How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?


 

Jean Twenge. THE ATLANTIC. Jun 19 2013

        Deep anxiety about the ability to have children later in life plagues many women. But the decline in fertility over the course of a woman’s 30s has been oversold. Here’s what the statistics really tell us—and what they don’t.   
 
 

In the tentative, post-9/11 spring of 2002, I was, at 30, in the midst of extricating myself from my first marriage. My husband and I had met in graduate school but couldn’t find two academic jobs in the same place, so we spent the three years of our marriage living in different states. After I accepted a tenure-track position in California and he turned down a postdoctoral research position nearby—the job wasn’t good enough, he said—it seemed clear that our living situation was not going to change.

I put off telling my parents about the split for weeks, hesitant to disappoint them. When I finally broke the news, they were, to my relief, supportive and understanding. Then my mother said, “Have you read Time magazine this week? I know you want to have kids.”

Time’s cover that week had a baby on it. “Listen to a successful woman discuss her failure to bear a child, and the grief comes in layers of bitterness and regret,” the story inside began. A generation of women who had waited to start a family was beginning to grapple with that decision, and one media outlet after another was wringing its hands about the steep decline in women’s fertility with age: “When It’s Too Late to Have a Baby,” lamented the U.K.’s Observer; “Baby Panic,” New York magazine announced on its cover.

The panic stemmed from the April 2002 publication of Sylvia Ann Hewlett’s headline-grabbing book, Creating a Life, which counseled that women should have their children while they’re young or risk having none at all. Within corporate America, 42 percent of the professional women interviewed by Hewlett had no children at age 40, and most said they deeply regretted it. Just as you plan for a corner office, Hewlett advised her readers, you should plan for grandchildren.

The previous fall, an ad campaign sponsored by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) had warned, “Advancing age decreases your ability to have children.” One ad was illustrated with a baby bottle shaped like an hourglass that was—just to make the point glaringly obvious—running out of milk. Female fertility, the group announced, begins to decline at 27. “Should you have your baby now?” asked Newsweek in response.

For me, that was no longer a viable option.

I had always wanted children. Even when I was busy with my postdoctoral research, I volunteered to babysit a friend’s preschooler. I frequently passed the time in airports by chatting up frazzled mothers and babbling toddlers—a 2-year-old, quite to my surprise, once crawled into my lap. At a wedding I attended in my late 20s, I played with the groom’s preschool-age nephews, often on the floor, during the entire rehearsal and most of the reception. (“Do you fart?” one of them asked me in an overly loud voice during the rehearsal. “Everyone does,” I replied solemnly, as his grandfather laughed quietly in the next pew.)

But, suddenly single at 30, I seemed destined to remain childless until at least my mid-30s, and perhaps always. Flying to a friend’s wedding in May 2002, I finally forced myself to read the Time article. It upset me so much that I began doubting my divorce for the first time. “And God, what if I want to have two?,” I wrote in my journal as the cold plane sped over the Rockies. “First at 35, and if you wait until the kid is 2 to try, more than likely you have the second at 38 or 39. If at all.” To reassure myself about the divorce, I wrote, “Nothing I did would have changed the situation.” I underlined that.

I was lucky: within a few years, I married again, and this time the match was much better. But my new husband and I seemed to face frightening odds against having children. Most books and Web sites I read said that one in three women ages 35 to 39 would not get pregnant within a year of starting to try. The first page of the ASRM’s 2003 guide for patients noted that women in their late 30s had a 30 percent chance of remaining childless altogether. The guide also included statistics that I’d seen repeated in many other places: a woman’s chance of pregnancy was 20 percent each month at age 30, dwindling to 5 percent by age 40.

Every time I read these statistics, my stomach dropped like a stone, heavy and foreboding. Had I already missed my chance to be a mother?

As a psychology researcher who’d published articles in scientific journals, some covered in the popular press, I knew that many scientific findings differ significantly from what the public hears about them. Soon after my second wedding, I decided to go to the source: I scoured medical-research databases, and quickly learned that the statistics on women’s age and fertility—used by many to make decisions about relationships, careers, and when to have children—were one of the more spectacular examples of the mainstream media’s failure to correctly report on and interpret scientific research.

The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.

In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: “No … No way. Really?

Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century—but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture. One study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2004 and headed by David Dunson (now of Duke University), examined the chances of pregnancy among 770 European women. It found that with sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of 35-to-39-year-old women conceive within a year, compared with 86 percent of 27-to-34-year-olds. (The fertility of women in their late 20s and early 30s was almost identical—news in and of itself.) Another study, released this March in Fertility and Sterility and led by Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, followed 2,820 Danish women as they tried to get pregnant. Among women having sex during their fertile times, 78 percent of 35-to-40-year-olds got pregnant within a year, compared with 84 percent of 20-to-34-year-olds. A study headed by Anne Steiner, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the results of which were presented in June, found that among 38- and 39-year-olds who had been pregnant before, 80 percent of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within six months (although that percentage was lower among other races and among the overweight). “In our data, we’re not seeing huge drops until age 40,” she told me.

