September 14, 2017, 1:48 pm

8 Career Moves to Make Before You Leave Your 20s

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Career

In your 20s, your life is just beginning. It feels like you have a world of career opportunities and unending amounts of time to experiment with jobs to find your work bliss. After enduring at least 16 years of school, it finally feels right to leave the classroom and start earning money and prestige in the workplace. What could go wrong?

The short answer is: everything. While job-related mistakes in your 20s might seem small, they could have lasting ramifications on your career. Perhaps the worst mistake of all is failing to complete crucial career moves that position you well for success later in life. If you are young and afraid of wasting the early period of your career, here’s what you need to do:

1.Get More Educated

To break through the lowest level of employment and reach some modicum of authority and respect, you definitely need a bachelor’s degree. However, if your ambitions are a bit loftier – maybe as high as the c-suite – you should spend some time in your 20s gaining even more advanced qualifications.

Education is a risk-free way to gain knowledge and skills pertinent to your field. You should avoid spending too much time away from real-world work experiences. Therefore, the best options for motivated 20-somethings are online degrees. If you can enroll in an affordable, flexible, reliable program – like an AACSB-accredited online MBA – you will reap the career benefits for the rest of your life.

2. Network

No matter what you do, who you know is at least as important as what you know. Especially now that job hopping is such an integral element of career development, you need to have a powerful network to find employment options and gain invaluable insight into correct career moves. As often as possible, you should attend industry events to shake hands with your peers and other influential professionals.

3. Diversify Your Experiences

While you are job hopping, you should consider slightly altering your position and responsibilities with each change in employment. By wiggling around in your experience, you can more accurately identify which tasks you enjoy and which are utterly repulsive. Plus, you’ll get a more holistic look at your field, providing enhanced understanding that will benefit you in management roles.

4. Be Passionate

That popular saying, “Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” is crock. Work will always be work; even artists sometimes find the creative process a slog. Having passion for your job – finding some type of fulfillment in the tediousness – is vital for sticking with that career for any significant length of time. If you don’t already know your passions, you can spend some time sampling courses from MOOCs, shadowing prominent professionals, interning, and other free career searching options that don’t require much commitment.

5. Set Practical Goals

Goals like “be happy and successful” sound poetic, but they do little to prompt you to make moves in your career. Instead, you should develop a concrete picture of what you want your life to look like in 10 years, and then develop a workable plan to getting there. In some cases, the SMART goal-setting method is a useful tool to help you achieve your dreams.

6. Keep Good Records

Employers love to see positive numbers in your employment history, but if you are like most people, you’ll have trouble recalling exact stats off the top of your head. That’s why record-keeping is vital. Whenever you get a new job, update your resume. Whenever you complete a project that benefits the business, analyze your success and write it down. You should have a filing cabinet devoted to your career history, so you have evidence of your impact – for employers as well as yourself.

7. Listen

Communication is inarguably the most valuable skill in any industry, and the foundation of excellent communication skills is listening. Whether you are in an MBA class or in a corporate meeting, whether you are with your boss or your subordinate, you should be listening hard. Feedback from anyone is a generous gift you can use to benefit your career, and you should accept all proffered knowledge graciously.

8. Take Risks and Make Sacrifices

According to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, the biggest risk in life is failing to take any risks. While you should be careful not to make catastrophic mistakes in your 20s, you shouldn’t be afraid of putting yourself out on a limb – especially because you still have some time to make it right. If you are dedicated to chasing true success, you are probably going to spend some of your 20s living off beans and rice while missing events with friends and family. Eventually, you will attain comfort and confidence in your career, and your 20s will have been way more than worthwhile.

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September 13, 2017, 9:30 am

So you’re in debt – now what?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Financial Planning,Pay off your Debts

The reasons people fall into the debt trap are varied and complex – from a simple lack of financial education or poor budgeting, unemployment, gambling problems or an unexpected illness that wipes out your savings, or just plain overspending! Cultural values also play their part, with some countries just seeming to instill a belief in the importance of saving and living within your means more than others.

Whatever the underlying reason, debt is a growing issue that more and more people find themselves facing, and sitting down and crunching the numbers can create an almost paralyzing sense that you just won’t be able to get out from under the beast. Because of this, many people try desperately to ignore the reality of their circumstances, ducking and diving and living in constant anxiety. In some cases, this type of lingering stress can even make you lose focus at work and become a threat to your career, which certainly isn’t going to help the situation!

