Fancy a date?

It seems that the whole world is online dating. One of my closest friends has just moved in with his girlfriend who he met on match.com and another friend is now getting married to his girlfriend having met her on match.com.

It seems the days of geeks and freaks being the only ones searching for love online are well and truly over. With our increasingly busy, independent lives the internet has brought us all closer together and people are finding the courage to advertise the fact they’re looking for love. Or at least to meet new, interesting people.

Check out the following video from match.com and get a 56% discount on the 6 month joining fee.

You may also be interested in match affinity, a relationship service by match, the people behind the UK’s best-known dating and relationship sites. Match affinity suggests compatible matches for you based on the results of your in-depth Affinity Questionnaire.

The free questionnaire looks at your values, opinions, personality and expectations, and the results produce a personality report which can help you better understand yourself and how others may see you.

The answers you give will allow us to suggest compatible matches for you. For each member on your selected matches list, we provide a detailed compatibility report allowing you to see the ways in which you are well suited, as well as the areas where you may differ.

If you see someone you’d like to get to know, you can send them a message. The first message you send to each member is free, and thereafter a range of subscription options are available. All messages are exchanged on our secure, internal system. So what are you waiting for? If you’re looking for a relationship check out Match Affinity.

Increasing customer loyalty through mobile technology

Mobile is becoming such an important media channel that it can no longer be ignored when it comes to the marketing mix.

Both business to business and business to consumer are finding ways to reach customers through mobile, the most popular method is via Applications.

Here’s an excellent example of how Weight Watchers is increasing customer engagement and loyalty to their programme through their new app which allows the user to keep track of their calorie intake while on the go.

This is a genuine offer to join the programme. Just in time to get into that Christmas party dress! :-)

Five reasons to go freelance

freelance

So let me guess, if you’re interested in reading this you may be in one of the following places:

a) you absolutely hate your job
b) you’ve been made redundant
c) you’ve resigned
d) you are looking for more flexibility

You may even be a seasoned freelancer who understands very well the five reasons to go freelance already!

According to reports, there are 42 million freelancers in the US and 1.4 million in the UK and these numbers are growing.

Employers see it as a way to avoid paying national insurance, healthcare and pensions not to mention the headaches of having to motivate a full-time workforce.

But what are the top reasons to go freelance? Here are my top five:

No office politics

For those of us who are long in the tooth and too old to bother about who’s sucking up to the boss to get his/her next promotion, freelancing is a breath of fresh air when it comes to having to navigate the political environment of an organisation.

You just don’t bother engaging. No need. No bollocks, no power games, no demeaning, bullying, hijacking, underhandedness or competitive behaviour. It’s refreshing to just go to the office, get on with what you need to do and then go home knowing you don’t have a permanent tie to the ‘characters’ you happen to share an office with temporarily.

Spreading the risk

If you take time to develop your pipeline of clients, then you are spreading your risk of unemployment by having several, rather than one employer.

Contrary to what some people believe, if you are a full-time employee then you are putting all your eggs in one basket and if you no longer suit the role or you become dissatisfied with your current employer, you don’t have other clients/employers to fall back on.

This causes a time lag between wanting to quit and finding the right opportunity to jump to before you quit.

In fact it’s always advisable to keep networking even when you sign up for a long term freelance contract as before you know it the time will come to say goodbye and you may not have any other project to go to.

More control of your time

This one is a little tricky as it’s not strictly true that you can control your time. If you sign up for a 6 or 12 month contract it might be very difficult to control your time.

If you manage to cultivate enough potential client contacts (through networking and keeping in contact with people) you should be aiming to have a steady stream of enquiries so that when you decide the time is right for taking time off, you can do so in the knowledge that you will have other opportunities to come back to.

Always keep your clients abreast of what your plans are so that when you do decide to take on another freelance assignment everyone knows when you will be available again and can contact you.

People are pleased to see you

The nature of freelancing is very fluid and ‘last minute’. Employers will generally contact freelancers at the eleventh hour to fill an assignment which they have not been able to cover with permanent staff.

