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Next Step Academy | Life Skills

Updating Your Personal Brand

February 23rd, 2017 by

In the business world, social media is how you find new people for your network and how new people find you. Having a social media presence is almost a requirement for all professionals to stay up to date and connected. Establishing a personal brand is important. Making sure it stays updated and fresh is even more important.

Undev_BrandingReview your progress. During the initial creation of your personal brand, you probably had a particular goal in mind. Maybe you wanted to reach out to clients, look favorable to recruiters or you just wanted to keep your followers informed on what you’re doing. Take a moment to check in and make sure the goals you first set are still your goals today. Also, evaluate how close you are to achieving those objectives.

Set new goals. As you’ve developed professionally, you may want to set new goals for yourself and make a new plan for your personal branding. For example, maybe you’ve gotten more involved in the tech industry and want to me more inviting to that community. You may need to change up your profile pictures, banners, usernames, etc.

Clean it up. Remember, consistency is key. Make sure the name, images, writing style and tone you use are the same across all of your social media platforms. Remove posts and other content that are no longer relevant or potentially inappropriate. Also, make sure you check your bios for any errors.

Get feedback. It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion. Have someone who knows you well review your personal brand and offer suggestions. They’ll be able to tell you if they think your brand doesn’t present you in the best way possible. They’ll also catch errors you may have missed.

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Balancing Work and School Like a Pro

February 16th, 2017 by

Whether you’re living on campus, at home or have a place of your own, you probably are working at least part-time to make ends meet. Juggling the responsibilities of a job while in school can take its toll. Here are three ways to lessen the stress and keep your life balanced.

pexels-photo-170750Schedule wisely. The biggest challenge while working and going to school is making sure you have enough time to do it. Get a planner so you can accurately plan your time. Schedule classes around your work schedule and make sure you don’t overload your day. A planner can also help you make sure you have spaces in your schedule to relax. School and work are important, but so is rest and socializing with friends. Remember, it’s about balance.

Learn to say no. We tend to feel guilty when we turn down extra projects or decline to help someone with an assignment. But taking on too much extra will leave you with no time for yourself. The most important thing you can learn is it’s okay, even healthy, to say “no.” No one will hold it against you.

Consider online classes. Depending on your situation, you may work more than part-time and cut down the number of classes you’re taking. If this sounds like you, consider taking online classes instead. Online classes are more flexible and allow you to learn on your time, at your own pace.

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Finding Volunteer Opportunities

February 14th, 2017 by

Was “Volunteer” on your resolutions for 2017? Donating your time and resources can be a great way to find yourself, give back to your community and expose you to new experiences. Volunteer opportunities can also be a great way to fill out your resume. Here are three of the best websites to help you find volunteer opportunities.

Image result for volunteerIdealist. Idealist works with over 100,00 organizations to help you find the best opportunities for you. From volunteer work and internships to not-for-profit job opportunities.

Volunteer Match. As stated on their website, Volunteer Match “bring(s) good people and good causes together.” Choose the cause that you are most interested and they’ll help you find opportunities in your area. If you already run a non-profit, you can register with Volunteer Match to find new recruits.

Points of Light. This organization is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world. Find volunteer opportunities in your community, as well as across the globe. Their goal is to create a culture of volunteerism.

Still not quite finding the right service opportunity for you? USA.gov/volunteer has a compilation of public service opportunities to look through from the Peace Corps to volunteering with Veteran Affairs.

 

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Add Personality to Your Office Space…Without Overdoing It

February 2nd, 2017 by

There’s a delicate balance that needs to be maintained in your office or work space between personality and functionality. On one hand, your workspace should be comfortable and inspiring, however it shouldn’t distract you from your work. Here are four ways you can brighten up your cubicle to boost your mood and productivity.12

Color. There’s a lot of psychological research about the effect color has on our mood. Grey, blank walls can be uninspiring and even reduce motivation to get your work done. For cubicles, add splashes of color with swatches of wallpaper. For a home office, you have more freedom to paint and accessorize. Choose your colors with care. Blues and greens are calming, while yellows and oranges are energetic and promote activity. Dark colors make spaces feel smaller while lighter shades help open up a space.

Comfort. Personality in the workplace isn’t just aesthetic, but comfort as well. If you aren’t comfortable, you won’t be productive. Change out your work chair and, if appropriate, add a small pillow or lap blanket. Maybe add a comfortable reading chair or sofa for breaks and casual meetings.

Nature. Can’t get out in nature on your lunch? Bring nature to your office. Spider plants and aloe are hard to kill and do well even with little available sunlight. Plants not only make your office space feel more lively, but they also help circulate air and can improve your mood throughout the day.

