Careers to Pursue in Photography

Careers to Pursue in Photography

People take pictures for a number of reasons. Some people click photos to capture memories while some click photos as it is their hobby. It depends on person to person how they look upon photography. Nowadays people upload their photos on the social networking sites. There are many education centers which teach you the basics of digital photography nowadays. But many people do not know that photography is a very good option for building their career. Suppose you get a diploma degree in photography, do you know what the next step you need to take is? The next step is you need to search for a job. There are many scopes of jobs as a photographer. All the photographers who are ambitious to gain success must know about the scopes of photography. The photographers join a job in order to apply their special skills and then master them.
Freelance photography
For starting a career in photography freelancing is the best way. A lot of people start their career as freelancers. The meaning is that they do not work under any company. They work for their own. They cater the need of as many clients as they want. You go around to the business companies and get the details of the work. You can opt for freelancing when you want to do photography as a secondary income. You can pursue seasonal activities like wedding photography or photography of festivals. They can work either full time or part time according to their wish. Nobody can dominate the freelancers. For this you can choose the best digital camera under 500 dollars.
For media house
Photographers can do the photography for newspapers, magazines and media houses. They can also pursue the career of photojournalism. They can do fashion photography for magazines. There are many scopes of photography for example
• Outdoor photography,
• Still life photography,
• Sports photography,
• Portrait photography,
• Nature and wildlife photography etc.
Advertising photography
When you have gained much experience in this area, you can do photography for advertising. Big companies hire you to click photographs for the advertisement of their photos.
Fine art photography
You can also opt for the profession of fine art photography. You can shoot the various elements of nature. These are generally set up in exhibitions and fests.
You have a lot of scope in photography careers. You must know how to choose the best digital camera for your work.
For pursuing photography careers, you need to know how to select a good camera under 500 dollars. Search for the best digital camera under 500.

Employment Tips for Getting Your First Bartending Job

Employment Tips for Getting Your First Bartending Job

Dress Code
First impressions are created within the first ten seconds of meeting someone. Dress according to the bars dress code for bartenders. If a bar requires their bartenders to wear black and white, go to apply and interview in black and white. If a bar requires their bartenders to wear khaki pants and a golf shirt, apply in khaki pants and the same color shirt, etc. etc. You must look your best! You should be recently bathed, have your hair combed and clothes clean and pressed and be on time. This applies to the application trip, as well as the interview. If you do not look appropriate, you may not be asked back to interview.
To Apply
Take a copy of your resume, social security card and driver's license. If your state requires a liquor serving permit, get on in advance. Some major hotels will ask for a background check. These are available at the police station, or courthouse for a minimum charge. Fill out the application completely and correctly. You may want to bring a written record of previous jobs, dates and references with you. Try to get your application to a manager. Do not leave it with the front desk or bartender.
The Interview
Get to the interview at least ten minutes early. Being late will usually cause a manger not to hire you. Don't take a friend along to the interview. Don't have a drink while waiting for the manager. Don't smoke during the interview. Don't judge a bar by its appearance. A busy bar generally means good tips. The only bad bar is a bar with no customers. Be positive and confident. Most experienced bartenders have confidence in themselves. You should too. Don't make unreasonable demands on the bar manager. You need to be flexible and bend your schedule around the bar managers. Don't make statements such and "I need to make at least $100.00 a night". Don't be too choosy in getting your first job. Take the job, see how much money you can make and get at least thirty days of on the job experience.
Follow Up
If a manager says they will call you back in two days, wait until the third day and call them to see if they have made a decision. Tell them you have been very busy and thought you may have missed their call. Be persistent. Bar managers get a lot of applications from many unqualified people. By being persistent, they know you really want to work for them. Eagerness is a good quality and may cause them to hire you. Be polite when calling bars back and understand that bar managers are juggling many tasks at once. You are not their main priority.
Follow these tips and you will be sure to get your first job in no time!
Learn the basics of beer, wine, drink making and bartending. Discover the fast and easy way at

Get The Holiday Time Off You Need Without Hurting Your Team

Get The Holiday Time Off You Need Without Hurting Your Team

As the holiday season approaches, many people are starting to think about time off. Planning ahead and being organized is always best, but sometimes, plans go awry or a friend decides to get married at the last minute, and you need to negotiate with your colleagues for some premium time off. What should you say to secure that all-important flexibility?

