Category Archives: Blog

Employee-to-Entrepreneur-Transition

Sincerely, Sara: Do I Risk My Corporate Job To Run The Start-Up of my Dreams?

Hi Sara,

I’m doing well in a career I’m good at, but I’m not passionate about. If I continue on the same trajectory with my current company I’ll be making over six figures soon. I have excellent benefits, in a financially strong, Fortune 500 company. This was all great until I recently got an offer to work with a small, brilliant team launching an innovative company that would pretty much be my dream job. If I take the leap, I’ll be excited to be at work every day. But gone is my stability and great benefits, and even though I’ll have the opportunity to make more money than I ever dreamed of making in my current career. It will mean a period of sacrifice until the revenue starts rolling. And if we don’t get the company off the ground, I’m back to square one: no stable but boring job and no job working with a cool team I’d hang with even on my days off.

I’m the type of guy that’s always wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona, or bungee of a huge bridge, but I’m not sure I could ever go through with something that puts my future at risk.

Thanks,

Wants to Run with the Bulls, but Afraid of Getting Trampled

Dear Wants to Run,

Your quandary forces you to choose a side: passion or paycheck. Many of my entrepreneur friends  have left well-paying  corporate gigs for jobs that serve a social good they are passionate about, but is not financially lucrative,  and have made the same leap of faith to follow their bliss.  Even when their decisions have come at the expense of a comforting retirement nest egg and a killer medical plan, the sense of security they sacrificed didn’t compare to the joy and purpose of doing something with their lives that meant more to them than anything they could deposit into a bank account. Some of them are impacting communities, changing lives and transforming the world.

What price do you put on purpose and happiness? What is the freedom that comes with making your own way in the world, on your own terms, worth?  Here’s the rub: We live in world where our necessities must be paid for in order for us to survive, but how do we compare financial compensation with something that we can’t calculate in monetary terms?

I realize that I’ve asked more questions instead of offering an answer, but I still need to ask one more. Are you relying on your paycheck and benefits to provide for a family? If there are people that depend on your steady financial situation for their livelihood than your dilemma becomes decidedly more complicated. You will need to figure out if you have enough savings to cover your expenses until the new company is generating enough profit to provide for all of your needs. Keep in mind, it may take years for a new business to fine tune a workable business model, and can go through financially painful growing pains while they adapt to the market. Assess what options you will have for securing another well-paying position if your start-up fails (which many do). If you are free of familial obligations, then perhaps it’s an ideal time in your life to chase an opportunity like the one that just landed in your lap. If not now, then when? Certainly the time isn’t once you have the responsibility and expense of children. 

You will have to live with this decision every day, at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for weeks, then months, and then years. Do some soul searching and discover what is really what you want out of more than just your job, but out of your future—and your life. Then compare the two paths. Which will bring you closest to your end goal?

I would also advise you to consider that: 1. The best laid plans do not always pan out 2. If anything has proven that “security” with a “stable” company can be more of an illusion than we once believed it to be, it’s the recent financial crisis that bankrupted companies like AIG,  Bear Stearns, and Goldman Sachs and cost many loyal employees from formerly financially robust companies to lose their hard won pensions and drained their 401K packages. And I’ll offer one last one point for your consideration, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making plans”.

So what do you want your days to be like? That’s the real question. Are weekends entertaining in a big house, or summers vacationing in the Keys, the moments you live for? Do creating original solutions that change the way people interact invigorate you with joy? Does the freedom to engage in work that challenges and satisfies you mean more than a second car or a vacation home? If what you really want is a life bursting with new, exhilarating experiences that remind you how thrilling it is to be alive, you can create it. But you will have to be prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to bring that life into existence. Your time and happiness are the most valuable things you own, so guard them with your life.

Sincerely, 

Sara

itsabouttheclimb

Sincerely, Sara: I Need The Confidence To Ask For A Raise

Dear Sara,

I’ve been at my current job for over a year. I work hard, meet deadlines, and get along with co-workers. Rarely have management or clients been unsatisfied with my work. My boss consistently adds higher profile accounts to my workload as my track record builds. I am reliable and self-managing for the most part. But, since I quietly do my work and am too busy to socialize much with others in the office, the “bigger” personalities drown me out in recognition from higher ups.  My annual review is coming, and since my workload has increased, I feel a raise and/or promotion is due.  I came in at a starting salary but the work I do now is above my pay grade. The problem is I’m not comfortable negotiating on my own behalf and I feel awkward discussing salary. How do I feel comfortable asking for what I feel I deserve? 