Even some studies based on historical birth records are more optimistic than what the press normally reports: One found that, in the days before birth control, 89 percent of 38-year-old women were still fertile. Another concluded that the typical woman was able to get pregnant until somewhere between ages 40 and 45. Yet these more encouraging numbers are rarely mentioned—none of these figures appear in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s 2008 committee opinion on female age and fertility, which instead relies on the most-ominous historical data.

In short, the “baby panic”—which has by no means abated since it hit me personally—is based largely on questionable data. We’ve rearranged our lives, worried endlessly, and forgone countless career opportunities based on a few statistics about women who resided in thatched-roof huts and never saw a lightbulb. In Dunson’s study of modern women, the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points. Fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child. And that, after all, is the whole point.

I am now the mother of three children, all born after I turned 35. My oldest started kindergarten on my 40th birthday; my youngest was born five months later. All were conceived naturally within a few months. The toddler in my lap at the airport is now mine.

Instead of worrying about my fertility, I now worry about paying for child care and getting three children to bed on time. These are good problems to have.

Yet the memory of my abject terror about age-related infertility still lingers. Every time I tried to get pregnant, I was consumed by anxiety that my age meant doom. I was not alone. Women on Internet message boards write of scaling back their careers or having fewer children than they’d like to, because they can’t bear the thought of trying to get pregnant after 35. Those who have already passed the dreaded birthday ask for tips on how to stay calm when trying to get pregnant, constantly worrying—just as I did—that they will never have a child. “I’m scared because I am 35 and everyone keeps reminding me that my ‘clock is ticking.’ My grandmother even reminded me of this at my wedding reception,” one newly married woman wrote to me after reading my 2012 advice book, The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant, based in part on my own experience. It’s not just grandmothers sounding this note. “What science tells us about the aging parental body should alarm us more than it does,” wrote the journalist Judith Shulevitz in a New Republic cover story late last year that focused, laser-like, on the downsides of delayed parenthood.

How did the baby panic happen in the first place? And why hasn’t there been more public pushback from fertility experts?

One possibility is the “availability heuristic”: when making judgments, people rely on what’s right in front of them. Fertility doctors see the effects of age on the success rate of fertility treatment every day. That’s particularly true for in vitro fertilization, which relies on the extraction of a large number of eggs from the ovaries, because some eggs are lost at every stage of the difficult process. Younger women’s ovaries respond better to the drugs used to extract the eggs, and younger women’s eggs are more likely to be chromosomally normal. As a result, younger women’s IVF success rates are indeed much higher—about 42 percent of those younger than 35 will give birth to a live baby after one IVF cycle, versus 27 percent for those ages 35 to 40, and just 12 percent for those ages 41 to 42. Many studies have examined how IVF success declines with age, and these statistics are cited in many research articles and online forums.

Yet only about 1 percent of babies born each year in the U.S. are a result of IVF, and most of their mothers used the technique not because of their age, but to overcome blocked fallopian tubes, male infertility, or other issues: about 80 percent of IVF patients are 40 or younger. And the IVF statistics tell us very little about natural conception, which requires just one egg rather than a dozen or more, among other differences.

Studies of natural conception are surprisingly difficult to conduct—that’s one reason both IVF statistics and historical records play an outsize role in fertility reporting. Modern birth records are uninformative, because most women have their children in their 20s and then use birth control or sterilization surgery to prevent pregnancy during their 30s and 40s. Studies asking couples how long it took them to conceive or how long they have been trying to get pregnant are as unreliable as human memory. And finding and studying women who are trying to get pregnant is challenging, as there’s such a narrow window between when they start trying and when some will succeed.

Millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.

Another problem looms even larger: women who are actively trying to get pregnant at age 35 or later might be less fertile than the average over-35 woman. Some highly fertile women will get pregnant accidentally when they are younger, and others will get pregnant quickly whenever they try, completing their families at a younger age. Those who are left are, disproportionately, the less fertile. Thus, “the observed lower fertility rates among older women presumably overestimate the effect of biological aging,” says Dr. Allen Wilcox, who leads the Reproductive Epidemiology Group at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “If we’re overestimating the biological decline of fertility with age, this will only be good news to women who have been most fastidious in their birth-control use, and may be more fertile at older ages, on average, than our data would lead them to expect.”

These modern-day research problems help explain why historical data from an age before birth control are so tempting. However, the downsides of a historical approach are numerous. Advanced medical care, antibiotics, and even a reliable food supply were unavailable hundreds of years ago. And the decline in fertility in the historical data may also stem from older couples’ having sex less often than younger ones. Less-frequent sex might have been especially likely if couples had been married for a long time, or had many children, or both. (Having more children of course makes it more difficult to fit in sex, and some couples surely realized—eureka!—that they could avoid having another mouth to feed by scaling back their nocturnal activities.) Some historical studies try to control for these problems in various ways—such as looking only at just-married couples—but many of the same issues remain.

