5 of My Pluralsight Courses I Wish Everyone Would Watch (and why)

July 19th, 2021

I have 36 courses in Pluralsight… kind of. Two are retired and “one” is a 6-session job search course. I started in 2012 with a LinkedIn course and have done many job search, career, soft skills, and professional development courses in the last 9 years. I’ve spent the last year and a half updating courses, and have a few more to update.

For years I’ve recommended various courses to various audiences, whether that was on this blog, in a live presentation, or on social media. I’ve had to think “what are the two or three courses I would really recommend to this audience?” This morning I had a similar thought, but instead of “to this audience” it was more “to anyone.” So, without further ado, here are the top five I’d recommend… and why:

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Hands down, this one impacted me the most. I went into this course thinking “okay, what is this emotional intelligence stuff? Is it fluff, or is there real substance here?” When I was done I thought “if everyone watches this, and starts to implement just one or two of these ideas, we could change the world.”

Literally, change the world. Becoming more empathetic, understanding ourselves better, striving to understand others better… these are things that really can change the world. First, by changing ourselves, and being better to ourselves, and then being better with others around us. Can you imagine how much better your workplace would be if you had a boss with high emotional intelligence? What if YOU had higher emotional intelligence?

I set myself on a lifelong journey of improvement, and I invite everyone to join me. This course was a turning point for me.

Becoming a Better Listener

This is my most popular course, with 629 ratings and over 300 comments in the discussion area. I honestly had no idea it would resonate with anyone. I remember getting ready to dive into this course thinking “come on, we all know how to listen!” I was wrong. I learned a lot while I researched for this course, and have since learned a lot from the comments in the discussion area. Listening is a soft skill we take for granted but could usually improve. The thing that stands out the most to me, after all these years, is learning more about “active listening,” and the tactics that go into real active listening.

I will try to improve my listening skills for many years to come. This is a life-long journey.

Working and Communicating with Different Personalities

This course was fun to put together, and gave me a chance to really dive into the Myers-Briggs model. But don’t let Myers-Briggs get you down… while super popular in the 1900s, there are other assessments that corporate America seems to favor. Regardless of which assessment you use, or gravitate towards, the idea is simple:

We have different personalities, and even so, we can work together.

I have been frustrated by people at work. People who think and work differently than I do. It’s frustrating for someone with a lot of energy to go into a meeting with people with little energy, and vice versa. It’s frustrating for people who talk and make decisions quickly to work with someone who is more methodical, and likes to think deeply before responding. It’s frustrating when they are your boss, or when you are their boss.

What I’ve learned is that these differences don’t mean that we necessarily dislike one another. Differences don’t mean that we are right and they are wrong, or they are right and we are wrong. Understanding differences in how we think, act, react, communicate, make decisions, are motivated, etc. are important to understand. I’m reminded of a quote I heard from someone I worked with years ago: “If knowledge is power, then knowledge of human nature is a super power.” I love that concept… notice each of these three courses I listed all dive deeper into knowledge of human nature.

One more thing… I think it’s absolutely critical that we, ourselves, understand our own personalities and tendencies. When we understand ourselves, and those around us, we have a better chance of higher workplace satisfaction, performance, etc.

Developing Your Personal Brand

I am a nut for personal branding. If I heard about it before 2006 I don’t remember. But in 2006, during My Big Fat Failed Job Search, I learned that I didn’t have a brand, which meant I spent a lot of time educating people on who I was and why that was important to them. Personal branding changes your self-marketing strategy from a push strategy, where you are constantly educating people on these things, to a pull strategy, where people gravitate towards you because, as they say, “your reputation precedes you.”

Since 2006, when I figured this stuff out, I’ve been hired because of my brand. I’ve had people come to me. I’ve had people vet me online and realize they want to work with me, or could trust me, etc. This is a 180 difference from back in 2006.

Also, in my job search I learned that two things I had neglected, which impacted my effectiveness as a job seeker, were my personal/professional network, and my personal brand. I talk about that in the course that was inspired by hundreds of on-stage presentations, titled Career Management 2.0.

How to Have Difficult Conversations

This course was pivotal for me. There was a period where I wasn’t doing Pluralsight courses, and even took a job because of the time I had freed up. That job lasted 10 months. It was an awesome, amazing job at an awesome, amazing company. One of the books their leadership talked a lot about was on difficult conversations (it might have been Crucial Conversations, I can’t remember). Anyway, I had to have some very difficult conversations (I don’t gravitate towards that), and made a study of this topic. Then, I found myself in a really weird place. On a particular Wednesday in late October I was on a call with Pluralsight talking about picking up my work again, and perhaps doing more courses. The very next day I went into my bosses office for a one-on-one with a particular challenge: My family had planned a two-week trip, but I didn’t have two weeks of vacation. I was hoping she’d let me borrow against future vacation so I could take this epic trip.

Alas, that wouldn’t be an issue because her single agenda item on that Thursday was to lay me off. I got five weeks notice, which was a kind gesture, but it was a bit of a shock. I decided, that day, that I was going to work as hard as I could to get a course out in five weeks (after hours, of course), and launch it before my last day at work. And I did. I focused on this course, this topic, and got to work. This course, which covers such an important topic and and outside of work, was turned in before my last day and launched just a few days later. That’s a fun story, right? It was great to get back into doing courses. But more important, the topic is critical for us to be better people, better communicators, better team members, better leaders, and more happy with ourselves and our work.

