Yes, You CAN Fit Travel into a Busy Career. It Just Takes Planning.
By Karen Gershowitz
I know what you’re thinking: Travel is opening back up and I’m itching to go. But when I’m drowning in deadlines and work and want to spend time with family and friends, how can travel possibly fit in? The answer is, with planning.
My career as a marketing researcher and strategist is intense. Yet in 5 decades, I’ve managed to travel to 90 different countries. Travel is my passion. Reducing or giving it up, even for work, is out of the question. These competing priorities have taught me to plan ahead and be creative. I talk about some of the many ways I’ve done this in my memoir Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust.
At the beginning of my career, two weeks of vacation was the maximum allowed. I planned those weeks around long weekends to get the most out of them. Four vacation days became nine-day trips.
Another possibility I discovered is to rollover vacation time, allowing for a longer trip. You might take one week the first year, then plan for a three-week trip the next. That strategy allowed me to go to Tanzania for a photo safari and then climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
If you can afford it, consider unpaid leave. I did that for a trip to Australia that took me across the globe when after the flight and recovering from jetlag, two weeks would have been whittled down to just over a week of satisfying travel. That extra vacation time is unlikely to change your career trajectory and will leave you with memories for a lifetime. Negotiating extra travel time when taking a new job is a great tactic, and in this post- COVID world where labor supply is short, now might be the perfect time. Two weeks is far too short to satisfy a travel itch. In negotiating for extra vacation time when changing jobs—four weeks in total—I only brought it up after we had settled on pay. The deal with my boss was that the month had to be split into three periods scattered across the year. That worked for the company; my absence didn’t stop any projects from proceeding. It also satisfied my desire for travel.
You might also consider taking an extended break prior to starting with a new employer. time off between jobs. It’s a magical time with no stresses about what you’ve left behind. When I negotiated for four weeks of vacation time, I also negotiated my start date. I gave myself a full month, which allowed me to take three separate trips–Hawaii, Spain and Puerto Rico. I began my new position fully rested, with a clear head and excitement about the work.
If you do find yourself with a quiet stretch take advantage of it. Rather than fretting about not having work or creating make work, scour the internet for last minute deals. Traveling to a lesser known place may lead to fabulous, unexpected finds. Years ago, I went to Venezuela at the last moment and discovered nearly empty pristine beaches and an Italian village in the Andes.
Here are some tips for making whatever time you have enjoyable, worry-free and non-jeopardizing to your career.
Give everyone lots of advance notice if you will be gone for more than a few days. No one likes surprises, least of all clients and colleagues. This gives them time to discuss what should happen while you are away.
Try to anticipate any issues, problems, or questions and make sure you’ve dealt with them before you leave.
Update your boss and co-workers on any current projects in detail and in writing so they have a reference document if they need information.
Make it clear that you will be unreachable during your away time (you don’t want to be brought back to “reality” while traveling). If necessary, tell them wi-fi is likely to be unreliable where you will be staying.
For much of my career I have also traveled for business, both domestically and internationally. This allowed me to see the world while my clients paid for my flights and other expenses. If you are also lucky enough to travel for business, here are some ideas for how to experience the location beyond meeting rooms.
Try to plan the trip near a weekend, then stay a couple of extra days. Or even plan your whole vacation in some desirable destination. I traveled for two weeks in Asia, following a meeting in Singapore.
Once virtual conferences become an option instead of a necessity, if you attend them and can choose, find ones that meet your needs and are in a destination you’d like to see.
Ask local business associates what to see and do. Because they live there, they may have some great tips for restaurants and sites off the usual tourist routes.
Before going, look for events taking place while you’re there—concerts, ball games, walking tours, cooking classes, art or antique shows.
I hate clichés, but where there’s a will, there’s a way really applies to fitting travel into a career. If you want it enough, plan ahead, don’t keep it a secret and enjoy every moment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Gershowitz, author of Travel Mania: Stories of Wanderlust, has been traveling since age 17 when she boarded a plane to Europe and stayed there for three years. She has since traveled to more than 90 countries, experiencing countless bold, once-in-a-lifetime adventures: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking atop an elephant in Thailand, hiking in the blistering heat of the Moroccan desert—and much more. While studying ceramics as an undergraduate at the Kansas City Art Studio, Karen proposed and received a grant to photograph ceramics studios, potters and their work throughout Japan. She later built a career as a marketing strategist and researcher with companies who sent her around the globe to conduct focus groups, interviews and meetings. She lives in New York City, but is a citizen of the world.
Get your oil changed at your house, FixMyCar comes to you
Our vehicles are one of the largest expenses we have in life, and we want to get the most out of them. According to Consumer Reports, people should be able to get 200,000 miles out of their vehicle, because of the way they are built today. One of the most important factors in being able to do that, however, is making routine maintenance a priority. Every vehicle needs routine maintenance in order to help with the longevity and overall user experience.
We all want the most out of our vehicles, but many people tend to neglect things like routine maintenance, explains Prashant Salla, founder of FixMyCar. If you keep up on thisthen you are greatly improving your chances that your vehicle will last longer, thus saving you money in the long run.
