Get It Done, Now!

Ever have one of those days when it seems like you worked your butt off but didn’t get done nearly as much as you needed to? I have had several of those lately and today, I simply can’t afford it. Drastic times call for drastic measures so I have devised a plan…

I WILL give myself ten minutes to clear my desk of everything except the top three projects that need to be done today.

I WILL open only one window on my computer so I can work on only one thing at a time. That means there will be no e-mail notifications creeping out from the bottom right hand corner of my screen nor will I receive irresistible alerts that my colleagues have posted something on our SharePoint site.

I WILL NOT open my online communications services like OCS, Skype, or Yahoo Messenger so that means there will be no tones that alert me to people trying to contact me.

I WILL place a piece of fruit right on my desk so I won’t be distracted by wanting to get up and get a snack.

I WILL put a colorful Post-it note on my telephone to remind me not to answer it and put my cell phone on vibrate.

I WILL give myself two solid hours to work without stopping unless the building is on fire.

Help me out. What else would you suggest?

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What to do with Free Time?

Every now and then, I end up with a nice chunk of free time. And the first thing I wonder is how I am going to fill it up. And then, I get right to it. Eventually, I look up and realize that there were so many things on that list that no matter how many I got done, there was still going to be a whole bunch of undone items glaring me in the face. If you find this happening to you while your career development sits on the backburner, it’s time to realize that Michael Altshuler was right when he said “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

Here’s how to strategize now, be ready to navigate your professional journey and feel the accomplishments as you ride:

* Focus focus, focus. Pick one or more priority, have laser focus on until it is done. Celebrate your achievement by taking a break or doing something fun.
* Revamp your boring resume. If updating your resume only involves adding on your most recent job, it’s probably b-o-r-i-n-g. If you aren’t excited about it, an employer probably won’t be excited about you.
* Make networking count. Instead of running out trying to link up with a bunch of new people, online or offline, re-connect with someone you already know. Ask what’s new with them, listen closely and offer to help. Not only will you create good Karma, but just feels good to be the giver.
* Set up a Skype call with a friend or colleague. Pay attention to how you look and sound, and your surroundings on camera. Pay attention to theirs too. Use these observations and the tips here to prepare yourself to master the virtual interview.

What are your thoughts?

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Making Less Money Than Your Peers? Don’t Get Mad, Get Even

Ideally, the best time to get a bigger salary is before you accept the job offer. But if you have been on the job for a while and know you deserve more money, or worse, just found out you make considerably less than the guy next to you doing the same job, don’t get mad. Get even.

And don’t even think about playing the race card or the gender card because realistically, it’s not going to get you what you want. Instead, play your cards right. Know exactly what you want and ask for it. Here’s how:

1. Do your research to determine how much money someone with your skill set can make in your position. Try salary.com or similar web sites for state-specific data. Add a few dollars more to that figure to leave room for negotiation.

2. Be prepared to answer the “What’s in it for me” questions you are guaranteed to get. To start the discussion show evidence of your past accomplishments. But to hit the point home you have to talk about your potential contributions. Remember, we are talking salary here, not bonus.

3. Anticipate objections, because you will get them. Prepare for them and offer options to address them before the boss even mentions them. For example, if you know she will say there’s no money right now, frame your request to coincide with the budget cycle at the time when there is “extra” money to be spent.

4. Be confident, but not cocky. Expect a “yes” to show confidence in your proposal, but tread lightly. Overstating your value, listing demands or making idle threats to leave, are not strategies that work. What you want is someone who agrees with what you have to present, not someone who’s sitting there thinking: “Yeah right.”

Ever found out you were making less than others in your work place who are doing the same job? What did you do about it? If that time is now, how can I help?

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Giddy with Gratitude

Whenever I land a new job, I get really giddy with excitement. And as a military spouse, that “new-job giddiness” happens every couple of years because our service members get reassigned. It’s the relief of landing yet another job, the anticipation of new career possibilities, and a tad bit of nervousness about how well I will do once I get there. I don’t sleep much the night before my first day at work. But somehow I still have no problem getting up and at ‘em at o ‘dark thirty so I can start working it. Yesterday, even though I didn’t literally start a new job, I experienced all those same feelings, thanks to two very special tributes to military families.

So, here’s a very big THANK YOU to AOL Huffington Post Media Group along with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden for working it on behalf of military families. Their respective Military Families Week tribute and their Joining Forces initiative, both starting up just as National Volunteer Week gets underway, are such fantastic demonstrations of the renewed commitment to support military families even after so many years of war.

It would be easy for people to forget if it were not for the continued efforts like these to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices we military families quietly make. But instead of feeling unrecognized and underappreciated, I feel good, really good. In fact, I feel that “new-job giddiness” we all have ahead of us to work it even more on behalf of military families.

