2014 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 260 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Push

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About three years ago, it hit me like a truck. I was turning 30 soon, was happily married, had the last of three babies and there would be no more. Basically, by age 29, I had reached most of life’s milestones WAY ahead of schedule. All that was left to do was wait for the sleigh ride in to menopause and, eventually, death. There was just one more thing I had to cross off my list between now and death; an education.

When living pay-check-to-pay-check, it can be really hard to jump off the daily merry-go-round of wake-up, get the kids to school, and drive to a job you hate so you can pay bills you hate, rinse, lather and repeat. Day-in and day-out. Heading back to school did not seem at all feasible. Then, as luck would have it, I had a mid-midlife crisis. Enter roller derby.

I had watched Ellen Page in the movie “Whip it”, I become so inspired that I started a Facebook page to see if any ladies wanted to help me start a roller derby league in my city. There seemed to be a few women in the area looking to do the same. After a brief meeting in August of 2010, we had our first official practice that month and less than a year later, our first public “bout” where 500 people showed up to watch. It was on that flat oval track, I learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of, outside of changing cloth diapers and asking “Do you need help finding anything?” I was a force to be reckoned with, both physically and mentally.  I might have been going in circles, not only on the track, but also in my life. It was time I put that momentum to good use and reinvent myself.

After an entire summer spent hell-bent and determined to get back to school for September 2013, it all fell in to place and I was a student after 13 years. It was terrifying and exhilarating. I made a promise to myself to push beyond any limits and this was my one shot to attain everything I wanted: a rewarding career, a better quality of life for my family and, ultimately, pride in myself.  This was it. Don’t blow it.

Knowing that good jobs are hard to find in my city and the competition is high, I needed to position myself at the top of my class,  seize every opportunity I could to increase my chances for employment, and start looking for internships early, even before I was in my second year. One of my biggest hurdles was my resume. Up until this point, I had only worked in retail, albeit management positions, but still retail. It was hard to break out of that skill set.

In the spring of 2014, after completing my first year, I set out to get an entry level marketing position. There were many offers for selling motor oil in Walmart parking lots and door-to-door canvassing but I had higher hopes. Finally, I accepted a job as a Marketing Coordinator and Catering Manager at a local business. It was here that I gained excellent entry-level marketing skills, great networking connections and large scale event planning and execution. It was the perfect summer job.

Now, I am in my graduating year. I ended my first year on an extremely high note and received the “First Year Business Administration Award”. Basically, I set the bar very high for this year. The good news is, I have already have had a great start.

Currently, I am a Project Manager for my Enactus group and started a “Career Closet” tailored to help college students acquire proper work attire. I am the Food Bank Coordinator for the Student Association for the second year and I won 2nd prize at the “Start-Up Weekend Competition. Most recently, I accepted a part-time job at a weekly paper. It’s only November but, school year 2014-2015, I already own you and I’m just warming up.

It’s hard for me to say right now what my next goal is. The thought of graduating still seems so far away. Just getting back to school was a goal, and honestly, I didn’t think it would ever happen. It’s not easy to drop the routine and pick up something entirely new with next to no resources. But two very smart women in my life said to me at the start of my mid-midlife crisis: “No one grows from a place of comfort.” and “Throw yourself out a window and the universe will catch you.”

Well, it would appear that I was extremely uncomfortable and needed to move from my place of discomfort and the window was wide open for me to jump out of, figuratively or literally. But instead of the universe catching me, I caught myself. My life in 18-months is no longer recognizable from where I once stood. The roller skates are hung up but are a constant reminder to keep my momentum up and push myself to stay on track.

Business Writing Sample #3 – Professionalism

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Professionalism

In an age where the business landscape is being shaped more and more by technology, it is not surprising that less and less of the business practices are done in person and we are losing basic interpersonal skills. The real dilemma comes into play when we need to leave our cubicles, trade a monitor for real-life interactions and truly see what our degrees have taught us about professionalism.

Emails have revolutionized how we communicate in the business environment. With business operations running 24 hours and seven days a week in the global environment, emails are convenient and cost effective. However, if one does not understand the limitations that come with communicating in the written word, all hope is lost on becoming successful in one’s chosen field.

Email communication is limited in context. Face-to-face interactions have the ability to convey irony and sarcasm. Emails do not. Even with the most emphatic use of capital letters and exclamation points, the comedic timing of a joke can be misconstrued as being demanding and rude to the reader of the email. When using email, it is important to keep the reader’s interpretation of the message in mind.

