Common Career Wisdom That isn’t All That Wise

As long as we’re giving networking tips, here are a few other things you need to know. Well, “not know,” actually. Erase these Old Wives Tales and proceed onward to career victory!

futureseerby Herbert Lui

Finding your first “real” job can be anxiety-inducing, stressful, and extremely confusing. A lot of classic advice isn’t exactly concrete truth, though, even though the principle might be right. Here’s some career wisdom you should consider revisiting.

Advice: “It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know.”

The idea is to make sure you develop your professional network along with your knowledge and skills, so you have a better shot at getting a job as you enter the workforce. For a lot of people people, this phrase can sound discouraging. In high school and the earlier years of college, most of my friends got their first jobs with their relatives and family. I didn’t have any family members or friends that owned businesses or in the same field as me, so my hands were tied. If you don’t already know anyone, this advice can cause you to focus your efforts strictly on networking.

This phrase also discounts the importance of “what you know”, which is becoming increasingly important. A lot of people are charlatans. They talk a lot, but they don’t know what they’re saying. They might be able to lock a job down, but they won’t be able to hang on to it or advance in it.

Networking is important, but people have to be able to trust you. What you know will help make that happen.

Revision #1: “Who you know may get you the job, what you know helps you keep it.”

Unless you’re in sales, only “what you know” can directly create value. If you’re in construction, you have to actually build things. If you’re in accounting, you have to know what to do when the books don’t balance. People will recognize your skill and they will value you. Who you know is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you get a job, what you know will either propel you forward or cause you to flounder.

Revision #2: “What you know will bring you to who you need to know.”

This advice was first suggested to me by A$AP co-manager Geno Sims, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It is so true. A lot of people mindlessly network at the same information sessions and networking events, trying to improve their network. For the most part, this isn’t an effective use of time.

When you demonstrate what you know to the people you already know, they’re likely to introduce you to other people that might need your help. Everyone wants to help each other. For example, let’s say you helped a family friend put together their website. If someone says to them, “Do you know anyone I could hire to spruce my website up?” they’ll want to recommend you. Who you know helped, but it’s what you know that matters to people—and they won’t recommend you if they don’t respect your skills. You become more than just another job seeker or student. If you don’t share what you know, other people can’t safely recommend you even if they wanted to, and you won’t get the results you wanted.

Advice: “Don’t Give Away Free Work, It Devalues It.”

A lot of people will advise against you giving free work. This could be because you’re skilled enough to get paid, and you’re also dragging down market rates (which affect them). By far, the most important thing that has contributed to my career has been free work. I originally got the idea from author and book marketer Charlie Hoehn’s Recession-Proof Graduate, but folks like freelance designer Paul Jarvis has also recommended starting freelancing for free.


Basic Writing Principles You Can Use in Everyday Life

At last we can tell our mothers that all that writing and studying about writing (and reading and viewing and web surfing and…) actually has relevance to the real, non-writing world she’s so terrified we’ll end up in. Whew.

In other words, this particular TVWriter™ minion loves the following article to pieces:

Lovin' on this pic as well as the article. Go figure.

Lovin’ on this pic as well as the article. Go figure.

by Herbert Lui

Writing starts way before you put letters to a page. It involves processes like critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Even if writing feels like pulling teeth, you can apply the principles of writing to many facets of your day-to-day life. Here’s how.

Show, Don’t Tell

Good writers use techniques like description and dialogue to show the reader what characters are thinking and feeling. For example, instead of telling the reader, “Jim was sad,” a writer might describe how “Jenny saw Jim crying in the bathroom” or how “Jim walked with his shoulders slouched and head bowed” (Sidebar: I am clearly not a professional novelist).

Similarly, when you plan to share an idea, thought, or feeling with someone, think about how you can show it to them. For example, if you’re about to thank someone, show them your gratitude by writing a letter, or a card, or expressing yourself through a gift, in addition to saying, “Thank you.”

If you’re trying to convince someone of something, even if you can’t complete an entire task to express yourself, do a little bit of the work to get started so to make a stronger impression on them. People will take your message more seriously when the evidence is right in front of them.

Simplicity Is Better than Flowery

Put the thesaurus away. Stop looking for synonyms in your word processor. Contrary to what you might think, longer words don’t make you sound or look smarter. Author Stephen King writes in his memoir On Writing:

One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.

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Peggy Bechko: Tune In And Turn Off


by Peggy Bechko

Hey, you, writer person out there. Do you have a routine? You know, stuff you do as a matter of course? Stuff you do every day to get your writing done, polished and out there?

Don’t give me that look, and don’t give me the ‘free spirit’ route. You need a routine. One for your writing that encompasses not only the actual writing, but exercise, research, learning, maybe meditation; whatever gets you going and keeps you going. A scattered approach has rarely gotten anyone anywhere. Really. And I take the ‘rarely’ back. It doesn’t work. Period.

Develop a routine and stick to it. No cheating (well hardly any cheating – we all cheat once in a while). If you value what you do and what your goals are, establish a routine. I’m not going to tell you again.

And, while you’re giving that some thought and maybe railing at me at how wrong I am and how you can accomplish just as much with a shotgun, I’ll do whatever I want approach (hahhahahahaha) consider this at the same time.

