3 Myths About Workplace Communication That Could Make You Less Successful

Tweak your approach to avoid these common pitfalls

Businessmen discussing work

By Shana Lebowitz

When it comes to professional communication, there's a lot of bogus science out there. And unless you're a trained scientist, it can be hard to know what to believe and what to dismiss.

According to Elizabeth Stokoe, Ph.D., a professor of social interaction at Loughborough University in the UK, there are a few huge misconceptions that steer people wrong when they're interacting with clients and coworkers.

Stokoe developed the Conversation Analytic Role-Play Method (CARM), a technique for communication training, and has spent years analyzing everything from sales calls to dialogue between romantic partners.

We reached out to her to learn more about the myths she most often encounters and what the research shows you should do instead.

Myth #1: You should use your conversation partner's name a lot.
Many people believe it's important to continually address your partner by name, Stokoe said. But doing so can sound unnatural and a little unnerving.

In face-to-face or phone conversations, using your partner's name acts as a "summons," she said. "You know it's probably going to be a complaint or the start of an argument. It doesn't really build rapport — it just puts people on their guard because they're expecting they're going to be admonished or there's going to be an argument."

Myth #2: Body language reveals what speech hides.
"When people think about body language, what they tend to think of is something that is lying behind words, that is giving away what you really think," said Stokoe.

Yet Stokoe said the idea that body language reveals what language hides is often speculative and not based on real interaction. In a face-to-face interaction, she said, "what people do with their bodies goes along with talk. If I scratch my nose, it's not because I'm lying."

Myth #3: Silence means someone is thinking.
"People who don't study interaction tend to think that silence is what happens between turns of talk because people need time to process what they're going to do next," she said.

But people don't really need much time to process what they've heard and figure out how they're going to respond. In fact, if you look at smoothly progressing interactions, there are typically no gaps in dialogue. That's why a delay of even a fifth of a second could potentially indicate that there's some kind of problem.

For example, when people are surprised or annoyed by a particular question, they might not respond immediately. In sales calls that she's analyzed, Stokoe's found that when salespeople ask, "How did you hear about us?" right away, there tends to be a long silence afterward.

On the other hand, when they wait until the end of the call to ask, "Would you mind telling me how you heard about us?" the client typically responds right away.

Unfortunately, most salespeople don't pick up on what that silence implies until Stokoe steps in and listens to the call recordings.

Once she hears the recordings and figures out the source of the misalignment between the two parties, she trains salespeople to tweak their techniques so they're more successful.      

13 Secrets for Performing Better Under Pressure

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Think of high-pressure moments as a (fun) challenge, not a life-or-death threat.
Most people see "pressure situations" as threatening, and that makes them perform even less well. "Seeing pressure as a threat undermines your self-confidence; elicits fear of failure; impairs your short-term memory, attention, and judgment; and spurs impulsive behavior," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write. "It also saps your energy."

In short, interpreting pressure as threat is generally very bad. Instead, try shifting your thoughts: Instead of seeing a danger situation, see a challenge.

"When you see the pressure as a challenge, you are stimulated to give the attention and energy needed to make your best effort," they write. To practice, build "challenge thinking" into your daily life: It's not just a project; it's an opportunity to see if you can make it your best project ever.

Remind yourself that this is just one of many opportunities.
Is this high-pressure situation a good opportunity? Sure. Is it the only opportunity you will ever have for the rest of your life? Probably not.

"The fact is, it is realistic to think that additional opportunities will come your way," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write, who encourage you to consider how many people needed multiple chances to ultimately succeed. (We have a few examples here.)

Before an interview or a big meeting, give yourself a pep talk, they advise: "I will have other interviews" (or presentations or sales calls).

Focus on the task, not the outcome.
This might be the easiest tactic of all, according to Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry: Instead of worrying about the outcome, worry about the task at hand.

That means developing tunnel vision, they explain. When you keep your eye on the task at hand (and only the task at hand), all you can see is the concrete steps necessary to excel.

For a student writing a paper, that means concentrating on doing stellar research — not obsessing about the ultimate grade, what will happen if you don't get it, and whether you should have majored in economics after all.

Let yourself plan for the worst.
"What-if" scenarios can be your friend. By letting yourself play out the worst-case outcomes, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry say, you're able to brace yourself for them.

What if you're giving a presentation and you lose all your slides? What if you find out at the last minute you only have half the time you thought you did? What if, three minutes before you're supposed to begin, you spill coffee all over your shirt?

The key here is that you're anticipating the unexpected. "It can protect you from a pressure surge by allowing you to prepare for and thus be less startled by the unexpected." Instead of panicking, you'll be able to (better) "maintain your composure and continue your task to the best of your ability."

Take control.
In a pressure moment, there are factors you have control over and factors you don't.

But when you focus on those "uncontrollables," you end up intensifying the pressure, increasing your anxiety, and ultimately undermining your confidence, write Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry. What you want to do is focus on the factors you can control.

In the case of an interview, for example, don't let yourself think about who else might have applied for the job, ways the manager could be biased against you, or whether the interviewer will like your outfit. The only thing that matters? Preparing to show them you're right for the role.

