Nurture Your Network With These 11 Ideas

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

Staying in contact with people often falls to the bottom of everyone's to-do lists. But, with a bit of planning and a dash of creativity, you can nurture your network. If you're like me, you probably have a drawer full of business cards, hundreds of LinkedIn connections, and contact information from emails. Anyone of these contacts could hold the key to your next opportunity. But you don't know which one. This means you need to find ways to stay in contact with as many as possible.... Read more

Appealing your health care decisions

By VA Careers | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs © 2023, Reprinted with permission

If you disagree with a health care decision, you have options. As a Veteran, you deserve the best health care possible. But you may not always agree with decisions we make about your medical care or whether you are eligible for some types of care. If you disagree with a decision we made, you can appeal it. Here's how. First, a word about where benefits come from within VA. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) handles non-health benefits, including service-connected compensation, education, dependency and indemnity compensation, VA home loans and life insurance. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also has its own set of health benefits involving your health care and eligibility for certain health services.... Read more

Answers To Describe What You're Most Excited About At Work

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

Describe what you're most excited about at work is a unique interview question that many candidates aren't prepared for. While it might not seem hard to answer from afar, it's deceptively tricky to deal with on the spot. This guide will teach you how to come up with an impressive response that makes the interviewer eager to learn more about you.... Read more

Veterans set to see cost-of-living increase to their benefits

By VA Careers | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs © 2023, Reprinted with permission

On June 14, 2023, President Joe Biden signed into law the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2023, which directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for Veterans benefits in 2024 equal to the COLA applied to Social Security benefits, as determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The legislation, passed with bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, is an annual procedure for Congress but an important one, as it must be accomplished to ensure Veterans receive a COLA, and that it keeps pace with inflationary costs.... Read more

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Nurture Your Network With These 11 Ideas

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

Staying in contact with people often falls to the bottom of everyone's to-do lists. But, with a bit of planning and a dash of creativity, you can nurture your network.

If you're like me, you probably have a drawer full of business cards, hundreds of LinkedIn connections, and contact information from emails. Anyone of these contacts could hold the key to your next opportunity. But you don't know which one. This means you need to find ways to stay in contact with as many as possible.

Here are eleven twists to keep in touch with people you know.

1. Not Your Ordinary Holiday Wishes

It seems everyone sends a holiday card in December. Don't get lost in the crowd. Instead, send holiday greetings for off-holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving, or Groundhog's Day. Or pick a more unusual celebration, such as National Gumdrop Day or National Cat Day, as a trigger to send your holiday wishes.

2. Pay Attention to Birthdays

Social media's prompting reminders have made it easier to remember to send birthday cheer. However, some of your contacts may not have shared this important date on a social profile, and so this important day slips through the cracks. Be sure to note birthdays on your personal calendar, and go a step above by sending birthday cards through the mail. It takes just that much more thought and effort.

3. Create Your Very Own E-Newsletter

Why would you have a personal e-newsletter? Because the technology is easy, and it's good personal branding. Your monthly or quarterly e-newsletter should be useful to your readers. For example, if many of your connections are in the tech industry, share current news about new gadgets or reviews of new technology from reputable sources. Don't forget to include personal updates, such as major milestones, ongoing education or training, events you've attended, or projects you are working on. You can send a simple email; just be sure you blind copy recipients to protect privacy. And never spam people by adding them to your mailing list without permission or the option to opt-out.

4. Say Congratulations

When your contacts are mentioned or published in the news, congratulate them on their good public relations. You can use Google Alerts to customize the news updates on people and companies in your network.

5. Send a Token

For extra-special people, you may want to send a book you know they'll enjoy. If you are looking for less expensive alternatives, consider sending a virtual Amazon gift card or other gift card to their favorite coffee shop or lunch spot.

There are also ideas that may seem a bit over-the-top but that might just work. If you share a mutual interest in gardening, send forget-me-not seeds along with a note about how you value the connection with the person. If you both love to travel, send a postcard from your next trip that says, "Wish You Were Here." Or bring back some swag from a conference, and send it along with a message about your takeaways from the event.

