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3 things you need to know before starting a home-based business

Business/Careers - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - About 16 million Americans work from home – a number that Global Workplace Analytics expects will increase by 63 percent over the next five years. In fact, every 12 seconds someone starts a new home-based business in the United States, according to Business for Home. Access to new technology, increased job flexibility and a higher earning potential are just some of the reasons many entrepreneurs consider a home-based business more rewarding than the typical corporate cubical.

Home-based business owners can easily engage with customers in real-time through social media channels. They can even take advantage of technological advances, such as cloud computing, video conferencing services, apps and mobile payment devices to connect with business partners and conduct business from virtually anywhere in the world.

Millennials especially enjoy the idea of not worrying about the dress codes, arrival times and rush-hour traffic that come with traditional jobs. Global Workplace Analytics found that 81 percent of them expect to have a flexible work schedule, and home-based business models allow just that. Perhaps most attractively, self-employed business owners also have the potential to earn more money instead of being confined to a pre-determined salary, since higher risks sometimes yield higher rewards.

But while owning your own business and working from home offer many advantages, there are some important things to consider before taking the plunge. Here are three things you need to know before starting your own home-based business:

Get established

Having the initial courage to get started is often the hardest part of setting up your new business at home. Proper financing can make or break your success. While federal agencies do not provide grants for starting a home-based business, many low-interest loan programs will give you startup financing.

It’s also important to decide what type of ownership is best for your business. You have many options: sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit and cooperative. The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that you must establish your business identity, as it determines which income tax return forms you have to file – income tax, self-employment tax, taxes for employers or excise taxes.

Once you’ve decided how to finance your business, most states require you to register your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. For sole proprietors and partnerships, you need to register a DBA if your business is called anything other than your real name. You can register a DBA at your county clerk’s or state government office.

Get in the zone

Depending on where you live, zoning laws can prohibit some home-based businesses. Restrictions may limit how much of your home can be used for business, your ability to advertise with signage, parking and the number of employees. If you’re not approved to have a home-based business due to zoning ordinances, you can apply for a variance. You can familiarize yourself with these local rules and ordinances by checking with the public library and local government websites in your area.

Depending on your business, you may need to obtain additional licensing, according to BizFilings.com. For example, if you’re a caterer, you not only need to obtain a business license, but you may need to meet Food and Drug Administration requirements. You can consult your local and state government websites to find specific requirements in your business region.

Get covered

You probably already have homeowners insurance, but it may not cover your home-based business. “The three most common coverage options for a home-based business are a Homeowners Policy Endorsement, an In-Home Business Policy and a Business Owners Policy (BOP),” says Erie Insurance Vice President and Product Manager Joe Vahey. “You might even want to consider extra coverages like workers’ compensation if you have employees; disability insurance to protect your income if you’re ever injured and can’t work; and business auto insurance if you use vehicles to conduct business.” Most of the time, business insurance provides more coverage than personal insurance. An Erie Insurance agent can help assess where your coverage gaps lie, and which coverages will best protect your business.

By taking the proper steps to establish a strong home-based business up front, you may reap the rewards in the end by having a secure, stable and profitable business with the flexibility and earning potential you’re looking for.

Categories: Lifestyle

Small businesses: Are you ready for 2014 filing deadlines?

Business/Careers - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For small businesses, January’s arrival usually brings one very important task: issuing W-2s and 1099 forms to employees and independent contractors. The good news is this year, due to the typical filing date of Jan. 31 falling on a weekend, businesses have a built-in buffer and a couple extra days to complete these tax reporting documents.

February 2, 2015, is the date to remember when preparing your business’ tax reporting forms this season. But don’t forget, even with the additional days, getting a head start on cutoff dates can protect you and your company harsh consequences, wasted time and unneeded hassle.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), businesses must send their employees’ W-2s by Feb. 2 and provide all W-2s and the transmittal Form W-3 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by March 2, 2015. This has also been extended because the normal due date falls on a weekend.

In the event that an employee does not receive a W-2 from their employer on time or at all, they can contact the IRS for assistance. Even with the extended reporting date for businesses, the IRS requests that employees wait until at least Feb. 14, allowing for slow mail delivery and other varying factors. After Feb. 14, the IRS will contact the employer for the employee, request the missing form, and send the employee Form 4852 to complete, which is a substitute for the original W-2. The payer will be notified of the penalties if it fails to comply with government regulations, which can include significant fines.

The same applies to issuing 1099s, used for reporting company payments to freelance and contract workers or other non-employees. In general, businesses need to supply workers with a copy of their 1099 form by Feb. 2.

Employers who unintentionally misclassify workers also run the risk of significant penalties and interest, so being overly cautious never hurts, according to the experts at Greatland Corporation, a company that provides W-2 and 1099 forms and e-filing services to small businesses. What’s more, if a small business fails to file a W-2 or 1099, it can be fined up to $500,000, which can accrue interest if it remains unpaid.

“We have many customers who become overwhelmed when submitting their forms and managing the deadlines over the next few months,” says Janice Krueger, a spokesperson for Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “Thirty-nine percent of small business filers are never certain if they are meeting all rules and requirements when reporting each year. Knowing what obstacles and deadlines lie in the months ahead allows enough time for tackling even the most complicated filings.”

Estimates are that 30 percent of businesses misclassify workers; so make sure your business knows how to correctly report your workers when issuing W-2 and 1099 forms.

Remembering these key dates will allow W-2 & 1099 filers to stay on track this filing season:

* Feb. 2, 2015 – Due date to mail employee copies for W-2

* Feb. 2, 2015 – Due date to mail recipient copies for 1099

* Feb. 17, 2015 – Due date for 1099-MISC if reporting payments in boxes 8 or 14

* Mar. 2, 2015 – Due date to send Copy A to federal agency on paper (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)

* March 31, 2015 – Due date to send Copy A to Federal agency electronically (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)

To make sure your business doesn’t miss a deadline, you can find a full list of federal and state filing dates to remember, along with even more reporting tips on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 tips for making your vote count on Election Day

Community Cares - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With the significant impact elections have on our country, would it be surprising to hear that only 38 percent of eligible Americans voted in the 2010 election? What happened to the other 62 percent of voters?

Perhaps it’s an overwhelming amount of information. Or maybe it’s a lack of access to the right information that keeps voters from feeling engaged. With the November mid-term elections quickly approaching, now is the time to learn more about candidates and issues on the ballot so you can make your vote count.

Here are five tips for staying informed and updated on the latest with local races and issues that matter so your vote counts on Election Day:

1. Know where to go
It’s important that you have registered to vote and know the local polling location where you can go to cast your ballot. Call your local city hall or visit http://rockthevote.com, a nonpartisan website. Additionally, learn about absentee voting options if you’ll be traveling on Election Day.

