Is There Such a Thing as a Bad Compliment? (Correct Answer: Yes. Yes There Is.)

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Ah, the well-paid compliment. Nothing adds a spot of sunshine to your day like a genuine effort of admiration given to you by someone you hold in high esteem. Or a well-dressed stranger with a nice haircut. Truly, it matters less who is delivering the compliment and more that it's sincere -- and that the person stops talking before accidentally undoing the compliment. Some real-life examples:

Good compliment:
"Mom! I'm so glad you wear cute clothes so we can share!"

Undoing compliment:
"Except for pants. I don't think we can share those."

The save:
"Only because your legs are longer than mine!"

Just this week:

Good compliment (by a teenage girl who probably wanted to go shopping or something, but whatever):
"Wait, Justin Timberlake is only 33? Dang, you have almost 10 years on him and you look waaaaay younger than him."

Undoing compliment (by another person after hearing said compliment):
"Yeah, Justin Timberlake looks OLD."

The save:
"Whoa, that came out totally wrong. What I meant was you definitely look younger than a 33-year-old!"

I'm trying to teach my girls to look for opportunities to pay genuine compliments to people. To notice their fellow human beings have made an effort and to give them a little love for it. Why? Because a sincere compliment leaves a person feeling warm, and appreciated, and better off for having encountered you that day. And they will generally remember those lovely compliments well after you've crossed paths. Which is nice, too. It does seem, however, we still have a little work to do on the "seizing opportunities" front, as evidenced in my recent Facebook post:

Amy McCormick Dawson

It's a work in progress, people. Also, I would like to genuinely compliment you each and every one for your outstanding taste in blog reading. Exquisite!

XO --

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Today, In Lieu of an Actual Post ...

For several days running my to-do list has featured the task "blog post."

I should tell you ... I have several posts already written out! Fantastic news! Sadly, they are in longhand (my preferred method of first draft on any writing.) Thus, they continue to await me blocking out a bit of time to key in said posts, find an accompanying photo, then edit the post until I'm cross-eyed and snappy because I forgot to eat because I can get a little picky when I'm writing. Also when I'm eating. So. There's that.

Therefore, today, in lieu of an actual post, I shall lull you into complacency with photos of my recent Halloween decorating frenzy! So there's this:

And also this:
Please be inspired to do a pinch of Halloween decorating your own self. (I mean go decorate your house, not decorate your own body. Unless that's your thing. If so, ... please go adorn yourself as you wish.) You can see more pics here (of decorations in my house. Not of decorated bodies. OMG, this is sounding more and more like a horror blog. DO NOT GO IN THE BASEMENT IF YOU HEAR A WEIRD NOISE AND THE LIGHTS ARE FLICKERING!!)

Until next time (which will probably be fairly soon, but I can't be completely sure. Meetings keep cropping up out of nowhere. Which is better than dead bodies cropping up out of nowhere. I have got to quit reading scary books and/or watching the news),


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Report: Corgis of the World Grateful United Kingdom Shall Remain United

My sister and niece gave us this cute Corgi/Union Jack frame from Anthropologie, which of course is a perfect treat for us since we love us a Corgi. Ours are named Watson and Thatcher ... a tip of the hat to their British heritage. Because Queen Elizabeth also love her a Corgi. She has approximately 87 of them at all times.

Anywho, I propped our precious new household accoutrement on a side table in our family room so we could all point and say "awwww, look how CUTE!" in our very poor fake British accents. Which are really just Southern accents projected in a slightly higher-pitched, nasal tone. It works well for us; please hold all judgement.

Then we started noticing bizarre behavior from our pups (they are full-grown dogs, but still behave like wild, untamed puppies, so we treat them like they are loving yet willful toddlers. It works well for us; please hold all judgement.)

It started with Watson hopping up into the wingback chair adjacent to the end table hosting the Union Jack frame and getting his nose as close to the frame as possible without accidentally knocking it over. Sometimes he'd lie down in the chair and prop his little chin on the armrest so he could gaze at the picture in the frame. Lovingly.

Then Thatcher started doing the same thing. Loving gazes. Snuggling up to the frame. Occasionally reaching over for a teensy, tinesy kiss.

Which stoked the flames of jealousy. All the sudden it was like the Montagues and Capulets. It was all "back up away from my girlfriend's picture." It was all "she loves me more." It was all "I'd totally duel you with my giant sword but I don't have opposing thumbs, so I'll just settle on baring teeth and growling and such."

