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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Smart ideas for supporting your child's education in 2017 and beyond

(BPT) - The education children receive today will help them throughout their lives. School is the fundamental component of the learning process, but education doesn't stop when kids arrive back home at the end of the day.
“Education and family go hand in hand,” says Ellen Marks, curriculum director of Bricks 4 Kidz, an award-winning summer camp and after-school program. “Parents who take an active role by supporting classroom learning will not only see their kids' education blossom, but their relationship with them, too.”
The start of the new year is the ideal time to evaluate what you're doing right and where you could improve in regards to supporting your child's education. Marks offers these smart ideas guaranteed to help you keep this resolution in 2017 and beyond:
Connections to real life: One of the best ways to help kids understand classroom lessons is to connect the material to everyday experiences. Practice fractions while cooking. Chat about biology as birds fly by the window. Learning moments are all around, you just have to point them out.
Daily conversations: With a fun, no-pressure approach, go over what your children learned in school. If they don't want to talk right after school, wait until later. During or after dinner may allow enough transition time so you'll find they'll open up more.
Positive attitude: Kids will mirror your attitude toward your work as well as how you view their school, homework and teachers. Stay positive, respectful and model resilience during difficult times; you'll find they'll do the same.
Enriching activities: Select fun after-school activities that emphasize cognitive development while building self-esteem. For example, Bricks 4 Kidz uses relatable tools like LEGO Bricks to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills. Learn more at www.bricks4kidz.com and sign up for an After School class.
The parent-teacher relationship: Sending check-in emails, attending conferences and volunteering are ways to build strong relationships with teachers. Be proactive about asking where your child excels and what areas they may need additional help.
Homework help: Good study habits are essential to excelling at school. Create a comfortable homework space with adequate supplies and few distractions. What's more, be an active partner in your child’s homework and assist when needed with gentle guidance and encouragement.
Reading buddies: Reading together can instill a lifelong love of literature. Try reading the same books your child is assigned in school so you can foster a good discussion about characters and storylines. When you both finish the book, rent the film version and plan a movie night.
Active learning opportunities: Reading, writing and solving math problems are passive learning activities. At home, encourage active learning where your child builds models, creates art projects and can ask questions. It's amazing to watch their minds work and see what they create.
Health and wellness: A child must first be well before they can effectively learn. Make sure kids stay fueled with a variety of healthy foods. Next, ensure they get a good night’s sleep. Full, well-rested kids are always ready and eager to learn.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Learn the basics to avoid cell phone surprises

