Discover Your Spark with Jonathan Fields

When you’re humming along at work, nothing significant to complain about…but you just feel like something is missing…that missing thing may just be your spark—the thing that just makes you come truly alive.

Consciously or not, we all strive to feel that spark. And today you’re in luck. I spoke with Jonathan Fields, award-winning author, executive producer, and host of one of the top-ranked podcasts in the world, Good Life Project. He’s also the Founder and CEO of Spark Endeavors and author of the new book Sparked: Discover Your Unique Imprint for Work that Makes You Come Alive
He shared with me some of his favorite stories and bits of actionable wisdom to help us all unlock our potential, motivation, impact, and joy.
Listen to the full conversation on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, or just click the audio player above.

What does it mean to truly feel “sparked”?

Based on years of research within organizations yielding more than 25 million data points, Fields knows of what he speaks when it comes to feeling sparked.
A spark refers to “what I often call coming alive. And for me, that’s the confluence of 5 different states”:
1. Meaningfulnessdo you feel like your work matters?
2. Floware you able to just get lost in it, losing all sense of time?
3. Engagement—are you excited and energized by what’s capturing your attention?
4. Expressed potentialdo you feel great at what you do, like you’re putting your gifts to work?
5. Purposeare you doing what you’re meant to do?

How can we discover our own spark?

Through his research, Fields identified 10 unique archetypes (and combining the word spark with archetype, he’s landed on Sparketypes) that represent our primary impulses. You may be a maven, maker, scientist, essentialist, performer, sage, warrior, advisor, advocate, or nurturer. 
The assessment will feed you a primary sparketype, a shadow (secondary) sparketype, and an anti-sparketype, the thing that “most readily empties you and requires the greatest recovery.”
I took the free assessment which showed my primary type is Advisor, my secondary is Sage, and my anti is Performer—all of which resonated completely.
You too can take the free assessment to “get some really interesting insights about who [you] are and [what your] strongest impulse is that makes [you] come alive.”

What can we do with the results?

Knowing your Sparketype helps you to look at the work you’re doing and either validate that you’re in the right place doing the right things or may prompt you to do a bit of discovery.
It facilitates “…the process of asking, is [my work] giving me what I want, what I need to feel like I’m flourishing as a human being?”
“We're all in this moment,” Fields shared, “where we have an opportunity to reimagine how we play together. And it starts with the individual and really understanding what is that deeper impulse within me. And then it ripples out into the entire ecosystem that might allow us to bring that forward, to express it and contribute in a meaningful way.”
Some people, upon discovering a mismatch between their Sparketype and their job description, take the “nuclear career option” where they choose to blow it all up and start fresh. It’s an option, but not often the recommended path. Jonathan calls this the “option of last resort.”
Instead, he counsels, try to “reimagine the way that you're doing what you're doing, potentially build more sparked activities around it…” that honor your values. Choosing activities that give you purpose and meaning can often provide the compromise we’re seeking.
“I talk about work…as basically anything that requires us to exert effort in a sustained way. That could be our job, an activity, an endeavor, a hobby, a role, a devotion, and those all fold in to give us the opportunity to feel those things that we want to feel to come alive. 
Start looking outside of the boundaries of the thing that you get paid to do and ask, ‘what else can I do? What else can I say yes to what else can I create that would give me this feeling?’  And very often the blend of an optimized, main job and a compliment of things that you wrap around it, they get you there.”

Can this self-awareness help us manage burnout?

When I asked Fields the burnout question, he said, “A lot of people are pointing to the lack of boundaries between work and life as the central problem now. And I think that's a superficial overlay.”
The deeper issue, he explains, is the misalignment between the descriptions of our jobs, and our interior sense of purpose, of values, and of what lights us up.

How can teams use the assessment for good?

As this is a podcast about workplace success, I had to ask how leaders might utilize the assessment with their teams. And he offered a three-step recommendation:
  1. Leaders themselves should take the assessment to enhance their own sense of self-awareness around what makes them feel most alive and show up most authentically
  2. Leaders should then encourage team members to do the same
  3. Finally, leaders should facilitate an open dialog with the team about everyone’s natural sparketypes—finding spots where joy and purpose may be bumped up.
As we closed, Jonathan called attention to the unique moment we’re in (as we close out 2021).  
“There is universal groundlessness. And everyone [seems to be asking these big questions and making bold decisions. [Someday] that window's going to close. “
In other words, he leaves us with a call to action. Take the assessment, gain some self-awareness, and give yourself the gift of feeling fully alive.