There are other courses I could have listed here, but these are the five I picked. I hope you can spend time digging into your own soft skills, career, and professional development. These are ways you can invest in yourself and your future.

If you need a 30 day pass use the Contact Us page and see if we have any left.



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30 days of Jason Alba courses on Pluralsight

April 2nd, 2021
Pluralsight is free ALL MONTH (APRIL 2021). No credit card required. Go to to get your free account.
And, they have thousands of courses.
Put your email address in below to get 30 days of very short emails with daily suggestions for Jason Alba soft skills courses. It’s easy to unsubscribe if it gets to be too much.

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How does a leader develop emotional intelligence?

January 29th, 2021

I recently did a webinar, sponsored by Pluralsight, for people interested in becoming managers and leaders. I think you can sign up here and see the recording.

Pluralsight Emotional Intelligence

The conversation with Kevin Miller and Heather MacDonald was really good. I enjoyed learning from them as they talked about their experiences and paths into management.

Callie Kennel was on the webinar and messaged later asking for my thoughts on helping managers and leaders develop emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, had come up on the call a number of times. I talked about how I created a course on leading with emotional intelligence. I think that may be the most important topic I’ve ever covered. It’s not my most popular course, but if people watched and internalized the ideas from that course, which are basic principles of emotional intelligence…. wow! I can’t imagine how great the world would be! As I thought about this I thought “if everyone would start on the path to better emotional intelligence, companies, work environments, etc. would just be so much better!”

My course is a great primer on emotional intelligence. There are plenty of books and tons of articles on it. Instead of repeating some of the oft-repeated bits of advice, I’m going to share four suggestions based on my own experiences:

Strive to Become Self Aware

The first (of five) pillar of emotional intelligence is self awareness. We must understand who we are, how we think, what motivates us, how we act, etc. If we don’t understand ourselves, or increase our self awareness, can we ever understand our impact on others?

Becoming self aware can be pretty cool if you are pretty cool. But if you are a jerk, or have social issues, become more self aware can be very painful. You may have thought you were a good person, but then you come to realize you have a lot, maybe an insurmountable amount, of growing to do.

Becoming self aware is a lifelong journey. It requires being brutally honest, in a healthy way. It requires accepting you for where you are at, and figuring out what you should work on, without beating yourself up. Just as becoming self aware is a lifelong journey, making improvements is, too. The best leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with were continually doing something to better themselves… whether that was reading up on certain topics or trying new tactics, methods, systems, etc.

If you only work on this pillar for decades to come you will make great strides towards having higher emotional intelligence.

Learn to Respect Others

The third pillar is awareness of others. Becoming aware of what makes others tick, what motivates them, what they care about, etc. This pillar isn’t saying you need to be best friends, chummy, or overly social. Actually, it’s not even saying you need to be social. It is saying you need to really want to, and practice, understanding others.

Why do people choose to work hard? Is it for money, or because they want to be in good favor with a leader they admire? Why do people have a problem getting to work on time, or not finishing projects? What is making one person on your team struggle to get their work done, and why is your best performer the best performer?

When you respect others, you have the best hopes for them now, and for their future. In my experience, when a leader has this healthy respect for others, they feel it.

I’ve seen (and experienced) this. When a leader shows they care about the individual, not as an employee or a number, but as a real human with real issues and challenges, the person notices. When you are on the receiving end of this type of dignity and respect, you become super loyal to the leader.

I’m not saying you should increase self awareness just to have loyalty from your team, although that is a great benefit. You should increase social awareness because it makes you more emotionally intelligent. How do you do this? Talk to people. Really talk. Ask them questions… and then listen. Listen a lot. Practice active listening. Of course, I have a course on that, also: Becoming a Better Listener. Click the 10 day trial on either this or the other course, and you can watch both for free :)

Seek to understand (a 7 habits principle) what each person on your team wants, and how you can help them with their personal goals.

Becoming aware of others can be one of the greatest, and most satisfying, parts of your journey to increased emotional intelligence.

Pick a Social Skill and Practice It

When I talked about social skills (the fifth pillar) in my course, I advised you to pick a skill and spend time practicing it. Not an hour or two, but weeks, even months. Whether you are practicing presenting, negotiating, listening, empathizing, motivating, educating… whatever you choose to work on, do a deep dive to learn more. Learn everything you can. Write about it, maybe teach others about the skill, and definitely find opportunities to practice it.

I’m not sure that practice makes perfect, but practice definitely makes progress. Practice with the idea that you will make mistakes, or even fail. Get dedicated to getting better at whatever skill you’ve chosen to work on. Tell others you are working on that particular skill… this is what we call “making your path public.” You might find others, hopefully organizational leaders, will help you with more opportunities and even mentoring.

Making your path public means you have to be vulnerable, but I think the benefits will outweigh the risk.

Seek out opportunities, and then bravely practice. It might feel really weird at first. Maybe you are completely outside of your comfort zone, or perhaps you feel like everyone is watching and analyzing your every move. In either case, who cares? You are doing this for you. Anyone who might make you feel uncomfortable will most likely be completely out of your life in five or ten years. You aren’t doing it for them, you are doing it for Future You.

