How to Avoid Becoming the Office Doormat

It's OK not to take on every assignment.

It happens to the most well-intentioned among us. You're asked to do something at work outside of your normal duties and you willingly agree. You do a good job and the following week you are asked by the same person to do something else. This continues for a long time and you eventually begin to feel overburdened and as if you're being taken advantage of. 

You're probably asking how you got yourself in this position and how to get out of it. The first step is recognition. If you feel you've fallen into this role, you can take action to remove yourself from it. No one wants to feel that they've lost control of their work balance, and this can quickly happen when you are being walked over.

Focus on you. If you've landed in this position, it may be due to insecurity. Are you afraid to disappoint others? That may be why you are taking on every new task given to you. You need to learn to value your contributions and time, which will allow you to do what you need to do to be successful without compromising your priorities, utmost of which should be caring for yourself.

Ask for help. When you are constantly giving to others, you're probably not asking for much help. That can be damaging to your well-being as well as from a time perspective. Asking for help does not exhibit weakness; rather, it shows that you acknowledge you don't know the answer to everything and it's okay to ask for assistance. You're not supposed to know all the answers! This also sends the signal to your colleagues that you are not afraid to ask for help, and you will not be the one doing all the grunt work.

Learn to say no. This is a tough one, but it's an essential skill in the workplace. Those who set up boundaries tend to have a more positive experience on the job. Contrary to what you may think, saying "yes" to every request can give your co-workers a negative impression. They may see that as an inability on your part to prioritize overall and maintain a balance. It's much better to be honest up front when you do not have time for something. If you wait until a day or two before a deadline to tell someone you won't have time to complete something instead of saying "no" at the outset, you will also damage your reputation. If this is hard for you to do, start by offering to do smaller tasks that take very little time, say five to ten minutes, and go from there.

Evaluate your to-do list. Learn to think critically about your to-do list. What is absolutely essential and must be done today? What can wait until tomorrow? With constant access to email, we automatically think that every message warrants a response as soon as possible. However, continuously asking yourself the question "Does this really need to be done right now?" may yield surprising results and give you back a lot of your free time.

Cut back on your hours. If you're always working overtime and feel that you need to be the first one in the office and last one out, ditch that mentality. In most cases, you'll gain more respect for completing your work within your workday (with some exceptions of course), and if you don't, there's likely something wrong with your boss, management or company culture. If there are obstacles stopping you from getting your work done within normal work hours, think about how to slash them. Is there a barrage of meetings each day or people who are constantly coming to gossip with you and interrupt your work? These are two things you can skip or cut out by making the decision and sticking with it.

In order to avoid the office doormat label, you first need to recognize your self-worth. Once you accept that your time is valuable and you deserve respect, you can begin to take back your time and energy and put it into your core work tasks and personal time in order to do things that matter to you. Don't let people take advantage of your kindness and willingness to give of your knowledge and time. It's not worth the long-term risk to your health or your professional reputation.


5 Clever Ways to Get a Job

Over the last few years, the job market has been pretty brutal. With so many job seekers vying over the same openings, competition has reached sky-high limits. In response, some candidates are going to crazy lengths to get noticed. Whether candidates submit their resume on a chocolate bar, perform a guitar solo about why they're the perfect fit for the job, film over-the-top YouTube videos that have gone viral, employers have seen just about everything.

As crazy as some of these situations sound, they have one common denominator: they worked. The candidates captured their target employers' attention and sometimes even landed the job.

While filming a video and making it go viral might be a bit impractical for you, there are some more realistic ways to get noticed. Here are five clever ways that, when implemented, are sure to make you stand out from your competition and help you land that coveted job offer.

