Friday, January 9, 2015

WORK Tip- Career Confidence: 6 Ways to Artfully Self-Promote at Work

by Jane Bianchi

Wallflowers are so last year.
In 2015 you’ve decided that standing out is the strategy you’ll use to accomplish your big life goals.
And you’re already well on your way.
So far, you’ve overhauled your dating profile to catch more eyes, and you’ve signed up to sit in the front row of your spin class for added motivation to get in top shape.

Now it’s time to map out how the “Look at me!” strategy can catapult you to career success—and not just annoy your coworkers.
Whether you’re angling for a job change, promotion, or just a pat on the back from your boss, learning how to promote yourself at work can give you the edge you need.
Just ask Lauren Bowling, a content strategist in Atlanta. In 2012 the 27-year-old was applying for an administrative assistant position, but inadvertently landed herself a job she was more passionate about because she spoke so enthusiastically about her off-time interests, blogging and social media.
The hiring manager was impressed by the fact that Bowling had over 1,000 Twitter followers—more than the company had—and that she sought out webinars to learn more about how to market herself.
“I didn’t get the administrative assistant job, but three weeks later, they called and said they were looking for someone to run their social media,” she says. “They thought I’d be a good fit.”
The lesson learned? “If I don’t promote myself, no one else will,” Bowling says. “I’m the expert on me and my story.”
To master the art of tooting your own horn like Bowling, check out these six techniques geared toward helping you build a personal brand that projects confidence—not arrogance—and will make others pay attention.

Technique #1: Keep Tabs on Achievements

Before you can talk about your accomplishments, you have to pinpoint what they are.
Think back: When was the last time that you updated your résumé? If it’s been a while, chances are there are awards you’ve won, speaking engagements you’ve rocked, and successful projects you’ve managed.
So keep a running list—whether it’s in a Word doc or the Notes app on your phone—and review it weekly, monthly or quarterly. Be sure to include impressive, quantifiable facts, such as saving the company money by bringing an outsourced project in-house, or increasing sales by 10% last quarter.
This way, when you’re ready to start self-promoting—more on that later!—you’ll know exactly what to highlight, says Leonard Lang, Ph.D., a career coach at Beard Avenue Coaching in Minneapolis, and the author of “Guide to Lifework.”
This can be especially helpful when you’re preparing for a performance review, Lang says, since that’s a time when you know your contributions will be evaluated. Plus, it’s an opportunity to position yourself for the promotion or raise you’re after.

Technique #2: Flex Your Storytelling Muscles

Of course, reading off that list isn’t the most palatable way to draw attention to your accomplishments—which is why Lang recommends refining your storytelling skills.
If your boss or another coworker asks you a general question—”How’s that big project going?”—instead of blurting out a fact—“Amazing! I’m singlehandedly increasing departmental revenue!”—take the opportunity to frame your success in narrative form, with a beginning, middle and end.
Add in moments of drama, such as problems that you had to overcome along the way, to keep it interesting and sustain the listener’s attention.
By doing this, you’re relaying a triumphant story that people will remember—and possibly even retell. The best part: You are the heroic protagonist.
Just don’t let that get to your head, and overuse the word “I.” Sprinkle in the term “we” and the names of other key players, to keep from sounding like a braggart.

Technique #3: Lend a Helping Hand

It may seem counterintuitive, but the Golden Rule—treating others as you’d like to be treated—works surprisingly well when it comes to getting ahead at work.
Helping someone else could be as simple as trouble-shooting with your coworker when she’s at a crossroads on an important project, or offering to make a strategic connection for someone you just met at a networking event.
When you go out of your way to be generous, Lang says, it builds your reputation as a kind and resourceful professional—and that sticks with people.
“Plus, that person you helped will inevitably try to help you in return,” Lang says.

Technique #4: Power Up Your Social Media Presence

Now that you have the skills to wow a live audience with tales of your success, it’s important to also keep your online followers updated.
A good place to start is your LinkedIn profile. “Add examples of projects that you’ve done, PowerPoints or charts, and images that showcase work you’ve completed—anything to make it stand out,” says Donna Schilder, an executive and career coach based in Long Beach, Calif.
Not only will this beefed-up profile garner attention from recruiters and other influencers in your industry, but it’s also likely to catch the eye of your boss if you’re connected on LinkedIn.
As an extra step, post regular status updates that hint at what you’re doing well at work, like a link to the academic paper you published, or a photo from a recent conference. And it’s especially advantageous to offer a tip every once in a while, so your connections can take away some value from your posts.
When one of Schilder’s clients was reading a leadership book her boss recommended, she posted nuggets of wisdom she gained from it. This move showed her boss that she paid attention to the request, Schilder says, and lent her credibility as a blossoming leader within the company.

