3 Ways the Internet Can Improve Your Career

Today, young professionals can advance their careers better than ever before thanks to the Web. Professionals with HughesNet Internet plans, cable Internet, or any other type of Web connection have access to an online landscape that’s ripe with opportunities for improvement and advancement. The digital age has ushered in a new era where business opportunities aren’t just conducted on the phone or at the office.

If you’re aspiring to get better in your career or in your role as an entrepreneur, take advantage of these 3 major affordances of today’s Internet:

Professional Development
Getting better at your job or learning more about your industry doesn’t have to end with workplace training sessions, tutorials or guides and manuals. With the Internet, you can become an expert in your field without having to leave your couch, and without having to spend a dime. Numerous online resources offer courses in business strategy, technology, design, coding, finance and countless other subject areas related to what your professional specialty.

Check out sites like Udemy.com, Coursera.org, w3schools.com and Udacity.com for free resources that can help you become better in your role. Not only will you be able to apply your knowledge to your job and improve your work, but your team leader will probably notice, too.

Personal Branding
In today’s professional landscape, it’s important that you differentiate yourself from the thousands of other people who do what you do. It could mean the difference in you getting that next big promotion or position at a prominent firm. Social media and blogging offer opportunities to engage in personal branding and to establish your presence online and become recognized as a leading authority and expert in your field. It takes time and considerable effort, but you’ll find that your own brand equity makes you a more valuable part of the workforce.

Networking
Last but not least, the Web 2.0 landscape offers more networking opportunities than were available 15 years ago. Not only do personal branding, social media and blogging play a prominent role in how professionals reach and interact with one another, but large-scale professional networking sites like LinkedIn offer legitimate opportunities to connect with others in your field. If you’re not using the Internet for networking purposes, start today so you can take advantage of all possible opportunities.
How will you go about online professional development, personal branding and network in the future?

Traditional promotion tools still important

This is a great time to be an entrepreneur with all of the incredible tools available through social media and the Internet. Tools like LinkedIn.com provide excellent networking opportunities, while websites, online stores, email lists, job boards and more can help a single entrepreneur handle all sorts of tasks that require much more time and effort in the past, not to mention additional employees.

That said, it’s important to remember that many of the traditional methods of the past still matter today. For example, you can do an incredible amount of networking online through networking sites, email and your social media accounts. You can also find leads and attend virtual conferences. Yet eve with these tools it’s very important to take advantage of opportunities to press the flesh and meet with people in person. Yes, you can be more selective and weed out bad leads with online tools, but personal meetings can cement relationships that can carry a business for years.

Also, regarding promotional tools. a great website and vibrant Facebook page is critical for many businesses, but impressive brochures are still critical in many business segments. Fortunately, you can now shop for printing services online in order to find the best deals. The Internet definitely provides more selection and price comparisons, and you can compare your local printing shop to brochure printing online at UPrinting, but the key is using brochures when appropriate. They are critical if you’re attending trade shows or other events where you meet with customers in person.

So while many businesses can thrive with one person working in their home office, that doesn’t mean that traditional methods are gone for good. As an entrepreneur, you need to find the balance that works best for you.

Learning to be an entrepreneur

Is the life of an entrepreneur for everyone? Probably not, as it can be rather demanding and it’s hard to imagine living that life unless you have a passion for business or for the service or product you choose.

The next question involves whether you can learn to be an entrepreneur. Some people may want to do it, but they really aren’t prepared to make a successful go of it.

The subject of entrepreneurship is becoming very popular at business schools as this notion is being tested.

Twenty years ago teaching people how to start their own businesses was a sideshow at B-schools, of scant interest to future consultants and Wall Streeters. Today entrepreneurship education is everywhere. More than two-thirds of U.S. colleges and universities — well over 2,000, up from 200 in the 1970s — are teaching it, and they offer it to all comers: social workers, farmers, and even musicians. The field is thriving, but have we figured out yet the best way to teach this stuff? If not, are we at least getting better at it? And can you even teach someone to be an entrepreneur?

This makes perfect sense, as many entrepreneurs have a passion for their product but have little experience running a business, while many business professionals can’t grasp some of the risk assessments that entrepreneurs make every day. It’s amazing how spending your own money focuses the mind!

What’s taught in these courses?

By developing in students the proper attitude toward risk, for instance. Entrepreneurship isn’t about the love of living on the edge; that’s pure myth. “You’re all about de-risking your idea,” says Fairbrothers. He means one, identifying, unblinkingly, what could go wrong; and two, taking whatever steps necessary to slash the odds that it will. You do that by relentless learning — about your market, your customers, your competitors, and if you’re truly new at this, about the nuts and bolts of business.

If you take a close look at this proposition, you would thing that every business student should be required to take a course in entrepreneurship. Understanding risk is critical to any endeavor, and this notion should be drilled into every person in your organization, whether you’re simply a manager or an entrepreneur.

Online resources for your business

Anyone can be an armchair entrepreneur these days. You can run so many aspects of your business through the Internet.

One area that makes a ton of sense is online printing. Remember the old days when you had to schlep back and forth to suppliers like printers, or wait for proofs to arrive in the mail? Even recently many people used places like Kinko’s for simple stuff like their business cards.

Now, you can do everything online, from laying out your printed product to seeing the final proof. With many vendors you can do the whole thing without needing to speak with a single person, though that is always an option as well.

One exercise you should do right away is to list all of the vendors you worked with in the last year. In each case, see if there’s an online alternative. I’ll bet you’ll be able to replace many of them with cheaper alternatives.

Naturally, there are times when personal relationships matter, along with reliability and quality. That said, you might be shocked by the price and convenience savings available, so at least you’ll have a point of reference for future negotiations.

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