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Pumping breast milk at work has to be one of the most dreaded but necessary tasks. You love giving your baby nourishment, but you’re afraid of prying eyes and what to do about stubborn tatas that just won’t do their thing — or will do it, but at the most inappropriate times. Ah, the joys of motherhood!

You know what? You’re a strong working mama who is going to conquer pumping right now. Make pumping at work suck less with these 17 tips for productive tataflow and workflow:

  1. Chat With Other Pumpers

It’s breast —  well, best — to be in the know about what other mamas do at work when it comes to pumping. Talk with coworkers who’ve breastfed and learn from their dos and don’ts. Where did they go? No one else knows how to pump successfully at your company besides the moms who have been there.

  1. Pump in Spurts While Multitasking

With stubborn tatas, pump in spurts — try again after fifteen to twenty minutes. In the meantime, pull out your smartphone and catch up on your work email. Clear out your cluttered inbox.

  1. Wear Pump-Friendly Clothing

Avoid low-cut shirts, as your breast size will vary throughout the day due to rates of milk production and retention. Stick with tops that offer more coverage. Wrap shirts and dresses, nursing tanks and button-down tops are helpful for freeing your breasts during pumping and still maintaining a professional look.

  1. Prepare for Leaks

As you make a professional go-to kit, prepare a just-in-case kit for impromptu leaks — they will happen. Make prints your allies, and extra padding in your nursing bra helps, too. Place a towel on your lap for spillage, and clean up any spills as soon as possible.

  1. Wear the Right Bra

Working mama, what are you doing wearing that bra? You know it’s only adding to your back pain and messing with your milk flow, right?

Wear the right bra. Shop online or go to your local maternity store, looking for comfortable and breathable materials. Some bras have zippers on the front to make pumping easier, and remember: More coverage means more support. Your bust size will have increased due to pregnancy and may reduce after you breastfeed. A hands-free pumping bra will relieve stress.

  1. Don’t Forget Nipple Cream

Your sore breasts and crackled nipples need soothing with nipple cream. Carry a small tube with you and apply some as you take your bathroom breaks. Your breasts will feel the relief, and pumping won’t be so painful.

  1. Make an Official Pumping Plan

Chat with your boss and coworkers in advance about your official pumping plan — without turning red. You all need to be on the same page so that you follow corporate policy, if there is one, and people know what you’re up to when they can’t find you. Plus, you know where to turn if judgy busybodies decide to make proper pumping proclamations when they know nothing. Here are a few ideas to break the ice:

  • For the boss: “Now that I’ve returned from maternity leave, I need to take breaks outside of normal break time to pump breast milk. Should we discuss the needed times and how to optimize my workflow as a result?”
  • For the random janitor or receptionist: “I’m a nursing mother, and I need a private area to pump. What room works best right now?”
  • For coworkers aware of your pumping: “I need a personal pumping break and will meet you in the conference room as soon as possible.”

Don’t be afraid to check with HR, either. It sucks to pump in a bathroom area and then find out you had a right to a private space according to policy all along. Some laws require private pumping areas, and HR is responsible for the implementation of that knowledge.

  1. Keep Up the Supply

Rotate your breast milk via next-day rotation to keep up your supply: milk pumped Monday is used on Tuesday. What’s pumped on Tuesday is used on Wednesday. Freeze any extra. Your pumping amounts will vary according to your stress levels and hydration, for example, but some pattern helps maintain your supply.

You may need to add in an extra session or two, especially at the beginning, but don’t give up! Your supply will adjust and you will pull through!

  1. Stay Hydrated and Snack Healthily

Hydration is vital to a healthy milk supply, as is eating healthily. Work sometimes makes it difficult to eat at all, much less a full, balanced meal.

Focus on consuming healthy snacks throughout the day to maintain a steady milk supply. For example, hard-boiled eggs store easily and provide protein, while cottage cheese with fresh fruit toppings provides calcium, hydration and various nutrients. Small meals may be easier for you to keep up with than large meals.

  1. Remember That Distraction During Pumping Is Encouraged

Don’t think of pumping as a chore or of being distracted during as a bad reflection on you as a mom or employee. Get on Facebook. Check work emails. Read a book. Wait it out.

  1. Say “No” More

“No” is a very powerful word that everyone needs to exercise in their daily vocabulary more. Stop sacrificing the quality of your work and your work-life balance, especially as a mom, to requests that are too much.

Start refusals off with a positive note: “I’m so happy you thought of me for this project, but I’m not equipped to handle it at this moment. How about talking with Bob in billing?” Make sure your body language matches your tone and statement.

  1. Invest in a Quality Pump

It’s not you, it’s the pump. Break up with low-quality pumps, and invest in higher-quality pumps, such as a reliable brand recommended by a coworker or a hospital rental. Cheap pumps won’t help you increase your milk supply.

  1. Plan to Nurse at Work Similarly to How You Do at Home

It’s easy to forget to pump at work with deadlines to meet and coworkers making requests every five minutes. On your office calendar, mark “personal” blocks of time to pump, similar to the time periods of the day that you pump or nurse at home. You’ll typically stay on schedule and keep your breasts happy this way.

  1. Hack the Pump Cleaning Process

Carry three sets of pumping parts with you to work for every session and wash them at home, storing them in a sanitary way like in a Tupperware container to reduce Ziploc waste.

Alternatively, carry pump-made disinfectant wipes to clean the parts discretely while at work. Micro-steam bags work well for sterilization after rinsing.

  1. Bond With Your Pump

Bonding with your pump isn’t the same as bonding with your latching baby. It’s an inanimate object that makes you feel like a cow being milked. Give your tatas encouragement by looking at your adorable baby on your phone via photos and videos. Ask your nanny to text you a cute daily photo.

  1. Pack the Battery — Always

Need to travel for work or run a related errand? Always pack the battery — you never know where you’ll need to pump.

  1. Know That It’s Okay to Use Formula

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you’ll be busy, or your supply will run low. It doesn’t make you a bad mother to rely on formula or a mix of nursing and formula. You do what you have to do to take care of your baby, mama.

