The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati
Career

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The humidity has arrived, Kings Island is jumping, and all the hot acts are on their way to Riverbend.  Its Cincinnati’s way of saying, "summer's here!"

The time of year is upon us that makes memories and sets the stage for unforgettable trips to escape the daily grind. Here are some tips on how to schedule that much needed time off and what to do before you leave.

Compared to other countries, Americans receive the fewest vacation days per year. According to About.com, Americans take an average of 13 vacation days, which is dismal compared to Japan's 25, Canada's 26, Britain's 28, France's 37 and Italy's whopping 47! So what can you do to help leave the worries of work behind?

 FIVE TIPS FOR EVERYONE
Regardless if you are an hourly employee, salaried manager or owner, there are some basic guidelines and "to-dos" we should all try to follow.

  1. Make sure that time is available. Before you book flights, hotels or other accommodations, check to see if you can even take off. Many, if not all, companies require submission of a vacation request.
  2. Notify clients, customers and fellow employees that you will be out of the office. Two weeks is the minimum, but try to give as much notice as early as possible. Let them know who they can contact in your absence, their contact numbers and e-mail address.
  3.  Take care of all forms of communication. Many e-mail programs have "out of office" messages you can set up, or your IT department can help. Change your voice-mail or set up a message that directs the caller to contact your designated person. Also, make arrangements for your faxes to be picked up and taken care of. Instead of saying you are on vacation, out of the country or nobody is at the building, state that you are out of the office and what date you will return. For small business owners or home businesses, this announces to thieves that the coast is clear to break in.
  4. Take an inventory of recently completed, current and future projects. Try to finish as much as you can before you go so nothing sits while you are gone. This also helps ease the apprehension of coming back to an overflowing workload. It's a good idea to give a heads up, or go over any possible problems that might arise with certain accounts or projects with some other workers.
  5. Try to cross train. Even though another person might not know everything there is about your job, it is very helpful to have someone who knows the basics just incase something needs to be done. Pass on any odd jobs or office duties that you are responsible for such as stocking the restroom, maintaining the copy and fax machine, turning off fans or lights, etc. Many of these things go unseen—there isn't a paper fairy who stocks the 8½x11 tray every night while everyone is gone.


IF YOU ARE A MANAGER OR OWNER
Being a location manager or business owner makes it a little harder to take planned vacation time. You might be able to sneak out of the office early or take extended lunches, but actually leaving for days on end can leave a lot of open holes in the daily business. Besides covering the tips listed above, don't forget about these items:

  1. Make sure that all checks are signed and bills are paid. Get together with whoever receives mail or handles accounting to make sure that all bases are covered.
  2. Stock your petty cash, and if needed, leave a check for a designated person to cash in case of an emergency.
  3. Leave emergency contact information for any maintenance problem that might arise such as the electrician, phone, computer systems, etc. This also includes your emergency information—and stress "emergency". The point of taking a vacation is to get away from the office, not have it calling you. Don't want to sound too stern? Joke and say, "Unless the building is on fire, I'll be at the beach!"
  4. Arrange for you confidential documents to be handled accordingly. Designate a trusted employee to handle your e-mail, snail mail, faxes or voice-mail. If you would rather keep all documents unopened until you return, at least have someone collect any items that arrive for you.
  5. Have your employees give you a list of items or issues they need to address with you before you leave. Take care of any problems or questions—this helps set your mind and theirs at ease.


Being a business owner, it can be hard to let go of control. This can really put your business, and staff, to the test to see how well it functions without you. Even though when the cat's away, the mice will play, try to trust your workers that they will do their job. Even with the freedom they might feel with you being gone, they will still get their tasks completed – probably to avoid retribution when you return – but they will work.

If you still feel more comfortable calling to check in, keep in minimal, once or twice and only talk to one designated person (probably the same person handling your communications). Whether you call daily or once, it is a good idea not to call at the beginning and end of your vacation. It's your time away from work, enjoy it!

RELAX, RELAX, RELAX!
If you have vacation time, use it. It is important to take time off, both physically and mentally. Some companies offer payment for vacation time not used, and while it is tempting to get an extra check on your anniversary date, relaxing poolside for a few days is well worth it. Vacation time is given to you for a purpose, so don't feel bad taking time off or feel that you are burdening others with your absence.

Finally, try taking vacation time for extended periods rather than one day here, another day there. You will feel much more relaxed once as you get to unwind and breathe for more time than a three day weekend. Also, ease back into the work week. Avoid flying in at 8:00 on a Sunday night, only to turn around and head to work at 7:00 the next morning. Take a day or two to slip back into reality before slamming yourself with work less than 24 hours of heading home from the beach.

Now if only you could only figure out what it is you forgot to pack…

 

 

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Put those endless 9 to 5, pencil-pushing, desk-sitting doldrums to an end by taking a step beyond the desk into a new job opportunity: real estate.

Many professionals are drawn to real estate because of the freedom, excitement and – if you’re good at it – hefty pay. “Your own dedication affects your paycheck,” says Meghan Ferguson, agent with Coldwell Banker West Shell. “If you’re a go-getter, you get paid accordingly.”

