The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

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My first job out of college was with a recruiting firm run by three women who had nearly a hundred combined years of experience in the workforce. They taught me everything I needed to know about how to read resumes, including the warning signs to look for. A gap in employment was, according to them, the kiss of death.

Today, a hot minute and three U.S. presidents later, I truly believe that wisdom is as outdated as my prom dress. It was fine in the moment, but the moment has passed.  

Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that.

The rules of employment history have changed, and the story you craft about your timeline is yours. Whether your employment gap happened because of a layoff, becoming a caregiver, taking a sabbatical, exploring entrepreneurship, or even just a mental health break, let's talk about how you can own that gap in a way that will want a prospective employer wanting more of you!

1. Lead with transparency

As poet Walt Whitman said, “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Each of us is complex and unique, and our personal stories should reflect that. There are no right or wrong plot points as long as each point is truthful.

When capturing your history (employment and otherwise) on your resume, be honest and transparent. There's no need to flag a gap in employment in bold print, but neither should you try to hide it.

Our journeys are complex and diverse. The trend toward inclusion will only grow in 2021. And beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce. Companies must look beyond the traditional one-directional career path, and search for talent whose life experience reflects that of their customers.

Beyond diversity in terms of race and gender, I believe companies are ready to lean into a diversity of experiences in the workforce.

So don’t be ashamed of revealing your lived experiences, from caregiving to travel to taking time to pursue a passion. Transparency upfront will help you begin the conversation with a prospective employer on the right foot.

2. Reflect on your gains

Maybe you opted out of the workforce for a year to care for a child or parent or to travel the world. Or perhaps you were laid off in an economic downturn. Whatever your reason and whatever the cause, you were still a person living in the world during this time. Your experience may not have been “work experience,” but this is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

When I spent 2007 at home with my newborn daughter, there were days—many days—that left me feeling like my brain had turned to mush. Baby Beluga had become my theme song and I was spending days calculating ounces of milk digested and … processed. (Yes, I mean poops).

This is where life experience gets its time in the sun.

But as I started gearing up for a job search in 2008, I pushed myself to reflect on the gift of that year. Certainly, it was a privilege just to be with my infant daughter. But it had also given me some new skills and perspective. 

Time management and prioritization become finely tuned when your baby’s naps are suddenly your only windows of productivity. I had become part of a new demographic—parents—which broadened my perspective not only on the world but on any company’s potential customer base.

Oh, and my ability to experience failure but keep on keeping on? That expanded immensely. I screwed up daily with sleep training and sign language and all the mothering things. But I also persisted because I had a new responsibility to manage.

These were some of my reflections. I challenge you to define your own.

Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

Maybe you were laid off during the pandemic. You’re not alone. And remember, you’re leading with transparency. You don’t have to pretend the layoff was some grand gift. You’re allowed to experience disappointment. But shift quickly into considering what you gained during the weeks or months of not being employed.

What have you spent time doing? Being with family? Caring for a loved one? Supporting a working partner? Have you taken any classes? Picked up a new certification? Learned to cook? Think expansively about how this time has added in any way to the multitudes you contain. It is now a part of your story to shape and own.

3. Craft the narrative

So now, armed with insight and reflection, it’s time to craft the story you will proudly tell any prospective employer. This is your chance to package yourself as the most irresistible product on the job market.

I’ve always loved the commencement address Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford back in 2005, during which he said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.

Steve Jobs

So, as you look back at the totality of your experience—work and life—what is the story you want to tell that makes you the most compelling candidate? How will you choose to connect the dots and help your potential employer see the complete picture?

In 2008, I showed up in interviews not as a new mom hoping desperately for anyone to give me a chance, but as a person with a broad perspective to offer. I still had my pre-baby skills and experiences, but now I could apply a keen ability to prioritize, to think critically about what should command my focus, to learn from failure, and to be successful without having control over a situation.

My conversations with hiring leaders painted this picture of me. I made sure to bring in examples of both work and parenting experience. It made me real and whole. And it ultimately won me a great job.

So, what’s the story you’ll tell? Maybe being laid off taught you that things can change on a dime, which has challenged and enhanced your agility. Maybe you used your time to take classes, brush up on skills, and add a certification. 

Prepare examples of how these insights and added skills will deliver value for your next employer. How lucky they will be to have you!

4. Fake it till you make it

I stand by the logic of everything I’ve said thus far. But there is so much more than logic at play here. There's ego and emotion and anxiety and lots of other messy human things. I’ve lived through, and overcome, all of that. Some days I’m still overcoming it.

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it.

Are you wondering how I managed to show up with so much confidence after spending a year away from the corporate world? Then let me tell you my secret: It wasn’t confidence at all! It was all my fear and anxiety hidden behind a smile and a firm handshake. (Remember those?)

Confidence is something that will grow over time. But don’t wait for it; cultivate it. For now, if you’re struggling to access confidence, then just play the part. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the real thing will follow.

And there you have it. Yes, whole, complex, messy you. So practice your most confident smile, prepare your firm handshake, brush up your résumé, and get ready to pound the pavement.