Learn about Emotional Intelligence

Want to get better at it? Do a deep dive into the topic. You can watch my course free here: Leading with Emotional Intelligence. Take notes and then start practicing some of the things I talk about.

Daniel Goleman is the author of THE book I kept getting recommended to, titled Emotional Intelligence. He has other books… get these and have them on your nightstand to get a regular infusion of the topic.

In addition, I’ve found that business classics like Win Friends and Influence People, 7 Habits, Good to Great, and the others have a foundation of emotional intelligence. Great leaders, great companies, great managers, and I’d argue highly satisfied and happier people have a high emotional intelligence, even if they never say “emotional intelligence” or EQ.

Study successful people through this new lens.

There you go. Learn and practice. Be the tortoise (note the hare) and let this journey be fun and forgiving.

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Anatomy of My LinkedIn Profile Header

December 9th, 2020

I’m diving into my Pluralsight Personal Branding course to redo it for early next year and thought it would be a good time to look at my LinkedIn profile. I like my header, and figured it is a good time to share what I like about it. As I go through this, think about what your header looks like. One of my main messages is to do your branding intentionally.

So here we go, with some elements of my intentional branding on my LinkedIn profile header.

Jason Alba LinkedIn Profile Header Anatomy

#1: The “Background photo”

Many profiles I see have the default background, which is FINE. Don’t stress about this. Some really cool background photos are extremely branded, with key words that communicate the brand. Those are custom-designed images (maybe you can make your own with a simple/free app like canva).

For a long, long time mine was just the default. When I talked a lot about multiple income streams, though, I finally realized I could (should?) put a background image that reinforced my interest in multiple streams.

I didn’t find an image I liked with MULTIPLE streams, but this was good. Plus, it reminds me of a really cool place I went to in Wyoming. It’s just peaceful. I doubt many people will get the subtle connection to multiple revenue streams but that’s okay with me. It looks nicer than the default image and it sparks joy.

Two sites to look for free images that might work for you (and your brand) are pexels and unsplash. Be careful you don’t do something crazy busy or weird. The point is to have something onbrand, not have people scratch their heads and wonder what the image has to do with your brand.

#2 YOUR picture (avatar)

This is really, really important. I talk about this in my course, and my LinkedIn profile course. Without going into detail, or the “why” of any of these, please make sure your image: is a closeup of your headshot; has a clean or uncluttered background; is approachable (SMILE!); doesn’t have weird or yucky or contrasting colors.

Bonus: Use the same image here as you do on other social sites. The consistency will ensure people know they are in the right place, as they go from profile to profile.

#3 Your name Part I

I encourage you to put the name people call you here, not your entire legal name. If your name has like 5 syllables but people call you “Tom” then put Tom! This should be consistent in all of your online marketing assets so people don’t have to wonder if they are looking at profiles for the same person.

#4 Your name Part II

In my “last name” I put: “, Product Manager”. This was very strategic because the name field is apparently higher weighted with searches, and at one time I wanted to show up higher in product manager searches. (I just gave you a really important tip to show up higher in search results)

# Your headline

I talk a lot about this in the LinkedIn course, and why and how to change this. This is a super important little snippet to update. By default, if you don’t update it, it will just pull in your title and company, like “Dishwasher at Big Company”.

I want you to be more strategic in what you communicate than your title and company. Mine looks like title(s) at company, but that is because I wanted to brand myself as a CEO and a product manager, while also increasing brand awareness of JibberJobber.

I might call this section the tagline, and LinkedIn used to call it the professional headline. I like “tagline” because you can (AND SHOULD) use whatever you come up with here anywhere else you use a tagline (even verbally).

#6 Your location

For many years I put something like “global” or “online”.  One day, though, I realized that it just didn’t matter anymore. I was trying to convey that JibberJobber was global, but then I realized people just wanted to know where in the world I was (not my services). So, put where you are.

IF you are mobile, open to moving to other locations, and are concerned hiring managers recruiters won’t want to relocate you, communicate that elsewhere (perhaps in your Summary). Something like:

I’m open to opportunities in Seattle and Miami,” or “I work with clients in Boston and Austin.” Either of those help me pull you out of just one geographic location and help me know you have interest or business in other locations.

So that’s it… a quick look at WHY I have my header the way I do. It’s all on purpose, just as yours should be. Check out the links I put in here for more information, especially the LinkedIn course.


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Pluralsight Course: Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity (update)

October 7th, 2020

Today another course update went live, for my Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity Pluralsight course. I have now created, or done major updates, on 40 courses for Pluralsight.

Pluralsight Productivity Time Management Prioritizing Jason Alba

I have to admit it is hard to go into something I was so proud of years ago and critically think through it again. I look at my language, my script, my cohesiveness, even my main messages, and think “wow.” Not “wow you are awesome” but “wow, how could you have not done better?”

In school I couldn’t stand to revisit old papers, and in the beginning of my career I couldn’t stand to look at old code (I was a programmer). Once I moved on from something I didn’t love coming back to redo or try and understand it.

Alas, I’m in the middle of a bunch of course redos. This course was good for me because I got to dive into three major topics: productivity (the goal), prioritization, and time management. I am guessing I gave at least 100 solid tactical tips that you could implement…  this course is full of actionable ideas.

