As many of us spend more of our days alone, apart, and isolated, we perhaps have found space to step away from the screen and sit with ourselves. Maybe we’ve found moments to reflect on our relationship to control or our lack thereof. Maybe we’ve found a reconnection with art as a way to express the roiling waves inside us. Or maybe that sort of confrontational stillness has eluded you. If so, perhaps learning about the mother of American modernism will inspire you.

As a student, Georgia Totto O’Keeffe almost gave up on painting until she studied the philosophies of Arthur Wesley Dow which emphasized personal design and invited the painter to “fill a space beautifully” instead of trying to copy classical painters. She sent several paintings to a friend of hers in New York who then showed them to renowned art dealer and photographer Alfred Steiglitz. She moved to New York in 1918 and began her career as a professional artist at Steglitz’s request, eventually marrying him in 1924.

She garnered recognition and acclaim for her depictions of the New York skyline, and eventually her extreme close up flowers. Many have commented on the sexual nature of her flowers, particularly ones like Red Canna (1924), to which O’Keeffe maintained, “they were talking about themselves not about me.” She explored color, form and shape, going so far as to create a series of Jack-in-the-Pulpit paintings deconstructing different elements of the flower.

In 1929, O’Keeffe started living part-time in the southwest. She fell in love with the New Mexican landscape and began focusing her art on the rock formations, sky, and, of course, the bones. She felt herself over the years coming alive in the sunshine and open skies of the southwest, which brought some reprieve from her strained marriage.

She painted her first skulls from a “barrel of bones” she collected her first time in Santa Fe. One of her more famous pieces Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue (1931) was accented with the rest stripes to comment on the North eastern obsession with the “Great American Novel.” Adding her take on the Great America that exists past the Hudson River.

Much like her flowers, her bones were often misunderstood. As her flowers were seen as highly sexual, her bones were interpreted as an obsession with death. In O’Keefe’s words, “it never occurs to me they have anything to do with death. They’re very lively.”

When Steiglitz died in 1946, O’Keeffe moved to Santa Fe permanently — making her home at her Abiquiú property and spending her summers at Ghost Ranch. She truly lived her best life continuing a prolific career and traveling the world. She drew inspiration from new locations and showcased her art in galleries and museums across the globe. She never found a place she loved more than New Mexico.

She later took on a young assistant who helped her continue traveling and making art even as she aged. Her relationship with Juan Hamilton caused quite the scandal (much like her affair with Steiglitz before he divorced his previous wife) to which she would tell him, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Juan, what do you care what they think? Just focus on your work.” With his help, she continued to paint even after losing her sight, until her death at 98.

In 2014, O’Keeffe’s Jimson Weed (1936) sold for $44,405,000 blowing the world record for female artists out of the water more than three times over.

Today, we can take some lessons from this exemplary artist:

“If I can’t work by myself for a year with no stimulus other than what I can get from books, distant friends, and from my own fun in living, I’m not worth much.”

O’Keefe understood the value of solitude. She wouldn’t allow her husband in the room when she painted. Her time to work was sacred. Some of us have plenty of alone time now. Some of us have less than ever with children at home. Whatever your situation, can you carve out true solitude? No phones. No excuses. Just you and whatever muse moves you?

“I put up a lot of pictures that I had done during the year and I could say, ‘well, I painted that to please so-and-so, and I painted that to please so-and-so.’ Go around the room and there wasn’t anything to please myself and I thought that was pretty dull. So I put it all away and started over again.”

Wow. Imagine honestly assessing your work in that way and solemnly swearing to please yourself with your art rather than everyone else. What can you create that is just for you? Many great artists assert that their work comes from the raw truth of their being. What does yours look like?

“I have been terrified every moment of my life and I have never let it stop me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

Courage comes from doing the thing we are afraid of inspire of our terror, not from fearlessness. Can we move forward with our fears? Even now?

“I can’t explain it any other way, that I get this shape in my head. And sometimes I know where it comes from and sometimes I don’t.”

This sounds like a deep trust in her intuition. But we need the aforementioned solitude to get there. In order to really listen.

“If you work hard enough you can get almost anything.. [After 10 years] I got [The O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiu] from the Catholic Church.”

O’Keeffe obtained her dream home 10 years after falling in love with it. Sometimes we need to play the long game to get where we’re going. Remember that when you feel like you’re not accomplishing enough in a day.


About the author.  

Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.

As we approach the four month mark of social distancing, business closures, and remote work, some states are “reopening” only to shutter again. Initially, brands rallied and inspired in their messaging around the pandemic, emphasizing that “we’re all in this together.” By now, most folks are experiencing fatigue from drastic life changes. Marketers once again need to pivot in response to a new challenge. This time, they’re negotiating a widening gap between people’s experiences in this unprecedented and uncertain time.

The Elephant in the Room

Marketers need to consider the amount of emphasis to put on novel coronavirus as well as people’s direct experience. “As we’re building creative, it gets down to the tiniest details, whether it’s print, digital, broadcast, an out of home piece, or direct mail,” says Lindsey Hope, an account director at Lift. With uncertainty and varying lead times before a piece goes live, “we even have to consider legal disclaimers,” she adds. Email has become more critical as a marketing channel because of the speed and ease to produce something.

Messaging may focus on how a business is “working to keep their customers safe or how their product helps customers move in a forward direction,” notes Hope. If the benefits of a product or service relate to the pandemic or the business is an “essential” service, that will be the emphasis. The telecoms industry, for example, may elect to take a more direct approach, since their service enables people to connect with work, school, and social networks. They may lift up good value with a particular bundled package or flexibility so the consumer isn’t locked into a particular plan or service. These are all important considerations for consumers during a time of uncertainty.

Some clients may speak directly to COVID-19, while others are much “softer” in their approach, continues Hope. They may focus on saving money, with “messaging elements that speak to COVID without directly saying it,” she adds.

Changing Scale and Ambiguous Timelines

Like most hazards, this pandemic is continually changing and emerging. But unlike disasters such as tornadoes or wildfires, C19 is not localized, with external supporters rallying for support to rebuild. Initially, the global scale of C19, lack of available information, and fear brought people together. Now, we’re “seeing greater variation in what people’s experience is” and that presents a different challenge for marketers, Hope says.

At every level, whether by state or city or by socioeconomic group, there are shifts that marketers are being sensitive to understanding. This is true both personally and professionally. Hope observes that as we move forward, people’s experience is more closely tied to their political views. She is originally from Texas and now lives in NYC. Her family’s experience is “unbelievably different than what my experience has been.” Wearing a face covering may seem perfectly reasonable to a New Yorker. But it can feel like an element of control to someone from Wisconsin who hasn’t yet experienced a lot of devastation.

