Evoking emotion and influencing action through clear, clever content

Category: Career & Business Advice (Page 1 of 2)

Thinking Creatively to Cultivate Career Accomplishments

Creative thinking helps us uncover new and innovative ways to look at situations.

“Our careers are no exception,” explains Michelle Warren, a creator and facilitator of interactive communication, leadership and innovation workshops. “By looking at things through a different lens, which creative thinking fosters, we are able to find new avenues to pursue, which benefits us and our employers.”

Although folks with careers outside of creative industries may feel like their jobs don’t allow for much creative expression, Michelle insists that there are some simple ways to tap into our imaginations to facilitate innovative solutions to all types workplace challenges.

Here are just a few:

  • Set aside some time, perhaps even 15 minutes a day to consider alternatives. “Once you start the habit, keep at it,” she says. “Be patient with yourself, especially if this is a foreign concept, and see what happens.”
  • Try free writing. “It’s an excellent way to tap into different mental reserves,” she shares. “Take a pen and paper and write what is on your mind, or try brainstorming alone or with others, in a non-judgmental, free-form manner.”
  • Be curious about everything. “Curiosity will help expand thought patterns and foster creative thinking,” she says.
  • Avoid feelings of judgment and frustration. “Keep your emotions in check,” she warns.
  • Don’t evaluate your output immediately. “Give yourself space and time to explore options,” she advises.

Brain Training

“Think of creativity as being a muscle – the more you practice using it, the stronger your creative mindset will become,” Michelle encourages. “Just as we become physically fit with practice, dedication, and hard work, so we will become more creative with regular brain training.”

Michelle reminds us that not every creative idea will be worth investigating, but with time, we should find one for consideration, and leaves us with this final thought: “Encourage creative thinking in others – in your team, with your colleagues,” she advises. “Creativity breeds innovation, and that is what we all need to foster in today’s workplace.”

~Write-or-die girl

Inspire & Influence with Business Storytelling

Stories are sticky and remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone, according to cognitive psychologists. It should come as no surprise that smart professionals use business storytelling to drive change in their organizations.

Ron Tsang, author of the Amazon best-selling book From Presentation to Standing Ovation, urges leaders from all walks of life to take advantage of the power of storytelling to improve their job performance and further their careers.

“Decision makers may first decide with their emotions, and then rationalize with logic,” he explains. “As a result, data alone may not be enough for you to get buy-in from key stakeholders.”

Storytelling Methodology

Effective storytelling can help professionals quickly share their vision, inspire bold action, and even build trust, Ron explains, but there is a formula to crafting effective narratives.

“A GPS helps you reach your destination more quickly,” Ron shares. “My storytelling methodology allows you to craft your stories more quickly.”

Here are the five most common business stories:

  1. Origin Story
  2. Product or Service Story
  3. Customer or Stakeholder Story
  4. Brand Story
  5. Inspirational Story

“Full stories, or journeys, include a clear beginning, middle, and end,” Ron says. “On the other hand, anecdotes could simply be a slice of life, without any formal narrative structure.”

An effective anecdote may include these six Cs:

  1. Context
  2. Characters
  3. Characteristics
  4. Catalyst
  5. Conflict
  6. Connection

To describe a complete journey, ensure that it includes these 10 Cs:

  1. Context
  2. Characters
  3. Characteristics
  4. Conversations
  5. Catalyst
  6. Conflict
  7. Complications
  8. Climax
  9. Conclusion
  10. Connection

Storytelling Efficiency  

Professionals may wonder if they have time to tell a complete story, especially during a status update or brief presentation. The answer is “yes,” according to Ron.

“Stories usually involve a transformation which can be quickly described as before and after,” he explains. “Even a short before and after narrative can show your audience a new perspective or provide a new possibility.”

However, Ron warns that stories may be less effective if they are missing one or more Cs from his storytelling methodology. “For example, business stories must connect to a relevant message or a key takeaway for your audience,” he says. “Otherwise, your stakeholders will wonder: what was the point?”

Ron likes to quote this Indian proverb that clearly illustrates the benefits of effective storytelling: “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

~Write-or-die girl

Transitionistas Unite to Support Each Other Through Change

If you didn’t attend the most recent Avanti Women gathering, Women in Transition, you missed out on one heck of an empowering, knowledge-packed evening.

