Key career goals to smash in 2018

It has been 20 days into the new year, and for most people, January always seems quite long, the kind of month that drags by especially when you can’t wait for it to be over and done with.

It is also that time of the year when everyone sets new year resolutions and goals with so much enthusiasm and momentum.

Most times the initial zeal and drive wanes as the days go by and life tolls in. For some, fortunately this still lingers for a longer period.

One of the most set goals for young people are career goals and  this is not surprising. Everyone wants a better career, more exciting jobs, substantial professional development and of course the dreamy enticing pay.

Setting and smashing career goals is not a stroll- in-the-park task, it is not a herculean task either, albeit a very deliberate one that needs effort and commitment.

In addition to your already set goals these are a few key career goals to pursue and achieve in 2018.

Professional and self development

Continuous professional and self development is a mantra to always go by. Invest in yourself and dedicate resources every month towards professional development. Benchmark and rate your development, seek feedback and work towards closing any career gaps.

Read books

There are a few things reading books do for you, it helps you enhance your vocabulary and most importantly gain vast knowledge in different topic areas. Reading enhances soft skills such as communicating and relating effectively with people. This is very key as soft skills play an important role in building a career.

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. —Tomie dePaola

Take courses

Invest in professional courses that add value and knowledge. If there is a career field you want to change to, learn more about it. Online courses make learning an easier task from the comfort of your home. There are websites and platforms that provide free courses and learning materials. Build expertise and knowledge, enroll in academic programs if need be.

Attend events and network

Make intentional effort to attend value adding events that help you build the right network and meet new people, either in your current field of work or a specific field you are interested in.

Get a mentor

There is no better way to learn than from those who have gone ahead of you. You do not necessarily have to meet your mentor physically, you can build a mentorship relationship with a trusted mentor online or by reading their books and listening to their voice or video content.

Mentoring is an indispensable requirement for an artist’s growth. Not only are skills and experience shared, but there is value in the essential re-examination of one’s own work and techniques.

Jim Norman

Practise public speaking

Volunteer to speak at events or join a public speaking group. This ultimately helps you build confidence and excellent communication skills.

Try/Learn something new

Learn a new language or skill. Being bi-lingual can give you an added advantage in your career journey. Acquire a new hands on skill especially in an area of your interest.

Build efficiency and expertise

Put in extra work to be more effective and efficient in the workplace. Achieve a high say-do ratio and be very result driven, rather than task driven. Improve your workplace productivity.

Need help? Download workplace productivity checklist below.

 

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Start a blog

Write about topics that interest you and be vocal about your professional expertise through written and spoken words. The more you write about things you are passionate about, the more you become passionate about them. Put yourself out there as an expert in your field.

Teach what you know

It’s not enough to get a mentor, be a mentor. Teach and share on what you know extensively about, for free or for a price. The more you teach, the more knowledgeable you become and you also become recognized in your field.

In learning you will teach, in teaching you will learn.

Phil Collins

Achieving these goals will not only help you build and establish a lasting career, it would make you a better person in total.

What are your career goals for 2018 and how do you plan on achieving them?

 

 

What new wage laws mean for small businesses

The only thing that is constant is change

-Heraclitus

There will always be change, change in business dynamics, industry demands, technology, regulations and much more. All of which would most likely affect the way businesses, large or small, operate.

Some changes may be seemingly small albeit with over all gigantic impact on business operations. An example of such is change in labour regulations, particularly minimum wage.

The recent changes in Canadian provinces, Ontario and Alberta have sparked multiple reactions from affected stakeholders, majorly, businesses, community and employees.

In the midst of all these actions and reactions, one thing is certain, if your business strategy has been focused on paying the bare minimum wage, then your business is certainly going to be affected by the minimum wage laws.

An increased minimum wage means your human resources expenses are going to spike  and this will certainly affect your bottom line.

The bottom line which refers to business profitability is of utmost importance, not just for business owners’ compensation but also for business survival.

When such changes as labour costs affect the business bottom line, something has to give way. Emergency strategy sessions would be scheduled with everyone running around the place, figuring out how to address the issue in the least dramatic way.

