Monday, December 28, 2009

Bold Moves

Right now is NOT the time to be any old Joe Schmoe. If you want a job then you should do everything in your power to stand out and position yourself as the expert.

Recently, I came across 2 job-related success stories. One of them is from a reader and the other I found through one of my favorite blogs.

Story #1 from one of my readers

Abigail (fictitious name) is a fledgling clothing designer. She's had just as much trouble as everyone else in finding a job by the traditional online application methods.

In an effort to make more connections she used a site called meetup which connects people with different social interests. It is not a job search site---it is a social site. Before Christmas she came across a Christmas Party through meetup which she thought would provide an opportunity for her to meet "the right people."

Now, most people don't like to go to parties where they don't know anyone. So, she took a friend and she also put her portfolio of designs in the back of her car. While she was at the party a photographer happened to have his portfolio out for folks to look at. At this point she decided to go back to the car to bring out her portfolio.

By the end of the night so many important people had seen her work AND loved it! She made so many great connections that evening. She was asked to come to another party AND also invited to do a short news segment on television! Sweet story.

Story #2 from one of my favorite blogs

This is a story about a girl who happens to be a wedding junkie. Most importantly, though, it is a story about a recent graduate who made a bold move to get the job of her dreams. Go ahead, click on the link and read her story...

Here's a quote from her article, "I made a seemingly simple, but bold move and it paid off. Many of my classmates are suffereing because they are doing things someone else expected of them instead of living authentically and putting their heart into every move they make. The more we exert, the more reward we are able to feel as its equal and opposite reaction. Risk is just opportunity dressed up in scary clothes."

Here's how I would sum up her post:

You must have patience.

You must take risks.

You must dare to be BOLD.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post interivew: Send your thanks!

It is always important to write a note of thanks to your interviewers for providing you with the opportunity to interview and to reiterate HOW you are the best candidate for the job. Here are a few tips:

1. As far as I know, snail mail thank-you notes are still acceptable. Make sure you have the correct address. (Many times the address can be found on the website or at the bottom of an email correspondence. Otherwise, be prepared to ask for a business card at your interview.)

2. BOTH email and snail mail thank-you notes can be sent so that you can remain in the interviewer's mind during decision time.

3. If your interview is out of town then bring stationary and stamps with you so that you can drop the letters by a post office before you leave town. If you do this then the thank-you notes will get to the employer faster. If you're staying at a hotel it is very likely that the front desk can send out your mail. (From personal experience: My very kind Aunt had to drive me to the local Target to pick up stationary after one of my out of town interviews. She even provided my postage and dropped them off at the post office the next morning for me! What's the moral of the story? If you don't have an Aunt like mine then you better buy your stationary in advance.)

4. Write a draft of your thank-you note on a separate sheet of paper or on your computer before writing the message in a thank-you card. Read it aloud to catch mistakes.

5. Write LEGIBLY if you send out a snail mail thank-you card.

6. A generic thank-you (email and/or snail mail) will not help your chances. You should succinctly re-iterate HOW you would be an asset to the company. This will work even better for you if you can refer back to a specific comment made during your interview.

7. Write email and/or snail mail thank-you notes to each one of your interviewers.

8. If you're sending a snail mail card then purchase appropriate stationary. I'd like to define 'appropriate' but it really depends on the company and the type of job. Personally, I'm a fan of Crane & Co but you can also find business thank-you cards at an office supply store.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Jobs and maintaining relationships

Here are 2 reasons why you should maintain good relationships with previous employers:

1. From a small, family business situation:
My brother came home from college about a week ago and visited an old manager to say, "Hey!" Guess what happened. His old manager asked him if he would like to work for a few days! My brother did not go by the store to get a job. It just happened that the manager needed some extra help for the holidays and was willing to pay him for it. Good deal, eh?

2. From a corporate, internationally operating business situation:
I was seasonally employed for nearly 4 years in retail. While I was in college I worked every summer, almost every spring and fall break, and every holiday season. It was pretty sweet to have a job waiting for me when I came home---exactly when I needed money. Imagine that...a job waiting for you.