Most people tend to stick the owner’s manual in the glove box or take it intothe house and they forget about it from that point. When they do that they may not be aware of what routine maintenance things should be done. Even if they did look through the owner’s manual there is a good chance they will forget about it. Here is a list of routine maintenance that every car should keep up on:
Oil changes. Getting routine oil changes is one of the most important things one can do to help a vehicle last longer. The oil and filter should be changed every 3,000 miles, unless you have a newer vehicle that recommends more mileage in between them. Some newer vehicles have longer intervals.
Remember tires. It’s important to have good tires in order to keep the vehicle moving along well, but also to help keep everyone in it safer. There should be a routine check of tire pressure and depth, and tires should be rotated regularly. It’s also important to make sure your vehicle has good tires since they are the only contact with ground.
Fluids.Fluids are the blood of your vehicle. Making sure the level & condition of all fluids like engine oil, transmission oil, coolant & brake fluid is in good condition & is above the level recommended will make your vehicle last longer.
Outside clean. If you want to protect the exterior of your vehicle it’s important to keep up on detailing it. This will help to provide a protective barrier from the elements, and it will keep it looking good.
Roll with the seasons. There are seasonal issues that need to be addressed to ensure cars are running well in the snow, heat, etc. Having a seasonal checkup is a good way to have these issues addressed. Get it checked before you go a long drive to avoid any issues.
It’s important to not ignore issues that come up, such as if something doesn’t smell or sound right, added Salla. The sooner you have issues taken care of the better it will be. Keeping your car in good running condition will help preserve it longer, thus saving you a lot of money over the years. A car is a lot like a human body, preventative care is essential.
Consumer Reports also says that if someone does get 200,000 miles out of their vehicle it could potentially save them $30,000 or more. The average vehicle will take around 15 years to rack up that many miles.
FixMyCar specializes in providing maintenance & repairservices outside your house. Not only is it convenient to get your car fixed outside your house or office but also affordable than taking your car to a dealershipFixMyCar’s model doesn’t have the high overhead that shops do, so their prices tend to be 20-30% lower than dealership or repair shops. Plus, it has been designed to allow mechanics to make a higher salary & have a good work-life balance
Services being offered by FixMyCar include diagnostic issues, such as the car not starting, check engine light on, strange noises, or not being sure what is wrong with it. Other services include battery and starter replacement, brakes and light engine repairs, routine maintenance, such as oil changes, and used car inspections for those who are purchasing or selling a car. They recently launched a FixMyCar Oil Change Membership. Members enjoy peace of mind where they no longer have to worry about scheduling and getting oil changes. FixMyCar reminds and performs oil changes outside their members’ houses or offices as part of their membership offering.
The company was founded by Salla in 2018, after he received an initial $250,000 in funding capital from a stranger he met at a bar. Later, he secured another $1.6 million in investor funding, including from the likes of Marc Randolph from Netflix’s founding. Salla came to America in 2012 from India, where he was earning $100 per month. In the Detroit area, he earned his master’s degree in automotive engineering, and has flourished in the industry. In addition to revolutionizing the auto repair industry, he is a great example of an American immigrant success story.
Currently, FixMyCar is serving the areas of Detroit, Dallas, and Houston. They are also moving into Austin, and eventually plan to have services being offered around the country. To learn more about FixMyCar, visit the site.
Founded by Prashant Salla, FixMyCar is a mobile mechanic service that is revolutionizing the automotive repair industry. Founded by Salla in 2018, the company has locations in several major cities in two states, with plans to continue expanding nationally. Salla is an immigrant from India who has been able to achieve the American dream since moving to the country in 2012. To learn more about FixMyCar, visit the site.
There are many reasons to garden, but sometimes it can be so hard to keep your plants alive. They’ll often die before you can enjoy your harvest. Dr. Hauschka, a skincare brand, recently did a livestream with gardener Lilian Jackman, founder and owner of Wilder Hill Gardens, in Conway, Massachusetts. She gave the following advice:
One of the easiest ways to kill plants is to overwater them. People tend to think that their herbs and vegetables need as much water as they can get but that’s not true. Plants, like other creatures, have a limit to how much water they need. Jackman recommended only watering when the ground is dry. That way, you know they’re getting the perfect amount of water they need without getting too much.
Bring Plants Inside for the Winter
It’s important to bring some plants inside for winter, as they will be able to stay alive in the proper conditions. She encourages people to keep plants in pots for easy transport during the winter. She also recommended getting full-spectrum UV bulbs, as they will help to give plants the light they need, and will also be visually appealing. As far as what plants should go inside, you have to know which environment they came from. She uses the example of rosemary: a Mediterranean plant. Because rosemary is Mediterranean, you should store it in an environment most similar to that environment – which for her, in Massachusetts, meant indoors.
Think Like a Plant
Plants will communicate a lot with you, if you can understand them. If you’re giving plants too much water, they will droop. Observing the “behavior” of your plants can go a long way in determining how successful your garden will be.
Jackman recommends using three to four plants per pot – each of different sizes, styles, and characteristics. Different plants require different nutrients, and with more plant variety, more nutrients will be utilized. Also, variety makes your pot or planter more visually stimulating.
Enjoy the Fruit of your Labor
One thing Jackman really stressed was utilizing the plants in your diet. If you have vegetables, pick and enjoy them. If you have herbs, use them in your food. It’s important to appreciate every aspect of the gardening process, especially the end results.
