Get Affairs in Order After Death of Spouse

will

Serial entrepreneur Susan Alpert captured the good life with her husband of 46 years, Larry. She had a great family and a successful career, including running several multimillion dollar companies.

“After a fairy-tale wedding, we lived ‘happily ever after’ – as happy as real-life gets –except, of course, that’s not really the end of the story,” says Alpert, author of “Driving Solo,” (www.susanalpertconsulting.com). “Ten months after my husband was diagnosed with leukemia, I lost him – along with my passion and ability to focus on a purpose for living.”

She was overwhelmed with the amount of financial, legal, civic and personal paper work necessary for settling the present and for planning the future. For two years, Alpert says, she was a shell of the happy person she used to be. Despite her business savvy, she had initially experienced major difficulty in navigating her personal finances.

“I sat with a cosmic void in me which I had no idea how to fill; then, it suddenly came to me,” she says. “What does one do to handle the practical aspects of settling the estate after the loss of a loved one? Who do you notify and when? What papers do you need to file, and which documents do you need to amend? How do you untangle the pieces, and what do you do with them once there’s some order? How do you tend to business when you’re in a fog of grief?”

Each year, approximately 1.2 million Americans lose their spouses. Alpert decided she would help these survivors. She offers these tips for handling the immediate aftermath of a spouse’s death.

• Define your workspace. Establish a workplace where you will deal with the paperwork, phone calls, etc. If you have an office or guest room, either is a good choice. Do not use your living room, kitchen or bedroom – the places where you live. Your work space will be focused on the past, and your living space should be devoted to the present. Supply your workspace with stamps and envelopes, stapler, paper clips, file cabinet, etc.

• Keep a contact binder near your telephone to record the dates, names, numbers, and relevant notes regarding all phone conversations. This contact book is an essential resource that you will use often, and a great time-saver. This chronological listing makes it easy to identify at a glance with whom you spoke and when. Dedicate this binder to matters pertaining solely to the business aspects of your loss.

•  Non-family notifications to make immediately: You will need to notify your lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, banking institutions and the Social Security Administration to advise them of the situation. Keep records of your calls in your contact binder. Make certain you ask what you must do to follow through. Have them repeat it. When possible, get it in writing. An e-mail or fax is as good as a hard copy.

• Keep your receipts!: While it may be the farthest thing from your mind now, many of the expenses associated with this process can be reimbursed via the estate or itemized and deducted on your tax return. These include costs associated with documentation (e.g., photocopying, postage, and mileage) as well as records and receipts relating to funeral expenses. Later, you can check with your legal and tax advisors for current rules and regulations, and to discuss whether you qualify for these write-offs.

 

Susan Alpert is the creator of Chaos to Control, a program through which she coaches the bereaved on business aspects of death and other major life changes. Alpert – a successful businesswoman, educator and serial entrepreneur who has run several multimillion dollar companies – created the program after losing her husband of 46 years. Alpert is the founder of several companies, numerous focus groups and most recently her own consulting firm. Alpert holds master’s degrees in psychology and education, and has extensive experience in the fields of negotiation, finance, international services and business.

Take Financial Steps Before Walking Down the Aisle

couple finances

Even before the ceremony, an engaged couple should take time to sit down and get serious about finances. Newlyweds need to take control of their finances or else the walk down the aisle will only lead to a rocky financial future.

In a marriage, it’s important for newlyweds to realize that they are making a financial commitment as well as an emotional commitment. Couples need to have the conversation sooner rather than later, so they can develop healthy personal financial habits together.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice for newlyweds planning their financial future together:

