Four things you MUST do after the first week of spring semester

January 19th, 2017 by

Many of you finished up your first week of classes for the spring semester. Get organized early and there is no doubt you can be successful this semester.  Here are four ways to get started:

keep-calm-and-read-the-syllabusMake copies of your syllabus. If you weren’t given a hard copy in class, print out your syllabus. In fact, print two copies. Keep one in your class folder or notebook and keep one in a file at home. Professors often make changes to the syllabus throughout the semester, so it’s a good idea to keep a copy with you at all times so you can document changes as they occur. You should also file a copy away for future reference. If you plan on transferring schools in the future, a copy of your syllabus may be needed to verify a class you want to count towards your degree.

Learn the online structure. Most classes these days have some sort of online component. You may have online quizzes or you may need to submit assignments through an online portal. Make sure you understand how to navigate the online component and ask your professor questions if you don’t understand something. This way you can be proactive and prevent issues before there’s a deadline involved.

Create a weekly homework list. Your syllabus, in addition to outlining class policies, often includes a list of assignments. Get a planner and write these due dates ahead of time so there are no surprises later on in the semester. This can help you stay organized and manage your time efficiently this semester.

Get your materials. While you may be able to look up class materials ahead of time, as a general rule I suggest waiting until after the first day of class. More than once I’ve had a teacher switch textbooks on the first day after I’ve already purchased a different book. Wait until class to confirm what you’ll need before you hit up the bookstore. Also make sure you enough pens, notebooks, folders etc.


Summer 2017 Internships: Start Looking Now!

January 17th, 2017 by

The spring semester has just begun and summer break seems years away. However, in reality, there’s just short of 15 weeks until finals are finished and summer begins. If you’re hoping for an internship this summer, it’s time to start preparing now. Here are three questions you should be asking yourself to get the internship search started.

Do I even need an internship? Many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields require entry level applicants to have prior experience in the form of internships. These include careers in architecture and the medical field, as well as all forms of engineering or research. Careers in the business, law, art and communication fields don’t necessarily require internships, however, internships are a great way to learn about your field and gain experience before entering the workforce.

Intern-1What do I want out of an internship? First, you may want an internship to help you decide what you want to do after you graduate. Over the course of your undergrad, you could potentially have two to four internships, each in a slightly different field so you can learn firsthand what your preferences are. For example, a communications student may want to get an internship at a newspaper, a radio station and at a public relations firm before deciding which career path they want to follow.

Second, you may want to use an internship to help guarantee yourself a job after graduation. If you’re already certain what field you want to work in, a summer internship can be used to build a relationship with a company. (Hint: Read Next Step Academy’s blog “How to Turn an Internship into a Career”)

How do I find an internship that fits my needs? Your first step should be speaking with an academic advisor in your department. Department advisors often have lists of open or upcoming internships. It’s also likely that your academic department already has a relationship with companies in your community that are always open to taking interns from your school. An academic advisor will be able to help you choose an internship that fits your current needs and career goals.

You can also use websites such as or general job search sites such as which have filter options specifically for internships. These sites are great if you want to look for internships outside of your local area. Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date. LinkedIn will send you job and internship suggestions and some companies recruit interns based on the information you put on your profile.


Careers in Marine Biology

January 12th, 2017 by

Marine biology deals with the study of marine organisms, marine ecosystems and marine preservation. This field encompasses many disciplines and specialties that all stem from the marine sciences.


marine_biologyWhile there are many career opportunities in marine biology that can be obtained with a bachelor’s degree, many require education at the graduate level. Additionally, aPhD is required if you one day wish to conduct independent research.

A bachelor’s degree in marine biology isn’t necessary to pursue a graduate degree in marine biology, however, you should consider guiding your focus towards the sciences. Courses in ecology, organic chemistry, oceanography, marine zoology and biodiversity will be particularly useful.

A master’s degree in marine biology or a related field will take about two years to complete after undergraduate school. A marine biology degree at the master’s level will cover advanced marine biology, biological oceanography, marine chemical ecology and molecular biology. These courses, along with internships, will prepare you for higher-level positions in your field, as well as careers in research, teaching or consulting.

Depending on your specific program requirements, a Ph.D. in marine biology can take anywhere from three to six years to complete after earning your undergraduate and graduate degrees. The courses you take will depend heavily on your area of specialization and you will be required to conduct research and fieldwork in order to write your dissertation.


There are many directions a career in marine biology can take you. The diverse career paths within this field include, but are not limited to, wildlife biologist, zoologist, fish and wildlife biologist, fisheries biologist, aquatic biologist, conservation biologist or biological technician.

The duties of these careers vary but often include collecting and analyzing research data. This includes how species interact with each other and with their environments. It can also include how marine ecosystems affect humans and vice versa. Depending on your specific area of study, your day-to-day duties may include monitoring marine life exposed to pollutants, testing ocean samples, preserving specimens, identifying unknown species or mapping the distribution, ranges and movements of marine populations.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average salary of zoologists and wildlife biologists as $57,710 per year, or $27.74 per hour, with an expected growth of 5 percent by the year 2022. While zoology is slightly different and broader than a career as a marine biologist, you can expect a similar salary and growth in this field.


