December 11, 2012

are you leaving the nest after graduation?

The academic year (in South Africa at least) has just ended and many graduates are excited about their career plans for the new year. But we all know that getting a job straight out of college/university isn't always that easy. If you just graduated, have you already lined up your first post-grad position? For those of us who have been in the work force for a while, can you remember how easy/hard it was to find that first job after graduating?

Here are some very interesting stats presented by  on recent grads considering the option to stay at home for a while after college:

September 14, 2012

career enhancement tactics: work smarter

Welcome back to Zach Buckley who will be sharing some more of his career tips for young professionals today. Thanks Zach for your cool and relevant articles!
Many new-to-the-market job hunters naively assume that all they have to do dazzle recruiters is complete and submit an application. They think that, with these gleaming and well-filled-out applications, the hiring committees will immediately see their appropriateness for the positions. Anyone who has navigated the choppy waters of the job search market for a period of time knows just how wrong this assumption is. In truth, to really stand out you must apply yourself to building skills and honing your appropriateness for the position. In doing so, you can improve your chances of standing out to the hiring committee and increase the likelihood of outshining the competition.

Evaluate Your Expectations

Before you narrow your focus to only one job and target all your efforts toward obtaining a specific position, think critically about what you want to accomplish through the course of your business life. Make sure the career you want is directly aligned with these goals. Once you've decided what you'd like to be doing, delve deeper into what that job entails to ensure a sense of satisfaction once you obtain the position.

Get the Education

Regardless of how ideally suited you feel you may be for the career you've chosen, if you don’t have the education to recommend you for the position, you'll likely struggle to even get a foot in the door. Research the job you want to determine what education is required. Pick up additional certification, or consider working toward a master's degree. By doing this before you start actively seeking employment in the field, you can improve the chances of your application ending up on a hiring manager’s desk–not getting filed away in the trashcan.


Sometimes job prospects have a lot to do with who you know, particularly if you seek employment in a hard-to-crack industry. As you work at networking, make a point of traveling to conferences and business gatherings where industry bigwigs will be in attendance. Dress the part when you go to these conferences to ensure your appearance as a consummate professional worthy of hiring. Follow up on these connections you build, using them to your advantage to improve career prospects.

Work Your Way Up

Particularly if the position you've set your sights on is an exceptionally prestigious one, walking into it off the street may be an entirely unrealistic expectation. Instead of setting yourself up for failure by turning down smaller jobs within the same industry and holding out for a higher-caliber one, be willing to start small and advance. By doing so, you can allow yourself to actively work toward the position you seek instead of cooling your heels and waiting for an opportunity that may well never come.

Obtaining your career goals won't be easy. To improve your chances, you'll need to do much more than simply fill out applications and hope for the best. Play a proactive role in your job search by actively pursuing appropriate tactics for career advancement.


Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley

September 12, 2012

5 key characteristics of successful professionals

Please join me in welcoming guest writer Karen Smith today. Because we all wannabe successful businessmen and -women throughout our careers, I'm sure you'll enjoy her article. Who wants to learn these 5 characteristics with me??

There are a host of wildly successful people in this world. Even though no two individuals are designed exactly the same, many of the most successful business minds share a handful of personality traits. In the modern business world, in fact, there are a number of required characteristics it takes to become successful, accomplished businessmen and businesswomen. For years, I've seen many people attempt to move up the ranks in business only to fail because they haven't cultivated the traits it takes to climb up the ladder. For those of you who are trying to succeed and grow in business, here are five key characteristics you should try to nurture and embrace in your career.

1. Start the day early
Waking up early in the day increases your production tremendously. The most successful businessmen and women rise early not only to get work done and arrive at the office early, but also to check off an agenda list of items, such as exercising, eating breakfast, writing out to-do lists, reading the newspaper, etc. By getting these menial tasks out of the way, individuals are better able to focus their attention on the work day ahead of them. If you're at work and thinking about getting to the gym, picking up the dry cleaning, or reading the news online, you're not going to be able to devote your full attention to the work that needs to be done in the moment.

2. Do things now, not later
A little procrastination from time to time never hurt anyone. Yet when it becomes a common, habitual behavior, procrastination can ruin your ability to produce consistent, stellar work. For the sake of producing the best work possible, go ahead and get your work done now and not later. In the moment, it may seem tempting to push something a day back, but doing so will inevitably come back to haunt you and your productivity. Not only are you delaying other projects, you'll be more likely to rush your work, which leaves room for low-quality, sloppy work. Therefore, if an agenda item needs to get done, go ahead and do it right away.

3. Avoid distractions
Distractions present themselves in various forms throughout the work day. Early in the morning, you may have a desire to read the news online as opposed to responding to work emails. Later in the day, your colleague may want to pull you aside to chat about the latest office gossip. The most successful businessmen and women avoid distractions at all costs. Distractions are something we all must face, and even though they are hard to avoid, the only way to reach your highest productivity potential is to do away with any distractions. A fifteen-minute break to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk outside can't hurt, but if it gets in the way of your productivity or daily goals, your work is inevitably going to be affected.

