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


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.





How to Get a Job You Love in the New Year

happy job

(StatePoint) The New Year is the perfect time to evaluate your career and take control of your professional life. And doing so may be easier than you think in today’s economy, where one-third of the American workforce is now comprised of freelancers.

Experts say self-employed, independent workers have gone mainstream and are here to stay.

“From computer programmers and nannies to opera singers and anesthesiologists, nearly every industry is now employing freelancers,” says Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union and author of the new handbook, “The Freelancer’s Bible.” “The time’s long past for viewing freelancing as a euphemism for slackers or the unemployed.”

While freelancing does have challenges, Horowitz contends that with some planning and research, a freelancer can survive and thrive in the new economy.

“Even those with stable full-time jobs should consider the benefits of freelance work — from the freedom to pursue multiple professional paths at once, to the ability to take time off without permission,” says Horowitz.

To help Horowitz founded the Freelancer’s Union to empower this growing independent sector with solutions for affordable health care and retirement planning.

Whether you’re an experienced independent worker, or just getting started, there are several things that can help you become a more nimble, flexible and successful freelancer:

• Tell everyone: Sometimes gigs drop in your lap, but mostly they come from connecting and sharing with others. Remember that everything is a marketing opportunity. Don’t be shy about networking. People will want to help. Give them what they need to spread the word. Just be careful to be professional, not pushy.

• Stay positive:  In many ways, having multiple sources of income and multiple money-making skills is less risky than putting all your eggs in an employer’s basket. So don’t think of freelancing as volatile and risky, so much as flexible and opportunity-rich.

• Balance risks and rewards: Weigh how much time and energy you should invest in various projects and be open to changing the mix depending on the work market and your income needs.

• Negotiate: Negotiating a contract isn’t about displaying bravado. It’s about knowing your power relationship with the client. Get informed by learning your industry’s deal norms, the market’s needs and your market value. Not happy with where you stand? Get training, find markets with bigger budgets or gain more experiences until you can be rewarded with higher pay.

• Get a life: Employees get vacation time, sick leave, family leave, bereavement days and personal days. Those policies exist largely because workers advocated for them. Who advocates for you? Without a 9-5 schedule, it’s easy to forget you have a life outside of your work. Be sure to schedule breaks and vacations and budget for time off.

More practical tips on living the freelance life can be found at the Freelancer’s Union website at More information on Horowitz’s new book can be found at

In this new economy that’s friendlier toward independent workers, taking control of your career is easier than ever.

Starting a Business Workshop 1/11 at CSU-Fayette


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.

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

Building Best Practices for Your Small Business

business shutterstock_107884010

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.

The Art of Following Your Dreams


Success is a slippery goal. It can be just out of reach one moment and a world away the next. You rarely see it clearly until it’s in your grasp. Often, close inspection brings disillusion and you realize you want something else entirely. Then what? Do you hold on to the product of your hard work, even if it brings you no joy? Or do you let it go to pursue a new – and usually equally elusive – dream?

Three years ago, Peachtree City resident Jessica Healy found herself faced with this very dilemma. She had what many would consider an enviable life. She and her husband Mike both held prominent, well-paid positions at their southern California church. They had a wide circle of friends and a nice house. Still, they weren’t particularly happy. Their careers were no longer fulfilling and they missed their son and daughter, both of whom had recently moved to Georgia. Above all, their son was about to become a father and they hated the idea of living so far away from their first grandchild.

So after lots of thought, prayer, and consultation with their families, they pulled up stakes and relocated. The move brought them within miles of their kids and their new grandson, Haydon, but Jessica struggled on the work front. She’d spent most of her career teaching classes or developing curriculum for churches and spiritual centers, but her heart said it was time for a change. A highly artistic free spirit, she longed to make her living doing something that brought her joy – and allowed her to bring joy to others – while still leaving her plenty of time to spend with Haydon. She even knew what she wanted to do: write a book and start a textile design company.

But following those dreams would come with a price. A cross-country relocation is expensive and Mike had taken a major pay cut in the move. Writing is an uncertain profession and starting a business is never easy. Yet it just felt right. So Jessica found part-time work to get her through, buckled down to learn the craft of writing, and started building a collection of designs and samples for her business.  She researched textile printers, tried out filling and backer options, developed her logo, and started looking at distribution platforms.

