Great Expectations from Solo Travel

Solo travel, as the name implies, is embarking on an adventure in the truest sense of the word; leaving behind your usual safety crutches – friends, an itinerary, and traveling confined to the weekends or filed leaves.

Solo traveling is not solitary confinement; it just means that you start your travel adventures by yourself and you make friends as you go along the way. It actually makes it easier for you to meet new people; without the usual group of friends surrounding you, locals and other travelers find it easier to approach and start a conversation with you.

The Benefits of Solo Travel

1. Your senses are heightened because there are no distractions, intensifying the traveling experience;

2. Traveling solo lessens the impact of your presence on your immediate environment; locals are more at ease going about their daily routine and you get a more genuine feel of their culture and way of life;

3. Going solo means all the decisions are made by only one person; you can act on your impulse to sample the exotic local cuisine or learn the traditional dances without second thoughts or having to compromise with anyone;

4. The locals and other travelers have an easier time approaching you when you are alone;

5. Solo travel means greater mobility; no more waiting for a table of a certain number of people before you can be seated since you can always sit at the bar; and we can board buses with only one seat left;

6. Traveling solo helps preserve relationships in a way; traveling with a group tends to strain relationships in certain instances such as who gets to use the bathroom first or who sleeps on the couch, these little things pile up and before you know it, no one is speaking to anyone anymore; and

7. Solo travel allows you to get in touch with your inner self, to mull on the meaning of your life and other philosophical queries you normally cannot indulge in; and

8. Solo travel gives you an opportunity to relax and recharge.

The Challenges of Solo Travel

1. It can get lonely; when we see other travelers with their friends or families our natural reaction is to miss our own friends and family. But we must bear in mind that we did not embark on this journey to strengthen bonds with other people; we are here for ourselves.

2. Safety is perhaps the most crucial issue for solo travelers, most especially for women solo travelers. Travelers are easy targets for undesirables; they are unfamiliar with the territory, they are most likely clueless about the local language and they usually carry around more money that the locals. Always be alert of your surroundings; it’s not like we were born yesterday or that we have never found ourselves in a “bad neighborhood,” always use common sense – do not walk alone in dark or dimly lighted streets, know where the nearest police station is, if you must ask for directions as a person in uniform, and ask other travelers for tips on how to high crime areas.

Solo traveling is not for everyone; the benefits of solo travel seem to be more on the introspective aspect of an individual, realistically its demands seem higher than traveling with a friend or a group of people. But more and more people are embarking on their own solo adventures; why you may ask? I can almost hear a veteran solo traveler replying, “Because it’s worth it.”

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When is an Allowance more than just Pocket Money?

Tom’s pocket money is paid once a month.  Two or three days later it is all gone with only a pile of candy wrappers and plastic components from construction toys scattered across his floor to show for it.

Pocket money used to be just that; enough money for a child to reach into his or her pocket to buy child-sized items when they were on a rare shopping trip. The purchased items would be a few trifles such as single sweets or a cheap plastic toy and the whole point of pocket money was to demonstrate the benefits of delayed gratification and good money management.

These days the toys are becoming so sophisticated and expensive that the delay until gratification could reach into adulthood. Sweets rarely come in small packages any more and the purpose of a one cent coin is lost completely.

Worldwide, the average child is now receiving an allowance of around $5 per week.  Pocket money has been reportedly handed out to those as young as 1 year old and to “children” as old as 32.  Half of them blow the lot on ice-cream, chocolate and other sugar filled delights.  The remainder either buy comics, magazines and computer games or a small proportion, one in five, choose to save their money.

Some families tie the size of the allowance to the completion of household chores, however the experts point out that this also ties the adults into a lifetime of negotiation. Teenagers, especially, will gladly leave their bed unmade and put up with the temporary penalty of a reduced allowance.  It is far better, say the financial gurus, that parents should reward their offspring for good money management.  For example year on year increases in pocket money should be dependent on a good record of prudence during the previous year.

Yet another approach is to guarantee a high level of allowance, say $10 per week, provided a small donation is made to charity, $5 is placed into a savings account and that account is maintained sensibly. Managed withdrawals from the account for planned purchases will maintain the level of the allowance however the penalty for raiding the savings account is effectively to halve the weekly allowance.

The problem with Tom is that he has other sources of income.  Because he is bright, he gets a regular income from bonuses for good school results.  His grandma always doubles whatever his parents give him for an A or B in tests and even when he voluntarily stopped his own allowance for 6 months as a protest against meddlesome adults, he always had cash to spend.

His sister, Suzie, is two years younger, comes from the same gene pool and regularly saves up to $100 before she buys anything at all.  Maybe boys will be boys or perhaps Suzie got the message and Tom didn’t.  We haven’t given up on Tom’s financial education yet, he’ll be trying out the new, improved “non-discretionary purchase allowance supplement” for the next few months.

Categories Allowances, Kids & Money Tags , , , , 1 Comment

Preparing for an Interview

Job interviews are incredibly stressful events, even for the gregarious amongst us. You improve your chances of winning the job if you prepare for each interview as though it were the only one in the world.