Acknowledge You're Asking for a Favor
If your organization has a "no time off" policy during certain periods or if time needs to be planned months in advance, make it clear that you understand you are asking for something extraordinary and be prepared to explain why this need does not result from your poor planning. In other words, if you decided to book a trip because the price was right, even though you knew you were working and wouldn't easily be able to secure vacation time, you are probably out of luck and you may be burning your bridges. Depending on how firm the policy at work, if there's a family situation or event outside of your control and planning, it's fair to lobby for an exception to the rule in most circumstances. When you ask, explain the extraordinary circumstances and make it clear you would never otherwise ask for an exception to the rule.

Assume Everyone Needs Something
If it's up to you to find a stand-in so you can be off, keep in mind: the first rule of negotiating anything is that everyone should walk away feeling like a winner. It's unlikely you're the only one in the office with an unexpected event or situation. If you need Thanksgiving off and it's important to you, offer to work New Year's Eve for the colleague who's hoping to get engaged that night. If you find another person with an equally pressing need for time off and you can help each other, everyone wins.

Up the Ante
Assuming you cannot find someone to make an even swap for holiday time off, ramp up the stakes. Offer to work someone else's holiday weekend in the future, or take an extra turn or two doing an unpopular task. For example, you could suggest you take on your colleague's clean-up duty for the next week, or offer to work that person's late nights for a certain amount of time. Sweeten the pot as much as necessary to sway your colleagues and you may be able to win your time off.

Plan Ahead for Next Time
If these tactics fail, it's time to take a serious look at your work relationships. Maybe you're a valuable employee, but are you the colleague who doesn't give anyone the time of day until you need something, and then have no compunction about asking for a favor? Make some changes now, so next time, you'll have a better chance of convincing your colleagues to help you out in the future.

How can you make this change? Be exceptionally considerate at work. If your automatic reply is "no" when someone asks for something that inconveniences you, start to say "yes" instead. Offer to pitch in if co-workers look swamped and you have a little free time. When people ask you to switch shifts with them, do it, even when it's a little inconvenient for you. If you work remotely, make a point to connect with your colleagues regularly so you're more than a name on a screen.

Become the teammate everyone knows they can rely on to help out and it will be easier to convince co-workers to step up when you need a hand or a favor down the road.

HR Wants To Meet! What Do I Do?

HR Wants To Meet! What Do I Do?

You get the call or the email and your heart sinks to your feet. HR wants to meet with you. Unless you think a promotion or raise is in the works, a meeting with HR is usually something employees dread. But if you do some basic preparation, you can be ready for anything.

Here are some things HR may want to meet with you about, and what you should do: 

You complained about discrimination or harassment: HR must investigate if you complain about race, age, sex, religious, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, disability or other illegal discrimination or harassment. If they want to talk to you about your complaint, don't refuse! If you do, then you wasted your time complaining and they'll note that you refused to cooperate. Instead, go in prepared.

Gather your evidence and witness names supporting how you were singled out compared to others in a different category (race, age, sex, etc.), how you (and any others) were harassed compared to others in a different category, and any comments made related to you and others relating to your category. Make notes and take them with you so you don't forget anything.

Don't complain about "harassment" or "hostile environment" that isn't connected to race, age, sex, etc. General harassment and bullying aren't illegal, so you aren't protected against retaliation if you report these.

After the meeting, write up a summary of what you reported. Make sure you say the words, "age discrimination," "sexual harassment," "race-based harassment," "religious discrimination" or whatever specific type of discrimination you reported. If you don't, then HR may claim later you reported a personality conflict or bullying instead of something illegal.

Discipline: If you are being disciplined or investigated relating to potential discipline, don't freak out, storm out, or yell during the meeting. You don't want to compound the situation by being insubordinate. Instead, take good notes about the accusation. If you are asked to sign a document, sign and write something next to or above your name like, "as to receipt only, rebuttal to follow." Then wait until you are calm and prepare a businesslike response with any supporting documents and submit to HR.

If you are asked questions during the meeting, be truthful. Some employees lie or don't tell the whole truth because they panic. If you lie or are perceived as lying, you can be fired for that, whether or not you did what you are being accused of.

Crime: If you are being asked about a crime you committed, don't answer. It's time to contact a criminal defense attorney. Don't sign anything admitting to a crime. If HR or Loss Prevention tries to tell you that you can save your job if you admit to a crime, they are lying.

