Sunday, February 17, 2013

Continuing education can give employees an edge in the workplace

A volatile economy and tough job market have revived American workers' interest in continuing education. Now more than ever, adults are returning to educational environments to advance their skills, training and knowledge.

"Continuing education generally refers to any type of post-secondary education for the purpose of keeping current with changes in a particular field of study or for preparation to obtain a certification," says Dr. Marianne Greenfield, a program chair at Argosy University, Atlanta. "Some professions require that you earn continuing education credits in order to maintain a license. The goal of continuing education is to offer adults who already possess a college or university degree further opportunity for learning without having to enroll in a degree program."

"Now more than ever, it's important for employees and professionals to keep up with all the latest skills and relevant knowledge necessary to compete in today's workforce," says Dr. George Spagnola, chair of the College of Education at Argosy University, Sarasota. "While a traditional education is necessary in today's workforce, it is also a cornerstone upon which one can build a better future through continuing education."

Greenfield agrees. "As more and more people are obtaining academic degrees, the advantage lies with the candidate whose skills and knowledge are current and relevant in the workplace," she says. "Continuing education is especially important in areas such as human resources, engineering, technology, finance and health care, where rapid advances occur, leading to constantly evolving practices." For many professions, certifications and licenses are requirements for employment opportunities, so continuing education is important for job seekers and professionals in those fields.

And obtaining continuing education is more convenient for learners. "Advances in technology have made continuing education more accessible," says Spagnola. "Options are available to pursue continuing education online, at a physical location or in a combination of both. These technology breakthroughs help so many to continue their education and advance their professional knowledge while working and raising a family."

Given the number of people raising families and working, that flexibility of education can be key to continuing education success. Look for an institution or provider that can meet your educational needs while still allowing you to meet your personal and professional obligations. "Seek out a student-centered institution that meets your needs both academically and non-academically," says Spagnola.

"Although there are many course providers who cater to those seeking continuing education, it is important to find an accredited institution to ensure your efforts yield results," says Greenfield. "Look for programs that offer you access to and learning from quality instructors with real-life experience in the specific field of study." Make sure that the program you are considering is compatible with any requirements you will face for licensure.

And while there are costs associated with continuing education, many people can find financial assistance in the form of tuition assistance programs offered through their employers. "Tuition assistance programs are of huge benefit to employees and the company," says Spagnola. "As an employee, you receive financial assistance for your education and your employer, in turn, gets an employee advancing their knowledge and skills and applying them to the organizations."

"The benefits far outweigh the expense and many private sector employers will pay for or reimburse the expense if a compelling case is made for the added competitive advantage for the organization," agrees Greenfield. "And if your employer isn't able to assist you with the costs, the Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct a portion of qualifying continuing education expenses on your federal tax return. If you pay the expense on behalf of a spouse or a dependent child, you can also claim the deduction."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tips for beating workplace stress by taking charge of your career

Whether it's low pay, a heavy workload, fear of being laid off or simply that annoying co-worker in the cube next to you, there's a variety of reasons why you might feel stressed at work. If you think of yourself as someone who's consistently stressed at work, it's important to know that you're not alone, and there are things you can do reduce the stress of your job.

Workplace stress is common in America, as a recent survey by Harris Interactive on behalf of Everest College found that 73 percent of Americans are stressed by at least one thing at work. Reasons for workplace stress varied, from lacking opportunities for advancement, working a job outside of your chosen career, long commutes and poor work-life balance.

While reasons for workplace stress vary, the most important thing you can do is take control of your career, says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. "It's easy to get stressed if you're working a job you weren't particularly excited about in the first place," says Swartz.

Swartz offers the following tips for taking control of your career, which in turn should help reduce the amount of stress you face at work:

* Stay on top of current trends in your field. One of the best ways to improve your situation at work is to give yourself room to grow by becoming an expert in your field. Employees who demonstrate the ability to adapt and learn are a valuable commodity, which will help ensure your advancement at your current place of employment or elsewhere.

* Learn practical skills. Don't wait to be asked by your boss to learn something now. Seek out ways you can increase your value within your company. While it may seem like a lot of work at the time, acquiring more skills will open more doors for you in the long run.

* If necessary, increase your level of education. If you're having trouble getting the job you want because you don't have the required amount of education, it's time to think about going back to school. If you're not happy at your job, it will be worth the sacrifice to get a degree that puts you in a better position to succeed.

* Choose a career in a field where growth is projected, if possible. If you are exploring going back to school, it makes sense to first take a look at the job prospects in the fields you are considering. Recent projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics note that health care, personal care and social assistance, and construction are projected to have the fastest job growth between 2010 and 2020.

Finding a college that's focused on providing the necessary practical skills specific to your career is also important, especially if you've already been to school and received a broader education in the liberal arts. Your college of choice should also help you tailor your training to areas within your chosen field that are expected to see growth.

"All government labor projections continue to show that health care is and will continue to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S.," says Swartz. "The overwhelming majority of Everest's programs are in this sector and we have worked very hard to make sure our curriculum is relevant to the industries our students are interested in."

The best way to avoid workplace stress is to put yourself in a position to get the types of job that you know you'll enjoy. For more information on career-specific degree programs, visit

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are You a Team Oriented Employee?
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by Amin Huffington
Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.

Found yourself suddenly assigned to a team? Wondering what that might mean with regard to your role, performance expectations or how your work gets evaluated? All good questions! The definition of a "team" can vary greatly, as does how teams operate, their purpose, even how long they stay together. Provided here is basic information on what teams are and the qualities of effective teams, as well as guidance on how to thrive as a new member of a team.