Technique #5: Strengthen Cross-Functional Relationships

If your job description includes collaborating with employees in other departments, it’s crucial to nurture those relationships—it will give you a glimpse of your company from a different perspective, plus make you a more knowledgeable employee.
So set up regular one-on-one check-ins with your cross-functional partners to make sure the projects you’re working on are running smoothly, as well as brainstorm ways to work together more effectively in the future.

“Come with a set of intelligent questions, listen to what the person says, and then ask, ‘What are your challenges?’ ” Schilder says.
Once you’re equipped with this information, you can then segue into a discussion about how you can fix any issues that have arisen since your last meeting.
After all, the more value you can provide to people in different departments, the more valuable you’ll be to the company as a whole. And that’s exactly the kind of personal brand that can help you get to the next level.

Technique #6: Celebrate!

Did you break a sales record? Hire the employee of the year? Improve a business process that’s leading to more efficiency in the office?
Whenever you want to draw attention to something great you’ve done, Schilder and Lang both recommend asking your manager if you can point it out by recognizing everyone who helped you achieve that goal.
Maybe it’s a group dinner for the team of people who helped you develop a successful advertising campaign, or cookies in the conference room for the people who helped you boost customer satisfaction on a specific product upgrade.
Regardless, this move can give your colleagues a morale boost, endear them to you for helping promote their successes—and make them more likely to return the favor.
Remember: What you’re doing at your company isn’t as important as what others perceive you’re doing, so be proactive in spreading good news through celebrations.

MONEY Tip- Your 2015 Money Values Road Map: 6 Ways to Budget for What Matters to You Most

by marianne hayes

It’s only the first week of 2015, but you’ve already got big plans.
You’ve resolved to eat healthier, boost your earnings power—and finally plan that dream vacation as a reward for all your hard work.
Now to figure out how to manipulate your budget to be able to afford these things!

While it may seem that striving to accomplish such big to-dos would be at odds with the idea of a budget, experts insist it’s actually quite the opposite.
“Your values should really drive your budget,” says financial psychology expert Kathleen Guerney Ph.D., author of “Your Money Personality.” “Because if they don’t, you’ll never feel like you’re making the best use of your money.”
So what exactly does a values-led financial plan look like?
To answer that question, we’re highlighting six values that commonly top people’s lists—be it wanting to invest in family or allocating resources to experiencing the world through travel—and ways anyone can factor them into a fulfilling spending plan for 2015.

If You Want to Spend on Your Family …

For many of us, nothing feels better than bringing joy to those we love. So what better way to use your money than to invest in the enrichment of your children?
Maybe you want them to experience the summer camp that shaped your own childhood, or the semester abroad that’ll expose them to new cultures.
“Specifically for younger kids, a lot of expenses come in the summer, in terms of activities,” says Brian Frederick, a CFP® with Stillwater Financial Partners in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The other big time is back-to-school [when kids need books, computers and new clothes].”
When it comes to making sure you can afford these expenses, success comes down to proper advance planning. So at the beginning of the calendar year, map out when deposits are due for expected expenses, like camp or school trips, and open a high-yield online bank account earmarked for such savings. “Sock away a little each paycheck—say $50 to $100—so you don’t have to scramble later,” Frederick says.
Bonus tip: Instead of feeling like your kids need to do it all, opt for the most satisfying activities with positive impact.

“If a traveling soccer team is costing you $10,000, and your kid isn’t loving it, reconsider that expense,” says Katherine Collins, founder of socially responsible investing firm Honeybee Capital. “Sometimes we get caught up in what other families are doing, or whatever feels like the right thing to do, without considering whether it’s best for us personally.”
So ask yourself throughout the year: Do my expenses support my desire to bring joy to my family through meaningful experiences? If not, strike them from your budget—and replace it with something that does.