Protect yourself from melanoma without becoming deficient in vitamin D
By Leah Johnston, RDN
Don’t be so quick to overlook concerns around melanoma just because it’s often viewed as preventable. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers and the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, there is a conflict between how we prevent melanoma and how we ensure we are getting enough vitamin D. Sun exposure is the main source of this essential vitamin, but it’s also the primary culprit in the formation of melanoma. With May being Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s time to take notice and learn how we can protect our skin while still absorbing enough vitamin D.
Cases of melanoma have been rising over the last few decades, especially among young adults, as it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer among people aged 25 to 29. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, one person dies from melanoma every hour of every day. The American Cancer Society reports that the risk for getting melanoma is approximately 2.6% (1 in 38) for whites, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for Blacks, and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Hispanics. While fair skin poses a higher risk, darker complexions are also at risk.
How Melanoma forms
Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin and give skin its brown or tan color. It’s when melanocytes start to grow out of control on the skin’s top layer that cancer can develop and then spread to other parts of the body. Usually appearing as a brown or black spot or mole, melanoma is most commonly found on the chest and back for men and legs for women. It’s best not to ignore any irregular spots you may find on your skin because this cancer can also appear in other colors or patterns. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds can damage DNA in cells and significantly increase the risk of melanoma. Early detection is important for effective treatment.
Tips for melanoma prevention:
Use a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen all year when outdoors. This will help protect against sun damage, which can occur even when the sun might be hiding behind a cloud.
Limit sun exposure during the middle of the day when the UV rays are at their peak. Instead, plan outdoor time for the morning or later afternoon to lessen the risk.
Opt for a spray tan over laying out by the pool. If you love to have a tan, spray tans are a safer option and will help protect the longevity of your skin.
Schedule annual skin exams with a dermatologist. This is especially important if you have fair skin or immediate family members who have had melanoma, such as a parent or sibling.
The importance of Vitamin D
What doesn’t vitamin D do? Known as the sunshine vitamin, the human body absorbs an inactive form of vitamin D from the sun, food, or supplements and converts it into an active form of vitamin that it can use. In its active form, vitamin D plays many roles in the body.
Bone Health: Vitamin D and calcium work together to maintain bone health and density. Calcium cannot be absorbed into bones without the help of vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can result in bone softening, known as osteomalacia, and muscle weakness. Osteoporosis can also be associated with vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of calcium absorption. Both osteoporosis and melanoma affect older adults making it essential to couple melanoma prevention strategies with vitamin D supplementation.
Immunity: Recently, researchers have been investigating a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. While this research is still in its infancy, scientists have been finding that low vitamin D status may result in the increased severity of symptoms and higher mortality rate. More research is needed in this area.
Inflammation: Research has shown an association between vitamin D status and inflammation-related autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D also helps to regulate insulin levels for diabetes management.
Depression: People with depression are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. A 2011 study found that women who ate more foods rich in vitamin D had a lower risk of depression than women who got less vitamin D in their diets. Vitamin D has also demonstrated the ability to improve the symptoms of depression.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 15 mcg (600 IU) for most children and adults up to the age of 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adults who over 70 need 20 mcg (800 IU) daily.
Tips for getting enough Vitamin D:
Get outside but be strategic. As previously discussed, the best time to be in the sun is in the morning or later afternoon. Plan your days to limit your exposure to the midday sun.
Add at least one vitamin D rich food into your daily diet. These may include fortified dairy and non-dairy beverages such as milk or orange juice, fortified cereals, salmon (wild caught contains more than farmed), sardines, and egg yolks. Wild mushrooms or those that have been treated with UV light are a good plant source of the vitamin.
Take a daily Vitamin D supplement. This may be particularly important if you live in regions of the world that are further from the equator, such as the Midwest. If you struggle to remember or don’t enjoy taking pills, NB Pure has a Vitamin D3 supplement in the form of a spray for the utmost convenience.
Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels at least once a year. Getting an annual physical is important for your long-term health. Ask your doctor to make sure they check your vitamin D levels at that visit.
The sun may be the main reason for the increasing rates of melanoma, but it’s also our number one source of vitamin D. It is possible to protect yourself from developing melanoma and ensure that you are obtaining ample amounts of vitamin D to prevent the consequences of a deficiency.
5 Best Practices When Working From Home for Better Work-Life Balance
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that millions of people around the world are working from home. Telecommuting has become the norm, and it is here to stay. Some report higher productivity when working from home. There is a flip side, too, though, to working remotely. Remote workers are more likely to experience burnout, with more than 50% likely to work longer hours. Burnout happens when the work-life balance goes awry, which can lead to physical and mental health issues. How do you strike a healthy work-life balance when working remotely?
When working remotely, switching off your laptop after your official workday is easier said than done. This research says just as much. Here are 5 actionable tips that will help you separate your work life from your personal life for better physical and mental health.
1. Create a separate work area
Creating separate areas for work and play helps you draw the line between when you are working and when you are taking time off. When you are working from home, it can go either way – you might find it difficult to find the motivation to work. After all, there is nobody watching you and holding you accountable, as long as you are meeting your deadlines. Or, you could constantly bring your work to the dinner table or even to your bed.