People don't become a team because someone tells them they are. They must be striving together to attain something. Here's one definition of a team-a small group of people committed to accomplishing a common goal. Teams often operate best if they have a shared set of values. The following list are some attributes of highly successful teams:
  • We are customer focused. Meaning, we are driven to do things that make our service more valuable to the customer, whether internal or external.
  • We trust each other's intentions. Meaning we believe that everyone else on the team is working together to find the best possible solution to each problem or conflict encountered.
  • We are truthful in our communications. Meaning we are open and honest with one another.
  • We are interdependent. Meaning we rely on one another to get the whole job done.
  • We are all accountable. Meaning we each take responsibility for the results of what we do and what the department does.
  • We support one another. Meaning we are committed to helping and encouraging one another to grow professionally.
  • We respect our diversity. Meaning we respect other's on the team who have values and points of view that are different from our own.
  • We have a common purpose. Meaning we are all working towards attaining similar outcomes.
  • We have a shared vision. Meaning we all have a common understanding of what we are trying to accomplish as we move into the future.
  • We are always playing to win. Meaning we are trying to get as far as we can get each day by putting everything we can into our work.
"Team building" is not about spending a day out in the woods, trying to solve various contrived "survival" scenarios. Team building simply refers to the efforts teams make to improve functioning. For example, if there is confusion about the outcomes a team is striving for, inviting a facilitator in to guide a discussion about goal setting might well be a team building activity. Without a "common purpose" it is difficult to work together, and more difficult to succeed.

While there is a great deal you can intuit or "pick up" about how you're supposed to behave as a member of a team, just by close observation, it is often best to check out your assumptions with open, direct discussion. If you're uncertain about performance expectations, ask. Inquire as to whether a "team charter" has been created (as well as whether or not it is followed, and why). Ask your supervisor or team leader how individual performance as well as team success is evaluated.

Remember too, for many people, being part of a team can at first feel uncomfortable. Americans value rugged individualism and personal success. Tying one's professional future to the performance of a team; having one's value assessed according to how one functions as a team member as opposed to an independent employee, can seem like a risky proposition. Some would argue that only with great risk comes the opportunity for great success, and great rewards. There's no denying very successful teams work hard at working well together. If you're not interested in that kind of labor, working in a team environment may not be a good fit for you. However, if you thrive on the support of others, if you problem-solve best by bouncing ideas off someone else, if your creativity is fueled by open debate and dialogue, a team environment might suit you well.

Professionally written resumes now available through  For inquiries email us at

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Seven things employers must provide reservists returning from military service

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 800,000 reservists and national guardsmen have been called to leave their civilian life to serve the military full-time, with more than 250,000 pressed into active duty more than once.

A federal law, The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), is intended to give reservists and others in the U.S. Armed Forces employment protections when they return to their civilian jobs.

But confusion about the federal law runs rampant. Without the proper knowledge, reservists are denied their rights to re-employment. Those adversely impacted include reservists in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, as well as the National Guard.

To bring clarity, the Washington-based Reserve Officers Association (ROA) is offering a free report titled "Seven Things Your Civilian Employer Must Provide When You Return From Military Service." Reservists who are not a current member of ROA will also receive a free six-month trial ROA membership, with their free report.

To get the report, visit

The report outlines how employers are required to provide reservists with the following:

1. Prompt re-employment
2. A job of similar status
3. Rate of pay as if continuously employed
4. Reinstatement of civilian health insurance and vacation
5. Pension as if continuously employed
6. Accommodations for disability
7. One-year protection from discharge

"Reservists know that duty never takes a day off and sacrifice is part of the job description," says Captain Samuel F. Wright, director of the Reserve Officers Association's Service Members Law Center and a former U.S. Department of Labor attorney who helped draft the legislation that became federal law.- "In exchange for that sacrifice, USERRA gives certain employment rights when they return to their civilian jobs."

"Unfortunately, too many employers don't understand what they legally must provide to returning reservists. Our association is fighting to make sure those who serve their country get everything they are entitled to."

Ironically, the federal government was the employer with the most USERRA complaints in 2011, according to U.S. Labor Department statistics. The director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management was so concerned he issued a statement to federal agencies reminding them that there is "zero tolerance" for USERRA violations.

When a 42-year-old Army reservist recently found herself in a job dispute with the federal agency that employed her, she turned to the Reserve Officers Association and its Service Members Law Center.-

"Without ROA I would have been lost," says the reservist, who asked not to be identified. "I would have been fired. I wouldn't have had any hope."

When the reservist left the federal agency for active duty, her supervisor told her there would be "no problem" getting her job back when she returned. But that supervisor was replaced by someone who sent her a terse letter saying she might be fired.

"I was worried sick," says the reservist.

She sent an email to ROA and received a reply within minutes from Wright. While ROA does not retain clients in formal legal counsel, its Service Members Law Center is the nation's only entity exclusively dedicated to the support of reserve service members facing legal difficulties. ROA helped this reservist find the information that she needed and guided her toward resolving her issue in a friendly manner.

"I couldn't believe it," says the reservist. "Now I want everybody out there to know about USERRA and the resources provided by ROA."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three tips for mastering new media and multimedia

New technology and digital media like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Twitter are changing the way people communicate both at home and in the workplace. They're also contributing to a generation gap. For example, users under age 30 are significantly more likely to use social-networking sites when compared to other adult age groups, according to research from the Pew Internet Project.-

"For older adults, this means there's a great opportunity to learn more about using new digital technology and social media to advance their careers, change careers or simply stay connected with people and information that's important to them," says Don-French,-owner of graphic design firm French & Associates-and program director of graphic design-at-Brooks Institute, a leading provider of higher education for-film, graphic design, visual journalism and photography. "It's important to continue seeking knowledge about the latest trends, tools and technology, and there are easy ways to get started without feeling overwhelmed with all the changes."