Therefore, you are usually covering for a busy and often stressful situation and people are generally quite pleased to have an extra pair of hands. This can be great to make you feel welcome. :-)

A sense of control

Again, it’s unwise to think freelancing is without its pitfalls but when work is steady and fulfils your needs, the sense of control of your life can be exhilarating.

If you couldn’t imagine yourself working full time and stumble across an assignment that you don’t particularly enjoy, there is nothing more comforting than knowing that it won’t last forever and that you will soon be free to pursue other opportunities.

Finally, a word of advice. If you haven’t yet ventured into the world of freelancing but fancy going down that road, do lots of investigating beforehand to find out how active the market is, how many people are freelancing at your level in your industry and always always have enough money to cover at least a few months of not earning anything.

The most important thing you can do is develop a good reputation for yourself. This means you must consistently add value to your clients so that they will call you back and also give you a good reference.

If you get into the swing of freelancing, you may decide to take it a step further and develop your own business idea e.g. joining forces with someone else in your industry to create a company.

Or you may find that through freelancing you end up working for a client who offers you a full time job and you decide to take it having ‘tried’ before you’ve bought.

Please let me know what your reasons are to go freelance by leaving a comment in the box below.

Six ways to make people like you (and why you should care)

Dale carnegie

Ask yourself some questions about dealing with people

Do you enjoy interacting with people? Do people respond positively to you? Do you find people enjoy conversing with you and seek you out for a natter? Would you consider yourself ‘popular’?

Making people feel great in your company is a trait of a good leader

If you answered yes to all of these questions, the likelihood is you have a natural ability to communicate with people and genuinely enjoy the interaction. This bodes well for your future success in business.

Try as people might to convince you otherwise, good people skills and an ability to make people feel great in your company are traits of a great leader and someone people will naturally want to be around. This means that you can often influence your way through your career and if you’re ambitious, it can take you far.

“How to make friends and influence people” was an international best seller

So if you fancy yourself as a leader, ask yourself this question. Having met you, do you think people walk away feeling better or worse for having had the interaction?

This was something Dale Carnegie analysed in ‘How to win friends and influence people’ a book he wrote in 1936. It has sold 15 million copies worldwide and was one of the first best selling self-help books ever published.

Carnegie’s famously said:

“The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important. Many people who go insane find in insanity a feeling of importance that they were unable to achieve in reality. They have found in a dream world of their own creation the feeling of importance which they so deeply desired. If some people are so hungry for a feeling of importance that they actually go insane to get it, imagine what miracles we can achieve by giving people honest appreciation”

Carnegie provided guidelines to make you more popular

Carnegie took these principles of human behaviour and provided some guidelines for those who wanted to make themselves more popular with others and help them have more influence. Here they are:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people
2. Smile
3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language
4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

Take a look at the points above. How many do you actively practice? Do you think you could implement any of these strategies? How do you think that would effect the outcome of dealing with someone?

Can you think of anyone you could try this out on?

Top 3 tips for instantly reducing stress at work

Stress

It’s estimated that up to 14 million U.K. men and women suffer from stress (it’s the number one reason for absenteeism at work) and in the US, this figure is nearly 50 million. A recent survey suggested that nearly 90% of all visits to GP’s surgeries in the U.K. were stress-related.

According to the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related stress is defined as “a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands place on them at work”.

The industries that reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the last three years were health, social work, education and public administration.

If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from stress you’ve probably already found your own way to cope with it. If you haven’t, here are three top tips to try when you feel the stress levels rising at work:

1. Breathe through your nose

When the pressure is on and you feel like you’re going into meltdown, a really good technique is to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. It’s harder to get agitated when you breathe through your nose. It’s more effective than breathing through your mouth.

Your brain sets the breathing rate according to carbon dioxide levels rather than oxygen levels. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes.

Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing empties too much carbon dioxide out of the blood and upsets the body’s balance of gases.