Termination: If you are being fired, stay calm. Don't sign anything they put in front of you. Instead, ask for a copy to take home and review. You aren't thinking straight. You may be asked to sign a severance agreement giving up any legal claims you may have. They may even stick something in there saying you can't work for a competitor. Even if it's "just" a disciplinary document, don't sign it. They can't make you do anything now. You don't work for them anymore. Take good notes of what they are saying is the reason for the termination. Get copies of anything you can documenting what they are saying.

Don't run out of the office shouting, try to get your coworkers to leave with you, or cause a scene. The work world is small and you may end up working with these folks again someday. If you don't understand a contract you're being asked to sign, or think you may have claims against the company, contact an employment lawyer in your state about your rights. For more about what to do if you think you're about to be fired, read my article here.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat. 

How to Salvage Your Career After an Employer's Epic Fail

How to Salvage Your Career After an Employer's Epic Fail

As we've all watched the story unfold around the Affordable Care Act (ACA) website disaster, one thing is certain: more than a few people will be named responsible for this large-scale failure. This kind of highly publicized mistake is mainstream. As the finger-pointing escalates, people (i.e. hiring managers) will remember the company - and its key players by name.

However, what about all the employees who did a great job, but will be "guilty by association" for working at the company that created such a mess?

When you find yourself in the unfortunate position of working for a company with a terrible reputation, you've got two challenges: 

  1. You need to prove you didn't contribute to the company's current status.
  2. You have to find a way to avoid throwing your employer under the bus when doing it.
It's not easy, but with the right mindset and some honest, yet tactful explanations, it can be done.

Remember: It's a Small Professional World

The first thing to keep in mind is in the professional world, we're all connected. You never know who might find yourself potentially working with (and for!) again someday. Be very careful not to say something that could get back to your co-workers or dysfunctional employer's management team.

Everyone Makes Mistakes, Your Day Could Come

Next, get yourself in the right frame of mind. Yes, you're angry and embarrassed by your employer's actions. In fact, I'm sure you can point to specific people in the organization who you're certain are responsible for the failure. But, before you start singing like a canary about their mistakes, ask yourself, "Am I so perfect I might never make a mistake that could be criticized publicly?"

Use the "Experience = Learn = Grow" Model to Explain What Happened

As you get out and network (Did I mention you should be networking since your company could end up going out of business as a result of their mistake?), people will want to hear all the nasty details. They'll push you for the inside scoop. Don't fall into the trap! Bring them back to reality by sticking to the facts. More importantly, use your employer's misfortune as a way to show your professionalism. Here are the key points to make:

  • This has been a "powerful" experience. Don't say "bad," and you can't say "good." Instead, use a word that conveys the intensity of the experience in a neutral tone.
  • We did our best, but mistakes occurred. Don't get into a long-winded explanation of the course of events that led to your employer's scandal. It opens you up to questions about each individual's participation and can put you in the hot seat. Remember the "telephone game" you used to play as a child? Words would get passed along until they were completely distorted. Well, the same can occur with whatever you say about your co-workers and management team's involvement in the failure.
  • I learned a lot and want to make the most of it. Focus on the lessons that can be taken away from the time you spent with this employer. Have at least three things you can point to that you'll do differently as a result of your experience. Better still, show how the failure has given you resolve to stay in the game and continue your work in this area.

Your Career Isn't Fatal - Unless You Choose It To Be

There's an old saying that applies here: "That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." Your employer's mistake won't kill your career. But, to keep your career on track, you will need to use the experience with a troubled company to showcase your professionalism and to prove yourself to be even more valuable to future employers as a result of it.

Are Hugs The New Handshake?

Are Hugs The New Handshake?

Depending on where you stand on the hug continuum, hugging at work is either inappropriately awkward or a great way to greet your colleagues. Unless your workplace actually prohibits hugging between colleagues, you may be left to your own devices when it comes to giving or accepting hugs at work.

Keep these tips in mind when it comes to hugging in the workplace:

Company culture and your comfort level
If your culture is very conservative and buttoned up, you'll likely want to stick with a firm, but warm handshake and avoid hugs to make the right impression. If people are constantly embracing as if they're reuniting with a long-lost relative, identify your comfort level, and don't hesitate to discourage hugs if you don't want to be embraced. The best deterrent is to make a point to extend your hand for a handshake. Of course, if you do feel harassed by the hugging culture or by a particular hugger, you can refer to policies and consult someone in human resources.