Thanks, 

Needs Confidence

Dear Needs Confidence,

For those of us with introverted personalities, less than average dose of self-confidence, or who have been brought up to believe humility is a virtue and self-promotion is tacky, it can feel unnatural to negotiate on our own behalf. But if you don’t champion your own cause, then who will? Certainly, not those co-workers competing for the same promotion you want. If, by your own admission, you are too busy chasing deadlines to interact much with your office mates, it is doubtful they know enough about you to recommend your work. The bottom line: it’s your responsibility to be your own career advocate.

Of course, you don’t want to be the eye-roll inducing Dwight Shrute of your office, that person who you’re sure must have carpel tunnel from patting himself on the back every 5 minutes, but if you don’t claim your victories every now and then how will others in the company know about them? Sure, they may see your profile in the company newsletter under “Employee Spotlight”, but when was the last time you read through the internal company newsletter? Exactly. While tooting your own horn may not be an innate talent, it is a skill that can be learned, improved, and eventually, perfected.

A few guidelines to turning your performance review into a raise:

1. Do your research so you are prepared and armed with the facts.

Frame the discussion in terms of industry standards in salary compensation. Your research will serve to highlight your diligence and as a shield against taking the negotiations too personally. Treat it as you would a meeting with a client. Stick to the specifics, know your goal and have a strategy in place. Research the industry standards for the job you are currently doing, not the job you were hired to do.

2. Have a list of your accomplishments and calculate your overall value to the company.

Quantify clients you have brought in, new business that has resulted directly from your labors, money you have saved the company during your tenure, new innovations or solutions you’ve created, and other tangible results. Know what you bring to the table in solid terms that show your value to the bottom line of the company. When you demonstrate your value add instead of just talking about what you would like to receive, you will keep the discussion performance related—and you will feel less anxious because you will be speaking in objective terms.

3. If you are told that there is a salary freeze, or that your contribution is noted and appreciated but a raise is not in the budget at this time, counter by asking for a specific timeline as to when the request can be reevaluated and on what criteria the raise would be assessed.

This way you can develop a plan of action and will be in great shape when the discussion comes around again. Also, it backs your boss into a corner; he now knows that he’s not indefinitely shelving the question, only rescheduling it for a time when the company resources allow him to compensate you more fairly.

Here are my tips to getting noticed around the office (in the right way):

1. Be generous with your praise of others.

When you advocate on behalf of the accomplishments of your co-workers, they will be more likely to point out your positive contributions in return. Reciprocity is a powerful tool, and by paying it forward, you don’t have to bring yourself up first, which will be more comfortable for you. As an added bonus, when other’s talk about your achievements it comes across more strongly and positively than when you promote yourself.  

2. Share your struggles as well as your successes.

When sharing your accomplishments along with your set-backs, it is more of a conversation and less of a plug for your value to the company. Also, it can give you a chance to highlight how you overcome those challenges, showing your ultimate resourcefulness, problem-solving abilities and business superpowers. 

3. Pursue opportunities to collaborate or help others.

Showing is always more powerful than telling. When others experience your strengths first hand, they will come to associate you with those talents and skills. 

4. Bond over happy hour, the company softball team, or a charity cause.

If you are too swamped to leave your desk much during office hours, try becoming closer to your colleagues outside of work. When bonding over a beer, a common interest, or shared cause, people are more relaxed and open; it will be an ideal situation for you to make connections in a way that won’t push you so far outside your comfort zone.

5. Learn how to take a compliment.

You may naturally tend to deflect attention from yourself when your boss gives you a verbal fist bump for a project well done or when she offers an accolade for a favorable email from a client singing your praises, but resist your temptation to say, “It was nothing”. Instead, say, “Thank you. I worked hard on that. It feels great to be recognized”. You earned it; claim it!

 

Good Luck on making your corporate climb! I would also suggest expanding your focus beyond the destination may relieve some of your anxiety.  Make an effort to establish valuable connections, pursue opportunities to hone your skills and learn new ones, and empower yourself to become a leader in industry associations where you can share your expertise and collaborate with other influential people in your business.  These are all under your control and will boost your confidence and portfolio. 

