How to Run a Virtual Brainstorm that Actually Works

Fun fact about pandemic life: Zoom fatigue is real. And not just real, but “widely prevalent, intense, and completely new,” according to Psychiatric Times.

Although we might be avoiding Zoom these days when an email or even a phone call (is it 1986 again?) will suffice, there's one place where video conferencing still shines, and that's the good ol' brainstorm.

Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

When I picture brainstorms of years past, I see images of big tables full of candy and fidget toys and pens and Post-Its galore. Old school brainstorming was creative and connective and interactive—all things difficult, but not impossible, to recreate virtually.

Today we’ll talk about some virtual brainstorming strategies I’ve seen work really well. And then hopefully, you’ll give one a try. 

Choose your occasion wisely

brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation.

Back when our biggest workplace woe was a vending machine out of Diet Coke, many of us took brainstorming sessions for granted. But in a virtual world, it's harder to organize, facilitate, and get people engaged.

That's why brainstorms shouldn’t be a catch-all for any group conversation. (Often what you’re looking for is just a meeting.) Brainstorms are a very specific brand of discussion in which a collective of creative voices, ideas, and opinions are necessary inputs to achieve a valuable output.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions. They're a fabulous enabler of ideas and solutions, so do use them. But do so strategically and with clear intention.

Because of challenges like Zoom fatigue and burnout, I urge you to be stingy with your brainstorming sessions.

What are some great occasions to host a brainstorming session? Use them when you need to:

  • Add or refine product features
  • Define a path in a sticky situation
  • Solve a complex problem

These and many other scenarios call for a variety of perspectives in which there are no right or wrong answers, but only ideas.

In contrast, many other occasions don’t call for a brainstorm. Like when you need…

  • Approval or alignment
  • Receipt of a message or direction
  • Feedback on a mostly baked idea

These are not brainstorm moments—they're meetings with a much more defined outcome. See the difference?

Figure out the specific problem you want to address

Okay, so you've figured out that your situation calls for a brainstorming session. Now, it's time to make sure everybody who comes to the brainstorm is on the same page before you begin by creating a statement that lays out the specific problem and how you need to tackle it.

Your problem statement might be something like:

We’re losing market share on X product, and we need to define new features to attract Millennial customers.

And here's another example:

This client wasn’t happy with our last deliverable and we need to redefine how we’re engaging with them.

One of your goals is to keep the session short (because fatigue) while maximizing what you take away from it. A clear problem statement allows you to invite your brainstorming participants to get the creative juices flowing ahead of the actual session.

Assign some prework to get things rolling

Now that you've stated the problem or opportunity, it's time to let participants know you’re looking forward to a collaborative discussion and invite them to jot down some early ideas and send them your way.

You can then do some analysis ahead of the session. Did you spot any common themes? Any particular ideas you’re interested in having the group build upon?

Share your findings at the beginning of the brainstorming session. This will give you a strong foundation from which to build.

Get creative with tech 

Love it or hate it, video conferencing technology is definitely your friend in a virtual brainstorm. It allows you to create a purposeful connection amongst participants. But you have to understand how to engage them.

When I used to run in-person meetings with leadership teams, I was always intentional about switching up the activities every 30 minutes or so. I’d facilitate a breakout, and then we’d do a quick poll, and then I’d have people plot Post-It notes around the room, and more.

Keeping things changing and moving is a great way to keep adults engaged. According to the Harvard Business Review: "If you don’t sustain a continual expectation of meaningful involvement, [people] will retreat into that alluring observer role."

So take the time to learn the features of whatever platform you’re using, and make the session engaging. Some tactics you might try?

  • Use polls to test out early ideas
  • Use small group breakout sessions to create mini-competitions between your participants
  • Use a whiteboard to replicate a poster board people can plot virtual Post-It notes on
  • Use voting to prioritize or stack rank

Of course, talking is part of any brainstorm. But using technology can keep participants from slipping into the shadows without contributing.

Establish norms that serve your purpose

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

A client once told me this story about a packaging company that was struggling with productivity. Their products had to be wrapped in newspaper before being shipped. But often, as employees were packaging product, they’d accidentally start reading the newspaper, losing precious packing minutes. These minutes added up to lost productivity.

