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Archive for Career Building

You Don’t Have to Sacrifice Your Relationships for a Successful Career

Life is all about balance. Whether you are trying to balance your family with your career, or your dietary choices against your health – balance is possible. The honest question is not whether or not it CAN be done but rather HOW to do it.

As a single mom it’s important you have a stable means of putting food on the table and a roof over your heads. On the other hand, there is just one parent for your children so you end up being the chief cook, financial planner, provider, caregiver and superintendent of schools.

With all this on your shoulders, you likely have already learned the art of balance. But, what you may find challenging is balancing something just for you in a schedule that revolves around your children. In other words, it may be necessary to overcome guilt first, before you can use strategies to balance advancing your career with romantic relationships and those with your children.

While this isn’t always easy, balancing your life has significant benefits for your children and makes a long-term impact on their lives. As you survey your life and the commitments you have made, consider if you would like to change your standard of living so you can work less, or increase it so you can afford a few luxuries that give you more time with your family – such as a housekeeper, or after school sitter who drives your children to after school programs and cooks dinner.

Although pursuing a demanding career is time-consuming, it also may allow you these options that free up more of your time. The added income may also increase your own self-esteem and feelings of power over other challenges in your life, that in turn have positive benefits for your children.

But, what if you want to have it all?

  • Career
    Great family life
    Romance

Is that possible?

The reality is that it is as possible as you are willing to compromise. There are only so many hours in each day. You won’t find more and you won’t get less. But, in order to have it all, so to speak, you have to fully use each one.

Remember the choices you make are not permanent and it’s perfectly acceptable to change your mind later. A good friend of mine chose to take a significant pay cut and put her career on hold for 7 years until her daughter graduated high school so she could attend every event and spend quality time with her. She didn’t regret her decision because she PLANNED it.

She worked in a job that kept her current and allowed her to continue to advance up the ladder when she was ready. She’s currently interviewing for jobs around the country and the salary range is more than she gave up. This does NOT mean this happens for everyone, but the likelihood you can do it is higher when you make a plan, watch your step and stick with it.

As you consider your schedule, time, children and desire for romance and career, remember you must also schedule downtime where you recharge your own batteries – away from partners, children, and your job. This means driving to work in the morning is NOT your downtime, nor is the time you spend watching movies with your children or dinners out with your partner.

You know what drives you and keeps the motor running.  For me, it’s the hour I spend every day working out. When I don’t work out my whole day is different. I may not have as much patience, be as productive or even as creative.

Identify what you need, and how often you need it, to be sure you schedule it.

You will live on a calendar. It’s the only way to keep everything straight. And, with as easy as it is today to add a calendar to your phone and share with your family, it’s important to take advantage of this strategy.

Share your calendar with your children and be sure you all add EVERYTHING to it – work, school, dates, after school events, sports, and anything else your family participates in.

Talk with your boss about being able to be flexible with your schedule at work. There may be some tasks you can achieve at home, so you and your children are doing homework together. It may give you enough time to be there when school ends and attend most of their after-school events.

Find quality childcare. When you aren’t worried about your children during the day you’ll be more productive and creative and your children will be much happier when you all arrive home. Being more relaxed at home may mean organizing your morning the night before. Make lunches, lay out clothes, and have everyone shower the night before so morning is easier, faster and you and the family are not frazzled when you start the day.

Even if you can’t make changes to your hours at work, making small changes at home may have big consequences for you and your children.

Leave it at the door

When you come home, leave your stress from work at the door. You may remember how much your ex’s stress after work irritated you – well the same happens for your children. If you need to, take a 10-minute walk before getting home or a 10-minute shower after you arrive to relax. Your children will be able to pick up on your moods, so if you’re tense, they will be too. Two tense people make for more arguments and bad moods all around.

Dinner at the table

Research shows that families who eat together often have better emotional bonds and the children pay greater attention to instructions from the parents. These family dinners are a wonderful time to hear about their day, tell them about yours and share the little details that make you a family.

Spend an hour with your children

This is time away from the dinner table, just you and the kids without any other distractions. Put the electronics away to play a game, go for a walk, watch a movie or go out for ice cream. When you consistently spend time with your children, the odd days you’re out on a date won’t leave such a hole in their lives.

Make bedtime special

Your children don’t need, or want, full-on entertainment. What they want is your presence while they are playing in the tub, or have you read them a bedtime story. Even when they can read, it’s about you and them, not about what you’re doing. This gives them a foundation each evening.

Listen to your body clock

Are you a morning person? Get up early to get your workout in before work, or to finish that project. If you’d rather sleep an extra hour, then stay up to finish. The important thing is to listen to your body clock and work with it, not against it.

Consider relocation

If moving to a different community may shorten your commute, give your children a better school system or improve your opportunities, it may be time to pull up stakes and get it done.

