How to Dress for a Networking Event

Networking events present great opportunities to meet new people and expand your professional network, regardless of whether you are new to your industry or an established name. But deciding what to wear to a networking event can be difficult. If you dress too casually, you risk coming across as unprofessional or sloppy. On the other hand, if your outfit looks like you just came from a board meeting, you could be seen as stuffy or unapproachable.

Finding a way to balance two completely different styles can seem impossible, but it’s essential when you want to leave others with a great impression. Below are a few ideas to help you strike that perfect balance.

1. Plan ahead.

We’ve all done it: You wait until the last minute to pick an outfit, and then realize you’re missing a piece, or part of it isn’t clean. Since every networking event has the potential to change your career, you owe it to yourself to be prepared. If possible, plan your outfit at least a week before the event. You might realize that you don’t have the right color tie or shoes, so this buffer time will give you some breathing room to find what you need. (Bonus tip: Choose a backup outfit in case something comes up and you need to go to plan B.)

2. Consider L.O.T.S.

When planning your outfit you’ll want to factor in several key aspects of the event: Location, Occasion, Time, and Season. For example, a winter evening gala at the Ritz? Tuxedos for men; dresses for women (and layering for everyone). A summer daytime retirement BBQ at the park? Think lightweight and airy, such as shorts and a casual button down for men; sundress for women. A spring morning mixer at the vineyard? Outdoor casual.

Knowing those four details will help narrow down your options while ensuring that you’re properly prepared.

3. Find your fit.

Your outfit might consist of several well-fitting pieces, but all it takes is one thing to ruin your entire look. (Exhibit A: blazer with sleeves too short.)

To nail that perfect fit, make sure that nothing restricts your movements. Test it out by walking around in it, touching your toes, raising your arms over your head, and twisting your torso. If you’re able to do all of that without struggling, it passes the test.

Next, walk over to your full-length mirror. Do any pieces look baggy? Check the closet for substitutes that might work better.

Lastly, do you feel good with your look? Being uncomfortable at an event can affect your confidence, mood, and body language — so make sure that you’re happy with your look before leaving the house.

4. Keep it simple.

While your attire can certainly help you make the right impression, you want your personality and social skills to be what people remember. Avoid wearing anything that might distract others from your conversation, such as flashy jewelry, bright colors, or bold patterns. When it comes to networking events, safe and traditional > avant-garde.

5. Don’t overthink it.

There’s a lot to consider, and a lot on the line. But if you plan ahead, properly prepare, and consider all the event details — you’ll feel less stressed, and more confident about your choices.

If, after all of that, you’re still feeling unsure or overwhelmed, think about clothing brands that market business casual fashion and try replicating one of their looks with items you already own. Need visual examples? Run a Google image search for your type of event. (Example: “summer cocktail attire for women”.)

Getting The Most Out Of Your 401(k)

(Last updated on May 16, 2022.)

What will your life be like in twenty years? Ten Years? Next year? How far are you from retirement? Do you feel comfortable with your existing retirement planning strategy? Do you have a 401(k)? When was the last time you looked at it?

These are all important questions but, for many, are often overlooked. We tend to see retirement as something far off in the future, something that there’s plenty of time to prepare for — not at all like those pair of pants in the back of the closet that have always been just a little too snug. This year, why not make room on your to-do list for your 401(k) plan as well?

Like any goal you set out to achieve, getting the most out of your 401(k) plan requires a strategy. So how can you make your savings strategy work for you?

1. Tax Breaks

With the new maximum contribution amount increasing to $20,500 from last year’s max of $19,500, there’s an extra $1,000 you can put to good use for your future. By managing to put this extra money away (an extra $83.30 a month), your gross income will be lower this year.

2. Catching Up

Are you behind on your contributions? While things might seem scary, you do have options. For workers aged 50 and over, you are eligible to put away an additional $6,500 a year, bringing your annual maximum to $27,000.

3. Avoid Costly Penalties

This one may seem obvious but it’s still important to note.

For example, withdrawing money from your 401(k) early could result in a 10 percent penalty. However, withdrawing your contribution money too late could trigger a 50 percent penalty if you choose to not take out the minimum distribution amount six months after your 70th birthday.

4. Get a 401(k) Match

For workers under the age of 50, you’ll need to be able to contribute $1,708 a month to max out your yearly contribution limit (or $2,250 per month for those over the age of 50). While that may be possible for some, it’s certainly not the case for everyone.

If contributing the maximum annual limit to your 401(k) isn’t possible, ask your employer if they offer a match amount. If they do, not taking full advantage of it would be the same as turning down free money.

5. Consider a Roth 401(k) Option

While traditional 401(k) plans allow you to defer paying taxes on your retirement savings, many employers offer a Roth 401(k) option as well – which would enable you to pay taxes on your contributions now and avoid paying them when you withdraw the money.

