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.


Give Your Speech Writing Flair

December 15th, 2016 by

You’ve been tasked with giving a speech to a large audience and you want to make sure it’s memorable. Here are several writing techniques you can implement to give your speech flair and get the point across.

2756494307_a0380a96e0_bEpiphora. This is the use of repetition at the end of successive clauses or phrases. Using epiphora is a great way to emphasize a specific point and amplify an important idea. A famous example of epiphora you may be familiar with is from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

“… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people,
by the people,
for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.”

Lincoln repeats “the people” three times to reinforce the idea that the government is not an abstract idea, but an institution interconnected with the people it governs.

Anaphora. Like epiphora, anaphora uses repetition except at the beginning of a clause or phrase with the same goal of reinforcing a point or idea. Martin Luther King Jr. used anaphora at a rally in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

I’m tired of war and conflict in the world.
I’m tired of shooting.
I’m tired of selfishness.
I’m tired of evil.”

Chiasmus. If you’ve heard the phrase “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” then you should already have a pretty good understanding of chiasmus. Chiasmus is the repetition of two words or phrases in a successive clause but in the reverse order. Chiasmus is a catchy technique and has been used in famous speeches such as John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address.

“Ask not what your country can do for you
— ask what you can do for your country.”

Trying to sharpen your speech writing? Take Next Step Academy’s NEW course “Developing Public Speaking Skills


Tips for Getting Through Finals

December 13th, 2016 by

Before you can officially enjoy the holiday season, you have to get through the dreaded finals week. Whether you’re cramming in the last bit of studying or frantically finishing a report, stress levels tend to rise at the end of the semester. Make sure you are taking care of both your physical and mental health during finals. Here are four tips for getting through finals and preventing burnout.

Snack smart. It’s tempting to reach for energy drinks and potato chips during late night work sessions. However, a high caffeine and sugar intake will actually cause you to burn out faster and junk food can make you feel bloated and sluggish. Instead, choose healthier alternatives to boost your energy. You can drink caffeine, but choose something like tea that provides a much lower dose than coffee or energy drinks. As for snacks, fruit and nuts will fill you up and give you a positive energy boost.

6359780403164185121342282463_finals-babyTake breaks. Working non-stop until you pass out at your desk isn’t healthy for your physical or mental health. Make sure you take frequent breaks to nap, shower or watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show (but just one episode!) If it helps, find a time management technique to provide yourself with some structure. Time management methods such as the Pomodoro Technique emphasize frequent short breaks and intermittent long breaks to keep yourself refreshed and productive during your work session.

With the Pomodoro Technique, you work for a solid 25 minutes, then take a short 5-minute break. After doing this four times, you take a longer break instead, typically 15-45 minutes. So essentially you work for 2 hours, with short intermittent breaks, before taking a longer break.

Get enough sleep. I’m not going to lie, I’ve pulled my fair share of all-nighters. But ultimately, this is the worst thing you can do during finals week. If you study all night, it’s likely your fatigued mind isn’t going to retain any of the information anyway. A good sleep the night before an exam is going to more beneficial than those extra hours of re-reading notes.

Stay off social. Checking your feed during a scheduled break is fine, but don’t leave your social media accounts open when you’re trying to work. The temptation of checking your recent notifications will split your focus and distract you from your work. You may say you’ll only check one post, but that can easily turn into an hour of wasted time scrolling through your feed. Resist the temptation by simply closing the pages when it’s time to work.


Careers in Web Development

December 8th, 2016 by

Web developers are responsible for designing and creating websites. This field is growing rapidly and is will continue to grow as the world becomes more mobile and focuses more heavily on e-commerce.


A bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related field is recommended for aspiring web developers. A bachelor’s will typically take you four years to complete and you’ll take classes that focus on programming languages. However, you’ll need to stay updated on new computer languages and updates to languages throughout your career, meaning you’ll never truly stop learning.

Employers prefer hiring graduates that already have some experience in graphic design, so you’ll want to take some design or website layout classes as well.


programuotojaiWeb designers are in charge of the site’s appearance, performance, capacity and sometimes website content. Website development can be split into three main jobs: back-end developers, front-end developers and webmasters. Some companies hire one person for each job or they may hire one person in charge of all three areas of development.

