Thursday, March 31, 2011

Six Tax Tips For The Self-employed

Reprinted From: JDSUPRA
By: Law Offices of Darrin T. Mish, PA


People who run their own businesses, are a sole proprietors of a trade or business or operate as independent contractors are considered selfemployed. If you are self-employed you would typically fle Form 1040 and in addition also IRS Schedule C, Proft or Loss From Business or Schedule C-EZ, Net Proft From Business.

Here are 6 tax tips for you:
1. Self-employment also includes work you do outside of your regular fulltime job like a work-from-home part time activity done in addition to your regular job.
2. Your self-employment tax is a social security and Medicare tax similar to social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the salary of wage earners. You can calculate your own self-employment tax using Form 1040 Schedule SE. You can also deduct half of your self-employment tax when you calculate your adjusted gross income.
3. As a self-employed person, you should make quarterly estimated tax
payments, otherwise you may be penalized at the end of the year for underpayment. These tax payments are payable even if you have a regular full-time job where your salary is subjected to withholding tax. The quarterly estimated tax is the means to pay your taxes for income that is not subjected to withholding tax.
4. The running costs of your business, known as business expenses, are deductible. You do not have to capitalize them or include them in the cost of goods sold.
5. To deduct any business expense, make sure that the expense made is ordinary and necessary. Ordinary means it is commonly made in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate foryour business. Necessary does not imply indispensable.
6. If you need more information, you can get it from IRS Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses and Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
These are available at the IRS website, or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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The Joke's on You: 7 April Fool's Pranks that Ended with a Pink Slip

Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 5:07:04 PM GMT  

Who doesn't like a good April Fool's prank? Well, according to the Museum of Hoaxes, plenty of employers. While pulling one over your co-workers and even the boss can encourage laughter, camaraderie and a great working environment, it might be wise to ask a trustworthy friend's opinion on your idea’s true humor value before you get prankin'. Why, you ask? Take these April Fool's pranks gone wrong as precautionary tales -- or run the risk of the pink slip, arrest and embarrassment.

Pushed to the Limit
Ever work yourself into a frenzy worrying about a deadline? That is exactly what happened when Glenn Howlett's coworkers sent him a memo saying his big report was due early. The "hint" to Howlett should have been the April 1st date on the memo – unfortunately, Howlett received the news while on vacation and didn't clue in. He cut his vacation short, gathered up the troops and prepared to get to work. However, as the new deadline approached he worked himself up into a panic and started experiencing heart palpitations. He finally collapsed from stress and had to take a leave of absence. When he finally found out this was all due to an April Fool's prank, he sued the company, resulting in a company-wide ban on future pranks.

A Fool’s Joke Indeed
After two weeks on the job at a clothing store in Columbus, Ohio, Sitra Walker decided to spice up the routine and called her manager at home to tell him armed men were robbing the store. Unsurprisingly, the manager's next move was to call the police. Walker -- a woman with poor timing as well as poor humor -- called her manager back minutes after the police were dispatched, screaming "April Fools!' Not only was she charged with inducing a panic, her manager gave her walking papers.

Terror Alert

You can see how this April Fool's prank started out amusing, especially for two teenage boys. Two 18-year-old coworkers at Westlakes in the U.K. decided to pick up and move another coworker's car from one parking lot to another. This should have simply ended in some frustration and a few laughs -- unfortunately they unintentionally moved the car into a restricted parking lot for a nuclear services industry. This resulted in the nuclear company evacuating its entire staff, fearing a terrorist threat. When the truth came out, the pranksters were arrested for unlawful taking of a vehicle and a bomb hoax, as well as suspended from work.

Do you ever just get the urge to, let's just say, zap a coworker? Canine officer Chris Peters from Jamestown, TN, went ahead and zapped away—at both a coworker and a civilian. Peters used a stun gun on loan from the county constable. No one else was laughing, especially when the civilian ended up in the hospital. Peters was suspended for three days without pay for the "prank".

Dirty Minds
Think pollution is bad in your neck of the woods? In 1982, Greece's state-controlled National Radio Network broadcast a warning that pollution had reached emergency levels in downtown Athens, and told their listeners the city would need to be evacuated immediately. Not only that, those driving cars were asked to abandon their vehicles and flee into open areas. As Athens is known for its pollution problems, many of these listeners took the broadcast seriously. The network soon went on the air to reveal the joke, but it was too late for the city’s sense of humor – one man sued for mental distress to the tune of $820,000, the director of the network resigned, and the original prankster was fired.

Fiery Fun
Well, who doesn’t think the potential of lava pouring into your home is funny? This must have been the mindset of Boston’s Channel 7 pranksters when they ended a 1980 news broadcast with a special bulletin: The Great Blue Hill – a 635-foot hill in Milton, MA – had erupted and lava and ashes were raining down from the skies. Supposedly a chain reaction from the then-recent eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, the channel played an audio tape of President Carter and the Governor of Massachusetts declaring the eruption a “serious situation.” Footage was shown of lava pouring down the hill. Once again ill-timed, the reporter ended the segment holding an “April Fool” sign, but not in time to squelch the flood of frantic phone calls from viewers. One man, so convinced, even carried his sick wife to safety. Later that night, embarrassed by the tumult their prank had caused, Channel 7 apologized and the executive producer responsible was fired.