Turn off the Internet. Yes, you heard me and I realize you’re on the internet right now reading this. But while you’re working, keeping your routine so you have a designated time block in which you plan to complete a certain task or number of words, shut down your web browser and I mean completely.

If you leave it open the temptation is always just a click away. The damn thing will chirp at you in some fashion and you’ll have an email you just have to read, or maybe a new Facebook post you have to view and comment on or a Twitter direct message to check out. If you leave access open you’re going to slip and you know what happens when you do that. In no time you get lost on the internet and hours can pass before you lift your head and say, uh,oh. Then you get all mad at yourself and berate yourself and tell yourself you’ll do better tomorrow – and then tomorrow you do it all again. Rats.

Okay, so you have a problem, most of us do. If you feel you can’t simply shut down on your own check out a few great programs out there designed to help you out.

1. Self Control – this one’s for Macs It’s a free open source application that allows you to block your own access to websites – helps a bit with the self control.

2. Stay Focused is another one – this one for Chrome browser

3. Write Or Die by Dr. Wicked is for Windows, Mac and Linux – and no I don’t get a commission and it isn’t free. About $20 last time I checked but that might be a great investment if you’re prone to time wasting.

4. Anti-Social is yet another, not free, about $15 for the software.

5. Cold Turkey Meant for ‘studying’ but it’s all the same, right – and yes this one is free.

I’d suspect there are even more if you do some searches.

Do I use any of these? No. But then, again, I turn my browser off when I’m writing. Yep, shut down city. I mention those above for those who might need a little incentive, a bit of a nudge and maybe a bit of entertainment along the way to do the same.

So get yourself a routine going and get the heck off the web while you write (unless of course you’re doing the research part and then set a timer or something so you don’t get lost in the maze). We love the web, but reality check, it’s a heckuva time-sink.

Hey, take my advice and see how much more productive you are.

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.

Kevin Spacey Reminds Us to Pay It Forward

…And we’re right there with him. Not just cuz he’s Kevin Spacey either. Cuz he’s smart – and right:

YouTube Preview Image

Um, anybody else notice how strange Kev looks when he smiles? Or is it just that we see him like that so seldom?

Oh, nevermind….

Mark Zuckerberg Calls the ‘A-Ha!’ Moment a Myth

Funny, we like to think of Mark Zuckerberg as the myth. Oh well:

mzuckby Geoff Weiss

During Mark Zuckerberg’s first-ever trip to Bogota, Colombia — where he touched down yesterday to herald the launch of — the Facebook founder made a rather surprising admission: “I’m a big fan of Shakira. A really big fan,” he blushed. “I don’t speak Spanish, but I like her Spanish music.”

Zuckerberg, who seems more visible than ever of late after kicking off avirtual book club and rolling out a series of public town hall-style discussions, spoke of his love for the pop star — among more serious topics — during the third-ever installment of Q&A with Mark, which can be viewed in full right here.

In his latest talk, Zuckerberg took the time to share some fascinating thoughts about entrepreneurship, including common misconceptions that surround founders. When asked about the ‘exact moment’ that he came up with the idea for Facebook, Zuckerberg paused quizzically and said, “I don’t think that’s how the world works.”

“Ideas typically do not just come to you,” he said. “It’s a lot of dots that you connect to make it so that you finally realize that you can potentially do something.”

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There’s more, but we think this is the part that matters to writers.

Oh, and we also think Marky is, you know, wrong. (As in he hasn’t delved nearly enough into the details. Hmm, kinda like Facebook, now that we think about it….

10 Types of Creative Blocks And How To Fix Them – Part 2

About a week ago, we brought you David Silverman’s advice on overcoming creative blocks. Time now for Round Two:


by David Silverman, MA, LMFT

More creative fixes for screenplays, novels, plays, pottery collections, or architecture blocks, from a verteran tv/film writer, journalist and licensed psychotherapist.  For a direct free phone consult with the author, on writing, creativity or therapy, click here.

6.  You’re bored with all these characters, they won’t do anything.

Characters who won’t do anything (or don’t want to do anything) are boring characters.  When you thought of them, they seemed like cool characters and you felt good about them.  But they don’t drive the story.  Maybe you have the supporting cast.  Examine the flow, follow the theme, attitudes, and the logic.  Maybe something’s missing from a character who could be the protagonist.  A fatal flaw?  A duty, to save someone, to repay a debt. What do they really want?  Two characters need to have a strong conflict.  Is that what’s missing?

7.  You keep imagining the things people are going to criticize about your work, and it’s paralyzing.

You’re picturing rejection letters, or depressing phone calls from your agent.  Why waste time?  Suddenly this idea doesn’t feel like a winner.  Why not start something new?  That may work.  Start another project, then when you get to a natural pause, set that aside.  Go back.   Another way:  Drown out the inner critic.  He is necessary for the rewrite, but the first draft, drown him out.  Blast the Stones.  When self-critical self-talk occurs, STOP, and get up and do something else.  Make coffee.  Stop negative thinking, center yourself, clear your head and write.

8. You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey.

This time, you’re in the flow – the story is unfolding, the theme, attitudes, emotions, logic is all flowing.  Characters are being revealed.  Surprises, twists, it’s great.   But you’re stuck on some words.  Maybe it’s dialogue or even story action.  You know your story, but this dialogue sucks.  You can’t think of a clever way to hide some exposition.

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