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1. Replace Reddit completely with TED, OpenCourseWare, or an educational podcast.
I’ve been a Redditor for three years, and, while the information gained through the site has been somewhat useful, I’ve lost, literally hundreds of hours in the process. TED talks and online lectures not only provide more structured, higher-quality information, but their discretized nature let’s you stop more easily. (“I’m going to watch this one talk an then go to sleep” vs. “I’m going to Reddit for a bit… oh crap it’s 2am”) In addition, podcasts are great because you can listen to them while doing the dishes, driving, or really anything more useful than staring at pictures of cats

2. Limit Drinks to 3/day or fewer, no more than 10/week
I don’t recall a single morning after a party where I’ve woken up and said “I wish I had been drunker last night.” Although the US is less than understanding about the need for women to have more than one drink a day (According to Wikipedia), other countries take a slightly more lenient view. The UK, for instance, declares that up to 2-3 drinks/day, and 14 drink/week maximum is perfectly healthy.
Interestingly enough, a study that recently made the news rounds shows that moderate drinkers have a longer life span, and those who abstain from alcohol tend to die youngest.
No more than 3/day and no more than 10/week seems like a great rule of thumb, while not impacting my social life or enjoyment of great beer.

3. Make friends and influence people
A lifelong problem of mine has been to understand and empathize with people who screw something up to my detriment. This isn’t so great on teams — if someone forgets to complete an assignment, or misunderstands the problem, one of the worst things you can do get upset and alienate the person.
But many great leaders, business people, and other successful individuals have been able to empathize with, help, and leverage people who had faulted them in the past.

Although it seems like common sense to work on this, I’ve found that, in engineering especially, it seems like a point of pride to be horrible at these types of skills. Stories like “I was right the whole time, and showed that guy up in the meeting – boy was his face red!” are far more prevalent than “Although my way would have been better, I conceded the point, although I think the manager is really interested in exploring other possibilities after this project’s over.”

This is going to be more difficult to quantify than the other two goals, although there are a great number of books on the subject (besides the obvious one). Reading a few books over the course of the year, and working to integrate them into daily practice would be an excellent start.

Job Interview

Prospective employees should be excited about the job and the company before they even reach the interview.

In job searches, the burden of excellence is generally placed on the prospective employee. Countless articles have been written about acing the interview, writing a perfect resume, and cleaning up your online presence, but what about the recruiters, hiring managers, and business owners that want to hire candidates that are more sought-after than the position they have to offer?

Often, hirers function in a vacuum of feedback. Those looking for jobs often tread cautiously, and, once they have the job, there’s little point in giving a review to the hiring manager or recruiter who handled them.

 

Social media is a two-way street

You know how easy it is to post job information through a variety of different channels in order to reach the maximum number of potential candidates. Employees are doing exactly the same thing. A Monster.com resume often accompanies a personal website, LinkedIn profile with professional summary, Facebook profile photos (surprisingly useful — I’ve occasionally received calls from recruiters who are surprised I’m female!) The initial contact is like a cover letter to a prospective employee — you need to show knowledge and understanding of their needs, just like you’d expect them to research your company beforehand. You may find out that they’re not the right fit for your position, but you’ve saved yourself from ruining a valuable potential contact in the future. This leads me to my second point…

“Qualified and Looking” doesn’t mean they want the job

They have three years of Ruby on Rails experience, and are publicly advertising for employment — perfect fit for your 6 month contract for a rails developer, right? If you’ve researched them a little, you might find out that their LinkedIn profile, as well as their personal website states that they’re looking for front end web development, particularly with jQuery.

I received an email from a recruiter about six months ago, that stated upfront that she had read my website and LinkedIn profile, mentioned a few details about what I was looking for (not what she was looking for) and expressed disappointment that I was happy with my full time job, and that she didn’t have any part-time consulting projects to offer, that I could do on the side. She did think my background was great, however, and wanted to connect on LinkedIn, stay in touch, and asked that I pass around the position she was looking to fill if I had any friends who might be interested.

This is classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” stuff — flattery, interest, and a real or perceived desire to fill the other person’s needs will get you everywhere. In a few months, when I came back on the job market, this recruiter was one of the first people I contacted, to let her know that I was looking.

Be upfront with job information

On several occasions, I’ve been asked to pass on vague opportunities with even vaguer job titles and little or no descriptions from “well-known” (but unnamed) Boston-area companies. For whatever reason, I didn’t immediately leap to my feet, saying: “Great scott! I’ve got to tell all my friends about this Rails developer position!” Not being upfront about the details (exact job functions/description, employer, hours, salary range, etc.) will eventually waste the prospective employee’s time, your time, and cost you valuable potential leads.

Be Honest About Your Requirements

It’s pretty common to see very low-level web development jobs “requiring” 5+ years of work history with multiple programming languages, on top of a degree in computer science, or some similar experience. I used to think that these sorts of positions were some sort of weird anomaly, or a case of HR not quite knowing what they wanted. However, after I started getting contacted for positions like these, I realized what it really was — a game between HR and the applicants, where applicants would often try to pad their accomplishments to skirt under the experience bar, while HR raised the job requirements level to compensate.

The problem is, that this tends to eliminate a lot of very good, honest, applicants from the pool, while only the over-qualified and severe resume-padders remain. The experience level can easily be re-iterated in the job description (“3+ years of web development experience — and we’re serious about this one!”) and it only takes a quick glance at a resume to weed out the relatively inexperienced.