I'm not even kidding. Here, I have photos to prove it:
I mean, what?? First of all, the frame isn't even that big ... I'm stunned they even noticed it, because generally unless it makes a loud noise (the vacuum, the blender, the battery-operated toy helicopter my husband purchased to freak them out) they really aren't interested in the items in our house. And also, how did they make out that this is a female? I don't know much about dogs, but I'm assuming tiny reproduction drawings cannot be in heat? Or maybe it isn't a female, and our dogs are trying to tell us something. Which if they are, we want them to know we love and accept them just like they are, and will support them forever and always.

The bottom line is Corgis all over the world are relieved that last week Scotland voted it shall remain a part of the United Kingdom, otherwise crossing the border was going to become a total nightmare when zipping from their London digs to the Scottish countryside to frolic alongside the Queen and such.

Also, it keeps our dogs' dream alive that one day they shall be united with the object of their affection.(Of course our dogs are terrified of even taking a short car ride, so I'm not sure transcontinental flight is in their future.)

Writing this post reminds me I've not been to Anthropologie in forever, so I think I'll dash and do just that ... right after I tell the dogs again to use their best manners while they work through their jealousy issues.

Happy Weekend!

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Back to Work Blog Series: 5 Steps to Confident, Smarm-Free Networking

Welcome back to the Amy Mac Blog Series Back to Work: Everything You Need to Know to Get Back in Business — a playbook of strategies to dust off your skills, your resume and your moxie as you change careers, launch a business, or head from the mom force to the work force. Catch up on previous posts here.

In the last post we talked about steps to Crafting a Winning Resume -- today, we're talking about how to network strategically (without feeling like an infomercial salesman) and land that perfect job.

Now that have several important building blocks in place — the 30-second pitch, your resume, trend awareness and social media — it’s time to start building your network in earnest. In my experience, women who have been out of the work force for a while (or are switching careers) tend to quickly discount current connections as viable networking opportunities.

Recently, an accountant friend ready to make the leap back into full-time work said “a dad on my son’s baseball team is a VP in marketing at a local Fortune 500 company. But since he’s in marketing, I’m sure he isn’t be able to help me land an accounting job.” Let’s dispel that myth once and for all: first, I’m sure the company has an accounting department. Second, as a local business leader, he likely has a personal accountant and knows several more.

Start building your network as soon as you begin thinking of returning to work — you’ll be amazed at how many opportunities find their way to you. If your scene has been more playgroup than boardroom the last few years, the options might seem overwhelming. Start with these five tried-and-true networking strategies:

Design a Digital and Traditional Business Card. Make it easy on any contacts who want to stay in touch. There are many options online to design and print business cards. Have some very simple cards printed with your name, contact information and your industry with the word “freelance consultant” after. For example, a retiring teacher looking to continue to work part-time in some capacity would say “Education Freelance Consultant.” Take the same information and create a digital signature for all of your emails.

Pitch to Personal Networks.  Armed with your 30-second pitch and your business cards, start letting everyone you know you’re back on the professional market. This is a time to make an expansive list — everyone from your neighborhood, church friends, parents on the sidelines at your kids’ sporting events, to colleagues you worked with 10 years ago should be on this list.

Connect at Professional Networking Events. Almost every local Chamber of Commerce holds a monthly networking event, not to mention local chapters of various industry associations. These events cost about the same as a typical lunch at a restaurant, and are usually full of leading local professionals smart enough to keep their eyes and ears open for potential new talent.

Invest in Professional and Personal Development Seminars. Seminars on sharpening career and life skills are everywhere these days. Find one that piques your interest and invest in the fee — not only is it an excellent networking opportunity, but it’s also a new skill for your resume.

Scan Local Newspapers and Calendar of Events Listings. Most newspapers have “Calendar of Events” listings. Some of them even helpfully section out the business-related events. Make a point of reading these at least once a week to stay abreast of networking opportunities that will further your job search.

Remember ... when you have a networking opportunity you must have a goal in mind. For example, if you’re at a Chamber meeting, be determined to meet at least 3 new people, learn what they do, give them your pitch, and exchange contact information. Otherwise, it’s easy to settle in at the table for lunch and be monopolized by your seat mate.

And if you’re nervous about pitching to an acquaintance, try the soft-sale approach: ask them a question about their business (something like “what do you do in a typical work day?” or “who are some of your clients I might recognize?”) which then segues nicely into you telling them about your skill sets and career goals.