6. Direct Deposit Is Your Friend

The easiest way to not spend money is to not have it. Keep this in mind when you sign up for a 401(k) and choose the amount that should be deducted from your paycheck and deposited into the plan. You should also factor in potential bonuses or raises when determining your contribution amount.

Saving enough money for retirement doesn’t happen overnight, but there are a number of financial tools, advisors, and plan types available to help you make the most of your savings and help you plan for the future.

How to Limit Distractions While Working

Do you ever get distracted while you’re working? According to a recent study from Mopria Alliance, “today’s employees experience 77 distractions a week on average, or one distraction every 31 minutes,” leading to lower productivity levels and negative impacts on mental health.

When we are engaged in something, we tend to ignore other things around us — because our brains are hardwired to focus on the present moment. When that focus is broken, a distraction occurs. It’s important to be aware of these distractions and deal with them immediately. If you don’t limit distractions, they’ll eventually take over your entire day.

Here are some tips to help you stay focused and productive while on the clock:

1. Identify your triggers.

Distractions can come from many different sources: incoming phone calls/texts, emails, meeting notifications, coworkers, family members, social media, and even pets. It’s important to know what kinds of situations are most likely to divert your attention. Once you are able to identify those situations, it will be easier to either troubleshoot their impact or avoid them altogether.

2. Turn off your notifications.

Constant pop-ups and audio notifications can pull your attention away from what you’re working on, thus making it difficult to focus. Notifications from personal devices and accounts should be turned off when working — you can always turn them back on later.

3. Create a workspace that works for you.

It’s important to set clear boundaries between your working and personal spaces. You may not be able to completely eliminate workplace distractions, but you can certainly minimize their impact. When working in a noisy environment, try to close your door (if you have one) or use noise-canceling headphones.

4. Make a list of priorities.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of tasks that need to be done. To help manage your workload, create a list of priorities based on the most important projects first. Then, prioritize your remaining tasks using the same method.

5. Break bigger projects into manageable tasks.

When you have too much to do, it’s tempting to just start doing everything. But that approach won’t lead to success. Instead, try breaking big projects into smaller pieces which will help you stay focused and make your workload more manageable.

6. Avoid multitasking.

Multitasking doesn’t work well in today’s world. In fact, research shows that people who frequently switch between activities perform worse than those who stick to one task at a time. So if you want to maximize your efficiency, don’t multitask. Focus on one thing at a time.

7. Take breaks.

If you find yourself getting distracted throughout the day, take a break. Go outside, stretch, walk around the office, or grab a cup of coffee. Taking regular breaks helps you refocus and recharge so you can continue working effectively.

 

You might not be able to ignore every distraction that comes along, but with practice and a little trial-and-error you’ll be able to focus on the tasks that matter most to you.

Creating a Stellar LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn was created with the goal of connecting professionals through a network of social media profiles. Today, LinkedIn boasts over 500 million members worldwide and has become the go-to networking site for professionals looking to advance their careers.

Creating a professional profile on LinkedIn isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Follow these steps to create a powerful profile that will help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Start with your headline.

You need to be able to capture someone’s interest within the first couple of sentences. Think about the headlines that get shared on Facebook or Twitter. They tend to be short and sweet, but still grab attention. Make sure you use keywords that match the type of person you’re trying to attract. Use words that describe who you are and what you do.

2. Craft an interesting summary.

Your summary should tell people why they should care about you. It’s where you introduce yourself and what makes you different from others who may apply for the same job. Include keywords that match the job description.

3. Highlight your experience.

Your profile should include at least three pieces of information: your education, skills, and experience. For each section, think about what differentiates you from others.

4. Put specific accomplishments under past jobs.

The best way to show off your accomplishments is by listing them under past jobs. For example, “I worked at XYZ Company for three years as a product manager” or “I was the lead developer on project X for two years.” This makes it easy for recruiters to see what skills you have and what projects you’ve worked on.

5. Use a professional photo.

A professional photo can really set you apart from the competition, and is one of the most important things you can include in your profile. Avoid using casual non-professional photos; you don’t want that pic from last month’s toga party to be the first thing a recruiter sees.

6. Keep it simple.

People who look at profiles spend less than two seconds scanning them before moving on to the next one. So it’s important not to over-complicate your profile. Use bullet points to break down key information into bite-sized chunks. Avoid adding too many photos to your page, as they take up space and people don’t have time to click through them all. Instead, use a few high-quality images that speak for themselves.

7. Be honest and genuine.

The best way to attract new connections is by being yourself. Don’t try to fake it—you won’t fool anyone. Instead, focus on building relationships based on mutual interests and values.

