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career

Whether you’re unemployed and actively job searching or casually browsing for outside opportunities, transitioning your career can be a long and arduous process. Here are three ways to invest in a successful job move:

Professional Development

If you’re currently employed, professional development and skill enhancement will make you a marketable candidate in the eyes of a future employer. To be competitive in the job market, stay active and join a professional community or continue your education.

Analyze your situation, be clear about what you want and know what it takes to get there, explains Henry Merrill, president of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education. Figure out what you want to learn. How can you improve your job skills? Do you want to change your career entirely?

Returning students have plenty of options, too. In addition to traditional university degree programs, you can enroll in online courses, take vocational classes and earn professional certifications, even through MOOCs like edX and Coursera.

Enrollment in online programs steadily outpaced enrollment at colleges and universities, according to a 2013 national distance education survey by the Instructional Technology Council. Also, during the 2012 academic year, community colleges participating in the survey reported student enrollment in online programs grew by 5.2 percent. Continuing education will also expand your professional network, and an active professional community may just be where you find your next opportunity.

If you invest in a MOOC or online college class, invest in a versatile and lightweight laptop or tablet. A high-quality, reliable laptop will also serve as a useful tool for remote Skype interviews with long-distance companies. TechRadar.com highlights affordable laptops recommended for students, including the HP Envy x2, Asus VivoBook S400C and Lenovo Yoga 11S.

Reliable Commute

You spend a lot of time at work. Business Insider reports the average full-time American employee works an estimated 1,700 hours annually, according to 2013 economic research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The average U.S. worker also spends significant amounts of time commuting.

U.S. Census data shows that in 2011, about 8 percent of workers commute for an hour or longer, and 600,000 workers drive for at least an hour and a half. The average daily one-way commute is 25.5 minutes, reports USA Today. For a commuter, your car is your transportation companion, and you better trust it. If you’re in the market for a new job, you may be in the market for a new commuter car that can handle the task.

Forbes featured the best 2014 cars for commutes, including the Volkswagen Golf TDI, Hyundai Genesis 3.8 and Prius Four. But if you’re an unemployed job seeker on a tight budget who can’t buy new, you have options. A used car dealership with vehicle financing solutions can equip a job seeker with a reliable ride, especially if you’ll use it for business-related purposes, like making sales calls and supply deliveries.

Job-Searching Experience

Searching for jobs can be a challenging and discouraging endeavor. Creating an experience out of a job-search journey can help you stay positive and motivated. Dedicate a workspace in your home for job searching (or taking an online professional development class), and invest a little in decorating. Create an energetic environment with a stylish, solid-wood desk, an ergonomic chair and a potted plant or flowers in a vase. Designing an organized, relaxed space that is free of distractions and clutter can help with a focused and determined mindset.

Paint your workspace, too. Color affects productivity and influences people, says color psychologist Angela Wright. According to Wright’s Color Affects System, “blue stimulates the mind, yellow inspires creativity, red affects your body and green creates a calming balance.” Bright and intense colors stimulate, whereas soft and muted colors soothe. After you create a color scheme, accent your desk and walls with lively inspirational decor.

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