And the Worst Fool of All…

The Opie and Anthony Show gets the award for the April Fool’s joke in poorest taste. In 1998, the duo announced on the air that the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, had been killed in a car accident in Florida. The mayor’s daughter, believing the news to be true, called the station and things quickly went south from there. The two hosts were terminated the next week, though it came out later that the pair purposefully caused the controversy to get out of their contract early.

--Padmini Mangunta

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Email Privacy: Could Your Work Communications Be a Career Time Bomb?

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 4:38:13 PM GMT   |   Post a comment

Before you send your next email, stop and think who you'd be comfortable seeing it—and in what context. The tool is now so ubiquitous that most business professionals think nothing of syncing their phones with their corporate accounts, enabling them to handle a variety of tasks even while they're away from the office. Inevitably, under such circumstances, the lines blur—and most of us will end up sending a non work-related email or two from our work accounts. Big deal, right?

As it turns out, it just might be—as a scuffle in Wisconsin over email records proves. The case, for those who missed it, centers around University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon, who has been voluble in his criticism of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's highly-publicized attempts to strip collective bargaining rights from selected state employees.

After a recent New York Times editorial criticizing Walker and state Republicans, Cronon found his University email was the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request—from a state Republican party official. All of which is perfectly legitimate under Wisconsin's transparency laws--but frightening nonetheless for employees who may not always have been as scrupulous as they should in choosing their channel of communication.

The tactic—which Cronon thinks represents "an academic freedom issue"—is catching on elsewhere too. Talking Points Memo points out that a Michigan-based think-tank has submitted FOIA requests to a host of Michigan state schools, based on a host of keywords related to the Wisconsin dispute.

Again—the requests appear to be completely legitimate under existing law, and it's pleasing to know that such transparency is possible—even if only in the public sector.

But the issue should also give anyone who uses email—everyone, in other words—pause for thought. It may well be the case that all of these employees are just a single email away from damaging their professional reputations, or losing their jobs.

Think again about your own email use. Can you honestly say that you've never sent anything that could get you in trouble if someone was motivated enough to go digging through your archives? Or—worse—something that could be taken out of context (deliberately or otherwise) to make you look bad?

Whatever you might think of the politics behind the FOIA requests, there's one outcome from these cases that is likely to stretch across party lines: a greater awareness by employees in all sectors that they need to be exceptionally careful about separating their personal and private communications. Whether that's really the best outcome for anyone concerned is open to question.

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5 Rules on Cultivating Power

February 18, 2011 4:06 pm
Reprinted from:
Here are some commonsense rules to let you get out of your own way and thrive in today's business world.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer, contributor

(ManagementInnovationeXchange) -- Here are some commonsense, yet often violated, rules about power that can help make you more successful—and, even better, equip you to cope with today's organizational realities.

1. You need to take care of yourself. Companies have been telling employees this for decades. The implication: don't worry about the company, because it isn't worrying about you. You are responsible for attracting the support that will make you successful and building your personal brand.

2. Companies (and many people) worry more about what you can do for them in the future than what you have done for them in the past. VC partners who have made their colleagues billions are thrown out unceremoniously. The same goes for law partners, management consulting partners, and public accounting firm leaders.

Don't expect thanks for all you have done for your company or your colleagues in the past. Your job is to ensure that you are useful -- through your role, the resources you control, your contacts and network, your reputation -- to those around you as they contemplate their future. The minute you aren't, your influence will be either gone or substantially diminished.

3. Perception is reality -- so get a public relations strategy and get help where you need it. I have seen junior people build their reputations and visibility by writing articles, reaching out to journalists, cultivating media, and generally becoming known. It is never too early to start building your image.

4. Don't worry about what comes "naturally." I have people tell me they aren't natural networkers, they find self-promotion distasteful, and they have difficulty asking for help. My answer: Skiing isn't natural; neither is speaking a foreign language or playing a musical instrument. Studies of genius show that individual talent matters but that practice and getting good coaching matters even more. Don't find excuses for not doing what you know you should because it doesn't feel "natural." Once you practice and get good at something like networking, it will become natural!

5. Stop worrying about what others think about you -- worry about building your power base, and you will have more friends that you will ever need. Yes, likeability can build power, but once you have power, lots of people will like you. The late George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees was clearly not a "good boss," but his success brought fame, praise, and no shortage of people willing to work for him and curry his favor.

The biggest barrier to having power is our inhibitions about what we are willing to do -- and how hard we are willing to work -- to become successful. Get out of your own way, and watch what happens.

Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University where he has taught since 1979. He is the author or co-author of 13 books and a contributor to The MIX

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Tips for Developing High-Potential Talent