Sincerely,

Sara

romance at the office

Sincerely, Sara: Is An Office Romance Worth The Risk?

Hello Sara,

I’ve always thought office romances were landmines one misstep away from blowing up in a fury of shrapnel. So you can see why I’m embarrassed to admit I think I’m falling for our new account executive. I’ve never met anyone like her. She has everything I always wanted and never thought I could find in one woman. I’m in management, but she doesn’t report to me. I’m in a different department and we don’t ever directly work together. We flirt when we see each other and she’s mentioned she’s not seeing anyone. Going out for after-work drink has come up a few times, but I’m not sure I should pursue it. I don’t want to let this chance pass; she’s not the type of woman that’ll be single for long. I love my job and the company I’m with, and I don’t want to jeopardize it for something that might end up being nothing more than a fling. 

Thanks,

Riskin’it for Romance

Dearest Riskin’ It,

In your letter you didn’t mention your company’s HR policy on interoffice romance. I’m assuming you haven’t checked into it yet, so my first recommendation would be to read up so you are informed. The good news is most companies prohibit, or at least strongly discourage, dating between superiors and subordinates, but do not have a rule against relationships where a power imbalance does not exist.

But don’t start making dinner reservations yet. Even if there is no direct rule against two employees in different departments entering into a consensual relationship; there are reasons to be cautious, especially since you are happy with your current job and employer.

There are valid reasons to be cautious about making a move on your work crush. We don’t have to go far to see the negative fallout from office romances gone wrong. Dave Letterman’s multiple affairs with staffers became a PR nightmare for the Late Show with David Letterman and crossing the line with female co-workers cost Herman Cain his would-be political career. Even pop culture warns us of the dangers; the hit TV show Mad Men stylishly depicts the destruction wrought by office romance gone wrong.

With the David Letterman fiasco, we see the potential for the personal exploits of an employee to reflect negatively on the company as a whole. Herman Cain’s scandal demonstrates the strongest reason romances in the office are often prohibited—the potential for law suits.  A romance gone wrong can turn into a legal liability for your company if sexual harassment charges are filed. It’s the fear of being sued that drives most employers’ intolerance of relationships between a Boss and his or her subordinate. Mad Men eloquently depicts the gossip, turf wars, awkwardness, favoritism (either real or imagined), and conflict that can engulf an office when co-workers are romantically linked.

If you decide to move forward with your romantic intentions, a few words to the wise on how to minimize the risk:

1. What they don’t know they can’t gossip and joke about.

While flat out lying to your boss or head of HR if asked directly is not advised, don’t be forthcoming about your relationship in the beginning. Be discreet until you know if it is developing into something deeper. Let your co-workers find out when they get a wedding invitation. According to CareerBuilder, “Thirty-nine percent of workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once over the course of their career…Thirty percent of those who have dated a co-worker said their office romance led them to the altar”, proving only 3 out of 10 office romances last. In case you’re in the 70% majority of break-ups, they will never know—so your personal life won’t end up water cooler conversation. 

2 .Have a Plan for the Break up.

Face reality, no matter how wonderful this woman may seem from afar, the odds are stacked against a happily ever after ending. Be mature about the fact that your careers are a priority and work out a strategy for dealing with common friends, interdepartmental meetings, and those inevitable encounters at the espresso machine. Maybe one of you will switch to drinking tea or start getting your coffee at Starbucks. Just realize that in order to lessen the awkwardness factor, you both may have to make a few changes should you split up (especially if it doesn’t end on the best terms).

3. If the relationship is heading towards marital bliss, be the first to come clean to Human Resources and your boss.

The quickest way to alienate HR or your boss is for them hear about your relationship second hand. Inform them first; they may even have some helpful advice on how to “come out” to the rest of the office.

4. Millennials are all for dipping the pen in the company ink

The latest surveys show “84% of 18-29 year olds would have no problem becoming romantically involved with a co-worker…”, indicating interoffice romance is likely to become more prevalent, and perhaps, more accepted. You may not be a risk-taker after all; maybe you’re just ahead of your time. (HuffPost Live Dating a Co-worker)

Of course, there are plenty of examples representing a risk well taken. President Obama was Michelle Obama’s intern, Bill Gates was the CEO when he asked out Melinda and The Office’s Jim and Pam found wedded bliss after a couple of seasons. So, I’m not trying to talk you out of following your heart, only advising that you take your head with you.