Agents are also drawn to the opportunity to set their own hours – making their own appointments, days off, etc. Ferguson chooses to work every day, unless she’s in another city: “I’m out of town a lot more than I used to be,” she laughs.

Others become agents because they have the disposition for the business. Ferguson was one of these: “My father was a salesman and always pushed me toward it, but I was always like, ‘Ugh.’ I thought it was all corporate,” Ferguson says. “But then I realized that sales was just building relationships and helping people. I’d already been doing that my whole life. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

Aside from the monetary benefits, selling real estate can be a positive experience, Ferguson says. “Every time you go after a sale or project, you set a goal for yourself and your client. Helping them in a very important step in their lives is very rewarding,” she says.

Real estate is generally acknowledged as a fast-paced profession, so one thing to keep in mind before committing is deciding whether you can juggle the rest of your life (family, hobbies, etc.) with the market. “It is possible,” Ferguson says. “You end up having to schedule that time. Put your family commitment first, and schedule your appointments around that.”

Training to become an agent takes six weeks if the classes are everyday, but you can accommodate it to your lifestyle, Ferguson says. “Some people who have another job can still keep that job. It’s pretty flexible in that sense,” she says. Some real estate companies will pay for future agents’ training, once that prospective agent is officially licensed and under contract with that agency.

The first integral step to real estate is getting a mentor, someone who’s been in the business for a long time, Ferguson says, since the fast-paced market can be scary when you’re starting out. “It’s better to team up with somebody who knows their business, and then change their technique to work for you,” she says.

Although newcomers to the market can get started fairly quickly, Ferguson advises future agents to put money aside before beginning training. “Go in expecting not to make money your first year. And if you do, that’s fine. But if you can stick to it for a full year, your second year will pay you back,” she says.

According to Ferguson, by the second year, the agent has forged connections with clients, which in turn yields referrals, some of which Ferguson says she had no idea how they’d heard of her. “I don’t have to go out and actively pursue leads, but in the first year, that’s all you’re focused on.”

More experience also brings a specialty, whether an agent’s expertise is in selling condos, homes, land or property. Ferguson recommends trying them all, and then going with the one you feel most comfortable with.

Another decision to consider in real estate is which company you should become a part of. Different companies offer different benefits and programs, so finding a company that fits your needs is essential.

Cincinnati-based Huff Realty is very agent-centric, says Joy Amann, chief operating officer of the Ft. Mitchell location.

“The ability to facilitate and manage it to its final success is all provided for our agents and clients alike in a manner that just really gives them a competitive advantage,” Amann says.

Huff also pays for continued education classes, says Angie Sabet, an agent with Huff Realty for nine months. “I interviewed with three managers before I chose Huff,” she says. “During training, I followed my poor manager around for weeks before I felt comfortable enough to be on my own.”

Chuck Thompson, owner of EXIT Realty’s Cincinnati branch, says EXIT differs from other realty companies in many ways, namely in different programs set up to reward exemplary agents.

The way an agent’s commission is split is one of EXIT’s benefits. Most agents start out with 50/50 at other companies, Thompson says. EXIT, however, splits commission 70/30 no matter what, but agents who have earned $100,000 in gross commission in one year earn 90 percent of profits for the rest of the year.

EXIT agents are also rewarded for referring other agents for the company, Thompson says. If an agent refers another agent to EXIT, he or she will receive 10 percent of the gross commission every time the referral closes a deal, with a maximum of $10,000 given per agent per year, just for sponsoring.

This referral percentage is rewarded to an agent even after the agent has left the company (as long as the agent doesn’t join another real estate company) at 7 percent of the commission, and after death, 5 percent of each referral’s commission is given to the agent’s beneficiary.

 

 

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Put those endless 9 to 5, pencil-pushing, desk-sitting doldrums to an end by taking a step beyond the desk into a new job opportunity: real estate.

Many professionals are drawn to real estate because of the freedom, excitement and – if you’re good at it – hefty pay. “Your own dedication affects your paycheck,” says Meghan Ferguson, agent with Coldwell Banker West Shell. “If you’re a go-getter, you get paid accordingly.”

Agents are also drawn to the opportunity to set their own hours – making their own appointments, days off, etc. Ferguson chooses to work every day, unless she’s in another city: “I’m out of town a lot more than I used to be,” she laughs.

Others become agents because they have the disposition for the business. Ferguson was one of these: “My father was a salesman and always pushed me toward it, but I was always like, ‘Ugh.’ I thought it was all corporate,” Ferguson says. “But then I realized that sales was just building relationships and helping people. I’d already been doing that my whole life. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

Aside from the monetary benefits, selling real estate can be a positive experience, Ferguson says. “Every time you go after a sale or project, you set a goal for yourself and your client. Helping them in a very important step in their lives is very rewarding,” she says.

