Career Tips

If you are having little success looking for a job, you may consider volunteering. Whether you are unemployed, looking for a career change, are a recent college graduate or transitioning back into the workplace, this can work out well for you for many reasons.

Besides learning new skills and/or investigating what field you have the most interest in, volunteering enables you to test a job environment without a long-term commitment.

Volunteering provides a benefit also found also in temporary assignments -- it is a way to 'test the waters' of a career choice. It also gives you a head's up on the organization's job openings. You learn how the organization is run, what the employees and managment are like and if you would be comfortable working there.  I worked at a temp agency that  placed me in a job where I was offered employment -- for 25 years.

If your work ethic is a good one and you have performed your volunteer job tasks successfully, you may be considered as a prime candidate to fit an upcoming position. Many people began successful careers as volunteers. Your age or experience won't matter as much as how you get the work accomplished. And your performance 'on the job' is your best resume.

You, as a volunteer, can find out first-hand about the organization's mission, which is usually a nonprofit entity. Search for one that you would like to work for - especially one you have an interest in or passion in what they accomplish. In "Excuse Me, Your Job is Waiting: Attract the Work you Want", it is said, "It's a passion that sends out good vibrations. When somebody is passionate about what they are doing, they are doing their best. The people around them see them at their best and want to work with them.....and come to mind when a paying job is available."

If your passion runs super high and you 'really want a job there' be careful not to press too much. Repeated reminders to the staff about how important it is to 'work a real job' and make countless inquires into what's available is a turn-off and you may not be considered for a job there if one does come up.

Some opportunities can arise if you volunteer one, two, three times a week or even one day a month.  There are temporary agencies who can even give you a good reference and you will get paid, too!   Even if you don't get the job where you volunteer, you can investigate a new field, add new skills to your portfolio as well as acquire valuable networking contacts that may help your job search. If you did your best as if it were a paying job, you can procure an excellent letter of recommendation.

Marie Coppola October 2019     Ref: Quintessential Careers: Sharon Reed

Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership 

Many books have been written about good examples of leadership. The book, Jesus, CEO; Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership by Laurie Beth Jones is well-written, and a highly useful example of the characteristics of biblically-based leadership applicable to our management world today. Her book brings together the hard and soft skills of love, inspiration and good will into any organization's leaders or team leaders.

A preface in the introduction of this book states: "One person trained twelve human beings who went on to so influence the world that time itself is recorded as being before (B.C.) or after (A.D.) his existence.


This person worked with a staff that was totally human and not divine...a staff that in spite of illiteracy, questionable backgrounds, fractious feelings, and momentary cowardice went on to accomplish the tasks he trained them to do. They did this for one main reason - to be with him again.

His leadership style was intended to be put to use by any of us." Much can be learned from Jesus’ visionary leadership style today as much as it was 2000 years ago.

The author, a successful businesswoman, believes that Jesus' management style incorporates the best of masculine and feminine leadership styles, by harnessing spiritual energy, so that both males and females can become empowered leaders. She explains that this can be done by using three categories of strengths: 1] the strength of self-mastery; 2] the strength of action and 3] the strength of relationships.

The chapters are easily read and translate the process by which Jesus performed the above categories of strengths. Some of the chapter titles are self-explanatory and to the point of each chapter.


His Statements are What he Becomes

He Kept in Constant Contact with his Boss

He Stuck to his Mission

He Believed in Himself

He Guarded his Energy

He did not Waste Time Judging Others

He had a Passionate Commitment to the Cause

He Worked through his Fears

Strength of Action

He took Action

He had a Plan; He formed a Team

He Broke Ranks; He Came from Left Field and Branched Out

He Trained his Replacements

Strength of Relationships

He Clearly Defined their Work-related Benefits

He Treated them as Equals

He Held them Accountable

He Set an Example for Them

He Looked out for the Little Guys; He Served Them; Defended Them and Gave Them Authority

He Loved Them to the End

This book is described as a must-read for college business courses. It exhibits the core competencies of training and soft skills.