  • Let Financial Skeletons Out of the Closet. After marriage, any personal debt becomes “our debt.” It is important to sit down early when marriage is being discussed to discover what outstanding obligations exist on both sides. These could include car loans, school loans and credit card debt. Review your credit reports to get a better idea what both people are bringing to the marriage.
  • Build a Budget. After you’ve gotten a grasp on your debt, it’s time to build a monthly budget. Look at your monthly bills to create a realistic picture of how you spend. Discuss your long term goals—such as buying a house or car and having kids. Figure out how much money to set aside each month to reach those goals.
  • Designate a Driver But Travel Together. In order to avoid confusion, one person should be assigned to pay the bills every month. This doesn’t mean that the other person takes a back seat role in managing the finances. Have a discussion at least every month about your financial progress in order map your path and nip in the bud any bad spending habits.
  • Plan for Emergencies. Many young couples fail to save money to get them through hard times such as health problems and unexpected unemployment. Experts recommend you set aside three to six months of salary in a rainy day fund—ideally an interest-bearing account that can be easily accessed.
  • Save for the Future. Retirement may seem like a long way off to newlyweds, but setting aside money now means reaping big rewards later on. Take advantage of both employers’ retirement matching programs—if available—or set up individual retirement accounts.
  • Make a Vow to Be Savvy Consumers. Many families have had their life savings decimated after becoming a victim to fraud or identity theft. Check out BBB’s website to find trustworthy businesses, get educated on the red flags of fraud and learn how to protect your identity.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

Avoid Card Skimming Scams

atm

It’s National Consumer Protection Week ,and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is proud to join the effort to educate consumers and businesses from becoming victims of fraud and scams. National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.

NCPW.gov offers consumers a wealth of tips and information from federal and state government and non-profit partner organizations. You can download and print the materials and share them with friends and neighbors, or order materials from select partners if you’re planning a larger event such as a conference or workshop.

It’s up to each of us to stay on top of scams and better protect not only ourselves, but our family (kids and seniors) friends and co-workers.

BBB Tips: Avoiding Card Skimming at ATMs and Other Money Machines

Be wary when you use automated teller machines (ATMs) and other payment processing machines. Thieves may be using high-tech tools in scams to capture your account information to steal your money.

These scams, known as “card skimming,” involve attaching devices to money machines that read the information on your debit and credit cards when you swipe them. When combined with a nearby concealed camera to record your personal identification number (PIN), the thieves can get everything they need to drain your account or to make unauthorized purchases. In addition to using the information directly, thieves may sell your information to others.

ATMs and automated payment machines in airports, convenience stores, hotel lobbies, and other welltraveled, public places may be most vulnerable to thieves who may think these machines are not regularly inspected by the machine owners. However, card skimming may take place at any ATM or card processing machine, including those on bank premises. As technology makes these devices smaller and more powerful, the risk of card skimming grows.

How High-Tech Thieves Operate
Thieves have many ways to steal your account information. They may attach a card skimmer that looks and acts like a genuine part of the ATM or other type of money machine. The device may be a simple, curved plastic sheath over the card slot. The skimmer reads the magnetic strip or computer chip on your card and transmits your account information to the thieves or saves the information until the skimmer is retrieved.

Thieves may also use a wireless camera concealed nearby in a box holding brochures or in a light fixture. The camera photographs or videotapes your fingers as they enter your PIN on a keypad or screen. Like a card skimmer, the camera can transmit images instantly or save them until the thieves retrieve the camera later. A camera and card skimmer can be used together.

Safeguarding Your Personal Bank Account Information
To help protect you, banks and retailers take measures to minimize the risk of fraudulent use of your debit or credit card, particularly when those purchases are made by telephone or online.

Before approving telephone purchases, retailers typically confirm your identity by asking for personal information. They may ask for your address, the last four digits of your social security number, or answers to security questions you created when you set up your account.

Retailers also may ask for the three-digit security code printed on the front or back of your debit or credit card. To protect your online transaction from electronic fraud, many commercial Web sites require you to unscramble a word or a number displayed as a fuzzy or distorted image that is difficult for software to read.

Protecting Yourself With Common Sense Security Measures
Ultimately, you must protect yourself against thieves and the tools they use to access your accounts to steal from you.