4. Make friends with colleagues
Team players are some of the most respected individuals in the office. Let's face it: everybody can appreciate someone who works hard and plays well with others. I've seen one too many people try to pit themselves against fellow employees for promotions and raises, only to find that they are doing more harm than good to their office reputation. If you want to be respected by your bosses and colleagues, make an effort to get to know each of them on a personal, friendly basis. You don't have to invite them over to your home for family affairs, just try to get to know a little more about each and every one of them, such as their personal hobbies, favorite sports teams, the names of their intermediate family members, etc.

5. Have a vision
If all you can stomach about your job is putting in the bare minimum amount of work required, it's not likely you'll climb your way up the career ladder. In order to be successful, you have to love the work you're doing in your career. Alas, it's not always easy to love your work, especially when there is so much pressure and expectation encompassed in it. Yet as long as you have a passion for the work you're doing, you should be able to find some fulfillment and pride in your career. If you haven't done so already, go ahead and think about where you see your career five to ten years down the road and cultivate an ambitious vision. If you want to get that big promotion, start planning out what you'll have to do to achieve it. As long as you have a strong vision, you should be on your way to a number of successes.

No two successful people are the same, but many of them share a number of key traits and personal habits. If you wish to become a successful businessman or businesswoman, try adapting these five habits into your endeavors.

Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter and globe trotter, now freelances for various publications and websites. She hopes to bring her readers the latest in business education at, as well as up-to-date, informed advice on everything from careers to parenting to health and more. Karen welcomes your comments below!

September 10, 2012

preparing for a pre-employment background check

Today's post is written by guest writer Jane Smith (I wonder if she is related to Mr and Mrs Smith ☺). Many employers do background checks before offering a job to their favorite candidate, it may be a good idea to anticipate them and ensure that there isn't any dirt your potential employer will uncover in the process! Let's hear what Jane has to say about it all:
There are numerous aspects of the job search that invite worry and stress for a candidate. From writing up an embarrassingly shining review of yourself in cover letters to selling yourself unabashedly in interviews, there are plenty of things to stress over during your search.
Unemployment is a stressful time as it is, not to mention the increasing difficulty job-seekers are facing in today's economy. With so many things to worry about as it is, concern over background screenings shouldn't add to the equation. Pre-employment background screenings are typically used by employers in the final stages of their employment process. While the actual nature of the screening and check varies from one employer to the next, most include criminal background checks, a credit check, resume verification, and at times drug testing.
Failing a pre-employment background check can be extremely costly for a job candidate, potentially costing you the job. The best way to prepare for a pre-employment background screening is to educate yourself on the process and follow these few steps beforehand.
Double Check Your Resume
The first step to ensuring a successful background check from a potential employer is to check all the information carefully on your resume. You want to make sure that everything on your resume is absolutely accurate. Firstly, make sure your employment and education information is up-to-date. Double check dates, test scores, and grade point averages. It can be easy to accidentally put the wrong numbers or dates on your resume. While this may be an honest mistake, some employers may see it as you trying to lie about graduation dates or grades. Be sure to make sure all of your job reference information is updated and accurate. This allows your potential employer to easily get a hold of your references. Be up-front about things. Don't try to stretch dates or test scores to try to look better. Show yourself honestly on your resume.
Obtain a Credit Report
Obtaining a credit report for yourself is a fairly easy process. It's usually wise to obtain a credit report before going through the job process. Be sure to go to the official websites of all three of the major credit bureaus. It's pretty easy to find websites that will allow you to access a credit report online fairly easily. Look through your credit reports and search for any inaccurate items. Try to find anything that looks inaccurate before you go through the job search and employment process, so that you can have things taken care of before a pre-employment background check. Disputing any incorrect entries on your credit report is annoying, but is entirely doable. Include your reason for the dispute and any supporting proof you have concerning the matter.
Check Your Criminal and Auto Record
While this may seem scary and unnecessary at times, it's better to be aware of what employers might find rather than being caught off guard. Go to your local police station and ask for the procedures on obtaining a criminal history check. You can follow the instruction they give you (they may vary from city to city) and review the report. Take note of any items that you want to dispute, such as charges that were dropped, and ask an officer for the dispute methods. It's also smart to review your motor vehicle record is complete and accurate. Ask for a copy of your driving record from your state Department of Motor Vehicles. This item of a background check may not come up for every employment opportunity, but is something some employers look too. If you are seeking a job that involves driving of any sort, this is definitely an item employers will look in to.
Jane Smith is a freelance blogger and writer for She specializes in various types of information screenings, such as pre-employment background checks, criminal records, and much more. Email her your questions and comments at

August 16, 2012

common mistakes to avoid in the workplace

Today's awesome guest post is written by Lauren Bailey. She has hit the nail right on the head with her tips for young professionals just starting out with their careers. Enjoy guys!