(BPT) - It's easy to be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a cellphone provider. Everyone claims to offer the best, cheapest and most comprehensive service. It can be especially baffling for seniors who, despite boundless wisdom elsewhere, may be newcomers to this technology.
When you boil it down, it's actually fairly simple. You need two things: a device that does what you need it to do, and a way to connect that device to a reliable wireless network. And there's no reason you shouldn't get it all at a price you can afford.
It's all about the phone.
The type of phone you choose will determine everything else you need. Will you use it primarily to make and receive calls? Do you want to send and receive text messages? Will you be searching the internet or using social media?
Familiarize yourself with the types of phones on the market, and decide which is the best fit. Cellphones range from simple models offering basic call-and-text functions to sophisticated smartphones, capable of performing a mind-boggling array of tasks. Make sure you're getting what you really need, and don't tie yourself to something you'll quickly outgrow.
Coverage is key.
Your cellphone is only as good as the network it connects to. Before you sign up for service, you'll want to be sure a provider can deliver coverage to the places you'll be using your phone the most.
While most providers display general coverage maps in their retail stores or on their website, distinctively local things can impact cellphone reception. Your home's building materials may create interference, or tall buildings standing between your neighborhood and the nearest cellphone tower could disrupt the signal.
Rather than relying solely on a map, ask around. Check if your neighbors are happy with the quality of their cellular service. Or have friends make calls from your house to hear what the reception and sound quality are like. This could go a long way toward narrowing your choices.
Minutes, texts and data: Solving the plan puzzle.
The last piece of the puzzle will be deciding what type of monthly service to sign up for. Cellphone plans are packaged in a dizzying array of formats, but there are three basic types.
Contract plans bound you to a carrier for a fixed term, usually two years. This means if you're dissatisfied, there's no opportunity to change until the contract expires without paying a significant penalty. Prepaid plans allow you to buy a fixed amount of minutes, texts and data, and use them until they run out. At that point you'll have no service until you purchase more.
No contract, post-paid plans offer a nice mix of both. There's no long-term agreement, so you can make changes without penalties. Unless you cancel, your plan renews month-to-month, so there's no worry about running out of minutes and losing your service. There are even special rates just for seniors: Consumer Cellular, who specialize in wireless service for users over 50, offers exclusive discounts to AARP members.
Avoid surprises on your bill.
Before you sign up, ask about any penalties or hidden fees that may apply. Some carriers charge a fee just to activate your service. On contract plans, you're required to pay a hefty "early termination fee" if you cancel your service early. Find out up front to avoid being ambushed later on.
Whatever you choose, your monthly bill should be straightforward and understandable. You should be able to tell at a glance what period of time the bill covers, what your monthly charge is for accessing the carriers network, the cost of your monthly plan (and what it includes), plus any applicable taxes or fees.
Put yourself in charge.
Shopping for the best deal on your cellphone service is no different than shopping for a dishwasher or an automobile. No one knows better than you do what your needs are.
Just remember: there's no shortage of wireless carriers in the market, and they're all vying for your business. Use this advantage wisely - do your homework, ask questions and don't be afraid to walk away if you don't get the answers you want.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How small businesses can capitalize on the holiday shopping season

(BPT) - For entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, the holiday season offers an incredible opportunity to boost sales and increase the bottom line. Just like how the early bird gets the worm, starting holiday promotions early will position your business for optimum growth.
Polishing your online identity, optimizing marketing opportunities and engaging in positive customer relations are key strategies for boosting profits. It may be the season of red and green, but businesses that take advantage of these expert tips will be better positioned to see a lot of numbers in the black.
Email marketing tips
The most essential step in creating effective holiday marketing emails is to start early. In fact, 2015 email data from GoDaddy shows that it’s best for companies to get a head start on their email marketing campaigns as early as November. The days with the highest open rates before Christmas were during the first week of November, specifically Nov. 2. Even if those dates have passed, starting ASAP can help boost traffic and sales.
“Black Friday and Cyber Monday might seem like the perfect days to send promotional emails, but small businesses should proceed with caution," says Eric Gilbert, director of GoDaddy Email Marketing. “With higher sending volume comes lower email open rates. Our advice to our customers is twofold. First, get a head start on your holiday campaigns by sending before the peak shopping days arrive. And second, be sure to write crisp, compelling subject lines to help stand out in the inbox."
In creating an effective email, consider providing valuable information and useful tips rather than straightforward sales copy.
Shab Sadeghi, founder of Shabbella, a lifestyle brand for women, uses GoDaddy Email Marketing to stay in touch with her customers throughout the holiday season.
“I like to share style tips on how my customers can wear Shabbella products multiple ways throughout the season,” says Sadeghi. “In the past, I’ve provided beautiful gift boxes with orders during the holidays. I love to give back to my customers, plus everyone loves gifts!”
Another way to increase email marketing efforts is to send personalized emails. Personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent, according to Aberdeen Group.

