What to do when your job situation suddenly changes

I’ve had a couple friends recently tell me their job situation had suddenly changed. They came to me quite concerned and unsure as to what their next steps should be. If you’ve had anything like this happen to you, I’m sure you know how shocking this can be. It can make life feel out of control.

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Personally, I’ve been laid off twice in the last several years and it’s not very fun. Both times I had some idea it could be coming, one didn’t surprise me too much, but that still didn’t mean it was fun. I’ve also had my share of contract jobs. Some of those have ended sooner than expected. I got my first contract right out of school. That ended after just six weeks when the project I had been hired to support was canceled. So it makes sense that my friends reach out to me for suggestions, they know I have been through so many job changes.

One book that helped me though all of this was Jon Acuff’s “Do Over” and I suggested it to both of my friends as well. Jon talks about how so many of us would like a ‘Do Over’ when it comes to our careers. He goes over some of the many ways people get to the point of making a big change, and strategies to go about it that can be a bit safer than others.

What to do when your job changes

One friend has essentially been told that their job description has changed and they were no longer qualified. He was being allowed a few months to obtain some training and prove his competence or he would either be demoted or expected to find employment elsewhere. After being a committed employee at this company for over 20 years this was a big blow. He is dealing with so many thoughts and emotions and doesn’t even know where to start.

My other friend has also been in her job for many years working with the same manager. Recently she got a new manager and while things are not terrible it’s very different. She has realized that either her expectations need to change or she needs to leave because she has not been happy at work lately. She is not too far from retirement age and has never considered doing anything else or even changing locations. So even the idea of brainstorming other options just seemed impossible.

tech desk with computer

One of the biggest things I try to share with people is something that has helped me quite a bit over the years through various life changes. What helps? It’s your mindset. Now it can take a while to change this, especially if the change you are going through came as a big shock. An initial response could be anger or unbelief, then depression or hopelessness. None of those feelings are wrong or unusual. The issue comes when someone stays stuck in one of those feelings and is unable to move forward.

Moving Forward

The first step to moving forward is to realize and actually believe that you do have options. Now, you may not actually like any of the options you can think of, but once you really feel the truth that options are available it will help you move on. Do some wild brainstorming, what options are available? Lower your bills by living in a van under a bridge? Move in with your parents or other friends? Find a job using your skills in an entirely different industry? Go back to school? Move to another state or country.

Hand tools for working

Now, choose a couple of those options (that you might actually consider) and research them as if you were really going to do it. Look at schools and training programs, calculate the costs and length of different places. Look for jobs and housing in a few different locations, maybe somewhere you’ve always wanted to live, or somewhere with a lower cost of living. Write down steps you would need to take if you were to move in with someone else or to rent out a room.

Once you have a good feel for what it might take to make some big changes, go back and look at your current situation. Is staying in your current job or with the company still an option? (If you were not fired or laid off.) What would it take to stay? Learning new things? Working under a manager you don’t respect? Getting to keep working with friends? Feeling unappreciated or underpaid? Staying with the ‘known’ as opposed to the ‘unknown’.

You have options

Here is where hopefully the realization really happens for you: There really are options. And now that you have looked at some of them more in depth you can be in a better place to actually evaluate them. At this point I am not the one to tell you what to do, you have to decide how much risk you are comfortable with, and what you value. Would you trade one set of problems for a set of totally different potential issues? Or should you go back and research a few more options in greater detail? For some extra help check out this book, it’s been around a while but they keep updating it: “What color is my parachute?” I recommended this one to both of my friends recently also.

The point of this exercise is to realize that you aren’t stuck. Even if you do not like the options you come up with, there are actual choices you could make. Maybe that leads you back to see that your current situation isn’t as bad as you thought, things could actually be a lot worse. Or you start by making some smaller changes to try something out, like taking an online class to see how you do in an area you’ve always wanted to learn.

Most of us experience job changes, sometimes unexpected. And as with other major life changes, we can feel angry, depressed, stuck, or any number of other emotions. It’s ok and normal to feel that way, but staying frozen in those feelings can leave us feeling stuck and that’s not usually a good thing. Check out your options and see what’s out there.

Could Your Tax Refund Be Late?

Do you rush to get your tax return done early? Did you know that some IRS refunds will be later than usual this year? If you get the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) you may have to wait longer than usual to get your return.