About two years ago I temporarily worked as a writer for an advertising company in the city. I already had a few years of corporate job experience under my belt, so working in an office setting and working as a subordinate wasn't anything new to me. But for Megan, the 23-year-old who just graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing a few weeks before, the working world was a rude awakening. She was late all the time, couldn't follow orders correctly, and by the end of month four already complained about her salary and requested a raise. It's safe to say she didn't get it.

While her sometimes overly rude mannerisms and unprofessionalism were initially blamed on her upbringing, we began to notice that a lot of the younger employees acted the same way.
Finally an employee explained the phenomena: "those are just millennials for you."
In short, millennials are those that fall somewhere between 18-and 29-years-old. They're fresh out of school and are known for being super ambitious.  Unfortunately, the same qualities that make millennials great can sometimes leave a sour taste in employers' mouths. That's because some employers find millennials too eager and unruly, which causes them to make several "mistakes" in the workplace.

Of course this is a generalization and not all millennials act like this, but just to make sure that you don't potentially sabotage your first job, it would be wise if you avoided a few common mistakes mostly associated with new graduates. To learn what those are continue reading below.

Don't Expect a Flexible Schedule

Perhaps some millennials are just too accustomed to arriving to classes late (or skipping them altogether) so they don't even blink when they shift the same habits to the workplace, but it's a really big problem. Not only can tardiness affect your performance review and jeopardize your potential raise, but it can get you fired. It's unacceptable period. So you should be respectful of your contract hours. If that means you need to skip out on the late night partying to get to work on time, so be it.

On a similar note, if you were hired to work 9-to-5, don't ask your supervisor if you can leave early because you finished all of your work. Pace yourself accordingly so that you're working the entire day.  If you need more work, then ask for it. But do know that unlike school, "overachievers" do not receive praise which leads us to our next mistake—

Don't Expect Too Much

Some millennials also sometimes have a habit of wanting rewards and recognition for the things they contribute to the company. You're not going to get a gold star sticker or get a written "good work today" from your boss every time you complete a project. After all, it’s your <i>job</i> to complete your tasks. Your reward is your paycheck.  But if you're worried about your performance, like the old expression goes, "no news is good news." So just continue to make sure that you do your absolute best on every assignment and project you are given. Don't get discouraged because you don't get the feedback or the reassurance you crave. 

You also need to understand that opportunities like raises and promotions come with time. You have to earn those things over time. In fact, talks of raises don't even occur until employee evaluations, which should be around your one year anniversary with the company. So be patient.  Don't feel under appreciated because it doesn’t happen within the first few months.

Don't Overstep Boundaries

You also need to respect your supervisor and avoid stepping on too many toes. This means not going over your direct supervisor's head and sending your CEO an email about your great ideas when you just started working there a few weeks before. Go through the proper levels. It may seems like you're taking the initiative, but no one knows you. You'll most likely get a "who do you think you are?" from your new employees. Earn everyone's respect first. People don't know you yet and this kind of behavior will be looked down on. 

Don't Get Distracted

Finally, millennials are known for using social media sites like no other. But unless your job requires you to be on Facebook and Twitter all day, you need to slow your roll and do that during your lunch break or wait until you get home. Aimlessly surfing the web to check various social media accounts, checking funny tumblrs, and watching YouTube videos can easily distract you from the tasks at hand. And you don't want to risk your boss walking behind you and seeing you're not on task either.  Eliminate your distractions. This includes your cell phone too.

Lauren Bailey is an education writer and freelance blogger. She frequently writes about online colleges and courses. She also enjoys providing career advice for new graduates. She welcomes comments and questions via email at

August 1, 2012

how going back to school will advance your career

Welcome back to Liz Becker who's written a very cool guest post for us before. The topic of further education is such a trend at the moment, there must be some truth in the saying "you're never to old to learn".

In today’s competitive job market, many people are finding that going back to school can help to give them a leading edge when it comes to earning promotions and finding a new position in their career. While many people might consider the idea of going back to school, it is often difficult to determine if the extra work and expense will actually be worth it in the end. However, once someone begins to explore the idea of going back to school, they quickly discover that not only is it easier than ever to go back to school, but many companies also support their employees advancing their educations by offering financial incentives and opportunities for advancement.

Advantages of Going Back to School 

Deciding to pursue an advanced education can have many significant advantages. First, going back to school shows employers that a person has the initiative to set personal goals, place importance on an education, and that they care enough about their work to learn more about how to improve their skills. 