Types of hugs.
There are all types of hugs. These include the bear hug, the side hug and the quick embrace. You can assume, under most circumstances, any hug that embraces a little too long or tightly isn't appropriate in the workplace. If you're the hugging aggressor, make sure you aren't going overboard. If you hug at all, avoid any hug that could be labeled aggressive or passionate; both of these hugs definitely cross the line and are inappropriate in the workplace.

If you're a hugger, watch your colleague's body language.
Some people just don't feel comfortable being hugged at work. However, especially if you're the boss, it may be difficult for them to refuse your advance. (Think: sexual harassment.) Be careful and read your colleagues' body language. If people keep sticking their arms out at you in an effort to shake hands instead of hug and you grab them into a bear hug instead, assume you're crossing into dangerous territory. Don't create a toxic workplace by being overly affectionate.

People to hug or not hug.
Even if you're a compulsive hugger, it's best to avoid hugging subordinates. Keep your company's sexual harassment policy in mind and remember, if you're the boss, people may not feel comfortable asking you to stop hugging them. In some cases, you may be able to modify a hug into a warm pat on the back that may satisfy your need for a more intimate welcome and your colleague or subordinate's need to keep some distance. Keep in mind: even a "side hug" or shoulder pat can seem a little touch-y feel-y to some people.

Extraordinary situations
While hugging isn't a great idea at work, there are some situations where it might be considered okay to offer a quick hug as a way to congratulate or console someone. For example, if your colleague just won a huge award or promotion, or if he or she is retiring or leaving the company for good, it might be acceptable to offer a quick embrace. However, for some people, a "high five" will be more appreciated. Another situation when a hug may be okay is if someone just learned bad news and a consoling hug or quick shoulder squeeze just seems the most human response. Again – keep in mind, it may be best to console with words or offer flexibility and support instead of a hug.

Bottom line.
The safest bet is to avoid hugging in the workplace. You don't want to face sexual harassment charges for hugs you might consider innocent expressions of affection, but that come across as too touch-y feel-y to your colleagues or employees.

What It's Like To Be... An Indoor Cycling Instructor

What It's Like To Be... An Indoor Cycling Instructor

Every once in a while a craze takes hold and bundles of jobs are created as a result. One such fad over the last few decades has been indoor cycling, better known by its trademarked name Spinning. The fitness regimen was invented in 1989 in Santa Monica, Calif., by a South African-born fitness instructor known as Johnny G. He said he came up with the idea after a car nearly hit him while he was out riding his bicycle in Los Angeles, according to a report by the Independent

A quarter century later, indoor cycling studios are a global phenomenon ranging from the neighborhood gym to higher-end studios like SoulCycle. And according to Stevie, one of more than 125 instructors on the SoulCycle roster, working for the 20-gym chain is "like getting drafted by the Lakers." AOL Jobs recently met up with Stevie at a SoulCycle studio in the NoHo section of Manhattan. SoulCycle studios are currently located in New York and Los Angeles, but will be expanding soon to Boston and Washington, DC., and globally to London. Including support staff, the company has more than 500 employees.

The 48-year old instructor (Stevie doesn't share her last name when working) knows the exercise field. She's spent much of her career working as a trainer specializing in bodyweight composition and strategies on how to reduce body fat percentages. Before she started with SoulCycle, Stevie spent time as both a marathon runner and as a chef developing gluten-free recipes on a ranch in California, among other pursuits.

What makes SoulCycle stand out?

For starters, there's the price for the 45-minute class -- $32. And shat's before you account for the special shoes, water and SoulCycle apparel. The pricing has led many to lambast SoulCycle; the Daily Beast said the brand offers exercise for the "1 percent." But according to Stevie, the real reason SoulCycle stands out is because the practice "is not just a thing you do, it's a lifestyle."

Embracing the SoulCycle culture is in keeping with the all-inclusive sharing culture of the social media age, and instructors like Stevie make themselves available to their riders on Twitter. "We are here to create a personalized, supportive environment," she said.

And tweets are only the beginning of the close relationship she keeps with her riders; instructors often take on an aide-de-camp role in their riders' lives. Such a full-on lifestyle approach, according to Stevie, is only gaining traction in the fitness world as instructors are both expected to and want to do much more than what their hourly exercise schedule demands. "How you treat your public should matter," she said.

And so she said she regularly goes to coffee with her regular riders. "Some are friends, some are acquaintances but we are all a family. You walk into that room as an individual and you leave with the collective energy of 50 people," she explained. Stevie added she regularly talks about careers and relationships with her riders, both during and after class. But what's said in the studio, stays in the studio, she added.