The answer is obvious, but you have to be willing to accept it. If you ever want to get out of debt, you’re going to have to face some possibly awkward conversations, man up to your mistakes, and yes, your lifestyle may have to change, possibly drastically. But facing the problem is the only way it’s ever going to go away – and with a little bit of help and some discipline – it can.

Get help!

Contacting a professional firm to investigate your debt review or credit counseling options is a great place to start. One thing’s for sure, you certainly won’t be the first person to face this problem, and you’re sure to receive solid and nonjudgmental advice. Debt review firms and credit counselors can help you in a variety of ways, from helping consolidate all your debts into one manageable monthly payment, helping you come up with a realistic budget, negotiating better interest rates on repayments and even protecting your assets from repossession.

Many lenders will even offer a lower total repayment on your outstanding account when they see that you are serious about paying them back – it makes financial sense for them to recoup a smaller amount rather than run the risk of you not being able to pay anything at all. This will depend on your personal situation of course, so you will need to be completely upfront and honest about what your income and expenses are. Taking the first step is the hardest, but the relief you get from knowing the journey back to financial freedom is actually underway is more than worth it!

Getting out of debt for good

If you have several debts to pay off, it may make sense to harness the power of the snowball effect. This concept revolves around starting with your smallest debt, and paying that off first, which offers two benefits. The first, and perhaps most important if you’re at the beginning of your journey, is the psychological boost you get from ticking one debt off the list for good. And secondly, not only are you now used to getting by without that money each month, but your overall debt has shrunk too.

Really evaluate your spending habits. It’s so obvious that people underestimate just how important it is to have an accurate idea of where your money is actually going each month. This doesn’t mean scribbling down what you estimate you spend on groceries, fuel, fees and contracts – this means actually getting the real figures. Commit to either keeping your receipts (if you tend to draw cash) or only using your card so you can track payments on your monthly statement. Draw up a spreadsheet, use an online tool or whip out your calculator, whatever works for you. The important thing here is creating an accurate picture (maybe even a pie chart if you’re so inclined) of where your hard earned cash is going. Prepare for some shocking truths! Once you have the data in front of you, seeing where and how much you can cut back becomes simple.

Once you’ve committed to making payments each month, have them set to come off your bank account automatically via debit order or automatic deduction. If you have a good relationship with your employer, ask them to deduct the money from your salary each month on your behalf. This means you’re less likely to find an excuse not to make a payment because it would mean having to explain yourself to them too!

Getting out of debt entirely really is possible – and even better, once your debts are cleared, you’ve learned an even more valuable lesson. Don’t go back to your old habits and spend that money you were setting aside each month. Keep the trend going, and set the same amount each aside to save and invest each month. The lessons you’ve learned in getting out of debt can now serve you in saving up for retirement or a reward you’ve truly earned!

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September 13, 2017, 9:09 am

Have a Gap on Your Resume? Honesty is the Best Policy

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Career

When you’re looking for a new job, conventional wisdom has always been that a gap on a resume, regardless of the reason, is a red flag to employers. Employers want to hire individuals with a solid employment history, one free of any significant time between jobs or evidence of job hopping.

While many employers do still have some concerns about applicants with gaps on their resumes, research and recent trends indicate that it might not be the death knell to a job search that it once was. Not only have economic trends, i.e., the Great Recession of 2008, affected many individuals’ employment histories, but there’s also a growing acceptance of alternative paths and experiences in one’s career. In other words, taking time off to raise a family, earn an advanced degree, or even explore a passion is no longer viewed as detrimental to your candidacy, but in some cases, might even be a benefit.

The key to successfully using a gap to your advantage – or at minimum, keeping it from being a liability, is to be honest and forthcoming about why you have a cap in your experience. Downplaying or attempting to hide to the gap won’t do you any favors, and could even take you out of the running.

Why You Should Be Honest

If you are surprised that being upfront is the best way to deal with an employment gap, you aren’t alone. Researchers at Vanderbilt University were also surprised when their study indicated that women who told interviewers that they took time off to raise a family were 30-40 percent more likely to be hired than equally-qualified candidates who did not provide that information. Employers vastly preferred those female candidates who explained their resume gaps, leading the researchers to conclude that providing any explanation for your absence from the workforce, even if that time was not spent on career-related activities, is better than no explanation at all.

Not only does being honest increase the likelihood of receiving a job offer, but it can also prevent speculation on the part of the employer. Many employers are afraid to ask about employment gaps for fear of running afoul of fair employment laws (for instance, questions about gaps could be construed as questions related to family life, which are prohibited) so they try to gather information in other ways, or they make assumptions. Those assumptions may not always be flattering or accurate, so therefore it’s best to be upfront and honest.