4 Steps For Getting Out Of a Career Slump

January 10th, 2017 by

Part of being happy is having a career that satisfies you. However, the goals and passions you had when you were first starting out may be completely different from the ones you have today. If you’re beginning to feel stuck or lost, then it may be time to make some changes. Here are four steps to help you get out of your career slump and have a clear idea of where to go next.

career_slumpReflect. This encompasses several steps. First, look back at your career and establish what you’ve been satisfied and dissatisfied with over the years. Then consider your passions and ethics and see how far or close you’ve come to a career that aligns with those passions and ethics. Lastly, consider the skills you have gained and how those apply to your career.

Craft a plan. Once you’ve completed some self-reflection, make a plan for the future. Reestablish your career goals and decide how you are going to achieve them. This could mean changing companies or positions, it could also mean changing fields. Maybe you’ll need to develop a new skill or even go back to school. Write down those goals and create a timetable to complete them.

Reach out to mentors. Any change to your career, minor or major, can take some planning and motivation. During this period of change, it may be useful to reach out to your mentors. A mentor can help you make decisions by offering you firsthand experience. They may also have connections that can help you turn your new career plan into a reality. Don’t have a mentor? Consider talking to a family friend or trusted colleague to help you through this.

Take risks. While there are many cases where small changes can help you when you’ve reached a career plateau, many times it’s the bigger and sometimes scary changes that can really propel you forward. Don’t be afraid to take your career in a completely different direction. This also means you shouldn’t let the fear of starting over keep you from making a change that will be personally fulfilling.


Careers in Interior Design

January 5th, 2017 by

The primary purpose of an interior designer is to create a space that is both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Someone in this field needs to be creative and communicative. This career is far more than curtains and throw pillows, but also deals with the interior structure and design of a building.  


Earning your bachelor’s degree in interior design is going to be the best way to become a certified designer. A bachelor’s degree will take about four years to complete and will include courses in design, computer-aided design (CAD), drafting, textiles and color theory. You may also take classes like architectural and art history. Your classes will mostly be a mix of theory (lectures) and practical (lab) courses.  

During the course of your studies, you’ll want to keep examples of your work for a portfolio that you’ll eventually show your future employers or clients. After you’ve graduated, you’ll also need to work towards becoming licensed by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). There are several paths to certification that involve completing a certain amount of work hours prior to sitting an examination. Check out the NCIDQ website to look at all the possible options.


Interior designers both plan and decorate interior spaces. They often work closely with architects during the drafting phase to create safe and comfortable living spaces. This means they assist with floor plans, choosing where windows, cabinets and fixtures should be placed.

Other interior designers work on buildings that are completed. This can range from choosing countertops and wall color to selecting furniture and decorations.

Salary and Job Outlook

Interior designers earn a median salary of $47,600 per year and the market for interior designers is expected to grow 13 percent over the next decade according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Want to learn more about this career? Take Next Step Academy’s


Sparkle in the New Year with these 3 Career Goals

January 3rd, 2017 by

Many people use the new year to facilitate change in their lives. Whether you want to find a new position or move your way up the ladder, here are three goals you should be setting in 2017 to make those changes a reality.

happy-new-year-tumblrPrioritize networking. Now is the perfect time to connect with people in your professional network. Who you know is going to be important when trying to establish and build your career. Ask business acquaintances out to coffee (quick, before peppermint mochas go away!) or use sites like to look for local professional events you can attend.

Polish up your resume. Make sure your experiences and skills are up to date on your resume. Also make sure you revamp your LinkedIn profile as well. Keeping these polished will make you more marketable to outside opportunities. If you’re considering a career change this year, you may also want to brush up on your interview skills.

Learn something new. Use the new year to learn a new skill which you can add to your newly polished resume. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to build a website or you’ve had a lingering interest in photography. Whatever you’re interested in, find a class or a book that can help you accelerate your career.


Creating and Achieving Goals in the New Year

December 29th, 2016 by

2016 is finally drawing to a close, which means it’s time to turn over a new leaf and start the new year strong and committed to new goals. If you tend to forget about your new year resolutions once February starts, here are five tips to help you create and actually achieve them in 2017.

new-year-586148_960_720Be realistic. Don’t choose goals that are too big to achieve in a year. Be realistic about how much time, effort or money the goal will take to complete.

Break it down. See if your larger goals can be broken down into smaller steps or benchmarks. Creating a concrete plan will make your goals seem more manageable and will help you stay accountable.

Talk about it. Let your friends and family know what your goals are and how you are working to achieve them. You’re more likely to stick to a goal if you have positive people in your life keeping you accountable. You may even find someone with the same goal who will work with you to achieve it.

Anticipate problems. Sometimes life gets in the way, causing us to get off track. Don’t let one problem allow you to throw away all of your progress. Anticipate what those problems or interruptions will be ahead of time and make a plan to overcome them.