The best way to assess fertility might be to measure “cycle viability,” or the chance of getting pregnant if a couple has sex on the most fertile day of the woman’s cycle. Studies based on cycle viability use a prospective rather than retrospective design—monitoring couples as they attempt to get pregnant instead of asking couples to recall how long it took them to get pregnant or how long they tried. Cycle-viability studies also eliminate the need to account for older couples’ less active sex lives. David Dunson’s analysis revealed that intercourse two days before ovulation resulted in pregnancy 29 percent of the time for 35-to-39-year-old women, compared with about 42 percent for 27-to-29-year-olds. So, by this measure, fertility falls by about a third from a woman’s late 20s to her late 30s. However, a 35-to-39-year-old’s fertility two days before ovulation was the same as a 19-to-26-year-old’s fertility three days before ovulation: according to Dunson’s data, older couples who time sex just one day better than younger ones will effectively eliminate the age difference.

Don’t these numbers contradict the statistics you sometimes see in the popular press that only 20 percent of 30-year-old women and 5 percent of 40-year-old women get pregnant per cycle? They do, but no journal article I could locate contained these numbers, and none of the experts I contacted could tell me what data set they were based on. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s guide provides no citation for these statistics; when I contacted the association’s press office asking where they came from, a representative said they were simplified for a popular audience, and did not provide a specific citation.

Dunson, a biostatistics professor, thought the lower numbers might be averages across many cycles rather than the chances of getting pregnant during the first cycle of trying. More women will get pregnant during the first cycle than in each subsequent one because the most fertile will conceive quickly, and those left will have lower fertility on average.

Most fertility problems are not the result of female age. Blocked tubes and endometriosis (a condition in which the cells lining the uterus also grow outside it) strike both younger and older women. Almost half of infertility problems trace back to the man, and these seem to be more common among older men, although research suggests that men’s fertility declines only gradually with age.

Fertility problems unrelated to female age may also explain why, in many studies, fertility at older ages is considerably higher among women who have been pregnant before. Among couples who haven’t had an accidental pregnancy—who, as Dr. Steiner put it, “have never had an ‘oops’ ”—sperm issues and blocked tubes may be more likely. Thus, the data from women who already have a child may give a more accurate picture of the fertility decline due to “ovarian aging.” In Kenneth Rothman’s study of the Danish women, among those who’d given birth at least once previously, the chance of getting pregnant at age 40 was similar to that at age 20.

Older women’s fears, of course, extend beyond the ability to get pregnant. The rates of miscarriages and birth defects rise with age, and worries over both have been well ventilated in the popular press. But how much do these risks actually rise? Many miscarriage statistics come from—you guessed it—women who undergo IVF or other fertility treatment, who may have a higher miscarriage risk regardless of age. Nonetheless, the National Vital Statistics Reports, which draw data from the general population, find that 15 percent of women ages 20 to 34, 27 percent of women 35 to 39, and 26 percent of women 40 to 44 report having had a miscarriage. These increases are hardly insignificant, and the true rate of miscarriages is higher, since many miscarriages occur extremely early in a pregnancy—before a missed period or pregnancy test. Yet it should be noted that even for older women, the likelihood of a pregnancy’s continuing is nearly three times that of having a known miscarriage.

What about birth defects? The risk of chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome does rise with a woman’s age—such abnormalities are the source of many of those very early, undetected miscarriages. However, the probability of having a child with a chromosomal abnormality remains extremely low. Even at early fetal testing (known as chorionic villus sampling), 99 percent of fetuses are chromosomally normal among 35-year-old pregnant women, and 97 percent among 40-year-olds. At 45, when most women can no longer get pregnant, 87 percent of fetuses are still normal. (Many of those that are not will later be miscarried.) In the near future, fetal genetic testing will be done with a simple blood test, making it even easier than it is today for women to get early information about possible genetic issues.

What does all this mean for a woman trying to decide when to have children? More specifically, how long can she safely wait?

This question can’t be answered with absolutely certainty, for two big reasons. First, while the data on natural fertility among modern women are proliferating, they are still sparse. Collectively, the three modern studies by Dunson, Rothman, and Steiner included only about 400 women 35 or older, and they might not be representative of all such women trying to conceive.

Second, statistics, of course, can tell us only about probabilities and averages—they offer no guarantees to any particular person. “Even if we had good estimates for the average biological decline in fertility with age, that is still of relatively limited use to individuals, given the large range of fertility found in healthy women,” says Allen Wilcox of the NIH.

So what is a woman—and her partner—to do?

