Options and Resources if You’re Out of (or Low on) Work

By Alessandra Calderin

If you’re finding yourself feeling restless and with more time on your hands, you are not alone. In the past three weeks, more than 33 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. While it may be tempting to fill your time with what feels like work — sending out job applications or refreshing your inbox (which is what I do when I feel anxious about job security) — here are some ideas and resources to help you get through this time of little certainty.

If you have more time, use it wisely.

Everyone has a hot take about whether this time should be for rest or productivity, but why do we have to choose? With less work coming in, the thoughtless mind might cling to bingeing TV, scrolling Instagram, obsessively checking the news, or constantly applying for new opportunities, but there are other ways to tune out and rest.

Media may help you escape or give you a (false) sense of control but won’t contribute to your long-term well-being. Instead, if you’re trying to take a break from work, actually rest. Take a nap. Go for a walk if that’s an option. Look out the window. Read a book, or try one of these other ways or even these other ways to check in and give your mind and body meaningful rest.

As for work time, instead of flinging resumes into the void, you can try one of the other points on this list.

Broaden + deepen your network.

Take this time to reconnect with friends, colleagues, and old coworkers. Maybe there are opportunities to help each other, or maybe those opportunities will pop up when things start moving again. Humans are social creatures, so don’t be afraid to reach out and check in just for the sake of it.

I’ve started a lunch date initiative where I schedule two video lunch dates per week and then introduce each of those people to other folks whom I think they might like to speak with (and they do the same for me). I welcome you to start your own, or email me to join mine.

Work on your resume/story/portfolio.

What differentiates you? What are you doing this all for? If the answer is “to pay my bills” I feel that, but that won’t make people want to hire you (unless being super straightforward is part of your vibe and you have the track record to back up your drive). But for the rest of us, what drives you beneath that? What is the intersection of expertise that will help you stand out?

Humans love stories. The better you can frame your story through a website, resume, portfolio, or cover letter, the more likely a potential client or employer is to root for you. Maybe this is an opportunity to bring a passion project to life and showcase the kind of work you want to be doing. Maybe you can pivot, add something new that tailors to the present moment. Can you give yourself the space to be creative with what might be possible?

Learn new skills or enhance old ones.

Gazing at the stock market, the news, and your inbox will slowly erode your sanity. Instead, you could take up drawing or hone those writing skills. You can use the list below for free and discounted classes to get those creative juices flowing.

Or if you’ve got an old instrument lying around, you could try getting back at it. Challenging the mind keeps it healthy, so pick something that really makes you think. (I’m currently trying to teach myself the Sweetwater Theme from Westworld. It’s not going well, but it’s kind of fun.)

Take a look at the big picture.

If you don’t regularly check in with what you actually want and are working towards, you may not be optimizing yourself for happiness. Maybe the global pandemic is confronting you with those deep big picture questions. Instead of ignoring the feeling of discomfort again, what if you sat with it?

There are plenty of ways to tackle that. You can try journaling, creating mood boards, talking to people in and out of your field, reading books by people you admire, or even envisioning your perfect future self (a very helpful Buddhist practice). Sometimes we need help with that so if therapy, coaching, or other counseling is an option, and if you have the funds, that might be something to explore.

Do your taxes.

I know they’re not actually due until July 15, but getting your 2019 taxes done, especially if it was a better year than 2018 for you, can be helpful when you apply for the CARES Act backed SBA loans (or any other assistance you may have access to as the SBA funds have been quickly depleted). Plus, you can file them now, and not pay anything you may owe until July.

Additionally, here is a list of free and discounted tools to get you through the stay at home orders.

Tools + Resources

Adobe is offering extended free trials and sharing options. They are also sharing the Adobe Summit presentations digitally.

Internet Essentials provides high-speed internet to low income households and is offering two months free for eligible customers.

For those new to working from home, LinkedIn has organized a video series of best practices for remote working and productivity.

Flex Jobs has a free guide on how to find and land remote jobs.

Humu is providing nudges — what they typically share with clients as highly-specialized science-backed recommendations — to anyone who needs them.

Job Fair X is hosting a virtual job fair on July 20 for New Yorkers.

Listen on Repeat is a free tool that lets you listen to the same song on repeat through YouTube. I like using video game music, but you can choose your own adventure.

If you’re looking for a side hustle to get your through tough times, here is a list of currently open positions via Indeed and another one via LinkedIn.

This Medium post contains a resource directory along with tools specifically for freelance designers.

inc.com has put together a MASSIVE collection of financial resources for small businesses.

Continuing Education

Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop is offering discounted online classes, a free video series, and weekly “write ins.”

The Daily Frolic has made a creative writing series free.

Aaron Blaise is offering free and discounted virtual drawing and animation classes.

Disney has a how to draw series posted for free on YouTube.

