Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Jumping" at the chance to help

Here's a re-post from Debbie Adlof of C.W. Notes and the Community Word. My son is a Charter Oak third grader and I was thrilled that this story received some positive coverage. "Jumping" is definitely his thing, and now he can do it for a cause:

“Jumping” In To Help the Salvation Army
Posted by Debbie Adlof on 28 September 2010, 2:31 pm

Third Grade Students to Raise Funds from Jump-a-Thon for Army Feeding Programs

The Salvation Army is grateful to students and administrators from Charter Oak Primary School in Peoria for their generous nature. The school was one of many area schools contacted in an effort to expand knowledge of Salvation Army programs and services and responded with an idea for a jump-athon.

“Ms. Shannon Roach and Ms. Joan Frickleton’s third grade class had a visit from Major Donna Miller of our Family Shelter and the students wanted to do something to help feed the people who come to The Salvation Army,” said Rich Draeger, Assistant Development Director. “Our staff worked with the teachers to work out the idea for the jump-a-thon and we are delighted they did so.”

The students will be giving up some valuable recess time, beginning Friday, October 30 and continue for 4 more recess sessions. They were sent home with pledge forms and will be getting monies from friends and family to support their efforts.

The monies collected will be utilized in our Social Service area in our food warehouse, Family Shelter and Sylvia Fites Family Services Center, where our daily Lunch with Love soup kitchen is held.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Top 10 Guilty Pleasures: what are yours?

Everyone has them. Few talk about them.

Guilty pleasures. Wikipedia (for what it's worth) defines a "guilty pleasure" as "something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. Often, the "guilt" involved is simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes, rather than actual moral guilt."

So, baring it all, here is a list of my Top 10 Guilty Pleasures (in no particular order):

1) My automatic drip coffee pot with timer. My guilty pleasure part is the timer. There is something absolutely magical about coming downstairs in the morning and grabbing a cup of freshly-brewed joe without having to go through the daunting task (which it is for me at 5:45 am) of making it.

2) Cheez-its. I don't buy these anymore. If I do, I eat the whole box. No, not in one sitting. Sometimes it sits in the cabinet for a day or two. Other times, I open the box in the parking lot of the grocery store. Then handful by handful, those square little cheesy morsels of deliciousness disappear. And no, Cheese Nips is not an acceptable alternative.

3) Aerosmith. Yeah, I have a "thing" for Steven Tyler. I know, I know, the guy looks rode hard and put away wet, but to me he has that certain something that just makes me swoon. Maybe it's the scarves. Maybe it's the mouth. Maybe it's the "ayayayayaayayayaya!!!!!" and his vocal range. I don't know. But if "Livin' on the Edge" or "Deuces are Wild" comes on the radio, you can bet I'm belting it out right along with ole' Stevie.

4) Facebook. I can't help it. I work at home, and sometimes my buddies on Facebook are the only human contact (outside of my children, and that's debatable) that I have all day. I justify it because I've made many a business contact on this social networking site, and find inspiration for some of my writing from my FB friends all over the world.

5) Jeans. I have WAAAAAY too many pairs of jeans. My issue is that I have very long legs, so I wear tall sizes, which are hard to find. When I DO find a pair of tall jeans, I buy them, rationalizing that "these are hard to find". Let's just say they are getting less and less "hard to find", but alas my buying habits haven't quite made the adjustment.

6) Army Wives and Grey's Anatomy. I was an Army wife once, but not like Claudia Joy or Roxy LeBlanc. Oh, and I faint at the sight of needles and blood. Why I watch these shows is beyond me, but I'm as hooked as I used to be on that John Edwards psychic show.

7) The paper copy of the Peoria Journal Star. I know, print is dead. Whatever. And yes, I also know I can read it online. But there's something about sitting cross-legged on the couch with a cup of coffee and the newspaper that I just miss.

8) McDonald's Happy Meals. I love them. I love the little flat burger with the schmear of ketchup and mustard and the three pickles. I love the little packet of fries and the tiny Dr. Pepper. It makes me think I'm cheating at the very lowest of levels. And since I drive a mini-van, they never suspect it's for me. Also because when they ask if it's for a boy or a girl, I always say "boy".

9) Cheap wine in a juice glass. It's a habit. Most nights, after I'm done writing and the kids are in bed, I treat myself to a tiny juice glass of cheap red wine - because I am on a budget. And yes, it does go with Cheez-its.

