On Making Career Decisions for Yourself

Career Decisions

The only person who is in charge of your life is you, regardless of what others may say or think. One of the hardest parts about making a career change can be explaining your job status to everyone and having to defend your decisions to those who may consider them “untraditional.” Although the people in your life may be supportive, it can be hard for them to not pass judgment.

Because of societal norms, people get a little uncomfortable if your professional “track” does not consist of graduating college, getting a full-time career and continuing to work this way until you achieve financial success or start a family. Although for many this works, it is not the ideal plan for each person. There are so many careers nowadays that make it so you don’t need to fit into this bubble to be successful. With technology, more and more people are learning and working from home and pursuing less conventional career paths.

However, that same technology which makes this possible also makes it so our private lives are increasingly scrutinized. With social networks booming, people are now accustomed to having detailed information about each other’s lives at their fingertips. Feelings of shame and insecurity are byproducts of being constantly exposed to the updates and accomplishments of our peers and it’s easy to feel inferior about our jobs and lives.

With this culture of comparisons, it’s become harder than ever to leave a job or find a job, and the pressure to land a great gig and prove to others that you are successful. Don’t be discouraged by what your friends, current coworkers, or family members think of your decisions. You’re the only person who truly knows which career path is best for you; be confident in your knowledge and skills, and always trust your gut.

Taco Bell Plans to Open Over 1,000 International Locations by 2023

Taco Bell had a humble beginning, starting as one location in LA County in 1962. Since then, Taco Bell has grown to more than 6,000 locations with 95 percent of them in the US. Taco Bell has announced that they want to make “Tex-Mex” or “Mexican-inspired” cuisine a global fast food staple, as they plan to add 1,300 international locations by the end of 2023. To accomplish this, Taco Bell would have to open two to three new franchises outside of the US each day for the next nine years!

They are currently looking to spread to all corners of the world. Among the countries that Taco Bell wishes to expand into are the UK, Korea, Chile, India, Poland, Japan, Thailand, and Peru. Taco Bell currently has franchise locations in the UK, Korea, Chile, and India.

So why are they making such a bold move? One common theory is that Taco Bell is following in McDonald’s footsteps (a wise business decision) and looking to boost their profits by tapping into new foreign markets.

They really do need that boost. Even with the success of Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu, they still appear to have more or less plateaued in the American market. Therefore, a move to fresh international markets might be just what the doctor ordered.

There is a lot that goes into expanding into so many different regions. One special challenge for fast food chains that open franchises in multiple countries is tailoring their menus around the cuisines of those new regions. One adventure into adapting regional tastes into their menu is already at Taco Bell locations in Korea, where they have started serving bulgogi beef tacos and burritos.

We’ll see if the world is ready to eat more Tex-Mex. For now though, the US will continue chowing down tacos and burritos.

How to Leave Work at the Office

Work Stress

Sometimes, it’s hard to leave for the day and head home without a work worry on your mind. We all think about tomorrow’s calendar and all the things we have to do; we check our work email well after the workday is done. It’s not healthy to feel constantly overloaded, which is due in part to always bringing work home with you. We all need a life outside of work. Below are a few ways to overcome the common habit of not being able to leave work at the office.

“Should I have said that?” It’s a question that eats away at many of us. You made it home to your couch but you’re still second-guessing decisions from the day and can’t get your mind off it. Try washing your hands when you walk in the door. It’s a simple but powerful way to achieve a “clean slate,” and it helps us mentally wipe away doubts.

“How will I get it all done??” This kind of panic-inducing anxiety is something we’ve all felt in the middle of the night. You wake up and feel instantly attacked by all the stress from your seemingly endless tasks. Try to focus on your to-do list; analyze what you have to do in relation to how you will actually do those things. At the end of the day, review the list and write down the steps you’ll take to finish everything by the end of the week.

You check your email 24/7 and never allow your mind to rest. Checking your email incessantly puts your heart rate on constant high alert. Try, if you can, to log out of your office email when you leave work. If that seems impossible try to only check it once every hour and don’t make it the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning. Remember, the first step to leaving work at the office is to actually, physically leave it there when possible.

