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Advancing Your Career through Online Education: How to Do it Right and Do it Well

This is a post by Sam Peters, a blogger who writes about careers and online education.

There are all sorts of ways to advance our careers, and for many people, receiving additional education, whether in the form of a certificate program, or full-on degree, is the best way to go about it. If you want to switch careers completely, going back to school may be absolutely necessary to get your foot in the door.

While online programs once carried a stigma, they are now considered a legitimate option for getting a degree. Attending a traditional campus may not be a feasible option for many would-be students, and getting an online education offers flexibility and convenience.

Balancing work, and any other responsibilities you may have, can be quite the challenge. This is particularly true for people who are hoping to advance their careers as quickly as possible, and plan on pursuing an accelerated program.

Without careful planning, your foray into the online education world can quickly go up in smoke. Here are some helpful tips for succeeding with your degree program, and advancing your career at the quicker pace you desire.

Checking Accreditation

If you choose a degree program without the proper accreditation, you will put quite the crimp in your career advancement plans, because the degree will be essentially worthless. While advances in technology, and its ever-increasing role in our lives, have naturally made online education a more accepted option, it has not quite reached the equal status of traditional campus degrees, and employers want to know it is a quality program.

Let’s take the accelerated programs at Gwynedd Mercy for example.  This school’s online programs are accredited by the US regional accrediting institutions such as the Middle States Association. This means they have met the stringent standards set forth by these authoritative bodies.  Some accreditations mean more than others, so always do a little background on the organizations behind them.

Nail Down Your ‘’Why’’

If going back to school is part of your career plan—an accelerated degree program means a lot of work in a short amount of time; we are not talking about one class a week over a period of three years. You are doing this because you want to quickly advance your career, but it will be all too easy to get lazy once the real work starts. But, there is an antidote to this common problem of online students, and it is getting 110 percent crystal clear about your ‘’why.’’ Why are getting this degree? What benefits do you expect it to bring you? Keep questioning your motivations until you reach the absolute core. If you want to work in a certain field or have a certain position, why? If you want more money, why? If you want to give your kids a better life, why? The more clarity you have about why you want the things you want, the easier it is to do the difficult work sometimes necessary to get these things.

Time Management 101

A whole book can be written on managing your time well, and many already have. But, here we will get just get  into some basics. The convenience and flexibility of online programs are one of their most appealing aspects, but they can also be the very thing that take you down if you lack strong self-motivation and discipline. And if you are pursuing an accelerated course, you are going to have a lot on your plate every day.

First and foremost, do not underestimate the power of writing things down. It brings order to the chaos floating around in your head, and you will be much more likely to do all the things you need to do. Write out a daily schedule in blocks of time—say 30 minutes or an hour. It may be necessary to reprioritize your life a bit while you are getting your degree. You may need to ease up on your insistence on cleaning your house top to bottom twice a week , or volunteering for every committee at your daughter’s school. Sacrifices will be necessary, but the perspective you take on these sacrifices will make all the difference in how easy it is to make them—remember your ‘’why.’’


Consider Working Holidays to Gain New Experiences


This is a guest post by Matt Milstead.

Many people choose to spend their vacations relaxing somewhere on a beach or by the pool at their spa/hotel. Instead of going for the cliched holiday, perhaps it would be a good idea to experience a working holiday in a new country.

The idea of working through the holidays may not sound appealing, but working in a different country can often be the experience of a lifetime. Many individuals travel to places such as Australia and New Zealand to work during the holidays. Getting a visa for these job opportunities is very easy, and the experience can often be life changing.

Skilled Workers Needed

Areas such as Australia have a shortage of skilled workers, which is why medical recruitment is always taking place overseas. They are more than happy for people to travel from other parts of the world and spend a few weeks or months working in major cities. Areas such as Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne all offer many vacancies when it comes to temporary hospital jobs, as well as jobs in other industries requiring skilled workers.

Great Pay

You would be surprised by how well paid employees are in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Many people have spoken about how they earned more in one week in Australia than they would make in a month in the United States. That is a serious opportunity to make money, and one that should not be passed up. Their minimum wage is double that of the United States, and most skilled workers make two or three times that minimum amount.

Experience New Places and New People

Going back for another week of your usual, mundane job would not appeal to anyone. However, travelling around the world and temporarily living in another city sounds a lot more exciting. While you are working in the location of your choice, you would have plenty of time to explore different cities, check out tourist spots, and get a feel for a completely different culture.

In addition, the people you work with will provide further fresh experiences. You could make new friends, hang out with different personalities, and get a completely different take on life from the one you are used to. There are many advantages to taking a holiday work experience in a new country, but experiencing a new culture has to be right up there.