When you get home from work, snuggle up to your baby, nap and enjoy the time together — being close to them for prolonged periods like this reduces your stress and keeps up your supply.

Don’t worry. You’re going to conquer this pumping thing, whether you’re blushing as you search for a private area to pump or not. To the pump!

For more tips on balancing work and motherhood, as well as other career topics, subscribe to Punched Clocks. Keep the conversation going by commenting your own tips and stories and sharing.

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The post How to Make Pumping at Work Suck Less appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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All problems in life experienced personally and professionally are related, even when the work-life balance feels like the greatest hoax ever invented. You’re not satisfied with life and want and deserve so much more. So, claim it.

You need to shake up your life and career, or you will remain stagnant and unsatisfied. You don’t get up to work, sleep, eat, pay bills and die — you were meant for so much more. Here are 13 simple ways to smash your comfort zone and grow personally and professionally:

1. Renew Yourself

If you stick to the same section of the stacks, it’s time to renew yourself at the library. Check out librarian-recommended books. Sometimes, the librarians will write out their own version of the book blurb and why they fell in love with the story.

2. Let New Music Surprise You

Your reliable playlists from your high school and college days see you through tough times at work and moments where you can’t do another curl but try anyway. These songs bring you comfort and remind you of bittersweet moments you either moved on from or need to let go of.

Take a risk and listen to new music, even in a new language. If you’re a country fan, why not give atmospheric or hip-hop a try? Ask friends and coworkers for their favorite go-to songs.

3. Engage Your Palate

Engage your palate with cuisines you’ve never tasted before. Sure, you may love your regular Chinese takeout, but have you tried authentic Szechuan recipes?

Find a new restaurant with a friend, or make an authentic recipe at home after a visit to your local Asian grocery.
4. Take Yourself on a Date

Sometimes, you want to get out and about, but no one is free or you may have recently gone through a breakup. It’s tough keeping a straight face in your personal and professional lives, but realize you need to nurture your relationship with yourself. You are constantly growing, even when you don’t see it.

Taking yourself on a date is a cliché, but it’s an effective form of self-care to get to know yourself again — the best self-dates are low key. Buy yourself flowers. See a movie alone. Take a social dance lesson, or go to see an art museum showing. Take a day trip by yourself.

Want to change your life? Date yourself.

5. Participate in Corporate-Sponsored Training

Many think of corporate-sponsored training programs as boring, required sessions in which you try not to drill your pencil into your brain while listening to redundant PowerPoint presentations about the power of positivity and effective productivity habits.

Not all corporate-sponsored training is boring or redundant. Some programs give you options and provide time to pursue credits outside the office with a travel stipend. If no such option exists, create one and write a convincing proposal to your boss detailing the course outline, merits and what you will take away from the experience.

Why not offer to teach a course in something you feel passionate about, as well?

6. Make a List and Let It Go

To-do lists are an intrinsic part of daily life, especially at your job. Now you must make a different kind of list — a list of your problems and concerns in life. While it sounds daunting, remain open and honest as you look over your list.

What do you have true control over? What can be done to change each situation, even if it’s a shift of perspective? Most of what you wrote down is probably outside of your control, so let it go.

7. Start a Volunteer Program at Your Company

You find an abundance of love and gratitude in yourself when you give to others. Magnify that feeling times 10 by starting a volunteer program at your company.

Employee volunteer programs experienced growth in the past decade, with 92 percent of larger companies offering volunteer opportunities to employees — an increase from 68 percent in 2013. Social responsibility is now closely tied to company missions.

Talk to your boss and work on a proposal together, which demonstrates how volunteering doesn’t have to take away from employee duties — a skills-sharing volunteer program combines the best of both worlds.

8. Change Your Work Commute

Want to change your perspective or decrease stress? Change your work commute route.

Getting stuck in traffic only to arrive late at work with multiple deadlines to complete leaves you frustrated, stressed and snippy. Turn on a new street. Take the back roads. Bike to work.

9. Say No More

Are you a doormat? Do you let friends, family and coworkers walk all over you?

Stop apologizing when it’s unnecessary. Stop sacrificing your much-needed self-care time to cater to others’ whims. Say no more, and let that one word free you. Don’t add excuses to it.

10. Attend a Networking Event

Okay, shy one, it’s time to leave the safety of your cubicle and burrito blanket and meet people — professional people. Growing your network never stops.

Connect with individuals on LinkedIn and Twitter to build your network online and gain confidence creatively to attend a local networking event. Online networking may be more approachable, but face-to-face interaction is important, too — especially if you want to be an active part of your community.

11. Flip the Negativity Script

Are you stuck in a holding pattern when it comes to negative self-talk? Let your brain ramble for 15 seconds. Only give negativity 15 seconds to accuse you or put you down, and then put it down.

Accuse the negativity right back and flip the script. For example, if your brain is telling you there’s no way you’ll get that promotion, point out your successes. Start small and build them up as you build yourself up.

12. Reach Out to Acquaintances

Many people in life remain on the outskirts of social circles, not necessarily intentionally. Life happens, and you get busy. Reach out to acquaintances, and ask someone out for coffee. Let the conversation unfold, and you may find a new activity partner.

13. Listen to TED Talks

Some days you need a pick-me-up, and motivational posters in the break room and cat videos on YouTube don’t do it for you.

Take 10 or 20 minutes out of your day, whether at work or home, to listen to TED talks to gain major career inspiration, such as the intrinsic link between happiness and success at work. Let happiness inspire you to success, and don’t work yourself into a grave.

Watch the videos to release stress and learn tips to become a better speaker.

Many people feel stuck in life at one point or another. Being passed over for a promotion or leading a nonexistent social life isolates you and makes you doubt your abilities to succeed.
Your comfort zone feels safe, but it can be toxic to your personal and professional growth. Use these 13 tips to smash your comfort zone, grow and find inspiration to move onward and upward.

For more tips on personal growth and professional development, subscribe to Punched Clocks. Keep the conversation going by commenting and sharing.

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The post 13 Easy Ways to Step Outside Your Comfort Zone and Grow appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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Feel those tiny pins and needles in your palms when you shake someone’s hand for the first time? Stumble over your words and try to substitute that with a large but forced smile? You can’t take back a bad first impression, but you can increase your chances of making a good first impression using emotional intelligence.

