8 Career Tips to Help You Crush Your Goals in 2021

Good riddance, 2020.

After one of the worst years of our lifetime, the ritual of setting New Year’s resolutions has taken on new meaning — especially when it comes to our financial lives. The pandemic erased the jobs of millions of Americans and docked the incomes of millions more.

But now is a time for forward thinking.

Instead of lamenting the past, we can apply a few lessons learned to make 2021 a much better year. (The bar is pretty low. We can only go up from here, right?)

1. Revisit Your Career Goals for 2020

Dig up your New Year’s resolutions from last year. If you didn’t commit them to paper (or a Google Doc) try to think back to the before times. You may have had some grandiose goal of landing your dream job or scoring a hefty raise.

Chances are you did not tick all those boxes. But as you sift through that list, look for any goals that can be salvaged. Then carry those goals over to 2021. Some tweaking may be required.

If nothing else, let this exercise provide a little comic relief. (How naive we were last New Year!)

2. Consider a Bridge Job

Bridge jobs can be a tool in helping you achieve a greater goal — even as you make a lateral but temporary career move.

Let’s say you had an epiphany and realized that your dream job is a creative director at a fancy advertising agency. You may not land the director position right off the bat. But you could gun for that junior graphic artist opening then work your way up.

Or, maybe you were in the hospitality industry and are still recovering from a layoff. You may not find the same job immediately. Instead, you could strategically use a seasonal job to fill the income void while you launch a concerted job hunt for a better match for your skills.

Here’s more on how bridge jobs can help you reach your career goals.

3. Optimize Your Resume

If you’re applying to a large company, chances are you’re doing it online and your resume is going to be reviewed by applicant tracking software (ATS) before any human sees it.

Basically, the software is a screener that scans your resume to see if you’re a good match for the position. It does that by matching skills and credentials mentioned in the job listing with your resume.

But if you didn’t optimize your resume properly, the ATS may not see you as a qualified candidate — even if you have the background the company is looking for.

Pro Tip

The trick is to make sure your resume uses similar phrases and wording from the job listing, aka resume keywords.

The format you choose for your resume is just as important. In certain cases, the standard chronological list of employment may not be the best choice. If you’re looking to change job fields or apply to a position for which you lack experience, career experts recommend using what’s called a functional resume: one that highlights your transferable skills and how those are a fit for the job you seek.

4. Jazz Up Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn can be a powerful, free tool for job seekers. If you signed up but let your profile languish without posting a headshot or work history, carve out a little time to jazz it up. Because that time can really pay off.

You can spruce up your LinkedIn profile in as little as 30 minutes. Here’s what you should do:

  • Customize your URL.
  • Choose a professional photo.
  • Craft a killer headline.
  • Write a recruiter-drawing summary.
  • Ask for recommendations from colleagues.

The professional social media site is especially useful when you’re researching a new employer. You can search for people who have worked for the company (past and present) to get a sense of its work culture. (Don’t be afraid to ask directly!) And if you’re invited to an interview, you can easily look up your interviewer(s).

During the pandemic, LinkedIn implemented a photo banner that you can add to your profile picture to let employers know you’re actively looking for work. For a more discreet approach, in the setting menu, you can toggle an “open to work” feature that only recruiters can see.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

5. Prepare for Virtual Job Recruitment

Virtual recruitment is the new normal. Even before the pandemic, online job fairs and interviews were steadily gaining popularity.

By attending fairs and interviewing virtually, you can connect with people you may never have otherwise had the opportunity to. It may sound a bit daunting at first, but we’ve all been collectively thrown into this remote environment at the same time. Hiring managers and recruiters may be working out the technical kinks themselves and are more likely to be forgiving.

Having strong remote-interviewing skills can be an easy way to set yourself apart. This quick interview advice can go a long way:

  • Adjust your lighting. If possible, include multiple light sources from different angles to eliminate any harsh shadows.
  • If you wear makeup, consider applying a little extra because it doesn’t show well on camera.
  • Position your web cam at eye level. (No one wants to see up your nose.) Stack a few books under your laptop if needed.
  • Have an interesting prop behind you. A bookshelf, plant or painting could work wonders.

6. Brush Up on Your Interviewing Skills

Even if you feel like a rockstar interviewer, you probably don’t know for sure unless you’ve watched a video of yourself during an interview (unlikely) or conducted a mock interview with a friend or family member (also doubtful). Having someone else critique your body language and provide honest feedback will help you address quirks you didn’t even know you had.

It’s good to make your mock interview experience as close to the real thing as possible. During the pandemic, that likely means a video call. Have the gracious soul you’ve convinced to assist you make note of technical aspects like lighting as well as the substantive things like how you answer questions and react under pressure.