Stay connected

Your children are likely experts at using digital communication. If you aren’t, it’s time you became an expert. Staying in touch while you’re gone is one way that will help reduce feelings of isolation for both of you. Text messages, sending pictures of yourself or recording a video on snapchat for your child helps to bridge the gap until you’re together again. If you can’t be at an event, ask a friend to record it for you and watch it with your child later. If you can’t be home at bedtime, record yourself reading a book, or whatever you and your child normally do, for the sitter to play. If you have younger children record your voice in a stuffed animal for them to carry during the day.

 

While these strategies won’t give you more time in your day, they will help you utilize the time you do have more productively. When you want to spend time with a romantic partner your children will be more secure in your relationship and know that you’ll be available when they need you.

It won’t be easy, but it is more than possible.

Don’t Make These Mistakes When You’re Looking For a Job

Job hunting can be overwhelming and stressful, especially when you’re the only breadwinner in the family. It would be my considered suggestion – as one who was forced into this situation – you’ll want to have a steady job while you’re growing an online or freelance at home work option.

There are many freelance positions that may be right up your alley, or that you might create for yourself. In fact, most entrepreneurs will tell you that you’ll make more money working for yourself than you will working for someone else. In order to succeed at anything you try to achieve – whether it’s finding a new job or starting a new business – it’s important that you push past the fear of failure to find the success you desire.

Job hunting may initiate feelings of fear, and even comments from your family, like “You’ll never work again!” “Why are you looking for a new job when you have a perfectly respectable one now?” “Do you know how BAD this market is now?”

None of these questions should throw you off your game. They SHOULD trigger questions that you need to find the answers for – but they shouldn’t stop you from going for what you want. But, like becoming an entrepreneur, it’s probably best that you look for a job while you still have one. In this way, you come at the challenge from a position of power. You don’t NEED another job – you WANT another job.

You might not like the one you have now, but it’s still paying the bills.

There are strategies you should use as you start job hunting. These are strategies that help you identify the job you want, the one you should apply for, and how to make those applications become job offers. It’s also a good idea to remember that an offer doesn’t mean you must accept it. You accept the offers only you want to accept. Never accept one job because you want to get out of the job you have now – it’s often like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Other mistakes you might make when you’re searching for another job:

  1. Don’t take a job in another field without first doing your due diligence. Take personality assessments, talk to people in the field you want to work in, talk to the Small Business Association, do research online and read, read, read.
  2. Cast your net wide and deep. In other words, don’t limit your possibilities to just the jobs, companies and people you know about. Network with people on LinkedIn, at church and at other companies. This is exactly how I was able to move from one hospital where my boss was making my life Miserable – with a capital M – to a hospital where I made friends, gained great experience that led to my next great job, and found a home.
  3. Money is never the deciding factor. If money were the deciding factor, then you would be satisfied with the job you have if your boss paid you more.
  4. Don’t expect others to tell you what to do. This includes career counselors. Only you can make the decision about the job you want. If others make the decision for you, then you have someone to blame. In life, the only one responsible for the decisions you make is you. It’s a lesson you teach your children, so it’s time to live out.
  5. You won’t find your next job overnight. Changing jobs or careers takes considered and thoughtful action. Impatience will likely land you in the wrong job, working for the wrong boss.
  6. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. No job, no amount of money, and no promise is worth working in a job that doesn’t fit you, your family or your lifestyle.
  7. Test drive your new job. You are never too old to get an internship or go back to school to gain new skills. But, before spending money on an education you might not use, look for an internship (paid or unpaid) in the job or field you want.

 

Is there a job you want but they don’t think you can do the job? Take a two week vacation from your current job after convincing the boss in the position you want that you’ll work for two weeks “on spec.”  They pay you but neither of you are under any obligation to continue the arrangement after two weeks.

This type of arrangement works best for positions where the work you do in the immediate time period has an immediate impact on the company.

 

If you don’t take a chance then you won’t know if you could have succeeded.

Are You Thinking About Changing Jobs?

Changing careers can be scary. Especially when you’re the only breadwinner in your home. What if you don’t like the new position? What are your options? Should you play it safe and stay in the same job? Can you learn the new position quickly? Do you have the hours to put into the job in the first three years to prove yourself?

John was moving out of one home with his family and off to a new neighborhood. He had been with the same company for six years, but his new home was almost double the distance from his job as the old home.

He was torn between starting with a new company closer to the new house, or toughing out the new 40 minute, one-way commute twice a day. Eventually he decided to stay with the old company as he and the family were learning the new neighborhood and home.

His reasoning was that each company he had worked for before looked hard at your performance in the first three years. After three years, as long as he did the job well and didn’t goof off, he was golden.

With the new home and move, he didn’t have the extra hours to put into work to prove himself.

Do you have the time in your life now to change careers, learn new skills and prove yourself to a new boss? Or maybe you feel it’s time to make a career change in your life. Maybe it’s time to spread your wings and try something new.