Time to Question Your Old Work Habits

My dad has always been a runner. So, when I graduated from college determined to bump up my own fitness, I took up running. Because in my family, fitness was running.
Two years later, slim and grumpy, I had an epiphany. I HATE running! I had defaulted to running as a means of fitness simply because I’d never stopped to question it. But in 2003 I joined my first gym, and a whole new beautiful world opened up to me. Today, I do everything at the gym…except run. And I’m fitter now than ever. Sorry, Dad.
The point is that sometimes we hold onto assumptions about the way things are or should be. We stick with routines and habits. Not because they’re true or good. Just because we’ve never questioned them. And sometimes those old assumptions can get in the way of our best results.
I see people doing the same thing in the workplace. We do things on autopilot out of habit. But it’s time to stop and question some of these defaults. 
Today let’s talk about the most common habits that have us stuck, and the tactics we can use to break out of them.

1. Saying yes to the meeting

When a meeting request comes in, chances are you check your availability. And if the time is open on your calendar, you accept. Right? I was guilty of this for years. 

But what if we asked better questions? Instead of asking “am I available?” what if you tried asking…
  • Do I believe that whatever is on the agenda for this meeting actually warrants a meeting?
  • Is there something specific the organizer is looking for me to deliver in this meeting or is it just to keep me in the loop (in which case, a quick email after the meeting would suffice)?
  • Would attending this meeting help me to deliver on my goals and commitments?
  • Will this meeting provide me with an opportunity for exposure or connection to someone important?
  • Is participating in this meeting the best relative use of that hour?
If your answers are anything but yes, then you owe yourself the gift of a pause before you hit “accept.”
Being invited to a meeting doesn’t—or shouldn’t—obligate you to donate an hour of your time to someone else’s agenda. An open slot on your calendar doesn’t have to equate to an implicit invitation to anyone else to snatch up that time.
Next time you receive a calendar invite, pause and reflect before you hit yes. Your time is a precious resource, and part of your job is to manage its expenditure wisely. 
Is that meeting indeed the best use of your time? Or is saying yes just a habit worth breaking? 

5 Reasons Your Career is Stalled and How to Get Unstuck

2. Responding immediately to that email

An email in your inbox commands a quick reply…right?
There are emails that do indeed command immediate attention. Ignoring that customer complaint, that question from your boss’s boss’s boss, or even that electronic tap on the shoulder from HR might be a dangerous move.
But so many of the emails tortuously hitting our inboxes daily are, frankly, things—issues, questions, and concerns—that if given a bit of time to air out will likely resolve themselves.
My husband has mastered this one. I’m notorious at losing things and he’s my go-to finder. He gets countless texts and emails from me each week whining about something I’ve lost. He ignores me for a while knowing I’ll find 90% of it on my own. And for the sake of our marriage, once I’ve survived the waiting period, he will indeed help me find that 10%.
The same concept applies at work. Your colleague is having trouble interpreting the data you’ve shared, or can’t recall where you filed that monthly report, or is wondering whether you can help her fix this glitchy thing.
I’m not suggesting you ignore her completely. I’m just suggesting that you sit on it for 24 hours or so. Because in that time, it’s likely she’ll figure out the data, find the report, and realize she just needed to restart her computer…because restarting your computer is the answer 94% of the time (in my experience).
By letting go of your default habit to answer every email right away, you win back time, energy, and attention you can better direct elsewhere.

3. Accepting every assignment your boss offers

You want to be a good citizen at work. But don’t confuse saying “yes” to everything with being the most strategic team member you can be. 
Bosses, on balance, are busy. They don’t always have the time or presence of mind to track all they’ve asked you to do or to assess the strategic relevance of each project.
Last week, one of my clients was complaining about Essie, his director of strategy. “I asked her nearly two weeks ago to deliver a report to me and I’m still waiting on it.”
Out of curiosity, I asked him how many other things he’d asked of Essie in the past few weeks. He did a quick scan of his “sent” box and realized he’d asked 7 different things of her in the past 3 weeks. He wasn’t tracking these things and suddenly realized he had asked a LOT of her. 
He needed to help her prioritize. But Essie needed to be asking better questions of him. 
Next time you’re in Essie’s position, challenge your default to say yes, and try asking your boss:
  • How should I think about the priority of this project/task/activity relative to the others on my plate?
  • What is the outcome you’re hoping this project will deliver and is there a faster or more efficient way for us to get to that same outcome?
  • Might anyone else in the organization be working on something similar that could leverage?
Play the role of strategic thinker to ensure you’re spending your limited time and energy in the most productive ways.
What are some of the other default habits you find yourself falling into? Maybe you’re chasing the next promotion…without asking yourself whether you really want it. Or you say yes to every invitation to network with someone…without wondering whether this introduction will serve your goals.
Don’t be afraid to look at your own default settings. What is the one thing you really need to start questioning, and how might doing so move you forward in a more intentional way?


