My 10 Favorite Games of 2016

Porsche

What a year! 2016 marks another incredible year in videogames. While I didn’t play Dishonored 2, Overwatch, Final Fantasy XV and Battlefield 1. I did play enough amazing videogames to make a top 10 list. As always, to make my top 10 I had to finish and complete each game before 2017. So without further ado here are my top games of 2016.

10. Chase: Cold Case Investigations- Distant Memories (3DS)
A short episodic downloadable eshop game running around 90 minutes. While brief it was great to return to the character Kyle Hyde. Who stars in the excellent Hotel Dusk: Room 215 and Last Window: Secret of Cape West on Nintendo DS. Be sure to check them out if you like visual novels. They’re among the best. While a little bit of the Hotel Dusk magic doesn’t transition to 3DS. Such as the novelty of holding it like a book and the cool pencil shading A-ha style cutscenes. The new color graphics on 3DS look great and the game now resembles a Telltale game. While the gameplay is light. I like the question interrogation playstyle. At only about 90 minutes it’s pretty short which explains its $5.00 price tag. Yet, I’m rooting for its success so I can enjoy a few more episodes of one of my favorite detectives.

9. Star Fox Zero (Wii U)
Not as terrible as you heard, but not great either. Videogame critics are right that Starfox Zero controls suck. But they’re not insurmountable. In fact, I got the hang out of switching between the Wii U screen and TV screen after a few missions. Starfox Zero is the best Starfox since Starfox 64. Because it’s a reimagining of that game a la Goldeneye(Wii) and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories(Wii). There are some surprises too like the Walker which is pretty fun. And the Landmaster having full on air capabilities this time around is pretty cool. I also like the increased focus on boss battles, which were very intense, even though a few dragged on a bit.

Where it falters for me is the lack of strong replay value. I played the shit out of Star Fox 64 back in 1997. And despite its short length, I got three playthroughs out of it. I explored every planet, got the second ending, and then got all the gold medals to unlock expert mode. Star Fox Zero does have unlockable missions and branching paths. But, most of them are battles with Star Wolf or short missions that don’t feel very epic. I felt done with Starfox Zero after one full playthrough. Still, besides Zero not having long legs like Starfox 64 I’m glad it exists. And I hope Nintendo takes the lesson they learn from this one and give Star Fox another chance on Switch.

8. Far Cry Primal (PS4)
I loved Far Cry 4’s open world and using a bow in Tomb Raider. So the fact that Far Cry Primal takes the best bits of both games makes it one of my favorite games of the year. The prehistoric setting is refreshing with no guns seen at all. And kudos to Ubisoft for telling a convincing story with a new language. Going through the game as a stealthy archer and throwing clubs at enemies worked best for me. This made the game much more enjoyable versus going the ultra aggressive route. Which entails fighting large groups of enemies with melee attacks. And running away often to recover health.

Still, you can’t be a ghost the whole time either. For example, in boss battles, you must be offensive to win. Speaking of which those bosses battles drag on way too long. It’s one of my only complaints with the game. Other than the annoyance of animals attacking you while exploring the open world. Yet, despite its flaws, I’m not tired of the Far Cry formula and I’m excited for the eventual Far Cry 5.

7. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PS4)
Once you’ve played one Lego game you’ve pretty much played them all. Still, I appreciate Travelers Tale changing up the formula a little bit this time. For example, there is a cute Gears of War cover system. Some neat Star Fox style ariel battles and other surprises. The graphics also look great and like other Lego games, it’s always a treat to watch the cutscenes.

I haven’t had a chance to jump into all the various DLC released. But after beating the main game you’ll definitely want to go back and collect gold bricks to unlock new levels. Which explain what happen to Pao, how C-3PO got his red arm and more backstory not shown in The Force Awakens. So, if you like Lego games and Star Wars definitely check this one out because it’s one of the better ones. I can’t wait for the eventual episode 8 and 9 Lego Star Wars games.

6. Mirrors Edge Catalyst (PS4)
The original Mirrors Edge is one of my favorite first-person games. So when EA green lit a sequel I was very excited. Well, a reboot anyway. They definitely fixed the first title’s biggest weakness. The combat. Which turned the game into a first- person shooter that didn’t mesh well with the parkour gameplay. And as a result, Catalyst is a less frustrating game than its predecessor. Stylized graphic cutscenes are also removed in favor of regular in- game cutscenes. Also, the game has gone open world. What hasn’t changed is the awesome techno style music and the thrilling parkour gameplay.

No game does parkour better. And running around and jumping across buildings is an exhilarating experience. Where the game falters is the optional busy quests common in many open world games. Running around for time trials is exciting, but delivering packages not so much. Also, I didn’t dislike the storyline, but it’s nothing to write home about either. Again, these are minor issues. So if you want to play something unique and fun give Mirrors Edge Catalyst a shot.