Within a few months, she launched Once Upon Words and began selling to friends and through websites like Etsy. Her special niche is pillows, but she also creates wall hangings, hanging headboards, and more. Her designs are whimsical, magical, and inspirational, like the seeds of a dandelion floating in the wind, or a tree with book pages instead of leaves. Her zebra design is popular with kids. Blue skies and red umbrellas appear often.

The style and feel is unique, but what makes Jessica’s pieces truly special is that each design has a message worked into the pattern. This nifty little addition is at the heart of the way she lives her life and the reason she began designing in the first place.

“All of us hear so many negative words each and every day. People say we’re not good enough not pretty enough, not smart enough. They complain about the world. And it takes a lot of positive words to counteract all that negativity. Once Upon Words is about reminding yourself that you are awesome and celebrating bliss in everyday life,” she explains.

Even the product types are intentional. After all, people spend time sleeping every day. Why not put positive messages right on the pillows? Her words are certainly uplifting enough to brighten the shortest of snoozes.

“Your dreams pull you into the unknown you were created for,” reads one pillow. “You feel it every day. Fly above defeat, reach high and believe that all things are possible.”

“Turn the pages of your life each day and follow the adventure in front of you,” instructs another.

It’s been a long road with a long way yet to go, but the business is starting to pick up. A recent Kickstarter project helped fund an expansion and Jessica hopes to continue to build. She’s planning to grow her presence on Etsy and hopes to soon begin selling to designers and boutiques. She also finished her first book and is currently looking for an agent. Best of all, working for herself allows her to watch Haydon a few times a week.

Yet she’s the first one to admit that it hasn’t been easy. Finances are tight. Date nights are few and far between. And not everyone is supportive of her dreams. But she and Mike feel strongly that this is their path. Faith and family help get them through. Her advice for others standing at career crossroads?

“Consider the cost,” she advises. “Believing in yourself is a tough thing, especially when things don’t go the way you planned. There’s a lot of uncertainty. You don’t know what people are going to like or whether they’ll buy what you make or whether the business will work or what it’s even going to look like when you’re through. And there will be things you have to give up.

“You have to look inside your heart and ask yourself if your dream is big enough to get you through the scary times and the hard decisions. My dream is huge. And I’m going to make it happen.”


Resume Workshop: “Objective Statement” versus “Summary”


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.

AWBA Woman of the Year: Beth Brooks

Pictured, from left, are Ann Hill, Gwen Griffin, Judy Suiter, Beth Brooks and Jane Jett.

There are many successful business owners in Fayette County. However, when it comes providing both excellent service to clients and dedication to the wider community, there are few who have reached the level of Beth Brooks, who owns ServiceMaster Commercial Services in Peachtree City along with her husband Bruce. Beth was recently named “Woman of the Year” of the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) McIntosh Chapter.

It was an unfortunate twist of fate that initially motivated Beth and Bruce to open their ServiceMaster franchise. Back in 2000, Beth was a stay-at-home mom, raising the couple’s sons, Taylor and Alden. Bruce was employed in the commercial real estate industry. The bottom fell out of the market in late 2000; around the same time, Bruce was diagnosed with cancer. Thirty days after returning to work following his diagnosis, Bruce’s employer sent him to the unemployment line. Facing the realities of the situation, Bruce and Beth—the parents of two sons, Taylor and Alden, who were teenagers at the time—decided it was time to venture into a business they could work in together.

The couple decided to start a ServiceMaster business, getting off the ground in January of 2001 and providing commercial cleaning services to the Fayette and Spalding areas ever since. With a couple of years of college business classes under her belt, Beth naturally fell into the role of the company’s administrator, handling the accounting, customer service and marketing.

“Our company’s core belief is that cleaning is not a commodity but an opportunity to provide consistently remarkable service. It’s fundamental to our business,” Beth says.

Commitment to service is certainly a large factor in the franchise’s success. In 2007 (a mere six years after the company’s start), ServiceMaster Commercial Services was named “Small Business of the Year” by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

Not only is Beth passionate about providing exceptional customer service to their clients, but she also strongly believes in being active and serving in the community. And she follows through on her passion.

In addition to being an active Chamber of Commerce member, Beth participated in the Leadership Fayette program, which leverages local businesspersons’ networking and mentorship to initiate team projects that benefit a variety of community non-profit organizations. After participating in the program, Beth became a mentor to other participants and went on to serve as Secretary for Leadership Fayette for three years. It was through this program that Beth realized her passion was to help others through her volunteer work.

