The Brief: This Is Who First Read Taylor Swift’s Famous Letter to Apple

A New Role Model

Amy Schumer is in the news again, but this time it’s for no laughing matter. The comedian is teaming up with her cousin Sen. Chuck Schumer to advocate for gun control after a fatal shooting took place during a screening of Trainwreck in Louisiana. Amy went on The Daily Show and told Jon Stewart: “I was like, legit heartbroken. To hear that news, it broke my heart … It was so horrible.” A daughter of a Sandy Hook survivor also wrote an open letter, posted on Medium, to the actress asking her to be a “voice for our generation and for women—two groups who make up most of the victims of the gun violence in our country.” Find out more about their plan to stop gun violence here. (Related: How to Become a Dynamic Public Speaker *and* Conquer Your Fears)

You’re Not Crazy

Good news ladies: You aren’t crazy when you find yourself sitting in your office this month with a fleece blanked wrapped around your shoulders drinking a hot tea. Your thermostat is just sexist! A new study from Nature finds that most office buildings set temperatures based on a totally outdated formula that uses the metabolic rates of men. So basically you’re working at Sterling Cooper, but without all the charming day drinking. The study concludes that companies should stop this “gender-discriminating bias in thermal comfort” because it could actually help fight global warming and it really isn’t fun to look like an extra from Dr. Zhivago at a board meeting. (Related: How Your People Skills Can Ease Conflict in the Office)

Call Your Mom (Taylor Does)

Taylor Swift graces this month’s cover of Vanity Fair and she’s talking about all the important things: how she reconciled with Kanye (anything for Jay-Z), why it’s okay if members of your girl squad date the same Jonas brother dude, and most importantly, her writing process for that famous letter to Apple over artist royalties. She was so angry she penned it at 4 a.m.! “The contracts had just gone out to my friends, and one of them sent me a screenshot of one of them,” she told Vanity Fair. “I read the term ‘zero percent compensation to rights holders.’ Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’ll write a song and I can’t sleep until I finish it, and it was like that with the letter.” But who did she read it to first? Her mama. “I read it to my mom,” she said. “She’s always going to be the one. I just said, ‘I’m really scared of this letter, but I had to write it. I might not post it, but I had to say it.’”  (Related: 8 Instagrammers to Follow for Top-Notch Career Advice)

Interesting Things (in a Sentence or Two)

25 Famous Women on Being in Charge (The Cut)

13 Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out if You’re Burnt out at Work (Business Insider)

SoulCycle IPO: From Main Street Buzz to Wall Street Buzz (Forbes)

#POTD (Profile of the Day)

Are you also starting out your big, first job search? Then take a look at aspiring PR associate Robert Kueffer’s profile. Discover more must-see profiles on Levo’s Front & Center.

Levo Loves…

This excerpt on how to be confident from Mindy Kaling’s soon to be released book, Why Not Me? We can’t wait for September 15!

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How to Become a Dynamic Public Speaker *and* Conquer Your Fears

How to Become a Dynamic Public Speaker *and* Conquer Your Fears

While there is no question that what you say matters, studies suggest the words you use make up just 7 percent of the impact you have.

The remaining 93 percent is split between your body language and tone.

That’s why it’s imperative to master the nonverbal cues you send. And since a presenter has only about 60 seconds to hook the audience, it’s important to get them right from the start.

We spoke with Darlene Price, president of Well Said, Inc., and author of “Well Said!,” about mastering the art of nonverbal communication. Scroll down to see her tips.

[Related: 6 Surprising Interview Questions—And How to Answer Them]

1. Control your facial expressions.

Oftentimes, we have no idea what our faces are communicating. “Because our facial expressions are closely tied to emotion, they are often involuntary and unconscious,” Price says.

Letting our emotions get the best of us can negatively affect the impression we give, whether it’s a presentation or a one-on-one conversation. To avoid a misunderstanding, hold a slight smile, nod occasionally, and make sure you show interest, she advises.

[Related: An Introvert Shares Her Favorite Psychological Trick for Speaking in Front of Strangers]

2. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

“Make sure ‘business casual’ is not ‘business careless,'” Price says.

Professional attire, such as suits or jackets, should be worn to important meetings and presentations, especially with senior leaders and customers, she says. It’s also important to avoid showy accessories, busy patterns, and tight or revealing garments.

3. Concentrate on the tone of your voice.

Price cites the common phrase: “It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it.” If someone has ever said this to you, they are referring to your paralanguage, or tone, she says.

“Separate from the actual words used, these nonverbal elements of your voice include voice tone, pacing, pausing, volume, inflection, pitch, and articulation,” Price says. Recording a few of your conversations can be a good way to identify the emotions your tone communicates, she says.

