Monday, February 13, 2017

Back To School? Making The Most Of Adult Education

While some careers, like blogging, are all about creativity and self-motivation, others have much more clear-cut parameters. I tried looking for a job in a more stable industry a few months ago and I just wasn't getting accepted because my education and experience in the creative industry weren't considered important in the companies I applied to. So I'm thinking of going back to school and getting more qualifications in IT and digital marketing.

If you’re like me and you're finding yourself at a crossroads in life and have also decided to go back into education, there are probably all kinds of questions and uncertainties weighing on your mind. Here, I’ve listed some of the best tips for any adult going back to school…

When you come back to education after a long break from it, it can be a very daunting prospect. If you’re in your 30s (or 40s like me!) and about to go to an institution that’s full of people much younger than you, it’s pretty common to suddenly become much more introverted than you thought you were. When I was in college, I remember having classmates much older than myself... and it was the coolest thing! They were our favorite classmates because they were already working and so could tell us all about the professional life. 

So it may be a little scary at first, but I strongly recommend you come out of your shell. By developing a network of good friends and acquaintances, you’ll do a lot to enhance your experience, and have someone to fall back on when the actual grind of education gets tough. Having people who you can discuss coursework, exams and assignments with, and borrow or trade notes with when you miss a class, will make the whole experience both easier and more enjoyable. It's just like being in college again! Except you have more money, experience and wrinkles now haha.

Manage your time.
Being able to manage your time effectively is essential for any student, particularly adults who are coming back to education after a long break. This is even more important if, like adult students, you’re having to juggle your education with providing for a family and various other commitments. This is actually the only thing holding me back now. I don't have the time yet!

In school, whether in a campus or online, you’ll be supplied with a timetable for your classes of course, but it may be helpful to create your own, setting aside times for all your commitments outside of education that you need to stay on top of. Over time, you’ll learn what needs to take priority, and how to accept the fact that you simply can’t do everything in some instances. Of course, if you need to be on-call as a parent and partner around the clock, it can mean your options are even more constrained. Fortunately, there are ways around this. A lot of popular majors, such as bachelor’s degrees in business administration, are run through online programs that allow you a lot of freedom to move your personal timetable around.

Use technology at every opportunity.
One great thing about education is that it allows you all kinds of opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills, even in things that have nothing to do with the subject you’re studying. If you’re looking to improve your career prospects through further education, then the one thing you should make time for is using all the technology that’s available to you. Basic IT, and everything it’s evolved into, is used extensively at modern educational institutions, and there’s bound to be some way for you to try it all out. The more clubs you join and credits you can obtain related to modern technology, the more impressive your CV will be by the time you go looking for the next big step in your career.

I thought my CV was impressive enough but apparently it isn't anymore. With the world rapidly going online, my extensive experience in print publishing just isn't cutting it anymore. So I need to go back to school, working mamas! If you have tips on which online school or campus is good to old folks like me, please do tell!

*image from Flickr

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Blog Biz: Where is Your Blog Heading? Some Ideas to Take it Forward!

Hi, working mamas! Been away for a while because I started a new project with Calyxta (more about that soon!). But I'm here again today because a few readers asked me why I turned my blog into a working mama's journal. Well, I've been blogging for almost 11 years and I've changed a lot in those 11 years so naturally my blog will evolve with me. Right now, I'm a working mom and that's the aspect of my life that I want to share with people. Right now and for the near future, I'm making Topaz Horizon a place for me and fellow working moms to come together.

If you’ve been running your blog for a long time, you might be starting to wonder where its future lies. It probably can’t continue in the same way forever. Blogs reach a certain point when they either have to make that step up or get stuck in a rut. For you, the best thing to do is look for ways in which your blog can be grown and improved. It’s always tricky to make this happen, but there are loads of things you could be doing.

Rather than let your blog run into the ground, look at it objectively, and decide where the areas of weakness lie. Your blog certainly won’t be perfect, and that gives you plenty to work on. I still have a ton of things to fix on my blog, and I'm so intimidated with all the things I need to do, but slowly, I'm doing them all. If you’re like me and you're also struggling to get started with these changes, here are some great ideas that could kickstart your blog and push it in a new direction.

Make your overall editorial outlook clear.
First of all, you need to make sure that your blog has a clear editorial stance. This is something that all professional publications have. Gone are the days when blogs are just online diaries that meander here and there. These days, you have to find your niche, your specialty, so that readers know exactly what your blog is about and what they're getting. 

If you want your blog to become a little more professional, this is one of the things that you will need to do. It will mean that your blog posts are more unified and you put across a consistent worldview in your posts. It will give you and your blog a concrete identity that people can easily recognise and believe as authentic. 

Grab readers’ attention with good headlines.
If you can grab people’s attention better, you will become more equipped to improve your blog traffic. Most people will see the headline of your blog before anything else. And if they are not instantly intrigued by what the piece is about, they probably won’t go any further. As a reader, you probably do this yourself. Pay attention to your headlines. If you get this wrong, then it doesn’t matter how good the blog post is because no one will read it. You can’t underestimate the power of good headlines.