To take advantage of career opportunities, for example, French notes that graphic design professionals must learn and stay ahead of trends in multimedia - which is the art of integrating multiple forms of communication, including images, text, audio, interactive content, animation and video.-

No matter your professional or personal goals, French offers three tips for better understanding and applying the latest digital media, multimedia and technology tools:

1. Experiment with multimedia. Many people feel that the best way to master a new skill is through experience. With cost-effective digital cameras and built-in cameras on smartphones, it's easier to start exploring the world of photography, including uploading, sharing and editing your images. Many of these same devices also have video capabilities, allowing you to give video shooting and editing a try. In doing so, you will not only develop new skills, but may also find a new hobby in photography or film. If you're looking for a place to share your new skills, consider starting a blog to showcase your work and act as an online portfolio. While no one can be an expert in every aspect of multimedia, you can discover areas you enjoy.

2. Embrace social media. Whether you're a digital native who was born with a cellphone in hand or a digital novice trying to figure out when Myspace stopped being cool, social media is revolutionizing how we communicate and get information. If you're just dipping your toes into the social media world, online resources like PCMag's Social Media 101 can teach you the basics of online interaction. You don't have to tweet hourly updates, but developing and maintaining a presence on the most popular social media sites will not only help you communicate on a personal level, but also give you an advantage in job hunting by making you more visible online.

3. Keep learning. It seems like we hear about a new technology or social media site every day. Since it's nearly impossible to stay abreast of every trend, identify a few ways to stay connected. For example, find several publications or blogs to follow that provide relevant information to help you learn about new tools for both personal and professional use. Don't forget the importance of face-to-face interaction as you're networking and learning online. You can seek a mentor or colleague who understands the ins and outs of multimedia and is willing to share advice, or even a friend or family member who is more comfortable with new digital trends. Many colleges, like Brooks Institute, have workshops and continuing education classes on relevant topics for those looking to further their skills.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things Happen for a Reason...

Have you ever heard advice like this?
  • "Make a career decision and stick with it."
  • "Finish your education."
  • "Don’t let chance events disrupt your plan."
  • "Take action only when you’re sure of the outcome."
Statements like this make things sound as though you should know the exact path you will take in your life and career. But what if you’re less than completely certain about what path you want to take? What if you are still wrestling with several competing interests? How can you move forward when you’re not sure of your direction?
Well, to start, don’t be too alarmed – you’re in the majority. There are very few people who know exactly what they want to do in their careers; much less how to achieve their goals. Instead, many of us are unsure. Luckily, there is a job searching approach that acknowledges this uncertainty and views it as an asset. It’s called Happenstance.

What is Happenstance?
The premise of this theory is that people can take unplanned events and transform them into career opportunities. Both planned and chance events are involved. Most people are taught that they should overcome indecision quickly and minimize any chance events that can interrupt their plans.  Happenstance adopts a different view where people welcome indecision as a sensible approach to a complex and unpredictable future, and also actively look to capitalize on chance events.

The key to this approach is an attitude shift that embraces the fact that uncertainty is normal.  Unplanned events are a normal and necessary component of every career. Similarly, anxiety about the future is normal but can be replaced with a sense of adventure.

We’ve all been through unexpected changes in life, some good and some bad. However, even some of our negative changes have resulted in new opportunities. Here are a few examples:
  • You may have been laid off from a job, but this event was the spark you needed to focus on starting a home-based business;
  • You weren’t selected for the job you wanted, but instead you decided to explore a new career area you previously knew nothing about; and/or
  • You have to go to a party you’re dreading, and while there you end up meeting someone who becomes an important business contact.
In each of these examples, something positive takes places in what first appeared to be a negative and/or unplanned situation. Paraphrasing Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” It is not enough to wait for good things to happen to you. While you may not actively seek out new opportunities or situations, you must be prepared for the ones that you encounter. Remember that your career development is a life-long learning process that requires you to make decisions in response to unexpected events.  

There are lots of things that you can do to prepare yourself for Happenstance. These include:
  • Get more education – Enroll in workshops, seminars, online learning courses, as well as college classes 
  • Build and maintain a professional network of contacts 
  • Volunteer for different projects and assignments at work to increase your skills and knowledge as well as your visibility among coworkers and managers
  • Join a professional association and become active on various committees 
  • Volunteer with community and civic groups to increase your network of social and professional contacts 
  • Work with a career coach to update your resume
In addition, here are some specific mindsets you can cultivate to make the most of unplanned events:
  • Optimism – viewing new opportunities as possible and attainable
  • Curiosity – exploring new learning and opportunities
  • Risk Taking – taking action in the face of uncertain outcomes
  • Persistence – trying to succee in spite of setbacks
  • Flexibility – changing beliefs, ideas, attitudes and behaviors
And finally, remember that Happenstance helps broaden your horizons. You can move forward with an expansive spirit, taking actions to discover new outcomes and learning from your mistakes. Within this new way of thinking, you are not indecisive…you are open minded!

For more on Happenstance, see the book Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career by John D. Krumboltz and Al S. Levin (2004).

