The New Rules of Work: The Muse Playbook for Navigating the Modern Workplace


The New Rules of Work: The Muse Playbook for Navigating the Modern Workplace
Through quick exercises and structured tips, the authors guide you as you sort through your countless options; communicate who you are and why you are valuable; and stand out from the crowd. The New Rules of Work shows how to choose a perfect career path, land the best job, and wake up feeling excited to go to work every day - whether you are starting out in your career, looking to move ahead, navigating a mid-career shift,…

Book Summary - The New Rules of Work by Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew

What You’ll Learn

  • The importance of aligning your personal values with your long-term career plans
  • How to tailor your job applications for success
  • Tricks for negotiating after receiving a job offer
  • Keys to continuing personal and professional growth

Who Is This For

  • Young professionals starting out in their career
  • Job seekers looking to advance or find a better professional fit
  • Individuals seeking to improve their professional skill set and continue their personal and career growth

Key Insights

There are more job vacancies out there than ever, and more career sites, job agencies, and social media apps than ever before where you can search for a new job. With the number of opportunities increasing and new roles seemingly everywhere you look, it can be intimidating to start the job searching process. It can be hard to know how to even begin your job search, and where to look to find your perfect job.

These new rules of work, which were devised based on years of career consultancy experience, are meant to help you navigate the changing job landscape. By assessing what you value in a career, understanding how to make informed choices, and planning for your dream career, these new rules will help you avoid getting stuck in the rat race. No matter what stage you are at in your career, these rules can help you find the perfect role that challenges you and helps you grow your career.

Key Points

Identify Your Personal Values

Traditional job searching is difficult, especially if you don’t already have a clear idea of what you want to do. One of the best ways to figure out what you want to do is to identify your personal values. Not everyone has the same values, and what makes one person happy will not be fulfilling for someone else. It is important for you to assess what makes you feel fulfilled. For some people, it could be doing something creative, while others value giving back to their communities. The important thing is to understand your personal values and use them to shape your job search.

For example, Kathryn Minshew, one of the authors of this book, was unhappy in her former role because the job did not match up with her personal values. She had wanted to work in the foreign service and even majored in international relations, but once she landed what she thought was her dream job at the US embassy in Cyprus, she realized she wasn’t actually happy. She found the job slow and unfulfilling, so she began looking for a job where she felt her hard work could make a real impact.

When you are reflecting on your values, it’s important to be mindful of external influences. Other forces, such as parental expectations, may also be impacting your career choices. For example, the other co-author of this book, Alexandra Cavoulacos, grew up in France, where she faced a large amount of external pressure on her career choices. In France, she was made to narrow her course of study very early. By the age of 15, she selected science, over literature or economics, as her course of study, and was forced to narrow it down again, to biology, in her senior year of school.

However, when Alex began studying genetics at the university level in the United States, she realized she did not enjoy the day-to-day lab work that biology required. With that being the case, she knew she would not enjoy pursuing a career in science, so instead, she decided to pursue a career that she found personally fulfilling.

Together, Kathryn and Alex were able to found their career consultancy company, The Muse, because they identified their personal values and pursued a career that aligned with these values.

Do Strategic Research

Now that you’ve assessed your values, you can better tailor your job search to roles that might be a good fit. However, even within certain industries, roles can vary wildly. Working as a designer for a small non-profit, for example, would be very different than working as a designer for a large corporation. So it’s important to consider how your interests, personal values, and skills align with both the roles and the individual companies that you pursue.

For example, a literary studies graduate named Sarah thought a job at a traditional publishing house would be a perfect fit for her because she enjoyed reading, writing, and working with other literary people. However, she ended up doing much more individual desk work than interacting with authors, and she found she was unsatisfied with her job.

She wanted to have a more hands-on role with the authors, so she began searching for a job that would allow her to interact with them directly. She found her perfect job leading the business development team of a much smaller self-publishing start-up.

The Muse advises making a grid in order to ensure your career aligns with your values. On the left-hand side, list the about six roles or industries you are interested in pursuing, and across the top, list your top three personal values. While looking at this grid, consider how each industry or role matches up to each of these three values.

To get a good sense of how a company’s values match up with your own, it’s important to do some strategic research. Look up the company to get a sense of their values, and research the LinkedIn profiles of current employees and people who hold similar jobs to better understand the skills you would need to do well in this job. You can also see what former employees have gone on to do in their careers. To get an even more clear understanding of the company, you can try to get in touch with someone who is familiar with the role or company, like a current or former employee.

For example, before starting The Muse, Kathryn reached out to another entrepreneur to get a better understanding of the ins and outs of starting your own business, and what the daily life of an entrepreneur is really like. Kathryn was even able to join him on a sales trip. After meeting with him, she had a fuller and clearer idea of what her life as a start-up CEO would be like. By getting a clear idea of a company’s values and the skills required for each role, you’ll be able to better understand how they align with your own skills, values, and interests, and you will be better able to market yourself to the company.