If You Want to Spend on Health and Wellness …

If you’re dealing with a medical issue, health costs will naturally top your 2015 list of expenses. But even people who approach their health more proactively are likely to factor in health-related spending this year. After all, as Frederick says, “it’s much cheaper to stay healthy than it is to cure a chronic condition.”
So what are the best ways to invest in preventive health? For many, it’s paying for gym memberships and eating high-quality, nutritious foods at home. The catch: These things can be pretty pricey.
Fortunately, you can scout discounts and promotions at gyms and fitness studios this time of year, when New Year’s resolution-ers are signing up in droves. Frederick says you can also save by looking into whether your insurance offers reimbursements for healthy behaviors, such as visiting the gym a certain number of times each year.
And although healthy eating has gotten a bad rap for being an expensive endeavor, Collins insists it doesn’t have to be. Nor is it necessary, she says, to buy every item you eat from a high-priced, organic supermarket.
“Maybe you grow some of your own carrots this summer,” Collins says, adding that a packet of organic carrot seeds costs just $2—and can yield up to 20 pounds of produce.
Or break up your grocery list into two sections: What you want to buy organic, and what you can pick up in the regular produce section of the supermarket. Certain foods with thick skins- avocado,pineapple and mango for example—are less likely to have significant pesticide residue, so you can skip going organic with them.
Another healthy-food money saver: investing in a local CSA> Collins says the standard model gives subscribers a weekly box of in-season produce at a double-digit discount—by encouraging local consumption, you cut down on the high shipping costs required to move food across the country.
If you’re looking to lower your burden on traditional medical expenses, consider allocating pre-tax dollars to a flex spending account (FSA) or, if you have a high-deductible insurance plan, a health savings account (HSA).
Both are designed to cover qualified medical expenses that aren’t picked up by your insurance, such as glasses and certain copays. Just remember: If you have an FSA, you’re at risk to lose funds you haven’t spent at the end of the year.

If You Want to Give to Charity …

If your personal core values involve helping others and making a difference, prioritizing charitable giving in 2015 is a great way to align your spending with what’s most important to you.
If you don’t have a specific cause in mind, Collins says the best place to start looking is your own community. “What organizations do you appreciate? Maybe they’ve helped you directly, or you’ve just seen them doing good work,” she says.
Once you’ve identified the organization(s) you’d like to support, devise your giving strategy—whether it’s diverting a portion of each paycheck to a non-monthly savings account to spend sporadically, tithing weekly, or simply pinpointing a stock to gift whenever you rebalance your portfolio.

Frederick also recommends looking into specific tax benefits offered by your state. For example,  Arizona gives tax breaks for donations made to charities that support the state’s most needy residents. “That would be a way that you could magnify gifts on a limited budget,” he says.
Along the same lines, donating your time and talents can be just as valuable as cash. You can sign up to pack boxes in your favorite charity’s warehouse, or offer your services—like web design, bookkeeping, or social media skills—free of charge.
“These different layers of charitable giving can be a lot more rewarding than just writing a check,” Collins says.

If You Want to Do Good for the Planet …

Looking to incorporate environmental causes into your 2015 financial plan? Well, you’re in luck because you don’t necessarily have to spend more in order to deliver on this value.
Case in point: If you’re already saving for retirement, why not invest in companies making a positive change in the world? It’s actually a trend known as socially responsible investing (SRI), and it’s been picking up some serious steam: Over$6.5 trillion in assets under management were dedicated to SRI in 2013—a 76% increase over 2012.
So how do you go about allocating SRI into your own portfolio? Whether it’s your 401(k) or your brokerage account, Collins says most major platforms have user-friendly search functions that allow you to filter for socially responsible options. Most even enable you to search for more specific interests, like renewable energy funds.
“If you’re going all solar on your home and driving a Prius, you might not want to have half your retirement plan invested in traditional petroleum companies,” Collins says. “There’s just a little bit of a disconnect there.”
Speaking of “going solar” at home, Frederick also recommends doing some energy-efficient upgrades to your home, like installing low-flow fixtures and programmable thermostats—especially if you’ve factored a reno into your budget for the year.
If you’re interested in bigger-ticket environmental upgrades, you can look into whether your plans are eligible for personal tax credits. For example, eligible taxpayers tackling certain projects, like installing a solar energy system or a geothermal heat pump, can claim a 30% rebate by taking advantage of the Residual Renewable Energy Credit
In addition to enjoying the new addition to your home, you may even get a financial bonus in the form of lower utility bills. “Plus, you get a third return, which is the appreciation in the asset value of your house,” Collins says.

If You Want to Spend on Education …

“It’s been shown time and time again that higher education can be one of the most important catalysts, both economically and personally, in terms of development,” Collins says.
In fact, between 2012 and 2013, nearly a quarter of jobs required or preferred a master’s degree—giving this value serious potential for long-term ROI.

