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April 2018

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Do you want to start a business? There are many people who have a great concept which they feel they can turn into a fantastic, long-lasting business – and if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of those innovative people. But people with great business ideas (this could be you!) are often discouraged by thinking that the world of business might be too ruthless for them to survive, or that they just simply might not be able to pull it off – but we’d like to tell you that you can put the fear away.

Yes, you can start a business – and yes, you can make it work. It all begins with the right idea, and what separates a business that works from one that doesn’t is how that idea gets implemented. If its implemented, promoted and handled in the correct way, people will naturally take to it – they will make use of your product or service, recommend it to your friends, and the business that once started as just an idea will suddenly soar.

Here’s the no nonsense guide to how to start your business and run it successfully.

Making the leap to business

First you have to know where you at in life and what your finances look like before you make the leap to starting a business. There are a couple things you need to know and a few questions you will have to ask yourself first. Will you be quitting your job and starting your business with your savings, or will you start and run your business part time first, while keeping your day job as extra security? Do you have the capital available to start your business or will you have to source it through crowdfunding, loans or other investors and partners? What service or product will you be offering, how will you be offering it and what is the demand for your product or service?

Then, you have to start thinking about things such as product pricing and promotion: And this is all before you’ve started your business and sold your first item! A leap into starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur should never be a leap of blind faith – it should be a careful jump of calculated circumstances, otherwise you will find yourself risking far too much and this alone could negatively impact the way you approach your business.

Before you make the leap, ensure that you’ve thought of how your life will be going inbetween running your business, and what you’ll be doing with your time and money while your business gains speed. Remember: Getting a business going takes time and patience – plenty of it. But we’ll get to that later. First, let’s talk about registering.

Registering your business

Your business will have to be registered as a legal entity before you begin trading as one. This varies from country to country and state to state, so make sure that you are familiar with the laws and legal requirements where you live. When registering your business, you will usually have to provide basic documentation along with it, like your social security documents, your basic particulars (such as your businesses’ address), and then other important details like the name of your business – which, it’s important to remember, isn’t allowed to infringe on any existing copyrights. You should also consider the tax implications and responsibilities of registering your business.

Setting up everything else

Once your business has a name, you can officially consider it in existence. Congratulations! Now you will likely have to start setting up everything else. We’d recommend starting with an official business website. Why? Because there isn’t a professional business, a mega-corporation or a media personality in the world taking themselves seriously who dnesn’t have one. Your official website is where people will be directed to find out more about your business and what you do; they will also go there to get in touch with you, find out more about special offers – and some people might even end up there by accident and decide to get in touch as a new client! Your website is your official online representation, and it’s one of the first things that a new business needs if it wants to achieve success.

The new businesses’ rule

It’s estimated that as much as approximately 50% of new businesses will generally fold (or not) within the first year of their existence. In terms of business, you can look at the first year of your business as your proof period. This is the part that will make or break your business, and this is where you have to proceed with careful calculation and establish your product or brand as a new, exciting one and get clients to trust you as a newcomer to the business. We’ll call the first year the New Business Rule for now, and it’s something you have to constantly keep in mind during your first year. It’s worth mentioning that most business will take a while before they start showing a profit – so don’t be worried if your business does take some time to build up speed in the beginning. It happened to everyone, even those who appear to be successful corporate businesses today.

Setting up a business plan

To start a business, and often to find investors and the best entrepreneurs, you will need to set up a business plan to tell interested parties and clients just what you are, what you do and where you will see your business going in five years. The best business plans are comprehensive though brief: You don’t want it to seem overly lengthy, just long enough to get the necessary points across. It’s worth getting a professional business plan writer to help you set up your business plan – that way you can only worry about your business instead of stressing about small things like how you should format your business plan for the market.

Your business plan should contain more about the vision and mission of your business, the personal details of those who have already invested in your business (this will include you and your business partner too – yes, you are an investor as much as you are a business owner now), more information about your offered product and service, details about your business such as the registration details, name and contact details, and a long-term financial projection, usually for the next five years: This helps tell investors that you are financially responsible, and that you have the foresight to know, at least more or less, where your business will be going in the future. This also helps to tell investors what will be happening to their money if they invest it in your business – and, it kind of goes without saying, business owners and investors want to see their businesses and investments grow.

Sample business plants downloaded from online can also help you when it comes to setting up the format of a business plan.

Choosing the best entrepreneurs

You should choose your entrepreneurs, investors and business partners carefully. Remember that these are the people you will be doing business with, and these are people you will be spending a lot of time with and giving near-complete trust of the financial well-being of your business. That’s why it’s generally ill-advised to choose family to start a business with: Yes, it seems like a great idea at first, but once you really get down to it and hit a snag in your business, it’s the family relationship that suffers.

You should pick financial partners who share your vision in the business world and who want to see your business go in the same direction as you. (You don’t want to have to iron out creative or financial differences in your business five or ten years down the line when it really matters and places your business at a massively high risk.) Get these things sorted out early, and make sure that you are on the same page with all your business partners and investors.

You should also choose investors who are financially trustworthy – and yes, sometimes this means having the foresight not to hire friends in your business. The same that’s true for family in business is true for friends, and while there are successful business relationships between friends that work wonderfully well, there are many that have tanked because they tried to mix their friendship with the world of business and failed.

Don’t pick the first investor who offers. Do your research and decide if you can see eye to eye on every level of the business. If at all possible, it’s acceptable to ask for completely transparency, and almost a given that you’ll have to do at least some form of research on your investor before you accept them into your business: How have their past clients felt about dealing with them during previous business deals and would they do so again? Do they have a record of financial success in their previous business ventures, and how are their current business ventures (if there are any to mention) doing in comparison? And, most importantly, can you trust them enough to make them part of your business?

Finding your funding

Let’s talk about choosing investors – or more specifically, finding funding. You need capital to start a business, and simply, that means that you need money. Your business plan should have, by now, given you a fairly clear idea of just how much money you will need to start your business, how much it should take to break even (that is, ensure that your income has surpassed what it cost you to produce the product or offer the service) and more or less where your business should go from here in future.

How do you find funding? Well, there are several ways – and all of them take time, patience and proper preparation. In modern times, a popular way to secure funding for a business with a creative concept that is likely to be in high demand is through crowd-funding. Uploading your concept onto a popular crowd-funding site and getting interested people to donate money to the cause – for a return, of course, usually an exclusive offer on your offered product or service once you manage to start your business and it’s officially up and running.

Funding can also be secured by tracking down single investors to invest large sums of money in your idea or concept, rather than several people and smaller amounts of money as is the case with crowd-funding. This can sometimes be easier if you manage to hook the right investor and pitch your idea to them; if they like it, they might agree to front a percentage of the money to get it off the ground. In the case of angel investing, that’s exactly what you’re looking for. There are plenty of websites that categorize angel investors and put you in touch with them to hear your ideas.

Funding for a business, especially if it’s a particularly large bulk amount, can also be secured by applying for a business loan with your bank. Here, your business plan will again come in handy, and it’s likely that you will have to make an appointment with your bank to discuss why they should offer you this loan and what will happen to the money. (Remember that your bank here can be viewed as just another investor, and they have exactly the same interests in your business any other entrepreneur would: They want to see it succeed and grow, and they want to be able to recoup the money they are lending to you as a result of your success.)