By Dr. Woody
Published March 28, 2011 | FOXBusiness

A survey conducted by Right Management in November 2010 found that 84% of employees intend to leave their jobs in 2011.
This astounding number raises serious concerns for business owners and managers as turnover can be very costly. Add to this that those employees most likely to leave are typically the ones you want most to retain. They are your high-potential performers who are hungry for opportunity and willing to do whatever it takes to get to the next level.
To combat this impending exodus of top talent, employers are going to have to engage these rising stars and find ways to provide them with the kinds of opportunities that will keep them stimulated and on a path to success under their payroll.   
According to Nathan Hiller, assistant professor of management and faculty director of the Florida International University Center for Leadership High Potential Program, high-potential employees (HI-POs for short) are “those employees with the potential to reach fairly senior levels in the organization. They are your future managers and executives.” For this reason, organizations must identify their HI-POs and ensure they are being properly groomed. The future of your company will depend on HI-PO’s readiness to lead. 
Spotting HI-POs isn’t always easy. Hiller points out that it’s not just about strong performance or time on the job; it’s about the quality of learning that has occurred. Moving to the next level requires a capacity for managing others and the ability to think strategically, something not all top performers are necessarily suited for. Developing leaders takes time and money, so it’s important managers focus their efforts on those with the most potential to succeed.    
When it comes to developing HI-POs, many companies don’t have formal mechanisms in place. Thus, it’s up to managers and executives to get creative and find informal ways of facilitating the growth of Hi-Pos. To help with this, Hiller shared a few tips:        
Encourage Self Insight: According to Hiller, “one of the key mechanisms for developing high-potential talent is encouraging critical self insight.”
Leadership is about influencing others to take action and influence starts with self knowledge; you have to know yourself before you can know and influence others. Part of the transition to management is learning to step back and work through people as opposed to doing it yourself. HI-Pos need to build self awareness by seeking out critical feedback from colleagues and key constituents. Managers should also consider the use of personality and values assessments, these tools are a great way to help HI-Pos  gain personal insight.    
Give Stretch Assignments: Making the leap from line producer to manager or from manager to executive requires stretching beyond comfort zones. Managers should identify one or two key competencies that HI-Pos should develop and find an assignment that will afford them the opportunity to demonstrate those competencies.    
Facilitate Interaction: When I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, I was in an office with more than 1,000 people. Needless to say, it wasn’t the coziest environment.  The management team was constantly challenged to come up with ways to encourage meaningful interactions between key contributors. This challenge is certainly not unique. Companies, both large and small, struggle with connecting their own people.
Facilitating interaction is critical to leadership development because it allows for the exchange of ideas as well as the development of critical relationships. This is particularly important when it comes to HI-Pos because these individuals will ultimately have to work together to make critical business decisions. Managers should take the time to identify opportunities to get HI-Pos  together. Consider such things as quarterly meetings, informal get togethers, or special projects that will allow for regular and meaningful interactions.      
Leadership is something that must be continually developed. It’s up to managers and executives to identify and cultivate high-potential talent. Taking the time to raise HI-Pos as the future success of organizations will ultimately depend on their ability to lead.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jobs Open, but Filling Them Slows Down

MARCH 7, 2011

Hiring has yet to hit a rapid clip, but it's not for lack of job openings.

Since December, the economy has added about 130,000 jobs a month, barely more than what is needed to keep up with population growth, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Meanwhile, the number of job openings advertised online has grown by more than 400,000, to 4.2 million, according to the Conference Board, a research organization. That increase continued a trend that began in the spring of 2009.

Getty Images
Hundreds of people waited to fill out job applications at a San Francisco Mollie Stone's Market last month.

Recruiters say they are having trouble finding candidates for many skilled positions, and once candidates are found, hiring managers are taking longer to pull the trigger.

Positions that typically took two months to fill before the recession are sometimes taking four times longer, recruiters say, as hiring managers are holding out for better candidates.

Managers invited between five and six candidates on average for second-round interviews last year, twice as many as in 2007, according to a survey of 1,500 recruiters at large companies by the Corporate Executive Board, a research organization.

"Nowadays, if managers speak to a really great candidate, instead of hiring him, they take it as an indication that there must be 10 even better people out there," says Todd Safferstone, director of CLC Recruiting, a unit of the Corporate Executive Board.

PepsiCo Inc. aims to make offers to job candidates within two months of posting an opening, but since the recession began, some positions have taken up to 90 days to fill, says Paul Marchand, head of talent acquisition for the Purchase, N.Y., food-and-beverage company.

Certain candidates, such as scientists and some kinds of marketing professionals, are in short supply in the labor market or, if they are available, are unwilling to relocate to fill the position, he says. But even when qualified candidates are found, hiring managers sometimes want recruiters to find more candidates, thinking better matches must be possible, Mr. Marchand says.

"People think that with all the available talent, time-to-fill would go down, but it's just the opposite. When you're still trying to find quality candidates, it's actually taken longer," he says. Less-skilled positions, as in sales and customer service, take less time to fill, he says.

Eight months ago, Catholic Health Initiatives, a Denver-based nonprofit that runs hospitals and other health-care facilities, began looking for 50 highly skilled project and program managers. Eighteen of those positions still aren't filled, says Director of Recruitment Tracie Grant. Before the recession, it typically took the company 60 days to fill positions.

"Hiring managers hear the news and see the high unemployment rate and tell us that they want to continue looking for better candidates," she says. "They want the perfect candidate, when the reality is, there is no perfect candidate."

Zions Bancorp has about 430 openings in such areas as compliance, credit, auditing and risk, says Chief Human Resources Officer Connie Linardakis. After a six-month search, the company recently hired six senior vice presidents to help manage its credit department, she says. A few years ago, it might have only taken three months, she says.

The company, which is based in Salt Lake City, is trying to find a manager for its compliance department in San Diego but is competing with 15 other banks for the same kind of manager, she says. That will probably mean the opening will take months to fill, she says.

At videogame maker Electronic Arts Inc., there is a gap between the skill requirements the company posts and the experience of the people who apply, Gabrielle Toledano, executive vice president of human resources, says by email. That means the Redwood City, Calif., company's recruiters have to woo candidates who work at other companies, which can extend the time it takes to fill a position and push up compensation, she says.

