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Expand your career options with a global perspective

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The business world is constantly changing and growing, becoming more culturally diverse and interconnected than ever before. Companies are looking for employees who are globally minded – even if the company does not do business on an international scale – because chances are it employs and serves a diverse population. Employees who recognize and understand different business opportunities, cultures and strategies can help a company successfully negotiate diverse situations.

Colleges and universities are recognizing how important it is for students to have a global perspective as part of the degree they earn.

“More and more, the best universities are choosing to include deep and integrated instruction on global issues,” says Dr. Benjamin S. Pryor, provost and senior vice president of Western International University (West). “By preparing students to think about their surroundings in the context of international situations, we have found they are better equipped to participate fully in an increasingly complex world in which everything from accounting to human resources is touched by global trends.”

West integrates a global focus into courses taught through all degree programs for this exact reason. If you are thinking about going back to college to earn a degree, or if you are considering a graduate degree to help enhance your career, keep in mind how a globally focused education can help you:

* Almost every business has a cultural connection. Even the smallest locally owned and operated companies need to obtain materials to do business, and there is a good chance those materials are not available in the local community. They might not even be available in the same country. Having employees who understand how to navigate complex negotiations with people who may not share the same cultural values and backgrounds can help the company make great business deals with businesses in all parts of the world.

* Employees who are able to adapt quickly and easily to changing business environments can help the business stay current and grow as the economic environment fluctuates. These changes do not necessarily need to be international in nature. They can be caused by social, political and economic trends, and an employee who knows how to adapt is a valuable asset.

* Often cultural diversity is present within the workplace, especially as families become more mobile. Employees who have the ability to understand and recognize diversity among coworkers and with business partners may be able to blend better in the work environment. They may also be strong team members who can contribute solutions that encompass a variety of perspectives.

* The world is growing smaller as technology becomes more advanced and international dealings become the norm for many businesses. Because of this, companies are setting up partnerships with foreign-established businesses. Employees who have a global cultural awareness may have better success as the international business sector grows.

“By creating opportunities to think about diverse cultures, as well as the practices and business environments they sustain, we give our students a better view of their own roles in our world,” Dr. Pryor says. “In addition, students who think globally offer an additional skill set for employers.”

As you look into the degree opportunities available to you, learn whether the degree is taught with a global perspective. It may help you take your career – and the company you are working for – much further.

Categories: Lifestyle

Don't wing it: tips to help prepare for your next interview

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - So you put together a stellar resume, wrote a winning cover letter and landed an interview for your dream job. The hard work’s done, right? Wrong. Don’t think you can just rely on your dazzling personality to win over your interviewer. There’s no substitute for being prepared, and with some expert tips, you’ll ace the interview and be one step closer to a job offer.

“Research, research and research. The more you research the more prepared you are,” says Ricardo Estevez, career services director at The Art Institute of Washington, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Having a firm understanding of the job description and job duties allows you to practice answers associating job duties with positions you’ve had in the past.

“This helps make sure your answers are succinct and helps connects the dots for the employer,” says Kristin Frank, career services director at The Art Institute of Phoenix.

Estevez adds that research can help you take charge of an unstructured interview and bring it back to home state. It also enables you to have questions to ask at the end of the interview. He says: “Without research, it’s hard to realign the interview and get out of uncomfortable spots.”

Along with getting a better understanding of the job, your preparation should also include getting a better grasp on your own skill set. “Be confident with your accomplishments, and be prepared to share them with multiple people who could be interviewing you,” says Frank. “I always say practice with your best friend. They are your biggest cheerleader. They will help you come up with some of your big statements about what you did.” Also having an outline of key points and clean, concise messages is going to benefit the entire process.

“Tell me a little about yourself” is usually the first point of discussion in an interview and is often one that can easily trip up the interviewee. “Usually, at the beginning of an interview, you really should keep it about the job, about your past experiences in relation to the job you’re applying for,” says Estevez. “Keep it hyper-focused on the position you’re interviewing for.” He adds to listen to how the question is asked. If the interviewer says “tell me more about you,” he or she usually wants to know more about you personally. People shouldn’t shy away from this but also not get too personal.

Another question that can be tricky to navigate is why you are leaving your current position. Both Estevez and Frank agree that the key here is keeping it 100 percent positive. For most people, the answer should be about opportunity, challenge and growth. “Having this answer planned out ahead of time is really going to be key,” says Frank.

If you are changing careers, Estevez recommends talking about how you are passionate about the new field you are entering. He also cautions about mentioning how a current employer doesn’t offer a flexible schedule. Make sure to keep things positive and career or passion focused.

