in school trying to get their 4.0 GPA, and working themselves into an ulcer. I had heard about others who were mega stressed and getting an ulcer. I prided myself on being more level-headed and managing my stress better. I had gone through lots of school, various jobs, a few kids, and plenty of other things, and none of those stressful things had given me an ulcer.

But this boss, with our mismatched integrity, did it. He or she pushed and pushed and pushed. I had a very hard time coming to terms that  I was working in an environment where honest and integrity and ethics were not valued. And month after month after month, it took a toll on me.

My symptoms were real and scary, but I could finally know what my medical problem was. And I realized that the turmoil I was feeling had physical consequences.

Toxic Work Environment

When people talked about a toxic work environment I always thought they could suck it up a little. No workplace is perfect. There will always be friction.

I had no idea that some workplaces were so dangerous, though, to our physical and mental well being. Just do your thing, and be yourself, etc. Be strong, water off the ducks back… whatever you need to tell yourself.

But I have not been sexually harassed at work. And all that positive self-talk doesn’t alleviate or resolve sexual harassment.

I have not been targeted by a workplace bully. All that positive self-talk doesn’t make the bully any less annoying.

My issue was that my boss and I didn’t see eye to eye, philosophically, on what is right and what is wrong. I had no idea that there would be a level of toxicity that would so greatly impact my physical health.

My advice to others in situations like this is generally to leave. It’s just not worth it to stay. I’ve heard about people leaving work and crying all the way home because their work environment is so toxic. If the leadership can’t address this, and either move or remove the boss, I lose respect for the leaders. I know why they do it… they are unsure how to proceed. They are betting that the value the bad boss brings will outweigh the harm they are doing. Or, they are just afraid of confrontation.

I saw this in another job where a boss was cancerous to the organization and the leaders did NOTHING. It was shameful. In a situation like that, where the bad boss stays, or gets promoted, it seems the only two options you have are to (a) wait it out or (b) leave.

Wait

Waiting it out might be the right strategy if the toxicity is something you can manage, and your hope is great. You might hope for your team, or your product, or your customers, or for opportunities. This hope is like a magnetic force that keeps us at work, even when it’s bad.

Waiting could be the wrong answer though. Early in my career I worked at an organization at an entry level job. We were told that the only way someone could get promoted to the next department, which would come with a substantial pay raise, would be if someone in that department died. Well, finally, someone died. And they decided to NOT fill his position.

You could wait for your boss to leave. For leadership to wake up and realize your boss is so bad they need to kick him or her out. But that might not happen. Leadership might give the boss the benefit of the doubt, or put them in coaching (with a year or more of time), or just turn a blind eye.

bored

Your waiting might result in nothing but more toxicity.

Like I said, it might be worth it. Sometimes it’s better to have a job than to be out of work and looking. This is a measured risk you must decide on.

Leave

I respect people who decide to leave. The value their own sanity and health. They value themselves and know they shouldn’t be treated a certain way. And they think they can land somewhere else. Sometimes that works out nicely. Other times they flounder for months and go through a lot of emotional stuff during a tough job search.

The may jump out of the frying pan into the fire, but it was an intentional choice. Rarely do I hear someone say “I wish I would have stayed with that toxic boss.” More often than not I hear them say “I left and now am working at my dream job.” Even if they took a cut in pay, a better work environment, or better boss, or better commute, or whatever made it all worth it.

Leaving could be hard. When I KNEW I should have left I worried first about my team. I shouldn’t have, because they were all going to be fine (many of them left). But I worried about them. I had been their leader. What message would leaving send? (Of course, it would have sent the right message. I can see that now).

I worried about abandoning my projects, and not participating in grand success. I worried about losing my benefits, an my salary.

It was hard. But I should have done it. Instead, I put it off. I look back now and see that was an immature time in my career. Where I’m at now, I would not have put up with that crap. I would walk away. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Green Grass

There are lots of little sayings about the grass NOT being greener elsewhere. Or the grass is green where you water it.