How to Detect BS with John Petrocelli

Ah, bullshit. We see it—and call it—all around us: with kids, partners, colleagues, advertising, politics, etc. You name the domain and we’ve seen its BS. Sometimes it’s innocuous and frustrating, but other times it can detrimental, holding us back from trading in truth and reality. 
So how do spot and combat the BS swirling around us? John Petrocelli, social psychologist and author of the new book The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit joined me for a conversation to help decode, demystify, and push past the BS. And yes, it’s science.

What is the meaning of bullshit?

Borrowing from a definition developed by moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt, BS, John explains,  is “a communicative substance that results from intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously… communicating something that one knows little to nothing about” often to impress, to fit in, to persuade, or simply to hide the fact that one doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
“Essentially,” he continues, “it just involves talking about something with little to no regard for what we would call truth, genuine evidence, or established knowledge.”
And this matters because, as John told me, “the research so far suggests that BS can have a longer-lasting and more impactful effect on a person’s attitudes and beliefs.” In other words, BS carries consequences we need to attend to.

How does bullshit show up in the workplace?

“You would think,” he began, “that the workplace would be a place that people would engage in evidence-based communication and reasoning more than any other place, but you find just as much BS there as [anywhere else].”
Much of this is driven by people feeling obligated to have an informed opinion about everything. This is exacerbated in the workplace, where we are, after all, supposed to be experts at our jobs. So, when a question is posed, we should have an answer. When an idea is challenged, we should have a defense at the ready.
“But the reality is oftentimes we do not have well-informed answers and evidence-based beliefs about the things we do.”
I shared with John some of my own personal experience in starting and growing my consulting business. In the earliest days, I believed that by branding myself as an expert in organizational development, my clients expected a point of view always at the ready. But with time and confidence came the recognition that I was able to deliver greater value by sometimes saying “that’s a great question and I’d love to consider and research it before offering an answer.” 
It’s a tradeoff—more time equals more truth. And that tradeoff should be a win.
My clients appreciate this approach. But in today’s fast-moving world, it can feel risky. 

How harmful is BS, really?

Not all BS is created equal. John uses the BS Flies Index to help us categorize the innocuous to the harmful and everything in between. So, the number of flies landing on…well… the pile represents the degree of damage that BS inflicts.
One fly represents harmless BS. Imagine embellishing the details of a story to entertain or impress a friend or colleague.
Two flies are bad. And it deserves attention in the workplace—the kind of bullshit that needs to be called out. It’s “fail[ing] to conform to common standards of acceptable conduct. ‘Who would ever vote for her with a face like that?’ [would be] a good example.” (A good example of bad!)
And three flies are the most damaging. This is the BS “likely to cause direct harm or injury, perhaps…with adverse consequences.” Telling yourself you’re uniquely good at driving while texting is an example here. The consequences of the BS you’re feeding yourself could be fatal.

4 ways to minimize BS in the workplace

Minimizing BS at work is something we all carry responsibility for. Here are some of John’s recommendations.

1. Distinguish explanation from evidence

Recognize that when a colleague offers you a rationale (i.e., customers over 65 will love this product because it has a 1950’s feel, and it will remind them of their youth), an explanation isn't the same thing as evidence.
Has your colleague market-tested the product? Have they talked to customers over the age of 65? Are there similar products on the market delivering similar results? These answers would serve as evidence—the antidote to BS.

2. Accept your vulnerability

This might blow your mind: the less susceptible to BS we believe we are, the more susceptible we actually are. By accepting our individual vulnerability to BS, we can consciously be on the lookout for it. We can’t combat what we can’t see.