1. Impress with Your Resume & Cover Letter

Both your resume and cover letter need to be perfect. This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed at how many people—qualified, competent people—lose job offers simply because of one lazy typo. Have a friend or trusted colleague take a look at what you've written. An extra 5 to 10 minutes can make the difference between securing an interview and being sent a “thanks, but no thanks” message from HR.
Better yet, use LiveCareer's Resume Builder to create an error-free, professional resume. Whether you're simply updating your resume or creating your first-ever resume, LiveCareer makes the writing process easy and fast.

2. Create an Online Profile

Hiring managers will likely Google you, so you need an online profile that accurately represents you as a professional—like LinkedIn. Your profile should match your resume, be full of job-specific keywords, and be 100 percent professional. Remember: you're not on Facebook. It's probably a good idea to delete that picture from your drunken weekend in Cancun—especially if it's your profile picture.

3. Get to Know the Right People
Getting your foot in the door can be as simple as knowing the right person. You'd be amazed at how many of your friends and acquaintances will know someone who's looking to hire a candidate with the same skills you have. Plus, they can also put in a good word for you with the hiring manager, which is icing on the cake.
Send out emails to former coworkers, ask around on Facebook, set up lunch meetings with social connections—do whatever it takes to keep your name on other peoples' minds.

4. Research the Company Website Beforehand

Once you secure an interview, take a moment to let out a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back. But keep in mind: the hardest part of your job search awaits you.
Answering questions about your previous experience just isn't enough anymore. Before your interview, spend at least one hour researching the company you're hoping to work for. Spend some time on their website, and do a little sleuthing about the industry. Having a few really good questions to ask about the position and company is only going make you shine even brighter than the candidate who's just relying on his or her previous experience.

5. Show Your Appreciation

Take a few minutes to write a thank-you note. As simple as it sounds, you'd be amazed at how many people pass up this last chance to sell themselves. It's also a great time to ask that really good question that you thought of after the interview was over.
While these tips may seem obvious, you'd be surprised how many of them are overlooked or just simply ignored. Apply them to your routine and are you're sure to get that awesome job you've been dreaming about in no time. And if you need some help, remember that LiveCareer has your back. Whether you need to write a resume, cover letter, or a simple thank-you note, LiveCareer has award-winning tools that streamline the process.

Physical and Emotional Changes Associated With Pain

As a fitness professional, you are highly likely to work with clients who have chronic and/or recurring pain. These clients need to be cleared for exercise by their physician. When they come to you, they will probably have completed or be currently involved with treatment from a licensed medical provider such as a physical therapist or chiropractor. You must remain within your scope of practice at all times and avoid any attempts to treat or diagnose pathological conditions or to provide medical advice.
To best assist clients who are experiencing chronic pain, you need to understand the bio-psycho-social paradigm and what that means in relation to program design, communication and expectations.
Chronic pain can have a global effect, creating stress in many of the body’s systems. The following list from Exercise is Medicine® Australia offers insight into what clients with chronic pain deal with on a daily basis.
  • increased attention to the painful area over other areas of the body
  • decreased activity levels and decreased tolerance for physical activity
  • “glitches” in the nervous system and brain that worsen sensations of pain in other areas of the body
  • depressed mood, increased anxiety and more feelings of helplessness
  • depressed immune system
  • guarded, compensatory and poorly coordinated movement
  • heightened stress response
  • an inability to relax, poor concentration and memory, and disturbed sleep
Source: Exercise is Medicine Australia 2014.
To read more about understanding the biological, psychological and social ramifications of pain, please see "The Many Dimensions of Pain" in the online IDEA Library or in the February 2016 print issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7.