[Related: 5 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Remote Coworkers]

4. Offer your full attention, and avoid multitasking.

In an increasingly digital age, constantly checking your phone or emails may seem discrete and standard, but it should be avoided. Multitasking can often be “perceived as disinterest or disrespect,” Price says.

Offering your full attention means using open body language, which includes uncrossed arms and legs, squared shoulders, and portraying clear engagement in the conversation, she says.

5. Maintain strong eye contact for more than a brief second.

The importance of maintaining eye contact can’t be overstated.

Simply glancing at members of the audience is known as the “eye-dart,” Price says, and it “conveys insecurity, anxiety, or evasion.” The key is to maintain direct eye contact for at least two seconds before moving to the next person, she says.

This article was written by Steven Benna and originally published on Business Insider.


Photo: Thinkstock

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Go to Grad School

5 Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing to Go to Grad School

A year and a half ago, I did something I told myself I would never do: I started graduate school.

Now I’m three classes away from finishing and getting my master’s degree. It was difficult making the decision to go to grad school, but in the end I decided if I was ever going to do it, it needed to be now.

Here are five questions I asked myself before I decided to go back to school.

1. What’s the financial impact?

One of the biggest impediments to attending grad school is the cost. There is a wide range in the overall cost of graduate school.

When I was accepted to the USC School of Journalism, the $50,000+ cost of attending sidelined my Diane Sawyer-dreams. I was pretty bummed, but couldn’t justify $50K for a degree that I wasn’t sure would give me a salary high enough to cover the cost of paying back those student loans.

I still had $30K in student loans for my bachelor’s degree, an additional $50K for graduate school would leave me with a massive debt load for years to come. With my degree now, I’m attending a state school and my company pays for 75 percent—a benefit I felt I had to take advantage of.

Above anything, you need to ask yourself if the financial cost is worth the graduate school degree. How much will the degree cost you? How much debt will you take on or will you be able to pay as you go? How long will it take to pay off the student loans?  Will your degree help you make more money and justify the cost of the degree?

[Related: On Financially Preparing to Go Back to School]

2. Do you need a graduate degree for your career?

There are some people who pursue higher education for personal enlightenment reasons, but most of us actually attend grad school with the purpose of it helping our career.

Can you advance your career without this degree? Could work experience easily equate an advanced degree? Or is the degree absolutely necessary.

I decided to pursue a graduate degree because I knew it would help me be strongly considered for promotions in the future.

3. Do you plan on staying in this career long term?

If you’re making the financial and personal time commitment to pursue a higher degree, will you be able to use it throughout most of your career?

Changing careers could make your degree obsolete. I plan on staying in my career long-term, so I felt that a graduate degree is a good investment.

[Related: 5 Reasons Why Grad School May Not Be Such a Bad Idea After All]

4. How will going back to school affect your family life?

When you go back to school, it impacts your personal life because you have less free time. You need to think about how going back to school will impact your relationships, your family, your friends, and your health. Also, how will school affect your current job if you plan on working while pursuing your degree?

Because my husband was starting a new job and finishing his degree at the same time, I felt that it was actually a perfect time to go back to school.

5. Will your degree pay for itself?

Getting a graduate degree is a big undertaking. Ultimately, you need to decide if it’s worth it for your future to make such a big commitment. Not everything can be quantified by financial means, and it’s up to you to decide what sacrifices you’re willing to make.

This article was written by Erika Torres and originally published on GOGIRL Finance.


Photo: Foundry/ Pixabay

Financial Decision to Have Kids

When Can You *Really* Afford to Have Kids?

“There’s never a good time to have kids—you just have to go for it.” If you’re contemplating starting a family, chances are you’ve heard this well-intentioned advice by now. While it’s true that little is predictable when it comes to having children, there’s no denying it’s as much a financial decision as an emotional one.

After all, the average lifetime cost of raising a child exceeds $245,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a price tag that might leave you wondering: Does it make sense to have a baby in your twenties, so you can tackle child-related costs early—or when you’re in your thirties and, hopefully, more financially stable?

Of course, there’s no blanket answer.

But to help make some educated guesses, we took two hypothetical sets of wannabe parents a decade apart in age and tried to compare how their respective finances would be impacted in four major money areas—taxes, retirement, college costs and child care—by bringing home baby.

Meet the Parents-to-Be

The younger couple, Emma and Tyler, are both 26—the average age at which women have their first baby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emma is an executive assistant. Tyler is a junior accountant. Combined, they make $73,000, and are still chipping away at student loans and credit card balances they accrued in college.

