Soft Skills FTW

December 28th, 2017

Sorry, FTW was so 2016. Or 2015. Anyway, my point is, soft skills are awesome!

The Washington Post has an article titled The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students

Today’s students. I believe we are all students of and in life, so that means us.

The premise of the article can be summed up in this: “STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough.”  This is pretty big, considering it comes from a company that used to care only about mega-tech abilities.

You aren’t a programmer? Maybe… just maybe, that is okay!

You aren’t technical? Perhaps there’s a glimmer of hope that you have a place in this world!

I’ve been looking at a lot of job postings lately… there are a lot of desperate recruiters hoping to find technologists. And those jobs pay crazy well. But indeed, non-technical people are needed. Furthermore, technical people with soft skills are really needed… even if companies seem to only focus on hard skills.

No matter what you want your next gig to be, let me encourage you to improve your soft skills. Surprisingly, one of my top courses on Pluralsight is to help you become a better listener. An active listener. An engaged communicator. Other soft skills might be empathy, outbound communication (writing and talking), presentation, persuasion, patience, perseverance, etc.

Some people are naturally good at some of these. But these are skills, and skills can be learned and improved.

So learn. And improve.

Check out my 29 soft skills courses on Pluralsight here. You can get a free 10 day pass on the site, or if you ask me nicely I might be able to hook you up with a 30 day pass. Watch any of my courses and get upgrades on JibberJobber (win-win!), but the real benefit is that you can learn and improve your soft skills.

That sounds like a great personal goal for 2018!

 

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The Shift In Your Marketing Message #JobSearch

December 27th, 2017

As a hiring manager I look for two very important things. It is your job to communicate the right message for both of these, but not necessarily at the same time.

The first thing I need to know is that you are technically competent for the job. Whether you are a mechanic or a programmer or a teacher or a whatever, I need to know that you can do the job. I need to know you have a minimum breadth and depth of experience and skills.

You can communicate that with stats and stories. This is done on a resume and LinkedIn Profile and anywhere else. A super powerful tool is a blog (or Medium articles, or even LinkedIn articles), or perhaps a portfolio. You use the right language (jargon) and can talk about things at a technical level.

There comes a point in my evaluation of candidates (aka, job seekers) that I assume that everyone I’ve whittled it down to has the right abilities to do the job.

This next thing is the deal breaker. By this point I’m not wondering about whether you can the job or not… I have something more important to decide: will you fit into my team?

Understanding that I have three or four or ten or more candidates in front of me, all of which can actually do the job I need to fill, the most important thing becomes which one will be the best hire? Which will fit into my team and culture without disrupting it (I don’t want jerks, and I don’t want a “bull in the china closet”)? Which hire will make me look good with my colleagues and bosses?

I’m not saying that I disregard technical abilities at this point… but I’m keenly sensitive to picking someone that I’m going to want to be around for 8+ hours a day for the next few years.

How in the world do you communicate that?

It’s not all about enthusiasm. And extroverts don’t necessarily have the upper hand.

Communicating that you will fit in well can be done through stories, of course. Share, for example, a time when you had a very challenging task or project that could have exploded/imploded… and how the team pulled together (and your role in that). Show you will fit in by your choice of language, and the way you treat people (interview at a restaurant? Be cool and kind to the servers!). Recognize that every single thing you do, that I or my team can observe, is part of the interview: how you walk in, how you treat people at the front desk, what you do in the waiting area, etc.

So there you go… you have two important things to communicate: one is that you can do the job, the other is that I will want you to be on my team!  Work on your communication so I can know that you are the right person to hire!

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You Are The Product: Learn Product Management and Product Marketing

December 22nd, 2017

I once hired a guy who had sizzle. Everything about him was right.

Until he came to work for me.

Then I learned that he was all sizzle, no steak.

Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guy. People liked to be around him (generally). But when it came to doing his job, well… ahem.

Worse, for me as a manager, my colleagues (other managers) would ask me to harness him because he was causing problems in their divisions (spending too much time chatting with people, not work-related at all).