6. Turn Bad Into Good

Remember that job you were a runner-up for? Or that potential client that didn't come through? Don't give up. One way to stay in front of them is to send your contact a follow-up email or letter about three months after the new hire started or after the deal went through. Sincerely express your hope that all is going well and that you would always be open to future conversations.

7. Share Useful News

Sending a message that says, "Just checking in!" can feel like a waste of time for you and the person receiving it. Instead, share relevant news. Perhaps there are changes in regulations or policies within the industry; why not share these with those in your network who need to know? Keep up to date by using Feedly, LinkedIn or whatever your favorite source of news is.

8. Pick Up The Phone

Sometimes, just picking up the phone for a quick check-in can be a welcome surprise. Try calling first thing in the morning, at lunch, or at the end of the day, when people are more likely to be near the phone and not in meetings. If you get voice mail, leave a short message with your name and phone number, and why you are calling.

9. Write a Recommendation

LinkedIn is the perfect platform to recommend a past colleague, service provider, or client. When someone receives an unsolicited recommendation, it is a welcome surprise.

10. Connect People

Do you know two people you think would benefit from meeting each other? Be a matchmaker and introduce them. Send one email to both people and explain why you think they would benefit from meeting. Provide enough information so each person can understand the potential of the relationship and know how to research and contact one another.

11. Invite Along

The next time you receive an invitation to an event or fundraiser, consider inviting one of your contacts to join you. Just be sure it is a cause you both support.

Tips To Make Networking Possible

In order to network, you need to have a couple of systems in place. Remember, networking is a long-term strategy. It's one way you'll manage your career in the future.

Get Organized

Create your database now. Add important information about your network contacts like birthdays, names of partners/spouses, children, college attended, organizations, interests, favorite food, and so on. You can use a formal customer relationship management system, a simple Excel spreadsheet or your email/phone contacts.

Carve Out Time

Put reminders to send outreach and important dates on your calendar. Here are some suggestions:

Weekly: Check LinkedIn and Facebook notifications for work anniversaries and birthdays.

Monthly: Plan the outreach for the month- who do you need to touch base with and what will you do.

Annually: Evaluate the strength of your network? Have you done enough to stay in touch?

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Appealing your health care decisions

By VA Careers | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs © 2023, Reprinted with permission

As a Veteran, you deserve the best health care possible. But you may not always agree with decisions we make about your medical care or whether you are eligible for some types of care.

If you disagree with a decision we made, you can appeal it. Here's how.

First, a word about where benefits come from within VA. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) handles non-health benefits, including service-connected compensation, education, dependency and indemnity compensation, VA home loans and life insurance. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also has its own set of health benefits involving your health care and eligibility for certain health services.

To learn more about VBA benefits, please visit its website.

Two kinds of health care decisions, two kinds of appeals

In VA health care, you can appeal two kinds of decisions: medical determinations and health benefits decisions.

A medical determination is a decision made by your care team about your health care, like whether to prescribe a certain medication, treatment or physical therapy. It can also mean a decision to refer you to a community provider for care.

A health benefits decision is about whether or not you are eligible for VA health benefits, such as VA health care, VA nursing home and domiciliary care, reimbursement for non-VA emergency care and certain medical devices.

How to appeal a medical determination

You can appeal a medical determination by filing a Clinical Appeal, which allows other medical professionals to review your medical needs and decide whether the determination was correct.

To file a Clinical Appeal, contact the patient advocate at your VA medical facility and ask to initiate a Clinical Appeal.

Find your local patient advocate here.

How to appeal a health benefits decision

If you disagree with a health benefits decision, you can request one of three types of review:

  • Higher-Level Review
  • Supplemental Claim
  • Appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals

You can select the type of review you think is best for your case.

When and how to request a Higher-Level Review

If you believe our decision was wrong and you don't have new evidence, a Higher-Level Review may be your best option. You can't submit any new evidence, but instead a senior reviewer will look at your case again. This reviewer will evaluate the same evidence that was previously considered. You must file a request for Higher-Level Review within one year of the date of your decision.