Read David Wood’s article in the Huffington Post: Military Spouses Face Difficulties Finding EmploymentJoining Forces website in support of military families, veterans, and volunteers. Take a look at more of Arianna Huffington’s coverage of how you can help.

And then, let’s work it, together.

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It’s National Volunteer Week: Boost Your Career!

It’s National Volunteer Week! And although you don’t expect anything in return for your volunteer time and efforts, what if I told you that your past and future volunteer work can actually boost your career? Well, it can. And here’s a few tips for how to Work It, Girl!

 

1. Avoid speaking of your volunteer positions as your doing “whatever needs to be done.” Instead, identify your key role and two or three main functions.

2. Know what you bring to the table and bring it on. Volunteer work can be a great place to showcase your skills, especially those you haven’t had the chance to use in paid positions as much as you’d like.

3. Learn something new. If your resume is missing a key skill or knowledge you need for your next career move, make it a goal to gain it from your volunteer work.

4. Treat your volunteer stint just like a paid job. Always perform to the very highest standards. Take the initiative to set your own performance goals and meet them. Dress, communicate and act like the professional you want to be.

5. Document your work. Keep a list of what you do, your accomplishments, and any training you obtain. Use this list to update your resume and to speak about in interviews during your next job search. These experiences just might increase your chances of landing a job or landing one a little sooner.

What volunteer experiences have contributed to your career? Which of these tips will you try?

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Job Applications: Back to the Basics

With so much discussion around online job search, resumes and networking, it’s easy to forget the basics of completing an effective job application, which by the way, is typically online too.

So before you rush right through your application and dismiss its potential importance as a screening tool, remember these basics:

Read the whole application before you begin. There may be special instructions and fine print that will save you time, effort, or embarrassment.

Prepare ahead to collect the details about your past employment, education, and references before you begin. Download or print a sample application to use as a draft.

Don’t leave any items blank. Use “N/A” (Not Applicable) or “None” as appropriate to show you haven’t skipped or ignored the item.

Leave no gaps in employment history. It’s very easy to see if you have been out of work for a significant amount of time. To prevent employers from drawing wrong conclusions, say what you were doing (going to school, freelancing, consulting, raising a family).

Put care into writing your previous job duties. Even if your space is limited, you must still be effective. Begin sentences with action verbs, use past tense, and state accomplishments. Don’t just say: see resume.

Use keywords. Whether it will be read by a computer or human, keywords will get your application noticed. The job vacancy announcement is the perfect place to find out which ones matter.

Double-check your work. Although there are many electronic tools for spell-checking and finding grammar errors, some things won’t be picked up. Print your application, proof-read it, and ask two other people to proof-read it too.

How much time and effort do you think one should put into completing a job application versus a resume?

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Virtual Book Tour: Now THAT’s How you Work It, Girl!

Ever have the feeling that you just have to do something, but at the same time getting it done seems to elude you?

A few months ago I became intrigued with the idea of a virtual book tour. I didn’t really know any thing about them, nor had I participated in one as a reader or an author. But for some reason, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. And then, I actually won a free virtual book tour just by posting a comment on a blog that was having a contest. But, it turned out that for one reason or another, it never came to pass.

Very disappointed but equally determined to work it, I decided to coordinate one myself. And, I made up my mind not to follow anyone’s rules or guidelines. I was going to make this happen based on my instinct for what felt right. After all, what would it harm to do this my way? Not a doggone thing because thanks to the flexibility of today’s digital environment, no multiple layers of corporate or editorial approvals are needed to get something done.

I directly contacted a few fellow military spouses who are writers, bloggers and career coaches, pitched the idea of them hosting an event and received direct yes’s back in no time.

And so, without further ado, let me introduce you to the schedule for The Mocha Manual to Military Life Virtual Book Tour. I truly hope you will join us in this 7-day adventure because I can hardly contain my excitement!!!

When’s the last time you accomplished something that made you say: Now THAT’s How you Work It, Girl!?

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Spring Cleaning: Your Reputation Precedes You

When a friend’s phone was stolen recently, my immediate advice was, “suspend the service NOW.” I wasn’t really concerned about the potential financial costs, but I was more worried about the potential costs to her reputation. What if someone sends inappropriate texts or pictures from it? Or worse, what if they post inappropriate items to any of the social media sites?

I’ve always been a believer that your reputation precedes you.

So, as someone who worked for the same company but in various locations, I was aware that word might ‘get around’ about me. And because of that I did everything with very high professional standards to make sure it was always a good word.

And as a career counselor I have always advised clients about how small a world it is, even when you don’t stay with the same employer for a long time.