© Marie Coppola   Revised October 2019




It's a fact - the older you get, the wiser you are.   Now that’s a comforting thought. According to the daily news media, research supported by the Russell Sage (no pun intended) Foundation, the National Institute on Aging and the National Science Foundation Grant, indicates that socially, older folks, more than younger or middle-aged ones, are more apt to recognize and accept different values, acknowledge and accept uncertainties and changes in one’s life and to acknowledge others’ point of views.

So, mind and hire your elders!  It’s not as important in life and work  to know how the SEO works or how to program the DVR or how to text someone as it is to handle ‘social wisdom’ – how to get along with people and handle disagreements.

Researchers found that age affects wisdom at every social class, level of education and IQ. Even though older people don’t have the technological wisdom that younger ages have in computers and everyday technology, they do have the advantage of analyzing and solving social problems.

Demographic splits of groups numbering almost 300 — ages 25 to 40, 41 to 59 and 60 plus were given hypothetical situations regarding finance, economic growth, customs, and world problems. The researchers analyzed the results, not knowing which individual or group age the responses came from. Ratings were based on social interchanges such as compromise, flexibility, seeing the other viewpoint and mediating conflict resolution.

Then over 200 of the same groups participated in a second hypothetical area and yet a third comprising scholars, psychotherapists, clergy and counseling professionals.

The results of these tests concluded that economic status, education and IQ were related to having increased wisdom, but academics were no wiser than nonacademics with similar education levels. Researchers were surprised at how much wisdom the groups showed in disputing societal problems. Richard Nisbitt, one of the researchers said, “There is a very large advantage for older people over younger people for those (issues)”. Another researcher, Lynn Hasher remarked that “the study is the single best demonstration of long-held view that wisdom increases with age.”

She continues, “What I think is most important…is that it shows a major benefit that accrues with aging…rather than the mostly loss-based findings reported in psychology. As such it provides a richer base of understanding of aging processes.” She also cited the critical importance of workplaces providing the opportunity for older employees to continue to contribute.

Many work places do the opposite and retire aging employees and replace them with younger employees at a lower salary, compromising the experience and life situations these employees can contribute to the work force by their ongoing and diverse experiences.   More advantages:

1. They have good leadership skills. Older workers make good leaders because they often have stronger communication skills than their younger colleagues.  They remember a time when communication wasn't dominated by email or texting.

2. They know what they want.   Older workers are more stable to stay at a job than to try to 'climb the ladder" or job hop.

3. They're loyal. Since older workers are typically more satisfied with their jobs, they also tend to stay.

4. They have a good work ethic. 90 percent of the respondents who were older said that being "ethical" is "extremely or very important" to workplace culture, the highest percentage of age-workers.

5. They have strong networks. Older workers have been in the workforce longer and they've had more time to meet people and network along the way.

Marie Coppola  Revised July 2017








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Part of my job responsibilities was managing the new hire orientation for our department.   I devised a new employee orientation to help newcomers feel more confident  in those first  few confusing weeks, especially to achieve  a smooth transition in a new department.

Human Resources (HR) handled the company orientation involving the basics. The training department schedules the use of the company's technological systems and software usage.   Our departmental orientation consisted of standards in our groups, interfaces with other departments and  the Buddy System.

The actual work detail is worked out by the department manager who provides on-hands training for the new hire's responsibilities either by the previous incumbent or another same-function or level employee.   This experienced employee usually 'sits' with the new hire at his or her desk and goes over routine matters as well as functions of their new job.   This indoctrination can take place over a matter of hours or in an afternoon's time.

On that first reporting day, I would go to HR to meet the new employee, welcome him to our department and walk him  them back to his manager.    If the manager had already met the employee and brought him to the department, I would do the following:

1]  Stop by that first day, introduce yourself, wish her luck, and invite her to a department orientation set up for that same week.  Tell her you will pick her up and return her to the workspace - that will help relieve any worry about where and how to get there.   Reserve a conference room for the orientation meeting, whether there is only one or more, to keep distractions at a minimum.

2]  At the orientation, explain the basic functions of the department, and answer any questions that arise.  As an option, offer the new guy or girl the opportunity to participate in the Buddy System.  The Buddy would be one of a group of employees within the department who volunteer to aid the new person in her new position.   Almost all new hires accept the offer.