I wish you and the object of your affection many happy times ahead.

Sincerely,

Sara

bad boss

Sincerely, Sara: My Boss is Trying to Get Me Fired. Help!

Dear Sara,

I have a boss who is killing my morale. His tone is consistently condescending and disrespectful, and it makes me day intolerable. He’s been with the company a long time and is well respected, but also feared by many. He never has a nice word to say, no matter how well a job is done. I have a fight or flight response to bullying – and I need to find a middle ground here fast or I’m going to lose my job.

~Frustrated in Philly

 

Dearest Frustrated,

You are not alone in this circumstance. Most people—myself included—have found ourselves in a similar situation with a hostile superior at one time or another. First off, is the job worth keeping if you’re miserable? Are there other prospects? I would start discretely putting out feelers to your industry connections and friends. Let them know that you are looking for opportunities and ready to make a move should the right opening become  available. Word of mouth and personal referrals are still a powerful tool in the job search. I would also start checking job listings online, and asking around in any offline professional groups you are involved in. 

In the meantime, here are a few suggestions on how to manage your troubled work relations.

1. Try to identify if there a way to deal with him that will minimize conflict.

 Study which reactions generate the least hostility and which produce more aggression. For example, maybe your boss is secretly insecure, and if you temper views that disagree with his with a dash of humility and a bit of courtesy, he will act less hostile towards you. He may feel less challenged and, as a result, be less likely to strike back with venom. It may feel like you’re playing games, but in a situation like yours, office politics can be a measured game of chess. If you can identify any triggers and keep away from them, you may avoid some of the toxicity from coming your way. 

2. Choose your battles.

It’s helpful to occasionally let things slide and not feel you always have to respond to every snide comment or demeaning criticism. Take it with a grain of salt and save your energy for a confrontation that disrespects you in such a way that it inhibits your ability to do your job. 

3. Remember, your boss doesn’t have to be your friend.

Come to terms with the fact that he may never praise your work or be a trusted confidant, but as long as he doesn’t impugn your professional reputation, or cause you to produce low quality work that reflects negatively on your abilities, it’s neither here nor there. So, he won’t be your biggest advocate, seek out other people in the company that will serve that role and create alliances with them.

 4. Don’t take things personally. 

When you take pride in your work and your career, this is easier said than done, I know.  You may feel like an attack on your job is a personal attack on your character, but remember this guy has no idea what type of person you are, or doesn’t care to find out; so don’t take what he says in the workplace as a judgment on who you are as a person. This makes it easier to respond in strategic ways that allow you to cover your bum, should he try and get you fired.Do your best to keep things civil while you explore options and opportunities elsewhere.

Hope this helps! 

Sincerely, Sara

social media

Social Media Etiquette Made Easy! 5 Ways To Shine Online.

We all share the web. We interact together on the cyber highways, whizzing past at times and stopping for a visit at others, like we do in our physical world. There are certain rules of the information Super highway that make our travel together a more efficient , smoother experience.

5 Social Media Etiquette Tips:

1. When you want to post something on someone’s Facebook wall that is self-promotional (even if you are promoting a charity event or an event you are not profiting form), you should shoot them a quick inbox message  asking for permission to place it on their wall. It’s no different than hanging something in someone’s house.
2. If you are taking a person’s update word for word, then hit the share button so you share it from their page and they receive credit. Likewise, if you are lifting their tweet word for word, then retweet it instead of posting it as your own. It’s the social media equivalent of citing your source. Taking someone’s tweet or status update and passing it off as your own is a form of plagiarism.

3. If you want to ask someone about something completely irrelevant to their last post, then do not clog their thread with it. This one irks me to no end. You may end up high-jacking a thread that was intended to facilitate a discussion about a topic of importance to the poster. Stay on topic if you are replying to a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter post. Ask questions via inbox or direct messages, or shoot a fresh tweet or post a stand-alone comment that does not interfere with a conversation that has nothing to do with your question.
4. Watch your language. This should go without saying, but I’m on social media enough to know it happens all day, every day. If you feel a curse word is absolutely essential to communicate your message, then use a non-offensive spelling such as: sh!t, f*ck or @$$hole. But use sparingly and not on more professional sites like LinkedIn and only with people you are comfortable with, know very well and will not take offense. And understand, that if you drop f bombs like fireworks on the Fourth of July you may have trouble will people taking you seriously and your credibility can be damaged. And whatever you do, refrain from slinging derogatory names at people, no matter how much you feel they may deserve them. You are an adult and if you cannot make your point without reverting to school yard name calling then you probably should not be on social media—and maybe should not be interacting with other people at all.

