Living With Roommates

July 27th, 2016 by

Throughout college, I’ve had my fair share of good and bad roommates. Sharing a space with other people isn’t always easy, but there are some ways to help make it work.

Communicate and establish ground rules. We all have different habits and preferences. Communicate those preferences to your roommates and ask them to do the same. Then, find some common ground and use that to create some rules for your shared place. For example, if one roommate likes to go to bed early, have a rule that guests need to leave by 10 p.m. Or, let your roommates know what possessions you don’t mind them using and what is off-limits.

Track your expenses.  Bills add up quickly so it’s helpful to track spending carefully and make sure everyone contributes equally.  Luckily, there’s an app for that. The best one I’ve come across is Splitwise. Anytime someone pays a bill or picks up dinner, they log it into the app. Then you pick a day to “Settle Up” and the app does all the math, letting you know who owes who what. You can connect your bank account and pay your roommates instantly.

Share the work. With a great apartment comes great responsibilities. Chores add up quickly and you need to decide who does the dishes and cleans the bathroom. A chart may not work for every set of roommates, but it’s good to have a physical reminder when it’s your turn to dump trash. A set chore rotation also ensures that the same person doesn’t get stuck with scrubbing toilet every week.how_to_live_in_harmony_with_roommates

Spend time together. Don’t let yourselves become ghosts to one another, where the only time you remember you have roommates is when you realize someone finished the cereal. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do need to get along. Take part in each other’s interests or have a weekly movie night. By spending time together, you’ll be more likely to discuss conflicts when they arise and who knows, you may actually become really good friends.

Effective communication is the foundation for a good relationship with your roommates. Need to brush up on your skills? Take Next Step Academy’s “Communication Skills” course.


Building a Stellar Resume

July 25th, 2016 by

Your resume is the first impression you leave with a potential employer. Before the interview, they’ve already reviewed your skills and accomplishments. Don’t let a bad resume be the reason you can’t get your foot in the door. Follow these tips to help you create a stellar resume as you take the next step towards your dream job.

A well constructed resume includes the following sections:

Summary statement. This is the first section of your resume and it should be short and sweet. Just a quick blurb about who you are and what experience you have to offer. Ex. “Public relations professional with 5+ years experience using innovative social media tactics…”

Notable skills. Now is your chance to tell your potential employer what useful skills you have that make you the perfect candidate for the position. You can include soft skills such as teamwork and time management, but most employers expect that from all candidates. Try to highlight the specific skill sets you have and include software you are familiar with.

13903383190_5920c870e1_bProfessional experience. Where have you worked, what have you done and how have you used the skills you mentioned? You do not need to include every job you’ve ever had. Only include relevant experience to the position you’re applying for and make sure you are honest. Omitting irrelevant experience is fine, including experience you’ve never had is not.  

Key projects and accomplishments. This section can actually be included as a subsection for your professional experience. Describe impressive projects you’ve worked on, especially if you received recognition or an award for your accomplishment.

Additional experience. Include volunteer work, internships, freelance and consulting work. Make sure you describe the work and create a connection between your skills and your professional experience.

Education. Where you went to school and the degree you received should typically be the last section on your resume. Unless you are using your resume to get an internship or entry-level position, your major and GPA are often less important than the experience and skills you’ve acquired.

Don’t overshare.

Believe it or not, some people put everything on their resume, including their favorite color and how many kids they have. Stick to skills and experience and leave the personal details about friends, family and non-professional hobbies out of your resume.

Remember to proofread for spelling and grammar and keep things consistent. This means using the same punctuation, using either paragraph or bulleted format, not both, and keeping text the same size and style throughout.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Career Readiness” course for more professional and career building tips.


In the News: College Grads Make Up the Greatest Share of the Workforce

July 22nd, 2016 by

A report from the Georgetown University Center on Education has found that college graduates holding a bachelor’s degree now make up 36 percent of the workforce, making them the majority for the first time in history.Promotion-neu-Bild

Until the 1980’s, 70 percent of the workforce consisted of people with no college education. In the past, people without a college degree could work their way up to mid-level positions with higher pay and benefits. Those positions are becoming harder to find as employers make higher education a requirement for entry-level positions.

