Dazed & Delusional: Get Real About Your Professional Strengths and Weaknesses

Young woman with horrified expression, posing in studio, portrait

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One of the toughest decisions students and young professionals make is choosing an ideal career path. Finding that perfect career can be an exhausting battle of reality versus passion. It all takes time, research, planning and self-introspection. It’s important to assess what you are attracted to, what your life goals are and how you can be successful based on your unique skills, strengths—and even weaknesses.

Here are five steps how to make a well-informed decision:

Honestly face the not-so-great aspects of your work ethic, personality or level of experience. Identifying and assessing your skills can help you determine which you want to acquire and those you already have that need more work and development. Just as you’d keep benchmarks of success, take a look at the failures as well. It’s a good idea to get candid insight from a mentor, supervisor or industry peer or even take assessment tests to determine what you’re great at and where you could improve.

Re-examine what interests you. What are your hobbies? What types of jobs or careers have duties that appeal to you? Learning about your interests will help you identify opportunities to pursue and topics you are most naturally drawn to, making work more motivating, enjoyable, purposeful and prosperous. This can change throughout your life, so be sure to do this on a periodical basis whether it’s every year, five years or 10 years.

Determine your professional values. Values greatly influence the career decision-making process, professional goals and job satisfaction. Examples of values include: desire to help others, aspiration for wealth, boss inclinations, or connection to a social cause. Prioritize what’s important when it comes to your values and stick to focusing on them based on the level of priority.

Cut off any signs of woe-is-me or defeat. Remember that your search for a purposeful or fulfilling career may take some time and you might have to go down a few different roads before finding the right path. Time and self-discovery will help you identify the activities you most enjoy and that bring you true satisfaction. You may be great at one thing and a total blunder at another. That’s fine. Just learn the lesson, stay positive and move on.

Get to work on improving areas you may be weak in. Hey, maybe you aren’t the best singer right now. Get a coach. Maybe your dream is to be president one day, but you’re the shyest, least known graduate in your class. Take some public speaking courses, join some service organizations and get to networking. You’d love to work in finance but not so great with math? Get more training, get a tutor or find a new program tailored to your learning style. Or better yet, find other career in the industry that could benefit from the strong skills you do have.

Black Hockey Player Jeered in the Czech Republic

National Hockey League player Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, who is playing for the Czech league’s  Liberec White Tigers during the NHL lockout, was subjected to racist chants from fans of the Chomutov Pirates during a game on Sunday.

The Czech Republic’s ice hockey federation  fined the Pirates 30,000 koruna ($1,554) for the actions of their fans.

Chomutov Pirates has apologized to Simmonds,  and the club said it do all they can to prevent future racist attacks.

Read more at the Grio.




Slacker to Psycho: What Type of Boss Do You Have

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Managers come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Being able to choose your supervisor is like being able to choose family members— impossible. Figure out what type of boss you have and how to deal:

The Monster: Whether your boss is a nit-picker, a micro-manager or just a complete psycho, it’s conclusive that you have the worst type of the boss. This person may be a controlling egomaniac who always seems to be on your case. The monster manager may come into your office or cube at any time, going ham for no reason or may fault you for the tiniest things.

How to Deal: Unless you switch jobs, you’re in for the long haul. It’s important to still show respect to your boss and your job, but don’t be too afraid to stand up for yourself by having a conversation with them about their behavior. If behavior is overly abusive, it may be best to find ways to avoid one-on-one interactions with your boss, maybe by corresponding mostly via e-mail or through an assistant. If all else fails, it’s time to look for another position within the company or another job altogether.

The Crowd Favorite: This is the complete opposite of the monster boss. While we know that no boss is perfect, this type is fun, supportive, capable and inspiring. They will give you all the tools that you need to succeed and will always follow up, and they are usually a pleasure to work with. They know how to make the tough decisions, but can do it in a way that is respectful and professional for all involved.