Gaining an advanced degree can also lead to promotions or a new job title. For people who feel that their career has begun to stagnate, an advanced degree or certificate can be a great way to jump start their drive to pursue new goals. Going back to school can also be a way to make a career move into a different field of work.

Finding the Right Degree Program 

Once a person has decided that they will go back to school, they will then need to find the right program to fit their needs. One of the best ways to find out what degree program is best is to look at the job qualifications for the career that they would like to pursue. For example, a nurse might look into completing a master’s degree program, while a computer technician might prefer to obtain an advanced certificate in a particular type of software.

How to Fit School into a Busy Schedule 

Most people who decide to go back to school will also need to continue working. Trying to juggle work and school can be made easier by exploring the programs that are offered by accredited online colleges and schools. These schools now have online courses that use the latest technology to offer students a flexible schedule. The new technology means that courses can now be delivered in a wide range of formats that can fit any student’s learning style.

Going back to school has become an essential part of advancing in one’s career. By earning an advanced degree, people can expect to gain promotions, higher salaries and professional recognition. Students who decide to pursue an advanced degree can now take advantage of the latest technology to find a degree program that will work with their busy schedule.

Liz is a blogger, freelance writer and recent college graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University . She currently performs market research for an online marketing firm when she is not contributing her own thoughts and observations to the online community.

July 27, 2012

lessons learned from sheriff andy taylor

Welcome back to awesome guest writer Zach Buckley with a good ol' inspirational post to get us motivated towards a successful life. Enjoy!

The recent passing of Andy Griffith at the age of 86 is the loss of a television legend; one of the early pioneers of sitcom TV who was the face and namesake of one of the most popular television shows of all-time. The Andy Griffith Show ran from 1960 to 1968 and was beloved for being downhome and wholesome—words also used to describe Griffith himself.

In that career-altering role, Griffith was Sheriff Andy Taylor, the widowed sheriff of a fictional North Carolina town. Surrounded by dopey deputy Barney Fife—played by close friend Don Knotts—as well as the motherly Aunt Bee and Taylor's young son, Opie, Taylor often dispenses life advice and serves as a mediator handling many of the townspeople's trivial problems. He also struggles to juggle his job's responsibilities with his duties as a single parent while also keeping Barney and Aunt Bee in check.

In doing so, the show also provided its viewers with regular morals and life lessons, often delivered from Sheriff Taylor himself. In light of Griffith's recent passing, here's just a few of the lessons we learned from his most famous role.

1. When making decisions, trust yourself -- not the letter of the law
One of the predominant themes of The Andy Griffith Show was that, while laws and rules are meant to be followed, nothing can substitute for one's personal sense of judgment. Sheriff Taylor often taught his son that when problems arise, it's sometimes best to follow what your heart is telling you to do.
The lesson is one that can be applied to all walks of life, including business. Even though project management, personnel issues and other demands of business are often governed by specific rules and policies, many business leaders are put in their positions because of their strong sense of judgment and their well-developed problem-solving skills. Like anything else, it takes time to acquire these skills, but there is a lot of value in having the confidence to make decisions that feel right, even if they aren't the most popular approach.

2. Compliment the skills of your business and co-workers
Throughout the television series, Taylor was known for his ability to calm the impulses of the townspeople while calling for more perspective and deliberation. His personality contrasted that of the townspeople, and the town as a whole appreciated this role because he helped bring the town into balance. The suggestion made from the show is that leaders of companies should be a compliment to the styles and tendencies of the organization as a whole. The end result is more balanced decisions that have looked at a given issue from a variety of perspectives.

3. Embrace loyalty
In today's fast-paced, cutthroat business world, it's tempting—and easy—to cast aside virtues. Sheriff Taylor constantly reminded us of the importance of remaining loyal, both in business and in life. He constantly stood beside his friends, family and son even in the midst of bad decisions. Instead, Taylor focused on the positives and used his status as a local leader to lift up those around him—even if it ultimately hurt his own reputation. It's a tough lesson to learn and embrace, but loyalty's rarity makes it a precious commodity.

More than half a century after it first aired, The Andy Griffith Show can still be seen on TV in reruns. It has endured not only for its quality programming, but also for the timelessness of its humor and morals. As the world keeps spinning without Andy Griffith, the values of his life's work continue to live on through his show and its fans.

About the author: Zach Buckley is a freelance writer based in the Midwest. He enjoys exploring developing trends in education, technology and culture.  When he isn’t reading or writing blogs, he enjoys sampling good music and good food. Follow him on Twitter! @Zach_buckley

July 26, 2012

standing out without grandstanding

Welcome to first-time wannabe | employee guest writer Samantha Gray! This is one of my favorite topics to read/write about - being an AMAZING employee - for real. Enjoy her post!

There's probably not one single employee out there, who, at one point or another, wanted to impress their superiors at work. It's only natural that you want to stand out, make a good impression, and be considered for a promotion or raise in the future. If anything, you want your ego stroked, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. We all seek praise, and we all want to be rewarded in whatever way for a job well done.