In the last 12 years of doing JibberJobber and my own job search, I’ve met plenty of people who were all steak, no sizzle. That is, they were very competent in what they did (from electrical engineers to dentists to marketers to you-name-it), but no one knew it. They didn’t have peers or colleagues who thought about them, talked about them, etc. They enjoyed a quiet life with a good job until the good job went away… their puny brand went away in the first gust of wind.

I’ve developed an amazing tool in JibberJobber.  Yes, there is a lot to do before I’m satisfied, but really, it’s an amazing tool.  We have an amount of breadth and depth that no one else has (for job seekers).  I’ve done a decent job at being the senior product manager here… but, who really knows about JibberJobber?

Well, plenty of people. I used to go to resume writer and career coach conferences… and have spoken at many of them. I used to network a lot with recruiters and outplacement companies. I have spoken at job clubs from Seattle to Miami, from Boston to San Diego, and plenty of places inbetween.  If you search “job search organize” (or any version of that), you’ll likely find JibberJobber.

Why, then, do I get people who sign up today and say “I have been looking for you for months and couldn’t find you! Why are you hiding?”

So, JibberJobber is great, but we are hard to find? Yep (sometimes).

I think many of you suffer from the same problem. YOU ARE GREAT, but the right company/employer is not finding you. Even though your resume is on Monster, your profile is pretty okay on LinkedIn, and recruiters are supposedly looking for you.

WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

I submit that while you are pretty good at being the Product Manager of You, you are not very good at being the Product Marketing Manager of You.

When I started JibberJobber it was partially because it was my comfort zone. I was comfortable thinking about and designing web apps. I was comfortable working with developers and QA and figuring out how to get the idea from my head to the web.

I was not comfortable talking to people, networking, giving my 30 second pitch, and otherwise sharing my branding messages.

I was comfortable as Product Manager of Me, but not as Product Marketing Manager of Me.

Here’s the real issue: many times, the actual product doesn’t matter. It’s all in the marketing.

Haven’t you ever gotten something that was marketed well, but the actual product was a let-down?

I’m not suggesting that you, as a product are or will be a let-down. I’m just saying that you might have been focusing too much on the product and not enough on the marketing.

So let me give you this challenge: over the next week or two, figure out what MARKETING YOU means. Make a plan, build a list of tactical, actionable things you can do, and then work your plan. Become the best product marketing manager (of you) that you can!

You really can’t have one (a great product) without the other (marketing your product).

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Announcing the Daily Activity Report

December 18th, 2017

This is a powerful report to help you see what you have done (and give you reminders for what you need to do). This is a powerful report!

jibberjobber-daily-activity-report

You can find it under Reports, then Daily Activity Report.

Check out this two minute video to see why this will be one of your favorite reports:

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Can I Merge Dups In One Click? #JibberJobber

December 14th, 2017

A user asks:

Is it possible to merge duplicates in one click? I have imported some of the contacts two times and (near 1000 records) and it seems impossible to click each of them for merge. Do you have any suggestion to solve?

Let me address this question in three parts:

How Or Why Are Duplicates Created?

When you import new contact records we look for duplicates by comparing email addresses. I have two email addresses I use… one is my personal @gmail.com address and the other is my work @JibberJobber.com address. Let’s say you import from LinkedIn, where it has my JibberJobber email, and then from Google Contacts, where it has my Gmail email.  JibberJobber will see these as two different contacts. Why? How many people do you know that have the same first name? Or last name? Or first AND last name?  We see lots of these… so we use the email as a unique identifier.

There are other ways to get dups in… for example you have me in from an import and then manually create a new record for me (not realizing you already have me in). Or, you have me in with my personal address but then use Email2Log with my business address… the reality is, the more ways there are to get data in, there more chances you’ll have to create dups. And sometimes that gets past our dup checker.

SO, we have tried to make it easy to find and merge dups.

How Can You Find Duplicates?

There are a few ways…

My favorite way to handle dups, once I know there is a dup, is on the Contacts List Panel. I’ll do a filtered search, for example: lastname:alba. Then, I find the dups and click the checkboxes on the left. T then I click the “merge dups” icon on the bottom (below the List Panel).  This takes me to the merge tool.