10) Watching my kids sleep. My oldest isn't really very cuddly anymore, and he's angry with me a lot. But when he's sleeping, I get to see that little boy face again, blond curls askew on the pillow. My younger son still creeps into my bed in the middle of the night on occasion, and though I know he shouldn't, I love the fact that he thinks that mom's bed is "safer". And yes, every night I go in and put my hand on them to make sure they're breathing. I know, I know.....

So I fessed up - now it's your turn. What are your guilty pleasures? As always, this is a family blog. Keep it clean.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Financials for Dummies: How this wordsmith is learning her numbers

I'm definitely a right-brained sort of gal. That's probably why I'm a writer. But as a business owner, I have to channel the powers of my left brain to run the accounting end of my business.

This makes my whole brain hurt.

Enter SCORE Peoria. SCORE (Counselors to America’s Small Business) is a national nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of the nation’s small business. I attended an awesome workshop at their offices today (located in the Heartland Partnership building) called Financials: Mastering Cash Flow and Profits. In preparation for the two-hour seminar, I drank an extra cup of coffee and took four ibuprofen. Turns out, I really didn't need it (well, the coffee, maybe).

David Mills is a CPA and the owner of Business Management Solutions, an accounting and financial services firm with offices in Peoria and Morton. Don Rohn, SCORE Peoria Chapter Chair and an old friend of mine, referred me to him personally a few weeks ago when I had questions about the checks and balances for Kennard Communications. He spent over an hour with me going over self-employment tax ramifications, dumbing down accounting terms and answering even the most basic questions that my right-brained mind just couldn't get my head around.

I was thrilled to see that David was one of the speakers at this workshop today. While last time we met I was looking for answers to questions I had, today he gave me not only valuable information regarding the accounting side of my business, but questions to ask myself to enable me to stay on track financially from here on out.

Among those questions were:
Did you create a job for yourself or a business?
Do you have good advisors around you who have your best interests at heart?
What's the biggest money maker of your business and how can you capitalize on that?
Do you have a budget?

In addition, David took the time to painstakingly explain four very important (yet sometimes grossly overlooked) bookkeeping aspects of a business, no matter how big or how small:

1) Profit/Loss Statement. This document summarizes the revenues, costs and expenses incurred during a specific period of time - usually a fiscal quarter or year. These records provide information that shows the ability of a company to generate profit by increasing revenue and reducing costs. The P&L statement is also known as a "statement of profit and loss", an "income statement" or an "income and expense statement".

2) Balance Sheet. This is basically a snapshot of a business’s financial condition at a specific moment in time. It's called a balance sheet because the two sides balance out. This makes sense: a company has to pay for all the things it has (assets) by either borrowing money (liabilities) or getting it from shareholders (shareholders' equity). I'm not quite sure how to transition this to my business at this time because I am so small, but at least I know how to do one now.

3) Statement of Cash Flow. Otherwise known as, "Where'd all the money go?" This piece of accounting records the amounts of cash and cash equivalents entering and leaving a company. The three main components of a cash flow statement are 1) operations, or how much cash is generated from a company's products or services; 2) investing, or any changes in equipment, assets or investments, and 3) financing, or changes in debt, loans or dividends.

4) Budget Sheet. Since my work bottom line is so closely tied to my personal bottom line, this is (in my opinion) one of the most important and useful things for ME as I grow my business and support my family. David's advice was key: even if you don't know for sure what some of your expenses are that first year, get a ballpark figure and from then on out, keep diligent track of ALL business and personal expenses. From what I gather, the budget sheet is key and feeds into the other financial paperwork mentioned above.

I'm not going to pretend that I completely understand all these bookkeeping nightmares (I mean, tools...) after a two-hour workshop. I'm sure the majority of business owners out there are much more well-versed in the accounting side of their businesses than I am right now. But after meeting with David, I feel as if I have received enough advice to build at least a skeleton of a bookkeeping practice for my own little copymarketing firm.

If any of you are in the same boat as I am, I highly recommend that you contact David Mills. We right-brained people are easily frustrated by numbers and I am truly thankful to have a left-brained person in my corner who is able to explain the basics to me without me leaving with a huge migraine.

Thanks to David and to SCORE for providing a great workshop!

For more information on SCORE, visit their website HERE. You can contact David Mills, CPA at 309-266-5700, or visit his website HERE.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Your personality - in typeface

I just stumbled upon this interesting little video quiz that asks you four personality questions then matches your answers to a typeface that best suits "who you are". I don't know how accurate it is overall, but I was Archer Hairline, and it was pretty much dead on.

What type are you?