Although they spend nearly every penny of their paychecks, they feel emotionally ready to have a child. They’d rather be young parents—and are confident they can make their budget work with a child.

[Related: How to Financially Prepare for an Unexpected Pregnancy]

Holly and Brendan, meanwhile, are both 36 and doing well financially. Their income has grown steadily over the past few years—which isn’t surprising since women’s pay peaks at 39 and men’s at 48, based on data from Payscale.

Between Holly’s job as a project manager and Brendan’s as a human-resources manager, they make $120,000 combined. They’re only a few months shy of paying off their student loans, carry little credit card debt and contribute a portion of each paycheck toward retirement.

They purposely put off having children until they reached six figures—and now feel financially ready for parenthood.

Although Holly considers herself healthy, she knows they may have to contend with in vitro fertilization costs—22 percent of women aged 35 to 39 deal with infertility. In case this happens, the couple has saved up $15,000—enough to cover a round of IVF, which averages $12,400.

So which couple would fare better, financially speaking, if they had a child? We asked financial pros to weigh in.

Let’s Look at Baby’s Impact on Taxes

When it comes to paying Uncle Sam, it’s not the couples’ ages that make the difference—it’s their income level, says Gail Rosen, a certified public accountant (CPA) and head of her own accounting firm in Martinsville, N.J.

While both parents can take dependent exemptions for their child, only Emma and Tyler’s income qualifies them to take the full child tax credit—up to $1,000 per child for married couples filing jointly.

Holly and Brendan make too much to take full advantage of the tax break.

The child tax credit starts to phase out at $110,000 for couples filing jointly, so “Holly and Brendan may only get a $500 tax credit,” Rosen says. They’ll also likely phase out of qualifying altogether in a few years as their income rises.

[Related: 4 Ways to Stop Procrastinating With Your Taxes]

So who has the advantage? Although Emma and Tyler make less, they have the advantage because “it’s all about the tax bracket,” Rosen says.

Since they fall into a lower tax bracket and can take full advantage of the child tax credit, they are potentially taking home a larger percentage of their paychecks than Holly and Brendan.

[Related: 11 Kid-Centric Tax Breaks Every Parent Should Know About]

Let’s Look at Baby’s Impact on Retirement

When it comes to your nest egg savings, the real key is to start socking away money as early as possible.

To that point, having Junior at 26 is more likely to cut into prime saving years because younger couples tend to have tighter budgets and don’t contribute as much to retirement, says Rebecca Kennedy, a Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) and founder of Denver-based Kennedy Financial Planning.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that most people in their twenties don’t think about retirement—baby or no baby. A Principal Financial Group study found that only 30% of Millennials save at least 10 percent of their income in an employer-sponsored plan.

By the time you hit your mid-thirties, however, “you’re more aware of all your financial obligations, and most of the folks who come to me [at this age] have a pretty good balance,” Kennedy says.

[Related: 7 Retirement Myths You Should Know Are *Totally* False]

Indeed, an analysis of Employee Benefit Research Institute data that compared the nest egg savings of people in their early thirties versus their late thirties found that IRA balances jumped by more than 60 percent in this decade.

So who has the advantage? Holly and Brendan. Being able to contribute aggressively to retirement before a baby comes along leaves them better able to take advantage of compound earnings, says Steve Erchul, a CPA with Smith, Schafer & Associates in Edina, Minn. “Their money could grow astronomically because they started early,” he adds.

Let’s assume Holly and Brendan have been able to save aggressively from age 26 to 36, with each of them putting $500 a month into their own retirement accounts, which return a hypothetical 7 percent a year. By 36, their combined savings are just shy of $174,000.

Even if they never contributed another penny after baby, compound growth would help them reach a total nest egg of $1.4 million by the time they retired at 67.<

Meanwhile, if Emma and Tyler put off saving as aggressively until 48, when their kid heads to college—each contributing $1,000 per month to their individual accounts to catch up—they’d end up with less than $950,000 combined at 67.

That’s about $450,000 less than Holly and Brendan.

[Related: 30 or Bust? What Retirement Really Looks Like When You Put Off Saving]

Let’s Look at Baby’s Impact on College Costs

In theory, couples can start saving for college even before having a child, but it’s not usually on their radar until Junior arrives, says Kennedy.

So when it comes to the length of time to save, we’ll assume both couples have about 18 years. But one advantage Emma and Tyler have is their potential eligibility for tuition tax credits.

For example, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC)—which grants up to $2,500 per eligible student—doesn’t start to phase out for married couples until their modified adjusted gross income reaches $160,000, says Erchul.

[Related: On Financially Preparing to Go Back to School]

So if this credit, or a similar one, still existed by the time Emma and Tyler’s child went to college, they could qualify for it—even if their income more than doubled by the time they reached 44.

