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5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

5 Killer Ways to Kickstart Your Career

Building a career isn’t easy, especially for graduates. It’s particularly difficult if you find yourself competing against people with better qualifications than you.

The bright side? Experience and skills carry a lot of weight when it comes to applications. It’s not all about pieces of paper. If you can show a recruiter that you developed your skills through hard work and initiative, you’re not just demonstrating technical talents—you’re highlighting positive character traits.

What are some of the great ways to boost your career prospects and gain a job-hunting edge? Here are five career-building tips to help you kickstart your career.

1. Do an internship or get work experience.

Unpaid internships are controversial, but work experience can be incredibly useful when trying to crack into any industry. Why is that? For a start, it works: this YouGov employment survey of HR professionals revealed that 85% of employers felt relevant work experience was more important that non-vocational degrees.

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Why does it work? In a lot of industries, many candidates may not have studied the areas academically, so experience counts for a lot. Working for free (or for super low wages) also shows a lot of character; if you’re willing to log hundreds hours in return for little more than the chance to learn, it shows a lot of determination and dedication.

Work experience or internships aren’t possible for everyone, but if it’s an option for you, it could give you an edge over other candidates.

2. Sing up for a volunteering placement.

Employers love candidates with volunteering work on their resume. In the same YouGov survey referenced earlier, almost half of HR professionals said they would be more likely to employ an applicant with constructive volunteering experience, and 63% revealed that volunteering makes an application stand out.

Why does this make sense? Because signing-up for a volunteering placement abroad with an ethical, independent organisation like Original Volunteers allows you to develop desirable skills and experience that employers crave. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into a challenging environment means you need to learn to be independent, organised and self-reliant. It builds your confidence, forces you to work on your communication abilities and rewards initiative.

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These skills, often earned through challenging experiences, can put you streets ahead of other job applicants fresh out of university with no “real world” experience.

3. Build a brilliant online portfolio.

If you want to work in any industry that depends on impressions, personality and communication, you need to be effective at promoting your achievements. An old-school printed portfolio is useful, but only for face-to-face interviews. An awesome resume and LinkedIn profile is important, but it might not be enough.

So what’s the answer?

Create your own online portfolio to promote yourself, and demonstrate what you can do. Publish links and references to your best work, and point prospective employers in the direction of where they can find your stellar stuff around the web. Turn yourself into a brand.

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Why does this work? Because the easiest way to become a fan of a band is to work through their greatest hits, so make it simple for recruiters: present them with an accessible “best of” version of yourself online.

4. Network with the right people.

Networking used to be all about face-to-face meetings, robust handshakes and physically moving in the right circles. But thanks to social media, on sites like LinkedIn, you can now research, discover and network with the right people without leaving your bedroom. Yep, from the comfort of your own home you can kickstart your career by finding recruiters and their companies—and making sure you show up on their radar.

What does this entail practically? Following them on social channels, engaging with the posts and content they share, and generally coming across as a switched-on, digitally savvy industry hopeful. So that might mean retweeting and favouriting on Twitter, commenting on LinkedIn and plus-one-ing on Google+ (yes, you should be using it).

The “who-you-know” arena of professional networking can be a dense and frustratingly behind-closed-doors world. But with online social networks, you have a chance to “infiltrate” these worlds and get involved in the conversation.

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5. Have something to say.

All the research, clever networking and smart profile creating won’t count for much if you’ve got nothing to say for yourself. To take your career kickstarting to the next level, you need some views. Some opinions. What are the trends in the industry you want to break into? What are the big changes coming in future?

You don’t need to pretend to be a thought leader with 20 years of experience, but you need to have something interesting to say. Parroting the leading voices you follow on Twitter isn’t going to cut it. When it comes to applications and interviews, recruiters are looking for candidates who have a mind of their own and stand out.

A word of warning: you don’t want to be too controversial. Interesting is good. Original is better. Edgy can work, too. But beware the danger of trying so hard to impress a recruiter that you come across as unprofessional. In fact, there are lots of things you should keep quiet about in interviews.

Featured photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

5 Powerful Ideas on How to Be Productive at Work

Not being able to stay productive at work is a problem that everyone runs into at some point; no matter how much you like your job, there are certain factors that prevent you from staying at maximum proficiency throughout the whole day.

A lack of productive focus at work can lead to extra stress on yourself, missed deadlines, passed opportunities, raise denial, demotion and even termination.

So, if you are someone who has trouble with your productivity, here are five effective tips on how to be productive at work:

1. Take breaks

First and foremost, it’s important for you to take regular breaks. Trying to work throughout the whole day will tire your brain, which will then cause you to doze off and think about something else.