Since the recession ended, 11.6 million new jobs have been added to the economy. Of those jobs created, 11.5 million went to people with some level of higher education, with 8.5 million jobs going to people with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only 80,000 new positions were filled by people with no higher education.

This trend is going to force some substantial changes to education in the future. While college graduates across the board have lower unemployment rates, there is going to be a push to cut liberal arts programs. Colleges need to create more focused programs and get more students to graduate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Education is also going to need to become more accessible so less affluent families can get access to higher education and therefore employment.

Additionally, with more people having a bachelor’s degree, simply having a college education is soon not going to be enough to be a standout candidate. Next Step Academy seeks to give students and employees an edge with life skills and professional development courses. These courses are quick, informative and help learners become better employees — and better in life in general.


Ready to get started? Try one of our life skills courses today!


The Auto i and Other Tech That Revolutionizes the Way We Drive

July 20th, 2016 by

Technology can often be seen as a threat to our driving, but it can also be the solution to building better and safer driving habits. We’ve found three innovative technologies to help you and your loved ones drive safe and distraction-free.


LifeSaver is an app that detects when you’re driving and automatically disables phone functions. The app allows the driver to receive hands free inbound calls and hear GPS instructions, but all other apps become blocked while the car is in motion. The app now comes with the Driver Portal, which allows parents and loved ones to set driving guidelines, monitor behavior and reward drivers for distraction-free driving. If a teen unlocks their phone or disables their phone’s GPS tracking while driving, parents receive a notification on their smart phone. LifeSaver also sends an alert to let loved ones know you arrived at your destination safely.

Lifesaver is available on iTunes and Google Play

69715ab2bc28313e37beec5272fd8365_originalAuto i

The Auto i is a 360 dash cam security system that connects users to their vehicles. You install the small device beside your rearview mirror. If the car is involved in an accident or broken into, Auto i alerts the vehicle owner and sends the 15 seconds of footage prior to impact to your smart phone. Auto i sends out a verbal warning when involved in an impact or being broken into to alert the perpetrators that the camera is recording them. The device includes a GPS locator so you can find your car in the event of its being stolen, when it’s being used by another family member or when it’s lost in a crowded parking lot. You can also watch your teenager’s driving habits and make sure they are driving safe and without distractions.

Pre-order the Auto i on Kickstarter

Cobra JoyRide

Cobra JoyRide is a car charging device and app compatible with Android smartphones. The device plugs into your car’s 12v power port and has a USB port to connect your phone. The JoyRide app will launch a driving mode window upon connecting your device to the charger. Driving mode limits the apps you can use while the car is moving. You can customize driving mode and choose several apps you want access to while driving, such as GPS or your favorite music player but all other apps become blocked. You can toggle between functions, manage apps, answer calls and voice search simply by tapping the charger. The app also comes equipped with a GPS car locator. Cobra JoyRide is great for helping you remove distractions while still maintaining access to some apps.

Cobra JoyRide is available on Amazon

Looking for more information on safe driving? Take our “Distracted Driving” course.


The 20-Hour Rule

July 18th, 2016 by

We all want to become better at something. After all, learning new skills is necessary to give yourself an edge as you develop your career. For many years the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell has been the standard for mastering skills. If you do the math, 10,000 hours equates to about 90 minutes of practice every day for 20 years!

6-Ways-to-Learn-New-Skills-OnlineThe truth is, to reach a reasonable and useful level of skill proficiency, you only need to commit yourself to 20 hours, not 20 years. Whether you want to become better at public speaking or learn HTML, you can develop the new skill by dedicating yourself to just 40 minutes of practice each day for one month.

So how exactly do you learn a new skill with the 20 hour rule?

  • 1. First, you need to decide what skills will help you on your career path. Then, you need to pre-commit to 20 hours of dedicated practice. The 20 hour rule is a good way to gauge interest in the skill. If you aren’t willing to schedule 40 minutes a day to learn a particular skill, then you should consider learning something else.