In the simplest sense, your business profitability is the net of your revenue and expenses, so to make up for the dwindling effect of inevitable additional expenses, you try to cut costs in other areas, related or unrelated or you strategize on ways to boost revenue, for example, through increase in prices.

For which ever option chosen, either to cut costs, increase revenue or both, those affected directly or indirectly are not necessarily happy about it. In the real sense, the effects of these actions eventually trickle down to the final consumers.

Various media outlets reported recent outrage following reactions of small businesses to these regulatory changes. Some business communicated plans to cut back on paid staff benefits while others chose to transfer the expected increase in payroll expenses to the consumers.

Not only that, some businesses took the highway approach to change staff status from employee to contractor to deal with the new labour changes.

While the increase in minimum wages is expected to yield positive economic results, business have been hit, worker are disgruntled and the community has yielded to demonstrations, airing and expressing their disappointments.

The seemingly untouched businesses are those who have previously paid all workers above the new minimum wage and interestingly, some businesses have taken this change as a walk in the park situation.

Easier adaptation to changes in regulations like minimum wage can be attributed to the benefits of proactive and effective business planning.

Business planning is essential for every business as it creates a foundation of building active and adaptive strategies. This is one of the reasons why your small and medium scale business needs a business plan.

External factors like government regulations affect business operations as seen on the recent minimum wage changes. A business plan analyses different scenarios, assumptions and speculations that make it relatively easier to adapt to external changes, take advantage of opportunities and effectively manage risks and unforeseen negative factors.

 

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In the reality of a constant changing environment, ranging from social to technological, regulatory and economic factors, the best action for every small business is to actively engage in a flexible business planning.

Businesses should build effective and realistic business plans, taking into consideration as many variables as possible while being open to adaptation and new innovations.

Why your small-scale business needs a business plan

If you run a small business or own a ‘side gig’, then you really do need a business plan.

First, what is a business plan?

A business plan simply put, is a written and drawn layout of goals, objectives and strategies you have for your business.

There is usually a misconception that a business plan is only needed if you intend to seek funding from investors and/or the bank or if you plan on selling your business.

While these are part of the ‘WHYs’, they are not the only reasons your business needs a plan. If you are yet to find out, keep reading.

Reasons why you need a business plan:

1. To determine the viability of your idea

So you have an idea, great! Now what? Do you go straight ahead into executing your great idea, no!

You need to determine the feasibility of your idea, the possibility of turning an idea into  a reality and also passing the longevity test, a phenomenon referred to in business accounting as ‘going concern’.

Before you dedicate ample resources and effort into nurturing your idea, you need to know the possibilities and opportunities that are available, the obstacles and challenges that might deter your idea or business from being profitable or from surviving.

For example, if you plan on running a service based business , you most likely want to be profitable and better still exist for the longest period possible.

To achieve these goals, you need to do a proper plan that reveals if these great ideas you have are not only attainable but can thrive and survive.

Improper planning is one of the major reasons many ideas and businesses are birthed but die before reaching full potential.

The viability of your idea or business depends on several factors:

  • Availability of a market or demand for your product or services
  • Favourable industry and market factors
  • Your value proposition and strengths
  • Surrounding setbacks, threats and entry barriers
  • Competitive structures and pricing

A business plan would help you analyze all this factors, bringing into perspective whether to forge ahead with the business plan or not and things to consider if you decide to go ahead with building the business and nurturing your idea.

2. To give you a drawing board to fall back to

You business plan gives you a blueprint that you can always to refer to especially when you feel like you have strayed away from originality and business vision.

Crafting a business plan requires you to write out your goals, vision and mission. You get to establish the ‘WHY’ of your idea and business and also understand what drove your passion and ideas in the first place.

It helps you maintain your brand and originality especially in a saturated business world filled with diverse variations of your idea or business.

Drawing up a business plan motivates you to keep pushing until you achieve the end goal. It also provides a written vision to guide partners and staff who join you along your business journey.

You have guidelines that align with the vision board set in your business plan and everyone is aware of how their actions and areas of operation contribute to the overall goal and plan.

 

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3. Clarity on business, ideas and strategies

Irrespective of whether your ideas are for a profitable business or not-for-profit venture, you need to determine strategic options for effective operations.