Work/Life Balance

The balance between working and having time off is outstanding in most jobs you will get in Australia or New Zealand. You will work from 9 to 5, but you will have the rest of the day off to enjoy yourself. In addition, your weekends will be entirely free for exploration and relaxing experiences.

If you want to experience something different in your life, it may be time to get a holiday job in a new country. Instead of doing the same things you have been doing for the past 20 years, this experience will give you a chance to be different. You can also witness first hand why so many people love living in Australia and New Zealand.


Close the Gap Between Graduation and Employment


This is a guest post by Sam Peters.

Unfortunately, nobody is going to be standing next to the stage waiting to hand you the keys to a brand new office and six figure job when you graduate. While the daydream is nice, the practicalities of finding employment are a little more involved than that. Don’t worry, though: with these steps, it won’t be long before you become one of those project management staffers you spent your years in business school admiring.

Your Foundation

Hopefully you will have found a way to gain some practical business-related experience while you were still in college. Maybe you had a part time job at a bank as a teller. Perhaps you worked in the business office for your work study job. You undoubtedly have had at least one internship (most colleges won’t allow you to graduate without at least one these days) and hopefully you found one within your field.  This is all experience that you can mine for potential employment after graduation.

Your Resume

Make sure you list all of these positions, even if they were gained through work study grants, on your resume! A potential employer wants to see that you have at least some practical experience in your field! Don’t worry if the experience is scant. There are plenty of ways that new graduates can beef up their resumes.

Community Service

One of the best ways to not just beef up a resume but gain some real world experience (and, potentially make the connections you need to get a job) is by volunteering. Offer to help out in the business office at a local non-profit. While volunteering doesn’t pay off monetarily it pays off in other ways. It gets you out of the house regularly. It gives you “real world” experience that you can list on your resume. It also helps you meet people. These are people who might be able to help you find the paying job you need so much. If nothing else, they are great references to list on your resume and job applications.

Bridging the Gap

Unfortunately you might need to find ways to bridge that gap between graduation and gainful employment. This is where knowing how to create and live by a budget is important. You might also look into taking on at least a part time job to help with expenses. You’ll most likely need to live with a roommate. Don’t worry, these things aren’t permanent (except the budgeting thing—sorry readers, that’s a lifelong thing that you’ll just need to get used to doing).

The good news is that you will get there eventually. You just need to keep plugging away and stay active. That corner office will be yours before you know it!

Sam Peters is a blogger who enjoys writing about the employment market and education.


Never Too Late

Guest post: Sam Peters

Today’s economy has hit many people in a hard way. Some people have lost their jobs, while others have simply discovered that they need to make more money to make ends meet. The job market has definitely suffered over the last few years. Now, even though jobs are returning, it is harder than ever to land gainful employment. Even if you have years of experience in your field, if you don’t have a degree you could find it very difficult to find a job.

Luckily, there is something you can do about it. There are many options available for busy adults needing to continue their education. Whether you want to attend full time to get a job quickly, or part time to keep the job you have, there are options available for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you are at in your career. If you want to advance in your chosen field or change careers entirely, it is never too late.

The first step in continuing your education is to determine how you are going to pay for it.

Thankfully, there are many programs available for a solution to this problem. If you have low income or no income, you may be able to qualify for a Pell Grant from the federal government to pay for part or all of your tuition.

In addition, you should be able to qualify for needs based student loans that are low interest to cover the rest of your tuition as well as books and supplies necessary for completing courses. Some student loans do not accumulate interest until you are out of school, and all student loans do not become payable until you are out of school for six months.

The next step is to find a school that you want to attend. There are online schools, traditional schools, and those schools that incorporate both methods into their degree programs. Which schooling method you choose will depend on your individual ability to learn, how you learn best, and what you have time for.

If you are working a full time job, it may be in your best interests to find an online college that offers the degree program you want to earn. This way you can do your work on your own time schedule. You can get a fair idea of colleges available and their degree programs by visiting sites like The College Network.

Once you have chosen a school and made financial arrangements, you can go about the process of transferring any college credit you have to your new degree program. This could cut down the amount of time it takes to earn your degree. In addition, many colleges offer the option to earn college credit for experience.

For example, if you have ten years of experience in marketing, you could take an exam that covers everything in a basic marketing course to get college credit for your experience. This can also greatly cut down on the work you have to do to earn a degree.

Sam Peters is a blogger who enjoys writing about  career development.