But the terms of tax credits are hard to predict (the AOTC, for example, has been extended only through 2017 for now), so the real key here is who can contribute the most to a 529 or another type of college savings account.

“From what I’ve observed [of couples in their 20s], there’s not a lot of excess in their cash flow,” Kennedy says. “They’re more in survival mode.”

Holly and Brendan, meanwhile, may have more wiggle room in their budget to contribute monthly to a college savings account.

So who has the advantage? Holly and Brendan. They’re likely to contribute more toward Junior’s college over the next 18 years.

Let’s assume Emma and Tyler put $50 a month into a 529, returning a hypothetical 7% a year. In 18 years, that would grow to a little more than $21,000.

As for Holly and Brendan, if they contributed $100 a month, their college investment could grow to more than $43,000.

Child care is, without a doubt, one of the heftiest line items in every new parent’s budget.

According to ChildCare Aware of America, the average cost to send one infant to day care eats up anywhere from 7 percent to 16 percent of a couple’s income.

With that in mind, Holly and Brendan seem like they’d be better off—with more income to work with, they should be better able to fit this cost into their budget.

But Emma and Tyler may actually be in a better position when it comes to free child care in the form of family help—Grandma and Grandpa may still be spry enough to run after a toddler.

In fact, Child Care Aware found that grandparents were the second most popular form of child care: 32 percent of those polled take advantage of their own parents’ help. That can be “huge in helping offset some of the cost,” Kennedy says.

[Related: Day Care Now Costs More Than College?!]

Of course, there’s always the option of having one parent stay home. In this scenario, Holly and Brendan have the advantage, since “they’re at a higher pay level, so if they drop down to one income, it’s [still] a good income,” Kennedy says.

The hitch?

Many successful women (yes, it’s still mostly women who off-ramp to raise kids) like Holly have a hard time re-entering the workforce.

The New York Times, for example, reported last year that only 40 percent of high-achieving professional women who off-ramped for a time were able to find a good full-time job in their desired industry once they returned to the workforce.

So who has the advantage? It’s a draw. Yes, child care is a huge expense that Holly and Brendan may have more breathing room to cover—but factoring in family help and career opportunity costs could tilt the odds toward Emma and Tyler.

Plus, you shouldn’t count out the younger generation’s scrappiness when it comes to making room in a budget, says Michele Clark, a CFP® and owner of Clark Hourly Financial Planning in Chesterfield, Mo.

“I think because [the Millennial] generation saw their parents struggle with the stock market, they have more of that Great Depression mentality,” Clark says. “They shop at thrift stores, cook, and don’t eat at expensive restaurants.”

Holly and Brendan, meanwhile, are in a demographic that can be susceptible to lifestyle inflation because people their age are used to a comfortable life—and it may only get worse once toddler classes and day camps come into play.

“They’ll have to fight the spending creep of keeping up with the Joneses,” Clark says.

Ultimately, though, having a child isn’t all about pinpointing the opportune time. It’s also about knowing how to prepare yourself in heart, mind and wallet—no matter where you think you are financially.

“I’ve had people come to me because they have six-figure student loan debt from law school, but they want to have their second baby,” Clark says. “Because of that, they look at every penny … and identify for themselves costs to cut [to reach that goal].”

This article was written by Rebecca Reisner and originally published on LearnVest.

Photo: Unsplash/ Pixabay

Here's Why You Need to Get a Work BFF, Stat!

Here’s Why You Need to Get a Work BFF, Stat!

Going into the office every day isn’t a really social endeavor—we work to advance ourselves professionally (and, well, to pay the bills) not because we want to bond with our coworkers.

That said, having a bestie at your company is pretty crucial for your sanity—and your success—in the workplace. According to The Huffington Post, a 2012 Gallup report found that 50 percent of employees who have work BFFs feel a strong connection to their companies, versus 10 percent of employees who don’t have a close office pal. Plus, as New York Magazine reports, studies show that employees with a best friend at work tend to be more focused and passionate about their jobs, as well.

[Related: 15 Things Only Your Work BFF Understands]

Clearly, making friends in the workplace is key. Here are five important ways that your work wife, partner-in-crime, or what have you, will help you shine.

1. Having a work pal makes you more productive.

When you have a personal connection with someone you work with, you’re more motivated to work harder, studies show. Not only could you let your company or customers down if you don’t do your best work, but you’d let down your work BFF, too. Also, when you have someone to keep you accountable, you can encourage each other through tough projects, crazy deadlines, and long nights working late.