Chill, though: I rounded up my key takeaways for women going through transitional career periods—hence the term ‘transitionista’—from each leading lady to share with you, my enterprising readers.

Siobhan Brown, the keynote speaker, hosted a lively presentation entitled ‘Myths and Monkeys of Tough Transition’. She reminded the ladies that they can’t expect their transitions to happen overnight. “When you look at somebody else’s life and think, ‘I want to be where they are’, know that there were probably many sacrifices that had to be made to get to where they are,” she explained. “Oftentimes, they’ve been working towards their goals for 10, 15, or 20+ years, while you’re just starting off from ground zero and comparing yourself to them—that’s not a fair comparison.”

Alosha Paranavithana gave advice to help young adults transition smoothly into the workforce in her Goddess Lean-In Circle, ‘Backpack to Briefcase’. Her key piece of advice for our women’s group centred on setting goals, yet being flexible with the prospects.”Do you know what you want? That’s a big question,” she said to the crowd. “You need to know the answers to those sorts of questions but not have the expectation that things will go exactly the way you planned them because there will be obstacles and challenges down the road.”

In the Goddess Lean-In Circle ‘Immigrant Story to Success’, Maha ElHindawy shared her experiences and insights on selling international work experience to the Canadian job market. “Study when you get to Canada, and I don’t mean necessarily going back to school—study the society, study the community and scan the field that you’re getting into,” she advised. “Be resilient because you will get a ton of ‘nos’ before you get a ‘yes’.”

Lisa Mitchell talked our women’s group through the experience of moving through fear and uncertainty to pursue their true professional passions in her talk,’Discover Career Possibilities’. She told her Lean-In Circle attendees to stay focused on the potential positive outcomes of their career transition, rather than psyching themselves out by the possibility of failure. “When we’re considering a transition, we’re wired to start our thought process with, ‘what if it’s just a disaster?'” she said. “Flip it! Start by asking yourself, ‘what if it all works out?'”

In Lissette Edward Copperi’s Goddess Circle on ‘Branding’, she stressed the importance of being mindful of what you publish on social media. “Every single posting you make really shapes people’s perceptions of you, one way or the other,” she warned. “And now more than ever, it is common practice for employers to check out candidates on social media first to weed out the people who are not a good fit.”

Kate Hodgson taught women how to shape their professional stories in a way that engages potential clients and future employers in her ‘Storytelling’ Lean-In. “When you’re telling your story in a professional sense, the end should always demonstrate the lessons that you learned,” she shared. “How do you reflect back on your experience? What are the things you don’t do any more?” she posed to the group. “What lessons came out of the entire experience that you now absorb as a part of who you are and can offer to somebody else.”

In the Goddess Lean-In Circle, ‘Advancing your career’, Teresa Gabriele spoke to our women’s group about the importance of knowing themselves thoroughly and using that information to enhance their job searches. She stressed the importance of being authentic and consistent in way you present yourself. “Make sure any employer that’s going to be creeping on you—and I’m sure they will—is going to see the same story that you’re selling on your resume, in your interview, or at an informal meeting at a coffee shop,” she advised. “It’s amazing how many people you will meet just randomly that will check your LinkedIn profile, so have the right communication theme about who you are and what you bring to the table.”

Your Turn to Share

Did you find these transitionista tips useful? If so, be sure to leave a comment below and share socially with your friends and colleagues!

***

This post originally appeared on the  Avanti Women blog. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers and lives. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

~Write-or-die girl

 

How one family caregiver used grief to reinvent self & help society

In her mid 40s, Mary Bart became the primary caregiver for her mother, with Alzheimer’s, and father, with cancer. For 10 years, often seven days a week, Mary drove 40 minutes south to her parents’ home where she did “all the things that daughters do,” she explained.

A day in the life of Mary included taking her folks to medical appointments, cleaning the house, doing laundry, keeping the home stocked and meds on track, and generally ensuring her mom and dad were as clean, healthy, safe and comfortable as she could.

“Sometimes I’d take a day off, usually a Sunday,” she said. “And when I did, my dad would be very upset, and all kinds of guilt would be thrown my way.”

Needless to say, maintaining full-time employment while fulfilling her caregiving obligations was not an option for Mary. She left her corporate gig in the technology field to focus on caring for her parents.