I have a few friends that every year rush to file their taxes in the middle of January, banking on getting their return in time to pay their February rent. But starting this year certain refunds will not be released until Feb. 15th.

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What’s the reason for the change? It’s actually to help prevent fraud. In the past few years there has been a sharp increase in tax fraud, especially in cases with the EITC and ACTC since those refunds can be a sizeable amount. Someone files using another person’s name in January or February and gets several thousand dollars back. Then the actual individual files their taxes (not knowing anything about the fraud) and they are surprised when they get a notification from the IRS saying their taxes were already filed and their refund check was cashed.

So, here’s the details:

In general, the IRS sends refunds within 21 days. Starting this year they are mandated to hold all refunds with either Earned Income or Additional Child Tax Credits. Here’s the other important part, February 15th is when they can START to release these refunds. “However, the IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely won’t arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of February 27 (assuming there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit).” See the IRS website for more information.

Wondering what the status of your refund is? Use the Where’s My Refund page on IRS.gov. Or check out the IRS2go app.

If you’re not an early filer, or aren’t counting on your refund showing up before the end of February, this shouldn’t impact you at all. In fact if you always wait until the last day, you actually get some extra time. Tax day is extended to April 18th, 2017 because of a holiday in Washington DC.

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Battle Against the Flu

School, work, shopping — the flu is out there this time of year and nobody wants it.

Almost all of my co-workers have been out at some point in the last month or so and with about 200 people on my floor, I have no plans for being the next one sick. But if I start feeling a bit off I have quite a list of flu remedies that I’ve gathered over the years.

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Do you have a go-to list? Most of mine are herbal or home remedies and are usually rather affordable.

Some of these I really think help fight bugs off, others just make me feel better, maybe more of a ‘comfort’ thing. And no, I don’t use all of them within the first 15 min of a scratchy throat, it all depends on where I am, what my schedule is, and what I have on hand.

What’s the number one weapon for you to keep always ready? Echinacea can boost your immune system and fight off that cold or flu faster than you ever thought. If you take it several times within the first 24-48 hours of the slightest feeling of illness you can greatly increase your chances of either not fully getting sick, or having a much milder case. *I am NOT a Dr. please do your own research and consult your physician regarding any particular health concerns you have. Also, not everyone responds the same way to the same herbs, so you’ll have to give it a try to see how well it helps you.

I have used various brands depending on whether I plan ahead and order it online, or get caught in a fix and run to whichever store is closest. The top choice is to get a tincture, it absorbs quickly and often can be found with another complementary herb or two. Just mix it with a couple ounces of water or juice. Then double down with some echinacea tea as well, this not only feels good on a sore throat but it also gets you some of those needed liquids.
How to fight off the Flu

Suggested Liquids

Green Tea
Throat Coat Tea
ANY other tea you like (Chamomile, Peppermint, Chai…)
Fruit Juice (fresh if you can make it)
Ginger ale
Make a tea out of lemon, honey, ginger or add any of these to the choices above
Broth or clear soup

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Are you aware of a common food that is a natural antibiotic? Raw garlic is a superfood. Yes, raw. Once it’s cooked it still maintains some great health benefits but to help with a cold or flu try to eat some raw garlic. How? Well, some people cut up a few pieces and swallow it whole. I’ve been know to chop it up in some salsa with chips. When my daughter was little, I’d put it through a garlic press and spread it on some bread with ketchup. Sounds terrible? Maybe, but it works great and just follow it up with some juice.

Need something with a bit more substance? How about a smoothie? Get some fresh and frozen fruits and veggies to give your body a healthy boost of good stuff. Though I will admit I often crave a cup ‘o noodles when I’m not feeling well.

Full up? Take a hot bath with some epsom salts and relax, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils if you like.

Now, lest you think I’m absolutely against any over the counter medications, my husband Norrin, swears by taking some Nyquil and Mucinex and heading to bed. I have been know to use those as well when things get bad, nothing wrong with doing what you need to do to get through.

Here’s hoping you all stay healthy, one last reminder of what my grandpa always said “Just gargle with some salt water.”

How do you and your family stay healthy?

Are Credit Cards a Trap?

Much of my view towards money and spending came from watching my parents. I think this is pretty common.  We learn good or bad habits and then we either follow in their footsteps or do the exact opposite.  It is a common theme with kids and parents.

So, while I didn’t end up totally following my parent’s good examples, I still credit a lot of the good habits that I have to them.  (Not saying all my habits are good, but some are.)  Of course there is also the fact that I married young, while still in college, and so some ways of spending came from my husband and his history as well.

