Archive for August, 2010

The Quest for Balance

August 31, 2010

Guest blogger Angie Mizzell shares her ongoing quest for balance.

My best friend once told me I have changed careers like I change Halloween costumes. Her assessment of my resume was funny, and true.

I have tried on a lot of professional hats since leaving my “big career” in the television newsroom seven years ago. I call it my “big career,” because there was a time I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I thought by this time in my life, I would be settled behind the anchor desk, living out my happily ever after.

But one day, my priorities began to shift. Work hadn’t changed. I had. I wanted more flexibility, more control of my schedule and more freedom to be creative. I had arrived at a crossroads.

During that time, I went to my primary care physician for a checkup and found myself talking to her about the stress I was under. She responded by giving me a glimpse into her own life. She said, “I have my career, and I have my family. I used to think I could have it all. And now, I realize I have to make choices.” Her statement can be interpreted a lot of ways, but I took it to mean that I need to determine my priorities. Sure, I was in a high pressure job, but I was expecting more from myself than what was actually being asked of me. There are only so many hours in a day, and we do what we can do. Some days are more productive than others. That’s life, and we are not machines.

I left my career in search of the proverbial state of balance. But I found something else.

Today, I’m a freelance writer and mom to two young boys, and on most days, I feel like a big mess. It’s not easy to write when my brain feels like a circus, or there’s an actual circus playing out in my living room. I don’t have much more balance in my life than when I started this journey, but I can tell you I’m a lot closer to fulfillment than I was back then.

The reason is simple. I love my work.

I’ve come to believe that balance is a state of mind, not a reflection of my to-do list. When we think of balance, we often think of a scale. But I see my life as a pendulum — almost always swinging and rarely at rest. I seek opportunities to be still (I take them when I can get them) and center myself. I consistently take an inventory of my life and what’s on my plate, and I reevaluate when necessary. I ask myself what “having it all” really means to me, and I work towards that ideal, while understanding I can only control so much. There’s a lot of trust involved.

What does work-life balance mean to you?

Angie Mizzell is a writer and columnist for Lowcountry Parent magazine. You can contact her by visiting her blog, “Stories of life, love and leaps of faith” at www.AngieMizzell.com.

When personal and professional parts of our lives are out of balance, stress can take hold. Join the Work-life Balance: Ways to restore harmony and reduce stress Empowerment Group at the C4W Mondays, September 6-27. This group is for women seeking to identify and target life stressors to restore balance and harmony in their lives. Strategies to enhance life-work balance will be explored during the four weeks. Facilitated by Leize Gaillard, LPC-I, NCC.

Women Call for Obama to Act: Linda Tarr-Whelan and Jacki Zehner

August 27, 2010

Yesterday we celebrated the 90th anniversary of women FINALLY getting the right to vote. To that end it is appropriate to look at how far we still have to go before we are equally represented. Ambassador Linda Tarr-Whelan has co-authored a wonderful piece on how women improve the success rate of everything.

By Linda Tarr-Whelan and Jacki Zehner – Aug 25, 2010 9:00 PM ET
Bloomberg Opinion

Today marks Women’s Equality Day, the commemoration of women’s suffrage achieved in 1920. What better time to take stock of what’s left to do?

We need a national conversation led by the White House to explore how women decision-makers can help achieve better economic performance and a more prosperous future for all.

The administration of Barack Obama has already taken the first step by appointing talented women — including Mary Schapiro, who holds the top job at the Securities and Exchange Commission; Elizabeth Warren, who chairs the Congressional Oversight Panel; and Sheila Bair, who heads the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. — to help dig us out of the financial mess.

Having a few females at the top is wonderful, but until we have at least 30 percent of senior women in leadership, we will be ignoring a strong dynamic that is working well elsewhere.

Today, a growing body of research that shows positive outcomes from having balanced leadership has been ignored. Other countries are addressing the fundamental issue of leadership in ways that have yet to gain much traction in the U.S. We can certainly do better.

Tapping the full range of talent that includes the skills, experience and leadership of women as well as men is hardly a radical idea. As the Economist magazine famously wrote in 2006, “Forget China, India and the Internet: Economic growth is driven by women.” An increasing number of reports show that having at least 30 percent of women in corporate and governmental leadership roles improves decision-making, opens up institutions and removes barriers to full participation.

Performance Driver

The U.S. has much to gain from a new leadership model. Economic growth and stock prices can only benefit.

