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Updated: 23 min 11 sec ago

Giving back to the everyday heroes who inspire you

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - When you think of public servants or people who do heroic jobs, do you picture police officers, firefighters and soldiers? While all those people selflessly serve the public, they’re not the only everyday heroes whose jobs contribute to the greater good. The field of public service is broad, encompassing teachers, health care workers, law enforcement professionals and social workers.

Demand is high for caring, trained professionals to fill a growing number of jobs in public service fields. In fact, job opportunities are expected to grow 22 percent for social and human service assistants, 7 percent for firefighters, 6 percent for high school teachers and 5 percent for police officers and detectives, across the nation by 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Some of the professionals to fill those jobs will come directly from colleges like Kaplan University, where first-time students will pursue coursework designed to specifically prepare them for public service careers. Others will be career changers, like Arthur Chapel and Melissa Bowermaster, who entered public service after enduring personal challenges and were inspired by the caring help of other public servants.

“I was in a bad place, and someone helped me,” says Arthur Chapel, who successfully completed substance-abuse treatment and then decided to change careers to become a counselor. “Now I give back by helping others who need it. I have the satisfying career I always wanted and I get up every day eager to go to work because I know I’m helping people who need it.”

“Working in law enforcement, I saw every day the caring of the human services people I came into contact with,” says Melissa Bowermaster, executive director of Citrus County Child Advocacy Center in Florida. Her interaction with these professionals, especially those who worked with children, inspired her to return to school to pursue a human services degree. After graduating from Kaplan University with a bachelor’s degree of science in human services, Bowermaster went to work advocating for children in need in Citrus County.

Chapel and Bowermaster aren’t alone in finding inspiration from the everyday heroism of public servants. Each day, these professionals have a positive effect on thousands of people across the country. In honor of Public Service Recognition Week, May 4 to 10, Kaplan University is inviting the public to salute the everyday heroes in their lives.

Post a photo and story of your everyday hero – police officer, firefighter, EMS, early childhood teacher, social worker or other – using the tag #PublicServiceStars through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+, and then register at the #PublicServiceStars Wall of Heroes. As a thanks for submitting your story, you’ll have the chance to make a difference in the lives of others. Kaplan University will make a $500 donation to the favorite charitable cause of one lucky participant.

To learn more about public service career opportunities, visit www.kaplanuniversity.edu or the Center for Public Service website.

Categories: Lifestyle

Tips to successfully transform from graduate to employee

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - With the start of summer comes warm weather, vacation planning and an influx of recent graduates on the job hunt. In fact, during the 2013–14 school year, colleges and universities are expected to award nearly 5.3 million degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. All those recent grads can easily translate to a highly competitive job market.

As students begin planning for their future outside the classroom and preparing for the next chapter of their lives - finding a job, apartment hunting, paying back student loans - many realize that graduation is an opportunity to refresh one’s persona and digital reputation. This can include social media makeovers, refreshing your tech skills and upgrading your outdated email service to something more suitable for the next phase in life.

“Think of your digital footprint – your email address, social media and even the results of a search of your name – as the first impression you make on a company or recruiter. An excellent one will open doors,” says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence. “Because recruiters and executives receive hundreds of inquiries a day, they need easy ways to weed people out. Many recent grads overlook the importance of their digital footprint and use amusing, old email addresses that undermine the professional image they want to convey, or their social media pages reflect a candidate who is irresponsible, profane or disrespectful, any of which quickly moves someone to the ‘no’ pile. Jobseekers first task: clean up their digital image and make sure it makes a positive impression.”

There are several mail tools and features recent grads should leverage when making the transition from student to newly employed, including:

* Manage your email reputation: Your email says a lot about you. In fact, it can be thought of as your first impression to employers. Whether you need to migrate over from an outdated email address or upgrade to a more professional email username, Outlook.com’s import wizard allows you to import and manage your mail from Yahoo Mail, Gmail and many other email providers. You can even keep your old email addresses, but manage them all from one place.

Additionally 81 percent of all email users are using multiple email services, making it hard to keep up with numerous or old accounts, a recent study by Radius Global revealed. Consider consolidating to one personal email address to keep you connected and manage your contacts in one place.

* Utilize a shared calendar to organize your networking schedule: Having an always up-to-date address book and shared calendar available across your phone, tablet, and other devices makes networking easier because you aren’t tied to any one device where information might be saved. Your Outlook.com calendar is accessible right from your inbox, so it’s easy to stay up-to-date, subscribe to online calendars, import events from your other calendars, or share your agenda with family to keep everyone in sync. You can also send invitations, track RSVPs, and set notifications to stay on schedule.