You will do the 'matching'  (by function, personality and experience) and introduce them, usually by invitation to have lunch with them.  The Buddy usually keeps close contact with the new hire for about a month; has lunch with him or her several times a week; and answers questions in person or by email or phone whenever the new hire needs it.   New employees usually have concerns over how long it will take to learn the job, if they are doing the job right, and who can they ask if they come to a standstill     The Buddy helps alleviate those concerns.

This system is great and highly recommended.   I  never had to interefere if a new hire relied too much on the Buddy.   Most of the questions asked  are on software issues, company questions or organizational levels. In many instances, the Buddy and new employee ended up being work buddies.

3]   Introduce her or him to the Training Department who will set up training for introduction to PC programs, software, phones, and other office machines.

4]  As administrator of career opportunities, I maintained a specialized department website with links to current projects and/or issues or commonly asked Q&A and an employee orientation link.  If your department has one, show the newcomer how to access it.   I kept all employees up to date on changes in personnel or revisions to procedures in the office, as well as resources and career opportunities, suggestions from them and/or comments on existing policies. This was well received and utilized,  and is an excellent resource for new persons.   Suggest that he keep a notebook of questions.

5]  Follow-up with the new employee at least once a week to make sure that the Buddy and he have connected and it is working. Sometimes job responsibilities keep a Buddy from being available; make adjustments if necessary.    Go over the notebook of questions and either help him or refer him to the right source.

6]  It is the rule of thumb that it takes about 6 months for a new person to feel comfortable and productive in their job.   These suggestions will help him or her feel more confident in learning their new job.

Marie Coppola   © Revised April 2015

imagesP71JMS2YWho hasn't felt the nervousness and apprehension from walking into an office for the first time - Day One of New Job?   Unfamiliar territory, strange faces, and an overall feeling of trepidation in what lies ahead can cause some anxiety or stress.

It's important for a company, too, to plan and aid their new hire.  For both their benefits , it's a wise decision.

Many companies, through Human Resource (HR) departments, offer a standard new hire orientation for new employees. This orientation is usually given first thing in the morning on the first day reporting on the job. Benefit packages, the company's annual report, booklets covering any subsidiary site locations and contacts are distributed. In addition, the company's organizational charts, holiday schedules, cafeteria hours, banking procedures, or any specialized on-site service is offered.

These orientations are a positive addition for the 'new kid on the block' to become familiar with the company's rules, regulations, programs and benefits. And that's just the company information!

Added to this, is the equipment Ms. Smith has to learn to do her job. It may be a different PC and software than what she is familiar with. Getting familiar with the voice-mail system, the fax system, duplication and office services and how and what procedures are required to utilize them.  The Training department can set up programs to explain all the new equipment that  the newcomer will be using.

Companies usually have standards regarding inside mail, outside mail, logos, forms, keeping logs or assigning cost center numbers and numerous other company requirements.

The big adjustment yet to be made will be the department in which he will be working. Chances are he has already met the manager who handled the interview along with some members of the department. An HR rep will probably guide him to the manager's office or someone will come to HR to welcome him.

Once there, it's up to the departmental manager how introductions to staff will commence. Some managers will bring him or her around personally and make introductions or leave that up to the supervisor. It is recommended that the manager or supervisor write a short memo (or email) that Mr. or Ms. Smith has joined the company, what department the new member will be working in, their title, immediate supervisor and a short summary of the function of the work they will be performing.

Another short paragraph is sometimes included giving some background on the new hire; for example, educational or degree(s), brief work experience and/or past titles, along with some personal aspect regarding family status, hobbies, and/or member associations. This letter should be sent to the department staff in the first few days of the new employee's starting date and can foster a communication with co-workers.

It is not surprising, when someone is unhappy with their job, they sometimes stay where they are rather than deal with or cope with having to 'start all over and learn a brand new company's requirements and regulations'.   These factors in addition to what responsibilities and tasks they will do!

