3 Ways You Can Network During The Holiday Season

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” -Vanessa Van Edwards

 

Oh the holidays! Nothing quite like the smell of peppermint and gingerbread, and all the little kid’s faces when they open their presents (#warmandfuzzy) Still fresh in my mind, I remember six Christmas’ ago exactly what I wanted… no it wasn’t a Red Ryder BB gun; it was a job. Being fresh out of college and not interning at a single place, I was finding quite the challenge in actually landing that elusive rewarding career. When I look back, I was an absolute fool to not utilize the holiday season. Aside from the songs and good cheer, you’re getting a complete network in front of you! Here are my three ways you can network during the holiday season:

 

The Family – In my world family comes first and networking is no exception. This holiday season when you might see family who you don’t usually see, really voice your needs. I used to be incredibly shy or even scared if I told family that I didn’t have a job or my life together. Screw that! Voice your needs and put the energy of what you want in your life out there. Really share your goals and the steps you want to take to achieve them. You’ll be surprised who is listening!

 

Spread the Wealth – Businesses love individuals who go above and beyond. They want well rounded associates not only professionally, but people who go above and beyond in their personal lives as well. A great way to get an employer’s eye is to ask to set up a toy drive or donation box at their facility. Even if you don’t work there (but one day might want to) it’s such a great gesture and will be sure to catch someone’s eye. Monitor your donation drive, speak to company employees about your passion for the drive, and see the project through. At the end of your drive thank the company for participating, and then voice your interest. You’ve already made your first impression and have shown the company you can successfully start a project, connect to its purpose, and see the project through. All the while giving to a tremendous cause.

 

Get Out There – Aside from Family and Volunteering there is one more strategy to network… get out there! Shopping for holiday gifts, taking a break for lunch, or even checking in on LinkedIn during the holiday season, all boast opportunities to build and gain connections. Of course we never know when a networking opportunity will hit, which makes it so important to be open to introduce yourself and get a conversation going; it could just create the opportunity that you’ve always wanted.

 

Conclusion – This is the season of giving; but not just to others. Be sure to give yourself the gift of opportunity. Networking happens everywhere and anywhere; take your time and really voice what you need and what you’re looking for. What are your dreams and what are you working towards? People want to know, including me! Share in the comments below what you’re working towards, and what you want to accomplish in the New Year!

How I Learned Web Page Design From a Plumber

 

“Believe in yourself, your abilities and your own potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream of and hope for.” – Roy Bennett

 

Lately I’ve been getting alot of compliments on the new look of the site. It was a big move for sure, and so much was learned during the site migration. It wasn’t until recently that one of my friends asked how I knew so much about web page design, site layout, reading source code, yada yada yada. I started thinking about how to answer this question and thought this would make a really empowering blog topic.

 

You see, from the job descriptions we read, to the tasks we only “wish” we could achieve; it becomes apparent that we put some major limitations on ourselves. However, today’s blog is going to be my story of how I learned web page design; not from college, or even webpage design classes, but from a Plumber. Without further adieu here is the story of how I learned web page design…

 

The Plumber’s Story –  Everyone loves a good story, and this one picks up on one summer day in my Mother’s kitchen of all places. She hired a plumber to fix her kitchen sink and as he was just finishing up and heading out, I came home from my college classes. He asked me, “hey I’m starting a webpage design company, your ma says your good with computers. Wanna come work for me?” Now, this guy was like Mario straight out of Nintendo. Before me stood a sicilian Plumber in overalls with an italian accent that persuaded me just enough to say yes. I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little scared of being “whacked.”

 

On my first day with the Plumber I met him in a little office in Greenwood Lake New York. When I say the office was little, I mean my bedroom closet was bigger… Nonetheless I came to work and learn, and that’s just where we started. It turned out the Plumber had a dream of his own, starting a giant database of all the master plumbers all across New Jersey, and building these plumber’s websites.

 

After a few weeks of hands on training I learned to not only design websites but read and create source code. Some of it was absolute monotonous work, copy and pasting the same code over and over. However it taught me the importance of everything being uniform. Everything had to be linked, meta tags inserted, and the page completely SEO’ed (search engine optimized) so people could find us on google. The amount of attention to detail was crazy to me; but taught me to always double check my work.

 

But Why –  After a year of working for the Plumber, I finally asked him “when did you come up with this idea, and why is it so important?” He then explained to me that in just a few years it was planned that he would go blind due to macular degeneration. He had already had several operations on his eyes and would no longer be able to rely on plumbing to support his family. His goal was to get his website design business started and be able to create some sort of income for his family. He taught himself web page design by reading books, and watching youtube videos. He, like me, never took one class on web page design.