5. Attack on Titan (PS4)
What a pleasant surprise. Attack on Titan is much better than I was expecting and it nails the look and feel of the show. After beating the game I’m still not tired of zipping around the environment like Spiderman. Missions are short and like the show, you must target the neck of the Titan to bring them down. A resource management system keeps you from feeling overpowered too. Since you must track your health fuel and blade strength to survive.

One of my favorite features of the game though is you can choose from many characters. Who each has unique strengths and weaknesses. Eren the main character, for example, can transform into a titan. Armin can issue orders to your squad to take down titans and Levi is very powerful. Where the game loses steam is after you beat the main story. To unlock the last five missions you have to play dozens of side missions. Unfortunately, they aren’t very interesting. Plus they weren’t worth the effort to get the true ending. Still, I enjoyed my time with Attack on Titan. And if you’re a fan of the anime definitely play it.

4. Quantum Break (Xbox One)
I loved Alan Wake so I couldn’t wait for Quantum Break. Remedy found a clever way to merge TV and video games together to create something wonderful. The time travel plot isn’t revolutionary, but it does lead to interesting gameplay. Like the ability to surround yourself with a bubble shield to block bullets. A time dash to sneak up on enemies, charging shots, freezing time and more clever uses. It’s definitely the best gameplay Remedy has developed. The TV portions where you watch 20 plus minute episodes between chapters aren’t bad too. The acting isn’t bad either with performances from Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from X-Men). Aidan Gillen (Littlefinger from Game of Thrones) and Lance Reddick from( The Wire).

Unfortunately, Quantum Break doesn’t deliver on its promise. Previews made it look like your choices changed the content of the TV show and gameplay. After playing it twice the TV portions were almost identical. The gameplay as well was pretty much the same. Only minimalist stuff happen. Such as side characters changing roles, different emails, and changes in the environment. I was hoping for two unique playthroughs and different TV content. And I didn’t get that with Quantum Break. But at least I got some more achievements. And the satisfaction of beating it on hard by playing it a second time, though. But, the game’s ending does tease an upcoming sequel which I hope is on the way soon.

3. Doom (PS4)
A huge breath of fresh air in the first-person shooter landscape. Doom is a fast and visceral experience that brings back the glory days of first-person shooters. What it lacks in strong narrative it makes up for in thrilling gameplay. The enemies get more aggressive the further you get and the weapons bigger and more deadly. I appreciate Doom’s emphasis on offense to gather more health too. Where staying still and hiding behind cover gets you killed. Although the game is difficult, you can adjust the difficulty at any time. Versus restarting the whole level like in other games which help reduce frustration. Bosses are creative and imaginative too and will test your trigger fingers.

Downsides? the multiplayer is forgettable. I only played a few hours of multiplayer and got tired of it pretty quick. Also, while the campaign is great, it lacks surprises in the last third. And instead of introducing more new enemies it throws more of ones you already faced. But, Doom is a great return to form. And if you like it definitely check out the fabulous Wolfenstein reboot games too.

2. Titanfall 2 (Xbox One)
It was a tough call to decide which is better Doom or Titanfall 2. But Titanfall 2 won because for me mechs are cooler than demons. The campaign is always showing you something new and motivates you to keep playing. Whether its varied levels with time traveling mechanics. Jumping between factory lines a la Prince of Persia style. Or more surprises I won’t spoil. Titanfall 2’s campaign kicks ass. The character development between Titan BT-7274 and the pilot are great. No joke, you will give a shit about your robot and miss him when you’re separated from him. Finally, like Doom Titanfall 2 has some amazing boss battles. And there are enough titan configurations to keep combat from getting stale.

While I would have liked some more sword combat there is not much else to complain here. Multiplayer is fun, but like the first game, I felt fulfilled after playing a few hours. And I didn’t feel compelled to play more. For me, the single player is the real gem. Not to fault Titanfall 2 or anything, but I’ve never been addicted to multiplayer shooters.

1. Forza Horizon 3 (Xbox One)
It’s been too long since I’ve played a good arcade racer. I miss the Burnout and Project Gotham Racing days. So Forza Horizon 3 is a welcome blast from the past. The gorgeous countryside of Australia is impressive. And it’s refreshing to see a racing game explore uncharted territory not seen in most games. Out of all the varied country landscape, the outback is my favorite. I love the freedom to chose which events I want to progress in the campaign. If I want to do races I can to that. If I want to do stunts, drifting, time trials I can do that. The car selection is great and the game has an awesome soundtrack that got me driving around just for fun.

It’s not perfect, though. I grew tired of the game after dozens of hours. And didn’t feel compelled to 100% it. Or race online very much. But, any game gets boring after you play it too much. So the fact that I got so much enjoyment out of Forza Horizon 3 is a testament to its quality.