To protect yourself, follow these common-sense precautions.
• Walk away from an ATM if you notice someone watching you or if you sense something wrong with the machine; immediately report your suspicions to the company operating the machine or a nearby law enforcement officer.
• Before using an ATM, examine nearby objects that might conceal a camera; check the card slot for a plastic sheath before inserting your card.
• Never keep a written copy of your PIN in your wallet or purse as it could be stolen; instead memorize your PIN and keep a paper record hidden at home.
• When entering your PIN, stand close to the machine and hold your hand over the keypad or screen to make it more difficult for a person or camera to watch you.
• Beware of strangers offering to help you with an ATM that appears disabled and notify someone responsible for the security of the machine.
• Regularly review your account statements, either online or on paper, and check for unauthorized withdrawals and purchases. If you find one, immediately contact your bank or credit card provider, as this will limit your financial liability for fraudulent charges.
Federal laws limit your liability from debit and credit card fraud. Two federal laws, in particular, protect you.

The Truth in Lending Act generally limits your liability to $50 for any unauthorized use of your credit card. However, you are not responsible for unauthorized charges on your account—if you report a lost or stolen credit card before the card is used. Also, you are not responsible if the fraud results from someone using your credit card number alone rather than your credit card.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act also limits your liability for unauthorized use of your debit or ATM cards—if you quickly report the lost or stolen card. You are not held responsible for unauthorized charges if you report the fraud before unauthorized transactions are made. If unauthorized transac tions occur before you report your card missing or compromised, your liability depends on how quickly you report the loss.

Additional Information
The Federal Trade Commission provides more in formation on what to do if your card is lost or sto len in its fact sheet “Credit, ATM and Debit Cards: What to Do if They’re Lost or Stolen,” at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre04.shtm.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has answers about what to do about unauthorized charges and other banking issues at HelpWithMyBank.gov.

Card Skimming — How It Works: An electronic card swipe device, strategically placed on an ATM machine, records the data from a victim’s card. Another hidden device’s sensor or camera records the victim’s finger strokes on the keypad as the fingers tap in the victim’s PIN number. The device either sends the data to the thief immediately or saves it for the thief to retrieve later. The thief then can use the data online or by phone or copy it onto a blank card to be used in stores or restaurants.

Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks

computer coffee shop

Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places are convenient, but they’re often not secure. When using a hotspot, it’s best to send information only to websites that are fully encrypted. You can be confident a hotspot is secure only if it asks you to provide a WPA password. If you’re not sure, treat the network as if it were unsecured.

How Encryption Works
Encryption is the key to keeping your personal information secure online. Encryption scrambles the information you send over the internet into a code so that it’s not accessible to others. When using wireless networks, it’s best to send personal information only if it’s encrypted – either by an encrypted website or a secure Wi-Fi network.

An encrypted website protects only the information you send to and from that site. A secure wireless network encrypts all the information you send using that network.

How to Tell If a Website is Encrypted
If you send email, share digital photos and videos, use social networks, or bank online, you’re sending personal information over the internet. The information you share is stored on a server – a powerful computer that collects and delivers content. Many websites, such as banking sites, use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server.

To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.

Don’t Assume a Wi-Fi Hotspot is Secure
Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet and are not secure.

If you use an unsecured network to log in to an unencrypted site – or a site that uses encryption only on the sign-in page – other users on the network can see what you see and what you send. They could hijack your session and log in as you. New hacking tools – available for free online – make this easy, even for users with limited technical know-how. Your personal information, private documents, contacts, family photos, and even your login credentials could be up for grabs.

An imposter could use your account to impersonate you and scam people you care about. In addition, a hacker could test your username and password to try to gain access to other websites – including sites that store your financial information.