2. Get a go-to guide
Elections are personal and your election information should be as unique as you are. Whether you’re focused on the races on the biggest stage or those handling business just down the street, the Bing Voter’s Guide is designed to bring you the most comprehensive, balanced and reliable information based on the races, ballot measures and issues that matter to you this November.

3. Use customized tools
Voters are looking for customized tools and information to help them make the right decision this fall. With Bing Predicts, you can see the impact voting results will have on top issues and get the latest news on how key races at the local, state and national levels will affect you. Visit bing.com/elections to learn more.

4. Cast your vote
Make time in your day to visit your local polling place. Know voting hours and what form of identification is acceptable beforehand. To save time, avoid peak voting periods like over the lunch hour. Many states have laws that require employers to give employees time off to vote, so learn about your rights. Additionally, some cities allow voting by mail, so ask if that is an option for you.

5. Watch the results
Your local news stations and government websites should report on voting results. You can follow the polls on Election Day after voting is closed or get results the next morning. No matter the results, you should feel proud you learned about the issues affecting your community and took action to vote and make a difference.

Categories: Lifestyle

Why the next talk you have with your daughter should be about breast health

Community Cares - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - While breast cancer awareness has greatly increased over the last two decades, a recent national survey found that women and families are not talking enough about breast health. Eighty-seven percent of women said they could talk to their daughters about anything, but less than half said they have actually talked with their daughters about breast cancer. A person’s most influential health role models come from within the family, so it’s important that families - mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts - start talking to each other more about breast health.

Simply being aware is not enough. According to the Ford Warriors in Pink breast cancer awareness and education program and the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, breast health conversations among families - particularly between mothers and daughters - can help loved ones understand their risk for the disease, learn preventive steps, ensure timely screening for early detection and ultimately save lives.

For many women the obvious next questions are: How do I bring up this subject with my daughters? What’s the right age to talk to them? What do I say?

Talking about your family’s health history isn’t easy for anyone. Discussing human anatomy - particularly a woman’s breasts - can be an awkward conversation for mothers and young daughters, according to Dr. Susan Love. For others, cultural stigma prevents them from speaking openly about their diagnosis.

When 51-year-old Marisol Rodriquez was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, she felt embarrassed to talk about it - even with her then-teenage daughter, Ariel. Marisol says her “proud Peruvian” heritage created a barrier to communication, resulting in her being very private during treatment. It wasn’t until she joined a breast cancer survivors’ dragon boat racing team three years later that she became more comfortable talking about her experience and sharing this with her daughter.

Only 50 percent of mothers who have had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer have talked to their daughters about breast health, according to the survey commissioned by Ford Warriors in Pink. “Families need to become more comfortable talking about this with each other if people are going to continue to make strides in the battle against this disease,” says Love.

Now in its 20th year in the fight against breast cancer, Ford Warriors in Pink is encouraging families everywhere to talk about breast health and reminding women to encourage their daughters, no matter what age, to get to know their breasts. Not because they might have cancer – but because breasts are an important part of their overall health and well-being. Having these important conversations are not about alarming people; it’s about empowering them. And recognizing every conversation will be different is important, especially when considering your daughter’s age and stage of life. By starting these conversations earlier, families can set the foundation and open the line of communication for later in life.

Today Marisol embraces her role as a mother and survivor by advocating for important health conversations as a Model of Courage for Ford Warriors in Pink. Here are some conversation-starting tips that she follows from Dr. Love:

* Recognize the conversation will need to be adapted depending on your daughter’s age and stage in life: Approaching breast health as part of the larger picture of overall health and wellness can make it an easier conversation starter, particularly for adolescent daughters.

* Emphasize the function - not just the form - of breasts: By teaching the importance of the breast as an organ, mothers can help young daughters understand why and how to take care of their body as a whole.

* Choose a casual setting: Sitting down at the dinner table may seem overly formal or intimidating. Instead, try starting a conversation in the car or somewhere a little more intimate. Research shows both mothers and daughters feel that the car is a comfortable place for important health conversations - the audience may be captive but there will be less pressure to stay on one topic once the ride ends or the scenery changes.

* Use family get-togethers to more broadly explore your family’s health history and risk for breast cancer, highlighting its importance as a disease and as a conversation among loved ones.

Ford Warriors in Pink and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation are just a few of the organizations that not only raise breast cancer awareness, but promote important preventive conversations about breast health. As part of its efforts to drive more breast health conversations, Ford Warriors in Pink is honoring its Models of Courage, who like Marisol, have embraced breast health as a family affair. Though there’s no cure yet for breast cancer, a simple conversation could lead to a timely screening that can save a life. And more, these conversations can help equip the next generation of women to feel more comfortable making breast health and breast cancer an everyday conversation and help continue to fuel the fight against breast cancer.

Categories: Lifestyle

Hospice teams make more moments of life possible

Community Cares - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Many people agree that it’s the people they encounter throughout their lives that really make it worth living. But can the people you meet in your final months truly have that much of an impact?

For many hospice patients, including Houston Hospice El Campo patient Bryan Caldwell, the answer to this is clearly “yes.” On a daily basis, he’s come to realize that choosing hospice is about much more than choosing the services it offers. It’s about the people who truly care and strive to make special moments happen for him.

Caldwell is a former NFL player, surfer and rancher who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma shortly after celebrating his 50th birthday. When his disease became unresponsive to treatment, he sought the support of hospice in order to “keep moving and keep living each moment that comes along.” Since that decision, Caldwell’s hospice team and family have given him the strength and ability to do the things he loves, like fishing, gardening and raising birds.

Caldwell’s hospice team includes nurses, social workers and physicians to provide all of the medical expertise and support he needs. Other hospice team members can include health aides, trained volunteers, clergy, counselors, and speech, physical and occupational therapists.

For Caldwell - and many other patients - the hospice nurse is one of the most vital parts of the hospice experience. Caldwell’s nurse visits him each week and has become part of his hospice family. Nurses make routine visits to the patient’s home, making sure that pain and other distressing symptoms are well-managed and reporting back to the physician and other team members. Hospice nurses are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them an accessible and important resource for the patient and family.

Social workers are another key ingredient to the hospice team. Caldwell’s social worker was able to reintroduce him to his hobby of raising pigeons. Social workers’ responsibilities can vary from patient to patient. They often help patients and family caregivers navigate a range of practical and financial matters, including information about insurance and health care decisions. Perhaps most importantly, they can coordinate activities for patients to help them stay involved in the things that are most important to them.

Another cornerstone of hospice care is involving the patient’s family. Hospices rely on family members as part of their care plan to increase the patient’s comfort and quality of life. Caldwell’s wife, Krista, is with him every day, and the hospice team supports her in caring for his needs and participating with him in what he calls his “timeless time.” In many cases, hospice organizations educate family members so they can be more comfortable caring for their loved ones. Being comfortable at home on hospice allows Caldwell to enjoy more time with the rest of his family, including his children, grandchildren and four dogs.