New York-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co. has released a series of reports since 2007 making the case that gender diversity at the top is a corporate performance driver. Yet, they note that three-quarters of 1,500 biggest companies have no women on their management boards. Further, there are only 28 female chief executive officers in 1,000 largest companies.

Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm on Wall Street, recommends investing in countries where the gender gap is closing and where the “laws and social norms that have discriminated against women are shifting.” Its studies show gross-domestic-product growth accelerates when women hold positions of power. Goldman has created the 10,000 Women Initiative, a $100 million, five-year program to provide an advanced business education for women.

Costly Failures

Failing to address challenges that keep women out of leadership is costly. New York-based research group Catalyst Inc. has shown that firms with three or more women on management boards boosted their return on equity by 112 percent, compared with those with fewer women.

Recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined a fast- moving trend in Europe to achieve 30 percent to 40 percent women on corporate boards. The French are following the lead of Norway, Spain and the Netherlands, which have already moved to accomplish these goals. The World Bank and the United Nations’ Global Compact policy initiative have also recognized women’s advancement as essential to economic growth.

Michel Ferrary, a professor of management at the Skema Business School in Sophia Antipolis, France, studied the effects of balanced leadership in France during the financial crisis of 2007-08. “The more women there were in a company’s management, the less the share price fell in 2008,” he said.

Investment Concept

Similar results have been published by Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and in the U.K., India and Australia. Gender equality, as an investment concept, has been taken up by mutual funds such as Pax World Investments, which recently started a Global Women’s Equality Fund betting that companies with more diverse leadership will perform better than others. A recent study by the National Council for Research on Women, based on data from Hedge Fund Research Inc., showed women hedge-fund managers outperformed their male counterparts.

Our country has nothing to lose and much to gain by addressing the lack of women in top leadership. But it won’t just happen. The U.S., a country that aspires to be a world leader, ranks a pathetic 31st out of 134 countries in eliminating the disparities between women and men in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.

On this 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage, President Obama should consider convening a White House Roundtable to find ways to increase the number of women decision-makers in the economy. Then we can celebrate women’s equality in America.

(Linda Tarr-Whelan is a Demos distinguished senior fellow, author of “Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World” and a former ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Jacki Zehner is a consultant, vice chairman of the Women’s Funding Network, and a former partner and managing director of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The opinions expressed are their own.)

To contact the writers of this column: Linda Tarr-Whelan at linda@tarr-whelanassociates.com; Jacki Zehner at pursepundit@gmail.com.

C4W Member Profile: Angie Mizzell

August 26, 2010

What is your profession? Freelance writer and columnist for Lowcountry Parent magazine. I also tell stories of “life, love and leaps of faith” at www.AngieMizzell.com.

What do you enjoy doing outside of your career? Raising my two sons, reading memoirs, going to the gym and playing “tourist” in my hometown. I love sitting on rooftops and admiring the view.

How long have you been a member of the Center for Women? Since 2007.

What inspired you to become a member? The Center for Women offers so many programs to support women writers, and it also provides opportunities to connect with like-minded people. The Center for Women has been a huge support and resource for me as I transitioned from a career in the television newsroom to being my own boss.

What kind of impact has the Center for Women had on you?
I can’t even begin to measure! Being a member has opened many doors for me. It takes networking a step further by providing an opportunity to develop genuine relationships and make some really good friends. Working from home can feel isolating as times, but I know I have a team of women on my side, and that’s priceless.

How has living day-to-day as a woman affected you?
I’m proud to be a woman. I know we still have a way to go in terms of equality in the workplace, but women bring something important to the table that can’t be replicated. I was raised by a single mom who wouldn’t let me wallow in my insecurities. She would turn my face toward a mirror and tell me all the things I had to offer. She saw the things I couldn’t see, and eventually, I grew to value my unique gifts and talents. I wish that for all women.

What kind of message would you like to send out to women who are trying to succeed in today’s economy? Becoming self-employed has taught me how to take my skill-set and life experience and “customize” them to fit opportunities that have crossed my path. I don’t think we can simply list our previous job experience on a resume and expect that to work. We have to show potential bosses (or potential customers if you’re running your own business) exactly what we can do for them. If you focus on making genuine connections and serving others, good things have a way of circling back around.

Come back next week to hear more from Angie on work-life balance.

Stay connected to your career

August 19, 2010

By Hannah Morris, the owner of HBM Human Resources & Career Consulting, and has 15 years of experience in Human Resources management, recruiting and career counseling. Additionally she is the owner of Pots & Petals, a gardening business

Q: I’m taking time out of the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom. What should I be doing to keep my skills and experience relevant and up-to-date?

