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Next Step Academy | 2016 March

Physical Activity and You!

March 30th, 2016 by

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Go to school, go to work, do homework and projects, go to club meetings, clean your room, go to bed; get up and do it all over again with little time to spare. Considering the amount of commitments everyone has, it’s a wonder there’s time to do anything but work, let alone do the one thing many dread: exercise. There’s danger in getting caught up in the busyness of all our responsibilities, though—major stress, both emotional and physical. The best way to allot enough “me” time to de-stress and stay healthy is to be active a few times a week. During the hours spent looking through Netflix, trying to find something to watch, we’re better off doing some kind of physical activity. Most times, marathoning a TV show on the couch seems much more appealing than prepping for a marathon, but the no-so-long-term benefits of exercise are worth the extra effort.

Lsports-731506_1920et’s get physical. The most obvious benefits of exercise are the physical ones. First of all, exercising develops muscles and burns fat, contributing to our physical fitness. Depending on your personal self-image, exercise may be what you need for an extra confidence boost. Secondly, exercise is great for our insides. Physical activity strengthens the heart, just like any other muscle, and lowers blood pressure. While this may not sound too exciting now, 70-year-old you will thank you for it. Exercise can also give you an energy boost, in addition to help you sleep more soundly. Better sleep patterns can lead to better work performance, decreased stress and generally better moods.


Happy, happy, happy.
As Elle Woods once said in “Legally Blonde,” “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.” Sustained. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are the “feel good” chemicals our bodies produce when we exercise, and even after we finish exercising. The production of these chemicals leads to less stress, more happiness, less depression, less anxiety and better self esteem. These benefits transfer into every facet of our lives, including work and school. Physical activity can lead to better performance at work, in school and play a part in developing healthy personal relationship. So, in the interest of your academic life, personal life and career, get up and be active.


healthy-person-woman-sportThe starting line.
In order to cash in on the benefits of exercise, you should be active three to five times a week for at least 30 minutes each time. Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym. Choose an exercise that you enjoy, not one that makes you miserable. The more fun you have exercising, the more you’ll want to do it, and the better the payoff will be. Shake it up and rotate your activities to avoid boredom: attend a yoga class, go golfing without the golf cart, ride your bike, or jog around the neighborhood with the dog (he could probably use the exercise, too). Anything that gets your heart pumping is fair game. Give yourself the motivation you need by setting goals for yourself: nail the tree pose in yoga without toppling over, shave an extra minute off your mile, do three more reps in each weight session, etc. 

Next time you go to sit down and browse for a show you’re just going to be bored of 10 minutes in, consider doing something that will pay off big time in the long run—exercise. Get started today, but first, take our quick fitness course to find your motivation! 

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How to: Cultivate Creativity

March 23rd, 2016 by

Creativity and creative expressions are as unique as each of us. And like many of our personality traits it can be developed over time. Being creative is a highly adaptable skill in all aspects of life—from writing and design to problem solving and engineering. Our world becomes increasingly creative day-by-day. With thanks to the Internet, we can share these wonderful creations and learn from each other.

So, how can you improve your own creative skills? pen-idea-bulb-paper

Stop Hesitating: “Creativity takes courage”, said French painter, Henri Matisse. Let your guard down and put aside negative thoughts and fears. Often, we let our minds get clouded by the “what-if’s”: “what if no one likes it” or “what if it doesn’t turn out the way I want?” These types of anxieties can be paralyzing. Be brave. Let go of these thoughts and you’ll feel free to begin creating.

Explore: Step outside your comfort zone. We’re all different and are inspired by different environments, so it may take time to find what awakens your creativity. Exploring new places and seeking out new experiences can be a great way to find new ways to be creative. Whether it be hiking a trail, trying a new sport, or learning a language; there are a thousand different paths to take, so take as many as you can.

Ask Questions: There’s a saying that goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. So, when you find yourself out in the world and encounter something unfamiliar, ask about it. Access your inner child and indulge that curiosity. Creativity can be sparked by the most unlikely of sources. Plus, the more you learn, the more experiences you have to draw from and the more references to build from. You’ll begin to appreciate all forms of creativity and develop your own unique style.                                                                             

female-865110_1920Write: Even if you don’t fancy yourself a ‘writer’, writing is an awesome tool for developing creativity. For non-writers, there are many ways to make writing work for you: idea books, mind maps, “100” lists, morning pages, and writing prompts are just some of the popular exercises. Many of these do not require proper grammar, spelling, or even full sentences. Think of these as streams of consciousness, as the words come to you, write them down, don’t second guess yourself—just write.