International Employment Tips - What You Must Know

Getting a hold of the proper documents to work overseas may seem like an overwhelming, frightening idea. In actuality, it's pretty easy. Here is our guide to preparing for your overseas employment opportunity.
  1. Know Your Local Consulate
    If you're looking to work overseas, the consular should be your new best friend. A consular is by definition "An official appointed by a government to reside in a foreign country and represent his or her government's commercial interests and assist its citizens there (" More importantly, a consular is your ticket to obtaining all the entry/residency requirements you'll need to work in that country. This is where you apply for your visa or permit. Most countries position several consulate offices in each foreign country, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding one. For instance, if you're traveling to France from Australia, you'll look up the French Embassy in Australia who can in turn point you to your local consulate office. They can be referred to as a consulate, consular, or consulate general. No matter the title, it all means the same thing to you: easily processing your international employment status.
  2. Meet the Embassy
    A country's main presence in a foreign country is often an embassy. This is an important source of information for anyone who would like to travel or work overseas. They can also assist you in finding the nearest consulate office. An Embassy is also sometimes called a "High Commission."
  3. Working Overseas vs. Playing Overseas
    To travel overseas as a tourist and to travel overseas as an employee are two very different situations. Be aware that the entry procedures and requirements are usually not the same. For instance, in many cases, tourists do not need a visa, permitted their stay does not last longer than a certain time. When entering the country as an employee, not only does the visit often last longer, requiring a different visa, but the government might have a say in the activities you can engage in while in the country.
  4. Be in Touch With Your Employer
    Your employer overseas will most likely be responsible for obtaining your work permit. And without a work permit, you will not be able to process your visa application. Your employer will also have to produce a contract of employment that determines your length of stay in the country and other documents concerning their business validity and your employment.
  5. Allow Yourself Extra Time
    This process can be very time consuming, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete the visa/work permit process. Processing time can take anywhere from 2 days in some countries to 6 months in others. Your employer will have to arrange for certain documents (and their approval) as well before you can even begin applying for your visa. If you rush through the procedures you could miss an important step and have to start from scratch.
  6. Documents to Have Available
    Every country requires different documentation for the visa/work permit application. Some items/documents to have on hand include:
    1. a valid passport
    2. 2 or more passport size photos
    3. documentation from your employer
    4. a statewide criminal history record check
    5. a medical certificate

  7. Some European Work Related Vocabulary
    • The Schengen Visa: allows you to move freely within the Schengen Area, comprised of 15 European countries.
    • EEA: European Economic Area: comprised of the 15 members of the EU plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. The EEA agreement includes a provision for the "free movement of persons." This allows nationals to live, work, study, and establish businesses in any other member countries with little to no obstacles. Additional information can be found at :

  8. A Country-by-Country Guide
    Here is some basic, general information on what you'll need to work overseas. However, information varies on a case-by-case, country-by-country basis. It depends on what country you're coming from, what country you're going to, your job description, and your length of stay. Information also changes quite often, especially as security issues are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, it is always best to contact your local consulate or embassy, which you'll need to do anyway when applying for your visa.

Skills gap between younger and older Singapore workers

Singapore's younger adults rank highly in numeracy, literacy and problem-solving skills, a major international study has found, but the older generation lags considerably behind. While this reflects the progress in education and training over the decades here, this "skills gap" also highlights that more needs to be done to upgrade the skills of older workers, said experts.
The study of 34 economies by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which included Singapore for the first time, also linked higher skill levels to better wages here, another reason for older workers to keep improving themselves.
Still, employers place more premium on qualifications, and a better balance should be found, believes OECD director for education and skills Andreas Schleicher.
The results of OECD's Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (Piaac), which also involved countries such as Australia, Japan and South Korea, were released yesterday. Those aged between 16 and 34 in Singapore ranked second behind the Finns in problem-solving using digital tools, fifth in numeracy, which was also topped by Finland, and ninth in literacy, which was led by Japan.
But older adults here aged 45 to 65 performed lower than the OECD average. They were ranked 31st in literacy and numeracy skills and 18th for problem-solving.
The difference in scores between the younger and older generation here is also among the widest when compared with other countries. One reason for the gap, OECD said, could be the survey being conducted in English here. Almost eight in 10 respondents aged above 35 here said they were not native speakers.
Mr Ng Cher Pong, chief executive of the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, believes the difference reflects the marked improvement in Singapore's education and training systems over the last 50 years - including the ramp-up in schools and programmes.
But it is "hugely important" that Singapore finds ways to upgrade the skills of older workers, such as through schemes like SkillsFuture, said Dr Schleicher.
SkillsFuture is a national initiative to equip workers with skills.Doing so could "dramatically raise" Singapore's productivity and keep them employable, he said.
He highlighted how the survey, which involved 5,468 citizens and permanent residents, found that wage levels here were strongly linked to skill and education levels.
An increase of about 48 points in literacy proficiency scores is linked to a 12 per cent increase in hourly wages, almost double the OECD average. About 3.2 extra years in education bring a more than 30 per cent rise in wages - more than double the OECD average.
"Singapore employers pay quite a lot of attention to formal qualifications," said Dr Schleicher. But this might not be a good indicator of one's proficiency.
"It's the use of skills that drives productivity, not years of education," he added.