There are other times where a bulk sum of money comes from another source and it happens to be enough to get your business off of the ground. Sometimes this is money gained from inheritance or a large bonus from your company; other times people pour their life savings into a business venture – which is exceptionally risky, but has proved to be successful for some in getting their business to the point where they can profit from it.

What makes a bad investor

We’ve gone over what makes a good investor. Now, what makes a bad investor in your business? Someone who doesn’t share the same business values as you do – if you clash in the first ten minutes of a business meeting, you’re going to clash over small things for the next ten years, and it could mean the destruction of your business from the inside out. You should also take a very close look at the track record of your chosen potential investor: How have past businesses competed in the market? If they have done badly and other clients and investors have horror stories of dealing with him or her, then you know that they make a terrible investor and won’t have the best interests of you or your business at heart.

Investors to avoid also include those who are too controlling right from the beginning: Those, honestly, are the kind of investors who overtake your business when you can least afford it, often leaving you to pick up the pieces.

Only choose investors that you absolutely trust, and investors that other people are willing to vouch for; investors with a proven track record as successful are those that you want on-board to start your business with – and run it for the long term. A seasoned investor can always provide you with the best start up advice.

Doing your market research

Don’t underestimate the value of doing proper market research; many successful business owners will tell you that market research has been the single key to their success. Marketing a business to your potential clients means that you need to know what they want, and the only way to figure this out is by doing market research on a constant basis. You also need to know what similar products or services are being offered by your competitors, and how their product or service is viewed in comparison to yours according to the consumers.

Your market research should start even before you’ve officially opened the door to your business. Go out and ask people what they would like to see offered, ask consumers what would put them off about your business – or what they like or don’t about the competitor’s business. Ask them what would make them make the switch between the competitor’s business and yours: You will likely find that customers appreciate small, thoughtful things from a business and that will stick out in their heads above your competitor.

Market research can be conducted on a smaller scale – you don’t have to ask thousands of people for an opinion, you just have to ask a couple. Decide on your target market and know exactly who will be interest in your service or product: This is how you know who you are marketing and selling to at the end of the day.

And market research should be continuous. You should always be on a mission to improve your business and keep your mission in line with the wants and needs of your clients and consumers. That ensures your business keeps going for a long time into the future. Happy customers are customers who will be more than happy to tell other customers about the excellent service they experienced from your business – and that’s the start of word of mouth, the best kind of promotion that you can’t buy with money.

Ask clients that don’t come back to you why they haven’t done so – and if there’s anything you could do to swing their opinion. Again, people are more than happy to tell you what they would like offered, at least most of the time, and this gives room for your business to improve. Also ask returning clients what they would like to see in the future, as your business should never stagnate – you should always be offering something new, something fresh, something your competitors don’t.

The internet is a great way to conduct market research, but if that doesn’t work for you, the next best way is to go out into the world and ask people who you view as your target market what they think.

Seek start up advice

We’ve already mentioned that a seasoned investor can provide you with advice that can make your business soar, but it’s deemed important enough that we made it a separate point on its own. Remember that a successful investor has a lot to offer someone new to the world of business: They have already made all of the mistakes you are likely to without the advice, and they can stop you from making them before you do. The things they can practically offer your business is broad: You just have to connect with the right investors.

Financial seminars are a great place to connect with other investors who have more experience in business than you do; you can also often find them on forums.

Promoting your business

Promote your business – it’s one of the many secrets to business success, and it’s something we can tell you that you absolutely can’t do without. If you don’t promote your business, how on earth are people going to know that you exist and can offer them a service? Most of the time, people who are looking for a product or business will go out and search for something that fits their needs, either by asking someone they know, responding to an advertisement they noticed somewhere or by heading to a search engine – where they will hopefully be interested enough in your business to get in touch. That’s how you get clients.

A strong web-presence is essential. Make sure your website says everything about what you can offer clients, how much this will cost them and where they can contact you if they would like to make use of it. You can also advertise on some social media pages and forums. We’d also recommend that you set up official social media accounts for your business: Not everybody will be directed to your website, so you have to have other ways to connect with people. Social media, in the modern age, is easy – and most people will be able to find you on there.

Business cards are a more real-life approach, but they still have a definite place in today’s world. Business cards give you the opportunity to hand them out at every occasion, and people will remember if it’s something that catches their eye – you can even write a note on the back as a special touch. You can also have your business cards placed at locations where clients might frequent, all you have to do is seek prior permission from the owner of the venue or business beforehand. The same is true for flyers. It’s worth hiring a professional to undertake the design for your business cards: It’s often a better looking end-result, and it’s a hell of a lot less stress than trying to do it yourself.

You can also advertise your business by taking out advertisements in local newspapers and bulletins, or taking it online and paying for sponsored advertisement through social media channels or websites. This is perfectly fine, as long as you’re not spending more money in advertising than you will be getting out of it by the end. Advertisements catch people’s eye, but should never waste people’s time – and should never, ever contain errors. (Can you imagine how many clients you would lose if you sent the contact details in the ad with a misprint?) Again, here it’s best to hire a professional to write and design your advertisement for you: Ad professionals know very well what’s eye-catching and what’s not, and they know what will draw new clients your way.

There are more extreme forms of advertising that offer plenty more reach – but are often more expensive and beyond the reach of a new business. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t choose it if you can earn the money back. These forms of advertising include channels such as video and television advertising and taking out large billboards to advertise your product. Here, you’ll most definitely need to hire a professional advertising company to suit your needs – but if you can earn the money back and reach the clients you need, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be part of your business plan from the beginning.

Your businesses’ website

Your businesses’ website is where people will go to find your business; here, they’ll find out what you do and why they should hire you to do it for them. When you think of your favorite business or brand, go and take a look at their website. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. What features make you click on something and read the content behind it? What features make you avoid the website instead? Apply this criticism to your own website, whether you’re setting it up yourself or working with a web designer to get it up and running; compare yours to a competitors website and make sure that yours is easy-to-use.

Business websites should have a few absolutely essential elements. First, an About Us page that tells the customer more about your business. Then, you want a page that showcases your product or service – and it’s great if you have some previous customer testimonials from happy clients to include here; this, for a potential client, highly increases your trust levels and the likelihood of them getting in touch. Your website should also contain links to your social media profiles and a hit counter – either visible or in the back-end of your website so that only you can see it – to see how much traffic comes your way. Optional (though recommended) is a page for news and new announcements from your business, and you can also set up a mailing list that keeps clients informed of new special offers – this is a great way of always keeping in touch with your base of customers.

You can choose to sell advertising space on your website, too, and depending on just how many hits you website and clicks the ads get, you could get an additional side-income from selling advertising.

Obviously, your website will also need a contact page – otherwise people can’t get in touch!

Go to the trouble of registering a domain for your website: It’s cheap, and it looks much more professional than a domain that belongs to someone else – customers will often consider a professionally set up website with its own domain far more trustworthy than one you quickly threw together through template software.

Make sure that your website runs effortlessly on all platforms, including PC, Linux and mobile. If you’re hiring a professional website designer to set up your website for you, this is one of the things you won’t have to worry about.

The power of word of mouth

Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising available to you as a business owner. Why? Because people talk about things they like and don’t like; people share opinions in person and via social media. If they’re talking, they might as well be talking about your business – this helps to promote you far more than any ad would, and it’s advertising that millions of dollars wouldn’t be able to buy.