Dreamfedjob - Turning unemployed into employed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Importance of Written Communication Skills
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We live in the Communication Age with so many communication devices – Blackberries, iPhones, Droids, and more! But have we lost the art of actual communication? Let's explore this topic as it relates to career advancement and career management.
Writing Habits. Recently I had an experience of the impact of a habit. In working with many people applying for my employer, I witnessed a pattern. People who do a lot of text messaging, who are in the habit of abbreviating words and using lower case letters, are using this writing style in their resumes in business communications! Not a good habit! In my company, report writing is a key duty of the job and my department has implemented a grammar assessment in screening for positions. So how believable is it when we articulate the level of our writing skills with: i demonstrate excellent written skills in communicating with u. The person reading it might be LOL and saying to themselves UNBLEFBLE!
Competencies. The is a rich resource for employees seeking promotions. Under the Careers Page Information, there are lengthy job descriptions for almost every field position, with the core competencies needed to be successful in these jobs. Written communication is indicated as a competency in just about every position.
Career Development / Career Advancement. If you are seeking to advance into positions that require writing skills and you don't currently use these skills in your current positions, what should you do?
  • First, in composing your resume and essays, be sure to include content regarding the written communication skills that you used in your previous positions, if applicable.
  • Second, take  courses on topics that relate to writing, grammar, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, etc.
  • Third, volunteer / seek out collateral assignments where you can use and develop your writing skills (newsletters, assisting at your church, keeping meeting minutes, etc.).
  • Fourth, talk with your manager and let him/her know of your availability to contribute in this area.
  • Fifth, read books on writing and grammar that are available for free on the web.
  • Sixth, consider developing your foreign language skills with the resources available on Rosetta Stone.
Conclusion / KSA possible demise. I know many people are eagerly waiting to learn the fate of KSAs after President Obama issued the Executive Order recently to eliminate them from the initial screening process. However, KSAs or some other type of written documentation may be required on a 2nd or 3rd round of candidate evaluation. If a position calls for strong written communication skills, it is safe to assume that we will be screened for that competency at some point in the hiring or promotion process.
Regardless of how the KSAs evolve or disappear, The New Federal KSA is available to help you improve your written communication skills, create applications that demonstrate your qualifications, approach interviewing with confidence and much more.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The aging population: a benefit, not burden

With life expectancy increasing, the percentage of population over age 60 is booming. By 2030, the population over 60 will be growing 3.5 times as rapidly as the total population, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

While some look at this as a potential burden on the health care industry and society, Greg Sebasky, chairman of Philips North America, looks at this trend as an opportunity. He says this is a time to connect with well-rounded, productive and intelligent people and reap what the Philips Center for Health and Well-Being calls, the "longevity dividend."

All citizens have an important role to play to ensure everyone has the opportunity to receive this longevity dividend. Here are five steps to take to help shift a perceived burden into a lasting, positive benefit for society:

1. Appreciate the contributions of older citizens. Saying "thank you" to a family member for sharing a traditional family recipe or to a neighbor for keeping a watchful eye on your home is an easy way to bring to light the every-day dividends.

2. Learn from history. Older citizens have seen more of society's ups and downs, from a macro world view to a micro family perspective. They have the benefit of experience that can help everyone shape new approaches to challenges faced - whether in the home, at work or around town. Ask for advice and listen to the input.

3. Plug in. Help keep citizens engaged with family and friends by showing them technologies such as email or social media, or bookmark links to helpful websites. Doing so will keep elderly residents connected while maintaining independence.

4. Offer employment. Many newly-retired citizens would benefit from the ongoing mental and social stimulation provided by a workplace, even for a few hours a week. Consider posting jobs at senior community centers so active residents can easily learn about new opportunities.

5. Be an advocate. Speak up at town meetings and keep an ongoing dialog with local officials to consider the aging population in town planning, budgeting and support services. Remind officials of the social capital provided by these important residents, and how considering their needs will help the community as a whole.

By changing perceptions of the elderly's contributions to the community, society can take the important first step to reaping these positive impacts of the longevity dividend. The Philips Center for Health and Well Being's Think Tank on Aging Well offers solutions for citizens, non-profits and government officials at

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pay it forward: the next generation of women who are changing the world

The roles and perceptions of women have greatly evolved over the last 50 years.-From homemaker to executive, women have fought for their voice and advanced tremendously - altering virtually every aspect of American culture.-In 2013, the women of the past continue to pay it forward and emerging leaders take the reins.

MAKERS, a multi-platform initiative that celebrates trailblazing women provides a resource to hear many inspiring and previously untold stories.-Presented by Simple facial skincare and created in partnership with AOL and PBS, the site now has the first three of six stories of Next MAKERS, incredible women who have made a remarkable impact on a local level and help comprise a new generation of game changers.-

Colonel Jill Chambers, Olivia Joy Stinson, Anna Rodriguez, Reshma Saujani, Emily May and Lydia Cincore-Templeton were selected from a six-week nationwide search for extraordinary women.-The stories of Olivia, Lydia and Jill are now featured alongside Supreme Court Justices, Secretaries of State, CEOs, athletes, activists and entertainers on the site. Anna, Reshma and Emily's videos premiere in January. In addition to sharing their stories, the women received a $10,000 grant from Simple facial skincare so they can continue to follow their dreams and do great work in their communities.-

Olivia Joy Stinson of Charlotte, N.C., plans to use the grant money to expand PEN Pals Book Club & Support Group, an organization she started five years ago at age 14 to provide support and motivation for children of incarcerated parents. The Charlotte-based organization has grown to include 25 volunteers and serves nearly 4,000 children and more than 700 adults in the southeast region of the US.

"Olivia Stinson is only 19 but she has already had more of an impact on her community than many people do in their entire lives," Said Marlo Thomas, MAKER and actress. "Over the past five years PEN Pals has grown from a book club into a full-on support group that serve kids as young as 5, and she hopes to take it into more communities and eventually nationwide. I have no doubt that with her vision, grit, and dedication she'll get it there."