If you keep working your brain, it will fill up and get jumbled with information—sort of like a computer hard drive. Taking a break would be like resetting your computer so that it can start afresh, or de-fragmenting the data so that all the information is in order.

This is a great thing because it allows you to solve problems you were unable to solve previously, by seeing it differently; if you are able to organize your thoughts properly, you will be able to take in new information more easily.

There have even been studies about methods of saving time and staying proficient, and taking breaks is one of the leading factors.

According to Christine Hohlbaum, the author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, eating lunch away from your work area every day will greatly increase your productivity. Eating in your work area will give you the illusion that you are working, but whether you like it or not, your brain will begin to wander and think of something else and then you will be working tirelessly with no progress.

It’s important to take breaks before and during work too: if you come to work in a rush because you woke up late, your mind will not be mentally prepared for the day ahead, and you will spend the first 10 to 15 minutes trying to get organized and composed before you can actually start working.

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Instead, you should try to wake up 20 minutes earlier than the time it would take you to “just get” to work. Take that time to stare off into space and not worry about anything.

If you do this, your brain will be empty and ready for all the challenges it has coming for the next few hours.

If your employer only allows a set amount of breaks during the workday, that doesn’t mean you can’t just get up and walk around for a quick break every now and then.

Even if it’s only 5 minutes, it will refresh your brain and you will gain renewed energy to do your job.

Learn more about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

2. Pace yourself and balance your workload

One problem that most people run into is that they underestimate the amount of work they have to do, and end up doing 50% of the work in the last 20% of the time they have to do it. This is due to an issue of balancing one’s workload.

When you receive a project, or are doing a job you normally do, take some time to really plan out your work schedule.

Consider how much time it took you to do this last time; determine how you can break the project into smaller parts and which can only be accomplished on certain days, and whether anything might come up that could interfere with your plan.

All of these questions are important for starting on a project, and when answered, they will help you stay productive throughout each day.

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For example, if you needed to design a project to map out the amount of aid offered in various regions after Hurricane Sandy, you can break it up as follows:

You will need to know what organizations are offering help to begin with, how much aid those organizations gave or plan to give, which regions were hit by Sandy, and which regions suffered the greatest losses.

You start this project on a Thursday and know you have until Tuesday to gather this information.

In order to stay productive, you need to plan out your work week—now you know you can find out which organizations are involved in helping the Hurricane Sandy Victims any day since that information is online, but gathering information on the organizations may require you to call them.

Since phone calls can only be done during week days, you have to plan on gathering all of that information before the weekend comes.

That is just one example of a situation in which pre-planning your project will help you stay productive; had you researched the affected regions first, you would not have received the info on the organizations until the weekend, and may have missed your chance to call them.

That, in turn, would have wasted time you could have spent working on this project to finish it.

Knowing what you need to do, when you can do it, and how long it will take you, is important in balancing your workload and being more productive and efficient.

3. Put your work first

This is an issue that usually occurs with young people who are new to the workforce: they’re often tempted with offers to go out at midday, and then come back lost in thought and unfocused on their work-related tasks.

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While it is important to take breaks, your breaks should consist of you clearing your mind, not loading it up with other less important information—like sports.

However, that is not the only situation where you need to worry about putting your work first before all else.

In a work environment, the senior employees will oftentimes push some of their menial tasks onto the newer employees. If you fall into that category, you need to know that their work is not your work, so if you have tasks that need to be done, you need to do it first.

If you are a new employee, you must learn to say no to other people even when it means you may not be in their good graces anymore. You can help others out once your work is done, but you are paid to do your own work, not anyone else’s.

4. Don’t open your browser unless you need them

In this day and age, everyone is constantly monitoring their social network. This is a major pain point for companies, which is why many don’t allow employees to access their social networks on company workstations.

When you are at work, disconnect the internet from your phone and keep your browsers closed so you’re not tempted to log onto your social media accounts or browse any sites that are not work-related.

If you keep your browsers closed and phone tucked away, only to be used in an emergency, you will find yourself being a more productive employee right away. 

5. Try to be happy and optimistic

If you always have a negative outlook on life, you will be more distracted and less motivated to get work done, so it’s important for you to start your day off right.

This can be done by having a good breakfast or by taking time in the morning to watch one of your favorite TV shows before work.

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If you are happy, you will find yourself able to work much more productively as your mind won’t wander into worrying about something else.

Also, if you stay optimistic and keep telling yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to, the tasks will seem much less daunting and will go by much more quickly.

Take a look at more effective ways to stay positive at work:

15 Ways To Stay Positive At Work

Happiness and optimism are the keys to being a productive and happy employee.

All in all, heed the five tips above and you will find yourself being one of the most productive people at your company.

While you do not need to master them all, each and every one of them will help you become a better and more efficient employee.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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