People listen to friends they trust, they listen to reviews, they listen to what people around them think – so if they’re talking about the excellence they got by dealing from your business, they will likely be inspired to get in touch with you once they are in need of what you’re offering.  The same is true for terrible service, so you always want to keep in touch with your clients and make sure that they are completely satisfied with what your business has offered them – the consequences can be bad news!

How do you get people to talk? First, offer an excellent product or service. Sometimes, you can ask for testimonials or reviews and some clients will be more than happy to provide them to you. Showcase these on your website. You can also become involved with the community by using your business to launch or sponsor events in your community – this is another great way to get people to talk and refer! And, contributions to community and charity can give you a tax break as a business.

Environmentally conscious businesses and you

In the 21st century world, it really pays to be environmentally conscious – as a person, but especially as a business. What’s your businesses carbon footprint? It remains your responsibility to know this, and to ensure it stays to an absolute minimum – if not, you will likely face backlash from the community you are trying to establish your business in, or you will downright be fined by environmental rights groups for contravening environmental laws.

The bottom line there should be to always remain environmentally conscious as a business owner: This holds many benefits, and it’s another way of making sure that you keep in touch with your customers and inspire word of mouth.

What makes you better?

The world of business is a competitive one, and you always have to strive to be better than competitors. Get into the habit of always doing your market research as thoroughly as possible and asking yourself how you can be better. Yes, you can even walk over to clients that are rather using your competitor than you and asking them why they choose to do so. From here, you can decide what you can offer potential clients which will top what’s already being offered – that is, at the end of the day, the only way to stay on top and meet the needs of not only your current customers but the ones you still have to reach.

Being trained in business

Running a business isn’t easy at all, and anyone who tells you that it is, is lying. We can tell you that becoming trained in business lingo and practice could do you a lot of good, especially if you have never started or run a business before by the point you are starting your new venture. Undertake at least one good course in basic financial planning, and take at least one course in business: No, you don’t have to go and spend several thousand dollars on a business degree: Just learn the basics and make your time in the business world much easier on you in the long run.

There are literally thousands of free courses available online covering business and financial planning: Once you really get started, the possibilities are endless and you can always afford to learn something new. Even if you think that you have more than enough experience in business, still consider taking a course and expanding your knowledge – after all, it can only go uphill from there.

Networking is key

Networking with other business professionals is key to a businesses’ long-term success. There are many times where businesses are in need of collaborative efforts, where businesses could use another investor to come on board or where you could simply use some advice to keep your business on the straight and narrow. Here’s where other business-people and investors can again offer you invaluable advice.

Great ways to network with other professionals are by attending business and financial seminars on a frequent basis, making sure your business is well-represented at industry events and frequenting forums and websites aimed at business professionals to add your two-cents and connect with others. There’s also no rule that says you can’t cold-call another business and introduce yourself if there is some way that it could be beneficial for both.

Keep abreast of business news

If you want to be a smart business owner that’s always a step above the rest, keep your finger on the pulse of developing business and financial news at all times. This includes news that affects your business and news that doesn’t: What the financial condition is like in various parts of the world, what the current stocks and commodities are going for on the global markets, what’s happening in the sector which affects your business or demographic, too.

The world of business is one that’s constantly changing and you have to keep your eye on the hows and whys of the change. It is very likely that you, as a business owner, will be affected by this news in some or other way; if it’s not you directly being affected by what’s happening in the news, it will be your customers being affected – and this, you guessed it, will in turn influence your business from there. Nobody is immune from being affected by what’s happening in the news – and always knowing what’s going on means that you are potentially one step ahead of what’s going to happen next.

Promoting your business even further

Promoting your business doesn’t begin and end with what we’ve already mentioned here. There are many more ways to promote your business and get people to talk about you: Some more ways are by launching special offers and competitions – people always love a great contest with a fancy prize on offer and customers will almost always show up for a sale or to claim a special offer coupon. Keep in touch with customers by optional mailing lists, which they can sign up for using their phones or via e-mail, so that they’re always sent the latest news and offers from your business. Additionally, your business should be promoted via social media by being active and always answering queries from potential clients – and always responding to any criticisms and comments.

 

Are you one of the thousands of people in the world who are currently unemployed and looking? Searching for a job and how people go about doing it has drastically changed in the last ten years: If you’re not moving with the change, it’s working against you in the search for a new job or career. You might be looking for a new job in the same field, you might be looking for a promotion instead or you might instead be looking to switch careers entirely – no matter what it is you’re looking for, we’ve got some of the best advice for the modern job seeker you’ll find anywhere.

Here’s how to rise above the rest in a wildly competitive market and find the job you’ve always been looking for.

The interviewing process explained

When a company decides that they’re looking for a new employee to fill a vacancy, the first thing that they do is advertise the vacant position so that applicants can send in their resume’s. It’s up to you to find where they’re advertising and submit your resume for consideration! Once the advertisement has been placed, the company – and usually the head of the Human Relations or Staffing department – will take note of all the resume’s received. These go into what’s generally known as the resume pile.

Then, these resumes are taken to the person in charge of actually appointing the new employee to fill the vacancy. They filter through these by wants and don’t wants, needs and don’t needs: They’re looking for the employee who will best be able to represent their company and what they stand for, someone who deals well with customers and someone who has the experience they’re looking for. This is something they should be able to tell from your resume in less than four or five pages – more, and they might just end up tossing it back into the pile; less, and it might not showcase you and your experience effectively.

Once the resume’s have been sorted through into two piles of yes-and-no answers, those who fall under yes are contacted to come for an interview – and then short-listed based on their performance during the actual job interview. How they appear, how they adapt to the environment they will be working in and how they conduct themselves overall – all of this tells the HR heads and the CEO how you will be representing their company.

These who have been short-listed will then be called back one more time – and from there, the people in charge will choose who is most suited for the job. Understanding the interview process is crucial if you want your resume to follow it through from beginning to end!

Dealing with discouragement

It’s fairly easy to start feeling the pangs of discouragement if you’ve uploaded your resume and sent it to potentially hundreds of interested parties with no response: Sometimes it can be blamed on the market, other times it could be said that your approach might just be responsible for the lack of response. If you aren’t getting the responses you had hoped for, take another look at how you are approaching your job search. Are you finding jobs to apply for through the right channels and applying before the deadline for the job appears? Is your resume in the condition it should be, or is it distracting from the information and message you’re trying to convey to your potential employer?

If you’re getting called back for physical job interviews and then not getting a call-back after, it could be the way you present yourself in person: Often times people are likely to appear nervous on a first job interview, and for many it can be what gets the better of them. For nerves like these, tell yourself that your next job interview should be treated just like a conversation with another human being, albeit a professional one in nature: That most definitely takes the edge off the interview, and will lead to things going far more smoothly than you initially anticipated.

Your appearance for an interview

We’ve already mentioned the importance of how you appear for your job interview, but it’s important enough to deserve a section all unto its own. First, there’s your physical appearance: Ensure that you wear clothes which are comfortable – not too loose, not too tight – and professional though not too informal. Make sure that your outfit suits the job. And, there’s the basics of hygiene and cleanliness that have to be gone over before your interview – including making sure your hair is neat and breath is fresh before you walk into the boardroom or office for the interview.

