Subscribe to the RSS feed for Business posts

Job Search: Skill Building with the Library

Glasses and pen on a book next to a computer

Adding new skills or firming up existing ones makes you a more qualified and attractive option for promotion, but you don’t have to go back to school.

It’s time to build your skills and your future—for free!

The Naperville Public Library offers many resources for learning and growth available with your library card. There are obvious tools like our job-search programs and books, but you can also access video courses and ebooks online at any time. If you don’t have internet access, come visit any of our three locations to use one of our computers or check out a laptop for in-library use.

Snapshot of database interface with video images and descriptions

One of the most impressive learning tools we offer is LinkedIn Learning, formerly known as With your Naperville Public Library card you can watch an unlimited amount of courses designed and taught by industry experts on a wide range of topics including business, creative and technology. LinkedIn Learning allows you to create an account to save your progress and even offers certificates to show that you have completed a course.

Snapshot of database interface with search box, still images, and descriptions

Learning Express Library is another online resource that might be right for you. It has tools to help you strengthen your reading, writing, and math skills as well as learn how to write in the business world and speak more confidently. Learning Express Library can also help you prepare to earn your GED and study for many career exams including real estate, nursing, civil service, and the WorkKeys assessment. If you still haven’t found what you need or want to continue to learn more, there are additional test preparation resources in Peterson’s Test and Career Prep.

All of these resources (and more!) are available through the library website. You can find a full list here:

Don’t have a Naperville Public Library card? You don’t want to miss out. You can register online or in person.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 - 11:00am

Resources to Support Your Mental Health at Work and in Your Job Search

Man lying on the floor covered in sticky notes with positive messages

Taking care of your mental health is an important part of success.

The reality is that careers don’t exist in a vacuum. People going to work every day need to feel okay in order to do their job and respond well to challenges. The same applies for job searching, which can often feel frustrating and demoralizing. Without systems in place to take care of yourself, this can easily begin to impact your work or your next interview!

Luckily there are lots of supportive resources. You can find our recommendations in this digital display, with plenty of titles immediately available with your Naperville Public Library card.

You’ll find books about navigating anxiety in the workplace, beating burnout, and building healthy habits. You’ll also find video courses from LinkedIn Learning about staying motivated while job hunting, supporting your mental health while working from home, and making sleep your superpower.

In the meantime, here are some easy things you can incorporate into your daily life to manage stress and improve your well-being.

  1. Practicing Gratitude

    Take a moment to appreciate the good things about your day or situation. It’s often easy to focus on what we don’t have or what’s making the day harder. Making a habit of identifying and appreciating people, events, and things that are good can really improve our outlook. Write these things down to look back on.

  2. Breathing

    Count as you breathe in and out. Taking slow, measured breaths can slow speeding heartrates and put our bodies into a state of calm. These breathing exercises from the University of Michigan are a great place to start.

  3. Moving

    A walk, stretch, or silly dance can loosen up the tension in our bodies and help break us out of a funk. This is especially important for tasks that keep us sitting at a computer for hours. Put a little movement into your day!

  4. Taking a Break

    Our brains can’t work at max capacity all day. You can use your break time to move, communicating with a loved one, or do something fun. If you have trouble remembering to take a break, try using an online Pomodoro timer to break your work into intervals.

Scrabble pieces arranged to read 'pause, rest, but never give up'

These are a few more ideas specifically for those feeling blue about their job search:

  • Create a Schedule
    • Define the time you will work on your job search. Write that time on your calendar or create a reminder in your phone. Treat it like a place you need to be, and then allow yourself to log off when the time is up.
  • Write Down Your Strengths
    • Create a list of your skills and strengths and put it your workspace as a reminder. Just because you haven’t had success yet doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable and talented. Don’t let yourself forget it!
  • Refresh Your Resume and Cover Letter Strategy
    • Maybe you aren’t making headway because the information you’re sending employers isn’t as enticing or polished as it could be. Have an expert review your resume and cover letter on Brainfuse JobNow! for free with your library card.

If you are struggling with your mental health, The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers free resources and support. Visit NAMI Dupage or NAMI Will-Grundy to learn more.

Thursday, October 21, 2021 - 9:15am

The Lean Business Model Canvas: A Business Plan for Entrepreneurs

New entrepreneurs often assume that before they can start up, they need a detailed written business plan. But traditional business plans tend to be more useful for established businesses that are looking to scale up. Most new startups don’t need a plan that’s extremely detailed; the point is to get to the key things that matter.

At NaperLaunch, we encourage new startups to use the Lean Canvas, a 1-page business plan template designed especially for entrepreneurs. Created by Ash Maurya and adapted from Alex Osterwalder's Business Model Canvas, it helps you quickly assess the strength of your business idea by prompting you to examine essential aspects of your business early in your entrepreneurial journey.