One day the leadership team was brainstorming solutions to this distraction problem and one executive said, “Well, what if we just poked their eyes out?”

Of course, he wasn't serious—the question was absurd and meant to add a little humor. But it triggered a new line of thinking. Eventually, the company established a partnership with a non-profit organization that finds jobs for blind people.

Is this story true? I’m honestly not sure. But it’s a great illustration of the importance of free-flowing ideas.

A brainstorm isn’t successful because of how smart its participants are, but because of how much freedom and space their voices are given.

As the facilitator, what norms can you put in place to ensure that all ideas get voiced without judgment and everyone has a chance to speak?

Here are a few you might consider:

  • Use the improv rule of “yes, and.” It means that ideas are never knocked down, only built upon. (Don’t worry, they can get voted down later, just not during the brainstorm)
     
  • Use the two- (or one- or five)-minute rule. Ask people to limit themselves to two minutes at a time, even if they need to stop mid-thought (they can finish on their next turn). This challenges people to be concise and ensures that everyone gets a chance to speak.
     
  • Use a round-robin technique. Circle around the Zoom participants, calling on each person as you go. If someone isn’t ready, they can pass. But this is a great way to prevent introverts from getting overlooked.

What other norms will keep you on track?

Close out thoughtfully

Save a few minutes at the end of your scheduled session to check in on the process. How did it feel for everyone? What worked well and what might you skip next time? Do they have other tactics to recommend?

The best answer to “How do I host a great virtual brainstorm?” is the answer that your own participants give you.

When scheduled for the right occasion and with the right people, brainstorms are a fabulous tool. Don’t be intimidated by them. Just be open to learning as you go.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Know how much you need to save

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

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

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

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

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

– Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

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

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

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

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

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

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

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

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

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

Source: discover.com

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist.

If you’ve been to the pharmacy lately, you may have found yourself wondering how much pharmacists make. Being a pharmacist, at least at the retail level, involves a lot of standing, long shifts and dealing with customers. In other words, it might not be for everyone. On the plus side, salaries in the field are on the high side, with an average annual salary of $123,670. 

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist: The Basics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean annual salary of a pharmacist in May 2018 was $123,670 per year. The highest-paid 10% of pharmacists earn a mean annual wage of $161,250. The lowest-paid 10% of pharmacists make an average of $87,790. So, no matter where you end up on the pharmacist income scale your annual wage is likely to be much higher than the annual income of the average American.

The BLS also provides a job outlook for the professions it studies. The job outlook shows the percent by which a field will grow (or shrink) between 2016 and 2026. The job outlook for pharmacists is 6%, which is just shy of the 7% average across all fields. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects the field will add 17,400 jobs.

Where Pharmacists Make the Most

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

The BLS also looks at state and metro-area data on the jobs the Bureau studies. So where does it pay the most to be a pharmacist? The top-paying state for pharmacists is Alaska, with a mean annual wage for pharmacists of $139,880. Other high-paying states are California ($139,690), Vermont ($135,420), Maine ($133,050) and Wisconsin ($132,400).

The top-paying metro area for pharmacists is Tyler, TX, with an annual mean wage of $174,870. Other high-paying metro areas are Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA ($155,330); Vallejo-Fairfield, CA ($153,820); Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA ($151,590) and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ($149,790).

Becoming a Pharmacist

In order to get a job as a pharmacist, you first have to get a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as a Pharm.D. A Pharm.D. is a postgraduate degree, but most programs only require applicants to have two years of undergraduate education under their belts. Many future pharmacists will spend two years taking prerequisite courses like chemistry, biology and physics. Then, they’ll matriculate and spend the next four years in pharmacy school.

Once you have your degree, you’ll need to pass two exams to receive your license. The first is The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which assesses your knowledge and skills. The second is either a state specific test or the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). This tests your knowledge of pharmacy law specific to the state you’ll be practicing in.