A woman’s job

Caregiving has been described as one of the world’s most challenging jobs. Yet, many are thrown into it with little warning and no training, on top of demanding 9-to-5s.

Women bear the brunt of this burden, as two-thirds of all caregivers are female, many of whom feel that they sometimes have to choose between being a good employee and being a good daughter.

It is estimated that, every year, Canada loses the equivalent of nearly 558,000 full-time employees from the workforce due to the inability to manage the conflicting demands of paid work and care.

Mary’s alternative

Many days, Mary felt honoured to care for her parents, as they once had for her. But other days, she nearly went out of her mind. She also dealt with a common caregiver issue: guilt.

“Early into my caregiving journey, I freed myself from any guilt,” she explained. “Today, I miss them dearly, but I have no guilt; I can clearly separate grief from guilt, two very different things. I did the best I could, based on my energy and resources.”

About a year before her mother passed, Mary knew her mom’s path would soon end. In her 50s, and out of the workforce for a decade, she decided to reinvent herself to find ways to add purpose to her life.

“I had no desire to go back to the corporate world,” she said. “I thought, ‘there must be other caregivers out there who are experiencing what I have.’”

Caregiving Matters

Like any purposeful pioneer, Mary identified a need in the current market and sought to fill it with her expertise. In 2008, coupling her 18-year professional technology background with a recent decade of personal, hands-on caregiving experience, she founded Caregiving Matters, an internet-based registered Canadian charity offering education and support to family caregivers.

Ninety per cent of the charity’s efforts are driven through its website, which features full-length articles on relevant topics, blog posts, video workshops, podcasts with industry experts, and more.

“We leverage technology in everything we do to ensure a greater reach and sustainability,” Mary explained. “Users from more than 64 countries visit our site.”

The other 10 per cent of the charity’s resources are focused on live educational events in the GTA and surrounding regions.

“We tend to deal with tougher topics and ones that don’t get a lot of attention, like financial and legal issues among families,” said Mary. “We are honoured to work with lawyers and accountants who volunteer their time to share their knowledge.”

Caregiving Credibility

Eleanor Silverberg, owner and director of Jade Self Development Coaching, has been a grief specialist helping family caregivers cope for nearly 20 years, 10 years as a social worker for the Alzheimer Society of York Region.

She, too, was the primary caregiver for her mother and father, while raising teenagers—a circumstance she refers to as being a part of the “sandwich generation.”

An author and a recurring guest speaker on Caregiving Matters podcasts, blogs, and at live events, Eleanor finds the Caregiving Matters platform beneficial to industry professionals, in addition to caregivers in need of assistance.

“I just referred a podcast to my support group last week because we were talking about financial and estate matters,” Eleanor explained.  “It’s great that there’s a resource where I can send people to get answers on issues like that.”

Care for the Caregivers

Canada’s aging population is growing and fuelling caregiving needs across the country. By 2030, seniors are projected to account for close to one in four people.

Mary’s long-term goal is to raise awareness about Caregiving Matters and build upon its pool of resources to meet the growing demand for family caregiving support.

As Mary explained, “it’s a grassroots effort based on love and giving back, and it reaches a lot of people at a challenging time in their lives when they really need it.”

If you or someone you know is providing primary support to a family member, spouse, or loved one, visit the website and join the social communities:

I am a volunteer for Caregiving Matters. If you’d like to get involved, view volunteer opportunities.

~Write-or-die girl

Squash Unforeseen Co-Owner Contentions with a Shareholders’ Agreement

Alex Koch

This week on Write-or-Die Girl, lawyer Alex Koch schools small business owners on preventing future shareholder squabbles by firming up company terms in writing.

All individuals starting a business set out with best intentions. However, most businesses go through both good and bad times, as circumstances change along the way.

When a company is owned by more than one person, preparing a shareholders’ agreement can help business owners ensure a smoother resolution to any issues and reduce the impact of these issues on their business.

The best time to set a road map for how to deal with disputes is at the earliest possible time — when the co-founders are on the same page.

How do I know if I need an agreement?

A shareholders’ agreement isn’t simply an issue to be considered by a company with co-founders. In certain circumstances, even solo business owners should consider having a shareholders’ agreement (or a shareholder’s declaration) prepared—for example, when a business owner is preparing for future expansions or is trying to provide clarity on what happens should the solopreneur pass on or become permanently disabled.