While your education and work experience are relevant to your career, emotional intelligence is even more vital to building your network. Don’t undervalue soft skills. Try these seven emotionally intelligent networking tips to successfully connect with someone for the first time:

1. Offer Kind Compliments Over False Flattery

Faking it until you make it may apply to overcoming personal confidence issues, but it works against you when complimenting someone else. Forgo false flattery and offer kind and relevant compliments. Don’t say you love someone’s professional look if you’d rather be caught dead than wearing that.

Find something kind and positive that you mean: “I love blue on you! It brings out your eyes. I tend to wear black at work.” People can tell when your compliments are false. Don’t be that person.

2. Express Genuine Interest

Face it: Fake smiles are creepy, and everyone knows it. One study revealed that low- to medium-width smiles received better ratings, but ones with too much teeth and high upturns were rated worst — aka creepy.

Ever notice how your expression widens when you’re trying hard to be nice? Aim for a genuine medium-width smile, and leave them wanting more. Express genuine interest in the individual.

3. Be an Active Listener

Soft skills are often undervalued in the career world over more active skills, but they get significant mileage when networking. Practice active listening to make a great first impression — paraphrase what the other party said in your own words to make them feel heard and understood. Brief comments as appropriate, such as “I see” and “I understand,” help establish rapport as well as a type of verbal affirmation. When confused, ask questions to deepen the engagement level.

4. Search for Common Connections

Feel lost and don’t know where to begin when it comes to making a new connection? When icebreakers or conversation starts to feel bland, search for common connections.

Are you attending the same lecture? Do you have similar taste in jewelry? Did you both head for the snacks at the same time? Do you share a similar role or industry? Common connections make the process of getting to know someone easier.

5. Use Their Name Again Before Leaving

Names hold power — it’s a sign of recognition and courtesy when you use someone’s name. While it’s difficult for many to match names to faces, make the effort easier by committing the goal of holding on to one name and one face and connecting the two before the person departs. When you seem to hit it off with another professionally, make sure you use their name again before you or they leave.

6. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions are more likely to produce a more detailed response from which you can further engage the person in conversation. Questions with yes or no response options bring the conversation to a halt. Stop playing checkers with your conversations while networking.

You may feel overwhelmed as a new person among people who know each other well already. In this case, strike up a conversation with the group by asking an open-ended question like “How do you all know each other?” or “What did you think of the speaker/training?”

On other occasions, blatant, positive statements work well, too, such as “I love your work!” or “I like your shoes.” Mean what you say, going back to expressing genuine interest.

7. Use Body Language Wisely

Body language makes up the bulk of your daily interactions with others. One UCLA study found that 93 percent of first impressions are formed through body language, not verbal expression. Your success rate for a good first impression increases through appearance, vocal tone, engagement level and facial expression.

Use the acronym SOFTENUP to break the body language ice: smiling, opening arms, forward-leaning, touching appropriately, eye contact, nodding, undivided attention and positive speaking.

Soft skills are vital to networking, and emotional intelligence tools like applied empathy and active listening forge a common bond with another professional. Feeling nervous about making a good first impression is normal, but when you express genuine interest and try your best, you do better than you think. Now, go mingle!


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The post How to Build a Better Network Using Emotional Intelligence appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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You spent hours preparing your application materials and danced a little when you found out the employer wants to interview you. If you ace the one-on-one, you’re likely a shoe-in for the job. Your nerves shake your confidence, and you try to remember your quality answers to all the questions you rehearsed in your mind.

You expect a tough interview, but what happens when you add into the mix a rude interviewer that’d rather crack a whip than a smile to lighten the mood? Should you keep calm and not take the bait, or should you walk out? How do you handle a rude interviewer, and is it worth it to stay or time to leave?

1. Stay Calm and Collected

Keep a level head. Take a moment to focus on your breathing to stay calm and collected. This is the perfect opportunity to practice mindful breathing exercises, inhaling and exhaling slowly as you remain grounded. When you next answer, use an even tone. Your tone should not be sassy, robotic or matter-of-fact — it will represent your normal tone of voice in a neutral range.

Like schoolyard bullies, the rude interviewer will likely lose interest and return to asking the interview questions in a deadpan tone. During the interview, ask yourself if this experience is a rare occurrence. If your gut says it isn’t, be wary and consider if you’d want to work with this person or with people like them in the long-term. At the same time, remember that this is only one person and one awkward interview.

2. Don’t Get Worked Up

Don’t let a rude interviewer push you to a mental or emotional edge where you feel like biting back. When you get worked up, the job won’t work out for you.

Wear your poker face over a grimace because body language is broadcast as clearly as dissatisfied word choices and will damage your self-respect and professional reputation. Don’t say something you’ll regret that may get misconstrued in professional networks. Unprofessional statements, no matter how warranted, will come back to bite you.

3. Stay Positive and Extend the Benefit of the Doubt

Focus on your skills and stay positive. That way it’s easier to remain concentrated on accurately answering the questions. If the issue persists, maybe it’s not malice you’re dealing with but distraction. It could be a deadline or pressure from someone over the interviewer. Maybe you caught your interviewer on the tail end of a minor emergency or stressful event.
Extend the benefit of the doubt because, though behavior may come off hostile, it’s not always intended to be that way. People tend to make negative attributions, linking bad behavior or comments to a person rather than circumstances.

4. Form a Bridge

Is the vein throbbing on the interviewer’s forehead? Ask open-ended questions to form a communication bridge, such as “How long have you worked with this company? Please tell me your company origin story.” Smile earnestly, hinting at the superhero reference.
It takes about four seconds for a pause to be awkward, but that feels longer when there’s tension in the room. Use silence as a chance to steer the conversation to a positive subject. If you get the interviewer to talk about themselves, it relieves tension and makes the exchange go two ways instead of making you feel like your head is submerged in a pressure boiler.