How to Deal: Try not to brag too much and take advantage of this situation. Stay on point and don’t forget that though this person is so awesome and might even seem like a friend, they’re still your boss. Be sure to draw clear lines based on company culture and professional ethics. Keep an open relationship with the fun boss and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to keep in touch with them even when you move on from the company. Hey, it’s great to work with awesome people throughout your career.

The Slacker: The slacker boss is defined by laziness, disarray and empty promises. They will wait until the last minute to get a project done and then cry to you (or yell at you) for help when an approaching deadline looms. The slacker boss will promise raises and promotion but fails to report to upper management on how well you’re actually performing. After the initial meeting, you may think that the slacker is soft-hearted and easy to get along with when the truth is that they may be spineless. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear, then turn around and do the exact opposite. He or she will leave you hanging out to dry and will be anything but supportive.

How to Deal: Share your concerns with the slacker. Be up front and honest with him or her. If your manager still fails to show support, it may be time to talk with higher management. Also, it’s a good idea to keep a record of what you do and your accomplishment in the event you have to defend yourself or fight for your own promotion or raise to the higher ups.

The Overachiever: The overachieving boss is the person who is consumed with taking their job and duties to the next level and expects the team to do the same. This is great until you get a work email at 9pm or when a day doesn’t pass without your director interrupting your lunch for project updates. Nine to five? Vacation time? Those don’t exist in their world. To overachievers, their job is essentially their life and they feel that it should be the same for you too.

How to Deal: Continue to go hard on your work flow but don’t drive yourself crazy. During your work week, give your manager status reports daily or even hourly if that’s what it takes. Eventually you will gain his or her trust that you can do this job well, but still need time to recharge. Also, if the after-work emails and calls are becoming too much, have a candid conversation about your work ethic and set boundaries if possible.

Ideally, you must strive to adapt to your manager’s leadership style, while still getting the guidance and support you need to be productive and successful.

Cellphones Spammed With Anti-Obama Texts

A proliferation of unsolicited anti-Obama text messages began hitting cellphones on Tuesday night. Politico reports that they were sent by conservative activist Jason Flanary and his Virginia-based communications firm, ccAdvertising.

One message read, “Voting for Obama means voting for same-sex marriage.” Others: “Obama stole $716 Billion in Medicare. We cant [sic] trust Obama to protect our seniors,” “Obama is using your tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions. Is that right?” and “VP Biden mocks a fallen Navy Seal during memorial. Our military deserves better.”

It appears the messges were sent haphazardly—hardcore Democrats, children and residents in non-battleground areas have received them.

Read more at The Grio.



Small businesses predict an increase in holiday sales

Small Business Owners predicate a bounce in Holiday Sales



As the holiday season approaches, small businesses are optimistic this that year Santa will deliver customers. Small business owners are expecting a rise in holiday sales this year and about 40 percent of them are expecting the majority to come from online sales. The National Retail Federation is predicting a modest increase in holiday sales of about 4.1 percent. Meanwhile small business owners surveyed said they were more optimistic about the upcoming holiday season than they were at this time last year.

“The holiday season can bring both immense pressure and great rewards to local small business owners, so this is the most critical time for them to leverage online tools and vast expertise of other business owner,” said Pamela Springer, CEO of Manta, an online community dedicated to small business. Of the owners surveyed, 50 percent expect customers to come directly into their stores, while 41 percent anticipate sales to come via online orders. Many small businesses are running online stores via Esty and other online storefronts. Other’s are focusing on social media sites such as Facebook to drive traffic.

While this year shows a marked increase in online marketing, many small business owners are not embracing certain forms of promotion, namely Groupon and other “daily deal” types of sites. Many owners have expressed displeasure with these types of deals and felt it did not bring repeat business. Other survey result show: about 10 percent will part-time employees for holiday season; about 26 will advertise via websites and social media; and, about 42 percent of small businesses project to finish the year in the black.


Cee-Lo Green Accused of Sexual Assault


Singer Cee-Lo Green, a judge on NBC’s singing competition show ‘The Voice’,  is under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department for sexual assault.