You can also request an optional, one-time informal conference with a senior reviewer to discuss your case.

To request a Higher-Level Review, fill out VA Form 20-0996 and follow the submission instructions on your VHA decision notice letter.

Download VA Form 20-0996.

When and how to file a Supplemental Claim

If you believe our decision was wrong and you have new and relevant evidence that VA hasn't already considered, a Supplemental Claim may be your best choice. We can help you gather any new evidence you identify, such as medical records, to support your claim. A reviewer will decide if this new evidence changes the decision. You can generally file a Supplemental Claim at any time after the decision.

To file a Supplemental Claim, fill out VA Form 20-0995 and follow the submission instructions on your VHA decision notice letter.

Download VA Form 20-0995.

When and how to appeal to the Board

If you want a Veterans Law Judge at the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board) to review your case, you may appeal the decision to the Board. You must file a Board appeal within one year of the date of your decision and you do not need to request Higher-Level Review or file a Supplemental Claim before appealing to the Board.

There are three types of Board review. When you fill out the form, you'll need to request which type you want:

  • Direct Review: If you don't want to submit additional evidence or have a hearing
  • Evidence Submission: If you want to submit additional evidence without a hearing
  • Hearing with a Veterans Law Judge: If you want to have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge with the option to submit new evidence

To appeal a decision to the Board, fill out VA Form 10182 and send it to the Board. The mailing address is in the form.

Download VA Form 10182.

How to appeal a Caregiver Support Program decision

If you disagree with a decision about care or services under the VA Caregiver Support Program (CSP), you have four options. You can file a Clinical Appeal, or you can choose any of the three benefits decision appeals options. For more information, review your CSP decision letter or visit the CSP website.

How to find help with an appeal

If you need help filing a claim or appeal, you may want to work with an accredited attorney, a claims agent or a Veterans Service Officer (VSO). We trust these professionals because they're trained and certified in the VA claims and appeals processes. They can help you with VA-related needs.

VSOs work on behalf of Veterans and service members, as well as their dependents and survivors. Find out more about professionals who can help you.

For more information

Visit the VHA appeals website for more information.

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Answers To Describe What You're Most Excited About At Work

By Hannah Morgan | Career Sherpa - Reprinted with permission

"Describe what you're most excited about at work" is a unique interview question that many candidates aren't prepared for. While it might not seem hard to answer from afar, it's deceptively tricky to deal with on the spot.

This guide will teach you how to come up with an impressive response that makes the interviewer eager to learn more about you.

The Reasons Interviewers Ask This Question

Describing what you're excited about at work helps hiring managers determine your suitability for the position you're interviewing for. The question seems simple at face value, but it unveils more about who you are as an employee than most realize.

This question comes down to job satisfaction and understanding what factors go into creating a positive work experience for you.

But why does that matter?

Ultimately, employers want to bring people into the company who will be naturally motivated to perform. They don't want people who are only there for a paycheck, or worse, people who are miserable doing the job they're hired to do. If you're excited to come to work every day, there's a better chance that you'll give great effort and will stick around for much longer than if you didn't.

Hiring a new employee is a big investment. If hiring managers have even an inkling that this position is only temporary or not a good fit for your needs, they are more likely to pass in favor of a candidate who will enjoy their time at the company. They want to invest in employees who are enthusiastic about the job and company!

Asking you to describe what you're excited about at work helps them understand the workplace situations you enjoy and what helps you reach a high level of professional fulfillment and performance. It can also shed light on what motivates you to succeed and how you'll fit into the work environment, company culture, and more.

There are many layers to this question, but it ultimately gives interviewers an easier way to assess how easily you'll fit into the role while being happy and successful.

How to Answer, "Describe What You're Most Excited About at Work"

There are many ways to approach answering this question. It's open-ended by design, giving you the freedom to unveil the information interviewers are after in a less structured way.

So how do you deliver a knockout response that works in your favor? Here are a few tips to follow.