5. Exit With Grace

Sometimes, you can’t form a proper bridge. You tried to give the benefit of the doubt to the interviewer, but it failed as commentary and behavior drifted to a level that crossed a boundary for you. If the interviewer has stooped to discriminatory words or actions or outright insults, it may be time to formulate an exit plan.

Thank the interviewer for their consideration and time with you, as you courteously excuse yourself from the interview. Don’t comment directly on the interviewer’s behavior or words.

When you reach your car or a safe space outside of the building, take the time to sit down and absorb the shock. Make notes on your phone or paper about your experience if you plan to file an official discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since a short description of what grievance you suffered is required. If you submit a claim, the commission will investigate it within 180 days.

Proving that discrimination occurred sometimes proves difficult since the employer can claim other motivations for not hiring you. Nonetheless, writing the event down will clear your mind, and exiting with grace will save your professional reputation and guard you against more boundary-breaking. The interview remains one of the most important aspects of searching for and obtaining a job. It allows you and the employer to see each other face-to-face and ask relevant questions.

When an interviewer is rude or makes you feel uncomfortable, it casts a shadow over the excitement of the experience. Handle hostile interviewers by staying calm and positive. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt and form a bridge of communication by asking the interviewer open-ended questions. If the situation becomes too much for you, take the last resort and exit gracefully.

You don’t have to tolerate a rude interviewer or colleague every time. Unfair commentary or inappropriate behavior takes it too far and must be met with a graceful exit. Focus on your talents and strengths and steer the conversation back to what you can do for the company, and if the interviewer can’t overcome their rudeness, it’s not your loss — it’s their loss since you’re the one who kept their professionalism in check.

For more interview tips and helpful job search pointers, subscribe to Punched Clocks. Keep the conversation going by sharing and commenting.

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The post How to Handle a Rude Interviewer appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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Losing a job rips security and stability right from under your feet. At some point, everyone experiences a job loss, whether you were let go due to a termination or layoff. When this happens, support is called for — not lectures, unhelpful comments or unnecessary judgments.
As the news breaks that your friend lost their job, you may feel unsure about how to best support them through this tough time. Do you give them a hug? Do you help them revamp their resume or refer them to a temp agency that helped you get by? How do you know when you’re overstepping your bounds?

When sorting through approaches, don’t be afraid to ask your friend how they’re feeling and would like to be best supported in this moment. They may not know, either, and that’s OK. Here are a few tips to help you show up as a supportive ally for your friend:

1. Think Through Your Condolences

Sometimes, what you mean as a helpful comment feels like a judgmental statement when your friend only wants a shoulder to lean on. Your commentary in an attempt to console a friend comes across, instead, as negatively making light of their situation. Think through how it may come across before you offer your condolences.

How do you tell the difference? Take these three statements, for example:

  • “Now you can take a well-deserved rest!” Your friend will hear that you think all their time will or should be spent in pajamas binge-watching Netflix — so much for job-searching. Tone is everything, as are word choices. Instead, ask about what self-care practices comfort them when they feel down, and encourage the implementation of those practices now.
  • “Everything good must come to an end.” Don’t spout fortune cookie statements at your friend like a higher authority. As though losing their job was inevitable — please! It will make them question your underlying feelings, and no one needs to feel bad about a friendship while suffering a job loss and doubting their own skills.Try hugging your friend and flipping the fortune cookie script: “This, too, shall pass, but coffee is forever,” as you sip your coffee together. A little distracting humor will help crack a little light into their lives and may summon a smile. You know if your friend is up for humor or not, so reserve a lighthearted joke for the right time.
  • “I’ve seen a bunch of for-hire signs, like McDonald’s. My work is hiring, too! I can pass along your resume.” Yeah, thanks for encouraging your friend to give up on their dreams, like they need to apply for whatever for-hire sign stares them in the face. Do you even know what your friend does for a living? It doesn’t sound like it.Ask about what they are looking for in a position now, or if not ready, to email you when they are. Don’t make any comments about the instability of their field, either.
2. Operation Night In — or Out

Does your friend want to be distracted right now, or do they want to spend the weekend in a blanket burrito? Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds.

With your friend’s permission, commence with Operation Night In: Plan a night in with movies, Chinese takeout and board games. Wear your most comfortable clothes and get lost in each other’s company.

Alternatively, and still with your friend’s permission, arrange a night out for dinner. Go out for drinks. Go to the arcade and play games or bowl. Do something your friend is up for, and don’t let them worry about money — everyone should pitch in to treat your friend to a pick-me-up evening without letting them feel weird about it.

3. Be Networking Buddies

Is one of you shyer than the other? Maybe you both suck at networking. It’s great to have a gym buddy, but it’s even better to have a networking buddy!

Make networking fun and creative together. Did you two meet in college? Reconnect with old college friends and see what they’re doing now, to transform old connections into new ones and further life and your careers. Volunteer in your community — walking adorable dogs will cheer anyone up.

4. Separate the Situation From Their Identity

As with any loss, the best thing you can do is be present. Lend your ears without interrupting. Offer a hug. You may spend time in silence, but your presence matters. Just showing up is a big deal.

You spend one-third of your life working — that’s a big commitment of your time, energy and self. Therefore, it makes sense that your friend will internalize their job loss. Help separate the situation from their identity — remind them that this experience doesn’t detract from their talents or amazing personality. Remind them of their accomplishments at work and outside of work, but mostly, show up.

Experiencing a job loss will make your friend question their likability and skills. It will make them worry about how to support their family and keep a roof overhead. Finding a new job will take time, and maybe your friend needs a breather before they plunge into their job search. Honor that.

Meet your friend where they are, and simply show up. Your presence as a friend is the most important and supportive gift you can offer as they deal with a job loss.

Subscribe to Punched Clocks for more tips on dealing with job loss and overcoming career-related obstacles. Keep the conversation going by commenting with your own advice and sharing.

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A typical job search can be stressful. Add in pregnancy, and you up the anxiety ante. Should you disclose pregnancy while job searching and once you secure an interview?

If in your first trimester, you have several weeks before you begin to show, but if you’re further along in your pregnancy, you may feel tempted to dress in baggy clothing for an interview. If you don’t disclose your pregnancy and you accept a job, you risk breaking trust and damaging your professional relationships due to your nondisclosure. Whatever choice you make, you take the risk of rejection — that point is, unfortunately, a fact.