A woman recently filed a police report accusing Cee-Lo, whose  legal name is  Thomas DeCarlo Callaway, of a sexual battery.  No formal charges have been filed against the singer and Cee-Lo denies any wrongdoing.

TMZ reports that LAPD detectives have visited a restaurant in Downtown LA to question several employees, including the manager.   It has not been confirmed whether the alleged incident occurred at that restaurant. The LAPD won’t comment on what Cee-Lo was accused of doing.

Cee Lo told TMZ  that  he hasn’t been to the restaurant in question in three months and says, “Nothing ever happened there or anywhere else.”

Read more at TMZ


Essential Tips for the Suitcase Entrepreneur

The suitcase entrepreneur is the business man or woman who can work from anywhere, who spends his or her life on a plane to another location and who never needs to clock in to “the office” environment. The suitcase entrepreneur is THE entrepreneur of the 21st Century.

Anyone aspiring to be a suitcase entrepreneur must be willing to learn from others. More and more companies are investing in products and services to make the life of the suitcase entrepreneur easier and more successful because the industry is growing fast. Therefore, it is important to stay in touch with the expanding face of this particular world of work and take advantage of all ideas on offer.

My suitcase entrepreneur dream led me to a life of freelance writing. Yes! It is possible to live, eat and pay your bills comfortably as a freelance writer. Read The real-life Carrie Bradshaw: lessons in love, dating, travel and going freelance, for more tips on becoming a freelance writing entrepreneur.

Read: The real-life Carrie Bradshaw: lessons in love, dating, travel and going freelance

Your suitcase entrepreneurial idea might lead you down a completely different route. However, the concepts, needs and skills of the suitcase entrepreneur are basically the same, no matter which industry you decide to capitalize on. With this is mind, and from personal experience, I leave you with the following tips and ideas to help you set off through another set of immigration doors with confidence and ease.

Managing a Virtual Office or Working Alone

The suitcase entrepreneur tends to form a business which can be run as a one-man/woman-show, as it is a lot easier when travelling around and rarely in a fixed location to work alone and be free of managing a team. However, there are a wide number who also choose to build and nurture a team of staff which is managed virtually.

Some may choose to manage their virtual offices using a number of different programs and resources, including Skype, PayPal, Drop Box, Google Docs and GoToMeeting, for example. There are others who choose to set up a fixed office in their hometown (or a location that they are very familiar with). They employ a team of staff who work in that one office and they manage that team of staff from afar.

There are other suitcase entrepreneurs who take their teams with them. They make use of rent-by-the-day offices in a wide number of world locations and the team trots from one place to another, as and when business requires it, paying for office space on a need-to-have basis.

Choosing which way to work will depend on your leadership skills, your management style and the needs of your business. The important thing to recognize is that there are many ways of managing a team of staff and many reasons for choosing to go it entirely alone too.

The Absolute Basics

Whatever kind of business adventure you set your sights on and whether you decide to have a team of staff in tow or not, you will have to set up the following business features at some point and, from experience, it is far better to set up these features sooner rather than later.

1. Fixed business address

There are a number of different services that will manage your post and send it on to you, wherever you might be in the world. This makes it easy to have a fixed business address whilst on the move. Without a fixed address, your business appears less trustworthy and reputation, particularly when relying on the Internet, is everything.

2. Quad band, unblocked cell phone

Every suitcase entrepreneur needs to get setup with a quad band unblocked cell phone. Only quad band cell phones will work in every single country in the world and when the cell phone you have is unblocked you can gradually build up a stash of pay-as-you-go SIM cards to slot in to that phone every time you land in another country. Your number in each country will remain the same and you only have to pay for what you need instead of tying yourself into loads of different cell phone contracts worldwide.