Real estate is generally acknowledged as a fast-paced profession, so one thing to keep in mind before committing is deciding whether you can juggle the rest of your life (family, hobbies, etc.) with the market. “It is possible,” Ferguson says. “You end up having to schedule that time. Put your family commitment first, and schedule your appointments around that.”

Training to become an agent takes six weeks if the classes are everyday, but you can accommodate it to your lifestyle, Ferguson says. “Some people who have another job can still keep that job. It’s pretty flexible in that sense,” she says. Some real estate companies will pay for future agents’ training, once that prospective agent is officially licensed and under contract with that agency.

The first integral step to real estate is getting a mentor, someone who’s been in the business for a long time, Ferguson says, since the fast-paced market can be scary when you’re starting out. “It’s better to team up with somebody who knows their business, and then change their technique to work for you,” she says.

Although newcomers to the market can get started fairly quickly, Ferguson advises future agents to put money aside before beginning training. “Go in expecting not to make money your first year. And if you do, that’s fine. But if you can stick to it for a full year, your second year will pay you back,” she says.

According to Ferguson, by the second year, the agent has forged connections with clients, which in turn yields referrals, some of which Ferguson says she had no idea how they’d heard of her. “I don’t have to go out and actively pursue leads, but in the first year, that’s all you’re focused on.”

More experience also brings a specialty, whether an agent’s expertise is in selling condos, homes, land or property. Ferguson recommends trying them all, and then going with the one you feel most comfortable with.

Another decision to consider in real estate is which company you should become a part of. Different companies offer different benefits and programs, so finding a company that fits your needs is essential.

Cincinnati-based Huff Realty is very agent-centric, says Joy Amann, chief operating officer of the Ft. Mitchell location.

“The ability to facilitate and manage it to its final success is all provided for our agents and clients alike in a manner that just really gives them a competitive advantage,” Amann says.

Huff also pays for continued education classes, says Angie Sabet, an agent with Huff Realty for nine months. “I interviewed with three managers before I chose Huff,” she says. “During training, I followed my poor manager around for weeks before I felt comfortable enough to be on my own.”

Chuck Thompson, owner of EXIT Realty’s Cincinnati branch, says EXIT differs from other realty companies in many ways, namely in different programs set up to reward exemplary agents.

The way an agent’s commission is split is one of EXIT’s benefits. Most agents start out with 50/50 at other companies, Thompson says. EXIT, however, splits commission 70/30 no matter what, but agents who have earned $100,000 in gross commission in one year earn 90 percent of profits for the rest of the year.

EXIT agents are also rewarded for referring other agents for the company, Thompson says. If an agent refers another agent to EXIT, he or she will receive 10 percent of the gross commission every time the referral closes a deal, with a maximum of $10,000 given per agent per year, just for sponsoring.

This referral percentage is rewarded to an agent even after the agent has left the company (as long as the agent doesn’t join another real estate company) at 7 percent of the commission, and after death, 5 percent of each referral’s commission is given to the agent’s beneficiary.

 

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I like to think of business cards as tiny gifts that get passed from one hand to another. They’re often the first impression for your business, and as such, they need to communicate the care and attention you’ll give customers. So how do you make sure your cards send the right message? A crafty touch or two — no special skills required — can set you apart from the masses. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing and the phone ringing:

Make Your Mark
An eye-catching business card might be as close as the rubber-stamp aisle at your local craft store. Pick a fun design and apply it to the front or back of an existing card with metallic ink. You can also order custom-made rubber stamps featuring your logo and contact information online (www.simonstamps.com) and simply make cards as you need them.

Sew Easy
If there’s a sewing machine collecting dust in the back of your closet, it might be time to take it out of retirement. A simple row of stitches across the bottom of pre-printed cards lets people know you pay attention to details. You can also spray the back of your card with adhesive mount (available at craft stores) and attach a square of patterned fabric. Then add a few decorative stitches as finishing touches. 

Picture Perfect
Think about incorporating your own photographs into a business-card design. One card I love features a picture of a photographer’s hand with her business information written across her palm. Do you have memorable shots hidden away in a scrapbook or on the computer? Can you take one that relates to your business?

Don’t be a Square
I recommend sticking with the standard 3-1/2×2-inch size so your business card fits easily into organizers and wallets. But you can set yourself apart by slightly altering that square shape. Hit the scrapbook aisle at a local craft store — or look online at www.store.scrapbook.com — for an inexpensive corner punch. This simple tool allows you to round off the four corners of your card for a softer look. Want something more adventurous? These same outlets carry rolling die-cuts, which allow you to create a variety of decorative edges. 


More Ideas:

  • Print your cards on handmade or linen papers for a tactile experience. I recommend looking for these gorgeous options at Xpedx Paper Store or Hobby Lobby.
  • Do you have pretty handwriting or know someone who does? Write out your business information by hand for a truly personal touch.
  • Print your cards in one color then use markers to add additional shades by hand.
  • Create a two-toned card by gluing two relatively thin pieces of paper — in different colors — together then cutting down to size. 