[Related: 5 Ways to Communicate Better with Your Remote Coworkers]

2. You’ll have someone to cover for you.

Everyone has those mornings when you’re running late or those days when you just need some “personal” time. When you have a work BFF, she can be your point of contact to let the boss know you’re going to be a few minutes late to the AM meeting, or even cover for you if you’re playing hooky from work. Another helpful perk? When you’re on vacation, your work BFF can help lighten your load, taking on some of your responsibilities so you’re not hit with a mountain of tasks the moment you get back to the office.

3. Having a work BFF makes you feel understood.

Sometimes you just need to vent about that awful meeting, your boss, a nightmare client—something job-related that only someone you work with could understand. By having a colleague you’re close with, you can commiserate over these things and both feel like you’re being heard. This can be super helpful not only for your own emotional needs but also so you don’t burden your significant other or outside-of-work friends with your frustrations when they can’t really get them completely.

[Related: Confessions of a Former Angry Coworker]

4. She can make you look good.

According to the Harvard Business Review, a work friend can root for you when you’re up for a promotion and provide that professional and personal boost you need to be at your best in the office. Your work BFF can give you props in front of the boss and support you without being competitive or jealous. By holding each other up, you’ll both rise.

5. She can advise you on your next career move.

Because your work BFF knows your skills, strengths, and weaknesses—she’s seen you in action after all!—she can be a killer advisor when you’re contemplating the direction of your career. Whether you’re gunning for a new position within the company you’re at, or job-seeking elsewhere, she can be your confidant when it comes to writing a cover letter, updating your resume, negotiating an offer, or deciding if you should take a new gig.

Photo: Geber86/ Getty Images

3 Inspiring Founders to Connect with Today

3 Inspiring Founders to Connect with Today

These three Millennials turned ideas into action and started their own businesses. With inspiration, passion, and a whole lot of hard work, it sure pays to be able to have a business card that reads: “Founder and CEO.”

Shereen Campbell, Founder of My Little Magic Shop, an eCommerce site providing products that inspire, empower, and enlighten.

Phuong Mai, Founder of P.MAI, a lifestyle brand focused on beautiful, functional backpacks.

Samantha Cooper, Founder of Trend Tribe, a New York based jewelry company.

Be sure to check out more inspiring millennials, from students to CEOs, on Front & Center!

chuck schumer

No Laughing Matter: Amy Schumer Takes a Stand Against Gun Violence

Amy Schumer has been making audiences laugh nonstop since she first appeared on the comedy scene. But on Monday, the actress set all jokes aside to address a very serious issue: gun control.

Two days after responding to an essay pleading for her to address gun violence, the Trainwreck star joined her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer, to tackle the matter head on.

“These shootings have got to stop,” said the actress, whose movie was playing at a Lafayette, Louisiana, theater where gunman John Russell Houser fatally shot two women and injured nine more last month. “I don’t know how else to say it.”

“Preventing dangerous people from getting guns is very possible,” she continued she fought back tears.

The comedian and the senior Democratic senator announced a bill to reward states that submit records on felons, spousal abusers and the mentally ill to the federal background check system. It would penalize states that don’t.

They also want the Justice Department to survey states and find out which have the best standards for involuntary commitment to mental health facilities, and they want Congress to restore proposed cuts to mental health programs.

As a rising star, Amy Schumer acknowledged that taking such a public stance may not be the best for her career, as the issue of the Second Amendment is near and dear to many Americans. However, she says, the risk is worth it. “These are my first public comments on the issue of gun violence, but I promise you they will not be my last… I wanted to do something that it was something about restrictions and protecting their families maybe it would be effective… I’m expecting a backlash,” she said candidly.

“I’ve had death threats and a lot of hate directed toward me. But I want to be proud of the way I’m living and what I stand for.”

TELL US! What do you think of Amy’s decision to take a stand against gun control? Have you ever taken a stand against an issue in the workplace?

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Photo: Steve Sands / Getty Images

How to Deal With Conflict in the Office

How Your People Skills Can Ease Conflict in the Office

There are few things more awkward than an argument in the workplace. Whether it’s between you and your boss or two of your coworkers, an office conflict results in palpable tension, decreased productivity, and low employee morale. The obvious solution is to try to stop the disagreements before they start—but what causes them in the first place?

“One of the most common sources of workplace conflict is miscommunication,” says Xan Raskin, founder of workplace relations consultancy Artixan Consulting Group. “There isn’t always a comfortable environment for candid dialogue, so there are often a lot of assumptions being made or underlying subtexts that aren’t really being put out on the table.”