We haven't even addressed  that -  the function of the job and how the new hire learns it.  Or what he does when he gets overwhelmed or can't remember somebody's name.   And how to get back to his cubicle after a trip to a meeting.   Or who the players are and if they are in his department or someone else's. How does an employer address all these areas?

In my next article, I will list 5 steps a company can take to ensure a smooth transition for the newcomer including a "Buddy System' devised to do just that.

Marie Coppola      ©   Revised April 2015


A mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions.        Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

You finally landed that job you were praying you would get, and Monday is here and it's your first day.  Here are some tips to help you 'settle in' your new surroundings with confidence and a positive attitude, along with some cautions.

1) Try to arrive at work at least 10 or 15 minutes before the normal working hours. This not only gives you time to settle in, turn your computer on, or listen to voice mail messages. It also gives you a relaxed frame of mind for friendly good mornings instead of rushing in at the last minute or a few minutes late and get a reputation for 'always being late'.

Employees who arrive before the workday begins are usually the ones who get good reviews and/or promotions. Likewise advice on leaving at the end of the day. Plan on staying 15 minutes or so after work if possible; never leave early - someone always loves to make an issue about that and the reputation will stick; the people who usually get ahead in a workplace arrive a little earlier and leave a little later.

2) Start the new job with a To Do List. This List itemizes tasks that may have been sent to you via email, voicemail or verbally. Jot it down so it is not forgotten and when you have a few minutes, prioritize the List by importance. If you don't get to it all that day, start the next day's List with the undone items so they can have first attention. Keep a file folder with the checked-off 'Done' items, date they were completed, with any information that may needed in the future for follow-up.

Not only do 'To Do' Lists give you a reputation for getting things done, they also give you a feeling of accomplishment as you go over the list and view the things you did that day. On a hectic and busy day, those accomplishments will help neutralize the feeling that you 'got nothing done today'.

3) Go slow getting to know your new co-workers. In your 'being new' nervousness, you may reveal more about yourself than you really want to. You may be telling your life history to the office gossiper. If you are asked to lunch with the group, be neutral to everyone, polite and friendly. The work environment is revealed at lunchtime, and you will hear inside scoops of what is going on with work, projects and people.

Don't make judgments or remarks. Wait until you get to know the people and the issues and even then, don't make judgments or remarks. And don't repeat what you hear at lunch or in the halls to your cubicle co-workers. Gossip spreads through offices faster than forest fires. And your name will be attached to it.

4) Go to lunch at your appointed lunch time and take the one-half hour or whatever the rule is. Some companies allot 45 minutes or one hour for lunch. Long-time employees may stretch their lunch times from the one-half hour lunch to a 45 minute or one hour lunch. That's their choice, but as a new employee, you don't want to get a reputation that you 'take long lunches'. It's a title that you may earn quickly and it will stick with you. Your supervisor will know about it sooner than you think.

Co-workers usually stagger lunch times so that someone is always in the office, and you will get off on the wrong foot in your office if someone is waiting for you to come back from lunch and you're late and taking time away from their own lunch.

5) Start off your new job with a team attitude. There are different ways to help someone out even if it is picking up their mail or copy order at office services. Your helpfulness will reflect back from your co-workers who will do the same for you. This becomes invaluable on a really busy day when you need an extra set of hands; kindness goes a long way and people react positively to it.

When someone turns their back on being a team player with the rest of the group, the group usually reacts in the same manner.  A first good impression of a newcomer usually casts a lasting reflection of him or her them for future work experience.

More tips for new hires to be continued in Part 2

Marie Coppola   ©  Revised April 2015

~ Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction ~

....John Crosby

Can you remember a time when someone gave you support, or important counsel, sound advice or positive reinforcement on something you were doing? It can help your career tremendously if you find a mentor who can 'push you in the right direction'.

Encouragement is an important support and guidance motivation given by a more knowledgeable person (such as a mentor) in helping a less experienced or knowledgeable person (mentee) to develop in some capacity.

Mentors help others for various reasons - some are born leaders who share their business successes; others like to 'give back' perhaps in memory of their own mentors. Others have a genuine interest in the success of a selected other. Here is just a capsule of familiar pairs of mentor and mentee.