5. Liking is good, commenting is better. While engagement drives social media, there are different levels. If you consistently “like” or RT updates on your feeds but never take that extra step to say what you liked, disagreed with, made you laugh, made you mad, or whatever the case may be, then go ahead and have your say. That is how the conversation evolves.

As a community, we are always improving the dynamic and quality of our collective conversation. The important thing is that we are driven to communicate and are drawn to interaction through our interests, commonalities, and passions.

Business-Success

5 Things Successful People Do, You May Not be Doing (Yet)

Success is defined differently depending on who is doing the defining. But whichever definition of success you subscribe to, it is a goal we are all striving for, often find frustratingly elusive. There is no sure road and no one way up the mountain. There are well known paths, replete with road signs, maps, and personal tour guides. There are rural roads, less traveled and riddled with hidden dangers, but appealing to pioneers with a thirst for blazing new trails. If you find yourself walking in circles and getting no closer to the mountain top, here are five impediments that may be holding you back.

Here are 5 Things that Successful People are Doing, You May Not be Doing (yet):  

1. You are not solution focused. 

Proactive motion is the only way to traverse roadblocks. Successful people have little time for blame,  or complaining; they are too busy seeing an opportunity where others see a problem. Kick it into solution mode when faced with a challenge. 

2. You are more concerned with being comfortable or being right, than being effective.

Successful people are not afraid to test themselves and take calculated risks that push them outside their comfort zone. They are undeterred by the growing pains of trying new things. They trade in security and ease for the chance to exceed their expectations, and create their own destiny. They are unfazed  by trial and error, and see no shame in being wrong. Instead, they learn from their mistakes and use them to build a staircase to their dreams.

3. You do not understand your core values and what you really want. 

Those who have reached the pinnacle of Success have realized what is important to them and crafted a life that embraces their values. Success is more fluid when you love what you do and your beliefs are in alignment  with your actions. Many successful people say they would get up every day and go to work no matter what their salary. Many started working for free as they bootstrapped to build their business. They are following their passion, driven by purpose, and playing to their strengths and talents.

4. You lack the resilience to make it over the wall, through the ditch, out of the sand trap, to the other side. 

The road to success is bumpy, rife with disillusionment and disappointment. But, the only way to get to the summit is to keep trudging, even when you don’t have the energy or motivation. One foot in front of the other, step after step. There are no short cuts. Try and enjoy the journey, but when there is no joy to be had, keep walking anyway—your dreams await you on the other side.

5. You are resistant to change. Successful people are masters of adaptation.

In our fast paced, technologically-driven world, it is more important than ever to embrace constant transformation. Strengthen your ability to process new information, adapt to new technologies, and create new systems. Have a mindset of innovation over imitation. 

As the saying goes, if it was easy then everyone would do it. Success is hard to pin down. Some people spend a lifetime in its pursuit. But rest assured, the struggles of today will be the times you look back on in the future that will fill you with satisfaction and joy.

sales rules to break

4 Sales Rules to Break to Score BIG

Sales is far from an exact science, but there is ingrained wisdom about how to sell that has circulated for decades. As times change, we must reevaluate what we think we “know.” Some knowledge stands the test of Time, while other long held beliefs reach their expiration date and must be put out to pasture. The time has come to debunk four rules that no longer pass muster.

4 Sales Rules you should be Breaking:

1.  Always talk to a decision maker.

The assistant to the Chief not only holds the keys to the castle, but is easier to make contact with. A gatekeeper can frame a meeting in a way that gives a beneficial edge going in. He or she can pique the Boss’ interest, so you walk into a receptive audience.

2. Always be closing.

Sales is about relationships; and relationships thrive on mutual trust and respect. Don’t always be selling, that will come in time, first build a rapport. Ask what the other person needs before jumping in with what they can do for you. A genuine relationship will lead to more than a one-time sale, but to referrals, and a solid network you can count on for years to come. Contrary to the old way of thinking, the balance sheet doesn’t drive your business. People drive business. Trust leads to loyalty, and that results in higher profits in the long run.