Let me know what your result is. I'd love to hear how many other Archer Hairlines there are out there.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The new word is "copymarketing"

When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually tell them, "I'm a copywriter." Needless to say, it's not like saying, "I'm a Russian spy" or "I'm an cowboy". There's never really any follow-up question for my job title.

Many people - more than I really want to admit - mistake copywriting for copyrighting. I tried to clear that up in a blog awhile back called Copywriting vs. copyrighting: expression vs. protection.

After being in business for more than a year, I'm starting to use the term "marketing" more. Invariably the copywriting projects I do involve a fair amount of marketing, which is another ambiguous term to some.

So I'm thinking - why not coin a NEW phrase. One that encompasses copywriting and marketing? I end up having to explain them both, so why not give them a title that prompts them to ask a follow-up question?

Example:
Random Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours Guy: So, what do you do?
Me: I'm a copymarketer.
RCCBAHG: Really? Interesting. What's that?

Aaaaaand my job here is half done.

So what IS a copymarketer? Well, here's the deal. As a copywriter, I write copy in order to help sell, educate or motivate. As a marketer, I promote the copy in order to sell, educate or motivate. You can't write copy without taking into consideration marketing, and you can't have decent marketing without good copy. So why not morph the two? And yes, upon coining this word I did Google it, and it is out there casually. But not officially.

Give it a few years and and maybe you'll see "copymarketer" as one of the new words added to Webster's Dictionary. I think it's gonna catch on.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Good parenting" is no guarantee

What does it take to be a good parent?

Let's start at the beginning. For some, it's their dream to bring children into the world. For others, it's a stark surprise. Either way, the miracle of being able to create another human being is life changing.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't look at my kids and think, "Wow. I made them." I mean, I MADE them. Crazy, right? So I figure I brought them into this world, and it's my job to act as their tour guide.

There's no magic parenting handbook to follow. I started out looking for one - devouring every sentence of the "What to Expect" series like it was a pint of Häagen-Dazs chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. But while these books can give you an outline of how things are going to go, they're no match for what you'll encounter.

Those first few years, I was parenting at the speed of light. I breastfed. I made sure we had plenty of skin-on-skin contact. I didn't talk baby talk to them. I tried to teach them sign language. I made my own baby food. I took them places so their infant brains could experience animals, nature, science, technology. I played classic rock and oldies instead of Barney and Raffi. During their toddler years, I filled their days with homemade playdough, crafts and playdates with neighbor kids so they could learn all those social skills. I read to them. Every day. We played matching games. Flash cards.

Good God. I was a freak.

As they got older, I made sure they knew their address and phone number. Taught them about stranger danger and how to cross the street. Made them wear their helmets. Tried to make sure they got an adequate balance of calories, fat, protein and carbs. Showed them how to brush their teeth correctly. Took them to church. Started holiday traditions. Baked cookies. Tried to discipline them out of love and not anger. Boost their self-esteem by telling them what great kids they were, while still teaching them how to be humble.

Now it's getting to crunch time. Why? Because I'm wondering if it was enough. And if it was, will it make any difference? They are at that age where I've lost them a little bit to that big, bad outside world. Cursing. Violence. Peer pressure. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Hatred. Bigotry. Will they be strong enough to overcome? How much of who they turn out to be will be as a result of me and how much will be as a result of them? And will I be strong enough to handle what happens to some of the best parents when their kids choose a wrong path? Will I blame myself? Should I blame myself?

I understand that you give a child roots, and then you give him wings. I understand that parents lay the foundation, and it's up to the child to build the house. I know I'm in for some rough years ahead, and I'd like to be confident enough in myself as well as my children to think that they will rise above and remember the sign language, the playdough, the stranger danger talks, the hugs and the esteem-building enough to fight off all the temptations that come their way. But I also know that's not always the case.

So I wait. And I hug. And I hope. And I pray. And I look at my children every day and wonder how they'll turn out. I don't know what to expect. There's no book for that. What I do know is that they were brought into this world for a reason, and whatever that is, I hope I've done everything I can possibly do to ground them yet let them soar.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bastien Wireless: great customer service

So, going to the cell phone store used to rank right up there with hitting up Wal-Mart on a Sunday after church or doing my taxes.

I'll be honest - I'm not technically inclined. I leave that to the professionals. So when I have a problem, or a question, or an issue with my cell phone, I want to be able to feel like I can go to the local Verizon store and have my concern taken care of quickly and efficiently.