Segregating areas can help you move in and out of work mode and chill mode easily. Even if you live in a studio apartment by yourself, create a dedicated work corner. Put a desk with a comfy chair and your basic office stationery. Home of Cozy has exhaustive guides to home and office furniture, so it becomes easy for you to choose the best value buy.
When you routinely sit down to work in that corner, your brain automatically knows when it’s time to work and when it’s time to switch off.
2. Set a routine
Before working remotely became the norm, most of you commuted to an office space. Whether it was via public transport or driving your own car, there was a gap between when you left home and when you sat down for work. It holds true even for people who live a block away from their company office.
When you are working from home, it’s easy to rush from bed straight to your work corner. Doing so takes away from personal time. When it becomes an everyday occurrence, it hampers your work-life balance. Create an everyday routine to replicate that buffer you got when you were commuting to your office.
Taking a walk outside when you first wake up, listening to your favorite podcast, or even keeping an hour away only for breakfast are all ways to gradually move into your workday.
3. Set boundaries
When you are living with someone and working from home, it is important to set boundaries. Very often, you can get sucked into a household chore, which eats into your work time. You compensate for that loss by working a little later than usual. Before you know it, you are answering emails from your bed late at night and having marathon work calls at the dinner table. Your work-life balance goes for a toss.
Set boundaries with both factions – your boss or clients and your family and friends. For instance, make a rule that you will not attend any work calls after 8 pm. Communicate it clearly to your manager and stick to it. Similarly, if you are living with your parents, tell them you are off-limits during certain hours of the day. For some people, a flexible schedule might be more conducive. People with kids might prefer to keep a loose routine and an overall commitment to work a set number of hours every day. Whatever rules you make for yourself, make sure you communicate those to the people around you. And learn to say no.
4. Schedule times to check emails
Almost all of us have a smartphone today. We can check emails on the go. It is very easy to get sucked into responding to emails after your workday. Restrict refreshing your inbox to twice a day at specific times. The beginning of your workday and somewhere in the latter half of the day are good slots to reserve for checking and responding to emails.
Disable email push notifications on your phone. Configure your Do Not Disturb settings such that you only get notifications for incoming calls and texts.
5. Take frequent breaks
When you are working from an office, you probably get off your chair to go to the water cooler once every couple of hours. You gossip with your colleagues a little, go for a smoke, and take a break from screen time. At home, be mindful about punctuating your day with small breaks. Get up from your work desk every hour just to stretch. Take a 30-minute break and get a sandwich for lunch from your neighborhood Deli.
Create a water-cooler corner at your home and use this space to interact with others around you. Maybe you can use this time to have a quick chat with your kid before you get back to work. Taking small breaks helps you retain focus, which translates to better productivity. The Pomodoro technique works on the same principle.
Besides all of that, use technology for better time management. Google Calendar for blocking meeting times and Trello for tracking ongoing projects are two very effective time management tools.
Child Advocacy Group Highlights Abuse in Religious Institutions for Child Abuse Prevention Month
With National Child Abuse Prevention Month underway, the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), a national nonprofit that educates the public about religiously enabled child maltreatment, is raising awareness of crimes against children perpetrated in religious institutions.
The CFFP is also drawing attention to a dangerous court decision that could prevent abusive institutions from being held accountable and offering a valuable resource to parents and guardians to help them determine whether they should enroll or continue to enroll their children in certain religious institutions.
The little-known ecclesiastical abstention doctrine (EAD) guides courts in deciding First Amendment, religious matters. While historically the EAD has been raised in cases relating to claims of wrongful termination, in recent years religious schools facing lawsuits involving allegations of child harm have pushed courts to interpret the EAD very broadly to get cases dismissed. In one recent case, the Episcopal School of Dallas was permitted to ignore its own legal contracts with parents and the emotional harm suffered by a child never came to light.
Given this alarming legal precedent, parents and guardians of children who have been harmed by private institutions could lose their right to seek relief in court, while the institutions might never be held accountable.
Parents who have children enrolled in private, faith-based schools (or are considering enrolling them) should be aware of the potential harm posed by the EAD. With this in mind, CFFP’s campaign is offering parents valuable tips on how to determine whether they should enroll (or continue to enroll) their children in private, faith-based schools:
Determine whether the institution your child is enrolled in (or might be enrolled in) could claim to be faith-based. Some private schools have stretched the meaning of “faith-based” as a way to be shielded by the EAD in court. Even if an institution seems to operate in a way that appears secular, as long as a facility, school, program, or daycare operation can claim that it has some sort of faith-based or spiritual component, it could convince a court that it should be protected by the EAD and cannot be sued for child abuse or neglect.
Read the school’s contract carefully. Many schools specify in their contracts how legal issues must be resolved. For example, some require parents to agree to mediation. It’s important to know what legal recourses you’re agreeing to. However, be aware that if a case goes to court, the EAD does have the potential to make contracts of religious school’s moot.
Ask to see a school’s child-abuse prevention policies & procedures. Those that take abuse seriously and proactively develop and enforce comprehensive abuse-prevention policies are usually open to making these policies available and may even post them on their websites.
Research whether the school has a history of abuse allegations. Conduct an online search using the name of the institution and words such as “lawsuit,” “sued,” and “abuse” to determine if it has been accused of abuse or of covering up cases in the past. Be extremely wary if you find a pattern of abuse allegations, even if you do not find information about final court decisions.