Hospice is often described as specialized medical care, but that is only part of the story. As Caldwell has experienced, it is often the people who provide this care that make hospice the best choice for getting the most out of life’s final moments.

To find your local hospice, and to see more of Caldwell’s story called Finishing Strong, visit MomentsOfLife.org.

Categories: Lifestyle

Debunking common computer security myths

Business/Careers - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - All businesses can be susceptible to threats like hackers and computer viruses. Making matters worse is the great deal of misinformation floating around regarding cyber security. The Internet attracts urban legends and computer security isn’t immune from this trend. Many alleged security “facts” are, at best, inaccurate. Some of these myths are recent developments, while others have been around for years.

Clearing up some common misconceptions about computer security, Staples and Norton have teamed up help separate fact from fiction.

Myth 1: Companies that sell antivirus and security solutions create viruses

The idea that the online security companies develop and release computer viruses to maintain sales is false. While it’s true that one variety of malware (malicious software) called “ransomware” infects computers and then sells its victims a “solution” to the problem, these rogue programs are not affiliated with legitimate antivirus programs, like Norton. In fact, legitimate antivirus programs are the first line of defense against devious hackers.

Myth 2: A small business’s main security threat is the Internet

A security policy that only considers Internet-based threats is woefully incomplete. Yes, hackers can breach your network security. Yes, malware can infect your network through unsafe websites. However, the biggest risks to your security are often those who work for you.

Many security breaches originate with employees. A small number of employees are simply dishonest. More often, however, security breaches are caused by simple human error. An employee loses a laptop, for instance, or incorrectly disposes of printed or digital information.

“Now more than ever, small business owners should be taking all precautions to ensure their businesses are secure,” says Conor Kearney, vice president of technology merchandise for Staples. “While antivirus programs are a great first line of defense against cyber threats, it is important to make sure you educate your employees on what constitutes good cyber security and have safeguards in place to prevent a minor incident, like a stolen computer, from turning into a full out data breach.”

Myth 3: Apple’s operating system is safer than Microsoft’s Windows

For years, Apple users held up the relative lack of malware on Mac computers as evidence that the Apple operating system had fewer security flaws than Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. Actually, Mac users were safer because they represented a relatively small percentage of all computer users. Malware writers prefer to target the largest possible audience. As so, because many people use Windows, the hackers focused their attention on Windows and, for the most part, ignored Apple.

But now, people use Apple devices in sufficient numbers to attract malware. For example, in 2012, the Flashback Trojan affected 600,000 Macs. And a year later, Apple computer users were hit by a virus that targeted iPhone developers via the Java programming language. Recently the Shellshock/Bash vulnerability was identified as putting Mac users at risk.

Myth 4: Hackers only target “big business”

Some small businesses take false comfort in their size. The assumption is that hackers and data thieves only target big companies, major financial institutions and government agencies. However, small businesses can also be targets for data breaches and hacks.

Small businesses need to have a defense plan in place. Often, small-business owners recognize the importance of cyber security, but are unable to manage the complexity of this issue themselves. Consequently, the cyber security of small businesses tends to be neglected. “Protecting customer and business data from cybercriminals is a matter of life and death for most small businesses. Because small-business owners are insanely busy, they need a multi-layer security solution that’s easy to install and manage,” says Brian Burch, VP product marketing, Norton Business Unit, Symantec, a leading provider of award-winning products and services that deliver online protection. Easy, quick setup antivirus solutions are most preferred by small businesses. For example, Norton Small Business is a single solution to securing computers and mobile devices within a small business’ network.

A false sense of security

Today’s computer security myths all have one thing in common - they can lull you into a false sense of security. Keep your office free from viruses by always employing a critical eye and lots of common sense. Similar to your annual doctor visit, be sure to give your small business a cyber-security check, reassessing its network security and ensuring you have the proper tools in place to protect it from a cyber-attack.

Categories: Lifestyle

Not just for future scientists: STEM education spurs creativity, teamwork and problem solving

Community Cares - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There’s no denying that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is on society’s radar. President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative hosts a yearly STEM-themed science fair at the White House. STEM summer camps are popping up across the country and hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and policymakers convene annually at STEM conferences nationwide. The nation’s job market even reflects the popularity as recent data shows that across STEM fields, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by almost two to one.

Although STEM education is recognized as a crucial way to spark students’ interest in innovation and technology, there remains a perception that it only focuses on a few areas of study and does not expose students to more creative activities or job fields, like visual arts, music or writing. However, STEM education helps children develop several crucial skills outside of an interest in science, especially at the elementary level, and these skills can be applied across most areas of study. Here are a few extra benefits of STEM education beyond the beaker and microscope:

* Cultivating creativity – Creativity is rooted within the scientific process, especially when it comes to figuring out solutions to problems. STEM education encourages students to look beyond the obvious solutions and come up with creative ways to make something work in a new or different way than is typically intended, such as figuring out how to survive without natural sunlight. This kind of experience parallels the creative process a musician or artist undertakes, as there may not be a wrong or right answer and the student will likely discover something interesting no matter what.

* Building teamwork skills – Many popular STEM activities, such as building a bridge using only toothpicks and gumdrops, require students to work in pairs or groups to accomplish their objective. This gives kids opportunities to learn how and when to both lead a group and listen to their peers, and demonstrates the value of what they can accomplish when they put their heads together to complete a task

* Becoming problem solvers – STEM education centers around problem solving. The entire practice of engineering is about finding a solution to a problem, and if that doesn’t work, starting over again and finding another one. This kind of thinking helps kids develop crucial problem-solving skills so that they are ready to tackle life’s problems, big or small.

Recent studies have shown that kids are not asking as many questions as they grow older, causing a loss of interest in their environment. This startling notion has prompted policymakers and educators to take action. In 2013, several groups including the National Research Council (NRC); Achieve, Inc.; the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); as well as thousands of science educators, scientists, business leaders, and other leaders in science education, came together to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize exploration and experimentation, rather than unengaging lectures or rote memorization of facts.

In addition to new science standards, there are many programs that reinforce STEM skills and foster a love of science in kids of all ages, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. The world’s largest K-12 science award program, ExploraVision invites students to think ahead 20 years into the future and propose an idea for a new technology and approach based on a challenge or limitation that exists today. ExploraVision incorporates many of the science and engineering practices promoted in the NGSS, so teachers can use it as an opportunity to enrich their curriculum with hands-on experiences or offer it as an extracurricular opportunity for their students.

“ExploraVision provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the benefits of STEM education, especially at the early age in the kindergarten-3rd grade level of the competition,” says Bill Nye, acclaimed scientist, educator and program spokesperson. “As they work together to solve a real-life scientific problem, they develop not only an interest in science, but also develop their creativity, leadership skills and communication skills.”

While STEM education may increase the prevalence of much-needed scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it will also help contribute to a generation of well-rounded, inquisitive children who are equipped with skills to help them become the future leaders of the world.

