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Distracted? How to Get Back to Business

March 11, 2014

distractionAfter a long winter, the spring like temperatures outside can become a distraction to your daily work activities. When spring fever strikes, use these tips and strategies to help get you back to business.

Find a Quiet Place to Work

The ideal workspace is a quiet and private office, yet the reality is that many of us work in open cubes or in close proximity to noise and distraction.  If possible, find a room with a closed door to sit in if you need extra focus time.

De-clutter Your Workspace

Whether it’s filing those papers that have been sitting on the corner of your desk, putting away binders in cabinets or just cleaning off your desk and keyboard, you will always feel refreshed when working at a clean space. This is a great project to tackle on Friday afternoons when brain function may be at an all-time low.

Take Notes

Have you ever finished a marathon meeting and wondered, “Now what was I supposed to do?”  Take notes and never miss another assignment!  You don’t have to recap the whole meeting, but when people are discussing next steps or deadlines, make sure that you write those down.  Your scribbles will do wonders for keeping you focused during your next work session and will make all those meetings you attend more productive.

Prioritize Tasks

Make a list of all of the tasks you need to do, then assign importance levels to the tasks. For example, use “red” to highlight tasks that have a deadline of today, “orange” for something that needs to be completed this week, and “green” for tasks that you have a little bit of time to work on.  Then get to work on the “red” tasks first.  This can help you meet deadlines promptly and reduce all the time you spend figuring out what to do next.

Break It Down

If start to feel overwhelmed, it could be because you are taking on too much at a time.  Break a large job into smaller, more manageable pieces.  Consider doing a small part of the project each day for a week until it’s complete.  This can help ease stress levels, which, if left untreated, can become an additional distraction.

Use Relaxation Techniques

When I have had a tough day at work, I often find that I just need to breathe.  Take one minute every hour to take slow, deep breaths in and out of your nose (recommend using five seconds breathe in and five seconds breathe out).  If you crave more intensive breathing exercises, you could opt for Alternate Nostril breathing.  Yogis have practiced “Nodi Sodhana” for thousands of years as a way to promote health and overall well-being.  Another great relaxation technique is to do yoga once or twice a week.  Yoga, breathing techniques and meditation are all great ways to reset yourself so that you are ready to start your next task.

Now, let’s all get to work!

Sara Trexler is the South Boulevard JobLink Manager.

De-clutter Your Home by Donating: Commonly Stockpiled Items

February 26, 2014

donationsWhy wait until spring to clean out the junk that’s cluttering up your home? It’s easier to let go of belongings when they’re going to a good cause. Not only is donating a socially conscious and environmentally friendly way to de-clutter your home, but when you donate to Goodwill, you are also helping people get jobs and acquire much-needed necessities that may otherwise be out of reach.

From coffee mugs to computer equipment, chances are that you have more of these commonly stockpiled items to donate than you may realize.

Clothing: A lot of our closets have at least a few (if not far too many) items that we no longer wear or that no longer quite fit. Consider clearing through your closet and your children’s closets and pruning through everything you no longer need, from coats and scarves, pants and skirts, shoes and boots, to formalwear that you’ve been photographed in a few too many times. If there aren’t smaller children in the family to benefit from hand-me-downs, children’s clothing could make a difference in a family’s life. Make sure the clothing is clean before you drop it off at a donation site.

Toys: Have your kids outgrown some of their favorite toys? If your children have received toys as gifts that they never quite warmed to, or if you’ve received duplicates of popular toys from both sides of the family, consider clearing out space by donating these items as well. Think of the joy that these toys could bring to other children, not to mention the extra space in your home.

Computer Equipment & Electronics: If you’ve recently upgraded your computer or accessories, you may not be sure what to do with that old laptop or printer that still works, but no longer meets your needs. Computers equipment can take up a lot of space in your home, so consider donating computers, printers, mice, keyboards, and other peripherals. These items can be cost-prohibitive for many folks, so you could be making a real difference in someone’s education or pursuit of employment. Goodwill has recycling programs for computer equipment that aim to reduce waste going to landfills as well. Functional cameras, TVs, VCRs and DVDs are also items that can find a second home.

Books: Whether or not you’re an avid reader, chances are there are books taking up valuable space on your shelves — cookbooks, children’s books, novels from previous book club meetings. Think of all the new books you’ll make room for after you donating books you’ve either read or, realistically, just don’t think you’ll get around to reading. As you clear through your book shelves, ask yourself how long the book has been sitting there, and how likely you are to read it again (or ever).

Furniture: Who doesn’t have an extra coffee table, desk chair, or bookcase that is taking up valuable room in the garage or in your filled-to-the-max storage unit? You’ll be glad to have the extra space and it will feel good to give these furniture items a new beginning. Extra lamps can brighten up someone’s home, too; just be sure to plug in lamps you’re considering donating to make sure they still work.