I’m glad to be done, and hope to not revisit it for another five years. Having said that, I wanted to share a very, very nice email I got from my contact at Pluralsight, who helped me get the course to publication. Melissa wrote:

Your overall slide design and course structure was superb and very well-organized. You also had very strong and consistent audio quality throughout. (Jason note: this took over a month. There are a million details, and to have her recognize the design, structure, organization, and the audio quality (editing, etc.) was really nice to hear.)

I also wanted to point out that I really enjoyed watching your course during my review. It was quite refreshing to watch content that I can actually really implement in the here and now. You had a lot of positive insights, and I had some great takeaways into how I can even make improvements in my own productivity. So, overall a fantastic course, all that hard work pays off :)

That was so nice. Melissa helps get a lot of technical courses ready for publication, and I don’t think she is working to become a developer, so a lot of the content isn’t relevant to her. But it was really cool for her to say that what I’ve spent so much time on will actually make a difference in her life.

The course is here: Prioritizing Tasks and Managing Time for Greater Productivity

If you want a 30 day pass to watch it, and any of my other courses, or any of the excellent hard and soft skill courses in Pluralsight, let me know. I might have a few passes laying around :)

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Top 5 In-demand Soft Skills (according to LinkedIn)

September 16th, 2020

I was perusing the intertubes last night and found this article: The Top Skills Companies Need Most in 2020—And How to Learn Them

Y’all know I’m a sucker for soft skills and professional development. I’ve spent years creating more than three dozen soft skill and professional courses for Pluralsight, and easily a dozen before Pluralsight. And, for the record, I just tweeted this:

I like that… “Soft skills are like hard skills… but for your career.”

Back to LinkedIn’s survey of the whole professional world…. here are their soft skills that are most in demand, and Pluralsight courses that help you learn and improve your soft skills:

#1 Creativity (apparently was #1 in 2019, too)

Check out this course by the popular Dave Cross (@davecross) titled Photoshop CC Non-destructive Methods to Enhance Creativity. I’m not a Photoshop guy, but if you are into design, photography, etc. this looks like a super course. Of course, there are plenty of courses for creative professionals… here are six learning paths on Pluralsight for creatives.

Creativity isn’t just for creatives, though. Check out this popular course titled Creative Problem Solving and Decision Making Techniques by Milena Pajic (@milena-pajic).

My friend Stephen Haunts (@stephenhaunts) from England created this course called Innovation in the Workplace.

All the way from France, meet Cécilia Lejeune (@LejeuneCecilia) with her course on Exploring Innovating Product Experiences.

Jillian Kaplan (@TheRealJKaplan) has a nineteen minute executive briefing titled Importance of Innovation.

I (@jasonalba) really enjoyed creating this course on innovation, Boosting Innovation: How Leaders Can Create Innovative Teams. This isn’t just for leaders, though. Anyone looking to increase innovation should get good info here.

#2 Persuasion (was #2 in 2019, I guess :p)

Persuasion is influence is storytelling. I have to recommend Alan Ackmann’s Storytelling to Engage and Motivate.

One of the most important factors in persuading is listening and understanding… hence, check out my Becoming a Better Listener course (I’m proud to have over 575 ratings on this course!).

John Papa (@john_papa) is a Pluralsight legend, popular professional speaker, and has had a fantastic career. His course, The Art of Public Speaking and Effective Presentations, is a must-watch.

#3 Collaboration (was #3 in 2019… trust me, there’s a reason they/I put all of these “the same as” statements)

Shelley Benhoff (@SBenhoff) created the course Fostering Effective Team Collaboration and Communication.

Collaborations means teams. My course, Working on a Team, talks all about collaboration.

One of my most important courses is Working and Communicating with Different Personalities. This course helped me understand how personalities impact relationships, communication, collaboration, etc.

Another important course, and one of my favorites, is Understanding Your Audience, which is a critical aspect of collaboration.

Another course from Stephen Haunts is How to Run Effective Meetings. Again, this is about collaborating with humans.

Collaboration happens through various mediums, including email. But how many of us (or your colleagues) should get some proper training on emails? Here’s my course, Effective Email Communication. Laugh if you must but I’ll argue a ton of people need this course :)

Casey Ayers (@caseyayers) is one of my favorite thinkers. He has a course titled Avoiding Common Writing Mistakes, which should definitely help you collaborate more effectively.

#4 Adaptability (you guessed it, was #4 in 2019 also)

Alice Meredith (@AAMeredith) is a senior HR professional and culture strategist, and is the perfect person to talk about change management. She has multiple courses that have to do with adaptability (see her courses here), specifically Embracing Change: Staying: Staying Agile in the Midst of Change, Building a Successful Change Strategy, Becoming a Change Leader, and Leading Change: The Head, Heart & Hands Approach.

Troy Hunt (@troyhunt) is a world renowned security expert and popular professional speaker, and has a course on Adapting to the New Normal: Embracing a Security Culture of Continual Change.

Kevin Miller (KevinMillerIT) has a course titled Change Management: Getting Started.

Again, Milena Pajic has a course on this: Business Analysis: Defining Change Strategies.

Dan Appleman (@danappleman) has a bunch of career courses, and he talks about future-proofing your career by being intentional. One of his courses relevant to change is Learning Technology in the Information Age (where everything changes!).

