Physical Activity and You!

March 30th, 2016 by


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! 


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!



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!



Internships: The good, the bad and the ugly

February 16th, 2016 by

Internship concept with young woman working on a laptop

Two popular anecdotes dominate the world of college internships. In one tale, the intern is a scapegoat used for coffee runs and menial, thankless tasks. He or she eventually gets fed up, dumps the coffee on the copy machine and storms out with pride. The other tale describes the Cinderella story of a lowly intern who gets his or her big break on the second day, and ends up running the company by 23. While these stories may be founded on true, albeit rare, experiences, there are far more tales to tell with numerous realistic complications and rewards. Let’s be honest, some internships are good, some are bad and some are down right ugly.

The Good: Ideally, you land an internship in the “good” category the first time. The best kinds of internship are ones that allow you to take on meaningful responsibilities, contribute to the team, learn new skills and make strong professional connections. You need to take action to ensure you end up with a valuable internship like this, they won’t just fall into your lap. Apply for positions that align with your professional and ethical interests at organizations you would actually want to work with. When your internship comes to an end, maintain the relationships you created with your supervisor and co-workers. You might end up with a mentor, references, or even a future job offer.

The Bad: Sometimes you don’t get the ideal internship and you wind up somewhere you don’t want to be; you’re not learning anything of value, the work consists of those dreaded menial tasks, or you may just be bored. If this happens, talk to your school’s director of internships about possible solutions. Chances are, that person will urge you to ask your internship supervisor for more responsibility. You are as much of an asset to the organization as they are to you. If the work you want simply doesn’t exist, consider moving on to another internship. You are not expected to stick it out in a position you aren’t learning from. If you do decide the best solution is to move on, be respectful when you leave the organization; never burn bridges. While the work may not be what you were hoping for, those connections you made could help you in your future career.

The Ugly: It’s rare to find an organization that hires interns they don’t want around, but it does happen. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable or degrading situation (the boss expects you to take his adult kid out on a dinner date, your co-workers expect you to go through hazing, etc.), then it’s time to leave. This is a situation in which your comfort and safety are far more important than maintaining professional connections. Still be respectful when you leave the position, but don’t hesitate to leave that ugly internship behind. Consider talking to the organization’s human resource department and notify your school’s internship director to save another student from being subjected to an ugly internship.

While not all internships are perfect, you can learn a lot about the type of position and work culture you do enjoy by being as involved as possible, but don’t settle for an internship that isn’t benefiting you. There is no glory in suffering through a bad or ugly internship. The goal at the end of your internship is to come out wiser and more prepared for your future, with a better understanding of what the career is really like. So keep an eye out for the the markers of a good internship, a bad one and an ugly one.


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