If you:

  • Feel God is leading you make a change in your life
  • Are chronically tired and exhausted when you get home from work
  • Don’t feel motivated and charged by tackling projects at work
  • Think you can handle greater responsibilities or bigger projects
  • Feel your salary doesn’t make up for the frustration and boredom on the job
  • Believe your talents should be used in another – or more creative – way

Then, maybe it’s time for a change, whether you THINK you have the time to put into developing a new job or not. If you’ve been exhausted and frustrated by the work you’re doing, then a new job may leave you recharged and motivated to work beyond what you’re doing now, and still leave you feeling ready for more.

Whether changing your job or making a shift in your career, you will need a bit of focus, research and fortitude. You won’t get immediate “yes’s” to your applications, not all interviews will go well and you may find after hours of research, that you are exactly where you want to be for the time being.

Step One:

Take an assessment of your likes and dislikes. There are several tests you can take online that will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and match those with potential jobs or careers. You can’t know where you’re going without first doing some introspection to determine not only where you WANT to go, but also where you will FIT best.

Step Two:

Research! Once you have focused on a path you may want to explore, spend time talking to people who are doing the job, find out how much you may have to learn and more about the nitty gritty of the job and not what you imagine it may entail. For instance, you may romanticize the idea of being in law enforcement, but a future of filling out forms, getting involved in domestic disputes and riding for countless hours in a squad car may not be the reality you envisioned.

Step Three:

Training and education needed. Determine any training, education or certification needed to get and keep this new job. Does this fit in your budget? Can you do it while keeping your old job? Will the new job pay for it, or reimburse you?

Step Four:

Network, network and the network. Do this both online and offline. Linked In, Facebook, and even Instagram can be used to network with people who hold the jobs you want and who may be able to help or point you in the right direction.

Step Five:

Would experience look good on your resume? If you don’t have experience in this new job move, you can always volunteer to acquire the skills and time with the professionals. You may cringe at working for nothing, but in fact you would be the one gaining everything. Your volunteer position is an excellent way to get a quick, free education, network with people in the field, get feedback on your skills and get a good recommendation for your job applications.

Step Six:

Determine to be flexible. From your salary to your location, you may have to make compromises to get the job you want, doing the thing you want. Determine what is negotiable and what isn’t before you start putting your resume out and taking interviews. New employers are more impressed with people who already know what they will and won’t negotiate and may even make significant changes to get you on their team.

If you are willing to learn and have a great rapport with the people doing the interviewing you very well may get the job. Your new boss is building a team of people who do their job well and develop the company into the best it can be.

Can you be that person?

Nail Your Next Interview

It can sometimes be overwhelming . . . . most everything falls on your shoulders, including keeping the family financially stable. So, heading into an interview for a new job, or consideration for a promotion, may carry with it more stress than you’d like.

It’s stressful enough to place your ideas and YOURSELF on the line for a new job in front of a stranger – but worse when your success or failure affects more than your career goals – but also your ability to put a roof over your family’s head.

And THAT is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you walk into an interview.

When I was married, I think the most fun I had was going on interviews. My ex-husband was the primary breadwinner, so it felt more like I was interviewing the company to determine if they fit MY needs than the other way around. This fact alone was probably the biggest reason for my relative success during interviews.

It just didn’t matter as much to me as it COULD have.

Today, interviewing for a freelance writing position causes me more stress than when I sat directly across from a CEO or medical director. My current “interviews” are nothing more than filling out applications, sending samples and answering a few questions. I’ve never spoken to the majority of my clients – but the stress is greater because the risk is greater.

No job, no money, no food, no roof.

Over the years of interviewing in front of single people, groups of people and over a computer screen, I’ve picked up a few tips. I also spent a couple of hours researching other tips from Forbes Magazine, Monster.com, Huffington Post and others to gather as many in one place to help YOU nail that next interview.

Use Your Ears First, Mouth Second

My mother used to say that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Of course, my mom wasn’t the first to say this – but it’s the first place I heard it. Interviewing is nerve wracking, and you may be focused on giving a good answer – but your best strategy is to focus on the question the interviewer is asking before forming an answer in your head.

Take a few minutes to notice how your conversations go with your friends in the next weeks. You might notice that you, like almost everyone else, starts forming your answer before your friend even stops talking!  Start listening and then take a minute to form a considered response to the entire question.

Do Your Homework

When you interview with a company you are competing against a number of other candidates that are likely as competent as you are. It’s your job to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by learning as much about the company before the interview as possible. In this way your questions for the interview are intelligently formed and your answers pertain to the company culture.