There you have it my favorite games of 2016. Check back in 2018 for my favorite games of 2017. January 2017 is already looking pretty busy for me with Zelda, Persona 5, and more. So 2017 is off to a good start already and looks to be one of the best years in video games ever.

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

5 Books to Aid Career Development

reading

Knowledge is power. And one way to become an expert in any subject is to read. Thousands of career development books exist, but it’s difficult to know where to start. So, to make the process less daunting for you here’s some of my book recommendations. Along with some helpful tips on how to get the most out of your reading. 

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

A great book for finding your calling in life. I agree with Cal Newport that making your passion is not the best career advice. Instead, developing skills and career capital is the most efficient approach. Much like how Steve Jobs wasn’t initially passionate about computers. But later found the work rewarding and transformed Apple into the tech giant it is today. So, if you struggle with the advice “do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life” this book is for you.

 

Who Moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson

A short story examining a group of people frustrated that they can’t find their cheese. The same concept applies to people in a job search. What I like best about this book is it teaches you to laugh at yourself. And to accept you can’t stay on the same career path forever. Otherwise, you’ll remain frustrated, and your situation won’t change. Worth a read and best of all not a long book either. If you enjoy it check out Johnson’s other book One Minute Manager for more great advice.

 

What Color is Your Parachute by Richard N. Bolles

By far the most famous career advice book. What Color is Your Parachute is updated every year and is a gold mine for career development. It shows you how the current job market has changed. And why you should spend less time on inefficient job application processes like job boards. Instead, it teaches you to think more creatively. And market yourself correctly by reaching out to people directly through the parachute method. The flower petal exercise is fantastic and worth the price of the book alone. It’s a great exercise for looking inside yourself and discovering what your true interests are. Ensuring you go after the jobs that best match your unique style. Also, included are helpful links to other resources, like organizations, websites, and books. Read it if you haven’t. You won’t regret it.

 

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

An excellent book on how to communicate with people. Carnegie gives good practical advice that many people forget like taking an interest in other people’s life, using their name often and listening to people. But what I love best about this book is it shows you how to give feedback to people without criticizing them. And how to teach someone a lesson without being mean to them. My highest recommendation. Also, be sure to print out each principle to refer to later.

 

The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Timothy Ferriss’s most famous book. What I found most useful from reading his book are the productivity tips. Such as getting the most critical task done before 11am. Only checking email twice a day and the importance of taking rest away from work. Mini-retirements are a genius idea too. Like What Color is Your Parachute there are also tons of links for further reading and advice too. If you like this book check out his website for helpful articles, videos and podcasts.

TIPS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF READING

Don’t just read books

Besides career books at your local library look to other mediums for reading too. Explore websites like Inc and Entrepreneur for career articles. Sign up for weekly newsletters, email tips, set Google alerts. Read the newspaper. Make reading a daily ritual.

Make time for reading

If you’re too busy with work and family obligations, it’s possible you don’t have time to read, but there is a way. For most people, your mornings and evenings are under your control. And if you spend just 15 to 30 minutes daily making reading part of your schedule it can be done. Reading while commuting or audio books are another option.

Keep a reading log

Reading a book isn’t enough. You need to keep a reading log and take notes. First, make the process easy for yourself. Start by copying and pasting words you find relevant into a word document. Next, write the page number down so you can reference it later. Finally, immediately after reading write down any thoughts or reflections down. It’s important to do this immediately while the info is fresh on your mind. Otherwise, you’ll forget about it later.

Rotate books to offset boredom

It’s boring to read the same book week after week. So if you lose interest in a long book set it aside for a week and read something else and then come back to it. I like reading two books at a time and having two on the back burner to switch out when I get bored.

Make a plan of action

Knowledge is power, but even more critical then reading is the application. Most people who buy self-help books read them and don’t apply anything. They then keep buying books and wonder why nothing’s changed with their life. Don’t let that happen to you. After you finish a book set a time to do the exercises in the books and fit the new habits into your schedule. The best time to apply something is right after you read it. I like to do 15 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of application immediately afterward daily. You could also set aside an hour or more on the weekend to tackle larger application exercises.

 

Reading career development books will bring on significant changes in your life. But only if you apply what you read. Test out some of these books and see what you think. Have any career book recommendations of you own? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

Hacking your weekends to get ahead in life

weekend work

You should relax on weekends and not work. I agree. But with proper planning, you can put yourself ahead for the following week without sacrificing too much of your weekend time. How? Let’s take a look.

WHAT TO DO

Write and schedule emails for five or more people
Email is a part of everyone’s daily live and you’re always writing to someone. So why not save yourself some time the following week by spending an hour or two drafting emails. It’s time-consuming to write emails so five or fewer works best. Once you finish your emails, leave them in your Google draft folders. Then send them first thing in the morning next week. One a day works best, so you don’t get overwhelmed responding to everyone at once. Also, consider using apps like Boomerang. Which let you schedule a specific time to send your emails. Doing so will increase your chance of getting a response.

