Category Archives: Most Valuable

Get Those Letters of Recommendation With These Tips

After 16 years or so of school, you’re in love. You can’t stand the idea of leaving the cushy confines of a university campus. Real job? Real funny, you say. You’re going to stay a student forever.

To do that, you’re going to need letters of recommendation. (And you could need ’em for other reasons.) But how the hell do you go about getting them? Well, with the tips published over on InsideHigherEd.com’s GradHacker blog.

Among these dos and don’ts:

– DO ask ahead of time (way ahead of time).

– DO supply supplemental materials with the request.

– DO express your gratitude in some way.

– DON’T ask those who don’t know you well enough.

– DON’T demand, and don’t push if the person balks at your request.

– Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Terrified of Making Presentations? Try These Tips

Every time I get in front of an audience and have to present, I get really nervous. My stomach quivers and I perspire. I stutter and frequently lose my train of thought.

Even if you know the topic like the back of your hand, presenting in front of people might make you nervous. If you experience the same shakes and sweats when you’re forced to talk in front of class or present an idea at your internship, you should check out the tips expert Darlene Price offers up.

Price, who authored Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (Barnes & Noble, $21.95), offered a few tips to USA Today‘s Anita Bruzzese. Among them:

– Picture yourself, standing tall, in the space where you’ll be speaking.

– Use your webcam to record yourself saying ten positive statements about yourself (like, “I am confident,” and “I am in touch with my audience”). Say them over and over until you feel confident. Then, watch the video.

– Memorize your opening so that you can easily make eye contact with the audience.

– Pretty quickly, get the audience involved. Ask them questions they have to raise their hands to answer, etc.

– Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Lucky Enough to Be Young and Employed? Start a Roth IRA

Did you recently graduate from college and got the job of your dreams, despite all obstacles? First of all, congratulations! I’m a little jealous. Especially if you’ve got money leftover after rent, bills and student loans… Just in case you’re one of the 5 people this applies to (this is not a real statistic; I’m not in school to be a statistician), then here’s some advice: Start a Roth IRA.

Again, I’m not in school to be a statistician or accountant or anything that hollowed, so don’t take it from me. Take it from USA Today’s John Waggoner, who wrote an article outlining the benefits of a Roth IRA and telling you which one to pick depending on how risk-averse you are.

“Your best bet — assuming you’re willing to take some risk — is an IRA at a discount brokerage house, such as Schwab, or E-Trade, or a mutual fund company,” Waggoner writes.

So check it out. And when you’re old and retired and you’ve got a small pile of money, you can thank me for sharing this with you. Cash and presents will be accepted. – Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

BELLE’S GUIDE: Advice from Career Coach Julie Cohen

Welcome to Belle’s Guide to Work & Life, a biweekly column written by Belle Rose. The column will run every other Thursday and cover topics like how to behave in the workplace. You can follow Belle by visiting her blog or adding her on Facebook.


For many of us, the month of August signals the end of a carefree summer and a transition into the school year. Whether you are a teacher like myself, a student, or have students at home, this month is usually full of excitement and nervousness. Although there are still a few beautiful days left to be enjoyed, most of us are spending them preparing to go back to the grind. The days become shorter, to-do lists get longer, and there is less time for rest and relaxation. It’s a continuous conundrum. How do we live enjoyable, fulfilling lives with so many other responsibilities needing our attention?

To answer this question, I enlisted the help of Professional Career Coach Julie Cohen. She is the author of Your Work, Your Life… Your Way and has helped hundreds of clients on the road to successful, balanced lives.

When surveying her clients’ needs, Cohen found that most professionals regardless of age worried about the topic. “No matter what they came to me for, mostly everyone had issues with work-life balance,” she says. So, what is work-life balance and how do we know if we’re achieving a healthy proportion?

“There isn’t one definition of work-life balance,” Cohen begins. “It’s critical that the individual defines what that means to them. It’s very unique.”

According to Cohen, there are two myths: one, that there is a concrete definition of work-life balance, and second, that there is a uniform way to evaluate your progress.

“What I want for everyone is an overall feeling of personal and professional satisfaction,” Cohen says. “So, if we’re aware of our preferences and challenges that we might have, we can make deliberate choices that can move us toward that more balanced state.”

You must have a clear vision of what balanced means to you. Maybe this means spending more time with friends, getting to the gym three times a week, or eating a healthy diet. “When they have that vision, that’s where we start looking at the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. Then in the coaching process we look at what’s preventing them from moving in that direction,” Cohen says.

In her book, Cohen discusses what she calls the “7 Keys to Work-Life Balance.” They include things like being clear in your priorities, setting boundaries, and engaging in self care. One thing you can do to have a healthier work-life balance today is to look at how you take care of yourself, Cohen says. If exercising, eating healthy, or seeing friends is essential to your work-life balance, make it a priority.

“We need to be well in order to do all that we need to do,” she says. Many assume that pouring everything into your work without taking care of yourself will lead to better work when in fact, the opposite is usually true. Becoming a better you always leads to better work.

As the summer is winding down and football season is just around the corner, I challenge you all to think about your definition of a balanced life. What is your vision? I also recommend you pick up Julie Cohen’s book Your Work, Your Life… Your Way to find more tips to enhance your own work-life balance. As for me, I’ll be soaking up the last of the sunshine and setting my own goals for the upcoming school year.

