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John Fawkes

Are you ready for your dream job?

Stop promising yourself you’ll love your career “some day.” This blog will teach you job hunting and networking strategies that have helped thousands of professionals build careers they love. You’ll learn to

  • Figure out your ideal role and the value you bring to the table
  • Line up interview after interview at the companies of your choice
  • Receive multiple job offers and negotiate them up

To learn how top performers get the best jobs, enter your email below, click “Get Updates!”, and get my free ebook, “The 12 mistakes keeping you from your dream job.”

Why I stopped eating lunch at my desk

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people’s ability to be happy and productive at work depends heavily on how they manage their break times- particularly, on whether they take actual breaks, or just pseudo-breaks where they actually still work.  This knowledge can be used in two ways: to structure the job you have to maximize your enjoyment and output, and as a simple way to evaluate the culture, work environment, and work-life balance at a company you’re thinking of working for.  

I’ve held several jobs over the years, including a couple of office jobs, one work from home job, and a couple of self-employment stints.  At my first job, I always took a full lunch break, and after that I tended to switch back and forth between eating at my desk and taking a lunch break with each job.  I even had one job where taking a lunch break, while not strictly forbidden, was so frowned upon that one time when I did it, I was accused of using my lunch break to interview for another job.

You can guess how that made me feel- like my office was a prison, and my lunch was just some hog feed to keep me going while I worked.  Food lost its attraction for me, and I couldn’t wait to go home every day.  But when I moved on from that job and started taking lunch breaks again?  Suddenly, my life, my meals and my work all brought me joy again.

Now, I’ve implemented a policy of always taking a full one-hour lunch break, and I’m perfectly willing to take longer than that if I need the time to finish my meal, don’t have much work to do, or simply feel like taking longer. Before I explain how best to employ this rule, here are five reasons why you should just say no to eating lunch at your desk.    

You won’t be productive while eating

Your food will distract you, plain and simple.  Ideally you like to work for periods of 10-30 minutes, uninterrupted, with short breaks in between.  While eating at your desk, you’ll work for periods of one or two minutes, take a bite or two, work another minute, take a bit, and so on.  Because of the mental switching costs of alternating between two tasks like that, you’ll barely get any work done while eating.  

You won’t enjoy your meal

In addition to doing a bad job of, well, doing your job, you’ll also end up doing a bad job of eating, to the extent that that’s even possible.  Instead of sitting down to a nice meal and enjoying the atmosphere, you’ll be glued to your TPS reports.  Instead of savoring every bite, you’ll barely notice the flavor while you treat your food as a distraction, rather than the life-giving nourishment and tasty luxury that it is.    

You won’t be productive after eating

Here’s where bosses really get it wrong when they “encourage” employees to eat at their desks.  I think a lot of people realize that it’s hard to be productive while eating, but what few realize is that once you finish your meal, shifting back into productive mode is a slow and difficult process- you’ll remain in an unproductive mental state for hours, maybe even until the end of the day, and you’ll have to stay at the office longer to make up for it.

In fact, study after study has shown that productivity goes down as work hours go up, as The Economist illustrates in this article.  I’m convinced that this works two ways- low productivity forces workers to work longer to get their jobs done, and higher work hours lead to fatigue and lost sleep, which lowers productivity.  Also, higher daily work hours are also correlated with low productivity, and a good break “resets the clock” somewhat, 

You’ll miss valuable social opportunities

In talking to people who love their jobs, one thing I notice is that almost every one of them (barring those who work from home) eats lunch with their coworkers.  My father has told me on several occasions that introducing an employee cafeteria with subsidized food was one of the smartest things Hewlett-Packard ever did because it got employees eating together instead of dispersing to a variety of eateries around town every day.  This made the employees happier, more productive and more loyal, and led them to share good ideas with people they wouldn’t normally talk to.

Additionally, because skipping the lunch break kills your productivity and forces you to work later, coworkers at companies where everyone eats at their desks tend not to do anything together outside of work.  This part is just my observation, but all of the friends I have who regularly go to bars, concerts and sporting events with their coworkers seem to take long lunch breaks, and work at places where that is the norm. 

In addition to being enjoyable, having lunch with coworkers can help you get ahead in your career by providing valuable intra-office networking opportunities.  Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, in his interview with Ramit Sethi for Ramit’s Brain Trust, offers up the best example of this strategy that I’ve ever heard: when he was working at a corporate job, he had lunch with everyone in the entire company, starting with his immediate coworkers, moving on to other low-level workers, and moving up to the managers and then executives over the course of a year or two.  When he got to the CEO, the guy could hardly refuse his invitation- after all, Derek had gone out to lunch with everyone else at the company by that point!