There is no legal requirement for any company to have a shareholders’ agreement; however, it is in the best interests of the shareholders, as well as the business itself, to have one in place.

Shareholders’ agreements typically cover the following areas:

  • Company decision-making
  • How disputes are to be handled
  • How additional individuals can become shareholders
  • How existing shareholders can exit the company and transfer their shares
  • How dividends are paid by the company
  • What happens when existing shareholders pass on, become permanently disabled, are bankrupt, or go through a divorce proceeding

The cost of preparing a shareholders’ agreement will be insignificant if it helps prevent or diminish a future dispute. There is no such thing as a “model” shareholders’ agreement, as these documents are flexible and allow shareholders to negotiate their rights and obligations.

Contact Insight Legal if you’d like to learn more about shareholders’ agreements and whether your company needs one.

Alex will be at the CNE’s Innovation Garage this weekend, August 18-20, ready to answer questions about the legal aspects of your small business. Drop by, and be sure to tell her Write-or-die girl sent you. 😉

The Change Leadership Conference: Responding to Change Better & Faster

A diverse group industry leaders recently flocked to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to hear two of this planet’s most in-demand speakers on leadership and innovation—John C. Maxwell and Jeremy Gutsche—as well as some of Canada’s foremost change agents, discuss leading change successfully in today’s business environment.

“Without change, we remain stagnant, expose our organizations to financial losses, and lose our relevance in the marketplace,” explained the event’s host Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, CEO at OliveBlue Incorporated, which presented The Change Leadership series.

“Change is dynamic and unending, and now it’s happening at such a fast pace.”

Key learnings

Seven speakers and panellists took to the stage to share their experiences and insights on change leadership. Here is a roundup of some of the most impactful thoughts that were presented.

“Your company culture has to demonstrate that you earn leadership because you’re the best, not because you’ve been there the longest; if your culture protects that kind of environment, nothing is going to change.”

~John C. Maxwell, global leadership expert, speaker, author

“Forty-four per cent of Canadian companies said they had courage, but only 11 per cent of companies in Canada actually had courage (statistics cited from Deloitte’s 2016 report The Future Belongs to the Bold)… They need for us to step up as leaders.”

~Paul Alofs, president and CEO, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation

“I think diversity is one of the most important issues in terms of innovation and creative thinking. There’s an old saying that, if you and I think alike, then one of us is redundant.”

~Jeremy Gutsche, disruptive innovation expert, speaker, author

“There are things like agile fatigue. Some people thrive on being agile, and others hit the wall. As leaders, we have to be aware of that, and figure out what we have to do to get those employees ready.”

~Gail A. Serverini, divisional vice president, Change Management, Holt Renfrew

“Relevance is not just about having a customer focus but also an employee and community focus…  At RBC, we have a very healthy paranoia about being and staying relevant.”

~Laura Fisher, vice president, Human Resources Shared Services, RBC

Intrapreneurship applies the same tenets of entrepreneurship: ask why, and mobilize people around a vision.”

~Dr. Steven Murphy, dean, Ted Rogers School of Management

“We rally employees behind the vision of us being a tech company that offers banking services.”

~Helen Wang, vice president, IT Lean Program, Scotiabank

Go forth and lead change

Despite the fancy titles of some of the presenters, the most important message conveyed at the event was probably that a person needn’t be a vice president, CEO, or business owner to lead.

“Anyone can learn to lead,” Maxwell told the audience.  My favourite quote is ‘one man with courage is a majority.’”

This post originally appeared in the August 1 Avanti Women blog and e-newsletter. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

~Write-or-die girl

Working your website hacks

Opal Gamble

Are you fascinated by HTML? Would you like to deepen your understanding of website coding?

Me neither. I just want my website to generate some business every now and then, and not crash in the process.

I met Opal Gamble, website whiz and all-around-amazing human being, last year when I started volunteering for Caregiving Matters, an online charity. She developed and maintains the charity’s comprehensive website, and subsequently walked me through the site’s back-end interface so I could contribute to the charity’s internet marketing strategy.