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have slipped into long-term unemployment during the pandemic, that adds another layer to your interview you should prepare for: questions about your employment gap. You will likely be asked about your time out of work directly and possibly even in an accusatory manner. Have an honest, straightforward response ready and highlight any professional developments or new skills you’ve honed in the meantime.

7. Get Comfortable Negotiating

Your 2021 career goals aren’t likely to happen without a bit of legwork. Many career-related goals (raises, new jobs, better hours) boil down to one major thing: negotiation.

For most folks, negotiating can stir up some uncomfortable feelings. Those feelings are the first (and probably biggest) roadblock to getting what you want.

Once you’ve committed yourself to having those difficult conversations, do your homework. If your negotiation is income-related, research salary ranges for your position. Peg yourself on that scale based on your location, skills and experience.

Mentally set three numbers: a reserve point (the lowest number you’ll accept), a target point (the salary you want) and an anchor point (the first number to come up during the conversation). Use these numbers to create a game plan.

No matter the type of negotiation, it’s important to practice (maybe that same friend from your mock interview is available?) and to keep your composure. Stay calm, respectful and flexible and you’ll be ticking off those goals in no time.

8. Use a Side Gig Intentionally

Gig work can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you put it to use.

Blessing: extra income to help you meet a personal goal, like paying off debt or honing new skills that further your career. Curse: a seemingly never-ending grind and critical means of income from which there is no escape.

Sounds a little dramatic, sure. But the pandemic has really underscored this dichotomy. As millions of jobs have vanished, gig work — especially app-based services — has become a safety net. The work is fairly straightforward, entry-level and can be started in days.

Left uncheck, though, the gig you planned to do on Saturday evenings can slowly creep into Sundays. Then Mondays. Before you know it, most of your income is coming from a smattering of gig apps that have no real job security or benefits.

To avoid this scenario, set attainable financial or career goals, meet those goals and then get out. In other words, your side gig needs an exit plan.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School

Deia Schlosberg had been working as an environmental educator, teaching students about issues concerning conservation and sustainability. While she loved teaching, she wanted to reach people on a larger scale about the importance of protecting the environment. So she decided to follow her dream of becoming a filmmaker—a dream that would require her to return to school for a graduate degree. She had no idea at the time that it would lead to becoming an award-winning documentarian.

While Schlosberg’s choice may have paid off, learning how to pay for grad school as a working adult can be a challenge. There are various benefits to getting an advanced degree: You can learn more, you can earn more, you can further advance in your current job or prepare for a career change. However, you might also find yourself stressed by the expense and resulting debt of it all, especially if you have kids, a home or other financial commitments. So a big question on your mind could be, “How much should I save for grad school?”

To financially prepare for grad school it’s important to weigh the benefits and stressors that surround getting an advanced degree.

Below are some lessons on how to financially prepare for grad school to help you determine if and when you should go back to school. If you haven’t yet decided if graduate school is right for you, see section 1 for tips on how to decide. If you already know you want to go back to school, skip to section 2.

1. Decide if going back to school is right for you

Getting an advanced degree may seem like a ticket to success, but depending on your chosen area of study, the outcome may vary. For Schlosberg, it was a bit of a risk. It can be difficult to get a break in the film industry, and going to grad school could mean carrying around debt for a long time. Is this the type of outcome you would be willing to accept?

According to Emma Johnson, best-selling author, career consultant and founder of Wealthysinglemommy.com, there are a few things you can do to help you decide whether or not going back to school is right for you:

  • Do your homework. When considering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, research your degree options and the jobs to which they might lead. Compare cost and compatibility—for instance, will classes for the program align with your work schedule? Once you’ve determined what kind of occupation you may pursue after grad school, search online for information about that occupation’s average earnings.
  • Solidify your goals. You may find clarity in writing out your goals for going back to school. Some benefits are tangible, like earning more money, building a professional network and gaining skills. Others might be less tangible, such as finding personal fulfillment. Once you know your goals, it will be easier to determine if a graduate degree makes personal and professional sense.

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“Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field.”

– Deia Schlosberg, filmmaker
  • Give your degree program a test run. Consider taking classes that relate to the degree you are interested in getting in grad school. These classes can give you a taste of the subject matter you’ll be studying and help you meet people involved in the field. Also, if prerequisites are required for your advanced degree, they often cost less online or at a community college, which is important to remember when thinking about how to prepare your finances before grad school. Make sure the course credits will be accepted at the graduate school you plan to attend.
  • Take a hands-on approach. To level up in your existing career or find out what it’s like in a new field before making the change, get some work-related experience first. For instance, to learn more about moving up in your own field, get out and meet those higher level professionals by attending conferences and networking events. The same tactic applies if you want to change careers.