You’ll get stressed out and sick

Long, uninterrupted work hours have a way of stressing people out.  Even work that would be enjoyable for six hours a day, or two four-hour blocks, becomes a source of stress and misery when you’re doing it for eight or more hour without pause.  This stress weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infection.  The stress, anxiety, and possibly just sheer busyness keep you from getting enough sleep, further sickening you and, you guessed it, killing your productivity.  The CDC has a great study on the health and safety risks that come from long work hours, which you can read here.

You’ll resent your job

The net effect of all this: you’ll come to hate your job.  Your work-life balance will suffer, you won’t make as many friends at work as you’d like, you’ll feel mentally and physically fatigued, and you’ll get sick way too often.  Before long, you’ll respond one of two ways: if you’re the complacent type, you’ll rationalize that this is just the price of getting ahead in the corporate world, developing a grim fatalism and maybe even a perverse pride in your suffering.  If you’re the type of person who takes decisive action to solve your problems, you’ll start looking for a new job.  

By the way, to any managers reading this, I want to make that last part abundantly clear: if you make your employees eat lunch at work, you’ll lose a lot of your best employees.  Hopefully you care about their well-being, but if not, maybe you can at least care about this.  

How you can use this

First off, don’t eat lunch at your desk.  Duh.  If possible, don’t even eat lunch within sight of where you work.  And don’t lawyer your way out of this by taking your laptop to lunch with you, or answering work emails on your phone at lunch; take a real frickin’ break people!

Second, you may have noticed that I repeatedly conflate working through lunch with long work hours.  That’s because, by and large, the two always occur together.  You can use this during your job search to get valuable insight into a company’s work environment by simply asking people at the company what they typically do for lunch.  If they say they eat at their desks, move on.  If they say they always grab a quick meal at the closest possible spot, that’s alright.  If they talk about the great food to be found at a variety of places nearby, and don’t suggest that they feel the need to rush through lunch, you’re found a fun company to work for.  

Want to learn more ways to increase your productivity, enjoy your work, and make sure you get a job you’ll enjoy at a company you’ll be happy to work for?  Sign up for my mailing list below, read my free ebook, and watch your inbox for more free career advice.

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What you should know before hiring a resume writer

I get asked about resume writers about once a day. I’ve heard success stories from people who hired a great resume writer and got a great job, and I’ve also heard horror stories from people who wasted time and money on a terrible resume. Resume writers are everywhere on the internet, and it can be hard to judge either the value of professional resume writers in general, or the quality of a specific writer.

While I can’t recommend specific writers, I can give you a few pointers that will help you find and hire a good resume writer, and employ them to the best of their abilities. Alternatively, a lot of the material in this article will help you write a resume yourself, should you so choose.

A great resume writer is worth a lot; a bad resume writer is worse than useless

Let’s do some math here- suppose your earning power is about 50k a year. That means that if a better resume causes you to get a job a week earlier, it’s worth about a thousand dollars. Your job search can be expected to take three to six months if you’re doing things mostly right, or a year if you don’t know what you’re doing- it’s very easy to knock a week off of that time frame, especially if you also get a better cover letter out of the deal.

Likewise, it’s fairly easy to get a 5-10% raise with your new job- going from 50k to 55k for instance. Unlike the time frame, this depends heavily on your interviewing and negotiating skills, so the resume and cover letter alone may or may not get you the raise, but with an improved resume and cover letter, and a few basic pointers on interviewing and negotiating, this is totally doable.

On the other hand, a bad resume will be disingenuous and poorly matched to the job you’re applying for. If the resume writer simply took your existing resume and rewrote it, the new resume will leave out any important information that wasn’t already on your old resume. In extreme cases, the writer will be an Indian with shitty grammar, or even a web-based form that you enter information into, and it spits out an algorithmically-generated resume.

A great resume writer can be worth thousands, and a well-written resume and cover letter should cost upwards of five hundred dollars. Over a thousand is not unreasonable either- top performers writing their own resumes will often spend dozens of hours on it, and in some cases even a hundred hours. So if you want to hire a resume writer here, don’t be an idiot and try to get the lowest price.

Research before you buy

So, clearly you need to do your research to find the best resume writers. For starters, make sure you’re hiring a specific, named person. Don’t go with some generic company with a name like “Resume Pros” or “Resumes R Us” that advertises something like “our top-notch resume writers.” Hire an individual who has some credibility. If you just google resume writers, the top hits tend to be the bad ones, because bad resume writers tend to rely more on SEO to get clients, while good ones tend to rely more on referrals and building a following by giving out free advice.