Categories: Lifestyle

Not just for future scientists: STEM education spurs creativity, teamwork and problem solving

Education - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There’s no denying that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is on society’s radar. President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative hosts a yearly STEM-themed science fair at the White House. STEM summer camps are popping up across the country and hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and policymakers convene annually at STEM conferences nationwide. The nation’s job market even reflects the popularity as recent data shows that across STEM fields, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by almost two to one.

Although STEM education is recognized as a crucial way to spark students’ interest in innovation and technology, there remains a perception that it only focuses on a few areas of study and does not expose students to more creative activities or job fields, like visual arts, music or writing. However, STEM education helps children develop several crucial skills outside of an interest in science, especially at the elementary level, and these skills can be applied across most areas of study. Here are a few extra benefits of STEM education beyond the beaker and microscope:

* Cultivating creativity – Creativity is rooted within the scientific process, especially when it comes to figuring out solutions to problems. STEM education encourages students to look beyond the obvious solutions and come up with creative ways to make something work in a new or different way than is typically intended, such as figuring out how to survive without natural sunlight. This kind of experience parallels the creative process a musician or artist undertakes, as there may not be a wrong or right answer and the student will likely discover something interesting no matter what.

* Building teamwork skills – Many popular STEM activities, such as building a bridge using only toothpicks and gumdrops, require students to work in pairs or groups to accomplish their objective. This gives kids opportunities to learn how and when to both lead a group and listen to their peers, and demonstrates the value of what they can accomplish when they put their heads together to complete a task

* Becoming problem solvers – STEM education centers around problem solving. The entire practice of engineering is about finding a solution to a problem, and if that doesn’t work, starting over again and finding another one. This kind of thinking helps kids develop crucial problem-solving skills so that they are ready to tackle life’s problems, big or small.

Recent studies have shown that kids are not asking as many questions as they grow older, causing a loss of interest in their environment. This startling notion has prompted policymakers and educators to take action. In 2013, several groups including the National Research Council (NRC); Achieve, Inc.; the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); as well as thousands of science educators, scientists, business leaders, and other leaders in science education, came together to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize exploration and experimentation, rather than unengaging lectures or rote memorization of facts.

In addition to new science standards, there are many programs that reinforce STEM skills and foster a love of science in kids of all ages, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. The world’s largest K-12 science award program, ExploraVision invites students to think ahead 20 years into the future and propose an idea for a new technology and approach based on a challenge or limitation that exists today. ExploraVision incorporates many of the science and engineering practices promoted in the NGSS, so teachers can use it as an opportunity to enrich their curriculum with hands-on experiences or offer it as an extracurricular opportunity for their students.

“ExploraVision provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the benefits of STEM education, especially at the early age in the kindergarten-3rd grade level of the competition,” says Bill Nye, acclaimed scientist, educator and program spokesperson. “As they work together to solve a real-life scientific problem, they develop not only an interest in science, but also develop their creativity, leadership skills and communication skills.”

While STEM education may increase the prevalence of much-needed scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it will also help contribute to a generation of well-rounded, inquisitive children who are equipped with skills to help them become the future leaders of the world.

Categories: Lifestyle

Small businesses: Check tax forms for errors to avoid fines for 2014

Education - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For many small businesses, tax form filing season can be one of the most dreaded times of the year. But with the winter months quickly approaching, there is one simple step that can save you and your business headache, heartache (and money): double-check all reporting documents and deadlines.

While checking these easy-to-find facts seems like a simple thing to do, it is one of the most neglected actions among small- to mid-sized companies.

It is vital to double-check the information on tax forms for accuracy, while also making yourself aware of all year-end deadlines to prevent fines or other penalties. Going by what you did last year is never enough, as forms, deadlines and regulations can change in subtle ways.

Raising the stakes, in recent years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased penalties for misfiled or late tax forms. As a result, it’s essential to be vigilant in assembling and reviewing reporting documents. Re-reading those forms and setting reminders may be the easy fix that saves your business time, money and aggravation.

“Small-business leaders have enough stress in their daily lives, the last thing they need is to wonder after the fact if they have complied with all deadlines and regulations,” says Janice Krueger, a tax and reporting expert at Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “A recent study revealed that 43 percent of filers are concerned about being fined by the IRS for not complying with new rules or regulations when reporting. We want to help alleviate those concerns by informing taxpayers about filing requirements and deadlines, along with the ramifications of errors, late filings and failure to file.”

Many 1099 and W-2 reporting penalties have increased over the past few years and it is critical that businesses file and complete all wage and income filings on time. Here is a list of filing penalties for W-2 and 1099 forms Greatland believes taxpayers should be aware of this season:

* The penalty for failing to file accurate information on returns is $60 per return

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $1.5 million.

* If returns are filed within 30 days after the due date, the penalty is $30 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days is $250,000.

* The penalty for filing returns more than 30 days after the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $60 per return.

* The maximum penalty issuing returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $500,000.

* Failure to file information returns or if filed after Aug. 1 results in a fine of $100 per return.

For small businesses, defined as organizations with annual gross receipts of $5 million or less for the three most recent tax years:

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days after the due date is $75,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $200,000.

* The maximum consequence for small businesses that fail to file or file after Aug. 1 is $500,000.

To make sure your business has all of the accurate information needed, you can find a full list of federal and state filing regulations to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

Categories: Lifestyle

Small businesses: Check tax forms for errors to avoid fines for 2014

Business/Careers - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - For many small businesses, tax form filing season can be one of the most dreaded times of the year. But with the winter months quickly approaching, there is one simple step that can save you and your business headache, heartache (and money): double-check all reporting documents and deadlines.

While checking these easy-to-find facts seems like a simple thing to do, it is one of the most neglected actions among small- to mid-sized companies.

It is vital to double-check the information on tax forms for accuracy, while also making yourself aware of all year-end deadlines to prevent fines or other penalties. Going by what you did last year is never enough, as forms, deadlines and regulations can change in subtle ways.

Raising the stakes, in recent years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased penalties for misfiled or late tax forms. As a result, it’s essential to be vigilant in assembling and reviewing reporting documents. Re-reading those forms and setting reminders may be the easy fix that saves your business time, money and aggravation.

“Small-business leaders have enough stress in their daily lives, the last thing they need is to wonder after the fact if they have complied with all deadlines and regulations,” says Janice Krueger, a tax and reporting expert at Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “A recent study revealed that 43 percent of filers are concerned about being fined by the IRS for not complying with new rules or regulations when reporting. We want to help alleviate those concerns by informing taxpayers about filing requirements and deadlines, along with the ramifications of errors, late filings and failure to file.”

Many 1099 and W-2 reporting penalties have increased over the past few years and it is critical that businesses file and complete all wage and income filings on time. Here is a list of filing penalties for W-2 and 1099 forms Greatland believes taxpayers should be aware of this season:

* The penalty for failing to file accurate information on returns is $60 per return

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $1.5 million.