  • 2. Once you’ve committed to learning a new skill, break it down into smaller more manageable sub-skills. This eliminates the tendency to feel overwhelmed, making it easier to get started. You can break down a skill like HTML into first learning how to place tags, then how to manipulate text, then how to create links, and so on.


  • 3. After you’ve broken up a skill into sub-skills, decide which sub-skills are most important and focus on those first. By dedicating your early practice to the fundamental sub-skills you’ll notice a significant increase in your performance after just a few hours of commitment.

Need ideas for a new skill to develop? Check out one of Next Step Academy’s job skills courses.


In the News: The Reformation of Higher Education

July 15th, 2016 by

In the new report, “Transformations Affecting Postsecondary Education,” researchers discuss the current problems faced by higher education and recommend changes to the education system. Namely, they suggest to make learning more personalized as postsecondary education extends beyond college and into a platform for lifelong learning.person-984236_960_720

The report suggests using a variety of approaches to create a “network of learning.” This network would utilize approaches such as competency-based education, online education, personalized learning, boot camps and micro credentials. The result? Higher education would depend less on credits earned and more on experience to measure learning. Colleges and universities would also have a collaborative relationship, meaning students could easily move between institutions. Higher education would have “more on- and off-ramps,” allowing students to take breaks to gain work experience and continue learning throughout the course of their careers.

The goal of creating this network is to reduce the amount of time it takes students to receive a degree, reduce the cost of higher education and create personalized methods of learning and demonstrating knowledge.  

Institutions such as the University of Wisconsin and Northern Arizona University have already introduced self-paced degree programs. These programs use the competency-based education method discussed in the report. In that way, students earn their degrees by working at their own pace and showing what they know, rather than sitting in class for a specified amount of time. Self-paced degree programs are offered at a flat tuition rate per semester and students can take as many classes as they want within that time. 

Online courses are also going to play a large role in this network as higher education is reformed. Online learning is flexible, where students are guided by online coaches and earn badges and micro credentials to put in an online portfolio, similar to the format Next Step Academy uses. The portfolio would be a useful tool to gauge where there are gaps in knowledge which students can fill with more education later on. Students can also take this portfolio with them to different institutions and use it to showcase their skills and knowledge to potential employers.


Careers in Education Administration

July 13th, 2016 by

Having a career in education doesn’t limit you to teaching, you can also choose to pursue an administrative position. This typically includes assistant principals, principals and superintendents. People in these positions are leaders that play a vital role in making sure school districts run efficiently.


School administrators need to complete a master’s degree in education administration or a related field and already have teaching experience. (Read our blogs on elementary education and secondary education to learn the education requirements for teaching). A master’s degree will typically take two additional years of education to complete. The courses you take will emphasize leadership, curriculum development and education laws and ethics. Many programs require students to complete an internship where you work directly with school administrators so you can develop skills in a real-world setting.

While a doctoral degree is not required to become an education administrator, this level of education will give you a better foundation for a career in this field. A doctoral degree can take up to three years to complete after graduate school and will require research and thesis work.

Most states require administrators to acquire an administrator or principal license. This varies state-to-state, but usually it involves passing a written test and background check. Some states also require administrators to take continuing education courses to maintain their certification.


Assistant principals and principals take care of the administrative duties for a specific school. They are in charge of developing curriculum, evaluating teachers and disciplining students. They also act as a liaison between the school and the community.

Superintendents help manage the entire school district. Typically, they work with a board of trustees to develop goals for the district and oversee administrators.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics school administrators earned a median salary of $90,410 in 2015 and the field is expected to grow 6 percent over the next decade.


Explore a little more with Next Step Academy’s course “Careers in Education: Administration


Tips For Starting a New Job

July 11th, 2016 by

You’ve nailed the interview, they offered you the job, now you’re tasked with navigating a new office and work environment. Here are five tips for being successful when starting your new job.