Flash back to your past successes.
"Remembering your past success ignites confidence," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write. "You did it before, and you can do it again."

Once you're feeling good about yourself, you'll be better able to cut through anxiety and take care of business.

Be positive before and during high-pressure moments.
In what comes as a surprise to no one (but bears repeating anyway), cultivating a positive attitude goes a long way.

"Belief in a successful outcome can prevent you from worry that can drain and distract your working memory," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry explain. "Anxiety and fear are stripped from the equation, allowing you to act with confidence." This will work out. You will be great. You're going to succeed.

Get in touch with your senses.
When you're under deadline and the world feels like it's crashing in, you're particularly prone to making careless errors — slips you never would have made if you'd felt on top of the situation.

To depressurize the situation, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry advise focusing on the here and now. Tune into your senses, they say. What do you see? What do you hear? How's your breathing?

Listen to music — or make some.
"What makes this pressure solution so effective is that it reduces the culprit behind choking — increased anxiety," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry explain.

By listening to music, you're able to literally distract yourself from your anxiety. And conveniently, this trick is extremely easy to put into practice: The next time you're facing a high-pressure situation — a big presentation, for example — spend the few minutes before listening to your pump-up tunes right up until it's time to take the stage.

Create a pre-performance routine.
The idea here is to create a (brief) routine that you go through in the minutes before you present or perform, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry suggest.

A "pre-routine" prevents you from becoming distracted (how can you panic when you're doing your push-ups?), keeps you focused, and puts you in the "zone" by signaling to your body it's time to perform. Here are their tips for creating yours:
  • Keep it short
  • Do it immediately before The Event
  • Include a mental component (reviewing key points, anticipating the types of problems your about to face, etc.)
  • Include a physical component (breathing, power posing, etc.)
  • Include a visualization of yourself succeeding
  • Finish with an "anchor word or phrase that signals you're ready for showtime"

Slow down.
When you're in a high-pressure situation, it's natural to speed up your thinking. Don't do it!

Moving too fast often leads you to act before you're ready. You don't think as clearly as you normally would, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry observe. You jump to conclusions. You miss key information.

The solution? Slow down. Give yourself a second to breathe and formulate a plan. You'll think more flexibly, creatively, and attentively, they promise, and your work will be all the better for it.

Squeeze a ball (really).
Yes, "stress balls" are an office cliché — but according to Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry there's a good reason for that: They work.

One of the reasons you clam up in high-pressure situations is that there's a constant, unhelpful thought loop running through your head. "How am I doing?" you keep wondering, even though you're doing fine — or you would be, if you could shut your brain up.

That's where the stress ball comes in. When you squeeze a ball with your left hand, you're able to activate the parts of your brain that control unconscious responses, while simultaneously suppressing the parts of your brain that oversees self-conscious thinking.

Share the pressure.
Telling someone else about the pressure you're feeling has been proven to reduce anxiety and stress, Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry report.

But there's another bonus: Sharing your feelings allows you to "examine them, challenge their reality, and view a pressure situation in a realistic manner." And it's likely the person you're sharing your feelings with will have some feedback, too — feedback you might never have gotten had you stewed solo.

16 times work makes you feel like eating pizza

It's simple: Pizza is life.
Indisputable facts of life:
  • Pizza Day was the best day of the lunch menu in grade school.
  • Offering free pizza will get anybody to show up to your event.
  • Pizza has the emotional depth to explain how you can feel at work.
Don't believe that last one? Here are 16 times work can make you feel like pizza:

1. When you're still waiting for a meeting room to empty out so your group can get in…five minutes after you were scheduled to start:

2. When nobody can decide where the group should get lunch, and you're just like:

3. When you've already got too much work on your plate:

4. When a meeting is dragging onto its third hour and you were only asked to "sit in":

5. When you're checking your email on Monday morning:

6. When you're trying to keep your presentation interesting:

7. When you decide you're leaving work half an hour early:

8. When you ask for a raise and your boss says yes:

9. When you ask for a raise and your boss says no:

10. When your department gets a budget increase and you're all like:

11. When you get Wifi in the entire building:

12. When you and the group were on different pages for the project's goals:

13. When work pays for your entire business trip:

14. When nobody appreciates the extra work you did:

15. When you make a bad career exit:

16. When you work your way up to a career goal

The Surprising Danger of Becoming an Expert in Your Field

Self-proclaimed experts could be more susceptible to the "illusion of knowledge."

This phenomenon, called "overclaiming," could easily undermine you and work, making you look like an arrogant idiot or leading you to offer bad advice to others seeking your expertise.

The study, led by Stav Atir, a graduate student at Cornell University, tested this phenomenon among self-proclaimed experts in fields like personal finance, biology, and literature.

In one experiment, 100 participants were asked to rate their general knowledge of personal finance as well as their knowledge of 15 financial terms. Most of the terms on the list were real (e.g., "Roth IRA" and "inflation"), but participants also saw three made-up terms ("pre-rated stocks," "fixed-rate deduction," and "annualized credit").

As it turns out, those who said they knew a lot about finance were most likely to claim familiarity with the made-up terms.