Make extra cash
Time is money. And if you’re not making enough from your day job then consider selling things online. Start by making a list of items you want to sell. Then research how much your items go for online. Next take some photos and write good descriptions. Finally, place a listing online and make sure you know how you’re going to ship everything. If you make it a weekly habit, you’ll add some nice pocket change to treat yourself later. Or use the extra money to help pay off big debts like student loans easier.

Make your job list for next week
If you’re unemployed or unhappy with your job, then you know a job search takes a lot of time and energy. So, instead of wasting too much time searching for employment every day do most of it once a week. By making a list of jobs you’re interested in early, you’ll get ahead of people who wait until Monday.

Update your online profiles and digital portfolios
Creating an excellent LinkedIn profile or other social media accounts take a lot of work. And once it’s finished, it’s easy to forget about it. But if you take the time to enhance your profile you’ll reap the benefits. Do this for other websites that demand a profile too like AngelList, Upwork and more. By making a weekly commitment, you’ll find working on your profile more enjoyable. Versus working on it all at once.

Plan your week
Benjamin Franklin planned his week and not just his day. It’s good advice, and you’ll notice a boost in your productivity if you do the same. To start, figure out your most critical tasks and pick a day you’ll focus on them. Don’t force yourself to do too much, though. It’s best to focus on just one big task a day along with your other daily responsibilities.

Look for networking events and add them to your monthly schedule
Every week something is going on in your city. But if you procrastinate and wait until the last minute you might miss your deadline to attend an event. To prevent that from happening to you make planning your social life a weekly commitment. The easiest way is to browse websites like Eventbrite, Meetups and other social sites. Going to one a week works best. But feel free to go to more. By doing this, you’ll sometimes find hot events before they go viral. And by registering ahead of time, you may get free admission or pay a lower fee than if you waited longer.

Do your grocery shopping and cook your meals
If you do your grocery shopping on the weekend, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money the following week. Yes, sometimes it’s cheaper to shop on weekdays. But on your weekday evenings, it’s better to unwind than shop. Also, you’re less likely to buy take out and eat healthier if you have your meals taken care of ahead of time.

Plan your work wardrobe
Same idea with foods. Pick five outfits for the week. So you won’t waste valuable time each morning looking for the perfect thing to wear.

HOW TO STAY FOCUSED ON WEEKENDS

Work early hours
Just like the work day your early hours are the most productive. So when you tackle any of these tasks do them right away in the morning if possible. If you wait until later in the day, you’ll find it harder to focus and likely procrastinate. I find before noon on weekends works best and like to leave the rest of the day for socializing or relaxing.

Limit hours for task
Weekends shouldn’t resemble a work day so for each of these tasks don’t spend more than 90 minutes on them. If you don’t finish any of these tasks, then save it for next week.

Leave the house
Working from home isn’t for everyone, and if you find it difficult it’s time for a change of scenery. One of the bright sides of working weekends is it’s usually less busy at your favorite workspace. Since not as many people commute into the city. So if there is a spot you like, that’s too crowded on weekdays try it on the weekend instead.

Listen to podcasts
At home, it’s easy to get distracted and sit around the house all day. Which isn’t a bad thing if you need to re-energize before the work week. But to ensure you stay productive try listening to podcasts in the background. Listening to something entertaining helps fight off boredom and makes these tasks more enjoyable. Better yet if you listen to many podcasts, you can use each one for a certain task to stick to a schedule.

 
Working on weekends isn’t ideal. But if you spare a few hours you’ll set yourself up for a more productive week and get ahead of your peers. Try some of these tips out and see if you notice any benefits. If not, keep adjusting your weekend schedule until you find the perfect rhythm.

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

Finding your perfect workspace away from home(part two)

Workspace 2 pic.jpg

Welcome back to part two of finding your perfect workspace away from home. In part one, I covered workspaces like libraries, coffee shops and hotels. For part two let’s look at five more workspaces that I encourage you to try. Let’s begin.

Laundromat

Pros
An odd one for sure, but the right laundromat provides many benefits. More than ever laundromats include free Wi-Fi and tables perfect for getting work done. Go on weekdays for the best working experience since the laundromat’s usually deserted then. Early mornings on weekends isn’t a bad idea either.

Cons
Like libraries all laundromats aren’t created equal. So your local one possibly won’t work for you, and you’ll need to find a better one. The downtime you need to work productively sometimes not an option either if it’s a busy place. Experiment with different times and locations for the best results.

Coworking space

Pros
A popular trend nowadays. Places like WeWork offer an efficient workspace that often trumps every other workspace. Landlords want to keep their customers happy so you’ll find these locations very accommodating. And the workspace closely resembles the environment of an office making it very practical. These places also offer free beverages, premium seating, flexible hours and private rooms. Like to network? It’s a gold mine here. Since people from various industries come here, you’ll likely meet someone to help you advance your career.