I can also find duplicates from a Contact Detail Page. I click the “More” button and then “Find Duplicates.” The next page will be the Find Dups tool…. note the checkboxes… you might want to adjust the checkboxes to make it more specific. For example, if it’s looking for dups based on just last name, check the first name checkbox to check by that, too. This doesn’t always work the way you want because sometimes you haven’t put a first name in your contact record yet!

The third place is to just go to the Find Duplicates tool. I like the tool, but I don’t hardly come here. Honestly, I have too much to do (and so do you) than to hunt down all duplicates. Should you spend an hour cleaning your contacts, many of which you might not communicate with, or should you network?  Spend your time in the right place.

ProTip: I find I merge duplicates when I’m working actively with someone. If I have two or more records for someone I’m in communication with right now I’ll merge them… but if I’m not working or communicating with them, I don’t invest my time there.

How Can You Merge Duplicates?

Once you get into the Merge page… that is, you’ve picked the records you want to merge, just follow the instructions on that page. Choose what to keep, and then click the merge button at the bottom.

This allows you to have control over what you keep. Note that the Notes fields will be merged into one (so you don’t have to pick one over the other), and all of the Log Entries will show up on the merged record (hopefully not duplicated :p).

So… 

Can you do all this in one click? No… but you can do it quickly, in a few clicks, and get to what you want. My advice is to use the Contact List Panel, find and select your dups, then use the merge dups tool. When I do this it literally takes less than a minute to do.

Here’s a 4.5 minute tutorial on merging:

 

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Hidden Benefits of the 360 Review for Your Career

December 12th, 2017

Today I had a coaching session with a very smart Silicon Valley professional. He asked about the value of doing a 360 Review, and as we talked about I realized there were at least three great reasons to do it (more than the obvious, surface-level reasons).

I’m assuming you know a 360 Review is where you send a bunch of questions, about you, to different categories of people. Imagine you are in the middle of your contacts, and above you are your bosses, below you are the people who report to you, to one side you have your peers and colleagues, and to the other side you have customers.  These four groups of people are in a circle around you, hence the “360”. You can, of course, figure out other types of relationships, including your family, etc.

So, what are the three great reasons to do a 360 Review?  Especially considering you have to have thick skin because of some of the feedback you might get (if your questions are good and people are honest!).

VALUE ONE: Derived from the exercise of creating The 360

The 360 will have two parts: the introduction, or The Ask, and the actual questions.

When you have to think about your Ask, and then think through the questions, you’ll get greater clarity about what you are really after and what you should be asking. Compare these:

“Hey, will you answer these questions about me?”

vs

“I’m evaluating my career and investigating some options I have right now. I have a number of assumptions about myself but I’d really like to get opinions from people who I’ve worked with and who see me differently. I’d sincerely appreciate it if you could take 15 or 20 minutes and answer these questions about me. Please be honest in your response. I’m looking for your perspective of my strengths and also things that I can work on.”

I should note that a really good 360 will give the person who responds anonymity. This really can only happen if you use a 360 tool (not too hard to find) instead of just asking them to reply to questions via email.

Speaking of questions, what kind of questions will you ask?  You could ask super vague questions that are cute but feel like a waste of time, like “what color car would Jason be,” or “What kind of cereal would Jason be,” or “Why is Jason so great (please provide 10 reasons)?” Instead, ask questions that are directly related to the KSAs of the role, or skillset, that you want to have shine (or are ready to work on).  For example:

How would you describe Jason’s communication skills?

What are Jason’s communication strengths?

What are Jason’s communication weaknesses?

What would make Jason a better leader?

What three things does Jason need to improve?

Those are just off the top of my head… my point is, ask direct, specific questions that (1) can give you real and helpful feedback (2) on topics that are important.

The whole point of this blog post is to talk about benefits that are beyond the obvious surface-level benefits of doing a 360. The benefit spending time to craft a proper introduction is that you get a more solid idea of what you are after (your goals), and how to frame them (communication that you can repurpose in other situations).

There is immense value in clarifying and practicing this!!

The benefit you get in creating great questions is that you get a serious chance to evaluate yourself, perhaps deeper than you normally are (and without beating yourself up). Thinking through those questions should be a therapeutic exercise and, again, a preparation for interviews and networking conversations.