But before you start adding spare change to the “higher education” jar, Frederick says there’s some homework you should do. “Coordinate your education plans with what your employee benefits are,” he suggests, adding that some companies offer reimbursement perks. “And look for programs that will accommodate what you get back from your employer.”
For example, is your company one that requires a master’s before you’re eligible for a big promotion? Then make sure the program you enroll in is a good fit.
Start budgeting for this value by funneling windfall cash throughout the year—like tax refunds or bonus checks—into a “career improvement” savings account, says Frederick.
When you’re ready, you can tap the money for tuition, or even a professional résumé makeover to highlight new skills you’ve acquired through your studies.
And be on the lookout for special benefits offered specifically to adult students that will help decrease your financial burden. The American Opportunity for Tax Credit  for example, could cover up to $2,500 for tuition, fees and course materials.
On the other hand, maybe your desire to spend on education this year isn’t for yourself but your kids. One smart strategy is to start contributing to a 529 Plan that grows over time. (And, for the record, you can open one of these accounts for yourself too.)
The first step is to calculate how much your child will need for college, based on factors like age and what percentage of funds you’d like to have saved before freshman year. Once you have a savings target, you can forge ahead full-steam—or start small and ratchet up your contributions incrementally.

Even if you don’t have much wiggle room in your budget right now—or you’re still working on prioritizing your own retirement contributions before your child’s college fund—you still have options.
Collins suggests scaling back on other kid-related expenses and funneling that money toward education. So instead of buying three birthday presents, get just one. “The other present could be a gift to their college fund,” Collins says. “Your kid’s not going to remember the thing they got for their second birthday, but they are going to benefit from what you saved for them early on.”

If You Want to Travel …

When plotting out your values-led financial plan for the year, you may notice a fair amount of overlap. Travel, in particular, is one value that can satisfy multiple “wants” at once.
“There are a lot of ways now to incorporate service and connection to the local community wherever you’re traveling,” Collins says. “It’s charity, it’s education, it’s family—it’s all of the above.”
If all of these dimensions are equally important to you, Collins recommends a volunteer trip through a reputable company like Habitat for Humanity, Me to We, Global Initiative and remember to double-check if certain aspects of your charity trip—like transportation and meal costs—can be deducted to help lower your tax bill.
But whether that kind of trip appeals to you—or you’d rather stick to leisure-only getaways this year—Frederick advises contributing to a travel fund throughout the year to avoid putting any of your vacation expenses on credit.
If there’s not much excess cash to divert to this account, brainstorm creative ways to up your contributions. Pick up a fun weekend gig, seek freelancing opportunities, or scale back on other splurges—like your standing Friday-night babysitter or season tickets to the sports arena.
And if you have a big vacation in mind—like two blissful weeks in Hawaii—you can take advantage of other savings opportunities to make that dream a reality.
For instance, seek an affordable apartment rental instead of shelling out for a fancy hotel. Scout discounted activity rates for kids. And research whether it’s possible to fly into a cheaper, alternative city airport and rent a car to drive to your final destination.
Bottom line: If travel—or any other value—is important to you, Frederick says, you’ll find a way to make it a priority to save.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

LIFE Tip -Resolved to be healthier & wealthier? 4 habits you need to succeed

by Gerri Detweiler,

Depending on which study or urban myth you believe, the typical American gains two to 10 pounds during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's. And there is no question that December is the spendiest month of the year. Credit card issuers can document it, and retailers count on it.
And January? That's when we resolve to lose weight and save money. Can we attack them together? Or does it make more sense to do one, then the other? While many people will make an effort (good intentions but no specific plan) and others will look for the quickest fixes (deprivation), some of us will find that the changes hoped for in January feel like a normal part of life by June. If you need motivation for making financial changes, check out justjust how much your debt is costing you over a lifetime. And know, too, that people who exercise and pay attention to what they eat tend to be healthier and feel better.
Ellie Kay, co-author of "Lean Body, Fat Wallet," said it might be easier to do both at the same time since the same four habits are required for each endeavor. So success in one area helps reinforce the habits you need for the other.