You’ll probably be asked the age old question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”  While this pair of questions has been played to death, it will get asked on a regular basis. Forget the answer that turns your weakness into a strength – I’m a perfectionist, I’m too much of an achiever, I work late too often. Instead, answer the question honestly choosing your mildest weakness and a moderate strength.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

The interviewer is interested if you are a good fit for the company and if you’ll excel in their corporate culture – but you are also interested in whether the company is good fit for your particular strengths.

During the interview is a good time to ask questions about the company – not about vacation time, lunch hours or schedules, but rather about the goals this department has for the next year and how your potential position fits into the plan.

Showcase Your Abilities Using the Right Adjectives

Every job position has a “perfect” employee list of adjectives. My son is interviewing for a position and was asked to write a statement about his goals and strengths. So we did a quick online search for the characteristics most sought after in this position. We picked the character traits he actually had from the list and highlighted those in his statement.

Know what the company may be looking for – independent worker, team player, compassionate, conflict resolution, negotiator – and then in short and focused responses to their questions, use the adjectives that define your real skill set in your answers.

Use examples and remember not to drone on – keep the answers short and to the point.

Positive, Positive, Positive

NEVER, NEVER badmouth a former supervisor, employer, company or co-worker – or anyone else for that matter. Your interviewer is looking for someone who fits in their company and can play with a team, even if you’ll need to be an independent worker. Negativity always loses.

Gaps in Your Employment History

Most of us have these, and your interviewer will notice them on your resume. They aren’t the red flag they used to be, but they may be relevant. How you answer depends upon your situation. Were laid off with scores of others? Did you have trouble getting a new job and so took several temporary jobs to tide you over? Be forthright, since being caught in a lie later could spell large amounts of trouble (not to mention that lying is never the answer!), but don’t dwell on the negative of the situation. Instead highlight what you learned from the situation.

Where Do You Want to be in Five Years?

Where DO you want to be in five years? Do you know? While most of America believes everyone is scrambling up the corporate ladder, this may not be your goal. First know where you want to go – or what you want to be in five years. Determine if this is part of the company you’re applying to and work it into your answer.

If it isn’t part of the current company – you’re applying for a CPA position but taking art classes at night and hope to become a sculptor – you might want to mention your love of the arts, how creative you are and how this can be an asset to the company.

After the Interview

Before you leave the interview have an understanding of the company’s timetable and what the next steps will be. If you don’t hear back within that time period, consider following up with the company. Remember to be persistent, polite and patient.

After leaving, send a personal, hand written thank you note to everyone who interviewed you. Get business cards from everyone you speak with and use them to write a short note about the person on the back. When you sit down to write your note you can include a personal comment from the interview. Send them the SAME DAY of the interview, which demonstrates your enthusiasm and organizational skills.

These notes may also be emailed – and depending upon the company may be better if emailed. A tech company will be impressed if you send them from your phone in the parking lot, while a traditional law firm may be more impressed with a hand written note.

Dealing with Harassment at Work

Working in corporate America is never easy. It’s almost like being a parent actually. You have to balance your workload, learning new software or strategies, keep up with changes in your department, be friendly with your co-workers, and sometimes, you have to deal with people who aren’t acting their age.

Harassment comes in many forms in the workplace. You may encounter someone who wants your job and will stop at nothing to get you out of the way. Or maybe you have a coworker who just doesn’t like you and makes sure you and everyone else in the office knows how they feel. Or you may have someone who has set their sights on getting you into bed.

Sexual harassment has received the most press over the years, but there are other types that are just as unlawful as off-color jokes, inappropriate touching or the use of indecent gestures or suggestions. The U.S. Department of Labor also considers an exchange of favors to be unlawful – such as being fired for not sleeping with the boss, or demoted if you don’t participate in a religious activity.

However, while these instances are unlawful, you may also be faced with non-sexual or non-religious harassment that makes the workplace almost unbearable. Short of filing a lawsuit or quitting to rectify the situation, there are other options you may pursue that aren’t nearly as drastic.

Several years ago  − ok, more than several years − I was working as a liaison between a hospital and an outside agency, while heading up a treatment team that reported to a manager who didn’t understand any of what the position was responsible for. It was an interesting position to find myself in, and not a fun one.

I was in the position for a little over two years before the situation got so bad I felt forced to quit. One of the people on the team, who didn’t report directly to me, enjoyed talking about me to her new best friend – my boss. We ended up in mediation at the hospital, as mandated by my boss. The mediator told my boss I was not to blame, but my boss still made me apologize to the woman in front of the medical director.

It was a nasty situation and one I was blessed to be able to leave rather quickly once I made up my mind to go.

Interestingly, the woman my boss chose to take my place left her previous place of employment after embezzling from the organization and was subsequently fired “for cause” within six months.

During my tenure at the treatment center, and after I left, I researched some of the strategies I could use in order to address the issues − or at least reduce the problems it was causing in my life. Although I followed many of these suggestions, it didn’t work out for me. Hopefully, if you’re experiencing some type of harassment these suggestions will help you.