First off ask your friends if they’v used a resume writer before. Ideally you would get referred to one by your friend, and even look at your friend’s resume to get a feel for the writer’s style. If you can’t do that, build a short list of 5-10 resume writers. Contact them, ask about their style and the results they’ve gotten, ask for references, and look at what kind of free information they are putting out there for their audience. A great resume writer should be offering solid job-hunting information to people, both to build their audience and credibility, and to help their paying clients to maximize the value they get from their resume and cover letter.

Spend as much time as you need doing this research. If it takes a couple weeks, so be it- do the work up front to make sure you don’t waste your money on a useless resume, or worse yet, spend months using that crappy resume and not realizing how it hurts you.

Your resume is not the most important part of your job search

Most resume writers will insist to their dying day that having a great resume is the central component of a good job search. It’s not. They’ll say that with a great resume, you can post it to job boards, sit back, and people will be banging down your door to offer you your dream job- also not true. A great resume can get you some calls from recruiters, but recruiters won’t offer you your dream job, and I don’t recommend working with them.

The most important parts of a top-notch job search are networking and research- build a strong network, use it to get in with the companies you’d love to work for, and prepare so well that the interview is already won before you walk in the door. Even if you use job boards rather than using your network to find a job, the research and preparation are still more important than your resume and cover letter. The resume and cover letter are marketing materials to be used as supporting documents for your job search- they help a lot, but don’t ever think they’re sufficient in and of themselves to get you your dream job.

Most people focus on their resumes too early in the job search

The first thing most people do when starting a job search- I mean the absolute, very first thing- is update their resume. And that’s the exact phrasing people usually use, “update my resume.” But think about what updating something really means- it means making all the information current. “Updating” your resume means nothing more than adding your latest job so that the resume is no longer outdated.

Is that really the standard here? Just making sure your resume is current? That’s setting the bar pretty damned low, and it should be obvious that your resume needs to do more than just list off all the stuff you’ve done. Here, roughly speaking, are the steps a job search should include:

Figure out what kind of job you’re going for- choose 1-3 closely related job titles to focus on.

Figure out your ideal companies. Generate a list of 10-20 companies to apply for.

Meet people who work at your target companies. Get inside information from them, and build a relationship so they can put in a good word for you when you apply.

Put together your applications for each company.

Apply to all of your target companies, either all at once or over a short period of time.

Interview and get job offers.

Juggle your multiple job offers, negotiate for more money, better working conditions etc., and accept one of the offers.

Your resume and cover letter should be written at step 4, when you’re putting together your job applications. That’s generally about two thirds of the way through your job hunt. Writing your resume before you research your target companies is a waste of time, and actually using that resume will lead to suboptimal results.

You should modify your resume for each job application

One marketing manager job is most definitely not the same as another. Having done your research on your target companies, you’ll have a good idea of the unique challenges and needs that each company has. This will include a lot of information that just doesn’t appear on job postings, and using this information will immediately set you apart from the people who just spam out applications.

Instead of using the same resume for every company, you should write one “baseline” resume, and then customize it for each application. Because you are restricting your applications to 1-3 closely related job titles, this customization will be restricted to a few lines rather than rewriting the whole resume. Nonetheless, hiring someone to write each version of your resume for you would be waaaay too expensive, so you should have the resume writer write the baseline resume for you, and do the customization yourself.

Writing a good resume should take time, and involve you too

The way most resume writers work is that they’ll either take your existing resume or ask you a series of questions about your skills, education and experience, then write a resume based on that. The problem here is that by this method, they can only re-word and re-phrase the things you already have on your resume. Correcting grammar and wording is certainly a part of their job, but a good resume writer should also be making higher-level decisions about what should and should not go onto your resume. This requires a lot of back and forth between resume writer and client.

The writer needs to figure out what kinds of positions you’re applying for, what the companies hiring for those jobs really need, what your biggest and most relevant accomplishments have been, and how to present everything to impress prospective employers. This takes time. Many resume writers will advertise one- or two-day service, but in this case, faster is actually worse. A great resume writer will take a week or two, and treat the resume writing as a collaborative process with you. They will also be clear on this time frame up front in order to manage your expectations

Putting it all together

Having read this, you should have what you need to decide whether or not to hire a resume writer. Think long and hard about the decision- in my opinion, whether or not to do it comes down largely to how good of a writer you are. Hire a resume writer if you really need one, but if you’re a good writer, I think it’s worthwhile to write your resume yourself, even if it takes 10-20 hours.