Nikon is offering select online classes for free.

Code Wizards is offering free and reduced pricing for kid’s coding classes.

Prodigy has a list of resources for families to entertain and teach children.

Netflix has released a handful of documentaries to YouTube.

A range of grant writing courses (from $30 – $200+) are available for virtual sign up through Eventbrite.

JSTOR has expanded its free read-online access from 6 to 100 articles per month.

Project Muse has opened up journals to the public through participating publishers (most participating publishers have agreed to open access through the end of May or June.)

Health + Wellness

Mental Health America has compiled a list of resources for everyone from caregivers to domestic violence survivors to veterans.

Headspace is offering free meditations in a series called “weathering the storm.”

305 Fitness has free at home dance workouts.*

Core Power Yoga has free online classes.

Three Jewels has discounted online classes, meditations, and dharma classes.*

We Are Body Language has live classes on Instagram*

Monterey Bay Aquarium has a few live cams set up accompanied by relaxing tunes. The jellyfish are my favorites.

Media + Entertainment

Scribd has opened up their library for 30 days. This is not your typical free trial. You won’t be asked to input your credit card here.

Amazon is adding free perks to Prime and Kindle packages for existing and new users.

Audible has launched Stories where children’s stories are available to stream for free in a range of languages.

The San Diego Zoo has live cams set ups for pandas, orangutans, polar bears, giraffes, penguins, and more.

The Bronx Zoo is on that live cam game, too, with lemurs, turtles, sea lions, and the aquarium.

Australian Reptile Park is posting videos of animal tales and live streams of koalas, crocodiles, dingoes, and live feedings.

Taronga Zoo in Sydney is also offering live streams for otters, elephants, tigers, meerkats, and more.

*Writer’s note: I used to teach at Three Jewels and personally know the folks of 305 Fitness and We Are Body Language, and have included them because they’re amazing. I do not get a kick back for this promo.


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.

Dealing with Distraction During the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Jess Powers

Ironically, writing this piece about handling distractions during quarantine was a tough slog. Between not having a set schedule as a freelancer, new realities at home, an abundance of Zoom calls, and feeling all the feels, I just couldn’t concentrate with the ease that I normally have. And apparently, I’m not alone.

Perhaps you’re also dealing with the stress of being unemployedmanaging a team, or the added challenge of having kids at home. Here are some tips to manage the distraction that you may be experiencing as you shelter in place.

Start Your Day Out Fresh

Put your phone on “do not disturb” if you can and use apps to block social media if unplugging is a challenge. Work in a comfortable spot where other chores or housework on your list won’t grab your attention.

“Do the most important thing first, before you check your email,” advises Jill Dovale, a masters of social work candidate at NYU. “Be aggressive about it. It will help alleviate a lot of stress and provide a mental boost, the wind in your sails for the rest of the day,” she continues.

Sometimes rather than doing the most important thing first, I like to do the thing I’m avoiding the most. Knowing that you managed to accomplish one thing, particularly something you’ve had difficulty finishing, will make you feel more in control and like you are taking steps in the right direction. If you’re facing a more complicated task or project, it may be helpful to knock out a few smaller deliverables, so you have some “wins” for the day.

Break Work into Manageable Chunks

Dr. Carrie Hastings, a clinical and sports psychologist for the LA Rams, spoke recently on a  webinar, “Managing Stress During Covid-19,” hosted by Creative Circle. She suggests defining short- and long-term goals that are achievable and giving yourself deadlines. Have a “solution-focused mindset,” she says. Slowing things down and breaking them into smaller pieces also helps to reduce feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

The Pomodoro Technique is a method of working in timed increments. It can be very effective if you’re distracted because shorter bursts of work can feel more manageable and are generally more productive. Planning a midday break like taking a walk outside or doing a yoga video could be a goal to motivate you during the day.

Take Care of Yourself

Dovale adds that it’s important to acknowledge when you do need rest and to do something that’s actually restful. Preferably, “something that does not involve inputting (like consuming media),” she continues, “which tends not to be restful.”

I find it helpful to remind myself that brains need rest to be productive. Dr. Allen Pack, a psychiatrist with a specialty in anxiety disorders, explained on the webinar that there is a feeling of “shame that is attendant to anxiety.” With everyone sheltering in place, perhaps feeling isolated, helpless, or depressed, it is particularly important to take good care of ourselves and be self-compassionate when we can’t do everything.

Self-care includes getting a restful night’s sleep, eating healthy foods, getting adequate exercise, and using relaxation strategies like meditation or visualization. It’s also important to find humor and things to be grateful for, enjoy social connections, make time for hobbies, experience nature, and pause to check in with yourself.

Dr. Hastings suggests speaking to yourself as would to a child or your best friend, saying: “We’re going to get through [this]. It may not always be pretty.” But things will change, eventually.