Preparing includes several steps:

  • Decide how you will answer common interview questions and write the answers down
  • Develop a strategy for answering unexpected questions or questions you cannot prepare answers for.
  • Write down the answers you will give for inappropriate or questionable questions.
  • Rehearse the interview process from beginning to end, including a couple of “dress rehearsals” with actual companies.
  • Keep a list of companies you have contacted, an up-to-date appointment calendar, and a pencil by the telephone so you have them when the scheduler calls.
  • Create an interview kit to take to every interview. This should include a checklist of what you have to do prior to leaving for the interview.
  • Buy or borrow a business briefcase or portfolio to take to interviews.
  • Check your wardrobe and buy, clean, or repair the clothes you need for interviews. Have your dress shoes repaired and polished professionally. Have at least two interview outfits in case you have to go to more than one interview at a company.
  • Maintain your haircut and manicure so that you can go to any interview on short-notice and look well-groomed.
  • Know what your transportation Plan B is in case your car breaks down when you have an interview or on the way to an interview.
  • Practice shaking hands to perfect the firm, brief business hand-shake.

Answering Common Interview Questions

You do not know what type of interview questions you will be asked until you are asked them. You can, however, anticipate some of the questions that will be asked.

These are questions that professional recruiters use, that are recommended in books and seminars on interviewing, and that researchers have uncovered and that professors teach. You should have an answer to these questions and it should be written down. The process of deciding what your answer is, and writing it down, helps you recall the answer when the question is asked.

Collect as big a list as possible of possible interview questions. Sort them by type, if you like, and categorize them into subject areas to make them more manageable. This is the kind of activity you need to do on a computer. If you use a word processor, put each question on its own page, with the question type and category at the top of the page.

No question should take more than a couple of minutes to answer. Some very broad questions, such as “where do you see yourself in five years” should be answered very succinctly, while a question about how you approached a specific problem in the workplace may require a bit more time to answer well.

It may take several drafts to get your answers clearly focused and well-stated. Read reach draft loud to make sure the flow and tone are conversational. When you are happy with the answer, read it aloud to someone who will give you constructive feedback. Use as many of your anticipated answers in practice interviews as you can.

Find the questions

There are a number of college career services that have developed lists of common interview questions for their student clients. Several of these lists are posted on the Web. There are also lists on some job boards and on several career guidance sites.

University of Waterloo: Common questions and a discussion of how to handle questions designed to discern how you behave in work situations. http://www.cdm.uwaterloo.ca/step_4_41.asp

Job Search: This channel on The About Network has several lists of questions. Although the Job Search Technical channel is aimed at technical workers, it is a good place to find these lists. Start at http://jobsearchtech.about.com/.

You can download a Word document with questions and sample answers at http://jobsearchtech.about.com/library/weekly/aa031201-2.htm.

University of Wisconsin Milwaukee: The Common Interview Questions at http://www.uwm.edu/~ceil/career/jobs/commonqs.html has a section from recent graduates with questions about your college experience.

iVillage Job Resource Center: Fifty questions are group by subject area with help in practicing your responses. http://www.ivillage.com/work/job/get/articles/0,10109,196965_192749,00.html

TrueCareers: There is a nice list of questions at http://www.truecareers.com/jobseeker/careerresources/interviewing/traditional.shtml.

Answering the Big Three Questions

The ubiquitous traditional questions should not be ignored in your preparation. Interviewers ask them because your response provides them with important clues. In the list below, Carol Martin an interviewing expert with a long career in human resources management, shares this advice:

  • Can you tell me about yourself?” “Your answer to this question sets the tone for the rest of the interview. Focus is the key — avoid a rambling answer,” says Martin “What do you want the interviewer to remember most about you? List five strengths you have that are pertinent to this job — experiences, traits, skills, etc.
  • What are your long-term goals? “If you’re an organized type of person, answering this question may be a piece of cake,” says Martin. “No one can tell you exactly how to answer this question – it will come from what is important to you. However, the more focused and employer-centered you are about your goal, the better your chances of steering the interview in the right direction.
  • Why should we hire you? “Develop a sales statement. The more detail you give, the better. This is not a time to talk about what you want. It is a time to summarize your accomplishments and relate what makes you unique,” advises Martin. “Like snowflakes, no two people are alike. Take some time to think about what sets you apart from others.”
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Get Your Resume into the Right Pile

Everyone who looks for a professional or management job has to have a resume. If you are actively networking to find employment, a copy of your resume is with you 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to give to anyone who asks for it or whom you decide might be able to pass it along to someone.

When you respond to classified ads or job listings on a Web site, you are expected to send your resume or to complete a resume form provided by the listing site.

Professional resume writers can help you by reviewing a resume you have written or writing your resume for you. Both options require you to pay a fee.

The process of creating a resume, however, forces you to take a close look at your skills and your experience and determine how to best present them to a potential employer.

Writing your resume is an invaluable experience, and it is not one you should forgo in favor of having someone do it for you.

“There are only two things you can be sure a hiring manager will do when reviewing your resume,” advises Colleen Sabitino, author of Play of Your Dreams.