[Related: How to Deal with Disorganized Coworkers]

This is where your awesome people skills come in: The No. 1 way to improve communication, and thus decrease workplace conflict, is to have important convos face-to-face. Though we’re often overly reliant on quick and easy ways to communicate (think: G-chat), Raskin says discussing things in person is the best way to avoid conflict altogether. “When you have collaborative communication, you build trust between employees,” she explains.

Even with the best possible communication practices, however, conflicts will inevitably arise. So, with Raskin’s help, we’ve taken three common workplace arguments and compiled our best tips and tricks for using your people skills to work through them. Consider this your guide to dealing with conflict in the workplace:

If You Started a Full-On Email War

A coworker sent you a passive aggressive message and, before you had the chance to cool down and respond calmly, you fired one right back. Uh oh. Your first step now? Get. Off. Email. A face-to-face conversation will always be a better way to clear the air.

“People get reliant on email because it tends to give a little bit of protection, but [having a face-to-face conversation] is often the fastest way to shortcut things,” Raskin says. “You should count to 10 before you go talk to them, too, though, because obviously people can say things they don’t mean in person just as much as they can by email. Pause and make sure you’re in the right mindset to address it.”

[Related: 8 Ways to Deal with Passive-Aggressive People at Work]

If You’re Stuck in the Middle of an Argument Between Two Coworkers

Two coworkers are having a disagreement—and they both keep coming to you to vent about the other one. There are multiple approaches you could take in this situation. The first, Raskin says, is typically effective but can be a little scary: Try sitting down both employees at once, in a private locale like a coffee shop or lunch spot, to present your viewpoint and offer your help in facilitating a civil conversation. You care about both coworkers, and seeing them unhappy with each other makes you unhappy. Sit them down and tell them that—but only if you feel comfortable doing so.

[Related: 4 Ways to Master Difficult Conversations at Work]

Another option? To enlist the help of your mentors. “You also could confidentially go to somebody you trust, like human resources or a manager,” Raskin says. “You don’t have to identify the two employees that are in conflict, but you can say, ‘Hey. This is what’s going on. Do you have any advice for what I could go back and say to them?'” Then you can approach the coworkers—separately or together—armed with a script you’ve prepared with a trusted mentor.

But if mediating just isn’t your thing (or you feel like it’s totally not your place to do so), Raskin suggests approaching each coworker separately and saying, “Look. You guys are both unhappy. It’s making me unhappy, and I’d love for you two to figure it out. And if you can’t, at least be professional and cordial to each other. But I’d appreciate if you didn’t come complain to me anymore. I don’t know what to do and it puts me in an awkward situation.”

If You Accidentally Said Something that Offended an Employee

So you’re a manager, and you’ve accidentally said something that offended one of your employees. Oftentimes, Raskin says, a manager won’t even notice that she’s offended someone, so congratulations for recognizing your mistake! Now, your best bet is to have a private conversation with the employee. “It’s got to be an open and candid discussion,” Raskin explains. “Say, ‘I think I offended you. I wanted to talk to you about it. Is that the case?’ Give the employee an opportunity to speak.”

[Related: How to Tell If Your Boss is Bringing You Down or Pushing You Forward]

A hurt employee affects workplace productivity and morale, so it’s always best to proactively apologize for any offenses you’ve committed. An added bonus? Doing so will also garner respect from your employees. “I think it can go a long way if managers are willing to admit their own mistakes and flaws, even if you were misunderstood and you didn’t really mean it that way,” Raskin says. “You can still apologize for the impact it had, even though the intent wasn’t bad. If it’s been received in a way that’s different from what you intended, you have to fix it and apologize for it.”

Photo: Gary Burchell/ Getty Images

ajay relan

Levo Q&A: Ajay Relan, Founder of Hashtag Lunchbag

While many Millennials boast the title on Instagram and rappers worldwide claim to embody the term, Ajay Relan is a true hustler in every sense of the word. At the age of 11, he learned Avid film editing software to scale his mom’s “Bollywood Blockbuster situation” selling movies out of their two-bedroom apartment. At 13, he sold Airheads candy to buy a pair of Air Jordans, every 90s child’s dream. From there he honed his sales skills in the parking lot of a Los Angeles mall selling velour suits then threw parties to hawk fake designer bags. Being a “out of my trunk kind of entrepreneur” then paid for business and psychology degrees at UC Santa Barbara. “All that time, I was really just harnessing a set of skills and exercising the muscles to become an entrepreneur while admittedly not really knowing where all of that energy would be focused,” says Relan, now 31.

After a series of start-ups and business ventures including owning West Hollywood sports bar The Parlour, all of that energy and hard-knock entrepreneurship led him to launch Hashtag Lunchbag, a “humanity service movement” that provides thousands of bagged lunches complete with love messages to those in need. Thanks to social media and a network of other hustlers and friends, Relan and his cofounders have grown to serve 120 cities on 5 continents, scoring a Wells Fargo commercial feature along the way.