Then, there’s your outward appearance – largely influenced by how you feel. If you’re feeling exceptionally nervous about the interview, it’s likely that you will also appear just as nervous. This is to be expected with most interviews and thus employers tend to look over general nerves, but if it’s so bad that it’s getting in the way of being able to answer interview questions, you might want to take a moment to breathe before your interview and calm your nerves down first.

In extreme nervous cases, you can consult a doctor to prescribe a beta-blocker to control side-effects of being nervous such as excessive sweating, shaking and heart-palpitations: And yes, for most people it is completely safe – it’s been a trade secret for musicians with perpetual stage fright for years. There have been enough studies to show that hypnosis and therapy could also be highly beneficial when it comes to reducing performance anxiety or stage fright when you are going into a situation that stresses you out.

Cold calling and using it

Cold calling is better defined as contacting a business without them having opted for you to contact them beforehand. It’s a tactic often employed in business, and very often in professions like writing – where publications are queried by a writer who has an idea that they think might work. You can apply the same technique, often with great success, when you’re searching for a job. Cold calling means contacting a business and asking them if they have any vacancies in your chosen position: Attach your resume to the e-mail, and tell them when you will be officially available if they have a position to consider.

You won’t get responses from all the businesses you query, but you will likely eventually get a positive response if you religiously keep at it. Cold calling takes a lot of time and a lot of patience – and you have to have a thick skin since you will likely have to deal with plenty of negative responses – but sometimes it can find you exactly what you’re looking for if you have the necessary persistence to make it through.

Cold calling is, of course, not limited to e-mail: You can also call the Human Relations department of a business or company and find out if they have any vacancies directly. This is quick and concise, and you should have an answer in less than ten minutes from the right department. If they have no vacancies, you can simply move on to the next company on your list and hope for the best. Remember to keep a close eye on your phone manner when dealing with a potential new HR department: They could be your colleagues if you end up hired for a job at the company!

Always speak clearly and loudly, always keep phone conversations friendly, professional and short. You’ll also want to make sure that your connection can be heard clearly on the other end: There’s nothing worse than trying to communicate with someone for business and constantly having to ask them to repeat themselves.

Focusing on your strengths

When you’re looking for a job, part of the magic that leads to your success is being able to sell yourself to a potential employer. It’s an art on its own to be able to convince them that you are the right person for the job and that they should hire you instead of any of the other potential applicants for the job. One skill that can and should be used to great effect when setting up your resume or dealing directly with a potential employer is to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.

Just what is it that you’re good at? What can you offer the company that nobody else can in terms of the way you conduct yourself, the skills you can offer them and the experience you have built up in the previous years or decades of your career? Focus on your strengths instead of getting stuck on your weaknesses: Focusing on what you’re bad at gives you a knock to your self confidence, and faced with a potential employer, you want to be full of self confidence – not lacking instead.

What, then, you might ask do I do with what I consider to be my weaknesses? These can only be improved upon – instead of focusing on them, work on making them better so that they can be turned into strengths over time. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to do this: There are plenty of courses available online for free that all focus on personal self-improvement – and some of them you can even list on your resume and impress your potential future employer.

Selling yourself: Your cover letter

Another way of selling yourself to your potential employer in the search for a new job is through your cover letter. This is the introductory letter that’s attached to your resume or CV that tells your employer more about you. Ideally, the best cover letters are short – most people are able to describe themselves, their experience and their skills in 500 words or under. A little more is okay, a little less is okay, but once you hit a 1, 000 word cover letter you can assume that you’ve said too much!

A good cover letter is properly formatted – that means no bells and whistles, colors, borders or Comic Sans! Anything else that makes your cover letter hard to read will just make an employer skim over it or skip it entirely. A great cover letter doesn’t drone on for four pages – it says what it needs to in professional and concise language, and then thanks your potential employer for their time. It tells your employer what you could mean to their business and why it should be you in charge of the vacant position. Nothing more, nothing less: The rest should be kept for your attached resume.

When it comes to the language included in your cover letter, you should make use of positive language that re-enforces your strengths, not your weaknesses. Always be professional, always be friendly – and always remember that your cover letter exists to sell yourself to your potential employer.

Further tips for setting up a professional cover letter is hiring a professional cover letter writer to do so – or at least to edit what you’ve already written. This takes the pressure of having to worry it yourself, and you know that professional writers are already clued up with the lingo you’ll need – and the language your potential employer will want to see.

Researching your company

Before applying for a job, you should do your research on the job vacancy to ensure that the job is for real. We’ll tell you more about spotting scams in the job market later on. For now, let’s just stick to company research. Start off by taking a closer look at their official website: Who are they and what do they do? How is the language and tone of the content on their official website? Their website represents them and the people who work for them, so before you apply for the job, make sure that they fit with your ideals. This should tell you whether you would be comfortable working for this company in the long run.

You can also research your company by popping by in person – and a potential employer might very well appreciate the effort that it takes to hand in your resume in person. This gives you a chance to view the company dynamic, meet some of the people who already work for them and see how things function on a day to day. Again, ask yourself if this is somewhere you would feel comfortable working – if the answer to this question happens to be yes, then you know you’ve found the right place.

Another way to get the scoop on a company or business is to ask previous employees how their experience with the company was: It’s a quick, excellent way to get an unbiased opinion on how a company functions and treats their employees. If you don’t want to go around and find someone who worked for the company, you can usually type the company into your nearest search engine and read company reviews by the public instead – many times, if you take the time to browse through them, you’ll find comments by past employees.

Avoiding scams in the job market

There are plenty of scams in the job market, and we strongly advise you to keep your eyes open or risk getting caught in a trap yourself. In the olden days of the beginnings of the internet, scams were fairly obvious – but the same is no longer for today. Scammers have gotten much smarter in the way they present their noose, and consumers have to adapt to it and inform themselves. When you spot a potential job offer you would like to apply for, first do your company research and make sure that the job vacancy is, in fact, for real – a simple search through their official website or a quick phone cal to the HR department should be enough to find this out.

Never share extremely personal information like your credit card details or home address over the phone or internet – not even to someone who seems legit at first; at least, not until you’ve confirmed the details! The same is true for your social security information and anything personal.

Put most simply, avoiding scams in the job market is down to checking out the details first – if it’s legit, you should proceed. If you’re in doubt, pass!

Social media and employers

Many people don’t think of this as a factor at all, but it’s vitally important to remember the role of your social media profiles when it comes to looking for a job. It’s standard practice these days for an employer to look up any potential employees on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter: If you want to avoid them forming opinions on you based on your social media profiles, keep things clean – or at the very least set your privacy settings so that only you and those you grant permission can see the most intimate of personal things that you post online.

Social media can have a disastrous effect when you’re trying to find a job: We could mention any number of thousands of job scandals that have taken place the world over all because someone made a post on their social media profiles without thinking and been disciplined or fired for it – or simply passed on when their employer saw their social media profile. You don’t want to be that guy: Again, your best option is to make sure your social media profiles are set to private – but for extra security, you might want to separate your personal profile from the one your colleagues might have access to entirely if you plan on connecting with anyone you work with online.

This is one case where it’s most definitely better to be safe now rather than sorry later on!

How to interview yourself

Interviewing yourself seems like a very odd concept at first, but both career and psychology experts agree that it helps to boost your self-confidence and help you to prepare for the moment where you have to deal with the actual interview. For this exercise, you can either do it by yourself or get someone to stand-in as your potential employer for the interview. Remember to think about the kinds of questions you will be asked for this interview and prepare yourself as much as possible by running through them with your answers.