Layout. Cubicles are hard to change around, but if your office has an open floor plan or if you have your own space, change up your layout to focus on organization and preference. Place what’s most important to you near the entrance of your space. Need a caffeine jolt first thing? Keep the coffee maker up front. Like to set your things down and take a moment to relax? Move your chair near the door. Also take into account which way you face in an office. Don’t like people sneaking up on you? Turn your desk so you’re facing the entrance instead of away from it.

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Six Ways to Save Some Serious Cash This Semester

January 31st, 2017 by

Whether you’re a struggling freshman or a cash-strapped senior, you know how much of a struggle getting a handle on your finances can be. Maybe you can only work part time with your course load or maybe you’re working with a limited meal plan. Whatever your situation, here are six lifesaving tips to help you save money this semester without sacrificing your basic wants and needs.

6355840185_8e1c4d8f11_bShare Netflix and Spotify accounts. If you’re lucky, linger on your family’s Netflix account for as long as possible. If your family doesn’t have Netflix or doesn’t have room for you on their account anymore,, split an account between your friends or roommates. This also applies Spotify. A single Spotify is $10 while a family Spotify is only $15 for up to six people.

Only use free beauty samples. Did you know that places like Sephora and Lush will give you free samples? Sephora allows you to get three samples from each ‘world’ (makeup, skincare and fragrance) per visit. And that’s not just three total — you can score three samples from each department, meaning you can leave with up to nine samples per visit. Lush is also happy to give out samples. The only limit are items like bath bombs and bubble bars, which you cannot sample.

Look for rebates and coupons. Apps like Ibotta find you rebates for products at stores like Target, Walmart and even Whole Foods. Just scan your item and they credit your account for the rebate. Many stores also have coupon apps, such as Target’s Cartwheel. Add coupons to your cart and when you’re ready to purchase your items click “checkout.” All of your saved coupons will be combined into one scannable barcode.

Buy in bulk. Instead of buying snack packs of chips or nuts, buy bulk bags and divvy out servings yourself. Use plastic snack bags and reuse them or invest in some small reusable containers.

Make your own toothpaste. For some, this may seem a little desperate and for people who really need the extra enamel protection maybe skip this tip. Others, all you need is a glass jar, ⅔ cup of baking soda, 1 tsp of salt and 1-2 tsp of peppermint extract. Then add water until you’ve reached the desired consistency. BONUS: Making your own toothpaste also cuts down on waste meaning it’s better for the environment too!

Hang your clothes. Whether you go to the laundromat or have a dryer at home, if you’re looking to pinch pennies, skip the dryer and the let air do it’s magic. You can easily save yourself a couple dollars each load by hanging up your clothes instead.

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How Multitasking is Actually Destroying Your Productivity

January 26th, 2017 by

You probably think you’re a multitasking master; we all do to some extent. Right now, you’re probably reading this post, finishing up a text to your roommate and jamming to some tunes, all while contemplating what you’re making for dinner tonight. The truth is, multitasking actually makes you less productive… significantly less productive.

4453018910_613ea8d637_zThe term multitasking first appeared in the 1960’s as a term to describe computer functions, not people. The word was created to describe a computer’s ability to quickly perform many tasks at once. Multiple tasks sharing one resource — the CPU. However, the term has since been taken on to mean multiple tasks being completed at the same time by one resource — a person.

Unlike a computer, the human brain cannot process multiple tasks quickly. Every time you switch between tasks or thoughts, it takes your brain seconds to minutes to refocus and actually complete the task. Some research suggests that avid multitaskers actually lose up to 40 percent of their productivity each day attempting to multitask.

Multitasking during meetings or conversations is especially unproductive, even rude. If you’re checking your email or social media accounts during a call or meeting, then you aren’t giving the person speaking your full attention. You’ll likely miss important facts and find yourself lost.

Having trouble breaking your multitasking habit? It may not be entirely your fault. When we multitask, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, which overstimulate the brain and cause fuzzy thinking. This overstimulation occurs every time you finish reading a post, sending a text, etc. Your brain then rewards this overstimulation by releasing endorphins. This creates a feedback loop where you become unfocused and then rewarded. Essentially, your brain becomes addicted to multitasking.

Want to kick the habit? Try using a productivity technique that forces you focus on one task at a time. Maybe try the Pomodoro Technique (featured here) or maybe a simple to-do list to keep you on track. Better yet, take the Next Step Academy course on time management to remind you that you can do it all — just not all at once.

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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.

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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 InternMatch.com or general job search sites such as Indeed.com 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.

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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.

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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 Meetup.com 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.

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