Keep up with previous employers, co-workers and old friends. You never know where jobs might show up!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Crazy #5 and how it feels to be treated like an idiot

Shortly after I created a post about Christmas Crazy Customers I worked at my holiday store and encountered Christmas Crazy #5. If you've worked in retail before then you may have encountered #5 previously. In my 4 seasons of working in retail for the holidays with a previous employer I have never encountered #5. So, it rattled my insides when it happened to me at my new retail job...

The morning started out well. I was in such good spirits that I opened the store 10 minutes early for my customers who were waiting outside the doors. Since snow was predicted in my area there was a rush of customers before midday. Now, keep in mind that I live in the South right now. We cancel school before the first snowflakes appear and people purchase enough bread, milk, and beer to feed several armies. Evidently, they also feel the need to purchase cookies...quickly.

The phone started ringing. I was the only employee in the store. I had to answer the phone because it is on the same line as the credit card machine. You cannot run the customer's credit card and talk on the phone at the same time. It just doesn't work.

And the phone rang again. The line of customers got longer. I asked my first customer in line to please hold on for one second while I answered the phone. Then, all of a sudden a lady customer got out of line, stepped up to the register and SHOUTED, "WHY DON'T YOU WAIT ON THE CUSTOMERS WHO ARE HERE?" Right after that a man in line YELLED at me, "YOU NEED TO WAIT ON THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY HERE. I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU PEOPLE DO THIS. I NEVER UNDERSTAND THIS!"

I have never in all of my holiday retail experience had customers yell at me. I've had grumpy ones and crazy ones and even plenty of nice ones. But, I've
never had customers yell at me. It must have been the snow or the recession, or both.

I had nothing to say to the man and woman who yelled at me. My face probably turned red. My hands started shaking. It wasn't just the shouting incident though that hurt me. It was the fact that I never intended to work in retail again. I went to get my Master's degree so I wouldn't have to. Yet, it really doesn't matter. Through the eyes of those customers I was an idiot. I suppose some people just feel they can treat others like dirt. It's funny how those customers both purchased CHRISTmas gifts. Let us not forget the reason for the season. Being kind to the people behind all those holiday registers counts too.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Unemployment and debt among young people

I found an interesting organization called The Project on Student Debt. According to them the unemployment rate in 2009 among recent graduates (ages 20-24) is about 10.6% right now.

Check out this clickable United States map to find out the average debt for recent graduates in your state. There's a good chance that at least 50% of the recent graduates in your state are in debt! Holy smokes! The 5 states with the highest proportion of student debt in 2008 are the District of Columbia, Iowa, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire. Utah is the state with the lowest debt level in 2008.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Take advantage of this...

Do you remember my post on interview attire (suits) for men? Well, I saw this commercial on my TV recently about a sale going on at Men's Wearhouse. Here's the skinny:

+With the purchase of a suit you can get a 2nd one for $100.

+Free ground shipping on a purchase of $99 or more. It won't be difficult to spend $99 even if you're just buying a nice belt, shirt, and tie.

+Evidently they also have free return shipping as well. This is definitely a good thing particularly if you don't have a Men's Wearhouse retail store near you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Retail Work and The Christmas Crazies

Are you working in retail this holiday season? I know what you're going through. Trust me...

On the way home from my exhausting day of work at the holiday store I pondered for a few minutes on the retail Christmas rush. It is really quite ridiculous how everyone comes out of the woodwork to buy lots of things, particularly a few days before Christmas. Granted, they do spend a lot of money and they do pay my salary. But, I have to tell you that these people are called The Christmas Crazies for a reason and they get worse closer to Christmas.
Now, I've worked in retail for 4 holiday seasons so you would think I'd be used to it. But, they never cease to amaze me. Here are 4 characters you need to know about:

The Christmas Crazies

1. Ridiculous Request Rita: Grin and bear it. Customers will have ridiculous requests. You may complete that request for them and they may still be angry at you. Bite your tongue. You don't have much choice if you want to keep your job.

2. Char the Cheater: This is the customer who tries to tell you that you've rung them up incorrectly and charged them too much. Double check the receipts and the prices. Are they correct? If they are, HOLD YOUR GROUND. Don't let that customer skimp out. How do you think the company pays your salary? Still have problems? Call the manager.

3. Special Susan: There are 40 customers in the store but this customer expects for you to wait on her as if she was the only customer in the store. Kindly steer her towards one particular product. Tell her a few good things about the product and then say, "I'll let you think on this one while I go ring up my customer." There's a good chance she'll come back and find you with more questions. But, that's Special Susan for you.