'One of the oldest ways to pass on wisdom and knowledge from one generation of professionals to another has been through mentoring' .....Oprah Winfrey and her mentor, Barbara Waters

Meg Whitman (CEO and President of eBay) was told, "Be nice, do your best - and most important, keep it in perspective," by her mentor (father).

Andrew Carnegie was mentor to Charles Schwab (first president of US Steel).

Michael Lee-Chin (Chairman of National Commercial Bank in Jamaica, philanthropist, and businessman) was mentored in business by Warren Buffet and names his mother, Hyacinth Gloria Chen, as his life mentor.

Benjamin Graham (Columbia University professor) and Howard Buffett (dad) mentors to Warren Buffett (CEO, Berkshire Hathaway) told him "You're right not because others agree with you, but because your facts are right."

Mary Kay Ash (co-founder Mary Kay Cosmetics) mentor to Tom Wheatley (president fo global sales).

Warren Bennis mentor to Howard Schultz (CEO, Starbucks) suggested to his mentee "Recognize the skills and traits you don't possess, and hire the people who have them."

A.G. Lafley (Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble) was told by his mentor, "Have the courage to stick with a tough job."

Ace Greenberg (Bear Stearns) was a mentor for Sumner Redstone (Chairman and CEO of Viacom) and told him, "Follow your own instincts, not those of the people who see the world differently."

B.F. Skinner (psychologist) mentor to Robert Epstein (Editor-in-Chief, Psychology Today)

Robert McNamara (former US Secretary of Defense) mentor to Lee Iacocca (former president of Chrysler)

Thomas Sowell (economist) mentor to Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court justice). to

Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan mentor  Dr. Ruth Westheimer (psychologist, sex counselor)

Reference: The Mentor Hall of Fame by Rey Carr


Marie Coppola Revised February 2015

It's always amazing to me how many people do not take advantage of two important benefits offered at many workplaces.

One is the employer matching plan for a 401k distribution. Some companies are shying away from this form of savings but many still implement them and have replaced their pension plans with them. Briefly, participants of an employer-match program will receive a dollar for dollar match on money taken out of each of their paychecks up to a certain percentage that is then placed into a sponsored retirement plan (401k or 403b). Sometimes it is matched up to 12 or 20% of their pay. You can't beat the compound interest these plans generate.

Working in human resouorces, I found there were many employees who lamented that they could not afford to take even 2% out of their salary - they were on such strict budgets. In truth, they cannot afford to miss this opportunity to save and compound their nest egg for retirement. It is difficult for the first month or so to allocate this percentage in one's budget, but it usually is compromised swiftly, especially if a later bonus or merit raise or cost of living raise equals it and offsets the contribution.  I've written about 401ks before, but, my focus here is on tuition reimbursement from your employer.

Even in these economy-challenged times, most employers want to invest in the employees they have and increase their investment in them by increasing their skills and value to the company. Many employees do not investigate or take advantage of this generous benefit either because they 'don't have the time to continue their education' or they 'don't think their supervisor would approve it'. And again I say, they cannot afford not to participate in this truly gifting program.

Having done this myself, I can vouch that although the company does benefit from an employee learning and increasing their knowledge in the relative discipline subjects and also in other subjects that round out their learning curve and experience, the benefit for the company can terminate if the employee moves on to another company.  For the employee, the benefit is with him or her for their entire lives. Please repeat that last sentence - it is that important. Continuing education, especially if it results in a degree or certification, is equal to getting a raise at work - it puts dollars in your pocket and represents a life-long achievement.

If your company provides tuition reimbursement, and you have not pursued this avenue, make an appointment with Human Resources (HR) today and find out what you have to do to participate. Generally, I can offer some provisions although they might differ among different companies and disciplines. Investigate - but here is some legwork you can do beforehand.

1] Decide what discipline you would like to be specialized in. If you want to pursue legal, look into paralegal or business law courses. If you are in technology, perhaps you would like to take courses for the next level - routing, international analyst, technology engineer or site administration. If you work in accounting, perhaps you would have an interest in CPA or payroll administration.