#5 Emotional Intelligence (NEW! NEW! NEW in the top 5!!)

I fell in love with emotional intelligence (EQ) as I was creating my course Leading with Emotional Intelligence. I thought this was a fluffy topic for years, but then I got to dive into it. I’m 100% onboard with emotional intelligence and think that as we improve ours, the world changes.

Jason Edleman did a course titled Introduction to Emotional Intelligence.

Alan Ackmann has a course titled Self-assessing Your Emotional Intelligence.

Heather Ackmann (@HeatherAckmann) has a course on Creating an Emotionally Intelligent Workplace Culture.

Emotional intelligence is a little tricky… it is not one single topic, rather a collection of soft skill topics. There are currently two learning paths focused on this, including Emotional Intelligence for Leaders and Managers and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers.

Your career is in your hands. Now is your opportunity to work on yourself so you can be in high demand!

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Improve Your Hard and Soft Skills for Income Security

August 17th, 2020

A big theme I’ve been talking about over the years is “income security,” which replaces the outdated concept of “job security.”

Income security comes through (1) building and communicating our personal brand, through (2) growing our network with relevant contacts and (3) nurturing individual relationships, and (4) creating and working multiple income streams.

Since 2006, when I got laid off by a “committee of chickens,” I have been working on each of those things. If you have followed me for more than three hours you know I’m a proud Pluralsight author. “Author” is the title for someone who creates content on their video/course learning platform, not for having written books for them.

Last year thousands of Pluralsight customers came to Salt Lake City for their annual Live conference. The theme was “Skill Up!” I thought that theme was maybe a bit cliche… anyone and everyone should be talking about skilling up. But after spending a few days hearing about skilling up, I was 100% bought in. Hook, line, and sinker. I get it. And I’ll continue to share this message.

Pluralsight 33% off

Skilling up is a term you might hear in the business world to talk about ensuring you are always current on what is current. It ensures that your skills don’t get stagnate, and that you don’t become easily replaced because what you were expert in went away, and we just don’t have any use for you.

It’s just a business decision, you know?

Skilling up means being relevant. It means when a new technology or method or idea or process or system comes out, you either have studied up on it, you have some proficiency in it (or adjacent technologies), or you can easily and quickly come up to speed.

It means when an opportunity arises, people come to you for answers.

“Skill up” needs to be how we think about continuing education. There’s no doubt that to be successful in today’s workforce we need to regularly learn. “Going to school to get an education” should be “going to school to be qualified to get this job, but education is a lifelong pursuit.”

Continuing education can help you with your (1) brand (communicate what you are learning and doing, and what your proficiencies, passions, breadth/depth are), your (2 and 3) network (meet new people and develop/nurture new professional relationships as you get into new circles/communities, and (4) multiple income streams (learn new skills, and figure out how to monetize them).

Continuing education, skilling up, is a big part of your career management.

Pluralsight Skill Up Love To Learn

From today through next Friday (that is 12 days… so no hurry, but don’t miss out) Pluralsight is doing a 33% off sale. This brings the normal price to about what a premium Netflix account costs. You get thousands… literally thousands of courses to help you skill up. Pluralsight has world-renown content creators (aka authors) who help the top technology teams skill up. From learning programming to artificial intelligence to design to networking to you-name-it, Pluralsight has courses that technologists rely on.

Not a techie? Not a nerd or a geek? That’s okay. I am sharing this with you because (a) you might be interested in a career change, and (b) there are plenty of non-tech courses that could enhance your career, from business analyst to the entire PMP certification prep to hundreds of communication and soft skills (which is where I spend my time).

I started with Pluralsight in 2012. It was a slow start, and a bit of a rough transition to go from a professional speaker (on stage) to staring at a screen and talking into a mic in an otherwise empty room. But now I have 36 courses in the Pluralsight library, and hopefully will be able to add more over the years. I believe this is a perfect complement to what I can offer through JibberJobber and the Job Search Program. Tools and strategies and tactics married to information and direction and skills helps you be more intentional about career management.

Here’s a great Twitter thread from my friend Piotr, also an author (in Europe), sharing a bunch of his favorite topics, courses, and authors. Click on this link, then you can look at his entire thread:

Look, I love career management. I love helping job seekers. I love hearing about your career successes. I’m as passionate about helping you with your hard and soft skills as I am about helping you with your networking and personal brand. And that is why I continue to talk about Pluralsight. It’s an awesome tool for you to skill up, and a great complement to the rest of the career management stuff you should be doing.

Get the 33% off here.

Pluralsight 33% off

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How To Get More Out Of Online Courses

July 15th, 2020

I was going to write how to get the MOST out of online courses, but I think that will mean different things to different people. More important, I want this post to start a conversation, and to start ideas, about how you can get any more value out of a course you watch, subscribe to, bought, etc.

Caveat: I am a Pluralsight author. I have over 35 courses in Pluralsight. Before Pluralsight I did 9 courses for JibberJobber (the company I own). And I’ve done hundreds of webinars + hundreds of on-stage presentations. I am biased towards Pluralsight, the leading course library for techies. Having said that, I don’t care if you are watching a course on LinkedIn Learning (formerly known as Lynda), Coursera, Udemy,, Youtube, your company’s LMS, Udacity, General Assembly, etc. etc. etc. There are literally thousands of options. I’m not here to say what is best for you… you have to figure that out on your own.