Here, you’ll see where you can improve for the real-life interview, and you don’t have to worry about right or wrong answers for this round at all. Questions to focus on include “What can you offer the company?”, “What are your special skills?”, “Why are you the right person for the job?” Interviewers might also throw you with questions that ask about something mentioned in your resume (so prepare ahead of time!), they will likely ask about your previous job experience and responsibilities during past jobs – and they might even throw odd questions in there just to see what you answer and how you conduct yourself while answering. (One example is the ever-popular psychological question, “What kind of animal would you choose to be?”)

Run through all of these questions at your leisure: Take a breather, and do it again. Think about several answers and which would work best – but always ensure that you answer honestly. Employers never like lying on resume’s or in person, and it’s so much more embarrassing if you get caught. Just be honest right from the start. Yes, this is something employers will appreciate most of all.

Setting up your resume

You could benefit from hiring a professional to set up your resume: For a consultation fee, they’ll make sure that your resume is updated, shining and practical and written in the language that a potential employer wants to hear. This is worth paying good money for, as the first step to scoring the right job is a professional-looking CV – and when most people are forced to set one up themselves they have no idea where to start!

If you have to set your resume up yourself, the first thing that you have to remember is to keep it professional: That means that you can include a plain border at the very most and nothing more. Yes, no Comic Sans, no colorful fonts, no frills, no mess, nothing that distracts from the words on the written page that will be read by your next potential employer. The first page of your resume should ideally contain  “Resume Of” with your full name and contact details – some people choose to include a photo of themselves here, especially if the position they are applying for is related to public appearances or media, like models or TV personalities. Most people, however, can exclude this part when writing their resume.

Next, the first section of your resume that you should give attention to is your “personal details” – these are the real basics about yourself. Your full name, your date of birth, your wedding status, your dependants, whether or not you have a driver’s license and other details like your contact information. Sometimes, people also choose to include their criminal record status and, if at all, how many languages they speak beyond English. (Like we’ve just said, the real basics: This is to give an employer the most basic details about your demographic and who you are. From here, move on.)

The next part of your resume covers your experiences at school – include information like your GED here, and keep this part of the resume exceptionally brief: Most of the time, for this section of your resume an employer will only want to know whether or not you achieved a GED, at which institution and which year – anything more than that is almost certainly overdoing it.

Then comes the section of your resume labeled Further Education – and it’s pretty self-explanatory what goes here. List them in descending order, from the most recent to the longest time ago – remember that people read and scan from top to bottom, and an employer will want to see the most recent information first. (The more time you can save your potential employer, the more you can make for their company – and if an employer can already see you making the effort in your resume, they will be more likely to consider you for the job.) Remember to list the year and the institution – and, of course, what you studied there.

Next, and this is the important part, you should list the previous positions you held at various companies – list them from most recent to oldest. (Again, employers are going to read your resume from top to bottom and will want to see the most recent information first – it’s just easier.) Remember to include the year and company name, as well as a brief list of the responsibilities held during your time at that company. You want to keep this comprehensive and updated.

If your resume happens to have any large gaps in it for several months or years, for example due to unemployment or illness, make sure you note this in your resume with a brief reason for why: Employers tend to question long, odd gaps in resumes.

Information you can omit on your resume generally includes special skills that have no bearing on your life now – like being the hot dog eating champion of Kentucky – and skills that don’t directly impact the job you are applying for now. What you can include is special skills and training that are useful to the job: One example and one that many people look for nowadays in various types of careers is how apt someone is across various computer platforms, including Linux, Windows and Mac.

You should also include reliable and contactable references in your resume – at best, these are usually previous employers which your new employer can contact to find out more information about what kind of employee you were during the time you worked there. Usually, it’s a bad idea to choose friends or family members as references as they tend to be biased when it comes to their opinion – and yes, employers do know that!

Lastly, include appendices of your certificates and qualifications at the end, if any: This isn’t necessary, but is often much easier than leaving it out just to have someone ask you to send it through to HR later on.

Why to refuse jobs

Okay, so let’s assume that you’ve made it through the processes we’ve already described and submitted your resume, been to job interview or two and received a few call-backs afterwards. Sometimes would-be job seekers find themselves faced with several options when they get more than one call back. You don’t have to take the first job that calls you back, and when you’re faced with several potential call-backs, your job search has started to pay off – and you now have a choice to make between job offers.

Deciding factors in your search for a job might include the distance traveled to and from work, if the commute to work and distance to your house is important to you; other factors that might make one job more attractive than another also include your salary – which of the jobs you have been offered comes with the best salary and benefits? You might also simply feel more comfortable with one job environment than another – and that’s perfectly fine.

Resume formatting

Send your resume in PDF format (also known as Portable Document Format): This ensures that the file remains read-only, and that the person on the other end can open and print the resume easily. Most computers have a program that can open PDF’s, and the same is no longer true for files written in Word ‘97: If you want to avoid resume formatting issues, it’s best to stick to one format. You might want to include your certificates and qualifications in a separate file, and your cover letter in a separate file.

Pick a fond that’s easy to read. The most popular options are Times New Roman, Arial and Calibri – anything else is far too distracting to the eye and makes the resume hard to read. That alone is enough to make most employers toss a resume into the slush pile: After all, if you can’t get the little details right, it’s highly unlikely that you will be trusted with a big corporation’s books!

Also make sure that you pick a font size that’s easy to read – pt. 16 to pt 20 for headers (and in bold), and set everything else to pt. 12. Anything smaller than that will prove to be too hard to read – anything more than that is just downright annoying.

Human Resources has seen almost everything – and you don’t want to be that weird resume with the glitter and included bribe of a pack of brownies that they are still laughing about in twenty years. Be concise and be professional if you want to make your resume noticeable. There is no need (or usually want) for unnecessary flair.

Honesty is the best policy

Always be honest in the way you conduct yourself: Both in person and on your resume. Not doing so puts you at an extreme risk of an employer discovering this later on – often when it’s way too late – and it could put not just your job but your entire career in jeopardy. It’s vitally important to note that this extends to both outright lying and stretching the truth, as people sometimes tend to do when trying to make themselves look good when they’re setting up their resume. Don’t.

When it comes to your job description, it’s best to stick to the official job description you occupied instead of trying to break it up into things that seem more impressive, but aren’t. For example, you can say that you did “admin”, “filing” and “adiminstration” – or you can just call it what it is, and stick to saying that you did admin. The same message is conveyed – but much more concisely and quickly, and you don’t have to worry about there being any stretching of the truth for your employer or you to worry about later. Honestly really is the best policy – and it goes a long way.

Places to find jobs

So, just where do you go to find a job? This question seems tends to baffle the hell out of people who are currently looking for work and coming up empty. There are a few suggestions: First, start by going to company websites and looking for their “Jobs” or “Hiring” page – here is where most companies post vacancies. They also tend to post job vacancies on career-seeking websites next, including sites like Jobrapido and Indeed.com – so keep an eye on those. You might even have some success on traditional classified’s websites such as Craigslist, though always employ a healthy amount of caution when you’re dealing with someone directly.

Job sites such as these also often allow you to post your resume online; This has the added benefit of employers being able to check out resume’s who suit their needs, and you might find yourself being contacted by a potential new employer before you know it!