Implement categories.
Oh, this is the change that I'm having such a hard time with! Because my blog's more than a decade old and it's evolved so much, I've covered sooooo many topics. Organizing them into categories is driving me crazy! I've been tempted to delete entire posts from my early years of blogging (the rambling, nonsense posts) just so I have less categories!

Implementing categories is a simple logistical step that should make your blog a bit more user-friendly. This is particularly important if you write on a series of different topics on your blog. When the new categories are in place, users will have more control over how they want to view the content that’s on offer. They could go straight to the section that interests them most, while ignoring the other sections and topics that your blog covers. It will also make the blog a bit more easy to navigate and a lot more organised that it was before.

Bring in new voices.
It can be a great idea to bring new voices into the mix if you want to get people more interested in your blog. When one person is producing all the content, it can limit the scope of the blog. Not to mention that it can be extremely exhausting! 

You can’t be an expert on everything, so having someone who is able to make things clearer and share their stories and thoughts can add some much-needed variety. I know many bloggers who let other bloggers guest post on their blog. How to start? Ask your friends who have similar interests to guest post and offer a link exchange. You could also just let people know that you’re looking for new writers and see what response you get. If you want new perspectives while remaining the face of the blog, you could use a ghost blog writer.   

Be more social.
It can really help if you get your blog brand out there and try to be a little more social. This is best done via social media platforms. If you’re not already promoting your blog on Facebook and Twitter, as well as some of the other platforms that might be applicable to your blog, this is something that has to change. These days, all the major blogs and bloggers have a strong presence on these social sites. Create dedicated accounts on as many of these platforms as possible, and then see what you can do to build a followers. It will also allow you to share posts and reach new people.

Use the power of images and videos.
Images and videos can help you so much when it comes to promoting the writing you do. If you don’t use images on your posts, you are missing out. For a start, social media links are a lot more likely to be interacted with when they have some sort of media attached to them. This could be an image or a video. I always make sure my blog posts have a photo—if not mine, then an image from a photo agency. Posts with pictures are more likely to be clicked on and read so always have an image! 

Right now, vlogging is the hottest thing. Even my blog sponsors are now asking for videos. I'm not very good with videos so this is a struggle. But I will try it this year. Please help me and tell me what you want to watch!

Make your blog mobile-friendly.
All blogs need to be mobile-friendly these days. The number of people using mobile devices to view your blog is going up. I don't have any data to back up my theory regarding how my readers read my blog, but I know many readers do so while they're on their phone. I know this because people aren't commenting as often on my blog posts anymore; they'd rather comment on Facebook. Why? It's harder to leave comments when you're on the phone! 

Mobile usage is quickly surpassing desktop usage when it comes to browsing the internet. So, if you are not up to date with this change, your blog could be left behind. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to read a blog post on a blog that is clearly not responsive in its design. You will just end up frustrating your readers, and those people will be unlikely to come back in the future.

Build a network.
Finally, you should try to build a network around your blog. When you have a core group or readers and fans that share and interact with your content, you will be able to find new ways to reach more people. I call these wonderful people my Loyal Readers. I love you, Loyal Readers! Thank you for staying throughout all my life and blog changes!!! 

Anyway, back to giving tips! The people in your network - or community - will bring in other people, and that’s how word of your blog and its content can start to spread very rapidly. So talk to the people who post comments under your posts and interact with people better on social media. More than helping your blog become bigger, your community will become your online friends. If you're lucky like me and many bloggers, they'll eventually be your friends in real life! 

*This is a guest post, heavily edited that it's almost like I wrote it! To place a guest post, email for my rates. Image from Pixabay.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Power on, moms!

I found this old video that encourages moms to get fit and be healthy. It's about telling moms not to quit going to the gym or exercising, even when it seems impossible. But when I watched it now, I found myself moved to tears because it applies to all aspects of our life as mothers.

The house always needs cleaning, the laundry always piles up, the cooking always needs to be done, the dishes always need to be washed. The bills are endless, the kids' needs never end, the husband can't be neglected, the friendships and family relationships need to be maintained. IT. NEVER. ENDS.

And do you know what good moms do anyway? We get up even when we're tired. We wipe the endlessly runny noses. We pick up the toys on the floor which will again end up on the floor. We cook another meal that will most probably be rejected by the picky eaters. We spend precious time with our husbands even when we're collapsing with exhaustion. We dress up, put on make up, brush our hair even when we'd rather sleep. We manage the house. We go to another day at work. We mother. We go on.

It doesn't end. And I know we get tired and cry and we complain but we know deep inside we never want it to end. We never want it to end because this is the life we've chosen, this is the life we own, and it's not easy but it's worth it.

"I know I didn't always listen but, mommy, I was always watching and I saw that for you, quitting was not an option."

Don't give up, dearest mommy. We moms never quit. Power on, power through. Sending you my mommy energy! Send me yours, too!