Back-end developers create the framework for the site and are in charge of the technical construction of the site. They write the code for the site, typically using computer languages such as HTML and XML, though other languages may be necessary as well.

Front-end developers create the site’s layout, design and applications. They are in charge of integrating graphics, audio and video into the site.

Webmasters maintain websites after they are completed. They monitor site traffic, keep the site updated and test functions for errors, keeping the website working properly.

As mobility becomes increasingly important, web developers need to create sites that accommodate multiple screen sizes, such as smartphones and tablets in addition to desktops.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average annual salary for web developers as $64,970 in 2014. Web development is expected to grow 27 percent by 2024, 15 percent faster than the average of all IT occupations.

Take Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Web Development” course to learn more about this professional path!


4 Red Flags That Cause Employers To Reject You

December 6th, 2016 by

Have you ever applied for a job or completed an interview, only to never hear back? These scenarios can be frustrating, especially when you don’t hear back from a job you were really excited about. While there are many reasons this could happen, many of which you have no control over, there are a few common mistakes you may be making that cost you the job.

Submitting a generic resume. When making a resume, you want to show off your skills and achievements. However, you also want your potential employer to see why you are perfect for the job. Instead of having one, generic resume, you should have several that are tailored to specific positions. Take a look at the necessary skills listed in the job description, then add the skills that apply to you to your resume. Focus on being relevant for the job first, then you can focus on being impressive.

14110060693_e2e54aef56_bMaking mistakes on the application. This can be anything from a simple spelling mistake, to something bigger like placing the wrong email or answering the wrong question. If a potential employer sees mistakes on the application, then they’ll assume you’ll make mistakes on the job as well. Make sure you proofread your application, as well as your resume or cover letter several times before you submit. Better yet, have a friend or family member proofread it as well.

Seeming disinterested or lacking confidence. It’s okay to still be unsure about a job or nervous during the interview stage, but acting disinterested or lacking confidence during the interview can be a huge turn off to a potential employer. To combat this, make sure you have researched the company ahead of time and prepare questions to ask the interviewer. Knowledge can make you more confident, especially when asked an interview question such as “What do you know about us?” Having questions prepared will also show confidence and tells the interviewer that you are interested in the job. (Read last week’s blog to learn more about appearing confident)

Appearing to be a flight risk. Companies don’t want to hire people that might leave in only six months. If you’ve had a long list of jobs in a short amount of time, make sure you have good explanations for each. Also, make sure you aren’t only showing interest in the company, but the job itself. If you focus solely on the company, it will seem as if you’re only interested in the position to get your foot in the door. By also showing interest in the specific job, they’re less likely to get the impression that you’ll want to leave or transfer soon after being hired.


How to Be Confident Even When You Aren’t

December 1st, 2016 by

Confidence is the key to career success. People who exude confidence tend to be viewed as more competent and influential. However, there are many times when you may not feel confident. Perhaps while talking in front of a crowd, meeting a new person or having a one-on-one conversation with an intimidating coworker, you might have a hard time finding your confidence

By focusing on your physical presence, you can show confidence, even when you aren’t quite feeling it.

Natural beauty portrait of young business woman

Stand up straight. Don’t lean or rest on the podium or wall. Stand up straight and tall, showing that you are actively engaged and interested in the conversation.

Maintain eye contact. Letting your eyes wander will make it seem like you’re disinterested. Don’t let yourself get distracted by your phone or other items in your surroundings. Focusing your attention on the person you’re talking to will make them feel important and respect you.

Nail that handshake. Make sure you are the one to initiate the handshake and make it a good one. Firm, but not too hard. A good strong handshake will show your intent to say hello and that you are focused on them. (Check out the “Common Courtesy” course for a tutorial on how to shake a hand.)

Touch their shoulder. When you go in for the handshake, lightly touch the other person’s shoulder with your other hand. Touch is powerful and a brief touch on the shoulder can show warmth and leadership while also putting the other person at ease.

Take up space. Don’t just stand passively when speaking, use gestures. Take up space with your arms, the more space the more confident you’ll look. Just make sure your gestures aren’t too extreme. Take up space, but also remain professional.