4. Rushing Ruth: This is your customer in a hurry. She's got a little bit of Special Susan in her too. Rushing Ruth flies in with the wind, her purse is overflowing, she cannot find her pen or her wallet or her glasses but she thinks she needs 10 of this and 15 of that and 25 of those or maybe 20 of those instead of 25 and then she's got this coupon but she can't find it and also she needs 2 of those AND PRONTO. The best thing for you to do is project confidence in getting her things together and grab a co-worker for help. Be direct with her too or she'll get even more confused.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Selling Yourself

Searching and applying for jobs is all about selling yourself. Sure, people have probably told you this many, many times. But, let's think about this in a simple way that most people (consumers) can find understandable using a few retail examples.

Example 1
Candy bars are on sale at the grocery store. You can get 2 for $3. OR, you can buy 1 for $1.75. Which one is the better deal? Answer: 2 for $3. You'll be saving 50 cents and you get TWO candy bars, not just one. This makes sense, right?

When you talk or write about your work experience and skills think about bundling. For example: Let's say the employer wants to hire someone who has social networking skills. Candidate A only knows how to use Facebook. Candidate B not only knows how to use Facebook but has experience with twitter, blogspot and wordpress blogging, digg, delicious, myspace and AIM. You'd hire Candidate B right? Bigger bang for your buck.

Example 2
You're searching for a Christmas gift for your aunt. She likes soaps, perfumes, lotions, and things of that nature. You stop into your local fragrance store in search of the perfect gift. It turns out that the store has a gift set with just the right items that your aunt will love. The items are in a beautiful gift box complete with Christmas ribbons and a gift tag. The gift set is $40. The only other alternative is for you to buy the items separately for $50 and wrap them at home. Which one are you going to buy? Answer: The gift set for $40. No brainer, right? It is nicely put together and cost less. Why would you spend more for the same items which you will have to wrap later?

Think about what experiences and skills you have (what you're trying to sell) and step into the employers shoes. Do your skills fit the job annoucement? Are your skills "the perfectly packaged gift set" that the employer is looking for? In addition, your cover letters and resumes should be "put together" just like that gift set. No typos or rambling in your cover letters. Be specific and succinct.

Example 3
You need a new coffee maker. Your friend tells you that he just got one at the local department store for a good price. He says his new coffee maker makes the best cup of coffee and he'd rather have that over a Starbucks. You decide to buy that coffee maker because your friend recommended it and you trust his taste.

Same thing goes for jobs. If you were the employer wouldn't you rather hire someone who came with a recommendation (or a referal) from a co-worker? This is why networking is so important! You may be one of the better candidates for the job. But, if you come with a referral then you may become the best (and only) candidate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do you fit in one of these unemployment categories?

If you're a jobless graduate then you would clearly be classified as unemployed. But, what if you're underemployed, that is, working only part-time but wanting full-time work? Or, what if you're working full-time but still underemployed (not being paid what you're worth)? Are you being counted in the labor and unemployment statistics?

Well, the Bureau of Labor Statisticians has been working hard to encompass all categories of unemployed persons in order to get a better picture of the unemployment rate. Below I've outlined some key points from a table titled "Alternative measures of of labor underutilization" by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment categories are labeled as U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5, and U-6 and you can see details of each category and rates by clicking here.

Category U-3 is the official unemployment rate. This is the rate reported most often by the news. As of November 2009 it was 10%.

Categories U-4 and U-5 include "discouraged workers" which "...have given a job-market related reason for not looking currently for a job." Both of these categories also include other types of workers as well.

Now, here's the interesting part: U-6. This category includes "marginally attached workers" who are "...persons who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the recent past." It also includes the total unemployed and those employed part-time for economic reasons. The U-6 rate was 17.2% as of November 2009.

Here's my question: WHO are the marginally attached workers? I don't understand this category. We know that discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached. But if you're not a discouraged worker then WHY aren't you looking for a job? Jobs don't get thrown at your front door step like the morning paper (or delivered daily to your email inbox). If you want a job then you should actively search for one, right? Otherwise, people will think you don't want to work, right?