"We're seeing a problem of companies unable to find the right skills in the right places," says David Arkless, president of corporate and government affairs for Milwaukee-based staffing firm Manpower Inc. For a position that would have needed two or three candidates a couple years ago, now companies want five or more, he says. "Companies want to make the hire count."

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CRITICAL SIDEBAR: Is Sharing Pictures of Your Kids Making Them Vulnerable?

March 24, 2011 | Posted at 8:53 AM

One of the great things about smartphones is that you can send and share pictures instantly -- pictures of your kids at a sporting event, a family function, or a birthday party, for instance. But did you know that doing so makes them (or anyone in the photo) vulnerable by revealing their location? Here's how:

When you share photos via smartphones, there is hidden data attached to each photo -- called "metadata" -– which can include information about the location where the photo was taken. Child predators and criminals can use technology to download these shared photos and pinpoint the location of the sender, to within 15 feet. (So, if you send that photo of your kids at a birthday party, someone could track to the location of where the photo was sent.)

It's a scary prospect, but the good news is that you can disable this geo-tagging function. To learn how, you can visit this website.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In the late 1980s and mid 1990s, most executives in information technology either had grown up in the function, following a standard path from business analyst to director, or were accounting professionals with systems experience. Typically, directorship was the end of the line. IT leaders were detail-oriented, logical, sequential thinkers.
But toward the end of that period, as web opportunities burst onto the scene, companies began to seek more strategic ways to apply technology—using the internet to explore new markets, attract new customers, and streamline processes.
The typical IT director back then wasn’t particularly well versed in business strategy or big-picture thinking. Technology departments had become too rigid and parochial to respond quickly to new business challenges and opportunities. IT directors by and large either pushed back with technical reasons for why something couldn’t be done or agreed to requests too quickly without challenging their rationale or grasping their scope (and then frequently failed to deliver).
Across geographies and sectors, serious barriers—in both leadership behavior and capability—were emerging between the business and technology functions. The few executives who could straddle both worlds were in high demand.
In the mid to late 1990s, in response to the lack of business savvy among the IT staff, a new position evolved—CIO. The CIO was a senior executive who understood not only new technologies but also how they applied to business strategy. These new members of the executive team were able to broker the complex relationship between business leaders and the IT department.
They were less exclusively concerned with the technology itself and more attuned to how it could generate competitive advantage—and more focused on leadership and organizational effectiveness. Meanwhile, another phenomenon was emerging: globalization. IT managers had to deal with integrating and standardizing processes and platforms across multiple operating companies, group functions, and regions.
Then, in 2008, as credit began to dry up, business needs shifted again. Though IT had become better aligned with the business (at least when it came to improved relationships), IT executives now had to make complex decisions based on rigorous analyses of return on investment. Their jobs became less about managing projects well and more about managing the right projects well.
Major technology expenditures needed to be justified. A number of CIOs found themselves in over their heads; the IT function required a leader who understood the increased complexity of business and how IT strategy, business strategy, risk management, and finance interacted.
For the foreseeable future, we expect the demand for a sophisticated mix of skills in CIOs will increase. Companies will seek “hybrid” CIOs who have not only business savvy but also experience with analytics, organizational design, and infrastructure— and who know how to wire together a holistic system that can support global growth. In many cases, a commercial background will be a plus. Sales and marketing knowledge will be considered an advantage when it comes to e-commerce initiatives, as will stints in supply-chain management and logistics.
The most sought-after CIOs will have a keen understanding of how companies can put to use the oceans of information they now collect. As the CIO of a global consumer goods company explains, “There is a data explosion happening around us, but we feel we are well equipped to exploit this opportunity and use it as a competitive distinguisher in our markets. The ways we share our ideas and gain customer feedback are very new and exciting.”

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Executive Leadership, LLC Series #1: PROTECTING YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

The Top 10 Twitter Firings and Fallouts 
The saying "a little birdie told me" has entirely new meaning with the advent of Twitter. Whether you post an inside jokes for friends or opine on a current event, you can be sure that the little Twitter birdie will spread your words--sometimes further than you ever intended them to go.
That's how the nobodies on Twitter get in trouble—it’s hard to imagine anyone outside of a small social circle reading complaints about work or pontifications on relationships. ........
But why don't the celebrities know better?
You’d think a reputable journalist for CNN or a famous comedian like Gilbert Gottfried would expect a readership for their comments; after all, they have hundreds of followers. But it seems many of the big names spouting off, on everything from the earthquake in Japan to NBA ref calls, have no more foresight than the average Twitter nobody.
Here are our top ten most baffling Twitter firings and fiascos among the famous and powerful. Consider them a crash course in what not to do. PLEASE CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK:
Published by: Cathy Vandewater
SPECIALIZING IN: Career Transformation/Change and Executive Coaching/Development 
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

How To Decode A Job Posting

How To Decode A Job Posting 

It gives you much more valuable information than you may realize.