A business plan provides clarity of strategies for growth, expansion and longevity. Once you have established the strategic goals of your business or idea, you would need to determine strategies tailored towards achieving these objectives.

Once again, this is where your business plan comes into play.

You are able to experience clarity from the details of your plan as it regards:

  • Growth and expansion strategies
  • Marketing to promote your brand, ideas and business
  • Pricing if you decide to sell a product or service
  • Human resources, if you need additional hands to manage and run your ideas
  • Supply chain management for your supplies and inventories
  • Production activities and customer satisfaction

and much more.

A business plan will highlight opportunities for enhancing your business value chain and maximizing your resources for better deliverability and growth.

4. Seek funds, investments or sell out

Sometimes you may find out that your ideas and businesses have grown bigger than you initially planned and you may need extra funds to further fuel this growth.

Your business plan can help you secure funds and loans from financial institutions, get partnerships and investors or even sell out to a buyer.

Because a business plan is a rolling document, which means you can always update it as your business grows, you can definitely enhance it and make it more appealing and detailed for investors and fund seeking purposes.

Even if you have built a very simple business plan just for clarity purposes, this can be improved upon to reflect extensive growth opportunities and financial profitability possibilities to attract funds.

If you have been thinking that you would never get to the stage of trying to seek investor funds or draw out a bank loan and worse, sell your hard thought idea and business, I hope the other three reasons are good enough for you to get your laptop, pick up a pen and note pad and start drawing out a plan for your idea and business.

Building a business plan does not have to be a daunting process, you can get one by:

  • Doing it yourself (DIY)- This is usually ideal for smaller, non-complex business ideas.
  • Employing expert services- If your idea or business is envisaged to be big or complex and most importantly, if you need investors and funding, then it is advisable to get expert help in building an appealing business plan.

If you plan on building a business plan by doing it yourself (DIY), I have got you covered.

Download a simple business plan guide below.

Business Plan Guide

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5 important tips to help you ace an interview

If there is anyone who is tired of the sick gut feeling after receiving regret emails days or weeks after an interview, then this is for you.

Attending interviews could be very nerve wrecking, the least and best thing  you could do is get prepared.

If you want to know more about the tips that would get you more positive interview emails, then keep reading.

The first thing you want to do is,

 

 1. Bring your ‘A’ game

 

You would think this is a basic ingredient that everyone brings to the table but it’s surprising or not, to know that a lot of people go for interviews without adequate technical knowledge in the expected field of expertise.

There are more qualified people than there are available jobs and so, many people are the perfect fit as regards experience and the value they can offer to an organization.

Bringing top notch, valuable skills, experience and technical know-how is as basic as it gets. It gets you one foot in the door.

I have an unforgettable experience which I would share.

Straight out of university, I had the opportunity to interview for a financial risk management role in a very big international investment bank. It was a disaster.

I have a Business degree in Economics, I could definitely work in an investment bank but I made a mistake, I did not know enough about risk management and investment banking. It wasn’t surprising that I stumbled.

I had just one job, which was, to do my research and learn more about the role, current happenings in the risk management field, but I did not.

Expertise comes with experience most often than not, but if the role requires some skills in areas which you are not very conversant with, you would need to do a bit of work.

It is indeed necessary to  show that you have the required skills and competence to execute on the job.

The next thing you really should do is,

 

2. Research about the role, and the organization/Interviewer

 

Asides the generic behavioural and competence based questions, interviewers want to know how well you fit into the particular role and the organization.

Familiarize yourself with the job description in such a way that you can relate your experiences with what the organization  is searching for and what the role requires. This helps you tailor your answers based on your own experience, but relevant to interview questions regarding the particular role.

Different organizations have specific, may be similar, but still, peculiar organizational values and cultures. Interviewers want to recruit the best fit that mirrors these values, hence they structure questions around them. Doing your homework about the organization prepares you for these type of questions.

Some organizations may let you know who you are going to be interviewing with or who the hiring manager is for the role. If this is the case, you need to do a bit of research about the individual especially around his/her work experiences, interests and pursuits.

Interviewers may want to know why you want to work for the organization, this is as generic as it gets, but it helps them determine those who are actually enthusiastic about working with and for them.