Develop Your Unique Brand

Developing your own personal brand will make it easier for potential employers to understand all the attributes and skills you could bring to their company. To begin developing your brand, start by asking your colleagues and peers for feedback on what they think your best qualities are. Once you have gathered their feedback, compile their answers, and consider how you can present these positive attributes in a way that expresses your value in a professional setting.

The authors use Jennifer for example, a woman whose colleagues’ three most common descriptors were “super nice,” “works hard for others,” and “easy to get along with.” By compiling her top three traits, Jennifer was able to shape descriptors that make her an appealing job candidate. She now describes herself to potential employers as: “Relationship builder, strong follow-through and motivated to collaborate.” These descriptors encompass the same attributes but sound more professional when you are trying to sell yourself to a potential employer.

You can even use this method to present your weaknesses as strengths in certain roles. For example, some of Zach’s feedback included phrases like “irreverent” and “passionate and occasionally stubborn,” but also “willing to take risks” and “authoritative.” Rather than consider these as negative traits, Zach marketed himself as confident, reliable, ambitious, and possessing leadership qualities.

These attributes make up the core of your brand. Additionally, your interactions - both online and in-person - should support your brand’s image. This includes content you post online, who and what you follow, and how you communicate on social media.

A personal website is the best way to market your unique brand. This method gives you the most freedom and control over how you present yourself.

For example, when Jillian Youngblood was transitioning from politics to a tech career, she marketed her web-development skills on her personal website, which led a company to invite her to interview for their development team. Showcasing your individual skills on this level would not be possible with a traditional social media template.

The New Rules of Networking

Networking doesn’t have to mean meeting other professionals at dry, boring industry events. It doesn’t even have to be in person. These days, a lot of professional networking happens online. Social media has expanded the ways you can interact with people, and Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other online messaging can help you expand your professional circle.

Even offline, networking events don’t have to be boring. For example, the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, holds dinner parties where he invites three people and asks each of them to invite three people, as well. This is a great way to expand your circle.

Not every professional connection will pay off immediately, but networking is about building long-term relationships. For example, the author, Alex, developed a long-term relationship with a writer she met at a conference. They stayed in touch for years, with each offering the other help when work problems arose.

Your professional network should be less about quantity and more about the value your contacts can bring. For example, it’s a good idea to connect with hiring managers at companies you have an interest in. That way, when there is an opening, they will think of you, before the job is even posted. For example, Elliot Bell reached out to one of the authors, Kathryn, on LinkedIn after hearing her speak at the Women 2.0 conference in 2o12. He expressed his interest in her team and company and explained how his interests, skills, and experience in marketing could benefit The Muse. He also provided mutual contact as a reference. Although The Muse wasn’t actively hiring at that time, Kathryn held onto his contact information and the next time there was an opening a few months later, she reached out to Elliot. He was hired as The Muse’s head of marketing.

A Good Resume And Cover Letter Is Key

A tailored resume and well-thought-out cover letter are key to your job application. They are the company’s first impression of you, and a good first impression can make all the difference. According to a September 2015 Jobvite survey, 55 percent of hiring managers don’t read cover letters. But that means that 45 percent of them do, and those are the ones you are hoping to impress.

Your resume should make all your information that is relevant to the job position easy to find. Your resume should never be more than one page, and your most relevant education and experience should appear in the top third of the page, even if it’s not chronological. While it can be exhausting rewriting your resume for each job application, you can make it easier by keeping a master document with all of your experience, and copying and pasting the most relevant points for each individual application to a more specific version of your resume.

Cover letters should include new information that is not on your resume. While your resume demonstrates your skills, the purpose of your cover letter is to grab the hiring manager’s attention, show your personality, and illustrate how you will fit with the company. A good way to do this is to begin your cover letter with a personal anecdote.

For example, Abby Wolfe, an intern at The Muse, submitted a very memorable cover letter that landed her the job. She submitted her internship application on October 21, 2015, which is the same day that the character Marty McFly travels to the future in the movie Back to the Future Part II. Abby drew parallels between Marty’s adventure into the future and her own plans for how the internship would alter her own future. She then used personal stories and memes to emphasize how she would be the best fit for the role. This unique and personal cover letter demonstrated to her future employers that she was the best fit for the position. Similarly, a Buzzfeed employee demonstrated their skills and understanding of the company culture by submitting a cover letter in the same style as a classic Buzzfeed article.

In addition to demonstrating your understanding of the company culture, cover letters should also include concrete examples of your skills. For example, sales figures or employee engagement numbers can provide hard evidence that you have the skills for the job.