[Related: Here’s What It Takes to Become a Professional Activist]

But starting a non-profit to give back wasn’t the original goal for Relan. Hashtag Lunchbag was born out of his own struggles with mental health and wanting to give to others in order to improve his own life. Relan sat down with Levo to talk about the origins of the movement, the importance of mental health for Millennials, and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Levo: Take us back to the beginning. Why did someone who was all about the hustle, press pause and start a non-profit like Hashtag Lunchbag?

Ajay Relan: For me, Hashtag Lunchbag came to be around Christmas 2012. I had an interesting, very transitional year. I started questioning myself as an entrepreneur. The part of being an entrepreneur that no one really talks about is the toll it takes on your confidence and your self-esteem and your mental health. In some cases it leads to depression. It’s a very tough thing especially when you’re doing it by yourself, especially when you’re young. The lack of experience at a very young age can take you down very dark path because no one wants to be around miserable people; no one wants to be around the company that’s not poppin’. So I started going to therapy.

[Related: Levo Q&A: Elizabeth Gore, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Dell]

That’s a big step for a man and a young Millennial. Most people resort to other things. What did you learn in therapy?

AR: I thought that I needed to open myself up to things that are aligned with what I like to do. I walked away from my start-up. I realized I hadn’t had a longterm relationships in a while, so I went ahead and got one of those. I hadn’t met my dad before and I thought that could have been at the root of some of my issues, so I went off an found him and met him for the first time. I decided to get into the sports bar business because I like sports and I liked to drink, so hey, why not. Again, just all of these very sporadic things. But like anything that goes up, it has to come down. I got right back into this really, really dark place for a myriad of reasons. I asked my therapist for ways that I could cope that didn’t require any pharmaceuticals, and she prescribed me with volunteering.

Wow! Really?

AR: I thought it was ridiculous. I went to Catholic school, I did a lot of community service. I was in a fraternity in college, I did service then too. But nothing really connected me to the service. On Thanksgiving, a friend of mine invited me to volunteer at a soup kitchen downtown but I didn’t have a great experience. So on Christmas eve, I thought to just do it myself. I woke up the next morning and went to the grocery store and bought enough food to feed 100 people, but I didn’t just buy anything. I bought food that I would want to eat. The kind of lunch that if your mom made it when you were a kid, all the other kids at school would be jealous. Gourmet meat, cheese, premium bread, Gushers, premium flavored chips, Capri Suns, Hershey kisses, water, an apple and orange. I went home and very inefficiently started putting together the lunches. My roommate and our other buddy were at the house and they joined me in putting them together as we listened to DMX rap Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

[Related: The Pivot: Alida Garcia, Coalitions and Policy Director for]

So you took the lunches down to Santa Monica and gave them out to those who needed it.  Plus posted on social media. How did it make you feel?

AR: Almost immediately we had our own individual moments of these awesome feelings which was what we were really looking for. It felt great. It was like “Wow, all that [stuff] I was going through doesn’t matter because this moment is what I have. I do have a lot of things and I should be grateful for them.” That moment is very fleeting, but we thought that we wanted share it.

Now you do this every month in cities across the globe?

AR: We never thought we were ending hunger. We were just creating a vessel, a social activity for people to do to help them have that euphoric feeling that we felt. From that point on, we started seeing people popping up in different cities wanting to do the same thing. [My cofounder] JD’s old soccer coach did it and drove around feeding military veterans. An old friend of mine wanted to do it in New York. Then Chicago, Detroit, Seattle— then it just started spiraling. Friends, followers, strangers, family members, everyone is getting in on it.

If ending hunger isn’t the goal, then what is?

AR: There are a lot of programs that feed homeless. We’re not the only people on Skid Row passing out meals. The food isn’t the primary value proposition. Homelessness wasn’t the main driver. I know the reason why I started this was because I was going through some shit in my life and I was prescribed to do and so I did it. And it’s no coincidence that overtime, I felt a certain way. And I wanted to keep feeling that way.

Many more people than we think are dealing with issues of depression and mental illness, or just feeling overwhelmed. It seems like stress is at an all time high, right?

AR: There’s this feeling that you’re all alone in your issues, social comparisons. It’s so easy to compare your worst to someone else’s highlight reel of their best. I have had five friends that have taken their own lives in the past few years. You never really know what takes them to that point, but I think that vulnerability is key. Whether it’s with your partner or a friend, it’s about being open and honest about how you feel and knowing that you’re not going to be judged. I have a hard time with it too.

How do you cope now?