In another experiment, participants were warned that some of the terms on the list would be made up. Still, those who claimed to be experts in specific fields were more likely to say they knew the made-up terms. For example, self-perceived experts in biology said they knew fake terms like "meta-toxins" and "bio-sexual."

To ensure that people's self-perceived expertise was the reason why they overestimated their knowledge, the researchers made some participants feel like geography whizzes and then tested their knowledge on the topic. Some people took an easy quiz on US cities; others took a difficult quiz; and some people didn't take any quiz.

As predicted, participants who completed the easy quiz (presumably feeling like geography experts) were more likely to say they knew made-up cities like Monroe, Montana, and Cashmere, Oregon.

"Our work suggests that the seemingly straightforward task of judging one's knowledge may not be so simple," the authors write.

The authors also highlight the potential adverse effects of thinking you know more than you do. "Self-perceived experts may give bad counsel when they should give none," they write. For example, a self-perceived financial expert may give inappropriate advice to a friend making an important money decision — instead of taking the time to really learn about the topic.

9 Appearance Mistakes That Could Be Holding You Back at Work

A fashion faux-pas could mean risking a promotion.

A recent survey from CareerBuilder shows that hiring managers seriously consider a professional's appearance when deciding whether to promote them to a higher position.

In a perfect world, we would only be judged by the work we do — but that's not the case. Especially in the corporate world, appearances matter...a lot.

More than 2,000 human resource managers across the US participated in the survey and cited these nine (superficial) factors as things that would dissuade them from promoting an employee:
  • 44% were less likely to promote an employee who wore provocative clothing to work.
  • 43% were less likely to promote an employee who wore wrinkled clothes.
  • 32% were less likely to promote an employee with piercings other than traditional ear piercings.
  • 27% were less likely to promote an employee who frequently wore clothing that was too casual for the workplace.
  • 27% were less likely to promote an employee with visible tattoos.
  • 25% were less likely to promote an employee with an unprofessional hairstyle.
  • 24% were less likely to promote an employee with constant bad breath.
  • 21% were less likely to promote an employee who wore too much perfume or cologne.
  • 15% were less likely to promote an employee who wore too much makeup.

The 3 Biggest Unconscious Biases in Hiring Decisions May Surprise You

Could a hiring manager's favorite sports team influence whether you get the job?

1. We gravitate toward people who are similar to us.
According to the similarity-attraction hypothesis, we tend to like people who are similar to us — whether that means they come from the same state or sport the same haircut.

One way to explain that phenomenon, Pillutla said, is that people with a decent level of self-esteem are satisfied with their personalities. So when they see their qualities reflected in someone else, they tend to like that person, too.

Another potential explanation, which is slightly harder to test, is that people have evolved to like people who look and act the way they do. At one point in human history, it was important to trust only people in your small social group. Even though that behavior is no longer necessary today, we can still act as though it is.

The problem, Pillutla said, is that "if I keep hiring people like myself, very soon I'll have an organization of people who think similarly, who act similarly." Yet research suggests that diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is important to a company's success.

2. We base our decisions on stereotypes about people's competencies.
One common example of stereotyping, Pillutla said, is that Americans tend to assume Indians who come to the US are skilled at math. So American hiring managers might be inclined to select an Indian candidate for a math-heavy position because they think he or she will excel in that role — even though it's possible another candidate could be more skilled in that area.

But while it's possible to unlearn ethnic biases, "stereotypes about gender tend to be a little deeper" and harder to reverse, Pillutla said.

For example, one recent study found that people were more likely to hire a male candidate over a female candidate to perform a mathematical task, even when they learned that the candidates would perform equally well.

3. We're wary of anyone who we perceive as a threat to our status in the organization.
Pillutla and his colleagues recently published some of the first research on this topic.

In an organization with a highly competitive culture, managers might be disinclined to bring on someone more competent than they are, especially if they feel insecure in their role.

"Even if people are well-meaning and well-intentioned, it's very difficult to act against your own self interest" by hiring someone who could outperform you, Pillutla said.

In terms of countering these three biases, Pillutla pointed to recent changes in the way musicians audition for spots in an orchestra. Now, many orchestras hold "blind auditions," in which the musicians play behind a screen, so they don't know what the candidates look like. As a result, they've accepted more women.

In fact, some companies in other fields have already adopted similar hiring strategies.

Alternatively, Pillutla said, "It's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility that for a lot of jobs we don't even need to interview people." Instead, employers could have candidates come in and work for a day, so that they could see how those candidates would really perform. This is potentially a more objective strategy that could make it harder to let our biases influence our decisions.

6 Sample Questions Employers Ask to Assess Your Personality

"Y/N: I have never told a lie in my life."

1. Y/N: I like everyone I meet.

"This question evaluates someone's empathy and sensitivity. People who answer 'yes' tend to be more prosocial and considerate toward others," Chamorro-Premuzic said.

"This would be important in jobs that require working with people and caring about them, like customer service and NGOs. However, sometimes this question can be a trick question designed to pick up lying or faking good: If you think about it, it is impossible for someone to like everyone they meet."

2. Y/N: High taxes make people lazy.

"If you say 'no' you are more altruistic and other-oriented (empathetic)," he said.