Beth’s outreach to the community has been extensive. She has worked with a team that was instrumental in getting a GED Program started at the Fayette County Jail and served on its Ministry Board. She’s volunteered her time to help start up the Fayette County Certificate Literate Community Program (CLCP). And she’s on the Board of Fayette County’s “Shop With A Sheriff,” which helps families in need in Fayette County at Christmas. For these efforts and others, the Brooks’ ServiceMaster franchise was given an award on a national level by ServiceMaster Corporate for service to the community.

Beth continues to contribute to Fayette’s business organizations, serving on the Business Expo committee for the Fayette Chamber for two years. She was a Charter member of the Coweta-Fayette Rotary Club and served as its Secretary for one year. And, of course, she has been involved with ABWA’s leadership, serving as its Treasurer in 2011.

Her hobbies include gardening, playing the piano, studying the Bible. She enjoys spending time with Bruce, Taylor (now 30) and Alden (now 26) and Taylor’s wife Rachel.

“We’re passionate about providing exceptional customer service to our clients and believe in being active and serving in our community,” says Beth.

True indeed. And it’s great to see that she’s being recognized for it.


18 Essential Job Skills

woman networking

The slowly recovering economy has taken a toll on all Americans. But for many recent college graduates, it has made that first step into the “real” world a real doozy. In fact, the Associated Press’s analysis of recent government data shows that 53 percent of recent college grads (those under 25) are either jobless or underemployed. Many have had to accept “survival jobs”—jobs not within their preferred profession or at a level below their training—to simply get by. But all is not lost, says Vickie Milazzo. She says that college grads with a “buck up” attitude can use this time to develop portable skills that will bring them great success as their career develops.

“Now is not the time to focus on finding a job that will pay a lot of money or give you a fancy title,” says Milazzo, author of the New York Times bestseller, Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-1181-0052-3, $21.95, “The bottom line is that many grads are lucky to find any job. Let alone a job that pays what they hoped they’d be making right out of college. Instead, these graduates should focus on personal growth and developing the portable skills that can be formed in any job but which will serve them throughout their careers.”

Portable skills are the job skills that can serve you no matter where you work or what position you hold. These skills include relationship-building, communication, entrepreneurial thinking, etc. Almost all of them can be developed inside “survival jobs,” and that’s why they should become a key focus for recent college graduates who haven’t yet landed their dream job.

“The portable skills you develop now will shape the professional you become and will help you develop your voice as a professional at a time when you still have a lot to learn,” says Milazzo. “When you focus on building a portable skill set, you’re using this not-exactly-ideal time in your working life much more wisely. With this skill set, you’ll be able to transition more smoothly and create success more quickly when you do land your dream job.”

Read on to learn what portable skills you should put in your tool box and how to perfect them.

Develop a nose for (your) business. Take this time to really study up on your industry. Read industry magazines and attend events if you can. “Being able to talk intelligently about the state of your industry will be a huge selling point for you,” says Milazzo. “The more you know, the more dots you can connect. Knowing where your industry is going will help you decide what other areas of knowledge are important for you to focus on.”

Let your creative flag fly. Don’t be afraid to be creative. “This is not about reinventing the wheel,” notes Milazzo. “You don’t have to stress yourself out trying to think of the next, great outside the box idea for your company or industry. Often, it’s about taking ideas from other industries or companies and adapting them to fit your own. Also, understand that it’s highly likely that your idea will be simply that, an idea. You probably won’t have the resources or the authority to put it immediately into action. However, showing your leaders that you have the ability to think creatively about their business and the level of understanding to know what’s important and what’s not will be a great way to earn more responsibility.”

Be your own problem-solver. Great employees don’t passively wait for the boss to tell them what to do. They figure out solutions on their own. “When we find our own solutions, we grow stronger,” says Milazzo. “Excessive reliance on others for our success weakens us. Soon we shy away from challenges we once might have conquered with relish and ease. One key aspect of becoming a good problem solver is taking swift action. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Learn to trust your initial feelings and thoughts about an issue.”