Next MAKERS is one piece of the evolving collection of women's stories on, which currently features more than 160 groundbreaking women, including-Sheryl Sandberg,-Hillary Clinton-and-Diane Von Furstenberg. The initiative will continue to grow, adding new stories to the site on a weekly basis.

"I'm inspired daily by the stories of courageous women making a positive difference around the world and believe that by speaking up and sharing our experiences we'll motivate one another and generations to come," says Lydia Cincore-Templeton of Los Angeles, Calif., Next MAKER and president and CEO of Children Youth and Family Collaborative (CYFC), an academic and social development organization in Los Angeles that currently serves more than 4,000 foster kids.-"I started CYFC after my work with orphans of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda. It illuminated the critical need children have for community support in order to survive and succeed."

Fellow Next MAKER, Colonel Jill W. Chambers, Washington, D.C., is using her grant money to further her work with veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS).-Chambers, widely recognized as the first person in the history of the U.S. Military to develop a successful, sustainable strategy to reduce the crippling stigma associated with mental health challenges in a warrior culture, would like to follow the outcome of those she supports. According to Col. Chambers, "Part of the plan is for veterans to receive non-pharmaceutical tools to aid in their PTS Challenges. I'll then follow their progress and after six months, have them help me pay it forward to those they know who could also benefit."

"These women are being recognized for their leadership, vision, courage and ingenuity and we're honored to bring to life their previously untold stories that will inspire the next generation of trailblazers," says Dyllan McGee, MAKERS founder and executive producer.

Friday, February 8, 2013

After the offer - negotiating your way to a better salary

Your job search has finally paid off. After all the networking events, resume re-dos and mock and real interviews, you finally got an offer for the job you wanted. So now what? Do you just take it or do you dare negotiate?

"You should always negotiate a higher salary," say Vanessa Jackson, assistant director of career services at The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago. Jackson adds, "Hiring managers expect this so they do not offer the highest salary in their range."

Be polite. "Say 'Thank you very much for this opportunity. I am so excited to join your company.' Then move into the negotiation," adds Shannon Delecki, assistant director of career services at The Art Institute of Michigan.

But before you ever get that offer, make sure you've done your research caution Jackson and Delecki. "Know the average salaries for the position and for the market," says Delecki.

And this isn't a time to be modest about your potential value to the company. "Tell the company why you are worth more than you are being offered. Show them how you will contribute to the company's profits and help their bottom line," advises Delecki.

How much should you ask for? Jackson recommends anywhere from $3,000 - $5,000 above the company's offer. After thanking your future employer, you should say something like: "but I'm hoping to negotiate a salary closer to $XX."

There are times that companies may not be able to budge on the dollar amount. This could be an opportunity to negotiate other benefits like vacation time. "Ask the company whether they can be more flexible about vacation or PTO days," says Delecki.

And those extra benefits don't end there. Companies sometimes pick up the tab for day care, can offer flex time and even allow employees to work from home on certain days to defray commuting costs. "I've known people who negotiated immediate vesting in the company's 401(k)," observes Jackson. She also stresses that the higher you are on the food chain the more perks you'll likely be able to negotiate. If you've just scored your first job, your new employer may not accommodate as many requests.

And speaking of requests, make sure yours don't sound like demands. If they do, you could negotiate your way right out of a job. The negotiation is a balancing act. You want a higher salary but you have to remember that you're looking to work with the person on the other end of the negotiation. So be gracious. "That's why it's important to say 'thank you' and 'I was looking for a salary closer to,'" says Jackson.

Finally, make sure you can live with and on your salary. Jackson counsels job seekers, "Know what you need to make to sustain your lifestyle."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Setting up a home office that fuels productivity

One of the biggest mistakes businesspeople make is assuming that working from home will automatically result in a higher level of productivity. Unless you carefully construct your home office environment, you may find that working from home is less productive than you anticipated.

Staples, the world's largest office products company and a trusted source for office solutions, offers the following tips for setting up your home office to help maximize your productivity.

The ideal working environment

Home office setup is an exercise in knowing yourself. Before you make any decisions, make a list of the things you need to spur productivity. Some people can work at a desk in a common area of the house with the television running in the background. Others want a closed-door environment where distractions are minimized. For some people, a home office is a place to finish up work from a regular day job. For others, a home office is a primary workspace where they spend eight or more hours of the day. Before you start rearranging the furniture, decide what you need as an absolute minimum to encourage you to use the space as intended.

The right office furniture, equipment and supplies

Once you have decided whether you're going to segregate an area of the living room, convert a spare bedroom or set yourself up in the basement or garage, you should start thinking about-home office furniture.-The type of office furniture you pick and the way you organize your space will significantly impact your productivity.

Whatever your preferences are, investing money up front in the style of office furniture that makes you comfortable will naturally lead to greater productivity. At the very least, this ensures that you won't be tempted to relocate to the bedroom instead of working at your desk. Likewise, an upfront investment in office supplies and equipment will help you get your work done faster and avoid distractions.

The cost of outfitting a home office

A basic home office setup can cost you under $500 if you already have a computer that you can relocate to your new space. There are a number functional-office furniture options-that look expensive but are actually quite affordable, especially if you are willing to put the furniture together yourself. A printer and a phone with voicemail can round out a basic home office setup.

A more advanced home office setup would include a fax machine and a photocopier. Fortunately, there are 3-in-1 office machines that combine a-printer, fax and copier all in one-piece of equipment for under $300, saving you money and space. Keep in mind, however, that a machine that does many things often offers fewer features for each specific function. For example, if your work at home requires more than the occasional photocopy, it can be more efficient to buy a dedicated copy machine that has special functionality to handle a heavier workload.

