career research

How to Make Career Decisions: A Systematic Approach to Choosing a New Career Direction

When asked to state their long term career aspirations, most people have at best a vague idea of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They are embarrassed to admit to this uncertainty. Those who know what they want generally focus on advancement, either within their function or to general management – straightforward. The issue most people struggle with is what they might do if they felt a desire to do something completely different. People at the beginning of their careers or faced with redundancy commonly face this dilemma. Career decisions are difficult because making them is like trying to decide whether you like an unfamiliar item of food without tasting it.

Career Decision Making Styles

There are two styles for making any decision that are relevant to understanding how to make career decisions. One style emphasizes gathering as much information as possible; the other prefers to try things out and see what works. The first style is based on planning and factual data; the second relies on feel, experience and experiment. The former is methodical, structured and well organized while the latter is haphazard, opportunistic and creative. The truth is that not many people have a career plan. They either accept jobs offered to them or apply for advertised jobs when they feel a need for a change. That is, even people who like to plan ahead get stuck in the opportunistic mode, much to their frustration.

Making Career Decisions Under Uncertainty

One way of approaching career decisions is to combine the best of the planning and experiential approaches. The starting point is to recognize how difficult it is to choose any course of action without any experience of what the outcome might be like. A good analogy is house hunting. When planning a house move, people make a list of criteria they want in a house before they start looking, but they may well change their criteria significantly after looking at a few houses. This is because a lot of decision making is based on discovery rather than prior rational analysis. It is only by getting the feel of a variety of houses that it becomes possible to choose a particular house.

An Organized Career Search

The key to making career decisions is to follow the house hunting example. Set out some criteria that define what you think you would like in a future role, then talk to people doing or managing such jobs, and revise your criteria according to what feels right. Organizational skills alone can’t help you make career decisions, but they are useful in making sure that you obtain meetings with a sufficient number and range of people in roles that seem attractive.

Career Market Research

You can do a certain amount of research by reading up on careers and industries, but the critical form of research is to talk to people who work in those industries and roles that appeal to you. In meetings with people in prospective roles, it is important to ask more than merely factual questions. It is essential to ask feeling questions as well to determine what people like about their roles, what it feels like to work in their field and what they don’t like about it.

Getting meetings with people who could hire you (managers, not HR people) kills two birds with one stone, but it is not easy. Being able to say you got someone’s name from a mutual acquaintance helps a lot. A little subtle flattery helps, such as saying you heard that this person would be the best person to talk to about a particular career direction. Just asking people how they got to where they are is a form of flattery that can get their attention. It is also important to stress that, at this stage, you are just doing some market research, not fishing for a job interview. A final critical step is to aim to get at least two names from everyone you meet.

Networking and Career Management

The secret of career management is to network regularly at all times, always asking people what they do and how they like it. This approach combines organization and experiential feel. Of course, the best experience is actually doing the job. Total certainty before making the leap is not possible. The best you can do is minimize risk by getting as much feel for a career direction as possible before deciding.


Free Business Plan How To: Write Your Business Plan With This Step By Step How To

Are you hoping to become an entrepreneur and need a free business plan to determine its viability? Read through this section-by-section list of a business plan to get a better idea of the work ahead of you, or to jump right in and get started. Although each section of your free business plan is listed in the most commonly accepted order that a banker or lender is looking for, please note that most entrepreneurs start with the market and competitive analysis first, then move to the industry and management plans, then the financial plan and finally the executive summary.

Free Business Plan Section #1: Executive Summary

The executive summary section of a business plan gives an overview of the business to lenders and creditors, and ties up the entire business plan into a couple paragraphs at most.

Free Business Plan Section #2: Company History (or Background)

Detailing the history of the business, which can vary depending on whether or not you are starting a franchise, bought a business, are taking over the family business, or are starting from scratch. Even brand new businesses have a history of how they came to be.

Free Business Plan Section #3: Industry

The industry section of a business plan consists of descring trends within the industry that the business works within, as well as any major players and their gross estimated sales. This section ends with a summary of where the proposed business falls within the industry.

Free Business Plan Section #4: Market Analysis

A market analysis is not the same thing as a marketing plan (which comes later). Market analysis consists of reviewing the market your business plans on working within, both geographically and demographically, and how the business will serve the needs of your potential clients and customers.