* If returns are filed within 30 days after the due date, the penalty is $30 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days is $250,000.

* The penalty for filing returns more than 30 days after the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $60 per return.

* The maximum penalty issuing returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $500,000.

* Failure to file information returns or if filed after Aug. 1 results in a fine of $100 per return.

For small businesses, defined as organizations with annual gross receipts of $5 million or less for the three most recent tax years:

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days after the due date is $75,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $200,000.

* The maximum consequence for small businesses that fail to file or file after Aug. 1 is $500,000.

To make sure your business has all of the accurate information needed, you can find a full list of federal and state filing regulations to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

Categories: Lifestyle

Not just for future scientists: STEM education spurs creativity, teamwork and problem solving

Business/Careers - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There’s no denying that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is on society’s radar. President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative hosts a yearly STEM-themed science fair at the White House. STEM summer camps are popping up across the country and hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and policymakers convene annually at STEM conferences nationwide. The nation’s job market even reflects the popularity as recent data shows that across STEM fields, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by almost two to one.

Although STEM education is recognized as a crucial way to spark students’ interest in innovation and technology, there remains a perception that it only focuses on a few areas of study and does not expose students to more creative activities or job fields, like visual arts, music or writing. However, STEM education helps children develop several crucial skills outside of an interest in science, especially at the elementary level, and these skills can be applied across most areas of study. Here are a few extra benefits of STEM education beyond the beaker and microscope:

* Cultivating creativity – Creativity is rooted within the scientific process, especially when it comes to figuring out solutions to problems. STEM education encourages students to look beyond the obvious solutions and come up with creative ways to make something work in a new or different way than is typically intended, such as figuring out how to survive without natural sunlight. This kind of experience parallels the creative process a musician or artist undertakes, as there may not be a wrong or right answer and the student will likely discover something interesting no matter what.

* Building teamwork skills – Many popular STEM activities, such as building a bridge using only toothpicks and gumdrops, require students to work in pairs or groups to accomplish their objective. This gives kids opportunities to learn how and when to both lead a group and listen to their peers, and demonstrates the value of what they can accomplish when they put their heads together to complete a task

* Becoming problem solvers – STEM education centers around problem solving. The entire practice of engineering is about finding a solution to a problem, and if that doesn’t work, starting over again and finding another one. This kind of thinking helps kids develop crucial problem-solving skills so that they are ready to tackle life’s problems, big or small.

Recent studies have shown that kids are not asking as many questions as they grow older, causing a loss of interest in their environment. This startling notion has prompted policymakers and educators to take action. In 2013, several groups including the National Research Council (NRC); Achieve, Inc.; the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); as well as thousands of science educators, scientists, business leaders, and other leaders in science education, came together to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize exploration and experimentation, rather than unengaging lectures or rote memorization of facts.

In addition to new science standards, there are many programs that reinforce STEM skills and foster a love of science in kids of all ages, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. The world’s largest K-12 science award program, ExploraVision invites students to think ahead 20 years into the future and propose an idea for a new technology and approach based on a challenge or limitation that exists today. ExploraVision incorporates many of the science and engineering practices promoted in the NGSS, so teachers can use it as an opportunity to enrich their curriculum with hands-on experiences or offer it as an extracurricular opportunity for their students.

“ExploraVision provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the benefits of STEM education, especially at the early age in the kindergarten-3rd grade level of the competition,” says Bill Nye, acclaimed scientist, educator and program spokesperson. “As they work together to solve a real-life scientific problem, they develop not only an interest in science, but also develop their creativity, leadership skills and communication skills.”

While STEM education may increase the prevalence of much-needed scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it will also help contribute to a generation of well-rounded, inquisitive children who are equipped with skills to help them become the future leaders of the world.

Categories: Lifestyle

Work-life effectiveness: It’s more achievable than you think

Education - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Having a successful and fulfilling job and life outside of work can present challenges. While the debate over achievable “work/life balance" and “having it all” wages on, one thing is for sure. Some companies are becoming quite adept at creating policies, programs and services that go a long way to help their employees find the right mix of personal and professional satisfaction.

Perhaps, no one knows the stress of managing career and personal responsibilities better than working parents. In fact, 36 percent of all working moms are the primary breadwinners for their family according to a recent Prudential Financial 2014-2015 study “Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women.”

”Employers are realizing the importance of providing supportive work environments for parents not only as a way to attract and retain top talent, but as a driver of engagement and performance,” says Maureen Corcoran, vice president of Health Life & Inclusion at Prudential. “And workers reap the benefits, too - particularly women who still remain the majority of primary caregivers in our society.”  

Over the years, a number of programs that Prudential offers have been cited for excellence by Working Mother magazine. These include Prudential’s child care and adult care benefits, flexible work arrangements, career development opportunities, and benefits for new mothers and fathers, such as up to 26 guaranteed weeks off after the birth or adoption of the child (two of which are fully paid).

Finding a good personal mix of work and life effectiveness is a gender and age neutral challenge and an individual’s needs change over time as they go through different career and life stages. If you are looking for a new job or would like to start a conversation with your current employer, consider these six areas that contribute to getting it right:

1. Flexibility
The ability to have some control over your work schedule to accommodate personal obligations can reduce stress and boost productivity. Ask about flexible start and end times, the ability to work from home or to phase back into work after having children. Does your company allow compressed schedules or part-time work when life demands increase?

2. Paid time off
PTO is helpful because it gives employees the opportunity to take vacations, manage family and household needs and take sick days without financial worries. Oftentimes, PTO can be negotiated at the start of a job.

3. Unpaid time off
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid time off to employees who have a qualifying life event. Company size, employee tenure and hours worked apply. Some employers offer more time for events like the birth or adoption of a child or caring for an elderly parent.

4. Health and wellness
Striking the right balance between work and life can positively impact physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and social wellbeing. Along with health insurance, benefits like personal wellness workshops, on site fitness and clinic services, free life, health and budget coaching demonstrate a company’s commitment to its employees’ overall well-being.

5. Personal development
If you want to grow your career beyond on-the-job training and stay marketable, does your employer support it? Ask about company-paid training programs, tuition reimbursement, options to participate in industry groups and mentoring. Professional development is primarily your responsibility, but many companies offer great ways to assist you.

6. Caregiver perks
The demands of working caregivers (of children and aging loved ones) are many. Programs that benefit working caregivers include child and adult care services, lactation benefits for new moms, work schedule flexibility, resource and referral services and counseling services for employees’ family members.

“Companies that have a whole-person perspective on their employees, recognizing and addressing the needs of their workforce inside and outside of the office are smart,” says Corcoran. “The investment they make in this work not only pays off for employees but for their customers and shareholders.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Expand and enhance your job search with social media

Education - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If social media isn’t at the top of your list when starting your job-searching endeavors, you might find the process slow and tedious. That’s because social networks are the way nearly all U.S. companies are finding new employees, according to Jobvite.