Jerome Young, 07.20.10, 11:48 AM EDT
Jerome Young
During your job search you will review hundreds of job postings. Some will be very well written and provide quality information, while others will tell you little about the employer's needs. The majority of them have a similar format and characteristics, and they provide insight into what the employer wants--if you know what to look for. As the founder of, I have conducted extensive research on the job market and the recruiting process employers use to find and choose candidates to fill open requisitions. In the process I've learned a lot about what you can divine from a simple job posting.
Postings can be written by a hiring manager or a recruiter, but it's usually the recruiter who receives and screens the applications. With this in mind you should be sure that your résumé will make a recruiter feel confident that you are qualified. By making the most of the insight you can glean from the following three sections of a typical job posting, you can better position yourself to impress recruiters and get interviews: 

The job title: Every job posting includes a job title. It is often what first piques your interest in the posting, and it's the first thing the hiring manager thought of when he or she decided to create the position. Most job seekers overlook the intelligence the job title provides and suffer for it. The job title gives you the most likely keywords that will be used to find qualified candidates for the job, and because of that you can use it to your advantage.
At we use the job title as our guide in creating effective customized résumés by ensuring that each candidate's summary statement and areas of expertise are in line with the job title. We ensure that the words in the job title appear prominently throughout the résumé, so that our clients will appear at the top of candidate searches. As a result, more than 95% of our candidates succeed in getting job interviews at their companies of interest.

Responsibilities: The responsibilities section describes what will be expected of the employee in the position. You'll often find that there are five to 10 bullet points in this section, but in our research with recruiters and hiring managers we've found that the first three responsibilities are the most important. Job postings are usually based on a primary business need to which additional responsibilities are added to create a full-time position. Your résumé should focus on your experience, results and accomplishments in the tasks outlined in the first three bullets in the responsibilities section. Also you'll find keywords in those first three bullets that recruiters will use in searching for qualified candidates.

Qualifications: The qualifications section provides insight into the experience, skills and education the hiring manager has in mind for the person they feel will be capable of excelling in the role. As in the responsibilities section, the first three qualifications are usually the most important. If you meet those top three qualifications, you should directly say so in the summary section at the top of your résumé, to instantly inform the hirer that you're qualified and to persuade them to read the rest of your résumé. If you don't meet the top three qualifications but have others strengths that qualify you to excel, definitely mention them in your summary section.
Taking the time to analyze job postings and customize your résumé based on their job titles, responsibilities and qualifications is often the difference between receiving interviews and being screened out of the recruiting process.
Jerome Young is the founder and president of, a job search and recruiting consulting firm.

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8 Pitfalls To Avoid When Using Social Media For Marketing

8 Pitfalls To Avoid When Using Social Media For Marketing
Posted by Adam Toren, on November 5th, 2009 


Social media is in the process of rewriting many marketing textbooks and is being hastily added to the curriculum of many business-oriented schools of education, complete no doubt with many footnotes, asterisks, disclaimers and question marks. A business must be involved with social media, but the question is to what extent. Further, what level of risk is acceptable when entering such virgin territory?

It would seem that there is a lot more to gain than there is to lose when you consider whether to entertain a social media campaign, so long as you exercise a modicum of common sense. A lot of the well known pitfalls experienced by some premier brands could have been avoided with a little introspection.

So what are some of the pitfalls for you to avoid?

1. Avoid controversy.
Some people advocate that to make a wave in the vast social media ocean you need to be controversial to stand out. What you need to realize is that your energy wave creation could become a tsunami of controversy. The same element that makes social media such a tempting proposition could also work against you by creating substantial negative press that you can do nothing about.

2. Avoid spreading muck.
This follows along with the previous point to a certain extent and underlines why you should put some of your best marketing brainpower behind a social media campaign. Don’t be tempted to become a shock jock or openly criticize other competitors in an attempt to gain an edge, as no matter how subtle you try and how many “smoke and mirror” campaigns you dream up, this approach will backfire and hurt you more.

3. Avoid “puffery.”
This colorful word describes the act of blowing your own trumpet or aggressively talking up your brand or product, maybe under a disguise created for the purpose. Be careful that your IP address or e-mail cannot be traced back, allowing people to “out” your efforts!

4. Avoid being vanilla.
Again this comes back to creativity. Don’t expect a great result just by setting up pages, profiles or accounts. You must have a good “hook” and have a policy and strategy to update and create meaningful content.

5. Don’t shoot first and ask questions later.
It may be easy to imagine the social media environment as a “wild west” of sorts, where pretty much anything goes as we are all in uncharted territory. Don’t make the mistake of unloading your shotgun of poorly formed thoughts, questionable tactics or competitor onslaughts without fear of a reprise. You may well not be able to put the fire out.

6. Don’t bite off the hand that feeds you.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are really valuable assets and you should treat them accordingly. Always be aware of their terms of service and never do anything to make them turn the focus of attention on you.

7. Don’t delegate and forget.
This will require your best brains, as we have already said twice. For veteran marketers the whole concept can be difficult to conceive, but don’t be tempted to delegate to junior IT people, rather make it a think tank approach.

8. Don’t forget how visible you could be.
When you enter the world of social media, you may encounter a visibility that you are not prepared for. Remember that to a certain extent it is a commenting free for all and you need to be constantly aware of what is being said about you, within your pages and “retweeted.”

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Being Unemployed is Better for Your Health than Having a Bad Job

Being Unemployed is Better for Your Health than Having a Bad Job
Posted on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 6:52:54 PM GMT 

Having any job is better than being unemployed. Having any job is better than being unemployed. What’s better than being unemployed? Having a job. Any job.

Repeating conventional wisdom—no matter how, or how often—unfortunately does not make it true. And the piece of "wisdom" above is no exception—at least according to a study by the Australian National University in Canberra, which found that people with "poorer" jobs had worse mental health than those who were unemployed.