Let’s talk about getting MORE out of online courses.

Actually watch the course you paid for (or have access to)

Why is it that we buy books and never read them? Oh, you thought it was just you? Nope. There’s even a Japanese word for this: Tsunkodu (doku = reading; tsun = to pile up).

I’m not saying you always have to be learning. I’m not even saying I won’t allow you downtime, or depending on life circumstances or stage of life that you can’t just take a break. If you need to take a break then take a break.

But at one point in your life you decided it would be a good idea to learn something. Whether it was cooking or coding you wanted to learn a new skills or fact or thought process, or just see what the “experts” are saying.

A quick google translate shows that “course” is kōsu in Japanese. So let’s not accumulate courses, not ever watch them, and then have the word tsunkōsu (to pile up courses) apply to us! (I totally made that up, hope it’s not some offensive word!)

Make the time to actually make watch your course. You owe it to yourself. Maybe that means you stop buying new stuff until you go through what you already have.

Turn off distractions

In my listening course I invite people to, right now, turn off all distractions. Other windows, browsers, their email, their Slack and Teams, and even their phone. Let’s just be honest with ourselves… if we allow these distractions to stay up we might… no, we will miss stuff. If you are going to “invest” the time in yourself and watch a course, really do it right the first time.

Personally, if I leave my distractions up during a course, and I switch my attention even for a nanosecond, I get lost in the course. I miss something, I get behind, etc. I know it is against our super power to “multitask,” but please, turn off your distractions and give the course your full attention.

Take notes

I don’t care if you take them on your computer, on paper, or with a chisel on a rock tablet… take notes. Here’s the weird thing: I take lots of notes… but I hardly ever refer back to them. Even when I was in school I would not… for some reason I didn’t understand, I could not go back into my notes. But just writing things down seemed to help my retention. I heard retention is better when you hand write things instead of type things… but I don’g care how you take notes. Just take notes.

You might even look up some note-taking tips online. I’m not talking about learning shorthand, but there are things you can do to really bring out certain parts of your notes. For me, I use an empty box (square) to designate a “do this later” task. It is one of the most important tactics I use when taking notes. Later, I can easily scan through my notes and look for boxes, then see what I need to follow-up on. When I do the thing, I cross it out or put a check in the empty box.

Practice what you learn

Your notes should include actionable tasks to put into practice things from the course. Whether it is cutting code or cutting onions, practicing something artistic, speaking (on stage or on a webinar), listening, or using a new phrase to be more assertive, practice it.

In some of my Pluralsight courses I end my modules with “if you’ve been taking notes you might have written down some of these things to do….” and then I tell you five or six actionable things to practice. Every time you watch any part of a course you should walk away with your own list of “I’m going to try this thing.” If you are watching a technical course it might be easy to pause the course and try the thing they are showing you. If you watch my “Becoming a Better Listener” course you’ll have to figure out when you could practice active listening, or any of the tactics I share there.

But really practice the tactics. There’s this idea that we retain or really understand things based on doing different things (poorly written I know, but hang with me). There are models you can find on google images that show the difference in learning from passive to active listening tactics. If you just watch a lecture you learn or retain 5% of the stuff (numbers vary, I’m sure, based on who did the model). If you read you retain 10%. If you hear and see (audio-visual) you retain 20%. That is 4x more than just being in a lecture (although I don’t know what that means… a lecture has both audio and visual). Anyway, if you see a demonstration you retain 30% (that is why we love the science teachers who light things on fire in the classroom). Discussion increases to 50% (wasn’t he case with me in school… I was more aloof). Practice raised it to 75%. I think if you practice multiple times, over time, you can work your way to a mastery level.

Teach what you learn

In the model I talked about in the last paragraph the last step was to teach others. The retention rate is supposedly 90%. I know when I have to get to teach others I might spend hours and hours and hours reading, researching, thinking of questions, thinking about my audience and how to best present, and learn a ton more than I get to actually talk about. I heard someone say that in corporate training it takes 40 hours of prep time to do a one hour presentation. Yuck, I thought, I’m never going into that field.

And yet here I am.

I love spending the 40 hours learning. Thinking. Creatively devising ways to communicate concepts that will make an impact. My only regret is that once I’m done with my 1 hour presentation I feel like there is so much more to learn and do, and I couldn’t communicate it all. But maybe, just maybe, I was able to inspire the audience to want to learn more.

Teaching others gives you the opportunity to dig way deeper than just consuming content (from a lecture, supposedly at 5% retention effectiveness). How can you do this? Invite a group of people to a brown bag lunch and share what you learned in 30 to 45 minutes. Don’t stress about YOU, and how good you are, and about how this is out of your comfort zone. Once you send the invite, and you are not obligated, I bet you go through the course again with more focus and intention, thinking about what and how you will teach. It’s an awesome experience.

Debrief the course with someone else

Debriefing was a foreign concept to me until about 10 or so years ago when I was involved in youth government and leadership simulations. We spent four days running around a building simulating government relations, negotiations, etc. It was very intense and heated, and most everyone got really involved in the simulation. Then, on the last day, we’d wrap up with a “debrief” that could last two or three hours.