Explore the educational programs of secular private or public schools. Children can receive a high-quality education and experience at many different types of schools. Consider the offerings of private secular schools or public schools, which would be unable to raise the EAD in court.
Recent abuse cases
The CFFP has previously exposed issues of religious institutional child abuse and offered support to survivors and affected families. An example is its efforts to make public the decades-long, egregious abuses perpetrated at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Recently, other cases have also made the news:
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) — Last February, the SBC’s executive committee voted to expel two member churches for employing pastors who were convicted sex offenders. One pastor, who had been with his church since 2014, had pleaded guilty to two counts of statutory rape of a minor in the 1990s. The other pastor led his church since 2018, despite having been on Florida’s sex offender registry since 1993. In 2019, the SBC published a report on preventing and responding to cases of sexual abuse and later launched its “Caring Well Challenge” that calls on all SBC churches to adopt the report’s recommendations. Unfortunately, the program is voluntary.
Circle of Hope Girls Ranch — The owners and operators of this faith-based boarding school in Missouri face more than 100 criminal charges of sexual, physical and mental abuse of girls in their care. Their arrests came after their estranged daughter, Amanda Householder, posted social media videos of former residents talking about the abuse they endured. In an interview with a Missouri TV station, Householder said that victims had been speaking out since 2007. “Why did it take ten years for anyone to do anything?” she asked.
A dangerous court decision
While it’s heartening that these cases are receiving public attention, it is possible that they, and many more like them, could be dismissed thanks to a legal precedent set by a Texas appellate court in 2018. The case involved the Episcopal School of Dallas which invoked a common-law doctrine known as the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine” (EAD). The EAD provides guidance to courts when weighing in on First-Amendment, religious matters. However, in the Dallas case, in which a father alleged that his son had been wrongfully expelled and in violation of school policy, it was applied very broadly and used to shield the school from being sued.
In another case involving Trinity Episcopal School in Galveston, Texas, a district court, in recognizing the EAD, threw out a lawsuit filed by a mother whose son had endured repeated racist bullying by other students. The mother wanted the school to hold the perpetrators accountable after the school had only demanded a written apology and suspended them for one day. Despite emotional trauma suffered by the victim, the judge agreed with the school’s claim that a court should not “intrude upon a religious institution’s management of its internal affairs and governance.”
“The EAD allows courts to prioritize a religious institution’s desire for secrecy and avoidance of accountability over the wellbeing of children,” said CFFP founder Janet Heimlich. “In cases in which organizations invoke the EAD, the public may never learn what abusive or neglectful actions took place, and parents may unwittingly enroll their children in those schools.”
To schedule an interview with a representative of the CFFP, an affected parent or a survivor of religious institutional child abuse, contact Jeff Salzgeber through email or (512) 743-2659 cell.
The Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP) is a national, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to end religious child maltreatment by raising awareness of this issue through educational programs that benefit the general public, survivors, professionals, and faith communities.
How to Get Off Autopilot to Move Your Career (and Life) Forward
Katie Sandler, career development and impact coach, offers tips on how people can get things moving again
Millions of people feel like they are living their life on autopilot. This is the word to describe when day in and day out, it’s the same thing, to the point that many feel they are sleepwalking through life. Polling by Strada Education Network finds that many people feel stuck in their career and don’t know what will help them improve their circumstances. In fact, 32% of those people say they don’t even know where to begin in order to make things better and become unstuck. The good news is there are things that can be done to get off of autopilot and move your career and life along in a better direction.
“Oftentimes, people simply suggest training or educational programs in order to move your career along, but there are plenty of other things you can do,” explains Katie Sandler, personal development and career coach. “We need to get off autopilot in life as a whole, not just in our careers. Once you do this, you will become more successful and ultimately enjoy life a lot more.”
Those who feel stuck, both in their careers and in life in general, can take action to change those feelings. It all comes down to knowing what to do and how to get started. Sandler has helped many people to move past such a place and says some of the things that people can do include:
Get help. First and foremost, people need to start recognizing that you cannot do it alone and you need to hire someone to be a coach, a sounding board, and a catalyst.
Set the intention. You must set the intention and energy around creating new shifts in order to move in a different direction or at a different pace. AKA you have to decide to get off of autopilot in the first place.
Discover yourself. Recognize that you need to become familiar with yourself and your patterns of being – again, something you cannot do alone – in order to be able to make adjustments. This takes time, and it takes working with someone to help you see your patterns, to draw connections, to build understanding, and then to support you in reprogramming for desired outcomes.
Answer to yourself. You also have to stop meeting society’s ideals, your family’s ideals, etc. and be open-minded and willing to do you, to be your authentic self and to honor what that means so that your career and life is filled with purpose and impact.
Making a decision. Oftentimes, people feel stuck because they are not sure what to choose. They consider various options and can’t decide what to do, so they don’t make any decision at all. That will keep you stuck, so make a decision so you can move forward with something.
Try new things. One of the most common reasons that people get stuck in life is that they don’t try anything new. They do the same things over and over, which ends up being autopilot. Make a point to try something new every month, whether it be for fun or for your career. This will help get you energized and so you can engage in life in a different way.
Start small. If you don’t like being stuck but fear making big changes, start small. Making small changes in various areas can add up to big results. Commit to the first small change, and then go from there as you get more empowered along the way.