My past experiences with local Verizon stores have been less than stellar. I guess I don't fault the employees - perhaps it's their training. But they never seemed to know any more than I did, and my visits there usually resulted in me walking out frustrated and calling my nephew, who, as a former Verizon employee, apparently was the only one who passed the training course with flying colors.

Enter Bastien Wireless on the corner of Sheridan and War Memorial in Peoria. I went in there one Saturday because I had what I call the "black screen of death" on my phone. Instead of staring at it for 10 minutes then telling me how much it would cost to repair, they looked up my account and said that I was "nearly" ready to upgrade and that they'd push up the date since my phone wasn't working. SWEET.

Because I'm anal retentive, usually I'll research the bejeezus out of my phone options so when I go into the Verizon store and meet up with a salesperson who maybe just completed grade school and was out waaaay too late partying last night, I can have my ducks in a row. Not planning on getting a new phone, I was under the learning curve.

No problem. The salesman there was happy to show me my options. I told him exactly what I needed - and that I didn't want any bells and whistles (i.e. Droid). He didn't push it and showed me the phones that would do what I needed them to do. He made recommendations. He listed the pros and cons. He outlined the different data plans and explained them without rolling his eyes. SWEET.

The phone I selected was not "in stock" at their store, so they offered to either give me a loaner phone or suggested I return to the store in a few days. Then another salesperson mentioned that there was one at another store, and he would have the sales associate from that store bring it in the next day. SWEET.

And while I'm sure they get commission for selling extra services, I appreciated the fact that they asked me questions about my other phones and Internet. I didn't know that it would be cheaper for me to get another phone as a dedicated "house phone" and finally lose my landline. And they didn't make me feel like an idiot for not knowing that. SWEET.

Here's what I noticed about the employees at Bastien Wireless. They were friendly. They were helpful. They were knowledgeable. If they weren't sure of an answer, they immediately asked another salesperson to verify. While I was there, I had a sense that they all pretty much got along, and that they truly enjoyed interacting with their customers. I learned that one was studying to be a teacher. Another one was applying to be an air traffic controller. These people had higher aspirations, but they weren't acting like their job now was a skulldrag.

I appreciate that. And I told my friends. And they went in. Quid pro quo, Bastien.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you need a good place to do your cell phone business - a place that will treat you like a person and not an inconvenience - a place that will make your cell phone buying experience more like a walk in the park and less like a trip to Wal-Mart, give Bastien Wireless a try. They support three carriers, Verizon, Sprint and Nextel, and they're open 7 days a week. Check out their website or their Facebook page.

Oh, and tell 'em Amy sent ya.

Bastien Wireless: great customer service

So, going to the cell phone store used to rank right up there with hitting up Wal-Mart on a Sunday after church or doing my taxes.

I'll be honest - I'm not technically inclined. I leave that to the professionals. So when I have a problem, or a question, or an issue with my cell phone, I want to be able to feel like I can go to the local Verizon store and have my concern taken care of quickly and efficiently.

My past experiences with local Verizon stores have been less than stellar. I guess I don't fault the employees - perhaps it's their training. But they never seemed to know any more than I did, and my visits there usually resulted in me walking out frustrated and calling my nephew, who, as a former Verizon employee, apparently was the only one who passed the training course with flying colors.

Enter Bastien Wireless on the corner of Sheridan and War Memorial in Peoria. I went in there one Saturday because I had what I call the "black screen of death" on my phone. Instead of staring at it for 10 minutes then telling me how much it would cost to repair, they looked up my account and said that I was "nearly" ready to upgrade and that they'd push up the date since my phone wasn't working. SWEET.

Because I'm anal retentive, usually I'll research the bejeezus out of my phone options so when I go into the Verizon store and meet up with a salesperson who maybe just completed grade school and was out waaaay too late partying last night, I can have my ducks in a row. Not planning on getting a new phone, I was under the learning curve.

No problem. The salesman there was happy to show me my options. I told him exactly what I needed - and that I didn't want any bells and whistles (i.e. Droid). He didn't push it and showed me the phones that would do what I needed them to do. He made recommendations. He listed the pros and cons. He outlined the different data plans and explained them without rolling his eyes. SWEET.

The phone I selected was not "in stock" at their store, so they offered to either give me a loaner phone or to come back in a few days. Then another salesperson mentioned that there was one at another store, and he would have the sales associate from that store bring it in the next day. SWEET.

And while I'm sure they get commission for selling extra services, I appreciated the fact that they asked me questions about my other phones and Internet. I didn't know that it would be cheaper for me to get another phone as a dedicated "house phone" and finally lose my landline. And they didn't make me feel like an idiot for not knowing that. SWEET.