 

  1. Your first tactic is to become familiar with the harassment policy in effect at your place of work. When you know what and who at work can help you resolve the situation it can reduce your initial anxiety.
  1. You must consider how to protect yourself – both your job and your personal safety. If you even think the harassment MIGHT involve your personal safety, it’s important you pay attention.

Never publicize where you’ll be or where you are online or social media. Change your locks, let the police know your concerns and file a report, let your neighbors know, screen your calls and put a recording app on your phone. Since recording phone calls without the person’s knowledge is illegal, be sure you let people know if you record the conversation. Don’t answer the phone when you don’t recognize the phone number – if they really want to get in touch they’ll leave a message.

  1. Confide in someone about what’s happening at work. This gives you an objective eye to the situation and the support you’ll need moving forward. Talking is always the answer.
  1. Make it clear to the person who’s giving you trouble that you consider the behavior harassment. Be sure to have the conversation when there is another person present who can attest to what was said. You may not be comfortable with direct confrontation, so you may want to practice what to say and how beforehand.
  1. Don’t apologize for saying you’re uncomfortable with the other person’s behavior. You have nothing to apologize for – and if you do apologize, the other person may see it as a sign of weakness, increasing the harassment. If you HAVE something you should apologize – then do it. Otherwise, stick with the facts.
  1. Talk about the behavior you don’t like and not the person. Ask them to stop any contact with you and any conversations they are having about you behind your back.
  1. If you must communicate with this person at work, be sure your direct boss knows exactly what’s happening. Document all conversations. Save all emails and write down all phone or personal conversations with dates, times and subject.
  1. If a simple conversation with the individual isn’t enough to stop the behavior, then request mediation from your workplace. If a mediator isn’t part of the staff, your employer can bring one to your workplace resolve the situation.
  1. If the harassment doesn’t stop or is unlawful, you’ll want to report it to your manager (or your manager’s manager if it’s your boss doing the harassing) and to human resources. If the situation doesn’t resolve, seek the advice of an attorney well-versed in the subject. Your employer may be liable for any harassment perpetrated by a supervisor if they are notified and take no action.

Going through a situation in which you feel you’re being harassed or treated unfairly at work is disconcerting and difficult. Although you may not want to, leaving may be the only choice you have. If your workplace continues to allow this type of behavior to continue, then it’s ingrained in the culture of the community and no matter how much you fight the current situation, it’s likely not to change. In this case, leaving may be the only option that will give you relief from the harassment.

Make Yourself Promotable at Work and at Home

At some point in your career at work and as a mom, you may have considered the possibility of being promoted. Let’s leave the idea of being promoted at home for just a few minutes and concentrate on being promoted at work.

Whether you’re ready for the next challenge, more money or have a burning desire to move up the ladder, a promotion may be the only way to meet your goal. Unfortunately, there is a LOT of advice about how to accomplish your goal that isn’t based on practical experience or real life situations.

As you consider the ideas below, think about how well they fit your abilities, your workplace and your interests. There isn’t one path to promotion, but there ARE strategies that will set you back faster than they’ll promote your efforts.

And, because these two lists are essential to your advancement AND are both too long for one article, we’ll split it in two. Today, let’s talk about the negative tactics you may be using, purposefully or inadvertently. Next week we’ll address the positive traits that management looks for.

But, before you take my word for it, you should know that I worked in management for many years at several hospitals, have been promoted multiple times and fired once. It was interesting, fun and taught me a lot about people and raising children. (Ok – being fired wasn’t fun, but it did teach me a LOT about politics at work.)

Which leads me to the idea that you can be promoted at home.

Every relationship has layers. It’s a bit like an onion. Every layer you peel away reveals new secrets, more intimacy and a stronger foundation. Every layer you peel away with your child or your teen leads to the same benefits.

And, finally, at the center of the onion, is the sweetest part of any relationship. This is when you both have trust, love, grace and the ability to talk with each other about anything. This is a solid relationship that lasts a lifetime, based on truth, honesty and transparency.

Truly a difficult place to reach.

And ultimately, you have to be promoted to this position.

You don’t reach the center of a relationship based on haphazard decisions and poor choices. You don’t get promoted using those strategies either.

When you want to be promoted at home, in the eyes of your children (or even a future spouse), it’s time to make decisions based on reasons, strategies, vision and mission.

Start with defining your own vision statement, so you know where you are and where you’re heading.

Next, identify the negative tactics you’ve been using and resolve to STOP IT.  Finally, next week, identify the positive strategies you’ll implement.

It reminds me of the skit Bob Newhart did for MadTV.

 

These are the 9 things I’ve seen employees do that ensure they won’t get promoted.

