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before you change jobs, do this!

There’s something that can cut deep into the benefit of changing jobs.

Before you actually look for new employment, make sure you understand the benefits you currently have, like health insurance, and how those will be affected. Health insurance is a complicated thing so you have to be aware of how a job change changes your status. In a recent survey, almost a quarter of the respondents said that their insurance benefits and out-of-pocket expenses worsened their financial situation more than anticipated.

That survey is cited in an article at the NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners) consumer site, Insure U. Job Seekers Beware: Prospective employer’s financial offer is about more than salary is part of some very helpful resources on Job Change that would be good to keep in mind.

NAIC Recommendations For Job Changers

To avoid surprises, consider the following before saying goodbye to a current employer:

  • See if your current group life insurance plan has a conversion privilege. If so, you may have up to 31 days after leaving your job to apply for coverage.
  • Find out if you can convert current group disability coverage into a portable disability plan that stays with you from job to job.
  • If your job change includes a move, check your homeowners’ policy to make sure personal possessions are covered in-transit. If not, consider a trip transit or floater policy.
  • Insurance rates and coverage vary greatly from state to state. Before a move across state lines, contact your state insurance department so you know what to expect.
  • Before accepting a new job, compare your current health plan with plans offered to assure the available mix of deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance will cost-effectively meet your needs.
  • Find out if your new employer has a mandatory waiting period before health insurance coverage takes effect. If so, consider a short-term plan through new health insurance exchanges to cover the gap. More than 10% of NAIC survey respondents said their overall financial situation was worsened by issues related to “the effective date of new health insurance coverage.”
  • If you have children and anticipate a coverage gap, you may also look into government-sponsored programs such as Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP). These plans may provide coverage at low or no cost.
  • Finally, if you’re thinking of starting your own business and plan to use your personal car to make deliveries or visit clients, consider business auto coverage. If you’re involved in an accident while conducting these tasks, most personal auto policies won’t cover the losses.

One More Thing To Think About

Before you decide to search for a different job, get acquainted with all the job search resources on our site. You don’t have to explore each one, but the more you know about what you are getting into, the better prepared you will be for making that switch. Something as elementary as health insurance gets missed by many in the promise of a bigger paycheck, so plan carefully.

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Daycare is indispensable to a working mom

Sometimes mothers get trapped in the maze of expectations we have put on them, you know what I mean? The “battle” between stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms, and work-away-from-home moms almost seems like a marketing ploy to get you to buy magazines or books. Seriously, though. The industry puts so much pressure on women to be EVERYTHING. This is a topic close to my heart as I am a working mother of young, but-getting-bigger-by-the-minute-just-ask-them children. The truth is that every family has to crunch the numbers, decide what their priorities need to be, and ignore the critics who disagree with their choices. It helps when you have asked the questions that matter and come up with your best shot at an answer.

Why do you want to go back to work? Are we talking money, fear of losing your career gains, or mental/adult stimulation (I get that part, for sure!)? Or something else? Clarifying your reasons helps you address the problems you want to solve. It also may help you figure out creative solutions that can look different than your pre-baby job.

How much will it cost to go back to work? Nobody can answer that for sure. You have to take your own paycheck and benefits then subtract child care, wardrobe, commuting expenses, lunches, convenience foods (you know you will be getting more of those) and whatever else might apply. The number you have left is what you have to work with for bills. Is it enough to be worth the extra effort and stress?

How old are your kids? I know it feels like you are trapped in the house of diapers, but these years really do go by fast. My youngest just turned eight. How can that be? Think about the costs of daycare. Can you hold out until they are in school if child care costs are prohibitive? Do you have a good source for child care that you are comfortable with? Perhaps another stay-at-home mom would consider watching your children.

Can you start out part time or work from home? This is often a good transition for the family. It helps everyone figure out how things will work when Mom is gone or unavailable. If you decide to become a work-at-home mom, be prepared for the reality of working from home. You will cut the costs of working at an office, but you will have to discipline yourself from throwing in another load of laundry, or sitting down to watch, “Ellen”. You will also have to consider that your children will still think you are “mom”, and will take quite some time to get them to understand you are working. Are they old enough to keep themselves busy for a full day? Will you have a nanny, or other in-home care on the days when you have to be on calls or in a virtual meeting?