Go big or go home. We tend to want to check the small, easy things off our list and avoid the tough stuff. Break the feel-good addiction. Remember, where you engage and focus is where you will get results. “Going after larger accomplishments—an addiction to momentum—is a far more lasting high than the transitory feel-good of checking off trivial tasks,” says Milazzo. “Once you’re engaged in accomplishing what I call the ‘Big Things,’ you’ll approach routine matters with laser-sharp focus, quickly deleting, delegating, and experiencing fewer distractions. More importantly, your creativity and productivity catch fire, and the momentum keeps you pumped. You’ll glide through your day full of confidence and satisfaction from achieving significant milestones. You’ll stay focused on bigger goals and that will be a huge boost when you aren’t being completely fulfilled in your day job.”

Trade “not”-working for real networking. Connecting with your friends on Facebook and tweeting your latest thoughts on life out to your Twitter followers is not networking. “Real, productive networking happens face-to-face,” explains Milazzo. “More importantly, it happens with people who are not your peers. In order for your networking to be successful, you must strive to connect with people who have more experience than you. It’s normal to gravitate toward people who are the same as you—but in business, one of the main reasons why people don’t get ahead is that they don’t get out of their social groups. Make every effort to meet people who are a rung or two higher than you on the professional ladder. If you impress someone who is more successful than you are, they’ll have a lot more influence than someone whose position is equivalent with yours.”

Build relationships (not just resumes). Why are relationships important? First and foremost, they’re a great way to harvest energy. “Spending time with those who inspire you, who make you laugh, who give you advice you can trust is essential,” says Milazzo. “In the bigger picture for your career, relationships are important because that’s where your opportunities will come from. In most industries, it really is about who you know. When you take the time to develop positive relationships with customers, vendors, the people you speak to frequently who work at other companies, etc., you’ll find that they’ll present you with opportunities organically and vice versa. The other great thing about relationships is that when they’re strong they’ll be with you no matter where you’re working.”

Partner up. Learn how to sniff out other people who have skills/insights that can be leveraged in unexpected ways. “Many people are treasure troves of untapped potential just waiting for the right person to recognize what they have to offer,” says Milazzo. “And always be willing to do some mentoring yourself. Sure, you’re new to the professional world, but many mature workers won’t have the same level of understanding you have when it comes to social media and technology. When you partner with these folks to show them what you know, they’ll partner with you right back. You’ll both learn a lot from each other and great relationships will form.”

Go offline to work on communication. Many recent college graduates are of the social media generation. They’re texters, tweeters, Facebookers. Often face-to-face communication and even written communication aren’t their strengths. “Work on developing your communication skills,” advises Milazzo. “You will not be respected at any company unless you can clearly communicate with people from all levels. Watch more experienced professionals to pick up on their techniques for quality communication. Re-read emails to make sure you’re using correct grammar and aren’t using shorthand. And listen. When you listen to the others, you can ask them more engaging questions and in turn, create better connections.”

Negotiate like you mean it. Negotiating skills are tough to develop and it’s even tougher when you don’t have the confidence or the leverage to go after what you want. Some young job applicants might also think that they’re doing their potential employers a favor by not pushing for more or that they’ll be more appealing if they don’t ask for what they’re worth.

“That’s not true,” notes Milazzo. “When I’m hiring, I actually weed out candidates who underprice themselves because I assume they won’t perform at the level I expect. In my eyes and in the eyes of many other CEOs, job candidates actually lose credibility when they underprice themselves. Learn to negotiate. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your bargaining power is weak just because you’re less experienced. Yes, this power imbalance might make negotiating more challenging, but you have a lot to offer, too. Remember that ultimately, you’re talking to another human being. Try not to become so overawed by rank or position that you forget that!”

Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A great way to get answers you can trust is to seek out a mentor. Having a mentor will help you learn a lot, a lot more quickly than you might have on your own and will provide a relationship that can be hugely beneficial as you gain experience.

“But don’t be afraid to seek advice outside of a mentoring relationship either,” advises Milazzo. “Some of the best advice I received when I started my business was ‘Vickie, you will encounter many challenges you will not know how to handle. But there’s always someone out there who has already successfully handled that very challenge.’ Know what you don’t know and when to seek answers. Appreciate that what works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow, and understand that aggressive learning is a competitive advantage to achieving any desired goal.”

Trust your gut. Work on tuning into your gut and trusting what it has to say. Practice listening for—and listening TO—your inner voice. You’ll find that it rarely steers you wrong. “Learn to identify what your gut feelings truly are (as opposed to being influenced by your boss, mom, friends, etc.),” says Milazzo. “Then learn to interpret, trust, and act on those feelings—keeping in mind that it’s okay to be rerouted by circumstance.”