Accept What Is

Understand that emotions are running high and it’s important to protect your mental health. Even taking four breaths in and out, connecting to the breath for a brief moment, will help to “change the stress reaction in the body and bring calm,” says Elaine Retholtz, an acupuncturist and meditation teacher.

She is mindful to take time to step away from work, whether simply walking in her apartment or petting her cat, to “tend to [her] own experience.”

Set Good Boundaries

Retholtz says she’s busier now than ever. “We’re not just working from home,” she quips, “We’re living at work.” That means it’s important to set clear boundaries. There is a temptation to be constantly productive, without a clear separation of the demands at home and at work.

And it’s not a typical remote work experience, either, because we’re socially isolated and unable to have the usual outlets outside the home. Try to have a set schedule or routine, if possible, so that there is a clearer boundary between work and homelife, with adequate time for rest and relaxation.

Dealing with distraction during the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems, is best done by taking good care of yourself. It may not be like it was before, but you’ll get the work done.


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

Florence Nightingale: The Mother of Nursing + Modern Hygiene

By Alessandra Calderin

It’s National Nurse’s Week, an annual celebration of the caring, compassionate individuals who make countless sacrifices to keep us healthy. But this year, in the face of COVID-19, nurses’ sacrifice is even greater. We acknowledge their invaluable work and thank them for their efforts now and always.

As we furiously wash our hands to maintain health and hygiene amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, we can thank Florence Nightingale for her work as one of the first advocates of hygiene in medicine. Through her work nursing and collecting data during the Crimean War, she laid the groundwork for standards of practice that put compassion, humanity, and cleanliness into the healing process.

As a young lady, Nightingale had a spiritual awakening that she was destined to serve the world instead of simply being a member of the elite. After studying in Germany and working in London, she heard about the deplorable conditions wounded soldiers were being subjected to during the Crimean War. Instead of furthering her career in London, Nightingale led a team of 38 nurses in the Barrack Hospital outside of Constantinople to improve nursing conditions for the sick and wounded soldiers.

After arriving in 1854, she noticed that more soldiers died of disease rather than battle wounds and suspected the unhygienic quarters, poor nutrition, stale air, and darkness as contributing factors to the soldiers’ dismal health. She called for the Sanitary Commission to flush sewage and improve the hygienic standards of the hospital. She also had the audacity to advocate for hand washing practices (which, unfortunately, did not become standard until the late 1800s and early 1900s). During her nightly rounds, she often visited soldiers and became known as “The Lady with the Lamp,” as she is most famously depicted.

These changes severely reduced the death rate among wounded soldiers and eventually proved to reduce death rates during peacetime as well. She brought back tons of data on how sanitation improved the odds of survival using pie charts and other graphics — which was actually rare at the time — and even developed her own kind of diagram. For her efforts as a pioneer in statistics, she was the first woman inducted into the Royal Statistical Society in 1859.

After her return, she grew ill with a bacterial infection she most likely contracted in Crimea and was bedridden for the rest of her life at age 38. From her sickbed, Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing published in 1860, which detailed her proven methods for improving the conditions of the sick — directed specifically at mothers and other caretakers. The book is still a standard text for nursing schools.

Because of her contributions to the war effort and beyond, Queen Victoria granted her £45,000 for the Nightingale Fund, with which she set up the Nightingale Training School in July 1860. It is now part of King’s College in London and known as the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery.

With her school, written works, and mounds of data, she solidified nursing as a career path for women during a time when medicine was become predominantly male (and during a time when there were few opportunities for women to make a living to begin with). Most importantly, her intuitive contributions on the importance of cleanliness saved many lives before germ theory became widely accepted in the 20th century.

Today, a temporary hospital has been set up in London called NHS Nightingale Hospital in the ExCel Centre in East London as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Need tips on caretaking? Here are some of my favorite excerpts from Notes on Nursing:

VENTILATION + WARMING

The very first canon of nursing, the first and the last thing upon which a nurse’s attention must be fixed, the first essential to a patient, without which all the rest you can do for him is as nothing, with which I had almost said you may leave all the rest alone, is this: TO KEEP THE AIR HE BREATHES AS PURE AS THE EXTERNAL AIR, WITHOUT CHILLING HIM.

Air from the outside. Open your windows, shut your doors.

Always air your room, then, from the outside air, if possible. Windows are made to open; doors are made to shut—a truth which seems extremely difficult of apprehension. (The sass of this sentence is EVERYTHING.)

HEALTH OF HOUSES

There are five essential points in securing the health of houses:
1. Pure air. 2. Pure water. 3. Efficient drainage. 4. Cleanliness. 5. Light.

Without these, no house can be healthy. And it will be unhealthy just in proportion as they are deficient.

On Cleanliness:
Without cleanliness, within and without your house, ventilation is comparatively useless.