As with any matter, it’s best to weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision. Waiting to disclose your pregnancy doesn’t mean you’re not an untrustworthy employee, but trusting prospective employers with appropriate disclosure may leave you with more options than you think.

What the Law Says Regarding Pregnancy and Work

More facts: An applicant is not required to disclose her pregnancy by law during an interview, showing or not.

It’s illegal to deny a candidate a job due to sex discrimination, and pregnancy falls under that prohibited employer practice umbrella. It’s also illegal for a previous employer to give a negative reference to a prospective employer because of pregnancy. If hired, employers may not harass or discriminate against you during training or let you go due to pregnancy.

These facts should put your mind at ease somewhat, but you may still ask: What stops an employer from digging hard enough to find a just cause for termination? Your employer may force you out if you’ve been chronically late to work or failed to meet other duties, even though you worked to rehabilitate such behavior, as their reasoning for termination. Always do your best to fulfill your job duties.

An employer may outright reject you, whether you disclose your pregnancy or not, and you may never know the reason since most rejection notices are brief and don’t give away details. You don’t want to work for a judgy employer or in a negative work culture that affects your pregnancy and professional development.

Beyond the job search, you must also consider the law regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Most know that a mother may use 12 weeks of FMLA leave for prenatal care, childbirth, and incapacity or serious illness after birthing a child. However, these 12 weeks are only available to employed mothers after a year at the job and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months at a location with at least 50 employees within 75 miles. The employee must provide the employer with 30 days’ notice, or as practical, with sufficient details.

Only 12 percent of companies offer paid leave during maternity, and the U.S. lags behind other countries when it comes to adequate maternity policies. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to negotiate or search for what you deserve.

If you’re already pregnant, why worry about FMLA if you won’t be eligible anyway? You must know about your rights for the future and decide if a job search is right for you right now, if you have that freedom. If hired for a new job, it’s possible the employer has their own generous policies in place regarding maternity leave or flexible work options for working moms.

Life Happens, and Pregnancy Disclosure Could Open Doors

One new mother, Rubina Madan Fillion, started her new job as a digital engagement editor at 25 weeks pregnant, and she didn’t know she was pregnant when interviewing with her recruiter. Fillion got the job in her second trimester, and the employer response was “Congrats.” Interestingly, her new job was at a brand new company that decided to create a maternity policy offering at least 12 weeks of paid leave.

While you may be lucky to land a job with a family-friendly employer, that’s not always the case. It doesn’t mean the employer wouldn’t be or isn’t open to discussing flexible work options. The employer needs to know they can provide you with proper accommodations without jeopardizing their business and trust you’ll do your best on the job no matter what, within reason.

Freelancers already make up 36 percent of the workforce, and they’re projected to make up half of the workforce by 2027. The way business is done is changing: 54 percent of those surveyed, freelancers and non-freelancers, didn’t feel confident the work they were doing now would exist in 20 years. Working as a flex-time employee is different than being self-employed or working as a contractor — your income is typically stable, but you still possess reasonable flexibility with your workload and schedule.

Flexible work options allow you to achieve a better work-life balance, and many professional duties at the office can be conducted at home. What about working half days or particular shifts? What accommodations or options are available? You won’t know unless you’re honest and investigate further. Your disclosure presents an opportunity for the company to analyze its current policies regarding family leave and flexible work schedules — options that more companies are beginning to consider because of the changing labor force.

Strategize Your Job Search as an Expectant Mother

Regardless of whether or not you choose to disclose your pregnancy, or when, strategize and target your job search based on your skills, pregnancy and professional development goals. For example, while you may be tempted to accept any paying job, you don’t want to take on a job that requires heavy lifting or movements you won’t be capable of doing in a few months — and without anyone to help you out.
It’s advisably ethical to speak up when you need the job you earned the interview for and are asked: Is there anything that would prevent you from fulfilling the described duties? What’s considered highly ethical isn’t always realistic.

Inexperienced employers may worry you’re not able to perform your job duties, and many women fear the unspoken bias of pregnancy discrimination that is often hard to prove. Yet, it’s not impossible: 4,778 charges of pregnancy discrimination were solved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2002, along with $10 million recovered in financial benefits for those who filed the charges. If you want to pursue this route, keep detailed records of your experiences and correspondence.

The question still stands: Would you really want to work for that type of employer? Not disclosing your pregnancy at first doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad employee. Women face many challenges on their pregnancy and professional journeys, and introducing such personal information early on leaves them in a mentally, emotionally and physically vulnerable position.

When strategizing your job search, your reasons for nondisclosure may revolve around more sensitive concerns, such as fear of miscarriage. You want to take the necessary tests to make sure your little one is healthy. You may also be receiving fertility treatments or using a surrogate and want to wait for privacy reasons to see how it goes. These cases are certainly understandable.

There’s No Reward Without Risk

Disclosing a pregnancy comes with the risk of rejection, but also the opportunity for acceptance and revolution in the workplace. Many employers unfairly judge the ability of pregnant professionals to continue working at their best levels, but many also do not. Many employers see the valuable team player in her professional glory, baby bump and all. They eagerly hire her, realize life happens and work to get her acclimated, even creating new maternity leave and flexible work options.

Life presents you with risks every day. Weighing the pros and cons of pregnancy disclosure isn’t an easy task, and it adds to your stress levels as you search. Don’t let it. Just as you see your pregnancy as bringing new life into the world, see your job search in a more determined and positive light. Your pregnancy challenges you and presents you with the opportunity to find an even better fit professionally.

For more career advice on tricky job search situations, subscribe to Punched Clocks and continue the conversation by commenting below and sharing your insight.

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The post Should You Disclose Pregnancy During a Job Search? appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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Consistent career growth requires conscious effort — and can be costly. Fortunately, there are apps that can help you capitalize on your career without breaking the bank, getting you ever closer to your workplace goals. Whether you’re looking to save time, network, learn new skills or organize more efficiently, here are 12 handy apps to help you grow your career.

