Your next work event doesn’t have to be about being bored or getting drunk. Instead, make it a career opportunity by networking.

Attending a work event, whether it’s a team building exercise or the company picnic, can be brutal.

What do you say to everyone?

It can be boring and lame.

But what if you could use a work event to boost your own career prospects? At the very least, you can use this as a chance to get to know others at work and creating rewarding relationships.

Networking at a work event can be a good way to improve the situation in your company and boost your own opportunities.

Figure out what you want to accomplish.

The company picnic isn’t just a place to sit around and be bored. Your team building exercise shouldn’t be about gritting your teeth and getting through it. An office holiday party isn’t an excuse to get drunk.

All of these are events that allow you the chance to make a new connection or show yourself in a good light.

Figure out what you want to accomplish ahead of time. Do you want to spend a couple minutes speaking with the boss? Do you want to get to know someone in another business unit?

As you’re networking at a work event, concentrate on your objective and what you hope to gain from it. Getting to know someone in another area of the business might be useful if you want to make a lateral move. Face time with the boss is always a good thing.

Maybe you just want to show yourself a friendly and enthusiastic presence in the office — someone others speak well of.

Once you know what you hope to accomplish, you can create a game plan.

Work on rapport.

Networking at a work event is all about building relationships. You want to work on a rapport with others. You can’t just show up and then ask people for something.

Instead, take an opportunity to show interest in others and build a solid foundation.

In any networking situation, building rapport is important. However, it’s extra-important at a work event. You need to be able to call on your relationship with others later on.

Building these relationships can also help your career later. When you network, you get a chance to let others get to know you. If there is a promotion opportunity or some other chance to advance, you are more likely to come to mind if you have been building relationships.

Ask questions.

Ask good questions and glean insights. If you can get the other person talking, you can learn about them. And you also help them feel as though they have had a great conversation.

Think of some good, relevant questions to ask before the work event. Insightful questions go a long way toward impressing others. Show you are a good listener, willing to learn and ready to ask good questions, and you might be surprised at how much that can help you in the long run.

Don’t be too pushy, though.

One of the most difficult parts of networking at a work event is avoiding being too pushy. In some cases, your coworkers are just trying to relax.

So, even though you definitely want to do a bit of networking, don’t be too pushy about talking about work. No one wants to do a deep dive into next quarter’s projections at the summer picnic. Instead, keep your networking to somewhat light topics, or ask a more general question about where you think the company stands in relation to other firms in the industry.

Try to be engaging without being overbearing. The idea is to show yourself as open and insightful, but you also need to know when to have fun.

Offer help.

A key tenet of networking, no matter the situation, is offering help first. Rather than asking what others can do for you, try to figure out how you can help others.

Think about what you have to offer. How can you help someone else with a work project or assignment? Can you be an asset? Do you have a good idea that could provide special help to someone else?

Know what you have to offer, and then offer it. Take an interest in at-work struggles and then show how you can help solve the problem. It’s a way to be valuable, and show your interest in teamwork.

Later, others will want to help you and recommend you.

Be yourself.

Ah, the most cliché advice ever. But it’s true. It’s especially important to be yourself when networking at a work event. These are people who will find out pretty quickly if you’re faking something.

It’s always best to be yourself when you’re networking. You want to be the best version of yourself, of course, but you do still need to be yourself.

As you are genuine, you are more likely to make real connections that last your career — and can even enrich your life beyond work.

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Your resume probably needs a little help. Take it up a notch and make a resume that will get you hired.

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Looking for a new job? You need a resume. You need a great resume. Your resume needs to showcase your skill and present the case that you are perfect for the for the job.

So how do you create a resume that gets the job done? You have to be aware of the latest trends in resumes, as well as understand the importance of having your resume available in different formats.

Concepts

  • How resumes have evolved over time.
  • Using LinkedIn for your resume.
  • Should you create a multimedia resume?
  • Tips to create a resume that works well as a digital or hard copy.
  • Items that should included on your resume.
  • Tips to create a resume with a clean, readable design.
  • How to use keywords in your resume.
  • Ideas for tailoring your resume for the job.
  • Things you shouldn’t do on your resume.