 

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The alarm clock starts beeping. You hit the snooze button as many times as you can, then slowly realize you have to get up. You have to go to work. Problem is you don’t want to go — not just today, but everyday. You have felt this way for a while now, and every morning it’s like fighting with a kid to get up for school. “I need a new job.” Before you take the leap, check out this useful to information to make sure you are making the right choice.

WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES
If you hate your job, you aren’t alone. A national survey conducted this year by Conference Board shows that more than half of the respondents said they dislike their current job. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder we want to quit and move on. Anne Houlihan, HR trainer and founder of Golden Key Leadership, says that women usually “know in their heart” when it is time to move on, and that we plan it out from there rather than up and quit.

According to Houlihan, the most common reasons/situations that women consider leaving their place of employment are:

  • No growth opportunities
  • No longer challenged
  • Not inspired
  • Become disengaged
  • There is no flexibility
  • Become stressed out
  • Stagnation


When you have job satisfaction, odds are you are have a sense of commitment to the organization itself, but when you are dissatisfied, more serious problems can arise. Job dissatisfaction can lead to an increase in absences, tardiness, accidents, “strikes” or “occurrences,” even sabotage. There are five major components of job satisfaction:

  • General working conditions
  • Monetary benefits
  • Attitude toward the work group
  • Attitude toward management
  • Attitude toward the company


It can be said that job satisfaction and your performance go hand in hand, and that one is the result of another. Remember that when you are dissatisfied and your performance and attitude is poor, it can be a red flag that something needs to change before you are the one being handed a pink slip.

WHAT WE DO WRONG
Of course there are the typical turmoil’s when it comes to quitting that women face such as having children or following their spouse on a move, but often times we find ourselves struggling with the emotional, more personal reasons that aren’t so cut and dry. “Women often times make the mistake of not looking at the bigger picture,” says Houlihan. “They need to get really clear what they are looking for in a new job or career, otherwise they will arrive at a new company and still be dissatisfied.”

Another big mistake we chatty women make is telling other co-workers what we are up to. It’s hard not to tell your friends at work that you are looking into leaving, especially when you spend 40 hours a week with them, often times more. As difficult as it seems, don’t say anything until you have officially given the company notice. The rumor mill starts running like crazy, and when so-and-so tells so-and-so, it doesn’t take long to get back to management.

But what if it’s not the company that is the problem, but instead it’s just your job? Don’t be too hasty in turning in your notice if there is the possibility of transferring departments or altering your job description. Houlihan suggests sitting down and communicating your problems with your supervisor to come up with a solution and action plan. She reminds us to stay positive and try to create a win-win situation for both you and the company.

HOW TO MAKE THE DECISION
So you are really considering find a new job. Before you turn in your two weeks, Houlihan suggests asking yourself these questions:

  • “What am I looking for?” Do you want to work for a large, competitive company, or a small, more laid back business? Things to look at are the differences in pay, benefits, work environments, and structure. Some people like the more structured, “by the book” corporations, where as others like to have the flexibility and casual atmosphere of “the little man” type business.
  • “Will this job be fulfilling? Am I passionate about the work?” Houlihan states that is important to weigh out any commute time, as well as scheduling flexibility. Basically, is the position you are looking at going to be exactly what you want, or do you have to compromise your career desires just to receive a paycheck?
  • “Are there opportunities for growth?” Are you a risk taker, or would you rather stay in your comfort zone? Look at your career goals and compare them to what you are doing now. Are you willing to take on new challenges, or are you the type that is content with just sitting pretty? Houlihan also reminds us to ask ourselves which decision will give us better balance and time with our families.
  • “What kind of contributor am I? What kind of contributions can I make to this new company?” Without getting too John F. Kennedy here, you do need to ask yourself what exactly you can do and bring to the business. Often, we look too much at what the business can give to us, but what good is that theory if you can’t contribute to the success of the company? Look at what and where your strengths are and try to fit the puzzle pieces from there.


If you are suffering from physical or emotional signs of workplace dissatisfaction, you need to evaluate your career immediately or even make an appointment to see your doctor. Remember, your health should not be compromised for a paycheck. If you just know it’s time to make a change, consider talking to a career counselor, or look into career testing. A few simple questions can make a world of a difference, especially when it comes to where you spend a minimum of 25 percent of your week.

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When it comes to your job, it takes more than just meeting a quota to move up in the company. It takes panache, assertiveness, and even a bit of couth. Often times our “Miss Thang” attitude can turn us into “Miss Unemployed” well before the stroke of midnight. Just as you try to have some class in your personal life, it is equally important to have some class in your career. So to all you self-proclaimed *bad word here*, leave your two snaps and a twist at the door and check out these workplace no-no’s.

Here are 10 things you do NOT want to do at work:

#10 DATE CO-WORKERS
So that hunk down the row has caught your eye, or there is some fresh meat filling out an application. As hard it might seem, ease up on the hunt. Dating someone you work with comes with a lot of hardships. If you work in a large company where you rarely see the object of your affection, or if you work in two separate departments, it can sometimes work. However, if you are desk buddies or work in departments very close to one another, you might want to avoid it. Office romance can blossom into one of those beautiful, rare flowers that bud once every 10 years, or it can blow up in your face—and often those who work around you. You can end up so heartbroken you quit a job you really like, or ruin the other person’s career in the process.