Companies are trying to stay neutral as tensions rise. As a marketer, Hope faces that “delicate, but fast-paced effort of figuring out what the right formula is.” Brands need to position themselves as being supportive of customers (or potential customers) and to grow business. If a company is national or global, plans may include different messaging for different markets.

Not knowing when things will get back to “normal” adds another layer of complication. Sports programming, for example, is difficult to plan. Hope and her team are constantly consuming information about progress with C19. They then sort that information into viable communications plans for their clients.

Changes in Brand Marketing

The tone of brand marketing, which communicates how a consumer feels about a particular company, product, or service, has shifted. Unemployment is a bigger factor at play here too. Hope highlights a moving spot by web hosting company GoDaddy as an example of brand marketing going more in the direction of support for customers. The ad shows businesses that are closed while the soothing voice of Donald Sutherland reminds viewers of ways to stay open (#OpenWeStand). It is only at the end of the piece when the company logo appears. Fiona Parkin, Executive Creative Director of Advertising at GoDaddy recently appeared in a discussion with Creative Circle about “Turning Your Business Back On.” In it, she shared that, fittingly, she sees her role as both helping small businesses with tactical questions as well as providing a support network.

In the beer and liquor industry, Miller Lite is doing things that are “completely different from anything we’ve seen from them,” Hope says. They shared a video of an empty bar on Twitter, prompting viewers to donate to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program as a “virtual tip jar.”

Retailer Walmart launched a free virtual summer camp with new activities rolling out daily on their app to keep the kids entertained. Hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and featuring other celebrity guests, it’s playful and fun for their corporate brand. It’s also impressive, Hope notes, how quickly this campaign was pulled together.

Business as Usual

For some companies, marketing remains more or less the same. But new decisions are being made about what to include visually. Hope points out that a lifestyle image of people all together enjoying the big game wouldn’t be relevant at the moment, that it “would be a total miss.” So the image may switch to people video chatting instead.

The good news is that everyone is learning together at the same time. There are no “experts” on this type of crisis communication with the technology that we have available today. But learning from and inspiring each other is critical as we continue onward.


About the author.
Jess Powers writes about marketing, food, and wellness. She has experience in nonprofit communications and emergency management. Follow her @foodandfury.

The remote video interview is here to stay — learning how to master it will serve you now and in the days to come.

COVID-19 has more people working from home than ever before — including hiring managers. Even when the new normal begins to give way to the old, the way we work is likely to be forever changed. In-person interviews will return — in time. But going forward, the remote interview will be a BIG part of how hiring managers screen candidates. Most managers have participated in online meetings in the past, but not all know how to conduct a great video interview. The good news is that some best practices can help take your video interviewing skills to the next level.

Here are some tips on how to prepare — and make the most of — a remote interview.

1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY.

With an onsite interview, most candidates know what to expect, but a remote interview is a different ballgame. Your candidate may not know what to expect — and there’s a chance that they have never done a remote interview before. Set them at ease by clearly communicating and preparing them for what to expect; it will help make the entire interview process run more smoothly.

Establish who will place the call or what online video platform you will be using. Make sure you specify if the interview will be a phone or video interview — no one wants to log into the meeting and be surprised.

Send any software needed, along with simple instructions on how to download and set up the program. The five most popular online video platforms include Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Webex.

Provide the interviewee the names and titles of any colleagues who may be joining the interviews.

2. PREPARE YOUR QUESTIONS AHEAD OF TIME

While you may be tempted to play it by ear, having questions prepared ahead of time will help the interview go more smoothly. Print out your questions, so you have them at the ready for easy reference. It’s a smart idea to include some specific questions to help understand if the candidate will be a good remote employee. Certain traits are associated with successful remote workers—look for someone who is:

  • Self-motivated
  • Disciplined
  • Tech-savvy
  • Responsive
  • A strong communicator
  • Experienced in working remotely

two-people-on-zoom-video-call

3. CHECK THE TECH

While this advice is often given to candidates, it is equally as helpful for the interviewer. Remote interviews require technology — you want to make sure it’s working for you. Check the basics first; make sure that your:

  • Computer camera and microphone are working.
  • Login information is correct — particularly if you have not used the video conferencing app in a while.
  • WiFi or internet connection is working well.
  • Laptop or tablet is charged and ready to go.

Once you know that all those things are up to snuff, do a technical trial run of your videoconferencing platform with enough time to switch gears if something is not working. Most programs have a testing feature that will allow you to mimic a live call and make sure everything in on point. Test meeting links for the five most popular videoconferencing platforms below:

Zoom
Skype
Google Hangouts
GoToMeeting
WebEx

4. MAKE A BACKUP PLAN

Our best-laid plans often go awry. Despite all your preparation, you may have to punt to Plan B if the platform you plan to use does not work. Bandwidth is a common issue during this time — if more than one person is WFH, there can be delays or other hiccups with video conferencing apps. While not ideal, one way to handle this issue is to turn off the video function on the platform. You will still be able to talk to each other — just sans visuals. One way to mitigate the bandwidth challenge is to try scheduling the interview at a time when fewer people in your home are online.

Have the candidate’s email and phone number handy, so you can easily reach out. If tech tanks on either end, you may end up having an “old-fashioned” phone call instead of a video interview.

5. SET THE SCENE

When you’re conducting a video interview from your company office, setting the scene generally involves booking a conference room — but in this epoch of WFH, you’ll need to make sure that your WFH environment is a professional one. Look around at what the interviewee may see in the background. Aim to keep it simple, clean, neutral — and as businesslike as possible. If your desk is showing, organize the top and banish any clutter. Zoom backgrounds may be your friend if you can’t curate a corner of your actual space (and, of course, if you’re conducting your remote interview on Zoom). Here are eight great options!

6. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

It’s a good idea to nix notifications, switch off email alerts, turn your cellphone to silent, and put your Slack and other chats to rest during the interview. If possible, avoid having video interviews in high-traffic areas of your home. Tape a note to your door (or the back of your laptop) so that you are not disturbed. And try to stay still — if you’re shifting or walking around, it can make it more difficult for the other person to focus. Your goal is to foster the most productive interview; by minimizing distractions, you’ll be well on your way.

7. DRESS THE PART

Dress as though you are going to work — even if you are working from home. In terms of what comes across well on camera, here are a few tried-and-true tips:

  • White is a bad choice on camera—blue is a better option; neutral tones work well too.
  • Busy patterns can be distracting.
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum.

8. BE PREPARED

Make things simple for yourself. Print out your interviewee’s résumé and your list of questions. Have a clean pad of paper or notebook ready and put the interviewee’s name on it;you’ll have a convenient place to take notes and jot down questions that might come to you during the interview. You may also want to log in a few minutes early so that you’re not rushing — and so that you can make sure your technology is on point.