With the importance of emails, texts, and voice-mails in today’s professional world, whether one was a good English/Language Arts students will be painfully evident. One’s ability to communicate effectively and efficiently will ultimately be the true path to success. Having a wide and comprehensive understanding of words and language is more important than having the latest laptop or greatest diploma in economics. No amount of technology or training can make up for poor verbal skills and poor writing habits.

The advantages of technology in the workplace has broaden our scope of capabilities as mere humans. The use of cell phones has made it possible to connect personally, basically, with almost anyone in the world in real time. This advantage can be for better or worse. It is true that cellphone use is universally accepted; however, the amount of time and the timing of the use is becoming problematic.

Inappropriate and inconsiderate cellphone use is rude, unprofessional and sometimes deadly. Cellphones are the new addiction. Before answering a call or text, one needs to be aware of his/her surroundings and whether it is appropriate and a convenient time to answer or if it can wait. Not everyone in a meeting needs to hear one’s blood test results and that unknown call coming in while driving can wait until one can pullover or get home.

With all of today’s distractions, it is not surprising that no one can remain focused and actively listen when actual people are talking. There are emails, texts and phone calls that all need to be answered. In the face of all that is professional, there is nothing more important than the person standing in front of you. One needs to disengage from all the trappings of technology and remember a simpler time when people would actually talk face-to-face. As we move further and further in to the age of globalization and technology, some good old fashion professionalism can be the deciding factor on whether one has a future in those advancements.

Top 10 Tips for Finding Vintage Style in the Modern World

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I am having a love affair with vintage clothes! I never thought I would be that girl searching racks and bins. Even in my 90’s Grunge phase, I was the one buying the new flannel shirts and army boots at the mall. Feel free to judge me. I was always so jealous of my friends who could pull together the most random pieces and look effortlessly perfect. I would try and end up looking like a homeless orphan.

Vintage has always been a hot trend. There has never been a time in history where it was uncool to wear another time in history. Well, maybe I would hold off on wearing chain-mail vests and hoop skirts but then again, maybe you can work that kinda thing.

Through the years, I have learned what looks good on my body and what message I want my clothes to communicate. No matter what you like to wear, wear it with confidence because ultimately, you should be wearing the clothes and the clothes should not be wearing you.

Here are a few tips to help you sort through the grandpa cardigans and 70’s polyester jumpsuits:

1) Accentuate the positives. Most people are able to find one part of their body they really like. Whether it be the top or bottom half that you feel the most confident about, build your wardrobe around those aspects. No matter what your size or shape, if you have the confidence to pull it off, run with it.

2) Prepare a fashion game plan ahead of time. Do a little research on seasonal trends, what look you are hoping to acquire and gain inspiration. Flip though some magazines, scroll through Tumblr or check out Pinterest. If you feel overwhelmed, think about who you know or maybe a celebrity whose styles you really like and use those pieces to best fit your style and body-type. At the very least go with a colour scheme in mind. This will help narrow your search and keep you focused.

3) Vintage clothes shopping is a marathon. Be sure you are in a good frame of mind. Make sure you have the time and patience to rummage through racks and spend a decent amount of time trying articles on.

4) Wear your best foundation garments. Be sure to wear a good bra and whatever underclothes you would typically wear. I always wear pantyhose and Spanx (Ain’t no shame in it!). It not only gives you a better understanding of how the clothes will work for you but provides a good barrier between you and unwashed items.

5) It’s not you, it’s the garment. Do not get frustrated if you are usually a size 10 but finding vintage clothes to be fitting smaller. There are a number of reasons why trying on clothes is upsetting to some people. Keep in mind that standard sizes have fluctuated over the years or the original owner of the articles may not have followed the washing guidelines and thus, shrunk or warped the fabric or seams.

6) Look for brand names. This rule is not because I encourage anyone to become a “Label- Whore” but because brand name names hold up better. There is something to be said about high-end brand names and it does have something to do with the original price point; quality. The designer of these garments realized that their name was on the label and on the line and that the wearer was a walking billboard. No matter what you end up picking out, be sure to check that the zippers work, the buttons are all there and that there are no rips or stains.

7) Natural materials and fibers. Wool, silk, leather and 100% cotton linen are good finds. These materials and fibers hold up better over time than compared to polyester and synthetic. They also breathe better on the body.