If there is a gap in your resume, it will most certainly come up during the interview, and the HR representative or recruiter will always be a bit sensitive to this. “Be genuine,” says Frank. “It is up to the candidate to articulate in a way that’s genuine and not implying that something negative happened. Be really positive and be sure you are focusing on what you can bring to the table.” The same goes for any unfinished education.

While you are doing your research on the company, your interviewer is also doing research on you. “Many employers Google people before they come in for an interview or research them before they even become a candidate,” says Frank. She stresses you need to protect your image on social media and be aware of what is on the internet and ensure the information reflects your goals and experience.

“If salary comes up and they really want an answer and really want to know your number, everyone should know what their bottom-line number is. Add a bit more and negotiate down,” says Estevez. Once this question is asked, it is ok to then ask what the budget is for that position. If there is a big disparity, ask if there is an opportunity for a higher salary later.

Depending on the job your are interviewing for, demonstrations of your skills or job shadowing could be required. Skype interviews are also becoming more common, says Frank. These help interviews see how well a candidate can work with technology.

The biggest mistakes that Estevez sees is not being in the interview mindset as soon as you leave the house. Each person you see from the receptionist to the people you pass in the lobby or elevator, could potentially be part of your interview panel. Treat them all as such.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit  

Categories: Lifestyle

The secret to achieving better work-life balance

Thu, 11/06/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you're feeling overworked and finding it a challenge to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, then you're not alone. Achieving the elusive work-life balance may be getting harder with today’s connected lifestyle, but it is still possible.

A better work-life balance doesn’t just happen overnight. It requires a lot of patience, careful thinking and attention toward understanding what is most important to you and your family. First you must focus on prioritizing your personal and professional life. Consider all the things that compete for your time. Then decide what to keep and what to discard. Think of it as streamlining your priorities, sorted by the activities that are the most important.

“No matter how hard you try, you can’t squeeze more hours into your day,” says Dr. Nancy Aragon, professor of industrial organizational psychology at Argosy University, Online Programs. “What you can do though is make more efficient use of your time. It takes persistent planning to get a management system started, but keeping a time diary helps you to become more aware of where your time is being spent.”

Aragon recommends a weekly block schedule coupled with a daily to-do list. The block schedule should be a fairly permanent, regular weekly plan that allows adequate time for necessary, recurring activities such as cooking, exercising, homework, grocery shopping, work, etc. A critical element to include in the block schedule is “flexible time” or free time that is purposely built into your schedule. Scheduling flexible time is a way to account for unexpected, but inevitable events to be worked into your life with minimal disruption to your regular routine. In effect, you plan for the unexpected.

And although technology has the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of your daily life, it also has the potential to encroach on your work-life balance. “Set boundaries when it comes to technology,” says Aragon. “Schedule time for you and your family when it comes to accepting calls, texts, or emails. Make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of what acceptable technology use is, and what crosses the line into technology abuse.” In other words, technology doesn’t have to be eliminated, but its use does need to be purposefully managed and monitored.

Also keep in mind the power of attitude. Learn to monitor your attitude and its impact on your work performance, relationships and everyone around you. A positive attitude can make a big difference in your energy, your focus and your pace toward achieving balance. You can’t always change your circumstances, but you certainly can change how you react to them.

In addition, do not try to live up to other’s expectations. “Work-life balance is a very personal matter. If you seek to find your own balance by emulating the ideals, priorities and expectations of others, you are doomed to miss the mark,” adds Aragon. “It can require some courage to live by your own values and ideals rather than what seems to be the prevailing social norm, but the payoff is worth taking that venture out of your normative comfort zone.” This is an important truth to keep in mind for not only improving your work-life balance, but also finding success.

In the end, you need to find the right balance that works for you. Celebrate your successes and don't dwell on your failures. Life is a process, and so is striving for balance in your life.

Categories: Lifestyle

New 'Best Places' lists help veterans make transition

Tue, 11/04/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Active Reservist Lisa De Leon had a tough decision to make a year ago when the government temporarily shut down. The 40-year-old single mother of sons ages 16, 15 and 13 considered uprooting her family from San Antonio, Texas for a nationwide job search. However, she had an incomplete college degree in an extremely tight labor market.

“I was thrown into the civilian world, having to look for work,” De Leon says. She opted to stay in San Antonio, to be close to her mother.

It was a fortuitous move. De Leon used the G.I. Bill to finish her education. Soon afterward, she landed a good job that capitalized on her military cybersecurity training.

Her situation ends well. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of military veterans share a different story.

Tough market for veterans

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 1.5 million service members will leave the military between 2013 and 2017. More than half of veterans reported that their transition from military service was “difficult,” citing unemployment, health care and education among their top transition concerns, according to a recent survey from Blue Star Families, a nonprofit addressing the challenges of military life.