On Darkness:
A dark house is always an unhealthy house, always an ill-aired house, always a dirty house. Want of light stops growth, and promotes scrofula, rickets, &c., among the children…. People lose their health in a dark house, and if they get ill they cannot get well again in it.

[Sidenote: Without sunlight, we degenerate body and mind.]
(It seems obvious that sunlight is essential for health and yet it was often neglected. We know know that UV light even has antimicrobial effects in concentration. I love how she emphasizes this because apparently sick people would just be left in closed dark places which seems insane now.)

My personal favorite and one of the more important things to keep in mind when talking to anyone who isn’t well:

CHATTERING HOPES AND ADVICES.

The fact is, that the patient[1] is not “cheered” at all by these well-meaning, most tiresome friends. On the contrary, he is depressed and wearied. If, on the one hand, he exerts himself to tell each successive member of this too numerous conspiracy, whose name is legion, why he does not think as they do,—in what respect he is worse,—what symptoms exist that they know nothing of,—he is fatigued instead of “cheered,” and his attention is fixed upon himself. In general, patients who are really ill, do not want to talk about themselves. Hypochondriacs do, but again I say we are not on the subject of hypochondriacs.


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.

Stand-Up Comedian turned Podcaster — Inspiring Pivot Stories in the Age of C19

By Karina Margit Erdelyi

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 Greg Berman — a Los Angeles based stand-up comic (and writer … and actor … and data analyst) who performs multiple times a week to packed crowds at top comedy clubs. But when COVID-19 struck, the world of live comedy came to a screeching halt — and Greg was left doing stand-up to an audience of none. Read on to see how he is recalibrating his craft to bring laughter to quarantined audiences.

What do you do?

Prior to the pathogen, I did many things: screenwriting, working for the Bernie Sanders campaign (writing jokes for them on a volunteer basis), voice-over work. I’m an actor — I was on Chicago P.D. as a bad guy for a few episodes. I go where the story takes me. But what I am most of all is a stand-up comedian. All my friends are comics. People need laughter, and that’s what we do. But as much as we love making people laugh, we love having the crowd react. COVID-19 has taken away our medium, the live interaction with a crowd. But humans adapt. And a part of me is so curious — what are we going to do? How are we going to change? How can I deliver comedy without replicating something that people are missing?

What happened to comedy as a result of the coronavirus?

Technology and comedy have never been mixed. I think now, the question is being asked: what does comedy look like in the digital age? People are starting to ask: how do we adjust as performers to the tech as opposed to making the tech mimic reality?

Everyone is nervous, because comedy, as we know it, may not exist after we are done with this whole thing. If we can’t do large gatherings in comedy clubs, many comedians will not be able to maintain their lifestyle, and the ones that remain will likely be the ones who are already famous or making money some other way.

What’s your take on how the comedy world has tried to adapt to C19?

When comedy shows went away, all the comedians rushed to try it online, via Zoom or Instagram Live. What they were trying to do is replicate a comedy club experience on the internet, which I think is the wrong way to go about this. Comedy clubs are not meant to be viewed from the comfort of your home. Being around other people who are laughing makes you laugh more. In a Zoom show, no one laughing is weird, and people laughing who are muted is also strange. It’s not a real semblance of a crowd. Comedians went that route because it was the most obvious. They thought: if we make it feel just like a comedy club, we can keep performing. But it’s a different beast, and people realized that not everyone could adapt to those mediums, so there’s been some attrition. Now, some comics have started to work with the differences in the medium; Zoom is not a comedy club, but it is interactive … so what if it’s more like a trivia show? Or some folks are doing murder mysteries via Zoom, for example.

What has been your take on how to adapt your craft to these coronavirus times?

When everything shut down, the content creators felt they needed to continue making content but didn’t stop to ask what they should be making. They’re reviewing hot sauces and interviewing their friends. But I want to ask: “what does the world need right now? And can I provide that service?” I think the content has to support the medium and vice versa. Shouldn’t we come up with something better that makes people laugh? I’m a creator of levity — I’m still supposed to produce content. The question became: what should I create? I kept thinking about how I could deliver comedy without replicating something that people are already missing. What flag can I put in the ground? I think that’s the most essential part of what led me to my pivot.

How have you adapted to the realities of C19?

My pivot happened February 27th, at a show I produced at a yoga studio. I decided to use the place as inspiration and wrote a joke bit about guided meditation to connect to the show being at a yoga studio. I wrote the piece quickly, it took me maybe 30 minutes. And it was a big hit! So … I went and recorded ten and started a podcast — Greg’s Guided Meditations.