Protect Yourself When Using Public Wi-Fi
So what can you do to protect your information? Here are a few tips:
• When using a Wi-Fi hotspot, only log in or send personal information to websites that you know are fully encrypted. To be secure, your entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from the time you log in to the site until you log out. If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
• Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
• Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
• Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs. Pay attention to these warnings, and keep your browser and security software up-to-date.
• If you regularly access online accounts through Wi-Fi hotspots, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can obtain a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider. In addition, some organizations create VPNs to provide secure, remote access for their employees.
• Some Wi-Fi networks use encryption: WEP and WPA are the most common. WPA encryption protects your information against common hacking programs. WEP may not. WPA2 is the strongest. If you aren’t certain that you are on a WPA network, use the same precautions as on an unsecured network.
• Installing browser add-ons or plug-ins can help, too. For example, Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are free Firefox add-ons that force the browser to use encryption on popular websites that usually aren’t encrypted. They don’t protect you on all websites – look for https in the URL to know a site is secure.

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau

 

Do You Qualify for the Estate Tax Exemption?

estate tax

It’s nice to be able to share some good news with you!  When I can put the word “down” in the same sentence with the word “tax”, I think that is a really good thing!  The federal estate tax impact has gone down.  The exemption amount, which is the amount of assets one can pass without a “death tax” being due to the IRS, was scheduled to be reduced to $1 million on January 1, 2013.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act, passed on January 1, 2013, did give relief in this area.  After about 12 years of uncertainty in our estate tax planning, there is actually some certainty, at least for the foreseeable future.

Will the estate tax affect you?  There is a good chance it will not.  In order to be “hit” with federal estate tax, you will need to die as a single person with over $5.25 million in your estate, doubling that amount for a couple (with some qualifiers.)  This amount does include all your assets, including retirement accounts and life insurance.   The only catch is that at the death of the first spouse, an estate tax form must be filed with the IRS in order to preserve any of the first-spouse-to-die’s exemption amount (the amount of the $5.25 million which was not used by the first spouse).  This amount is indexed for inflation as well.  The estimate is that about 99.7% of Americans will not have an estate tax due.  This is good news!

This good news means we can now focus on what we have always wanted to spend our time and energies on:  provisions in our Wills and Trusts that best provide and protect our spouse and our families.    Although we will not need to create complicated “credit shelter trusts” in our documents, we may still want to consider creating a trust for our surviving spouse.  A trust can perform many valuable functions.  A very effective way I often see a trust used is to protect assets from a “next” spouse.  Certainly, remarrying can be all good after the death of a spouse, but generally, most people want what they have accumulated during a marriage to go to the children of that marriage, not to a “next” spouse or to the “next spouse’s” children.  Further, many times a trust can be used to allow a surviving spouse or a child to be able to qualify for governmental assistance.  This is often called a Special Needs Trust.  Of course, we will continue to use the trust instrument to help raise our younger children.  (And by younger, I mean, a child less than about thirty-five!)  The Trustee, chosen by you, can give direction on how these funds will be used and what percentage will be distributed at the appropriate age.

The Will is still the only document that officially allows you to name the Guardian of your minor children.  The Guardian is the person who will actually “house” your minor child if both you and your spouse are deceased.

So…do you need to change the documents you have in place due to the change in the law?  Certainly this is a great time to pull out your documents and review exactly what you have in place.  If you have a credit shelter trust and your estate is not in “danger” of exceeding the $10 million mark (if you are married) or $5 million (if you are single), you may be able to simplify your documents.  It may be that you have a Co-Trustee on the credit shelter trust.    The Co-Trustee may be somewhat cumbersome and may not be needed due to the change in the law.

Reviewing your documents periodically, regardless of the change in the law is always a very good idea.  I suggest you look at your documents at least every year and that you and your attorney review your estate plan at least every 3-5 years.  The maxim your mother taught is still as true today as the day she taught you…never put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today!

Chez Jules: Over the Moon, Crazy about Macarons

Deborah painstakingly creates her macarons in her kitchen at home.

By Allison Meyer

If you want to meet someone who is passionate about what she does, then seek out Deborah Johnson, owner and operator of Chez Jules, who has spent years in France learning and perfecting her skills in French cuisine. Now back in the United States, Deborah has channeled her talents into her home-based business of baking and selling macarons, a delicate French pastry.