Or as the study's authors put it: "In fact, we found that moving from unemployment to a job with poor psychosocial quality was associated with a significant decline in mental health relative to remaining unemployed."

The study's findings are of particular interest because research in the field has typically only compared the mental health of people with jobs to those who are unemployed—with little attempt made to separate the quality of the jobs.

And the majority of that previous research has found that, on the whole, employed people enjoy better mental health than the unemployed—the sort of findings that give rise to statements like those in the opening paragraph.

As the overview of the study's findings puts it:

"Overall, unemployed respondents had poorer mental health than those who were employed. However the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality."

At a time when unemployment is still breaking all kinds of records—not least for average duration—it pays to keep that kind of information in mind. Perhaps you would indeed be better off—health-wise, at least—dealing with the stress of a job search rather than taking a job with "adverse psychosocial work conditions."

Just in case you're wondering what those are, here are a few suggestions thrown up by the study:

• High job demands
• Low decision latitude or control
• Job strain
• A lack of social support at work
• Effort-reward imbalance
• Job insecurity
As you can see, those definitions don't limit the type of job under discussion, or the type of person likely to hold it. A position that requires an MBA holder to put in long hours meeting the ever-changing whims of a demanding boss or client could just as easily be classified as "poor" as the most menial drudgery. The challenge for job seekers—all job seekers—is to figure out the difference before accepting a position, and to be prepared to turn down a job that seems like it falls short on the psychosocial scale.

No matter what the conventional wisdom says.

Read More:

Abstract of the Australian National University study. (Subscription required for access to full article)

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Japan Disaster Relief: How to Donate

In Good Company: Vault's CSR Blog
Japan Disaster Relief: How to Donate
Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 6:28:17 PM GMT  

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan have created a serious humanitarian crisis. Should you want to donate, this list will help you get started in choosing your charity. These resources include high-rated charities that are widely known, but by no means is this list a comprehensive one.

If you do wish to donate, please read and review the websites; many relief assistance groups are specific in whether they need money or material goods.

If you have information that is not included in this list, please feel free to share with us—either by email, on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments field below.

Direct Donations

Worldvision -- Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 from your phone.
Habitat for Humanity
International Medical Corps
The Salvation Army -- To contribute to earthquake relief, text 'JAPAN' or 'QUAKE' to 80888 to make a $10 donation
Doctors Without Borders
Mercy Corps
Operation USA
Save the Children -- Text "JAPAN" to 20222 to donate $10 (US Only, std message rates apply)
Google Crisis Response
Other Initiatives

Judy Chang, head of PayPal's nonprofit group, announced that transactional fees incurred by money transfers to US 501(c)(3) organizations (or charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency) between March 11 and April 10 will aid relief efforts in Japan. is donating $1 for every "Like" of the Explore Dogs Facebook Page, up to $100,000. Note: That limit has already been met.


(Please validate all donation sites listed for authenticity before making a donation This post does not not imply endorsement or authenticity)

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Monday, March 14, 2011

The 2011 Vault Office Betting Survey

The 2011 Vault Office Betting Survey

Published by: | 
March Madness is upon us once again, which means employees up and down the country will be busy filling out brackets and joining the office pool.
And they won't be in the minority: 71.5 percent of respondents to Vault's 2011 Office Betting Survey admitted to taking part in some kind of office pool. Of those, some 65 percent said that their workplace gambling had included an NCAA bracket. That figure trumps all other forms of workplace betting, including Super Bowl boxes (58 percent) and Oscars pools (just 13 percent of respondents had gambled on any kind of awards show).
The rise of March Madness as the nation's favorite office pool is a recent phenomenon. The last time we at Vault conducted the Office Betting survey—in 2008—the Super Bowl was the most gambled-upon event in the annual calendar, with 51 percent of respondents having participated, compared to just 48 percent for March Madness.
Regardless of what activity they're choosing to bet a portion of their hard-earned cash on, workers need to be careful not to spend too much of their on-the-clock time making or obsessing over their picks. While 77 percent of employees claim to spend less than half an hour of work time a day on their picks (with many spending no time at all), any perception that you're shirking your duties in favor of gambling is likely to be viewed dimly by at least some colleagues.
"The next time I see [colleagues using work time to focus on office pools], I'm going to put an anonymous note on all the bosses desks to make them aware” warns one respondent. (Presumably they fall into the 22 percent of respondents who disapprove of workplace betting altogether.)
All told, most respondents seem to view workplace gambling as a means of having some fun in the office—with bosses and CEO's even participating in many cases. But if you have any doubts at all, investigate fully before choosing to participate—gambling of any kind is prohibited in many places, and frowned upon by some employers even where it's legal. And be sure to check that company handbook—47 percent of respondents to the survey had no idea whether their company even had a policy.
For the most part, employers don't seem to mind an occasional office pool, provided it doesn't become too competitive, or disrupt productivity too much. “Office betting can be a harmless practice that gets colleagues to pull their heads out of the daily vortex, and join together for a few minutes of fun," says Vault's career expert, Vicki Lynn. "And many welcome the newbies to the office pool, if only to grow the pot on the birth date of a colleague’s baby, who will win the Oscars or American Idol, and which team will emerge victorious in the NCAA tournament. But spending too much time going over picks, researching teams, watching games or discussing the betting pool will raise a red flag with managers and could become problematic. It’s best to keep the fun to an acceptable minimum.”