1. Do a Little Brainstorming

The first thing you should do is think about what makes you feel fulfilled in a job. Professional satisfaction is wholly subjective. There's no right or wrong answer, and what motivates you may not be what motivates someone else.

The key to describing what excites you at work is to fully understand what makes you happy in a role. There are many great examples. For instance, it could be a healthy work environment that fosters collaboration and teamwork.

Alternatively, it could be having a solid work/life balance, gaining opportunities to continue developing your career, employee-sponsored benefits, or the chance to advance within the company. Those are concrete examples that many people talk about when answering this question.

Think about what matters most to you. You can even reflect on past jobs to determine what you like and don't like. The important thing is to reflect on the things that make you leave work feeling content and accomplished.

Answering this question is not about the specific aspects of the position. You can certainly talk about certain elements of the job, such as the ability to help people or getting opportunities to work as part of a team. However, your answer should focus on what brings you the most joy.

Ideally, you'll already know what the position entails. This question revolves around workplace satisfaction and motivation. Think beyond the day-to-day and focus on what excites you most about your work and career.

2. Find Connections Between What Excites You at Work & the Job You Want

Here's where you need to study the job description and do your research.

While this question focuses on your satisfaction and happiness, it's still a job interview! You still need to impress hiring managers and deliver a great answer. The best way to do that is to draw connections to the position you're interviewing for, showing that this is a job you'll love to do.

Examine the job description and do a deep dive to learn as much as possible about the job. You can look up similar job postings, research the company itself, and reach out to people currently working at the organization. Learn as much as you can to get a complete picture of what you can expect working there. Then, find ways to tie what excites you, to the job you want. Think about what initially attracted you to this position and connect the dots. You may even learn more about what's truly important to you.

Maybe this job gives you plenty of opportunities to contribute to large projects that boost the bottom line. Or perhaps it comes with the amazing opportunity to work with other high-performers who keep you motivated to succeed as much as possible.

Whatever the case, bring it up! Connect the dots for the interview and show them why this job is for you.

3. Keep Your Answer Brief

Open-ended questions can run long. There's no hyper-focused response that will deliver the information interviewers need. As a result, many candidates find themselves rambling!

Resist the urge to give a drawn-out answer. Ideally, you should be able to discuss what excites you most about work in two minutes or less.

Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate superfluous details and cut to the chase.

This question often leads to follow-ups from the interviewer. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it could mean that you provided a compelling answer that warrants more information.

It's better to leave room for follow-up questions than to run long. Get to the core of your response, and if the interviewer wants to learn more, they'll ask.

4. Practice

Always practice your answer before you head to your interview. This isn't a question you want to think up on the spot. It's multi-layered and more important than simpler questions.

It deserves great thought and preparation.

Take time to develop a solid response and practice delivering it in a few ways. But you shouldn't have a canned response that you recite verbatim. Doing that comes off as inauthentic.

Instead, know what points you want to hit when giving your answer. You can create a list of things you want to say and memorize them. Then, get comfortable talking about what excites you in a natural way.

Confidence is key here. Practice enough so that you avoid stuttering or creating long pauses. You should respond with conviction to show that you've thought about this question and the job.

Common Mistakes When Answering

Now that you know how to answer this question successfully, let's talk about a few common mistakes that applicants make. Open-ended questions like this have plenty of room for error. Avoid these faux pas to ensure that your answer works in your favor.

Unprofessional Responses

This question is strictly about what excites you at work. Talking about personal matters will make you come off as unprofessional.

We're talking about answers like:

"The thing that excites me most is clocking out at the end of the day. That keeps me motivated."

That answer, and anything related to it, will do nothing but hurt you. It's a huge red flag. You should also refrain from talking about your personal life. Stick to professional excitement!

Monetary Motivations

Another thing to avoid is talking too much about money. It's fine to bring up benefits and other things the company does to reward hard workers, but focusing your answer solely on money will come off the wrong way.

This can send a signal that you're only there to get paid. That's not what employers want to hear. They prefer it when candidates get real satisfaction out of their job.