3. Top-notch laptop and external hard-drive

The suitcase entrepreneur cannot function without a laptop. Make sure you buy one that is light and fairly compact but which also has a lot of power and disc space for different programs you might want to install. Splash out on your laptop. It is your most important business resource. Buy an external hard drive too, with lots of space, and back EVERYTHING up. It’s a sad day for the suitcase entrepreneur who loses everything because his or her laptop crashes and dies from too much hard work.

4. As many forms of payment and access to cash as possible

If there is one thing that you will need most, it is access to cash and a variety of ways to pay for things, send invoices and invest money in projects and ideas without having to be in your “base” location. Therefore, make sure that you get setup via PayPal, Western Union and credit cards with low or little fees when drawing out money in foreign locations. Consider signing up for a PayPal debit card too (a new service which allows you to use money directly from your PayPal account instead of transferring to your bank account) and the Travelex Card (a safer way of drawing out cash abroad, which you can manage online and which charges less in fees than PayPal).

You should also make sure that you have a direct telephone number to your bank manager and develop a strong professional relationship with this person before you start leaping across the world on your entrepreneurial adventure. You will welcome their support in difficult times.

Language Skills

Quite simply, if you plan to work and do business in a foreign speaking country, invest in language classes and focus on your fluency before you set foot on your first plane.

Suitcase Entrepreneur Accommodation Solutions

There are lots of businesses which devote their time and energies to supporting entrepreneurs and there are lots of networks and communities for the soon-to-be-entrepreneur to join too, all of which can help save time and money for new start-ups and set them on the road towards success with fewer hiccups along the way.

One particularly useful resource for those entrepreneurs looking to make international business links is Love Home Swap.

Love Home Swap is an online site designed to help frequent travelers find a way of staying in unique homes all over the world for free. When you join, you create a profile for your home and take advantage of being able to temporarily swap your home for someone else’s and save on accommodation costs when travelling for work or pleasure. It’s also a lot more comfortable staying in a home-away-from-home than it is staying in a hotel or hostel when on your travels.

Author bio: Tracey writes her way around the globe focusing on travel, culture and matters of the heart. She recently downloaded another Calle 13 album, plans to go on her own Eat, Pray, Love adventure to India at some point and notably misses living without daily coverage from the BBC.

Dear Customers, Sandy Hit. Now What?

When your business is struck by disaster, how can you avoid further damage to your reputation? Follow these businesses’ smart examples of great customer service.

As small-business owners continued to emerge from Hurricane Sandy’s massive wreckage, many realized they had to communicate with customers–and fast.

But even businesses with shuttered storefronts, downed servers, or damaged supply pipelines have some choices. They can view a natural disaster striking as a public-relations emergency. Or, it can be a big opportunity to boost customer-service efforts and to do some subtle brand building simultaneously.

A disaster is also a reminder that customers are your business’s lifeblood. You have to talk to them–especially if you can’t deliver on your promises.

“From an entrepreneurial perspective, it is opportunities like this that really test the strength of your relationships with customers and clients,” says Dorie Fain, founder of &Wealth Partners, an investment advisory firm for women based in New York.

Although Fain hasn’t been able to get into her Manhattan office for days, she’s been in touch with each of her 25 clients–many of whom called her first just to see how she was doing–to let them know her business is still extant, and that their accounts are safe.

These efforts are, of course, greatly amplified in the always-on era of social media. Still, you have to be careful how you go about communicating. Outreach needs to be sincere, not contrived, and it must offer useful information. In many cases, experts say, you should not be trying to sell anything. This particular breed of communication is simply an opportunity to lift the covers on your operations and to form a human bond.

“It is important we include our customers in every aspect of our lives and social media has not only dictated this, but made it a way of life for business owners…our relationships with customers are more personal,” says Juan C. Perez, CEO of Highbrid Media, a minority marketing consultancy based in New York.

Small businesses lack the resources of some of the biggest companies. Compare Rosenband’s efforts with those of Bank of America, which announced Tuesday it was making a donation of $1 million to help disaster recovery efforts in affected areas, as well as planning to help customers with various disaster relief banking programs.