Kitchenware: Have you gotten more mugs at holiday gift exchanges than you know what to do with? Find yourself with extra plates, bowls, and pots and pans that are making your cabinets hard to navigate? These items are a must-have for all homes; clear out your cabinets and drawers give your unneeded kitchen items (including utensils) a new start in someone else’s kitchen. Working appliances are also a great thing to donate, particularly since they can take up a lot of space in your home.

Regardless of the season, doing a “spring cleaning” will help put a spring in your step, as well as the organizations and individuals that will benefit from your donations. Be sure to check the donation guidelines before you drop off your goods, and make sure everything is clean and functional.

What do you have taking up space in your basement or garage? What organizations in your community could benefit from your de-cluttering?

Jessica Johnson works for http://www.extraspace.com and contributes to the Extra Space Storage blog, exploring various aspects of organizing and storing possessions.

Fashionable Looks on a Shoestring Budget

February 21, 2014

One of the most popular questions that area stylist Regan Sharpe receives is how to be stylish and look great when you don’t have a lot of money. Her answer: thrifting, of course! Read on for her tried and true tips to be stylish and look great, no matter your budget.

“My niche is creating great style on a crazy low budget,” explains Regan, a professional image consultant and personal shopper in Charlotte. “For example, I love Hermes Purses. Can I afford them?  No. However, even if I could afford this luxury, I would never want to spend that kind of money because I know I could find a gently-used version for 50-90% less. I recently bought an authentic Hermes purse for $3.99 at the Ballantyne store and was shell-shocked all day!”

An avid Goodwill shopper, Regan says she frequently finds designer items hidden among the clothing racks. Here are eight stunning looks for under $30 that she has created using clothing and accessories found at Goodwill stores.

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Regan spilled some of her shopping tips for creating these impeccable styles on a shoestring budget.

What are your favorite Goodwill stores?

I would say about 60% of these outfits came from the Steele Creek location.  Their inventory is larger and they receive a ton of true vintage items that I love.  The long satin skirt and moss hair vintage sweater are from the Pineville location.

What item were you most excited to find?

That is so tough to answer! I would have to say the black vintage fringe dress and the purple Nicole Miller formal dress. Any texture adds so much pop to any outfit! The Nicole Miller dress still had an original price tag of close to $700 and I bought it for less than $10.

What is your strategy for successful thrift store shopping?

Pretty simple.  Go on a day where you can allow yourself at least one hour to browse. I love anything with texture such as velvet, sequins, pearls, metallics, fur and satin.  I usually stand two feet away from racks and look towards the bottom because you can actually see items better. There is so much clothing on the racks that it can get cluttered on top where hangers are, so I gauge my eyes towards the bottom. Lastly, go through the inventory. All of it. It’s so worth it!

What is the one clothing item or accessory that every woman should have in her closet?

Fur is always classic, whether it’s upscale fake or the real deal.  Every woman deserves fur! I also believe a great pair of jeans are a woman’s best friend.  My favorite are Rock & Republic Jeans.  Just found some today at the Steele Creek location—too bad they weren’t my size. There’s no right way of style.  But saving money while shopping is STYLISH!

Regan Renfro Sharpe is the owner of Carolina Stylist. Model Taylor Sharpe was photographed by Meaghan Browning.

Donate and Save at the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show

February 18, 2014

toolboxDo you love decorating? Have a green thumb? Don’t miss a special opportunity from Goodwill to gain free admission to the Southern Spring Home & Garden Show opening this Friday. The show will be held at The Park Expo and Conference Center in Charlotte during the last two weekends in February (Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-Mar. 2).

Stop by Goodwill’s booth to browse seasonal items for sale, watch DIY demos of how to repurpose thrifted items into new treasures and become informed about free services for job seekers.  Our mascot Smiling G will even be around to entertain your little ones!

Every Goodwill success story begins with a donation and you can become a job creator by simply cleaning out your closet. Gain free admission when you bring one box of home or garden items to donate at the Goodwill donation trailer located in The Park Expo’s parking lot. It’s that easy!

DIY demonstrations will be held at our booth at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on each Saturday, February 22 and March 1.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

How will you celebrate the start of spring?

DIY Gifts for Your Valentine

February 10, 2014

Looking to add a personalized touch to your Valentine’s Day gifts? Here’s a roundup of five creative DIY crafts that can be easily assembled using items from your local Goodwill.

Valentine Welcome Rug

Keep your sweetie’s shoes clean and dry with this festive floor covering that you can make in under 20 minutes following this tutorial from Pretty Fluffy (cute pooch not included).

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Beaded Heart Beanie

A thrifted winter hat or beanie serves as the base for a beautiful beaded design of your choice. Inspired by Moschino’s heart beanie, you’ll spend a lot less for an item that’s equally striking. Get the instructions at iLoveToCreate blog.