Deborah’s journey as a lover of the French culture began in 1992 after she married a Frenchman and moved from New England to Versailles, France.  She embraced the culture with open arms and soon began to fit right in. She spent her time in France working as a private chef and leading gourmet walking tours. Deborah also received training in wine and cuisine from Cordon Bleu Institute, where she later went on to work as a translator for the chefs.

Deborah painstakingly creates her macarons in her kitchen at home.

Eighteen years later, the United States was calling Deborah home. In August of 2010, she moved to Tyrone to be closer to her family and quickly began to share her love for France with the Southern Crescent.

She worked for Williams-Sonoma as a culinary expert until May of 2012, when she was hired by Sur La Table to teach classes on baking and French-themed cooking. Sur la Table, Deborah explains, is “like a ‘Toys ‘R Us’ culinary store for adults.” The first class she was asked to teach was on French macarons, which was an opportunity that Deborah was very excited about. “I’ve been passionate about macarons since I moved to France,” she says.

For the record, maracons are nothing like the coconut Macaroons that are familiar to most of us. Rather, it’s two French meringues that sandwich a filling of ganache, butter cream, jam, or lemon curd in a moist, sweet, and flavorful bite with just a bit of a crunch. In France, macarons are the “ultimate dessert,” once served to the royal court in pairs with jams and jellies before the idea came to sandwich them together with a filling in the early 1900’s.

While teaching classes on macarons at Sur La Table, Deborah used their recipes. However, she also began to cook macarons at home, creating her own recipes and new flavors, and sharing them with neighbors and friends. Soon, as news of the scrumptious morsel was spreading by word of mouth, requests began to pour in for more. Deborah recognized an opportunity to build a business, but she could not sell them due to legal restrictions. That, however, was about to change.

On September 1st, 2012, the Georgia Cottage Food Law was passed, allowing people to bake, cook and sell non-hazardous foods in their homes. Foods are considered non-hazardous if they do not require time and/or temperature control for safety, such as breads, cakes, cookies, jams and nuts. Another stipulation of the law is that the products can only be sold straight to the consumers and not for retail use. The law’s passing was a big stepping stone for those wanting a home-based baking business. “It was perfect for me,” Deborah says, smiling.

The finished product

Three days after the law was passed, Deborah filled out an application and had her home inspected by the Department of Agriculture. She passed the inspection with flying colors, making her the first person in Fayette County to receive a Georgia Cottage Food License.  After that, she received her home occupation business license from Fayette Town Hall and went on to begin her macaron venture.

So far, it has been a very successful enterprise. “It’s been pretty incredible,” says Deborah, who has been given the title of “Macaron Queen” by many who have tried her heavenly treats. She loves that she gets to run her own business, which she proclaims is “her baby.” “Macarons are the next big fancy pastry,” she says. “They blow cupcakes away.”

Two to three days a week, Deborah wakes early to get started on the rather lengthy process of baking macarons. The delicious pastries come in many flavors and a variety of colors that she adjusts for each season. However, special requests can be made for most flavors year round.

As delicate and fancy as they are, Deborah insists “you don’t need to wait for a special event” to try out these French gems. But, be warned, once you give them a taste, you may be “over the moon, crazy about macarons” too.

 

 

 

 

Starting a Business Workshop 1/11 at CSU-Fayette

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Starting a Business Workshop 1/11 at CSU-Fayette

If you are considering starting a small business, this workshop is a crucial first step. Topics for discussion include:

  • traits of successful entrepreneurs
  • market research
  • legal structures for your business
  • estimating start-up costs & cash flow projections
  • financing alternatives
  • business failure factors
  • business planning

Since lack of planning is one of the top reasons new businesses fail, attending this comprehensive workshop may be one of the most important decisions you make prior to opening your business. A detailed business start-up book, “How to Start A Business: A Guide for Georgia Entrepreneurs”, and other handouts are provided. Receive 50% off each additional person with the purchase of one registration at full price, $69. All registrations must be made at the same time in order to receive this discount. This discount cannot be combined or used with any other discount or coupon.