* Leverage the tools employers care about most: A recent Microsoft survey looked at the job and skill requirements from 14.6 million job postings from the second and third quarters of 2013 and identified the 20 most common skills required for those positions. Proficiency in Microsoft Office was among the top five skills employers look for in a prospective new-hire. Outlook.com allows consumers to create, open, edit and share Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for free using Office Online, accessible from your inbox. It’s a great way to create, access and share your resume and there’s no need for you or those you share with to install Office, and your formatting stays intact.

* Remember that’s it’s all about who you know: As the old saying goes, “it’s all in who you know,” so working off one set of contacts that pulls in information from your social networks allows you to check your contacts’ recent status updates, profile pictures, and Tweets while you email them. Additionally, many recent graduates are looking for jobs outside of their current residence. Don’t let distance be a factor in the job hunt by staying connected with Skype chat and video calls right from your Outlook.com inbox.

Staying organized and being informed can be the difference between landing a job and a missed opportunity. For more tips, visit www.MicrosoftForGrads.com to learn more.

Categories: Lifestyle

Overlooking insurance during your job search could cost you

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - An improving economy has many people entering the job market and looking for new employment opportunities. But if job seekers are not insurance-smart in their search, they may end up in worse financial shape than they were in their previous role.

Earning a higher salary is the primary goal for many job seekers, but research from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) shows that many job seekers ignore the wider benefits package, not realizing that insurance benefits alone can account for nearly 10 percent of total compensation, according to research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This could be costly, as 25 percent of job switchers found out. In fact, new employees reported that insurance-related changes in their new position either slightly or greatly worsened their overall financial situation.

If you are exploring new opportunities in the job market, make sure you ask these questions.

Five tough questions to ask when changing jobs

1. Beyond salary, what are the other financial implications of making a job change?

2. What options do I have to cover medical expenses while I’m between jobs?

3. If something catastrophic happens to me between jobs, is my family protected?

4. Have I thought through all of the financial consequences of a job change that includes a long-distance move?

5. All things considered, could this be a good time to start my own business?

Asking yourself these questions will put you in a better position to research new opportunities in an informed way. Before you decide to accept a new position, make some smart insurance decisions to be sure you and your family are protected during the transition.

Five insurance-smart things to do as you change jobs

1. Find out if your new employer has a mandatory waiting period before health insurance coverage takes effect. If so, consider a short-term plan to cover the gap.

2. Conduct a line-by-line comparison of your current health plan with plans offered by your new employer to determine the right blend of deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance for your needs.

3. If you have children and your health insurance coverage is at risk of lapsing, look into government-sponsored programs, such as Children’s Health Insurance Plans (CHIP). These plans may provide coverage at little or no cost to you.

4. See if your current group life insurance plan has a conversion privilege. You may have 31 days from the day you leave your employer to submit an application.

5. Insurance rates and coverage vary greatly from state to state. Before a move across state lines, contact your state insurance department so you know what to expect.

Accepting a new position can be an exciting time in your professional life. By asking the right questions you can ensure your new job is even more profitable for your family than your last. For more tips, tools, videos, interactive games and downloadable apps to help you get smart about insurance during a job change or other life event such as buying a car, buying a home, getting married, becoming a parent or even turning 50, visit InsureUonline.org.

A fun video by the NAIC illustrates the importance of educating yourself on insurance during these life events.

Categories: Lifestyle

Going home again: A great office is a key to success for new home-based workers

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whoever first said, “You can’t go home again,” probably wasn’t considering the 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, or the approximately 37 million households that have active home offices. More workers are plying their trade from home, as employers recognize the value of flexibility for their work force and more employees decide to enter the ranks of American entrepreneurship.

It’s not just small business owners or lucky full-time employees who are working from home, either; the Bureau of Labor Statistics says 24 percent of people employed outside the home work at home at least some of the time. If you’re poised to become home-based, here are some things to consider as you’re putting your home office in order:

Location is key

Without the need to fight rush-hour traffic during a twice-daily commute, you may think the location of your home office isn’t that important. Actually, it is. Where your office is located in your home can affect your productivity and even your personal life.

Choose a room that’s in your home’s heavy traffic lanes, and you could face frequent interruptions. Park your desk in the game room over the garage and you may feel isolated from the rest of the house. Try to stuff a desk in a corner of your bedroom and you’ll spend most of your life stuck in the same room – you may even feel less inclined to sleep there if you’re always working in your bedroom.

You’ll need to balance personal and professional priorities in order to decide which room in the house makes the most sense for your home office.

Good lighting sets the stage for success

The harshness of artificial lighting is a common complaint among people working in offices outside the home. A window in one’s office has long been a sign of prestige in cities across the country, and having abundant natural light in a home office is one of the many advantages of working from home. Natural lighting has a mood-boosting impact that’s been well-documented, making office workers feel happier, healthier and more productive. What’s more, use of natural light can help reduce reliance on artificial lighting and trim utility bills accordingly.