Free Business Plan Section #5: Competitive Analysis

Who is your main competition? Indirect competitor? How do your business plan to compete with these entities, and what do you plan on doing differently? These questions and other entry barriers are all discussed in the competitive analysis section of a free business plan.

Free Business Plan Section #6: Marketing Plan

A marketing plan can be a stand-alone document for existing businesses, but it also serves a very important purpose in a business plan, which is to explain your company’s plans for pricing, advertising, promotion, and sales strategies.

Free Business Plan Section #6: Management Plan

Who will run the day-to-day business operations of your entrepreneurial venture? How will you find a team, what qualifications will they need, and who will report to whom? These and other management-related factors all belong in the management plan section of your business plan.

Free Business Plan Section #7: Operating Plan

The operating plan speaks about the physical objects your business will embody, use and be housed wihin, such as inventory, equipment, location, suppliers and a detailed explanation of how your product or service is created from start to finish.

Free Business Plan Section #8: Financial Plan

The financial plan consists of three financial statements: the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow.

start up

How to Start Your Own Business: Basic steps for starting any business

Many people want the freedom and financial independence of starting a business of their own. They view it as having to work less, get paid more, and hope that it will give them the flexibility to run their lives as they want. But be careful! While these are all possibilities, there are also drawbacks to running your own business, such as the increased responsibilities, the financial worries and risk, and possibly working longer hours and harder than ever before. Here’s where to start when you want to build your own business.

Market Research

Do your market research. Make sure you have an audience for your product or service, whatever it is, before you invest any money or too much time in a business. If you have a great product, but nobody knows what it is or wants it, then you are sunk. Or you are in for a long, hard struggle before you make any money. Look in the yellow pages to see how many similar businesses there are. Your Chamber of Commerce can also give you advice on how to do this research, as well as other contacts you could use. Or you may consult an expert, or even search the web for articles on market research. I’m sure you’ll find many.

Licensing and Regulations

Check with your local regulating agency as to what is required for your business. Some businesses are regulated, particularly if there are any imports or if you are professionally regulated. Government websites should be able to tell you anything you need to know about the required licensing, including business licenses required. You should also be able to find out information on any import programs or government grants available for new businesses.


Every business requires some up front financing, regardless of its size. You should make sure that you’ve done a full business plan, so that you understand what financing you will require. Most people will start their first business with some of their own savings, and possibly some “love money” from friends or relatives. Make sure that you have the required funding before you go out and start. And stick to the plan! Don’t move too fast or too hard, or you may find yourself unable to meet the financial demands of the business. And that can sink you as quick as anything else.

Business Model

Don’t try to invent a new wheel. There are many business models available to follow. Use one of them! Whether it’s a retail store, internet shop, or mail order, or even a straight up clinic or professional office, use a model that already works, and you will be ahead of the game from the start. Talk to other people in the industry, and they may be willing to give you advice. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and the worst they can do is say, “No.”

Good Luck!


How to Stop the Profit Drain: How Invoicing and Job Tracking Software Can Increase Your Revenue

There is no denying that starting your own business is hard work and developing one that is profitable is even tougher. Half of all small businesses don’t survive their first year and a significantly higher proportion fails to make it through the next four years. Many of these failures are simply to do with not bringing in enough profit to keep the company rolling.

So, Why Are Small Businesses Losing Money?

When faced with a profit crisis, many business owners instinctively react by attempting to reduce running costs. However, this is not always the best way of getting to the crux of the problem.

“What a lot of business owners don’t realise is that, although it is important to keep your operational costs under control, factors such as not invoicing correctly and a general lack of organisation have much more of an impact on your profit margin,” says Dr. Chris Main, project manager at Software Associates, one of New Zealand’s fastest growing information technology specialists and the brains behind new job tracking and invoicing tool, JobPro.

“Many small businesses, especially in the service sector, are not as profitable as they could be due to lost dockets, a lack of standardised billing and the huge amount of paperwork they have to sift through for relatively little gain,” adds Chris.

How to Protect Your Profit Margins

One way to solve the problem of misplaced invoices and overwhelming piles of paperwork is to embrace electronic devices and software. Innovative new job tracking and invoicing tools are becoming increasingly popular, allowing business owners to keep track of job progress and billable hours more effectively than was ever previously possible.

“Lost dockets and a tendency to undercharge can easily shave 1-5% off a small business’s profits,” explains Chris. “Job tracking and invoicing software that is specifically configured to suit each individual business can help put an end to this profit drain.”