#9 USE COMPANY E-MAIL FOR PERSONAL USE
This one is sometimes hard to follow through with. I think it’s fair to say about 99.9 percent of us have been guilty of using our work e-mail for personal use. Not only are you wasting company time and resources, but you are putting yourself at serious risk of violating company policies. It’s easy to laugh when you hear an embarrassing story of how some wife sent a racy e-mail to her husband, only to have sent it to her boss. It’s not so easy to laugh when it’s you that sent it.

Being realistic here, we aren’t going to completely stop forwarding on those funny messages, or e-mailing our friends about weekend plans. However, the steamy letters or the 2007 calendar of half-naked studs should be nixed. Businesses have elaborate systems that can flag anything with inappropriate language, keywords like "resume," to addresses that aren’t recognized as secure users. It’s better to save your butt than get fired for forwarding the picture of one.

#8 LEAVE WHILE ON THE CLOCK
Sometimes 30 minutes is just not enough to get lunch, and that sandwich joint is just around the corner. It seems so easy to slip out the back and return unnoticed in 5 minutes, right? Think again, 007. You might get by once, maybe twice, but making a habit of it is sure to land you in hot water. The thing to remember here is you are on company time and off company grounds. What might turn into a 5-minute drive can turn into an air-care trip to the ER. You’ll also have a lot of explaining to do too if your boss is looking for you, or if there is a family emergency and someone is trying to locate your whereabouts.

#7 USE OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE
“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Cursing, vulgar or discriminating langue might be accepted amongst your peers, but the gal in the next row doesn’t think it’s so funny. Odds are, the co-workers you see every day and hang out with are used to your mouth and share the same views and philosophies that you do. However, that person who overheard you can report you in a second, faster than you can finish your rant as colorful as the rainbow. Bite your tongue and take the conversation elsewhere. And remember; don’t use that company e-mail to express your thoughts to your friend down the hall!

#6 TALK POLITICS
It’s a wonderful fact that we live in a country where we are free to vote. Whether you are left wing, right wing or somewhere in the middle, it’s best just to keep your views to yourself while at work. It’s great to be patriotic, and free speech is one of rights, but the passion you share for your political party or issue can start an all out office war.

#5 COMPARE PAY
Human Resources can keep a lid on disclosing individual pay rates, but can’t keep employees from talking amongst themselves. I’m telling you, nothing good comes from sharing your hourly or salary rate with your co-workers. Having your diploma mounted on the wall proves you have put in some long hours at college, but who’s to say the guy that’s been there for 10 years hasn’t worked just as hard to move up the ranks? Even if your company has a flat starting rate that every Joe Schmoe makes who walks through door, don’t discuss it. When we talk about how much we bring home a week, factors like insurances, child support, taxes and other benefits aren’t usually brought up in that comparison. After all, not many people brag about paying backed support or having their wages garnished.

#4 TALK ABOUT OTHER EMPLOYEES
The rumor mill never seems to close. What we hoped would stop after high school graduation actually doesn’t. It is pretty sad how much grown adults relish in a good gossip session, especially us women. The thing with gossip in the workplace is that something false puts someone’s entire livelihood at stake. I have seen it first hand—someone thinks that girl is sleeping with a married supervisor; it starts as a rumor, someone else contacts the man’s wife and the next thing you know girl’s reputation is ruined and the man is losing his family. All from one very wrong suspicion. Moral of the story, leave the trash talk to Jerry Springer.

#3 HAVE THE “I DON’T CARE” ATTITUDE
Raise your hand if you have ever said, “I don’t care, they can kiss my butt!” (or another choice word). If you really believe that, and honestly don’t care, it shows. Your “whatever” attitude might also be portrayed as aggressive behavior. Often times those negative thoughts are portrayed in your appearance and your work. Changes in attitude and work are noted by supervisors, and can even become an issue during your performance review. If you are having some personal issues that affect your attitude at work, don’t be afraid to discuss it with your supervisor or human resources — they can assist you in finding help.

#2 PUSH THE ENVELOPE
Programs such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Worker’s Compensation, or short/long term disability were created to help those who really need it. However, there are always those that abuse it. The thing to remember is that abuse of these programs are usually violations of a business’s Code of Ethics, and can also result in trouble with the law. All it takes is one anonymous tip to a hotline from a fed up co-worker who caught you red-handed and you can face some serious allegations. Avoid abuse of company benefits and government programs. Sick days, bereavement, tardiness — those fit this package as well. Keep in mind, nothing in life is free — you will pay for it somehow.

#1 TAKE YOUR JOB FOR GRANTED
Be thankful you are working. Outsourcing is a real thing and many states are considered "at will." Just because a business fires you, it does not mean you are entitled to unemployment. A business can argue that you weren’t a good worker and you can end up with no financial aid from the state. So hold your tongue when you get the urge to say, "Well, fire me then!"