The three hour workshop is from 9am – 12pm on Friday, January 11th.  The workshop will be offered at the Clayton State University-Fayette site located at 100 World Drive in Peachtree City.  Advanced registration is recommended.  Please see the link below for our class schedule or the attached flyer for more details.

http://www.georgiasbdc.org/subpage.aspx?cart=71b6a9a9-3adc-44cc-b98a-82a3ee22ed95&page_name=view_classes&city=Morrow&searchMonths=6

We will also offer this class again on May 14th from 9am – 12pm at the same location.

For more information, please contact Heather Chaney at 678-466-5100 or visit www.georgiasbdc.org.

Building Best Practices for Your Small Business

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Best practices—big corporations have been using the concept to make money for years. But what does the term “best practices” mean for a small business? And how do you arrive at the ones that make sense for your small business?

In a nutshell, any idea, policy or strategy – from how you build and maintain your website to getting customers to pay you faster – that improves your company’s performance and helps grow your business can be considered a best practice.

Finding best practices for your small business can benefit it in a number of ways:

* You can reduce costs by learning from what has worked for others, rather than investing the time and money in generating, developing and testing everything on your own.

* You can improve your company’s performance by bringing in new ideas that inspire your team to strive for a higher standard or new goals.

* You can avoid making others’ mistakes, rather than going through the process of making those mistakes yourself.

Finding best practices

Some best practices have value for virtually every small business across a range of industries. For example, using online tools for billing and receiving payments, managing online marketing, and securing business insurance can simplify everyday operations for most businesses.

Still, not every best practice that has worked for others in your industry – or outside it – will work for your business. To find best practices that make sense for your company:

* Evaluate what aspects of your business most need improvement. Is there a particular process or service that is costing you too much money? Perhaps you’re paying more than you think you should for business insurance that doesn’t cover everything you want it to. Maybe you need to improve your cash flow by getting clients to pay faster.

* Look for competitors, or other companies outside your industry, for whom your issue is not a problem – that means they’re probably doing something right. Or, seek out companies that have had a similar problem but resolved it.

* Seek information on small business owners you admire. You may find them in the business pages of your local newspaper, an industry journal or a mainstream business magazine. Read up on their stories and the paths they traveled to success. Evaluate whether their techniques could apply to your industry and business as well.

* Study business tactics for your industry in business journals, trade publications, blogs and community websites. Reading about what best practices work for others can help you foster innovation in your own company.

* After performing your competitive analysis and identifying new techniques, modify your processes accordingly. Set a timeline for implementing and benchmarking your new best practices.

* Pay attention to what others in your industry are doing to market their businesses digitally. Digital marketing is now an essential component of marketing any business, no matter how small or large. If you’re unsure of where to begin or how to manage your digital marketing efforts, get help. Online services like SearchManager from American Express OPEN, designed for small business owners, can help simplify search engine advertising.

Make sure you measure results. At the end of your test period for each best practice, you should see significant improvement in the issue you want addressed. If improvement doesn’t occur, re-examine your processes; they may need a slight tweak, or you may need to go back to the drawing board and find new ideas.

 

Source: ARA Content

Speaking “Skill Set” Translates to Better Careers

skill set

Most of us have heard the term “translating a skill set,” but many aren’t quite sure what it means, how it works, or why it’s important. As the economy continues to struggle and the world changes, jobs can become insecure or obsolete. New job titles emerge and each available position attracts multiple candidates. The ability to translate skills can put you a step ahead of the competition.