Be constructive with constructive criticism. Learn to view constructive criticism as a gift. “Remember, you’ve still got a lot to learn,” says Milazzo. “Don’t get defensive when someone gives you unwanted advice on how to do something. Develop a thick skin. Instead of reacting negatively to criticism, openly look for opportunities to put the advice into practice.”

Don’t burn bridges. When you enter the 9-5 working world, you’ll quickly find that you have to work side by side with people you do not like. People you certainly wouldn’t be spending much time with if they didn’t happen to be using the cubicle next to yours. “You must learn to get along with these people,” notes Milazzo. “Forgive them when they upset you. And forgive the personality ticks that get on your nerves. You never know when you’ll need them on your side. You never know when your paths will cross again later in your career.”

Develop an entrepreneurial spirit. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you or for the boss to ask. “There is a lot of competition out there right now,” says Milazzo. “You won’t be given every opportunity. Quite often, you’ll have to create your own opportunities and that will require that you take the initiative on certain tasks. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas for how to improve the company with your boss. You never know, he might really like one and put you in charge of implementing it. Regardless, he’ll certainly see that you care about the company and want to make sure you’re a part of what’s going on there.

“Rather than looking only at your advancement, look for ways in which your knowledge and expertise can grow and benefit the company. As a business owner, I appreciate employees who apply enterprise and ingenuity to their jobs. They generally enjoy their jobs more and receive more advancements and pay raises.”

Go for the goal(s). Give yourself a goal and work toward it. When you achieve it, set another goal and work toward it. Repeat. “Goal-setting will be essential in keeping you motivated especially if your ‘survival’ job isn’t particularly stimulating,” notes Milazzo. “When you always have something important to work toward, whether it’s related to your job or not, it will keep you focused on improving and moving forward.”

Build your personal credibility. Meet your deadlines. Do what you say you’re going to do. Become known as a person who can be counted on. “Be the person your colleagues and bosses trust to get the job done,” advises Milazzo. “When you do everything you can to become someone people rely on, they won’t hesitate to move you up in the company or to recommend you to people in their networks.”

Fuel your fire. What are you passionate about? What fires you up? What drives you to succeed? Now is the time to really think about your answers to those questions. Now is the time to figure out how you can make those things your passionate about part of your long-term career. “Let your enthusiasm and excitement show,” says Milazzo. “It will attract people and opportunities your way. People will want to work with you. When you find the passion that drives you—whether it’s family, serving others in the medical field, using the law to help others, or reforming a broken aspect of your community, you’ll have tapped into a fuel source that won’t run dry in the middle of the race. That doesn’t mean that the going will always be easy…but passion will make your life richer.”

Remember, life is a marathon. Volunteer to work the extra shift when you can. Always give that little bit extra (in terms of time/energy/attention) that takes a project from “good” to “great.” Remember that no matter what job you have, you’re there to work—not to goof off on Facebook, text with your friends, or anything else. Engage 100 percent, no matter what your current job is. “Clock-watchers who go home exactly at quitting time are never around for promotions,” notes Milazzo. “Work as hard or harder than your boss. There is just no substitute for the willingness to work hard. And remember that fighting through this difficult start to your career is like getting into physical shape: you’re going to be sore and you’re going to want to quit, but that pain and discomfort are making you stronger and propelling you forward.”

“There’s no sugar-coating it,” says Milazzo. “As a new college graduate, making your way in this economy will not be easy. But when you use this time to develop the skills that will benefit you for the entirety of your career, it will become a very fulfilling time. With the right attitude and the right approach, you’ll be setting yourself up for the fast track to success once the market improves.”

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About the Author:
Vickie Milazzo
, RN, MSN, JD, is the author of the New York Times bestseller Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman (Wiley, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-1181-0052-3, $21.95, From a shotgun house in New Orleans to owner of a $16-million business, Milazzo shares the innovative success strategies that earned her a place on the Inc. list of Top 10 Entrepreneurs and Inc. Top 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America.

Job Interview? Seven What-to-Wear Rules


Interview Attire 101: Seven Suggestions to Help You Make an Impression

One of the most stressful rites of passage in an adult’s life is the dreaded job interview. There’s so much to worry about: how to make a good impression on your interviewer(s); how to present yourself as the absolute best candidate for the position; and, of course, what the heck you should wear!