If you are ready to create a resume, this week’s “do nows” will get you on the right track. Start by scrapping your current resume and starting from scratch. Google yourself to get an idea of what others see when they search you. And, while you’re at it, complete your LinkedIn profile.

Our listener question this week focuses on using career sites to find jobs. What should you do with the resume you build through the career site?

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Resources

Things to stop putting on your resume
Employers using social media to screen applicants
Tools that can help you create a multimedia resume

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You might be a superhero and not even know it. Change the world one person at a time with the right career.

Simultaneous trends of millennials and GenXers are searching for more altruistic careers.

For millennials, they watched their parents suffer through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Now many are saying, “If I’m going to struggle, I may as well struggle to do something good in the world.”

Millennials want to change the world, making a difference with what they do every day.

For us GenXers, it likely because, well, we’re older and seeking we’re more meaning in our lives. Many of us worked through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Even though we may only have a small piece of our pie, we want to share some of it before we’re no longer here to share it.

For those considering more meaningful first or second careers, here are some jobs to consider:

Good samaritan.

You know how some days, weeks, even years are hard?

Social workers help people manage those times when we can’t manage on their own. From advocating for children who need an advocate to be there for the older adult who’s all alone to everything in between, social workers are there to care.

Life isn’t as easy for all of us and some of us find it harder to deal with than others. It’s social workers who help change these lives for the better.

Money maker.

Unfortunately, the financial professionals who break the rules get all the attention. They deserve the bad press they get.

Their honest, hardworking colleagues don’t.

Financial planners and the people who support them help everyday people with their money every day. Most financial professionals have their client’s best interest in mind, and that’s why this can be a rewarding career.

They help want-to-be parents prepare financially to have their children. They help fulfill the student’s dream of going to college. They assist the widow who lost the spouse responsible for managing the family finances. They help people make sense of retirement and legacy planning.

Financial professionals help make dreams come true, and nightmares go away.

Baby maker.

Among the many ways family planners help families, they help grow families.

Don’t let your high school years confuse you. Having children for many women isn’t easy, particularly since women and couples are having kids later in life.

Family planners can help these women and couples navigate the waters of growing their families with in vitro fertilization (IVF), various means of surrogacy, and any other medical advancements medicine has developed, including the different ways to adopt.

Fixer.

If you’re in pain or recovering from an injury, your physical therapist may just be your best friend. Like any decent best friend, your physical therapist sticks by you through the screams, tears, pain and frustration until you’re 100% again.

Physical therapists help their patients overcome negative conditions and achieve long-term health. Good health is consistently listed on the top of people’s most important things. If you’ve ever been in bad health, you know that returning to good health becomes the most important aspect of life second to family.

Modern-day Aristotle.

Christa McAuliffe, one of the seven victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, once said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

Anyone who’s ever amounted to anything is in debt to a teacher. Successful people from President Obama to Oprah Winfrey have publicly thanked particular teachers who helped them achieve their successes.

As a good teacher, the impact you have on a student could world-changing.

Healer.

Sure, doctors get all the glory, and the work doctors do is amazing.

It’s just that when you want that pain medication in the middle of the night and you’re stuck in a hospital bed, your doctor’s not coming to your aid.

That buzzer buzzes straight to a nurse’s station. When you need that very embarrassing, very necessary help in the bathroom, it’s your nurse who saves the day. When everyone else is gone, your nurse is still there.

Want to make a different in people’s lives? Be a nurse.

Sower and reaper.

Other than John Mellencamp, America doesn’t give farmers much love, and that’s a shame.

Everything healthy we eat is grown by a farmer. Growing healthy and nutritious food is an important and noble profession that helps all of us live from day-to-day.

If you’re scared you have to move far away from friends and family, don’t be.