“We have customers and employees throughout the hardest hit region and their safety is our main consideration,” Brian T. Moynihan, chief executive officer of Bank of America, said in a release. “As we do what we can to help them through this, we also are doing our part to help get relief to communities affected.”

Few small business owners have the deep pockets of one of the nation’s largest banks, eventhough most are just as civic-minded, but the storm has given them access to something just as valuable: an important narrative, says Patrick Schwerdtfeger, a small business and marketing expert, in Walnut Creek, California.

“Small businesses have a much greater opportunity than bigger businesses for this dynamic content and incredible stories that could be told,” Schwerdtfeger says.

A particularly strong example is this communication from online design retailer Fab.com’s chief executive, Jason Goldberg, sent by e-mail to customers on Tuesday and posted on Goldberg’s blog:

Fab’s headquarters are in the West Village of New York City, at 95 Morton Street. 225 of our 650 team members worldwide work from our NYC offices. Our offices are 1 block from the Hudson river and our street and building were impacted by the storm. Our office is currently without power and it is closed until further notice. As our offices are on the 5th and 8th floors of the building, we are hopeful that there was no interior damage….About 1/3 of Fab’s employees are currently without power. The other 2/3’ds of us with power are welcoming those without power into our homes. There’s this beautiful, heart-warming email thread amongst Fab employees called, “Team Together” where team members with power are offering up their homes…Our primary interest is the safety and security of our Fab team members and you, our Fab customers, and the broader community. Be careful. Stay safe. Help out others as you best can.

That particular message fires on all cylinders, experts say. First, It informs customers of the ways the hurricane impacted the business. One of the most compelling things you can do is use specifics, like numbers, says Schwerdtfeger: One third of Fab.com’s employees are without power, the remaining two thirds are welcoming the others into their homes. Numbers paint a clear picture, and touching stories about workers helping others resonate with people. The email also encourages customers to keep track of Fab.com’s recovery efforts on the company blog, intelligently making use of social media for updates.

“When you are transparent and you are honest, people care and they are able to get behind your story a lot better,” Goldberg says. There’s another lesson here as well: Fab.com is also trying to gain customer trust. While its warehouse is shuttered, it still needs new orders to come in, Goldberg says. If people believe in the company, they will continue to make purchases.

Other companies, such as Zipcar, made efforts that demonstrated their concern for customers. A message recently from a regional supervisor in New York and New Jersey said Zipcar had taken steps to ensure customer safety, moving cars to non-flood zone areas, waiving cancellation fees, and identifying safe locations for stranded members, and alternate locations for those seeking to return cars. In addition, it announced a 20% discount on rentals until Friday.

“My heart goes out to all my fellow New York and New Jersey neighbors impacted by Hurricane Sandy this week. The local Zipcar team has been working around the clock over the last few days in preparation for Hurricane Sandy and on impact assessment post-storm. We will continue to work on your behalf throughout this disaster relief process,” Nicole Mozeliak, a regional vice president for Zipcar, wrote in the e-mail.

Show sincerity in your communications, experts say, and be extremely careful when presenting a sales opportunity, such as a discount.

“It’s imperative that you are transparent and that the message conveys that you genuinely regret if anyone has been affected,” Andrea Heuer, co-founder of Heuer Media, a public relations consultancy in San Francisco, says. “If you let your customers know that you were prepared and stand at the ready to help them get back up and running, you can create good will, without looking like you are trying to capitalize on a disaster.”

Macy Gray’s Talking Book

From The Huffington Post

Macy Gray, covers, Stevie Wonder‘s ‘Talking Book’ on the 40th anniversary of its initial release. She discusses recording one of her favorite albums by one of her favorite artists.

“It’s my own way of showing Stevie how much I love him and honoring him the best way I can. At the time, I didn’t know that this was the fortieth anniversary of Talking Book, but I think that’s a great way to celebrate it,” Gray states in the interview.

The album includes such classics as, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” “Superstition” and “You and I.”

Read the full interview at The Huffington Post

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