The clothes you wear to a job interview are a big deal, because the image you present to your interviewer can sometimes make the difference between getting and not getting a job offer,” confirms Marla Tomazin, who has been a New York City-based image consultant for over 20 years after earlier experience in the fashion industry.

“Whether you want to admit it or not, your appearance speaks volumes about the kind of employee you might be,” she points out. “Are you sloppy or put-together? Are you flamboyant or appropriate? Do you pay attention to details or not? Remember, in this situation the wrong kind of attention is worse than no attention at all.”

Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate looking for a first job or a seasoned professional who’s eyeing a new position, read on for seven of Tomazin’s tried-and-true interview attire tips:

Focus on quality, not quantity. Always, always choose interview clothing in the best fabric you can afford, even if it means starting out with only two suits or outfits. (You can build on that base later once you’re receiving your new paycheck!) Quality clothing looks best, holds up longest, travels well, and doesn’t need to be dry cleaned as often. Tomazin recommends investing in wool suits and skirts specifically, since wool is durable and easy to maintain, and can be worn at least 10 months out of the year in most climates.

Make sure your clothes match you. In addition to choosing high-quality pieces, it’s also important to make sure that your interview clothes are the right color and shape for your age, coloration, body type, and career. Ask a friend, sales associate, or image consultant for advice if you’re not sure what works best for you. Tomazin specifically warns against pieces that are too short, too tight, or (for more mature applicants) too young. Remember, a flattering, well-tailored outfit shows attention to detail and makes a good first impression about you and how you will do business.

Be classy and memorable. Every job applicant wants to stand out from the crowd. But during the interview stage, it’s probably best not to distinguish yourself sartorially. Above all, you don’t want to make a lasting negative impression with wobbly too-high heels or an in-your-face tie. If you don’t want to be forgotten because of your “boring” beige suit, focus on setting yourself apart by how you present yourself, your experience, and your potential. Remember, people are making decisions about you from the moment you first meet, whether you realize it or not. So when in doubt, err on the side of dressing conservatively. You can think about moving closer to the cutting edge of fashion after you’ve been hired.

Find a balance between fit and comfort. According to Tomazin, another reason to make sure that your interview clothes fit is simple: comfort. Think about it: If your jacket is a little too tight under the arms, for example, you’ll be distracted when it’s most important for you to be on your game. And if your skirt allows for only a narrow range of movement, you’ll be that much more ill at ease. Make sure that your interview clothes are comfortable so that you can focus on the meeting and on letting yourself shine through, not on what you’re wearing.

Tap into the power of the column. Column dressing is a sure-fire way to make sure that you dress successfully for your interview, as long as the color is flattering. Whether it’s a dress, a top and a skirt, or a top and pants, you can’t go wrong. Your jacket can be the same color as your column or an accent color. Tomazin promises that you’ll look pulled-together—which will please your interviewer—as well as taller, thinner, more successful, and smarter. What’s not to love?

Don’t forget the details. The details of any outfit are crucially important! Here are some things Tomazin says you should consider before heading out the door to your interview:

  • Your shoes should be polished and in great shape. No scuffed or kicked-in toes! Replace or repair them when necessary.
  • Your hair should be groomed and styled conservatively. If possible, schedule a trim a few days before your interview.
  • For ladies specifically: Invest in closed-toed pumps with a moderate heel height, and wear stockings (it’s best to stick with solids). Also, it’s a good idea to manicure your nails. Go with a neutral color that is easy to repair if chipped while traveling.

Top it off with a tote. Chances are, you’re not going into your interview empty-handed. At the very least, you’ll probably have copies of your résumé, a notepad and pen, and maybe even a portfolio of some sort. If you’re traveling, you might also be carrying your iPad, laptop, and/or other work files. Clearly, you’re not going to look very professional if you’re hand-carrying all of those things! Tomazin says you should look for a tote—preferably leather—that keeps you organized, looks great, and allows you to have all of your files and accessories at your fingertips. (Just make sure to turn off your phone’s ringer before going into a meeting or interview so you aren’t left digging around in your bag to turn it off!) Remember, a durable, professional bag is an investment, so if at all possible buy one that will serve you well for years.

“When you walk into an interview feeling comfortable and confident because you know you’re dressed for the occasion, you’ll be setting yourself up for success,” confirms Tomazin. “And you’ll also be one step closer to getting that coveted job offer.”


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About Marla Tomazin:

Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression.

For more information, please visit