3.  It all comes down to the Pitch.

While polished pitching skills and thinking quickly on your feet are essential to inspiring confidence and creating a good impression, when it is decision time it’s going to be the solution you provide (by saving money, increasing sales or solving a problem) that is going to drive a change in behavior. The real key to nailing the deal starts before you ever get in front of the potential buyer. Due diligence is often where a sale is made or lost. Did you figure out the hot buttons? Do you know what makes the company tick and are you providing a way to make them more efficient, more profitable, or make their lives easier? It all comes down to the Pitch is out–knowing your customer, what they stand for, what they need, and how to best give it to them–is in.

4. It’s a numbers game.

Targeting your efforts to those interested in what you do and sell is a much more efficient way to spend time your time. Wasting your breath speaking to those who have no interest in your message is futile—and worse, it takes time away from engaging with people who are potential customers. 1 warm, qualified lead beats 20 cold calls any day of the week.

We are far from the days of Glen Gary, Glen Ross. This is a new ball game and new rules apply.

content-calendar

Make 2013 your most Profitable, Productive Year with a Content Calendar

The New Year is approaching. It’s the perfect time to implement practices that will improve the organization and efficiency of your content marketing plan for the coming year. 2013 has been declared the Year of Content. Content Creation is crucial to optimize your website. Great content will make your brand stand out from the competition, generate inbound leads, and establish authority, trust, and likeability.

Without the frequent uploading of new, valuable, trusted content, why would people continue to return to your website or social networks? Your creative concepts must be consistent, provide value, and be dynamic enough to make people take notice amidst the ocean of content flooding the internet. There is one tool that is vital to doing all three for maximum impact.The key to your content creation and website optimization strategy is: a Content Calendar.

Why a Content Calendar?

Google’s algorithm updates, Panda and Penguin, are making it more difficult to sustain or improve your search engine rankings without superior content. In order to optimize your website, a content creation strategy that utilizes creative concepts and is managed through a content calendar can be the linchpin to your content marketing success. Companies must view themselves as publishers if they are going to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of online marketing. And with the Year of Content right around the corner, the time to start is today.

Using a Content Calendar to Organize your Content Creation, Management and Distribution

A Content Calendar is your most powerful weapon in organizing your content. Print publishers have always used them, but they call them Editorial Calendars. The benefits and capabilities are abundant and essential: keep your content creation and publishing on track, maintain a consistent editorial theme and tone, avoid the stress of impending deadlines, ensure you won’t be without content when emergencies arise, facilitate cross collaboration across multiple departments and personnel, and then some. For companies with multiple content contributors and more cross staff collaboration, it’s best to divide the content calendar into 2 separate calendars: 1.) Year and 2.) 30-60 Days.

The Year Content Calendar

Plan out your 12 months of content creation according to an overall arc that incorporates key buying patterns, special industry events, product launches, and any significant or seasonal happenings occurring during the calendar year. This allows you to keep the entire team in the loop and coordinate across different departments. Your staff will be prepared and always on their “A” game. Instead of reactionary press releases, marketing pushes, blog posts and seminars—they can anticipate key events and lead the online conversation. This is how thought leaders and key industry players maintain their reputations for being on the front lines of innovation, knowledge and power.

A few things that must make it onto your annual Content Calendar:

Does seasonality affect your business? If you sell greeting cards, for example, then holidays are prime times for your sales cycle.
Are there any wide scale industry events, awards, or happenings that occur?
Are you planning any product launches, major staff changes, or special announcements?
When you plan a year out, you are in the best position to coordinate your content creation for maximum effect.

The 30-60 day Content Calendar

The 2 month content calendar gets into the nitty-gritty details of your content creation strategy. Here you focus on coordinating your content with your company’s marketing pushes, sales promotions, special events, current trends and significant industry news. Your content contributors and collaborators all have advance notice of their upcoming deadlines, so they can adjust their workflow accordingly. This cuts down on missed deadlines and miscommunication of priorities, responsibilities and content criteria. This also allows you to incorporate vital components for web optimization into your content: multi-media, internal links and key words.