Keeping Your Health On Track During Winter

November 29th, 2016 by

Thanksgiving is behind us and now the major  holiday season looms ahead. With frost covering the ground and the prospect of snow no longer being a prospect for some regions, it can be hard to stay motivated to exercise — especially when it’s cold and there’s still leftover stuffing in the fridge. Here are six ways to stay motivated and keep your health on track this winter.

Find a friend. Having a workout buddy who will commit to joining you for morning jogs is a great way to stay motivated. You’ll be able to hold each other accountable and knowing someone is waiting for can be exactly what you need to get out of bed and into shape.

Warm up. Set your heater on a timer so it’s start warming your house before you wake up. If the temperature outside the covers is comfortable, you’ll be more likely to throw off the duvet and put on your running shoes.

how-to-stay-motivated-to-runPrepare ahead of time. This can be wearing workout clothes to bed or placing your sneakers next to your slippers. The easier it is to get ready, the more likely you’ll follow through. If you’re going outside, make sure your hat and gloves are ready too.

Take advantage of social. Exclaiming your dedication on Facebook, Twitter or your blog can help strengthen your commitment. You’ll be more likely to follow through if you’re telling your friends and family your fitness goals. Running and fitness apps also allow you to stay accountable — and the accolades from your friends won’t hurt either!

Find an exercise you love. Winter can be the perfect time to try out all of the classes you didn’t bother with over the summer. Look at your local gym or rec center for yoga, kickboxing, Zumba or pilates. Try different things until you find something you love to do.

Lastly, don’t let yourself feel guilty. Fitness isn’t about being perfect. Remind yourself that it’s okay to skip a workout and have some hot cocoa instead once in awhile. Life is about balance. Let go of guilt and enjoy yourself this holiday season.

To learn more about personal wellness check out Next Step Academy’s “Fitness” course!


Careers in Law Enforcement

November 23rd, 2016 by

Law enforcement officers play an important role in society as public servants, dedicated to protecting the citizens in their communities. A person in law enforcement needs to understand the law and have a strong desire to make positive changes in the lives of those around them. This career can be physically demanding and dangerous. People in this field need to willing to give up their own rights to secure the rights of those they vow to protect.


An associates degree in law enforcement or criminal justice will provide you with the necessary foundation for a career as a law enforcement officer. This will take two years on average to complete and will cover the basics of law and public safety.

Most police departments require applicants to hold a college degree, but this isn’t always the case. If you aren’t sure you want to dedicate two years to an associate’s degree, there are other options. Many institutions offer a diploma or certification program in criminal justice that cover the essentials and can be enough to grant you a position in the field, along with proper experience.

After college, applicants attend a training academy where they learn about local and federal laws, civil rights and ethics. Applicants also receive training for patrol, traffic control, self-defense, first aid and emergency response.


The primary duties of law enforcement officer is to enforce laws and keep the public safe. A typical work day for a police officer includes patrols, traffic stops and responding to emergency calls.

The demand and duties of a law enforcement officer will vary depending on if they work at the local, state or federal level. There is also the opportunity to work in a different crime departments, such as narcotics, or special units, such as canine or SWAT.

Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for police officers and detectives was $60,270 per year in 2014. The field is expected to grow by 4 percent over the next decade.

You can learn more about this career path and related fields with Next Step Academy’s “Careers in Criminal Justice” course!


Going from Peer to Superior

November 21st, 2016 by

Congratulations — you’ve been promoted! On one hand, you’re probably excited to start the next phase of your career. On the other hand, you’ve just entered what can be one of the most difficult career situations you can go through: transitioning from peer to superior.

four-businesswomen-meeting-over-coffee_webHere are five tips to make the transition a little easier:

  1. Reevaluate your personal relationships with coworkers. You’ll need to accept that you can no longer be as close with the people you once called your peers. You are no longer a co-worker, you are now the person who assigns works and is in charge or productivity.

  2. Talk to the people in your department one-on-one. Have a conversation about the expectations you have of one another and how all of you can work together to make the transition easier.

  3. Remain professional at all times. You can no longer participate in break-room gossip or vent to the employees you once confided in. You need to establish boundaries and treat every employee with respect.

  4. If you did form friendships with employees, don’t allow them to affect your new duties. You can maintain those relationships outside of work, but you can’t give your friends special treatment.

  5. Remember that your new position isn’t about being popular. What’s more important is  being a leader and helping everyone in your department achieve results.

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