8. Start making connections.

The first step is to connect with people who share similar interests. One of the easiest ways to do that is by joining groups related to your industry. Groups are very important part of LinkedIn—they can be a valuable source of industry information (everything from news to sales leads) while providing you with a great opportunity to expand your network. Lastly, don’t forget to ask your personal contacts to follow you on LinkedIn once your profile is complete.

 

These suggestions are just a few helpful tips on creating a great LinkedIn profile. It can help to have a friend or two review it for spelling, grammar, and helpful suggestions. After you finalize it, make sure that you revisit it frequently to update any new accomplishments, skills, or experiences.

Traveling in a Post-Pandemic World

The economic effects of COVID-19 are still being calculated, but virtually every industry has taken a hit. The pandemic has been especially difficult for travel, with events canceled, fleets grounded, and hotel rooms left empty. (The aviation sector alone lost $370 billion.) How will all of this impact travel for you and your family in the coming year?

International vs Domestic Travel

Many countries are still trying to determine how and when to adjust the international travel guidelines enacted in the early stages of the pandemic. While a few have relaxed their restrictions, others, like Australia, are still following strict regulations and are even considering keeping their borders closed until mid-2022.

With so many uncertainties relating to international travel, domestic travel is expected to surge this year. Researchers are predicting a boom of road trips this summer, as many people are feeling safer in their vehicles than confined to airplanes, trains, or buses.

Environmental Impact

Global lockdowns and quarantines meant less travel. Less travel meant less fuel usage. And less fossil fuel combustion resulted in a drastic reduction of air pollution levels. This phenomenon gave a boost to the environmental awareness movement. In a recent survey, 60% of respondents said they have been making more environmentally friendly purchases since the start of the pandemic. And on the corporate side, many travel-based companies have responded by rolling out their climate action plans for the future of decarbonizing their businesses.

New Norms

According to a study by Travel Plus, 70% of survey participants want to travel in 2021, and 68% want to avoid people and crowds. It appears that social distancing guidelines may have sparked reminders that personal space is a valued commodity. Certain protocols such as enhanced sanitation and contactless check-ins may be here to stay.

While it may be a few years before the travel industry fully recovers, airlines, hotels, and destinations are starting to get back to business. If you’re getting ready to plan your first post-pandemic trip, don’t forget that ABN members receive special discounts on hotels and entertainment tickets.

Ringing in the New Year With 401(K)

From letting go of vices to dedicating time for some inward reflection, there is no denying that the start of every new year is a time for reflection, looking to the future, and abandoning what didn’t work in the past.

When was the last time you examined your 401(k) business plan? Do you have a 401(k) plan for your business? Are you sure that your current plan is doing everything for you and your employees that it can? If you answer any of these questions with uncertainty or hesitation, it may be time to spend some of that reflection time on your retirement planning strategy.

401(k) Plan Types and Benefits Offerings

A 401(k) is a product that is often purchased by a business when their income begins to increase. Attractive to new and potential hires, a Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan is a type of plan where you, as a business owner and your employees, can defer up to $18,500 of pre-tax dollars into the plan.

When your business begins to become even more successful, then the day may come when the formula will need to be analyzed to see if it is truly maximizing what it can do for you and your employees. This is the point where a Safe Harbor New Comparability Formula may prove helpful financially for the businesses owners.

And then last but not least, if there’s a big need for tax deductions, and because your once-humble business has now become extremely successful ($270-thousand-dollar+ revenue per year), then you may be looking for something a bit more supercharged than what a standard 401(k) profit-sharing plan can offer. In cases such as these, a Defined Benefit Plan could allow employers/business owners to receive well above the $50 to $55 thousand dollar-a-year limit that can then be put into a traditional profit-sharing plan. A Defined Benefit Plan allows significantly higher contributions than a Profit Sharing Plan.

Participation Is Key

401(k) plans are available to companies both big and small with no minimums. It is crucial however to pick a provider that does on-site enrollments rather than just having the employees visit a website to learn about the plan. Ultimately, a website is never going to excite an individual into putting their own money in and if they don’t contribute, then the plan won’t work as efficiently as it could if the employees decide to contribute.

If your business does not offer a 401(k) plan as a part of its benefits package, you could be missing out on valuable talent that may seek work elsewhere—perhaps with other businesses that do.

business group writing on white board

Beyond Health: The Ancillary Benefits You Need

We’ve all heard of health insurance, but it’s not uncommon to hear the term “ancillary benefits” in the same sentence. But while everyone is familiar with health insurance, not everyone is equally familiar with ancillary benefits. So, what exactly are they and should you be offering them to your employees?

First and foremost, while health insurance is just health insurance, ancillary benefits can be made up of a variety of different insurance and benefits offerings made available to your employees. Oftentimes, instead of listing out each and every benefit and insurance offering a company may offer, the term “ancillary” may be used instead.