Of course, part of getting noticed at work is excelling at your daily tasks. But there are other strategies you must employ for people to really pay attention to you. At the same time, you don't want to be the office grandstander. Remember those annoying people in class who would raise their hands constantly and talk just for the sake of hearing their own voice and getting noticed by the professor? Don't be that kind of employee. Here are a few tips:

1. Be sincerely helpful
When taking on extra tasks while at work, don't make it obvious that you are doing so just to get ahead. Develop a sincerely caring and curious disposition in which you take on extra work the sake of helping others who are overloaded with tasks. Asking for too much extra work just for its own sake can backfire, especially when you overload yourself and can't deliver as you promised.

2. Don't try to get noticed simply by bringing down other coworkers
Many employees try to get ahead by surreptitiously highlighting their peers' shortcomings. You might even be guilty of this without even knowing it. Instead of focus what others aren't doing, focus on what you are and aren't accomplishing. You'll get a lot more work done that way, I promise.

3. In order for people to notice you, notice others when a job is well done
In any pursuit to be noticed in any office around the world, likeability plays a big part, whether or not that's fair. But trying to be likeable to get ahead will always come off as insincere. Instead of slamming your coworkers, bring up morale by praising your peers even if it doesn't get you anywhere. When someone you work with does an excellent job, don't just congratulate them but tell your boss, too. It's in raising up and praising others that others notice you and your drive to make your team motivated and cohesive.

4. Be consistent with your work in both quality and quantity
Many who try to get noticed at work do so sporadically. They think, if I just really work hard today and the rest of this week, I'll get considered for a raise or a promotion. When employers are figuring out raises and promotions, however, they're doing so based on their overall impression of your work over the course of several months or a year. Instead of slaving away every few days, turn in quality work consistently, every single day. This tortoise approach is a much better ticket to getting noticed than working your butt of right before yearly reviews.

In the end, however, getting ahead can sometimes be race that's tedious and sickening. I don't think any employee should motivate himself solely for the purpose of being noticed by others. Just do your job, enjoy it as much as you can, and care about others with whom you work. You'll reap the rewards without even trying.

Samantha Gray is a freelance writer based in Houston, Texas, who offers college advice to those interested in furthering their studies and careers. She can be reached for questions or comments at

July 13, 2012

boosting your earning potential

Welcome back to guest blogger Liz Becker - we can all use a few tips on making changes in order to earn more. Thanks for sharing!

Although you are thankful to have a job, you would still like to boost your earning potential. Earning more money each year will mean you can put more into savings and have some left over for entertainment purposes. Whether you are new in your job field or have been working for several years, it is possible to boost your earning potential with a few strategies. It will take a lot of hard work and dedication to earn more income, but it can be done. Here are three tips for boosting your earning potential:

Go Back to School

One of the best ways to boost your earning potential is to go back to school. Whether it is a master degree or bachelor’s degree, more education can mean more money for you. Advanced degrees are usually required for most high earning positions like management positions anyway.

Don't Just Do the Bare Minimum At Work

If you want to get a promotion at work, you have to be willing to do more than just the bare minimum. For example, if you are working on a big project with some other co-workers, be willing to stay after work for a couple of hours to get more done. If your boss sees that you are doing more than just the bare minimum, he will be more likely to consider you for a promotion because you are a hard worker. Also, be willing to help a co-worker when she needs it.

Be Sure Your Boss Knows You Are Doing a Good Job

If you feel like your boss is not noticing the good job you are doing at work, be sure to tell him what you have been up to at work and what you have accomplished recently. If you talk about your accomplishments without bragging, your boss will give you more credit and possibly consider you for a promotion.

Following these tips can definitely help you boost your earning potential. Do not expect to be earning more next week, however. Boosting your income can take a lot of time, so you have to be patient. If you do everything it takes, you will start earning more money before you know it.

Liz is a blogger, freelance writer and recent college graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University . She currently performs market research for an online marketing firm when she is not contributing her own thoughts and observations to the online community.

July 9, 2012

let's get this work week started!

I hope you all had a smashing weekend! I spent most of mine finishing my final assignment for the corporate coaching course I've been doing part-time, let's hope for the best! I enjoyed the course tremendously! Such a great intro to coaching fundamentals and practices, I look forward to applying them in my job! Speaking of jobs, I started a new one a few days ago - I am now a Group HR Manager and have had a blast so far! Looking forward to learning a lot and having loads of new career tips to share on my blog in future.

As for this post, I have selected a few interesting articles to start your week off right:

... and a little cartoon about a bad boss - just because...

June 29, 2012

courses every professional could benefit from taking

Happy Friday everyone! Hope your week has been great so far! Today I am happy to introduce another eager and motivated guest writer called Liz Becker. I love her post because I am a big fan of continuous education.