But what does it mean, exactly? Translating a skill set means breaking each job duty down into an underlying skill or skills. For example, a receptionist answers phones and transfers calls. That’s her primary function. But a good receptionist has many skills. She can be pleasant, professional, and courteous even when juggling multiple phone lines. She can manage unhappy callers with tact. She can keep track of the duties and availability of the company’s employees. And she’s able to work with callers who don’t have a specific contact; she can figure out their needs and get them to the right person. This is important because many jobs require the same basic skills. An out-of-work receptionist who understands her skill set is not limited to searching for receptionist jobs. She can explore retail, customer service, and entry-level sales positions, among others.

To identify skills, you’ll need to analyze your job carefully and determine what abilities you use in each function you perform. Remember to look beyond the obvious. Certain abilities are repeated so often that they lose impact. Three of the most overused and vague are “organizational,” “communication” and “people” skills. Yet all three are critical to many jobs. The trick is to delve deeper. Are you especially skilled at coordinating multiple vendors to create exciting special events that appear to come off without a hitch? Are you able to absorb complex information and break it down so that various audiences can understand it? Are you great at helping people make decisions or at helping two parties reach an agreement? Instead of settling for vague descriptions like “organizational skills,” articulate in a very specific way how you exhibit each of your skills.

Once you have a good understanding of your skill set, use your knowledge to create a clear, concise list of skills for your resume. If you are writing a chronological resume, you’ll list each skill under the job to which it applies. If you’re creating a functional resume, you’ll most likely have an “Executive Summary” or “Key Skills” section for this type of information. You may need to create a separate document containing your full skill set and copy only the most applicable skills into your resume each time you apply for a job. You can also pull key skills into your cover letters.

Translating your skill set extends to the interview as well. Be prepared to provide solid examples to prove each of the abilities you claim. For example, if you say you are good at conflict resolution, expect to tell the employer about a time you helped two parties come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Understanding your abilities is valuable throughout life. If you’re seeking a promotion, evaluate the skills needed in the new position, then show your employer how you already demonstrate those skills in your current role. Thinking about starting your own business? Use skill set evaluation to find out what kind of company might be a good fit and to determine what additional abilities you’ll need to develop. You can even use the process to create a workable chore-sharing system with your spouse or partner.

Still struggling with the concept? Don’t worry. Analyzing your own abilities is a skill in and of itself. Like any other skill, it takes practice. If you need extra help, consider consulting with job coach, life coach or therapist who has experience with skill sets. But don’t give up! The benefits of skills assessment are well worth the time and effort you’ll invest.

Resume Workshop: “Objective Statement” versus “Summary”

resume

by Linda Wells

In resumes, Objective statements are generally very vague and worthless. Consider the following objectives I have seen on resumes: “Position with an honest company” (Does anyone
really want to work for a dishonest company?); “To find a place where I can use my skills to improve the company’s bottom line” (What skills?); “A position where I can utilize my broad range of skills within a professional discipline enabling effective performance of complex assignments” (What???). If you were the HR professional with the responsibility to review hundreds of resumes for a job, would any of these statements impress you enough to schedule an interview? Probably not.

An Objective statement is in essence telling the employer, “This is what I want.” When employers post a job position, they have no interest in receiving hundreds of wish/want lists
disguised as resumes. This type of document rapidly finds it way into the garbage.

Instead of telling the prospective employer what you want, the more professional and impressive approach is to tell them what you offer. The best way to showcase your skills is
to use the phrase “Summary” or “Professional Summary.” Professional Summary statements consist of two sentences (three at the most) to summarize your professional skills and
experiences that are applicable to the job for which you are applying.

Take a look at this example of an individual’s resume written utilizing the two different formats. “Objective: Position in inside sales or customer service where I can apply my skills in working with diverse groups and individuals to enhance the corporate image and achieve bottom-line results.” Versus this: “Professional Summary: Highly skilled sales and customer service professional with more than 20 years progressive successful results. Expertise in working with diverse groups of individuals and industries, while achieving excellent results in customer satisfaction and retention.” The professional summary showcases the individual’s potential value to the company, not what the person wants.