Don't forget to set aside money in your home office budget for office supplies. From paper to paper clips, you will have to buy all of the little things that you took for granted when you worked for an employer.-A home office is sometimes considered the holy grail for people who work. Who wouldn't want a comfortable home oasis where commuting is a foreign concept and the work just gets done? To achieve home office nirvana, make a plan that is specifically designed to meet your individual needs and choose the right home office furniture, equipment and supplies to make your plan a reality.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Insight and inspiration for GED seekers

More than 39 million Americans 16 and older lack a high school diploma, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. And while a new survey indicates their reasons for dropping out range from lack of parental support to becoming parents themselves, those seeking a second chance at an education often find hope in General Educational Development (GED) programs.

Daily, about 7,000 students drop out of high school - about 1.3 million per year, according to advocacy group Alliance for Excellent Education. Nearly a quarter of those who drop out cite a lack of parental support or encouragement as their chief reason for not completing high school, according to the 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey conducted by Harris/Decima on behalf of Everest College. Becoming a parent prompted 21 percent to drop out, and missing too many days of school influenced 17 percent.

"Americans without a high school diploma or GED test credential face tremendous challenges," says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College. "Yet the obstacles that prompt students to drop out of high school, or that stand in the way of their GED pursuit, are solvable. We need to continue putting our dropout crisis under the microscope and develop substantive solutions going forward."

The Everest College survey indicates that dropping out of high school creates new issues for dropouts, including unemployment and a lack of career potential. Only a third of those surveyed were employed, either full-time, part-time or self-employed. And of those who were working, 46 percent said they had little or no prospects for advancing in their current jobs.-

"It's certainly not surprising that almost half of young Americans without a high school diploma feel like their career prospects are on shaky ground," Swartz says. "The unemployment rate for high school dropouts is significantly higher than those with a high school diploma. A dropout's access to post-secondary education and training - a requirement for many jobs in today's competitive economy - is severely restricted."

A GED credential can be a second chance for dropouts, granting them access to higher education and better job prospects. However, more than three quarters of those surveyed by Everest said they had not considered a GED credential or looked into it, and had yet to pursue entering the program. More than a third said lack of time prevented them from pursuing a GED, and 26 percent said cost was an obstacle.

"Completing high school or a GED program is fundamental to our economy, and is the first step toward receiving post-secondary education and training for the in-demand jobs of the future," Swartz says.

All 50 states recognize the General Educational Development (GED) credential, and GED testing is available year-round. In addition to thousands of testing centers, many states now make GED testing available online. The GED test covers five subject areas: social studies (which encompasses history, geography, civics and economics), science, language arts/reading, math and writing. In some states, you can take the test free of charge. Your local GED testing center can advise what the cost is in your state and help you register for the test.

Many GED-seekers find value in preparation courses such as Everest's recently launched GED Advantage. The GED test prep and credential completion program is free and open to the public. Call (888) 201-6547 to learn more about the program. After completing a prep course and achieving their GED, students will be better poised to enter degree programs for high-demand fields such as health care or law.

To learn more about the GED program, visit, or your state department of education's website. For more information on Everest's GED Advantage, a free GED program, log on to To learn about high-growth employment fields, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website ( and search the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Organizing your online identity saves time, streamlines tasks and keeps you better connected

Goals for the new year typically involve getting in shape, saving money, becoming better organized or finally taking that tropical vacation. Whether you're interested in jet-setting around the globe or simply getting more organized, you should not ignore the role the virtual world plays in your everyday life.

For most people, the virtual world is the central hub where we manage several elements of our lives. It's where we confirm those long-awaited travel plans, track valuable shipments and stay more deeply connected to the people who matter most. Plus, now that we're signing up for more newsletters, daily deals and social media notifications, we're receiving more email than ever.

Here are few ways you can organize your virtual identity to accomplish your resolutions and goals in 2013:

* Organize your inbox with the help of a modern email service. The beginning of the year is a great time to clean out and organize those messages sitting in your inbox, and upgrading to a modern email service with smart and powerful tools can make this task less arduous now and in the future. For example, the new email experience from makes it easy for you to get and stay organized by automatically filing emails straight to a folder or category based on the sender's email address. The service, which connects with most existing email platforms and smartphones, also gives you the ability to delete all emails from the same sender in one click. Since Microsoft estimates that the average person received 14,600 email messages in 2012, anything that helps you deal better with a high volume of emails can save you significant time.

* Increase connectivity. With so many social networks it can be hard to keep track of your friends and contacts. Rather than hunting down updated addresses and phone numbers on all those different sites, use a service that aggregates all that information for you. By linking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks to, you'll have an automatically updated address book, which saves time and keeps you better connected.

* Streamline online shopping. It's a good time to be an online shopper, with countless subscription services available to tip you off to great deals to be had. But these services can also clutter your inbox, which can be major cause of frustration as you strive to stay organized. is designed to manage graymail - legitimate email that you often receive in large volumes, but don't always have great interest in. The service can filter these messages into a separate folder and will automatically delete offers that have expired. If you ever get tired of getting a specific piece of graymail, you can simply use the one-click unsubscribe feature and never see those messages again. So if finding that perfect getaway is one of your goals for the new year, filing all travel-related offers in one place can help you easily track incoming offers and help you get the best deal when the time is right.