It is still the norm for many indoor cycling instructors to balance their classloads with other work. But at SoulCycle, "it's a career, not a job." For her part, Stevie said she teaches an average of 15 classes a week, mostly focused at SoulCycle's NoHo studio. She said she puts in an average of three hours of preparation for each class, which means Stevie is working 60 hours a week.

Why does the instructing require so much prep time?

A class at SoulCycle, like at competitors including FlyWheel, is much more than a roomful of people riding on stationary bikes. The class could best be described as variety show, with the instructor taking on a range of identities as class host, equal parts Sonny and Cher, Bob Fosse and Jack LaLanne. And during class, Stevie proved herself to be a force on the microphone, pumping up her riders as they tried to keep up. The cycling room itself has no windows and is lit by grapefruit-scented candles. With smoke and heavy music, the studio feels like a night-club.

Stevie and her fellow instructors spend time organizing a highly stylized musical arrangement. She said her musical taste includes a broad range from Metallica and Thievery Corporation to DJs like Hardwell. The riding itself is unlike that at other studios, and makes use of SoulCycle's customized stationary bikes that facilitate a standing-riding posture. On top of that, the instructors work in some weightlifting to diversify the workout experience.

"All the instructors truly are special in their own way, but you need to be dynamic to lead a class," she said.

Given the money pouring into SoulCycle, are the instructors fairly compensated?

SoulCycle does not release information about its payscale. The company even forbade Stevie from discussing salaries at other indoor cycling studios. But she did say she feels "very valued" for her work. During the interview, a SoulCycle representative stepped in and demanded any discussion of money be curtailed.

Other instructors are more likely to find themselves scrambling to get by. According to, an indoor cycling instructor can expect to make $40 a class, while physical instructors of all kinds make an average salary of $31,090 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It's also a sector that's seeing explosive growth, and the BLS projects the field to grow 24 percent by 2020.

How do you break in?

Web searches provide information for local certification programs that can be completed in as little as one day. SoulCycle, however, asks for a higher bar to be met for its instructors. SoulCycle's website advertises information for live auditions, which ask applicants to then lead a class in front of other instructors. The process also involves an in-person interview.

Given the amount of money SoulCycle riders pay for their fitness, the riders have every reason to expect their instructors will meet a higher standard and the full package. And that's what Steve said is at the heart of the instructing. "We sweat it out, we laugh it out," she said. "It involves everything."

What is the best part of your job?:

"I always leave here feeling better than when I arrived. And the clothing."

What is the worst part of your job?:

"When I am off sometimes I am so tired I just want to stay in bed."

Tips to Survive a Yahoo-Style Bell Curve Performance Review

Tips to Survive a Yahoo-Style Bell Curve Performance Review

In another controversial leadership move, sources indicate Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer has implemented a bell curve performance rating system to identify and fire low-performing employees.

How it works:Employees and managers rate co-workers based on a set of criteria created by the company. Those that score lowest get fired.

Ironically, Microsoft just dumped this performance system because they found it was no longer effective. Executives stated it was having a negative impact on teamwork and collaboration.

Competitive Corporate Cultures Create Chaos (How about that for alliteration?)

The other challenge with this performance system is it can create a competitive, every-employee-for-themselves mentality that can hurt the growth of the company's talent pool. Example: If you knew hiring people more talented than you would push you down the bell curve, would you hire them? And, how generous would you be with the rating of your peers in the event they weren't equally generous? In short, while it might help the company in the short-term to get rid of people who are dead-weight, keeping a system like this long-term can have some nasty effects.

That being said, I've read many of the Fortune 500 still use this employee evaluation strategy. According to a BusinessWeek article, IBM has mathematical models of its own employees with an aim to improve productivity and automate management. They even have a word for it:
Fungible is a word used to describe workers who are "virtually indistinguishable from others" in terms of the value of their contributions in the workplace. You see, IBM's study is enabling them to identify top performers from average ones, with the latter being fungible – and I would assume that translates into expendable as well.
I'd also argue that a lot of medium and even small businesses use it too. Why? It's the easiest way for them to make room for new talent. Out with the old and in with the new.

Tips to Survive a Bell Curve Performance Review

If you want to keep your job (you may not like it), but here's what to do:

1) Remember that you are being rated by humans who take their own needs into consideration when evaluating you. 