VALUE TWO: Getting real information from the responses, and making a plan to work on weaknesses and communicate strengths

The reason 360s are so valuable is simple: we have assumptions about our strengths or weaknesses that might not be accurate. Who better to give us a more real perspective than people we work with and around?  As important, the perspective we get, even if they are wrong, is super important. By this I mean that sometimes people might have a wrong impression, but their impression might be shared with others.

Here’s an example: Let’s say I am a super great at doing my job… but I’m a horrible communicator and very impatient with people. I might be the best person in the world at performing the functions of my role, but because I’m such a cruddy person around others, no one wants to work with me. Therefore, no one knows that I’m actually good at something, they just know I’m a jerk. This information comes out in the 360.

What do I do with this information?

I want to help people understand that I really am good at what I do. There are many tactics I can employ to help reinforce a strong and accurate and relevant personal brand… I’m not going to go into that in this post.

I also want to figure out how to stop being such a jerk. Sure, I’m awesome, but if no one wants to work with me, or wants me to be around, then what’s the point?  It’s not like I’m going to have a career like House (the doctor on TV) had… super good at medicine, but everyone hated him. It’s unlikely that you’ll get many chances to have a career like his.

So, take the information you get and really work on the feedback. If this sounds hard, it is. You have to face some harsh realities, and do things you haven’t done before. It might mean joining Toastmasters or the National Speaker’s Association. It might mean you work on active listening, or getting better at contributing in team meetings.  When people give you anything to work on, let me encourage you to embrace the feedback and work on getting better.

I’ve read a lot of articles lately about soft skills and emotional intelligence… this is what people say they can’t “train” you on. Work on it yourself, right now, and through the end of your career!

VALUE THREE: This is a personal branding play

You now get to share your career ambitions and intentions with others.  This is tied into #1 above, where you have a great introduction, but it goes a little further.

Look, you need to realize that most of your colleagues know you by what you do. If you are a software engineer, people think of you as… surprise! A software engineer! It’s pretty simple.

You are branded by how people perceive you, including what your title is.

But if you are a software engineer now with strong intentions of becoming a CIO, CTO, or VP of IT or Development, will people realize that?

No one might even think of you as an executive, a strategist, a visionary, a leader, a manager!  Even though you might be those things, or have the capacity to do those things, they just know you as someone who pounds at a keyboard all day long, creating cool stuff.

How do you get around this branding?

By communicating the brand changes! Yes, you are a technologist… and a great one! You also are very interested in taking your career to the next level. Tell people this when you invite them to respond to the 360. Tell everyone… whether you invite them to respond to a 360 or not.

One of the easiest ways to manage your personal brand is to communicate how you want others to perceive you. So use this activity as an opportunity to do just that.

The 360 is a great tool. I hope the ideas here will help you advance your career!

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On Job Search and Depression

December 5th, 2017

Years ago I wrote a post titled Depression Clouds Everything. It was the post that no one was supposed to comment on, but there are over 500 comments. The reaction blew my mind and helped me see that I was not even remotely alone is this feelings.

Last night I was talking to a friend who struggles with depression, and I’ve been thinking about how I could help her. She said she really feels the weight of the world, and all of the big, heavy, negative things. What a burden :(  There are so many things to worry and fret about, and it really can be debilitating.

This morning I read an article that talked about this very thing titled The World Is A Great Place. It listed a bunch of wonderful things that are happening in the world… things you typically won’t read in the news next to the bombings and shootings and all the other horrible things going on.

It reminded me of the depression-fighting tactic we’re taught, to list things we are grateful for.

I invite you to write your own lists… things you are grateful for and things that are actually going right in this world.  Please take some time to do this today!  Even in depressing, dark times you should get value from listing positive things!

 

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And Then There Were Holidays (Job Search Edition)

November 30th, 2017

Wow, I took a nice little break from blogging… almost 2 weeks!  I kept meaning to write something but nothing was really gnawing at me… I really enjoyed the holiday weekend last weekend and packed in a lot of family activities.

This is the time of year when I hear job seekers say “no one is responding… no one is interviewing… no one is hiring…”

At the same time the career professionals are saying “This is the right time to job search! Don’t stop now! Do stuff! Don’t give up!”