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One message I received from my parents loud and clear — NEVER carry a balance on a credit card.  Luckily I didn’t get one when I started out in college, I bounced a couple of checks those first few years and that was a good lesson to learn about managing my money.  So it wasn’t until after we got married that I figured we should get a credit card — in case of an emergency on a road trip — or to rent a car.

We got a card with a small annual fee since we didn’t have much credit history but it had a little cash-back incentive also.  At first we only used it a little bit each month to keep it active and build up credit.  But after a while we started using it for almost everything, especially gas and groceries, so that we were at least getting the cash back, and always paid it off every month.

A little over a year into our marriage we needed to buy a vehicle that we could fit a car seat in, ha!  We traded in our pickup for a (very used) mini van and rather than take out a loan we put the balance on our credit card.  Why?  Well it was less than our credit limit and we knew that we could pay it off within three months.  So Yes, we did pay some interest that time but it was a lot easier than getting a car loan for just a few months and we knew exactly when we would be able to pay it off.  I think we may have done something similar 2-3 more times over that last 20 years but other than that we have never had any credit card debt.

Now, don’t let this story fool you, we have not made perfect decisions over the years by any means.  There was a bankruptcy thanks to the real estate crash, but that’s a story for another day.

In the months when money was tight I was much more careful not to use the credit card and I would just stick to using a debit card.  It’s always better to lose out on a few dollars of cash back than end up paying much more in interest.  Usually my cards have had interest rates that were quite high, but that never concerned me since I would almost never end up paying them.

What exactly did I learn from my parents?  Credit cards are tools to be used appropriately.  They are a dangerous tool much like a chain saw, in the right hands it does the intended work without injury, but if in the wrong hands….  credit cards are great for helping to improve your credit score, to be used in case of an emergency, and to get rewards like airline miles or cash back.  But without a clear plan on how to use them, well we have all heard the stories of how that can end.  So yes, they can be a trap, but if you know what you are doing you can actually make money off of them instead.

How about you?  What did you learn from your parents about money and credit?  Did you end up following their example (good or bad) or going the opposite way?

Are You a Leader People Choose to Follow?

What is a leader? Our friend Google say: “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” Hmmm, leads or commands, those words don’t always have the best connotations these days. It sounds a bit military to me, and I would guess that most people today heading to work are not hoping for a military-like experience.

Who is a leader?  Are only people with certain job titles leaders?  Do they have to be a ‘Manager’ or ‘Lead’?  I don’t think so, many people lead their co-workers by example and do a much better job at it than some of the people with titles.

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I came across an article the other day by Dan Rockwell10 Ways To Be a Leader People Choose To Follow.  As I read through his lists I instantly had pictures in my head of different co-workers and people I’ve know that matched each description.

The list of leaders that people choose NOT to follow is interesting, I tend to wonder if many of those people were moved into a management position precisely for those traits?  If the person above them values those things, then that’s what they will look for whether it’s ‘coddling over challenging’ (#2), ‘truth shading for personal advantage’ (#6), ‘telling people what to do’ (#8), or those that ‘love the sound of their own voice’ (#10).

The leaders people want to follow?  That list started with “He saw things in me I didn’t see in myself.”  This is a perfect example of a strong leader, he or she is not only observant to see what is on the surface (known strengths) but can see past that to other traits and talents that have not yet been tapped in to or acknowledged.  This is how a leader is able to get the most out of people, assisting them to move into new areas that are a possible better fit, rather than keeping them stagnant.  This can also lead to new opportunities for both the worker and the company.

I think some leaders are afraid to do this because it might mean that someone ends up leaving the company or department for another position.  But in the long run isn’t it better to help someone find what they are good at and will be happier doing?  They will speak highly of you and you will know you made a difference in someone’s life.

Number three on the positive list says: “I was confident she had my back.”  This shows a great element of trust on both sides.  There is a sense of teamwork.  Rather than worrying a mistake might come back to an individual on the team, the team will work together to find a fix, knowing that the manager will take care of things and protect them.

The last one is “They have good character.”  People notice what you do and what you say, do they match?  Do you say one thing in certain situations but do something else in others?  Your ethics do matter and they can say a lot about you and how you lead others.

There are some great comments on his blog as well, what do you think?  What has made someone you work with a leader you wanted to follow?