Cons
The monthly membership cost. Similar to a gym, you’re paying a monthly or yearly fee which adds up fast. However, if you’re tired of spending money at coffee shops and don’t pay expensive commuting costs to get here it’s probably cheaper.

Parks

Pros
With free Wi-Fi available almost anywhere it’s more practical to work outdoors than ever. It’s true. In many cities, you’ll find public spots like parks with workspaces at a table, bench or spots under a tree that’s yours for the taking. Additionally, research shows that small exposure to sunlight make you feel more productive and energized.

Cons
If you don’t bring sunglasses and a sun resistant laptop sometimes, it’s so bright outside you can’t see your electronics. You need to watch that your electronics don’t overheat too. But if you work in the shade, this isn’t an issue. Lastly, depending on what time of day you go, a park isn’t a productive work environment. Unexpected events like loud concerts, sports and festivals make working here difficult. So always make a backup plan before you go to one.

Public transportation spots

Pros
If you take the train or bus, public transportation spots provide a productive place to work. In Chicago, I worked at Union Station before going to networking events. In San Francisco, I’d work near BART stations because you’ll find coffee shops nearby. Also, for those with a monthly pass here’s something to try. Hop on a random bus and work on your tablet while you commute around the city. By doing this, you’ll get to know your city pretty well. And discover which buses get you to your destination faster and which to avoid.

Cons
Wi-Fi’s a hit or miss. Some public transportation stations offer them for free while others don’t. So it’s better to bring a hotspot. It’s also sometimes difficult to find seating because of the amount of people here. To avoid crowds work during the quiet hours of the day when people aren’t commuting to their jobs and homes. You must watch your electronics as well because of theft. I’ve seen people steal phones on the bus, so I avoid those routes and never sit by the door. Still, working on public transportation works well as a workspace most of the time. And it allows you to travel to other workspace spots you wouldn’t consider otherwise.

Museum

Pros
Like art, science and history? Consider going to a museum to work. These large public spaces offer free Wi-Fi, ample seating and cafes inside. Looking at historic artwork gives you inspiration while you work to create something unique on your own too.

Cons
The membership cost. To go to a museum frequently, you’ll need a yearly membership. However, it usually not expensive. Somewhere between $30 or more on average. Some museums even offer free admission all the time. Like the Chicago Cultural Center. So you might not need to pay for anything. Other concerns? Large crowds. Depending on the time of year museums get pretty crowded and very loud. So bring some noise canceling headphones with you to block out distractions.

Even more workspaces exist like gyms, movie theaters, botanic gardens and more. But based on my experience these spots offer some of the most useful workspaces. So, try these spots out and see if you notice a difference in your work productivity. If not put on your explorer hat and try somewhere else until you find your perfect workspace. Thanks for reading.

 

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

Finding your perfect workspace away from home( part one)

Workspace

Working from home feels great and with advances in technology, it’s easier than ever. But if you’re unemployed spending all your time at home makes it tough to stay motivated. If that’s the case for you here’s some workspace ideas to boost your productivity. Before we get started, let’s look at the equipment you need. And the characteristics of a great work environment.

EQUIPMENT YOU NEED

MacBook Air or computer with all-day battery– You won’t always find an outlet.

Food- Helps you stay energized. Bring it with you or buy it somewhere.

Good bag– For carrying all your gear, extra clothes, etc.

Gum/ hygiene stuff– Essential if you want to tidy up before networking.

Wireless hotspot(optional)- Great if you want to work anywhere and rather not use Wi-Fi.

Bottle or mug– Needed for water, coffee or tea to sip while you work.

Noise canceling headphones– A lifesaver if your work environment is too loud.

Notepad or app– To track which hours, days and locations where you’re most productive.

Good shoes– If you’re doing a lot of walking, the right pair of shoes make all the difference.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A PERFECT WORKSPACE

The below requirements make working away from home easier. But not every venue you go to meets these criteria. That’s okay. I often work at different places daily based on my workload. So feel free to change where you go each day to stay productive.

Easy access to restrooms

Abundant seating choices

Reliable Wi-Fi

Good hours

Somewhere to eat or nearby

Not too loud or visually distracting

Access to water

Inexpensive

Short commute

Able to take phone calls

Now that you’ve got your checklist here’s some places to work away from home.

The Library

Pros

I’ve praised the library before for its excellent job resources, but it’s also a great workspace. And the private rooms, free Wi-Fi, and the library staff’s helpful advice make it easy to work here. Best of all it’s almost always quiet. So, if you need somewhere to focus a library works great.

Cons

Unfortunately, not all libraries contain the best working environment. Since people use them every day, they get overcrowded fast and finding a place to sit gets difficult. Also, the library sometimes attracts the wrong crowd. Like homeless people and kids who aren’t supervised by their parents.