As you finalize your resume and create drafts for cover letters, be sure to plan your social media strategy as well.

“Make sure you have a social media strategy to augment traditional methods such as face-to-face networking and informational interviews,” says Lyndsay Cooper, career services director for The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville, which is a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Check out the following tips to give yourself an edge in your job search.

 * Brand consistency. Make sure your profile is professional and reflects the job you’re looking for across all social media platforms. Ensure your privacy settings are secure (especially on Facebook). On LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete with skills and recommendations. On Twitter, link to your website, blog or online resume. And don’t forget Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and Foursquare.

 * Know your audience. Your audience on Facebook is different from your audience on Twitter or LinkedIn, so make sure your updates reflect that. On LinkedIn, share articles and blogs on industry-related topics. On Facebook, post more personal (but not too detailed) updates to remind your friends that you’re in the job market.

 * Be proactive. Use social media to connect with recruiters, employers and employees of companies you’d like to work for. Join – and participate in – organizations, groups and blogs in your industry or alumni groups. Become an industry expert or thought leader.

 * Research. Use social media to create your target list of companies, then research those companies and their employees. Use hashtags on Twitter to find jobs. For example, if you are interested in fashion, search #fashionjobs. Sites like Twellow let you search people’s bios and the URLs in their bios; you can easily find, follow and engage key employees of those companies so they get to know you before you approach them for a job. Prepare for a job interview by using social media to research the interviewer and find common topics to break the ice.

 * Network online. Expand your network and engage others with similar interests by posting, sharing/forwarding, tweeting and retweeting relevant articles and blogs. This raises your online profile, and encourages others to do the same for you. Twitter works well for this.

 * Know your online profile. Google yourself and make sure what you see is what you want it to be. Go to Klout.com so you can see your “klout” score, which reports how influential and engaged you are across platforms. Another great site is wefollow.com, a Twitter directory organized by shared interests or categories. Users can add themselves to the categories that best fit their interests.

Today, employers use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media to identify, recruit and check out new employees. The Internet has helped level the job search playing field by offering access to resources that enable you to identify and prepare for career opportunities. But it’s also offered employers access to more talented job candidates. A smart social media strategy can help you stand out and land the job you seek.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

Expand and enhance your job search with social media

Business/Careers - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If social media isn’t at the top of your list when starting your job-searching endeavors, you might find the process slow and tedious. That’s because social networks are the way nearly all U.S. companies are finding new employees, according to Jobvite.

As you finalize your resume and create drafts for cover letters, be sure to plan your social media strategy as well.

“Make sure you have a social media strategy to augment traditional methods such as face-to-face networking and informational interviews,” says Lyndsay Cooper, career services director for The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville, which is a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Check out the following tips to give yourself an edge in your job search.

 * Brand consistency. Make sure your profile is professional and reflects the job you’re looking for across all social media platforms. Ensure your privacy settings are secure (especially on Facebook). On LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete with skills and recommendations. On Twitter, link to your website, blog or online resume. And don’t forget Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and Foursquare.

 * Know your audience. Your audience on Facebook is different from your audience on Twitter or LinkedIn, so make sure your updates reflect that. On LinkedIn, share articles and blogs on industry-related topics. On Facebook, post more personal (but not too detailed) updates to remind your friends that you’re in the job market.

 * Be proactive. Use social media to connect with recruiters, employers and employees of companies you’d like to work for. Join – and participate in – organizations, groups and blogs in your industry or alumni groups. Become an industry expert or thought leader.

 * Research. Use social media to create your target list of companies, then research those companies and their employees. Use hashtags on Twitter to find jobs. For example, if you are interested in fashion, search #fashionjobs. Sites like Twellow let you search people’s bios and the URLs in their bios; you can easily find, follow and engage key employees of those companies so they get to know you before you approach them for a job. Prepare for a job interview by using social media to research the interviewer and find common topics to break the ice.

 * Network online. Expand your network and engage others with similar interests by posting, sharing/forwarding, tweeting and retweeting relevant articles and blogs. This raises your online profile, and encourages others to do the same for you. Twitter works well for this.

 * Know your online profile. Google yourself and make sure what you see is what you want it to be. Go to Klout.com so you can see your “klout” score, which reports how influential and engaged you are across platforms. Another great site is wefollow.com, a Twitter directory organized by shared interests or categories. Users can add themselves to the categories that best fit their interests.

Today, employers use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media to identify, recruit and check out new employees. The Internet has helped level the job search playing field by offering access to resources that enable you to identify and prepare for career opportunities. But it’s also offered employers access to more talented job candidates. A smart social media strategy can help you stand out and land the job you seek.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 job interview questions you must be prepared to answer

Education - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s a competitive market for all types of jobs, from entry level on up. If you have an interview scheduled, make certain you’re prepared for the questions you’ll be asked.

The first step is to do your homework, which includes researching the company, the industry and the job position you’re applying for, says Jodi Berkshire, assistant director of Career Services at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. No one can be prepared for every question an employer might ask, but you should be prepared with ways to gracefully answer categories of questions. Here are Berkshire’s top five job interview questions to anticipate:

1. "Tell me about yourself." Don't mistake this one for an easy question. If you don't carefully prepare your answer prior to the interview, it will show. Craft a short response that gives a thumbnail sketch of you professionally. This is a great place to insert some of your sterling qualities and accomplishments, and you should make sure that they dovetail with the requirements of the position for which you are interviewing. Be positive and enthusiastic, and whatever you do, don't ramble.

2. "What are your strengths?" "Why should we hire you?" Here's a simple way to prepare. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half vertically. On one side list all the specific technical qualities that you possess. Look at the job description and consider each skill that is mentioned. For example, if the job description mentions software skills that are required and you have those skills, go ahead and list them. In the other column, list the personal qualities that you bring to the job. These could be things like punctuality, reliability, enthusiasm, work ethic, professionalism, etc. Again, take another look at the job description and anticipate what qualities that hiring manager would be looking for. Here is your chance to sell yourself. Don't be afraid to let them know what a great addition you'll be to their company.

3. "What is your greatest weakness?" "How have you overcome it?" You have two good choices here. You can either choose a weakness that is really a strength to an employer (you become so engrossed in your work that you find it hard to take a break until the project is completed), or choose something that you had to master at the beginning of your career that would be an expected learning curve for any entry-level recent college grad (you didn't really grasp project management in your first job and you had to make a deliberate effort to learn about time lines and time management). If you choose the second example, make sure that you stress how your performance increased once you mastered the missing skill.