Shallow over-breathing – or hyperventilation – can prolong feelings of anxiety by exacerbating physical symptoms of stress

2. Go for a brisk walk

When we get stressed, hormones are secreted into the blood stream. If these hormones are not used up they can lead to feelings of irritability, increased vigilance and can eventually lead to a number of stress related illnesses.

So if you get stressed, it might be totally convenient but unless you’ve got a scalpel in your hand and you’re about to make an incision into someone’s body, you could leave your place of work for 10 minutes and go for a brisk walk in the fresh air.

The act of walking briskly can help you to use some of the stress hormones that can accumulate in the body in response to stress.

If you can’t get outside, how about running up the stairs to raise your heart rate? Just don’t forget to go back ;-)

3. Change scenery

If you simply can’t get outside and there are no stairs to pound up, just changing your scenery for a few minutes lowers your stress levels.

Sometimes we find, particularly if we’re stuck behind our desks and the stress is building up it’s tempting to try to stay put and ‘fix’ whatever is causing the stress.

However, often your stress causes you to be more emotional than usual and therefore you’re in danger of adding more fuel on your stress fire by staying put and carrying on.

Therefore, get up, go to another part of the building/office, stretch your legs and change your focus. If you can combine this with breathing deeply through your nose, this will lower your stress levels.

So how do you manage your stress at work? If you’re looking for some inspiration for a change of scenery, check out this quick 30 second video – a natural stress reliever (pop your headphones on and listen to the birds)….Click here

Raincoats and parkas…

Aquascutum Medlock raincoat in Black

Here’s a selection of the best raincoats and parkas this season..

Hobbs Eden Parka

A great piece for this season’s sports luxe trend, the Eden Parka from Hobbs has a drawstring waist, oversized collar and multi pockets.

Aquascutum Medlock raincoat in Black

This beautifully stylish Aquascutum Medlock raincoat will last you forever. Literally wear it year after year, season-to-season. It has traditional trench styling, a chic longline length, long sleeves, large front buttons and a shape-creating waist belt.

Ted Baker Kimbe Quilted jacket

A lightweight layer for spring, this deep blue quilted textured jacket from Ted Baker offers a feminine flared hem, a stand alone collar detail and drawstring waist. With contrasting silver zipped pockets and popper details at the neck, and casual rolled-up sleeves.

Betty Barclay long hooded parka

A great transitional jacket for the winter-to-spring months, this Betty Barclay parka offers a longline length, a hood and a fitted drawstring waist. Pockets to the front add casual detail, with centre buttons and a zipped chest pocket.

Hobbs Talbot Parka

For relaxed weekend layering, the For relaxed weekend layering, the Talbot parka from Hobbs is perfect with it’s lightweight fabric, funnel neck and flattering drawstring waist. With casual long sleeves, and zip and button detail pockets.

And if you don’t fancy anything here, to see some more click here.

The value of feedback

Are you interested in hearing feedback on your performance?

Asking for feedback can be scary

When was the last time you asked a work colleague for feedback on your performance?  In fact, when was the last time you asked anyone for feedback on your performance in any area of your life? Erm, sport for instance?

The truth is asking for feedback is scary. Why the hell would you want to do it?  Perhaps you don’t care what others think of your performance at work?  Or are you simply petrified of what someone might tell you?

I’ve carried out a number of formal staff performance appraisals over the years, when asking for feedback is mandatory. The dreaded ’360 review’ process.  Of course in formal appraisals one talks about ‘what’s going well’ and ‘areas for development’ and therefore theoretically noone gets hurt.

How serious are you about improving your performance?

But let’s be frank, while it’s wonderful to receive the praise, it isn’t so peachy when you get to hear that ‘someone’ you work with (it’s usually an anonymous process) thinks you’re “out of your depth”/”struggling”/”not up to par” or all of the above ;-).

But let’s talk about the value of asking for feedback on your performance.  Particularly if you want to develop/grow/get promoted etc.  It can be one of the most useful exercises you can ever do in your career and you don’t have to wait until the annual formal appraisal comes around to do it.

If you’re genuinely serious about pursuing a certain career path and you want to progress quickly, why not ask someone you respect to give you some feedback?  One, they’ll admire you for it and two, you might just learn something ground breaking.  Something that once you know will help you accelerate your progress.