I describe the podcast as a super totally serious collection of guided meditations to get you focused, centered, and amused. This expression of my comedy is a departure. But what does feel similar to me is the connection. While I don’t get to hear the audience laugh, I do feel that I can connect with people in that way via the podcast. I definitely still miss the crowd — that’s what I love the most about comedy — but to watch the download numbers climb is one version of that kind of connection.

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

I have had my podcast out for four weeks, and people from 23 different countries have downloaded it — from all over the United States, Canada, Poland, Vietnam, Indonesia … It has motivated me to continue creating more podcasts.

There’s this nostalgia of wishing to do comedy live, but there is an opportunity to really entrench these created experiences for their own value. It’s fun to watch artists get new tools, and right in front of us, learn how to use them.

Check out Greg’s work!
Greg’s Guided Meditations
Instagram: @bermancomedy
Instagram: @gregsguidedmeditation
Greg’s Website


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.

Be a Unicorn, or, Broadening Your Skills during a Copywriting Job Search

by Jess Powers

Finding copywriting work is a job in itself. Whether you’re having a hard time in the tough job market or you just haven’t found the right fit yet, interspersing ongoing learning with job searching will make you a stronger candidate during a copywriting job search. These days, copywriters with Creative Circle primarily produce digital content, and the expectation is that writers dabble in a range of related skills.

“Copywriters with hybrid creative skills like coding and design are unicorns,” says CC recruiter Taylor Crowley. Learning some of those new skills can also provide a bit of a break from sending out countless resumes. But, she cautions, don’t stray too far from your main skill set of copywriting. For more senior roles and larger agencies, those roles will still be separate.

As a recruiter with Creative Circle for 13 years, Jocelyn Yant has seen the marketplace shift. She explains that you “don’t have to be an expert” on all things digital, but proficiency and being well-rounded are definitely assets in a copywriting job search.

Show, Don’t Tell

When you’re inundated with work, updating your online portfolio might be the last thing on your mind. If you’re now looking for a new client or a new job, take the time to update your online portfolio and LinkedIn profile. It sounds obvious, but you might be telling a recruiter that you have experience writing about beauty products, and your clips don’t reflect that.

This is an opportunity to show what you do know and where your skills are. Recruiters move quickly and will go to the next candidate if you don’t demonstrate an understanding of market trends upfront.

Yant points out that copywriting is all about long-form right now, that every company has a blog and social media, and they want to see copywriters who can “craft a message and carry it through for more than 300 words.”

Be sure to specifically mention “social media copy” on your resume too if you’ve written short copy for Instagram captions or for Facebook posts, adds Crowley.

Learn Some Coding Basics

Chances are you’ll have to be familiar with different content management systems (CMSs) if you’re going to be writing emails or web content for a client.

You might need a basic understanding of HTML and CSS to set up or send your work online. Maybe you have a working knowledge already, if not, you can hone your skills for free online with Code Academy or through a free month trial at Lynda.com.

Understand How to Quantify Your Impact

Yant points out that there will always be a practical need for print, but it is also a dying form. And unlike digital, she says, “you can’t track the efficacy of your programs.”

Clients may want you to quantify impact through the keywords in the ads you write or reader engagement on their websites. You can get certified in Google Ads or Analytics through their Skillshop for free.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) can help you write for impact on the web by understanding who, what, where, when, and how to draw readers. Since both processes change constantly, many certifications rapidly become obsolete. They also tend to be expensive. Focus on reading blogs like Moz, Search Engine Journal, or Search Engine Land to improve your skills in SEO and SEM.

For content creator roles, you might need to do a bit of photo retouching, curating images, or creating graphics for social media. (Some nonprofit communications job descriptions even ask for video editing.) Familiarity with Adobe Photoshop or Premiere is helpful for working with images, although again, no one is expecting a copywriter to be a highly skilled photo editor.

Knowledge of a free graphic design tool like Canva can go a long way for creating images for social media posts.

Write More, and Write Better

Being a generalist might make sense for more junior copywriters and clients with smaller budgets, but don’t forget to focus on your writing. If you’re just out of school, returning to the workforce, or you don’t have clips in an area of interest, don’t be afraid to include spec projects in a portfolio, Yant emphasizes. As long as you are transparent that it’s not paid work, you could extend a brand campaign or write for a friend’s business.

Decent editing and proofreading chops are expected too. More often than not, there’s no one looking over your shoulder to factcheck — make sure that you spell things correctly, or keep tenses consistent. Yant recalls, unfortunately, she recently had a copywriter lose a placement at a great company because of frequent typos and mistakes. Attention to detail is paramount.

It sometimes seems like being a jack of all trades is a necessary requirement for being a copywriter. But despite employer ads asking for a million different skills from copywriters, most places are really looking for a strong writer with some knowledge of the broader digital environment. And that unicorn is you.