Removing clutter from your digital life can help you accomplish the broader goals you set for yourself in the new year. To learn more about how new email features can save you time and help you stay organized, visit

Monday, February 4, 2013

Out of work? How job hunters can fight the growing stigma of unemployment

Forty percent, or 5 million, of unemployed Americans are considered "long-term unemployed," according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meaning they have been jobless for at least 27 weeks. With so many people facing long-term unemployment it's inevitable that the topic is raised as they seek and interview for jobs. -

The 2012 Job Preparedness Indicator, an annual research initiative of DeVry University's Career Advisory Board, found these unemployed job seekers are often already up against a challenge as they try to re-enter the workplace: 56 percent of hiring managers often refuse to consider an unemployed candidate, a 9 percent increase from 2011.

The survey revealed that 74 percent of employers rely heavily on their own instincts and experiences to decide what skills are critical to fill open positions within their companies. In fact, of the 516 hiring managers at Fortune 1000-equivalent companies surveyed, only 17 percent use benchmarking or tracking to help sort through the applicant pool.

These findings echo the stigma attached to today's unemployed job seekers or simply the job seekers who have a gap on their resume. Therefore, confidence is decreasing - 51 percent of job seekers say that if they don't have experience that mirrors a job opportunity, they won't apply for it.-

"This begs the question - how can the unemployed gain more job experience if no one will hire them due to lack of experience?" says Jessica Rau, communications manager for McDonald's Greater Chicago Region, and a Career Advisory Board member. "Job seekers should utilize these findings to modify the way they present themselves to potential employers."

Too many job seekers are reluctant to seek professional guidance. In order to determine what to put on applications or resumes, nearly 60 percent of job seekers rely on their own experience to decide what to include, rather than seek advice from career counselors.

"Job seekers need not dwell on their employment gap, but rather be active and engage themselves in professional development," says Pete Joodi, a distinguished engineer with IBM, and a member of the Career Advisory Board. "In the next five years, a basic understanding of technology and the use of social media are going to become increasingly more important in most career fields and therefore, job seekers can strengthen their skill set by pursing a class, serving as a volunteer to use skills, or taking a temporary job to stay fresh and acquire new skills."

For those unemployed workers looking to get around the bias, the Career Advisory Board recommends the following:

1. Showcase your situation in a positive light - Be confident, concise and non-emotional in interviews. Employers are likely to ask about the gap, but answer questions in a constructive way by mentioning how you've sharpened your skills in the meantime.

2. Keep learning and growing - Fill the gaps on your resume by taking a temporary or volunteer position so that you are actually working while looking for a new job.

3. Be active in your industry community - both online and off - Strengthen your personal brand by engaging with your industry experts on social channels. Attend a networking event, which will put you in touch with new contacts and will enable you to practice telling your story.

For additional career advice and to learn more about the 2012 Job Preparedness Indicator visit

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Three-year degree programs shorten the path to rewarding careers

Three-year bachelor's degree programs are gaining popularity as many students look for ways to enter the workforce faster. Though these programs are common in Europe and Canada, condensed programs are now attracting greater interest in the United States as students and education providers realize the unique benefits.

Students might identify three-year options as a swifter path to earning a bachelor's degree, particularly as the value of a college education rises in the current marketplace. The median family income for those with a bachelor's degree or higher was $99,716, compared with $48,332 for those with only a high school diploma, according to "Trends in College Pricing 2011," a report detailing findings from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges.

Some leaders in higher education are exploring three-year degree programs as a solution to growing workforce issues. Many professional fields are growing faster than students can acquire the necessary education to fill the positions, and three-year degree programs reduce the time it takes for candidates to graduate and enter the job market.

The healthcare industry, for example, is grappling with a nationwide shortage of workers in several disciplines, such as healthcare information technicians and clinical laboratory technicians, which U.S. News and World Report listed among its "25 Best Jobs in 2012." Three-year bachelor's degree programs are available for prospective students looking to enter both fields.

Perhaps one of the most widely acknowledged healthcare worker shortages is registered nurses (RNs). More than half of the RN workforce is close to retirement, according to the American Nurses Association. This issue is to become more acute as the industry responds to the patient needs of a growing population of aging baby boomers and the demands of a changing healthcare environment. Three-year degree programs allow graduates to fill these in demand roles and launch a career in nursing before their peers in traditional four-year programs.

"As a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree becomes the standard requirement for many entry-level nursing positions, a three-year degree program is an efficient route to a desired career," says Patrick Robinson, dean of undergraduate curriculum and instruction at Chamberlain College of Nursing. "A shorter program can be more intense with the same curriculum standards as typical four-year degree programs. However for motivated, organized students, the professional reward can be worth the hard work."

Chamberlain offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program that enables students to earn their degree in as few as three years of year-round study, instead of the typical four years with summers off. Mary Flemister, a June 2012 graduate of Chamberlain's program, is currently employed as a nurse at a family practice in Virginia.

"It was important to me to find a program that balanced expediency with diversified classroom and clinical experience - Chamberlain's year-round structure was ideal," Flemister says. "I had transfer credits so I was able to earn my BSN degree in only two years - the same length of an associate degree program. However, I am more competitive in the job market because I earned a bachelor's degree."

Recent industry data illustrates that demand is mounting for degree programs with this structure. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the number of three-year BSN degree programs increased from 31 to 230 between 1990 and 2010. This trend is expected to continue as factors contributing to the national nursing shortage escalate, and the industry necessitates BSN degrees.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Top communities providing support for returning veterans

When veterans return home from serving overseas, the support found in family, friends and the community can make a huge difference for a smooth transition.

Pittsburgh ranks as the top place in the nation for veterans to transition from combat boots to civilian shoes, according to a study commissioned by USAA and

The "Best Places for Veterans" list identifies U.S. metro areas that offer America's most recent veterans more opportunities to find a job or go to college while providing a higher quality of life in an affordable location.