The consistency and superior quality of content that results will boost engagement (blog comments, social media mentions and likes) and social sharing (reposts, retweets, and shares)—enhancing website optimization even more! If you work for a larger organization, you may want to add workflow steps (including legal, fact checking, proofreading, or other elements) that will streamline your content creation and project management process.

What to include in your Content Calendar:

Your calendar should have all the basic information needed for content creation: Names of those assigned to each project, deadline, any specific criteria (keywords, interviews, production needs, etc). Content that should be included is not limited to social media posts and blogs.

A well-rounded, engaging content marketing plan includes all forms of content:

videos, photos,
presentations,
webinars,
social media posts (Facebook updates, Tweets, LinkedIn updates and YouTube uploads)
Webcasts,
marketing materials,
press releases,
industry and business articles,
industry conferences,
white papers,
FAQs
noteworthy events.

The advantage of a content calendar is its function as a project management tool. You can break down bigger projects into smaller chunks, making the most of your creative concepts and stretching your content pieces. A video can be segmented into shorter videos that can be shared over time as a series. An interview can be split into Part 1 and Part 2, serving as two blog posts. A case study can become a white paper. A popular blog can be shared via Facebook and tweeted out. You may cover a large industry conference and release it as a combination of podcast, blog post, video interviews, product reviews and “real time” tweets and social media updates. With the organization power a content calendar provides, the possibilities are endless.

A Content Calendar is intelligent Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing strategy is a long term plan designed to attract leads, build relationships, convert inbound leads into customers and retain those customer relationships through on-going trust, likeability, and value. A long term plan needs an effective tactic for organization and management. A Content Calendar is that tool. It’s one of the strongest and most useful of all the tools in your Content Marketing tool box. Use it well and your online marketing will sky rocket your brand above the content clutter and increase your market share, while solidifying your spot as key player and thought leader in your industry.

Do you use a Content Calendar?

Online Community

Community is a Click Away.

Online community gives those with challenging schedules, physical or financial limitations, and social inhibitions an opportunity to engage with others in a meaningful and valuable way. Of course, online community can not completely replace all social interaction. It is important for us as social animals to engage with one another on a personal level that allows us to look into another’s eyes, place a supporting hand on a shoulder, or share a supportive embrace when needed. But for those with physical handicaps that limit their ability to move freely, those with obligations and responsibilities that leave little free time for socializing, and people that lack the skills to easily initiate relationships with strangers, online community can be an ideal approach to engaging with a community and becoming part of a group.

Online it’s easier to make the first move because the internet provides a barrier that insulates against the fear of rejection and judgement. For those who have too little resources, (be it time, money, or both), the internet is overflowing with communities that are available to access on your time, without a dime, and only require two things: 1. Internet access and 2. a device on which to use the internet.

5 Free Types of Community You Can Join Today:

1. Skillshare “Skillshare is a global marketplace for classes. Learn real-world skills from anyone, anywhere. We power thousands of creative, collaborative classes on everything from programming to design to crafts.” The classes on skillshare are both online, and off, and some charge a fee, while others are free. But the one thing they have in common is they work almost like a workshop style class where you engage online with other students, share your work and projects online, and are part of a small educational community. I am taking 3 free online classes over the next three months myself. It is a wonderful way to learn on my own schedule without having to shell out money when funds are tight.

2. Linkedin Linkedin Groups provide a free and easy approach to making valuable business connections and joining in high quality discussion with your peers and leaders in your industry.

3. Moma.org For artists and art lovers, the Museum of Modern Art has an online community which allows you to browse art work (Film, Paintings, Sculpture and more) and join the conversation with their “Inside/Out” community where staff and everyday art enthusiasts discuss various exhibits and art forms.

4. turntable.fm Music lovers have their own online community as well. Turntable was created to “connect you, your friends and others in a real time music listening experience.” It offers a variety of “rooms” in which you, as an avatar, can walk in and DJ with others in the room. You can live chat throughout your music listening and playing experience, and chose to “follow” DJs whose music you really vibe with. It is free to join, listen and play music in any of the countless rooms, each created around different genres of music. And if you don’t find a room that fits your unique musical taste, no problem, you can create your own room and invite others to come chill and nod their avatar heads to your beats.