A: If you have made the choice to stay at home with your children for an extended period but you plan to eventually return to regular, full-time work, then there are several things you might consider doing to keep your skills, knowledge and credentials updated. Here are ten suggestions:

1. Read! Continue subscribing to industry magazines or newsletters that will provide you with the latest information and updates about what is going on in your field. Additionally, consider starting a book club in which your group reads and discusses books about business-related topics.
2. Maintain your memberships in industry or business-related organizations. By continuing to attend meetings you will stay connected to people in the business community. Once you begin looking for a job again, these networking contacts will be essential. Your active membership in such an organization is something you can definitely include on your resume.
3. Join (or start) a networking club/meeting with other moms who are taking a break from their careers. Without a doubt there are other women who have made the same choice to stay home with children, but ultimately plan to go back to work. Seek out women in your neighborhood, children’s school, or other community group who are also interested in networking and mentoring one another.
4. Attend continuing education seminars and educational programs. Take advantage of classes and programs related to your area of expertise or other business-related topic. The Center for Women is an excellent resource for this type of event. Also check with industry organizations and local colleges and universities to find out when and where they will offer training or continuing education classes in your area.
5. Volunteer in your field. Use what you know to benefit those who may not be able to pay for your services. Although a paycheck is great, volunteering still allows you an opportunity to utilize your knowledge as an expert in your field and could be a nice addition to your resume.
6. Manage a community, school or non-profit project or event. Even if it is not specifically related to your career, taking a major role in the planning and execution of this type of event will allow you to use the same organization, prioritization and management skills needed in a work environment.
7. Look for consulting opportunities in your field. Taking on an occasional project for a client is a great way to keep your skills fresh, to build your resume, and earn a little extra money. The best way to find this kind of opportunity is through networking. Utilize your business contacts and pursue connections through family, friends, and neighbors.
8. Keep your resume updated and your interview skills polished. You never know when you might be asked for a resume. A great consulting opportunity may arise and you want to have your resume read to send out upon request. Make sure you have a nice suit that fits well and makes you feel confident. Take time to practice selling yourself as the best candidate for the job.
9. Keep your licenses and/or certifications up-to-date. Stay on top of what training or coursework you need to complete to maintain your credentials even if you are out of the workforce. If it is important to have certifications in your field, be sure that you are keeping yours up-to-date in preparation for when you return to work.
10. Have a mentor. Contact a former boss, co-worker or other professional whom you respect and ask them to be a mentor to you. Get together every couple of months for coffee or lunch to catch up on business-related news and to get advice on what else you can be doing to keep yourself prepared to re-enter the workforce.

If you are staying at home to be with your children, enjoy this time. It won’t last forever. Little children grow up and the older they get, the more time you will have for your own pursuits. You will have a chance to get back to your career. For now, make an effort to keep your skills, knowledge and connections in tact to help smooth your transition back into the workforce when the time comes.

First appeared in Moxie section of The Post and Courier on Friday, August 14, 2009.

Finding the job that makes your heart sing

August 12, 2010

By Barbara Poole, a master-certified coach and president of Success Builders, Inc.

Q: I feel like I’m at a crossroads and I’d like to take this opportunity to find a job I really want the next time around. But that’s just the problem: I don’t know what I want. How can I figure this out?

A: There’s a silver lining to the clouds in the current job market. When jobs are plentiful and people find themselves in transition, they often go immediately back into a similar job in the same industry, the only real change being a new employer. While it can make for a fast and efficient job search, it can also lead to feeling unfulfilled, and that nagging sense of “more of the same.”

In today’s economy, finding your next position can be a bit more challenging. There’s no obvious “next assignment,” and the process of finding a new job takes longer. Although it can feel like a scary time, it can actually be a great opportunity to consider what you really want, and redirect your efforts to finding a job that will truly make your heart sing.

Many people operate under the misguided notion that there is one “right thing” out there that they should be doing, if only they could figure out what it is. In reality, for most of us there are plenty of things that we could do well and really enjoy. The trick is to do some good matching along a number of important dimensions that will have you headed in the direction of a good fit for you.

Start by considering what you are gifted at. Sometimes it’s hard to identify your natural abilities because you don’t have to think about them — they come effortlessly to you. Maybe you’re a born organizer; or perhaps you’re a great conversationalist. Your natural abilities are those strengths that are simply a part of who you are — you were born good at them and you would enjoy using them on the job.