The data, imperfect as they are, suggest two conclusions. No. 1: fertility declines with age. No. 2, and much more relevant: the vast majority of women in their late 30s will be able to get pregnant on their own. The bottom line for women, in my view, is: plan to have your last child by the time you turn 40. Beyond that, you’re rolling the dice, though they may still come up in your favor. “Fertility is relatively stable until the late 30s, with the inflection point somewhere around 38 or 39,” Steiner told me. “Women in their early 30s can think about years, but in their late 30s, they need to be thinking about months.” That’s also why many experts advise that women older than 35 should see a fertility specialist if they haven’t conceived after six months—particularly if it’s been six months of sex during fertile times.

There is no single best time to have a child. Some women and couples will find that starting—and finishing—their families in their 20s is what’s best for them, all things considered. They just shouldn’t let alarmist rhetoric push them to become parents before they’re ready. Having children at a young age slightly lowers the risks of infertility and chromosomal abnormalities, and moderately lowers the risk of miscarriage. But it also carries costs for relationships and careers. Literally: an analysis by one economist found that, on average, every year a woman postpones having children leads to a 10 percent increase in career earnings.

For women who aren’t ready for children in their early 30s but are still worried about waiting, new technologies—albeit imperfect ones—offer a third option. Some women choose to freeze their eggs, having a fertility doctor extract eggs when they are still young (say, early 30s) and cryogenically preserve them. Then, if they haven’t had children by their self-imposed deadline, they can thaw the eggs, fertilize them, and implant the embryos using IVF. Because the eggs will be younger, success rates are theoretically higher. The downsides are the expense—perhaps $10,000 for the egg freezing and an average of more than $12,000 per cycle for IVF—and having to use IVF to get pregnant. Women who already have a partner can, alternatively, freeze embryos, a more common procedure that also uses IVF technology.

At home, couples should recognize that having sex at the most fertile time of the cycle matters enormously, potentially making the difference between an easy conception in the bedroom and expensive fertility treatment in a clinic. Rothman’s study found that timing sex around ovulation narrowed the fertility gap between younger and older women. Women older than 35 who want to get pregnant should consider recapturing the glory of their 20‑something sex lives, or learning to predict ovulation by charting their cycles or using a fertility monitor.

I wish I had known all this back in the spring of 2002, when the media coverage of age and infertility was deafening. I did, though, find some relief from the smart women of Saturday Night Live.

“According to author Sylvia Hewlett, career women shouldn’t wait to have babies, because our fertility takes a steep drop-off after age 27,” Tina Fey said during a “Weekend Update” sketch. “And Sylvia’s right; I definitely should have had a baby when I was 27, living in Chicago over a biker bar, pulling down a cool $12,000 a year. That would have worked out great.” Rachel Dratch said, “Yeah. Sylvia, um, thanks for reminding me that I have to hurry up and have a baby. Uh, me and my four cats will get right on that.”

“My neighbor has this adorable, cute little Chinese baby that speaks Italian,” noted Amy Poehler. “So, you know, I’ll just buy one of those.” Maya Rudolph rounded out the rant: “Yeah, Sylvia, maybe your next book should tell men our age to stop playing Grand Theft Auto III and holding out for the chick from Alias.” (“You’re not gonna get the chick from Alias,” Fey advised.)

Eleven years later, these four women have eight children among them, all but one born when they were older than 35. It’s good to be right.

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How to Avoid the Seven Sins of Customer Experience


Sharon Daniels . CEO . April 18 2013

Photo credit:www.marketingsavant.com

Today’s business environment is one of heightened competition, and customer experiences are part of a complex matrix that determines customer loyalty.  Customer experience can ultimately be an organization’s primary competitive advantage, if it is managed correctly.  Exceptional customer service produces loyal customers who buy more, refer friends, resist special offers from competitors and forgive the occasional mistake.  Our newest research report on customer experience sheds new light on the “seven sins” of customer experience – key missteps that make organizations stumble when it comes to customer interaction.

The study surveyed 5,500 consumers and conducted in-depth interviews with outstanding customer service employees in seven countries. Among its significant findings:

– Customers are sharing their rants and raves about their service experiences around the clock and around the globe. Almost 40% reported they posted complaints about a company or brand after a bad service experience.

– Negative experiences have a bottom-line impact. Half of those surveyed said they would defect to a competitor after only one bad service experience.

– Consumers give low ratings to customer service. Only 25% of survey respondents said that service employees “make me feel they are on my side.”

– Service employees’ interpersonal skills are what makes or breaks the customer experience. One third of survey respondents believe it’s more important to be “listened to and shown respect” than to have their issue resolved.

– Reinforcing the need for human contact, most survey respondents prefer communicating with service employees by telephone (43 percent) or personally (37 percent), compared with email (18 percent) or text (2 percent.) Though they’re quick to make complaints online, they want real-person interaction.

As the survey data indicates, the customer experience counts mightily in organizational performance. Recognizing this imperative, CEO Kevin Peters of Office Depot invites customers to a prototype store near company headquarters so they can help design a superior customer experience. Their input affects factors like the shelves on which products appear and even where employees stand as they stock the shelves.