If the space you’ve chosen for your home office is short on windows and adding them isn’t practical, skylights can be a good alternative, not only for lighting but also to save valuable wall space for other uses. Adding Energy Star-qualified skylights, like those manufactured by VELUX America, can be as cost-effective as installing quality vertical windows, without creating the hassle of opening a wall. If you opt for a remote-controlled fresh air skylight, you can also use it to enhance the indoor air quality of your home office. Additionally, many of the features that make skylights appealing in other areas of the house – such as privacy in a bathroom or space conservation in a small bedroom – also make them a good choice for a home office.

Finally, skylights can be a good investment for your home-based business. Adding no-leak solar-powered fresh-air skylights and energy-efficient solar-powered blinds to your home office can qualify for a 30-percent federal tax credit on both products, including the installation costs. And from now until Aug. 15, there’s also a $200 cash rebate from VELUX on solar powered skylights. Visit www.veluxusa.com or energystar.gov to learn more about energy-efficient skylights.  Want to see how skylights would look in your home?  A free skylight planner app is available to show you, room by room, what’s possible with skylights.

Furnishings create a foundation

Considering how much time you’ll spend in your home office, it’s important to invest in furnishings that will be functional, comfortable, inspiring and in step with your lifestyle.

If you prefer to sit while you work on a computer, the comfort of your office chair will be key. Prefer to get in a bit of healthful exercise while you work? Consider an ergonomic desk that allows you to stand while you type. Many versions of standing desks also can be lowered for use while seated.

Desks should incorporate storage and easy access to electronic components. Office chairs should be comfortable and ergonomically correct. Be sure your furniture choices not only fit your needs, but the room’s, too. A huge desk may make you feel like a Wall Street CEO, but your enjoyment will evaporate if you don’t have space to walk around the desk in a small office. It’s important to keep office furniture appropriate to the scale of the room you’ll be working in.

The number of people working from home continues to grow, according to Census Bureau statistics. One study by a Chinese travel website found that working from home increased employee productivity by nearly 14 percent, according to the Harvard Business Review. Ensuring your home office is set up to inspire can help you achieve greater productivity and satisfaction as you work from home.

Categories: Lifestyle

Growing your business: Tips for applying for small business loans

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The outlook for small business is up with many business owners feeling good about the future of the economy, their financial positions and their plans for growth, according to Capital One’s Spark Business Barometer. But for many business owners looking to secure capital to either start or expand their enterprise, the process can be challenging, particularly for those with a limited or negative track record, or poor personal credit. Fortunately, there are a variety of products and programs designed to help address those challenges and enable business growth, one of which is offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (or SBA).

SBA loans offer a number of key advantages, including longer payback terms and higher borrowing limits, which can be useful when financing necessities like real estate and equipment. For example, Freshbikes, a bicycle shop based in the Washington, D.C., area, worked with Capital One to refinance debt it incurred by expanding its business and opening new stores. This resulted in an improved payment schedule and additional working capital for the now-thriving business.

Unfortunately, despite the many benefits SBA loans offer, few small businesses take advantage of them, and those who do say they find the process for applying for SBA loans “complex and confusing.” In fact, Capital One’s latest Spark Business Barometer found that a majority (79 percent) of small-business owners are aware of SBA loans, but only 9 percent have actually applied for one (and most business owners who did apply found the process complicated.)

There are a number of ways to simplify the SBA loan application process, and given the SBA recently announced that they will extend fee waivers for loans meeting certain requirements, now is a great time to understand how these loans can work for your business and consider applying for one.

Capital One has a few tips to keep in mind when applying for an SBA loan:

* Know your business. The first thing any lender wants to know is how well you know your business. Do you know your cost of sales, gross margin, payroll expenses off the top of your head?

* Look for a Preferred Lender (PLP status). Preferred lenders have more experience and authority in processing SBA loans, which is critical when it comes to navigating the SBA’s requirements and procedures. Working with a lender who fully understands the process and can explain it to you will make life a lot easier. Since they are experts in this area, typically your loan will close more quickly, as well. Preferred lenders are usually listed on the SBA website for your state. You can always contact the SBA directly as well.

* Come prepared. SBA loans require comprehensive document packages. Be prepared with full copies of your personal and business tax returns for the last three years, current financial statements and projections and personal financial statements. Check the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov for required documentation for the product that interests you. Having a complete package up front can save a lot of time.

* Consider applying for a smaller loan. In an effort to streamline the application process, the SBA recently announced plans to maintain current fee waivers to make it easier to secure smaller loans for small business, including a 2 percent fee waiver for loans $150,000 or less. If you want to reinvest in your business, now is a great time to act.

Capital One is committed to helping small-business owners achieve their financial goals by offering SBA loans with features or opportunities that might not be available through conventional loans, and helping small-business owners to navigate the application process. For more helpful information on managing a small business, visit www.capitalonesmallbusiness.com.

Categories: Lifestyle
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