Archive for April, 2009

Stop looking for a job: Ideas for new businesses

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

It’s very easy to feel hopeless and worthless in this awful recession. If you’ve been to endless job interviews, sent your resume to dozens of people and stood in line at job fairs, you know exactly what I’m talking about. But I’m sure you can also related if you’ve been sick of your job for a while and now feel that you shouldn’t make a move because there are no job prospects out there.

I actually think that this economic crisis is giving everyone permission to change careers and reinvent themselves in some radical ways nobody would have thought possible before now. Because up until a few months ago, if you were a lawyer and you wanted to become a Reiki practitioner, people would’ve thought that you had lost it. Not now. That’s exactly what a friend of a friend is doing. Reiki has been a passion for hers for a long time and now is her time to get serious about it.

So here’s my suggestion: look at your interests, talents, passions and also at things you do because you enjoy them for family and friends but never extended beyond that. For example: if you went through bankruptcy in the past and you have spent the last few years rebuilding your credit and helping others avoid the experience, you may enjoy conducting workshops on this topic for people in that situation.

If you are a handyman and have always repaired household appliances for you and your family, you may enjoy opening up a small business that would tap into this market’s thriftiness. People are not buying new appliances at the pace they used to, so they are fixing the old ones.

If you have been taking care of an elderly relative and enjoyed it, you may be able to offer services to senior citizens in your area: companionship, driving the around to appointments, running errands, etc.

If you like to cook, what about becoming a personal chef who goes to people’s houses once a week to prepare their meals and leave them in the freezer?

The secret is to open up your mind to all possibilities. There may be things you do naturally that can be turned into a business and the best way to discover them is by talking to a few friends and asking them what have they noticed that you do well. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself after a few of these conversations and hopefully, you’ll come out of them with a new business idea!

How to write a scholarship essay

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

As one of the judges for the RMHC/HACER national scholarship I have the opportunity to read a lot of student essays. Considering that we are talking about 4 scholarships of a $100,000 each, you would expect students to put their best efforts into writing a fantastic essay. Well, unfortunately this is not always the case and students who would be perfect to win this huge award miss out on the opportunity.

I’m not going to focus here on what you need to do during high school to actually qualify for a scholarship, (I’ve written plenty about that in other posts) but on how to write your essay once you have what it takes.

  • Consider each scholarship application separately from others so you can understand what the goal of the scholarship is. Does it focus on a specific area of study? Does it focus on leadership skills? Or on community involvement? Once you identify what aspect the scholarship donors wish to reward, you’ll be better able to choose the topic and focus of your essay.
  • Think about a topic that corresponds to what the scholarship is interested in. In the RMHC/HACER case, the emphasis is on community involvement, so in your essay you should talk about how you have been involved in your community and how you plan to continue having an impact in the future.
  • Write the essay and re-write it until it sounds good to you. It should be a compelling story about you that lets readers know what kind of person you are, where you want to go in life, what kind of impact others had on you, what kind of leader you will be, how you have overcame adversity, etc. Judges don’t want to read “a list” of things you’ve accomplished but how those things define you as a person; they don’t want to read a sad story but how that sad story has made you stronger or has helped you make a certain decision for the future. They don’t want to read your ramblings about your heritage but how that heritage has helped you commit to do something for your community in the future.
  • Ask your English teacher, or an English speaker who is a professional to review your essay and give you feedback. Ask them to help you with your grammar and spelling. It is inadmissible that having time to have someone review an essay that could help you get money for college, you don’t so.
  • Re-write your essay until is perfect. Make sure that if you are using this essay again for another scholarship application, you go through step one again: carefully read the requirements for that award so that you adapt the essay to the program.

    These simple steps should substantially increase your chances of getting lots of money for school!

  • Keeping your job is not enough!

    Sunday, April 12th, 2009

    You might think that in this economy, hoping to keep your job is all you have to worry about. Well, think again. Because you should really be focused on how to bring more value to your life and to your employer. Otherwise, soon, the only way to make sure you will keep your job is by tying yourself to your desk!

    Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’re a valuable asset to your company:

  • Share ideas to improve the bottom line with key decision makers
  • Offer to help people in other departments
  • Think of new tasks you can do to improve your performance or the revenue you generate for the company
  • Continue your education (many companies are still reimbursing their employees for this, so take advantage)
  • Keep your bosses and supervisors abreast of your progress, value and contributions with frequent communications. Don’t wait until your semi annual or annual review to do this.

    Remember that as the market gets increasingly competitive it is to your best interest to actively manage your career. Remaining in a status-quo, stagnant situation will only delay an inevitable layoff.