Are 10 Million Americans About To Be Screwed Out Of Their Pensions? (KR)

Earlier this spring, I presented my short call on Kroger (KR), arguing that America’s largest supermarket chain was feeling the increased pressure of an intensely competitive food retail environment. That’s the plain vanilla rationale behind my bear case. But there’s more.
One of the more distressing risks lurking beneath the surface—one that represents a threat not only to shareholders, but to pensioners as well—is Kroger’s exposure to a large number of multi-employer pension plans (MPPs). The company intentionally keeps these plans in an underfunded status and this has the potential to backfire on the company. In addition to increasing annual costs, the company’s total exposure to these plans, in another downturn, is potentially debilitating.
Kroger’s woes are emblematic of an affliction plaguing pension funds across the country. It’s the same old story – chronic underfunding, as the swelling ranks of retirees overtake a smaller base of currently contributing employees.
To underscore the issue at hand, MPPs are the primary source of retirement income for over ten million active, inactive and retired workers and their survivors. A number of these pension plans, much like their state-run brethren, are severely underfunded. In a report to Congress in 2013, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) estimated that MPPs have $757 billion in pension benefit liabilities, $391 billion of which are unfunded obligations. No small potatoes.
Kroger is one of the largest unionized employers in the United States. About 375,000 of their employees are covered by roughly 300 collective bargaining agreements. Kroger employees participate in 36 multi-employer pension plans (MPP), with a combined $70 billion in assets and $100 billion in associated liabilities.
Therein lays the problem.
A survey conducted by Segal Consulting found that 53% of the retail food MPPs in the survey were in the “red zone.” This means the plans either had “immediate and significant funding problems” or would be unable “to pay benefits within 15 to 20 years.” Underscoring the severity of the issue, in testimony before Congress in 2014, Kroger’s Vice President of Pension Investments and Strategy, Scott Henderson, called “the uncertain fate of the multiemployer system” a “huge concern.”
Here’s what’s even more disconcerting. Projected MPP shortfalls don’t account for what could happen to the plans in a protracted financial market downturn. Get this: Milliman data shows that every 4% decline in asset returns pushes MPP funding status down by 15% to 20%. That’s an enormous amount of sensitivity. And it’s significant cause for concern.
The story gets worse as a protracted stock market downturn may be imminent. Consider a comprehensive study of historical equity returns conducted by hedge fund founder Cliff Asness of AQR. Asness shows that over the next 10 years, stock returns will likely only average around 0.5% plus inflation. So call it 2% per year. In this scenario, these pension plans would see their funding ratios precipitously drop by 20% to 30%. In other words, an 80% funded plan today, will drop to 50% to 60% funding within a few years, just as the number of inactive retirees begins to go parabolic.
A perfect storm.
Making matters worse, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that if a major MPP becomes insolvent the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s insurance fund would exhaust within two or three years. This means that if (and when) MPP-participating employers fail to pay for the full withdrawal liabilities, due to reasons such as a bankruptcy or going out of business, the responsibility for the unfunded liabilities shifts to the employers that remain active in the plan. As a result, the remaining employers in the multi-employer pension plan are forced to pick up the tab of many people who never even worked for the company and may have worked for a competitor or in a different industry.
In Kroger’s case, the company’s rising healthcare and pension costs can’t be swept under the rug. Just last month, the Treasury Department denied an application put forth by a critically-impaired MPP, the Central States Plan, in which Kroger employees participate, to reduce benefits for covered employees arguing that the plan did not “satisfy the statutory criteria.” Investment return assumptions of 7.5% were deemed “not reasonable” and the benefit cuts not “equitably distributed.”
This is not an issue that can be kicked down the road. Unless something drastic is done, millions of Americans counting on their pensions will be left outside in the cold.
Kroger’s investors haven’t yet grasped the gravity of the situation. In 2015, Kroger’s pension liability ballooned 61% to $2.9 billion. That number will go even higher this year, hindering the company’s ability to grow and likely leading to lower equity value.
Little is being done right now to solve Kroger’s many issues. Investors would do well to get out before it’s too late. We see 20%-40% downside for shares of Kroger from current levels. Not to mention the massive potential pain ahead for pensioners.