3. Ask better questions

BS often sounds good on the surface, but it doesn’t stand up to honest investigation. Asking questions that challenge the BS-er to go deeper will often uncover the truth. Questions like…
o Can you give me more specifics?
o How will that work in the face of…?
o Have you considered what would happen if…?

4. Affirm the courage to say "I don't know"

Often, people will BS not because they want to, but because the alternative is to say nothing which takes courage.
Leaders, John explains, should focus on creating cultures in which “I don’t know but I’d be happy to explore and find out” is an honorable response. Let your teams know we’d rather have the truth later than a false truth now.
Leaders should role model saying “I don’t know,” and they should reward and recognize people who do so.
It’s incumbent on all of us to pay attention to our own tendencies to deliver BS, as well as to keep our antennae up so we start recognizing it in others.
Let’s work together to keep BS at bay.


How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits

Before the coronavirus reached the U.S., unemployment was low and few could have anticipated a global pandemic. However, as the pandemic and ensuing recession took hold, a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits to stay financially afloat.

“COVID-19 led to an incredible number of American workers being without work,” says Julia Simon-Mishel, an unemployment compensation attorney. “And it’s caused a huge need for individuals to file for unemployment insurance.”

Unemployment insurance, or unemployment benefits, can offer an essential lifeline. But if you’ve never accessed these benefits before, you may have questions about how they work. You might also be asking: What do I do when my unemployment benefits run out and I’m still unemployed?

This article1 offers tips about what you need to know about filing an unemployment claim. It also addresses the following questions:

  • How do you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits?
  • Can your unemployment benefits be extended?
  • What can you do when unemployment runs out?
  • Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?

A record number of people have filed for unemployment, and many are wondering what to do when unemployment runs out.

If you’re just getting ready to file or need a refresher on the basics of unemployment benefits, read on to have your questions answered.

If you’re already collecting benefits and want to know what happens once you reach the end of the benefit period, skip ahead to “Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out.”

Common questions about unemployment benefits

Experiencing a job loss is challenging no matter what. Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and remember that unemployment benefits were created to help you.

As you consider how to prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, remember that you're not alone.

While they’re designed to provide financial relief, unemployment benefits are not always easy to navigate. Here’s what you need to know to understand how unemployment benefits work:

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment insurance provides people who have lost their job with temporary income while they search for and land another job. The amount provided and time period the benefits last may vary by state. Generally, most states offer up to half of a person’s previous wages in unemployment benefits for 26 weeks or until you land another full-time job, whichever comes first. Requirements and eligibility may vary, so be sure to check your state’s unemployment agency for guidance.

How do you apply for unemployment benefits?

Depending on where you live, claims may be filed in person, by phone or online. Check your state government’s website for details.

Who can file an unemployment claim?

This also may vary from state to state, but eligibility typically requires that you lost your job or were furloughed through no fault of your own, in addition to meeting work and wage requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the government loosened restrictions, extending unemployment benefits to gig workers and the self-employed.

When should you apply for unemployment benefits?

Short answer: As soon as possible after you lose your job. “If you are someone who has had steady W2 work, it’s important that you file for unemployment the moment you lose work,” Simon-Mishel says. The longer you wait to file, the longer you’re likely to wait to get paid.

When do you receive unemployment benefits?

Generally, if you are eligible, you can expect to receive your first benefit check two to three weeks after you file your claim. Of course, this may differ based on your state or if there’s a surge of people filing claims.

Can unemployment benefits be extended? Check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

2020 enhancements to unemployment benefits for freelance and contract workers

In early 2020, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. In addition to other benefits, the CARES Act created a new program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits to independent contractors and other workers who were typically ineligible. That means that if you don’t have steady W2 income—for instance, freelance and contract workers, those who file 1099s, farmers and the self-employed—you still may qualify for unemployment benefits.

“That program is a retroactive payout,” Simon-Mishel says. “If you’re just finding out about that program several months after losing your job, you should be able to file and get benefits going back to when you lost work.”

Because legislation affecting unemployment benefits continues to evolve, it’s important that you keep an eye out for any additional stimulus programs that can extend unemployment benefits. Be sure to regularly check your state’s unemployment insurance program page for updates.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you.”

Julia Simon-Mishel, unemployment compensation attorney

Steps to take before your unemployment benefits run out

In a perfect world, your job leads would become offers long before you reached the end of your unemployment benefits. But in reality, that’s not always the case.