What area of your life would it be valuable to get feedback?

Think about a situation where it would be really useful to have some feedback in order for you to improve. Maybe you’re making a big presentation and you ask someone to listen to you while you go through it. Perhaps you have an important meeting and you ask your colleague afterwards how they thought you’d performed.  Even, you may have been in your job now for a short while and you want to check if your boss thinks you’re doing ok.

You’ll be surprised by how helpful your colleague/boss will be.  If you let them know how much you value their opinion and reiterate that you want to use it to improve your own performance, they are often flattered.

So what area of your life is so important to you that you are going to ask someone for their feedback on your performance?

Top 6 stylish ladies leather jackets

All Saints Legacy leather jacket

So you’re thinking you want a leather jacket but don’t want to get it wrong? You want something that will take you through a couple of seasons if not beyond but still want something that’s ‘now’?

Look no further than these carefully selected ladies leather jackets for your enjoyment….

All Saints Caledonian leather jacket

I’ve just bought this AllSaints Caledonian leather jacket myself and it’s very figure hugging with a beautiful funnel collar that looks great with a pair of AllSaints skinny jeans. It’s made of Italian lamb skin leather with an asymmetric front zip and welt pockets. The jacket is fully lined with 100% cotton at the body and viscose twill at the sleeves.

All Saints Legacy leather jacket

Or how about this AllSaints Legacy leather jacket. This is a beautiful, slim fitting jacket, made from washed New Zealand lambskin with signature AllSaints asymmetric concealed zip fastening and jet pockets at the front. The Legacy Jacket is fully lined and has leather rib detail at the under sleeve and seaming at the back with 2mm topstitch detail.

Mint Velvet leather jacket

Go for a clean, minimal silhouette with this butter soft leather jacket from Mint Velvet. Zip pockets, stud detailing and a buckle neck give this piece a tough-luxe finish. Throw it on over jeans and ankle boots for urban cool.

Cropped leather biker jacket

The leather biker jacket is a must have item for every wardrobe. This cropped, 100% leather jacket has long sleeves, an off centre zip fastening and zip detailing. It promises to give any outfit an edge.

Zoe Mona leather jacket

This stylish By Zoé jacket has a luxuriously soft leather fabric contrasted with a tough biker style, complete with asymmetric zip fastening, collarless shape and two zip-up side pockets.

Wear it with skinny jeans and boots to complete the look or throw it over a pretty floral edge for a contemporary yet feminine outfit.

Whistles extended shoulder leather jacket

A wardrobe staple for effortless day-to-night style, this Whistles extended shoulder leather jacket offers extended shoulders, wide lapels and front popper fastenings.

With multi zip pockets, long sleeves and a full lining.

Why do suppliers not ask their clients enough tough questions?

Are suppliers asking their clients enough questions?

The role of supplier is not for everyone

Having worked in a client service role for various communications agencies for more years than I care to remember, one could say I’m very familiar with the client/supplier dynamic.

I understand that the supplier or service role is not for everyone. Indeed, a job where you are communicating every day with your clients and constantly trying to ensure you are exceeding their expectations is not some people’s idea of following a great career path.

Service people get a kick out of making others happy

Nevertheless, for those of us who rather enjoy working on the service side of the business, we naturally get a real kick out of making others happy and solving their problems – not to mention getting some recognition for our efforts now and again.

Suppliers are not always great at asking tough questions

But, and you knew there was a but coming, even though I consider myself a customer service person through and through, I’m the first one to observe and readily admit that those on our side of the business are not always that great at challenging their clients.

Asking direct questions will often elicit a more honest reply

What I mean by this is that many service companies profess to want to be seen more as business partners than suppliers and yet fail to act like a partner i.e. asking tough, direct questions that will probably elicit a more direct and honest reply.

Lack of questions leads to relationship holes

Through interviewing lots of clients on behalf of suppliers, I come across countless simple-to-remedy holes in relationships that have not been identified by the supplier because they have failed to ask the right questions. Holes that if left dormant without any action could easily lead to crevices in the relationship.