7 Tips for Social Media Ghostwriting

keyboard ~ blur

A post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

So you’ve been asked to ghostwrite a blog (or other social media status updates)…

PR pros have always served as ghostwriters in some capacity – speech writing, drafting executive quotes for press releases, developing ‘talking points’ for interviews… With the explosion in content marketing and more and more opportunities for self-publishing via social media, the role of ghostwriter has become even more common.  I won’t get into the ethics of ghostwriting here. A fine and thorough discussion on that topic has already been held at the Marketing Profs blog when Beth Harte wrote Ghost Writing, Social Media and Ethics.

If you find yourself in the position of ghostwriting a blog, or tweets, or Facebook status updates, here are 7 tips for doing it well:

  1. Get in character – This is an obvious tip, but one that can be easily overlooked. If you’re writing a blog post on behalf of an executive, you should think about examples and references that person would use. Which media would they cite or retweet? How would they address industry leaders or bloggers (whom they may have a personal relationship with)? An easy way to remember these character references is to create a style sheet – a trick that those in the publishing world are familiar with.  Copy editors use style sheets to refer to spellings of common words in the text (for consistency). Authors and “real” ghostwriters use it to keep track of their character(s)’ preferences.
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate – Remember that old saying, “a stitch in time saves nine”? Up-front planning is essential and so is an agreement with your boss that covers the rules of engagement, the editing and approval process for posts and an understanding of how responses and comments are handled.  And timeframes!  Don’t forget to talk about timeliness.
  3. Play it straight – There are many different shades of ghostwriting. Are you writing copy based on the perspective of one person? Or writing in the voice of a company or brand that needs to stick to core marketing messages? Whatever role and voice you are tasked with, stick to it.
  4. Be a professional at all times – social media is certainly a pulpit, but should never be used by a professional as a bully pulpit.  And for pete’s sake, consider the bridges that don’t need to be burned and don’t do this.
  5. Know when to call in your boss – This is sort of an extension of Tip #2. It goes beyond notifying your boss when someone comments on the post or providing status reports on the SEO results. The purpose of social media is to engage with one another online – part of a PR professional’s role is to identify opportunities for their boss or client to make those connections and as a ghostwriter you are in a unique position to initiate and identify opportunities.
  6. Don’t misrepresent your identity and/or motives online — I can’t really think of any time when it makes sense to fool a reader. Most audiences know that the busy CEO who is communicating with them didn’t draft, edit and post their own lines.  Unless it’s obvious that the CEO does do that (in which case a ghostwriter is not in the picture).  Audiences accept that – to an extent – and they also assume that the ghostwritten words they’re reading reflect the true intent of the CEO.
  7. Be trustworthy – Trust is essential in all client relationships so earn that trust in your role as a ghostwriter. Start by building in extra review time and making time to discuss topic ideas and run concepts by your boss. Demonstrate that you are on top of things by having the right tracking mechanisms in place. These practices will seem more and more natural as time goes by.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on You can find her at Learn more about Alison Kenney.

Photo credit: striatic

How To Tackle Job Interviews If You Suffer From Hearing Loss

This is a guest post from Hearing Direct.

Hearing loss, especially age related hearing loss is a common condition which affects many job seekers. There are couple of strategies which will help to better manage the situation and to improve job interview chances.

Strategies to tackle phone interviews:

1. Ask for a written interview instead – employers will often conduct a telephone interview to short list suitable candidates for a face to face interview. If you have difficulty with telephone interviews due to hearing loss, you should be open about your hearing loss and request a written interview by email. Employers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments.

2. Use a telephone aid – there are plenty of devices which can amplify sound to a level which will allow you to hear the other person on the line. These are called ALDs (or assistive listening devices) and for a job interview by telephone, an external amplifier or extra loud phone will do the job. You may also find it useful to conduct the interview in a quiet room where you can focus on listening to the interviewer rather than background noises.

3. Conduct a mock interview – if you haven’t had a telephone interview for a while or you are looking to try a new telephone amplifier, a mock interview is often the answer. The interviewer can be a friend or family member and will ensure you are ready for the real deal.

Strategies to tackle face to face interviews:

3. Position yourself accordingly – if you find yourself in a job interview and find it hard to hear the other person, consider these strategies. Move closer and position yourself so that you are facing the interviewer. Ensure that the room is well lit and you can see the interviewer clearly. Watch
the speaker’s face, lips and gestures for clues as to what’s being said.

4. Fill in words – don’t strain to hear every word. People with normal hearing miss words during an interview as well and ‘fill in’ the missing words and understand the concept from the other sentences. You should adopt the same strategy.

5. Use a hearing aid – hearing aids are small micro-engineered computers which can amplify external sound to a suitable level. In recent years, hearing healthcare professionals have seen large changes, not just in what hearing devices can do, but how they are worn. These changes
can be attributed to a reduction in the size of components, increased durability and cosmetic concerns on the part of the wearer. In most cases, the hearing aid will not be visible so any concerns of cosmetic appearance are unjustifiable.