"However, the question can also be used to evaluate political orientation (if you say 'yes' you are more right-wing and libertarian), as well as individualism (if you say 'yes' you are more individualistic)."

3. Y/N: I'd rather do things quickly than perfectly.

"This question can be used to evaluate someone's perfectionism level, and how proactive they are," Chamorro-Premuzic said. "When people say 'yes' they are typically proactive and doers rather than thinkers. They move fast and want to get on with things to jump on to the next thing. When people say 'no' they are perfectionistic, conscientious, rigorous, and prefer quality to quantity."

"Jobs that require perfectionism include R&D, innovation, and artistic/design jobs. Jobs that require proactivity include entrepreneurial jobs, sales, and any job requiring networking."

Fingers crossedCarmella Fernando/FlickrHave you ever told a lie?

4. Y/N: I have never told a lie in my life.

"This question can be used to assess integrity and honesty," he said. "This matters in all jobs but especially when people are trusted with a position of responsibility or power. Integrity is the No. 1 thing people want in their leaders."

"This question can be scored in two ways: first, by taking people's answers at face value (if they say 'yes' we assume they are more honest or have integrity); second, by looking at how people with low integrity typically answer."

"Our research shows that, in high-stake settings (when people are evaluated for a job they care about), low integrity people tend to say 'yes,' which means that saying 'no' would actually equate to being more trustworthy!"

5. Y/N: My parents never really loved me.

"This question is hard to interpret, but it tends to evaluate people's EQ (emotional intelligence). When people say 'yes' they are more likely to be neurotic, and therefore have lower EQ (EQ measures your ability to stay positive, optimistic, calm under pressure, and see things in a positive vein)," Chamorro-Premuzic said.

"When people say 'no' they are typically more calm and balanced, have a positive self-view, and are more highly adjusted. Although we think EQ is always beneficial, it really matters mostly in jobs requiring composure and nurturing positive relations with others."

6. Y/N: I am destined to be famous.

"This question measures how ambitious someone is," he said. "People who say 'yes' are more driven and have higher expectations of success. This may indicate that they are more willing to work harder. However, research also shows that people who say 'yes' are typically more narcissistic and entitled."

7 Ways to Deal With Today's Long Job Hiring Process

The wait can be excruciating, so here's how to cope

According to Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain, there are several reasons why the interview process is taking longer these days.

"Overall, the interview process has become longer largely due to the fact that more employers are requiring more comprehensive interview processes," Chamberlain told me via email. "For job candidates, that basically means more hoops and hurdles they may have to jump through."

Screening methods such as group presentations, IQ tests, personality tests and drug tests have gained in popularity, each lengthening the hiring timeline.

Chamberlain also noted that there's been a marked change in the composition of the workplace in recent years, with a shift away from low-skilled, routine jobs and towards higher-skilled positions requiring more sophisticated skills. Hiring specialized and technical workers requires a more careful — that is, longer — vetting process.

Of course, hiring timelines vary according to job type and industry. Glassdoor says hiring decisions for entry-level jobs like retail sales clerks take less than a week, while the process for senior-level execs typically drags on for two months or more. If you're a law enforcement candidate, you'd better have a holster full of patience: the average hiring time for police officers clocks in at a painfully slow 128 days.

Glassdoor says neither age, gender or education affect hiring time, though.

7 Tips for Job Seekers

Its report leaves little doubt that you should expect your job search to last awhile. Given that reality, here are seven ways to better manage the wait and, with any luck, cut the time it takes for you to get hired:

1. Do your homework about the employer's hiring process. Learn what you can before you apply. This will help you tamp down expectations.

Many companies now post information about their particular hiring process on the career page of their websites; some even offer online chats for prospective applicants.

You can also research the interview process by reading employer reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com or Indeed.com as well as by speaking with friends who work at your target employers.

2. Ask about "next steps" at the end of each interview. Find out if more interviews will be needed — and if so, roughly how many, how soon they'll occur and how they'll be done (group, individual, phone, etc.). Ask the employer if you'll need to provide any additional information such as references. Or, if appropriate, whether you'll need to schedule drug testing. The more proactive you are about handling needed tasks early on, the less chance of delays happening on the back end.

3. Do what you can to nudge the process along. While you can't do much to control the employer's internal decision-making process, there are a few ways to bolster your standing and help speed up a potential offer.

For one, send a compelling thank-you note that clearly explains why you're the best person for the job. It's not only the polite thing to do; the note will provide a reminder that you're a savvy candidate who might get snatched up by a competitor if the employer doesn't act quickly.

If you know someone who works for the employer, ask him or her to put in a good word for you. As I've written before, a strong internal reference is one of the most effective ways to best the competition.

Of course, it's wise not to appear too eager. There's a fine line between good follow-up and looking desperate. So demonstrate your interest by touching base at the agreed upon checkpoints, but resist the temptation to check in every time you get anxious.

4. Don't read too much into employer promises. Even if you're told "We'll definitely have a decision by next week" or "You're one of our top two candidates," take such comments with a grain of salt.