Old fashioned bulletin boards also still exist, and you might want to check out your local paper and grocery store for advertisements posted in the paper or on the board: Often local vacancies for jobs at smaller companies are advertised this way first. If you’re starting to get seriously desperate in your quest to find a job, you could also use these channels to post a “job wanted” ad – give it some time and see who responds.

You can also employ cold calling to find potential vacancies, which we’ve already discussed at length.

Using your search engine to search

Search engines are a wealth of useful information, especially if you’re looking to find a job. But are you using your search engine in the most effective way? First, you have to understand that search engines are built to work around keywords and algorithms: If you aren’t entering the right ones, your search engine is working against you instead of for you. To eliminate keywords in most search engines and refine a search simply type a “-” before your search query, like “jobs -accounting” – your search results should then show you all results found for jobs, but minus the word accounting. (If you’ve got thousands of search results to work through and the same term keeps clogging up the results, this is extremely useful!)

Similarly, to add a search result you can add a “+” to your search term, or usually “*” to represent a wild-card – or unknown search term. To search content from a specific website, all you have to do is add “site:” followed by the URL of your chosen website – this can be great for searching for content and keywords within a website when there’s a lot of information to go through and you just need to find a small piece of information.

Use your search engine correctly and you’re in the clear.

Other jobs as stepping stones

Often times, you have to keep things moving while you’re looking for work – this means still paying the same bills, still working out a budget for the weeks or months ahead and still somehow managing to live off your savings – or earn money – during your job search. These other jobs, held while looking for other, more permanent work, can be considered to be stepping stones. No, it’ not the job you want, but it’s something you might have to do for a period of two, thee or four months if you’re still in the process of submitting your resume.

Everybody needs their other half: Ancient Greek mythology thought that mankind had initially been created as conjoined together, but had been punished by Zeus to be split in half and spend the rest of their life searching for the other – hence the very literal term “other half” when referring to your partner or spouse. In modern times, many people still believe in the ideas of love at first sight, soul-mates and twin flames; the concepts that you can fall completely and utterly in love with another human being from the first moment you see them and remain interlinked with your partner forever on the deepest level.

And every day you see each other, you’re as in love as the first day you laid eyes on one another. That’s the perfect ideal that’s launched a thousand ships, and inspired countless books and movies: What’s your favorite romantic tale? Some prefer to look to Shakespeare, other people prefer a more modern take on love and have seen all of the romantic comedies and read all the romances that have been released in the past fifty-or-so years.

Just think about it: Almost every movie, TV and book plot has some romance mixed into it, even when the main genre of the movie isn’t romance: Hell, even A Nightmare on Elm Street had some romance in the plot – although the girl was dragged around the ceiling by Freddy Krueger shortly after. (And you might not have known that this was Johnny Depp’s first movie role – and many people have fallen head over heels in love with Depp; unfortunately the same might not be true for Krueger…)

But once you get away from the movie ideals of perfect romance, you realize that real life relationships are hard: Things don’t always have a beginning, middle and end like they do in the movies, and things aren’t as easy as they appear on the silver screen. People rarely serenade others with romantic songs outside their window at three in the morning, it’s not really romantic when someone shows up at your door in the rain in the middle of the night to proclaim their love for you – and some romantic comedy behavior that appears romantic when you’re seeing it happen to someone else, when you think about them in real-life terms, would turn out to be creepy and might have you classed as a stalker.

Real life relationships aren’t like the movies at all: Real relationships are hard, and it takes real work to make it succeed. No Hollywood screenwriter is sitting behind a keyboard making sure that everything will work out alright by the half-hour and twenty minute mark so people can get their money’s worth and a happy ending. Making a relationship work is all up to you.

It’s not easy to keep a relationship going, but think of old, married couples who have been together for the past forty, fifty years or even more – how on earth did they do it? And what are the secrets to a long-lasting, happy, healthy relationship with your own partner so you, too, can look forward to a happy relationship with the rest of your lives?

Here’s how you can keep your relationship going for the long-haul:

There is no single secret

The first thing you have to realize when you’re working on a successful, long-term happy relationship with your partner or courting someone for the future: There is no single secret to a happy relationship. This might come as a shock to you, especially if the perfect Hollywood-plot romance is something you’ve been craving for decades, but we’ll say it one more time: There is no single secret to making things work. Different people are, well, different – and each happy couple will say that something else is responsible for the longevity of their relationship over the years.

Some couples swear by taking a break from each-other once in a while to enjoy other pastimes – and it’s been the pun of possibly thousands of “going fishing” jokes. Other couples will say that spending all of their time together over several decades and not being apart for a single day was the secret to their relationship lasting as long as it does. Some couples might have had a hard time getting to their story of a happy ending and might have gotten divorced and re-married, as is the case with many; others might have needed couples’ therapy to reach a level where they could be truly happy.

Different things work for different people. Accept that there is no single secret, there is no magical formula and there is no Hollywood plot. Relationships take work, compromise, thought, love, and a little bit of insanity thrown into the mix. You can’t expect to make things happen out of nowhere; bread doesn’t bake itself, floors don’t sweep themselves, and relationships don’t just make themselves work with zero effort.

Let your “perfection list” go

Everybody has an idea in their head, at least more or less, of what they would want their partner to be like someday. Usually people cultivate this idea early on in life – sometimes while they’re teenagers, sometimes older, sometimes even younger. This can be surprisingly specific and often goes way beyond personal preference or having a “type.” We’ll call this your “perfection list” – the list of everything you think you want your partner to be.

Some people swear that they will only date blondes. Other people have a thing for brunettes. Some people will disqualify their potential partners based on things like their eye color, the music they listen to (or don’t), what they wear, whether or not they wear make-up – some reasons are more off-the-wall, like choosing to avoid somebody completely because you insist that they chew too loudly and you’re sure you won’t be able to deal with that for the next fifty years.

But once you let your “perfection list” go, you might realize that what you’ve been looking for has been there all along. Discard your perfection list and instead think about who you would want your potential partner to be and what you would want them to be like, rather than cropping them into columns of “do’s” and “don’ts”, “wants” and “want nots” – categorizing partners in this way only makes it harder to find yourself a suitable partner, and you might be missing someone special who has been staring you right in the face for a very long time, only waiting for you to make the first move.

Relationships online

Relationships are drastically changing from the way they were forty, thirty or even ten years ago: More people are heading to the internet to meet their potential partners, and that’s not the only impact the internet has had on relationships all over the world. Couples can now keep in touch from any part of the world, and this has made long-distance relationships and times away from home for couples a lot easier to deal with – this means that, no matter where you are in the world, you can contact your partner back home with just the click of a button.

This has changed the dynamic of relationships. Fifty years ago, it would have been terribly hard to keep in touch with your partner if they had to travel for work; this is something that had a lot of potential to cause damage to relationships – and there’s no doubt that it inspired many to move on if they didn’t hear from a partner for months at a time, even during wartime. How many love letters sent by snail mail could have gotten lost over the years and caused relationships to shatter just because of a letter that didn’t end up where it was meant to

Modern convenience and the internet has eliminated most of this impact: When communication is instant, you have no excuse not to get in touch with your partner, no matter where you might find yourself. Today, you can even go online and with a few clicks have a gorgeous bunch of deep red roses or a box of decadent Belgian chocolates delivered right to your partner’s front door; this is also something that the internet has made possible.