HELP WANTED: If you have any insight on The Marginally Attached Workers please leave a comment!

Friday, December 11, 2009

New Job Search Site Found

One of my readers passed on a search engine for entry level jobs. Unfortunately, there are some fake jobs on this site so be careful. Personally, I did find a legitimate job that I intend to apply for. If I were you I'd double check the company website to make sure the job is listed there if you happen to find one on the site. Here it is: AfterCollege

Best of luck to you!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Can you take online courses to defer student loans?

One of my readers passed this Wall Street Journal article to me about a young pilot who earns about $32,000/year and receives a cost-of-living allowance. Evidently, the pilot has decided to defer his student loans (totaling $130,000) by taking online courses. (What is he thinking?!) I feel as though the pilot needs a Suze Orman intervention. Here's why:

1. Yes, it is possible to receive a deferment on student loans by taking online courses if you have a Direct Loan from the Federal Government. BUT, you've got to be enrolled at least "half time" which probably means at least 6 credits or 2 classes. Do you have time for this? Will those courses pay off later by leading to a higher salary?

2. If the Direct Loan from the Federal Government is subsidized then interest will not accumulate while you're taking classes. If the pilot has $130,000 worth of loans then he probably has some loans that are not subsidized. Therefore, interest will accrue even while taking classes.

3. I just checked the cost of taking an online course at my local community college. Each class is about $70 a pop. Two classes makes $140. If you took online courses through a private university or state school there's a GOOD chance two courses would cost WAY more than 140 bucks. Why not just roll that money into paying off the student loan? Why not just pick up an extra job with your extra time and roll that extra money into your student loan payment?

4. It's more than the online course enrollment fee, folks. Will you have to buy books too? (Wake up to the textbook racket.) Do you have a stable computer and internet access? Do you have time for the course? (Or, would it be better for you to spend that time working a second job to pay off the loan?)

5. Deferring your student loan will cost you and it's not a long term solution. You can't run forever. It is okay to admit that you're having trouble paying off your loan. There are people who can help.

6. Confused about how much you're going to eventually pay? Try out this student loan calculator to get an idea of how much money you will owe.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Message to Employers: Hire us!

If you have the potential to hire new persons, especially recent graduates, then don't take advantage of the recession. I'm not saying that you have to hire that recent graduate for a whopping $70,000 a year. But, if you give us a chance and acknowledge our work it will pay off for you and your company. Many of us are brimming with new ideas, are super efficient, and are well skilled in the art of social networking. If you want an employee who can think big and who wants to be actively involved in growing a company then you should hire a "Generation Y." We have more energy than you know what to do with.

Here it is once again: If you can afford to hire then you should. If you can pay your interns then you should. Don't take advantage of the recession!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are you a boomerang child?

Yes, I am a Boomerang Child. I have turned my mom and dad into Boomerang Parents...

In case you haven't heard yet, a Boomerang Child is one who comes back to live at home with his/her parents after completing college. This is what I did after finishing my master's degree in May 2009. Recently, Boomerang Children have received a bad reputation and it makes me angry:

+Not all boomerang children are slackers who sit on their butt all day watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Some of us work for very little pay and are underemployed! Some of us work 2 or 3 jobs in order to gain work experience and pay for bills (including student loans).

+Most "experts" will advise Boomerang Parents sit down the with their Boomerang Child to create a deadline for moving out, taking care of personal finances, or finding a job. This may work for the un-motivated Boomerang Child. But let's face it, if the Boomerang Child was a slacker in college then there's a good chance they're still a slacker. You can't use the bad economy as an excuse for not having a job if you never really wanted to work to begin with.

+Many college graduates are strapped by student loans because someone once told them to go to college so they could get a good job. Well, it is time for a rude awakening. It depends on what you go to college for, the job market at the time of your graduation, and who you know in this world. I'm not saying that parents should take care of student loans. However, if the Boomerang Child only works for $9/hr how exactly are they supposed to take care of a student loan of $40,000?

+Although college graduates are often referred to as young invincibles in the health care world some of us have medical conditions that must be treated. Let's say the Boomerang Child was only able to get 2 part-time jobs at $10/hour apiece. Neither of the jobs offer health insurance and the Boomerang Child happens to have a pre-existing condition that makes their health insurance VERY costly. What is the Boomerang Child supposed to do---go without insurance, scream in agonizing pain, become disabled, go blind, or die?