While most employers won't admit it, people are evaluated on their performance based on three things AND in this order:
  • Personality - how likable you are and easy to work with.
  • Aptitude - your ability to adapt to doing it their way.
  • Experience - your knowledge and skills used to execute the job.
This explains why the person who has less experience than you and continues to make mistakes -- but is the life of the office -- stays while you go.

Does this stink? Yes. Is it fair? No. But, welcome to the world of work - discrimination is our reality.

2) Be a specialist - just make sure your specialty makes life easier for those rating you.

The surest way to stay at the top of the curve is to solve a problem or alleviate a pain for your co-workers and managers. When you make their jobs/lives easier, they want to keep you around.

That really annoying customer who needs to be talked to daily - volunteer to do it. The project nobody wants to tackle, say "Bring it on!" When you do the tough stuff, people keep you around.

3) Go one step past what's expected - and don't make a big deal about it.

Nobody likes a brown-nose, but we do like it when people make sure a project is done well and on time. We like it even more if they find a way to go just a little bit beyond what was expected as a sign of attentiveness. Exceeding expectations without making it look like it was done to score points is the key.

Manager asks for a project in three days? Get it done in two. Co-worker needs help with a project and asks to get on your calendar? Drop what you are doing (if you can) and help them right away. These little gestures go a long way.

Never forget you're a business-of-one ... and the customer keeps you in business.

I wish I could tell you that keeping your head down and doing a good job was enough these days to stay out of the firing zone, but it's not. We are all businesses-of-one. Our customers are the managers and co-workers who are filling out those "customer satisfaction surveys" the Bell Curve Performance Rating process provides them. To keep your job, you have to serve those customers in a way that ensures they are kind come review time.

8 Ways to Finish the Year Strong

8 Ways to Finish the Year Strong

As the days get shorter and the calendar moves closer to a new year, many begin to think about their new-year resolutions and plan for how to start things off right in January. Ideally, before you jump ahead to 2014, it's a good idea to decide how to make the most of the current year so you're well positioned to start the new year off right.

What can you do now to plan ahead so you'll be ready to excel next year? 

1. Improve your habits.

Are you the colleague who annoys everyone because you are constantly late to work and can't be counted on to get anything done on time? Take a good, close look at your work habits and think about how you could improve them now so you can really start the new year with a fresh approach.

Even if you're not causing trouble at work, think about what habits you can change. Have you been eating a ton of junk food, even though you promised yourself to adapt a healthy diet? Are you staying up way too late on a regular basis? Think about what habits you have that you can try to change to help yourself feel better and be more productive at work and in the rest of your life.

2. Set goals.

When you saw the calendar change to November, did you get a feeling of dread because you haven't accomplished most of the goals you set out to achieve in 2013? Or, are you like many in the workforce: did you forget to set any goals at all? As the saying goes, "You'll never get there if you don't know where you're going." You definitely "can't get there from here" until you decide where you want to end up, and now is the time to identify some plans so you won't be in this position next year at this time.

3. Improve productivity.

How can you get your work done faster? If you're not already asking yourself this question, now is the time to start. If you can accomplish more in less time, you'll free up hours for projects or interests you don't think you have time to consider and be able to make a better impression on those you need to impress. Some key time wasters include: excessive email checking, not prioritizing projects and spending a lot of time gossiping around the water cooler or on the Internet. Start tracking your time on these activities and you may be surprised by how many hours you can recover from your day.

4. Learn something new.

Have you thought about how you could use some of your free time to learn something new? In a competitive environment at work, one way to get ahead is to put in extra effort and, in the process, to make yourself more marketable as a valued employee.

5. Identify a mentor.

If you have new goals for 2014, you may decide it's a good idea to find a mentor or two who may be willing to help support you as you try to accomplish them. The best mentors are willing to invest their time and energy in you, and can expect to learn something in return. Consider actively seeking someone to serve in this role.

6. Extend your relationships.

Is there someone you would love to get to know better, but you've never made the effort? Maybe it's a colleague at work, or a someone in your professional organization. What can you do to get to know the person better? Make a point to invite him or her to join you for coffee or lunch, or attend an industry networking event together. Never forget that your in-person relationships are key to your professional success.

7. Improve your digital footprint. 

There's no time like the present to ramp up your digital presence. If you've been hesitating to get a LinkedIn profile, or you never bothered to take a professional photo to use online, now is the time. Employers are turning to social media to source candidates and to learn more about you. What will they find? It's up to you to feed content to Google so a search of your name online results in information you want people to know about you.