Employers' plans change. A hundred things that have nothing to do with you can delay the decision: The hiring manager goes on vacation; an internal project suddenly requires attention; the company becomes the target of a takeover.

It's fine to take a moment to relish any encouraging comments, but then plow full steam ahead with the job search.

5. Adjust your expectations (and advise your significant others to do the same). Reset your mental time clock and plan on the process lasting two or three times longer than the employer indicates. If it finishes sooner, great. But in the meantime, you'll have an easier time managing your anxiety during the wait.

6. Keep your job application pipeline full. When you only have one prospect, you'll obsess over it day and night. The best way to keep your sanity during a long interview wait is by generating a steady flow of new opportunities.

Even if your dream job seems within reach, keep searching, keep networking and keep applying. That way, you'll feel like you're making progress and you may uncover other interesting job openings in the process.

7. Snag a competitive offer. Nothing speeds up the hiring process faster than letting employers know you have another job offer. Just like dating, you'll appear way more attractive to potential suitors once they know others are seriously interested.

Of course, there are risks involved with this strategy, so use it wisely. Once you tell an employer there's a competing offer, you start the clock ticking. That's why this approach can backfire if the employer's lengthy interview timeline can't be easily shortened. Also, some employers might resent being pressured into making a decision before they're ready.

12 books to inspire you and your career this summer

Your recommended reading for the summer of 2015--no book reports necessary.
Even if you're only taking a staycation this year, look at this summer a chance to relax, recuperate and renew. Healthier habits and fresh foods come naturally during this sunny season, and taking advantage of the longer hours of daylight can mean breathing new life into your year.
And to add to the motivation, here are 12 books to inspire you and your career this summer, ranging from business tycoon biographies to economy think-pieces to social security insights, with some more lighthearted selections as well.

If you're looking for a summer read to brighten your career's horizon, here are 12 books to check out now.

The Road to Character
by David Brooks (Random House)
The Times columnist extols personal virtues like kindness and honesty in a materialistic age.
The Power of Habit
by Charles Duhigg (Random House)
A Times reporter's account of the science behind how we form, and break, habits.
How Not to Be Wrong
by Jordan Ellenberg (Penguin Press)
A mathematician shows how his discipline helps us think about problems of politics, medicine and commerce.
by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter (Crown Business)
How to resist the tug of habit and embrace change.
A Curious Mind
by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman (Simon & Schuster)
The Oscar-winning producer describes the importance of curiosity in his life, and how others can harness its power.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The winner of the Nobel in economic science discusses how we make choices in business and personal life.
The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo (Ten Speed)
A guide to decluttering by discarding your expendable objects all at once and taking charge of your space.
Get What's Yours
by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller and Paul Solman (Simon & Schuster)
A guide to deciding when to claim Social Security benefits and to getting all you're eligible for when you do.
Team of Teams
by Stanley McChrystal with Tantum Collins, David Silverman and Chris Fussell (Portfolio/Penguin)
Applying a small-team approach to armed conflict to non-combat scenarios.
Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen
by Mary Norris (Norton)
A memoir of a career in the New Yorker's storied copy department, along with grammar advice.
How Children Succeed
by Paul Tough (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The author argues that the qualities that matter most have to do with character, not intelligence.
Elon Musk
by Ashlee Vance (Ecco/HarperCollins)
A technology writer follows Musk's life from his difficult South African childhood to his involvement in Internet start-ups like the rocket company SpaceX, the electric-car company Tesla and the solar power installation company Solar City.

What other career-related books would you recommend checking out this summer? 

22 Entrepreneurs Share the Advice That Made Them Successful

Mark Cuban: "Do the work. There are no shortcuts."

Over 55 and Overqualified: Advice for Older Job Hunters

How to deflect that codeword for "old" and get hired

Patricia had been a paralegal for 20 years in the New York City area and worked as an insurance claims rep on Long Island. Her last full-time job was a legal secretary in New York. She lost that job in 2008 during the recession. To help her find work, New York State sent her to school to earn two certificates: one as certified biller/coder and the other in medical business administration.

In 2010, she moved to Florida to lower her living costs and has been unsuccessful finding work, forcing her to deplete her retirement savings and file for Social Security just to pay the bills. The New York State certificates didn't pay off because certificates tend to be very state specific. Time and again, prospective employers said Patricia was too qualified for their open positions.

"How many times do you need to be told they don't want you anymore," she told me. "It's an awful way to live."

Losing a job is always a blow, but for those 55 and over it's doubly hard.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the incidence of long-term unemployment — defined as being out of work 27 weeks or more — rises with age. In 2014, just 22 percent of the unemployed under 25 were jobless 27 weeks or longer, but 45 percent of the 55-and-older unemployed were.

A Code Word for 'Too Old?'
The past year, I've traveled around the country giving talks about my book Unretirement. I met many unemployed people like Patricia, wondering if they truly were overqualified or if that was just employer code for "too old."

Says Tim Driver, founder and CEO of Retirementjobs.com, which matches older job seekers with employers: "There's a nastiness when someone is called 'overqualified.' Sometimes, it's an excuse for age bias."