Here's my point: If the Boomerang Child is employed (underemployed) while searching for a better job, paying many of their bills (car payments, car insurance, health insurance, student loans, etc.), and helping out around the house (occasional cleaning, cooking, or running errands) then give the Boomerang Child a break. Free room and board for awhile can be O.K.!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Interview Questions, more detailed

You can tell the holidays are upon us. I will apologize in advance for not posting as frequently. Our holiday store keeps me very busy!

Here are 3 interview questions. The question you will likely hear from the potential employer is indicated in bold but you should remember to "drive-it-home" by answering the associated unspoken part of the question in parenthesis:

1) Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (Answer this question as it relates to growth within the company. Would you like to become a manager? Or, would you like to work with a team to develop a new program or model? The point is: How are you going to grow professionally? The point is not: I want a brand new convertible, 4 kids and a huge house.)

2) What do you know about this company? (You can give a few general statements like their mission or company goals. However, you want to choose a specific piece of information about the company and relate it back to your skills. For example: "Your company has a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. Two years ago I was the team leader with a company and we were able to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by implementing a, b, and c policies that I developed.")

3) Describe your work ethic. (First you can list characteristics like dependable, goal-oriented, hard-working, etc. HOWEVER, these characteristics mean nothing unless you provide the interviewer with examples that STICK. For example: "While I was working for XYZ organization I developed an educational program for young children on a limited budget. In order to accomplish my goal and execute the program on-time I networked with local teachers to gather resources. My educational program was engaging for the children and I was asked to give the program again at a local school.")

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Temporary Jobs: On the rise?!

The word on the street is that temporary jobs are on the rise! I read recently that retailers are investing in what are being called "pop-up shops" which would obviously need temporary workers. In fact, the bakery I work for has pop-up shops, or what we call "holiday stores", and hires lots of temporary workers through a temporary agency. I've also heard that pop-up shops are not just a holiday occurrence. So, keep your eyes peeled!

You should know that temporary jobs have many advantages for the company and the temporary employee:

1) Job candidates are screened through the temporary agency, not by the company. This costs the company money but eliminates the painstaking process of interviewing and selecting candidates for the company.

2) The temporary agency provides training for temporary employees which would normally be time drain for the company.

3) Even though you, temporary worker, may work several temporary jobs before finding a permanent position, the temporary agency has a record of your work. This may provide the backbone you need to get that permanent position.

4) Temporary work is like participating in an experiment to determine if you're a good fit for the company. Sometimes temporary workers are hired permanently!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Twitter and jobs

Twitter is supposed to be an excellent tool for starting the job networking process. I've been curious about the entire concept of twittering for awhile. I will also admit that I was very skeptical and apprehensive about Twitter at first. But, I decided to join the crowd last week. We'll see how it goes. You can now follow me at genevievejoblog!

Here's a twitter-job success story from the Wall Street Journal.

Have job-twittering advice? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


If you're searching for a part-time job or internship in NYC you can try using UrbanInterns. It was created around February 2009 to connect small business owners with young people looking for work experience, flexible hours, and either part-time or internship opportunities.

On UrbanInterns you can also search for part-time internships in Chicago, Boston, or Washington, D.C. but there are very few jobs listed for those cities. While I think the idea of UrbanInterns is intriguing the site doesn't have a tremendous wealth of opportunities right now. I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tip for online job applications

Some online job application processes may prompt you to upload a copy of your resume even when there are plenty of those (stupid) boxes for you to type in all of your personal information and employment details. Don't upload your resume. Here's why:

The computer software program that the company uses for job applications will try to automatically fill in those boxes by searching the resume you uploaded. Guess what? Typically the only information that ends up in the correct box (based on your uploaded resume) is your address. If you've done this before then you know what happens next.

You'll be shouting and cursing at your computer because you have to go back through all those boxes to correct all those mistakes. So, just skip the uploading part and fill in those boxes one by one. It is truly a pain. But, so is uploading your resume only to figure out that you have to go back through all the boxes again.

[Note: Can you tell I despise those fill-in-the-box applications? Do you have suggestions from your experience? Leave a comment!]