ONE: You Have a ‘Tude Problem

Attitude will get you in trouble every time. It’s exactly what gets under your mother-skin when your teen starts mouthing off. It is attitude and no one likes dealing with it.  Take an honest look at your behavior with your co-workers and your children. If you aren’t sure, then ask. If really want the truth, you’ll get it – and, if you have a problem and will fix it, you’ll reap rewards beyond what you may have imagined.

TWO: You Overlook the Power of Politics

I hate politics. Truth be told, it’s probably the biggest reason I started working for myself. You might not think it’s fair or right – but you have to figure out who holds the power and be sure you’re in their good graces. You shouldn’t lie, cheat or steal to be the right person for the job – but you have to know what makes people in powerful positions tick, and then provide them with what they need.

The same is true at home – except at home you’re the person in power and it’s your job to teach your children how to work within a system without compromising who they are. Some of this they’ll learn by watching you and some you’ll teach them. Some of this they’ll learn by hearing and watching and some of it they’ll only learn by making their own mistakes. It just depends on your child.

THREE: You Take on More Than You’re Currently Capable of Achieving

If you want a promotion then you HAVE to complete the tasks set before you. If you consistently take on more responsibility than you can handle or can reasonably expect to achieve, your bosses will make the assessment you aren’t able to accurately manage your own time.  If you can’t manage your own resources, how can you be expected to manage others?

FOUR: You are the Office ‘Suck-Up’  

You might think you’re playing good politics, or giving the bosses what they want, but if you’re sucking up and not honestly and authentically interested in the other person, the job or the project, everyone knows. You aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

FIVE: You Forget to Practice Patience, Patience, Patience

Nothing happens quickly – whether it’s a promotion at work, earning the trust of your teenager or learning a new skill. Life requires patience and it’s one of the hardest things to learn – or it has been for me and I’m still learning it!

SIX: You Have Gotten Lax with Your Achievements

On the opposite end of the spectrum from taking on too much is taking on too little. If you aren’t achieving your goals at home or work – or worse, you haven’t set goals! – then you can’t expect your boss or your children to respect your efforts. You can rest on the laurels of your achievements from yesterday, but only for today. Once 24-48 hours have past, people forget. Memories are short, including your own. Keep your eye on your goals and make decisions every day that bring you closer to those goals.

SEVEN: You are Unclear About Your Own Direction and Goals

If you don’t know where you’re going or what you want to achieve, how do you expect your boss or your kids to go along with you? Define your vision, your purpose and your goals before heading out in the wrong direction.

EIGHT: You Don’t Have Your Facts Straight

Want to make someone angry? Make assumptions and act on information without having all the facts. Whether you’re working through a situation at home or pulling together a project at work, get the facts.

NINE: You Give Up Too Quickly

Never, never, never give up.  It’s hard, overwhelming, nasty, challenging and sometimes it’s just downright hell .  .  .  but don’t give up. The stories of people who have experienced success are preceded by years of trying, failure, pain and suffering. Don’t let those emotions go to waste though. Learn from the pain, the mistakes, the suffering – then do it differently so you can experience different results.

 

 

Growing Your Wardrobe on a Limited Budget

 

As a freelance writer I have a limited wardrobe. In the summer I live in shorts and t-shirts and in the winter I have a few favorite sweat suits that almost never come off.  However, in my life before writing I worked at a hospital as an Outreach Coordinator. Essentially I interfaced with other hospitals in the State and coordinated interactions with our medical specialists.

It was a pediatric hospital.

I had a blast at that job. It was my favorite place to work. My immediate boss was the hospital CEO. He had a sign on his desk he expected me to obey . . . “Proceed until apprehended!”

I proceeded and thankfully was never apprehended. 🙂  At the time we had two small children and the third had just arrived.  Money was flowing out faster in day care expenses than I could bring it in. At that point I began learning a few tricks to building a wardrobe for work on a budget.

Where before I could walk into a store and grab what I wanted from the rack without looking at the price tag, I realized it was time to stop indulging my shopping habits and learn new ones.  Life was going to be different  . . .

AND

I was a totally different size after having had my third baby and hoping to lose more weight. But, with a tighter budget, buying a new wardrobe for this body and another one later was completely out of the question. It was time to learn new skills.

Step One: Create a budgetoct6keepitsimple

We had a budget. Well, to be honest it was a loose budget that neither one of us had adhered to before. However, the extra money that had always carried us through was going to paying day care for child number three.

So, I sat down and put together a reasonable budget that gave us some freedom but wouldn’t put us in debt. My ex was not interested in helping or in even hearing about it. As long as he could eat out for lunch every day, he didn’t care.

Unfortunately, his daily lunch habit cut drastically into my clothes budget. Sigh.

Step Two: Pull Out the Clothes Money Each Month

Every month I pulled the money out of our account and saved it to start my wardrobe. In the meantime, I worked on my early pregnancy clothing. By using some loose belts and altering them I found I could use them as I was in that in between body stage without looking like I was still pregnant.