Around that time, I was also building this website and in desperate need of a little guidance. I figured as lady with such a generous heart, Opal wouldn’t mind sharing a little free advice on basic website upkeep and lead optimization—and I pegged her perfectly!  Here’s a handy cheat sheet of the knowledge she dropped on me.

  • If your website comes equipped with a content management system, perform all the updates –including ones for the program and plug-ins—when prompted. “This might sound pretty obvious, but many people ignore these messages for weeks or longer,” says Opal. “The programmers roll out these security updates constantly because they’ve found vulnerabilities in their programs that they’ve patched. If you don’t do your updates, you’re a sitting duck for security problems.”
  • Make sure each page on your website has at least 300 words. “This is the word count at which Google’s search engines start taking you seriously,” she explains. For vloggers, her suggestion is to transcribe their videos so they achieve the 300-word minimum. “As someone who is not a huge fan of video, I think it’s also a great idea to give your audiences options. Don’t hold us hostage to your videos.”
  • Your website should be constantly changing. “The advantage of a website is that it’s nimble,” Opal points out. “If your website is stagnant, search engines have no reason to come back.” Blogging regularly, updating your portfolio, and adding new services are all great ways to keep your website evolving, she adds.
  • Your website must be mobile friendly. “That’s non-negotiable,” Opal warns. “For most people, more than 50 per cent of their website traffic comes from mobile devices, so you’re just throwing away business if your site is not loading properly on a cell phone or tablet.” The simple housekeeping rule is to check your website on multiple devices periodically, especially after doing the updates mentioned in tip number one, she adds.
  • Target your website content at your top 10 per cent of clients that generate the most business. “This is probably the best website advice I’ve ever heard,” she shares. “If you focus on those people and generating more business like theirs, logically you’ll increase your income and continue to grow your business.”

Opal Gamble is the front-end web developer and project manager at Design & Develop. Connect with her through her website.

~Write-or-Die Girl

The savvy entrepreneur’s step-by-step guide to starting a business in Ontario

Alex Koch

I sure wish I had known Alex Koch, founder and principal at Insight Legal, when I decided to pursue my passion as a full-time profession. Don’t get me wrong: entrepreneurship has its perks. But the legalities involved are pretty prosaic, for a right-brained creative like me. In this week’s Write-or-Die Girl column, Alex breaks down business-starting steps into bite-sized, digestible morsels.

The Province of Ontario presents entrepreneurs with many opportunities to start businesses, firstly as a host to a significant portion of the Canadian population, and secondly as a province offering its residents some of the country’s highest incomes. For this reason, many entrepreneurs are seeking to commence their business ventures in Ontario; however, it is not always abundantly clear where these entrepreneurs should start and how they should proceed.

To help guide these entrepreneurs, I have compiled a list of steps involved in starting a business in Ontario.

STEP 1 – SELECT YOUR BUSINESS STRUCTURE

Prior to starting any sort of business operation, entrepreneurs must choose the appropriate business structure for their business. If entrepreneurs are seeking to start a business on their own, they will consider operating as a sole proprietorship or a corporation. Alternatively, for entrepreneurs seeking to start a business venture with one or more co-founders, they will consider operating as a partnership or corporation. You can click here for a discussion on how to choose the appropriate structure for your business. Each structure will carry with it different registration and legal compliance requirements, making it one of the most important steps in starting a business.

STEP 2 – CHOOSE YOUR BUSINESS NAME

Choosing your business name carries with it two aspects. On the one hand, businesses want to choose a name that suits their business and can attract customers. On the other hand, business names must meet the criteria of certain legal requirements.

Sole Proprietorship/General Partnership

Depending on the name chosen for a sole proprietorship or a partnership, business owners may have to register their business name with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. To operate a sole proprietorship or a partnership using only the name(s) of the founder(s), the business name does not need to be registered and the entrepreneurs are free to commence their business operation. For instance, if your name is John Galt, you can operate a sole proprietorship called “John Galt” without registering the business name. Likewise, if two founders are seeking to start a partnership and their names are John Galt and Bunbury Smith, they can operate a business using their names only without registration. If however, business owners are seeking to make additions to their business name, for example “John Galt & Sons,” the business name must be registered.

There are certain prohibitions relating to business name registration, for instance, the words “Limited, Incorporated, Inc., etc.” cannot be used since they imply that the business is incorporated. Likewise, neither a sole proprietorship nor a partnership name may imply an association with a government entity. If companies do not comply with these registration requirements, they may be fined.