Every professional has an array of skills that are specific to whatever type of work is being done. There are also a core set of skills that can benefit any professional because of the common elements in nearly every work environment. These skills can be enhanced, refreshed or learned for the first time through a few simple college classes:

1. Communications

There are several varieties of communications classes available in colleges and universities. These classes can help professionals to learn the most effective ways to relay ideas or instructions to co-workers. Communications can cover speaking in public, writing or visual communication with charts and graphs.

Nearly every professional position involves daily communications between an employee and co-workers, management or clients. Ineffective communications skills can hinder a career and can generate confusion among co-workers and clients.

This type of class can become necessary when an individual rises to a level where large groups of people, the media or government committees must be addressed in concise and unambiguous ways.

2. Introduction To Business

Every professional from a pharmacy technician to a lawyer works within the framework of a business. There are various factors that can determine exactly how a business works and what contributions an individual is responsible for making towards the success of the company.

Understanding how businesses work can allow a professional to advance more readily through a familiar structure. Knowing basic terminologies, concepts and processes can give an individual the ability to more readily contribute to the business as a whole instead of filling only a niche position.

3. Computer Literacy

There are very few professionals who do not work with computers, mobile devices or some form of technology on a daily basis. Computer literacy classes are designed to give students an overview of how technology works and how the Internet functions. This can give a professional the extra skills that are necessary to become more efficient or to take on new responsibilities.

The can also be important for tech-savvy employees who have not kept up with changes in the computer industry. Learning how to use new programs, new web services and learning what techniques have fallen into disuse can all become valuable skills that can benefit nearly any career.

These classes are all introductory and can be taken at a variety of schools. Some people might even benefit from taking certain classes regularly every few years in or to remain current. Communicating effectively with others, understanding how an employer operates on a larger level and being able to efficiently use new technologies are all skills that can benefit any professional regardless of the industry.

Liz is a blogger, freelance writer and recent college graduate. She currently performs market research for an online marketing firm when she is not contributing her own thoughts and observations to the online community.


June 25, 2012

10 hidden reasons why you might hate your job

Another Monday, another great guest post. Today's post is written by freelancer Carol Brown and I am sure many readers will be able to relate to this topic! At some stage, most of us will be in a job we really dislike so let's see if we can use these handy tips to diagnose the situation.

Do you grudgingly roll out of bed each morning, downing cup after cup of coffee in an attempt to work up the motivation to head to work? While this might be the reality for many out there, it certainly doesn't have to be, nor should it be. There are a variety of reasons why you might not be thrilled to go to work in the morning and most of them are pretty obvious, from a bad boss to grating coworkers to feeling like you're at a dead end. Yet there are often more subtle factors at work that make going to work a miserable experience, many of which you might not even realize apply to you. Here, we share some of the often hidden reasons your job seems like torture even when it shouldn't.

If you're finishing assignments quickly, don't find them particularly challenging, or just don't have enough to do at work, it likely isn't helping your morale. While some people might think a job that requires little of them would be ideal, the reality for most people is that a job that doesn't ask much is just plain boring. You might not even realize how bored you are at your job until you really stop to think about it. Boredom is one of the easiest gripes with work to remedy, however, as you can challenge yourself to take classes, work on your own projects, or simply start looking for a job that's more engaging with all that free time you have.

Living in constant fear that you'll be laid off, demoted, or pushed out of your current position can lead to a whole lot of workplace stress which, in turn, can make you generally miserable at work and everywhere else. With the economy struggling and many businesses cutting back, this may be a bigger concern for many employees than ever before, and one that you may not even realize is constantly in the back of your mind. Fear can shape your decisions, destroy balance in your life, and might even make you start to resent the power your boss has over your life. Learn to realize you can only control so much in your life, do your best at your job, and start creating a backup plan just in case the worst really does happen.

People often don't realize how many of their bad habits are tied to work. Afternoon snacking? Happy hour binge drinking? Lack of sleep? Skipping workouts? All of these things, and many others, can be tied to a workplace that is overly stressful and demanding. While you might notice the stress, you may not notice just how much your work is impacting other areas of your life, destroying your health, relationships, or work-life balance. When stress and bad habits are coupled with an office environment that promotes your bad habits, things get even worse. This often leads to you beating yourself up about not breaking those bad habits, many of which are tied directly to issues at work, which ultimately results in you disliking your job.

One of the reasons you may hate your job is because your job simply doesn't give much back to you. If there's no prospect of advancement, and no chance to grow, develop, and learn as an employee, you're bound to feel frustrated and unhappy. The ideal job should give back as much as you put in, and if your workplace doesn't offer this kind of payback, it could be weighing more heavily on you than you realize. If this is one of the underlying reasons you hate your job, it may be time to start looking for a new one or finding new ways to push yourself at work.