  1. Arrive on time. Nothing gives off a worse first impression than being late on your first day. Try to arrive at least five minutes early. That means in the office and ready to go five minutes early, not parking five minutes before the work day begins.
  1. Know the dress code/code of conduct. Make sure you know how to dress and act in your new work environment. Don’t show up under-dressed, but also don’t overdress for the position. Get a feel for how people act in the office and match their level of professionalism.
  1. Get to know your fellow employees. Work will never be truly enjoyable if you don’t like or get along with your coworkers. Take the time to get to know the people you work with. The ability to work well with other employees will be important in all facets of your professional life.
  1. Ask questions. Your new employer wants you to be a self-starter and able to take charge of projects, but they also want you to know how to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t understand a task or need a little more direction. Your employer will appreciate your dedication and moxie.
  1. Give it time to get yourself adjusted. Work is work, but it is also a social and cultural institution in your life. Anytime you jump into a new circle of people and a new set of tasks and expectations, it takes time to get adjusted. Don’t get stressed if you aren’t totally comfortable in your job right away, give yourself time, you’ll get there.

For more professional development tips visit


In the News: Are MOOCs the Key to Lifelong Learning?

July 8th, 2016 by

With the digital world presenting new opportunities and constant change, education can no longer end with a formal college degree but rather continue throughout a person’s life. MOOCs offered through institutions such as Coursera are likely the future of lifelong learning.

computer-1185637_960_720MOOCs — massive open online courses — are programs offered by a university, available to people worldwide via the internet. MOOCs are free, with some offering the option to pay a small fee in exchange for graded coursework and a certificate or credit upon completion. Courses are short and engaging, consisting of videos, readings, problems to solve and forums to facilitate discussion between students.

The skill sets required for jobs in the digital age change faster than Apple releases a new iPhone. That’s where MOOCs come in. Institutions like Coursera partner with colleges and universities to offer courses that teach both hard and soft skills. You can learn a new programming language or how to improve your interpersonal communication skills. There is also the opportunity to deviate from skill development and simply learn more about topics of interest like history or music.

In addition to career development, MOOCs make higher level education available to people who previously may not have had access. Higher level learning is no longer a privilege of the financially stable, but available to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

MOOCs also promote general education to people on a global scale. A MOOC course provider called edX has developed a program called Open edX which allows countries to use the edX platform to launch their own MOOCs. Countries like Saudi Arabia have used Open edX to launch education campaigns with the goal of helping women gain access to education.

Next Step Academy offers similar online courses, offering learners of any age and background knowledge about careers-in, life skills and professional development. Courses are quick, mobile and informative. To find out more about Next Step Academy, register and start taking courses, visit


Careers in Secondary Education

July 6th, 2016 by

Pursuing a degree in secondary education allows you to enter a career as a teacher at the high school level. High school teachers tend to teach students about a single subject. They work hard to prepare students for post-secondary education and entering the workforce after graduation.


Students who want a career in secondary education need to complete a bachelor’s degree, which will take about four years to complete. You’ll be expected to focus on a specific subject, such as math or history. You can also choose to focus on a more specific area of study, such as economics or politics, or special subjects such as art or foreign language.

A bachelor’s degree in secondary education usually includes field work, such as student teaching, which is often completed at the same time as teaching certification requirements. Teaching certification differs state-to-state, so you’ll need to find out what your state requires. Some states require you to receive a master’s degree after initial teacher certification,  which sometimes can be earned while teaching full-time.


Secondary school teachers typically work with grades 9-12, but depending on the school district you may work with grades 7-12. As a high school teacher, you’ll need to create lesson plans that you can adapt to different class sizes. You will need to create a curriculum that prepares students for standardized testing, challenges them personally and academically and — most importantly — holds their interest.

This career also includes grading assignments and exams, which you may have to complete at home, and communicating with parents, fellow teachers and other staff. In the age of information, you’ll most likely be expected to upkeep a website to post assignments and coursework as well.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary in 2015 for secondary school teachers was $57,200. The profession is expected to grow by 6 percent by 2024, about as fast as average.

Explore a little more with Next Step Academy’s course “Careers in Education: Secondary Education


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