To be sure, the economic expansion, now in its 72nd month, is bringing down the jobless numbers. The ranks of long-term unemployed reached a record high of 6.7 million (45 percent of the unemployed) in the second quarter of 2010 but that number has shrunk to 2.1 million (25.8 percent of the unemployed), a still dismayingly high figure in historic terms. And that percentage doesn't include laid-off boomers who gave up looking for work.

Still, there are no easy answers or simple remedies for people like Patricia. As former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers put it: "The best social policy is a high-pressure economy in which firms are chasing workers rather than workers chasing jobs."

Job Hunting Advice for the 'Overqualified'
In the meantime, what can the so-called "overqualified" unemployed do to land a job?

If a hiring manager says you're overqualified, after smothering the urge to strangle him or her, recognize that what you may be hearing is worry that you'll be bored, dissatisfied and jump to a better job as soon as one comes along.

So, reassure the potential employer by emphasizing that at this stage of your life you're striving for a better work-life balance, not necessarily the next rung on a career ladder.

Also, build your resumé around the skills you have that fit the particular job. And during your interview, show enthusiasm for the position.

"You're cherry picking your skills at this stage of your life. It's a natural thing," says Rick Matson, a semi-retired career/job search consultant, much of his business with the medical device behemoth Medtronic. "Just make sure you don't leave the impression that you don't want to work hard."

In its recent report The Long Road Back: Struggling to Find Work after Unemployment, AARP found that those who got rehired often contacted potential employers directly, took the initiative to follow up and networked feverishly.

These days, boomers don't have to rely solely on their own contacts to find job leads. Organizations are springing up all over the country offering networking opportunities, such as Encore Tampa Bay in Tampa, Fla. Many churches and temples are also active in organizing job networks for their community.

A note of caution: Not all networking groups are alike. Seek out a group that's practical in orientation and optimistic in spirit, says Mary White, who counsels laid-off workers in St. Paul, Minn. "Some network groups just get together and whine. Others, you'll report what you did this week to find a job and what you're going to do next week," White notes. "You have to be accountable."

A stint volunteering might turn into a job offer. Volunteering can also be an engaging activity during the tough times of looking for work. "Anything that gets you out of the house and away from the computer is good," says White. "If it stimulates your heart and your mind, do it."

What about turning temping into something close to a full-time job? This choice isn't for everyone, but permanent tempers often enjoy project-based tasks, meeting new people and dealing with different employers. There are all kinds of temp agencies, ranging from clerical technical jobs to white-collar work. "Temping your way through retirement is a valid idea," says Driver.

Finally, take a hard look at your skill set and get creative thinking about fields that could use those talents. For example, since Patricia has a background as a paralegal, she's comfortable dealing with regulations and paperwork. Matson muses that she could consider becoming a medical Sherpa or patient advocate, the growing profession of helping people negotiate the health insurance and hospital bureaucracies.

A Job Is More Than a Job
Keep in mind that work is more than the welcome rewards of a decent paycheck combined with tough hours on the job. Workplaces are also communities.

The late Studs Terkel, in his classic oral history of working life (Working) wonderfully captured this. He described the hardships, humiliations, disappointments and setbacks many people suffer in their daily labors but also stressed the dignity and pride in work, the reach for worth and purpose.

"It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor," he wrote. That search informs today's Unretirement movement to rethink and reimagine the possibilities in the second half of life.

5 Things To Do With Your Money When You Change Jobs

It's not as simple as just depositing your new paycheck

1. Make sure you understand your new compensation package.
Job seekers tend to focus just on salary, says Cameron Laker, CEO and cofounder of human resources and recruitment firm Mindfield. But before you start your new job, you should sit down and review all the ways in which your finances will be changing.

"It could be something as simple as traveling further to work. What will the gas costs add up to?" he says.

Similarly, your new insurance may come up with a higher deductible. Or perhaps your old company was paying for your cell phone, but your new employer won't.

All of these factors can potentially cancel out a new, higher salary, so it's important to know where you stand so that you have a realistic picture of what you can spend.

2. Adjust your budget.
If you're taking a lower-paying job to join an exciting new startup or follow your passion, you'll need to carefully consider how you're going to scale back. If you're going to be making more money, you'll have to plan ahead in order to avoid lifestyle creep.

"Most people just let their spending increase with their income, when they should be saving more," says Robert D. Oliver, a certified financial planner. He recommends setting automated transfers to savings or investment accounts, or towards paying off debt.

3. Decide what to do with your former workplace's 401(k).
If your former employer offered a 401(k) plan to save for retirement, you'll have several options: keeping it as-is, rolling it over (industry jargon for moving it) into your new 401(k), or rolling it into an IRA.

Oliver doesn't recommend the first option. "I'm a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible. If you have multiple funds lingering, it just makes financial management more complicated." But he acknowledges that if you have an excellent plan with good low-cost investments, like the Thrift Savings Plan for government employees, it may make sense to hold on to it.

For most people, he says, rolling over retirement accounts into an IRA is "the path of least resistance." Usually, it will offer lower-cost investments than their new 401(k). However, he points out that it's possible to take out a loan from a 401(k), but not from an IRA. While he doesn't recommend taking out a loan from your retirement savings, this is the type of detail that you'll want to be aware of when making the switch.