9. SMILE AND MAKE EYE CONTACT.

A video interview is not the same as an in-person interview for various reasons. One of the things that sets it apart is that it can be tricky to remember how to actually “make” eye contact. While you may be tempted to look at the candidate’s image or at yourself, please remember that you have to look at the camera to make eye contact. Here’s a fun reminder: draw a pair of eyes on a sticky note and place just underneath your webcam. You want to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Facial expressions add variety and inflection to your voice, making you sound more personable — and smiling uses muscles that warm the tone of your voice. Because there can be a slight lag with video conferencing technology, try to leave a few seconds at the end of your sentences or after a question to minimize speaking over one another.

10. CLOSE STRONG

After the interview, ask if there are any additional questions and let candidates know what will happen next in the process. Much like an in-person interview, thank candidates for their time and let them know that you are available via email should any questions arise.

As a key member of your organization, you are the guide for the search and interview process in these unprecedented and challenging times. The good news is that learning how to conduct a great remote interview will help your company stand out, and will provide candidates with the best view of your organization.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many freelancers and traditional workers alike have lost their jobs. In an attempt to make work in a world where fewer jobs are available, many individuals are discovering new ways to utilize their skillset. We’re interviewing folks who are thinking outside the box and pivoting during COVID-19.

Meet Cody Harding — an attorney who had recently started his own law firm focused on creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. He had been running Cody Harding Law for six months when COVID-19 struck and brought his nascent practice to a halt. Read on to see how Cody made a radical pivot from lawyer to working as a hospital clerk in a COVID-19 ward.

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1. What do you do?

I used to work for a big midtown Manhattan civil defense law firm but just couldn’t stand it anymore. I left 6 months ago despite not having a job lined up — I just quit. I decided to start my own firm — Cody Harding Law — and began to tap into my network of entrepreneurs and freelancers, and built a fledgling firm representing primarily self-employed people or people who are growing businesses. Perhaps not the most profitable, but it was growing bit by bit. And then this happened.

2. What happened to your job or business as a result of C19?

Many of the people I was working with were completely thrown by COVID-19. People in creative industries are my main clients — so I am tied to the fortunes of the creative world. When the courts closed, and the order was for only non-essential business, I filed for unemployment. Business dried up, and I became aware that I had to figure something out.

3. How have you adapted to the realities of C19?

I am someone who needs to help, I am not good at standing still. On a WhatsApp professional chat group that I am part of, there was a post about a recruitment group that was hiring support staff for NYC hospitals. It was kind of vague; it said something about administration and logistics. I called, told them I was an attorney with over a decade of experience in hospitality. They thanked me but said they were full as they’d had many responses. I left town.

Two weeks later, they followed up and asked if I was still interested — and it was a dilemma. I had four hours of going back and forth with all the pros and cons and finally decided to do it.
I usually live in a co-living space in Bushwick called Lightning Society, but had to move out because everybody was (understandably) scared by my new job at the hospital. I started asking around to see if there was another place for me to go, and a buddy staying with his girlfriend offered his home — so now I’m living alone in Greenpoint. Everybody is trying to navigate this. In a way, I am happy to be in control of my own situation.

4. What can you tell us about your new job in the hospital?

I remember going to the job the first day, not fully knowing what I was actually going to do. I’ve been working at the hospital since March 31st. There were ten of us who were new and arrived the same day. All of us come from very different backgrounds. Some folks are now doing administrative work, while others are passing snacks to staff. I am at the main desk with the nurses — on a COVID-19 unit.

It was pretty chaotic when I first got to Metropolitan Hospital on the Upper East Side (Manhattan) — really hectic and crazy. They were trying to piece together everyone’s roles, throwing people into different positions to help. The staff itself is a collage of permanent medical workers from the hospital, along with some temporary and visiting nurses. The first three days were kind of rough. But now, I feel very attached to all the nurses, and everyone has found their groove. The various teams have melded together and are more settled in. I am mostly running around the hospital, getting linens, helping with logistics and administrative tasks. Admissions are down — but people are dying. I had to write a code tag yesterday. I’ve never done that before. This job pays a little, but it’s not like I’m getting rich doing this, I should probably be paid more because of the risk.

5. How did you decide to pivot in this manner?

My primary motivation in taking this job is that I can be of benefit, and I was curious about what was really going on. I wanted to help, not just sit home in my apartment and be anxious. But I also needed the income.

I thought I would bail on this after the first week, but I can’t walk away right now. I’m kind of taking it two or three weeks at a time. I bet I could actually do this for another month or two.

6. What has been the result of your adapted mode of work?

It’s an interesting time. While working in the hospital, I am also trying to maintain my law practice. I work from 4pm to midnight at the hospital, so I have time earlier in the day to work on my legal work, which keeps me busy about 10-20 hours a week.

I wear full gear when I’m at the hospital, wash my hands all the time, and when I come home, I take all my clothes off, shower right away. I’m 33, pretty healthy, no pre-existing conditions … I try not to worry too much.


About the author. 
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces engaging content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties. You can see more of her work at karinamargit.com.

For the intelligent and creative, bouts of self-doubt, depression, low self-esteem, and imposter syndrome may be acquaintances we know well. (Every gift has a cost, I guess.) While difficult at times, the right tools, routines, and support systems can get us through the dark and back into creation mode. But what happens when work dries up and we’re driven into isolation?

With overactive brains, more time to ruminate, fewer distractions from a potential spiral, less social interaction, and sometimes less opportunity or incentive to exercise or walk around, perhaps you’ve fallen prey to difficult thoughts. Some of my favorite existential crisis questions and thoughts include the following:

  • What is the point of any of this?
  • I’m unproductive and worthless.
  • The work I produce is meaningless.
  • I’ll never be as good/successful/accomplished as [insert person you admire].
  • I’m not smart enough to make this work.
  • Will I ever find “real” success?
  • All my ideas are garbage.
  • What if people are just pretending to like my work/me?
  • We’re in crisis. What does creativity do you for in crisis? YOU CAN’T EAT ART 😩😭
  • If other people really knew me/saw the art I REALLY want to make, they would hate me/think I’m stupid.

If any of this sounds familiar, I have great news: you’re not alone, and you’re probably wrong!

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Let’s start by pointing out the cognitive bias many of us know and hate, the Dunning Kruger Effect. The thing is, if you have the ability to doubt yourself in the first place, you’re probably smarter and more qualified than you think you are. The Dunning Kruger Effect illustrates that with lower intelligence comes greater confidence. Yikes. Basically, the fact that you doubt yourself in the first place means at the very least you have the smarts to think critically and consider opposing arguments.