Handling a Gap on Your Resume  

Because your resume is the document that will get you in the door for an interview in the first place, it’s smart to address your gap from the outset. If you have a significant gap of a decade or longer, you may want to consider resume services for help, as a resume expert can help you choose exactly the right words and format to highlight your skills and draw attention away from the gap.

In most cases, the best approach to addressing a gap is to choose a functional style resume. Rather than highlighting progressively increasing responsibility, as a chronological resume would, a functional resume puts the spotlight on your skills and achievements, showing employers what you can bring to the table. Think about what you have done during the time you’ve been out of work. Volunteer work, board positions, freelance work, continuing education – all can be included to show that you’ve stayed in the loop and continued to build your skills.

Most importantly, though, show employers that even though you may not have been employed for some time, you have kept abreast of changes in the industry and that you are prepared to address current challenges and use current methodologies and technology. One reason that employers may be reluctant to hire someone with a gap is a concern that the candidate isn’t up to speed with current trends or hasn’t accepted changed, so you need to provide reassurance that you are prepared for today’s workplace.

It’s also important to avoid being apologetic. Be confident in who you are and the decisions that you have made. An apologetic or negative attitude toward your circumstances will come through in your resume, and send the wrong message to employers. Stay positive.

Resume gaps are common, and they don’t have to be bad news for your job search. Be honest and forthright, and focus on what you can do, not what you haven’t done, and you’ll have a better chance at getting the job of your dreams.

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September 7, 2017, 12:06 pm

Why Every Business Needs Mobile Payment Options

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

In the early 20th century, the charge card seemed to be the culmination of thousands of years of payment technology. Convenient, transactional, and utterly futuristic, payment cards first appeared in 1921, and by 1950, the practice swiftly increased in popularity to resemble the modern credit card system we know today. Yet, we now know that credit cards were only the beginning of a revolution in payment technology. In the 1990s, the emergence of the World Wide Web introduced the opportunity to make online payments — and in 2003, mobile payments began.

Today, mobile payments are slowly replacing the seemingly ubiquitous and everlasting charge card as consumers recognize the added security and convenience of storing payment information on their mobile devices. As a result, many consumer-focused businesses have slowly started adopting methods for accepting mobile payments. However, it isn’t just restaurants and retail stores that should consider using mobile payment solutions; every business can benefit from the payment options of mobile devices. Here’s why:

Gain New Payment Opportunities

The easier it is to make payments; the sooner customers will pay — this is a well-known truth among businesses struggling to fulfill their accounts receivable. It follows that the more payment options customers have, the easier it will be for many of them to complete their transactions and send over their promised cash. Mobile payment systems typically expand a business’s payment opportunities. For example, an SMS billing system allows businesses to accept payments over text, and various mobile services allow businesses to accept card payments when away from typical POS terminals. Ease of payment is a significant boon; for this reason alone, businesses should consider adding mobile payment options.

Increase Speed of Payment

For businesses and customers alike, the checkout process is fraught with anxiety. During this period, customers evaluate for the last time whether their purchase is worthwhile, and businesses wait on edge, hoping customers go through with the sale. One of the best ways to decrease cart abandonment and increase conversions is to make it as fast and simple as possible. Customers should not be forced to endure page after page of information gathering; they should be allowed to send their payment and be done. Mobile payments typically cut straight to the point, helping businesses get paid.

Decrease Transaction Fees

Admittedly, not all mobile payment systems are cheaper than traditional merchant services — but many are. While many merchants spend about 2 percent of every transaction paying their service providers, many credit card processors have agreed to lower these rates for mobile payment providers to encourage businesses to migrate to the mobile systems. Transaction fees can eat away a business’s profits, so it is important to reduce them as much as possible.

Improve Payment Security

One reason credit card processors are keen to lower rates for mobile payment systems is the enhanced security these systems promise. Though it might seem counterintuitive — because mobile devices are inherently connected to networks, which can be breached — the intense authentication processes required for mobile payment actually do increase security. Near field communication (NFC) chips, biometric locks, alpha-numeric passcodes, and more all work together to validate a transaction, so businesses and consumers are better protected with mobile payments.

Add to the Brand

Consumers have always been interested in the latest, greatest technology, which results in technologically progressive businesses enjoying greater patronage than their antiquated competitors. Mobile payments remain among the newest innovations for business-customer interactions, so businesses that adopt mobile payment options still benefit from customer excitement to experience the novelty. Interest in advanced technology can quickly become an essential part of a business’s brand, which will help that business retain tech-savvy audiences for years to come.