The best way to convince an interviewer on why you want to work for them, is by tailoring your answers to what they do, how they do it and why they do it.

An excellent research on the role, organization and interviewer helps you take lead on the interview, this highlights the next consideration.

 

3. Ask intelligent and direct questions

 

Doing an extensive research about the role and organization or interviewer enables you ask intelligent questions. Most interviewers are wary of cliche general questions so you are most likely going to stand out if you personalize your questions.

I attended interviews where I was lucky to have been told who my interviewers were. I searched on everything available about these individuals. When I asked them questions, they were very direct about their past work experiences and this triggered very intelligent conversations.

Understanding the role and possessing substantial information about the recruiting organization also helps you ask intelligent questions and steer the interview in the direction that you would prefer it to go.

A clever way to make an interviewer remember you is to ask a very intelligent question, wait for an answer and proffer your own intellectual view about the topic without necessarily negating the interviewer. You can strategically raise suggestions in support of the answer your interviewer has given.

Asking very intelligent direct questions creates an avenue to spark up conversations that leave a lasting memory with the interviewer.

There are several ways to leave a remarkable impression on the interviewer and this brings us to the next tip.

 

4. Send a follow up email

 

Following up after an interview is another way to leave an unforgettable imprint.

In a case whereby the interviewer prefers two or more candidates who meet all the requirements and is struggling to choose, leaving a lasting impression can work in your favour.

You should aim to leave a positive impression during the interview with an approachable attitude, pleasant aura and commendable confidence. However, where you may have fallen short of this, you can make up by following up with an email or mail.

Sending a follow up email may suggest to the interviewer your enthusiasm about joining their organization. It is a good complement after show casing your skills, values and experience.

A good follow up email should draw attention to valuable topics of conversation during the interview, thank the interviewer for their time, highlight your major takeaways and further state your keen interest in being a valuable member of the organization.

You really have nothing to lose by sending a follow up email. Even if you do not get the job, ask for feedback to help you avoid mistakes in future interviews.

After all has been said,

 

5. Finally, be confident!

 

Confidence is the icing on the cake.

Cheers to getting positive emails and multiple offers.

 

 

basics of studying for professional exams

Basics of preparing for professional exams

 

Professional exams and/or certifications are sure one of the ways to achieve professional and self development. 

If you plan on writing professional exams sooner or later, you should read this.

Preparing for professional exams or any exam in fact can be very time consuming and nerve wrecking, it basically takes a toll on your entire life. 

You keep thinking about the upcoming exams everywhere and every time, when you’re eating, at work, sometimes you may even dream about it.

You will surely understand the guilty feeling you get when you decide to spend a few minutes relaxing and having fun with friends.

Given the timeless and costly investments towards studying and preparing for professional exams, it is only fair that you pass and succeed. 

So what are the Basics of preparing for professional exams?

 

Exam structure and guidelines

The first basic thing you need to do is familiarizing yourself with the exam  format and guidelines. 

Every exam has it’s unique syllabus, guidelines and requirements, and the more conversant you are with them, the higher your chances of passing. 

ACCA for example, has very detailed information and resources on their website to enable students prepare better. They provide access to technical articles, study guides, sample questions and answers and loads of relevant information.

A lot of their resources lay emphasis on the balance between quantitative and qualitative approach to their questions. It is almost impossible to pass their exams without understanding this approach.

This is why it is extremely important to understand exam structure and requirements. 

Identify a tutor

You may need a tutor to help you prepare for your exams. The need for a tutor is subjective as many people can study exam materials by themselves.

I have tried both approaches for different courses and for each case, I did a true assessment of my capabilities depending on the course requirements. 

Sometimes, it is advisable to use a tutor, especially if they are very experienced as this reduces the time you spend trying to figure out difficult areas on your own.

You can always identify private or public tutors or lecture centers that fit into your study plans and preferences. Of course, based on reviews and referrals you can make an easier decision.

Effective study methods and strategies

The next step is identifying what study method works for you. Some people prefer solo study while others would do better in a group study. So here’s the thing, neither is more effective than the other, it all depends on you.

While it is easier for some people to assimilate better when reading alone, others find studying in groups more encouraging and effective. 