8) Bring a trusted friend. Aside from the company while you shuffle and sort, a “Bin Buddy” can give you positive insights that a mirror sometimes can’t.

9) Accessorize. Look at the scarves, belts, brooches, hats, shoes and costume jewelry. Sometimes it can be a small accent that pulls a whole look together. I love to add a small belt around my waist to cinch a dress better to my hips or break up a patterned A-line skirt and solid colour blouse combo or vice versa.

10) It is what you think that matters. If you are comfortable and confident in a range of patterns or pieces, go for it! It doesn’t matter the size on the tag or the era it was made, if you feel like a million bucks in a $2.99 Hawaiian shirt then, by all means, shine on!

Keep your look fun, fresh and true to you! Now, cue Macklemore’s “Thift Shop” and get your vintage archaeological dig on for that diamond in the rough.

Summertime Book Reviews #2: “If You Need to Cry, Go Outside” By Kelly Cutrone.

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“If You Need to Cry, Go Outside” by Public Relations maven Kelly Cutrone is the tale of sex, drugs and a rockin’ Rolodex. It chronicles her life from her childhood in the suburbs, her fateful move to New York City, her divorces, birth of her daughter, her spiritual enlightenment after battling drug addiction and more career resurrections than a modern day Pucci-wearing Lazarus. In short, I loved this book at biblical proportions.

If Sophia Amoruso’s book #GIRLBOSS failed to examine the personal struggles of building a one-woman brand name and empire, Kelly Cutrone’s book makes up for it in spades. Cutrone does not hold back. There are many windfalls and missteps. However, it is her willingness to examine her inner-self, the path she has chosen and search for spirituality in a 140- characters-or-less world that keeps this novel from being a brag book, too preachy or flaky. Did I mention that at one time she was a pseudo-pop star and read Tarot Cards on the beach for money? ‘Cause, yeah, that happened.

Like any good Public Relation professional, Kelly always has a positive spin on all her personal and professional dealings. From such personal lows like being fired multiple times by clients, being professionally attacked in print, two divorces and being a junkie in Beverly Hills, Cutrone always had the wherewithal to forge ahead and turn the page. Which in Kelly Cutrone’s case, would be to the Fashion & Style section.

I have a profound respect for female entrepreneurs. It takes a lot of guts to strike out on your own. But with gals like Kelly Cutrone willing to mentor young women and share their insights, we are in good company.

Summertime Book Reviews: Part 1 – #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

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With my head stuck in a summer rut and feeling less motivated than usual, I turn to inspirational literature to help me keep my head in the game. Lately, I have been reading books about other women in business. In a effort to learn as many tricks of the trade and gain insight, I selected 3 titles; “#GIRLBOSS” by Sophia Amoruso, “If You Need to Cry Go Outside” by Kelly Cutrone and “I Shouldn’t be Telling You this: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know” by Kate White. Stay tuned for a book review trilogy.

My first summertime read was “#GIRLBOSS” by “Nasty Gal” (clothing) founder Sophia Amoruso. “Nasty Gal” is Sophia’s vintage Ebay shop turned million dollar retail clothing business. Immediately upon starting this book, I learn that any business I may start needs to have a name I won’t deeply regret when I’m forty. But in Sophia’s “Nasty Gal” case, it works and “would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?”. Probably. It was Sophia’s intuitive business sense and keen eye for fashion that carried the business from hobby to industry.

Sophia is not a Harvard School of Business graduate. In fact, she is a photography school drop-out, a former “Freegan” with a penchant for dumpster diving and a converted shoplifter. Needless to say, she is my new idol. She had the recipe for self-destruction but her strong sense of self directed her ambition in a positive way. She had navigated customer engagement on social media through online communities like Ebay and MySpace long before Facebook turned us all in to “Like-Button-Hamsters”.

Amoruso, like all entrepreneurs, had to find what she loved to do as a hobby and sculpt it in a feasible stream of revenue. I know that sounds like finding the Holy Grail, but believe it or not, your passion for a particular hobby or craft will ultimately bring you success beyond your wildest dreams. How you ask? If every day you wake up to a (hobby)job you do not hate and you feel good about working hard at it, success will follow. Hard work pays off ten-fold. Happiness is the key to fulfillment not money. Even Sophia “#GIRLBOSS” Amoruso would agree with me.