Do you put in long hours, work extra hard, do your best, and still never get so much as a word of thanks from your boss or coworkers? While you can't expect to get high praise (or a raise) for everything you do at work, we all want to feel like what we do matters. If your job isn't making you feel valued, even if you're helping to push the company forward or developing great products, then it's almost impossible to be happy working in that position. If your company doesn't value you, then it might be time to move on.

For some, the workaholic lifestyle is great, but for the rest of us, spending every waking hour at work, thinking about work, or tied to the office isn't a good thing. Even if you like your job, you may begin to resent its imposition on your personal life, especially if it means missing out on important events, sacrificing vacations, or just not having any time to yourself. Really think about how much time you put into work each week. It might be sucking up more of your time than you realize, which may be a big part of why you don't have much good to say about your job.

If you feel yourself hating your job, it may be because the job you were hired for has morphed into something else that may or may not reflect your career goals. Often this starts out as taking on a few other tasks and can add up to your position being radically different than the job you agreed to take from the company. While this can be a good thing for some people, others may find that it makes going into work boring or unfulfilling. If this is you, talk to your boss or start looking for a position that really reflects what you want to do.

Surprisingly, it can make a big difference whether or not you agree with your company's long-term goals, mission, or management policies. For instance, if you're a high-tech-focused person working for a company that is resisting the digital revolution, you might feel pretty restricted or frustrated at work. If HR policies make it hard to do your job, you're not likely to jump out of bed to get to work in the morning. Sometimes a company just isn't a good match; you just have to figure out if that's true for you and be willing to break it off if it is.

Do you have to keep your values secret at work because they don't match the company values? For instance, it's pretty hard to be crazy about environmentalism when you work for a company that specializes in potentially deadly chemicals. That's an extreme example, but there are many more subtle ways that your job can be a mismatch for your personal beliefs, and that may be an impossible gap to bridge. Ultimately, something will always feel wrong, and that may lead to you hating your job.

We all want to feel like we make a difference in the world, whether we're battling hunger, helping a family deal with setting up a will, or just ensuring people choose the right toaster. Ideally, jobs should offer us some sort of meaning, but if yours doesn't, then it may be a big part of the reason you hate going to work every day. This can be especially true in a large, corporate setting where you may feel like you're just another nameless person working away in a cubicle. Seek out a job that offers you some meaning in your work and see how quickly you start feeling more optimistic about going to work in the morning.

Carol Brown is a freelance contributor to and writes the Job, Career and Education articles for the site. You can view the original post she just shared with us over here.

June 21, 2012

how to get a promotion at work

Welcome back to guest writer Courtney Harrison who has written a fabulous post for us before! 

In the past it used to be the case that workers generally progressed along a set career path during the course of their careers.  The impact of technology, globalisation and flatter organisational structures has changed this. Today employees have to generate and manage their own career paths. So how is the best way to do this? Below are a number of strategies that may be useful.

Work for a Company that gives you Potential to Progress
The first question must be are you in the right organisation that will allow you to be promoted. Large corporations do usually have many promotional possibilities. However it does not need to be a large company. When you are applying for a job ensure that the company is growing and not stagnating.

Where are You and Where do You Want to be?
If you want to get promoted the first stage is to evaluate where you currently are. Why are you there and what are your strengths and weaknesses in this position? Can you use your strengths to lift you into your next position? Do you need to improve on your weaknesses? Once you have identified where you are currently positioned you next need to decide where you want to be. Develop a plan to achieve that objective. This all sounds very simple but if you think it through and write it down it will be a clarification exercise. Once you know where you want to go make sure that your boss knows what your career aspirations are.

Do the Best You Can Now in Your Current Job and Get Credit for That
Do the best you can do currently in your job. Take pride in your existing work. Although doing good work in your current work will not get you promoted if you don’t then you certainly won’t get a promotion. Make sure that you are punctual, show willing and enthusiastic. As well as doing a great job you need to make sure that your boss or those higher up the structure are aware that you are doing a great job. Self-promotion is better done in a subtle way but make sure that you get credit where it is due. Keep a record of everything that enhances the company’s bottom line.

Do More Than is Necessary and Beyond  your Remit
Make sure that where possible you take the initiative on work and don’t wait to be asked. Volunteer for work and solve problems even if they are not yours.  Try and do work that is normally done by the next level up so as to prove you are cable of doing so. Force yourself to innovate into new routines.

Seek out New Skills
It is not enough to be great at your job; you also need to establish marketable skills that will prepare you for your promotion. Further is you become over qualified for your current job then your boss may think it is a waste of your talents leaving you where you currently are. Ensure however that any new skills and knowledge learnt is relevant to your promotion. If your job is in financial investment then a course on investment trusts is going to be more appropriate than one on computer design.