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Can that work wait until tomorrow? More than likely the answer is "yes." Between Blackberrys, cell phones and laptops, we've conditioned ourselves to remain connected, even when we don't have to be.

Remaining plugged in at home can strain your personal relationships and rob you of the essential down time needed to rejuvenate yourself for the next workday.

Check out the problems you may have on the job resulting from R&R deprivation, courtesy of mindtools.com:

  • Difficulty focusing
  • Harsh mood swings and rising workplace conflicts
  • Lack of fresh ideas
  • Loss of enthusiasm for your job


Never fear, you can be saved from becoming the office grump by following these helpful tips:

Leave the corporate gear at work. The best way to ensure you won't work at home is to ditch the trusty laptop and office gadgets. Odds are, the closer the Blackberry is to the sofa, the harder it is to avoid looking at it.

Out of sight out of mind. Just as you physically prepare yourself to leave the office, take a mental break, too. Put all deadlines, e-mails and meetings on the back burner. Concentrate your thoughts on family, fun and friends.

Create routines to help you unwind before you get home. Play your favorite CDs on the car ride home. Reward yourself for a hard day's work and stop for ice cream. Meet a friend at a park for a quick walk before heading home.

Lose the uniform. Remaining in your corporate armor may make you feel as if you're still in work mode. Scrap the starched shirt and stilettos for a favorite pair of jeans and flip-flops.

Set boundaries with your private life. Avoid making yourself accessible after work hours. Establish clear guidelines with co-workers on when you can be reached regarding business matters.

We've all heard the saying "life is too short" and it really is. The average employee will spend 269 days and over 2,100 hours per year at work. So, believe it or not, the company can survive without you skipping Rover's walk to send that e-mail. Take a break from the corporate throne and enjoy your personal life!

 

Use these resources to in your quest for happy and healthy work-life balance:

 

 

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Uniform, casual, business casual or professional — any way you put it, most of us have to follow them. To some, a dress code is a conspiracy theory to bring down the fashionably challenged, while others see it as no big deal. While it's just another day at the office for most, it can be absolute torture for others. None the less, you follow it, but why are those clothing policies necessary?

There are obvious circumstances where dress codes are absolutely essential, particularly for safety purposes. It is understood why you can't wear your sling-backs and cocktail dress to a construction site, but many women question policies when it comes to working in an office or other professional setting. The mere existence of a dress code can get any women's pantyhose in a bunch, at least when wearing skirts no more than one inch above the knee.

According to a study reported by Image Talks, LLC, a woman's appearance affects whether she is:

  • hired or passed over
  • taken seriously on the job
  • asked to represent her company in outside meetings
  • considered for raises and promotions


With those facts, it just might be worth putting up that deep plunge v-neck and follow the dress code!

Safety and Hygiene


Steel-toed boots are not exactly considered sexy, but are a must when working in any sort of construction or shop-type job. But wait, you work in an office, far away from cranes and concrete. Why can't you wear those cute open-toed shoes? To this I ask, does anyone remember the McDonald's coffee lawsuit? While it seems reasonable to believe that you aren't going to drop that file cabinet on your toes, it doesn't mean that a drawer might slip off track, or those boxes of copy paper won't tumble over. Accidents happen, even ones that seem common sense, and a business is going to take every measure possible to prevent them and protect their employees.

Not only are open-toed shoes a safety concern, they are a health and hygiene problem as well. It's hard not to slip those suckers off while at your desk, but do you know whose feet or filthy shoes were there before yours? Bacteria and fungus (such as athlete's foot) can breed on all sorts of surfaces, and pieces of small debris can pop up anywhere. It's also fair to say that no one in the office wants to see your half-painted hoofs poking out of your strappy heels, and potential clients and customers can feel just as disgusted.

Speaking of nails, keep the ones on your hands clean and well kept. The policy on no nail polish or artificial nails is rightfully just, particularly in the food industry. Chipped nail polish isn't only tacky, but poses the question, "what happened to those polish chips?" While that dark red polish was seductive last night, or those press-on nails did the trick for the last minute dinner date, it's not as hot when serving food missing that red press-on thumbnail, or shaking a hand with dirty nails.

With summer right around the corner, let's not forget about sleeveless shirts. Most policies allow those "close to shoulder" tops, but many forbid tank tops or anything less than around a two inch strap. It's a nice thought to think that everyone showers daily and applies antiperspirant/deodorant, but let's be realistic here. You might not notice it because it is your own scent, but we all know what B.O. and sweat smells like, and who the likely culprit is. Sleeveless tops also leave the possibility of nasty deodorant clumps, and are severely unsanitary if items are carried under the arm.

For the Business


All right, so you get the health and safety concerns, but you feel like your inner self is being suppressed. You can't have all of your piercings in, jeans are prohibited and you can't wear the clothes that's "your style." Try to understand that businesses don't enforce dress codes to keep you from being who you are, but to have normality and structure. Having a dress code established provides everyone with a clear and understandable policy that applies to everyone across the board, or is department specific.