These are the seven sins of customer experience:

1. Not Minding Your Metrics

Company leaders are failing to take full advantage of new tools that make it easier than ever to monitor customers’ experiences. The tools include a wide variety of CRM systems, voice-of-the-customer software, customer-interface technology and predictive analytics. Data on customer retention and the results of cross-selling by service reps can be especially valuable.

Obtain a comprehensive review of your customer’s opinions and actions through quantifiable metrics. Regularly survey them on key pints – whether they would recommend your company, what specifically is influencing their buying behavior, and what ideas they have for improving the customer experience.

Among the businesses that use highly sophisticated measurement frameworks is EMC, the IT storage cloud computing company. It identifies the aspects of the customer experience that have the biggest impact on loyalty. It then determines which ones require immediate changes, which to improve over time and which to promote as its strengths.

2. Underestimating the Power of Emotion

Even when the service provider can’t immediately fix the problem, customers can be satisfied if the employee connects with them on a human level. The service employee has to walk in the customers’ shoes.

Employees must listen actively so they can communicate sincere understanding, using a voice tone and/or body language that shows empathy with the customers’ emotions — even when the customer caused the problem. An angry customer may expect urgent concern, while a confused one may be satisfied simply with kindness. When it’s appropriate, an apology can work wonders and service employees shouldn’t hesitate to provide one.

3 Fumbling Defining Moments

Every customer interaction has defining moments that must be handled carefully. One of the first defining moments occurs when the customer is greeted, and it sets the tone for the entire interaction. A drive-through customer at a fast food outlet wants speedy service, as does the chain itself. KFC drive-through employees are required to greet the customer no more than five seconds after the customer reaches the intercom.

Another defining moment presents itself when the customer has a complaint. The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, which prides itself on maintaining an excellent customer experience, allows every staff member, regardless of position, to spend as much as $2,000 to resolve a guest’s problem without seeking approval.

A customer who must return a product faces another defining moment. Customers often complain about return policies. Zappos, which has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed return policy, actually encourages customers to order several sizes of a clothing line and return what’s not wanted.

Another defining moment crops up when an employee answers a customer’s questions. The employee has to answer directly, without evasiveness or circumlocutions. Another is when asking questions. The employee has to clarify the customer’s concern without putting the customer on the defensive. Finally, the customer shouldn’t be put on hold for a prolonged period.

3. Employees on Autopilot

Service people must stay engaged. They should do it by asking a blend of open questions, which keep customers explaining, and closed questions, which help confirm facts and isolate the customer’s needs.

Employees should explain what happened in terms the customer understands. They should be clear about what they know and don’t know about the situation. They must avoid blaming anyone for the problem — the organization, another employee, and certainly not the customer.

Most importantly, they should provide the particular kind of service each customer needs. Geek Squad, which provides support for technology product users, trains its employees to understand that customers have radically different levels of knowledge about the products and to serve them accordingly.

4. Focusing on Features

Some well-meaning service providers, hoping to give their customers insights about the product, talk too much about its features rather than the customers’ problems. This can make the customers feel their concerns aren’t being addressed. This is no time to try to up-sell or cross- sell.

More than 40% of survey respondents worldwide said they get annoyed when an employee “talks to me about things other than the problem I am trying to resolve.” Customers dislike complex processes and generally want to be spared the details of internal activities and issues.

5. Getting Negative

It’s not what the employees say but how they say it that leaves a lasting impression on the customer. The interaction must be positive throughout its duration. Words like “can’t” or “won’t” can quickly send the conversation spiraling downward. It would be wise to give service employees lists of words to use and words to avoid as they communicate with customers. Verint Systems, a consulting and research firm, identifies some of the words and phrases that can antagonize customers. They include “you people,” “let me speak,” and “you promised.”

6. Escalating Anger

Angry customers sometimes express their feelings by verbally assaulting service providers. Employees must avoid responding with anger. Help them understand that customers aren’t attacking them personally. Teach them how to ease tension and clear a path to address the customer’s problems.

Customer loyalty is built one successful interaction at a time. Customer-facing associates are likely the most critical link between the customer and your brand. Indifferent or unhappy buyers among your customer base can be converted into brand promoters by taking a holistic view of the customer’s experience and determining how employee skills and behaviors fit into it.

Power Boosters: How to Land That Job When You Think You Can’t


  David Dubois  |  INSEAD |    April 8, 2013

To land that dream job, adopt a mindset that signals power, even if you don’t feel so powerful.

Candidates invest considerable resources in the form of time or money to prepare for that interview that will grant them entrance to their dream school or land them their dream job. In these situations, candidates are often tempted to work on planning how the interview will go and what they will say: why is my background relevant for that job? How can I bring value to the company? Why do I want to work in this industry?