Green Grass

I recently wrote a short ebook about measuring the culture in an organization. I’ll make that available soon, but what I learned from some feedback is that the idea of a great culture or a horrible culture is subjective. It depends on the person. Instead of a great culture we should be looking for a cultural FIT. Said another way, what might be a great culture for ME might be a horrible culture for YOU.

Is grass greener elsewhere? Yes. It’s green, and brown, and purple, and blue, and yellow, and all kinds of colors. When you think about where you would be most happy it’s not necessarily at a “best companies to work for” place. It might be at a government job. Or a small startup. Or in software, or in a bakery, or … I don’t know. YOU need to figure out where YOUR green grass is. You need to figure out what your best fit could be, and where you’ll be most happy.

I’m most happy at an executive level, where I have decision-making, authority, strategy, influence, vision, an a role in operations.

I was offered a job for close to 200k. It was appealing… not just the money but who I would work with. But I would be about FOUR levels below where I wanted to be. I turned it down. I can’t go in at a lower level at this point in my career… I know I’d be unhappy.

You need to know what your green grass scenario is. What would be your dream job, your dream role, your dream level, your dream culture, etc.

And then, go find it. It’s out there.

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The Job Search and Career Seminar Series

June 22nd, 2020

Last week I finished my three week six session series on job search and career stuff, sponsored by Pluralsight. I posted the entire series here… you can watch each of the six sessions as well as download the slides (nothing special there) and see what Pluralsight courses and other resources I talked about.

Feel free to share this… lots of people should be needing this stuff pretty soon…

Pluralsight Free Seminar Series: Job Search and Career Sessions

Here are the individual YouTube videos:

The Interview Process

Personal Branding While in Transition

Job Search Processes and Systems

Networking with Humans

Onboarding Yourself in Your Next Job

Personal Finances for Job Seekers

Enjoy, and share!

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Think Like An Entrepreneur, Not An Employee #CareerChange

June 19th, 2020

I recently did a 6-week series for Pluralsight on jobs and careers. It was a lot of fun (and a bit of work :p).

In some of the emails I’m getting from people I can sense a great deal of frustration. This frustration is coming from being in the hamster wheel we call the job search. Again and again, doing the same things, not getting anywhere. I remember waking up during my Big Job Search and thinking “why get out of bed? Why do the same stuff I’ve been doing? I’m not getting any reactions.”

I made a career change. I went from employee, at a corporate job, to entrepreneur. Many of the people emailing me are talking about career changes. I’m reminded of the fabled 10,000 hours that it takes to become an expert. You’ve heard that, right? You need to spend 10,000 hours on something before you can claim to become an expert? That is 5 years of full time work. Nobody I know, in the job search right now, has 5 years to develop expertise and then start their job search.

The urgency is now.

I’m not going to dispute the 10,000 hours thing. People smarter than me claim that. It sounds catchy. And I’d rather a surgeon with 10,000 hours work on me rather than a self-described surgeon with 100 hours works on me.

What I want to dispute is the level of knowledge, skills, or expertise we need to START SOMETHING.

A couple of years ago, at my dream job in a dream company with my dream boss (all that lasted 10 months) I remember watching people slowly do stuff thinking “man, thanks to the amazing sales team there is time for superflous, slow, unproductive meetings.” People could literally sit around, not adding value or producing, and still collect a paycheck. The rhythm we sometimes see in the corporate world is slow. Measured. Good for our mental health. Intent on reducing stress. Focused on creating a great (read: fun) place to work.

Fun Work Culture

But I had been an entrepreneur for about 12 years. My mantra was “you eat what you kill.” You don’t produce, you don’t pay bills. You don’t pay bills, you got problems. There was no paycheck that came every other week. If I wanted to pay my mortgage, or go grocery shopping, or even think of something like a vacation, I had to have revenue lined up.