1. Switch (free)

If you’re in the job market or just curious about what’s available, the Switch app is an up-to-date job-seeking solution that helps you speedily find out about possibilities. Once you see an opportunity that catches your eye, swipe right to send your resume to an employer. You can schedule interviews and talk to hiring personnel directly in the app, too.

2. MindTools (free)

Whether you want to brush up on skills related to project management, leadership, decision-making or all three, the MindTools app gives you topical content at your fingertips. It also breaks down all those topics into bite-sized chunks, so you can easily go over the material while riding the subway to work or making the most of your downtime.

3. Accompany (free)

Marketed as “the largest database of senior decision-makers in the world,” Accompany is an iOS app that helps you keep tabs on the power players who are making waves. Also, a curated news feed of articles and updates from your contacts make it simple to stay abreast of career changes, promotions and other milestones.

4. Vmock (free to check one resume or $19.99 to upload 10 resumes)

Ever wish you had a resume coach? Think of Vmock as the virtual alternative. It’s a web-based app that uses sophisticated algorithms to analyze your resume and give instant feedback. The technology gauges overall impact, your use of bullet points and more. After getting a personalized score, you’ll have the necessary knowledge to make obvious improvements.

5. Time Graphics (free)

As you might guess from the name, Time Graphics is a free timeline maker. As a career-oriented person, you may find it helpful to make a printable timeline that helps you set your sights on the future while looking at how far you’ve progressed. Time Graphics helps you do that, and it works in your browser.

6. EdX (free with paid options available)

EdX is an online learning portal that lets you learn new skills by allowing you to audit thousands of top-quality courses for free. The only applicable charges occur if you want a verifiable certificate for a course — costs vary — or are taking one of the offerings under the professional education category, which includes about 60 options. Although EdX is a website, it also has mobile apps for Android and iOS.

7. Streaks (free)

Combining a to-do list with a habit-based concept, Streaks encourages you to turn up to 12 tasks into repetitive behaviors. Every time you complete one for another day, your “streak” grows longer, but if you break the cycle, it returns to the starting point. This app is excellent for helping you get serious about performing habits that help your career and getting accustomed to positive behaviors in a non-overwhelming way.

8. Enloop (free with paid options available)

Maybe your career growth aspirations involve starting a business, but the thought of writing a plan for one makes you nervous. Enloop helps you create one with automated tools that generate blocks of text after you enter basic information. Edit the material as needed to customize. Also, get a real-time effectiveness score that updates as you make changes. The free option lets you make one text-only business plan.

9. Shapr (free)

We’re accustomed to swiping to find people to date, but what about for expanding professional networks? That’s the concept behind Shapr. You create several tags related to your job or relevant interests, and the app sends you up to 15 people per day who match those characteristics. Use the app to connect with professionals you want to meet, then look forward to forming new relationships.

10. Task Till Dawn (free)

Does it often feel like you spend so much time doing tedious tasks there’s no time left over for career development? This automation app takes care of things at timed intervals — such as cleaning up your desktop or sorting files — so you can concentrate on more important things that are relevant to your line of work and future goals.

11. CamCard (free or $4.99/month for premium version)

The seemingly simple act of exchanging business cards could open doors that move you closer to the career of your dreams. But what happens if you lose them? The CamCard app prevents that dreaded problem. It detects multiple languages and takes the information from physical cards to make digital versions stored on your device and in the cloud. You can also exchange e-cards with people you meet at conferences or similar events.

12. Penzu (free with a premium option starting at $4.99/month)

Penzu is a diary app, and its developers suggest the idea of starting a work diary that helps you keep track of daily activities, thoughts that arise, new ideas and other important bits of information that could ultimately enhance your career. This tool stores your content in the cloud and lets you pick up where you left off on any device.

Do you use and love other free or low-cost apps to support career growth? Share your favorites in the comments. Also, to make sure you don’t miss any new posts from Punched Clocks, subscribe here.

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Some bosses micromanage and leave you feeling like you’ll never live up to their standards of perfection. Promotions challenge you to take on new responsibilities, but you don’t feel equipped for the task. Outside conditions contribute to your insecurities, but the underlying issue is the fact that your self-image is disempowered.

The worst criticisms attack from the inside, as negative self-talk plays like a broken record. It’s hard to fight that kind of negativity, but you need to accept you’re a valuable player at work who does their best, has succeeded in the past and will do so again.

1. Accept That Insecurity Is Universal and Natural

At some point, everyone experiences insecurity at work, and many of the largest successes have been achieved by those who felt deeply insecure with themselves and their circumstances.

Insecurity isn’t a direct reflection on you or your abilities. It’s not linked to your strengths or your happiness. There’s at least one person in your life who sees your personal and professional strength and admires you for your talent, and chances are they’ve pointed it out to you before.

2. It’s OK to Ask Questions

Asking questions or for help doesn’t mean you’re incompetent at your job. You might be new, and the six-inch-thick training binder of information isn’t sticking easily in your head. Applying transferable skills between departments, as a part of a new promotion, may not be as easy as you thought. Everyone experiences brain fog and fumbles from time to time.

Ask questions, but remember to take notes. Keep a cheat sheet of strategies and solutions, so you won’t find yourself asking five versions of the same question a year later.

3. Get Curious to Be Courageous

In The Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion spends the whole story looking for courage. The Wizard’s remedy ends up being a placebo, as the Lion finally takes action and discovers the courage that was within himself all the time.

Instead of talking yourself out of something, transform those insecure thoughts and negative self-talk into statements of curiosity, and let your actions finish the unfinished sentences in your head. What if I led the meeting? What if I spearheaded this project? What if I learned programming? Don’t assume you can’t accomplish anything, and act instead of reacting.

4. Perfectionism Is Tiring

Whether you’re trying to live up to your own ideals of perfectionism, or those of your coworkers or boss, it’s exhausting to attempt to be perfect all the time. You’re ultimately setting yourself up to fail because there are so many possibilities.

By trying for a certain kind of perfection, you’re failing to see other ideas and avenues of action that could bring better success to the situation. Free yourself from perfectionism to take advantage of better opportunities.