Here's what I noticed about the employees at Bastien Wireless. They were friendly. They were helpful. They were knowledgeable. If they weren't sure of an answer, they immediately asked another salesperson to verify. While I was there, I had a sense that they all pretty much got along, and that they truly enjoyed interacting with their customers. I learned that one was studying to be a teacher. Another one was applying to be an air traffic controller. These people had higher aspirations, but they weren't acting like their job now was a skulldrag.

I appreciate that. And I told my friends. And they went in. Quid pro quo, Bastien.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you need a good place to do your cell phone business - a place that will treat you like a person and not an inconvenience - a place that will make your cell phone buying experience more like a walk in the park and less like a trip to Wal-Mart, give Bastien Wireless a try. They support three carriers, Verizon, Sprint and Nextel, and they're open 7 days a week. Check out their website or their Facebook page.

Oh, and tell 'em Amy sent ya.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This may be controversial, but....

... I'm feeling a little edgy, so here goes.

Have we as a society really let things slip THAT MUCH? Why is it that we are "fine" with "good enough", "OK" with "that'll do" and sign off on the cheapest, fastest way to get it out the door?

It doesn't matter if it's business or personal. Let's look at both.

Many businesses (now don't get offended - I didn't say ALL businesses) these days are looking for the quickest, most nominal way to get things done with the least amount of people and resources. You can blame the recession all you want, but part of it stems from this new mentality that "just enough" is "good enough".

This problem reaches from the huge corporation that has its employees working 16-hour days doing the job of two people and completely wrecking any chance of them having life outside of the office, to the companies that hire a "do-all" marketing person when what they really need is a team comprised of a writer, a designer, a salesperson and a marketing coordinator.

I understand money is an issue. But I think that's become an overused excuse. We're getting accustomed to becoming a multi-tasking society, and it's a known fact that while multi-taskers may appear efficient, they're really not doing ANY of their tasks up to par.

Let's switch to personal life. How many of you are guilty of shooting off an email rather than meeting in person or calling on the phone? I know I am. Granted, for some that's the preferred, convenient method of communication. But aren't we slighting one another just a bit? Email just doesn't have the emotion of voice-to-voice or face-to-face conversation. Don't you miss being animated, just a little bit?

And how about our children being raised in a world of LOLs, BRBs and OMGs? IMHO, with the average age of a kid cellphone owner getting younger and younger, I worry that this abbreviated language may be grossly detrimental to their spelling, grammar and language abilities. And what about sentence structure, for God's sake? When was the last time any of these kids wrote a letter? I mean, WTF???

I guess I look at my parents and how they raised me. Work hard, earn what you get and don't do anything half-ass. I look at some of us and think, "What happened?" Then I look at the generation coming up behind us and think, "Did they not even SEE that memo?"

Really - what happened to cause this complacency? When did it become the easy way or the highway? Look where it's gotten us. A substandard world with above-average problems.

Maybe we just all need to wake up, get the lead out and turn this world around. If we don't, I'm afraid we, and all that come after, will be SOL.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Haddad's Market: 90 years of customer loyalty goes both ways

Let's take a poll and see how many local and national grocery stores have gone belly-up over the years here in Central Illinois. Quite a few. Now let's list the heavy hitters that have come into town, threatening to and succeeding in burying all the little guys.

Whatever the key to long-term success is, Haddad's Market seems to hold it. I had the pleasure of interviewing past and current owners of Haddad's for the September issue of InterBusiness Issues.

Click here to read it.

Sounds like the secret just may be what seems to have been lost in today's society: smart business practices, personalized customer service, and community loyalty. Go figure.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Want a sub-par education? Evidently you can get it at Drake.


I know Drake is a reputable institution of higher learning. I know smart, successful people who have attended school there. However, whoever approved this ad campaign should be sent to the principal's office:

Drake's D+ Ad Campaign

Evidently they're standing by the campaign - probably because they forked over lots of money to an outside ad agency to create it. Too bad they're not smart enough to pull it and cut their losses before it does the damage on its own.

Fail, Drake.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Interviewing Tips (newbies take note; old timers take a refresher course!)

I've had more than my share of interviews in the last year. Some have gone exceptionally well, others not so much. As a result, I feel as if I am somewhat qualified to pass on some interviewing tips to those of you who are new to the workforce, reentering the job market, or desperately looking for work in this crappy economy.