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Employment Severance Releases: Avoiding Spectacular Tax Problems for Related Separation Pay

Employment Severance Releases: Avoiding Spectacular Tax Problems for Related Separation Pay
By Thomas H. Bergh

Varnum Employee Benefits Advisory

March 2011
It is a common practice for an employer to require a terminating employee to execute a release of claims in exchange for designated separation pay. Compliance with esoteric tax rules governing deferred compensation is typically far from the minds of the decision makers in that process. The Internal Revenue Code, however, has laid a trap for the unwary: §409A, while aimed at preventing manipulation of deferred compensation arrangements to artificially delay payment of executive income tax liabilities, has unfortunate and complex interactions with the release/severance process. 409A is broadly applicable to compensation arrangements outside of the qualified plan area. 

There are a number of exceptions to its application, including a broad exemption for “short-term deferrals”- situations where compensation is paid within 2 and a half months after the year in which the services that give rise to the compensation is paid. While actual payment during that period is a helpful fact, the IRS position is that the arrangement must require that result in order for the short-term deferral exception to be applicable to payments in the severance arena. Many practitioners disagree with the position of the IRS here, but picking a fight over the issue is better avoided if at all possible.

The IRS position is predicated upon the concern that to the extent that a severance payment is contingent upon the terminating employee executing a release, or the expiration of a set period the execution sets in motion, such as the ADEA waiver period, the terminating employee could take advantage of that timing to improperly designate the year of payment. By doing so, the employee could thereby impermissibly control the timing of the income tax liability resulting from the payment. While in the real world, concern about terminating employees manipulating the timing of income tax liabilities seems far-fetched, in IRS-world this concern is real, which creates issues for employers in this context. 

There are several alternatives for employers in structuring compliant separation agreements that provide for both the releases and severance payments. The key point is to provide in the severance agreement that the payment will be made on a specified date, or within a period chosen by the employer, rather than at a time controlled by the employee, such as upon his or her execution of the severance agreement (or a certain number of days thereafter). The referenced approach is fine for agreements now being negotiated or that arise in the future by employers aware of the issue. 

What about existing agreements that provide for the payment to be made upon the terminated employee’s execution of the severance agreement, or the expiration of the ADEA waiver period thereafter? In that case, the IRS has published certain specific procedures in Notices 2010-6 and 2010-80 for resolving non-compliant arrangements without causing a tax disaster for the severing employee. Utilization of those techniques, while burdensome, should eliminate the 20% penalty applicable generally to 409A failures in favor of acceleration of recognition of the relevant income tax applicable to the severance payment in an earlier taxable year. 

The adoption of section 409A by Congress has led to many unintended consequences and complexities. The release issue, while adding one more hoop for employers to jump through, can be relatively easily complied with by employers and advisers who are aware of the potential pitfalls of a non-compliant arrangement.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Bridgewater Place
333 Bridge Street, N.W.
P.O. Box 352
Grand Rapids, MI 49501
Phone: 616/336-6000
Fax: 616/336-7000
Novi, Michigan
39500 High Pointe Boulevard
Suite 350
Novi, MI 48375
Phone: 248/567-7400
Fax: 248/567-7440
Kalamazoo, Michigan
251 North Rose Street
4th Floor
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Phone: 269/382-2300
Fax: 269/382-2382
Grand Haven, Michigan
The Chemical Bank Building
1600 South Beacon
Suite 240
Grand Haven, MI 49417
Phone: 616/846-7100
Fax: 616/846-7101
Lansing, Michigan
The Victor Center
201 N. Washington Square
Suite 810
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: 517/482-6237
Fax: 517/482-6937
This advisory has been prepared
by Varnum LLP for informational
purposes only and does not
constitute legal advice.
Copyright © 2011, Varnum LLP.
All rights reserved.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

New York Wage Theft Prevention Act Increases Obligations and Penalties for Employers

New York Wage Theft Prevention Act Increases Obligations and Penalties for Employers Effective April 9, 2011

Michael J. Volpe

Kristine A. Sova

Signed into law by Governor David Paterson in his last days in office, the Wage Theft Prevention Act enacts more stringent recordkeeping and employee notification requirements on employers and increases penalties for violations of New York’s wage payment laws, among other things. The Act is effective April 9, 2011 and it is anticipated that it will lead to increased activity by plaintiffs’ attorneys and the New York State Department of Labor.

Additional Information Required in Pay Notices
Currently, New York Labor Law requires employers to provide all newly hired employees with written notice of their rate of pay, regular pay date, and, if applicable, regular and overtime hourly rates of pay and to obtain signed and dated acknowledgement from employees of receipt of this notice. Under the Act, pay notices must not only include this information, but must now also include: the basis for an employee’s rate of pay (that is, hourly, by the shift, daily, weekly, salary, piece rate,commission, or other); allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including tip, meal, or lodging allowances; the employer’s name and any “doing business as” names used by the employer; the physical address of the employer's main office or principal place of business, and a mailing address if different; and the telephone number of the employer. As under current law, employers must obtain a signed and dated acknowledgement from employees for receipt of this notice.