And don’t get discouraged if you don’t get any bites right away. I have people that I met weeks, months even years ago reach out and say “not sure if you remember me, but I need some help writing a news release…”, so just keep on networking — even after you land that dream job!

Next up in the Back to Work Blog Series: You're already a CEO ... here's how to use it in the working world.

Thanks for reading! (and please ... if you have any questions related to going back to work, send them my way!)

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Life's Like an Hourglass Glued to the Table

Wow. A giant mass of pointy candy corns comin' at ya. Bad idea. 

Things I've said to at least one of my children this week, in no particular order:

"No, a trip to Seattle is not a reasonable birthday gift request."

"Coke (does not) = Water."

"Please do not call our dog a 'pimp.'" In the child's defense, she was unable to properly define the word, and after learning what it means agrees it does not describe our dog accurately.

"A few years back, I was struck multiple times in the face with flying candy corns while making your bed. You had stored them in your pillowcase, I assume for convenience in indulging a late-night, crack-like sugar addiction. As Halloween season approaches, I'd like to remind everyone to please not store any type of candy, whether soft or incredibly missile-like in hardness, in one's pillowcase." Seriously, I almost lost an eye.

"If I say 'I can see your cheeks in those shorts,' I do not mean the cheeks upon which you apply rouge. Please remove the shorts immediately and place them in the giveaway pile." 

"It's never too early to start thinking about sorority rush, so please stop posting pictures of your mangled feet on social media. I'm sorry that cross country is ending a potential career as a foot model and perhaps hampering your ability to wear shoes ever again, but if one more shot of a blue toenail and skin bearing a resemblance to road kill pops up on my feed, so help me I'll do something drastic. Please don't try me. I'm very creative. And loud."

" _______ causes acne." (Fill in the blank with whatever objectionable action you desire. In the last three days I've used eating candy, stealing my makeup, back talk and forgetting to flush the toilet.)

"If you mention again how in X number of days you'll get your driver's permit and that 'I'll be the passenger in my own car' I will ground you, I swear it." It makes me feel anxious and old and I don't care for it.

Actually this entire post makes me feel anxious and old. But also relieved that thus far the worst social media picture is of a foot and that substance abuse is limited to candy corn and Coca-Cola. But still in a state of disbelief that I have a child who keeps demanding we take her to drive circles in empty parking lots. Isn't it funny how our number one job as parents is to teach them independence, and then when that independence finally asserts itself it clinches us around our hearts with the ferocity of an industrial-grade vise?

Ah, the push and pull of parenthood.

Mothers and fathers of babies, and toddlers, and even elementary school-age kids, remember this: for every shoelace you tie, or every pureed sweet potato you scrape off your wall, for every time you fall into bed exhausted after wrangling multiple wild and filthy children through the bath ... there will come a time you will yearn for the simplicity of those days.

Yep, I said simple. I know those days are rough. Exhausting. You're chasing a constantly moving target, and my Lord what a mess it creates in its wake. But one day you wake up, and all of a sudden there is a target. And it's no longer your target ... it's theirs. There's talk of GPAs and college essays and setting up shop in some dorm room on a faraway college campus. And my friend, you will yearn for those days of shampooing crusted pasta sauce out of someone's hair right after you pick up 72,458 legos for the millionth time in a three-hour timespan.

I think this quote from Robin Williams' character in Dead Poet's Society sums it up nicely:

"...if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? ---Carpe --- hear it? --- Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day ...."

Because every single time I look at my daughter, the one with the mangled feet who's mentally calculating her GPA in her head as we speak, that awful political chant pops up in my head like a whack-a-mole ...

"Four More Years."


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Autumn? I'm not sure what you mean ...

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This time of year you'll find any Southerner (and anyone without the proper drawl who lives down here and knows what's good for 'um) at a football stadium. Probably multiple times per weekend. I remember reading once that in the South we have four seasons just like anyone else, they're just slightly different than you were taught in school. South of that Mason-Dixon line we say "Spring, Summer, Football, Winter."

True to form, on this weekend's docket:

High school football game (Go Raiders! Beat Milton!), middle school football game (Go Raiders! Beat whoever we're playing!), college football (Go USAFA Falcons!) and more college football (Go Vols!).