2. Know how much you need to save

How to pay for grad school as a working adult can be complicated, but you’ve decided you’re ready for it. Plus, hitting the books at a time when saving for retirement or your child’s education could be at the forefront makes the task of how to prepare your finances before grad school even more critical.

Understanding how to prepare your finances before grad school becomes more complicated if you’re also budgeting for a retirement plan or child’s education.

Figuring out how much to save for grad school begins with determining the cost of attendance. Here are a couple ways to do that, according to Johnson:

  • Do the research. Once you have found a school and degree that you like, visit the school’s web site. Some schools may provide the cost of tuition, fees and estimated costs for books, supplies and transportation. Costs can vary tremendously, depending on various factors: whether you attend full or part time, whether you attend a public or private school, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state resident and the time it takes to get your degree.
  • Determine your budget. Once you have a handle on the school-related costs, build a spreadsheet that accounts for these costs and projects monthly income and living expenses. Working through a savings plan beforehand can help you financially prepare for grad school by showing just how much you’ll need to budget for monthly on tuition plus living expenses. Once you determine these factors, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to save up.
  • Create a savings buffer. After you determine your monthly costs, pad that number. “Your savings should not only depend on tuition but also what the degree is—i.e., how easy it will be to repay once you are working in the desired field,” Schlosberg says. She saved a little more than she estimated, giving herself an extra cushion to cover some of the potential risk to her finances.

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“You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.”

– Emma Johnson, career consultant

3. Allow yourself a flexible timeline

One key factor in planning the timeline for earning your graduate degree: Don’t be in a rush. If you need to, create the time to save. It may not be necessary to go back to school full time or finish on a particular schedule, Johnson says. She mentions these possible paths to earning your degree when planning how to pay for grad school as a working adult:

  • Consider a side hustle. One option is to go to school full time and take on a side hustle. You may not make as much as you did as a full-time employee, but the income can complement your savings. It may also allow you to concentrate more on your degree and finish faster.
  • Attend part time. Go to school part time (nights and weekends) while working. It will take longer, but it will also minimize your debt, which could be better in the long run.
  • Take it slowly. Only sign up for a class or two—whatever you can afford—and continue to work. This part-time “lite” approach may take even longer, but could help you avoid overextending yourself financially or sliding into debt.
  • Take online classes. Consider online programs that could lower the cost of tuition and allow you to continue working full time.
If you’re wondering how to pay for grad school as a working adult, consider attending school part time and taking online classes.

4. Take advantage of potential cost-saving benefits

So you’ve done your research on how much you need to save while determining how to prepare your finances before grad school. But there are ways to potentially cut or eliminate some of those costs. What comes next are some solutions that may help pay your grad school bills:

  • Consider loans, financial aid and scholarships. “I took out some student loans for living expenses, but I tried to pay off my tuition as I went by working through school,” Schlosberg says. Graduate students may also be eligible for different types of scholarships and grants, which is aid that does not need to be paid back. Depending on your area of study, scholarships and grants can also be obtained through federal and state organizations, private foundations, public companies and professional organizations.
  • Ask your employer to pay the tuition. One way to financially prepare for grad school is to talk to your manager or human resources representative to find out if your current employer would help pay for, or fully fund, your degree through tuition reimbursement. This is most likely if you plan to move up the ladder and use your new skills on behalf of the company.
  • Take advantage of in-state tuition. Some people move to the same state as their desired school to try to get a break on tuition. “I moved to Montana and worked a couple jobs for a year before applying so I could get in-state tuition,” says Schlosberg. Whether you are already a resident or you move to a new state, be sure to determine how long you need to be a resident to qualify for in-state tuition at your desired university.
  • Cut back on discretionary expenses. Seemingly small things like adjusting your lifestyle to lower your monthly costs, which could mean fewer lattes and dinners out, might go a long way in resolving how to prepare your finances before grad school. “You may have to downscale your career and current lifestyle to go back to school, which may be a worthwhile investment of time and resources,” Johnson says.
When determining how to financially prepare for graduate school, consider scholarships, in-state tuition and tuition reimbursement.

Financially prepare for grad school and get a new start

Answering the question of how to pay for grad school as a working adult requires significant research and preparation, but some say it’s worth it, including Schlosberg. It not only gave her a whole new start, but a wealth of knowledge going forward to nurture her future endeavors. “Getting a graduate degree gave me the confidence to jump into a new career. I met an amazing network of people,” Schlosberg says.

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But an advanced degree may not be a necessity. While it could look impressive on a resume, for many employers, a master’s degree is not a requirement. “Whatever you do, don’t go back to school just for the sake of getting a degree,” Johnson says. When thinking about how to financially prepare for graduate school, make sure it fits into your financial picture and that you’re able to “weigh your sacrifices against future gains,” she says.

The post Hitting the Books Again? Here’s How to Financially Prepare for Grad School appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

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