Language of Pay Notices
Under the Act, pay notices must be provided in English and in the language identified by each employee as his/ her primary language, but only so long as the New York State Commissioner of Labor has developed a notice template in the particular language. In the absence of such a template, employers will be deemed compliant with the Act by providing the notice in English. In addition, the written acknowledgement must now include an affirmation by the employee that he/she has accurately identified his/her primary language to the employer, and that either the notice provided was in the language the employee identified or, if the Commissioner of Labor has not made a template notice available in that language, in English.

Annual Distribution of Pay Notices and Notification of Changes Now Required
Currently, New York employers are required to provide pay notices to employees only at the time of hire. The Act now requires employers to provide pay notices not only to employees at the time hiring, but annually to all employees on or before February 1st. In addition, employers must notify employees in writing of any changes to any of the information in the pay notice at least 7 calendar days prior to the change, unless such changes are contained in a detailed statement (typically, set forth in a pay stub) that must accompany every wage payment.
Under current law, employers only need to provide employees with advance notice of change in pay day.

Additional Information Required in Wage Statements/Pay Stubs
The Act also increases the amount of information employers are required to provide in employee pay stubs. By April 9, employers must provide a statement with every payment of wages listing the following information: the name of the employee; the name of the employer; the address and telephone number of the employer; the dates of work covered by that payment of wages; rate or rates of pay and basis thereof, whether paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or other; gross wages; deductions; allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage; and net wages. For any employees who are not exempt from the overtime wage requirements, the statement must also identify the regular hourly rate or rates of pay, the overtime rate or rates of pay, the number of regular hours worked, and the number of overtime hours worked. Also, for any employees paid a piece rate, the statement must include the applicable piece rate or rates of pay and number of pieces completed at each piece rate. Under current law, employers need only provide a statement identifying gross wages, deductions and net wages with each payment of wages.

Additional Recordkeeping Requirements
The Act requires employers to maintain pay notices for 6 years. In addition, the Act requires employers to establish, maintain and preserve for at least 6 years payroll records that show the following for each work worked: the hours worked; the rate or rates of pay and basis thereof, whether paid by the hour, shift, day, week, salary, piece, commission, or other; gross wages; deductions; allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage; and net wages for each employee. For any employees who are not exempt from the overtime wage requirements, the payroll records must also include the regular hourly rate or rates of pay, the overtime rate or rates of pay, the number of regular hours worked, and the number of overtime hours worked. Also, for any employees paid a piece rate, the payroll records must include the applicable piece rate or rates of pay and number of pieces completed at each piece rate.

Additional and Increased Penalties for Noncompliance
Pay Notices - If an employer does not provide a pay notice to an employee within 10 business days of the employee’s date of hire, the Act permits both the employee and the Commissioner of Labor to bring an action against the employer. In an action brought by the employee, the employee will be able to recover $50 for each workweek that he/she did not receive a pay notice, to a maximum of $2500, plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Courts will also be able to award an employee injunctive and declaratory relief. In an action brought by the Commissioner of Labor, the Commissioner will also be able to recover $50 for each work week for each employee who did not receive a pay notice. There are no damage caps in actions brought by the Commissioner.

Wage Statements/Pay Stubs - The Act permits both employees and the Commissioner of Labor to bring an action against employers for failure to provide the required pay stubs. In an action brought by an employee, the employee will be able to recover $100 for each work week that he/she did not receive a wage statement, to a maximum of $2500, plus costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Courts will also be able to award an employee injunctive and declaratory relief. In an action brought by the Commissioner, the Commissioner will also be able to recover $100 for each work week for each employee who did not receive a wage statement. There are no damage caps in actions brought by the Commissioner. Increased Damages for Failure to Pay Wages – Under the Act, the amount of liquidated damages available in cases involving successful claims for unpaid wages increases from 25%, to 100%, of unpaid wages. The Act also clarifies that employees may recover prejudgment interest on unpaid wages. Additional Penalties for Failure to Comply with Final Judgments or Court Orders – The Act also sets additional penalties for employers who fail to comply with final judgments or court orders within 90 days in an amount equal to 15% of any damages due and owing. Criminal Liability for Officers and Agents of Partnerships and LLCs – Currently, the New York Labor Law provides for criminal liability for employers and officers and agents of corporations, but not partnerships and LLCs, for failure to pay wages or otherwise comply with related record keeping obligations. The Act expands criminal liability to officers and agents of partnerships and LLCs.***

The Wage Theft Prevention Act also includes a number of other changes, such as strengthened protections for whistleblowers, the posting of employer wage violations in the workplace and/or in public view, and the addition of a tolling provision. Under the tolling provision, the statute of limitations (6 years) is tolled from the earlier of either the date an employee files a complaint with the Commissioner of Labor or the date the Commissioner commences an investigation, to the date an order to comply issued by the Commissioner becomes final, or where the Commissioner does not issue an order, until the date on which the Commissioner notifies the complaining employee that the investigation has concluded.

Implications for Employers
It is anticipated that the heightened penalties under the Wage Theft Prevention Act will lead to increased activity by the plaintiffs’ bar and the New York State Department of Labor. In advance of April 9th, employers should review their payroll practices to ensure that the wage statements they provide to employees contain all required information, and review and modify, to the extent necessary, their pay notice and recordkeeping practices to comply with the additional requirements under the Act.

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Please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor and Employment Group or the below authors if you have any questions regarding this alert.

©2011 Venable LLP. This alert is published by the law firm Venable LLP. It is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion. Such advice may only be given when related to specific fact situations that Venable has accepted an engagement as counsel to address.
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