If corporate was peaceful, which I think too many of us slip into when we land our job, then entrepreneurship was anxiety. I’m not saying that is necessarily bad (or that peaceful is necessarily good), but it was definitely a major shift to go from entrepreneur to “I have a job, and no matter what I do today, I’m going to get paid.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for you to have more anxiety in your life. I do, however, want you to think differently about your career. You see, if you listen to experts telling you that you need to wait, that you aren’t ready, that you don’t know enough, that you haven’t put the hours in, or that you can’t do something, you have a problem. You have been fed a line of bull, and you accept it. And that is harming YOU.

Entrepreneur Waiting

When I put my entrepreneur hat on, back in 2006, I learned about “sense of urgency.” I didn’t think of myself as anxious, rather I had a sense of urgency. If I didn’t know something I had to learn it. Consider:

How do I create an online business from scratch? From product management to design to development to QA to marketing to sales to pricing to customer retention to customer acquisition to financing the venture to …

How do I become a blogger? Is it a consistency thing? Is it a messaging thing? Do I need to write to a human or am I playing a Google/SEO game?

How do I write a book? How do I get a publisher? How do I self publish? I had no idea. But I had to learn all of that, even though I wasn’t an expert.

How do I become a professional speaker? I was confident in my public speaking skills, although I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. How do I create a business line out of professional speaking? How do I get more gigs, how do I engage with my audience, how do I get repeat business, how do I do all of the logistical stuff a professional speaker deals with, should I have “back of the room sales, etc.?

How do I create a DVD, which I can sell at a much better margin, and have more control over than my books? NO IDEA. Never done it before.

How do I start doing online courses? Where do I host them? How much do I charge for them? What exactly constitutes a course, anyway? Do I need special equipment and software? How do I edit and produce my stuff? Is it a long webinar, or a chopped up series of small clips?

These are SOME of the things I’ve done since 2006. I didn’t have expertise in any of these areas.

But my sense of urgency, and my need to create income, led me on the path to learn. Did I make mistakes? YES. Did I work crazy hours? YES. Was there sacrifice? YES. Did it cost money? YES. Was I out of my comfort zone? USUALLY.

Instead of taking it slow, and spending tons of money to “do it right,” I had to just do something. I talked to people about each of those questions I listed (and more). I talked to people who had been down the path, and learned from them. I found people willing to share and help. I studied. I applied critical thinking. I weighed alternatives and juggled priorities.

Entrepreneur Love To Learn

And most of all, I just DID IT. I tried. I threw the proverbial spaghetti on the wall, and some of it stuck. I learned from everything I did.

Here I am, 14 years after The Big Job Search. 14 years * 2,000 hours is 28,000 hours. So maybe I’m 3 times an expert (if 10k hours makes you an expert).

My point, though, is that you don’t have to be an expert to do stuff. I wasn’t an expert in any of those things. I still don’t consider myself an “expert.” But I had a sense of urgency that drove me to think, and try, and be okay to fail, and try again.

My first book? Not proud of the quality. Super proud I wrote a book, but not proud of the book. Even the fourth edition of it… not super proud. I think “it needs to be better.”

But guess what? I did it. I wrote it. And I’ve written two others. Why? Because my sense of urgency drove me.

Get your own sense of urgency. Get on that path, and get off of the “when this happens, then I’ll be qualified” path. Want to change careers? Then DO IT. Figure it out. Try things. Learn as you go.

Want to start a blog, or a podcast, or a consulting business? DO IT.

Entrepreneur Podcast

If I spent 30 minutes with you on a call right now I could coach you on how to become a consultant. Save your money, put away your wallet. Here’s what you do:

  1. Go to LinkedIn, create a new job on your profile. Call it [Last name] Consulting. Or, call it [Your specialty] Consulting. There. You are now a consultant. This is, as they say, hanging a shingle out.
  2. Email everyone in your network telling them what you are doing, and then work the phones.