Next, think about your interests. What do you find stimulating and compelling? If you want some easy clues, consider the subject matter in the magazines you subscribe to. Cooking magazines? Fashion? Science and technology? Notice what captures your attention.

What is your personality style? Are you gregarious and outgoing, or are you more reserved and quiet? Your personal style is an important clue to career possibilities.

What do you care deeply about? Your passions reflect your core values, and having a job that reinforces them will be fulfilling and satisfying.

Finally, consider how you like to work. Some people thrive on being in one place in front of a computer screen. Others need to be in motion, out and about, or they can feel caged in. Do you enjoy dressing to the nines in a business suit? Or is casual wear more your cup of tea?

By assembling these clues like a jigsaw puzzle, you can begin to see pictures emerging of the kinds of jobs you might really enjoy. Then it’s time to get busy converting these possibilities into action.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post & Courier on Friday, August 7, 2009

What’s Hot in Social Media

August 5, 2010

Guest blogger Lyn Mettler gives us the latest scoop in social media trends.

It seems every day in social media there’s some new tool you hear about from a friend or some new website you saw on Twitter or Facebook that you just must check out! With technology plowing ahead at an incredible pace it’s tough to stay on top of what’s worth looking into and what you should pass by, especially if you’re considering it as a marketing tool for your business.

Here’s two of the latest social media trends that, I believe, are worth a second glance for business and for fun:

1) Geo-Location
OK, that name sounds a bit technical, but it’s really a fancy word to describe services like Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Loopt. I believe that these tools have the most potential of any marketing tool I’ve ever seen to actually drive business to a physical store, restaurant, attraction, etc.

These tools allow people to use their smartphones to “check in” at a particular location. You have friends on these services, just like you do on Facebook, and when you “check in,” all your friends see. You can also connect these services to Twitter and Facebook, so the message spreads even further. This is a free testimonial for the business where you’ve checked in. Much more powerful than a paid advertisement.

Even better, Foursquare allows you to create tips about a specific location that pop up for people when they check in there or somewhere nearby. Businesses can load in tips about events they are having at a particular location, or suggest people at a nearby venue head to their location for a walk, a drink or a special discount. Slow one day for lunch? Stick in a tip with your daily lunch special and offer a special discount to Foursquare users.

Finally, Foursquare and also Yelp’s new check-in service allow you to reap rewards for visiting a place more times than anyone else (you become the “mayor” on Foursquare) and for doing certain activities. For example, if you go to the gym 10x in one month, you receive the Gym Rat badge. This makes it fun and why Foursquare is now 2 million strong and growing at a rapid clip.

Last note on geo-location. Check out newcomer SCVNGR (http://www.scvngr.com). It’s a fun one that has “challenges” for you to do at a given location, and several of the big movies coming out like “Eat, Pray, Love” have created challenges related to the movie. Geo-location works because it’s fun by combining games with social networking.

2) Social Buying
Who doesn’t like to find a great deal, especially in this day and age? Well, hallelujah, someone has figured out how to combine discounts with social networking brilliantly. Social buying is the concept of leveraging large groups of people and the viral power of social media to secure a discount by promising the store or restaurant a certain level of business.

Groupon made its debut in Charleston this week and is already doing incredibly well. Groupon offers a daily deal by email to its subscribers in each city. A certain number of people must purchase the deal in order for everyone to get it. On Monday, they offered half off a $10 gift certificate at Five Loaves Café and required at least 20 people buy the deal. Guess how many people bought the deal? 775! That was day 1.

Another popular social buying site is Living Social, which also says it’s coming to Charleston soon. It offers a daily deal by email at up to 90% off. In addition, if someone who buys the deal can get three friends to buy it as well, they get the deal free.

If you’re a business who’s selling a service or product, consider these tools as a way to get your name out there. While Groupon, for example, takes half the sale, we have heard plenty of reports that although it’s not a big money maker, it’s a great way to build name recognition, and many participants report dramatically increased repeat business. For example, after the Fives Loaves deal, lots of people were talking on Twitter about going to use their gift certificate.

Caution though: Groupon has become so popular that if you decide to do a deal, make sure you can keep up with the business. Many a company has blown it by not being able to handle the load and providing bad customer service.

So there are two trends that are worth the time to explore and you bet can many more are on their way. Check out our website at www.stepaheadinc.com to stay on top of the social media news of the day and all the fun stuff coming down the pipeline.


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