Four Strategies to Build Your Professional Network the Old-Fashioned Way

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You’ve probably heard that the key to growing your business and getting ahead in your career is to network, network, network. Well, that’s because it’s true! But no matter how popular technology becomes, you simply cannot restrict your networking efforts to the internet. Although I was able to build up both of my businesses largely through social media, my most influential professional relationships have actually come from an initial in-person meeting.

Back in the day, before email, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, people actually made connections face to face most of the time. A phone call was more preferable to email, and most business was done through word of mouth. These days, online tools have made communication much less time-consuming, but the old-fashioned ways of networking still hold true.

So here are four ways to build a strong professional network – just like people used to do back in the day.

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How to Take a Vacation (Without Feeling Guilty About It)

Happy African American Woman Dancing on Beach One thing I hear a lot from the hard-working women in our community is how difficult it is to take a vacation. Many of us already work long hours at work or in our business, yet for some reason have trouble taking a break! If it’s been years since you’ve given yourself the gift of a proper vacation, read on for some tips to help you step away from the laptop or plot your much-needed escape from the cubicle.

Schedule Time Off from Work Far in Advance

The best way to ensure you take your vacation time is to sit down at the beginning of the year and map out the times you already know you want off. It might be useful to think in terms of seasons. Plan to take some time off during the spring, summer, winter, etc. For instance, no matter where I worked, I always took off from my job for a few days every spring so that I could attend the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville. And for the last 3 years in my business, I’ve taken off at least one full month for vacation at some point during the year for travel!

Most people want to spend extended time with their families during various holidays, so you can plan around those as well. If you’re taking time off from your business, block off time in your calendar for the dates you want to get your R&R. If you’re taking time off from your job, make sure you submit your leave request as FAR in advance as possible so your supervisor can approve it in a timely manner. That way, you can work together to make arrangements for other staff or an assistant to cover your responsibilities and take care of clients during your time away, if necessary.

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How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Quit Your Job

For many working women, advancing in your career may involve knowing when to leave your current job to pursue new opportunities. Use these tips as a guide to handle your own resignation when you’re ready to move on to a better job or work in your own business full-time. (Note: You’ll find more career tips in my book, How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career to help you navigate your professional journey. Although the book was written with nonprofit professionals in mind, the concepts and strategies work for advancing your career in any industry!)

Sometimes, you start a great job, and it’s just not what you expected. Maybe you really love the company, but it’s your tedious duties that are driving you crazy. Or, maybe you really enjoy your day to day, but you just don’t think you can last one more pay period working for that terrible boss. Perhaps you’re just burned out and ready to try something new. It could be time for you to explore other job opportunities with more pay and more responsibility. No matter what your reasons are for wanting to leave, if you’re ready to quit your job, you want to make sure you leave on good terms. Even if it was the job from hell.

Here’s how.

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How to Decide the Next Step in Your Career

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A few years ago, I was facilitating a training and one of the participants asked me, “So, Rosetta, what’s next for you?” I had no answer because at the time, I was wondering the same thing myself! I love the term “infinite possibility” but when you have several different paths you can take, it can be difficult to pick one and move forward. Here I was, trying to help this group of leaders figure out how to get to the next stage of their careers, and I wasn’t able to articulate where mine is going.

“I don’t know,” is what I said at the time. Soon after though, I went through a process to figure out what, exactly, I wanted to do next. Here are some ideas you might use in your own stage of discernment about where you want your career to go.

Identify Your Signature Strengths

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From Fired to Freedom: How Vernetta Freeney Started Women Are Gamechangers

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This is a guest post by Vernetta Freeney, one of the most active and effective networking women I’ve ever met online. Please welcome Vernetta to the HBW Community!

As I write this for you, I can honestly say I am in a happy place in my professional career. But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, the last two years have been one of the roughest stretches. Let me take you back where my transition began. In 2010, I was a first grade teacher. I loved my job. My kids were amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better year. But rumors started to circulate that things in education were changing and they would never be the same.

From a Stable Career to Being Forced to Resign

I didn’t worry because I’d always received better than normal evaluations. The next semester, I was told that I needed to be careful. My name was on the chopping block. I was alarmed because again, I had great evaluations and my kids always performed well. Well, I received the letter stating I needed to schedule a meeting with my principal. I was struck with confusion. We met and he said a lot of untrue things. Many believed that he and his supervisors were upset at a blog post I had written in 2009. To be honest, if I had to do it all over again, I still would have written the blog post. Anyway, I had my union rep on campus come with me to the meeting. She looked shocked as well with what was being said. I resigned from teaching during that meeting with tears in my eyes. I rushed out and locked myself in the restroom and cried. I could not believe that after nine years in education this was how it was going to end. I finished the year per my contact.