5. Innovate Your Way

Now that you’ve ditched perfectionism, consider other ways of going above and beyond on your next assignment. What about securing new markets or clients? What about following your gut on developing a creative campaign for a longtime client? How will you do this?

When you go the extra mile, do it in your style. Innovate your way.

6. Get Feedback

As time goes by, your boss may not give you as much feedback, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing — it doesn’t mean your work isn’t contributing to the company.

Ask for constructive feedback, and the answers may surprise you. For example, acknowledge to your boss there were several routes you could’ve taken on a client project, and ask them to evaluate how you handled it. Your boss should be able to tell you what you did well with your approach and may suggest other avenues that could’ve also had beneficial results. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Getting feedback on a project as you take it step by step also helps reassure you that you’re making progress and meeting or exceeding expectations.

7. Gather Allies

If you’re new to a city or coming out of your shell, the professional world can seem a little lonely, and you might feel insecure about developing your career and your skills. As the hero in your professional journey, you’re not without allies. Look to your network for support, and if that feels empty, gather allies.

Write a thoughtful email to an old mentor, and ask to meet for coffee and new connections, clearly outlining why you’re getting in touch to avoid awkwardness when you get together. Let go of the Negative Nancys in your life, and make real allies who will support you, instead of trying to sabotage you. A quality few is better than having 100 professionals who give back nothing.

8. Get Into Character

Do you feel like an imposter? A twist on “faking it until you make it” is getting into a professional character. Part of that is smiling, making eye contact, being accessible and dressing well. Looking the part doesn’t have to mean acting how you think someone else would approach your role. It’s about how you’re going to do well in this role.

Change up your look, but still keep the base elements of your essential style. It’s OK if you’re introverted, but make an effort to invite a new person to a coffee date to grow your network.

9. Be True to Yourself

If you’re not fully satisfied with your job, it’s not necessarily your fault. If your employer fails to appreciate or take advantage of your talents or skills, it may be time to move on to an opportunity that’s a better fit. Even if you quit your job, don’t burn bridges — give your notice in a timely and professional manner.

Permit yourself to be you, personally and professionally. Look at your career, and ask yourself if you’re going somewhere you earnestly want to be. Will you be happy? Will you enjoy the work and contribute at your best level?

If you’ve just lost your enthusiasm for the work, it may not be because you lack the ability, but because you no longer have the desire driving you to pursue this path professionally.

10. Recognize Your Achievements for Yourself

Invest in yourself professionally. Whether you are or aren’t getting recognized for your successes at work, it’s important to honor and celebrate your achievements for yourself.

Create a personal incentive program. Keep a journal of these successes, and track your goals. Reward yourself with a new blazer, espresso maker or professional development class.

Your self-image is important at work, too. Know that everyone experiences insecurity, and negative self-talk is hard to shut down. It’s better to ask questions, get feedback and get involved in acting, instead of reacting, to that negative self-talk.

Doesn’t perfectionism get tiring after a while? Gather allies, innovate your way and put your best foot forward. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help or to offer a hand and a smile. Be true to yourself and honor your achievements because you’re doing just fine.

What insecurities hold you back at work? Share your plans for overcoming negative self-talk at work in the comments and subscribe to Punched Clocks for more career tips to fuel your professional growth.

The post How to Overcome Insecurities at Work appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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Any break up is hard to deal with, especially when you’re doing the breaking up, and it’s a job role you worked hard to be “the one” for. They called, said you beat out everyone to get the job and that they’re looking forward to welcoming you aboard.

Then, you feel the corners of your lips turn downward. The pit of your stomach drops. Anxiety scratches at your throat as you struggle with what to say next. It turns out that this employer isn’t “the one” for you after all. What do you say? How do you turn down a job offer and not burn bridges?

Try these tips to craft a thoughtful and graceful email to or dialogue with the hiring manager to let them know you’ll be turning down the offer:

1. If it’s Brief, Just Call

If you’re not one to wax poetic, and your email would be fewer characters than a tweet, be personable and accountable by picking up the phone.

Have a polite and honest conversation with the hiring manager, stating that you appreciate the offer but will be declining. You don’t have to go into negatives, but do mention specific positives that you experienced during the interview process, such as falling in love with the company culture but the offer not falling in line with your current career goals. Don’t say the duties are the same old stuff you’ve been doing. You want to grow your skills, but be kind in how you address this.

Mention that you’d like to stay in touch, and thank the hiring manager before hanging up.

2. Come Armed With Referrals

The company invested time in you during the interview process, and it’s courteous to also think of the position that your rejection places the company in. Do you envision someone else in your network doing exceedingly well in this role for this specific company? Share with the hiring manager – but only if they are truly a good match.

If a referral by someone in the company increases your chances of being hired by seven percent, then a referral by a preferred candidate should garner similar results.

Don’t offer referrals up from the start, but extend the offer to make the connection if you have someone in mind. This technique shows that you care about the company and its efforts to find the right fit for the job, even when you know you’re not it.

3. Keep It Short, Simple and Sweet

It’s easy to overthink what you’re going to say and assume what questions the hiring manager will have when your experience could be the total opposite. Just as the company has turned down others, it has been on the other side — you won’t be the first candidate to turn down a job in the history of the company.

It’s easy to ramble on in conversation or compose a wordy email when your nerves take over. In the end, this hurts more than it helps. Two paragraphs, not two sentences, suffice to get your point across gracefully and with enough detail that avoids burning bridges:

Dear [Hiring Manager],

I appreciate you reaching out to me with a generous offer to become part of the team. There’s much I admire about the company, including the ways it gives back to the community and supports its employees through a rich and diverse work culture. After much consideration, regarding the current point I am in my career growth, I must, unfortunately, decline your offer.

I enjoyed getting to know you and the staff and would like to remain in touch. [Link your information in the signature of the email.] If there’s anything else I may address, please email or call.

Many thanks,

[The Candidate Who Must Say No]

Just as you’d write a thank you note after an interview, always thank the hiring manager and point out positive specifics from your conversation. You can follow up with a nice handwritten card two weeks after you send the initial email turning down the job offer.