Howard Penney is a managing director and restaurants analyst for Hedgeye, an independent investment research and online financial media firm based in Stamford, Connecticut.

8 smart phrases that will make you better at networking

A simple hello can lead to a million things. Know the right phrases to be successful.
Networking events are a great opportunity to make valuable contacts, professionally and personally. But many people stress over the pressure of trying to connect quickly and impressively with complete strangers. Some even stay away because they can't get comfortable with the idea.
It's definitely a situation that can prey on any insecurities you have, but if you prepare well, you can know that you won't be caught in a long weird silence or trying to think of something to say that doesn't sound awkward. Then you'll be ready not just for networking events but for company picnics, conferences, cocktail parties, and any other social events that take you outside your circle of family and friends.
Here are eight perfect icebreakers to learn and practice.

1. Hi, my name is . . .

Start with the basics. Put out your hand, flash a genuine smile, make eye contact, and introduce yourself. From there the person you're talking with will almost certainly share their name, and you're already off to a good start.

2. What do you do?

People love to talk about themselves. If you're inquisitive and curious, most people will pick it up from there and carry the talking. Again, it's a question of starting with the basics.

3. What business are you in?

A slightly different version of "What do you do?" Either can be appropriate, depending on the event and the person. You may even want to use both. If you learn that you're talking with an accountant, you can ask, "Are you with an accounting firm, or do you work for a business in a different industry?"

4. What do you like about your job?

Open-ended questions like this are a great follow-up, because they probably can't be answered in a couple of words. It reinforces positivity and communicates interest in their work.

5. How did you get started in this kind of work?

You can learn so much about someone if you hear even a bit about their journey instead of focusing exclusively on the here and now. And when people start telling their story, things can really get interesting.

6. What are you hoping to get out of this event?

Obviously this isn't a question to ask at, say, a birthday party for a board member, but if the focus is professional, it's worth a try. It gives the other person a chance to communicate something about themselves indirectly--is their answer funny, sarcastic, sincere, dismissive?

7. I love your work.

If you're talking with someone well-known, expressing admiration for their work can be a good starting place. From there, you can pivot into something more open-ended, like "I heard you speak about your new project at last year's conference--how is that going?" or "One of the ideas in your book really helped me through a rough patch . . . "

8. What advice would you give someone just starting out in your industry?

With an industry veteran or older person, an open-ended hypothetical like this can lead you to valuable insights. You may also want to ask how the industry has changed during the course of their career.
The bottom line is this: Be interested in learning more about others, and you'll always have something to ask. Be willing to engage in give and take and give something of yourself as well, and you'll soon wonder what it is you were so intimidated by.

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