8. Step up. 

It's up to you to get things done, and you won't accomplish anything without making an effort. Look for opportunities to take on interesting projects and make it clear to your supervisor that you are prepared to take on new challenges if you want to advance in your organization.

Will A Conversation I Record At Work Land Me In Jail?

Will A Conversation I Record At Work Land Me In Jail?

In light of the arrest of a South Carolina government employee for tape recording a conversation between co-workers, I thought I'd discuss a question I'm asked all the time in my law practice: Can I record a conversation with my employer?

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer to this question, and a mistake can land you in jail. Illegal tape recording can have both criminal and civil penalties. The employee in South Carolina faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. My advice is almost always: When in doubt, don't. 
Still, many employees want to record a boss or HR at work, and there are good reasons to do so. If you have a sexual harasser, it's handy to catch them red-handed. It's hard to deny something a judge or jury can hear in the harasser's own voice. Some employees want to record meetings with HR to make sure they get all the important information or to have evidence of the reason given for termination or discipline. Other employees want to get evidence of discrimination or other illegal practices of the employer.

Here's what you need to know about recording conversations at work:

One-party consent: In most states, as long as you're a participant in the conversation, you can record at will. South Carolina is one of these states, but the employee who was arrested taped a conversation between other employees, not herself. That's not allowed, even in one-party consent states

All-party consent: Twelve states, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, require all parties to the conversation to consent to being taped. Hawaii, a one-party consent state, requires all-party consent if the device is installed in a private place. A Florida government employee was arrested earlier this year for giving a reporter a tape recording of a conversation she had with a supervisor. These laws are sometimes referred to as "two-party consent" laws, but if there are three people in the conversation, all three must consent. For a detailed state-by-state survey of workplace surveillance laws, SHRM has a very thorough (89-page) document that can give you more details on your state law. The Digital Media Law Project has another handy state-by-state resource here.

Expectation of privacy: You can almost always record conversations in public areas, because the courts say there's no "expectation of privacy" in those places. Whether or not you are a party to the conversation, if it's out there in public, you may be allowed to tape it. Here's where it gets tricky. Many courts have held that there's little or no expectation of privacy in the workplace. There are cases saying, for instance, that a party to a conference call has no expectation of privacy.

As an example, cases in my home state of Florida on the expectation of privacy at work say things like: "Society does not recognize an absolute right of privacy in a party's office or place of business." "[A]lthough defendant may have had reasonable expectation of privacy in his private office, that expectation was not one which society was willing to accept as reasonable or willing to protect." "Society is willing to recognize a reasonable expectation of privacy in conversations conducted in a private home. However, this recognition does notnecessarily extend to conversations conducted in a business office."

The problem I have with relying on cases like these to tape at work is the use of weasel-words like "necessarily" and "absolute" and "reasonable." These cases are very fact-specific and that means a court could still find that your boss or coworker had an expectation of privacy. If you get it wrong, you can end up in jail. That Florida employee who was arrested for taping in a public building should give you pause about relying on these "no expectation of privacy" cases too heavily.

Retaliation: If you record a conversation to document illegal discrimination or illegal harassment (we're talking harassment or discrimination based on race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy, or other protected category, not bullying), then you may or may not be protected against retaliation by your employer. The courts have split on this issue. Depending on your state, your employer may be allowed to fire you for recording a conversation at work.

To summarize, you can probably tape a conversation at work that you're part of as long as you live in one of the 38 one-party consent states. You can also possibly tape a conversation that's in a public area (lobby, office or conference room with doors open, stairwell). You can maybe tape a conversation in the office behind closed doors. If you get it wrong, you're in big trouble, so be careful.

My best recommendation in all-party consent states continues to be, when in doubt, pull out your recorder and turn it on. Say, on the recording, "You don't mind if I tape this do you?" If the other person or people say they don't mind, keep recording. If anyone objects, turn it off. Pull out a pad of paper and a pen and take good notes instead. No potential case against your employer is worth risking jail time. 

7 Things The Ballet Can Teach Us About Work

7 Things The Ballet Can Teach Us About Work

I love the fall season in New York. Everything seems to come back to life once September rolls around and the arts kick into high gear, igniting the city with blasts of creative energy. People begin flocking to music, theater and dance performances.

A few weeks ago, I went to see the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater during its first visit to New York in five years. The SFB is America's oldest professional company and has achieved great acclaim for its overall excellence and emphasis on new ballet choreography.