Here is the entire top 10 list:

1. Pittsburgh

2. Phoenix

3. Dallas

4. Cleveland

5. Atlanta

6. Warren, Mich.

7. Ann Arbor, Mich.

8. Cincinnati

9. Columbus, Ohio

10. St. Louis

"Today's veterans are battling a highly competitive job market and need to proactively plan for life after the military," says Scott Halliwell, certified financial planner at USAA. "This study allows us to help recent and soon-to-be veterans identify preferred locations throughout the U.S. where they can launch a civilian career and use the GI Bill to further their education."

"The millions of young veterans who have already entered the work force and the many more who will join them in the coming years have the opportunity to use the discipline and determination they've acquired in the Armed Forces to make a significant impact in their workplaces and communities," says Ward Carroll, editor of "Best Places for Veterans was commissioned to help equip this remarkable group with tools for a successful transition."

USAA, a leading financial services provider focused on serving the military and their families, and, the largest military and veteran membership organization, commissioned Sperling's BestPlaces to develop the list. Researchers reviewed variables for 379 major U.S. metropolitan areas, including:

* Employment opportunities and sectors that align with military skills sets such as defense, engineering, medical services and aviation, as well as the overall jobs climate based on unemployment rate and recent job growth.

* Presence of colleges/universities, as well as quality of local primary schools.

* General quality of life and pocketbook issues such as affordability, crime rate, taxes and recreation opportunities.

Each of the variables was weighted based on what recent and soon-to-be veterans said was important to them, and each metro area was then ranked based on its total points for all variables. Metro areas with the following attributes were excluded from the list: unemployment rate more than 1 percent above the national average, median cost of living greater than the national average and total crime rate more than 25 percent above the national average.

USAA and also commissioned a list of the top metro areas in each state to provide service members with more choices. Veterans and soon-to-be veterans also have the opportunity to create a personalized list with the new "Best Places for Veterans" calculator by identifying which criteria is most important in their military-to-civilian transition.

To see the entire list of Best Places and access the Best Places for Veterans calculator, visit

Friday, February 1, 2013

Be a real life hero: Taking on the most impossible missions and doing whatever it takes to keep America safe

When the Navy needs to complete seemingly impossible missions or track elusive targets, the job is often assigned to Naval Special Warfare (NSW) or Naval Special Operations (NSO) teams. These elite men and women work with dedication and intense courage in locations all over the world, and in every possible climate, to neutralize potential threats.

Although the young men and women interested in pursuing a career in the NSW/NSO community do not need to have a college degree to excel in these challenging environments, they do need to be specially trained to work closely and efficiently with other special forces to ensure the successful completion of missions around the globe. The training these individuals go through is truly life-altering: training can include advanced swimming and lifesaving techniques, diver and parachute training, maritime navigation and helicopter operations. Some of the careers individuals can excel in include:

* Aviation Rescue Swimmers (AIRR)

The motto of the Aviation Rescue Swimmer community is "So Others May Live."- The responsibilities vary from rescue and recovery to surveillance and operational support for Sailors who serve as part of this top emergency response unit. AIRRs are typically attached to an aircraft for their tasks, which can include saving pilots of downed aircraft, coming to the aid of civilians during natural disasters, rappelling to reach survivors at a remote crash site, collaborating with other forces on joint rescue missions, jumping out of a helicopter to pluck crewmembers out of frigid waters and conducting surveillance in anti-submarine warfare and drug interdiction operations.

Intense training is required for these Sailors. This includes nearly two years of training in advanced swimming and lifesaving techniques, as well as training in water and land survival, flight safety, search and rescue, Naval aviation and more. The training is as true to life as possible because work environments can be different for every situation.

* Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician (EOD)

EODs are brought in to deal with disposal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. They clear IEDs, parachute out of aircraft, dive beneath ships - protecting others by handling situations with steady hands and even steadier nerves. They also investigate and demolish underwater obstructions, prepare coastal regions for amphibious landings and provide intelligence about potential threats, both in the United States and abroad. This work has EODs located all around the world, and missions could be by air, land or sea.

Training involves 51 rigorous weeks, including various levels of EOD preparation, diver training and parachute training. Duties of EODs may include demolition of hazardous munitions, pyrotechnics and outdated explosives, locating and identifying underwater foreign and domestic ordinances, performing parachute and helicopter insertion operations in support of missions, supporting military and civilian law enforcement agencies, and executing underwater mine countermeasure operations to clear waterways in support of the Fleet.

* Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman (SWCC)

Named the "Quiet Professionals," SWCC provide critical mission support to Navy SEALs. They operate state-of-the-art, high-performance boats. They protect global waters from enemy combatants. This elite team carries out military actions that are beyond the capability of standard forces. These Sailors secure the freedom of global waters via the riverine and littoral environments by operating independently among small units or while integrated with other U.S. Special Operations forces or within U.S. Navy carrier and expeditionary strike groups.

SWCC perform direct action raids against enemy shipping and waterborne traffic, as well as provide rapid mobility in shallow water areas where larger ships cannot operate. They maintain ammunition, weapons, combat vehicles and other equipment associated with SWCC and other special operations missions.

Training for SWCC is as intense as all other NSW/NSO ratings, but Sailors interested in this opportunity may receive specialized training in areas including maritime navigation, radio communications, boat/propulsion systems engineering and parachute and helicopter operations.

The Navy is A Global Force for Good with many exciting and challenging career opportunities available. Visit to learn more about some of these opportunities, and the background required to serve.