We'll also squeeze in barbecue at my sister's, the Decatur Book Festival and fireworks at our neighborhood lake (it's an impressive show. Not quite as outstanding as Boomsday in Knoxville:
I mean, those folks use 5 tons of dynamite, but it's like the neighborhood version of that ... no bridges, and far fewer drunk undergrads.

Hope y'all have a great weekend!


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Winding Up for the Pitch

peach cobbler
Is your mouth watering at the mere thought of the sublime fragrance of succulent, sun-warmed peaches interwoven with brown sugar and a hint of fresh vanilla bean and freshly ground cinnamon? Ahhh .... yes? Are you concerned with whether the restaurant owner paid $1.84 or $2.03 per pound for those peaches? Yeah, didn't think so ...

Whenever I hear the phrase "I need to pick your brain" I think "BLOG POST!" Usually the brain picker has a very specific question related to their business or cause, but strip away the specifics and the principles are useable for darn near any communication ... whether you're looking for a job, pitching a product, or just writing a sternly worded letter to your homeowner's association.

A little background: one of my dear friends is launching her own business. Very exciting stuff. I can't share more due to national security restrictions (kidding, she's just still in prep mode), but it's a solid concept that she'll take out into the world very, very soon. So, said adorable friend comes to me with this query:

"How do we prep for the big pitch on a super-tight budget?" 

This can be tricky. When you're low on capital it's tempting to go cheap on marketing. But if your print or digital marketing comes off as "budget," your audience starts getting antsy. They start wondering if you've really thought this whole thing through, are you fly-by-night, do you go single-ply instead of double which is both cruel and wasteful, are you stirring up more questions than you are solutions ... not exactly a confidence building exercise for you or the audience.

Take the time to build thoughtful, compelling marketing messages and package them professionally -- whether in a letter, with a website, or with a gorgeous printed piece -- and you'll find your audience takes you far more seriously and is far more likely to do what you want ... whether that's buy something, agree to something, or give you a raise!

Here's my advice how to Land the Deal on a Shoestring Budget:

Adopt this mindset: you're not selling ... you're telling a story. In order to really connect with your audience, you must package your story in a way that lets them see themselves with a better life. I stumbled upon this video from a TED conference that sums up this concept so well that I want you to hop off my blog and go watch it ... but then you have to come right back. Watch at least to around the 5 minute mark (where he talks about how Apple creates their story by turning the message on its head,) but I encourage you to watch the whole thing (my favorite quote: "Martin Luther King did not give the 'I have a plan' speech. No, it was the 'I have a DREAM speech.')

Take care of the basics. Grab testimonials from your current customers and incorporate the best ones into your marketing materials. Start collecting statistics on everything: your sales, your customer satisfaction rate, your customer retention and loyalty ... whatever you are doing, you can collect stats on it. Why are testimonials and stats so important? Because people are more willing to try something if someone else has vetted it first and is happy with the results.

Get very solid on what makes you better than your competition. What are you doing differently -- and way better -- than your competitors? The question of "why should I go with you over them?" will come up, whether you're giving a presentation or someone's just reading your letter. Have a compelling answer.

Remember you have two audiences: the gatekeeper and the end user. So, let's say you're trying to convince the owner of a restaurant (gatekeeper/person who has buying power) to buy your brand of fresh peaches for their world-renowned peach cobbler. Yes, you need to address the owner about how your exquisite, farm-fresh peaches in plenty of time daily to prepare for the lunch crowd, and for three cents less than your competitor. Guess what? The folks tying on their napkins at lunch (end user) could care less that your peaches cost the restaurant less. Nope, they want some hot-from-the-oven peach cobbler that makes them feel a little shaky it's so good. You must appeal to both audiences to land the deal.

Flip your message on its head. Don't get so caught up in your awesomeness that you fail to tell your target audience how your product makes their life better. Talk about their needs first, then about how you fill that need.

Budget for an excellent marketing professional to help you craft your story. This is not a sales pitch. Hire me, hire another qualified professional, just hire someone to help you pull together your brand story professionally. I believe more businesses go up in smoke because they put more money into their systems or supplies and failed to invest in excellent marketing. Guess what? It doesn't matter how amazing your product is if no one knows about it. True story. Companies that see the value and invest in marketing are more successful. Hook up with a great marketer ... it's worth every penny.

There ya go. My brain dump for August 2014. Totally just saved you the cost of a Starbucks, but potentially created a craving for peach cobbler. I shall not apologize.

XO ---
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