AR: I’m very keen on mental health and emotional intelligence. It’s a combination of breaking a sweat and exercising—really getting your endorphins running to keep your mind clear. That really helps me. You have to surround yourself with people that make you feel good and appreciate you for exactly who you are and what you are, not what they think you can do for them. You have to be mindful of what you consume. There’s a lot of [bad stuff] out there and a lot of distractions. The stuff that’s on television isn’t the healthiest. Of course, learn from other entrepreneurs, but don’t set your starting line at someone else’s finish line.

What has been your greatest setback?

AR: A general theme in life is this feeling of it never being enough. We’re so obsessed with progressing and creating newsworthy headlines of “Look what I’m doing” and “Look where I’m at” that you often forget or discredit the work that you’ve done to date. It’s this notion of “We’re in a 120 cities now so we need to be in 240 by the end of the week!” I feel that way all the time.

What advice would you give other Millennials for staying balanced and mindful?

AR: It’s a matter of really maintaining a passion and reminding yourself of why you started in the first place. You have to remind yourself of your “Why.” Money is slowly starting to loose it’s grip on why people do what they do. It’s not as much of a motivator as it used to be. Millennials are searching for more meaning.  But it’s really coming back to being enough as a person and doing the work to build your self-confidence. What you have at the end of the day is your relationships with your friends, family and those who care about you. You have to eliminate the shame of feeling like you’re not where you would like to be. Defining who you are as a person is key and it’s something I still struggle with. So my advice is to stay physically active, eat healthy, indulge in moderation. Most importantly, create and sustain really meaningful connections with people that you can share with but also those that you can listen to for perspective and insight.

Want to get involved? Join the movement at

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Photo: Courtesy of Ajay Relan

8 Instagrams to Follow for Top-Notch Career Advice

8 Instagrammers to Follow for Top-Notch Career Advice

When it comes to Instagram, you probably follow your best friend, your sister, and your best friend’s sister… But as you’re scrolling through your feed, who do you look to for awesome inspiration, beautiful images, and reliable career advice you can actually relate to? We’ve gathered some of our favorite Instagrammers who are always making our feeds better and brighter, so you can get double-tappin’ ASAP.

1. CreateCultivate

This online platform and creative conference caters to all female entrepreneurs that are working and growing in the digital space. Their fun and colorful feed is full of great quotes, office outfit ideas, and a handful of successful women. Plus, CreateCultivate featured one of my absolute favorite inspiration illustrations that reminds you to always work hard and be gracious.

2. HerAgenda

What I love about HerAgenda is that you’re not just seeing the same five quotes you always find all over Pinterest. Here, you’re getting fresh advice and bold images, so you’ll never miss them as you’re scrolling through.

3. LeanInOrg

We always hear about how we need to #LeanIn to our careers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t also need daily reminders of what happens when we do! Lean In’s powerful Instagram features and celebrates incredible women who’ve really made a difference. Learn from their journeys and their words as you’re navigating your own career.

#SerenaWilliams and #CarliLloyd. Need we say more? #WhatAWeek 🎾⚽️🙌🙌⚽️🎾

A photo posted by Lean In (@leaninorg) on

4. HootDesignCo

This design company located in the heart of Missouri not only has quirky and cohesive photos, but it also delivers some solid career advice. Wondering what three things may be ruining your brand? Looking for new ways to dress for success? You must check out this marketing and branding hub.

That’s right.

A photo posted by Kristen Graham Brown (@hootdesignco) on

5. TheBrandGals

Sometimes the best advice just comes from downright beautiful inspiration. Looking at TheBrandGals feed, you’re immediately transported into a world where creativity is endless, ideas are clean and thought out, and your desk always looks perfect.

6. LinkedIn

If you’re looking for quick and simple tips on how to make your LinkedIn profile noticed by employers (have a photo and list your skills), all accompanied by pops of motivation, look no further than the LinkedIn insta. Also, I’m always down to see an adorable kid telling me to believe in myself.

To the sanity checker, the PowerPoint partner, and the #workbff…this one’s for you. #workhigh5

A photo posted by LinkedIn (@linkedin) on

7. Business Insider

While it’s a lot more than just career advice, Business Insider offers some useful, easy-to-read tips on powering through a workday on no sleep, how not to be a bad speaker, and how to pay off your debt. All that just by scrolling through my feed? I’ll take it.

8. Levo

Last but not least, I have to give a shoutout to the ultimate source for social media career advice: the one and only, Levo. Levo’s wonderfully curated feed is full of Power Outfits, interactive career polls, awesome women, and even a note from yours truly! Plus, it’s just one more way to connect with the women that help make up the thriving Levo community.

Photo: Kaboom Pics