Thursday, April 28, 2011

Create a Ta-Dah List

We love to make them and love to hate them: to-do lists. They help us feel organized but looking at them can also leave us overwhelmed.

The reason we keep coming back to our Post-it® notes and crumpled pieces of paper? To-do lists work. Writing down a goal turns a passive commitment into an active commitment.

But, now that we’re committed, this is when our anxiety begins to mount and we wish there were more hours in the day. Danielle M. Miller, a career invention coach, says success lies in changing your mindset about commitments and to-do lists. She even goes as far as to call them a “ta-dah” list.

Here are her five techniques to end each day with a resounding and gratifying ta-dah!:

1. 3D Glasses: Use the 3D strategy: Do it, delegate it or dump it. All tasks fall into one of these three categories.

2. Time Tested: Break tasks down into manageable chunks. It’s important to be reasonable when doing this. Don’t give yourself a half hour to balance your checkbook and finish your taxes. You’ll end up putting yourself behind and feeling frustrated. Timers are also an effective tool for divvying up your tasks and time. Danielle encourages her clients to work against the clock in 20-25 minute increments.

3. Number One: Prioritize the tasks on your list. You can’t really start attacking your list if you don’t know where to begin, right?

4. Don’t Eat That Frog: People are often told to “eat that frog,” or start with the most daunting task first. Danielle disagrees, saying this actually works against your momentum. Begin with a few of your smaller tasks to get you feeling motivated and accomplished. You’ve got this!

5. Get a Checkup: Not only hold yourself accountable for the goals on your list; have another person check up on you. It’s much easier to make excuses when only answering to your ego. Answering to another ups the ante and increases your commitment.

A to-do list is simply a tool for time management, and time management, many times, relies on effective self-management. These to-do list techniques will not only help you say ta-dah after accomplishing important daily tasks but can help you work toward even bigger goals you’ve set for yourself. (Learn how to set financial goals for your future, here.)

Special thanks to Danielle M. Miller, certified career invention coach and founder of Danielle M. Miller Coaching/Consulting. Her mission for women is to “Create The Life You Crave by Doing the Work You Love!” Connect with Danielle:, and

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Is Starting A Business Right for You?

By Renée A. Hanson

With unemployment high, many people are wondering if job security lies in self-employment. But how do you know if entrepreneurship is the right move?

Before hanging out your shingle, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses with questions like these:

Are you self-motivated? As a small business owner you’re accountable only to yourself. Consider if you’d be able to develop projects, organize your time and follow through on details without any supervision or support from management.

Can you make decisions on your own? Independent entrepreneurs are required to make constant decisions without help – often quickly and while under pressure.

Do you possess leadership skills? Starting a new company from the ground up often means uncertainty and risk. If you are a proven leader, it will increase your chances of seeing a small organization through any trying times.

Do you have strong planning and organizational skills? Business failure can often be avoided with careful planning. Effective organization of financial data, inventory and production schedules is key to keeping an organization running smoothly.

Do you have good instincts? “Street smarts” – or good gut instincts – are essential, but hard to quantify. Some also call it common sense, but however you label it, an owner with intuitive good judgment can help put and keep a startup operation on track.

Remember…starting a business is similar to playing chess: Your opening moves are critical to your success in the end.

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit to learn more.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Are You a Fit?

When you think of the word “fit,” what comes to mind? Clothing? Trying on a new pair of jeans at the mall?

You’re thinking: Do these jeans give the right impression? Will they work well with the shirts I own? Will they make a nice outfit? Can I afford them?

Funny enough, these are many of the same thoughts running through a hiring manager’s mind when interviewing candidates. Is he/she making a good first impression? Will they work well with others in the company? Be a good team player? Can we afford them?

Fit is much more than simply matching up your experience to the job description’s qualifications, writes L. Michelle Tullier, Ph.D., in her book The Unofficial Guide to Landing a Job (Wiley Publishing, Inc.). Fit is the unique package that you bring to the table. It’s how you bring to life the words on your resume.

So do you “fit” the job you're applying for? Michelle explores three main areas in her book:

1. Value

What kinds of value would you bring to the organization? Yes, there are different kinds of value:

  • Content knowledge: The subjects you know about and overall expertise.