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

18+ Hours of Music to Pump You Up and Get You Through the Day

By Alessandra Calderin

If you’ve needed some help getting motivated, focused and confident, you are not alone. With “normal” becoming non-existent and the very fabric of our realities shifting like grains of sand in a storm, it’s hard enough just putting on pants (not that you need to, I full endorse pantsless work days).

Dear reader, I’ve curated two extremely lengthy playlists for your aural delight with hours of tunes to get you through the days and weeks ahead. An eclectic mix, you’ll find everything from Taylor Swift to Eminem to Dolly Parton to AC/DC to plenty of weird electronic you probably haven’t heard of.

Here are your two comprehensive collections:

quaran-carpe diem:

seize the day regardless of circumstances

Opening with a few bangers and then smoothing out to interplay with a lot of focus friendly electronic, this 8+ hour playlist can carry you through the entire workday — and remind you to actually stop at the end.

you are a hydrated, qualified, and prepared beast:

confidence boosting jams for presentations, meetings, and interviews

With nearly 6 hours of confidence boosting anthems and fight songs, you’ll be ready to take on anything and anyone. Use it to prepare for virtual interviews and meetings, to crush your at-home workout, or just epically wash your hands for the recommended 20 seconds.


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

How to Give Meaningful Feedback to Creatives

by Jess Powers

As a client, have you ever struggled to get the results that you want when working with freelance creatives on a project? Learning how to communicate feedback in a way that has an impact is an especially useful skill right now. While everyone quarantines and works remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic — at least for now — interactions are less formal and less frequent. But for all of the challenges of remote management, giving meaningful feedback is a transferable skill.

Set Yourself Up for Success

The first step to getting the results you want happens before you even engage with the freelancer. Consider whether someone you’ve worked with before is a good fit for a particular project. Melissa Koehler, the owner of Kohesive Marketing, a Boston-based boutique marketing and communications firm, emphasizes that we “all have different styles, and are suitable to different kinds of work.” The photographer who takes fantastic action shots might not do portraits well. Most experienced freelancers know what their skills are and where they may not be a good fit; less experienced creatives may not know this yet.

A well-articulated brief or project assignment is critical. Koehler relates to the John Dewey quote, “A problem well put is half solved.” Share background information or context as well as a clear description of any strategy, marketing, or business goals. “Provide a deeper understanding of who the audience is. Explain what the motivators are or the drivers that you’re trying to appeal to with the work,” she continues. The client needs to invest the appropriate amount of time at the start to achieve the results they seek. That said, she quips, it’s called a brief for a reason.

Sometimes the project may shift midstream or be more iterative. Remember to clearly communicate any new goals or shifts in approach to the freelancer.

Understand Your Role

In the essential management book, Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity, Kim Malone Scott shares lessons learned from leading teams at places like Apple and Google. She points out that in the tech industry, talent can easily find a new gig if they don’t like the organizational culture. These large companies invest significant resources in understanding what makes great management tick.

Scott stresses that the role of a leader is to guide people to achieve results. It’s not a directive approach and should be resilient enough to support different approaches and opinions. Creating a culture or relationship of effective feedback means being flexible and able to tolerate criticism and open debate. Understood another way, think of how your role is to support the freelancer to succeed.

Sometimes, Koehler observes, “clients focus on what they think the solution should be.” You are hiring a creative with expertise in copywriting or art direction for a particular purpose. This also means listening deeply to why they make the choices they make.

Give the Right Feedback

“Be as specific and thorough with praise as with criticism,” Scott explains. “Go deep into the details.” The tendency to rush and spurt out a compliment like “good work” or a critique such as “I don’t like this,” is meaningless, she argues. Neither explains why something works or doesn’t work. This is a time to over-communicate and make sure that you are understood.

Koehler stresses that it’s important to “give feedback on the outcome, not a prescriptive solution to a problem.” Explain how and why a work product is not reaching a specific objective. Persuasion is not merely rational, but emotional. Consider what doesn’t feel right about the outcome and why.

Feedback must be given with care and compassion to be effective. Deferring to “it’s just business” avoids taking the time to understand the problem that is being addressed and why you are responding in a particular way. For the person on the receiving end, curt feedback can feel personal, and for good reason. The reality, Scott points out, is that: “Most of us pour more time and energy into our work than anything else in our lives. Work is a part of who we are, and so it is personal.” Recognize that, and give feedback accordingly.

Be mindful that it might be “hard coming into an established team,” Koehler continues. There are many dynamics at play for creatives. There’s the client/freelancer relationship and the insider/outsider role. Have an awareness of the communication shortcuts that you have with the team you see every day, and explain things thoroughly to a new person.

While working remotely, it’s necessary to provide feedback in different formats. Be aware of what works best for the creative you are working with. An email or Slack may suffice, but if you’re providing detailed feedback, it’s probably best to do so over the phone or by video conference and then recap in an email summary.