The thrilling three-part program I saw, a mixed bill of two classically oriented dances ("Trio" and "Suite en Blanc") and a contemporary one ("Ghosts"), was utterly captivating. 

Ballet Is a Microcosm of Successful Approaches to Work

Are you familiar with the famed song "At the Ballet" from the award-winning Broadway musical, A Chorus Line? It depicts ballet (and ballet lessons) as an antidote to a problem-riddled childhood because, as the chorus says, "Everything was beautiful at the ballet."

Well, everything is beautiful at the ballet. But that exquisite perfection is the result of a great deal of creative intelligence, effort and teamwork.

As I watched and admired SFB's virtuosic performances and lush costumes, sets and music, it struck me that the total package encapsulated all the values and steps I believe make for career success. Here they are:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score's rhythm and emotion and the choreographer's instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.

We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others' concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly "present" to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They're also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many stepsTop ballet dancers don't think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage. The SFB website explains: "Dancers' lives are full of daily ballet technique classes and rehearsals. A typical workday can start with an hour-long class, followed by four to six hours of rehearsal, often concluding with a two-hour evening performance.

"It takes roughly 8 to 10 years of training to become a professional ballet dancer. Training ideally begins when a student is between the ages of 7 and 10. Beginners attend technique class once or twice a week. By the time a student is 15 years of age, he or she will be taking 10-15 classes per week."

There are no shortcuts to achieving excellence. Keeping your footing while spinning and performing gravity-defying ballet acts requires sustained focus, practice and perseverance. So does developing and executing elegant, simple and helpful solutions in other fields.

"A large part of a ballet dancer's job is to make the difficult look easy, says the SFB site. "Ballet dancers strive to create the illusion of effortlessness." Continuous effort while holding the bar high also enable workers in other fields to create masterful products and services.

3. Collaborate face-to-faceThe ballet is all about direct contact between dancers, but that kind of partnership and collaboration is becoming a rarity in many other occupations.

Our tech tools allow us to connect with anyone but the typical manner in which we communicate these days - via teleconferencing, instant messaging, emailing and texting from cubicles, home offices and vehicles - often reduces the effectiveness of teamwork and distracts us from focusing on a bigger picture.

I believe it's important to meet colleagues both in person and on Skype on a more regular basis than many workers now do. Nothing beats face-to face contact and interaction when it comes to brainstorming, resolving problems and building both team spirit and a sense that ownership of one's work matters.

4. Smile through it. Ballet dancers perform stunningly difficult maneuvers with total grace and a smile on their faces. You'll never see a grimace or hear a sigh when watching a top troupe take on unfathomable challenges. They want to delight the audience - a display of suffering wouldn't help their cause.

There's a vital takeaway for any kind of worker here: No one but the already miserable (who, as we know, prefer like-minded company) wants to be around a complainer.

There may be a lot to moan about at your job, but whining will not improve things. First, make the decision to be happy, focus on reducing your overall stress level and developing a more exuberant, grateful attitude. Then lend a critical eye to your own performance and do everything you can to improve it. Finally, team up with others who want to iron out the kinks in your organization and brainstorm ways to achieve that goal.

5. Show some leg. I love how ballet costumes swirl, swish and cling, highlighting the magnificent muscular bodies of the dancers while also revealing their emotional core.

In the workplace, it's vital to reveal and tap into your humanity. This is especially true when you hold a leadership position. Expert skills and an excellent work ethic are important, but nothing will take you further than revealing your human side. Avoid arrogance and defensiveness, own up to your mistakes, display warmth and empathy for your colleagues, solicit their ideas and be open to learning from them.

6. Lend a hand, take an outstretched one. Ballet dancers lift, entwine, lean on and support one another. That makes them terrific role models for what we need to emphasize in our own work environments. We should cheer one another on, provide constructive feedback, collaborate and mentor one another with the objective of enabling everyone to reach their potential. We should also be willing to ask for help when we need it.

7. Stay active, keep moving. The ballet stage is filled with action and the dancers never stop practicing to perfect their movesYou need to own your body to own your mind. Energize yourself and your environment by prioritizing fitness. Sit less - prolonged periods of sitting steal our health. Keep learning new skills. And take initiative to move yourself and your work forward. Sustaining motivation is in large part a matter of visualizing your goals and breaking them down into smaller steps.

A new ballet season begins in January. Below is a lovely video preview of the San Francisco Ballet's upcoming performances. I hope it'll inspire you to take some of the steps I mentioned.