The Cost of Becoming a Pharmacist

The Average Salary of a Pharmacist

Becoming a pharmacist requires years of study and, for most people, taking on student debt. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
Graduating Student Survey, 84.8% of pharmacists-in-training borrowed money to complete their Pharm.D. degree program. Of the survey respondents who borrowed money, the median amount borrowed (across public and private institutions) was $160,000.

Bottom Line

While pharmacists have an advanced degree and a high salary, they are often working in a retail setting. And retail, with its heavy emphasis on customer service, isn’t for everyone. Still, the high pay and job security, along with the intellectual and public-service aspects of working as a pharmacist, might make it worth it. If you’re thinking of becoming a pharmacist, it’s a good idea to talk to some professionals in the field before you commit to an expensive course of study.

Tips for Forging a Career Path

  • Your salary dictates a lot of your financial life, such as how much you can afford to pay in rent and the slice of your paycheck that goes to taxes. However, there are some principles that apply no matter your income bracket, like having an emergency fund and saving for retirement.
  • Need help managing your money and growing your nest egg? You should probably be working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/gradyreese, ©iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd   

The post The Average Salary of a Pharmacist appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

The 2021 Career Wisdom You Need from Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Well, we made it. To 2021. The earth, moon, and sun each did their thing again. But somehow this year feels different. Because 2020 was a doozy and so many of us are deeply ready for a fresh start.

RBG fought, she believed, and she persevered—all actions that feel deeply relevant as we look to the year ahead of us.

Last year left many of us with a lot to mourn. For me, and for many, that includes the loss of a national treasure, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The diminutive woman, known affectionately as The Notorious RBG, served as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1993 until her death on September 18th, 2020, at age 87. RBG was the breaker of all kinds of ceilings. She fought, she believed, and she persevered—all actions that feel deeply relevant as we look to the year ahead of us.

Before I charge too quickly into the spin of 2021, I plan to reflect on some of the amazing life and career lessons RBG left behind. She gifted us a legacy of wisdom that will remain relevant for years to come.

So today, let’s reflect on some of what she taught us and consider how it might apply to our own adventures in the coming months.

1. To persuade others, don't react, respond!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved tremendous things in her lifetime. Much of her success required that she persuade others to share a point of view that may not have been popular.

And persuasive she was. Never one to steamroll or shame others onto her side, RBG was artful in how she changed hearts and minds.

She once shared with the New York Times some wedding-day advice she received from her mother-in-law: “In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.”

And she goes on to say of that advice:

I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

I believe she was telling us not to ignore or excuse unkindness or incivility but to label and rise above it in our response.

In 2021, we are all going to be processing and wading through the heaviness that was 2020 as we face the challenges of the coming year. Careless words are likely to be spoken. But when they are, try not to let them trigger a reaction. Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.

Respond as the version of yourself you’re most proud of.

The absence of your emotional reaction will make the intelligence of your response stand out even more. This is one way to bring hearts and minds to your side.

2. Disagree with an idea but respect the person who shared it

RBG maintained lifelong friendships with colleagues sitting on both sides of the political aisle. She was asked about her success at this many times throughout her career.

She spoke with NPR about her friendship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and shared that while they disagreed deeply on many issues, she respected him enough to listen to what he said. And although he rarely changed her mind, his thinking pushed and challenged her own, making her even better.

When an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it?

She also spoke of their finding common ground through shared interests and humor. She was able to separate her friend and colleague from the opinions he held. And this too feels like a useful skill to cultivate for 2021.

None of us knows what shape the workplace will take in the coming months. We will all hear many predictions, suggestions, and opinions. We will like some and hate others.

But when an idea doesn’t land with you, take a pause. Can you find the positive intent behind it? Can you empathize with the person suggesting it? Is there something useful you can find in it?

Keep the idea and the person in separate corners.

3. Never stop learning

Reading is the key that opens doors to many good things in life. Reading shaped my dreams, and more reading helped me make my dreams come true

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, responding to a letter from an 8-year-old girl

RBG never lost her appetite for more information, for expanding her mind. As much wisdom as she had acquired, it was never enough.

