Your Own Custom Caffeine

Actual conversation last month:

ME: “Do you have decaf lattes?”

WAITRESS: “No – it’s not the real deal, anyways.”

Actual conversation this month:

ME: “Man, these decaf iced coffees from Dunkin Donuts are so good!”

FRIEND: “What’s the point of drinking them if they don’t have caffeine?”

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Well, those were some awkward situations.  I’m glad I encountered them, though, as they triggered a rift in my brain that made me consider how we’re conditioned to think about coffee/caffeine/requirements for getting a “boost.”  The waitress’ comment was a bit snarky, but my friend had a valid question.

Most people associate coffee and caffeine with a morning routine that helps prepare them for the day.  They help break from an early grogginess, provide mid-day fuel, or help fight off evening fatigue.  If you don’t have the chemicals, then you don’t receive the benefits, right?  Absolutely correct.

But what if you’re not drinking coffee specifically to shock your central nervous system into gear?  I drink decaf hot coffee at night while reading, and drink decaf iced coffee on hot days (which was the case while sitting with my buddy).

The reason why many people have difficulty understanding Decaf is it does not fit their framework of what coffee is supposed to do, and why it even exists.  If person A only drinks coffee for the side affects and then person B arrives not wanting those side affects, it doesn’t compute.

Put another way: person A only uses their car to drive to work and pick up the kids from school, but person B uses their car primarily to market a business and test speed limits.  If you asked person A about buying a new car with strictly person B’s intentions in mind, they wouldn’t buy the car.  The reverse wouldn’t work, either.

I believe most people associate coffee with having the main purpose of waking up your body.  That’s not necessarily bad by itself, but what is dangerous is having a “if it doesn’t work for me, then it doesn’t work, period” mindset.  This isn’t about coffee – it could be about any product/service/habit/passion.

I drink decaf coffee because I like the taste of coffee in general, and enjoy not being wired at night.

When you see someone embarking on a path unlike your own, resist the knee-jerk reaction to assume it’s wrong.  Pause for a moment, and understand there could be more than one healthy/fun/exciting path.  Usually, the exact opposite is true: there are many, many ways to enjoy drinks, food, movies, adventures, careers, cars, unique personalities, and every look in the book.

Hopefully, this didn’t come off as a rant or anti-caffeine or whiny.  I just wanted you to know I enjoy your company regardless if its a caffeinated or decaf experience.

Resume Writing: Master of All = Offers of Zero

This is a guest post by our friend Jessica.  She’s a resume writing and job search rock star.

Napoleon

As a recruiter I see a lot of resumes – A LOT – hundreds all month long, thousands throughout the year. You can say I know a thing or two about what makes a resume stand out from the crowd.

I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. But one of the worst types of resumes to review is what I call the Autobiography Resume (an “AR”). This is the resume that is jam packed with such an intense variety of skill sets, job titles, and capabilities that it renders the reader (i.e. the hiring manager – the most important person who will be reviewing your resume) completely incapable of getting a clear picture of what exactly it is that you really do.

You’d think having an AR would be a great asset to have. Who doesn’t want to highlight all the wonderful qualities one has to present to an employer? An AR screams: “Look at me! I’m multi-talented! I can do everything you required in your job description and MORE!”

Why do we have a tendency to create ARs? It’s a reaction: they are a product of grossly exaggerated job descriptions found all across the online job boards. Job descriptions are notorious for including enough responsibilities and requirements to fill the jobs of five people. It’s no wonder job seekers are trying to cram their resumes with every last detail they think will truly help them land the role when in reality all its doing is hurting their chances at even getting looked at.

ARs are counterproductive because they lack specificity.

“But Jessica, my experiences and skill sets really do span across five completely different things – what do I do?!”

Glad you asked – and it’s simple: have more than one resume. This is my number one go-to solution when I stumble across a highly talented individual with an AR.

The conversation goes something like this:

“So John, you’re saying your expertise lies across digital marketing, creative direction, copywriting, editing, AND sales? No problem. The job I have open right now at this very moment is specifically targeted for a Digital Marketing Specialist. I need you to make me one version of your resume where your digital marketing experience really shines. After that, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make four different versions of your resume, each one geared specifically at the rest of your skill sets. This way you’ll not only be able to apply to my job but also target four other different jobs simultaneously.”

