Friday, September 27, 2013

All Roads: Same Place

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to have Kristina back as a guest blogger this week. Kristina Leonardi is the founder of The Women’s Mosaic. She is a career/life coach, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of career development, work/life wellness and personal growth.

The following was originally posted on September 25, 2013 on Kristina's blog.

September is always an exciting time of year for me as world leaders convene on the island of Manhattan for the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative.

Many of you know my degree is in International Relations. Early on I was a passionate student of languages and cultures, got bit by the travel bug at age 12 after a trip to Spain, Portugal and Morocco with my grandmother; by senior year in high school I was studying Spanish, French and Italian (foregoing chemistry and physics..), Mandarin Chinese freshman year in college, organized international student orientations, studied abroad my third year…you get the picture.

My dream was to one day work for the UN, as my intention and mission in life was to contribute to world peace (I simply didn’t understand why people and countries couldn’t get along just because of race, religion or anything else), so that was a seemingly logical goal. Who grows up wanting to be a career/life coach? Like so many professions today, that didn’t even exist when I was a kid! Ah, but the Universe has a funny way of working things out.

Once I discovered that being employed by the UN did not ultimately fit my skill set or desired environment, I set out to create my own international experiences - teaching middle and high school Spanish, working and traveling with an upscale educational tour operator, teaching Tourism Destinations & Cultures for NYU, and founding my own mini-version of the UN called The Women’s Mosaic, bringing together women from different cultures and backgrounds to learn from and be inspired by one another.

As a result of that creation, I got hooked into the UN, met several times and received praise from Kofi Annan, have attended many of their conferences (I still get verklempt when I am in the auditorium wearing an earpiece…), and before any of this, without consciously trying, ended up living in the very neighborhood where the UN’s headquarters is situated – so for my entire adult life I have been surrounded by diplomats and their missions, sharing my coffee shop, gym and grocery store with them 24/7.

Fast forward to more recently, as my interest and passion for personal growth, empowerment and healing along with my ability to relate to just about anyone, combined with x-ray vision, supersonic hearing, and broad knowledge base of industries, careers and other resources have combined to make me into this very interesting and profoundly effective person I will call a career/life coach for lack of a better title….and I have been helping people professionally in this capacity for over six years.

Last week I had a big ah-ha moment after a Skype session with a new client in Hungary who had attended one of my talks while here on holiday. Although that was only my second international call, I realized just how diverse and, yes, global my clientele is! I have worked with well over a hundred people from all backgrounds – whether foreign nationals here visiting or working temporarily, or folks that were not born here but came as children or adults to live. They hail from Macedonia, Italy, Puerto Rico, Mexico, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, China, Taiwan, Nigeria, Canada, Australia, El Salvador, Russia, Japan, Philippines, and Israel as well as embody the many diverse ethnicities and religions found here; African-American, Haitian, Indian, Persian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Quaker, and so much more; many of my clients have accents, as English is their second or third language! So DUH, here I am using my degree in ‘International Relations’ yet once again, simply in another form. Pretty cool, huh?

I share all of this not just to illustrate how the thread of my interests and passions have run through everything I do, but also for this: My work with individuals only confirms my theories, thoughts and ideals about countries and humanity as a whole. The more I learn and observe intimately the intricacies of all these seemingly different folks’ journeys and backgrounds, the more I see the hard evidence of how we are all wired as humans with the same desires, dreams, hopes and challenges – no matter what corner of the globe you are from we have far more in common than you can imagine.

Think you’re so special? You are. You have a uniqueness that you bring to this planet. But you are also made of the same stuff as that guy or gal is sitting next to you on the subway, or across the ocean. And because of things like technology and climate change, we are more interconnected than ever. So this week take a moment to expand your horizons - who can you learn about, chat with or help in some way that is out of your normal sphere of influence? How can you Imagine your world for the better? What can you do to think globally but act locally?

Not sure what is the micro in your life that will affect the macro? Give me a buzz and we’ll translate the language of your soul to see how it will weave into the tapestry of history and become that much needed piece of the peace puzzle we are all a part of, no matter who you are or where you come from.

FINAL WEEK: Be sure to take advantage of my special Back to School September discount offer!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Salary Negotiations and Self Confidence

I recently learned the importance of negotiation, especially when it comes to salary. When I received a job offer letter from a small company offering a part-time position that will become full-time after a month, it looked good to me at first. Then, my eyes scanned down to the hourly rate listed, and I knew I had to start negotiating. While I understand that most companies of all sizes have had to downsize due to the lingering consequences of the recession, I knew immediately that I could not accept the offer as is.