Figuring Out What to Do Next

During the summer, I began to seek options on what to do next. I had no Plan B. That was a big mistake. I could not find another teaching job. All of the districts were tightening up due to budget cuts statewide. I eventually found a contract position teaching English as a Second Language to corporate employees in the oil and gas industry. Since it was only contact work, I had so much time on my hands. I would go to the public library between students and just read. I would read anything related to business. After losing my job the way I did, I knew I never wanted that to happen again. I knew my only option was to be an entrepreneur. But I had no clue what I wanted to do. So, I would read books on things that interested me in hopes that maybe I found something I could pursue as a business.

In August of 2011, I came across Happy Black Woman. I saw she was doing her 31 Days to Reset Your Life Challenge. I waited until September to start with the next cycle. By this time a friend and my mom said I should start blogging again to occupy my time. I think I was annoying them because I was extremely bored with so much time on my hands.

Making the Decision to Start Women Are Gamechangers

During the challenge, it just struck me. All of the exercises Rosetta had us doing really helped me see that I should start my business now and not wait. So one night around midnight, I was up Googling adjectives I thought described women. All of the clichés were taken. The word “gamechanger” just came to me out of the blue. It had to be God. So I Googled the word. The only things that came up were athletes and Nike. I thought to myself: women are gamechangers. Well, that’s how I got the name for my blog, Women Are Gamechangers!

My blog originally started off with the intent to share stories of everyday women. Eventually, I was asked to do work and get paid for it so I filed as an LLC. I began to start changing the direction of the blog from just telling stories and sharing empowerment messages to focusing more on business. Attending events, I noticed a lot of women weren’t handling themselves effectively while networking. I read a book by Vickie L. Milazzo called Wicked Success Is Inside Every Woman. I had heard both she and Stedman Graham speak in 2011 at the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. The last chapter in Vickie’s book was called “Fusion.” She wrote about how she helped connect her friends to each other. I realized that I had been doing that for as long as I could remember!  So, I created a networking event called “Fusion.”

A New Direction for My Life and Business

This was the direction I knew I wanted my new business to go in. I learned a lot of lessons in 2012 as a full-time entrepreneur. The most important lesson I learned was not to do something for others even if they were paying me just because I was good at it. I needed to do something I was passionate about. Towards the end of 2012, I reevaluated my goals and direction for Women Are Gamechangers. I shut everything down. I needed clarity. All of this was still new to me. I was so used to working in a structured system that I had not created a system for Women are Gamechangers. I created one during that time I shut my business down.

This year, I am more focused and determined to build Fusion into a national tour. I am starting with six cities. But I would never be in the happy place I am today, doing what I enjoy if I did not go through the traumatic experience of being forced to resign from the job I thought I loved. That led to a new door being opened that fits my skills, interests and talents much better. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. It probably never will be.

But I am using the skills and talents I have to make a difference in the lives of women and getting paid to do so.

***

Healthy Hair Affair 003Vernetta R. Freeney is an award winning business blogger and entrepreneur based in Houston, Texas. Check out her blog, Women Are Gamechangers and her upcoming 6-city Fusion Tour for women entrepreneurs.

Five Empowering Actions to Take After You Get Laid Off

This is a guest post by Marcia McIntyre. Please welcome Marcia to the HBW Community!

Since 1989, I have always worked and never been laid off until now. Last week, my boss called me into his office to gravely inform me that he had to let me go – effective immediately – due to the company not having money to pay me anymore. It’s not like I was breaking the bank. Or maybe I was… Instead of feeling despondent and forlorn, I felt a great peace that God was going to help me through this. As I was packing up my desk, my co-worker looked on with the Bambi eyes. She said, “I feel like I was the one laid off.” I said, “You LOOK like you’re the one laid off! It’s OK. I will be fine.” As we hugged and parted ways, I really believed it and I still believe it.

But the next morning I woke up like, Crap! What am I going to do?

The first thing I did was read my Bible and write in my journal (my daily devotion). No reason to stop that now. After that, I looked at my vision board. The first thing that caught my eye that day was something I clipped out of a magazine that said:

Vision boards cue your subconscious to steer you toward stimuli and choices in sync with your goals.

I nodded in agreement and started my day. For some reason, I expected that to trigger something in my mind of the next great plan for my life. Instead, I got nada. So, I had to start listening to my gut, my instincts and my spirit. This is what I’ve done thus far.