While thinking of answers to these questions is important, recent research suggests that what interviewers are looking for is a specific mindset.  In particular, what will persuade them to hire you is whether you communicate a powerful mindset – one that signals the candidate will be a great recruit. In the midst of a crisis, will you know how to take the right action? When it comes to selling a product, will you communicate enough enthusiasm to the client?

What is this “powerful” mindset anyway and how we can acquire it? Here are two tips for candidates that will make a difference in interview settings.

1. “Think powerful”

Job candidates are rarely in a position of power as interviewers decide the fate of their future career prospects. Yet, the winning strategy in these situations is thinking that one has power, in spite of the situation. As a candidate, how can you engineer a powerful mindset? Well, a simple trick is to remind yourself about a time you had power over a situation right before an interview, and invoke the precise feelings associated with that memory – feelings of confidence and competence, as well as decisiveness during decision making.

One of my recent research projects, Power gets the job: Priming power improves interview outcomes co-authored with Joris Lammers (University of Cologne), Derek D. Rucker (Northwestern University) and Adam Galinsky (Columbia University) tested just that idea: as part of a session of individual mock interviews, we assigned business school applicants to one of three conditions. In the first condition, applicants wrote a short essay about a time they had power just before entering an interview. In the second condition, applicants also wrote an essay, but this time about a time they lacked power. Finally, the last group did not write anything.

Then, we asked interviewers the likelihood that they would accept the candidate into a business school. When candidates went straight to the interview, interviewers accepted 47.1 percent of the candidates. However, the admission rate went up to 68 percent for those people in the group who wrote an essay about a time they had power, and fell to a low 26 percent for those who wrote an essay about a time they lacked power. Importantly, interviewers were unaware of the power manipulation we had given candidates. Thus, merely recalling an experience of high power increased candidates’ likelihood to be admitted by 81 percent compared to baseline and by 162 percent compared to those who recalled an experience of powerlessness.

Of course, there are other ways to engineer personal feelings of power. For instance, candidates can wear objects that make them feel powerful, such as a watch or a particular bag – anything that links you with feelings of power.

2. “Behave powerful”

Power is not only a mindset; it is also a behaviour. Small, almost unconscious moves signal power to an audience and can significantly change the outcome of an interview. In her recent TED talk, Amy Cuddy (Harvard University) provides an excellent summary of how non-verbal language can have a profound effect on how people are judged in contexts as varied as hiring or promotion interviews, a sales context or even a date. As such, physical poses such as wrapping legs, hunching or relying on one’s arms are many subtle signals of powerlessness that cast doubt on what candidates say, regardless of the content of the conversation.

The Virtuous Circle of Power

Interestingly, adopting “power poses” does not only affect how interviewers judge candidates, but also ironically reinforces candidates’ feelings of power. In recent research, Li Huang from INSEAD and colleagues had participants take powerful (for example, expansive postures) or powerless (constricted postures) poses and found the former behaved more powerfully than the latter, by taking action more often and thinking more abstractly, two well-known consequences of power. So, behaving in a powerful way is not only important for how interviewers perceive candidates, it is also a key driver of how candidates will behave!

History is full of examples showing that what really counts for the recipient of a message is the communicator’s mindset, not their actual resources or power. During the early days of the Second World War, Charles de Gaulle, today recognised as one of the great wartime leaders, was an isolated general with a following of a few hundred soldiers who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Vichy government and fled to London after the German invasion to set up a government-in-exile. During a famous negotiation with Churchill, the British prime minister abruptly reminded de Gaulle of his powerless position, noting that his organisation was only surviving thanks to the goodwill and financial help of the allied forces: “Anyway, who are you to represent France? You don’t even have an army!” But de Gaulle, standing tall, straight, and direct, calmly retorted, “If I am not France, then why are you talking to me?” Churchill was forced to sit down and continue the negotiation. Interviewees, adopt the “de Gaulle” mindset!

How to Sell with Confidence


Barry Farber |Inc |Jun  4, 2013

The key to sales success is belief in yourself and what you have to offer. Here’s how to cultivate it.

Closing deal with customer

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You might know everything about your product, your industry, and your competition. But sales success comes down to belief in yourself and what you have to offer your clients. How can you create a deep-seated belief that propels you over obstacles? How can you cultivate a quiet confidence that comes across during sales meetings? Here are some ways to build and maintain an internal belief system that keeps your sales energy strong.

Live to serve Each time I research a prospect, I start to think about all of ways I can add value to the account, which helps build my confidence. I get another confidence boost when I see the positive effects I’m having on the clients. Even if I’m unable to serve prospects with my current product or service, there are other ways to earn their trust. On many occasions, one of my contacts, prospects, or customers needed help or had a challenging situation that had nothing to do with what I could sell them. In those cases, I always make an effort to help. Helping other people without expecting anything back can build a tremendous amount of self-confidence and internal satisfaction. As the management expert Peter Drucker once said, “It is the willingness of people to give of themselves over and above the demands of the job that distinguishes the great from the merely adequate organization.”