The internet has made it possible to strengthen existing relationships. (Some, especially couples who have experienced cheating via social media, might argue with this – but remember that the internet remains a simple tool, and how it’s used depends on each individual couple. If used right, it could keep the ties of your relationship woven together tightly; if not, your relationship could unravel, but it is likely that it would have done so even without the advent of the internet: Cheaters cheat, whether they have internet access to do so or not.)

Building a relationship first

Building a successful relationship takes time, and it often happens in stages: First, two people meet. They can be introduced to each other through a mutual friend, meet in a club or bar, meet on the internet, bump into each-other at complete random, exchange numbers while buying coffee at Starbucks; shortly, there are a thousand ways people can meet and suddenly realize that they have a romantic connection together that could last a long time. (Think about that the next time you think that it’s hard to meet new people!)

Secondly, the two people fall in love – sometimes this happens immediately and other times it takes a little bit of time. There are many old couples who say that they hated each-other when they first met and the love part only fell in much later! This, too, can happen in a thousand different ways and is going to be different for every person. You can read a million love stories and no two will turn out to be exactly alike.

What we can say is true of all relationships is that it had to be built over time – it’s just the amount of time that varies from couple to couple. The courting period can last a couple of weeks before a couple suddenly gets hitched, or there are people who have known each other for years and then suddenly decide to get married when they are deep into their eighties and feel like they’re finally ready to take the big step. Again, there is no single secret for a happy relationship, and there is no one courting ritual that works. (If you ever find yourself in a night-club, the same will be true for pick-up lines – and, for the most part, they don’t work, and the best thing you can hope for is that the person on the other end has a good sense of humor…)

Traditional guides to relationships, life and sex

There have been a million books on how to make your relationship succeed, and there have been plenty of traditional guides on how to make a relationship or marriage last: Did you know that the Kama Sutra isn’t just a guide on sex, but one on relationships, marriage and home life, too? Most traditions and religions have their own traditions associated with marriage and relationships – and most cultures have different secrets and honeymoon traditions.

Traditional guides to relationships could still deserve a place on your book-shelf, but it’s also worth saying that much of the advice given is outdated – or might no longer apply to modern relationships as they did in the old days. (We can look at this in terms of ancient times, too, but we can also think back to the forties and fifties where relationship advice was often very outdated by today’s standards, and the secrets to a happy marriage might seem a little bit sexist by today’s modern standards.)

Relationships are changing

Relationships, how they develop and what makes them last are drastically changing. The internet has taken love into cyberspace, and it’s long-since become common knowledge in most households in most parts of the world that a woman’s place is definitely not just in the kitchen! Relationships are different now than they used to be. So you can toss everything that you think you know about relationships out the door and accept that relationships are changing in today’s world.

Eliminating past baggage

When a couple first get together, the first thing one has to realize is that it’s two people getting together to form one life together. These are two people who have had entirely separate lives up until that point: This means that they have developed their own lifestyle and habits – and they need to remember at all times that this might not match up, and this is what causes most of the conflict behind the fights that occur in new relationships.

Couples should also remember to eliminate the baggage they have carried through them from past relationships – this involves any partners you think you might still have feelings for, or a partner you don’t feel a thing for who might still be hanging on in the background. Baggage can also include fears and insecurities that you carry through from a previous relationship, and it’s something that could prove to be very damaging to your current one.

The best advice when it comes to your baggage is to let go of all of it as much as you can. See it as a new beginning, a fresh start, something between you and someone new – and it doesn’t need anyone or anything else from the past to factor into it. Almost nothing before you met should matter, and this kind of baggage should be let go of and laid open on the table very early on in a relationship at best – that’s how you prevent any uncomfortable secrets from popping out like an angry snake from a bag in ten years.

Let go of your baggage, and respect your partner enough to view them in the same light. A new start, a new relationship, and nothing else should matter.

New relationship problems

Especially new relationships can undergo a few hard times in the beginning. One issue that causes the most fights in new relationships are the small habits developed away from each-other, and these are usually things that one doesn’t notice until you have someone there to point it out to you. Small things, usually, like leaving the toilet seat up, leaving your hair clippings in the basin, putting the toilet paper the wrong way up; it can be something as insanely small as just hating the way your partner cuts their sandwiches or makes their eggs.

Many times these small relationship problems take work to fix. There’s not much specialized advice here except working on it over time and hoping for the best. But it’s got to be mentioned that there are times when these small relationship issues that happen to annoy you about your partner should just be accepted and move on – yes, you might always hate the fact that your partner cuts their sandwiches into squares instead of triangles, but you should ask yourself if the small behavior is really impacting your relationship as a whole and who they are as a person.

If your answer to this question is no, accept these small problems and move on – the rest, ideally, can and should be worked on in the meantime. That’s at least one of the happy relationship secrets that most long-term happily married couples can agree to.

The big M

Moving in together is one of the first “big steps” in a relationship. It doesn’t have to happen at the start of a relationship, either – it could happen when people have been dating for the past ten years when they feel ready and decide that their relationship has reached a point where they can handle what we’re going to call The Big M.

Moving in together is a particularly special ritual: In terms of anthropology, we can look at it as two people combining their living habits, living space and personal items. (This alone is the cause of disagreements between new couples: Who gets which side of the bed, should he toss the football phone he’s been carrying around since college or should she get to have half the living room to make space for the new couch – which her fiance, husband or boyfriend who has to move in considers to be an eyesore? The amount of stupid little disagreements to keep track of here are endless and the best advice we’ve got is to compromise where you can and just let the rest go.)

The process of moving in together can be made a hell of a lot easier by deciding on boundaries and personal space beforehand – set the boundaries clearly, and make sure that each person is making their contribution to keeping everything going smoothly. It helps if every person is allocated their own personal space – it’s a need that we’re inherently born with, and the result of a lack of personal space when two people (even two people who love each-other) are made to suddenly share a space is more often than not cabin fever.

Compromising in relationships

We’ve mentioned compromising in relationships, and it’s one of the most common reasons happily married couples have given for them still being together for the long run. Compromising means giving way to your partner’s personal space when they need it, compromising means working on your own bad habits and allowing your partner to work on theirs; compromising can also mean that you get to keep the football phone if she gets to put the eye-sore of a couch in the middle of the living room.

Compromising in relationships is what makes relationships work. It takes the annoyance out of all those annoying little things that have the potential to destroy relationships if they are let go for too long. Compromising isn’t really that hard when you think about it, sit down and talk about whichever issue is bothering you like adults. No, you might not always like your end of the bargain when it comes to compromising, but you might find out that most things that couples happen to disagree about just aren’t worth the fight.

Communication is key

Do you communicate with your partner, or does it feel like there’s this massive communication gap between you that will need miles of string and two paper cups to talk across the void? A relationship will never work without effective communication. Tell your partner if you have anything specific on your mind, and make sure that your partner always feel comfortable around you to do the same. Couples who stay together shouldn’t have any long-term secrets, and scandals should be reserved for soap opera plots exclusively.

Nothing destroys a relationship faster than couples who feel like they can’t talk to each-other like they used to. When most people tick “irreconcilable differences” on their divorce papers when they’ve given up on their relationship, they’re really saying that they lost the ability to talk to each-other a long time ago – and this is, in most failed relationships, where couples start drifting apart to the point where they can no longer stand one another.

Communication is important – no, communication is vital. Make the time to talk if you feel that your career (or anything else in life for that matter) has been getting in the way of your relationship. Some couples, especially those who have separate and extremely busy work schedules, might find it useful to make a habit of choosing a set dinner date – and sticking to it. This is essential to preserving the spark.