4. "What do you know about our company?" "How did you hear about us?" Or, "Why do you want to work for us?" These are all variations on the same theme. The real question is: Did you do your homework? Any interviewer will expect that you have researched the company. That means that you should know their website inside and out. Have you Googled the company? Have you read any recent articles about them? If the only information you have to offer is what any person off the street who isn't applying for the position knows, it shows that you don't care enough and you're not very thorough.

5. "What would your past employer tell me about you?" Again, tread carefully. Do not under any circumstances say anything negative about any past employer. Settle on a few of your strongest qualities and concentrate on those that reflect your strong work ethic and professionalism. Here is another perfect opportunity to sell yourself, but once again, be careful not to ramble.

Once you've done your research, practiced answers to commonly asked questions and become comfortable with the idea of selling yourself, remember to smile. In most interview situations, the candidate who appears to be relaxed, confident (not arrogant) and enthusiastic usually has the best chance of being hired.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu

Categories: Lifestyle

5 job interview questions you must be prepared to answer

Business/Careers - Thu, 10/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - It’s a competitive market for all types of jobs, from entry level on up. If you have an interview scheduled, make certain you’re prepared for the questions you’ll be asked.

The first step is to do your homework, which includes researching the company, the industry and the job position you’re applying for, says Jodi Berkshire, assistant director of Career Services at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. No one can be prepared for every question an employer might ask, but you should be prepared with ways to gracefully answer categories of questions. Here are Berkshire’s top five job interview questions to anticipate:

1. "Tell me about yourself." Don't mistake this one for an easy question. If you don't carefully prepare your answer prior to the interview, it will show. Craft a short response that gives a thumbnail sketch of you professionally. This is a great place to insert some of your sterling qualities and accomplishments, and you should make sure that they dovetail with the requirements of the position for which you are interviewing. Be positive and enthusiastic, and whatever you do, don't ramble.

2. "What are your strengths?" "Why should we hire you?" Here's a simple way to prepare. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half vertically. On one side list all the specific technical qualities that you possess. Look at the job description and consider each skill that is mentioned. For example, if the job description mentions software skills that are required and you have those skills, go ahead and list them. In the other column, list the personal qualities that you bring to the job. These could be things like punctuality, reliability, enthusiasm, work ethic, professionalism, etc. Again, take another look at the job description and anticipate what qualities that hiring manager would be looking for. Here is your chance to sell yourself. Don't be afraid to let them know what a great addition you'll be to their company.

3. "What is your greatest weakness?" "How have you overcome it?" You have two good choices here. You can either choose a weakness that is really a strength to an employer (you become so engrossed in your work that you find it hard to take a break until the project is completed), or choose something that you had to master at the beginning of your career that would be an expected learning curve for any entry-level recent college grad (you didn't really grasp project management in your first job and you had to make a deliberate effort to learn about time lines and time management). If you choose the second example, make sure that you stress how your performance increased once you mastered the missing skill.

4. "What do you know about our company?" "How did you hear about us?" Or, "Why do you want to work for us?" These are all variations on the same theme. The real question is: Did you do your homework? Any interviewer will expect that you have researched the company. That means that you should know their website inside and out. Have you Googled the company? Have you read any recent articles about them? If the only information you have to offer is what any person off the street who isn't applying for the position knows, it shows that you don't care enough and you're not very thorough.

5. "What would your past employer tell me about you?" Again, tread carefully. Do not under any circumstances say anything negative about any past employer. Settle on a few of your strongest qualities and concentrate on those that reflect your strong work ethic and professionalism. Here is another perfect opportunity to sell yourself, but once again, be careful not to ramble.

Once you've done your research, practiced answers to commonly asked questions and become comfortable with the idea of selling yourself, remember to smile. In most interview situations, the candidate who appears to be relaxed, confident (not arrogant) and enthusiastic usually has the best chance of being hired.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu

Categories: Lifestyle

Tips to help online degree-seekers balance family, fun and education during the holidays

Education - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The holidays are typically everyone’s favorite time of the year. They’re filled with family, festivities, good cheer and good food. But for anyone juggling parental duties, work and online learning, relaxing and enjoying the holidays can be a challenge.

Kimberly, Idaho resident Desiree Carr, a mother of three with a full-time job, knows pursuing a college degree and balancing holiday demands is no easy task.

“Carving out time to study on top of my kids’ schedules, a 40-hour work week and setting time aside to spend with my husband can be daunting at times,” Carr says. “For me, a healthy balance and support from my family is the key to making everything work. And honestly, some weeks are tougher than others – especially during the holidays when there are so many distractions.”

Carr’s goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science to move ahead in her career, which helps keep her focused, even in the most trying times. She plans to complete her degree at Arizona State University Online, and then continue on to law school. Having these goals constantly top of mind helps her remain motivated during the holidays despite the mistletoe and cheesecake.

For working parents pursing an online education, constant motivation is a great first step in achieving your career goals. Here are some other best practices to keep in mind that will allow you to balance schoolwork, family and holiday preparations while still enjoying the most festive time of the year:

Set up a support system in advance. Let your friends and family know in advance that you’ll need their support preparing for the holidays. Share your educational goals and how you are planning to accomplish them, and let your family know how important it is to have their support. Instead of doing all the cooking for holiday gatherings, ask your friends and family to each bring a dish. This will save you several hours and give you more time to study. If you have school-age children, study with them to keep their minds active over the holidays. It’s a great bonding experience and will show your kids just how important learning is for both of you.

Create a study environment that helps you excel. Chances are your house will be full of loud voices, laughter and commotion during the holidays. A quiet workplace without interruption from your family is necessary for continued success in your online courses.

“I recommend going to a local coffee shop for a couple hours every morning,” Carr says. “If you stay home to study over the holidays, there’s a good chance you’ll be interrupted and tempted to catch up with your family instead of studying.” ASU Online offers discussion boards, library resources, tutoring and career advisors that are available online 24/7, so all you need is a laptop and a cup of coffee to get started on your assignments every morning.

Frequently communicate with your classmates. Your classes may be online, but you should still connect with your classmates on a regular basis over the holidays via the online discussion boards.

“I often found that other students in my classes were facing similar challenges on assignments so we helped guide each other in the right direction with the support of our professors,” Carr says. If students from your classes live near you, form a study group to interact in person as well as online.

The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, but the added responsibility of online studies doesn’t have to add to the stress if you plan ahead. Enjoy the holidays and make this special time with your family a priority, but don’t let your studies fall to the wayside. Trying to catch up and get back on track after the holidays can lead to unnecessary pressure. Remain focused on your end goal of completing your degree and the gift that this accomplishment will bring to you and your family.

Categories: Lifestyle

Want your resume to be read? Avoid these 5 resume don’ts

Education - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Finding that perfect job opportunity doesn’t come around very often for many, and when it does, excitement can take over and cloud the ability to stay focused on the best version of your resume.

“The main purpose of a resume is to get contacted,” says Mary Kate Robinson, career services director at The Art Institute of Houston. “Be sure to have your key ‘do’s’ first including rank/order, your experience, appropriate duties and accomplishments, correct spelling and grammar, and evidence of your knowledge, skills and abilities.”