Step Three: Cut My Expenses

If my ex wouldn’t cut his expenses, I could cut mine. Anything I saved went toward clothing for work and play. I didn’t eat out more than once a week and canceled the gym membership my ex kept swearing he would use. Instead, I committed to use my outdoor bike more frequently and bought new running shoes.

Step Four: Choose Quality Over Quantity

Great clothes last longer than cheap ones. I’ll bet you knew that! But, when faced with a limited number of choices in your closet, you might be tempted to buy 3 thin shirts instead of one classic.

Choose the one classic quality-made shirt that can be paired with slacks, skirt or suit. You’ll be glad you did and most people won’t recognize the same shirt in different outfits. Good quality doesn’t necessarily mean high price – and high price doesn’t necessarily mean good quality.

Take your time to feel the fabric, check the care instructions and look closely at the seams. If the fabric feels like it will last, it probably will. But if you can see through the fabric because it’s so thin, or the seams are already pulling, it probably is not a good choice.

Step Five: Buy the Essentials

Essentials: black and white colors with accent pieces, well-structured purse, classic necklaces and earrings and the type of clothing expected at your place of business.  If skirts and shirts are the basic format for work wardrobe, then be sure you have a basic black skirt and several colorful tops to match.

Step Six: Pick Your Shopping Stops

Steer clear of brand name clothing that charges more for the name than they do for the actual piece you’re buying.  Would it be nice to have Jimmy Choo shoes?  Probably  . . . do they fit the budget? Probably not.

Look for clothing that looks good on YOU and not a brand name you want. You can find quality clothing at a decent price when that’s what you’re shopping for. This means taking time to shop and not rushing in, grabbing and running out. It also means spending only what you’ve saved to spend and making that money go as far as possible.

Consider secondhand shops located in high end neighborhoods. I’ve always had great luck finding high quality clothes at prices I could afford in shops just like this.

Never buy something you don’t love.  If you try to convince yourself you’ll wear it because it’s the right price, the right color or the right SOMETHING but you don’t absolutely love it in the store, you won’t wear it at home and your money will have just done a swirly down the drain.

Strongly consider simplifying your color palette.  My youngest daughter has done that instinctively. Everything she wears is black or grey. She pulls out a shirt and pants and they all match. Everything matches, always. At work, all black or grey with bold colored accessories makes an incredible wardrobe that is simple to develop.

If hours of shopping at stores for great deals is not your thing, consider spending that time at home, in front of your computer. You can surf for great deals online while you’re watching a movie or listening to music in the comfort of your home. Just be sure you know the return policies and your sizes. My sister loves shopping online at Shoe Buy for shoes. They have an amazing return policy and she can usually find sales.

Step Six: YOU are the Palette

oct6shoppingRemember that the clothes you wear are only a small part of how you look.  The clothes are draped over your body and below your hair and makeup. Take time to perfect your cosmetic and beauty routines – you’ll be very glad you did.

Your clothes also look better on your body when you are satisfied with your body. It won’t matter how much you weigh or how far out of shape you are, when you are satisfied with HOW you look you will always look better.

Many people easily pick up on nonverbal cues. When you’re uncomfortable you’ll show it and others will see it. Be comfortable in the clothes you’re wearing and the body you’re in – and if you’re not, then start to change it.

TIP: If you love the clothing but it doesn’t fit directly off the rack, consider finding a good tailor. Not many people can wear clothes off the rack and look the way the manufacturer intended. Sometimes a tuck here and nip there is all it takes to look like a million.

 

It’s easy to say “change your body” and much harder to actually get it done. After years of stress eating chocolate and ice cream during an exceedingly unhappy marriage, I had 35 pounds to lose and an amazing amount of muscle to regain. I’m still on that journey but I am making progress – and making progress is incredibly motivating.

Being healthy is the ultimate goal and next week you’ll discover the triad of anti-aging strategies I’m using to lose weight, feel energized and protect my skin.

 

Career Building Strategies When You’re the Only Parent

Last week I had a heart-to-heart discussion with my oldest son who is getting ready to graduate from college in mid-December. He’s a criminal justice major who has always had a heart for service. But suddenly, with graduation staring him down, he’s not sure what direction he’ll be taking.

There are several choices, some better than others, but all of which are full time and give him the financial ability to move out and move on.  I’m not familiar with the angst he’s experiencing because when I left college I knew exactly what I would be doing, just not where. I got a bachelor degree in nursing and knew I wanted to work with children. I chose a hospital in the same city I was living and started working with school-age children.

On the other hand, Zachary is faced with options that include the Army, police department, parole officer, fire investigator or insurance investigator. Each has pros and cons to them. Each are choices he might make. And so, we have had some long conversations.