Evolving together

People can’t be expected to be the exact same people they were ten or twenty years ago, and another secret to a long relationship is to accept this completely. Your partner is bound to change with time; so are you. This is what happens when people strike a midlife crises and suddenly feel insecure about their lives – again, here this is where communication can save your relationship from hitting stormy waters.

The important thing to keeping a relationship together during this evolution is to evolve together. Couples who evolve separately often run into the problem of, “I don’t know who you are anymore” in the long run – and this leads to a lack of talking and couples who realize that they no longer share the same interests or have no idea what to talk about when they’re together for more than five minutes. If you want to evolve together, ensure that you make time for each-other: Make time to have fun, make time to talk, make time to do things together that the both of you enjoy – or that one of you has learned to love as an acquired taste over time.

Always remember that people evolve, and always make sure that you’re moving with your partner instead of against the tide of change.

Dealing with anger in relationships

Anger in relationships will surface at some point, and it can take many different forms. You can be angry about something small your partner did, or it can turn into a long-term grudge over something that happened ten years ago. The best advice we’ve got is that couples should deal with the anger in their relationships the moment it becomes an issue. Anger is like a pressure cooker, and it’s not something that you want to let go until the lid pops over and hits the roof.

Talk issues over. Take a ten minute break from the situation if you need to calm yourself down and look at the situation like an adult, but always talk issues over before they fester and grow into much larger problems. Anger destroys relationships, takes away from the time couples spend together, and you can’t have a happy long-term relationship if you’re still holding any grudges, now can you?

There are practical times when couples need a mediator to get themselves to discuss an issue; couples’ therapy can be recommended to make this easier, and couples’ therapists are trained for this type of situation – and there’s no need to be ashamed of it in today’s modern society, either: Many couples have gone for therapy and insisted that it brought them closer together and even got them to bury the hatchet they’ve held over a long-term issue.

Accepting personal space and pastimes

Personal space is absolutely vital to the success of a relationship in the long run. It’s a need that we’re born with, and everybody needs something that happens to be their own thing – for some people it’s music that their partner doesn’t listen to, to other people it’s a hobby or sport that their partner shares absolutely no interest in. Every person in a relationship should think about the give-and-take of giving your partner their personal space, and knowing that they allow you the same courtesy.

The same extends to pastimes that you share no interest in, like a book club or knitting circle that your partner attends religiously every Wednesday and Friday evening. If your partner is giving you the same freedom to enjoy your space and pastimes, you should be giving them the exact same courtesy. If you’re able to do this, each is happy with their time, and each gets a break from each-other – yes, sometimes it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and even an hour’s time that’s just your own can help you to recenter the balance.

Planning for the future

Couples who stay together for a lifetime learn to plan for the future. This is extended to practically planning for the future with documents, paperwork and long-term plans – these are things people don’t really like to think about or deal with, but they are essential parts of the adult world that nobody can run away from. And, if you’re going to stay together, you should know where you stand on these issues.

If you’re going to stay together for the long-term, you need to think about things like setting up a will – and who gets what. If you run a business together or make debt with a credit card, you will have to know how you stand on these issues, too. Who gets to buy the groceries and who gets to spend the money?

There are more long-term questions worth thinking about for you and your partner. Will you be buying a house during your time together or have you already done so? (For now, let’s ignore any potential fights that an old married couple or a newly hitched one might have when it comes to the décor of the theoretical house they’ve just purchased…) Will you have a joint bank account? Will you hyphenate your surnames or doesn’t it really matter to you? All of these things are worth thinking about, and all of these things are going to come up between you and your partner at some point.

Exploring financially

Finances can cause a lot of problems in relationships, and it’s another issue that’s best sorted out early on. Decide whether your finances will be combined, and decide how your financial responsibilities will be split up. If you’re spending money on something big, discuss it with your partner and know how it will impact both your financial situation before you do it instead of after – it’s not easier to ask for forgiveness instead of permission, and that’s just going to get your relationship in trouble.

Financial infidelity, spending money or accruing debt without your partner’s knowledge, is a massive problem in relationships and marriages. One way to prevent this from ever happening to you is to be up-front about your financial situation and know that your partner is being up-front about their own. To make this much easier on the both of you, set a specific date every week to sit down and talk about the finances together: Go over purchases and statements, set up a proper budget for the two of you – and remember to leave some spare money for emergencies and any spending money that you or your partner might need. (Otherwise, buying a surprise gift for your partner becomes a near-impossibility!)

Keeping things fresh in your relationship

Relationships should always be active, new, spontaneous; they should never stagnate. That’s how relationships end up feeling like they’re stuck with the same routine happening every day, and that’s how couples attest that they started drifting apart. You should always work to keep things interesting and fresh in your relationship – and small, spontaneous surprises are often key to this. Buy chocolates when it’s not a special occasion, fix up a special dinner so your other half doesn’t have to cook for the day, send them to the retreat holiday they’ve always wanted; the possibilities for spontaneity in your relationship are endless, and you’ll know what makes your partner tick.

Always remember to keep things interesting: That’s how couples manage to stay together for a long time and stay happy while they do it.

Working on things

Relationship issues can vary greatly. What’s bugging at yours? Come on, most people have an answer ready for something that’s been annoying them in their relationship. Now, we’ll tell you the secret about it: You should always work on your issue before it becomes something worse. And if you don’t, it almost certainly will spiral into something you can’t control – and later wish you did. Talk issues over and make sure that nobody has any grudges, hard feelings or secrets related to the issue by the end of the talk. No anger when you’re done, either – leave that right at the door and learn to move on with your partner.

If you always have the habit of working on things, you’ll never run into a problem that’s too big for your relationship to survive.

A healthy lifestyle

Well, you wouldn’t really think of a healthy lifestyle and diet as really affecting your relationship, but we can tell you that it does. Exercise and a healthy diet will keep you feeling healthy and happy – rather than the opposite of lethargic and depressed. This leaves less time for you to worry about your health and more of your precious time to spend with your partner. Sharing a healthy lifestyle often becomes a combined effort and shared pastime for many partners, and it’s another excellent way to connect with your partner.

 When a relationship needs help: Couples therapy

There’s absolutely no shame in couples’ therapy. Therapists are well-trained individuals who have seen everything and more – so we can guarantee that whatever the problems are nagging at your relationship, your therapist will have seen it before – and know exactly how to help you deal with it. Therapy for couples can sort out issues that have been nagging for years, sometimes even decades, and having a mediator to make sure that things are smoothed over in a calm manner and controlled circumstances is sometimes exactly what a relationship needs to work through a rough issue.

 Sex and lifestyle

Sex is a vital part of a healthy relationship that lasts for a long time, and your sex life should always be something that you’re striving to improve – yes, you should keep your sex life as anew and afresh as your relationship in general, and there are many ways to re-light the spark when it comes to sex. Again, couples who are exceptionally busy might find it useful to make an appointment for a date night and see what comes naturally afterwards, while some couples will report that they’ve gone fifty years without having any issues.

As long as you always remember to keep things interesting and you’re on the same page as your partner about just what interesting is, your sexual relationship should be completely fine.

Asking the elderly

Ask an elderly couple who have been married for years what they would say their secrets are to a long and happy marriage – you might be surprised at what they tell you!