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Fear Is The Biggest Problem In Your Career

Everyone is afraid of something. And, fear is normal. Without fear we would do all sorts of crazy things like walk off a cliff or into oncoming traffic.

Fear can also hold you back. It can keep you from taking chances or risks in your career. It can keep you from asking for a raise or following up on a job you know you would be perfect for. Allowing fear to hold you back will lead to career dissatisfaction because you are not on the court playing a game that means something to you. Instead, you are sitting on the sidelines watching the world go by.
When you look at your career in the future, what do you see? Excitement or unhappiness? Joy or sorrow? Do you know what you need to do to make your career more positive? If you have not acted yet, what are you afraid of? Have you identified your fear or would you prefer to not face it?

Fear, used correctly, can help you move forward. It can help you plan wisely. It can prevent you from jumping in and acting too quickly. But using fear as your excuse for not moving forward can hurt you.

So, how do you not let fear become the biggest enemy in your career? Follow these three steps:

1. Recognize Why You Keep Fear In Your Career

Fear does serve a purpose. It keeps you safe. As long as you are not taking action in your career, you might believe that you don't have to experience disappointment, rejection, or failure. But aren't you experiencing these things anyway? What brings career satisfaction, momentum, and excitement into your career is movement and having something to shoot for; something to look forward to that gives you a reason to get out of bed every day. Fear kills this. You may have many reasons for not taking a chance and they may be good ones. But, know that these reasons are why you are unhappy.

2. Decide That Fear Has To Go

There comes a time in your career when you say to yourself that, "Enough is enough!" "I know that I am afraid and I don't know how things are going to turn out. But, I am done having a career that is making me unhappy. I don't want this anymore." These words are your defining moment. It's when you decide that what you are afraid of is not as bad as staying where you are. It's when you make a decision to move forward despite being afraid. It's an internal shift and calmness because you know inside that whatever happens in the future, you will be OK.

3. Begin While You Still Are Afraid

Who says you have to wait until you are no longer afraid to act? We all want to wake up in the morning and have fear magically disappear. (It would be so much easier that way.) We tell ourselves that we will act then. But the truth is fear is misplaced energy. When you begin to act, this energy will work for you; the fear will burn off, and you will have an intensity that will push you forward. Each step that you will take helps you feel more comfortable with the next step, and so on. This is why goals are not reached overnight. It would be too scary and overwhelming to handle. You have to take it piece by piece. Your goal is to take one action step every day. This action will start to build momentum. Little by little your confidence will rise, and you will take more steps until you reach your goal. And then, you can be proud of yourself because you were a person who was once afraid but you went after your dreams anyway. Good for you!

So, what do you say? You only have one life to live, so it might as well be a life you love!

Deborah Brown-Volkman, PCC, is the president of Surpass Your Dreams, a career, life, and mentor coaching company. She is the author of "Coach Yourself To A New Career", "Don't Blow It! The Right Words For The Right Job" and "How To Feel Great At Work Everyday."

Check out this video on living for the What-if Scenario:

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Is Your Small Business a Cybercrime Target?

New cybercrime statistics are enough to keep Internet-savvy small businesses up at night.

According to YourMoneyIsNotSafeInTheBank.org, small-business accounts suffered more than $40 million in cybercrime losses as of 2009. The Web site also cites FDIC figures indicating this type of crime increased five-fold within a 12-month period. The FBI is tracking hundreds of related cases.

Want more bad news? Small and medium-sized organizations have become the primary targets of the Eastern European hacker gangs. These cybercriminals tend to prey on smaller businesses and banks that lack the cyber-fraud controls many larger institutions have in place.

And here’s the last scary thought. If your small business caters to travel, education, financial services, government services or IT services, you could be a target of cybercriminals. So says a recent phishing study from KnowB4.

KnowBe4 sent out a simulated phishing e-mail to employees at more than 3,500 small to mid-sized businesses. Individuals who clicked the link were directed to a landing page that informed them they had just taken part in phishing research. A whopping 29,000 people at more than 3,000 businesses opened the e-mails—and at least one employee at 500 of those firms clicked the link. If it had been a real cybercriminal, those small businesses would have been infected with malware, malicious software that aims to steal information for criminal purposes.

"Any business that provides access to e-mail or access to its networks via the Internet is only as safe from cybercrime to the degree that its employees are trained to avoid phishing emails and other cyberheist schemes,” says Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4. “The more employees within an organization that use e-mail or go online, the greater the risk of exposure to cybercrime.”

As Sjouwerman sees it, these cybercrime statistics should serve as a wake-up call to small- to mid-sized businesses around the country. That’s because these businesses are not only at risk for financial loss through a cyberheist—their susceptibility to phishing tactics could compromise sensitive customer data such as credit card, bank account and social security numbers.

With so many headlines about hack attacks, why are so many small businesses susceptible to the phishing tricks of cyber criminals? Sjouwerman explains it this way: a false sense of security. "Most people assume that antivirus software and an in-house IT team provide sufficient data security,” he says. “But considering that IT is among the most phish-prone industries, it's clear that's a very dangerous assumption to make."

How can your small business protect itself? Understand the sophisticated tactics cybercriminals use. For starts, these World Wide Web bad guys tend to send e-mails that look like they are coming from official, trusted sources. Those sources include government agencies, business partners or even company executives.

"Many of the top phish-prone industries are regulated and subject to compliance rules, so well-meaning employees can be tricked into clicking a link if they believe an e-mail was sent by a government or law enforcement agency, or by someone they know and trust,” Sjouwerman says. “And with just one click, malware can be instantly uploaded to a system, bypassing both antivirus software and IT firewalls. A cyberheist can be underway within minutes."