Having a study buddy can also drive and motivate you to be more focused and committed to studying.

Most especially, weigh the benefits verses the cons of a group or solo study. If studying in groups distract you , do not do it. 

Here’s my story, I personally loved solo study but when I decided to try group study, I then realized that I didn’t have to figure it all out on my own. I had a community who understood my struggles and was ready to share ideas, teach and sometimes even relax.

There are also online study forums that provide resourceful materials and provide a platform for students to share ideas, discuss questions and help each other.

I found the opentuition website very helpful and I recommend it every time to my mentees. Useful for ACCA and other accounting exams in the UK like CIMA.

So yes, you can network and build relationships while studying for the win.

Study time and practise

It is almost impossible to pass your professional exams without adequate study. You are studying to become more knowledgeable and professional, sufficient time is required and should be dedicated to your pursuit if you  must succeed.

You can attend multiple classes and still be unprepared due to lack of personal study. The only time I failed an exam was due to inadequate study time. 

Your study time should be effectively allocated between actual reading and practise. 

The best advise on the most effective way to read for an exam is to have a thorough understanding of the course and not just reading to pass or cramming as the case may be.

When you understand the subject matter extensively,  you can attempt any question irrespective of it’s format, this is in fact what makes you a professional.

Invest in study materials, practise questions, flash cards or whatever makes it easier to understand your course. Read broad and wide.

Some people thrive on mnemonics, this is not totally discouraged. This could be quite useful, especially for vast qualitative courses like Audit and Assurance.

Effective practise for any exam depends on the first basic point on understanding the exam structure and requirements.

Every exam has time allocations, your speed during your exams are as important as your knowledge. Practise sample questions under time restricted scenarios until you get around attempting the most questions under the allocated time.

It is also strongly encouraged to attempt all questions required in your exams as this gives you a better chance of accumulating as much marks as possible.

Exam Tip: Attempt questions with higher marks allocations first or questions you are more comfortable acquiring more marks in.

Attempt every possible approach to the exam subject matter through sample questions. This includes  quantitative and qualitative question requirements, multiple choice or essay type of question formats.

Regular practise and vast reading made it easier for me to pass my exams on first attempt.

This definitely requires time hence why dedicating enough study time is paramount to your success.

Finally, having the right mindset, before and during the exam should never be ignored. Have adequate sleep and do not lose out on life.

Now you know the basics, go and conquer! 

 

 

 

preparing for dream job

The art of preparing for your dream job

 

Organizations spend quality time and resources towards looking for great candidates to fill strategic positions. It is a win-win situation when you prepare yourself to fit into their peg hole.

Make yourself the preferred candidate, tick most boxes, not just on your resume but practically.

Preparedness and being intentional with your career journey is indispensable in achieving career success and fulfillment. There are numerous ways to prepare for your dream job but an effective method is expatiated below:

Research:

The phrase “Begin with the end in mind” comes into play when preparing your self for a dream job whether starting off in your career or transitioning to a new job or career path.

To fill a position you need to be the best candidate, to be the best candidate, you need to meet most, if not all of the requirements. Be proactive in meeting requirements for your dream job, research similar job positions in the current market and benchmark your skills and qualifications.

Also, research the industry you want to play in and try to deduce changes and directions of requirements and qualifications needed. It is ineffective to gain qualifications that may go obsolete in the nearest future due to innovations and technology.

Research is creating new knowledge ~ Neil Armstrong

Self development:

Applied information is knowledge. It may not be enough to know the requirements and skills needed for a job or career path, application is needed.

How knowledgeable  you are by the time you begin applications for or transition into a new job or career is very instrumental in getting you that dream job.

Again this relates to being very intentional about your career as well as other facets of your life, continuous learning and development is required for excellence.

when you stop learning you start dying ~ Albert Einstein

Network:

Associate with people in similar career paths or fields and industries as the case may be.

They most likely may not give you the dream job but can proffer advice based on experience and paths they have treaded. They would give you an insight on certain unspoken requirements and assets required for your dream job. If fortunate, they can connect you to your dream job!