Social media tips
Keeping active on popular social media platforms helps brands engage with their customers and influence purchasing decisions. What's more, 51 percent of people will use social media to get gift ideas, according to a statistica survey.
In addition to staying active, give your social efforts a holiday makeover with a few new strategies. For example, music is a huge part of how people interact during the holidays. Share popular holiday songs and encourage your audience to do the same.
Next, go for the emotional response. Heartwarming stories of generosity, charity and creativity abound during this time of year and tend to get a lot of play on social media.
In addition, focus on the entertainment value over the sale. The holidays, while joyful, are often filled with stress. Giving your users a break from the madness with a funny holiday-themed image or video will help them associate your brand with more than just your product.
Finally, make social interactive. Respond in a timely manner to user questions and comments. It will help build your brand reputation and leave a positive impression on your audience.
Storefront and website tips
Whether customers are visiting in person or virtually via a website, you want to give them an easy-to-navigate experience and plenty of purchasing options that meet their holiday shopping needs.
First, categorize items as gifts on your website. For example, “gifts for your husband” or “gifts for kids.” Reflect this messaging in product copy and consider writing blogs that support gift ideas for specific audiences. Additionally, promote the upsell by offering packages of products and/or services in bundles.

Creating desirable jobs by getting back to the basics

(BPT) - When it comes to hiring and retaining employees, companies are always looking at new alternatives to build their staffs. However, new research shows that when it comes to attracting top talent, many professionals prefer a return to the basics, meaning stable employment with competitive base pay with traditional medical and retirement benefits are key.
The findings come from a recent survey conducted by the Career Advisory Board, which was established by DeVry University in 2010. The survey asked employees to offer their insight into what is most important for them when looking for the right workplace. Below are some of the most interesting findings.
Predictability over perks
Employees responded resoundingly that they wanted their work life to be more in line with those of the generations before. Eighty-one percent of survey respondents said they would like to work a single, full-time job as opposed to contract work or several smaller positions. This desire rang especially true with millennials as 91 percent of those surveyed agreed.
Respondents also preferred going to the office every day (22 percent) compared to working from remotely full-time (18 percent). Millennials, in particular, were more likely to seek a job where they had to be in the office each day (27 percent).
Stable jobs were valued by 84 percent of survey respondents, while only 16 percent said they preferred a job that may come with riskier employment opportunities.
Employers looking to stay the course
For employers looking to attract and retain top talent, they should focus on solidifying their existing benefits package. A competitive salary remained the most important benefit employees consider in an employer, but traditional offerings such as medical/dental coverage, paid time off and retirement plans were heavily favored over newer perks, including onsite food, wellness offerings and day care.
Employers also don't need to look at making dramatic changes to their existing organizational structure to attract employees. Thirty-six percent said they prefer working for a single manager, while 18 percent said they appreciated the opportunity to report to multiple managers. However, no matter how employers establish their hierarchy, they should always be looking for ways to give employees a chance to impact company decisions. Fifty-six percent said they prefer a job with "authority to make decisions that impact the entire organization," a sign employees care deeply about where they work and want to have a vital role in its growth.
Employees seizing what they want
For employees looking for new positions, the job market is healthier and those with the right skills and attributes will have their pick of positions. As we move further away from the recession years and the economy improves, those who can afford to take their time in their job search are most likely to find a position offering the things most important to them.
"The survey results show us that businesses today need to be good employers, offering stable employment with competitive base pay and traditional medical and retirement benefits," says Alexandra Levit, business and workplace consultant and Career Advisory Board member. "The average American worker isn't necessarily looking for all the bells and whistles."
To learn more about the study, visit www.careeradvisoryboard.org.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