Job Interview mistakes to avoid:

Hearing loss is a common condition and you should disclose your condition to the interviewer to avoid unexpected concerns and misconceptions. Employers have a responsibility to make reasonable adjustments for interviews and employees. People who suffer from hearing loss without disclosing their condition or without taking steps to improve the situation might be seen as difficult to work with by their co-workers or by their managers.

Article by hearing aids seller, Hearing Direct. If you wish to find out more about hearing loss you
can read our guide to hearing and hearing loss.


From the Recruiter's Desk on PRNewser is back!

I started writing my bi-monthly column on PRNewser again. This week it's about digital vs. traditional resumes and which is more important.

Here's an excerpt:

The digital resume has been a hot topic of debate with the rising popularity of social and professional networking sites. People ask me all the time if they should be replacing their traditional resumes with a new, digital format. My answer: yes and no.

See the rest of the post on PRNewser - From The Recruiter's Desk: Digital Vs. Traditional Resumes


Lessons Learned and 2010 Resolutions

This is a guest post by Dacrie Brooks.

During this time of year, most people - determined not to make the same mistake twice - will take a retrospective look back to what could've be done differently.

And while this typically involves personal retrospection (i.e., losing weight, better financial planning, etc), it wouldn't hurt for PR professionals to examine PR lessons learned from 2009. Whether it's re-evaluating your approach to counseling clients, maintaining better PR budgets in 2010, or simply making it a priority to communicate more effectively to media - every PR pro should have a resolution!

So, while we're all in the spirit of giving this holiday season - I'm going to share my top two lessons learned in 09 and resolutions to strive for in 2010. Here we go:

1. Become a Better Communicator
If you've been a PR professional for more than a decade (like me), it's time to brush up on your communication skills. As a senior PR professional, I have been guilty (I'm admitting this) of assuming that my clients understand how to reach their target audiences through media.  But in retrospect, I've learned not to assume and to challenge my clients' thinking, strategies and ways of doing things. The same approach is not always the best approach. In 2010, I want to push my clients to become more innovative, strategic and passionate in the way they communicate with media. In order to do this, I must also push myself to think beyond the now.

2. Gain A Greater Sense of Balance
In 2009, everything is social. Whether it's Facebook, Friendfeed, Linkedin, Digg or Twitter - almost everybody, everywhere is on one social media network. They're even corporate communications programs specifically designed to be social. So now, people in the PR world are seeking to fill positions that require social media savvy experts.

But amid all of the social networks and social buzzwords, communications professionals should never fully discard traditional media. In fact, a solid PR campaign typically strikes a good balance between social and traditional media, and depends on both to make a real impact.  In 2010, I want to continue working with bloggers and online media but I should be coming up with new ways to blend the two to help clients build and reinforce their brands.

Dacrie Brooks is a seasoned PR executive with more than 10 years of media relations experience. She works with some of the nation's most widely respected journalists at the top business and daily news outlets. You can find her at Brooks Media Relations.


Quick Tip: Job Searching on Facebook

If you haven't noticed already, Facebook Search has become much more powerful. You can now search by keyword your Friends status updates. If you are looking for a job, this is one extra tool to add to your daily search routine.

It's easy. Search for any keyword terms you want (i.e. job, PR Manager, AE, etc.) Once your search results appear, take a look at the filters on the left side of the page and click Post by Friends (or everyone depending on your search terms).



Unemployment and the Job Search on PRNewser

It's that time again. I write a bi-monthly guest column on PRNewser. This post is about how employers view unemployed candidates and a job search tips for those who find themselves in this position.

Here's an excerpt:

Olson's latest column answers a question that has been popping up with increasing frequency as of late: is unemployment a disadvantage in your job search?

I'm asked this question every day. Maybe you saw the recent Wall Street Journal article, Only the Employed Need Apply, about employer's attitudes towards unemployed candidates? That one got me very fired up and I ended up writing a bit more about it on my blog.

I wish I could say that employers today equally evaluate the skills of the employed versus the unemployed for their open positions, but it's simply not true. Unemployment raises a whole slew of questions and judgments that doesn't affect employed candidates. Some hiring managers, especially those who have never been a victim of a reduction in their careers, admittedly or not, equate the laid off with the damaged. Others believe that a company would never let go of their superstars - if the unemployed candidates were any good they would be still employed.

See the rest of the post and three tips to help in the job search on PRNewser.


From the Recruiter's Desk: Is Unemployment a Disadvantage in Your Job Search?


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