Imposter Syndrome

You may additionally experience imposter syndrome, which while not classified as a disorder, can go hand in hand with low-self esteem, depression, and anxiety. The experience of imposter syndrome includes dismissing any accomplishments and a fear that you have landed where you are by luck rather than skill or merit. Many experience a fear of being found out as a fraud.

While external validation, producing work, and social interaction (not to mention, getting paid) can mitigate these experiences by creating a temporary sense of relief, how do we get through when those external factors are severely limited?

Reflect on how far you’ve come

Our brains are wired to focus on our blunders. Negativity bias will keep you focused on the one negative comment or feeling instead of the 5 positives. That’s why it’s so easy to get hooked on whatever negative thought that might enter your brain. Plus, if you’re dealing with imposter syndrome, you’ll disregard the positive comments completely. When we’re isolated, we may only be getting that feedback through social media (or the couple of people we’re in general contact with), which can be a dangerous game in and of itself.

If you’re feeling down or lost, maybe a decade review can help you see how far you’ve come. Where were you five to ten years ago? How have you evolved? How has your approach to your work changed? What have you learned? We so rarely truly look at the big picture in that way. Can you take a moment to notice the wins? Can you take the losses and see how they’ve brought you to where you are today?

Reflection can be a powerful tool in understanding yourself, learning from your journey, and consciously integrating lessons into your life.

Turn your inner critic into an ally

You can also overcome your brain’s fear response and use that self-check impulse to simply create better work. One of the most effective ways I have found is to speak to the overly critical voice in my head like a very nosy friend. Listen to it, and then ask why. When you have to get specific, you’re no longer blanket-statement-bad, but rather you start to find useful tips to make the next round better.

So, for instance, I’m not “a terrible writer,” which my inner critic loves to tell me, but perhaps this article could use tighter language and more structure. Something specific can be fixed! (And maybe it doesn’t have to be 100% perfect to be really useful.)

Keep your eyes on your own paper

Of all the ways we start to feel down on ourselves, comparison is by far the most detrimental. We compare the mess of our process to the finished products of others. When you see those humble brag announcements across your feed, or the seemingly overnight success of some celebrities, it looks like magic, but we have no idea what it took other people to get where they are.

We have no idea what their dark night of the soul looked like. Maybe they have found confidence and success because they suffered losses so brutal they thought they would die, but when death refused to take them as they stood over a pile of ash, marveling at the miracle of still being alive, they dragged their charred bodies up a never ending mountain until finally, something clicked. Maybe the depths of their despair cracked open something within them and gave them the eyes to see opportunity.

And then again, some folks may be exaggerating or lying! Either way, upward social comparison, especially through social media networks like Facebook or Instagram, contribute to low self-esteem. So if you’re in a creative funk, delete the apps (even if you’ll just re-download them later).

The quickest way to feel like a sham and a fraud is by comparing your “in process” to someone’s polished product. Comparison is the enemy of producing good work. So stop it. And find the space to create the thing that can only come from YOU. Which brings me to…

Remember what you love to create

If you have a moment, what would you create for free? For yourself? What I’ve found really helpful is playing with a medium that isn’t my main art form. So instead of writing, I’ll draw for a little bit. Or dance. Then from that space of getting out of my head, I can come back to writing something just for me. Without an audience. The silly little poems and fan fiction stories that come from my soul, instead of my brain.

What can you create as a service to yourself?

Break the cycle

When we feel like imposters, we can get stuck in cycles of over-preparation or procrastination that become a weird self-fulfilling prophecy or otherwise help us scrape by with only the slightest bit of relief. To get out of this, we need some real inner confrontation.

Reframing anxiety-producing tasks can help us get out of our heads and into the game. Some helpful advice I got recently when an anxiety-producing task made me cry (yeah, I can admit that to you, dear reader) was this:

“It’s not personal. It’s just business.”

Whatever it is, creating art, negotiating a better result, submitting a paper, applying for a job, prepping for an interview, is just business. It’s not your whole identity. We get scared because we conflate actions and output with who we are. Face the anxiety (maybe break down crying if that is your thing), notice it doesn’t kill you, and break the cycle.

Figure out where these standards came from in the first place

For most of us, this inner critic had an origin. Whether it was a teacher, a parent, a friend, a family member, or the culture at large, the idea that we’re somehow deficient is not something any of us were born with.

There are plenty of ways to explore this from mediation to therapy, from personal coaching to self-help books. Try asking the question, and see what answers come up for you. If you’re looking for resources to start, you can check out my reading list.

Know you’re in good company

Even in the best times, it’s extremely common for creatives to be plagued by imposter syndrome. Despite objective worldwide success, renowned artists question and doubt themselves. Some of the most famous folks who have dealt with self-doubt and imposter syndrome include:

  • Maya Angelou
  • Meryl Streep
  • Chuck Lorre
  • Viola Davis
  • Don Cheadle
  • Kate Winslet
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Tom Hanks
  • Emma Watson
  • Sonia Sotomayor

And if it takes time for you to crawl out of a self-esteem slump, that’s okay too. These are dark times, you know, and there’s no right or wrong way to process here.


About the author.
Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.

Balancing ego with practicality may be the name of the game here. But it’s a much more nuanced question than it might seem at the outset. Three Creative Circle recruiting experts share their insights — they may surprise you.

illustration of woman on remote call

The question keeps popping up: should I lower my rates now? While we would like to be able to offer a succinct answer, the truth is, like so many things: it’s complicated. To drill down to the best way to frame the question for you, I interviewed three leading Creative Circle superstar recruiters — two on the record, one off. Check out what these experts had to say.

Shannon Robinson — Senior Recruiter, Los Angeles Office

Shannon was full of vim and vigor and had a lot to say about the topic. Her take on this issue is the same for freelancers, permalancers, and full-timers — and marches stridently in one direction — can you guess what that might be?

Flexibility is a must.

Agencies live and die by their clients — we’re going to see a lot of agencies closing down. And they’re not coming back. It’s going to be a client market 150%, so this is what I’m saying to candidates: there are fewer positions, there are other superstars out there — so right now you have to be f l e x i b l e. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Being flexible is not an indicator of your worth — it’s a sign that you have to ebb and flow with the market — and a hungry market demands flexibility.

You have to make it to tomorrow to make it to next week.

One step at a time. One day at a time. Yes, it may not be the rate you were targeting, but you have to make the best decision with what is in front of you now. Take the opportunity. Move forward. You have to be able to pay for your life today in order to be around for tomorrow.

Sometimes it’s as much about the opportunity as it is about the money.