The second half of that equation is growing his career once he’s chosen it. Career development is an aspect of your job or working performance that your boss is probably not going to address with you. They expect:

  • you’ll show up on time
  • do the work assigned in the best way possible
  • not steal from the company
  • be a reasonable person at the office
  • not speak badly about the company in public

Your boss won’t care if you get the promotion you want, get the new job you’ve been eyeing or if you get a raise at any time in your career. These are the factors that should interest you and which YOU should be focused on.

 

Your Full Plate

As a single parent, growing a thriving career can be a challenge. The process represents just one more thing you have to add to an already full plate. Most days it’s just easier to go to work, get the job done, come home and take care of the kids. Without a partner to share the burden of finances, child care, housework and the daily grind, the addition of career development to your plate just doesn’t make the cut.

But, while it might seem overwhelming, adding a few things to your ‘to do list’ can increase the potential that your financial situation will stabilize and grow, which will allow you to get that housekeeper or hire someone to make meals every day.

 

CEO

Here are seven of the more important career building strategies that you should be addressing, no matter how small, in your daily activities. Even if you just do one small thing a week, eventually these little things add up and reward you well. Remember that the ever-present glass ceiling is still there. In most industries, women make less than men for doing the same job. It’s time to level the playing field.

Think about it this way – the time is going to pass anyway. Whether you like it or not, another year will pass. What would you like to show for that year in the growth of your income?

 

  1. Get as much education and training in your field as you can.If you don’t have a college degree yet, get one. You might have to take online classes, or one class a semester – but the time is going to pass anyway, and when all is said and done, will you have a degree? Most businesses reward those with a college education with a greater salary.

If you have the education, then it’s time to think outside the box and get some training that will set you apart from others in the company. If you’re working in customer support, do all the reading you can and include a few classes as well. Your extra effort will show in the way you interact with customers and help them resolve their issues. Do you work in accounting? Nursing? IT? Property management? It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, there are ways to grow your education and training to get noticed.

 

  1. Leverage your ability to communicate and build relationships in the workplace. In a world where more business is being done through partnerships and networking, you have an inborn ability that men have to work harder to achieve. Men are hard-wired differently. They are hunters and chase their prey relentlessly. But the days of competition between companies is slowly ebbing away as more businesses have experienced the results of partnering together.

 

  1. Plan your career, don’t just let it happen.  It might seem obvious but a career you fail to plan for means you’re planning to fail. It takes more effort than just walking into the office each day, but it is well worth the time and energy. It doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting, one week or even one year. But you do have to continue to move forward in your planning. Development of anything includes a plan. This means considering a career assessment, personality assessment and a deep assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses so you can plan your opportunities and training to complete the plan.

Use questions to find the answers you’re looking for. Do NOT just ask yourself. Ask your friends, family, coworkers and boss questions. Ask  . . .  what do you see as my strongest asset to the company? Where can I improve? What training or education would help me? Who could I network with? Do I network well? Am I willing to accept criticism? How can I learn to accept it better?

 

  1. Identify your working style and preferences. Think about what motivates you at work. Do you appreciate what people say to you or are you inspired by the successful completion of a project? Do you like working in teams or independently? When you work in a team do you take on the leadership position or do you think you’re the only one who can do the work.

No answer is right or wrong – but the answers will help you identify what your strengths and weaknesses are and whether they are congruent with the job you want to have. If they aren’t then it’s time to grow or change your dream.

 

  1. Find a mentor and join a mastermind group. Think you don’t have time to meet with someone once a quarter or with a group? Better think again. Give up your television time, get another parent to help with grocery shopping one afternoon, trade babysitting with another single mother – whatever you have to do, find the time to meet with a mentor and join a mastermind group.

Your mentor and mastermind group will speed your personal growth and development and spark ideas you wouldn’t have on your own.

 

  1. Learn the art of self-promotion. This is a skill which may be more difficult for you than it is for a man. The idea flies in the face of what society teaches women – support your home, family and man but don’t put yourself in the limelight.

Instead, be sure people at work know about your accomplishments and your ideas. If you aren’t comfortable promoting yourself, then start by promoting the company. Think of ways the company can market their products and services. Share those ideas in writing to your boss and your boss’s boss.

 

  1. Work independently.In his book, “Secrets of a Millionaire Mind,” author T. Harv Ekker recommends that you work independently and paid a portion of what you produce for your client and not what you think you’re worth. In other words, instead of working for a salary you’re working for the results you produce for your client. This is a scary proposition for many people who rely on a weekly salary to make the budget.

But, what if you start a side business where you’re paid based on your results and continue to work for your employer? Suddenly you have more options to either increase your income or eventually only work your own business.

 

Developing a career, whether you’re single or you’re married, have children or widowed, man or woman . . . has challenges and obstacles. The challenges that single moms face are just different. They aren’t better and they aren’t worse, they are just different.

The minute you start believing that your situation is worse is the moment you’ll start to feel defeated.