Like any relationship, if you’re not getting the results that you want, you have a role in that. Clients — and creatives — need to take responsibility for their part in creating a successful partnership on a project. Through effective communication, they’ll reach the desired outcome.


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

8 Top Tips to Successfully Onboard Virtual Employees

By Karina Margit Erdelyi

With most work now being done from home, it’s important to optimize your process for onboarding remote employees. The good news is that if managed in a personal and organized fashion, virtual recruiting and onboarding can still feel like a high-touch process. Here are some best practices to put in place.

Think back to your first day of your current job. You were probably feeling nervous and excited — but at the start, those nervous butterflies probably overshadowed any new job enthusiasm. “Will people like me? Will I like them? Who do I ask if I have a question? What am I supposed to do in my downtime? Will I have enough work to fill my day? Where is the bathroom?”  

Now take that and multiply it by 10. For those starting new jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, things are confusing, to say the least. In this age of WFH, creating a well-designed virtual onboarding process will help ensure that remote employees feel comfortable and are quickly engaged in their new roles. Here are 8 top tips to help you create a successful process that will build connections between new and current employees, increase collaboration, and further the goals of your organization — not to mention, prepare them to eventually return to a non-remote work world.

PRE-BOARDING: THE SECRET KEY TO SUCCESS.

The time between accepting a job offer and the first day of work is a fantastic opportunity to engage new hires and begin to immerse them in your company culture before they officially start. Here are some examples of actions to take that will help set you and your new hire up for success:

  • Have your new hire’s direct manager send them a personal message, welcoming them aboard. Or send a small care package that represents your team or your brand; just as you’d put some pens, mugs, water bottles, and other tchotchkes on your new hire’s desk on day one, sending your new teammate something small can go a long way.
  • Set your new remote employee up with a mentor who can help show them the ropes; this will allow them to navigate any logistical hurdles and will also provide a sounding board should they encounter any hiccups along the way. It’s also a valuable professional development opportunity for the mentor — a win-win.
  • Offer any home office recommendations germane to the job.
  • If your new employee requires a laptop or some other piece of hardware, get it to them as soon as possible — ideally a couple of days before he or she starts.
  • Share a list of all platforms and software used ahead of time to allow some time for familiarization.
  • Send logins for all software ahead of the first day so that your new hire is ready to go.
  • Use electronic signing and document systems to get any relevant paperwork signed.
  • Document and provide remote work guidelines to let your new hire know what is expected of them.

Companies that use pre-boarding are better able to foster a sense of connection to the company and maintain a new hire’s sense of enthusiasm and excitement about their new role.

UTILIZE STORYTELLING.

Your virtual onboarding experience is an opportune time to highlight the culture and values of your organization. Do you have videos, blogs, articles, presentations, or newsletters that showcase the values that define your company? Leverage them. By sharing stories that demonstrate the impact your company has had on its clients and customers, you can help inspire new employees.

A WARM WELCOME GOES A LONG WAY.

Make time to do a mindful introduction of new hires to the team via video conference. Share salient details of their work experience and what they will be doing going forward. Have co-workers introduce themselves, taking time to explain what they do, with whom they work — and to make the process more personal, have them share an interesting fact about themselves. Doing so will help new employees feel as if they are part of the “family.” Helping foster a sense of connection and belonging in new hires is critical for a distributed team; a thoughtful welcome can set things on the right path from the start. And, finally, consider a fun icebreaker — like a virtual happy hour — so that your team can get to know your new hires and vice versa.

COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION.

Enabling real-time communication is vital to successfully onboarding a remote employee. There are many ways to foster communication channels — chat, instant message, project management apps, company intranet, and more. Whatever modalities your company uses, it is essential that remote employees can begin communicating with their new colleagues as soon as possible. This will help them successfully adjust to new work processes and their new role.

GET ORGANIZED.

Confusion can easily occur when employees are located in different places, which is why organization is so essential when onboarding a new remote employee. To mitigate any possible hiccups, here are three simple ways to cultivate clarity:

  • Create a project brief that outlines what you need from your new employee. Shared documents are a great way to do this (we are a fan of Google Docs).
  • Create an overarching document that outlines the main project objectives, with links to other related documents for all team members.
  • Create a task list that assigns each person to a specific task, along with the due date, so that everyone is on the same page.

ONE-ON-ONE TIME IS ESSENTIAL — ESPECIALLY FOR REMOTE EMPLOYEES.

Studies have shown that up to 20% of new hires resign within the first 45 days of starting a new role, often due to lack of clarity, confusion about process, and poor management. When the onboarding process is virtual, getting it right is even more critical, as the lack of physical interaction can make it more challenging to spot a potential problem. In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn, 72% of those surveyed said that “one-on-one time with their direct manager was the most important part of any pre-boarding or onboarding process.” Educate supervisors on the importance of carving out time for one-on-one meetings, and encourage management to prioritize spending time with new hires as an essential cornerstone of your company’s virtual onboarding process.