How to Succeed the First 3 Months at a New Job

New job

We all experience workplace changes throughout our professional careers, be it a promotion, a new gig at a different company or your own organization’s downsizes or mergers. Regardless of what is changing, you will find yourself in a state of transition at many times in your career. When you transition into a new role, impressing your manager and colleagues within the first 90 days is essential not only to the success in your current position but also for your overall career.

Like people do to anyone they meet, your colleagues and boss will form opinions about you based on the limited information they have, and those opinions are sticky. These opinions will be formed during your first quarter at work, which is why it is vital to make a strong impression right away.

What is a fundamental way to make a good impression from the get-go? Build key relationships early. Don’t focus on just getting to know the managers that are “vertically” above you. Rather, create “horizontal” alliances with colleagues to secure support at all levels.

Don’t get sucked into vicious cycles. For example, if you make early mistakes at work, people will look at you as ineffective going forward because they are perceiving your work ethic through a darkened lens. If you are late your first week, you may be seen as lazy or irresponsible and that can be a really difficult reputation to shake. If you come unprepared to your first meeting, your boss might think you aren’t actually the right fit for the position.

In order to prevent mistakes like these, take time to observe the office culture and try your best to blend in. Always listen before you speak and suppress the need to constantly prove yourself. Work really hard to gain the respect of your colleagues during the first three months in a new position, and by your quarterly review, you’ll feel secure knowing you put in the effort to prove yourself both in your personal role and as a team player.

The Next Gen Console War, Round 2: PS4 vs. Xbox One

It was around this time last year that Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox One (XBONE) were first released, starting the next generation of the console gaming wars—Nintendo, as per usual, is left out of the conversation. What does the second round clash between these two giants look like? Let’s take a look at the previous year and forecast what might be on tap for this holiday season.

Thus far, the PS4 has outsold the XBONE, 13.5 million vs. 10 million. Though it should be noted that the XBONE used to cost $100 more and was marketed more so as a general entertainment system than a gaming console.

As a whole, this next generation of gaming consoles is selling well; combined Sony and Microsoft have sold almost 24 million consoles since last year. This is roughly 70 percent more than last generation’s PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 made during their first year.

Neither system is backwards compatible, though each company appears to have a strategy to combat this issue. For Sony it is PlayStation Now: a marketplace on the PlayStation Network where older games can be purchased and downloaded. Microsoft appears to be addressing backwards compatibility through a strategy that Sony is known for: supporting both the Xbox 360 and the XBONE simultaneously—just as Sony did with the PS2 and PS3, and to a lesser extent currently with the PS3 and PS4.

Microsoft also has a strategy for hopefully transitioning gamers to the XBONE from their Xbox 360s. Certain games intended for the XBONE like Destiny currently have a special offer where, if you purchase a copy before January 2015 you will receive a digital copy for both the Xbox 360 and the XBONE. This both supports the notion of supporting both consoles but also suggests that Microsoft hopes gamers will begin transitioning to the XBONE.

There are some that believe the days of consoles are numbered. There are many reasons behind this school of thought, though one of the main threats to console gaming appears to be the rise of cheap mobile games that don’t require a several hundred-dollar console solely dedicated to playing games.

Consoles have historically also been threatened by the PC gaming. While the two have peacefully coexisted for a while, it looks like console games might have an additional front to fight. Steam, the popular video game market for computer gaming, is set to release a line of long awaited Steam Machines in 2015, which looks to be a hybrid of PC gaming and console gaming that makes Steam’s sizeable library of games more accessible and easier to interface with.

However, consoles are doing everything in their power to stay attractive. One feature of gaming consoles might see some improvements to this end: video-streaming apps. Video game consoles are important to video-streaming apps, in fact research shows that consoles are the most used source of video streaming services in the US. Sony is looking to take advantage of this audience in a big way, announcing Sony Vue: a TV video-streaming service that hopes to rival cable subscriptions. In a weird twist, Internet TV might be the thing that saves gaming consoles instead of multi-million dollar gaming projects.

