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2021: The Year of Intentionality & New FLEX Officers


For many of us, 2020 brought the opportunity to spend more time at home. You may have used this to get projects done, work on personal goals, strategize for your business, or enjoy some much-needed relaxation.

As we head into a new year, and eventually are able to spend more time out and about, it is easy to overwhelm ourselves with resolutions and things to do. We suggest that you take a step back and consider what you are doing because you feel like you should, versus what you could do to live more intentionally.

How often have you been “busy,” but at the same time you don’t feel like you are accomplishing much? It’s easy to fill our calendars with events, meetings, and volunteering, without being intentional about our involvement. Busy is a term thrown around in both our personal and professional lives and often bragged about, but there is a difference between being busy and doing meaningful work.

“Busy is not a badge of honor. It only leads to greatness if you are working for a purpose and making progress towards goals that serve it,” said Brian de Haaff in an article on Aha! Blog.

We certainly encourage you to give your time and effort to others and for our community, but it’s okay to say no to sometimes, in order to make room for work you can do more purposefully.

Instead of making lists of ways to do more this year, we encourage you to focus on ways to be more intentional in 2021.

Meet the 2021 FLEX Officers

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) January 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX Holiday Happenings


As the holidays approach, there will be less gathering this year, but that doesn’t mean there has to be less connection and community.

Like most of our 2020 events, we are taking our Christmas Party & Food Drive online.

Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest & Food Drive

To participate, all you need to do is:

Take a photo of yourself in an ugly holiday sweater holding  items you plan to donate to the food pantry.

Email the photo to FLEX at flex@venangochamber.org.

Drop off your food drive donations by 12/21 to one of the following locations:

  • St. John’s Episcopal Church (1145 Buffalo St, Franklin) – leave them on the porch of the Rectory (the house to the right of the church)
  • Venango Area Chamber of Commerce (24 Seneca St, Oil City) – there will be a box inside; hours are M-F 9AM-4:30PM
  • Raymond James – First Street Financial (6 East 1st St, Oil City) – the box will be inside here, too; hours are M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM

Can your business be a drop-off for donations? Email us at flex@venangochamber.org.

On December 14, we will share all the submitted photos to the FLEX Facebook page and have people vote with “likes” until Christmas. Winners will receive a gift certificate to a local business!

Volunteer Opportunity at Salvation Army

Also in December, FLEX is giving our time to the Salvation Army. From 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, December 12, FLEX will prepack food bags that will be distributed to area families who signed up to receive Christmas Assistance.

To keep volunteers safe, masks are required and social distancing will be practiced. Also, those wanting to volunteer MUST REGISTER through the United Way Get Connected site, because we are limited to 10 volunteers.

Learn more & sign up to volunteer at: bit.ly/FLEXVolunteer2020.

No matter what your holidays look like this year, we encourage you to support local organizations and businesses as much as you can.

If you’d prefer to limit your time out in public, some other ways to show support include:

  • Like and share Facebook posts
  • Give a positive review online
  • Tell a friend about a local business you love
  • Purchase gift certificates or local items online
  • Order takeout
  • Make a monetary donation

Although this year is different, it is still the “most wonderful time of the year” and we hope you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) December 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX Professional Development Tip: Virtual Etiquette


Many of us have spent the majority of this year on multiple virtual calls a day. While you may consider yourself a  “Zoom professional,” it never hurts to get a refresher on tips and tricks to being your best online.

Dress your best
Although most of your body won’t be seen, wear a shirt that looks like something you would wear to the office. FLEX President Kat Thompson calls this the “Web Call Mullet”—professional up top, party on the bottom.

Show up on time
You can’t blame tardiness on traffic or similar issues if you are taking the call from home. Timeliness is still appreciated and important.

Be Prepared
It’s one thing to show up on time, but we encourage you to be ready to discuss and listen. Take notes as you go and contribute when you can.

Limit Distractions
This can be challenging depending on your situation, but try to take calls somewhere with limited distractions—both audible and visual. Go to a separate room from your family, sit in front of a blank (or simply-decorated wall), and mute yourself when you’re not talking.

Show Your Face
Unless you are eating or aren’t able to go to a private room, people want to see you, especially since we have had less connection with others this year. Turn your video on and share your smiling face with others!

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) November 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX Professional Development Tip: Responding Instead of Reacting


By Bobbie Jones

What happens when our emotions and impulses take control over us? We either react or respond.

A reaction is typically survival-oriented and on some level can be a defense mechanism.  A reaction is instant, while a response usually comes more slowly. A response weighs the long-term effects and stays in line with your core values.  The key difference between reaction and response is awareness. 

As humans, we are faced with situations in our careers and personal lives that can raise our emotions. We are faced with the choice to react or respond.

A reaction will usually result in the feeling that the situation could have been handled differently. Those feelings can be mitigated with a deep breath and a choice not to react, but rather take the time to respond.

A response is not necessarily slow, rather a response is thoughtful.

Bobbie shared some tips to respond rather than react, that have helped her throughout her career and personal life, including:

Think about the big picture
Ask yourself—how does this specific situation fit into your overall goals and objectives?

Put the situation in context
Consider the context. What exactly is happening and how will the next step you take best serve you, the organization, and anyone else involved. 

Blend logic with emotion
The best decisions are both informed by facts and infused with emotions. Remember, the goal is not to deny your emotions, but to find the balance. 

Ask yourself the key reaction question
Am I reacting? This question can ground you and provide a mental break to perhaps choose differently. 

Recognize your choices
Often reaction is a result of not knowing or think that other options are available.  Realizing there are choices will allow you to consider the choices and the consequences that come with the choices prior to moving forward. 

Create that 20/20 vision
We all heard the phrase: “hindsight is 20/20.”  Your goal in the moment is to mentally move yourself forward in your future and look back with the imagined 20/20 vision to assist in choosing a response. 

Thanks, Bobbie, for the tips! Bobbie is the owner of Trailasana Yoga Studio and the Human Resources Manager for Webco Industries, Inc.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) October 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

FLEX Professional Development Tip: Networking Online


Events, meetings, and even family gatherings have been moved online. Something that usually involves a handshake and face-to-face communication, networking, is also something that now has to take place virtually. While it can be challenging to make the same connections online instead of in-person, here are some tips to help you as you attempt online networking:

Who to target
Target specific people to avoid wasted time. Examples include:

  • People who work at your dream company or in the industry you’re looking to get into 
  • People whose careers you admire, and their gatekeepers 
  • Fellow alumni whose careers you admire 
  • Friends of friends

Track your network
Track your connections using a spreadsheet to stay organized and improve your ability to stay in touch with contacts. 

How you reach out matters

  • Choose email or LinkedIn messages over texting and social media.
  • Include in the email: Who are you? Why are you reaching out to them, specifically? What do you want?
  • Best practices for a subject line: Keep it short, use their first name, and get to the point.
  • Best practices for email: Keep it concise. Use hyperlinks to share more. Send in the AM. Create personal context.
  • Always aim for a live conversation to help people get to know you.  

Connect your story to them.

  • Explain what you admire about their career and why you respect their advice and opinion.
  • Ask about their career trajectory. 
  • Ask for their advice and any suggestions they might have for you.  
  • Can they review your resume or facilitate a connection? Be specific.  

Follow up

  • Immediately send a thank you 
  • Send a $5 gift card if you can 
  • Books/other gifts make a huge impression if someone went above and beyond 
  • Keep them posted about your career progress 
  • Return the favor when you can 

What online networking tips do you have? Comment below!

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) September 2020 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.