Another comparison between the two formats. “Objective: The continuation of a career in management, at the center or corporate level, of retail properties.” Compare that
to ”Professional Summary: Real estate leasing and property manager with over 25 years’ experience in local, regional and national arenas. Highly accomplished at developing, evaluating and controlling plans and budgets to drive income and increase property value.” Give HR a reason to keep on reading your resume, not a reason to discard it.

Make sure the summary statement isn’t an objective in disguise, such as “Dependable, dedicated and loyal individual with the desire, knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a busy
medical environment.” The Summary of the same individual was rewritten as “Medical Practice management Professional with over 20 years of comprehensive experience in administrative operations in multi-unit, medical specialty environment. Successfully managed staff and patient process including record keeping, billing, medical transcriptions, collection and revenue enhancement and recovery.”

Final comment. Many job seekers I work with respond that they feel like they are bragging if they write this type of resume. Dizzy Dean said it best— “If it’s true, it ain’t bragging.” Your
resume must impress and intrigue to get you an interview; anything else is just a waste of everyone’s time.

High Heel Rehab

high heels shutterstock_92071190

As far back as 1000 BC, women wore heels to establish social status and sex appeal.  In addition to making us look great, they also cause a woman’s back to arch and chest to thrust out giving a super sexy “come-hither” stance.   But current statistics show that 43 million Americans experience painful foot problems and high-heeled women comprise the vast majority of them.  For every five women in the US, one suffers from aching feet as a result of donning heels.

Expert podiatrist and global “foot whisperer”, Phil Vasyli of Orthaheel, notes the following issues as a result of wearing high heels and adds feedback on how to choose better shoes and save high heels for special occasions, not everyday wear.

Pump Bump

What most women do not know is that their most fabulous shoes render all of their other efforts to maintain sexy legs and pretty toes utterly useless.  Misshapen legs, arched backs, falling in ankles and knees, and foot deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, stress fractures, and Morton’s Neuroma, are all caused by excessively high heels.  In addition, “pump bump” is a bony enlargement on the back of the heel from pressure and rubbing due to women’s pumps and dress shoes.  Not sexy.

Arch Enemy

Lacking in arch support, excess pronation is common amongst high heel wearers and is the number one cause of heel, ankle, knee, hip, and lower back pain, and also potential foot and leg deformities, as described above.

Tortured Soles

Our genetic makeup was designed to walk on soft surfaces – soil, sand, and grass, which acts as a cradling device to help hold the foot and maintain an ergonomic structure between the ground and the human body.  Walking in heels on a hard sidewalk leads to foot and arch collapse, pronation, and a lengthening of soft tissues. This causes the joint surfaces to function at unnatural angles to each other, leaving the joints to become loose and flexible.  The lower leg turns inward, which puts the knee and hip out of alignment and causes the back to be rotated or arched.

Back out of Whack

High heels can cause posture problems because the back and neck are forced to hyperextension due to the redistribution of body weight on the ball of the foot.

 

Consider these tips from Vasyli to make healthier decisions:

High heels are not (necessarily) bad for your feet, but set your limits. The normal human body was not intended to walk in high heels, so the most logical thing is to either not wear them or better, to save them for special occasions or the weekend. If you want to wear a heel, the best option is to aim for a  1.5″ to 2″ heel with a wedge sole, more importantly with some contact with the arch.

Yoga for High Heels. Pelvic tilts and calf stretches will minimize any muscle cramping and shortening.  Also, commit to stretching the muscles in the back of your leg before and after putting them on.

Orthotics, the Less(er) Evil. An orthotic is very similar to a human footprint which has ergonomic structure to reverse the angles of excess pronation and add needed support at that high level.  Orthotics also help keep the arch contours in place in lower heeled shoes.

Shop! Buy a wide variety of shoes, including sneakers, oxfords, and sandals, and vary your footwear day to day.  Look for the APMA seal of acceptance for the best options or go to their website, APMA.org, for a selection of brands.  Buy shoes in the afternoon or evening, as feet swell during the day.