How to Get Smarter

We live in an economy and society centered around information. This means you must be knowledgeable to get ahead.  Luckily, two free web-based tools can help you increase your smarts easily and efficiently.

I’ve come to use these tools on a daily basis and wanted to share them with you. (Note: I’m writing about these tools because I love them and use them. I have no official relationship with them.)

1. Instapaper. As a career expert, one of the most frequent pieces of advice I give is to read the news every day. This means, at the very least, reading a major national news source and subscribing to industry publications and blogs. Most people follow this advice by skimming each day’s headlines, reading some digest emails and checking their social networks for shared articles.

Doing all of that is fine, but it means that most people only have a surface understanding of news and current events. For many topics this will suffice, but the most successful people have a much deeper level of knowledge about their particular field, and current events as well.

How do they do this? By reading longer articles, opinion pieces and in-depth analyses. For instance, book editors read full-length reviews in The New York Times Book Review. Financial professionals read feature articles in Harvard Business Review. Doctors read studies in The New England Journal of Medicine. If you really want to make it big, you need to get smarter by going deeper.

The problem, of course, is that deep reading is incredibly time-consuming. Enter Instapaper. This no-frills app allows you to save any online article to your iPhone or computer (some other mobile devices work with the app as well) and read it when you have time. When I’m not able to read an article I know is important, I’ll Instapaper it and then read when I can.  This ensures I don’t miss important content and it helps maximize my “downtime”.  Riding the subway, sitting in traffic and waiting at a doctor’s appointment are great opportunities to catch up on my reading.

If you’re not sure what is important or interesting to read, check out Instapaper’s weekly selection of the best articles on the web. Not only will you feel smarter, but you’ll also have a great diversity of knowledge to talk about at networking events, job interviews and other situations where you want to make a good impression.

2. Klout. Knowing more information makes you smarter. And so does knowing more about yourself. Klout is a relatively new tool that provides information about the influence you have online. Your Klout “score” uses data from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks to determine the people you influence through your online activities. Then, the site gives you an overall designation such as “observer,” “dabbler,” “activist” or “thought leader” in the categories you like to engage in. In other words, Klout analyzes how much you’re viewed as a knowledgeable person online.

Why should you care? Because your Internet image matters to your career. As recruiters and hiring managers pay more and more attention to candidates’ social media presence, a high Klout score could help you land a job (or a client or an investor).

Remember that in today’s competitive market, success is not just about what you know, but how you show it. Instapaper and Klout are here to help.

What other tools help make you smarter? Please share!

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