With the Lean Canvas, you can focus on identifying problems and solutions. There’s only so much space to use, which means it’s necessary to boil down key points into the most important information.

The Lean Canvas covers, at a high level, all the major aspects of your company. It helps you determine whether your product or service should be created in the first place. It also helps you decide whether it is possible to build a sustainable business around a particular set of products and services.

The canvas breaks your company into nine building blocks, as shown in Fig. 1. Individually, they help you define your business in a logical order. When assembled in this configuration, they create a Venn diagram–like way of thinking about your organization.

The Lean Business Model Canvas
Fig. 1 The Lean Business Model Canvas
  1. Problem - This is what your product or service will solve for people. What problem(s) are you solving? Is it an adaptation or new product/service? Are you bringing lower cost, better design, more features?
  2. Customer Segments - These are the people that have the problems you’ve identified. It’s important to learn as much as you can about them, such as who they are, where they live, and how many of them there are.
  3. Unique Value Proposition - The heart of the canvas, the UVP is how you will set yourself apart from your competitors. It will guide you in your pricing strategy and your marketing messages. We describe the process of writing a UVP in this blog post.
  4. Solutions - What is your business going to offer that solve the problems you identified? Your offering should be something that your customer wants and for which the customer will pay enough to make your business profitable.
  5. Channels - What marketing and distribution channels will you use to reach your target audience (eg, Business to Consumer, Business to Business)?
  6. Revenue Streams - What is the market willing to pay? How much will you make and from where?
  7. Cost Structure - What will your solution cost to implement? Are you satisfied with your break-even analysis, and if not, how will you improve it?
  8. Key Metrics - What are the drivers for your business? What key performance indicators will you use to evaluate or predict performance of company activities or other specific outcomes against set goals?
  9. Unfair Advantage - What competitive advantage can you and your company develop, exploit, and maintain?

When completing the canvas, answer the questions starting at the top left with Problem, and continue to Customer Segment at the top right. Continue numerically until you've answered all the questions. You'll notice the boxes are out of order, but the Lean Canvas is designed this way to optimize your thoughts. When assembled, you'll see common themes emerge from the boxes that touch each other.

If you’re interested in creating your own Lean Canvas, the Naperville Public Library offers several resources to help you get started:

  • The NaperLaunch Academy offers a focused curriculum to help entrepreneurs develop fundamental business knowledge and learn the Lean Startup process. The next series of workshops kicks off Wednesday, Oct. 6 with Business Conceptualization, a session devoted to the first seven boxes of the Lean Canvas; the following session on Startup Financial Essentials, explains how to fill in the last two.
  • The library’s Gale Business: Plan Builder software, accessible at the library or from home with an NPL barcode number and PIN, is an interactive tool that walks users through the process of creating a Lean Canvas, and eventually, a business plan and strategic marketing plan.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about the Lean Startup process, this blog post is a good starting point. For more information, you can find Ash Maurya’s books, including Running Lean and Staying Lean, in the library catalog.
Tuesday, October 5, 2021 - 4:15pm

4 Invaluable Business Startup Services Available at NaperLaunch

As of June 14, most Naperville Public Library services have been restored to full capacity. This includes NaperLaunch, the business startup services center and coworking space located at the Nichols Library in downtown Naperville.

Reopening means not only that our spaces and technology resources are available, including the free coworking space, conference rooms, and public computers and software, but also a reinvigoration of the NaperLaunch community, which is built on the people we connect with and the opportunities we create.

Whether you’re a returning regular or encountering us for the first time, we encourage you to take advantage of the key (and free) services that can be found at NaperLaunch:

1.Guidance and Mentoring

NaperLaunch coaches, including business librarians and volunteer mentors, guide entrepreneurs and small business owners through the process of starting or growing a business.

Members of the library’s Business Services team can provide a one-on-one orientation to the library’s business resources. Set up an appointment to learn about our workshops, roundtable discussions, and master mind groups and receive a demonstration on how to use our online resources to conduct market research, create mailing lists, or write a business plan.

In addition, the library partners with SCORE Fox Valley, a volunteer organization of experienced business leaders who mentor entrepreneurs and small business owners. SCORE mentors provide customized assistance in starting and expanding a business. SCORE volunteers attend at NaperLaunch events and accept appointments for individual mentoring sessions.

2.Business Education

The NaperLaunch Academy offers a focused curriculum to help entrepreneurs develop fundamental business knowledge and learn the “lean startup process.” To meet the needs of busy entrepreneurs, the curriculum is presented in two formats: live workshops or self-guided virtual courses.