“Nobody enjoys feeling like their life or career is stuck in one place,” added Sandler. “If that’s where you are, then it’s time to do yourself a favor and make shake things up. Working on honoring yourself will bring joy and peace to your life. Think of it as a gift to yourself, which ripples and benefits those around you as well.”
Sandler has provided professional support to many people to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. She routinely works with people to help them identify areas to focus on, paths for personal achievement, how to reach their life goals, and more. She also works with companies, providing impact trainings and workshops and developing and promoting purposeful and inclusive organizational cultures.
In addition to one-on-one coaching and corporate services, Sandler also offers low-key luxury impact retreats. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in mental health counseling, has a strong foundation in mindfulness-based stress reduction, and has worked in hospitals and private practice. She previously spent time as a research assistant while at Johns Hopkins focusing on purpose in life. To learn more about Katie Sandler and her services, or to see the retreat schedule, visit Katie Sandler’s website.
About Katie Sandler
Katie Sandler is the popular Impact Coach and provides health & wealth coaching and personal and professional development. She offers retreats around the world, as well as private coaching and corporate impact coaching opportunities. She focuses on helping people become more successful so they can live with purpose and make an impact in our world. To learn more about Katie or her services, visit the site: her website.
Customer Service Tips Every Boutique Retailer Should Try
By: Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!
Supplied makes it easier for small boutique owners around the world to access high-quality, affordable wholesale boutique items, whether to stock their physical store or IG shop.
Do you remember the last time you had a truly fantastic customer service experience?
Maybe a cashier complimented your earrings, or maybe the person at the drive-thru unexpectedly threw an extra taco in for free. Or maybe you were just really vibin’ with the enthusiasm you could hear at the other end of the customer support line. Whatever it was, chances are it made you more excited to return and support that company with your business in the future.
Now… think back to the last time you had an awful customer service experience.
Was someone being unnecessarily difficult while you were trying to return a sweater, you’d bought a week ago? Or did someone leave you on hold for hours and hours? Or maybe someone just would NOT honor your coupon, even though you received it in an email yesterday?
Whatever that bad experience was… I’d be willing to bet it made you a whole lot less likely to go back anytime soon.
As Vince Lombardi famously said, “It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.” One poor customer service experience could cause you to lose all of a valuable customer’s future business.
If you haven’t been making great customer service a major priority in your boutique lately, now is the time to change that.
Read on to learn 25 powerful (but easy!) customer service tips every retailer should try implementing in their business.
(If you’ve hired someone else as the main customer service rep for your boutique business, send this article along to them as a reminder!)
Top 25 Customer Service Tips
Focus on the customer in front of you
As a boutique owner, you’ve constantly got about a zillion and one thing that need your time and attention. But when it’s a customer you’re dealing with, zero in on them and their needs. Nobody likes feeling unimportant – make sure you give them your undivided attention while they’re talking to you, whether it’s over the phone, in person, or in your site’s live chat.
Chances are, you’ve been in the exact same situation your customer’s in right now – whether they’re trying to figure out what size shoe to purchase or they’re trying to initiate a return for something that didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped. Do your best to see the situation from their perspective. You’ll be able to provide a better customer experience if you’re in touch with their needs and emotions.
Make an extra effort
Work tirelessly to solve your customer’s problems. If a customer wants a certain size that’s out of stock, double-check your inventory, let them know when they can expect that item to come back, offer them alternatives, or give them a discount code for their trouble. Your customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them.
Customer service isn’t just about making your customer feel valued while you’re speaking to them – it’s also about providing a great all-around customer experience. Do a quick audit of your website and make sure it’s user-friendly. Is it easy to check out? Browse new arrivals? Search for specific items? Purchase using the payment method they prefer? If not, set aside some time to make some adjustments.
Identify their needs
There might be all sorts of things you could be doing to provide a better customer experience that you don’t even realize yet. Put together a short survey to send out to your customers about the checkout process and their past customer service experiences. It’ll show you what’s going well and what you could improve.
Use their name
Simple, but effective. Whenever a customer reaches out to you, take note of their name and use it. It’ll give your communications a more personal touch. (Don’t forget to introduce yourself by name, too!) Bonus points if you remember other personal details about them for next time.
Yes, even if you’re not talking to the customer in person! Make an effort to be friendly and positive, even if you’re just sitting at your desk at home – you can totally hear a smile through the phone, and it makes a difference.
If you could spend $5 to secure a customer who’s loyal to you for life… would you do it? Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When a customer reaches out to you, your priority is to make them happy – offering free shipping or accepting a late return can do just the trick. And that’s not just common sense – research shows that accepting someone’s generosity makes you feel indebted to them, which can translate to return business.
Don’t say “I don’t know”
Sure, you’re not gonna immediately have the answers to every single one of your customers’ questions… but it’s kinda your job to know. So, when you tell a customer “I don’t know,” what they hear is “I don’t care.” Not exactly the message you’d like to get across when you’re on the phone with a customer! Practice saying “Let me check on that for you” instead.
Acknowledging your customer’s birthdays is a surefire way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Ask your customers for your birthday as they sign up for your mailing list, then send them an email with a promo code for a free gift or a discount right before their special day.