I’ll say this one more time: having more than one resume is the best thing you can do for yourself during your job search. Keep it simple, specific, and targeted. Don’t let a fancy job description or big corporations seeking a Purple Squirrel throw you off your game. You know you’re talented. You know you have the #1 skill set being sought after by this opening. All you have to do is follow this one simple rule. This will not only highly increase your chances of catching the hiring manager’s attention, but the follow-up call that goes with it.

Happy Hunting!

– Jessica

About the Author:

Jessica is a Sourcing Specialist/Recruiter currently working for Monster.com. She is passionate about building and maintaining strong relationships between people and resources. Originally from Honduras, she’s enjoyed the Greater Boston area as her permanent home for the last 9 years.  Outside of work she enjoys cooking, Zumba workouts, and walking her dog. Jessica lives in Waltham with her fiancé and miniature dachshund, Charlie.

E-mail: Sam’s Tricks for a Zero Inbox

You’re in the majority of people if you: have tons of e-mail from work, more e-mail from home, and additional e-mails coming from outside sources (lists, promotions, notifications) and so on.

The bad news is burning time “managing” your e-mail and deciding one one to read/reply to is wasteful and unnecessary in 2014.  The good news is there are many easy, simple ways for taming your wild Inbox.

Here is what I’ve seen and practiced the most consistently for results to get that counter back to zero:

1) Unsubscribe – from social media notifications, promotional spam, TV show updates, and other daily jargon.  The biggest offenders in your inbox are the ones that come multiple times a day.  Unless there is something urgent that you need an immediate notice on (such as your flight tomorrow is cancelled), you’re always a quick search away from this information.  It’s hard enough staying on top of conversations and follow-ups without the swimming against the current.

2) After you read and/or send a reply to a message, only Archive or Delete that message.  Huge inboxes aren’t just new, unread messages.  They’re filled to the brim with old, archaic messages that tend to be no longer relevant.  After you schedule a meeting/dinner/game and that event takes place, why are you still looking at the confirmations for it days/weeks/years later?

3) Use Labels instead of Folders (think G-mail and searchable tags).  The problem with Folders is you can only place the message in one of them, even if they are relevant to multiple subjects.  Does that business dinner receipt go under the finances folder or travel folder?  Items that relevant to multiple conversations can now use multiple tags.

4) Be relentless – find where the unique overflow is coming from and plug leaks.  Does each person on your group e-mail need to hit Reply To All on every single message?  Why is your ex still sending you cat pictures at 11:00pm?  You get the idea.

5) Be speedy – if you never took a keyboarding class, learning to type without looking at the keyboard will improve your effectiveness here by 150%. This is more applicable to older generations.  Also, use shorter messages overall instead of typing huge paragraphs.  Especially in a business setting, most people don’t have time to read a book in the middle of the day.

You’re on your way to a cleaner inbox.  What are your favorite ways to keep your e-mail control?  Leave your comments in the section below.

THANK YOU for reading!

Top 10 Pieces of Advice for Young Adults

When we were growing up, our 18th birthday signified we became adults and were ready to take on the world.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, and legally we were prepared for battle.  Most of thought we had “figured out” life, and that mentality was actually very commonplace.

It’s easy to look back now and realize how naive and misguided that assumption was versus how much growing it took – and still takes – on a daily basis to claim the title of a bonafide “adult,” and have the stature, knowledge, and life experience to support that claim.

 

Here are 10 things we wish we knew on our 18th birthday about life and what it means to be an adult:

1) All advice is not created equal: be selective on what sources you receive advice.  Some adults are simply not qualified to give you advice on certain topics.  For example, never take advice from an unhealthy doctor, broke accountant, or skinny chef.  If someone has never moved to New York City to become a fashion designer or moved to Los Angeles to become an actor or moved to San Fransisco to become a tech company founder, they don’t have the life experience to say you shouldn’t make the move.  One of our favorite quotes is “don’t let someone convince you to give up on your dreams just because they gave up on their dreams.”

2) Follow your passions: this doesn’t mean eating a large pizza by yourself or staying up for two days straight.  It means if you had a choose a career, activity, task, or adventure that won’t pay you a cent – but you would do it anyway – what would that be?  The answer will fall close with what you are passionate about.

3) Skip the critics: the crew here at the Freckled Fellow have noticed a trend in that we get criticized daily.  This comes from people close to us, complete strangers, and every person in between.  The topics are the who, what, where, when, why, and how we approach life.  We also noticed another trend: criticism doesn’t add value.  This is why you should learn to tune it out, and tune in to when a trusted friend is trying to help you with valuable tidbits.  The way to tell the difference is pure criticism sounds like “you suck,” “your project was horrible,” “that ABC decision was stupid,” etc., where the point is to put you down.  Great advice is different because it lifts you up, noting “I was wicked impressed by how awesome you were talking to XYZ person / handled that situation.  I just read this cool article that I want to share with you called (insert title) that fits in perfectly for this theme.”

