Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to find a cause you love and get involved

[Photo by hobynye]

You probably see my many posts on Facebook and Twitter about Dress for Success Miami - that's my cause. Volunteering and getting involved with a cause is a great way to help others, meet new people and add some life into your work/life balance.

But where do you start? There are thousands of causes out there, all with good intentions. How do you select the one that's right for you? First, think about the following:

Your heartstrings
What pulls at you? It could be injustice, poverty, animal welfare, homelessness or any number of things. But if you are going to spend time and energy in cause, choose one that you feel personally drawn to.

Your experience
What have you done or been through that can help others? Perhaps your days as a food server in college can be channeled in a soup kitchen. It could even be a match of professional skills – I started volunteering with Dress for Success Miami by offering communications, writing and marketing services pro bono (and I still do).

Your time
Be realistic here – how much time can you commit to helping out? Is it once a week? Once a month? For certain events? It could even be taking on administrative projects you can do on your own time or in your own home. Knowing this beforehand will keep you from getting in too deep too fast and not enjoying the experience.

Now that you've picked a cause, ask around or do a search on Volunteer Match or Idealist to find an organization close to you. Contact them to get an overview of the organization and get to know the people running the place. If your gut doesn't feel good about it, it might not be the right organization for you, but don't get discouraged.

Some easy ways to get involved:
  • Volunteer. Most nonprofits, especially local ones, have more demand than capacity. Find out how you can help out as a volunteer, whether it's helping deliver services (like mentoring or tutoring), staffing events (a personal favorite of mine), doing manual labor (think Habitat for Humanity) or helping out in the office (like data entry or answering phones).
  • Donate/Fundraise. Time is valuable, yes, but some things do require money. Can you donate some funds? You can even help organize a fundraiser or 
  • Pro bono services. If their needs fit your professional expertise, consider offering pro bono services. This is common for areas such as public relations, accounting and legal services. It helps to define a scope and set some expectations.
What does it mean to be on a nonprofit board of directors?
To be honest, I knew very little about nonprofit boards before I joined one. First and foremost, board members serve as ambassadors for a cause – representing the organization, spreading word about their good works and building relationships and good will. Most nonprofit boards also provide financial oversight and accountability for the organization. For philanthropic nonprofits, such as charities, arts organizations and those that thrive on donations, a large part of a board member's duties will include fundraising.

Are you involved in a nonprofit or volunteer cause? How did you pick one and how are you involved?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Not your run-of-the-mill office supplies

A few weeks ago, I shared some fun business card cases, many from By far, I find etsy to be the best resource for non-traditional finds. Whether it's handmade or vintage, it will most likely be one of a kind (or at least very few of the same kind).

Here are some of my office supply picks from

Some other great resources for office supplies that aren't run-of-the-mill:

Where do you go for office supplies?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Work Staples: Business card cases

You're rockin' it at a networking event when you meet someone important – a rep from your dream company, a potential BFF or a like-minded entrepreneur – and they hand you a business card.

What do you do?

(a) Stutter, "Oh, I don't have any cards with me now, but I'll email you."
(b) Rummage around the bottom of your bag and pull out a dirty wrinkled card.
(c) Pull out your snazzy business card holder and hand them a crisp clean card with your contact info.

I wish I could say it was always (c), but for me, the answer is usually (a) or (b). I have a few cards (for work, freelancing, my volunteer work and the blog), so it's hard to keep them all straight or in stock in my purse. I use a Coach coin purse that was a gift back in grad school to tote some around, but I have to admit I usually forget to switch it when I switch purses. For that reason, I usually keep 1 or 2 cards in my wallet, too.

Card cases keep your cards handy, clean and crisp. They're also a fun accessory, so let your personality come through!  Check out these sweet options.

How many cards do you have, and what do you use to hold them? 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New job checklist: part II (or part I)

Now that you know what to update and what to do once you're in the job, let's backtrack a bit. Technically this part precedes that part (and technically this post preceded that post, it just got lost in my drafts), so I'm not sure whether this is Part II or Part I.

So here is the rest of the checklist (the beginning of the checklist?) for your shiny new job.

What to know
  • Daily schedule and hours of business, including lunch hours
  • Dress code
  • Vacation/sick day procedures
  • Holiday schedule
  • Pay schedule and how to report time
  • Performance review schedule and procedures
  • Parking arrangements and permits needed (if any)
  • Best rush hour route (and how long it takes)
  • Available amenities (kitchenette, refrigerator, microwave, water cooler, etc.)

Who to know, aside from your superviser and coworkers
  • HR representative
  • IT person
  • Payroll 
  • Administrative staff in your department

Did I miss anything?

Monday, February 4, 2013

How to talk about dieting in the office

The cubicle life is sedentary, and it can be unhealthy. I know this all too well – since finishing grad school and entering the work force six years ago, and with irregular and unsustained bursts of activity, I've gained a good 25 pounds.

As I struggle to get back in shape, I've talked about my efforts with my coworkers. We spend 40 hours a week together and yes, we talk about things other than work. Sometimes (much of the time?) it falls into a common trap – bashing our own bodies. This is generally a social activity, but can seep into the workplace easily. Haven't seen it? You've probably missed it.

"You look great, but I'd never be able to wear that."

"I remember when I was young and my metabolism was quick."

"I need to go work out."

I'm sure you've heard similar things in your workplaces, and And it goes on and on. From normal, healthy, beautiful women.

Don't get me wrong - sometimes the comments above are actually true. Not every style works for every shape, metabolism does slow down, and working out is a good thing. But saying, and hearing, those types of comments can be hurtful, to both ourselves and others. At the very least, they can be annoying.

It's a hard habit to break, but there are two things we can do.

Stop tearing ourselves down. 
If you're giving a compliment, let it stand on its own merit; don't feel like you need to bring yourself down in the process.

Work together.
Offer a solution, like walking together during lunch or splitting meals when eating out. Or start an informal office challenge among coworkers with similar goals – see who can stick to their plan the best and celebrate milestones together.

So what do you say...who's with me in trying to change the dialogue on diets?