There is no “perfect” solution to the question of going back to work because there is no “perfect” family or job. Whatever you decide, there will be some rough patches. But that is life, right? We have to look at the facts about where things stand, acknowledge the emotions that are part of those facts, and decide what to do for right now. It helps a lot when the inevitable rough patches or criticism comes to have thought through the questions and clarified why you have made this choice for your family’s best interests.

 

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work/family balance is for singles, too

Sometimes the subject of work/family balance seems to be all about parents and kids, but that would be erroneous. Everyone needs to take time off the job and do something that renews their spirit so they can come back to work refreshed and ready to go.

Navigating uncertain times in your job as a single person has a different set of challenges because single adults are often living away from the network of family. Family can certainly be stressful, but family also is a support system for most of us. We need to be part of some definition of family even if that “family” is an online support group we never see in real life.

In some ways, parents have more clear cut boundaries about work commitments. A child comes with obvious responsibilities and you clearly must say “no, I can’t work late” sometimes to take care of those responsibilities. A single person sounds selfish, even to their own ears, when they want to say “no, I can’t work late” because they paid for a yoga class and it is not refundable. Why is the idea of losing out on a yoga class fee selfish? I don’t think it is, particularly if it’s an expensive class.

Everybody needs to have the ability to do these things outside of your work schedule:

  • maintain friendships
  • take care of your health
  • find leisure activities you enjoy

Maybe we should call it work/life balance, instead, because people who live alone still need to have an identity outside of their job description.

What do you think? How have you been able to maintain this important balance in your life?

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snow day! what are you going to do?

The kids are in their jammies, jumping up and down while screaming in delight, “Snow day! School’s closed! YAY!” The babysitter calls to say she can’t get out of her driveway. When you look outside, you don’t even want to attempt getting to work. This has been a regular thing at my house. The kids are thrilled, but it puts mom and dad in a jam.

This is the time of year when Mother Nature throws us regular curve balls. Actually, I guess you could say they are snow balls, and it’s pretty if you don’t have to go anywhere! If you must get to work or be penalized, it isn’t pretty at all. When you have built some flexibility into your work schedule, you are in a better spot to deal with the problems that all this white stuff creates.

First, be like the school districts and build some “snow day” plans into your calendar. After the winter weather is long gone, you can use them for vacation if you didn’t need them during that blizzard. You know that there will be at least one time, and probably more, that you’ll wish you could just call in and say you are taking a snow day without creating havoc at work. Every job is different, and you might not be able to do this, but it sure works great when you can.

Second, utilize the same skills that are required in job sharing. If you have been communicating with your co-workers, documenting your progress on projects, and organizing your space at the end of the day, then you have made it easier for someone to keep going in your place temporarily if it is necessary. It really makes a difference if you aren’t ashamed to have someone peek into your office or cubicle. It also makes a difference if you have to explain where something is when they call you at home.

Third, appreciate the sudden break and spend some time with your family. These days will soon be gone, just like the snow outside. Be prepared for them and you can make some memories that last.

 

 

 

 

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dying for a job? don't do it!

Recently, a young woman named Mita Duran died after one of the too-frequent 30-hour work days she put in as a copywriter for an international ad agency. The comments on this story number in the thousands; some fault the energy drinks she was consuming to stay awake, some fault the work culture that expects such long hours, others say they do it and it hasn’t killed them yet.

The overwhelming impression you get from the comments is that it is common to be expected to put in increasingly longer hours if you are going to have a job and keep it.

I’m wondering how many people die from job related stress. It probably affects our lives more than we are willing to admit, but there are ways to make things a little bit better:

  • Make sure you are taking breaks and walking around. Your body needs it.
  • Drink more water than your drinking coffee or energy drinks. (You can walk to the bathroom for your breaks!) Your body needs to be hydrated and too much caffeine in your system will damage it.
  • Eat healthy. Take a snack that has protein and nutrients in it instead of straight sugar/fat/carb bombs that make your blood sugar shoot up and then crash.
  • Do stretches at your desk, and raise your computer so you can stand sometimes. I’m thinking about getting one of those huge balls to sit on. I hear it’s great for the stomach and core.
  • Put up a photo of a calm scene…the ocean, a mountain lake, etc. Gaze into it and imagine going there.