Don’t fake it  Some people believe in the old “fake it til you make it” strategy. But when a prospect asks you why you’re the right person or company for a job, something powerful must happen when you respond. When you know deep in your soul that what you can offer is unique and full of value for the client, you won’t hesitate to say so. If you’re not so sure, you’ll hesitate, maybe just for a second. Most prospects will pick up on that hesitation. A “fake it til you make it” mentality operates from a flawed and shallow foundation. It will not support you under pressure.

If it’s to be, it’s up to me Confidence just doesn’t show up one day at the door. You have to work on it. If you maintain tenacity, focus, and a proactive approach to getting things done, you’ll have the confidence to endure the tough times. In the end, you are the one who determines your success or failure.

Innovative Methods to Develop Leaders


Patrick Sweeney – Talent Management. May 8,2013

Consider these five tips when putting together a leadership development program.

Successful leaders, by their very nature, are consumed with what they are doing — connecting with clients, motivating talent and inspiring those around them. In particular, enlightened leaders are in a position to create a new future for their organization by identifying the potential and developing the talent of those who could replace them.

Here are some things learning leaders should consider when putting together leadership development programs:

Stop looking for silver bullets. Developing leaders is not about looking for the next big innovation. It is about focusing on the people. Get to know workers’ potential and personal aspirations and whether they have the drive and motivation to get to where the organization needs to go.

Recognize that no leader is going to be around forever. The focus is not about you. It is about what the organization can become. The most important job of a leader is to develop individualized plans for top performers and a succession plan for the organization. Learning leaders must begin with that mindset.

Recognize potential. When hiring, don’t just consider whether someone can succeed. Equally important, consider whether the new hire can grow with time. Consider an example. Tom Gartland, a regional president at Avis Budget Group, said: “Right now, I have five assistant vice presidents who run Canada and the United States. So, if anything were to happen to any of them, I need to know what we would do. Our company’s success is based on my having a clear vision and understanding of who the next leadership team is.”

In all, to have an eye toward the future, leaders must be sure that the right people are in the right roles and that others are prepared to take over in an emergency.

Always be developing future leaders. Fulfilling the leadership pipeline is never complete. For instance, Gartland provided this example: “We had personality profiles conducted for everyone in our sales organization. That gave us a baseline view of each individual’s potential, strengths and limitations. When we match to their current performance, we are able to view them from where they are now, how we can help them meet their goals and where we see them moving next.”

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Satisfaction vs. Engagement: Human Psychology Plays Its Part


Deanna Hartley –    Talent Management. June 4,2013

While the definitions may vary, experts agree that satisfaction is more immediate and on the surface — something felt in the moment — while engagement resonates at a more personal and purposeful level over a long period of time.

 

“Engagement is about purpose,” said Carson Tate, founder and owner of management consultancy Working Simply. “… [It involves] the broader connection between my own understanding of my unique strengths and my purpose and how I connect to the organization.

“If I don’t see how I am able to add some value, connect, contribute, make money for the broader organization, there’s a misalignment.”

Aon Hewitt’s Adler described satisfaction as “the degree to which my personal needs are met by my work experience; by how I’m treated and what I experience in the workplace.” He said engagement goes far beyond that. If employees can affirmatively answer the following three components of engagement, they are more likely to be engaged, rather than just satisfied.

Say: This refers to whether employees are willing to be ambassadors for the company. For instance, do they speak positively about the company and further the brand outside of the workplace? Do they offer others the impression that the company is a great place to work?

Stay: Can an employee envision staying with the same company long term?

Strive: How much discretionary effort is the employee willing to put in? Are employees motivated to go above and beyond what they’re required to do? Often this can mean the difference between doing work well versus performing at a high level.

According to a 2012 research report from Aon Hewitt, the top drivers of employee engagement are career advancement, recognition and organization reputation. Many of these drivers were mirrored in a report by the Human Capital Media (HCM) Advisory Group, the research arm of Talent Management (Figure 1).

Of those surveyed in the HCM report, 65 percent reported using recognition programs to drive engagement, 56 percent said they use wellness programs and 53 percent offer work-life balance programs. Just 23 percent reported using benefits programs to drive engagement, while 22 percent said the same for compensation programs. The point is the same: Employees’ satisfaction with their jobs does not mean they are engaged.

According to the Aon Hewitt research report, employers can make the biggest difference in this regard by providing and outlining a clear path for career advancement. Engaged employees need to feel a sense of future progression and opportunity.

“I can be very satisfied at work today, but disengaged because I see my company [or my position in it] as going nowhere,” Adler said.

He said employees also need to feel recognized for their effort and performance. Further, external brand is important: Highly engaged employees want to work for a company with a positive reputation — whether it is known for its corporate social responsibility effort, for providing high-quality products or for treating employees well.