The most frustrating thing? Bathroom locations. Usually, libraries put their most productive spots on higher floors and the bathrooms on the lower level. So anytime you leave your workplace you’ll often find someone took your spot when you come back. It’s difficult to take phone calls here because of the quiet rule and eating here isn’t an option either. Finally, learn to memorize the library hours to avoid frustration. Some libraries don’t open until noon or later. And if you’re most productive in the morning, you might want to work somewhere else. However, some libraries don’t contain any of these problems. So if your local one isn’t working try another.

Cafes/restaurants/bars

Pros

A great cafe, restaurant or bar and an excellent beverage make for a fun venue to get work done. These locations offer free Wi-Fi and easy access to bathrooms. And sometimes feature better seating than almost any public space. So it’s often more appealing to work here than other places. Research also shows that the natural background sound of these spots improves people’s productivity. Lastly, It’s easier to take phone calls here and the hours aren’t too limited like libraries.

Cons 

The price. If you’re working from one every day, those three dollar coffees add up fast. You’ll likely spend more too if you use these locations as a full workday spot. Depending on where you go the Wi-Fi’s lacking, and sometimes you’re limited to two hours. The environment’s often visually distracting and loud too. Especially if the kitchen staff uses blenders and other noisy equipment. So definitely bring some noise canceling headphones and listen to music to stay productive.

Hotel

Pros

Did you know most hotels offer free Wi-Fi in their lobby even if you’re not a guest? I discovered this little secret while visiting the San Francisco Hilton Hotel in Union Square for a convention. When I need a change of work environment, and a cafe or library won’t cut it, I go to a hotel. As a bonus hotels usually partner with Starbucks, so you’re always properly caffeinated. The lounge chairs along with the great desks mean you almost always have somewhere to sit. And if you’re a night owl, it’s a great option since most hotels stay open 24 hours.

Cons

Since you’re not a guest, the hotel staff possibly won’t like that you’re working here. So, buying a coffee or tea at the hotel Starbucks and not overstaying your visit isn’t a bad idea. Other concerns? Hotels frequently hold conventions. Which sometimes means when you go to the place it’s too loud and hard to find seating. Finally, it’s worth noting that the Wi-Fi isn’t always safe. Since people travel all over the world and come to a hotel, you’ll never know who’s watching your Wi-Fi.

Mall/department stores/ grocery stores

Pros

The mall, Target, Whole Foods and other public big brand stores all offer great workstations. Since they’re common in almost every area finding them isn’t a problem and commuting to them isn’t hard. Each venue offers plenty of seating, food and bathrooms within easy reach too.

Cons

It gets pretty crowded here and as a result, your ideal seat sometimes isn’t available. To offset this make sure to go at the right times. Like before lunch and dinner times. Avoid it on weekends too since these locations do their biggest sales then. Sometimes the Wi-Fi isn’t strong in these places either. Which makes getting work done difficult because of a slow connection. Still, working from these locations offers many benefits.

College Campus

Pros

Just because you don’t go to school anymore doesn’t mean you can’t head to a college campus to get some work done. The union, library, outdoors and college campus buildings make for a nice change of pace. An empty classroom works great too, and it’s quiet like a library. College campuses also welcome famous guest speakers, classes, and events open to the public. Making it a good place to network as well.

Cons

College campus Wi-Fi only works for students and staff. To offset this problem bring a Wi-Fi hotspot or work without internet. However, some colleges do partner with popular brands like McDonalds and Starbucks, which do offer free Wi-Fi.

Working at home isn’t bad, but it’s often fun to change up your routine. Try out some of these places and see if you notice a difference in your work productivity. Don’t see your favorite workspace? Please leave your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned for part two.

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

Combating depression during a job search

depression pic

I used to feel depressed all the time. I never wanted to leave the house. I didn’t want to hang out with my friends, play videogames or do anything. I overcame it, but I know how damaging it is during a job search. Fortunately, you can overcome your depression and fight your mental demons. For this blog post let’s look at typical negative job situations and how to stay positive.

NO REPLIES FROM JOB BOARDS

Do be optimistic and put a positive spin on things
You’ve been at it for weeks, months, maybe even years and you’re not getting any replies. The most common problem is your resume and LinkedIn lack the right content. Take a break from applying for jobs and overhaul your resume and social profiles first. If that doesn’t work, spend more time tailoring your resume to match job descriptions. It’s easy to feel down when you don’t get replies, but each rejection means you’re one step closer to a yes.

Don’t complain about your job search on social media
Social media, an excellent way to read the news and connect with people. But it has its negativity problems. I see many people complain about their job search on social media, and it’s not smart. Not only can it affect your chances of getting hired it’s not the best way to vent out your frustration. Instead, turn to a Word document and type your negative thoughts on it instead of your Facebook wall. Keep it for you to re-read whenever you feel down and don’t send your angry notes to anyone.