Business owners don’t even need to be particularly IT-savvy to use this kind of software. It usually takes just a couple of hours of training to get to grips with how to use it. This business tool is also surprisingly cost effective. For example, JobPro, can be purchased for under $10,000, including all training, set-up costs and support. Not bad for something that could increase your profit margin by up to 5%. Everest Software in the United States and Sage Software in the United Kingdom also offer similar, good value software packages for small businesses.

What Else Can You Do?

As well as investing in up-to-the-minute technology, there are a number of other things that businesses can do to maximise their profits.

“All businesses, from international corporations to more modestly sized start-up companies, should pay close attention to what I like to call the three ‘Ps’’, advises Chris. “Pricing, performance and paperwork.”

“If you keep your billing organised and constant, make sure that clients can depend on you to carry out consistently good, punctual work and ensure that your paperwork is under control then you are on the right track towards bringing in the income that you deserve and making your business a success,” adds Chris.

It doesn’t take much to push a small or start-up company over the edge. However, paying attention to the details, being as organised as possible and keeping up to date with modern technologies will put the odds in your favour and ensure that your company doesn’t join the many small businesses that don’t bring in enough profit to survive those first few, highly crucial and vulnerable years

trade show

How to Thrive at a Business Expo: Making the Most of Trade Shows

Trade Shows and Business Expos can be opportunities for successfully promoting your business – or boring and time-consuming affairs. But a little planning beforehand and a few event survival skills can go a long way towards making these necessary events not only profitable, but at times, even fun.

What to Plan and What to Pack


  1. Never just fly blind into a Trade Show or Expo situation. Remember that you – or your company – have probably paid a princely sum to the event organizers to be there and it’s essential that your goals for this event have been clearly expressed to everyone who will be on the exhibit floor. Is the goal to introduce a new business or product? If so, how will that goal be effectively accomplished? Is the goal to close sales? If so, what will you be offering during the event that will help clinch the deal? Is the goal to simply raise your company’s profile in the business community? If so, does everything single aspect of your booth presentation speak to that mission – and is the staff that will be manning your booth fully trained to speak to that mission?
  2. Send a pre-event notice (including any “day of the event” special offers) to your entire database of clients and prospects. Be sure to include your booth number for the event!
  3. Write your follow-up email/letter before the event and have it ready to send out as soon as you return to the office to all of the people you connected with and all the cards you collected that day – and don’t even think about not sending one….
  4. Before you leave the office, plan and pack a ‘survival kit’ for the event. This survival kit should include:
  • Extra business cards.
  • Extra promotional materials.
  • Notepads and pens for each staff member to keep proper track of contacts made, promises for follow-up information and anything else that needs to be remembered for post show action.
  • Masking and scotch tape.
  • Scissors.
  • Extra “S” hooks.
  • A simple first aid kit that includes a pain reliever, an anti-biotic cream and band aids.
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Bottled water.
  • A no-mess snack.
  1. Wear comfortable shoes – you may be on your feet for hours at a time!

Show Day Salesmanship


  1. Speaking of “being on your feet,” the key to “connecting” with prospective clients at a show is never to seem bored, distracted or tired – which means, no sitting behind the table when you’re on duty. It also means greeting folks, when they glance in your booth’s direction and smiling!
  2. Dress comfortably – but professionally. Layering your outfit is also a good idea, as event venues can range from being way too warm to being way to cold and to project your best image, you need to feel comfortable.
  3. Don’t be too pushy. Event salesmanship is the epitome of the “soft sell.”
  4. Ask questions about a prospective client’s own business or business needs. The more you get them talking about themselves, the longer they stay at your booth before moving on – and the more you learn about their needs. (here’s where that little notebook comes in handy…)
  5. Make sure at least one person from your team takes the time to visit all the other exhibitors’ booths and introduces themselves. This is the ultimate B2B situation and every exhibitor is also a potential client. Get to know them!
  6. Plan to set-up on time, and as scheduled, and plan to stay set-up until the end of the show. It’s bad manners – and noticed – if you come late or strike your booth early when others have played by the event’s rules.
  7. No matter how tired you are, stay for any apres-event social hour. A lot of appointments for future follow-ups get set then.

Post- Event Follow-Up


  1. Within a week of the event, make sure you:
  2. Send out those follow-up emails/letters you write earlier
  3. Call every person you promised to call with any information you promised to follow-up with
  4. Set any appointments that still might be set from the contacts you made that day.