5 tips to keep your cellphone running smoothly

(BPT) - We all love the convenience of modern cellphones. They're so much more than just phones - they've become our cameras, calendars, mailboxes, entertainment consoles and internet browsers.
But all those apps, photos, videos and games compete for a limited amount of room in which to operate. If you're not careful, your phone's memory will quickly become the digital equivalent of a traffic jam. Suddenly, space is hard to come by, so everything slows down - and when it does, we no longer love our cellphone quite so much.
According to experts at Consumer Cellular, a wireless provider specializing in working with clients 50 and older, this doesn't mean it's time to scrap your phone. Instead, they recommend trying a few simple housecleaning steps, outlined below, before giving up on a sluggish device. These will help clear out most of the unwanted clutter and might just restore your phone's performance back to nearly new.
Do you really use all those apps?
Take a long look at the apps you've downloaded, and decide which ones you use regularly and therefore need to keep. Delete the rest. Unused apps not only hog precious storage space, they also impact your battery life, as they are constantly restarting and running in the background without you even realizing it. You can always download an app again later if you discover you can't live without it. But for now, get rid of the extras.
Learn to manage photos and videos.
Nothing beats the convenience of taking digital photos and videos on your cellphone. Unlike using film, there's no set limit to how many you can take. But there definitely is a limit to how many you'll want to keep stored on your device. Photos, and especially videos, chew up memory with each one you save. You also run the risk of losing the entire collection if something happens to your phone to wipe out its memory, or if it is lost or stolen.
Review your saved items frequently to make sure you're not keeping too many duplicates. Perhaps most importantly, regularly back up your files to a computer, external hard drive, or cloud-based storage - then delete all (or most) of them from your phone. This will take a few extra minutes, but it's time well spent: it not only frees up space on your device, it also safeguards against your precious memories getting wiped away.
Clean up after browsing.
When you surf the internet on your phone, each website stores a unique collection of images, videos, or text files required to display things like web pages and advertisements. These files makeup what's called the phone's cache memory, or cached data.
Cached data is saved within your browser so that next time you access the site you already have the information necessary for it to load quickly. It's a wonderful tool for web pages you visit frequently. But for sites you'll rarely visit again, these files simply take up valuable digital real estate. As they accumulate, you'll start to notice web pages taking a lot longer to load, making your browsing experience much less enjoyable.
To avoid this, make it a habit to periodically clear your cache memory. While each Android phone or iPhone is slightly different, the general process will include going to the "Settings" menu on your phone, then locating your Storage, Apps, or Applications Manager menu. Cached data is usually stored here, clearly labeled. Follow the prompts to delete unwanted files.
Make your contacts count.
Without careful attention, your "Electronic Phone Book" can overflow with duplicate entries or just-plain unimportant contacts. The cost of all that extra data is not only time wasted scrolling through extraneous information; it's also eating up memory you could use for more valuable things.
Review and organize your contacts regularly to make sure you have a well-organized and up-to-date list. Group a person's work, cellphone, and home phone number together under a single entry. Delete entries you won't likely need again. And sync your contact list with your Apple or Google contacts to create a backup, just in case anything happens to your phone or its stored data.
Keep it as good as new.
Just keep in mind that while cellphones are wondrous, state-of-the-art technology, that doesn't mean they won't require some good old-fashioned human intervention from time-to-time.
Your phone, and your enjoyment of it, will benefit tremendously from regular monitoring and simple maintenance. Whether you're using an entry-level flip phone or the most advanced smartphone, a little TLC will go a long way toward keeping things operating efficiently and extending the useful life of your device.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