These tips are oriented to a desk job, but whatever your job entails there will be some positive actions you can do. Today’s work climate means you have to deal with the stressful conditions you encounter when working long hours. Hopefully, it comes in seasons and there are breaks. Sometimes the work load is an incentive to look for a new job, and we can certainly help you with that.

Nobody should be dying on the job. Change your work lifestyle in 2014 and your body (and mind) will thank you.

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tame the holidays at work and at home

It would be nice if the holiday season went in an orderly fashion, one event to the next, with perfect orbs of celebration repeating themselves in different colors.  But that’s fantasy. What really happens is more like the whirlwind of leaves or snowflakes spiraling beyond control because there is very little you actually do control in this busy season. Still, there are things you can do to tame the chaos enough to enjoy the ride.

  • Lower expectations. Advertising is selling “perfect” holidays because they want sales, not because it’s right for you this year. Memories are edited by our emotions. Now is the time to talk to family about what is important to each member (cookie baking? game night? visit to an attraction?) and plan on getting each one’s top item in the calendar. You might decide to scratch some things off your list of things to do. Fill in your calendar now with the things you value or they might be lost in the flurry of invitations and demands.
  • Now is the time to decide how to handle gift giving in the corporate world. Your coworkers may celebrate different holidays than you do or have different customs for the same holiday. Corporate culture will vary on expected gifts and value but knowing those expectations now helps you figure out what you will do about it. Last minute gifts are not usually impressive, but they invariably are expensive.
  • Most of us haven’t hauled out the decorations yet. Now is the perfect time to start eliminating things you no longer use in the home or your workspace. Don’t put the tinsel garland on top of the piles if you can get rid of those piles a little bit each day. Do the old “store it-give it-toss it” routine and clean the spot the pile was on. If you have to store it, put it where it belongs. If you don’t have a place for it, why are you keeping it? In the workplace and in the home the piles do more than get in the way, they are a safety hazard and an image destroyer. If you need everything in that pile you should make a home for it so it doesn’t get lost.
  • Start a change jar if you haven’t already and put extra cash into it. This is your “mad money” for indulgences. When it is gone, no indulgence until more is in the jar. Don’t wreck your household budget for frappuccinos with friends. Speaking of budgets; know yours and its limit. Keep January bills in mind when you use that credit card. It’s easier to make your financial plan now, including expected work expenses. Then you can use that plan as a guide to keep you out of impulse spending traps.

There’s no way to avoid all holiday stress, but doing what you can to anticipate it and lessen it will make your holidays more enjoyable this year, both at work and at home.

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navigating uncertain times in your job

Every so often, uncertain times come to a large part of the economy. It might be a government shut down, severe weather, or a variety of other calamities can happen that affect your job. Even when uncertainty affects a small part of the economy, if it affects your job, then you need to be prepared to navigate unknown waters.

Here are a few basic points to keep in mind:

  • There will occasionally be uncertain times — look back in history and you can see that financial and political crises happen all the time, all over the world. Even if most of the economy is good, if your job is uncertain, then you have every reason to be concerned enough to do something about it. Job-related stress has symptoms, but it also has resolutions.
  • It is always a good idea to prepare for uncertain times — work on paying off your debt load even if all you can do is pay a little more than the minimum every month. Put some money in savings every payday, and don’t use it unless it is a last resort. Work out your budget so you have a handle on what you are doing with your money. Talk with your family about how you will get through a crisis; it’s like a fire drill that prepares you for emergencies.
  • Don’t waste today’s energy on worrying — do something about what stresses you. Take a walk every day instead of eating a donut for breakfast (not that I object to donuts–believe me, I don’t–but a walk is de-stressing where sugary snacks backfire). Look at your worries and work on what you are in control of. If you can’t control the thing that worries you, how will worry help? Answer: it won’t.
  • Forget about drama and smile at the people in your life — we are in the boat together. It makes the journey so much easier when we treat one another with kindness. The people you work with, the people you live with, and the people you interact with as you go through your day are all on the same ocean, and we all do better when we are smiling.
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3 tips to balance back to school and work schedules

It’s that time of year again, when the start of the school year starts adding complications to your family/work schedule. A home with school age children is one that has a lot of similarities to white water rafting: periods of calm followed by raging rapids where you are just hoping to keep your head above water until you reach the end of the ride. It’s fun and exhilarating but better when you are prepared!