Of course, the most abundant farming happens in the middle of the country, but you don’t have to uproot yourself to root some vegetables. Urban farming is a thriving industry these days, especially with more people in urban areas seeking more healthy food.

Space cowboy.

Being a space cowboy or cowgirl isn’t just for eight-year-olds. It’s for full grown adults, too. Space is the final frontier, and we’re finally making aggressive efforts to conquer space. Space exploration and space technologies already help millions in many ways. Someday, it may even save the human race.

Becoming a space cowperson or one who supports them isn’t easy, as space is only accepting the best of the best. But, if you can pass the test, helping the human race pioneer the space frontier can change the world and, possibly, the universe.

Superhero.

A lot of people do a lot of good work. Truth be told, there are a lot of superheroes out there.

However, police officers, EMTs, and firefighters save and protect lives every day. For many, their career is in their blood, having been passed down from generation to generation. For some, it’s an innate desire to help.

If you have such a desire, the world will be a better place with people like you in one of these jobs.

Many professions that make a positive difference in the world. Sometimes even a seemingly mundane job can make all the difference to someone.

Consider your skills and abilities and focus on giving to others. If you do, nearly any career will help you change the world.

 

 

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Freelancing is totally everything it’s cracked up to be. But it also comes with unexpected shittiness at times. Know what you’re getting into.

Just about everyone fantasizes about freelancing at some point.

When the daily grind is wearing you down and the stress of office culture is driving you crazy, you start to wonder what a career with no strings actually looks like.

Here’s the honest truth: it’s great. Also, it’s terrible. Sometimes it’s just okay.

Just like anything else in life.

More than anything, freelancing is a mixed bag. The lack of structure can be freeing, frustrating, and confounding.

The sense of agency can be empowering and terrifying at the same time. You can wake up some days feeling like a giant and go to bed feeling like a mouse – and vice versa.

I’ve been a full-time freelancer for several years now. Here’s the honest truth about freelancing. The best parts and the worst parts.

The good.

Having more flexibility in my workday is the best part of freelancing. At any point in a day, my husband and I can go for a hike, drive to Costco, or catch a movie. As long as I’m caught up on work, I’ll say yes.

Working for yourself allows for more freedom than any other job. You can take off as much time as you want and work when you need to. Many freelancers choose to work while they’re traveling, so they can stay longer and travel more often.

“Last year I was able to live in Chicago and Ann Arbor for a little over a month, and I plan to be away for two months this summer,” said freelance writer Jackie Lam of Cheapsters.

A few months ago, my husband and I got a puppy. We already had a dog – a lazy Beagle mix who mostly slept all day – but our new puppy needed lots of exercise and constant attention. The other day I realized that if one of us wasn’t working at home, we wouldn’t have been able to properly care for her. I can’t imagine not having Naga in my life. Freelancing made that happen.

Freelancing also lets you choose projects based on what you care about, not what your boss wants you to do. Valerie Rind, the author of “Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads,”  said freelance writing gives her the chance to stretch her limits and learn more about an issue she’s interested in.

“Instead of writing about the same topic, I try to accept assignments even if I don’t know much (or anything) about the subject matter,” she said. 

Most of the time, for me at least, the truth about freelancing is that it’s awesome. But there are times it’s not super-great. And you need to know that before you ditch your job and jump into the world of freelancing.

The bad. 

Most employees get paid every two weeks. No matter how well their company is doing, they still see a regular paycheck.

Not so for freelancers. How much you earn is dependent on not only how hard you work, but also on factors outside of your control. A client goes on vacation for a month and doesn’t need your services? You’re the one who has to scramble for work. Need surgery and can’t work for a few weeks? You’ll have to cover your own expenses.

Plus, the work is variable. Unless you have a steady stream of clients, freelancing can swing from feast to famine very quickly. One month you’ll earn more than you ever have, the next you’ll be living off of your emergency fund.

“Freelancing can test your character for sure,” said writer Melanie Lockert of Dear Debt. “The good times can have you feeling on top of the world, and the low times can have you questioning everything in your life.”