4) Be weird and original and authentic: if you could see an image of your soul, that is what your inner core, being, person, and hard-wired persona would look like the day you were born.  Over time (and as we grow up), crushing standards are placed on how you should look, act, and be in life.  Unfortunately, many times this expectation is not consistent with what your soul defines as the happiest version of yourself.  The further you get away from your core, the more unhappy you become.  When you wake up tomorrow, be yourself, think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to get a little bit weird.  You might actually like it.

5) It will take another decade before you find yourself: you will go through major life shifts from 18-22 (college), 22-26 (first job), 26-30 (second job, graduate school, get married) that will dramatically impact your way of thinking, value systems, and specific goals.  Be open to change and experience as much culture, different people, and travel as possible.  The person you are at 28 will be really different – or – even the complete opposite – as the 18 year-old that stared back at you in the mirror.

6) You’re 100% responsible for your own happiness, success, and challenges: so stop comparing yourself to others, and start focusing on the inner you.  The reality is you don’t know the entire story behind people you read about today that are extremely successful or extremely sad.  Life throws everyone curve balls, and sometimes you hit it out of the park, and sometimes you strike out.  If you’re going through a rough patch, while friends might help you feel better or do you favors, it’s ultimately up to you to make a conscious decision that tomorrow will be better because today you are different.

7) Careers are not everything: when you graduate from college, you trade a classroom for a cubicle (or lab, field, car).  It’s nice to actually get paid instead of having to pay for everything, and life is good.  As you age and have a greater awareness of your limited time, you start doing the math (104,000 hours is the lower end of a career) and asking yourself “is what I’m doing what I want to spend the rest of my career doing?”  For a lucky few, the answer could be Yes, but for most of us, it’s No.  When you have kids of your own, find your passions, and have more life experience, you realize there are more important things than your career.  It’s important to be professionally successful to pay the mortgage, college tuition, save for retirement, and take a nice vacation – but it’s not everything.

8) Read every day: the more you read, the more your realize you don’t know.  The good news is reading can take you on adventures and expand your mind in ways you never thought possible.  It can be fun and exciting.  Don’t think about reading like a required book for a course that might be a bit dry – think of it as seeing a title or getting a “must read” recommendation from a friend.  Curl up with a good book.

9) Tough times don’t last – tough people do: just like we hear “the only thing constant is change,” people will inevitably change, including your current social circle.  We grow apart, we argue, we take different paths.  The real people in your life that matter are those that are in it for the long haul, especially when you’re down on luck.  Do as much as you can to stay in touch with these tough people.  Don’t put up with those that sandbag your soul and bring you down.  They won’t be around for long, anyways.

10) Giving back is the meaning of life: it’s nice being happy, healthy, and successful.  It’s even more fun when you can give back and create that same state of being for others.  The easiest way to do this is through community service, helping non-profit causes, and at volunteering at school events.  However, you can also do it much more subtle ways, such as giving a compliment to a stranger, making a donation to a positive campaign, or allowing a struggling college student to smile because you let them know they have a bright future.

Course

Resolutions vs. Promises

With the start of the new year, we see frequent advertising across all mediums for new years resolutions.  The majority of these “resolutions” revolve around healthy habits, such as exercising more, losing weight, and/or eating better.  Join a gym, sweat, and spend more time in the produce section.  This concept would be amazing…if it actually worked consistently across all people and stuck for the whole year (and beyond).  We’ll explain here why there is such a high failure rate, and what you can do about it (which involves a promise).  The difference between the two seems subtle, but the results are drastically different:

Resolution: firm determination, a course of action decided on

Promise: declaration assuring that one will or will not do something, indication of future excellence or success

Why do approximately 80% of resolutions fail?  Why is it so hard to set a goal, stick to it, and ultimately succeed?  The reasons vary from person to person, but we found a social media post that explains some of the logic behind the challenge here:

“Frymer’s Life Advice #432: if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is going to be exercise more or eat less (or both) in 201X, don’t wait until January 1st to start – begin TODAY! The reason why most “resolutions” fail is because you’re trying to go 0 – 100 overnight. It’s too big of a lifestyle change, too fast. It’s very difficult to go from never exercising to going multiple days a week. It’s also very difficult to go from eating extremely unhealthy to salads everyday. My recommendation is to do a major change in smaller increments, say 0 – 10, then 10 – 20, etc. that have a much higher success rate. Remember, massive research shows it takes up to a whole month to build a habit, and you can’t get there without making it past the first week. Get rockin’ and rollin’, and YES it’s possible and YES you’re ready and YES you’re awesome!”