You don’t know what the opportunity might become. If you do a great job once you’re in, you may be able to grow your role and move up internally. It’s smart to start creative buzz for yourself in the marketplace, not on LinkedIn.

Yes, money — but you have to have those benefits.

If you’re on the wrong side of the benefits game, it can break you. In an unsure market, the best you can do is to have the benefit of corporate benefits on your side. Full-time work is where it’s at if you get the opportunity (see above). Remember that doing freelance work with Creative Circle can also position you for benefits eligibility! In these unstable times, gaining a semblance of stability is king and queen.

Being employed during this pandemic is a good story. Your narrative matters.

It’s a much more compelling story to say that you were employed during the pandemic. Your narrative matters. If there’s an opportunity that you’re a fit for — despite the compensation being less than you’re usually paid — you need to definitely move forward.

Where the work will be is changing. You want to be ready for the next chapter.

As you might suspect, the creative work landscape will not look like it did pre-COVID-19. The BIG question: where do we end up when this is all said and done? People are learning how to broadcast and produce work off-site utilizing digital production tools — and doing so more quickly and cheaply. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunity, it will just be different opportunity. Someone will still need to do post-production — edit, create graphics, for example. The money will be reallocated in the next normal, and everyone needs to strategically reposition themselves to be as competitive as possible for when the market opens back up. Yes, this is going to be a challenging time — but I truly believe that when we finally come out the other side that we will come out better for it.

Senior Recruiter—New York City Office

This savvy NYC recruiter wanted to stay off the record but had many choice insights to share. With no clear black or white answers, this top recruiter gave some nuance to the factors one should consider when deciding to take a lower rate or not. With such a quick flip from a candidate market to a client one, recruiters have a significantly different job ahead to get candidates’ work. For a while, it may be a race to the bottom — but only for a bit. Pointing out that this is a very different situation than what happened in 2008, there was one lesson from that time that seems congruent: when recovery does happen, it will be strong.

Only be flexible for now.

“I can do this for $X for the next three months, but please know what my real rate is.” Communication is paramount: discuss that you are willing to work for less for a period of time. Let a client know what you are typically paid, and set a period of time after which you re-visit pay. You have to be fairly assertive and honest with your client or recruiter.

A. How long?
B. How much?
C. Who is it?
This is the rubric by which to decide whether or not to take an opportunity for less money. Length of assignment makes a difference in assessing whether you should take a lower rate or not. As well, how much of a lower rate? Is it just $10 an hour less, or significantly more? Depending on the company, you might be more (or less) willing to work for less. Everyone has their own values. Everyone has a different privilege level. But if you need a #@^&! job, benefits, stability — be flexible.

  • Short assignment vs. long: length matters.
    If the job is only three weeks long, the rate matters less. For shorter-term project work, it’s a lot easier to have flexibility — and no one in the future will know that you took a lower rate. For longer-term assignments, however, setting expectations is much more significant. My advice is to not take a long-term engagement at a lower rate if you can help it — and full-time opportunities are a different story altogether.
  • Is it a resume-builder?
    Are you being offered an opportunity with a fabulous company, but at a lower rate than you’d like? If it’s a resume-builder, it may be worthwhile to take the role and be flexible with the rate. Building bridges with a company that you’d love to be connected with has value beyond the “benjamins.”

Freelance vs. Full-time: NOT the same when it comes to taking a lower rate.

Here’s why: in most states, employers are legally allowed to ask what you made at your last job. And they are allowed to check to make sure that you are being honest (not being honest could be cause for the job offer to be withdrawn). Because so many women and people of color start at lower salaries, having to disclose salary history as a basis for future pay became an entrenched form of discrimination.

It was only on October 31, 2017, that a Pay History ban went into effect in New York, which made it illegal to ask a candidate what they had made previously and to base salary for the new job on what a person had made at their last one. 18 states have since followed suit, a step in the right direction toward equalizing pay between women and men, and for people of color — but one that leaves the majority of the country unprotected. Because of this, you need to check where your particular state falls when making a decision about taking a job at a lower salary. Depending on where you are, taking a lower rate may allow the market to take advantage of you going forward. If you’re in a protected state, however, you have less to lose. So if you take a “step backward” due to the pandemic, and you’re in one of the 18 states with a Pay History Ban, I might advocate for greater flexibility than if you’re in one of the 32 states that don’t have a ban.

No one size fits all.

Everyone has their own pain points. If you have a family and need security and benefits — you need to take what you can. If you have to pay the bills, you have to balance ego with practicality. It’s simple, really: do what you need to do to pay the bills.

For freelance work, remove the ego. It’s a transaction. Ask yourself: does the transaction work for you? For full-time opportunities, however, keep the ego in — it’s your life.

Jocelyn Yant—Senior Recruiter, New York City Office

Jocelyn took a mindful and considered approach to answering the question about whether or not one should lower their rates at this time. But before she dug into her feelings on the matter, she wanted to share some macro, overarching thoughts on what’s happening in the job market from her vantage point.

Here are some of Jocelyn’s macro insights into the state of work today:

  • Let’s call it a slowdown.
    Some full-time job offers are still coming in — not as many — but some. The market has slowed, but there is still work. Clients are taking some time to figure out logistics, how to delegate work, best practices to migrate in-house processes to virtual ones. I am hoping to see a lift in jobs in the next few weeks as companies get their “sea legs.” We are finding that some clients are starting to offer positions as remote-for-now. When the pause stops and the economy re-opens, the job will then become an on-site role.
  • Companies realizing the benefits of remote work.
    One of the positive effects of this pandemic is that with moving whole teams remote, some of our clients are realizing that there’s a benefit to having all employees work virtually. They can save millions of dollars on real estate and facility/equipment expenses.
  • Virtual work opens up work opportunities to a broader swath of workers.
    Another plus: people who had been left out previously by on-site work environments, like those caring for a sick family member, can be integrated into this new era of work. It’s nice to see that this is a real possible outcome. For all the challenges that COVID has brought — and yes, there are many — I think it’s also important to talk about the positive possibilities that are opened up.

Now, let’s get to the question at hand: should you or should you not lower your rates?

In late March, when the COVID-19 pause began, we had call after call about furloughs and lay-offs. But we also had a lot of clients calling to see about hiring; however, they were negotiating rates down. Here’s my take:

  • There’s a benefit to working at this time if you can. It keeps your portfolio fresh. You stay connected to the work world, and this opportunity may grow into something larger down the road.
  • There are some workarounds to lower rates.
    If you are considering taking a large cut, you can do things to buffer it in the future. Communication at the outset is key. One option is to negotiate a “COVID-19 rate” that flips to a different rate post-pause. Set expectations now so that you can feel that you are advocating for yourself. By negotiating ahead of time, you can soften some of the impact.
  • What happens today does not necessarily determine what happens tomorrow.
    Applying to a job that’s “below your rate” doesn’t mean you won’t get jobs at higher rates later — particularly for freelance. I am less concerned about someone being pigeonholed at a lower rate — especially for project-based work. When my candidates apply for jobs paying below their usual or target rates, I reassure them that this is for now, not necessarily for later.