Want more insights? Sjouwerman recently published his fourth book, Cyberheist: The Biggest Financial Threat Facing American Businesses Since the Meltdown of 2008.

Check out this video on how to avoid phishing scams.

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Six Tips to Help Your Small Business Thrive

As we conclude National Small Business Week, it’s important to head into the rest of the year strong. After all, more than half of Americans own or work for a small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. And if we don’t own a small business or work for one, it’s likely that someone close to us does.

With that in mind, Optimum Business, a high-speed broadband Internet service provider, is offering 12 tips—and not just tips but ‘proven tips’ to help small businesses thrive in 2011 and beyond. So without further ado, here are the first six tips, with my thoughts and reactions along the way.

1. Build a Team: Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, writes that having the “right people on the bus” is the single most important determinate of success for any business. Ask yourself, do you have the right team in place?

2. Be Optimistic: Optimism is the fuel that drives most entrepreneurs when all others would lose hope. In fact, a study among small business owners by Cablevision’s Optimum Business unit shows that over 75 percent of small businesses believe optimism plays a critical role in their on-going success.

3. Reward Hard Work: Once you’ve built a team, remind them regularly how much you value their contributions and to celebrate their accomplishments. It never hurts to use cash, but there are other incentives. Even a kind word will do.

4. Plan for the Future: It is hard to get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go. Imagine where you want your business to be in two years, five years or even 20 years. Studies show that if you write down your goals, you are more likely to achieve them.

5. Don’t Sacrifice Quality for Value: Watching every penny like a hawk seems to be wired into the DNA of most entrepreneurs. But be careful not to cut costs at the sake of quality. Look for vendors who can deliver value, providing the quality you need at a rate that works too.

6. Be Accessible: For better or worse, we’ve moved into an era of 24/7 accessibility, in which customers have come to expect interaction on their schedule, not necessarily yours. While it is up to you to decide how accessible you want to be, technologies like e-mail and “find me” telephony give you lots of options.

Stay tuned on Monday for six more tips to help your small business thrive.
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Small Business Branding Online

With millions blogs, podcast feeds and new folks singing on to the Web every day, at least part of marketing’s present and future is online.

Internet-based media could overtake newspapers and radio as the prime information sources for consumers, especially with technologies like streaming radio and Internet Protocol Television that broadcasts videos online, according to Brendan Kownacki, an Interactive Media Specialist with Live Wire Media Relations, LLC, a public relations firm in Alexandria, Va.

“The power of the Internet has expanded beyond what many could have ever imagined and has opened limitless doors for most industries in the world, including media relations,” Kownacki says. “The ability to reach millions of people around the globe with a message in a matter of seconds has changed the face of the media, and public relations world along with it.”

Kownacki’s message: As you launch your branding effort, don’t forget the Internet–and be consistently. Doubtless, consistency is a critical part of branding communication. Consistent presentation of your brand, product or organization is no exception is always critical, she says, but when you begin to consider all the new ways to reach an audience today, and all the ways people are talking amongst themselves, you might miss out on the conversation.

The Internet is where many of your customers see your brand for the first time so it’s important that your image is projected professionally. Never  underestimate the power of a brand. It is your introduction to the consumer. It is important to have that consistent look throughout all advertising venues.
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What a Sign Company Can Teach You About Social Media

Looking for success in social media? Take a page out of the playbook of Signtronix, a 50-year-old manufacturer of signs for small businesses.

The signmaker reports a significant uptick in new business development—and stronger customer relations—by using Facebook and Twitter. Sure, many social media gurus make the promise of rising sales and word of mouth. But Signtronix has taken the social networking ball in its own hands and scored a slam dunk.

What can you learn from Signtronix’ success? Read on…

"Many companies have been scratching their heads thinking about Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools available to them and wondering what they can possibly achieve from them," says Tom Johnson, director of Marketing at Signtronix. "Almost every company either has jumped on or wants to jump on the social media bandwagon, but they don't have any specific goals for their efforts.”

Key one: Set specific goals around your social media campaign. Without clear objectives, you could waste a lot of time.

Signtronix set up its Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites with a single goal:
showing potential customers the power and beauty of its sign products and allowing customers a forum to talk about their experience with their new sign.

“In just the last four to six months we've received phenomenal customer feedback and hundreds of referrals just because people have forwarded our Facebook site to other business owner friends or family who need a new sign for their business,” Johnson says.

Key two: When you get feedback, respond to it. Signtronix has done a good job of listening to its customers and making updates based on what they want to see or know.

Indeed, the company’s social media campaigns have helped both on and offline. Facebook has provided important in-field support as well. Johnson reports a number of his sales reps calling to tell him they sold signs specifically because business owners saw their Facebook messages.

“One customer immediately pointed to a sign on our Facebook page and said, 'That one! I want one just like it' and ordered the sign right away,” Johnson says.

Key three: Make social media a part of your sales efforts. Be sure to refer customers to your Facebook fan page to check out new specials or to see photos, etc.

Beyond the sales lift, Signtronix’ Facebook and other social media campaigns have also spawned word of mouth, another promise of these sites. And not just word of mouth—but good word of mouth.

"The positive feedback provided on our Facebook page and via Twitter has been incredible,” Johnson says. “We've had such great comments about our signs and also our sales and customer service representatives.”

Getting the picture? It’s not always necessary for your small business to spend big bucks on a social media guru. There are some common sense strategies you can employ on your own.
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