Suppliers are people pleasers

Many people who end up in a client service role tend to be by nature ‘people pleasers’ and therefore actually get some satisfaction from sorting stuff out for others and making people happy. These people don’t tend to want to ‘rock the boat’ and therefore much is left unsaid.

Clear questioning is sometimes seen as rocking the boat

I’ve witnessed many suppliers put down the phone after a conversation with the client and complain why the client isn’t agreeing/collaborating/acknowledging etc. It seems the ‘pain’ of asking clear, probing questions in order to get to a place of mutual understanding is too great.

That pain seems to stem from a desire not to rock the boat or jeapordise the strength of the relationship. One could equate this to a marriage or romantic partnership where one party is clearly more ‘into’ the relationship than the other and therefore will bend over backwards to please that person and not want to upset the apple cart for fear of hurting the partnership.

The most successful suppliers challenge their clients

Is this healthy? I don’t believe so. And contrary to upsetting the client, I have seen the most successful and respected suppliers regularly challenge their client’s thinking. It’s positive, it’s healthy and it works.

Stop talking, start listening and asking questions

A great recent example of this was witnessing a colleague who usually ‘talks’ at the client rather than asking questions. First they started actively listening (70% of the time) and then starting asking questions (30% of the time) i.e. adopting a coaching style. The result was dramatic. The client revealed so much more information than they usually would and as a result the supplier was able to ‘diagnose’ the problem more accurately and together a solution was reached.

If you’re a supplier, are you asking enough questions?

So if you’re a supplier, are you acting like a business partner? Are you agreeing with the client to keep the relationship on a steady footing? Or are you asking enough intelligent, probing, respectful questions in order to uncover the real problems/issues and diagnosing the real issues before you provide solutions?

We all have clients

Nowadays we all have clients and therefore are all in some form or another in a ‘supplier’ role. So it’s worth asking yourself if you truly do ask the right questions or indeed whether any questions are simply left ‘unsaid’ and if so what impact this might be having on your career or business.

Spring office wardrobe!

Ted Baker Daspl Pleat Detail Waistband dress in Camel

If you’re looking for some stylish work wear for Spring and need to spruce up your wardrobe, look no further than this gorgeous Ted Baker Daspl Pleat Detail Waistband dress. A feminine figure-flattering dress from Ted Baker for evening glamour this spring/summer, in a luxe shimmering camel, with stunning pleating from the waist and a thin tonal belt. Slim and elegant, with a high boat neckline and a sleeveless style.

Stunning Nepa dress by Ted Baker

How about something for evening with this figure hugging glamorous Ted Baker Nepa dress also by Ted Baker. It features a gathered lace top over a neutral lining, buttons down the back and a fitted skirt.

Weekend by Maxmara Bibo dress

And for something less formal in a stunning spring blue, how about this Weekend by Maxmara Bibo dress in Cornflower. This striking dress is perfect for creating a feminine yet easy outfit. It has a cowl neck and short sleeves with a back-fastened waist tie, creating a side draped detail.

And how about teaming the dress up with a beautiful soft leather Mulberry clutch. A clutch with enough space for essentials in a luxe, statement style.

Mulberry Postman's Lock Oversized Clutch Handbag, Oak

The Mulberry Postman’s Lock Oversized Clutch features our iconic lock, and a versatile, roomy compartment that is then sipped and folded. Made in tactile leathers for an easy, understated evening bag.

Toast Hatsuka leather jacket

And for something more casual but funky, how about this Toast Hatsuka Leather Jacket in cinnamon. This casual yet chic Toast jacket is made with beautifully soft washed nappa leather, for an effortless finishing touch to any outfit. It has an asymmetric zip-up fastening and collar, two side pockets and ribbed jersey panels at the inside sleeves for a close fit.
Lining is 100% Cotton. Length is 56cm.

So if this has whetted your appetite for updating your wardrobe this Spring, why not browse the new John Lewis Spring collection here. Enjoy!