5. Quora.com The online community to share information, ask questions and crowd source answers is a click away and completely free of charge.“Quora connects you to everything you want to know about. Quora aims to be the easiest place to write new content and share content from the web. We organize people and their interests so you can find, collect and share the information most valuable to you.” With Quora knowledgeable people possessing a wide variety of experiences and points of view are easily accessible and happy to engage. “When you want to know more about something, Quora delivers you answers and content from people who share your interests and people who have first-hand knowledge — like real doctors, economists, screenwriters, police officers, and military veterans.”

While Life may seem lonely at times, there is no excuse to be completely alone if you have access to the internet. Whatever your passion or interest, economic status, or social aptitude , there is a free, online community where you can connect with others in a valuable and enjoyable way.

Which online communities make you feel at home?

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How to Banish Your Inner Grinch

Tis the season for goodwill toward your fellow man and counting your blessings! The holidays are in full swing and we are called to be festive around the office and at home. Operation Secret Santa has launched, cards and decorations have descended upon desks and homes, and everyone is jubilant about family visits, holiday parties, and merry making.

Yet for some, festive is not a natural state of being and holiday glee is more akin to holiday chores: last minute shopping, frenzied cooking and cleaning, hosting the perfect party for your Stepford family and friends, decorating the house, dressing the tree, and all that wrapping! Not to mention the extra few pounds that will be hugging your waist as you try to find the perfect little black dress for New Year’s Eve. Feeling grateful in the midst of it all? Easier said than done for some!

But not to worry, here is the official guide to staying in the holiday spirit through the stress of gift giving, family strife, tree decorating (read: keeping the cat out of the tinsel and the pine needles off the floor), party throwing, your kids’ never-ending Santa lists, ugly Christmas sweaters, post office backup, school vacation, food comas, and mall parking lot brawls.

How to turn your Gripes into Gratitude

  1. It could always be worse.  

Perspective is vital to many areas of Life.  For those who always see the glass of eggnog half empty, a little pivoting of perspective can help build the habit of viewing life with thankfulness.  And just as with a muscle, the more you flex and tone your ability to see things through grateful eyes, the stronger your gratitude grows. For instance, when you draw your marketing boss’ name in the gift exchange and your natural reaction is for your stomach to tie in knots, sit back and brainstorm on why this is a blessing, and not a potential for a giant career misstep (you get chocolate and he’s allergic, or you give a gift certificate to a steakhouse and she’s a card-carrying PETA member). For example: It can be a convenient opportunity to get in good with the boss’ executive assistance, and we all know that the admin holds the key to access, and thus influence. Approach your boss’ right hand discretely, admitting that you are shopping for the Head Cheese and would love to know if he or she has a favorite candy, a preferred wine or a Starbucks addiction. You can bond over your shared secret and use it to form a powerful connection that will serve you well the next time you want to schedule a meeting. Perspective is powerful and looking past the clouds to the silver living opens up a world of opportunities you will miss if you aren’t in the right frame of mind.

2. Help those in Need.

There’s no better way realize your blessings than to be around those that have none. Your good fortune is glaringly apparent when you come face to face with true hardship and tragedy. It will be difficult to bemoan all the preparation, work and clean-up of a large Thanksgiving Dinner if you spend a couple of hours serving meals to families that do not have an oven, cannot purchase groceries, and have no table around which to gather with their loved ones. It’s less satisfying to sneer at the unruly mall crowds and complain about your lengthy shopping list when you spend a few hours delivering winter coats and shoes to those for whom the gift of a jacket or rain coat is more than they can expect to receive all winter long.

3. Take 10 minutes a day to reflect on positive things, people and experiences in your Life.

It’s easy to be hyper-focused on the additional errands and expense of the holidays as we’re running around trying to accomplish everything while our time and funds are being stretched to their limits. In fact it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and over budget that we have to remind ourselves to take a breather and pull back to look at the bigger picture. Remember why we are entertaining our out of town family? We miss having them around like when we were growing up, and we want to catch up with the younger generations as they pass through birthday parties, graduations, and Justin Beiber infatuations. If we focus on the good that Life is bringing us, we can avoid falling into the trap of holiday stress.

The holidays are a wonderful time to create lasting memories with friends and family. Don’t become so wrapped up (pardon the pun) in the desire to purchase the perfect gift or cook a flawless bird that the joyful times pass you by. Stockings, pumpkin pie, and tree ornaments come and go with the holiday season, but love and gratitude can live in your heart all year long.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones! As I count my blessings, here are a few of my favorite things:

What are you grateful for this year?