What’s more, younger veterans, those who served post-9/11, continue to face higher unemployment rates. Annual unemployment figures, which even out seasonal fluctuations, show that the average unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans in 2013 was approximately 9 percent, nearly two points above the national average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To help make such transitions easier, USAA, a financial services provider focusing on the military community, and the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program released their 2014 Best Places for Veterans lists. This year USAA and Hiring Our Heroes have three lists highlighting the best places in the nation for veterans, whether they are starting out, mid-career or retiring from the military.

“It’s vital to approach separation from the military with a plan for your post-military life, whether you’ll pursue a degree, begin your next career or seek to maximize your retiree benefits,” says Eric Engquist, a U.S. Army veteran and assistant vice president of military transition for USAA. “You may need to be open to the idea of living somewhere new in order to find the schools, job opportunities and services you need to enjoy a full, rewarding life after the military.”

Researching for new beginnings

USAA and Hiring Our Heroes commissioned Sperling’s BestPlaces to work with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families to help produce the top 10 lists. Together the groups worked to determine measurable variables for 379 major U.S. metropolitan areas. Those variables include the amount of G.I. Bill enrollments at nearby colleges, veteran wage growth and military pension taxation.

The lists take affordability into consideration, but also the opportunity for veterans to find jobs aligning with their military skill sets. USAA also offers a military separation assessment tool to determine an estimate of the salary required in a particular metro area to achieve a desired lifestyle.

“Leaving the military can be a daunting situation,” Engquist says. “But with some planning and preparation, veterans can create a path toward a financially secure, fulfilling life outside the military.”

Just ask De Leon. Now that her family is settled and her job is going well, she has started saving money. Earlier this month, De Leon bought her first home.

Categories: Lifestyle

Changes to know before filing your federal income tax return

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 11:00pm

(BPT) - Most tax law changes don’t affect the average taxpayer. That's fortunate news, considering the U.S. averaged at least one tax law change per day every day between 2000 and 2012.  

Some tax changes generally happen every year, such as inflation adjustments to standard deduction and exemption amounts. Others happen every few years, like expiration or renewal of credits and deductions, new taxes and tax increases.

What can you do to ensure you maximize the benefit or minimize the negative impact of tax law changes each year? It's quite simple, says TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage.

"Do a dry run of your federal income tax return each fall," Dolmage recommends. "DIY tax programs are updated with the latest tax laws every fall so you can get an estimate of your refund or liability as it currently stands. The Q&A also reviews credits and deductions you can still take advantage of in the next few months."

You can do tax planning and calculate your 2014 taxes with a DIY tax return preparation solution (most are free to try) or with a tax calculator like TaxACT's at

Whether you start your taxes early or wait until the April 15, 2015, deadline, here's a list of key changes that could impact your 2014 tax return:

* Personal and dependent exemptions increase to $3,950 per person.

* The 2014 standard deduction is $6,200 for a single taxpayer and $9,100 for a head of household. The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly also increased to $12,400.

* Several benefits have expired, although Congress may extend them for 2014 returns. Those include the tuition and fees deduction, educator expense deduction, deduction for mortgage insurance premiums, cancellation of some mortgage debt, nonbusiness energy property credit, and state and local sales tax deduction.

* Did you purchase health insurance from the federal or a state-sponsored marketplace in 2014? If so, your marketplace will send Form 1095-A by Jan. 31. Simply enter the form information when your tax program asks for it.

If you qualified for the premium tax credit toward marketplace insurance, the information you need to report on your return will also be on Form 1095-A. Your credit amount, which was based on your best estimate of your household income at the time you applied for insurance, will be reconciled with your actual income reported on your tax return. If your income or household size changed since applying for insurance, so can your credit amount. You may receive a larger refund if your income was less than estimated, or you may have to pay some of the credit back if your income was more than estimated.

* If you didn't have minimum essential health insurance for three or more months in 2014 and don't qualify for an exemption, you may pay a shared responsibility payment. The penalty is the higher of 1 percent of your 2014 income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per uninsured dependent under 18, up to $285 per family. Your tax program will ask simple questions to calculate your payment.

If you qualify for an exemption, keep in mind some exemptions require you to submit an application and supporting documentation before filing your tax return. Only paper applications are being accepted by marketplaces, so processing can take weeks. Once accepted, your marketplace will issue an exemption certificate number (ECN) that you report on your tax return in order to avoid the penalty.

Learn about more tax law changes at and Visit and for premium credit and exemption information.

Categories: Lifestyle
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