Be clear about your policies
Your customers aren’t mind-readers – if you don’t let them know, they have no idea about how long shipping should take, where you ship to, or under what circumstances you accept returns. Be sure your shipping and returns policies are clearly stated on your website to avoid confusion. It’ll answer some questions before they’re ever even asked!
Honor your promises
Your customers need to know that they can trust your boutique to deliver the value it promises. Stick to the shipping and return policies you have listed on your website (unless you choose to go above and beyond them, of course!) Honor coupons and discount codes for as long as you said you would. Post any giveaway winners publicly in your stories. Trust is key!
Acknowledge frequent customers…
Let your return customers know how much you appreciate them! Whether you throw a quick handwritten thank-you note into their next order or you offer a discount code that’s good for their next purchase, it’ll definitely make them want to keep coming back.
But make sure new customers feel the love, too!
It’s a big leap to order from a company you’ve never purchased anything from before – make sure new customers feel super welcome. Acknowledge new customers by offering free shipping on their first order, sending a promo code when they sign up for your mailing list, or even sending a quick thank-you email for taking a chance on your shop.
Running a business is tough, and sometimes extenuating circumstances make it even tougher. Be open with your customers about the hurdles you’re currently going through, especially if it will affect shipping times or restock dates.
We all make mistakes – especially when we’re doing huge, crazy difficult things like running a business. If you’ve made a mistake on a customer’s order, own your error, sincerely apologize, and do whatever it takes to make things right. It’s much more professional than shrugging off responsibility or blaming someone else. (Bonus points if you reach out and own up to it before the customer even notices!)
Make it easy to get in touch
Have you ever sent an email to a company’s customer service team… and then never heard anything back? Yeah, that’s the worst. Don’t be that company. Let your customers know the best way to reach you, whether it’s through Instagram DMs, email, or over the phone. If you want to go the extra mile, include a live chat feature on your website that’s available 24/7. (Also, word of advice: if you have a contact form on your website, make sure to check it every so often!)
Offer self-help customer service
If your customers can find their own answers to their questions, it makes their lives easier AND your life easier. Include a comprehensive FAQ page on your website that answers common questions about shipping, sales, returns, and more. For more complicated questions, you might want to write up an entire blog post to give your customers more information. Just be sure your customers still know that they can reach out to you with any questions they can’t find the answers to.
Plan for the holidays
Here’s a hot tip: over the holidays, things get BUSY. Even if you usually don’t have very many people blowing up your inbox about shipping questions, there’s a very good chance you will during the holidays. Make sure you’re prepared with multiple customer service reps helping respond to questions (if need be) and detailed holiday shipping info displayed on your website and social media pages.
Make it a goal to respond to all customer emails within 48 hours whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, customers want to feel like their concerns and questions are a top priority. As for Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, and comments, try and get in a habit of responding to those right when you see them. (Your customers will like that and so will the algorithm!)
Hire the right people
If you’ve only recently opened your boutique business, you might be the only person your customers ever interact with. But as you grow and add more people to your team, make sure they’re people who are kind, friendly, and pleasant to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but a positive attitude can make all the difference.
Pretend you’re at the dinner table with your strict aunt – say lots of pleases and thank yous. Not only is it common courtesy, but it’s also good business. It’ll also help you still sound friendly and polite even when you’re communicating via messenger or text.
Set clear expectations
Sorry, but you’re not superwoman. When your customers approach you asking when they can buy an item you aren’t planning on restocking, or when they ask if you can make sure the package, they just ordered gets to them by tomorrow, sometimes you just can’t give them the answer they were hoping for. Be realistic in your responses and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Setting clear expectations is also helpful in responding to emails – sending an automated email letting a customer know when they can expect a response is also helpful, even if they were initially hoping for a reply right away.
There isn’t a robot at the other end of all of those incoming customer emails – it’s bright, bubbly, sparkly you! Don’t be afraid to infuse your communications with your genuine personality. Strike up a conversation with a customer on the phone, ask about their day, say “top of the morning to ya” instead of “hello” when you feel like it. It’ll help forge a relationship with your customers!
Have you ever asked a waiter what you should order, only for them to respond, “I love everything on the menu equally!” Yeah, that’s not helpful – don’t be like that guy. When your customers ask for your opinion, politely give it. You’re the real expert on the products you carry – use your insider knowledge to guide your customers to the right decision for them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with families’ finances through lost jobs, squeezed budgets, increased debt, and missed payments.
Money and the decisions spouses make with it are one of the main sources of stress among couples, and sometimes money issues end relationships or cause divorce. But differences can be solved or managed if couples learn to listen to each other and work as a team to formulate a sensible plan, says financial planner Aaron Leak, the founder of ECL Private Wealth Management.
“No matter how long you have been together, financial issues can wreak havoc on a committed relationship,” Leak says. “When couples don’t agree about spending and saving habits, it causes arguments and resentment.
“But understanding what you’re fighting about and why helps you and your partner come up with solutions. By being transparent and honest with each other about your finances, you can not only prevent arguments that strain your relationship, but you will strengthen it.”