Corporation

All corporations in Ontario must have a name. Companies are able to choose between two types of corporate names: (1) a numbered name automatically chosen during the incorporation process; and (2) a chosen name. If an entrepreneur is choosing his/her corporate name, the name must comply with certain standards. Specifically, the name must be distinctive and it must not be misleading or likely to be confused with names used by other organizations and businesses. Further, the name must end with a word indicating that the business is incorporated such as, Inc., Ltd., Incorporated, Limited, etc.

STEP 3 – CONDUCT A NAME SEARCH

Sole Proprietorship/Partnership

Registering a sole proprietorship or partnership name with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services does not guarantee exclusivity of the name, meaning that businesses with identical names can be registered. Using a name that is the same as another business or is confusingly similar to another business name could result in a lawsuit from an existing company using that name. For this reason, it is prudent for business owners to conduct a name search prior to registration to determine whether a chosen name is already in use by another company.

Corporation

Companies that chose a corporate name (and not a numbered name), must obtain a NUANS (New Upgraded Automated Name Search) report that is not older than 90 days on the date of registration. A NUANS report lists names of companies using the same or similar name to the chosen corporate name. Unlike with sole proprietorships or partnerships, corporations are not permitted to register identical names to another business unless a company can provide satisfactory evidence that the two businesses will not be confused by consumers.

STEP 4 – REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS

Once an entrepreneur has selected the business name and conducted a name search, the business is ready for registration.

Sole Proprietorship/Partnership

To register a name with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, the entrepreneur must provide the Ministry with: (1) the name and address of the business; (2) a description of the business activity; and (3) the entrepreneur’s name and home address. If a partnership is being registered, the names and homes addresses of the partners must also be included. There are many options for registering a business name; the registration process can be completed online, in-person or by mail. Once a name is registered, the business will receive its Master Business License which acts as proof of business name registration and the entrepreneur may commence its business operations.

Corporation

To register a corporation, entrepreneurs can submit their application for incorporation to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. The application must include: (1) the company’s Articles of Incorporation which outline the name and nature of the business, the directors of the corporation, the share structure, etc.; (2) a covering letter that outlines the name and contact information for the corporation; and (3) the NUANS report pertaining to the corporate name. Companies that submitted their application for incorporation in Ontario are only provided with name exclusivity in the province meaning that businesses with identical names can incorporate in other provinces. If this poses an issue, the entrepreneur should consider a federal incorporation.

It is possible for corporations to incorporate with one name and to operate their business under another name. If that is the case, the corporation must register its name with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services in the same manner as a sole proprietorship or a partnership registers its name.

STEP 5 – APPLY FOR LICENCES AND CERTIFICATIONS

Once a business is registered, the business must now register for whatever other licences, registrations, or certifications required to legally operate a business in a particular industry. Depending on the nature of its business, a company may need a business licence to operate. Likewise, a company may need Workers’ Compensation Insurance or to collect HST. In general, if a company provides taxable goods or services and earns over $30,000 per year, the company must register for an HST number with the Canada Revenue Agency and remit the HST it collects to the government.

STEP 6 – RENEW YOUR BUSINESS REGISTRATION

Once a business is operational, there are various ongoing requirements with respect to registration. For instance, sole proprietorships and partnerships must renew their business name every five years. On the other hand, corporations must make annual filings with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.

If you have a business idea but are unsure about how to turn your idea into reality, contact Alex Koch at Insight Legal.

Sizzling Summer Volunteer Opps

Volunteering during tanning season while your girls are sipping cocktails by poolside doesn’t have to feel like a prison sentence.

Why not gain some resume-worthy skills, diversify your professional and social network, and get VIP access to some of the hottest summer events in the city?

Taste of Toronto: Do you have an appetite for exotic eats and entertainment? Taste of Toronto is the perfect festival for a hardcore foodie to indulge in some appetizing volunteer action. If your schedule’s clear from June 15 to 18, check out how you can get a taste of the action here.

Pride Toronto: With promises of wild costumes, funky choreography, and colourful displays of fabulousness, Pride Toronto is one of the largest parades of its kind in North America. But it’s no easy feat to pull off a diversity celebration of this magnitude without a flock of volunteers who are down for the cause. The not-for-profit organization has a variety of volunteer roles that need to be filled before the main event on June 25. Check here for details.