EMAILS AND PHONE CALLS GETTING IGNORED BY HIRING MANAGER

Do understand implicit communication
Often the most frustrating part of a job search. You’ve made it past the initial review, but when finding out whether you got the job or not you’re left out in the cold. To save yourself a lot of grief, learn to understand implicit communication. Not everybody will be upfront with you and take the time to tell you no. So, learn to put more importance on other people’s actions rather than their words. Getting ignored is frustrating and can come off as cruel. But you need to accept that’s just how people prefer to communicate sometimes. So, if you find yourself doing most of the communication, move on after two contact attempts.

Don’t keep pestering people when you get no response
Always understand that during a job search you have to be patient. If you don’t hear back from a hiring manager after a positive interview, then it’s okay to follow up ten days later. If they’re still unresponsive, consider calling them instead of sending an email. If that doesn’t work then just remember silence is a response. And the worst you can do is get angry and keep contacting them.

DEALING WITH NEGATIVITY

Do celebrate every victory no matter how small
At the beginning of a job search, you might have a hard time getting a response from anyone. I remember when that happen to me, and it was a turning point just to get a phone call for a job. However, others around me would say phone calls with recruiters don’t mean anything. Rather than let their negativity get to me I stayed proactive and found people who would encourage me. As a result, I continued to stay motivated and felt much happier doing my job search. Remember, phone interviews may not seem like much, but they set you up for the next step in the interview phase. So be proud of yourself for getting any return interest from an employer no matter how small it may seem.

Don’t surround yourself with negative people
Building on the last tip, the people around you can make a big difference in your mood and happiness. If your friends and family aren’t supportive of you and your job search, then remove them from your life. It may mean getting your own apartment or moving to a new city. The most important process of a job search is that you put your happiness first. Do this by being around people who bring out the best in you.

LACK OF MOTIVATION

Do make your job search a habit
Dedicating yourself to a job search takes a lot of time and energy. Your motivation will eventually wane, so it’s important you turn it into a habit and start small. Applying for one job every day might not sound like much. But if you do it every day or at least on weekdays, that’s five to seven potential jobs each week. Some days you’ll feel extra motivated and can do more. Other days you won’t feel like doing anything. That’s okay. What’s important is that you don’t break your habit and stick with your job search no matter what.

Don’t work all the time
You may think you need to spend all your free time applying for jobs, but it’s counter-productive. It’s better to work smarter not harder. Treat your job search like a regular job and work set hours. Working a little bit on the weekend is okay, but you’ll burn out if you’re working more than 50 hours a week. Finally, remember to reward yourself at the end of the day for all the hard work you put into your job search. Doing this will help you stay motivated and have something to look forward to after you finish your work.

There is no way getting around that depression can have serious effects on your job search. However, if you remember to keep a positive attitude, then you’ll get through the worst of it no matter what.

I’ve decided to write a two-month blog series that will cover different challenging situations many people face during a job search. My goal is to pass along all the knowledge I’ve learned in my own job searches and help those succeed in finding work they love. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment

Why you should consider moving to a new city

moving to a city

Things just aren’t working out in your hometown, and you yearn for greener pastures. But you can’t just drop everything and move to a new city and start a new life for yourself can you? Actually, you can, but you need to plan ahead to set yourself up for success. I’ve moved to four cities, Milwaukee, Oakland, San Francisco and Chicago from rural Wisconsin. And if I could do it over again, I would do things differently. Below is my personal experience with city living, the pros and cons and how to survive.

ADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN A CITY

More job opportunities
The biggest reason people do it. For instance, where you live now may not have enough work available to you, but larger cities like New York do. While it’s best that you get a job before moving, sometimes you have to move to get the interview.  A new city will open many doors for you, and it’s one of the best ways to advance your career. Especially if you feel like your stuck in a dead end job.

Easier to network and make connections
LinkedIn is great, but meeting people face to face often gets you the job. Not only do larger cities have numerous networking events, but they also have conventions. Here you can do a massive amount of networking that can pay off in the long run. For example, San Francisco’s Moscone Center has something going on usually every week. And even if you don’t attend the conference you can go to events related to the conventions through Eventbrite. Just by living in a big city you’ll always be meeting someone new, so it’s one of the best reasons to make your move.

A chance to get exposed to new industries
While you’re networking, you’ll often come across jobs you would never have considered otherwise. It could be programming or some other subject that might compel you to try something else. For me, it was PR, sales and event staffing. I never considered either at first. But they lead to valuable skills that complimented my journalism background.

DISADVANTAGES OF LIVING IN A CITY

High rent and low job wages
The pros of city living can turn into real negatives if you’re not careful. The high cost of rent can make your daily life difficult for instance. Big cities also have high sales taxes, commuting costs, pricey food and more expenses that add up. And if you’re just starting out on an entry-level salary it can make you feel poor. However, if you stick it out, you’ll find living in a big city gets easier.