Learn About Client Trends and Habits

Understanding customer behavior is one of the hardest tasks for businesses — unless they automate it through their payment systems. Mobile payment systems allow businesses to track not only customer habits but also inventory, so businesses can recognize trends and be better prepared for meeting customer needs. Attentive customer service encourages customers not only to repeat their purchases but also to tell friends and family about their positive experiences.

Add New Client Programs

With the help of mobile payment options, businesses are finding it easier to integrate beneficial customer programs like loyalty clubs and incentives. Punch cards and ring cards are easily lost or ignored, but digital programs will continue to record payment activity and reward customers for engaging with businesses. Customers tend to be more interested in returning to businesses that value their patronage.

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September 7, 2017, 12:01 pm

Key Ways to Protect Your Small Business From Online Fraud

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

As a small-business owner, you no doubt already realize the importance of trading online, whether you run a specific e-commerce venture or allow customers to order goods or services and make payments online. These days, technology means that online transactions can save businesses time and money; allow them to make more sales; and broaden trading from a local location to anywhere around the world.

However, with all these (and other) benefits, comes some risks, too. Hackers continually find new ways to break into business accounts for sensitive financial and personal data, to crash systems, and to hold information for ransom. In addition, businesses happen to be liable for the fraudulent charges which are transacted on stolen or otherwise comprised credit cards, which can potentially cost thousands of dollars every year.

To protect your business from these risks, it is important to do everything you can to avoid online fraud. Read on for some key ways you can go about doing this today.

Use a Secure Payment Processing Firm

One of the first steps is to ensure you use a secure payment processing firm to handle your credit and debit card and other transactions. By utilizing a trusted merchant services solution, you can outsource the payment process and take advantages of the many checks and balances involved in these types of digital transactions. This also means you won’t have to handle or store customers’ financial data either.

When selecting a payment provider, ask firms about the security measures they have in place to protect the details of the businesses signed up with them, and their customers. Typically, you’ll find the most secure merchant services companies boast hard-to-hack, complex encryption algorithms, and make sure all data transmitted between consumers, businesses, banks, and their firm is encrypted.

Payment processing providers with a strong commitment to security will also use numerous security protocols, including CVV2 verifications; provide support for the most comprehensive SSL certificates; and have very tight restrictions in place on how data is stored and sent via the internet.

In addition, many merchant services firms will restrict any payments coming in from countries with a reputation for excessive online fraud. They will also have strategies in place to pick up on likely fraudulent activity, and will let their clients know about flagged transactions so orders can be canceled, or more information request from the customer to verify credibility.


Be Aware of the Common Types of Scams

Next, protect your company from online fraud by being aware of the most common types of scams used by cybercriminals. When you know the methods used most often, you will be more likely to be aware of something suspicious, and will be able to teach your staff members what to be on the lookout for as well.

One of the key things to be wary of is opening emails, attachments, or links sent to you by people you don’t know, or of messages purporting to be from real companies or contacts but that seem a little off. Fraudulent messages may get you to provide details to hackers that allow them to plant a virus, crash your system, login to your accounts, or otherwise cause havoc.

In particular, one of the most frequent hacker strategies that works is phishing. With this type of attack, you will be sent an email or other message that is designed to look legitimately like it has come from a bank, telecommunications firm, social media site, or other large firm. Hackers try to make it seem that the communication has come from a company you might deal with regularly, by using copied logos, design, and even similar language.

Within the message will be a form you’re told must be filled in with your sensitive data and sent back, or a link to click on to take you to a website where you need to login and complete some action. Once you have inputted your sensitive information though, hackers have the information they need to commit fraud and cause damage.

To avoid this, be on the lookout for signs that messages are fake (such as sloppy design, misspelled words, strange email addresses); and only ever type in the URL of a website that you want to login to directly, rather than getting to a site from a link.

Ensure Your Computers and Website Are Protected

Lastly, there are simple yet effective steps you can take to protect your computers and website from hackers and scammers. For instance, make sure you install security software and firewalls on all the computers used within your company, as these act as a key defense against people trying to break in.

You should also talk to your IT provider or website software system team about securing your website from prying eyes; and ensure that comprehensive passwords are used on all devices used and sites logged into. Don’t forget to keep software and systems updated at all times, too, as the latest versions will likely fix potential bugs and security gaps.

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