There are some key factors to take into account that should be part of your decision-making around whether or not to lower your rates.

  • Length of engagement
  • Freelance opportunity
  • Full-time opportunity
  • What economic state you’re in
  • Value in keeping creative juices flowing
  • Value in keeping portfolio up to date
  • Value in keeping a relationship with a client that may be ongoing in the future, aka the potential for future work. If you excel, you don’t know what the opportunity lead to.

Taking a lower rate for two months is different than agreeing to a lower rate for a year. Of course, if you are in a situation where you need to make money — then you should take the role, even if it pays less.

For some of us, working keeps the worry away. If you’re one of those people who fares better in uncertain times by having a task at hand, then taking a project on may have value beyond the economic.

With respect to full-time roles — most states can legally ask what you made in your last job. You may want to put some special consideration to accepting a lower rate with these types of opportunities as there could be reverberations down the line in terms of salary. It’s a matter of the economic state you’re in today impacting the financial state you’ll be in tomorrow. In short, there are many variables to consider. It’s not a cut and dry answer.

A lot of our clients DO have work that they need done. To candidates, I counsel optimism.

There are logistical hurdles as companies balance their needs against a quickly shifting landscape. I was here for 2008 in New York. The economy was in the toilet. It took NYC a year, year and a half, but the economy came roaring back stronger than ever. NYC, in particular, is aided by its diversity of industry: advertising, design agencies, finance, professional services, e-commerce, fashion, retail. The variety of opportunities across sectors will help things pick up more quickly here.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces engaging content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties. You can see more of her work at karinamargit.com.

COVID-19 has upended the world, but the fashion industry has been hit particularly hard. Over the past month, the novel coronavirus epidemic has caused numerous brands to shut their retail stores indefinitely — including Nike, Net-a-porter, Everlane, Reformation, and many more. In short, the global pandemic has altered the very fabric of our lives.

As the crisis deepens, with 1.5 million confirmed cases in the United States alone, many fashion and beauty companies — the majority of which have ceased production altogether — have stepped up to help combat COVID-19. As the world comes to terms with life under pathogenic threat, a slew of top fashion and beauty brands are pivoting from manufacturing clothes and cosmetics to producing personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns, sanitizer, and other supplies to aid the fight against the spread of the virus.

Here’s how American powerhouse brands are taking on the battle against this global pandemic.

  1. Nike

    In an incredible response to the global pandemic, Nike has pledged a total of more than $17 million to help fight the novel coronavirus — with major donations going to the Oregon Food Bank, the Oregon Community Recovery Fund, and the Oregon Health and Service University. The Nike Foundation is donating $1 million to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and to local organizations to help them meet immediate needs — like food assistance and medical care — in key cities and communities around the world where their employees live and work.

  2. Ralph Lauren

    Ralph Lauren’s eponymous lifestyle brand has pledged $10 million to COVID-19 relief efforts — the largest donation by a fashion brand thus far. The money will go to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Emergency Assistance Foundation, its Pink Pony Fund that supports international cancer institutions, and an undisclosed amount to A Common Thread, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief in support of American fashion designers and industry members hit hard by the economic fall-out from the pandemic.

    “It is in the spirit of togetherness that we will rise,” shared Ralph Lauren in a statement. “That is why we are taking significant action to help our teams and communities through this crisis.”

  3. Michael Kors

    Michael Kors has pledged $1 million, with the designer himself adding in another $1 million personally for New York-based organizations that are providing coronavirus relief efforts. $750,000 will go to New York-Presbyterian Hospital; $750,000 to NYU Langone Health; $250,000 to God’s Love We Deliver — an organization that delivers nutritious, medically tailored meals for people too sick to shop or cook for themselves; and $250,000 to A Common Thread — the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief.

  4. Crocs

    Crocs is giving back to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 through their “A Free Pair for Healthcare” to thank doctors, nurses, health attendants, and other healthcare heroes by providing them a free pair of Crocs Classic Clogs or Crocs At Work styles (while supplies last), along with free shipping.

  5. Christian Siriano

    The New York City-based fashion designer and Project Runway star was one of the first to answer New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s call for help creating personal protective equipment (PPE) via Twitter:

    “If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some,” wrote Siriano. “I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help.”

    Cuomo soon confirmed his office was in touch with Siriano, tweeting:

    “Appreciate his help so much. Who’s next? Let’s do this together, NY!”

  6. New Balance

    New Balance has pledged $2 million to support local, regional, and global communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will go to the following organizations: $200,000 to Global Giving — the largest crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, companies, and donors across the world; $100,000 to No Kid Hungry who work to feed kids in the hardest-hit communities; and $50,000 each to The Boston Resiliency Fund, Good Shepherd Food Bank in Maine, the St. Louis Area Foodbank, and Groundwork Lawrence. Select organizations from the New Balance Foundation’s network, who support children and families, with a focus on health, nutrition, education, and physical movement, will receive a combined total of $1.5 million.

    Anne Davis, managing trustee of the New Balance Foundation, said: “As we witness the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired by the acts of humanity, kindness, and compassion that have emerged in support of one another during this health crisis.”

  7. Estée Lauder

    In addition to reopening a factory in Melville, New York to start producing hydroalcoholic gel (aka sanitizer) for high-need groups and populations, like frontline healthcare workers — Estée Lauder has pledged a $2 million grant to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières to support their work in affected countries that lack the resources to battle the novel coronavirus successfully.

  8. Kate Spade New York

    Kate Spade announced via Instagram that the brands at Tapestry — the New York-based house of modern luxury lifestyle brands like Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman — would be donating $2 million to New York City’s Small Business Continuity Fund. The post shared that the money was “for all the small businesses in NYC that make our hometown so incredibly special, and right now need some extra love and support. we appreciate each one of you, we’re here for you and we can’t wait to see you again soon.”
    https://www.instagram.com/p/B-P40Hml4aW/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

  9. Saks Fifth Avenue

    The American luxury retailer has pledged $600,000 to organizations that support COVID-19 relief efforts through its Saks Fifth Avenue Foundation. $250,000 will go to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital COVID-19 Patient Care Fund; $200,000 to Bring Change to Mind — a mental health organization creating virtual programs for high school students aimed at reducing feelings of isolation; and $150,000 to Girls, Inc. — who provide social and emotional support for girls affected by the pandemic.

