Avoiding Bad Career Advice

February 9th, 2017 by

There is a lot of advice out there for recent college grads and career veterans, from the Internet, mentors, professors, friends and family members. With so much career advice floating around out there, how can you tell which advice you can trust and which you should avoid? Here are three tips to avoid the bad advice and only take in what can help you become successful.

Group of business colleagues discussing at desk in office

Be skeptical. If you’ve taken Next Step Academy’s “Introduction to Critical Thinking” course, then you know you should always question what you’re being told and check your sources. Whether you’re reading a book or a blog, take a look at the author and their credentials. What experience do they have? What makes them qualified to give career advice? Forbes, a reputable business news source, likely has better advice and credentials than someone’s personal blog.

Use multiple sources. You shouldn’t get all of your advice from a single source. A mentor may have a different perspective than a family member who has known you longer or an author who has more knowledge about your field of interest. Seek out a variety of trusted sources so you aren’t just blindly following in the footsteps of a single person.

Avoid the Yes-Man. We all want to surround ourselves with people that will support us throughout our careers, but this may not always be the best for your future. Having people in your life that approve of all of your ideas, even when they aren’t great ideas, can actually hinder your professional development. You need people in your life who can objectively tell you when something is a bad idea to help you learn and grow. Sometimes tough love can lead to the best advice.


Using Critical Thinking During the Election

November 4th, 2016 by

In less than a week, the people of the United States will choose a new commander in chief. Whether you’ve already decided who to vote for or if you’re still undecided, it’s important to utilize your critical thinking skills during this election. Here are some tips for exercising those skills before you decide who to vote for on Tuesday.

160302005451-trump-and-hillary-exlarge-169Decide what issues matter most to you. It may be helpful to make a list of issues and rank them from most important to least important. Next, research each candidate’s position on those issues. This should help you objectively see which candidate is more closely aligned with the issues that matter most to you, regardless of party.

Fact check and evaluate sources. You shouldn’t take everything you hear or read about a candidate at face value. If you find a piece of information that could influence your vote, make sure you perform your own fact check. This also means you need to evaluate the credibility of your source. Consider whether the source comes from a reputable organization and whether the author is biased one way or the other.

Investigate the past. Candidates make a lot of promises during a campaign. If you want to know the likelihood that the candidate will follow through on their promises, look at the candidate’s past. Has the candidate maintained their position on issues or do they flip-flop? How has the candidate voted in the past? Who has the candidate supported or endorsed?

Check your emotions. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate or having a gut feeling, but make sure you don’t rely solely on your emotions. Election campaigns use emotional appeals to make you like one candidate and mistrust another. However, you shouldn’t base your vote on candidate likeability. Don’t become susceptible to confirmation bias. Seek out information from both sides and make sure you are informed before making your final decision.

For more ways to develop your critical thinking skills, take Next Step Academy’s NEW “Introduction to Critical Thinking” course!


In the News: The Makerspace Movement

October 28th, 2016 by

In 2014, the White House hosted the first Maker Faire, a festival dedicated to creativity and invention. The festival sparked an interest in hands-on learning, creating the makerspace movement which has since spread to schools and libraries around the country.

The basic principle of a makerspace is to put learning in the hands of the student. It gives teachers a new way to inspire students and help them develop their critical thinking skills.

16155735298_affa3a9540_bThere is no specific plan in a makerspace, the main focus is on hands-on experimentation, exploration, building and collaboration. Any amount of technology can be provided, the only criteria is students are involved and interested. Activities can range from building robots out of boxes, 3D printing circuit boards or using virtual reality (VR) technology to explore the globe.

Makerspaces get kids interested in exploring STEM fields. They incorporate technology into a school’s curriculum in a way that helps kids develop their critical thinking skills. A makerspace is flexible and teaches students using project-based learning which is proving to be more effective at motivating students to learn than any other system. The flexibility of a makerspace gives students the time to think critically and understand what they are learning. Students can take apart computers and put them back together like puzzle pieces and learn to code in a way that makes sense to them.

Letting kids work in makerspaces seems to be the best thing schools can do to teach them invaluable skills for jobs that likely don’t exist yet. By changing the way kids learn today and turning them into “makers,” makerspaces potentially will change the way they’ll live and work in the future.

Want to brush up on your critical thinking skills? Next Step Academy just released a NEW course! “Introduction to Critical Thinking


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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