Making a resolution is like making a list of rooms you have to clean in your house: it’s tedious, and the energy is better spent by simply starting.  You won’t be as stressed, either.

Our intention is to “disrupt” the Resolutions Game and push for a more effective system for everyone to use and get results.  That is why in the fitness industry, when someone says “I’ll start on Monday,” trainers will ask “why not start today?”  This may seem likes sales pressure on the surface, but it’s a legitimate question.  Behind this question sits a refreshing truth: there is no perfect day to start.  The best time to start is this minute, this hour, today.  Challenges don’t go away when the alarm clock goes off tomorrow.  Challenges go away when you tackle them – now.  Your health doesn’t magically get better with time.  Your health gets better by eating right, exercising more, and being mentally/emotionally positive.

You don’t need to make any resolutions – just promise yourself you’ll do better, put a gameplan in place, and then keep that promise to yourself.  The list should be short, and stick to each item hard.

We promise you’ll like what you see, feel, and do.

No Smoking

There is no “perfect” day to quit – just today.

Holiday Cheers and Fears

With Black Friday shopping over and the holiday season in full swing, we thought the timing was ripe to share some of our holiday cheers and fears.  This is by no means comprehensive, but it’s our take over at The Freckled Fellow on the highs and lows of this season.  Here we go:

Cheers (Highs)

+ being thankful for what you already have

+ seeing extended family

+ holiday decorations on houses, stores, and public spaces

+ using extra spirit to help out those in need

+ festivities that are focused on friends, food, and fun

Fears (Lows)

+ prioritizing material needs over everything else

+ travel challenges on the ground and in the air

+ additional stress of getting gifts, planning events, financial woes, and over-eating

+ retail workers having to work on Thanksgiving

+ people becoming combative over cheap products

Top 10 Reasons To Smile

You sit nervously at your desk while your teacher gives back graded tests.  You studied all week.  You stayed up late.  You skipped date night.  You receive your test, quickly skim to the bottom, and see a crazy red symbol: A.  You breathe a sigh of relief, and finally let an ear-to-ear smile take over your face.

We’re accustomed to smiling after receiving after receiving positive news, hearing a great joke, or seeing our friends.  However, when you step back, you realize there are many smaller moments (that are less profound) that deserve a smile as well, as they happen much more frequently.  There are also functions under the skin surface that you never see, but can definitely feel.  Case in point: spend as much time smiling as possible (without being weird about it).

Here are our Top 10 Reasons to Smile:

1 – It’s healthy.  Smiling reduces stress and anxiety.  It can also help you through a tough workout.  In a mirror, it reminds you to be positive.
2 – It’s timeless.  The muscles you use when smiling make you look younger.  Another real benefit is living up to seven years longer.  This never goes out of style.
3 – It’s contagious.  When you smile more, people around smile more.  Complete strangers begin to smile.  It’s a positive chain-reaction.
4 – It’s productive.  You work harder when “you whistle while you work.”  Smiling breaks down negative barriers and adds important energy to tasks.  You feel like moving quickly.
5 – It’s part of the job.  Both interviewers and current co-workers will take notice.  They want to be around someone that is confident and likeable.  Smile in the office and out on the road meeting clients.
6 – It builds trust.  Notice your most trusted allies (family, friends, mentors) all smile when you’re around them.  People are most comfortable with those that are genuine and transparent.
7 – It makes you feel good.  Smiling triggers a response in your brain and releases endorphins.  This also works when you’re feeling unhappy and want to be in a better mood.
8 – It builds common ground.  This breaks embarrassment because we’re all in the same boat, and have “been there” before.  This ground is ripe for growing bonds.
9 – It’s right before laughter.  When you smile more, you laugh more as well.  This means a better time with friends, enjoying that classic comedy, and sleeping better at night.  You can grease the wheels with a smile.
10 – It makes you sexy.  In every survey, people find those who are smiling more attractive versus not smiling at all.  That person you want to ask out on a date will notice.  Show them you’re excited about this opportunity.

When you finish reading this piece, remember to SMILE!  🙂