“Hiring managers will begin reviewing a resume by starting at the top, and they will read the lines from left to right. Their first impression will have the greatest impact and will influence how they perceive you.”

“A good resume is a glorified application,” says Sabatino. “A great resume is a marketing brochure.”

Your resume is a sales tool, not a job application. It can get you interviews, but it cannot get you jobs. A job application is a business form. Everyone who applies for a job at a company may have to fill one out.

A resume is your opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light. Your resume need not (probably ought not) contain a list of every job you’ve ever held.

Include only those jobs that best demonstrate your experience, skills and achievements. Don’t repeat formal job description; explain how you improved operations, increased profits, or achieved record sales levels.

List the year you earned your degree and the college that granted your degree, not the five colleges you went to over 10 years to get that degree.

If you have limited experience in an industry, play up the aspects of the jobs you have held to show how they are similar to the job you seek. Explain how this work demonstrated the skills you need to succeed, such as communication, responsibility, and a strong customer-orientation.

You can sit down one afternoon and pound out a resume, but you will be wasting your time. Even a good resume requires thought and effort. A great resume requires thought, effort, creativity, and a thorough understanding of the job you want to secure and the company you want to offer you that job.

Career counselors agree that resumes get no more than 20-30 seconds of attention when they arrive on the desk of the first person who handles them as they arrive in the mail. This person makes three piles.

  • The “didn’t read the job description and has none of the required qualifications” pile.
  • The “can’t write a paragraph without misspelling words, using the wrong punctuation, or making a grammatical error” pile
  • The “might be what we are looking for” pile.

The first two piles are filed, but not in a drawer that is likely to be opened again in the next millennium. The last pile is handed-off to the person who decides who gets called for an interview. This may be a human resources recruiting specialist or it may be the hiring manager.

This person sorts the resumes again, and they spend less than 30 seconds with each resume as they sort.

An experienced recruiter or hiring manager is scanning resumes for words and phrases that signal the person fits the requirements stated in the position listing, and for information that demonstrates which candidates rise above the minimum requirements.

Dr. Ronald L. Krannich is a best-selling career book author and publisher. His book Change Your Job, Change Your Life has been in print since 1989. Kannich advises you to create a resume that incorporates these characteristics:

  • Clearly communication your purpose and competencies in relation to the employer’s need.
  • Be concise and easy to read.
  • Outline a pattern of success highlighted with examples of key accomplishments.
  • Motivate the reader to read it in-depth.
  • Tell employers that you are a responsible and purposeful individual – a doer who can quickly solve their problems.
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Regulatory Compliance

Regulations have been a part of the corporate world for long, but, perhaps the emphasis on compliance has never been as great as today. The severe penalties that could be levied to the top management, including board members, and the organization as a whole have made regulatory compliance a top corporate priority.

The main aim of regulatory compliance is to ensure transparency, accuracy, and accountability in the financial information maintained by companies.The Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the U.S, and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region are the main drivers of corporate regulatory compliance. There are many other regulations and legislations governing regulatory compliance for specific accounting entities, such as Governmental Funds and Financial Services.

The benefits of compliance are threefold. First, by providing transparency to financial and operational aspects, the companies develop trust among their stakeholders, including shareholders, suppliers, and customers, and regulatory authorities. Second, the companies show that they are meeting their legal requirements. Third, and perhaps the most important benefit to the companies themselves, is that by adopting regulatory compliance, the companies strengthen their operational controls and performance standards.

Let us have a look at the main compliance provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley Act—by far the most important set of regulations affecting U.S. companies. Section 302 of the act mandates the companies to design a set of internal procedures to ensure accurate financial disclosure. It also makes the officers signing the financial information responsible for establishing and maintaining internal controls. The officers must also evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s internal controls and report their conclusions. This essentially translates into the CEO and CFO of the company certifying that they have reviewed the financial reports and that the reports ‘fairly represent’ the company’s financial position. This makes the top management of the companies responsible for the accuracy of financial information. Failure to perform this responsibility could lead to legal penalties and risk to reputation of the management personnel.

Section 404 of the act states that each annual report must include an “internal control report.” The report should affirm the responsibility of the management for establishing and maintaining an adequate internal control structure and procedures for financial reporting. The report should also contain an assessment of the effectiveness of the internal control structure and financial reporting procedures certified by external auditors.

Section 409 of the act presses for real-time issues disclosures. The issuers are required to disclose material changes in the financial and operational condition of the company to the public on a current basis. The act warrants that these disclosures be in simple English and may include trends and qualitative information. Some examples of material changes include end of a business relationship with a significant customer, a change in a rating agency’s assessment, or a large restructuring charge.

Besides these three main sections, there are numerous others, such as establishing a public company accounting oversight board, and ensuring auditor independence and corporate responsibility.However, over the years companies have found these three sections most difficult in terms of compliance. This is partially because of the high costs of implementation for complying with these sections. However, as companies migrate more to IT based systems and procedures evolve, even smaller companies are starting to adopt the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in totality.

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