2] Look into the different courses and colleges that offer these courses and what their entrance requirements may be. You should find this all online or at the library. Also, you can check on in-house courses (traditional classroom) or on-line or distancing courses that you can take at home. Find out if the school offers them.  On-line education is very popular today; some even get masters and/or doctorate degrees on them.

3] It's important to have a plan of what you want to do and a possible avenue of options. This will give you more credibility of ambition with both your supervisor and HR when you approach them that you would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

It is helpful if you list the reasons why you want the additional learning and what courses you feel would accomplish it. Do this if you want just one course or if you have a degree in mind.  Your ambitions may change midstream.

4] Approach your supervisor first. He or she has to approve your application. Appeal your case, explain your justification of how it will help both you and the company.

**Keep in mind, that companies rarely turn down requests for continuing education. This includes a one-course class or a specified degree. This is a benefit that they offer. You are responding - not asking for special favors.

5] With your supervisor in agreement, submit your approved application to HR. I always suggest making an appointment with an HR rep to do this; their job is to help you in your career development and they may have good suggestions on courses and schools. Check out your HR website; a good one will have suggestions and instructions under 'Continuing Education' or 'Tuition Reimbursement'.'

6] When your application is approved, you are either ready to sign up for the one-time course, certification, or call the college of your choice for an interview and plan your curriculum.

There are some qualifications and guidelines that your employer may require for you to be eligible for tuition reimbursement:

• You may have to be a full-time employee; (some offer to permanent part-time employees).

• have completed a year of service; and

• Be on the payroll when the course is completed. (if you are let go or outsourced by the company during that time, they usually reimburse for that semester but not if you quit or leave the company on your own).

  • Most companies will reimburse employees for all tuition expenses - most include entrance fees, books, and supplies).
  • There usually is a maximum of how many credits a year for which they will reimburse (anywhere from 3 to 6 courses a year - some companies will allow 3 courses a semester or 12 total courses for the year including summer couses). *NOTE: Credit fees are the highest costs associated with returning to school and vary according to college. This is where you are getting a big 'raise'.

I recommend no more than 3 courses a semester if you are working a full-time job. I also recommend one heavy-duty course (Statistics) and a required medium-duty course (Psychology) and an elective (something you like that is included in your requirements, ie, Art, Music, Philosophy, Poetry). It is important to keep in mind that you don't want to be overwhelmed or overworked; you have to PASS the course to be reimbursed.

The company will reimburse employees at the conclusion of a successfully completed course; sometimes they reimburse as long as you pass the course; others have a stipulation similar to this:

• For an "A" grade, the Company will reimburse 100% of the tuition cost;

• For a "B" grade, the Company will reimburse 75% of the tuition cost;

• For a "C" grade, the Company will reimburse 50% of the tuition cost;

No reimbursements will be made for grades lower than a "C" grade and no reimbursement for Fail.

Certifications, Associates, Bachelors and Masters degree programs are part of reimbursement if they are business or job related. All courses, required and elective, which are related to an employee’s work or which lead to a business-related or job-related degree will be reimbursed. Most companies will reimburse as long as you PASS with ANY GRADE.

*Note: Many employees start with courses related to their present discipline or department they are working. Sometimes they are courses offered at a certification seminar or at a community college or even online. As the 'student' seeks additional courses, they may seek courses at a university or college. Once they matriculate, (admitted or accepted by a college or university for a defined degree course), the employer WILL accept variety of courses. The major will usually be business; and the minor may not be business-related, but part of the overall courses needed for the degree. Most companies do accept these unrelated courses as part of the degree program and reimburse for them.

Upon completion of the pre-approved course, the employee must submit a copy of the "Request for Tuition Reimbursement" form to the Human Resources Department, along with an official transcript of grades and proof of payment.   Requirements vary among companies.