When I receive a lot of edits from a picky client or get all my carefully crafted pitches denied, I start thinking, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Pushing through those rough times requires more mental fortitude than I ever needed in a day job.

The ugly.

Here they come. The things you really need to know about freelancing before you get started.

When you work for yourself, there’s no one else there to give you encouragement, praise, or guidance. There’s no annual review where you can find out what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to improve. It’s just you.

“If you want to grow, you have to push yourself,” Lam said. “No boss is going to hand you a raise or give you a promotion.” 

One of the worst aspects of freelancing is chasing down vendors who pay late. Once, I waited five months for a client to pay a $3,800 invoice.

When I reached out to my contact, he told me the company had shut down. I had to call all over the place to get someone to write me a check.  Some clients also balk at my late fee, even when I’ve been waiting two months to get paid.

Another pet peeve is working by myself. I miss having co-workers to talk to when I need a break or a boss to bounce ideas off. I do work with my husband, but he prefers solitude when working. I’m an extrovert, and it took me a few months to get used to being inside my house all day.

Are you ready to freelance?

There’s no doubt I love freelancing. This has been a great lifestyle for me. And it might work for you, too. But before you dive in, it’s good to know the truth about freelancing so you aren’t taken off guard by some of the challenges.

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More formal education isn’t always better. Before you take on even moar student loan debt for a graduate degree, stop and run the numbers.

The only thing better than bigger is more, right?

Depending on what we’re talking about this is arguably true.

When talking about a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a dose of Golden Girls, more is better.

When talking about the housing bubble, student loan bubble, and Taco Bell, not so much.

Moar student loans? Maybe not better.

College tuition has been on a steady increase since the 1990s, and college graduates are graduating with more debt than ever. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of students to graduate with debt increased from 1.1 million to 1.3 million.

Too often now, college students graduate with a mountain of debt. They’re forced to move back home with mom and dad and take a job with pay not commensurate with their student loans. Many graduates are underemployed and are seeking a better future.

The daughter of a good friend of mine recently graduated with $100,000 in student loans with a degree in social work from a premier college in a major city. She moved back to her small hometown and took the first job she could get because she was afraid not to have money to pay her student loans. She currently earns $13 per hour. She’s now considering graduate school to increase her opportunities because her big city degree is too expensive for her little city job.

For many, the logical next step is to either kill time or make a better future is to get their graduate degree. This, often, requires taking on more student loans – and the cycle continues.

Is a graduate degree worth it?

As with any investment, one must look at the potential return on that investment. About 70% of undergraduates already have about $30,000 of student loans to repay. The cost for graduate school on the low end for public colleges is another $30,000.

Will $60,000 in student loans do for a student what $30,000 can’t?

One way to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of a graduate degree is to look at the potential increase from a salary with an undergraduate degree to a salary after a graduate degree.

Considering that many employers pay employees just enough to get them to stay and that wages have been stagnant for decades, there’s a good chance a salary increase won’t help you pay off your student loans faster.

The second way to evaluate the ROI of a graduate degree is to compare the maximum salary potential with an undergraduate degree and the maximum salary potential with a graduate degree.

For this method, a 2015 study done by SoFi that compared the ROI of earning different graduate degrees based on wage increases for each of the first 10 years after graduation from graduate school may help.

It’s also important to determine if you have the stamina to complete a graduate program when your primary driver is income. The benefits of credits obtained for graduate degrees are reduced when the graduate program isn’t finished.

How can you keep your cost low if you must go?

If graduate school is in your future, it helps to lower your costs of school. If you’re considering graduate school and already have student loan debt from undergraduate school, you’ve likely exhausted all education savings and gift accounts, such as 529 Plans and Uniform Gift to Minor Accounts. However, it may help to find out if you have relatives or even friends with money in 529 Plans that aren’t completely used.

One benefit of 529 Plans is that they may be transferred to another beneficiary if the original beneficiary doesn’t pursue a higher education or doesn’t use all the money in their 529 Savings Plan.