You know the deal:

- Never burn bridges.

- Don’t speak badly of past employers when interviewing for a job.

- Distance yourself from drama (in and outside the office).

- First impressions are lasting impressions.

And now, as we are immersed in the digital age, we should all have an even more heightened awareness of protecting our identities and our reputations. Because unfortunately, digital dirt can wreak havoc in your personal and professional life. Here are some tips to maintaining or restoring your online image:

- Find yourself. Use a search engine to see what appears when you type in your name. Don’t forget names from past marriages and your maiden name.

- To impress employers and clients, promote your expertise through a blog, web site, or discussion group related to your career field.

- Join online networking groups and professional associations in your field. Limit the number of memberships so you can interact easily and frequently.

- Be consistent. Don’t appear to have a completely different personality on each social media site.

- Know where to find software that removes damaging information about you from online sites.

- Never post personal information online.

- Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother or grandmother to see. These days, they are online too, and you they will find you!

How do you protect your professional and personal reputations online and “off line?”

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Business Casual: Dressing for Success

I NEVER thought I would wear a Hawaiian print dress and sandals to work, but I did. And that’s because in Hawaii, every Friday is Aloha Friday. And so, everyone, I mean pretty much everyone, wears the same attire.

Now, believe me, if I hadn’t lived there for three years, I never would have believed it. No matter what industry or job, teachers, news anchors, bank tellers, counselors, business executives, etc., Aloha Friday calls for Aloha attire.

Moving from state to state and workplace to workplace as a military spouse who is a professional, I always look for ways to stand out in my new workplace, EXCEPT when it comes to how I dress. And in that case, I always look to fit in.

Here are the three rules I follow no matter where the Army sends us.

Check out the boss

If the CEO, director, and managers are dressed down, then I follow their leads. But I also take note of where they draw the line. If they aren’t wearing sneakers, shorts, t-shirts, or Hawaiian print clothing, then neither will I.

Think “business first”

There must be a reason the phrase is business casual and not casual business, and that’s what I use as my guide. Therefore, if I am ever called into a special meeting, asked to give a presentation, or required to handle some serious business, even on a casual day, I will still look the part.

When in doubt dress up, not down

There are two staples in my wardrobe that always do the trick.

First, I always have good quality, neutral-colored blazers that can be interchanged with several of my skirts and dress pants.

And I wear these blazers as my jacket on casual days.

If I need to look more business-like, I keep it on. If not, I simply remove it. My second pick is any top with sleeves and buttons.

I have found that cardigans, oxfords, and polo/tennis/golf shirts will add just enough of a business look to an outfit while still feeling and looking casual. Again, with a blazer, this will be a tad bit dressier, if needed.

What other advice would you add to help someone dress for business casual success as the new kid on the block at work?

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Get a Raise without Asking for One: Priceless

Whether you think you deserve a raise or just wish you could get one, it’s time you understand that you don’t have to ask the boss for one.  Dust off your employee benefits manual and check out the many sources of cash that may already be yours for the taking. Over the years here are several ways I did just that.

Transportation and commuting expenses:  Many employers pay for your ride to work, especially if you live and/or work in or near metropolitan areas.  Look for mass transportation programs such as car pools, van pools, trains, and commuter buses. For many people I know (including me), these types of programs cost between $50 and $150 per month (which is $600 to 1800 per year!) and they don’t pay one red cent of the cost because their employer does. Stop driving your car, paying outrageous gas prices, and keeping up with more maintenance costs than necessary.  An added benefit:  eliminating the stress of commuting and gaining the ability to nap or read casually twice a day is priceless.

Employer-paid training and education: After the huge loans I repaid for my undergraduate degree, I was determined not to do the same for my graduate degree.  And so, I took full advantage of my company’s tuition reimbursement program.  They reimbursed me thousands of dollars in college tuition to obtain a work-related master’s degree in counseling.  An added benefit:  When I had to do my practicum and internship hours, I was able to get credit for the hours I worked at my full-time job.  Not having to get a second job or do a volunteer stint like many of my classmates was priceless.

Income tax breaks: Although it was difficult at first to get the hang of paying for child care and then being reimbursed later, it was worth the exercise in patience and planning.  For several years I earned thousands of tax-free dollars by taking advantage of my employer’s flexible spending accounts (FSA) program.  These programs, usually for child care or medical expenses, simply reduce your taxable income. But, a few words of caution: There is usually a limit, you have to enroll and decide on your contribution amount at the beginning of the year, you are stuck in the program for the year unless you have significant life events, and you could lose money if you don’t plan accordingly.  An added value:  Saving money by spending money that I had to spend anyway was priceless.

What ways some other ways to get a raise just by taking advantage of your company benefits? 

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