In a world where image is everything, a company cannot afford to lose customers or potential clients over your desire to wear that tight, nipple-bearing shirt to work. If what you have to wear becomes such a problem where you can't "express who you really are", then it might be time to re-evaluate your career goals, or even move on to a different place of employment that is more fitting for your sense of comfort. Any way you spin it, a business is going to put their best foot forward. It's really no different than how you present yourself and your home when having company over for dinner.

For the Customers


With the cliché "old granny talking about how the young'uns dress now-a-days" put aside, customers do judge a business on its employee's appearance. What might seem harmful to you can very well offend others, and even send them running to the competition. Think about a time when you judged a place of business, or thought twice about a sale based on its employee's appearance. Were their clothes clean? How did they fit? Did the worker look professional and put-together or like they just rolled out of bed after a night at the bar? Odds are, you won't do business with someone who offends you, and neither will your customers.

Five Easy Ways to Make it Work


Now that you are ready to make a change, take these tips from guru image consultant, Ellen York, author of Dressing the Petite Woman (Ellen York Image Institute, 2006), on how to look your best on the job and stick to your company's policy:

  1. Keep your hairstyle updated. Try something that flatters your features and creates "a more professional look" rather than what you think works the best on the go.
  2. Many businesses have policies on perfumes. York says that deodorant should be enough, but if you opt to add a little scent, use sparingly — a small dab on your neck and wrists.
  3. York advises to add new items to your wardrobe, or take away clothing that is no longer appropriate to your job. If you are serious about your career, then you have to break down and buy items that coincide with the code, or box up ones that don't.
  4. "If the neck line is too low, count it out for work." Camisoles or body shaper tanks are great for wearing under certain fabrics—and just because it's under something, you still need to wear a good bra.
  5. If you are allowed to wear jeans on any day or on Casual Fridays, be sure they are clean and unwrinkled. Ripped, torn or severely frayed jeans are not acceptable.


All in all, your company has a business to run – not a runway show – and I'm sorry to tell you, there is no federal law that governs dress codes. Chances are, you dressed to impress when you applied for the job, so why should your standards change once you are employed? Don't be afraid to ask your supervisor or HR department for a copy of the dress code to keep at home, or if you have any questions at all. Ask for examples of particular items that are allowed when seasons change. If anything, following the rules gives you an excuse to go shopping!

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Physical exercise, while incredibly important to our health, can be one of the hardest things for a busy woman to work into her schedule. That’s why you need a workout buddy. Your buddy is someone who keeps you on the straight and narrow, who holds you accountable if you don’t meet your exercise goals. Studies show that people who plan their workouts around someone else – whether it’s walking together, a regular tennis date or meeting at the gym – are more likely to stick to their fitness regimen.

I learned the value of workout buddies after the birth of my son, two years ago. I’ve always been an athlete and assumed I’d continue my dedication to fitness after he arrived. Oh, the naivete of a first-time mom! I was exhausted, he hated the childcare at my gym, we could only get outside when the weather was nice. You name it, I had an excuse for why I couldn’t work out. Then, I found StrollerFit Exercise with Your Baby. This 50-minute workout includes cardio, strength training (built around a mom’s needs) and core work – and my baby. It was perfect for me. So much so, that I left my job as a physical therapist and started my own StrollerFit class.

The moms in my StrollerFit class did more than just hold me accountable. They inspired me. Early on, we agreed on a fitness goal that we would reach together: we would conquer the Heart Mini Marathon, just seven months away, and we would do it while pushing our kids in their strollers. Thirty pounds of stroller plus 20 pounds of baby – now that’s a workout! In addition to our StrollerFit classes, we began running together to get ready for the race. We decided043007CAREER_intext.jpg that while we would all run at our own pace, those who finished early would circle back to encourage anyone still running to keep at it. We would not let anyone give up. Throughout our training, we encouraged each other. We didn’t allow excuses or slacking – the “buddy” system worked perfectly.

Every single one of us finished the Heart Mini Marathon. Next, we set our sights on the Flying Pig Half Marathon, running with our matching "Team StrollerFit" shirts on, empowered by the knowledge that we wouldn’t let each other give up. You have to love that buddy system! This year we will be doing the Flying Pig again, but I’ll be on the sidelines – as an expectant mom for the second time, a half marathon at six months isn’t on my list of approved activities, but you can bet I’ll be there, cheering on my buddies as they sprint for the finish line. And I won’t stop till every last one of them crosses.

Want to find a workout buddy of your own? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Find someone with similar interests. You want to have something to talk about when you are running/walking/working out.
  • Find someone who has a similar work schedule. You want to be able to set times and dates and be 043007CAREER_intext2.jpgable to stick with them.
  • Find someone who will motivate you and will not intimidate you. It is important that each of you feel accountable to the other so you don’t let them down.
  • Don’t be afraid to meet new people when forming a running group. I have met some of my best friends through StrollerFit.