LISTS: 3 Awesome Handmade School Supplies

Nothing excites me more than brand new school supplies. Only, now I’d rather get handmade supplies from a hardworking artist than go to Staples or OfficeMax for generic products that everyone else has. Here are three items I found on Etsy that have me salivating! – Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Personalized Chevron Flat Notecards – $8.75Living away from home? You really should write your grandmother a note every now and then. These notecards have a chevron (zig zag, really) design on top and your name at the bottom. Very chic, melindayingling.

Handbook for the Recently Deceased Journal – $29.95

This blank journal is made by Etsy seller n3do, and looks just how I remember the Beetlejuice prop. It’s a little pricey but can you imagine how cool it would be to take notes in your Philosophy of the Afterlife class in this journal? Pssh. Sign me up!

Personalized Zebra Computer Sleeve – $27.95

How cute is this computer case made by Etsy user BeachyMommas?

Picture it: there you are in the student center or the computer lab and you realize everyone has the very same computer you do. But lucky you, instead of some generic black computer case, you’ve got this flashy sleeve with your very own initials embroidered on the flap. Now you’re set (apart), baby!

BELLE’S GUIDE: Try These 5-Minute Mood Boosters!

Welcome to Belle’s Guide to Work & Life, a biweekly column written by Belle Rose. The column will run every other Thursday and cover topics like how to behave in the workplace. You can follow Belle by adding her on Facebook.

One of my favorite mantras goes like this: “Do something valuable today. You are exchanging one day of your life for it.”

Last Tuesday morning I was awakened by a mind-numbing, eye-torturing migraine. Everything hurt: my head, my neck, even my teeth. My only motivation for getting myself up was to wash the pain away with a strong cup of coffee, but when I removed the pot to fill it with water I realized that the $9 machine I purchased from Target was broken. In hindsight I’m not surprised even though I had bragged about my bargain, but I was certainly angry in the moment. Determined not to let this ruin my day, I took two Excedrin Migraine, showered, and drove myself through Dunkin Donuts for a quick fix. The day was looking up. As the bell rang to signal first period and students would soon be entering my classroom, I noticed beads of sweat forming on my forehead. The air conditioning was broken.

Ever have mornings like these? It seems as if everything goes wrong. Every time you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, it’s crushed by an oncoming train. By the end of that day, I wanted to hit stop, rewind, and do it all over again no matter what the butterfly effect would be. Everything about that morning was just off. I didn’t want to do anything valuable. I wanted a complete redo. Unfortunately, the nature of most of our jobs leaves little time to regroup when we’re feeling frazzled. Most of us are expected to be bright-eyed and smiling all day. In my case, one hint at a bad mood evokes a chorus of thirty students asking, “What’s wrong?!”

Here are a few ideas to brighten your mood when you only have five minutes.

  1. Pour yourself a cup of hot tea. Spend five uninterrupted minutes breathing in the aroma and allowing the warm liquid to soothe your soul.
  2. On a sheet of paper, list five things you are grateful for or five things you are looking forward to. If you have time, do both. A simple exercise in gratitude will help your brain to fire feel-good chemicals and reduce the stress-producing ones.
  3. Turn on one of your favorite upbeat songs. Sing and dance the stress away! If you can’t manage this due to space or sound restraints, a good pair of headphones and visualization goes a long way. It truly is the thought that counts.
  4. Close your eyes. Acknowledge the fact that you had a bad morning and then gently remind yourself that you are more than capable of making the rest of the day productive. Give yourself three reasons why you are competent and three ways in which the day is going to get better. Speak to yourself as you would a good friend. Do not bash yourself. Sometimes a refreshing pep talk is all you need and often you have to be the one to deliver it.
  5. If the above fails, visit Pinterest and view the ‘Animals’ category.

After completing one of these five things, you should be good as new. Remember, your day is too valuable to spend the entire thing in a bad mood. Migraines happen, coffee pots break, but that doesn’t mean you have to exchange an entire day of your life for it.

Your turn! What do you do when you have only five minutes to modify your mood?

Successful People Use Their Mornings Well

By Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

Look, I get it. Waking up sucks. Who wants to get out of their nice, cozy bed and head out the door to class or work? Certainly not this chick.

I set my work schedule so I don’t have to get up any earlier than 9 a.m. and most mornings, I reset my alarm for 9:50 a.m., giving me just a few minutes to get up, get dressed and get to the bus stop.

But maybe I go about this all wrong. Maybe I should get up early, read a few newspapers online and figure out what I need to accomplish during the day.

Laura Vanderkam, a journalist and author who writes about time management and finding career success, wrote What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, which was published as an eBook by Penguin. An excerpt of her book has been published by FastCompany.com.

“That is ultimately the amazing thing about mornings–they always feel like a new chance to do things right,” writes Vanderkam. “A win scored then creates a cascade of success. The hopeful hours before most people eat breakfast are too precious to be blown on semiconscious activities. You can do a lot with those hours. Whenever I’m tempted to say I don’t have time for something, I remind myself that if I wanted to get up early, I could. These hours are available to all of us if we choose to use them.”

Now I feel inspired, like I need to get up early and dress for battle before most people are even eating breakfast. Tomorrow? I’ll probably hit the damn snooze button until I’m running out the door.

Do you think you’ll try updating your morning ritual to boost your chances of success?

[Image: Flickr user Arvind Grover]