CULTIVATE CULTURE.

Company culture can get lost in the shuffle for remote employees under normal circumstances. And now that COVID-19 has now made us all remote employees, imparting a sense of your company’s culture to a new hire is all the more important. Coaching and mentoring are key ways to culturally onboard a remote employee. Pair your new hire with an “on-site” member to help foster communication to ensure that virtual employees can check in about workflow, company values, and performance expectations, among other things.

When employees feel connected to company culture, they are more willing to work hard and feel that their contributions are making a real impact. A LinkedIn survey of more than 3,000 American professionals found that 70% of those surveyed would leave a top company if it had a bad culture. 71% disclosed that they would take a pay cut to work for an organization “that shares their values and has a mission they believe in.”

BE NIMBLE. ASK FOR FEEDBACK AND ACT ON IT.

Let’s face it — we are all in uncharted territory. For most companies, virtual onboarding is a new process. Even with all the best intentions, you may not get it perfectly right the first time. Or the second. And that’s okay. Ask for feedback from new hires so you can be agile and continue to optimize the process for your company. Look at this as an iterative, continuous learning process that you can continue to enhance — that will help ensure the best possible outcomes for your organization.

Today’s environment is definitely not business-as-usual for any of us. But with some mindful planning, virtual onboarding can be a successful process for all involved.


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.

Even During Crises, Marketers Have a Job to Do

By Héloïse Chung

It’s a confusing time for everyone. None the more so than advertisers and marketers. If you have something to say, it’s critical to get it right, because the world is paying attention. But also, did you get that? The world is paying attention.

With no more offices, gyms, restaurants, bars, and national parks to visit, the whole country is spending more time online and in front of TVs, soaking up news and information. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook usage has surged by 50% since the crisis began.

This means marketers have a unique opportunity to chime in and speak up about their values. Brands who can maintain relevance are well-poised to grow their audience, and resonate with customers far into the future.

For messaging that adheres to CDC recommendations, there’s already a template being made for you. AdAge reports that:

Ad Council is teaming up with the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to “provide critical and urgent messages to the American public,” the group said in a statement.

…“That script, developed by Group SJR, will also be made available as a template for media companies to create assets with their own local and state public health officials.”

It’s a long tough road ahead, but we’ve survived catastrophes before. Most recently, after 9/11, General Motors quickly rolled out its highly effective “Keep America Rolling” marketing plan to advertise its zero interest 84-month loans to get Americans back on the road.

Their campaign offers a good lesson for our current situation. In a time of uncertainty, the right messaging (with the right actions in place, to back that message up) can give customers assurance that brands are there for them.

How can you or your clients be there for your customers? One thing is to try and recreate some semblance of normalcy while we remain socially distant. Brands can shift their attention to social spaces where communities are congregating (if they aren’t already there) and provide entertainment, humor, or a breath of fresh air. Or they can take meaningful action that supports their community like these three have: Allbirds offered free shoes to healthcare practitioners. Lyft expanded into delivery partnerships to support their drivers. Target announced pay raises, bonuses, and paid leave.

Meanwhile, entertainment companies like ViacomCBS, Walt Disney, ABC, and iHeartMedia are at work on campaigns centered around the importance of physical distancing.

Understandably, not every brand can make grand gestures. The key is maintaining a dialogue with customers that is sensitive to the current climate and the emotional state of customers, while being mindful of government, World Health Organization, and CDC guidelines.

There are lessons to be learned from brands whose best intentions backfired. We all remember the Kendall Jenner Pepsi scandalDodge Ram’s dodgy use of MLK’s voice, and Bud Light’s cringey “up for whatever” campaign. And just this week, Reese Witherspoon’s brand Draper James was faced with backlash after offering free dresses to teachers — but not all teachers.

It’s no secret that brands want to sell their products, and agencies want to get paid to work on advertising those products — but you also don’t want your marketing to come across as pandering or insensitive. Ensure your message is saying the right thing, at the right time. Think before you send, pay attention to the here and now, and don’t forget to run any and all marketing efforts past many people, to gauge their reactions and ensure that your efforts don’t backfire.

Moral of the story: customers are paying attention, now more than ever. But countless people are struggling, and your message needs to be respectful of customers’ various situations. So tread lightly. When done correctly, marketing during times of crisis can build brand trust and help propel your brand into the future. But there are many cautionary tales that must be heeded, to avoid a marketing nightmare.


About the author.
Héloïse Chung is writing the great American science fiction blockbuster in the moments between her day job as a copywriter and creative director. Non-screen activities include rock-climbing and making ceramics.
website: heloisechung.com
twitter: @hzla_de_encanta
instagram: @heloise_chung