Employees also want to feel a social connection to an organization. Relationships with managers, co-workers and even customers could play either a positive or detrimental role in employees’ engagement. “You can be doing the most interesting job,” Adler said, “but if you’re socially isolated, you have a work team that doesn’t collaborate, and people don’t give you the recognition and don’t support you in getting done what you need to get done, it’s going to erode your engagement.”

Finally, employees want to be concerned with more than just work. According to the Aon Hewitt research report, many seek a situation where they aren’t so immersed in work that the rest of their lives are neglected. Therefore, employees are more likely to be engaged if their employer gives them the flexibility to achieve work-life balance.

How to Get a Job


 THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN.THE NEW YORK TIMES. May 28, 2013

Underneath the huge drop in demand that drove unemployment up to 9 percent during the recession, there’s been an important shift in the education-to-work model in America.

Thomas L. Friedman .Josh Haner/The New York Times

Anyone who’s been looking for a job knows what I mean. It is best summed up by the mantra from the Harvard education expert Tony Wagner that the world doesn’t care anymore what you know; all it cares “is what you can do with what you know.” And since jobs are evolving so quickly, with so many new tools, a bachelor’s degree is no longer considered an adequate proxy by employers for your ability to do a particular job — and, therefore, be hired. So, more employers are designing their own tests to measure applicants’ skills. And they increasingly don’t care how those skills were acquired: home schooling, an online university, a massive open online course, or Yale. They just want to know one thing: Can you add value?

 

One of the best ways to understand the changing labor market is to talk to the co-founders of HireArt (www.hireart.com): Eleonora Sharef, 27, a veteran of McKinsey; and Nick Sedlet, 28, a math whiz who left Goldman Sachs. Their start-up was designed to bridge the divide between job-seekers and job-creators.

“The market is broken on both sides,” explained Sharef. “Many applicants don’t have the skills that employers are seeking, and don’t know how to get them. But employers also … have unrealistic expectations.” They’re all “looking for purple unicorns: the perfect match. They don’t want to train you, and they expect you to be overqualified.” In the new economy, “you have to prove yourself, and we’re an avenue for candidates to do that,” said Sharef. “A degree document is no longer a proxy for the competency employers need.” Too many of the “skills you need in the workplace today are not being taught by colleges.”

The way HireArt works, explained Sharef (who was my daughter’s college roommate), is that clients — from big companies, like Cisco, Safeway and Airbnb, to small family firms — come with a job description and then HireArt designs online written and video tests relevant for that job. Then HireArt culls through the results and offers up the most promising applicants to the company, which chooses among them.

With 50,000 registered job-seekers on HireArt’s platform, the company receives about 500 applicants per job opening, said Sharef, adding: “While it’s great that the Internet allows people to apply to lots of jobs, it has led to some very unhealthy behavior. Job-seekers tell me that they apply to as many as 500 jobs in four to five months without doing almost any research. One candidate told me he had written a computer program that allowed him to auto-apply to every single job on Craigslist in a certain city. Given that candidates don’t self-select, recruiters think of résumés as ‘mostly spam,’ and their approach is to ‘wade through the mess’ to find the treasures. Of these, only one person gets hired — one out of 500 — so the ‘success rate’ is very low for us and for our candidates.”

How are people tested? HireArt asks candidates to do tasks that mimic the work they would do on the job. If it is for a Web analytics job, HireArt might ask: “You are hired as the marketing manager at an e-commerce company and asked to set up a Web site analytics system. What are the key performance indicators you would measure? How would you measure them?”

Or, if you want to be a social media manager, said Sharef, “you will have to demonstrate familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, HTML, On-Page SEO and Key Word Analysis.” Sample question: “Kanye West just released a new fashion collection. You can see it here. Imagine you had to write a tweet promoting this collection. What would your tweet be?” Someone applying for a sales job would have to record a sales pitch over video.

Added Sharef: “What surprises me most about people’s skills is how poor their writing and grammar are, even for college graduates. If we can’t get the basics right, there is a real problem.” Still, she adds, HireArt sees many talented people who are just “confused about what jobs they are qualified for, what jobs are out there and where they fit in.”

So what does she advise? Sharef pointed to one applicant, a Detroit woman who had worked as a cashier at Borders. She realized that that had no future, so she taught herself Excel. “We gave her a very rigorous test, and she outscored people who had gone to Stanford and Harvard. She ended up as a top applicant for a job that, on paper, she was completely unqualified for.”

People get rejected for jobs for two main reasons, said Sharef. One, “you’re not showing the employer how you will help them add value,” and, two, “you don’t know what you want, and it comes through because you have not learned the skills that are needed.” The most successful job candidates, she added, are “inventors and solution-finders,” who are relentlessly “entrepreneurial” because they understand that many employers today don’t care about your résumé, degree or how you got your knowledge, but only what you can do and what you can continuously reinvent yourself to do.