TD Toronto Jazz Festival:  With soulful performances by artists like Aretha Franklin and Joss Stone, we’d bet jazz aficionados would be willing to pay some pretty good coin to attend the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, from June 23 to July 2.  Keep your cash in your wallets, and fulfill your do-gooder duties, while grooving to the rhythmic vibes of the 31st-annual Toronto Jazz Festival. Just fill out the volunteer application to be considered.

Toronto Fringe Festival: “All the world is a stage,” wrote Shakespeare, empowering any and every one to unleash her or his inner artist. The Fringe Festival features more than 155 indie shows in every genre of theatre. If you believe in the relentless pursuit of self-expression, find out how to get involved here.

Fan Expo Canada: Volunteering at Fan Expo Canada—the largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming event in Canada—might just be the equivalent of fangirl heaven. Running from August 31 to September 3, the event has featured celebs like The Lord of the Rings’ Elijah Wood, comic book legend Stan Lee, and several cast members (including the well-renowned heartthrobs) of The Walking Dead. Fantasy seekers should look no further than here to get involved.

Of course, Avanti Women is always on the lookout new volunteers with a variety of skills and interests—and a passion for fun (that’s essential!)—all year round. Let us know if you want to spend your summer joining us in our mission to empower women to move forward.

This post originally appeared on the June 1 Avanti Women blog and e-newsletter. Avanti Women empowers women to develop themselves professionally and personally so they can move forward in their careers. As a volunteer on the communications committee, I contribute content of relevance to the membership monthly.

~Write-or-die girl

Heightening creativity at home with geomancy

Melonie Arscott

Last Tuesday, I was forced to work from home because maintenance men were entering my suite (I always assume their fingers get stickier when no one is watching).

With a bad case of brain paralysis, I reached out to Melonie Arscott,  geomancer, feng shui specialist, and intuitive life coach, at Melo Spaces, to get some tips on pimping my home office to heighten my creative mojo.

“The physical elements of our environments and how we subconsciously process them can strongly influence our states of mind, including our productivity and creativity,” she told me. “If you make tiny adjustments to your office, you’ll set yourself up for fluid inspiration generation.”

Ummm…yes, please. I’ll have some of that!

I took detailed notes, as she spoke.

  • Nix EMFs: “First and foremost, cut down on high levels of EMFs; they make you tired and your brain foggy,” she advised. The easiest way to do this is by introducing plants—which reduce air pollution and noise— and flowers—which bring about chi—into a space.
  • Auditory arousal: “There is nothing more soothing than the sound of flowing water,” she said and suggested placing a mini water fountain in my office. She also recommended fast-paced classical music—Baroque period, for example—as it stimulates brainwave activity.
  • Colour psychology: “Colour ignites the mind and revives the spirit,” according to Melonie. Yellow and orange work the best to get the creative juices flowing. Small hints of colour, like on a mouse pad or vase, are sufficient to trigger fresh ideas.
  • Guiding light: “Expose your office to as much natural light as possible. The sun is nature’s antidepressant,” she joked. But if natural light isn’t available, she recommends opting for full-spectrum lighting.
  • Crystal light: “Hanging a spherical multifaceted crystal by a window so it can reflect sunlight light will bring more yang (active energy) into a dark room and promote motivation,” she added. Even if you don’t have a window, you can hang it somewhere where your room lighting will bounce off of it.
  • Scent stories:Essential oils can also awaken your inner innovator,” she concluded. “Peppermint oil is great for headaches when dabbed on the temples, and simply breathing it in relieves fatigue, but keep it away from your eyes.” Additionally, orange oil decreases anxiety and elevates mood levels, while cinnamon oil reduces frustration. These particular oils should not be applied to the body, though—best to invest in an aromatherapy diffuser.

For best results, Melonie recommends having a customized consultation and environmental report prepared. She is currently rebalancing the energy on her website (that is, it is under construction) but feel free to reach out to her for more info at info@melospaces.com.

Items listed in this post, like crystals, essential oils, and aromatherapy diffusers, can be found at crystal, new age, and health food stores.

~Write-or-die girl

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