 Your network is your net worth

The phrase possesses some truth, your career journey would be a tad easier with an effective network. Also, it is very important to invest in people and relationships genuinely and not only for parasitic purposes.


A practical example:

Dream job/career path:  Operations analyst

Research

  • Research job sites and professional networks like Linkedin, Indeed, workopolis, naijahotjobs, joblistnigeria e.t.c., for operations analyst positions.
  • Determine the job descriptions and requirements and review the required qualifications and skills set that are needed for the job or career path.
  • Rate your current skills and qualifications and device means to meet up requirements.
  • Also, research future changes in the operations analyst field, get insights on how to remain relevant as an operations analyst even in the nearest future. Stay abreast on the industry and field.

Self development

  • Engage in strategic self development exercises. Become knowledgeable in the field of operations analysis.
  • Study and get required certifications and qualifications.
  • Take up voluntary or paid internships as an operations analyst or shadow someone on the job.

Network

  • Connect with people in similar positions or those who have occupied similar positions as operations analysts and learn about spoken and unspoken details as regards that career path.
  • Review the educational and career paths of your direct and indirect network.
  • Benchmark against your current skills, experience and qualifications.
  • Strategize on ways to close the gaps.

Most importantly, stay hopeful and do not relent. Hard work and persistence sure pay off in the end.

role of soft skills

The role of soft skills in building a career

Are soft skills really important? Why should an organization really care about soft skills?

The not so good news for those who disregard the value of soft skills is, yes, soft skills are very important in helping you build a successful career. The good news is, your technical know-how and hard skills are still very much valuable.

What every organization needs is competence, getting the job done. How your hard skills interplay with your soft skills create an effective path to getting the job done.

It is often said that,

“Any one can do the job, what we need is the right attitude”

Can anyone really do the job? To be on the truthful side, some people possess better technical skills than others, however, soft skills are what make you influence people to achieve goals faster, teach a team to succeed together and communicate results effectively.

It’s no news that in recent times, hard skills can get you a job but soft skills help you build a career and grow faster.

“Soft skills get little respect but can make or break your career.”

Peggy Klaus

What exactly are soft skills? Soft skills relate to your personal, inter-personal and social traits, your interaction with your social environment and how emotionally intelligent you are.

Unfortunately, there is still little focus on developing and measuring soft skills as there is for technical skills. However, top organizations are beginning to realize the importance of soft skills and require them considerably in choosing a candidate.

There is also the debate on whether soft skills are innate or can be learnt. Of course, you have an advantage if you have certain inbuilt soft skills but they definitely can be learnt and improved.

Reputable organizations are laying so much emphasis on soft skills and engaging in learning activities that teach their employees required soft skills to excel on the job and simultaneously contribute to the growth and profitability of the organization. Little wonder they adopt the team work assessment process of recruitment in other to evaluate soft skills of potential candidates.

Self development is very key in building your soft skills, the importance of self development in living intentionally is very key. Learn to improve yourself and not just to merely meet organizational requirements. Soft skills are not only good on the job but are also valuable life skills.

Don’t just earn a degree or certificate focused on technical skills, even though not yet widely recognized, enrol to earn a certificate in soft skills.

How well do you communicate effectively?  How good are you in building a team and leading a group of people to achieve a common goal?  How often do you contribute and work well in a team? How emotionally intelligent are you in resolving conflicts and interacting with co-workers?

How good of a critical thinker and problem solver are you? How well do you manage time and tasks effectively? Are you teachable and willing to impact others? Can you willingly empower others and teach them to grow? How are your punctuality and integrity levels? How confident are you?

The answers to these questions above and many more can help you determine how well you rank on the soft skills scale and if you require improvement.

Certainly, even in the age of proven proliferation of job automation, it would be an almost impossible task to fully eradicate the need for technical skills especially in certain fields. However, every organization and employee desires a candidate and team mate respectively, that employs a great level of soft skills and emotional intelligence in the work place.

“There’s not one specific thing or skill people have to have to work for us. But I can tell you why we fire people: soft skills. We hire for hard skills. We fire for soft skills. The ability to interact and communicate with others or behave ethically and take responsibility for things tends to be where people tend to break down.” 

Rick Stephens, Senior Vice President of HR, The Boeing Corporation.