If you’re still unemployed but haven’t yet exhausted your benefits and extensions, you may want to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits as early as possible so you don’t become financially overwhelmed. Here are four tips to help you get through this time:

Talk to service providers

Reaching out to your utility service providers like your gas, electric or water company is one of the first steps John Schmoll, creator of personal finance blog Frugal Rules, suggests taking if you’re preparing for the end of unemployment benefits.

“A lot of times, either out of shame or just not knowing, people don’t contact service providers and let them know what their situation is,” Schmoll says. “[Contact them to] see what programs they have in place to help you reduce your spending, and basically save as much of that as possible to help stretch your budget even further.”

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Save what you can

To help prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, a few months before your benefits end, Schmoll suggests cutting back spending as much as possible, focusing only on necessities.

“If you can try and save something out of the benefits that you’re receiving while you’re receiving them—it doesn’t matter if it’s $10 or $20—that’s going to help provide some cushion,” Schmoll says. Keep those funds in a separate account if you can, so you’re not tempted to spend them. That way you’re more prepared in case of an emergency.

If you hunkered down during your period of unemployment and were able to save, try to resist the urge to splurge on things that aren’t necessary.

“There might be temptation to overspend, but curtail that and focus on true necessities,” Schmoll says. “That way when [or if] you receive an extension on your benefits, you now have that extra money saved.”

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Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Saving money can be a good way to prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Seek additional financial aid

If you find that your savings and benefits aren’t covering your expenses, and you’re reaching a point where you no longer qualify for benefits, look into other new benefit programs or features designed to help during times of crisis.

For example, there are programs across the country to assist people with rent or mortgages, Simon-Mishel says. Those programs are generally designed to keep those facing financial hardship from losing their home or apartment. You may need to show that you are within the programs’ income limits to qualify, or demonstrate that your rent is more than 30 percent of your income. These programs vary widely at the state and even city level, so check your local government website to see what might be available to you.

As you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits, explore which government benefits or government agency may be best suited for your needs.

Keep up with the news

During economic downturns, government programs and funds often change to keep up with evolving demand.

“It’s really important to keep on top of all the information out there right now and be aware of what benefits are available to you,” says Simon-Mishel. “You should closely pay attention to the social media of your state unemployment agency and local news about other extension programs that might be added and that you might be eligible for.”

Pay attention to social media and local news as you prepare for the end of your unemployment benefits.

Options for extending your unemployment benefits

If you’re currently receiving benefits, but they’ll be ending soon, you’re likely wondering what to do when your unemployment runs out and asking if your unemployment benefits can be extended. Start by confirming when you first filed your claim because that will determine your benefit end date.

If you’re wondering, “Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out?” the answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait until your current “benefit year” expires. Note that a benefit year is 12 months from when you file a claim. If you filed at the beginning of June, for example, you generally can’t file again until the beginning of the following June.

You may get 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, depending on your state’s rules at the time. Most states extended the payout period to 39 weeks in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Check your state’s website for the particulars on what to do when your unemployment runs out.

If your claim is still active but you’ll be in need of additional financial relief after your unemployment benefits run out, here are your options:

File for an unemployment extension

During extraordinary economic times, such as the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government may use legislation like the CARES Act to offer people more benefits for a longer period of time, helping many people concerned about whether unemployment benefits can be extended.

Can you refile for unemployment after it runs out? It can vary by state, so reach out to your unemployment office.

For example, in 2020, for most workers who exhaust, or receive all of, their unemployment benefits, a 13-week extension should automatically kick in, Simon-Mishel says. This would bring you up to 39 weeks total. However, if more than a year has passed since you originally filed and you need the extension, you will likely need to file a short application provided by the government. Details vary by state.

As you’re determining what to do when your unemployment runs out, reach out to your unemployment office. It’s important to do this before your benefits expire so you can avoid a missed payment. You can also confirm you’re eligible and that you can refile for unemployment after it runs out.

Ask about the Extended Benefits program in your state

Can unemployment benefits be extended beyond that? In periods of high unemployment, you may qualify for a second extension, depending on your state.

“After those [first] 13 weeks, many states have added a new program called Extended Benefits that can provide another 13 to 20 weeks of unemployment when a state is experiencing high unemployment,” Simon-Mishel adds. This means you may be able to receive a total of up to 59 weeks of unemployment benefits, including extensions. The total number of weeks of unemployment you may receive varies based on your state and the economic climate.