In a nutshell, and a surprise to no one, the console war between Sony and Microsoft continues to be a tug-of-war with no end in sight.

Do you own a gaming system? Would you prefer to own a PS4 or an XBONE?

Taylor Swift vs. Spotify: Is the Steaming Service Good for Artists?

Spotify has been criticized by some as being bad for artists. Their arguments posit that, because it doesn’t bring in enough revenue, Spotify is “giving their music away for free.” Taylor Swift is one of the recent critics of Spotify. Since her voice is influential in the music community, her criticism prompted Spotify to fire back at her, defending their business model and protection of artists’ work.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek wrote a blog post defending Spotify and responding to Taylor Swift with a number of myths about the music business. They have been criticized of “giving their music away for free.” However, as Ek states, Spotify has paid $2 billion to artists since its beginning, and $500 million in 2013 alone. Spotify now boasts 62.5 million subscribers, 12.5 million of which have paid accounts while the other 50 million are free users. More than 80 percent of Spotify users started as free users.

There are a few thoughts on the topic. One critique says that Spotify, and other similar streaming sites like Pandora, Soundcloud, and Rdio, is designed around providing a good service to already popular music while making things more difficult for new artists. The argument goes that these already popular songs and artists (think artists like Pink Floyd and The Beatles) receive larger rates than new artists, and new artists have to play the game or get out. Artist Nigel Godrich, who had his music on Spotify and then removed it, made this argument on Twitter.

What do you think about Spotify and other “freemium” services? Are freemium services good or bad for artists?

Stop Procrastinating Once and For All

procrastination

With the coldest months of the year quickly approaching, you might already have started to feel less productive than usual. When all your body wants to do is snuggle up with a book and some hot tea, it can be difficult to get motivated to actually do anything on that endless list of to-dos. Putting things off isn’t just unproductive for you and anxiety-inducing later down the road, it’s also a bad look to always be behind. Here are a few ways to stop procrastinating.

  • Find out where your procrastination comes from. Procrastination starts with psychology. It’s important to ask yourself why you are putting things off. Maybe you get an adrenaline rush from it, or maybe you seem to be easily distracted. Figure out what keeps bringing you back to the place of putting things off.
  • Prep yourself. Be ready for your scheduled time frame. Don’t let prepping eat into the time you are supposed to be tackling the task at hand. If you want to be prepped to finish an assignment in the morning, put the document up the night before and make sure you have everything in front of you to complete it.
  • Create a timer for yourself. Once you get going, and have a specific amount of time to do something, you will work faster. You are literally blocking off that time for whatever is being put off. If you can’t finish it in that time frame, set off another amount of time for it. Have the clock running on a literal timer if you need it.
  • Create habits for yourself. Start by working on a bit of your project at a certain time and create a daily habit of it. The most effective way to get you started on a procrastinated task is to ritualize it in some way and ease yourself into it. Plan 15 minutes on a project one day and then gradually increase the time.

Up Your 9-to-5 Attire

Living in a 9-to-5 world, or for most of us a 9-to-9, it can be challenging to juggle everything. There are thousands of emails to be answered, commutes to be traveled and meetings to attend. Sometimes you even must endure this without a cup of coffee.

business_attireYour wardrobe can influence how you carry yourself throughout all of this during the day. When you wear outfits that you feel great in versus the ones you are so-so about, you know and those around you likely do too. Getting an extra confidence boost before you walk out of your bedroom is the optimal way to start the day, especially since they are usually longer than you think.