I thought it was a little weird and maybe a waste of time… until I did my first one. The debrief became my favorite part of simulations. Debriefing is where we were able to step aside from the simulation, back into the real world, and talk about what we had learned. Why we made decisions, why we followed certain people, why alliances were (or weren’t) formed. We learned what happened from different perspectives, and got time to analyze what the heck just happened. There were a lot of aha moments as people shared their insights and perspectives.

When I create my courses I hope, in my wildest dreams, that a group of people watch the course individually and then come together in a room and beat up my talking points. Not to prove or disprove my points, but to talk about them as a team. To come to a higher truth for that team, and figure out how they could apply the points and principles individually and as a team. I love to get feedback, and to know that teams have taken my course to a much higher level by talking about it. Figuring out what things they could/should implement in their organization and what things didn’t apply to them. And, because of that conversation, they could figure out their own tactics and techniques that I didn’t even talk about, and become stronger.

This might not happen at a team level but you could certainly talk to someone over lunch. “Hey, I just watched this really interesting course and I want to talk about some of the ideas with you. Can we get together for lunch?” Or, on a webinar. Or, with a group of people who have watched the course, even if they are from different departments. It’s like a book club, where you learn from others, see what stuck out to them, understand how they are thinking about implementing some of the ideas.

I think this conversation that happens in a debrief increases the value of a course exponentially. So don’t just one-and-done watch a course… talk about it with someone!

Here are some ideas from Twitter

I like this idea from Eliud… watch other courses on the same topic to get different perspectives.

Jeremy talks about really budget the right amount of time… this is smart because if you think it will take an hour but you keep pausing it you might think “I’m never going to finish this long course.” But you need to respect how you learn.

Jeremy and John both recommend breaking the course into parts, instead of spending a lot of time just to plow through:

Winnie emphasizes scheduling time out… actually block it out on your calendar! And if you have the list of KSAs you might understand more of the context of the course.

Rachel says (in my own words) to respect yourself, and the time you are investing into the course:

Leo is talking to course creators, but let me flip the coin on this and say that YOU (the learner) can put reminders in your calendar to either pick up where you left off, or to practice certain things, etc. Putting reminders in your calendar shows you really want to learn/master the material, and improve.

Dave’s four-point list is great, and reinforces everything in this post:

I think Colyn is talking to course creators or platforms, but if you agree you can see that debriefing and practicing after watching a course are just critical:

Alright, your turn… what do YOU do to get more out of online courses?



Understanding Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills #careers

July 2nd, 2020

When I’ve hired, or evaluated candidates, in the past, I consider hard skills and soft skills. There’s lots of talk about soft skills and how important they are. At a point they supposedly become more important than hard skills. I want to share some important thoughts to help you put the two into perspective.

I recognize that some people don’t like the phrases “hard skills” and “soft skills.” I’ll let them debate that… for the purpose of this post it doesn’t matter what we call them… just imagine whatever favorite phrases you want :p


Hard skills are the skills you need to do the job. If you are a widget maker and need to run machinery, can you run the machinery? Have you had training? Do you have certificates or licenses?

If you need to pull levers, how many times have you pulled levers? How many levers have you pulled in your life? Have the levers been different colors, or different sizes?

If you program, which languages do you know, and how proficient are you at those languages?

If you write (ie, a marketer), how much have you written? Do you write blog posts, or ebooks, or copy for websites, or manuals?

If you train people, what methodologies do you use? What size is your idea group, etc.

Hard skills can usually be trained in a classroom and on the job. You likely can learn hard skills for the rest of your career. I had some plumbing work done recently and the licensed journeyman plumber was stuck… he called in his mentor, a master plumber. They were both licensed but the master plumber had 30 years on the job and had seen a lot more than the younger journeyman. I appreciated that the journeyman plumber was wise enough to recognize he had reached his limits and wanted to consult with someone more expert.

JibberJobber Hard Skills

Hard skills can be hard to define. Usually we say things like intermediate or expert to describe our hard skills, but those descriptors can be meaningless. I know a programmer who said he was intermediate at a certain language but I would have said he was expert. There is too much subjectivity from the person self-assessing and too much interpretation from the person on the receiving end.

Tangent: This is why Pluralsight Skills IQ is so awesome for techies. Instead of arbitrarilly guessing your proficiency you can essentially rank yourself against thousands of peers and come up with a number that tells you what percentile you fall in. It’s way less subjective. If you can find something like that, to assess yourself against others, DO IT. Pluralsight Skill IQ is free, btw.

When Hard Skills Are Important

As a hiring manager I *might* ask you about your hard skills in an interview. If I do, it’s usually in the first interview, and less with each interview that follows.

I say might because I might have already looked you up and done a bunch of research on you before you come in. This is a critical concept… before you get an invitation to the interview I will have already answered this question:

Can this candidate do the job?

This is 100% a hard skills question. My invitation to you is this: communicate the answer to this BEFORE you even get to the interview.