I hope I have encouraged you to jump-start on your continuing education program. It is one of the best deals your company is offering you. Personally, I took advantage of this opportunity and completed two degrees in 8 years; the cost to the company was $50,000. The out-of-pocket cost to me was reimbursed upon completion. It's free education and you can't get better than that. This is an offer you simply can't refuse.   Here is a partial list of well-known entities that offer tuition reimbursement opportunities:

Marie Coppola © Revised July 2016



I don't think anyone ever died, but, oh, the pain of presenting!  It is said that people fear public speaking or giving oral presentations more than they do dying.

They avoid these sometimes-forced-upon-you school or work assignments and come up with all kinds of excuses. Work encounters are usually one-on-one discussions or sometimes explaining procedures or information at a seminar, but most people are taken out of their comfort level when they have to stand up in a room full of people and give an oral presentation.

These situations usually produce sweaty hands, heart pounding, dry mouth, and shaky knees syndrome. And these are the minor reactions! Sometimes you wonder if you could have a heart attack during one. The heart and pulse are way up there, sometimes accompanied by a flushed face. And by far, the anticipation of giving one is much worse than actually getting up there. Plus, a sleepless night worrying about 'presenting tomorrow' causes fogginess and disorientation, giving added fears of not speaking coherently.

Our boss gave all of us presentation-skill seminars to complete for our objectives one year. No one was happy about it.  We decided the best thing was to get it over with as quickly as possible; we all were signed up within a week. The presentation class itself would last for one week - every afternoon for 4 hours.

At the first meeting, no one was smiling when the facilitator came in. He was an engaging young man and he was the only one smiling in the class. My fellow sufferers and I were deadpan and immobilized. We were zombies preparing for death; and we were prisoners. This class was mandatory on all our objectives, and we didn't know each other well.  Or really cared. We were all very self-absorbed.

The facilitator asked each of us to come up and introduce ourselves and he would video tape us. Yikes!  Now?  We all had to do it, of course, and it is a blur but I have it on tape - to look at when I need to get humbled.

For the next five days, we learned that it was natural to feel nervous. And he gave us pointers on how to relax and calm down. When he finally got us to sit without fidgeting, he explained he was going to help us prepare to give a 5-minute speech. Five minutes!?!  He's crazy - no way.  I think I will call in sick that day.

He went over our all introductory videos and pointed out our strengths and weaknesses and there weren't many strengths in that class. But he stayed with it and explained how we were to present. He gave us these guidelines:

Eat a good breakfast so your stomach doesn't distress and make noise while you are talking. Force yourself; the breakfast will wake you up and give you strength.

Dress sharply for self confidence and take a deep breath when it is your turn to speak.

Introduce yourself and say something to lighten up the mood; maybe an amusing story or a quick joke. It breaks the ice.

Stand comfortably, and allow your hands to express along with what you are saying. Don't stand there (like I did) with your hands folded in front of you. Give natural expression to your body - otherwise you will stand stiff and hold your ear the whole time like the PhD chemist did in his introductory tape.

Focus on speaking to the whole class - and this is important - look in their eyes, and take in the whole group, talking from face to face. If you find a friendly face that smiles, dwell there a little longer. If you want to know if they are listening you could ask something, like, "Isn't that true?", or "Don't you agree?" but be prepared if they don't agree, they may ask you a question about it. Think about what questions may be asked. .....And most importantly......

BE PREPARED AND KNOW YOUR SUBJECT WELL.  PROJECT YOUR VOICE. Actually you should feel like you are softly shouting. Most people cannot be heard; they speak too softly.

Don't read from notes or a paper - you can use a small file card with reminders in case your brain freezes up but use it only as a reference. You may utilize graphs or visuals - they take the spotlight off you and gives your listeners something else to dwell on besides you. But don't make your entire presentation explaining slides.

Focusing on all these directives actually takes nervousness away - two matters cannot occupy the same space. To this day, I focus on how to present as much as what I am presenting - it works - and neutralizes the self-consciousness.

I practiced before presenting.  I engaged members of the family and friends - even the family dog and cat.  Practice helped me to get comfortable with speaking in front of someone else.  On Dread Day, the facilitator taped each of our 5-minute speeches and the tape verified that we could get up and pull this off. I was euphoric - wow - I can really do this.

I would never be catatonic-nervous again. I had built up fear around doing this all my life, and I faced the fear and the fear was gone. It's true that 'we have nothing to fear, but fear itself'.