Get a Separation Letter and File for Unemployment

Once you’re laid off, you are supposed to get severance pay. This wasn’t the case for me. So I asked for a separation letter and went to the Department of Labor to file for unemployment. Make sure your separation letter states the day you were laid off and why (it should be favorable if it wasn’t your fault). In the state I live in (Georgia), it takes approximately twenty-one to twenty-eight days before you start receiving it (if your former boss does not contest) and it will be retroactive. You will have to sit through orientation. You will have to check in weekly and certify. You will have to do it so just do it.

Continue Your Stress Relievers

If you go to the gym, continue. If you practice yoga or pilates, continue. If you run three miles a day, CONTINUE. Continue to do any of those things that help release endorphins to clear your mind and to give you some happiness. A happy and focused body is a productive body. Plus, it’s not fair to throw shade at those closest to you just because you’re miserable right now. I love my gym so much and now I can try all those different classes that they have during working hours like hot yoga, kickboxing or Aqua Fit.

Take a Breather and Write Down Your Goals

In other words: relax, relate, release (shout out to Debbie Allen on A Different World). While you’re in a temporary standstill, take this time to write down your goals, dreams, and wishes. Be specific and proactive in what you write, putting down the necessary steps it would take to accomplish those goals. If you spell it out, it will look more feasible to obtain and execute. I want to write, so guess what? I’m writing. Everyday. About whatever I feel like and it feels good. I’m gaining confidence to put myself out there more. I’m also networking with different writers to see which path is the best path for me.

Spruce Up Your Surroundings

Take note of your surroundings and environment. This is the perfect time to clean house and maybe try that Feng Shui to boost more creativity and peace in your sanctuary. I finally cleaned my room and found some interesting things to pique my love and interest in writing even more. I also realized how spacious my apartment is after I cleaned out a few boxes and threw them away. It definitely made me feel more attached to my home instead of feeling like a resident who only sleeps there at night. All of a sudden, Tamia’s song “Stranger In My House” came to mind.

Call the Bill Collectors Before They Call You

I didn’t realize how many bills I had until I no longer had income. Call all the people you normally send payments to and tell them of your situation. You may have to negotiate lower rates, change the date of your pay periods, or just straight pause/cancel that extra expense activity that you love to do cold turkey. This is already a tense time for you (and me) and we are trying to find a new job and the last thing you need is your phone blowing up because they didn’t get their moolah. You want your phone blowing up with awesome job interviews, not grizzly sounding men who sound like they will throw you in their trunk and drive you out to the harbor.

Well, that’s where I am right now. Good luck to you. Good luck to me. I’ll keep you posted on my next adventure!

***

Marcia McIntyre is a budding author who lives, eats, writes and breathes zany scenarios on her beloved Mac. A born and raised New Yorker (Yawkah), Marcia now resides in Atlanta, Georgia writing about writing until it gets her on the New York Times Bestseller List.

You can follow Marcia’s journey on her blog at Marcia Scribbles.

Four Practical Ways to Increase Your Happiness at Work

On any given weekday, you’ll find thousands of gainfully-employed ladies complaining about their jobs on social media. I often see tweets and Facebook posts about how people are dreading going to work on Monday or that they can’t wait until Friday so they can get away from their boss from hell. A recent Conference Board survey confirms that over half of American workers are unsatisfied in their jobs. Especially after a particularly bad or hectic day, it can seem impossible to stay positive with all the challenges you may face at work.

No matter what you’re going through at your 9 to 5 though, it’s important to remember that your boss is NOT ultimately responsible for your job satisfaction. You are. If your career isn’t going the way you want it to, it’s up to you to either change it or get out of there and seek out new opportunities. You can’t go around blaming other people for “making” you unhappy in your job – at some point you have to take matters into your own hands. Try these actions to increase your happiness at work – starting right now.

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The Easiest Path to Self-Employment

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When I quit my job in 2010 to work for myself, I didn’t do it without a safety net. I had already secured two anchor clients. Anchor clients are contracts that provide a guaranteed stream of work for a defined amount of time, while you figure out your next move. When I left my job, I had one six-month contract and one 12-month contract. Financially, I was pretty set for my first year. Those initial contracts drastically reduced the monetary risk of self-employment.

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My Dream Job is What I’m Doing Now

This morning, I came aross a job listing on my Twitter feed that was an amazing fit for my skills, education and experience. Plus, it was with a very reputable nonprofit organization with smart, influential people that I’d get to work with on innovative projects. For a moment, I thought about applying. I already know the person I’d be reporting to, and about half of the staff in general. I was excited to see this particular position because it’s rare to see a role that could tempt me out of self-employment. I’ve had more than a few headhunters contact me for executive-level jobs, but it’s hard to put a price on freedom, baby.

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