After you submit an individualized and tailored resume and cover letter to a company, follow up after about a week if you do not hear back.

Negotiate Before Accepting An Offer

It’s a great feeling when your hard work pays off, and you are offered a job. But it is important not to say yes right away. Before you sign a contract, make sure to ask any questions you have about the company or role, and make sure that the position and the company are a good fit for your lifestyle.

Even if the job seems like a great career opportunity, it might not always be the best role for you. For example, if you really value traveling, but the company does not offer good vacation benefits, you might not be satisfied there for long. Additionally, if you want to start a family, it is a good idea to get to know what parental leave benefits the company offers.

But if the benefits don’t align with your lifestyle, don’t immediately turn down the offer. It’s important to know that benefits can be negotiated. Before you sign a contract with the company, do some research. Check out the company’s LinkedIn, and make sure you understand the company culture and employee turnover rate. It’s also a good idea to see what the common career progression is for employees of that company, and you can even contact current or former employees if you have specific questions that you want to be answered. While this may seem intimidating, good research is key to ensuring you don’t accept a job too quickly and end up in a work environment that is not a good fit.

If you’ve done your research and determined the company is a good fit for you, you should move on to negotiating your contract. While salary and benefits can sometimes be negotiated, it’s also worth considering other benefits. Negotiating a job title, for example, could make you sound more experienced and give you a leg up in your next job search.

And if you’ve done your research and negotiations and determined the role is not the right fit for you, don’t be afraid to turn down an offer.

Be An Effective Communicator

Strong communication is an important part of career success. Communicating effectively with colleagues helps ensure strong relationships and a good work environment. To be the most effective communicator possible, it is important to plan ahead.

When you have information to deliver, be sure to consider the recipient’s personality and communication style to determine which communication method would save time and be the most efficient. For example, some people prefer to receive information over the phone, while others hate phone calls and prefer emails or in-person delivery. Choosing the right method to fit each person helps you communicate effectively.

You should also consider how your communication methods can help you develop your professional relationships. While most people commonly focus on nurturing relationships with their higher-ups, there is a lot to be gained from building strong communications with your colleagues at every level, even new hires, who see things with fresh eyes. You can learn something from everyone at the company.

For example, the author Kathryn, received her most valuable mentorship, not from the well-established investors she initially reached out to, but by other early start-up founders. They had current and relevant knowledge that was helpful to Kathryn while she was in the beginning stages of starting her own business.

However, the author Alex found it valuable to be mentored by a McKinsey & Company manager who was higher up. Alex valued her manager’s communication style, and as her mentee, she received valuable information, feedback, and opportunities.

Everybody in the office, including you, has important wisdom and knowledge that is valuable to your colleagues and the company.

Continue Your Personal Growth

Even after you’ve found your dream job, it’s important not to get complacent. Your values will change over time, and when it is time for you to advance or change your position, you want to be prepared.

You should make a point to keep adding to your skillset. You should be sure to keep up to date with new technology, or even take classes in a new skill. You could also work on increasing your productivity. According to a 2012 LinkedIn survey, 90 percent of professionals are unable to complete their to-do list by the end of the workday. By learning strategies to increase your productivity, you could be in the 10 percent that does.

The entrepreneur Robyn Scott suggests grouping tasks under the emotional rewards you will experience when it's completed, rather than by chronology or other methods. For example, exercising will make you feel healthy while finishing a tax return will make you feel more in control of your finances. This method can help improve motivation and reduce procrastination.

Another way to advance your career is by managing up. You should try to better understand your manager’s goals and your place in the company, and work on building a strong relationship with your manager. By making your manager’s job easier, you show that you are proactive, able to handle responsibility, and are dedicated to the company and your own growth, which sets you up for success in the future.

The Main Take-away

To be happy and fulfilled in your career, your personal values, interests, and skills should all align with your job position and your company. To ensure these values are in line, you should identify your values, do strategic research on companies you are interested in and don’t be afraid to negotiate and even turn down a job offer if it is not a good fit. Once you land your dream role, make sure to practice effective communication, keep developing your skills, and continue to pursue personal and professional growth.

About the Author

Alexandra Cavoulacos is the Founder & President at The Muse. She has been named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, and Business Insider’s 30 Most Important Women Under 30 In Tech. She was also listed as one of INC’s 15 women to watch in tech.

Cavoulacos received her B.A. in political science from Yale University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Kathryn Minshew is an entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. She is the co-founder and CEO of The Muse. She previously co-founded the networking site Pretty Young Professionals.

She has been named Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media, listed as one of Inc’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech, and was a 2019 winner of the One Young World Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Minshew is a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Inc, and has been featured on CNN and The TODAY Show. She lives in New York.

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