Obtain a Mentor
In a recent study it found that in the case of four out of five promotions made those individuals had a mentoring relationship with someone higher up in the organisation. On one side you will learn about your organisation form a higher perspective and you will get to know about potential jobs higher up the organisation. On the other side your mentor will hopefully be there to put a good word in for you at the appropriate time.

Be Popular
In ideal world promotion would only be based on performance. In reality we are all humans and if you are likeable your promotion potential is always going to be better. In particular if you have a good relationship with your boss they should assist in helping you ascend to the next level. Moreover you should be able to act as a team player as in the corporate world a lot of work is now accomplished through teams. Ensure that you network as much as you can as the more people know what you add to the organisation and what your ambitions are the more likely your name is to arise when opportunities come up.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of tips on how to get a promotion but by at least putting some of these into practise you should increase your chances!

Courtney Harrison is a freelance writer who covers investment trusts and related jobs and services for a finance company. Everyone will deal with rejection at some point in their careers; the key is to just keep on pushing for that raise.

June 18, 2012

the work/life balance conundrum

Welcome back after a well deserved weekend! Yet another great guest post today from Rose Keating, with some great insights regarding work-life balance.

We are living in a unique time – there are currently four different generations working side-by-side in companies across the globe. As our working environment is becoming multi-generational, the issue of work-life balance is getting harder to define.  As the older generations continue to retire, the majority of the workforce will be Millennials (those born between 1980-1995) and Gen Xers (those born between 1965 – 1980).   These two generations have quite different ideas of what work/life balance should look like, and this creates a challenge for companies that are trying to satisfy their employee’s needs.

The term work/life balance implies that the two are separate entities, and that they should be kept that way.  This goal of separation and balance is becoming increasingly unrealistic, especially with the advent of smart phones.  Our work is always in our pocket.  You could be at the beach with friends on a Saturday – work email is there too.  You could be at aunt Lucy’s birthday party –work email is there too!  We are now forced to make the decision of whether we are going to work or not – over and over again each day.

The term also carries implications that work and life are in conflict with each other; it’s a battle and only one can prevail in any given moment.  Some Millennials (also referred to as Gen Y) are turning this idea on its head, and instead accepting and pursuing a blended idea of work and life.  In his post on Penelope Trunk’s blog titled, Twentysomething: why I don’t want work/life balance, guest writer Ryan Healy explains, “There is no need for me to keep work life and home life separate. The majority of weeknights you can find me in front of the computer chatting with a friend, watching TV and messing around with MySpace or Facebook. I may as well send out an email or finish up a work briefing at the same time.”  The Millennial generation grew up in world where it was normal to be plugged-in 24-7, so many don’t feel a need to disconnect from work completely when they get home each night.

Gen X has a different take on work/life balance.  They were raised by a generation that often put work before family, and as a result they tend to value work/life balance more than Millennials do.   For many Gen Xers, family is their highest priority – and as a result they want flexible hours, and the ability to work from home.  A new study from British consultancy JBA, involving almost 25,000 people across 19 countries, found that among older staff, seven out of 10 wanted more choice about their work patterns. But just four out of 10 of their younger colleagues wanted to detach themselves from the office environment.

So how can you as an employee get your work/life balance needs met?  Here are 3 ideas:

  1. Seek out companies that share your values around work/life balance When you are networking and doing informational interviews, ask questions about work/life balance and company culture. Slowly build a list of companies that appear to share your values.  Then, during the interview process, ask questions to confirm that your perceptions about work/life balance are correct.  You can do this by asking the hiring manager what work/life balance means to them, and how it applies to their life.   If you meet with potential colleagues during the interview process, ask them their thoughts on the matter as well – colleagues tend to be more candid during interviews than hiring managers.  Other great questions to ask potential colleagues who are in the role you are applying for:  How do you feel about your workload? and How much overtime do you typically work in a month?
  2. Specifically ask about HR policies.  During an interview, ask the hiring manager what the HR policies are for flexible work hours and telecommuting (or any other work/life balance item that is important to you).  Sometimes you have to read between the lines, as they may not explicitly state the policies.  If they say things such as, “I can work with you on that,” or, “I have some flexibility in that area,” - that is a great sign that there are guidelines, but nothing is set in stone.  If you hear things like, “our policy does not support telecommuting,” or, “due to our clients needs we really have to have everyone here from 8-5pm,” you will know that the manager has a hard set of rules they stick to. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to say exactly what you need.   If it is absolutely critical for you to be able to leave early 3 days per week, express these needs to the hiring manager.  The key here is timing – these discussions are best held after an offer is made, but before you have accepted.  You don’t want to start the interview process with demands for a special schedule, but it is important that you be clear about your needs before you accept a position at a new company.  

Rose Keating is a Boston-based Career Coach who specializes in working with millennial women who are in career transition.  She is a strong believer that young professionals can make a significant impact in their organization – if they have the right mindset.  She can be reached at