Here a few buys and ideas to help you climb that corporate ladder in style:

  • Try a long-sleeve dress with a nice silhouette. They are easy to throw on and if it has a pattern, it can be an attention grabber.
  • Invest in some brightly colored heels. These are fun to wear and a high-fashion twist on a classic. Just don’t go tacky-bright.
  • Wide leg trousers look great on women and add some curves. Get them in a nice fall hue like mahogany or olive.
  • Step up your jacket game with a floor-length coat. Houndstooth patterns are a good twist on traditional black and are more fashion forward.
  • A colored t-shirt dress paired with a nice pair of loafers or pumps can be a fun but classic outfit for the office. Layer a casual cotton blazer over top for an even more defined look.
  • Adding a colored suit to your repertoire can make a unique statement and will help you to stand out from your peers.
  • Pick up a nice tote for yourself rather than coming into work with the same old laptop bag you’ve had since high school.

Investing in a few of these garments will help you dress for success at work.

Microsoft Releases “Band”, a Smartwatch that will “Make You a Better Human”

Microsoft’s new smartwatch, the Band, boasts that it will “know you better than yourself [and] help you be a better human”, according to a Microsoft blog post. The Band is similar to the fitness band by Nike, the Fuelband, in both form and function. Both the Nike Fuelband and the Microsoft Band are sleek, slim, and offer a lot of information about your health.

What exactly does the Band do? Here’s a brief list of the functionality garnered from Microsoft’s blog post.

  • It monitors your heart rate
  • It tracks your location with GPS, allowing you to map your runs or bike trips.
  • It monitors incoming UV levels and determines when you need to wear sunscreen.
  • It can access workout guides from various sources to supplement your workout.
  • It shows you how many calories you are burning.
  • It measures your sleep quality.
  • The Band can be synced with your smartphone, whether iOS, Android, or Windows, to display your calendar appointments, emails, and text messages.
  • And of course it can tell you the time—it is a watch after all.

This is Microsoft’s first stab at creating a smartwatch, and it appears they have done a solid job. They should be commended for the cross-platform functionality, though this is become more and more a standard rather than a bonus.

Microsoft appears to be using the same tactics with the Band that HTC did when they announced their new camera the RE earlier this season. Both of these devices claim to allow you to “live in the moment.” The RE accomplishes this by eliminating its viewfinder, while the Band lets you “leave you phone in your pocket and miss nothing.”

With already crowded smartwatch and fitness band markets, Microsoft must be confident that their Band, and its ability to let you live in the moment, will be special enough to succeed.

The Band is currently available online and in stores and is priced at $199.

Is Facebook Becoming a Conglomerate?

Facebook has been on a streak of acquiring tech companies with increasingly higher and higher bids as they expand their hold on the technology industry. Over the past few years, Facebook has acquired Instagram, Oculus Rift, and most recently WhatsApp.

First was Instagram, the picture-sharing app. Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. When Facebook made their purchase, Instagram was valued at $500 million. However, Facebook paid $1 billion, twice the valued price. Then, the little utilized virtual reality headset company Oculus Rift was purchased for $2 billion.

The most recent of these purchases was WhatsApp. WhatsApp, a mobile messaging app that had 450 million users at the time of purchase, was purchased for $22 billion. What is most interesting about the purchase of WhatsApp is the fact that Facebook opened their wallets in a big way. Facebook valued WhatsApp at $6.7 billion, including value they added for the number of non-paying customers and potential news customers—in a $22 billion deal, that’s accounting $15.3 billion of the purchase as essentially good will.

Clearly, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others at Facebook believe that WhatsApp will be worth the investment. At Facebook’s quarterly conference call, Zuckerberg spoke about the purchase. “For us, products don’t get that interesting to turn into businesses until we get about a billion people using them,” Zuckerberg said.

Some have suggested that Facebook is looking to turn into conglomerate. In a Forbes article from April 2014, it was keenly acknowledged that Facebook might be growing at such a fast rate—and why companies with a large number of users are at a premium—because they acknowledge that not everyone likes Facebook. Given the apparently short life of social media websites (look to MySpace), it makes sense that Facebook would look to invest in technology that would improve their longevity.

Ultimately, only time will tell if these purchases were worth the heavy sticker price.

What do you think about Facebook’s high profile purchases?

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