How do you do that? There are a few elegant ways:

  1. Have a portfolio. A portfolio is not just for artists. You should be able to create some kind of documentation or collection of projects or thoughts or writing to showcase your work. If you can’t showcase your work because of confidentiality then here’s a simple suggestion: write some articles on LinkedIn or Medium or your own blog. The articles should showcase your professional breadth and depth and passion and experience. When I see your portfolio I should say “yep, this person can obviously do the job. The experience and passion and thoughtfulness is here.”
  2. Have testimonials. You can tell me you are qualified, but what if you had peers, colleagues, bosses, and customers tell me how good you are? There are many ways to collect testimonials… I usually recommend LinkedIn Recommendations. This is something you can’t fabricate or falsify, and they are pretty easy to get. I talk about how to do this in one of my LinkedIn courses on Pluralsight (one or two, I can’t remember which). Here’s a quick tip: too often recommendations are too generic and weak. I suggest you ask for a recommendation and say “It might read something like this” … and then hit the main points you want to hit (bringing out specific hard skills). I cover this in my course, but #AMA.
  3. Have ministories. In my personal branding course on Pluralsight I talk about crafting ministories… I think I talk about it in the LinkedIn profile course as well. These are SO powerful to (a) claim you have a skill, or can do a thing, and then (b) substantiate and quantify your claim using a simple story. These should be used on your LinkedIn profile, other online places where you market yourself, in social media interactions (like a post on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn), when you network with others face to face, and definitely in interviews.

Make those three things easy to find and understand.

The most important thing I want to communicate about hard skills is that they help you get into the interview. I do not ask you to an interview to see if you can do the job. By the time I have you in the room I assume you can do the job, but I might ask some qualifying questions to dig deeper into your hard skills.

BONUS: if you can quantify the value of your hard skills, all the better. When you show me you can do a certain job with a certain proficiency and you understand you bring value, I LIKE THAT.


Soft skills is the funny-named cousin to hard skills. This is the one I hear people saying “we need to rename that!” I don’t care what it is called but society calls it soft skills and I doubt we’ll see that change anytime soon.

JibberJobber Soft Skills

Soft skills are harder to quantify. “I’m a really good presenter” is very subjective. Too subjective. I once interviewed someone who was an excellent presenter… until this person did a presentation. I learned they thought they were excellent but I was cringing a lot.

It’s a lot easier to quantify proficiency in hard skills because we have tests and assessments, but there isn’t really a test or assessment for presenting. A presentation received very well by one person might have been received horrible by another person.

A lot of times soft skills are just kind of … felt. Perceived. Gut reaction. You might tell me you are a great listener but when we actually talk you do all of the talking, talk over me, and don’t give me a chance to talk at all. I’ve been there. It can be equally funny and frustrating.

Soft skills have to do with cultural fit. Is your communication style and demeanor a good fit for our team or our culture? I hired someone once who I thought was a fantastic fit… turned out they were a horrible worker. I have passed over people who had soft skills that were just not a good fit… either too quiet or too loud. This wasn’t anything I could read on a resume or LinkedIn profile… this is something I had to experience myself.

My courses on Pluralsight are all about soft skills… 36 courses and counting. How to communicate outbound (in writing, presenting, talking, etc.) and how to communicate inbound (becoming a better listener is one of my most popular courses)… there are probably a couple hundred soft skills courses on Pluralsight to choose from. If you want a 30 day pass hit me up and I’ll see if I can get you one.

When Soft Skills Are Important

A few months ago I was chatting with my fifteen year old who was asking what I do for Pluralsight. I told her I create soft skills courses…. courses on communicating, listening, working with different personalities, emotional intelligence, and job search and career management. She said “oh, most of Pluralsight’s courses teach people how to do the job and your courses help them get jobs and promotions!”


I wish I had written down word-for-word what she said because it was better than what I just wrote, but that’s the idea.

Soft skills help you get the job.

Soft skills help you get promotions.

When I bring you in for an interview I want to know if you will be a good addition to our team. I want to know if you’ll be as “cultural fit.” That doesn’t mean I want to hire you if you will fit in… maybe I’m looking for someone to shake things up and bring us up a few notches. But I definitely want to know about your likability or coolness factor. I’m not looking for the most popular or likable person, but I certainly want to know if I’ll like working with you.

My team and culture are different than where you just left. I don’t want to go backwards on our team environment, for sure. The only way I can really assess that is by bringing you in and chatting with you. Behavioral questions give me an insight into your soft skills and communication. Listening and watching how you think, react, respond, and treat others gives me insight into your soft skills.

By the end of the first interview I usually know whether you can do the job or not (see hard skills, above). I will have an idea of your soft skills, and whether I think I’d like to work with you or not. If I think you can do the job and you might be a good fit, and I might like working with you, you make hte cut and might come in for another interview. Usually this is with a panel, or with other people. Of course they’ll ask about hard skills because they haven’t done the same level of research on you as I have, and they’ll want to know “can this person do the job?” But when we all circle back and talk about the candidates I think most people will come back with their gut feel. By that stage everyone should be qualified to do the job, so hard skills isn’t much of the conversation… we tend to focus on who we “like.”

How does someone “like” you in an interview when they know you can do the job? It comes down to your soft skills. Your emotional intelligence. Your likability.

The Great Thing About Hard Skills and Soft Skills

I think the great thing, and a hopeful message, is that you can learn and improve your hard skills.

And, you can work on and improve your soft skills.

Improvement in either area will take time and practice and intention. But you can definitely improve.

And that is why I hope to continue creating courses for you.


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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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