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In 2007 I had my first baby. I was extraordinarily fortunate to spend a year at home with her. That year was a gift, full stop. But as I learned in 2008 when I returned to the workforce—new job, new company—taking a year off also drained my confidence tank.
 
Pre-baby, I knew what made me shine at work. Post-baby, I felt like I’d lost my mojo.
 
According to Psychology Today:
 
Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly.
 
I knew how essential not only feeling but being able to display confidence was in my professional life. But after taking that year away, I wasn’t sure how to rediscover mine.
 
Previously I’d been a relationship-builder, a talent strategy advisor, and an analyzer of human capital data. Upon re-entry in 2008, I feared I’d lost my edge. And I was determined to show that fear who's boss. So I set my mind to making my mark, showing the world how smart and capable I was.

It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it.

I did this by having something—actually, a lot of somethings—to say in every meeting. I was quick to offer solutions to problems. And when something needed to be done, I had it covered. No help needed. And that strategy went really well for me.
 
Kidding! It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it. I’d been so focused on seeming confident that I’d shown up as arrogant. I will be forever grateful to the boss who gave me that feedback early and counseled me to course-correct.
 
I learned the hard way, but I learned a lot about what distinguishes confidence from arrogance. And today I share the biggest lessons. Here's the feedback my boss gave me, which I ran with. Thirteen years later, I'm delighted to pay it forward.

1. Know what you’re here to do

Arrogance happens when you over-index on you—how you’re showing up and being perceived. Confidence is focusing on the work—the outcomes you’re there to deliver.

The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.

Exuding confidence begins with experiencing confidence internally. The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.
 
Before an important interaction, ask yourself: What’s my role in this, and what am I expected to influence or deliver? Asking and answering those questions will center you. It will allow you to home in on where your voice has power, and where your silence or observation may add more value.
 
In 2008, I was so focused on seeming confident—which I somehow translated into a need for verbal diarrhea—that I lost sight of what I was there to do. I wasn’t hired to seem smart; I was hired to develop talent plans to fuel the business’s success.
 
Early feedback from that wonderful boss reminded me I didn’t need to offer a point of view at every turn. “Have the confidence not to speak up sometimes,” I remember her telling me. And having the poise to listen and observe when that's what's called for makes you seem all the more confident when you do offer an idea or point of view.

2. Listen like you mean it

Arrogance is pausing to give others a turn to speak. Confidence is truly hearing and absorbing what they have to say.

Ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

I was deeply guilty of pausing but not listening. Only when my boss called me out did I realize she was right. I was so focused on what I had to say next that I wasn’t taking in and reflecting on the value that others were bringing to the conversation. The pressure to seem smart led me to overuse my words and underuse my ears. And this backfired, positioning me as more arrogant than wise.
 
RELATED: Listen Up! Not Listening Is Holding Your Career Back
 
Again, that clarity of purpose should light the way. I was there to build a talent plan to help the business achieve its goals. So when the leader was talking about his goals and talent needs, that was my cue to listen. These were the moments that would provide meaningful insight and data to support my work.
 
Feedback from my boss helped me become an active listener. I wasn’t silent, but rather I was using my voice to restate what I had heard, or to ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

3. Let them see the sausage-making

Arrogance is believing the path from start to finish should be paved only with your ideas. Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything and having the humility to recognize that other people's good ideas won’t dull your shine.

Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything.

So as you’re working toward a deliverable, don’t wait for it to be fully baked or polished before you do the big reveal. (That works on HGTV, but not so much in real life.) As you move work along, build check-in points into your process. Let people watch as you make the sausage, and give your peers, your leader, your stakeholders a chance to influence the flavor before it’s fully cooked.
 
It does take confidence to pull back the curtain on an unfinished product. But it will better the outcome every time.

4. Say the bold thing

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear. It will make you a hero just for today. Confidence allows you to say what they need to hear, and it will make you the hero in the long-term, where it really counts.

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear; confidence allows you to say what they need to hear.

Fueled by feedback from my leader, I started finding moments of courage to push back on what my business client, George, believed was best. 
 
George was a salesman. His own climb up the corporate ladder was driven by his excellence in sales, and so he believed finding and growing great sales talent was the key to his business’s success. In our early days, as long as I showed George a plan designed to do just that, he’d praise my genius. 
 
But in time I came to realize this was a short-sighted play. We had great sales talent. The problem wasn’t finding more, but rather, finding ways to enhance collaboration between sales and client management. A stronger partnership between the teams would enhance the customer experience, in turn delivering bigger business results.
 
The first time I suggested this to George, there was no smile. But I'd done my research. I’d compared us with other companies doing the same, and ultimately, I won his support.
 
My recommendation delivered success in the long-run. But it took me time to find the confidence to say the thing he wasn’t ready to hear.
 
2008 was a painful year for me. And yet it delivered some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way about confidence. And as I pass these along to you, I realize there might be a fifth bonus insight: it takes a lot to share your own journey of failure (mine) in service of someone else’s success (yours). I choose to hope that’s a reflection of the confidence I’ve gained along the way.

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