Don’t beat yourself up. If you do slip up occasionally or get off track, make sure you don’t beat yourself up about it. When you feel yourself slipping, pick a day to refocus and adjust your plan if necessary. Nobody is perfect and it’s okay if you aren’t 100 percent on track as long as you are trying.

Happy New Year!


Careers in Marketing

December 27th, 2016 by

With innovations like Netflix and recorded television, people are watching fewer commercials than ever. With this trend, companies have to be more creative when it comes to getting their message out to an audience. If you are a creative individual who is also interested in numbers and statistics then a career in marketing may be right for you.


With so many different opportunities in marketing, you may be able to enter the field with a high school diploma, however, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree will help you land greater opportunities down the line.

An associate’s degree in marketing will take approximately two years to complete and can help you gain entry-level employment in almost every facet of marketing, from marketing assistant to social media manager. Over the course of this degree, you’ll gain a basic understanding of economics, business communication and consumer behavior.

A bachelor’s degree in marketing will allow you to gain a more comprehensive understanding of marketing concepts and allow you to focus in on a specific field. This degree takes on average four years to complete and will cover market research, sales and communication methods.


Marketing is a profession that encompasses a wide range of possibilities. This field can include anything from market research, sales, public relations, advertising, social media and branding. Your duties will depend heavily on what specific field you choose to work in. Some paths will focus heavily on writing and understanding customer behavior like public relations. Other paths will be more number-heavy such as market research. There are also opportunities for the artistically inclined such as advertising and branding.

Salary and Job Outlook

Since marketing is such a broad field, it’s hard to nail down an expected salary. However, here are some examples of specific jobs from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that can give you a pretty good idea what to expect.

Market research analysts, on average, make $60,300 annually and can expect this field to grow by 32 percent by 2022, which is much higher than average.

Advertising managers have a median salary of $88,590 and the field will grow 7 percent over the same decade.

You can learn more about this professional path with Next Step Academy’s course “Careers in Marketing


Tolerating Family Through the Holidays

December 22nd, 2016 by

For many people, the holiday season is a joyous time to reunite with family and friends. However, reuniting also means inevitably coming across family you’ve never quite agreed with. Conflict and differing opinions are bound to come up, whether it’s lingering post-election disagreement or a nagging disapproval of your career choice. Whatever issues come up this holiday season, it’s important to practice tolerance so you and your family can make it through the holiday season happy and unscathed.o-fox-news-women-facebook

Practice respectful discourse. This means having a calm and respectful conversations with the friend or family member you disagree with. Learn more about their position and why they think or act the way they do. Then, explain your position. Also, make sure you really listen when they speak. Don’t just nod your head and tune them out, don’t cut them off and don’t scoff or roll your eyes.

Put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps you don’t understand why an issue is important to a certain family member or you have trouble grasping how they acquired their opinion. Try seeing the issue from their perspective. Imagine how that issue could directly affect them and what impact that has on their everyday life. Also keep in mind a person’s background. Maybe your cousin grew up in Texas and you grew up in Vermont. You both have very unique upbringings that shaped who you are. Consider how different their life has been why trying to understand your differing opinions.

Accept your differences and move on. When all else fails, accept that you and your family won’t agree on everything and move on. Agree to disagree and don’t let it affect the time you have together. You don’t have to like everything about your family, but you do need to accept who they are and focus on the things you do have in common. Enjoy a nice meal together, avoid hot button issues and say farewell until the next holiday gathering.

Now that you know how to practice tolerance at home, learn more about tolerance in the workplace with Next Step Academy’s NEW course “Tolerance.”


5 Work Friendly Gift Ideas

December 20th, 2016 by

From practical to fun, there are plenty of great work-friendly gift ideas out there. Whether you’re looking for something small for a coworker or a stocking stuffer for a family member, here are seven gifts the desk jobbers in your life will love.


Touchscreen gloves. One of the best holiday gifts you can give your tech-inclined coworker is touchscreen gloves. No more will they need to freeze their fingers off to use their smartphone or tablet.

Travel keyboard. This is the perfect gift for your friend who works remotely or a coworker who travels a lot. There are also several options to choose from. On the lower end of the scale, you can get a rubber keyboard that rolls up nicely in a backpack. On the higher end, there’s this laser projector keyboard.

Anything shaped like an animal. You can choose something simple, like pencils and erasers, or you can go bigger like with this USB-powered humidifier shaped like an elephant. Don’t forget this purrrrrfect mug for your cat obsessed manager.

Portable speaker. There are a wide range of options when it comes to portable speakers. Most portable speakers use Bluetooth to connect to a device, but some use the headphone port. Just make sure the speaker you choose will be compatible with the receiver’s current devices.

Goofy office supplies. From these “Crap” and “More Crap” notepads to office folders that don the phrase “Useless documents to provide the appearance of importance in meetings,” there is no end to the amount of silly (and possibly crude) office supplies for your coworker with a sense of humor.