That’s it. You’ll get your first customer and you’ll do okay. Maybe a little worse than okay. But you get that customer, you bring value to them, you bill them, and you learn from the whole experience. Then you get another, and another, and another, and in a few years you think “man, I kind of feel bad for my first customer. I’ve learned so much.”

Don’t wait for five years from now. Start now, learn along the way.

The first freelance website I built was for a new realtor. She paid me $400. It was okay-ish for the time. But really, it was horrible. Especially compared to now. But doing that first one, working with a client, delivering a product, was a great learning experience. It was a stepping stone to get to where I’m at today.

DO SOMETHING. Don’t wait. Don’t listen to the experts telling you you aren’t ready.

Try. 

Fling the spaghetti. 

Flinging Spaghetti Entrepreneur

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New Pluralsight Course: Using Critical Observation on the Job

June 18th, 2020

Last night I got this in my email:

Pluralsight Jason Alba Using Critical Observation On The Job

One of the coolest things about this course is that it is my 35th published course (I consider it my 38th course I’ve done for Pluralsight… because one was retired and two were massive updates). Seeing this last night was really cool:

Pluralsight Jason Alba 35 Courses

Critical observation is an interesting topic. As I spent many, many hours researching and thinking about critical observation I grew to really appreciate the importance of it. I think some people are inherently good at critical observation while other people are more aloof.

This course builds on my Leading with Emotional Intelligence course. In that course I talk about becoming self-aware, and becoming more aware of others. Obviously, there is cross-over in both courses… especially since the fifth pillar of emotional intelligence is “social skills” (the ambiguous catch-all), and “improving social skills” is a big part of becoming better at critical observation. The other big tie-in was listening skills, which I happen to have a course on: Becoming a Better Listener.

It has been interesting to be on a journey of soft skills and professional development over the last few years. I realize I’ve taken soft skills for granted, not appreciating how important they are for our career. Whether on the job or in a job search, imagine how much more effective we can be if we increase our emotional intelligence, if we improve our critical observation skills, if we become a better listener, and proactively work on other soft skills?

Imagine how different the world would be! We can change the world, one person at a time… starting with ourselves. I’m on that journey… will you join me?

Oh yeah…

When you watch any Jason Alba course on Pluralsight you can self-report in JibberJobber and earn three extra premium days on JibberJobber. Simply go to to the video tracker page to self-report. Through the rest of this month (June 2020) you can click TWICE on the Critical Observation course to get double (6 days).

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How To Build Revenue Streams (Jason Alba Twitter Thread)

June 8th, 2020

I’ve been pretty active on Twitter for almost a year, since taking a number of years off. It’s been a lot of fun to reconnect with some old friends there, as well as meet a whole lot of new people. Years ago I said I “fell out of love” with Twitter… and for good reason. But I think I’ve figured out some things, and it has definitely enriched my networking, etc. over the last almost-year.

Here’s a thread I wanted to share with you… I could write it all out here, longhand, but I figured I’d spice up the blog a little and just embed these. Feel free to “like” them, follow me on Twitter (@jasonalba), and share this post or these tweets.

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Pluralsight Job Search Series Webinars Starts Today

June 1st, 2020

In a social post I wrote:

“Pls share with anyone you know is in a career transition, or worried about their job.”

And then I remembered that when I most needed this I was neither in a career transition nor was I worried about my job.

My job search kind of came out of nowhere. I was sure I had a great resume, background, and experience to land quickly and well. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Whether you are in transition right now, along with the 41,000,000+ others who have filed for (U.S.) unemployment, or you are pretty safe and secure (ahem… !), you should invest time in YOUR career.

Signup at this link – it is FREE

Today we are talking about the job search interview.

Tomorrow we talk about personal branding. Click the link to see what the other topics are…

Pluralsight Seminar Series Job Search Career Jason Alba

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