1) Let's back up. In order to get the interview, you must have a good resume and cover letter. Have your resume professionally written, or at the very least have someone knowledgeable about resumes look it over. (Shameless plug: That would be me.) Have several versions that you can send out based on the kind of job you're applying for (i.e. I have a resume that highlights only my writing and another that encompasses all of my marketing experience).

Target your cover letter to specific job requirements and your qualifications. Note that if you're sending it online, make sure you pull keywords from the job description itself. Many of the online job applications are electronically spit out based on matching keywords.

2) OK. You got the interview. Obviously, don't be late. That's just stupid. And unless they tell you specifically otherwise (and don't ask), dress professionally. I don't care if the office attire is jeans and a t-shirt - if they don't tell me specifically to dress casual, I'm showing up in black slacks and a nice blouse.

3) Know about the company. Take a look at their website, Google them, talk to people who might know about them. Be prepared to answer the question, "What do you know about us?" TRUE STORY: I had an interview awhile back that for various reasons I was completely unprepared for. Upon arriving I realized I knew very little about the company. Luckily, the receptionist was very chatty. I started asking her questions real casual-like about the organization and she ended up giving me a Cliff Notes version of what they did. In my interview, the director asked me what I knew about the company and I regurgitated basically what the receptionist had told me. Her response, "Well, you certainly know more about the company than anyone else we've interviewed!" Disclaimer: I would NOT suggest doing this.

4) Be prepared. Some interviewers may just tell you about the job, ask you to review your qualifications and you're on your way. Others read from a list of questions that they've been instructed by HR to ask you and every other applicant. Some may ask "behavioral" questions, such as, "If you were faced with XYZ crisis, what would you do?" Then there are the out-of-the-box questions. No lie, in one interview my final question was, "Can you name three things you can do with a straw besides drink from it?" Really, I'm not sure what my answer told him, but one of my uses was to spear the olive at the bottom of my Bloody Mary. But seriously, know the answers to "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" "Where do you see yourself five years from now?" and be able to "Think of a time when you...".

5) Know when to shut up. Don't babble. Say what you need to say then sit and wait for the next question. On the other side of the coin, "yes" and "no" are not good interview answers. Expand and take the opportunity to relate your experience to the position.

6) Sit up straight. The whole time. I know it's hard. Halfway through a long interview I have a bad habit of slouching in my chair to the point that by the end I'm halfway under the table.

7) Turn your cellphone off. Not even on vibrate - OFF. There's nothing worse than being in a quiet interview room and noticing that your purse (or pocket) is shaking.

8) Don't badmouth a previous job or boss. We've all had crappy jobs, and your interviewer may sense you've had a crappy job, and he or she might ask you if you've had a crappy job. Don't bite. Learn to be politically correct when speaking about previous employment. Badmouthing an old employer only makes YOU look bad.

9) Don't make a lot of jokes. Being humorous if you feel it's warranted is one thing. Making a joke about every question is not funny. Also, don't cuss in your interview. I know it seems obvious, but just today I said the word "sucks" in an interview. I immediately felt stupid. In some respects, an interview is not necessarily the time for a potential employer to see the "real you", so to speak.

10) Speaking of the "real you", potential employers WILL stalk you. They will Google you. They will look for you on Facebook. Or MySpace. Or Twitter. Because they can. And they should. So clean up your pages or lock them down or it may come back to bite you in the butt.

11) Ask questions. Even if you don't really have a question, ask at least one. Keep a list handy that you've written earlier just in case you draw a blank come question time. Good ones include, "What would be a typical day for this position?" "Who are your competitors?" "Where do you see this position/this company in five years?" "What would be my opportunities for advancement in this position?"

12) If you want the job, say so. My good friend turned me on to this one. I always thought it was a little "needy", but he insists it's key. At the end of the interview, shake their hand and say, "I appreciate you meeting with me, and I want you to know that I am very interested in this position."

13) And this may be your "Lucky 13". Send a thank-you note. Others may disagree, but I think an e-mail thank you is fine, especially with the speed at which employers sometimes make decisions. Best to sacrifice the snail mail for the immediacy of email.

There are tons of other tips I could add: make eye contact, don't play with your hair, don't flirt with the interviewer, bring a clean copy of your resume, a list of references and a copy of the job description, don't lie... you get the idea. Above all, be professional and personable, and SELL YOURSELF. At the same time, don't be so focused on what you're going to say that you forget to listen to what THEY have to say. The interview is a two-way street. I'm just trying to help you cruise down that road and get that job.