I totally get the “no one is hiring” thought. Really, it’s hard to get no response, peppered with a few “I’m out of the office until…” responses.  It is disheartening. Of course, it doesn’t help that your financial situation is at a point where you can’t enjoy a few weeks “off.”

So what can you do during the holidays, when people are slow to respond?  Here are some ideas:

Sharpen your own saw. Been hearing about books from your peers and colleagues?  Pick them up and read them. This is a great time to catch up on systems, process, language, and thinking that people in your sphere are talking about. Are there any certifications or courses you need to take?  I definitely recommend any of my 29 Pluralsight soft skills courses on things like management, leadership, communication, listening, mentoring, career management, etc.

Work on your marketing material. I bet your resume and LinkedIn Profile could use some tender loving care. Read them from various perspectives… a friend who used to proof a sales catalog would read each line backwards… easier to catch mistakes, she said. Read them looking for inconsistent grammar (like periods on some bullet points but not on others, or missing upper-case letters), and read them for flow. Read them to see if the real message you want to get across is clear. Read them looking for vague messaging, etc.

Practice your networking pitches and stories at gatherings. Hopefully you’ll be at this party or that dinner, meeting with people you don’t usually meet with. Why not try any of your marketing pitches at those? Really, they should not be so stuffy and robotic that it is uncomfortable to share to close friends and family. You should be practicing these a lot, and these gatherings give you an opportunity to practice with a different audience.

Do company research. You may have heard that you should look for “opportunities,” not “jobs.”  Now is a great time to read up on companies you would love to work at and current events in their industry. You can read up on their leadership and management teams, and learn about their competition. This is quiet-time stuff that takes time, and doesn’t depend on the schedules of others.

Renew relationships. You aren’t the only one with a light schedule… some people will have their calendars quite free, and might be more available for lunches, brunches, or breakfasts than they have been.  This could be a great time to reach out to them and get some one-on-one time.

Pay attention to your physical health. I know, I know… it’s a hard time considering the ridiculous amount of yummy food… but now is a great time to create physical habits that will pay dividends down the road. Yoga, walking, weights, sports, whatever is right for you, use some of your free time to take care of yourself.

I’m sure you can think of other constructive things to do when the world doesn’t seem to have time for you.  My point is, taking time off from the job search is NOT the right tactic, even for the next few weeks when people aren’t around much.

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Finding The Gold Vein In LinkedIn

November 16th, 2017

A gold vein is what every prospector wanted to find.  Imagine you are digging around hoping to find gold and you find a streak of gold that extends for a long ways… you just found a gold vein.  From wikipedia:

jibberjobber-linkedin-gold-vein

Find one and you are wealthy (as long as you can get the gold out :p).

In LinkedIn there is a section I talk about that I call “the gold vein of LinkedIn.” That is, you are digging around looking for the right contacts… and you can find a lot of relevant people you should reach out to!  It’s very cool and really, it’s been right under your nose the whole time.

Imagine you search for someone… a hiring manager or decision-maker.  For this example let’s say you are looking for a product manager, or chief product officer… anyone on the product team of a company.  You already know you’ll put in “product manager” + location in the search box, like this:

jibberjobber-linkedin-search

NOTE: LinkedIn has a limit on how many searches you can do per month. It is a ridiculous limit that is simply designed to get you to pay for an upgrade. There’s a super way to get around this loophole… more on that below.

On the search results you’ll find some excellent contacts… but you might not find all of the excellent contacts. What if you found a good 20 excellent contacts but you know there are more?  That’s where the gold vein of LinkedIn comes in.  Here’s what you do:

From the page(s) of the excellent contacts, on the right, you’ll see a list of other contacts under the header “People Also Viewed:”

jibberjobber-linkedin-gold-vein-example

This is a list of ten contacts.  Some of them are going to be as excellent as first contacts you found.  Others will not be relevant (like the last one on that list… a teacher at a school district (fine person, I’m sure, but not a product manager)).  I want you to focus on the excellent contacts.