  • Transferable skills: These are skill sets you’ve acquired from many different aspects of your life. You might have learned how to manage multiple projects while volunteering or how to make deadlines through a position unrelated to the one you’re applying for. These are skills that will serve you for life and can be used in many roles throughout your career.
  • Personal qualities: The characteristics that you make you unique are valuable to employers. Examples include being detail-oriented or a leader. (Learn how to develop your leadership qualities, here.)
  • Experience: And of course, employers look at your value in terms of past performance and achievements.

2. Fitting In

“In an employer’s ideal world, all positions would be filled through personal referral.”

Company culture is important in organizations, and hiring managers want to find a person who meshes with the organization’s values. They’re looking at:

  • Personality: Will you work well with others in the company? Is it a good match?

  • Image: In addition to physical appearance, employers are looking at nonverbal characteristics like whether you carry yourself with confidence.

  • Values: Do you match the core values of a company? What drives you? Is it money? Competition? Helping people?

  • Work Style: Everything from being a talkative person to how many hours you expect to work relates to meshing with a company culture.

3. Commitment

Do you simply need a job or do you really want this job? This question is top-of-mind for employers during the interview process. They want to make sure you fully understand what you’ll be undertaking in the position, and that it’s something that you’re not only able to do but excited and passionate about.

Employers are making an investment in you and they want to be confident you’ll be there for the long haul. Things like your resume, follow-up and overall correspondence offer clues to your level of interest and commitment. (When does the interview actually begin? Read more, here. )

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nonverbal Interview Communication

By Debra Davenport

According to College Journal, “Body language comprises 55 percent of the force of any response, whereas the verbal content only provides 7 percent, and paralanguage, or the intonation -- pauses and sighs given when answering -- represents 38 percent of the emphasis." Those are impressive statistics – and numbers that every job seeker should use to her advantage.

What is nonverbal communication? Simply stated, it is "the act of giving or exchanging information without using any spoken words."

In other words, we silently communicate volumes about ourselves, so it’s extremely important to be mindful of your nonverbal cues – especially in job interviews.

Here are a few tips:

Dress for success. The more conservative the industry, the more conservative the attire. Conversely, if you’re interviewing with, say, an advertising agency, attire that’s too conservative might cost you the job. Do your homework and research the employer ahead of time. Many company websites include photos of their key staff, which is a great way to gauge what employees are wearing. Make sure your clothes are spotless, wrinkle-free and in excellent condition. Scuffed shoes or a worn-out handbag will instantly send the wrong message, as will too many accessories. Leave clanking bracelets, chandelier earrings and body jewelry at home. And don’t overdo your hairstyle or makeup.

Color me hired. Employ the psychology of color by incorporating hues in greens and blues in your wardrobe. Green means “go” and is the color of money. Blue, particularly navy, conveys trust and is the most universally well-liked color. Avoid red as it conveys the message, “Stop!”

Scents and sensibilities. Have you ever met a woman’s perfume before she entered the room? If so, you’ll understand why you should skip scents for the interview. Not only are fragrances distracting, but many people are sensitive to certain perfumes. Do a “scent check” prior to your interview to ensure you’re free from the aromas of cigarettes, nervous perspiration or the garlic chicken salad you had for lunch. Tuck a tin of Altoids in your handbag as a last-minute refresher, but never chew gum.

Happy haptics. Haptics, the study of touching, is an important component of nonverbal communication. Perhaps the most common touch we experience is the handshake. If yours is not up to par, practice with friends until you get it right. Sweaty palms? I recommend a product called Med e Tate – moist towelettes that can be wiped anywhere on the body to nip perspiration in the bud.

Mind your manners. Turn off your cell phone or, better yet, leave it in the car. When called into the interviewer’s office, wait to be seated until s/he invites you to do so. Never place your belongings on the interviewer’s desk as that is their personal space. If another person joins your meeting, stand up to greet them and offer a handshake. Follow up by sending handwritten thank you notes to every person with whom you interviewed.

Body language. Use movement and facial expressions to punctuate your communication. Maintain eye contact, smile, nod, take notes, and lean forward to convey interest and enthusiasm.