It’s hard enough keeping up with everything as you prepare for the end of unemployment benefits, so don’t worry if you don’t have your state’s benefits program memorized. Visit your state’s unemployment insurance program page to learn more about what benefits are available to you.

For anyone considering what to do when unemployment runs out, it's important to take things one day at a time.

Beyond unemployment benefits

While life and your finances may seem rocky now, know that you’re not alone. Remember that there are resources available to help support you, and try to take things one day at a time, Schmoll says.

“Realize that at some point your current situation will improve.”

If you find that your benefits aren’t covering all of your expenses, now may be the time to dip into your cash reserve. Explore these tips to determine when it’s time to use your emergency fund.

1 This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Eligibility for unemployment benefits may be impacted by variations in state programs, changes in programs, and your circumstances. If you have questions, you should consider consulting with your legal counsel, at your expense, or seek free assistance from your local legal aid organization.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post How to Prepare for the End of Your Unemployment Benefits appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.


Left Behind: What To Do When Everyone's Quitting but You

As the Great Resignation—this mass departure of people from their jobs—continues to hold the spotlight, you might be asking yourself: What happens to me if I don’t quit?
I’ve had countless conversations recently with people who are suddenly feeling lonely, uncertain, and overwhelmed as they watch colleagues depart. They’re questioning their own decision to stay. They’re missing colleagues and friends as they go. And they’re afraid of being overwhelmed by the work that’s falling off those departing plates.
So, if you’re one of the many being left behind, let’s talk about how you can take care of yourself and use this moment to your strategic advantage.

Give space to your feelings

I started my last full-time Human Resources job at the beginning of 2008…with a financial services company…as the market was crashing and burning. 
Suffice it to say, by the end of my first year, 15% of my colleagues had been let go. And while layoffs are very different in nature from voluntary resignations, the experience for those left behind can be extremely similar. 
The sudden loneliness—the loss of trusted friends, mentors, thought partners, and collaborators—really changed the whole tone and climate of work. Things got a little mopey around the office. But we were indeed in an office. So, for those of us left behind, leaning on each other as a community and processing our feelings together was reasonably easy to do.
Today’s world is different. So many of us continue to work largely or exclusively virtually, which makes those natural points of human connection rarer. You need to find the moments for yourself.
What are you feeling as you watch colleagues leave? Lonely? Anxious? Self-doubting? The key is to share those feelings with someone or ones that you trust. Check in with a remaining colleague, share your experience, and ask how they’re doing. Find support in those who are hanging back with you. And know that whatever you’re feeling is totally valid.

Be the stability hero

The thing about people leaving is that while the number of people doing the work has changed, often the expectations and workload for the remaining team members have not.
If your boss is anything like mine was, they’re panicking. They’re watching institutional knowledge, experience, and sets of hands walk out the door. And with all of the balls in the air, they’re terrified one will drop.
This is your moment to step in and be a hero. How can you show up as a point of stability for your boss, ensuring them that something critical is not going to fall through the cracks?
This is not about picking up all the slack your exiting colleagues have left behind. It’s about being a point of continuity.
During my moment in 2008, my team had been managing several training programs being delivered by outside vendors. As my colleagues began departing, I knew my boss was anxious about the stability of these programs. So, I offered to step in and become the single point of contact for all the vendors—the one-stop shop for any questions, concerns, or challenges that might arise.
I watched the color return to my boss’s cheeks when I tossed this idea out there. Notice, I wasn’t offering to take on a volume of work but was just offering to step in and keep the train on the tracks. And in a moment of departures, this offers a value that’s hard to measure. And of course, it earns you points for the future.
So, where’s your boss’s highest anxiety, and how might you offer to play a supporting role without adding volumes to your plate?

Reassess priorities

Question everything—every hour spent in a meeting, on a dashboard, revising slides, etc. Every hour of expenditure counts here. 
Please do not mistake taking on everyone’s left-behind work as an act of heroics. It’s frankly the least strategic move you can make. Instead, demonstrate your commitment to impact and your critical thinking skills to your boss by identifying the most critical priorities and putting those above the rest.
Share a plan—just some ideas. And invite your boss to weigh in. Where can you win time back by opting out, by postponing a deliverable, by collaborating or repurposing something? 