A series of evening workshops are offered on a rotating basis, with the next session beginning July 7. Participants can choose the workshops and sequence that best meet their needs. These live, interactive workshops are currently offered via Zoom videoconference.

For those looking to work through the courses on their own schedule, a sequence of 17 NaperLaunch Academy class sessions can be accessed on demand via the NaperLaunch BizVids webpage. Videorecorded sessions for each course are presented with links to handouts and PowerPoint presentations.

3.Peer Learning Opportunities

Peer learning experiences are designed to spark collaboration and productivity through group discussion and coaching.

Business roundtables are moderated open discussions addressing issues faced by the entrepreneurs and business owners who attend. These interactive discussions are designed to spark interactive communication. Participants take advantage of collaboration and networking opportunities as they gain significant insights on how to enhance productivity, strategic marketing, and overall business success through group discussion and coaching. Discussions are moderated by SCORE volunteers, who have extensive business management and business mentoring experience.

Several roundtable options are offered, including a monthly startup-focused roundtable, a roundtable specifically for women’s business owners, and an evening session offered in conjunction with the NaperLaunch Academy.

Master mind groups bring together established business owners. Each meeting supports collaboration and accountability through discussion, sharing insights, problem solving, and goal setting. Business advisors attend and add insights to the conversation in each meeting. Group members become intimately acquainted with the business models and plans of each participant.

4.Library Resources

Naperville Public Library has extensive online resources to help small business owners and entrepreneurs develop business plans, research market data and demographics, and more. The online resources are authoritative sources of information that far exceed the depth, quality, and relevance of search results generally available in web searches. They can be accessed from within the library, or from anywhere with your Naperville Public Library card number and PIN.

In addition, the library maintains a business reference collection that can be used in the library and a collection of business books that may be checked out with a library card. Business magazines and newspapers are also available.

Market Research

Using databases such as Reference Solutions and Gale Business: DemographicsNow, entrepreneurs can access information about markets, consumers, competitors, suppliers, and industry trends. This data comes from research companies and is only available on a subscription basis; it cannot be found in a web search. Entrepreneurs can develop all the information necessary for a startup’s strategic marketing plan by using the library’s databases and print resources.

Business Planning

Through several different resources at the library, entrepreneurs have access to example plans for every type of business imaginable, which can be a helpful guide or template for writing a plan. In addition, the Gale Business: Plan Builder software can be used to create a business plan to “take to the bank.” This top-of-the-line software application was, in fact, developed by a local entrepreneur in Naperville. Such tools are indispensable for a startup that is seeking to gain new partners, senior level employees, or investors.

These four key services only scratch the surface of what is available at NaperLaunch. Our coworking space nurtures an environment of networking and collaboration with other entrepreneurs, and our cutting-edge technology allows our members to produce professional results without the price tag. New startups should not overlook the extensive resources at NaperLaunch when seeking guidance and assistance along the entrepreneurial path.

To learn more, visit our website.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021 - 1:45pm

What to do Once You’ve Landed the Interview

You’ve landed a job interview. Congratulations! Now what?

It’s time to prepare as much as possible and put your best self forward. Here are some tips, tricks, and ideas to help you prepare for that all-important interview.

  1. Research the Company – Learn about the challenges of the organization and consider how your skills and background can help defeat those challenges. Check out these NPL databases to help you research background information:
    • Mergent Intellect: Public, private, and international business data and profiles, plus consumer demographic data to generate insightful business intelligence.
    • Mergent Online: Delivers comprehensive company, industry, and market intelligence. Provides profiles and financials of U.S. and international companies.
  2. Prepare for Common Interview Questions – There are many different types of interview questions: behavioral, brain teasers, and skill assessments, to name just a few. Be ready with specific examples of past performance, successes, and challenges or failures that you overcame. Check out this NPL database to prepare:
    • Brainfuse JobNow!: Live job search assistance from job coaches including resume and cover letter help and live interview practice and feedback, plus online resources and links.
  3. Plan the Day – Solidify the timeline for the day. Consider the time required to drive to the office, or to set up your computer if interviewing virtually. Decide on an outfit. Run a practice of the timeline, drive to the location, and verify traffic or other concerns. Have a technology back-up plan for your computer.
  4. After the Interview – Follow up with your point of contact(s) with a brief message. Be sure to say thank you in a meaningful way and express your sincere gratitude and interest in the position.

Further Reading Resources:
The Ultimate Job Interview Preparation Guide - Glassdoor
7 Things to Research Before Any Job Interview - Glassdoor
Salary Negotiation Skills – AAUW

Thursday, June 17, 2021 - 9:45am