Saying no to a job offer makes you feel bad after the company has invested so much time in considering your candidacy and said yes to you. Saying no feels even worse when you genuinely love the company, its employees and work culture, and you need a job stat.

Saying no now is better than later, though. Just remember to be up-front, concise, professional and kind, and you’ll still be able to keep those all-important bridges intact.

Have you ever turned down a job offer? How’d it go? Discuss your experience in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe for more career tips on effective communication and scoring the job that’s right for you.

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The post How to Turn Down a Job Offer Without Burning Bridges appeared first on Punched Clocks.

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You’ve seen all the exercise trends on TV and social media, whether they’re actually great for your exercise routine or not. Most seem too good to be true, promising you ripped abs in only seven minutes a day. But, over the last few years, one particular fad has managed to stick, and that’s the steps craze.

The magic number: 10,000.

For those with jobs where they walk around all day, it’s not a hard feat to accomplish. But if you’re stuck at a desk for eight – or more – hours per day, it’s easier said than done.

Trying to get your daily steps in can be a challenge no matter what your goal is. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to get moving. You may even find yourself forgetting that you’re working towards a goal because it feels so easy!

Here are 26 easy ways you can get more steps into your day, so you can feel great about yourself and get active without sacrificing any more time or worry.

1. Do Laps at Home

While you’re waiting for that water to boil or coffee cup to fill, take a few laps around the house. Even if your home doesn’t have an easy walking path, walk around your table or couch, or take a few trips up and down the stairs. Any little distance will help!

2. Walk While You Brush

Standing still while you brush your teeth? That’s old-school stuff. Multitask by walking around and getting your things ready while you brush.

3. Get the Mail and Take It Slow

Walk out to the mailbox after work and walk each envelope back to the house one at a time. You may even get motivated enough to finally cancel that magazine you don’t read anymore.

4. Unload the Groceries Carefully

Like with your mail, you can unload your grocery bags one at a time, too. For a bonus exercise, do reps with each bag so your biceps can get a workout.

5. Walk for Those Notifications

It’s always good to have some time away from your phone, so take it literally and set it across the room while you eat dinner or watch a movie. When you hear your notification sound go off, walk over to get it. Or better yet, just let it sit and do something more mindful instead!

6. Do Some Laps During Commercials

You’re not going to want to watch them anyway, so when commercials come on during your favorite shows, walk around the house. Bonus points for adding in some pushups and crunches!

7. Stream On-the-Go

The great thing about being able to stream video content is downloading what you want to watch for later when you don’t have internet access. Download what you plan to watch each night and walk around your neighborhood while you catch up on your TV shows instead.

8. Always Take the Stairs

Why ride the elevator when you’re focused on walking more? Taking the stairs is an easy way to get closer to your step goal.

9. Pace for Phone Calls

You probably already do this, so make an effort to pace around your office while you’re on phone calls if you can. If you have a phone with a cord, maybe just pace for cell phone calls instead.

10. Skip the IMs

Most offices use an IM system to let employees talk to each other throughout the day, so if you use one, try to get up and walk to the people you need to talk to whenever possible – just be sure you aren’t interrupting an important task.

11. Use a Different Bathroom

Instead of walking around the corner to use the office bathroom, use the bathroom on a different floor. You’ll get extra steps in if you use the stairwell instead of the elevator.

12. Take Breaks in Different Locations

Walk to the kitchen for your first break, the second floor coffee shop for your next and maybe even go outside for your last break of the day. You’ll be able to appreciate the change of scenery and the added steps.

13. Park Away From the Building

Let your coworker have that parking spot closest to the building instead. Their day will be made and you’ll have some extra distance to walk. It’s a win-win.

14. Better Yet, Walk to Work!

If you live close to where you work, you can easily add a few steps to your day by walking to work instead of driving. You’ll be more active and even save yourself gas money in the process. Don’t think you have enough energy to walk that much early in the morning? Try out some of the best secrets to having more energy so you can walk to work and stay awake once you get there.

 15. Get Off the Bus Early

Chances are good that if you ride a bus, you probably have a stop close to where you get off. So get off early and walk to your office!

16. Explore Every Aisle

Running into the store for a jug of milk? Walk down every aisle while you’re in there, but stick to your budget!

17. Take Your Cart Back

Walk that cart all the way back to the store when you’re done getting groceries. It’s really not as bad you might think it would be.

18. Forego the Drive-Thru

Walk in, get your Starbucks, walk out. Boom. Extra steps.

19. Do Laps for Your Coffee

Make a promise to yourself that for every coffee refill, you’ll do a certain number of laps around the office before you can get that next cup.

20. Fit in Some Steps During Practice

If you drop off your kids at extracurricular practices, find a place close by to take a walk or two while they’re in there doing what they love.

21. Start Some After-Dinner Strolls

Family time is always a great use of your evening, so have everyone take a walk after dinner every night to add more steps and make some memories.

22. Walk Your Dog Some More

You may not think it’s possible, but your dog will love you even more if you take them for a second or third walk during the day. Or make their regular walk longer than usual.

23. Invite Coworkers for a Brainstorm Walk

Have a mobile meeting by taking your coworkers out for a walk to brainstorm or collaborate on an upcoming project.

24. Set an Alarm for Yourself

If all else fails, at least set frequent alarms for yourself so you get reminded to at least walk down the hall more often.

25. Go to the Mall With Some Friends

Hang out with your friends at the mall! You’ll forget that you went just for the extra steps, because you’ll have so much fun.

26. Explore Local Parks or Trails

People work hard every day to make local parks and trails enjoyable for people to use, so go walk at places you may have never even been before. You’ll at least get some nice pictures for social media!

Getting in your steps doesn’t mean you have to become a marathon runner. It’s easy to fit in your daily steps if you just take the time to rethink your average routine. Soon, you’ll find that getting in your steps is easy — and you may even end up setting your goal a little bit higher!

What do you plan on trying out to walk a little bit more? Comment with your ideas and don’t forget to share to get your friends in on your plan, too! And if you haven’t already, subscribe for more great content that’ll help you achieve the happier, healthier life of your dreams.

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