Potential Ancillary Benefits Offerings

But despite the unfamiliarity of the term, the types of insurance benefit offerings it can refer to are all too common. Offerings such as dental and vision insurance, term life insurance, long-term disability insurance, identity theft protection, pet insurance, among many others are among the most popular ancillary benefit offerings companies and associations can offer their employees.

Dental and Vision Insurance

Providing your employees with dental insurance can benefit you as much as them. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular dental check-ups can improve an individual’s personal health and having dental insurance can help save your employees from additional costly expenses should more serious treatments be needed. As is the case with anything health-related, regular check-ups are the key to catching any potential problems early and avoiding costly procedures later on.

Like dental check-ups, regular eye exams not only diagnose vision problems but can also provide early detection of serious health problems. Vision insurance is frequently offered alongside dental insurance and can be every bit as beneficial for employees to have as poor vision can result in everything from migraines, to blindness, and more.

Term-Life Insurance

Life insurance provides crucial financial protection for your family if something were to ever happen to you. An offering like this would help to give your employees peace of mind and let them know that you are looking out for their family’s financial future. It is not uncommon for accidental death & dismemberment (AD&D) insurance to be included as well.

Long-Term Disability Insurance

Long-term disability insurance has been designed to help protect your employee’s financial well-being in the event an accident or illness occurs outside of the workplace. It is estimated that just over one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire. Long-term disability insurance helps your employees replace their lost income if they have an accident or illness that prevents them from working. Leading long-term disability insurance provider Guardian, can provide your employees with up to $10,000 in monthly disability coverage.

Identity Theft Protection

In today’s internet age, you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your identity. According to the 2020 Identity Fraud Study, conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, $16.9 billion was stolen from consumers in the U.S. in 2019. With cybercriminals showing no sign of slowing down, it falls on individuals to protect their identity with smart banking practices and monitoring services.

Identity theft protection is a great ancillary benefit for employers to offer to their employees and is becoming arguably as important as health insurance to have.

Pet Insurance

Nothing will show your employees that you value them and their happiness more than by offering pet insurance for their four-legged friends. Just like the health costs for your employees, vet bills can be every bit as expensive. But by offering your employees pet insurance, they will be able to make sure that their pets stay as healthy as possible and be reimbursed for their vet visits via their pet insurance company.

Virtual Meeting Etiquette

The Covid-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to adjust their business practices, including shifting to a work-from-home model. This change resulted in the emergence of the virtual meeting. And even as lockdown restrictions loosened, many businesses have allowed their staff to continue working from home.

Virtual meetings are becoming the norm, but it’s still a new experience for many – so it’s important to practice proper etiquette while everyone gets more comfortable with this new model. Below are a few tips to help you conduct a focused and efficient virtual meeting.

1. Introduce everyone when the meeting begins.

It would be inappropriate to start a conversation between two acquaintances who have never met before without first introducing them, just as you would not do in a real meeting or social function. The same procedure should be followed for a virtual meeting. Ensure that all attendees are introduced at the outset of the event. This will establish a welcome environment and inspire interaction among attendees.

2. Make sure you’re prepared.

When preparing for your meeting, review the objectives, familiarize yourself with the attendees, create a clear agenda, set a time limit, and make a list of notes to follow once it begins. When appropriate, invite attendees to contribute to the planning of the meeting. Preparing ahead of time is always good practice, and can often be the key factor in making a meeting successful.

3. Keep distractions to a minimum.

Before starting a virtual meeting, make sure that you silence your mobile phone and disable any applications on your computer that have the ability to push notifications to you. No one wants to  hear your phone ring, or hear your computer “bing” every time you receive an incoming email or chat. It’s also a good idea to close any web browser tabs that aren’t pertinent to your meeting, as they sometimes involve background processes that can slow down or even freeze up your computer.

4. Prepare a clean, business-appropriate setting.

If your meeting involves video, you want your participants’ attention to be focused on the meeting content rather than on your cluttered office or your impressive art collection. By creating a clean environment you can reduce the likelihood that participants will become distracted. You should also make every effort to attend the meeting from a calm location where there is little background noise or movement. Some platforms such as Zoom even offer a virtual background feature, which can be a valuable tool for reducing background distractions.

5. Other quick tips.

  • Look into the camera. Ensure that your camera is placed at eye level, and look directly into it during the meeting. Looking around your room can give the impression that you are distracted, bored, or disengaged.
  • Use the mute button wisely. You definitely want to close off your mic if it’s picking up on feedback or echoes, but many times your subtle sounds – such as an “mmhmm” or a giggle – can improve the fidelity of the dialogue.
  • Hosts should be the last to leave. As a general guideline, meeting hosts should wait until everyone else has left the room before ending the meeting, allowing attendees to leave at their own pace and to say anything additional they want before disconnecting. A host abandoning everyone else in the meeting is like leaving your own party without telling anyone.

 

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