I loved reading Sophia’s insights and tough-chick attitude. It really spoke to me. My only critique is that it only scratch the surface and could have gone a little deeper on her fears and self-doubts. No one is free from the negative little voices in their head, not even a #GIRLBOSS. It is the ability to silence or overcome those fears that allows to you embrace your true potential. It is very clear the Sophia’s #GIRLBOSS mentality is strong, well-defined and infectious. It was the perfect summertime read to kick me out of my rut.

…To be Continued

Business Writing Sample #2– Comparing Japan and Canada’s Business Environment.

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With the business environment becoming more and more globalized, it would be in almost naive to not research how business is handle in other countries. The simplest non-verbal interactions can lead to big miscommunication if not known. Before venturing abroad to make business connections and deals, it is always advisable to do a little research and see how your country’s business practices stack up against your destinations’ approaches.

Two countries that vary greatly in business practices and tradition would be Japan and Canada. Japan has a very traditional and family oriented business environment while Canada is more open market and individualized. However, both have proven to work effectively together over a long-term business relationship when there is a mutual gain and respect.

Japan business structure is always a family affair. Although, members of an organization are not blood-related it is to be understood that the relationship between employees and employers is as if they were. Japanese business culture is based around the notions of team work and long-term relationships with employees and clients. There is a mentality that “no one succeeds if we all don’t succeed“. In Japanese business hierarchy you are to treat all your co-workers as if they were family and they are to share their success and failures with you and vice versa.

In Canada the business hierarchy is more a tall structure. There are levels in the business structure that workers can be achieved solely if they outperform their cohorts. This can lead to a very hostile and competitive work environment that could be deemed toxic. However, with the globalization of the business world shifting towards “synergy” and the notion that team work can lead to innovation and more successful outcomes, Canada and other western world business are learning from “old world” approaches to business.

In order for cross-continental business to be successful there needs to a sincere effort to break down communication barriers both verbal and non-verbal. The non-verbal cues of communication can be a big learning curve to those who are unfamiliar with Japan’s “speak with your eyes and not your mouths” method of communication.

Japanese culture has a whole other level to communicating that does not included making sounds. They are very attune to what their bodies are saying and what others’ bodies are saying to them. The people of Japan pay close attention to their mouths, hands and facial expression are communication. This may be a big eye-opener to anyone coming into their environment unaware of what their own body language is expressing.

Canadian’s are known for being friendly, self-deprecating and apologetic. Aside from the fact they have two official languages, it can be said that Canadians are very articulate and easy to talk to. Canadian can sometimes be deemed as indirect in their verbal communication as they wish not to offend or insult anyone. Canadians could be considered a lot like Americans in their easy-going nature.

Both Canadian and Japanese business women face many of the same challenges when entering the workforce.  Both countries’ women face discrimination as far as their abilities to perform. They are also less likely to hold upper management positions. Business women in both countries are more likely to hold clerical positions than CEO or top manager.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, it has been women who have experienced less employment compared to their male counterparts. In an effort on both countries’ part to encourage economic recovery, more women have been employed and remained employed. Another area of business where women have experience success since the recession is in entrepreneurship.

In any business, regardless of geography, how well the business is servicing its’ customers will dictate success. It is here were Canada and Japan differ greatly. It would appear in the customer service realm of business, Japan not only talks the talk but walks the walk. It would be wise for all businesses to take note of the efforts Japan makes to meet their customer expectations and needs.

In Japan, customers are not solely a means of revenue. Customers are kings and queens and need to be treated as such. Every effort is made to make the customer’s experience a pleasant and enjoyable one. This need for long-term relationship building in business is not just a policy for personnel but customers, too. Japanese business culture is not about closing the deal but opening the door to creating superior customer relationship.

With more and more customers doing their shopping on-line, the western world needs to revamp its’ approach to customer service to get customers off their devices and into their stores. North America’s has many large “big-box” stores and it can be very hard to find personnel to help with customer service. Even if one is found, it’s a gamble as to the degree of helpful service attainable. Long gone are the days of “service with a smile” and “the customer is always right”. The western world should definitely take a few pointers from Japan’s approach to customer service.

No matter where on the globe you are doing business, it is safe to say the globalized business world can learn a lot from each other as far as diversity and approaches to business. With the introduction of globalization to the business environment, it has never been more important to learn, appreciate and embrace different culture’s values and traditions. If we all make an effort to utilize the best approaches to handling business from all areas of world, we will create not only a superior work experience but better working environment.