1. A Sense of Entitlement Can Be Your Friend
The first habit is to monitor your thoughts and redirect them. If you've been stopping for milkshakes on the way home from soccer because it's been a long, tiring day and you are entitled to a treat, change that. You are entitled to a life free of financial worry, and you are entitled to inhabit a body that is as healthy as you can make it. You deserve those things. You are worthy of them. And so taking a walk is what you do because you are entitled to it; you are worth taking care of. Got that? No? That is why it bears repeating. Over and over until you believe it.
Athletes visualize success because it's a tool that works. See yourself succeed (and watch those reruns). Because it will take some time to override those old thoughts of, "I always start well, but…" and "I just can't get control of my sweet tooth." Every year, some people succeed. Tell yourself that in 2015, you will be one of them.
2. Have a Plan for Temptations
The second habit is what the authors call the 3-D habit, and it's a way to keep bad habits from getting the better of you. The D's are for determine, distract and delay. Determine your goal (and remind yourself of it). In the face of temptation, find a way to distract yourself so that you can perhaps interest or immerse yourself in an activity that does not run counter to your goals. And finally, delay. Feel like you must have the carrot cake or the 75%-off Christmas decorations? Can you see if the need is just as urgent in an hour? Do you have a buddy you can call for support?
3. Keep Up With the Numbers
The third habit is knowing and keeping up with your numbers. It essentially means recognizing that the intake and outgo are, one way or another, going to balance out.
With weight, it means if you are taking in more calories (intake) than our body uses in a day (outgo), that unused energy will be banked in the form of fat. With money, it's making sure that every dollar that comes in has a destination and actually goes there (you want a fatter bank account). For both, the secret is tracking. You are essentially balancing a checkbook in real time.
It is only human to underestimate how long we exercised or how much we spent (overestimating the size of our bills or how many steps we took in a day is much less common). Knowing numbers also lets you measure progress. While you may be measuring steps walked or shrinking balances, your persistence may also be paying off in more global measures, like weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, net worth or credit scores. Monitoring your progress can help you keep track of how far you've come.
4. Are You Counting the Minutes Until it's Over?
The last habit is sustainability, meaning you could live this way and still enjoy your life. A couple of months back, staffers went on a "spending freeze" with varying degrees of success. While a freeze can — and did — help shine a spotlight on areas where we could most easily cut back, it also showed us where it was extremely difficult to do so. And if you feel deprived, your efforts are doomed. Make sure you are not being so restrictive that you just can't wait for this to be over.
These four habits are the ones that, practiced consistently, can give you what you want. Here's how it might look in practice. Kay says improving both physical and fiscal fitness requires some tracking, but the tracking isn't difficult. In fact, you can do most of it on your smartphone while waiting in line, while on hold on the phone, etc. If you received a fitness tracker as a gift, use it. There are plenty of financial and fitness-tracking apps that can help you get control.
And although she concedes a healthier lifestyle may have some initial startup costs (let's say you spend 10% more on groceries and avoid the pesticide-laden "dirty dozen" and replace some cheap, processed food with fresh fruits and vegetables), she says that over time, the cost of continuing to be unhealthy will outweigh any savings that come from eating cheaper, less nutritious food. So buy those athletic shoes with good support, but be sure you're getting a good price. Also check with your health insurance, Kay says. Sometimes you can get a discount for enrolling in a fitness program or sharing fitness data that verifies you are getting a certain amount of exercise.
Get the Family on Board
She also recommends enlisting your family's help — and making it fun. (Yes, fun.) There has to be room for fun. If you are able to eat a meal out, consider giving each child a spending allowance and allow them to keep what they do not spend. You won't have to deny them $3 soft drinks; most will decide they would rather have money and drink water, and that lesson is important.
Decide on a family reward for paying off a certain amount of debt. (A camping trip can be fun, Kay notes, and plan modest splurges.) While it's good to tell kids that you're saving money or trying to pay off debt, Kay cautions about telling children the amounts; that is not something they should worry about. You can share the small sacrifices you've decided to make to help save money, and ask what they can do. Talk to them about making money (that's the other way to help save more), and encourage budding entrepreneurs. Tell them the family is working toward financial peace and security. Tell them that you — and they — deserve it.
Recognize Enemies of Success
Among the threats to your success are rationalizing — and we all do it sometimes. Try hard to recognize it and get back on track. Also be careful about judging yourself too harshly. You won't be perfect, and you won't meet every single goal every single day. But if you are meeting weekly goals, you're on your way to succeeding. (That means if if it's 10 p.m. and you've walked only 5,000 steps and your goal was 10,000 that you need not lace up your shoes. Just walk more tomorrow.) Kay recommends being "diligent without being legalistic."
Give your goals a reality check, too. Goals that are too ambitious set you up for failure — as do goals that are too vague. It's reasonable to commit to doing aerobic exercise four times a week; it's not reasonable to go to your 25th high school reunion looking just like you did when you graduated. It's not reasonable to decide in January that by June you will have paid off $30,000 in debt if you have an average income. As motivating as it might be to dream that those things are going to happen, it is a recipe for failure.
Finally, don't let procrastination keep you from being successful. It won't be easier to start in February… or March. Trust us on this. Accept that you will screw up some days and fail to do what you hoped. And that you will succeed if you start again now instead of deciding that you blew it, and what's the use of trying? A small setback doesn't have to become a roadblock if you let that first habit — believing you are entitled to succeed — help you get back on track.