It’s also helpful to exhaust grants and scholarships offered by the federal government, state governments, and schools.

Research www.grants.gov and apply for grants that are appropriate for you. You’re likely already familiar with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Complete an application at www.fafsa.ed.gov to apply for federal student loan assistance authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to help subsidize your graduate degree.

Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 covers Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and the Federal TEACH Grant, along with other grants, loans, and work-study programs. Research www.ed.gov to find additional grants for which you may qualify. Simple ways to search grants and scholarships available through your state are through your state’s Department of Education or state grant agency website or with Scholarships.com.

Get that (scholarship) paper.

A trick to get the most money available through grants and scholarships is to be a bottom feeder.

Most people shoot for the higher, five-figure grants and scholarships. The competition for these higher-dollar grants and scholarships is stiffer. Fewer people apply for lower dollar scholarships and grants, which makes them relatively easier to win.

By creating systems and standard responses that just need to be nuanced from application to application, acquiring the lower dollar grants and scholarships may be your best strategy for keeping your costs low.

Get your employer to invest in you.

Finally, get an employer to pay for all or some of your graduate degree. If you’re currently employed, contact your human resource department to determine how your employer may be able to assist. Reimbursement usually covers up to a certain dollar amount in each year and doesn’t require repayment. It does typically require that the student meet a minimum GPA.

Tuition reimbursements over $5,250 a year may generate a tax payment for the employee. This will likely require that you work full-time and go to school part-time and will take you longer to complete graduate school, but it will mean less student loan debt for you.

If you aren’t currently working for an employer that offers tuition reimbursement, consider finding a job with a company that does. UPS, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Apple have businesses in most parts of the country and all offer excellent incentives, including tuition reimbursement.

It may be that more is better for your situation. If so, be strategic with how you get more because at some point it may get cost-prohibitive. It may be that more school isn’t necessary if you’re creative or strategic with your career planning. Don’t get so wrapped up in the “more mentality” that you don’t see this.

Have you gone back to school? Did it work for you? Or was it an unnecessary expense? Join the conversation in the #Adulting Facebook community.

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You work too much for too little pay. It’s time to ask for a raise. But you have to do it right.

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You work hard. You provide value to the company. But you’re still being paid like a noob. How do you ask for a raise?

Because it’s not going to just show up for most of us. Most of us have to ask for more money. It’s never fun, but it needs to be done.

If you want more from work — whether it’s a raise or a promotion — you need to prove your value and then take your evidence to the boss. In this episode, we’ll talk about how you can do that.

Concepts

  • How to recognize that you actually deserve a raise or promotion.
  • Tips for figuring out how to quantify your contributions.
  • Reasons it’s time to ask for a raise.
  • When to approach your boss about a raise.
  • What you need to know about the process of asking for a raise or promotion.
  • How to make a presentation to your boss.
  • Suggestions for what to include in your presentation.
  • How to focus on your value to the company.
  • Tips for compromising on the amount of the raise.

Our “do nows” this week are all about reflecting on the reality of your situation and paying attention to the value you offer. We also take a look at how you can assess when the best time to ask for a raise is.

A listener also has a question about how much work has been piled on. We talk about what you can do if your boss isn’t willing to acknowledge your work, even though it’s the right thing to do.

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Resources

When to approach your boss to ask for raise
Are you ready for a raise?

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A better job that makes more money won’t solve your problems. Until you change your mindset, you’ll neve actually be happy.

No.

As my editor won’t publish one-word articles, please allow me to elaborate.

In our teens, we’re learning the board game of life. In our twenties, we’re going to rule Boardwalk and Park Place. By our thirties, we’re feverishly jumping over chutes and trying to climb ladders. By our forties, we’re only trying to cling to our last remaining territory wondering if the other players are on a secret mission.

It’s tempting to want to be king of the hill. You make all the decisions. You have no one to be responsible to but you. You make all the money. You come and go as you please.

Is that really what it’s like at the top of that ladder or just how it looks when you’re standing at the bottom?

Being the boss isn’t always the best.