 

The Takeaway –  Whenever I get really down on myself I think about the lesson the Plumber taught me. There are too many times in life where credentials are over weighted. We convince ourselves that we can’t do things because we don’t have MBA’s, 10+ years experience, or don’t have “advanced” skills in excel or SAP. The biggest truth in life is that any skill can be learned.

 

The next time you’re challenged, connect to the scenario “what if I had to.” What if you had to learn a skill so that you can go deeper in your career, to bring in more income for your family, or even so you can be happier? If a Plumber can teach himself web page design, if a real estate agent (such as myself) can blog about personal finance and career advice; there’s certainly no reason you can’t do anything that your heart desires. The key takeaway I really want to drive home in this blog are that the only limitations that exist are the ones we set upon ourselves.

 

What do you think? How do you overcome your obstacles and stay focused on your goals? Share with us in the comments below!

Three Steps To Take If You Get Fired

“- If you fail, never give up because F.A.I.L. means “First Attempt In Learning”

End is not the end, if fact E.N.D. means “Effort Never Dies”

– If you get No as an answer, remember N.O. means “Next Opportunity”.

So Let’s be positive. – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

 

Let me tell you, getting fired is a strange feeling between feeling the purest failure and a future of complete uncertainty. I should know, just two months into my first job out of college I was fired. I remember all I could think about was how was I going to pay my student loans, how was I going to reinvent myself; without even officially inventing myself. There’s no doubt that being fired is a harsh feeling; but can at the same time be an incredible blessing. In this blog I’m going to share three tips on how to get back on your feet and start your next opportunity.

 

Let it Go – Let it go, let it go, you don’t need that job anymore (#frozen). I get it, after you’ve worked at a place for 10 years and you get fired it’s really tough to not be angry, resentful, or even downright hurt about what you did for that company. Here’s a little piece of advice that might help. Your feelings are natural and completely justified. Time is non refundable, we give our time to businesses in return for money, a refundable resource. When we get fired, or laid off, it results in wasted time which is extremely hard to get over. However the next step forward depends on this first step. Use any negative energy you might have to stick it to that last employer by getting a better, higher paying position. Take this time to recognize and discover your value and really connect to it. It’s an extremely powerful tool.

 

Be Open About It – Here’s something you might not hear everyday. Admit you were fired and be humble about it. Many times our initial reaction to getting fired is to be on the defensive. Try taking the exact opposite approach by showing humility and at the same time honing in on your strengths. Next comes the big question: Do I mention that I was fired on a resume or job interview? In my experience, I say a big Hell Yes. Listen, there is no exception to “honesty is the best policy” your future employer will not only appreciate your honesty and humility about the situation but will further appreciate your openness about what might have happened. Nothing is ever personal in business (although it may seem like everything is personal in business) sometimes things don’t work out and it’s totally fine. You’re ready to move on!

 

Connect to the Value You Create – This is a big one. Typically the next step after being fired is a bit of self reflection. Where do you go from here? Do you start your own business? try a career change or different industry? do you maybe try to utilize the time to extend your network? The possibilities are endless. Above all, take your time to connect to the value that you can create for not only yourself but others. No matter what interviews you go on, or clients you might take on with a business venture, you are defined by the value you create. I absurdly believe in that statement so I’ll say it again you are defined by the value you create. Before you apply for that next job think of what you can bring to the table, what ideas do you have, what skills (or as I call them, superpowers) do you possess that would be perfect for that next career. It’s not something that might be discovered overnight; but the thought is well worth the effort.

 

Conclusion – There’s no easy way to say this; getting fired sucks. But the only thing that sucks about it is the forced opportunity it brings to you. I’m a firm believer that everything in life is perspective; it’s all in how you look at things. A job is no different than a relationship; sometimes things go perfect and sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t mean that you should never invest yourself again. You are valuable and it’s time to show potential employers just how much they are missing out on by not having you on their team.

How Interning In High School Can Save You 100k

“Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.” -John Keats

 

I’m a man of many theories, but one of the strongest theories I have is about interning in High School. I find it absolutely fascinating how internships in and of themselves were really created for the College student as a means to gain exposure and experience in their area of study. Yet, with college debt on the rise what happens for people who didn’t get it right the first time? Or those who thought they knew what they wanted to do, but quickly fell out of love with their careers? Most go back to college and pick up another degree or advanced degree; which results in more debt. You see, Higher Education is no longer something that chooses what career path we will go down, it starts to dictate our financial future at the tender age of 18. A career can be changed; money owed to a lender cannot. In today’s blog I’m going to share my theory with you a little more in depth, and explain how interning in High School can save you 100k:

 

Testing The Waters – Knowing exactly what you want to do by 18 years old is nothing short of crazy impressive. The adolescent brain isn’t even developed, so it only makes sense to go ahead and make one of the biggest financial investments of your life (#sarcasm) So if you don’t know what you want to do or your passion, how do you find that? The answer lies in trying different things. In High School you might be crazy into music or art; on the other hand you might like teaching and helping others. I would highly encourage you to try any and all career paths; you’ll quickly realize if it is for you or not. It’s through this game of trial and error that we realize if a certain career is something we’d truly like to pursue. Look at it like dating a career. If something doesn’t pan out, explore other options. Now I know what you might be thinking “where the heck can I intern that allows High School students?”

 

Small Businesses and Mentors – Now I’m about 100% sure you probably won’t be interning at IBM in High School; however there are tons of small businesses who need help, would appreciate your help, and greater yet you can talk to and get real world experience from a business owner in the field you are looking to study. So say IBM isn’t looking for High School students to Intern for them; but it’s possible Joe’s Computer Shack down the road is; I’d go talk to them. Keep in mind it’s really tough to Intern with some careers; such as a Police Officer’s or Teaching. However it never hurts to seek out a Police Officer or Teacher, and ask for their time to talk about their career, and seek a mentor ship opportunity. It’s from hearing other people’s experiences mixed in with you experiencing different things, that allow you to make a sound choice about what path you might want to go down.

 

The Two To Five – The biggest reason I highly encourage High School students to Intern is to gain experience. The issue I have with our workforce system is that an entry level job requires 2-5 years experience. The problem is, even if you intern in college, you have nowhere close to 2-5 years experience! By starting to intern in High School you are gaining experience, and more importantly gaining contacts and networking. Whether you intern seasonally or part time in High School, by the time you graduate College you’ll have the 2-5 years experience in a certain area of study that the market requires. By utilizing this strategy you will without a doubt have a tremendous edge over other entry level applicants.

 

Conclusion – I think most people are wondering “ok, so how can all of this save me 100k?” In essence your education is a matter of “doing it right the first time.” By not going back to College for a different degree, or pursuing a higher degree just so you can get some movement in your career, can save you over 100k without question. If you are a High School student looking to intern remember to look at the small businesses around you. It takes alot to run a small business and by interning at one you will be guaranteed to learn alot about the subject matter you’re interested in. Most of all remember you have time. When you are in High School time is your greatest asset; if you use it wisely it will pay extraordinary dividends down the road. What do you think? Do you feel starting to Intern earlier will get you further ahead in the workforce? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

How To Network And Interview While Having Social Anxiety

“Man is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems”-Epictetus

 

Social Anxiety is no joke. For some, social interaction comes so naturally and effortlessly. Yet for some, social anxiety can be absolutely crippling and a huge obstacle to overcome. So how exactly can suffers of social anxiety put themselves out there? Specifically when it comes to creating and building a career that revolves around meeting, networking, and interviewing with other people? In today’s blog I’m going to explain how I overcame my own social anxiety and some tips and tricks I still use to this day that help me relax in social situations:

 

Just Breathe – Personally I hate it when people tell me to “just relax” obviously if your anxious you would love to relax, but you just can’t. What really helped me with anxiety in social situations was realizing what my body was telling me. Basically when we are under stress (or in some instances distress) our bodies go back into primal mode (think fight, flight, or immobilization ie.. deer caught in the headlights). When we become stressed or anxious our bodies think there is something wrong which triggers our sympathetic nervous system to react in a primal way. However to anxious people, we perceive a lot of situations as threatening, when in reality they really aren’t; which causes us to kinda freak out. So how can we beat this? The next time you’re feeling anxious in a crowd while networking, or before an interview, take deep breaths and concentrate on slowing down your breathing. Be sure to not breathe from your chest, but breathe from your diaphragm (you’re lower stomach) and feel yourself fill up with oxygen and then exhale the anxiety out (I actually visualize me exhaling whatever is causing my anxiety out of me and this helps). After a few breaths you should feel a little less tension in your shoulders and neck and hopefully have a clearer mind.

 

Visualization – As I touched upon in my last point visualization techniques have helped me quite a bit in social situations. It’s really important to note that if you do suffer from social anxiety, ironically the only way to feel better is by putting yourself in social situations. Putting yourself in situations that your brain doesn’t want you to be in is going to feel really weird and you are not going to want to do it, but it’s literally the only way for your brain to rewire and correct itself from past experiences. Specifically in interviews it can be crazy easy to feel that you are being judged; which I know causes me anxiety. A simple visualization technique that I use, is to envision the words that people say as water and they just drip off of me. This helps prevent me from not only absorbing other people’s feelings or needs but helps me acknowledge what they say and let it go. This really comes in hand during interviews as some interviewers might come off as more of interrogators than actual formal interviewers. It’s a great way of reminding yourself no one can judge, or critique you without your consent.