Here are 3 of the best tips for the season:

  1. Get advice from those who’ve been there. Posts like “Tips For Balancing Work And Family” usually are written by the experienced. There are a lot of options for advice, and it’s a good idea to skim the offerings with the idea of getting a perspective rather than seeing them as a list of things you must do. Just like you don’t eat everything at an all-you-can-eat buffet, you don’t try to personally implement every piece of advice you read.
  2. Get an idea of what you are in for. Sit down with everybody at the table with the calendar and map out the school year with all the info you have right now. Some families use color coding for every member or activity so it is seen at a glance what’s up in the week ahead. Put in the regular stuff, too, so you aren’t accidentally planning a double whammy for your day.  This is where you get a visual of what “too much to do” looks like and hopefully discuss how transportation will work and see that something might have to be edited out. Many families have found that they need to allow only ONE extracurricular activity per member.
  3. Get margins written into your schedule. The empty space is what allows you to read the words on this page, and the empty space in your schedule allows you to have time to breathe and connect. People need to have times where they just relax and putter and do whatever they like to do. It’s like recharging your batteries for the next round, or the calm water before the next rapids.

The ability to bring your whole focus into the workplace depends on your ability to relax about what’s happening at home. Getting the family schedule wisely worked out with all the factors plus margins for emergencies and recharging allows you to keep your mind on your job while you are there.

 

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tips to consider when pregnant and working

One of the realities for women is that of being pregnant and working a full-time job. Actually, even if you were home all day, you’d be working around the house, so it isn’t a new or unusual condition, but for the first-time mother you do need to take some things into account:

  • Pregnancy changes your physical needs. You really do need to get more rest and pay attention to nutrition! Now is not the time to pretend you are superwoman.
  • Pregnancy changes the way your emotions and brain work. Give yourself space and permission to make some mistakes, then plan to correct the mistakes as they happen.
  • Pregnancy changes your insurance needs. Take the time to find out exactly how any benefits you have on the job apply and what the exceptions are for coverage. Don’t assume anything and be good friends with Human Resources if your employer has that asset.
  • Pregnancy changes your housing needs. You don’t need to have a fully-equipped nursery at first, but you will need some things like a car seat and a plan for the future. And lots of diapers. Oh, and did I mention diapers?
  • Pregnancy changes your future plans. Find out what maternity leave will entail from that good friend in HR. Figure out child care options for your return to the job.
  • Pregnancy changes your plans for today. You have a job to do and you know your stuff. Be flexible where you can and prepare ahead for days that will be low-energy. If you can work ahead or get organized, good. If you need a nap or have to put your swollen feet up, it will give you a break to get ready for the next thing on your agenda.

Your employer should not discriminate against you for being pregnant. Become familiar with your rights but reassure those relying on you that you have every intention of being responsible to fulfill your obligations on the job. You aren’t alone; network with other mothers and develop your support group (I went to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). If your schedule can swing it, I highly recommend it! This will be a big change for you but such a blessing!

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surprising ways family and career overlap
Have you ever considered the ways your work comes home — and your home comes to work? One writer recently shared her thoughts in this article titled, “4 Things Business Taught Me About Parenting — and Vice Versa” and I am sure, if you thought about it, you could come up with more things you have learned as you balance career and family.

The reality is that we aren’t compartmentalized into two separate persons who are exclusively at home or exclusively at work. If you are having problems at home, it is easy to bring that stress into the workplace, and the same tendency applies from work to home. But there are good things that overlap, too!

  • “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated” is a basic childhood lesson that never stops being the right thing to do.
  • “Be responsible for your behavior” applies pretty much everywhere I can think of.
  • “Apologize when you are wrong” gets everybody on the same side, and the same team, and frees you to deal with the problem.
  • “Time out” gives a chance to regroup and respond instead of react. You don’t put a co-worker in the corner, but you could suggest a break and set up a meeting to discuss solutions.
  • “Nap time/Snack time” acknowledges the physical limitations of a child. But grownups, too, have physical limitations and repeatedly working through lunch or excessive overtime will reveal that fact.
  • “Respect each other’s boundaries and differences” goes past teaching kids to get along and into the working world with people from many backgrounds and perspectives.
  • “Do your chores”, or your to-do list, because sometimes you just have to get it done regardless of how you feel about it.

What are some things you have learned from work and applied to home, or vice-versa? I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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