Before you hit send on that application for your dream job, here are five not-so-obvious don’ts from career service directors from The Art Institutes International Minnesota and The Art Institute of Houston.

1. Don’t have conflicting information on your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Take the time to be certain that what is stated on your LinkedIn profile matches the resume you are sending. “Employers are doing their homework, and you don’t want to waste valuable interview time correcting facts or explaining discrepancies,” says Robinson.

2. Don’t use the same action verb. The thesaurus is not a dinosaur and it is not extinct. Avoid using responsible for over and over again. Switch it up. Use other action verbs such as created, delivered, designed, in addition to responsible for.

3. Don’t get grandiose with your accomplishments. In other words, stick to the facts. “I often correct recent graduates on the terms highly experienced or extensive knowledge,” says Becky Bates, career services director at The Art Institutes International Minnesota. “Unless you have a proven track record and have high credibility in a specific industry among colleagues, you shouldn’t be using those terms; and even then, your examples should speak to your knowledge, skills and abilities.”

4. Don’t overly promote your soft skills on your resume. “Employers ask for your resume and a cover letter for a reason,” says Bates. Keep your soft skills on the cover letter and leave the hard skills for the resume. Your cover letter should be the place where you express interest in the job, then tell them how your hard skills on your resume correspond to the specific position you are applying for, and lastly, you ask for the interview.

5. Don’t turn your resume into a laundry list. Resumes are supposed to tell stories, Bates says. “Resume reviewers only spend about five-to-seven seconds on a resume before they decide whether or not they want to continue reading.” Start your resume with a summary or objective, an introduction of sorts. The next information on your resume should tell the reviewer why you are qualified for the job. But Bates cautions that you should begin with your strongest point depending on where you are in your career. If you just graduated from college, your education is your strongest point, and so your education should be listed first, said Bates. “If you’ve had 6-to-10 years of experience in an industry, the fact that you worked at McDonald’s should go last.”

Today’s employers and gate keepers including recruiters and human resources are conducting thorough searches, and no longer solely relying on a list of experiences. The more holistic presentation you provide of yourself as a professional, the better chances you’ll have in rising above the competition.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.

Categories: Lifestyle

10 tips for becoming a more efficient and eco-friendly business

Business/Careers - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Sustainability is good for the environment, but did you know it’s also good for the bottom line? The headlines are filled with stories about the latest and greatest sustainability goals and projects for large corporations. But, you don’t have to be a giant company to be a green business.

Sixty-five percent of leaders at small and medium sized-businesses are committed to increasing eco-friendly activities, according to the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey. The survey also revealed that half of small businesses believe sustainability is good for the bottom line and will become a standard practice in the next five years.

“Our research revealed that SMBs welcome the opportunity to learn more about sustainability, and there is compelling data that education can move the needle on sustainability,” says Cox Enterprises Executive Vice President Alex Taylor. “There is a correlation between the amount of sustainability knowledge business leaders reported having and their level of participation in eco-friendly programs.”

While some projects require large-scale investments, small businesses can easily become more efficient in many other ways.

Here are some quick tips that can help any sized business improve efficiency.

1. Turn off computers and other office equipment when they are not in use.

2. Lower your heater thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when your business is occupied. Set the temperature back further when the business is unoccupied.

3. Use paper efficiently by printing double sided and using shredded scrap paper as packing materials for shipping.

4. Talk to your building manager about incorporating recycling programs, as well as energy and water-efficient appliances.

5. Offer paperless billing to reduce costs associated with materials and mailing.

Operating in an efficient manner is important, and engaging your customers and employees can also make a difference.

1. Consider teleworking as an option for employees.

2. Encourage employees to keep reusable mugs and bottles at work. Earth911 reports that the average American office worker uses 500 disposable cups every year.

3. Ask your employees for ideas on how to operate more efficiently.

4. Offer discounts to customers who bring their own bags or opt out of taking one.

5. Add a note to your email signatures with the message: Consider the environment. Please print this email only if necessary.

These easy tips can start your business on a journey toward becoming a more efficient and eco-friendly organization. The benefits start at protecting the earth and extend to enhancing the bottom line.

Categories: Lifestyle

Negligence is the rust of the soul ... and the car

Automotive - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whether it’s the anxiety of looking at a bank statement after a big purchase or waiting for news from a doctor, facing harsh realities can be nerve-racking. The same mentality applies when dealing with your car discrepancies, be it routine maintenance or even skirmishes with other drivers on - and sometimes off - the road.

These drivers are not abiding by one of the fundamental, unwritten road rules, according to a recent survey conducted by Hankook Tire. In the latest Hankook Tire Quarterly Gauge Index, results showed that 86 percent of American drivers have had their car damaged by others when parked and never received a note from the person responsible. However, despite these findings, the gauge also revealed that only 14 percent of Americans say they have dinged a car and didn’t leave a note, which begs the question: Who’s telling the truth?

Aside from avoiding issues with others on the road, drivers also tend to neglect their own routine car obligations. The recent gauge index also revealed that 57 percent of Americans leave regular car maintenance obligations such as registration, oil changes, and car inspections until the last minute or past the recommended timeframe.

But what the large majority of the driving population lacks in fulfilling some standard car care needs, they make up for in other ways. Seventy-seven percent of drivers make sure to fill their gas tank before or immediately after their gas light goes on. And although many Americans lack manners by failing to leave notes in parking lots, they take pride in their parking skills. Sixty-seven percent of drivers consider themselves “excellent” or “good” parallel parkers, maneuvering into a tight spot in two tries or less.

Now that the fall and winter months are here provide drivers with less than stellar road conditions are here, take into account these helpful car safety tips that will help you be more mindful of your cars basic needs:

Check your tank – Running low on fuel on a regular basis can be hazardous to a car because it causes the fuel pump to pick up debris from the bottom of the fuel tank that can clog the pump or fuel injectors. Be mindful of your gauge, and try to get to the nearest fueling station as soon as you can.

Check your engine – Thirty-one percent of Americans wait to change the oil until past the recommended service date. Not changing your oil often enough allows harmful dirt, particulates and acids to degrade or damage key engine parts.

Rotate your tires – According to the Hankook Tire Quarterly Gauge Index, 33 percent of Americans say tire rotation is the No. 1 routine car maintenance obligation that they put off until the last minute. However, rotating the tires allows them to wear more evenly, increasing the tires’ lifespan.

Choose the right tire – Do you know what brand of tires you have on your car right now? If you said no, you’re not alone. Thirty-six percent of Americans say they don’t know their tire brand. Knowing this information is important to be sure if the tires are appropriate for the upcoming fall and winter driving conditions. The Hankook Winter i-cept evo is a winter tire that provides excellent performance during winter weather conditions.

Categories: Lifestyle
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