And in this, she wasn’t alone. According to Inc. Magazine, many of the world’s most successful leaders—from Warren Buffet to Tony Robbins to Mark Cuban—are voracious readers.

As we continue to navigate the uncertainty ahead, learning new ways to do things will be critically important. So make continuous reading and learning a priority in 2021.

Not sure how to make it happen? Here are a few ideas:

  • Choose your sources wisely. Don’t try to read everything. Explore different books, publications, or blogs to see which resonate most with you.
     
  • Schedule reading time. Put reading time in your calendar. Maybe it’s 10 minutes a day. Maybe it replaces what used to be a commute before many of us started working virtually. Get creative.
     
  • Try audio. Hey, like podcasts or audiobooks? They're a great source of inspiration, motivation, and knowledge. Maybe you can listen while you’re cooking or working out.

4. Prioritize self-care

RBG was so famous as an exerciser that her personal trainer published a book of the workouts she was still doing into her 80s. Once asked who the most important person in her life was, she famously responded, “My personal trainer.”

For RBG, intense exercise gave her the energy she needed to deliver her most impactful work. This is a lesson we all need to carry into 2021. As stress and burnout continue to threaten and plague us, we must all be mindful of how we manage our energy levels.

Working endless hours isn’t the most effective or fulfilling path to success. Working well is what delivers results. So find ways to care for yourself, to recharge your tank, every day.

You too may enjoy some intense exercise. Or you may choose to walk, meditate, journal, or call a friend. There is no right way to practice self-care, but doing it in some form is a must!

If you want some self-care guidance when it comes to fitness, nutrition, and coping with stress, here's where I shamelessly plug podcasts from my amazing Quick and Dirty Tips colleagues:

  • Get-Fit Guy with fitness pro Brock Armstrong
  • Nutrition Diva with nutritionist (and renowned nutrition myth-buster) Monica Reinagel
  • Savvy Psychologist with clinical psychologist and sleep expert Dr. Jade Wu

Search for these wellness experts on your favorite podcast platform or visit QuickandDirtyTips.com.

I hope these nuggets of wisdom have helped you feel empowered to take on 2021. These are only a few of the countless gems RBG left us with. They feel, for me, entirely relevant in this moment. So let’s honor and celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsberg's life together by letting her wisdom guide us through some murky months ahead.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

The Average Salary of a Pilot

The Average Salary of a Pilot

The job of an airline pilot has a certain glamour to it. However, unconventional working hours and plenty of time away from home can be a recipe for stress and burnout. This could be why airline and commercial pilots are compensated fairly well, earning a median annual salary of $115,670. That one number doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as it varies depending on whom you fly for and where you’re based. 

The Average Salary of a Pilot

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of the group the BLS calls airline and commercial pilots was $115,670 per year in May 2018. The BLS also tracks the job outlook for the careers it studies, measuring how many jobs the career will add between 2016 and 2026. The BLS job outlook for Airline and Commercial Pilots is 4%, which is about as fast as the average across all careers. According to the BLS, the U.S. will add 4,400 airline and commercial pilots between 2016 and 2026.

Where Pilots Earn the Most

The Average Salary of a Pilot

When it comes to tracking state- and city-level earnings data, the BLS looks at commercial pilots and “airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers” separately. Let’s take a look at where commercial pilots earn the most.

The mean annual wage for commercial pilots is $96,530 per year. According to BLS data, the top-paying state for commercial pilots is Georgia, where commercial pilots earn a mean annual wage of $130,760. Other high-paying states for commercial pilots are Connecticut, New York, Florida and Maryland. The top-paying metro area for commercial pilots is Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC, where the annual mean wage for commercial pilots is $128,600. Other high-paying metro areas for commercial pilots are Savannah, GA; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; Bakersfield, CA; Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO and Spartanburg, SC.

Now let’s take a look at where airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers earn the most. The top-paying state in this field is Washington, with a mean annual wage of $237,150. Other high-paying states for this profession are Michigan, Nevada, Oregon and California. Of the metro areas for which the BLS has data, the top-paying metro area for airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers is San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA, with a mean annual wage of $247,120. Other high-paying metro areas for this field are Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA; Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI.