Comparisons of being the boss and not being the boss are not like Sophia Tucker’s quote of comparing being rich and being poor: “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

To be sure, shit runs downstream, but it’s also lonely (read stressful) at the top.

Once upon a time, I was a tiny cog in a wheel. I put in my 9-to-5, clocked out, and then my day and thoughts were mine. When I became a slightly bigger cog in that wheel 9-to-5 became 7-to-7. Monday through Friday became “and some weekends.” I had more responsibility, more to lose, and more ways to lose.

In an interview for his book, “The Secrets of CEOs,” Steve Tappin said, “The major emotions a CEO has are frustration, disappointment, irritation and overwhelm. There should be a health warning. If you have those emotions for 80 percent of the day, they lead to stress and cortisol in the body, which leads to accelerated aging, heart attacks, and cancer.”

We all know how I feel about cortisol.

When I was a kid, my father was promoted to vice president of sales for a steel company back when vice president wasn’t just a title and selling steel made a living.

He quickly gained weight, was gone a lot, and wasn’t happy. It wasn’t too many years afterward that he quit his job, moved us out of the big city back to his small hometown, and took a role that had a less glamorous title, much less stress, and much more happiness.

“Rich” people are often broke.

It’s a fallacy that more money will alleviate all your personal and financial concerns. For most people, not having enough money isn’t the problem. It’s not spending wisely the money they have that’s the problem.

“Unless you change how you are, you’ll never have more than you’ve got,” said Jim Rohn. People who don’t change themselves often return to their current state no matter what life gives them. This is why 70% of lottery winners go broke after winning their winnings. They had a losing money mindset, and their winnings didn’t change that.

No raise, promotion, or windfall of money will fix your financial problems until you change your money mindset and keep more money than you spend. Just as more money won’t necessarily fix your financial problems, it won’t help with your other problems in life.

Bob Proctor often says that thinking money will make you happy is as misguided as thinking a refrigerator will drive you around town. To think a refrigerator can assume the characteristics of a car is preposterous and so is thinking money will help you acquire happiness.

Climbing the corporate ladder and making more money won’t solve anything unless you know what to do with it.

Happiness isn’t a goal.

If you live in the United States, you’re wealthy compared to the rest of the world. You’re already winning.

If you aren’t happy with what you have today sitting in a cubicle, don’t expect to be happy with what you have tomorrow sitting in the corner office or even The Oval Office. Climbing the corporate ladder can’t make you happy.

Happiness isn’t a goal. We should strive to make happiness a constant state and not a constant goal. The search for perpetual happiness despite our conditions is why my husband and I have adopted a new exercise.

Every time we have a negative thought about any and everything, we must tell or text the other two things we’re happy about to counterbalance that one negative thought.

This is the “yellow car effect.” The yellow car effect happens when you realize how many yellow cars are out there when you start looking for yellow cars. Until then, they seem nearly non-existent.

When you start looking for more happiness in your life, you notice more happiness. When you see more happiness, you receive more happiness in all its shapes and sizes.

There isn’t a template for happiness.

Another fallacy in today’s thinking is that one size fits all. Some people want the house with the white picket fence, 2.2 kids, and a dog. To others, that sounds like a fresh hell.

Some people want the security of a 9-to-5 job, two weeks, vacation, and healthcare. To others, that’s a prison.

There’s nothing wrong with any version of happiness.

Joshua Field Millburn of The Minimalist said, “There is no template for happiness.” It may seem like the CEO has the glamorous life, rich people on television may seem more impressive than you, celebrities may look like they have it all, but everyone’s living their lives like they manage their Facebook feeds.

I had a director of a financial services firm, someone I thought “had it all,” once tell me that no promotion or title ever alleviated the constant concern that he was expendable and that there were dozens of people just waiting to fill his roles. He was climbing the corporate ladder and was miserable.

Without an innate ability to be happy, such stress will make an unhappy person even more unhappy.

So, no, climbing the corporate ladder is not the answer to all your financial and life problems. You are.

You are.

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