  10. Brooks Brothers

    This American heritage fashion brand (founded in 1818) announced that its manufacturing facilities in New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina will halt production of shirts, ties, and suits to begin producing medical masks and gowns — with a goal to manufacture 150,000 masks per day. “We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our health care system critically needs,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, CEO of the company, in a statement.

  11. Under Armour

    Under Armour, the athleticwear powerhouse, is donating $2 million to support those affected by the pandemic. Feeding America will receive $1 million towards its hunger relief efforts related to school closures, and $1 million will go to Good Sports, a nonprofit that provides equipment, footwear, and apparel to at-risk youth to encourage physical activity.

  12. MAC Cosmetics

    Via its VIVA GLAM charitable campaign — launched more than 25 years ago as a community response to a pandemic (AIDS), and which has raised over $500 million since its inception in 1994 — MAC Cosmetics will donate $10 million to 250 organizations around the world that are working to combat COVID-19. Yes, MAC is putting its money where its rouged mouth is! And on top of the brand’s generous donation, they will be donating 100% of Viva Glam lipstick sales to raise funds for at-risk communities worldwide impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    “VIVA GLAM has never been about one cause, but about support to vulnerable communities. It was created many years ago simply as a hardship fund for people who needed safety nets,” shared John Demsey, Chairman of the Mac Viva Glam Fund and executive group president of The Estee Lauder Companies Inc.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces compelling content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties.

From emails to Facebook, newsletters to Twitter to texts, the quality of our writing often determines that first impression across the digital landscape. In a content saturated world, it’s a battle just to increase our odds of getting noticed, understood, and actually read. When our content is up against an endless supply of words and images behind glowing screens, we need to make sure we not only capture attention, but keep it. (Oh my god, it’s like we’ve manifested our childhood need for attention into a professional way of life.)

From general writing advice to medium specific necessities, we’ve got you covered, dear reader. We’re going to take you through how to sharpen your language, adapt tone for different mediums, and perhaps most importantly, capture attention with direct brevity (and a little humor).

Write Better Emails

Not only are emails the default form of professional communication, emails are your paper trail. Especially in the workplace, you want to make sure any verbal agreements are translated to paper ⁠— and that you’re writing as if anyone might read your words.

You also want to make sure those emails actually get read. While email attention spans have grown, here are some ways to get better results whenever you click send.

Be direct / Be brief
I used to wonder why no one knew the information that was clearly stated in emails I sent. Spoiler alert: it’s because no one read them. If the first few sentences don’t highlight what’s important⁠ —  and you don’t keep pertinent info in separate lines or at the top of the paragraph ⁠— they’ll barely get glanced at.

Make sure you have short paragraphs and lead with the most important information. If you can cut a paragraph down to 2 sentences, people will love you. Or rather, if you say in 2 paragraphs what could’ve been communicated in 2 sentences, people will hate you.

This all goes double for the subject line. What. Are. You. Emailing. About?

BCC is your friend. Reply all is your enemy.
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Okay, so this isn’t specifically about the actual writing, but if there were commandments for sending emails, these would be the first two. The other 30 people on that office-wide email chain don’t need to be abreast of every “okay” and “thanks.” Spare them, and yourself, some grief by paying attention who is in what line of the To/ CC/ BCC trifecta.

Write Better Newsletters

This is your most direct and intimate lifeline to your audience. When you saddle into their inbox, you’ll be competing against dozens if not hundreds of other emails clamoring for their attention.

Every blast should provide purpose, and if appropriate, a little entertainment. Studies show most people read emails between 9 and 11AM on weekdays, so ideally you’re sending that blast between 7 and 10AM (but make sure to check that against your own analytics).

Grab attention with the subject and preview
""
Let your readers know what they’ll get out of your email. What’s the value add? New projects? Discount codes? New products? Why should I care? If it’s time-sensitive, make that clear. Words like “breaking” and “urgent” get clicks. Just make sure you use those bait-y words with purpose.

Important information goes “above the fold.” Why should someone spend their precious inbox moments reading what you have to say? What problem are you solving? Expand on the key words in your subject line with the preview text. For more in-depth tips, check this out.

Sound friendly, but not overly familiar
Ahh, the fine line of tone. To take me for example, this vibe is fairly casual. It’s a long form blog where I have the space to form intimacy. I don’t assume to know too much about you, but I give you enough personality so that you might feel like you’re getting to know me. People and brands that have distinct voices always stand. Find yours and use it.

Master the image to text ratio
""
If you look at a heat map of where people’s eyeballs go when they read an email, you’ll see attention goes to headlines, images, the first two words of a paragraph … and then they trail off.

To keep engagement, break up the text and include plenty of images. Whether it’s a pop culture reference, charts and graphs, or a promo flyer, save those eyeballs from a text wasteland.

Write Better Social Media Posts

Social media has become everyone’s public persona. How do you present yourself, your brand, your company? Know thy audience, know thy medium, know thyself.

Write for the medium
Instagram better have great visuals with a clever caption. Good lighting, clear images, or some sort of infographic will go far. The words are just there to support that. A lot of people won’t even read them. On Twitter you better make those characters count. One sentence is ideal unless you’re clever.

Facebook can handle a combination of links, text, and photos. LinkedIn is, of course reserved, for professional accomplishments, events, and articles. Just like with newsletters, your personal analytics matter more than the general rule of thumb so check in with that.

Give it purpose
Whatever you’re using, make sure there’s a value-add and a purpose. Now, that purpose can be a joke, but you better make your audience laugh in a non-cringe kind of way. Add a call to action to make it really count.

Keep it casual 🙆🏻‍♀️

Especially for Twitter and Instagram, you can bend the grammar rules and play with hashtags and emojis. Adding a meta awareness to your posts can score you big points with younger audiences.

Write Better, Period.

Write like a human person
When you get hyper formal, overly “rah-rah,” or a little too fake, it’s obvious and off-putting. Sound like yourself, or at least sound like a human. Gauge the level of formality needed for the situation and don’t go beyond that. Unless you’re working in an industry with antiquated formal standards of practice, tis better to err on the side of casual.

Why?

  1. You will sound more likable.
  2. You will sound smarter.

You know who writes in a casual tone? People who don’t have anything to prove. If you actually know what you’re talking about, it’ll come off as confidence.

Of course, there’s a fine line. Going too casual with an abundance of emojis, exclamation points, colloquialisms, and misspellings will have the opposite effect.

Cut unnecessary prepositions
As a matter of fact, cut out all unnecessary words. Unless you’re combing for the perfect metaphors to describe the sunset …

KEEP
IT
SIMPLE

For example, instead of
“I’m writing to inform you of a new propositions that may alleviate workflow issues you may be experiencing in your business.”