4. Change over your insurance.
In many cases, you won't be able to start using your new health insurance plan until you've worked at the company for thirty days. During the transition period, you'll want to enroll in COBRA to keep your old coverage going, Oliver says. That can be expensive, since you'll be taking over the costs that were once covered by your employer, but it's still worth the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you're prepared in case of emergency.

Once you've given your notice, your company has 14 days to give you the option to receive COBRA coverage. If you say yes, your coverage will begin on the day after your benefits would normally end.

Likewise, in order to make sure that your family will also be covered in case something terrible happens, Oliver also recommends finding out if your new job offers life or disability insurance. If not, you may be able to convert your former employer's group policy into an individual one.

5. Understand how vesting works.
Does your new employer offer vesting that will allow you to earn equity over time? If so, you'll want to figure out exactly how that works. Generally, companies will grant you options from the start, but they only become yours as they vest over time. Likewise, you may be given stock, but the company will retain the right to repurchase it if you leave, unless it has fully vested.

9 Free Online Resources That Will Help You Advance Your Career

Find employer reviews on Glassdoor, or learn a new language with Duolingo

Glassdoor provides employee reviews of companies of all sizes with insight into what it's like to work there, as well as compensation data. You can use the info to prepare for job interviews or to negotiate your salary.

Discover job opportunities >>

Khan Academy
A Khan Academy account will get you access to hundreds of video lectures and exercises on a wide variety of topics, many of them narrated by the site's founder and executive director Sal Khan.

The site is especially useful if you want to learn specific topics rather than an entire subject, like how the stock market works and how to build a balance sheet.

Gain some practical knowledge >>

Coursera and edX
Coursera and edX may be competitors, but they're both worth checking out for their selection of in-depth courses from top universities like Stanford and UPenn.

Many courses are also highly practical rather than theoretical, like "Successful Negotiation" from the University of Michigan on Coursera or "Communicating Strategically" from Purdue on edX.

Explore Coursera >>
Explore edX >>

Taking an introductory class in coding isn't going to get you a top engineering job at Google, but it could help you understand the mechanics of what you're working with every day, demystifying how software and websites function.

It's a great way to learn languages like HTML and CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, PHP, Python, and Ruby. Whether you want to become fluent in HTML to better maneuver your company's content management system or take skill-based classes like how to build an interactive website, Codeacademy will help you get there.

Learn how to code >>

Working for your paycheck is one thing, but if you want to learn how to make your paycheck work for you, LearnVest is a great resource. While you can purchase financial advisory services, its free in-depth articles will answer most of your general personal finance questions.

If you never learned how to budget or want to develop a retirement plan, LearnVest has you covered.

Develop healthy financial habits >>

Investopedia can be your go-to resource for learning about the world of finance. If you'd like to start taking advantage of compound interest or compound growth but can't tell a mutual fund from a hedge fund, you can explore Investopedia's many guides, instructional videos, and encyclopedia entries.

Grow your financial vocabulary >>

Y Combinator Startup Library
If you're considering leaving your job to start your own business or are just wondering what it would be like to have a fun side project, Y Combinator's Startup Library is a good place to get an idea of what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Y Combinator is a seed fund that puts promising entrepreneurs through a rigorous bootcamp-like period that ends with a pitch to investors for serious amounts of capital. Its website's free library features insightful blog posts from YC cofounder Paul Graham on creating and developing companies, as well as links to external sources, like a guide to writing the perfect business plan from renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.

Pursue your entrepreneurial drive >>

Maybe your company opened a new office in Germany that could provide an exciting career opportunity you've been waiting for, but you don't know a word of German. Before pursuing an advanced course, you can learn the basics for free from Duolingo.

A 2012 independent study conducted by Roumen Vesselinov of the City University of New York and John Grego of the University of South Carolina found that 34 hours spent with Duolingo are equivalent to an 11-week semester of a language course.

Here's When Crying Can Actually Help You Win a Negotiation

Study: expressing sadness can increase your ability to "claim value"

1. If the crier is perceived as being in a lower-power position
Whether you're in tears in front of your supervisor or the company's CEO, your chances of leaving a negotiation happy are increased if you're viewed as a lower power.

"A person who perceives you as having lower power and feels concern for you may help you or make more concessions, leading you to gain relatively more," said Shirli Kopelman, one of the researchers and a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

2. If the recipient expects a future interaction
Crying during a bombed job interview may provide no benefits for you because the interviewer may never see you again.

But if you're negotiating for a raise or extra time off with your current employer, they may be more sympathetic and concede to your request because you will most certainly be in contact again.

3. If the relationship is collaborative
There's a good chance a coworker would show you sympathy simply because they see you on a daily basis. (However, it is also safe to assume they would become very fed up with you if the sobbing became a common occurrence.)

15 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Accept a Job in a New City

If your gut tells you "no," don't do it.

1. Have I done my homework on the new city, the new job, and the new company?

"Research, research, research," says Taylor. "It's one thing to do your homework on your next employer, but when your prospective new job requires you to uproot your life, it's time to do some serious sleuthing. The more you know about the job, company, and the new city, the more educated your decision — and the less stressful the choice will be."