Are you sick of your job? Do you want to learn the entire process for finding your dream job and building a career you love? Sign up for the mailing list below and read my free ebook on the 12 common mistakes that hold people back in their job hunts- then watch your inbox for more insider job-hunting tips.

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What famous rappers can teach you about finding your dream job

Some products are mass market.  Think Coca-Cola- their target market is pretty much everyone, so they advertise everywhere and try to get everyone to like them.  In Coke’s case, this is literally their message: “Everyone likes us and everyone gets along when there’s Coke around.”  

Then some products are for a a big chunk of the population, but not everyone.  Think Microsoft Windows- Microsoft wants everyone to know about Windows, and they present it in a way that avoids putting people off.  They accept that some people will dislike Windows, but they try to minimize that because it’s a large market product.    

Then we have the products that are aimed at a significant minority, like a Macbook Air. Almost everyone knows about them, but most people don’t buy.  Many people will actively dislike these small-market products- my best friend seriously hates all things Apple. But the people who like these small market products, really like them, and will pay a bit of a premium for them.  

Then we have niche products.  Think about the Tesla roadster- it’s a high-performance prestige product, they only make something like thirty thousand a year, they’re really expensive, and people either love them or hate them.  A lot of people hate them, but only a few tens of thousands of people a year have to love them enough to buy one.         

Then there are unique or near-unique products.  A great topical example of this is the new Wu-Tang Clan secret album.  Most people haven’t heard about this, and many of those who have heard, think it’s the worst idea in the world.  But some people wanted that album, and were willing to pay.  Not many people, but just enough to drive the price up to five million dollars for the winning bidder.   

Notice how the examples I brought up got progressively more expensive?  That’s no coincidence- with few exceptions, you make more money by niching down then by trying to appeal to everyone.  Now, you may think that Wu-Tang are jerks for doing that, and maybe they are.  But regardless of the merit of this “only one sale” strategy with regard to rap albums, there are some products that are unique by necessity.  Products like a person’s labor.  You’re not going to take ten jobs are you?  

In job hunting, losers think like Coke.  Most people think like Windows, or at best, like Apple.  High performers, and the really good career coaches, think like Tesla.  The true rock stars, however, think like the Wu-Tang Clan.  Over the next few months, I’m going to be publishing articles and sending out emails explaining how you can become an MVP in your career, get the attention of the right people, receive multiple job offers and generate a bidding war that lets you pick and choose your dream job.  I’m going to teach you to be Wu-Tang, and the privilege of employing you is going to be that secret album.  

Interested in learning how to go from being a cheap commodity to the prize employee everyone competes over?  Sign up for my email list before for exclusive techniques, scripts, and access to personal coaching.  

Are you ready for your dream job?

Are you sick of working at a job that doesn't excite you?  Tired of the long hours, repetitive work, and lack of respect?   Are you fed up with promising yourself, year after year, that next year you'll finally have a job you love?  

Sign up below to receive my FREE e-book: The twelve mistakes keeping you from your dream job- and what you should be doing instead.  Read the book, then watch your inbox for insider tips, strategies and tactics that thousands of top performers have used to get their dream jobs.

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Dress up for your phone interviews- here’s why

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten around job hunting came from the professor in charge of my major program as an undergrad.  During my senior year, she told our class that we should wear a business suit for phone interviews, because the clothes you wear affect your mentality.  From experience, I can say that this is true, not only for job interviews, but also anything where you technically don’t have to dress up, but want to mentally be in “work mode.”  

This applies equally well to things you do at work, particularly phone sales.  I’ve spent most of my career working from home in some capacity.  When I started working from home, I had grand ambitions of doing all of my work in my pajamas.  High ambitions, I know, but it didn’t work out that way.  I would get distracted, watch funny videos, eat…I just couldn’t get much work done.

Things changed when I started putting on jeans and a t-shirt before work.  Once I made that change, I was able to focus reasonably well-meaning that out of an eight-hour work day, I would get four hours of work done, which is pretty typical for the modern office worker.  That ratio improved further when I wore a button-down shirt, and further still when I wore slacks.

So, that’s about it.  Dress for business and you’ll act like a businessperson- I’ve used this to great effect in job interviews, sales, and general work from home situations.  The same principle can be used to psych yourself up for non-work purposes, but job interviews are probably the single most value-adding use I’ve found for this trick.