Monday, November 30, 2009

Animated Job Unemployment Rate

I found this graphic through The Consumerist Blog. (I highly recommend this blog). At any rate, supposedly the graphic was constructed using the statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. It is pretty interesting but I wish the counties were clickable. Check it out!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Holiday Guest Post: Your video game habit, your unemployment and your lack of cash

It is the holiday season which means that major publishers like EA and Activision are pumping out AAA video game titles like there's no tomorrow. The problem, however, is that you're light on cash and a new game costs anywhere between $40 and $60...

How can you afford your video game habit?

1. Discounts: There are always discounts on video games. There are nearly countless stores in America that sell video games and they're all competing with each other over you. Just a couple of weeks ago, 3 different retailers offered the same discount of 'buy two get one free' on select titles, and Amazon followed shortly after with a 'buy two get a $40 gift card.' You can check (a video game blog) before the weekend for a rundown of sales that are happening at different stores and online retailers. Remember, a game will be just as good years down the road as it is now, so you could buy older games you haven't played yet for a fraction of the cost of current ones.

2. Trade-ins and reselling: I know it is tough to get rid of your old games, but honestly, if you're not going to play them again then why keep them? The longer you hold onto a title, the less it will be worth in trade-in value at locations like Gamestop. Also, try selling your games on Amazon and Ebay, where you can often get much more than trade-in value, though it is not always a gauranteed sale.

3. Rent before buying: Renting games is not always a great option since renting from places like Blockbuster can be expensive, plus you don't get to keep the game for very long. However, consider this scenario: You have a few days or a weekend available to play a game and there's a new game out that you know only takes 10-20 hours to beat. In that case, you would be much better off just renting the game for a few dollars instead of buying it for full price. Also, if you're not sure whether you want to buy a game or not, renting it (or borrowing it from a friend) can help you make up you mind about whether you really want to pony up that cash or not.

4. Replayability: If you have to limit yourself to just one or two purchases over the next few months, what you really want to find is a game that will give you a lot of bang for your buck. Replayability is the value over time that a game has. Multi-player games typically have good replay value since each game you play online is going to be different and they often involve competitive leader boards that encourage you to practice and play more to increase your standing. Single player games like sports, racing or role-playing games also offer the same value since they encourage a player to go through the game multiple times, trying different strategies each time, so even though you're getting the same product, each time it is slightly different.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I can be thankful even after 1 year of job searching

1 Year
My job search began in graduate school at the end of November 2008.
I finished graduate school in May 2009.
I was officially unemployed for 3.5 months and moved in with my parents.
I started this blog in September 2009.
I am currently underemployed as of September 2009 but thankful to have a job even if it is unrelated to my academic background.

Here are my top 10 tips FOR YOU (in no particular order) from my past year of job searching:

1. You cannot create your resume in 5 minutes. Spend some quality time with it.

2. If you're unemployed then you better do something productive with your time. Volunteer to make connections and gain work experience.

3. Remember, it is often about WHO you know more so than what you know. Tell everyone that you're looking for a job and what kind of job you're looking for.

4. Sign-up for lots of email alerts for jobs listed online. That's right. Fill up your inbox. Searching for a job is your job.

5. Don't be caught off guard when someone asks you what you're doing right now (while unemployed) or what type of job you're looking for. You have to sell yourself! The person asking may know someone who can help you!

6. Prepare for interview questions and plan out your interview attire ahead of time.

7. If you're looking for a retail or hourly job in the meantime then follow this advice.

8. Follow-up! Does someone have a lead for you on a job? Make sure you contact them ASAP!

9. Contact your references before listing them as a reference in an application.

10. DON'T GIVE UP! Jobs often turn up when you're least expecting it.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the U.S.!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Money for Musicians?

I found a very creative way to earn some extra cash today via the cupcakestakethecakeblog if you're a musician. There is a video of two guys who were hired by a cupcake store in Portland, Oregon to deliver singing cupcake telegrams. Basically, 2 guys make the cupcake delivery then they play the guitar and sing a song for the recipient. You can watch the video below:

By the way, if you think cupcakes are ridiculous then think again. Cupcakes are VERY IN. People who have money are spending it, even on $4.50 apiece cupcakes.