Places to find workout buddies:

  • If you don’t belong to a gym, try the cincychic.com forums and post that you are looking for a workout buddy.
  • Post a sign at your gym, or ask the staff if they have a sign up for those looking for workout partners.
  • Check out classes where there are people with similar interests.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you can join a group run or walk, most of the time the groups are more than willing to have you participate.
  • Check out Fleet Feet, Bob Roncker’s Running Spot or many of the various group running programs that run for a cause such as: Team in Training, Train to end Stroke, Team Seven for Kevin (ALS research) and many others.

 

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The W4, also known as your Federal Tax Form, it usually is followed with, “Do I put 1 or 0?” Sound familiar now? This is just one of the several tasks you need to take care of with your employer when getting married. So often women get wrapped up in the fun and frills of planning a wedding, the only legal document they think about is the marriage license. In your race to the alter, remember to add these important items to your “to-do” list for the office:

#1: BENEFICIARIES
Dan Veit, director of human resources with the Habegger Corporation, says that this, along with health insurance, should be the first two things you change when getting married. Like many single people, parents, siblings or other extended family are assigned beneficiaries, so it is important to make necessary changes before getting married. Veit says that beneficiary documents can be internal, or outside your company, so make sure to check all possible roads. Examples of documents that typically have assigned beneficiaries are:

  • Life Insurance
  • Accidental Death
  • 401K
  • Outside Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s)


#2: INSURANCES

  • WHO – When deciding on if the bride or groom should carry the insurance, Veit states that “each person should asses their company’s medical plan to determine which has the best coverage and is the most economical for you.” In most cases, it is cheaper for the two of you to go on one plan rather than carry two single plans, especially if there are children involved.
  • WHAT – Be sure to check dental and vision, as well as other plans that are best for family coverage. Many companies are beginning to offer a variety of plans to choose from that best suite your personal needs, as well as coverage for all sorts of family types. Veit says to keep in mind that just because one of you carries the health insurance, doesn’t mean that the same person has to carry dental or vision. Once again, assess which coverage is best for your new family.
  • WHERE – Check with your HR department on where resources and tools are for policy research. Many companies are making their health insurance plans available online. Policy details and guidelines are often available right at your finger tips, so plan a night to sit down together and go over everything.
  • WHEN – Veit reminds us that marriage is considered a “qualifying event” to add or drop your medical coverage. This means you can you make the needed changes at any given time, not just when open enrollment comes around. If you don’t get to make the necessary changes before the wedding, you still have time. According to Veit, the window of opportunity is typically within 30 days of the date of your marriage.
  • WHY – Veit stresses that health insurance and beneficiaries should be taken care of first. Depending on when your company or carrier allows you to change, you should try to get this done before the wedding. The real life stories of honeymoon horrors are out there — falling off cruise liners, murders in foreign countries, accidents on the way to the reception hall. One episode of Oprah should cover it. Emergencies can arise at any given time, so it is important to make sure you and your new loved one is taken care of.


#3 TAX FORMS
Surprisingly, tax forms aren’t as time sensitive as beneficiaries and health insurance, and can usually be filled out after the honeymoon. Don’t wait too long or you might forget, and you can possibly miss out on paying less!

W4: Federal Tax Form
W4 forms can be obtained, and modified at any time, from your payroll or HR department. The simple part is changing your status from “single” to “married." The tricky part is the "dependents" issue. Veit says it varies depending on your individual tax basis, and to look at both of your incomes combined. He suggests getting the help of a tax preparer. They can help determine the number of exemptions and dependents that are best for the two of you. Typically, both husband and wife change to “married” withholding status, and in most cases, utilize the number of exemptions when children are involved.

State Tax Withholding
When changing your W4 status, remember to change your state withholding as well. Most people use the same information that they used for the W4. As with the Federal Tax Form, the State Tax Withholding can be obtained from your payroll or HR department.

#4: OTHER POLICIES
When getting married, Veit says, people should consider all beneficiaries and policies. Be sure to look at not only life insurance and accidental death, but also short and long term disability. Also, check out benefits, policies and investments outside of your company. As stated before, find something that works for both of you and any children that might be involved.

#5: THE SMALL THINGS
As women, giving up our last name or hyphenating adds a little extra work to the already mounding pile. Don’t forget about the small things around the office such as:

  • Company e-mail address – If your email contains your last name, change it accordingly. Contact technical support or the appropriate department to make the changes. Check to make sure that e-mails sent to your old address can be forwarded to your new one, and it might be a good idea to e-mail your contacts so they are aware of the change.
  • Signature Change – Your signature on things such as e-mail closures, stamps, payroll, automatic sign-offs, etc. should be changed to reflect your new name.
  • Contact information – Without wasting paper, replace business cards, letterhead or any other pre-printed document with the correct contact name. Even if you aren’t ready to order anything, still change your template or contact the distributor to make sure changes are in effect. Don’t forget about the company directory and voicemail.


Check with your company’s HR department for their individual policies. They might have a different timeline on when things need to be filed. Then, when the wedding is over, start enjoying the other benefits of being married.