Leak offers these tips for couples to address and resolve financial issues:
Understand your money styles. Think of some extreme examples of money styles in your circle. Like your friend, the foodie, who won’t touch a bottle of wine that costs less than $75. Or your sister who constantly surfs Amazon. Or your mom who washes aluminum foil, then folds and reuses it. Everyone has a money style, and it’s helpful to talk about it without any name-calling or labeling involved. Understanding your partner’s spending habits often involves a deep dive into money fears, scarcity memories and childhood traumas. Come up with a spending plan that works for both of you.
Decide how to divvy up the bills and save for future goals. You can both put all your earnings in a joint account and pay everything out of that. Or you can split bills down the middle and keep the rest of your own earnings for yourselves. Once you have decided how the bills get paid, you need to devise a plan for saving for your long-term goals. Remember that you need to work closely together as life changes arise – such as one of you losing a job or cutting back on hours to care for a parent. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that contingency plans are always advisable.
Create personal spending allowances that stay personal. Having some personal money that’s designated just for you each month can really help how you feel about your relationship. It can also help avoid relationship-ruining behavior like “financial infidelity,” when one spouse hides money or purchases from the other. The personal spending allowance gives each partner the chance to spend their money however they wish, no questions asked.
Face and eliminate undesirable debt. Couples should employ a strategy to pay off debt, such as paying off the higher-interest debt first or paying off the smallest loans first (the snowball method). Payments on credit cards, car loans, and student loans can devour monthly budgets, so the sooner they are paid off, the better.
Set a budget you can live with. One of the best ways to keep in sync with your partner financially is to have a budget as part of your overall plan. The budget includes your household bills, your personal spending allowance, your debt-paying strategy, and your monthly budget for long-term goals like retirement.
“Relationships take consistent work in order to be happy and successful, and money management is a big part of it,” Leak says. “The best way to be sure you and your spouse are staying on the same page financially is to talk honestly and without judgment.”
About Aaron Leak
Aaron Leak has 16 years of experience in the financial industry and is the founder of ECL Private Wealth Management. He holds Series 7, 6, 63 and 66 licenses as well as life, health, and property and casualty insurance licenses.
The Oxford Method, a tutoring community, offers tips to help your child be successful in school
Over the last year, during the pandemic, there have been many kids who have struggled academically. This is in part due to the millions who have had to do online learning and find the setup difficult. Whether children are learning online, in person, via classroom, or through a combination of the three, there are things that parents can do to help them be more successful. Knowing what to do can help make a world a difference and reduce the struggling.
“Many parents are aware of the way their kids are struggling with school over this school year,” explains David Florence, professor and founder of The Oxford Method, a community that offers tutoring services around the country. “Rather than let them fall behind, it’s a good idea to take action and do what you can to help them keep up and even pull ahead.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 93% of households with school-age children report that their kids have engaged in some sort of distance learning during the pandemic. They also report that the vast shift in the way kids are learning has also caused digital inequality because some kids don’t have access to computers and/or the Internet. Whether students are learning online or in class, there are things parents can do to help them get a good education.
Here 7 ways to help ensure your child gets a good education:
Sleep. It’s crucial for a child to get enough sleep each night, which will help them to be more focused, as well as improve their behavior, quality of life, and mental and physical health. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep per night, and teens ages 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep per night.
Teach value. It usually starts at home whether or not a child values an education. Parents who want their kids to get a good education should instill a love of learning in their children and teach them to value the education they are getting.
Get them help. If your child is struggling, you may be able to help them, but there also comes a time when kids need a tutor to step in. A good tutor can make a world of difference in ensuring that a child gets a good education. They can help ensure that students will not fall behind and that they will get the foundation they need to move on in a subject.
Show them how. Oftentimes, kids don’t know how to effectively study for a test or to take notes when they are in class. Take the time to show them how to do it effectively, as well as how to stay organized with their schooling. When students are organized, they are more likely to succeed.
Ask them questions. Be sure to ask your kids how it is going, if they got their homework done, if they need any help, or if there’s anything they need to be more successful. They like to know that you are interested in how they are doing, so it’s good to show an active interest.
Get involved. It’s always a good idea if you can get involved with the school and have good communication with the teacher. That way you will be aware of what is going on and know how to help your child more. Teachers love it when parents take an active interest in their child’s education.
Praise your kids. Help kids to know what they are doing is right or what they are doing is wrong. Praising and encouraging the kids builds their confidence and helps them to succeed as they grow.
“Just about every parent has the ability to help kids succeed with their academics, even if it’s ensuring they have the tools they need to succeed,” added Florence. “We help parents be successful, even those who don’t have the funds to pay for a tutor. Our mission is to help as many students to achieve as we can.”
The Oxford Method has over 100 tutors around the country, covering all subject areas. They offer online tutoring, as well as in-person and in-classroom options. Their tutoring services are available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Instructors have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, with many of them having a master’s degree, Ph.D., and at least four years of teaching experience. The Oxford Method works with their nonprofit, Social Actualization, Inc., by giving them 10% of all profits. The funds are used to provide free computers, high-speed internet, and instruction to underprivileged families in urban and rural America. Plus, 40% of their instructors are PhDs, 40% have a master’s degree, and 20% have only a bachelor’s degree.
The Oxford Method believes that education is the great equalizer and the best gift you can give the next generation. Subject areas include science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well as business, social studies, psychology, English, history, public speaking, study methods, test-taking, and more. To get more information about The Oxford Method, visit the website.
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