Competition
A big city has lots of work available, but you’re competing with more people. Who often have a stronger education and work background than you do. Depending on your career status and if you didn’t go to college, then it might not be worth moving. So, keep that in mind and do your research before you make your move.

Your quality of life suffers
Besides a high cost of living, be aware of what sacrifices you have to make while living in a big city. That could be realizing you can’t have your own living space to yourself and have to live with roommates. You might not have a yard or a larger living space and instead will have to live in a smaller area. It could be not having a car because of the cost and having to rely on public transportation more. Weigh the pros and cons before you decide to move and if that job is worth the sacrifices.

TIPS FOR MOVING TO A NEW CITY

So, you’ve made up your mind that it’s time for a new change of scenery. However, you’re probably wondering how do you set yourself up for success? Here are things I’ve done and wish I would have spent more time doing before my moves.

Find a job before you move out there
The best way to go about moving to a new city. If you can get hired online or through a LinkedIn connection, then it’s easy moving to a new city. You might have to catch a plane for an interview, but the hiring company may even pay for it. It may take a long time to get hired because of your distance, but just keep applying and you’ll eventually get there.

Don’t lie about your address on your resume
Lying about your location on your resume can cause trouble, so I recommend this approach. Put relocating to your city of choice on your resume. That way you’re not lying about where you live. Not all hiring managers will consider out of state applicants but some will. So, don’t limit yourself to one city and make sure you broaden your search.

Use the summer months wisely
I’ve done this before and you can too when getting ready for your move. Usually, the best time to go to a new city is in January or September. While it’s possible to get hired in the summer, the job market tends to slow down once June hits. If your not having luck getting interviews, it’s best to use your summer to regroup. Take a job not in your industry and work the summer to save money while you apply online.

Save as much money as possible before leaving
It helps so much to have an emergency fund because things can go wrong quickly when you move to a new city. As a backup plan, consider working retail or restaurant jobs to make some extra cash while you look for your ideal job. But be careful not to pick one where you have to call to confirm whether you work or not that day. I’ve had retail jobs that hired too many employees and had limited payroll. Working at those retail jobs, I only got 20 hours or less a week and had to take a second job to get enough hours.

Sell things on eBay, Amazon and Craigslist
See any personal belongings laying around you haven’t used in years? Well, if they don’t have any sentimental value to you it’s time to sell them and makes some money. By selling old video games and other items, I was able to save over 3,000 dollars. Which I added to the money I made working two retail jobs in the summer. Selling online doesn’t take very long, and it made a huge difference for me getting settled in the Bay Area.

Stay with a relative or a friend until you get a job
Another great way to offset the high cost of city living and make the move more plausible. By staying with someone you know not only will you have an easier time getting settled in the city. You’ll also save a lot of money. And you can use their address while you apply for jobs. Which gives you a huge advantage over other people who live farther away. Offer to pay rent, help with chores and other stuff to make the living arrangement better. And if you can’t find a job don’t overstay your welcome. Move out at a specified time.

Live below your means
Especially if you’re not working yet. Living in a new city can drain your wallet fast. You might be eager to go out to shows, bars and try new restaurants, but scale back and do your research first. You can still do these things, but be frugal about it. Look online for blogs and website that feature cheapskate experts who offer tips you can use. Try Groupon, Goldstar, Eventbrite and Meetup to find cheap deals near you. Find out what days your favorite bar or restaurant has specials on drinks and food. Then time your free time and socializing on those days.

Pick the city that’s right for you
New York and San Francisco might be on the top of your list on places to move, but can you afford the rent? Keep that in mind when considering a move. You can make both areas work with roommates, but you’ll have to give up your independence. If that’s an issue, another city where rent isn’t so high like Chicago may be better. Are you going to drive or take public transportation? Keep that in mind too. Each city has its pro and cons. And a certain city might have the job you want, but it might not have the lifestyle you crave or vice versa.

If you fail, it’s okay
I moved to the Bay Area cold with no job and was able to find work within a month. Although the first job wasn’t what I went to school for I did find writing work later. I tried the same thing with Chicago but failed to find a full-time writing job. I could have stayed and worked a retail job but decided to move on and broaden my search. The lesson here is just because you move to a new city and fail doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth trying. I learned a lot moving to Chicago. I went to dozens of networking events, made new connections and received  valuable advice for improving my resume.

Moving to a new city is both an exciting and scary step in your life. But, when you take the time to do your research, you set yourself up for the best chance of success. And if it doesn’t work out then at least you tried and won’t have any regrets or wonder what could have been.

I’ve decided to write a two-month blog series that will cover different challenging situations many people face during a job search. My goal is to pass along all the knowledge I’ve learned in my own job searches and help those succeed in finding work they love. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Blog posts | Leave a comment