Challenge Yourself: Set goals for yourself. Find unusual ways to accomplish your everyday activities. Branching out to try other creative outlets can also be a challenge, especially if it’s an activity you haven’t tried before. Setting themes can help to focus your creative challenges, for instance, if you’re working with writing prompts, pick a theme for the day or week and write about related topics. If you’re focusing on visual creations, apply the same method by drawing, building or photographing objects within your theme.

At the end of the day, your own curiosity will help cultivate your creative side. Make a conscious effort each day to do, write, think or create something out-of-the-box, then share your creativity with us! We’d love to see what you’re capable of, so share your creations with us in the comments below or on any of our social media pages using #NSACreates! 

Creative resources to get you started:

Writing Exercises:                                  Creative Resources:

Writers Digest                                         Creative Thinking

Poets & Writers                                       Creative Commons

Practical Creative Writing                        Creative Bloq

 

 

 

 

 

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What is credit? And how do you get some?

March 15th, 2016 by

“Bad credit? No credit?” Wait. What is credit? And how do you get some?credit-card-1080074_1920

Before you can start building credit, it’s important to understand what credit actually is. Credit is a record of your ability to receive goods or services based on your promise to pay it off in the future. This ability is reflected in your credit score—a number associated with how well you can follow through on that promise to pay off your purchases.

Trying to establish credit as a young adult can feel like a catch-22: you can’t establish credit without a credit card, but you can’t get some credit cards without having credit.

The banking world is not insensitive to this struggle. Most banks and credit card companies understand the difficulty of starting to build credit as a young adult, so they have cards that cater specifically to young adults just starting out in the world of credit. These cards require low minimum monthly payments and generally have a low credit limit to protect you and the bank from excessive spending.

Once you get your credit card, though, you need to be contentious about how you use it, otherwise you could end up with a poor credit score. The credit you start building now will help you—or hurt you—in the future when you take out car loans, student loans, or a mortgage for your home. Keep the following pieces of advice in mind when using your card, and you’ll be on your way to good credit.

Smart Spending: A credit card looks like a small piece of plastic filled with endless possibilities. While a credit card does allow you to make purchases you otherwise couldn’t afford all at once, you need to stick to purchases you can actually afford to pay off. The easiest way to ensure you don’t go crazy with your credit card is to make a budget. Decide how much you can afford to spend on your card payment every month based off your income and stick to that budget. If you max out your credit card (hit the spending limit) and you can’t pay it back, that will seriously hurt your credit score.

Pay it Forward: When you use your credit card, the card company and establishment you’re buying from are trusting you to pay them back in the future. If you don’t, your credit score will suffer. This may seem like the simplest step in building credit, but it is also the most important: pay off the minimum payment (or more) on your card on time every month. Don’t let your credit score suffer because you forgot to make a payment; set a reminder every month to pay the minimum.

Paper or Plastic?: Some people make arbitrary decisions when choosing whether to pay with a credit card or debit card/cash. Be methodical about when you use your credit card. Playing a silent game of eenie, meenie, miney, mo between your cash and credit card at the store won’t help you build credit. Credit cards are best for big ticket items (electronics, hotels, etc.) because they allow you to pay off your purchases over time. In other cases, a debit card or cash is the better choice; smaller purchases like groceries or a latte on your way to class are best paid for with cash. This will keep your credit card balance at a manageable level.

Building credit is one of the many rites of passage into the adult world, and will follow you through your entire adult life. Start off on the right foot by spending responsibility, making your minimum payments on time and being methodical about when you use your credit card. “Bad credit? No credit?” Not you!

 

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How To: Mentally Prepare For An Interview

March 8th, 2016 by

junge frau im bewerbungsgesprchIf you’ve never been on an interview before, you might not know what to expect and that can be nerve racking. Then again, people who have been on several interviews may still find themselves jittery before hand. While it’s natural, and perhaps even good, to be a little nervous for your interview, you’ll still want to mentally prepare yourself and build your confidence before heading in.

Take a Drive                                                                                                                                            A day or two before your interview, drive there.

It might sound like a weird thing to do, but trust me, it will reduce your anxiety. There’s nothing worse than being stricken with panic on your way to an interview when you suddenly realize you have no idea where you’re going. By mapping your route before hand, you’ll be more familiar with traffic patterns, the parking situation and the amount of time it actually takes to get there. On the day of your interview, it will be one less stressor to deal with.