The next step is to right-click on each of the highly relevant contacts and open the profile in a new tab. Then, from those pages, do the same thing: look at the People Also Viewed list, open the right contacts in new tabs, and do it again and again and again.

If you find the right ones you could easily have dozens of profile pages open at the same time… I’ve found this to be a better way of finding excellent contacts than just relying on the search results.

This is the easy part. Seriously, you need to actually reach out to those contacts with the goal of having a conversation with them (not just “connecting” on LinkedIn with them, which too often is just the dead end of networking).

So what about that limiting loophole? Instead of searching through LinkedIn, search for LinkedIn profile through Google (or bing or yahoo or whatever you use).

These, and other tricks, can be found in my LinkedIn for Job Seekers video course. I used to sell it for $50, but now you can get access to it, and dozens of other videos and courses, PLUS a full year of JibberJobber premium, for only $60. That’s a savings of hundreds of dollars, and a value that can help get your job search on the right track!  Just login to JibberJobber and click on Upgrade in the bottom menu and then you’ll have access to this (and more) on the Videos page:

linkedin-for-job-seekers-videos

 

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Jobs for People Who Hate Sitting in Front of Computers

November 15th, 2017

Article made possible by JibberJobber supporters

Jobs for People Who Hate Sitting in Front of Computers

While computers are a part of our everyday lives, not everyone wants a career that involves sitting in front of a computer all day. Field force management is certainly showing a trend to computerize and mobilize everything, which can be a true blessing. These sorts of changes are what is driving some to simply look for a hands-on approach. Today, we’ll explore why people don’t want to sit at a computer all day, what kinds of jobs they can do and how to find them.

Avoiding the Screen

One of the top reasons some people don’t want a computer-based position is fairly simple: they like moving around and interacting with people. Older generations that don’t understand the mechanics of jobs involving a computer are also attracted to positions that both fulfill them and offer a paycheck. Both types of people often don’t like the idea of sitting down all day. They want to be up, moving around and working with others on a more intimate level. Many people state that they feel like their day goes a lot faster if they’re moving and using their hands, rather than sitting down and typing on a computer. Additionally, computer-less positions offer a closer relationship with people. Need to ask the boss a question? You swing by her or his office rather than sending an email. Computers have certainly changed how we interact with people, and a computer-less position brings us back to navigating one-on-one communication again. Some positions also mean you meet new people on the regular, and you get to have amazing connections with all types of people.

What Can I Do?

If you’ve looked at job ads recently, you’ll find plenty of jobs that require computer experience and knowledge. Fortunately, there are still jobs out there that require more than just that. Some positions require a bit of computer use, but the list really is one that doesn’t require all-day computer usage:

  • Truck driver
  • Hotel housekeeping
  • Postal service mail carrier
  • Massage therapist
  • Taxi, Uber or Lyft driver
  • Tour guide
  • Adult Daycare worker
  • Childcare provider
  • Bus driver
  • Bag groceries
  • Baker
  • Petsitting
  • Personal Assistant
  • Professional Organizer

There are lots of things that one can do to make some money without sitting at a computer all day long. Take a look at your own talents, and what you like to do with your time. You never know what you can turn into work!

Finding the Lucrative Position You Desire

Regardless of the fact that you don’t want to use a computer much, you may have to use it to find a position that meets your needs. Checking websites like Craigslist and Indeed are popular for locating work. Work boards are also available to join, and look for work that meets your requirements and talent level. Some retail stores and restaurants still post “help wanted” signs, but often require you to login to a website to fill out the application.

Can you find a job without the computer? Yes! You can start at your local employment security commission office, and they can help you locate a position if they have it listed in their database. Many temporary workforce agencies have positions that can turn into long-term positions if that’s what you’re looking for. It also helps to network with people, especially if you’re diving into entrepreneurship! Join a local chamber of commerce or a business group to socialize and meet people who might need your help. There’s also the age-old advice of simply asking. If you have that one coffee shop you love to visit every Wednesday morning, ask them if they’re looking for additional help. The worst they can say is “not at this time.” It’ll certainly stand out to them later if they’re looking for help.

Yes, it’s possible to enjoy a job without pounding away at a computer keyboard all day. It just takes a little effort and know-how to find the right position.

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