Becoming a Pilot

Typically, it’s easier to become a commercial pilot than an airline pilot. Because of this, many airline pilots start their career as commercial pilots. To be a pilot of any kind, you’ll need to have a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  To be an airline pilot, you’ll need an additional document known as a Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. This is also issued by the FAA.

In terms of education, you will need a high school diploma and a commercial pilot’s license to become a commercial pilot. To become an airline pilot, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree, although it can be in any subject.

The typical path to becoming a commercial pilot is to complete an FAA-certified flight training program. These are held both at independent flight schools and through colleges and universities. Once you’ve assembled enough flying hours, you can get a job as a commercial pilot.

Regional and major airlines typically require significantly more flight experience for new hires. This is another reason why many people start out as commercial pilots and then move on to working for an airline. According to the BLS, many commercial pilot jobs require a minimum of 500 flying hours, whereas entry-level airline jobs require somewhere around 1,500.

Bottom Line

The Average Salary of a Pilot

Have you ever flown out of an airport and wondered what it would be like to be a pilot? With an average annual salary of $102,520, pilots earn a good living. Not just anyone can become a pilot, however. Commercial pilots must earn a commercial pilot certificate, while airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers must earn the Federal Air Transport certificate and rating for the specific aircraft type they fly. Being a pilot is also a dangerous job, so it’s not surprising that pilots’ compensation is high.

Tips for Saving Responsibly

  • The median pilot salary is enough to live comfortably in most areas of the country, but it’s still important to make sure you’re saving some of that money for emergencies and retirement.
  • A financial advisor can be a big help in managing your money and choosing smart investments that grow your nest egg. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/xavierarnau, ©iStock.com/Jacob Ammentorp Lund, ©iStock.com/amesy

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How to Make a Great Impression in a Virtual Interview

Global pandemic got you thinking this is no time for a job change? Think again! Unemployment did soar to alarming rates in the early days of Covid. According to the Harvard Business Review, U.S. unemployment jumped from 3.5% in February of 2020 to 14.7% in April. But as of November 2020, it’s back down to 6.7%.
 
There is a job market, and it’s yours to partake in if you so choose. But the search is likely to be virtual.
 
So whether you’re out of a job or just looking for a change, let’s talk about strategies that will help you shine on screen and land your dream job.

1. Polish that profile

Keeping your online presence current and polished is a good idea in any moment or market. But according to Fast Company, there’s a particular urgency to sprucing it up right now. 
 
“Because many HR professionals are relying on video interviews, they’re also looking for ways to get a better feel for who the candidates are… [so] many are turning to social media profiles and looking for evidence of the candidate’s work online.”
 
This is a moment to assess your professional online presence. Personally, I focus on LinkedIn.
 
What’s your headline? What achievements are you highlighting? Do you have links in your profile to samples of your work?  Can you ask for testimonials or endorsements from people in your network? Ask a few friends to check out your LinkedIn profile as if they were looking to hire. Get their feedback and make adjustments. 
 
This is your moment to use LinkedIn like a Rockstar.

2. Set the scene for success

My family has this little holiday tradition. Every year we watch the 1989 classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It gets worse every year, but you don’t mess with tradition. This year, my 13-year-old was savvy enough to recognize that no one in Clark Griswold’s office had a computer on their desk. She simply couldn’t fathom the idea of work getting done in a pre-technology world. I can barely believe it myself.
 
Technology has evolved in ways the workforce of 1989 could never have imagined. It’s amazing what we can do today. But while videoconferencing technology has technically enabled amazing things, we all know it can be clunky and awkward by 2020 standards. So do your best to make your virtual interview as smooth as possible.
 
Here’s a quick checklist:
 
  • Check your tech. Internet connection, microphone, webcam—are they all working? If not, make sure you troubleshoot ahead of time.
     
  • Create a professional setting. Your background—real or virtual—should be as professional as possible.
     
  • Test the platform in advance. Make sure that wherever you’re meeting (Zoom, Teams, etc.) you have everything downloaded or updated, and you'll be able to get into the virtual interview without a hitch. Do a practice run with a friend if you’re anxious.
     