Mock Interview                                                                                                                                     Recruit a parent, sibling, school counselor or someone else you know has been on interviews.

Provide them with a list of questions to ask you, but also invite them to ask you additional questions off the cuff. Why? Well, an interview is a balancing act. You’ll have some answers prepared for the more traditional questions, but you’ll also need to be ready to answer curve ball questions. The interviewer will look for you’re ability to think on your feet and how you perform under pressure.

Go through this process a few times and with different people if you can. The more you practice, the better and more eloquently you’ll find your responses, even on the really tough questions. Practicing your interview skills will build your confidence and in turn, you’ll be much more composed for the real deal.

Practice Tranquility                                                                                                                                An up-coming interview can create a lot of stress—schedule down time for yourself.

The night before and the morning of, spend five to ten minutes sitting quietly or with soft music if you prefer, but no phone, tablet, or other distractions. Close your eyes and take deep breaths. Let your worries melt away, maybe even use a mantra— try a phrase to raise your self-esteem and confidence like, “I am who they want to hire.”

Get Organized                                                                                                                                    Get your materials together.

Getting organized will help your mind slow down. Have a crisp folder with at least three resumes and three copies of references inside. You may also want to bring a professional portfolio with relevant samples of work or writing examples. Just by walking in with a folder or binder,  you’ll walk taller and  feel a whole lot more confident.

These tips will help get you started to a successful interview. For additional interview information take Next Step Academy’s Interviewing Skills course which you can find right here!

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Careers in Communications

March 1st, 2016 by

 

AdobeStock_81220856 [Converted]Students looking to study communications are often faced with one of two dreaded questions: “what are you going to do with that degree?” and “doesn’t everyone already know how to communicate?” Yes, it’s true, most of us have been developing communication skills since infancy, but it takes practice, creativity and a strong command of language to turn those skills into a profitable art.

The study of communications is ultimately about understanding people and how they create, send and receive any type of message (verbal, non-verbal, visual, written, body language, etc.). It also studies how the medium (social media, television, radio etc.) affects the overall message and how mediums are best suited for sharing specific types of information. There are several major fields within communications each with their own array of subfields. If you’re an outside-the-box thinker with superb communication skills, rest assured, you will find your place within communications industry.

Public relations (PR) is a communications field concerned with organizations’ public personas and brands. PR professionals take a holistic approach to developing plans for organizations to craft and share their messages with the public. A PR professional may craft a message that portrays the organization’s image and personality, while another message could be about a campaign promoting special event or initiative. As a PR professional, you may choose to focus your career on any number of specialities such as: branding, crisis management, or event promotion. Many PR firms also offer marketing and advertising services under their public relations umbrella because these fields are closely related.

Marketing is similar to PR, but there are specific skills as a marketer you’ll want to master. For instance, writing in both short and long forms, being able to make sense of analytical information and thinking creatively in a “big picture” way. Marketing professionals tend to focus on target audiences, building brand recognition and developing two-way conversations with the organization’s audience. In this career field you may also be responsible for developing new personalities or “re-branding” organizations entirely. There is quite a bit over overlap between marketing and PR, so be prepared to wear many hats in the workplace.

Advertising, while similar to marketing, focuses more on the power of persuasion with the ultimate goal of selling a specific product or service. Advertising professionals use the research of their marketing counterparts to create advertisements for print, television, radio, billboards, and many other unique “guerilla” style tactics. The advertising professional’s responsibilities may resemble or even cross-over into marketing roles.

AdobeStock_71209553 [Converted]Journalism is not all breaking news reporting, and it is certainly not all television broadcasting. Those jobs make up only a fraction of this career field. There are as many beats (specialties) in journalism as there are topics of conversation: politics, money, food, arts, crime, science, technology, the list goes on. Journalists may work for television news networks, magazines, newspapers, or for themselves as freelance writers. No matter their beat or medium, journalists tell real-life stories from your hometown, to the other side of the world. This career path may offer unique opportunities to travel, interview different people and investigate stories.

Media is one of the larger fields within communications. The three biggest media subfields are radio, television and film. Each of these three media subfields have countless job positions to choose from: writing, producing, directing, media buying and more.

So, the next time someone asks “what are you going to do with a communications degree?”, kindly explain that a career in communications offers opportunities in multiple fields, and every other industry requires some type of communication specialist. Once you’ve made your point, send them to Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Communication” course. A career in communications could be right for them, too!

 

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