You can sharpen that to
“I’ve developed a new proposition aimed at solving your business problems.”

Find the “of”s, the passive language, the qualifiers, and get rid of them.

Use action verbs where possible
Chuck Palahniuk has an extremely frustrating, but insanely effective technique for creating dynamic prose. Go through whatever you write. Cross out the “thought” verbs (thinks, knows, understands, realizes, etc). Replace them with unpacked action verbs. He also insists including “is” and “has” verbs as well as “loves” and “hates.”

While this advice was written for novelists and storytellers and certainly qualifies as overkill for most online media, there are a few really useful ideas behind it that will benefit anyone.

First, it forces active language. For daily writing it won’t make sense to replace every “thought” and “to be” verb, but if you can replace a handful for every page of writing, you will arrive at your point faster and hold attention longer.

Second, it asks us to figure out what it is we’re actually trying to say without short cuts. I love this ⁠— especially when working with buzz words. Instead of “authenticity,” “manifest,” “abundance,” “optimize,” “organic,” what are you actually trying to communicate? Are those the best words? Sometimes they are, but often they’re BS.

You can even take this advice to a resume. The first line of every bullet point should have an engaging action verb like “wrote,” “designed,” “produced,” “implemented,” not something like “helped” or “was the point person for.” Specifics are everything.

Write now. Edit later. Always revise.
Get the words down. Now. Don’t get stuck on the perfect phrases. Practice spitting them out. Then go back. Edit. Revise. Hone. Reread. THEN submit. After all…
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About the author.
Alessandra is the mentor, educator, and writer behind Boneseed, a private practice devoted to deep self-inquiry through a range of physical, energetic, and mental modalities. She has over 500 hours of yoga, mentorship, and facilitation training and can be found slinging knowledge on her website, newsletter, and @bone.seed.

Businesses worldwide are feeling the effects of the pandemic — stores have closed, events postponed, flights grounded, projects canceled. As companies plan for an uncertain future in the wake of COVID-19, many have had to furlough or lay off employees as they try and forge their way forward.

Furloughed employees are in suspended animation; they are usually still able to get benefits, like health insurance, though they are unpaid or on reduced pay. When a worker is furloughed, the expectation is that they will return to their position after the furlough ends. If you find yourself in this situation, take heart that it is likely a temporary cost-cutting measure intended to preserve your job and help keep your company afloat in these turbulent times. While this can be reassuring, we know that the struggle to make do without being paid or being paid less is real. Be sure to check with your human resources department for specific information on what coverage you will maintain.

The good news is that furloughed workers can now claim unemployment insurance, along with expanded Federal benefits due to COVID-19. If you are furloughed and still working — but have had your hours reduced by 20% or more — it is a sufficient reduction in hours in most states to claim unemployment benefits.

If you have been laid-off, you are looking at a more final exit from your company. While your company may hire again in the future, a role with them is not assured in any way. Someone who has been laid-off may no longer be eligible for company-sponsored health insurance or other employee benefits — but there are options for continuing health insurance coverage. Check with your human resources department to see what exit packages they are offering; some companies like AirBnB are paying for 12 months of COBRA health insurance for US employees who are laid off.

The numbers tell a grim story: with 3.2 million claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending May 2, 2020 — unemployment reached an all-time epic apex of 33.5 million claims over the last seven weeks — the highest level of unemployment since the Department of Labor began tracking data. If you have been furloughed or laid-off, you are clearly not alone. And while the news may be challenging, we want you to know that you still have options. Here are some things to consider as you navigate this next phase of your professional life.

Wait a Day. Then Negotiate Clear Terms With Your Employer.

An initial lay-off or furlough conversation can come as a shock to the system. Take a day or two to digest the news and gather your thoughts. Before signing anything, ask your company to clarify why you are being let go and to detail the separation benefits you will receive. Ask how much longer you will be paid, if there is severance or separation pay, and get clarity on what benefits you will (or won’t) continue to receive. Additionally, ask about what happens to paid vacation and sick days (in some states these must be paid out), 401k or other retirement funds, stock options with the company, and ask whether or not you can keep the equipment (laptop, cell phone, accessories) that may have been provided to you.

If you are furloughed, your health and life insurance benefits will likely continue. If you are laid off, see if your company has made any special arrangements to provide additional assistance during this time. If you are a member of a union, additional benefits may be available on top of those offered by your employer. Check with your union representative to get details on available programs for impacted workers.

Research Is Your Friend. Please Do It.

Many programs have been expanded, and new ones added to help manage the economic fall-out from the pandemic. The proverbial devil is in the details — be sure to research them, so you don’t miss out on some form of assistance for which you are eligible.

Unemployment benefits are now available to anyone who has lost their job (through no fault of their own) and can help you make ends meet until you find a new opportunity. Furloughed and freelance workers who did not qualify for unemployment benefits before COVID-19 are now eligible because the new stimulus law expanded the definition of eligibility. Be sure to look up the specifics as details vary state by state. Learn more about how to file in your state here.

Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, and there is an additional $600 per week that is part of the federal stimulus plan. If you exhaust your benefits, the stimulus plan has provided for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment pay.

Helpful tip: You can file for unemployment benefits online. Many state unemployment websites have been swamped and overwhelmed with applications—we recommend applying either early or late in the day when the systems are less overloaded.

Embrace Your Network.

It’s a virtual world — make the most of it. With the majority of the country still quarantined at home, you have an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect with old contacts and to form new ones. Schedule video chats or phone calls to connect in a more personal manner. Reach out to people you know for opportunities; this may be more important now than ever before. Check in on old colleagues and friends, and ask them to connect you with their contacts. Follow up with these new people — if you cultivate and expand your network, it will nourish you.

Make a habit of being fast and responsive with your digital communications. It will help facilitate connections that may lead to new opportunities. If you’re in an industry that has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, think about how you can pivot your skills to positions outside your field. Talk to people that have made similar pivots. Ask advice. Develop new relationships. Even if there are no immediate opportunities, you are planting seeds for when a role does open up. Jobs are still available, but there will be more competition. Taking the initiative to reach out may make all the difference — as the Latin proverb proclaims: fortune favors the bold.


About the author.
An award-winning creator and digital health, wellness, and lifestyle content strategist — Karina writes, edits, and produces engaging content across multiple platforms — including articles, video, interactive tools, and documentary film. Her work has been featured on MSN Lifestyle, Apartment Therapy, Goop, Psycom, Pregnancy & Newborn, Eat This Not That, thirdAGE, and Remedy Health Media digital properties. You can see more of her work at karinamargit.com.