  • Strip out distractions where you can. Kids, dogs, landscapers, snowblowers—they're all noisemakers of the highest order! Be aware, and do your best to minimize.
     
  • Acknowledge distractions you can’t control. In a tiny apartment or homeschooling kids solo? Don't stress! Just call this out as the meeting begins so no one is caught off guard. Any interviewer with a shred of humanity will offer you some grace.

If the interviewer isn't willing to cut you some slack, pay attention to that vibe! I mean, is a workplace that can't roll with real-world challenges graciously really where you want to be?

3. Account for the floating head syndrome

Videoconferencing is the best we’ve got, but it’s not perfect. There is so much about in-person interaction that we didn’t appreciate until we lost it! We’re now trading in floating heads. We’ve lost our access to body language which helped us read the room or sense how we were being received by our conversation partner.
 

In the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice, so check in with the interviewer.

 
In a pre-pandemic world, the savvy among us might read subtle cues from the interviewer indicating we’ve gone off-topic, or we’re going into too much detail. But in the absence of body language, you’ve got only your voice.
 
So check in—not constantly, but periodically. Ask the interviewer “Am I answering the question you asked?” or “How’s this level of detail? I can provide more or less if that would be helpful.” 
 
The interviewer will appreciate your checking in. It demonstrates an emotional intelligence many of your competitors may not show.

4. Keep that energy soaring

We all know Zoom-fatigue is real. Energy tends to be lower on video, so find ways to express enthusiasm that the interviewer can’t help but experience.

Focus on being fully present.

This isn’t about singing and dancing (though some solid choreography would certainly make you memorable!) Focus instead on being fully present. Close all of your tabs or windows besides the videoconference. The temptation to multi-task or be distracted by an email is dangerous. This will help you stay focused on the conversation at hand.
 
Be prepared to share stories or examples about projects you were really excited about being a part of. Oh, and find moments to just smile! Let your interviewer know, visually, you’re just happy to be there. Your enthusiasm will shine through.

5. Ask questions of the moment 

It’s good practice in any climate to ask thoughtful questions in an interview. Hiring leaders respond well to curiosity. Especially the kind that shows you did some prep work.
 
In this particular climate, be sure you ask a question or two that is relevant to the experience we're all having. You might ask how they’ve shifted their strategy or service delivery or what they’ve learned about their customers during Covid.
 
This line of questioning shows not only a spirit of curiosity, but that you’re thinking about the need to redirect, be agile, and consider the context when engaging with their products or customers.

6. Put your resilience on display

The great buzzword of 2020 will surely carry into 2021. You may have skills, experience, and connections, but every company wants to know: Are you resilient?
 
Buzzy though it may be, companies want, now more than ever, to recruit people who know how to deal with setbacks, handle rejection, learn from failure, and keep on truckin'!

Every company wants to know: Are you resilient?

So as you move through your conversation, find spots to highlight moments of failure that taught you something new; challenges you overcame; or difficult feedback you used to improve yourself. You can even talk about how you transitioned to working while homeschooling, nursing, and doing whatever else the pandemic has demanded of you.
 
These are the rules of the road when it comes to virtual interviewing. And of course, it goes without saying that what mattered in traditional interviewing—being on time, being professional, doing your research, sending a thank you note—all still applies.
 
Now go get ‘em, tiger!
 

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS)

What is the AAMS certification?New financial advisors need something to help them stand out. Consequently, the AAMS does just that. Designed for newcomers to the financial advice business, the AAMS trains advisors to identify investment opportunities as well as help clients with other financial goals. It also gives more experienced advisors a fast and simple way to learn more about asset management and improve their credentials. Here’s how it works.

AAMS Defined

An Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) can advise clients on college savings, taxes, and retirement savings. The course and tests for this certification are designed to ensure advisors can assist clients with their complete financial needs. It emphasizes evaluating the client’s assets and making appropriate recommendations.

The AAMS certification is granted by the College for Financial Planning, a unit of the Kaplan Company. The college oversees a large number of financial certification programs, including the Certified Financial Planner designation, one of the most valued certifications in the field.