Wash your ride. You’d be surprised how many times interviewers will see your car. A messy automobile sends a negative nonverbal message.

Do the unexpected. Help an employee carrying a heavy box or open a door for a staffer on crutches. Don’t be shy about pitching in and communicating that you’re already a part of the team.

Debra Davenport, president of Identity IQ, LLC, a licensed and certified firm that provides career development, image consulting and wellness strategies. Debra was a recent career expert on the “Dr. Phil” show, and she is the former workplace color spokesperson for Panasonic. Debra holds multiple degrees and certifications and serves on the faculties of several universities. She speaks and writes regularly about the image-career-wellness connection. Connect with Debra on Twitter at @debradavenport, and visit for more information.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Are You Getting a Tax Refund This Year?

By Renée A. Hanson

If you are among the lucky taxpayers who are getting a refund this year, you might be interested in tracking when you’ll receive your refund check. Here are three easy ways you can do it.

All of them require that you provide your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, filing status and the refund amount estimated on your tax return, rounded to the nearest dollar.

· Go to . Click on the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. Information about your refund will be available roughly 72 hours after the IRS confirms receipt of your e-filed return or three to four weeks after you file a paper return. “Where’s my Refund?” is updated every Wednesday.

· Call the IRS Refund Hotline at 1-800-829-1954 or the IRS TeleTax System at 1-800-829-4477 for automated information 24 hours a day.

· Use the new IRS2Go app for the iPhone and Android phones. You can download it for free from the Apple App Store or the Android Marketplace, respectively.

If you typically receive a large refund, consider adjusting your tax withholding so that you can receive more money each month instead of waiting to get an income tax refund check from the government every year. That way you can put that money to work for you throughout the year.

To change your tax withholding amount, simply complete and submit a Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate to your employer’s Human Resources department. You can do so at any time during the year.

Renée A. Hanson, CFP®, CEP®, CDFA™, CFS, is a private wealth advisor with Hanson, Ayala & Associates, a private wealth advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Her passion is in helping women achieve their dreams and financial goals, regardless of life’s many obstacles. Renée is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IL, MI, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI. Please visit: to learn more.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

How to Create, Market and Role Model a Powerful Personal Brand

By Sherri Thomas

Personal Branding is a hot topic these days, but do you really know what it means?

And do you know how to leverage your personal brand to get the career you really want?

Getting bigger promotions, better clients and a more meaningful career depends largely on how you’re perceived by senior managers, colleagues, peers, and potential clients or employers. To maximize your career opportunities and get into a career that actually inspires you to get out of bed in the morning, let’s start by strengthening your personal brand.

Step #1. Identify your value.

Having a powerful personal brand means that you consistently deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. In other words, it’s the skills, experience and value that you provide to your employer or clients. Whether it’s bringing in new streams of revenue, managing highly valued projects or developing creative marketing campaigns, your career is fueled by the value that you consistently deliver to employers.

Your value is a unique blend of your strengths, professional accomplishments and personal characteristics (such as being a good leader, risk taker, problem solver, strategic thinker, etc.). All of these combined make up your “value package,” which makes you truly unique from a crowd of colleagues, business associates and even job applicants.

Step #2. Send a powerful message.

Being in a passionless job is a career killer! If you’re walking around dull and listless (like the Clairol Herbal Essence girl before she shampoos her hair), others are sure to see you that way. It’s impossible to have a powerful personal brand if you’re just going through the motions at work. You need to be in a career that challenges you, flexes your professional muscles and excites you!

Everything you do and say sends messages to your manager, senior managers, clients, peers, and potential employers. Your words, actions, presentations, reports, work deliverables, and professional accomplishments shape the perceptions others have about you and the value you provide.

Think about how you want others to perceive you. Do you want to be recognized as being smart? Strategic? Having specific expertise? A great leader? Whatever it is, you should be striving to send that message loud and clear.

Every day you have opportunities to shape and manage your personal brand. In every presentation that you give, in every meeting you attend, in all your conversations with other professionals – think of yourself as being on a stage. It’s your opportunity to shape and manage the way others are perceiving you.