From all that I have read and know from firsthand knowledge about salary negotiations, I am aware that many job seekers won't even attempt to start the process, which should happen right after an offer is made by a potential employer. Sometimes those who have been looking for employment for an extended period of time may be prone to jump on the first opportunity to come their way. I have different circumstances; I work as a consultant for several companies, and while I am open to a full-time position, it has to be something that will justify me giving up (or cutting down) on my other work projects. The position I was recently offered did not convince me to make any changes, because they are only willing to go up $1 an hour, and they are not offering any benefits.

My advice to anyone in this situation is to always see if there is any "wiggle room" in a job offer. If an increase in salary is not possible or not as high as you would like it to be, then a prospective employer may be open to other options, such as offering public transportation reimbursement, parking fees or a health insurance plan with varying levels of coverage. When I was negotiating my salary, I calculated how much my daily travel expenses to and from the location would be, and the result is one of the reasons why I decided not to accept the position.

I knew that if I accepted their terms with no hesitations, I would not be able to respect myself. I also think my would-be employer would have continued to undervalue me, knowing that I am willing to work for so little from the very beginning. Ultimately, I walked away from negotiations with my head held high, knowing that I made the right decision. Thankfully, I handled myself well enough that they are considering me for a per diem position, which I can definitely live with.

Do you have any salary negotiation stories to share?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Give Yourself Gifts

CHICKS ROCK! is happy to welcome Cherise as a guest blogger:

Cherise is a Professional Interior Stylist and Lighting Expert. Her love for the individuality of people, a passion for design, and an adoration of the place we call home that fuels her work and her life.

A friend and I were talking today about her new home. She and her husband moved into their 2nd house 3 weeks before their first child arrived. Flash forward 9 months later: Packed boxes fill their home. With the arrival of their new baby, and being two hard working parents with full schedules, unpacking those boxes and getting settled hasn’t been their focus.

This summer when the baby turns a year old, they would love to host a house party to welcome family and friends to their home for the first time.

Like many of us, my friend has her ideas of the complete overhaul that is needed to one day turn this old home into their dream home.

my advice?

find happiness in your daily home life in the present

it’s so important for your sanity and health

give yourself this gift

Understanding that she craves a sense of organization (no surprise – most of us are not happy living out of boxes!), she admitted that it would make a big difference to at least gain organization in her daily home life. Rather than a complete home renovation, with a smaller investment of time and money she can get her home in order in the short term, and continue to make plans in the long term for the “dream renovation” where they can design new layouts and finishes.

I told her to focus on 4 things:

#1: Unpack everything. Get everything out of boxes first so you know what you are working with.

#2: Decide what to keep, and what needs to find a new home. Go through your items and make sure they have a reason to stay and a place to go. Some things will have an obvious place, and others may need to be re-purposed in order to make the cut.

#3: Organize & Rearrange. Now that you know what you are working with, make a list of areas that still don’t feel organized to you and create a plan to address these areas. You may need to invest some money in organization systems, but it will be money well spent. Next, design a space arrangement that supports all your key activities such as cozying up by the fireplace in winter, playing on the ground with the baby, watching the game, and having occasional guests visit.

#4: Continue to give yourself gifts no matter the size! There is something my friend has done to improve her space that is 100% on the mark! It cost her no additional money and minimal time, but helps her love her space and surroundings even in its current state of disarray.

She combined two items that had meaning for her: 1) hand picked tulips from her backyard that her husband planted as a surprise, and 2) vases she purchased from a recent trip they took together.

End result: She feels so good every time she looks at them – fresh tulips all season made by her husband with love. This is the gift that keeps on giving! Only she could know that this small improvement was going to be very special to her. She can enjoy it for all its beauty AND use it as motivation to keep working on the bigger items in her home, such as organization and redesign. Looking at them is a hopeful, encouraging reminder that her home space will continue to evolve into a place she loves.

I share this example with you because it is the essence of this blog:

create based on what has meaning to you

Making changes to the house is not always easy, but sometimes it’s gotta get done. As you press forward you have new opportunities to create more of these priceless expressions which are gifts for you to enjoy and will work together to make your house feel like a home.

What has meaning for you? Think about something you enjoy displaying. Or an activity you do in your home to relax and relieve stress, such as playing with animals, creating, cooking, being a coach potato, surfing the web, watching TV, drinking coffee or tea, listening to music, singing, yoga….

Maybe you have activities you do outside the home such as walking, biking, dancing, meeting friends for happy hour, playing sports…

Next time I will share a few things with you in my home that have meaning to me.

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