5 tips for mastering your first phone interview

Five tips for mastering your first phone interview

(BPT) - The path to professional success often begins with a phone interview. In fact, 82 percent of HR managers and working professionals say that phone skills are key to both landing and job and maintaining a sustainable career, according to research from TracFone. For those looking to secure their first professional job, rejoin the workforce or climb the professional ladder, the importance of phone etiquette cannot be understated.
To master the phone interview, follow these five tips:
* Speak clearly. Speaking in a clear, confident voice eliminates potential for miscommunication and provides a positive tone to the call. Be sure to sound upbeat and enthusiastic during the interview – you can even smile to help with this and use your voice to convey your excitement about the position.
* Stay connected with the right device. All of the interview preparation in the world won’t save you if your phone fails, so make sure you’re available with a secure line when the call comes through. Consider TracFone, which offers affordable, quality smartphones such as the Alcatel 460 – the perfect tool for accessing TracFone’s nationwide coverage on America’s largest and most dependable 4G LTE networks. Plus, with no activation or cancelation fees and unlimited carryover to keep any unused minutes, text and data, you can change your no-contract plan as often as your needs change without penalties, perfect for the on-the-go professional.
* Keep your resume on hand. Often, hiring managers will reference your resume during the phone interview process. Having a copy handy will help you answer those questions with confidence and ease. You can even make a list of “talking points” that provide more detail about your background to reference during the call.
* Ask questions. The interview is meant to be a conversation and two-way process, so it’s important to have a few questions of your own about the company and position for which you’re applying. This will show the interviewer that you don’t just want any job, but a long-term career at that company. It’s also a good opportunity to determine if the job and the company really are the right fit for you.
* Send a follow-up thank you note. The phone interview doesn’t end when you hang up. One of the most important steps to career success is the follow-up. Carefully record who you spoke with and send them a thank you note for taking the time to speak with you. If you have their email address already, use that, or research their contact information on sites like LinkedIn. Reiterate your interest in the position and emphasize why you are a perfect fit. It’s an important, lasting impression that may help you secure the job and, ultimately, career success.

Spring cleaning tricks for small businesses and home offices

(BPT) - Being a small-business owner or home-based professional is hard work. Long hours may come with big rewards, but maintaining a clean and well-organized office might just be one of the many sacrifices. Do you think the mess doesn't matter when it comes to the bottom line? The reality might surprise you.
Productivity and workplace cleanliness are directly related, meaning dust and grime is more than just an eyesore. A clean office produced a 5 percent productivity gain, according to a study conducted by HLW International LLP. What's more, employee morale and engagement improve when an office is organized and clean, which in turn means higher productivity.
Piles of paper here, folders scattered there and lots of clutter everywhere - the effects of a messy workplace go even further. When office spaces are dirty, germs and viruses spread easily. In particular, touchpoints such as doors, handles, phones, etc. can be a transfer point. When you or one of your team members becomes sick, it can halt productivity for the entire business.
To keep your office clean and productivity pumping, consider these five smart tips and tricks:
1. Stock your cleaning arsenal.
When you have the right cleaning supplies and tools on hand, it's easier to adopt and stick with a cleaning routine. Some essentials include paper towels, all-purpose spray cleaners, dusters and air deodorizers. Fortunately, you can get everything you need to maintain a clean and tidy office at Staples. Visit www.staples.com to place an order - you can even pick up breakroom essentials like coffee, along with clever office organizational supplies.
2. Wipe once weekly.
Place a bottle of disinfectant wipes at each person's desk and encourage everyone to wipe weekly. Not only will this prevent dust and food grime from building up, it will also help eliminate germs to keep everyone healthy. Make sure to focus on the phone, keyboard, desk surface and door handle to your office. If your space has a breakroom, wiping it down regularly is equally important.
3. Plan a purge day.
Particularly appropriate during spring cleaning season, planning a purge day is a great way to eliminate clutter and inspire organization. Whether you're a one-man-shop or have a small team of dedicated employees, set aside a few hours on a particular day to recycle old paperwork, donate dated office supplies and toss broken desk gadgets.
4. Rearrange the workspace.
After the clutter is gone, it's time to organize. Rethink your file system and use color coding to your advantage. Use storage options to streamline desk space. Invest in ergonomic office supplies to help keep your workforce healthy. Digitize what you can to eliminate excess paperwork.
5. Organize the digital workspace.
Technology is another big consideration when it comes time to clean. Dated files, legacy software and hidden computer viruses can cause digital chaos that cuts productivity quickly. Clean up your technology systems by deleting unnecessary files and software. Buy a backup drive and cloud storage as necessary.
Want more tips for keeping a clean office from the experts at Staples? Visit www.staples.com and prepare for productivity progress.