When you first get laid off, your instinct is undoubtedly to dive right into the job search. Maybe you'll give yourself a couple of days to deal with the transition to a largely unstructured lifestyle. More likely, though, you'll dive headfirst into the job search so your life can return to what feels normal as soon as possible.

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To most of us, career growth and success are life goals that are right in line with marriage, a mortgage, kids, and two bright and shiny new cars in the driveway. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. In many cases, well-educated people are stuck in jobs that they're overqualified for and they're blocked for promotions by senior team members.

When it comes to career success, if you're not growing, you're dying. Here are five things that you can do to improve your career growth prospects and be happier and successful at work.

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Once upon a time, in a land not so far from where you’re standing, (heck, it might even be exactly where you’re standing) the only thing a potential employer could know about you was what you put on your resume. Filled with information gleaned through references and the few details you chose to reveal during your interview(s). Related: Can Bad Credit Make You Unemployable? Those days are sooooo sooooo over. Today, a potential employer has no qualms about checking your social media profiles (which is why many believe that social media is the new resume). Some people have even reported that potential employers have asked for their social media passwords so that they could get a look at profiles that had been made private. (NOTE: No matter what a potential employer tells you, you are NOT obligated to share your password. In fact, asking you for your Facebook password (and your sharing it) is a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service.) It doesn’t stop with your social media presence or online reputation. Some employers will also go as far as checking a candidate’s credit before they decide whether or not to hire someone. The primary thought behind this practice (while miles away from foolproof) is, "If you can't be trusted with your finances... how can we trust you for this job?" How do you like them apples? Here’s the thing: It might, for lack of better cliché, 'chap your hide' that your potential employer wants to do a credit check (and, to be fair, you do not have to allow them to do so… but if you’ve already handed over your social security number you probably can’t stop them from doing it), but having bad credit isn’t just bad for your job prospects. Letting your credit stay bad is terrible for your livelihood and your personal financial health, too. But you already know that. If all of this sounds like a myth or an urban legend, you need to know that it is not. Last summer CNN investigated the rumors that employers were using credit histories to deny employment. In addition to several interviews, they cited a study that found that one in ten people had been denied a very hoped for job because the potential employer didn’t like what they found when they ran a credit check. Those are some scary statistics! So what do you do? How do you make sure that your credit status doesn’t cost you that job that you need so much?

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The idea of starting your own business and being your own boss is naturally appealing, especially in this current era of job uncertainty. It's also easier than ever to start your own business -- according to Forbes, 69% of new businesses begin in the home, meaning all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to make things happen. Related: 5 Tips For Starting A New Business On A Shoestring Budget Well, a computer, an Internet connection, and these five things:

1. A good product/service/idea

A small business is nothing without a good idea. You need something to sell -- anything from physical merchandise to consulting services to information products -- so you need to spend the bulk of your planning time making sure that you're selling the best idea you've got. Too many new businesses fail because they aren't selling anything original. Think of all the people offering web design services or selling Angry Birds app clones. Yes, you can make a physics-based game or turn your design talents into a freelance business, but you need to find some way of standing out from the pack. Don't copy; instead, reinvent, exceed, and transform.

2. A good team

Even if you're the only person working for your small business, you need a good team to help you get started. Even in entrepreneurship, it is in fact all about "who you know." The right team of supporters will help you get your product reviewed on that big website, or buy your first round of design services so you can build your portfolio. These are the people who will invest in you when you need money, and tell the world about you when you need customers. As you build your first great idea, start building your team.

3. A good computer security program

According to Marketplace.org, "many small companies get hacked so often, they go out of business." These types of hacks include anything from siphoning money away from the company to stealing customers' data records. Newer hacks come in through social media -- think of this year's Burger King hack, in which hackers sent out numerous offensive tweets through the fast food company's Twitter account before getting shut down. A good security measure is to use cutting edge cyber security software. One of the leading companies in business cyber security, Trend Micro, recommends using software that includes "custom sandboxing, adaptive blacklisting, plus C&C detection with email and web gateway, endpoint, and server security." That's what you need to be looking for as you seek out a good security solution for your business.

4. A good tax adviser

This cannot be understated. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you become responsible for federal, state, city, business, and sales taxes. These types of taxes are paid throughout the year, not just on April 15. Save yourself a lot of trouble and hire a tax adviser to help you through the maze.

5. A good work ethic

When you work for someone else, you have a lot of people invested in whether you get your daily tasks done. This is why you have that annoying manager walking around, making sure you aren't spending the entire day browsing Facebook. When you work for yourself, that manager goes away. You can check Facebook any time you want. But you also have to get your work done. When you go into business for yourself, you need the type of work ethic that will get a new company off the ground. There are many online productivity apps to help you keep focused, but in the end, your drive to get things done has to come from you. Do you have that fire in your belly? If not, you need to figure out how to get it burning. It's easier than ever to start a new business, but you still have to have the basic foundation in place before your company can launch. Start with these five items, and see where becoming your own boss takes you. This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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Never apply for a job without making sure your online presence is as ready to interview as you are. Employers will look at the online version of you before they invite the in-person version to an interview, so make sure what they see helps solidify their impression of you as a candidate. Related: How To Stand Out To Employers When Applying Online Here are five things you must do before applying for a job:

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If you are looking to get into the fast-paced world of online sales, there are a couple of avenues you can take. Boutique shops online are a bit more difficult to establish than they are when talking about brick and mortar, but a specialization can draw in customers, as long as you find a way to get their attention. One avenue that some of the biggest retailers in the world have decided to travel down is the discount retail road. Related: 5 Things You Need Before You Start Your Own Business When done right, discount shopping is one of the more popular roads to travel, because it brings in customers in droves. Especially in this economy, everyone is looking to save a little money on whatever they go shopping for. Stormy Simon and Overstock.com actually got into the game rather late, but have become known as one of the most popular online discount retailers in the world.

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