2. Have I created a budget?

Create a budget, including cost of living. "Make sure that you remain financially responsible," she suggests. "Review the cost of living in the proposed city, your salary, and other income, as well as home, car, and other expenses, before agreeing to any offer."

There are several cost of living calculators online, such as those on Salary.com or Payscale.com.

3. Have I weighed the pros and cons?

As with any tough decision, it helps to make a pros and cons list. "Commit to writing all the positives of the relocation and the negatives that relate to each," Taylor says. "For example, Pro: I will get to explore a great big city. Con: I will miss my hometown friends. The bottom line is: What am I gaining and what am I forfeiting?"

4. Do I know everything I need to know about the job?

Ask informed questions — those that show you've done preliminary research. "Be sure that you completely understand the job description; meet your prospective boss and several coworkers at least twice at their offices; tour the new workplace; and get a sense of the work environment and culture."

5. Will I like my new boss?

Of course there's no way to answer this with complete certainty before you start working for them — but think about whether it would be a good fit. "Be sure to spend as much time with your new boss as you need," says Taylor.

"This person will have the most influence on your job satisfaction — more than any other single factor. Is your new manager someone you can learn from? Is your long-term career of genuine interest to your boss? Is there chemistry? Are there signs that raise concerns?"

6. Does the position offer growth?

Try to ascertain whether the position offers sufficient upward mobility, not just from where your career is now, but once you're on board.

"This is your opportunity to inquire about your career path," she says. "You can also ask about how others have taken on greater responsibility over time in the department. Just be sure not to sound overly aggressive and to frame it as a desire to grow and learn."

7. Is the salary desirable, and is it adjusted to the cost of living in this new place?

Make sure that the salary you're offered is competitive and worth the big move.

"A general rule of thumb is that you should earn 10% to 20% more than your current salary when changing jobs in the same city," she explains. "But when you're relocating, you can generally be a little more aggressive, depending on your industry, current salary and background — unless the cost of living is significantly lower in the new city."

Do your research online and find out what the salaries are for your specialty in the new city. Remember to take into consideration other factors, such as benefits, incentives, and advancement opportunities, says Taylor.

8. Am I familiar with the company's track record and understand its growth outlook?

This is not just about your job, or even a department. It's also about the company you're joining. (You wouldn't want to uproot your whole live for a company that has a grim-looking future.)

"Make sure you have clarity on their past growth and future prospects," Taylor suggests. "If they're not public, you may have to do more due diligence and ask more questions, without coming across as intrusive."

Ideally, you want to contribute to a growing team, company, and industry when making this level of commitment, so better to know all you can upfront.

9. Have I used social media to dig deeper?

Through LinkedIn, chat boards, various websites (like Glassdoor), and blogs, you can find out a lot about companies from current and former employees.

"Retention or turnover levels are a good topic to ask about when considering a relocation," says Taylor. "A company with a revolving door reputation would suggest a large, billowing red flag."

10. Does the new metro have a strong employment market?

"You should be relatively assured that you'd be marketable in that city and happy to stay there should things fall apart," she says. "Is your job general enough and in sufficient demand in the new city? What is the employment rate there? Who makes up the employment base? Could you pursue interim or project work between jobs?"

11. Have I discussed and negotiated moving allowances?

"Understand and be able to negotiate allowances, ranging from the move itself, to arrangements for the sale of your home if you don't sell in a certain period (if applicable), what they will pay for, whether there is a contract or severance package and so on," recommends Taylor. "Policies will vary from one company to another, so tread lightly and diplomatically."

12. Do I know anyone in this new city? Am I willing to leave certain people behind?

There is much more to a job relocation than a job.

Consider the personal side of this move, she says. "Are there family members, relatives, or friends in the new city? Some that you hate to leave behind? It's helpful for some to have a friend in the new town who can make them feel welcome and supported," she adds.

Some people make friends easily and find that to be a rewarding new challenge. "Just be true to yourself and have realistic expectations."

13. Have I talked to my family about what they want?

You may well have to take into consideration the opinion of others before getting too amped about the relocation.

"Check in with all those affected — like your partner, kids, parents, siblings, or anyone who you feel might be impacted," says Taylor.

"On the flip side, the new job could take you closer to family members or friends. Having open and honest communications with all those involved will be critical."

14. Have I spent enough time in this new city or town, and is this community the right place for my family and me?

"There's nothing like being there," she explains.

Think about what's most important to you and your family, and find out whether the new location offers these things.

Spend time looking at housing, local schools, traffic patterns at various times of the day, and places where you would pursue activities outside work. Check out the local attractions, parks, beaches, shopping, restaurants, clubs, and cultural or religious organizations.

"Also ask about the climate year-round and talk to as many people as you can," says Taylor. "And if you can, try to attend a professional business or industry meeting during your travels to get a sense of the 'professional climate,' as well."

15. What is my gut telling me?

Most often, your gut instincts are accurate. The problem is that people don't always follow them.

The Best and Worst States for Making a Living in 2015

Low cost of living and no state income tax put Texas in the top spot

What 17 Successful People Read Before Bed

How Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and others unwind after a long day

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