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I Love You Kitchen Towel

Enjoy giving this simple DIY as a Valentine’s Day gift to your favorite cook or foodie to use in their kitchen. Tutorial via Handmaker of Things.

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Memory Candles

Old photographs get a modern twist using transparent contact paper and glass votive candleholders. Step-by-step instructions available at inspired ideas.

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Romantic Milestones Map

Maps, thread and a classic photo frame uniquely display the places that are meaningful to you and your loved one. Tutorial via Peanut Butter Fingers.

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Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

What are you crafting this holiday?

Recycle Your Old Computer

February 7, 2014

computer-recyclingElectronic waste, or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream in the world. Each year, people and businesses discard more than 220 million tons of old computers. The challenge is to find economical ways to recycle and reuse these products.

Recent studies show that the component materials of electronic items threaten human health and the environment, especially water and air. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs), the glass picture tubes found in television and computer monitors, contain five to eight pounds of lead. Computers contain heavy metals such as lead, chromium, nickel and zinc. Plastics used in casings are often difficult to sort and recycle, and can pose a health and safety risk to workers.

The good news is that you can become both an environmental champion AND a job creator when you donate—not dump—your old computer and related equipment. As a partner in the Dell Reconnect program, Goodwill offers an easy, safe and free way to recycle technology. By dropping off a computer (working or non-working, any brand) at one of our 22 stores or convenient donation sites, you can help create work opportunities for unemployed people through one of our job training programs and services.

Whenever possible, donated computers are repaired and refurbished by clients in Goodwill’s E-Cycling training program. Goodwill uses U. S. Department of Defense standards to destroy personal data left on hard drives. Refurbished computers are sold at our Computer Works store and 90 cents of every dollar generated supports paid training and work opportunities for local people with barriers to employment. Items that cannot be resold are disposed of in a responsible manner to ensure that no environmentally-sensitive materials are sent to landfills. Last year, your Goodwill diverted 2.7 million pounds of product from area landfills.

Donations to Goodwill support individuals with barriers to employment as they upgrade their job skills and enter the workforce. That means that by upgrading your computer and donating your old one to Goodwill, you can help someone get an upgrade of a lifetime.

Elizabeth Isenhour

Elizabeth Isenhour

Click here for a list of frequently donated computer items.

3 Questions Your Resume Must Answer

February 4, 2014

resumeIn the market for a new job? You’ve probably been urged to update your resume. With job growth remaining sluggish around the country, hiring managers are flooded with hundreds of applicants for each available position and recent reports indicate that they spend a mere six seconds to review each resume. Here are three important questions that you must answer to make your resume stand out from the crowd:

  1. What makes you different from all the other applicants? It is imperative to communicate a sense of who you are. Think about what unique assets you offer and make sure your resume adequately illustrates your strengths and specific skills.
  2. Do you meet the qualifications of the job? This takes place in two ways: either your education or through your work experience. A combination of both is ideal.
  3. How does your work history reflect your experience?

There are a few ways to highlight these things on your resume. First, if you have been using a generic template to create your resume, stop! Most of these do not adequately summarize your specific skills and are aimed at developing a very generic resume that is not targeted to a specific industry. Your end result will look very similar to everyone else’s. The trick is to set yourself apart, not blend in.

Remove the Objective Statement from your resume and replace with a Summary of Qualifications or Professional Profile. An Objective Statement only serves to state the obvious: you’re seeking a job in your field of interest, utilizing your skills and abilities with a company where there is growth and room for upward mobility, right? When you replace this section with a listing of your specific skills, you are communicating to the employer a concise sense of who you are. Be sure to include keywords from the job posting in your summary to increase your chances of standing out as a perfect candidate to the recruiter or being flagged as a good match by the software the company uses to scan resumes. Remember, experience and education are the primary qualifiers for most jobs. Play to your strengths!

Second, move your education or qualifying certifications to the top of the resume just below your Professional Profile so that they are sure to see that you qualify.

Lastly, make sure that your work history shows your experience listed in profile. Most employers are interested in your work history throughout the last decade, but if you have experience from a job that was beyond ten years ago and it is relevant to the position, include it. Don’t forget to list volunteer activities; these activities still count as experience even though they may be unpaid.

Use these tips to create a resume that will help you land interviews. If you want additional assistance, stop by one of Goodwill’s job resource centers to receive free help in crafting a standout resume. We have trained professionals on staff who can sift through your life experiences to highlight the skills and qualifications that support your career goals and outsmart HR recruiting software.

Jeff Adams is a Career Development Specialist at Goodwill who is passionate about helping clients achieve their goals in their career. He has developed many materials around the subjects of resumes, interviewing and job searching.

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