 

Practice – When I’m feeling socially anxious the last thing I personally want to do is picture myself in the same situation again, and again. However, it’s almost a necessity to get out of your comfort zone. Think from a biological standpoint what the brains purpose is. The brains purpose is to protect us, to make us feel comfortable. The problem with that is we can’t grow if we’re always comfortable. If not talking to people makes us feel good and safe that’s wonderful, but we won’t get anywhere in a professional career, interact with clients, or be able to create great things without the help of others. In essence these comforts our brain loves are holding us back. When you’re matched with social anxiety take a step back, reflect on why you maybe felt that way, or what triggered you; but get out there. Practice always makes perfect and the more you interview, and network the more you will become considerably more comfortable in social atmospheres.

 

Conclusion – Social anxiety can be absolutely horrible, but I truly believe in many instances it can be controlled through the natural reworking of the brain. Next time you are in a socially anxious situation remember to take deep breaths, visualize, and view the situation as practice. It’s ok if an interview or networking event feels awkward or doesn’t go the way you want it to go; it’s simply practice and there will be plenty of other opportunities for you to shine. I would love to hear your thoughts on this? What are some ways you might cope with social anxiety or stress? Leave us a comment below!

3 Reasons You Should Intern At A Small Business

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”– Martin Luther King Jr.

Internships kind of get a bad rap. There’s always that one friend whose job it is to brew coffee or run errands, while not really gaining “experience” in their area of study. Or there’s the other friend that will make crazy good money being an intern at a Fortune 500 company. When it comes to internships where’s the happy medium? I think many college graduates (or about to be graduates) feel that choosing a company to intern for is a little of an “be-all end-all” situation. If they do a really great job, the company might offer them a position. But if they intern at a not so reputable company, that might hurt their chances of landing that big gig. After all, interning at Apple or Google looks much better on a resume than any mom and pop business, right? I’m going to silent the masses and say, no. In fact, small businesses make up about 75% of the United States Economy, and interning at one might not be such a bad idea after all. In today’s blog I’m going to share my 3 reasons of why you should intern at a small business:

 

Learn Something – What is the purpose of an internship anyway? I hope you would say it’s to gain experience! There’s no better way to gain experience than working for a small business. Why is this? Because small business owners do (or at one time did) everything in that business. From ordering and accounting, to marketing and product research. They’ve built and had to succeed in every scope of business. If you ever have the opportunity to ask a small business owner questions about how they started their business, I would highly recommend to do so; and if you can intern under them that’s even better. What you’re getting by interning with a small business is a lesson in business creation. Whether you go on to work for Amazon or a small business around the corner, you’re going to have to know how the puzzle fits together.

 

Don’t Get Lost In The Mix – When I hear stories of students getting coffee or running errands for their internships it really gets me down. What do those things have anything to do with the subject matter the student is trying to learn? Unless your major is “coffee brewing” or “errand running” I don’t see a need. Each company should hold themselves accountable for teaching proper methods to their interns, and I feel most big businesses don’t quite adhere to it. I feel in bigger businesses the intern is maybe viewed at as “less than” than traditional associates or employees. Yet, in a smaller business I feel a different vibe. In a smaller business you will be put to work, because your work and help is needed. It’s not about happy hour at the end of the day; it’s about putting in an honest day’s work and learning as much as you can. This allows you to develop a certain skill set, which you can bring to the table at any business. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my professional career were from working for small businesses.

 

Connections – Something that always gets me is when I hear interning at a bigger business will get you so many more connections. I understand that, and to some point I agree with that. But what I’ve found is the number of connections doesn’t mean anything if the quality of the connection isn’t there. Let me explain: I would rather have 5 really strong connections than 100 weak ones. Connections and networking are to be used as a sense of leverage when you are looking for a position, or even another opportunity down the line. Think about the connections you have and how strong they are. If I didn’t feel I had a strong connection with someone I interned with, I couldn’t imagine reaching out to them 5 years down the road to vouch for me as a reference. When it comes to relationships it’s quality over quantity every time.

 

Conclusion – What are your thoughts on on interning at a small business? Do you think the connections you would gain at a bigger business or firm would outweigh the quality of connection you might get at a smaller business? Do you feel working directly under the CEO of a business would be a greater advantage in your future career? Let us know your thoughts and comments below we’d love to hear from you!