Step #3. Network strategically.

In my own personal career, I’ve been blessed to have had opportunities to reinvent myself into a variety of job roles (disc jockey, PR Director, video producer, technical program manager) and industries (TV, radio, professional sports, and high tech.) I’ve learned that if you want bigger promotions, better clients and a richer, more meaningful career, you need to work with people who value and appreciate you.

Focus your energy on creating a strong support system of what I call “career influencers.” These are people who can hire you, promote you, inspire you, teach you, and open doors to new opportunities. Nurture your relationships with these people, and ask about their career path and lessons learned for overcoming career challenges. Seek out people who can give you the blueprint, guidance and inspiration to help you advance your career.

Remember, great jobs don’t just land in your lap. You have to know what you want – take action – and go get it! Your new career is out there. You just need to go after it!

Sherri Thomas is founder of Career Coaching 360, an international speaker and author of "Career Smart: 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand" on Amazon’s TOP 10 LIST for personal branding books. Career Coaching 360 provides career planning, management coaching and leadership development to help professionals change careers quickly and easily. Connect with Sherri at and on her website at, where you can also grab a free Career Analysis Package.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Email Etiquette: How to Write an Effective Email

Can you remember a day without email? Neither can we. It has become one of the main sources of communication in both our personal and professional lives.

Its uses are many. You really cannot be effective in a job search without a virtual mailbox, and it’s difficult—in many cases, impossible—to fulfill responsibilities at work without being an effective email communicator.

When it boils down, the point of email is a call to action. What do you need done? Clarified? Many important deals and conversations happen over email, so being an intentional and straightforward “emailer” matters.

Tips for Effective Emails:

Watch Your Tone: Just as important when speaking, tone is a way we convey an overall message. But the inflection of your voice is much easier to understand than tone in an email. Be conscious of your wording in emails. Adding or deleting a word or two can make a sentence read completely different. Reread to minimize misunderstandings. Not sure? Get another opinion.

Recipe for Success: Pepper your emails with vocabulary that match your relationship with the person you’re writing to. Word of caution: Communicating with such people as bosses and hiring managers is not the time to try out new words. Be sure to take a few moments to edit your message to avoid misspellings as well. Here are some words that are commonly written incorrectly.

LOL: Casual, abbreviated lingo used in texting and IMing can not only give leave a bad impression in workplace correspondence but cause miscommunications. Use correct punctuation and grammar.

Mind Your P’s and Q’s: We’re taught that saying “please” is polite, right? But, going back to the idea of tone, it’s difficult to tell through reading an email the intended inflection of the author. The word “please” is particularly tricky. Pause for a minute over the word. Could it be interpreted as condescending? Does your email read clearly without it?

Why Are You Yelling? Caps lock. Need we say more? There aren’t many instances when capitalizing streams of words helps communication. What it does do is give the impression of shouting. You wouldn’t yell at your co-worker, would you? Don’t accidentally do it in an email.

If You’re Happy and You Know It: Use an exclamation point! You can say you’re excited to meet with someone by just putting one of these fun guys at the end of a sentence. But, and this is a big but, exclamation points can be easily overused. A good rule of thumb is to use them as much as you want while composing your message, and then go back and delete all but one... maybe two.

21 Questions: Be brief, and try not to ask more than one thing of a person per email. Then, include some white space around the question you’re asking so that the request is not buried in a chunk of text. Assume every person you email is skimming.

Sign Here: Have a thread of emails? Delete your signature line at the bottom after a few responses back and forth. It clears some of the clutter from communications.

Another tip to make life easier: Is it an important email you’re composing? Include keywords so you’re able to find it quickly when searching your inbox.

Overall, make sure you’re communicating in such a way that you wouldn’t mind if another person were to read your message. Emails can be forwarded with a swift click of a button. In addition, it’s common in workplace correspondence for others to be added to a thread of emails. These people now have the ability to read your previous communications. Be aware.

That said, walking down the hallway to speak to a co-worker face to face or calling someone on the phone should not be overlooked. This type of communication is more personable, lending itself to building strong relationships (when not overdone). This can help you stay top-of-mind when yearly reviews come around and the potential for a raise is on the table.

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