Unsure Answers

Finally, avoid the answers like:

"I'm not really sure. I don't get excited at work. I just show up, do what I'm supposed to do, and go home."

You need to have something you're excited about! An answer like the one above doesn't provide any information about how you fit into the company or your ability to find happiness in the role. Plus, it comes off as ill-prepared.

Example Answers

There are plenty of great ways to answer this question. And while your response should be unique to your true motivations, we have a few samples to serve as inspiration and get you started.

Example 1

In our first example, we have a candidate who loves working with others. This response is a knockout because it checks off all the boxes. The candidate explains why they are excited about collaborating with colleagues and how this job can fulfill their wishes.

"The thing that gets me most excited at work is the chance to collaborate as part of a team. There's something special about working with others towards a big common goal. It's great to see that my work contributes to the growth of the company. Collaborating with others is something I enjoy. It makes my day and provides genuine satisfaction. Seeing the finished product always makes me feel proud. I know that collaboration is a big deal here at [COMPANY], and I'm excited to become part of this type of team."

Example 2

Next up, we have a candidate with a more unusual response. But despite its unorthodox nature, it works perfectly for the administrative job they're trying to land. It's easy to connect this answer to the job, proving to hiring managers that they will get satisfaction from the role.

This may sound odd, but staying organized and helping others accomplish their work is something that excites me. I've worked administrative jobs for the last several years, and I enjoy staying organized. From keeping the office uncluttered to lending a hand to others in their projects, I feel fulfilled after a long day. I find joy in helping an office run smoothly. While my work doesn't directly impact the bottom line, I know that doing a good job keeps the office productive. It's my indirect way of contributing to the success of the company, and that's why I believe that this is a role I can truly succeed in."

Example 3

Finally, we have a candidate who enjoys the prospect of a challenge. They're interviewing for a complex role that involves substantial problem-solving. So, they use this question as an opportunity to prove to hiring managers that they have what it takes to not only succeed but thrive.

"I've found over the last several years that the thing that brings me the most excitement at work is the ability to challenge myself. I've worked a few positions that had little variation in the day-to-day routine. I thrive in environments where I have to think creatively. I see it as a chance to push myself and further my professional development. While others dread challenges, I embrace them and revel in the opportunity to adapt and overcome any situation. That's one of the reasons why I was so drawn to this position. From what I've learned, this job keeps people on their toes! I'm excited to push myself, try new approaches, and find solutions that drive progress."

Conclusion

It takes a little brainstorming to describe what you're most excited about at work in a way that impresses your interviewer. But once you've developed a response you're happy with, you'll be amazed at the feedback you'll receive.

Do some soul-searching, connect your excitement to the job you want, and practice.

Good luck!

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Veterans set to see cost-of-living increase to their benefits

By VA Careers | U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs © 2023, Reprinted with permission

On June 14, 2023, President Joe Biden signed into law the Veterans Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Act of 2023, which directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for Veterans benefits in 2024 equal to the COLA applied to Social Security benefits, as determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The legislation, passed with bi-partisan support in the House and Senate, is an annual procedure for Congress but an important one, as it must be accomplished to ensure Veterans receive a COLA, and that it keeps pace with inflationary costs.

Which VA benefits will increase?

The COLA will affect certain VA benefits including, but not limited to: disability compensation, clothing allowance and dependency and indemnity compensation (DIC) for spouses and children.

While the exact amount of next year's adjustment has not been determined, it's based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The CPI measures the average change in prices of goods and services to preceding years and is used by SSA to determine the annual COLA, which, by law, now applies to VA benefits as well.

The last adjustment in January 2023, which Veterans are currently receiving, saw an 8.7% increase following a second year of high inflation.

When can Veterans expect to see the adjustment?

Based on the timeline of previous years, SSA is expected to announce its 2024 COLA early in the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1. VA will then set its compensation payment rates to match and Veterans can expect to see the new amounts starting with their January 2024 payment.

To stay informed on when the COLA is announced and what it will mean for your VA benefits, subscribe to the #VetResources newsletter and #theSITREP podcast, where that topic and many more of interest to Veterans are discussed.

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