Find your development gold

When people start leaving, projects and opportunities get left behind. And while you do need to protect yourself from mindlessly taking on extra work, you’re welcome to seek out a hot opportunity and make a land grab. 
What have you been wanting or needing for your own professional development? Did someone leave behind a hole you’d like to fill?
Have you been wanting to grow your project or people leadership skills? Have you wanted to get a little closer to a particular client? Have you been seeking an opportunity to present to an executive?
Scan the left-behind projects and commitments, and cherry-pick something that serves your own development. You deserve an opportunity to grow from this!

Renegotiate something

To be blunt, you have leverage here. Your boss can’t afford to lose you right now. I’m not suggesting you do or say anything untoward (like “give me a 20% raise or I’m leaving”), but I am suggesting this is a prime moment in which to ask for something.
In 2008, there was a particular training I wanted to attend. In a respectful way, I broached it with my boss, like this:  
“Now that our team is smaller and mightier than before, I believe that by attending this training and building the skill it’s teaching, I’ll be in a much stronger position to ensure our impact stays high!”
It was my subtle attempt to say (without actually saying), “hey—my success matters more to you now than ever… so here’s something you can do to ensure that I’m able to keep you in a winning zone.”
So now it’s your turn. What’s something you can negotiate out of this situation?


Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

  • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
  • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
  • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
  • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

2. Know how much you need to save

How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

  • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
  • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
  • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

  • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
  • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
  • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
  • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

  • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
  • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
  • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

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But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.


The Average Salary of an Architect

The Average Salary of an Architect

The average salary of an architect is $76,100 per year.

Have you ever wondered how much an architect earns? Becoming an architect requires an investment of money and time, but pays off in the form of a rewarding career that comes with above-average earnings. And for those lucky few who become “starchitects,” it’s a path to fame. Let’s take a closer look at the average salary of an architect. 

The Average Salary of an Architect: The Basics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) finds that the average salary of an architect was $76,100 per year, $36.59 per hour in 2015. There is wide range of architect salaries, however. The top 10% of architects earn an average salary of $125,520 per year, $60.34 per hour. The bottom 10% of architects earn an average salary of $46,080 per year, $22.15 per hour.

Architects’ salaries are fairly high, but what do the future job prospects look like for architects? The BLS releases a “job outlook” for the fields it studies. The job outlook predicts the percent by which the number of people in a given job will grow between 2014 and 2024. For architects, the BLS job outlook is 7%, which is around the average for all the jobs the BLS studies. The field isn’t shrinking, but it’s not growing at faster-than-average rates either.

Related Article: The Average Salary of a Doctor 

Where Architects Make the Most

The Average Salary of an Architect

The BLS examines state- and metro-level data on earnings, too. Where does it pay the most to be an architect? According to BLS data, the top-paying state for architects is California, where the annual mean wage for architects is $97,880. Other high-paying states for architects are Georgia ($93,940), Massachusetts ($90,430), New Jersey ($89,130) and Minnesota ($88,680).

What about metro areas? The top-paying metro area for architects is West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL, where the mean annual wage for architects is $117,870. Other high-paying metro areas for architects are Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA; Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA; Syracuse, NY and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, CA.

Related Article: The Cost of Living in California

The Cost of Becoming an Architect

The first step to becoming an architect is to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in architecture. A poll by the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) found that poll respondents (all architecture school graduates) had an average post-graduation student debt of $40,000. The students also reported spending thousands on extra costs such as modeling materials, textbooks and more.

After obtaining a degree (often a five-year degree), budding architects do an average of three years at an architecture internship. Finally, they must take the Architect Registration Exam (ARE). That means that even the fastest path to becoming an architect in the U.S. takes eight years, but most people take around 11 years. In the meantime, most of these aspiring architects are paying back student loans. The ARE also comes with stiff fees. Depending on which version of the exam you take, the exam fee itself is either $1,470 or $1,260. If you have to cancel your exam, the fees you pay are non-refundable.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of an Architect

The job of an architect comes with glamour and prestige, as well as a high salary and a solid job outlook. However, the path to becoming an architect is a long and expensive one and not everyone who wants to become an architect makes it through the multi-year process. Still, if you have the discipline, talent and funds architecture is a financially rewarding career path.

Update: Have financial questions beyond an architect’s average salary? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to up to three registered investment advisors who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

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