I counseled many employees after this and signed them up for the presentation class. I went through it with them with great compassion and empathy. I was rewarded at the end of each of their classes, when they would come up to me, with a big grin and dazzling eyes, repeating, "I did it! I did it.....And I won't ever be afraid again".

Marie Coppola.© October 2014




Every now and then we all have computer problems. It’s a bummer. You can’t get onto the Internet and you need to do that ASAP. Sometimes, the screen gets all wiggly or gives you a message that it is shutting down and you scream, ’NO, I didn’t save it yet - wait! Aghhhh. Why didn’t I save it?"  Bang head against computer.  It may turn it on again, or you may have created a more serious computer problem.

We all know how we feel when we can’t get to a site we need to right away OR you have someone on the phone–and the computer, for the first time in weeks, decides to s-l-o-w-l-y t-u-r-n o-n and slug along while someone is waiting on the other end tapping his or her fingers while you say the old cliche, ‘my computer is really slow today.’ Not fun for your nimble fingers itching and ready to pound the keys that won’t let them. Is the server down? or is the system having problems?  the views are not working right? — #@%?>#

What do you do when these problems come up at work and the administrators are trying their best to fix them? They know and hear that the user is getting mighty frustrated. Here are some tips & suggestions for those days when this inevitably happens to everyone.

1. DON’T vent your frustrations out on on the Help Desk employees. They are trying their best to fix it.  Word will get around how unreasonable (yes, they will say that) you are - not to mention your boss hearing it.  In the scheme of proper and improper behavior, let’s not 'bite the hand that feeds you’ and/or ‘don’t air dirty laundry’ to the public. They may be amused at first, but that gets old quick.

2. DO "keep in your department what happens in your department"- don't blame others - your glitch may not be their fault. Otherwise, it starts to sound like "As the World Grumbles" or "Family Feud".

3. Try to be patient. No one likes to have to wait for things or not be told what is going on. When things aren’t quite up to par technically, some of you want to hit the Panic Button, and do; others wait patiently for the air to clear and haven’t said a word.  Shalom.  It is duly noticed by others in your group how you react under stress.

4. Read any article that explains systems problems, especially those dealing with adding on servers and LAN’s and how traffic is intricate and inter-related. You will see that they take time to develop, time to test and time to implement. Plus, it takes time to get the bugs out. We all know about bugs; we’ve all had them - the computer kind, that is.

5. Try to imagine the worst thing that could happen - like your company could put you totally in the dark, and you could get ERROR messages on everything that is out there. All of your reports and work articles could be frozen out there somewhere forever.  They may not be backed up and lost forever.   See, things could be worse. If you can get some screens, although that isn’t warm and fuzzy, it should be somewhat comforting.

6. While you’re pounding the keys harder than what they were made for, remember that you have the advantage of having a job and it is usually OK - except when the server is not working right?  Yes, I do hear you and validate you - you know some really bad words -- normally, you do like what you are doing. Come on, admit it, or you wouldn’t be so frustrated. That’s better. Now try to smile a little.  Come on - that’s a smile?  All right, forget about it.

7. Do not give in to the urge to sweep the computer off the desk onto the floor. Big mistake. Think of something pleasant instead.  You can if you try.

8. Stop putting even  more phone messages on the Help Desk line.  They’ve already been inundated with questions asked and re-asked. Breathe in and out and think. Get up and go for a walk.

9. You look better. Uh Oh, your eyebrows are knitting together again. Relax. Think happy thoughts; remember, you'll make up this time Somehow, Somewhere. Isn't that a Barbra Streisand song? Oh, come on, that was a joke - stop throwing things.

10. Whoops, you’re pounding away again - not good for the keyboard.   And another call to the Help Desk -- tsk tsk.   You already ‘aired’ that annoyance twice already. Stop calling them. Yes, Stop.

Oh, look, the system is up now. And they have fixed all the glitches. Now, admit it -- wasn't it kind of nice to take a little break? OK, OK, I’m out of here.




(C) Marie Coppola August 2014