AAMS Certification Requirements

What is the AAMS certification?

To receive an AAMS, students first have to complete a 10-module education program provided by the College for Financial Planning. Then they have to pass an examination. Finally, they must agree to abide by a code of ethics and promise to continue their education.

The courses are online and can be delivered in self-study or instructor-led formats. Courses are open-enrollment, therefore students can begin at any time without waiting for the next session.  The 10 modules cover the following material:

1.:The Asset Management Process

2. Risk, Return & Investment Performance

3. Asset Allocation & Selection

4. Investment Strategies

5. Taxation of Investments

6. Investing for Retirement

7. Deferred Compensation and Other Benefit Plans

8. Insurance Products for Investment Clients

9. Estate Planning for Investment Clients

10. Fiduciary, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues for Advisors

The College of Financial Planning provides everything necessary to study for and complete the modules and take the test. Students have access to the study materials and tests through an online portal.

Streaming video lectures, audio files, and interactive quizzes also can be found through the college’s site. Meanwhile, students can access live classes online and contact professors with questions and issues.

The AAMS Test

To get the AAMS certification, students have to pass just one test. However, they have to make their first attempt at the test within six months of enrollment and pass it within a year.

The fee for the first attempt at taking the test is included in the course tuition. There are no prerequisites for signing up to take the AAMS course.

Time and Money Requirement

Tuition for the AAMS courses is $1,300. This includes the fee for the first attempt at passing the certification exam. It also includes all needed course materials. Each additional attempt costs $100.

Students employed with certain financial services firms may be able to get tuition discounts. The college may also provide scholarships.

The College for Financial Planning recommends students plan to spend 80 hours to 100 hours on the course. Since the course is self-study, this amount of time is flexible.

To maintain AAMS certification students have to commit to completing 16 continuing education credits every two years. Also, continuing education has to cover one or more of the topics covered in the AAMS coursework.

AAMS certificate holders also have to agree to follow a professional standard of conduct. As a result, they have to maintain integrity, objectivity, competency, confidentiality and professionalism in providing financial services.

AAMS Certificate Holder Jobs

AAMS certificates are generally earned by entry-level workers in the financial advice business. Consequently, AAMS holders are typically trainees. In some cases, they may provide support services to more experienced and highly credentialed advisors.

The AAMS designation does not confer any special powers or privileges. Instead, it’s an optional credential that students may obtain to advance their careers and enhance their knowledge of financial advice.

Comparable Certifications

What is the AAMS certification?

In addition to the AAMS, the College for Financial Planning offers an Accredited Wealth Manager Advisor (AWMA) certificate. This is a somewhat more advanced designation. As a result, it requires a course equivalent to three graduate level college credits and requires 90 hours to 135 hours to complete.

Chartered Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) is sponsored by the Investment Company Institute along with the College of Financial Planning. It is similar to the AAMS certificate except it focuses on mutual fund assets.

Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) is a general personal finance advice certificate from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. First, it requires 1,000 hours of financial counseling experience. Secondly, it demands three letters of reference. Finally, applicants must both complete coursework and pass an exam.

Bottom Line

The AAMS designation is usually for newly minted financial advisors, but even experienced pros can use it to bulk up their credentials. The courses and tests associated with the AAMS teach advisors how to evaluate assets and make recommendations.

While this certification doesn’t give an advisor any real powers, it’s a sign that they can identify investment opportunities specific to their clients. Above all else, it can be a great relief to a client who has a child going to college or a retirement house on their wish list. As a result of obtaining an AAMS, and advisor can point them toward the right investments for their goals.

Investing Tips

  • If you’re looking to identify investment opportunities, consider using an AAMS as your advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • An AAMS can help you with college savings, taxes, and retirement savings if you know what your goals are. However, if you are unsure how much you want to invest, what your risk tolerance is, or how inflation and capital gains tax will affect your investment, SmartAsset’s investing guide can help you take the first steps.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SARINYAPINNGAM, ©iStock.com/fizkes, ©iStock.com/Suwanmanee99

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