Want to learn other tweaks that will dramatically accelerate your career and job search?  Sign up below and read my free ebook to learn about the simple mistakes that are keeping you from your dream job.    

Are you ready for your dream job?

Are you sick of working at a job that doesn't excite you?  Tired of the long hours, repetitive work, and lack of respect?   Are you fed up with promising yourself, year after year, that next year you'll finally have a job you love?  

Sign up below to receive my FREE e-book: The twelve mistakes keeping you from your dream job- and what you should be doing instead.  Read the book, then watch your inbox for insider tips, strategies and tactics that thousands of top performers have used to get their dream jobs.

We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.

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How kung-fu can get you your dream job

Do you have any cool hobbies that you excel at?  If so, you should strongly consider putting them in your resume, as the following story demonstrates.

Last year, I received my black belt in Kung Fu San Soo.  Afterward, I let my dad talk me into putting the black belt on my resume.  I was skeptical, but a few months later I was invited to interview for my dream job largely because of that one item.  And, after crushing the interview (a subject I’ll cover in future posts), I got the job- one that paid 20% more than my previous job right from the start, and it was with a better company with a more positive work environment and stronger growth opportunities than my previous position.

There are several reasons why this works

First, highlighting non-work accomplishments shows a dedication to self-improvement.  It shows that you’re not just vegetating in front of the TV whenever you’re not at work, but that you’re hard-working and driven to excel.

Second, it highlights specific personality traits you may want to emphasize.  In this case,  the owner viewed my interest in kung-fu as evidence that I’m courageous, assertive, and have a lot of energy- all good traits for a sales or business development role.

Third, it humanizes you.  By putting kung-fu on my resume, along with several other items about myself as a person, I’ve created a resume that presents me as a human being rather than just a set of job skills.  Not every recruiter will respond well to this, but the ones that do will be the ones whose companies provide the most positive and enjoyable work environment.  

   

How to put this into practice

With resumes, the best way to do this is with a short section at the bottom, with a title such as “Hobbies & Interests.”  Just put a few non-work accomplishments in there which present you in a good light and demonstrate aspects of your character that you want to highlight.  

Note that I say accomplishments- just saying that I do kung-fu wouldn’t be as good as saying that I have a black belt.  And make sure they do indeed present you in a good light- if you were social chair of your sorority, you need to expand on this and show that it means you have strong organizational skills, and not just that you were a party animal.  

With cover letters, I would mention something off-hand so as not to put too much focus on it, but bait people into asking you questions about it later on.  A phrase like “I’ll work as hard for you as I did on earning my black belt in kung-fu” would work well, and allow you to gracefully segue into the next part of the cover letter while seeding a future conversation.

With a LinkedIn profile, this information would probably go in your main section, at the top of your profile- I’d put it at the bottom or in the middle of that section, not right at the beginning.  Alternatively, it might go under volunteer work or extracurriculars, lower down in your profile.  

Capitalizing on the interest you’ll generate

Either way, mentioning personal facts in your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile will set you apart from other job-seekers and prime hiring companies to view you not only as a better worker, but as a real person who they can get to know.  An interesting tidbit in your resume or cover letter is bound to come up in you interview, so be prepared to talk about yourself, be warm and friendly, and reciprocate with questions about the people you’re meeting.  This trick alone will set you apart from the vast majority of job seekers, but you can magnify the benefit if you use the opportunity to start driving the conversation yourself. 

Not every company will respond well to hearing about your personal interests, but those that do will be the most fun and fulfilling to work for.  I encourage you to think not in terms of making every company like you, but in terms of being compatible with companies you would like to work for, while screening out companies you’d hate.  Doing things like this to set yourself apart is what makes the difference between maybe getting a job, and getting your dream job.  

tl;dr  The furious dragon dick punch is an incredibly useful skill, even if you never use it.  

Interested in learning more ways to stand out from the competition?  Do you want to be able to beat more experienced, more “qualified” competitors?  Sign up for my newsletter below, and start by reading my FREE ebook to find out the mistakes that prevent you from standing out to potential employers.

Are you ready for your dream job?

Are you sick of working at a job that doesn't excite you?  Tired of the long hours, repetitive work, and lack of respect?   Are you fed up with promising yourself, year after year, that next year you'll finally have a job you love?  

Sign up below to receive my FREE e-book: The twelve mistakes keeping you from your dream job- and what you should be doing instead.  Read the book, then watch your inbox for insider tips, strategies and tactics that thousands of top performers have used to get their dream jobs.

We will never sell your information or spam you, ever.

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