This idea may also work for local flower shops and card shops. Anyone who delivers holiday or "celebration merchandise" could be convinced that they need to invest in singing telegrams (and hiring you)!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Job Scraps: Doing the work nobody wants to do

This guest post was kindly provided by a recent jobless graduate. Thank you!

Jobless people can't be very picky about jobs when the times are tough and the unemployment rate continues to increase. Having a college or graduate degree no longer guarantees a position. It may even make you a less desirable candidate for part-time work since many companies may consider it risky to train you for a job when they know you are looking for better work and would leave ASAP if a better offer comes along.*

I worked seasonally for years on a maintenance crew at my high school. It was manual labor involving cleaning, painting, grounds keeping, and sometimes demolition and construction. The days were long and hard and I would often get in bed immediately after coming home from a day's work. There were no chances for promotions or bonuses and as a seasonal employee I was not eligible for any benefits.

I did this work because the money was solid, I was guaranteed 40 hours of work each week and enjoyed my co-workers. I still keep in touch with a few of them periodically which could help me out if I have to go back to work there in the future. It's hard to be picky when so many of us are begging for job scraps.

This doesn't mean you should give up on searching for a job within your specific field. Keep searching the web, continue filling out applications, and make new connections with people. Something may turn up when you least expect it or even right after you start your job. But, if it doesn't at least you have an income.

*This may or may not be the case. As your blogger I can say that I was successful in securing an hourly, part-time position at a bakery.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Job: Cleaning Offices

One of my co-workers has 3 jobs. He said that if you need extra money and do not mind working very late at night then you may want to try cleaning doctor's offices or other business offices in town. According to him, there are always offices to clean. Cleaning isn't glamorous work but I hear it can pay quite well for an hourly job. There is also a possibility you would work independently (on your own) if that is your style. I just searched simplyhired and using the phrase 'office cleaning' and there are plenty of jobs listed!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Job Search Site

Are you looking for an hourly job? I stumbled upon a decent search engine called

I tried searching the site myself using my zip code and found about 15 openings. It appears that you can apply online. If you decide to apply online I would definitely follow-up by calling a hiring manager to check on the status of your application. If you visit the store you could also talk with someone in customer service to find out WHO you should contact about your submitted application.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

More on Men's Suits

I found this great post (written by a man on wisebread) on why men should invest in a really nice suit. When you walk in confidently to your interview with a nice suit IT WILL speak volumes for you. Promise.

So, if you don't own one yet then you better go out and purchase one pronto. (Ladies, please encourage your man to purchase one.) There may even be suits on SALE right now! If not, they will be reduced soon.

Need some classic suit suggestions? Check out this post on the Style Me Pretty blog.

Still second guessing your investment in a suit for a job? A suit is good for more than just a job interview. Most ladies appreciate and respect a man in a classy suit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gli affari di famiglia

The family business.

If you were a business owner, wouldn't you feel more comfortable hiring someone who came with a reputation, a referral or was related to you? After all, you can't just trust any person to do the job...

What is a family owned business? According to Entrepreneur, a family owned business is, "...actively owned and/or managed by more than one member of the same family." What percentage of businesses are family owned? I was unable to find a current, reputable source but I've seen figures upwards of 80%. And, just to let you know, the top 5 largest family owned businesses are 1) Wal-mart 2) Ford Motor Company 3) Cargill, Inc. 4) American International Group and 5) Koch Industries.
[Source: Institute for Family Owned Businesses]

People tell me this all the time about finding a job: "If you can just get your foot in the door then you'll be set." While that advice is not particularly helpful at times I do think it is true. There are plenty of people working jobs that have nothing to do with their formal education.

So, let me reiterate: Your connections (who you know, not what you know) can be more important than your education.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Startling Statistics: Young people, the military, and jobs

If you're thinking about joining the military instead of working a so-called regular job, then just make sure you don't fit into this category:

According to TIME magazine, "75% of Americans ages 17 to 24 [who] can't enlist in the military mostly because they lack a high school diploma, have a criminal record or are physically unfit." (Original source: Mission Readiness)

Check out the Appendix starting on Page 6 from the report by Mission Readiness. Did you see the number of 10-17 year olds who were obese in 2007?! Mississippi ranks #1 with 44% of 10-17 year olds obese in 2007. And you know what else? A whopping 45% of high school students fail to graduate on time in Washington, D.C. Whoa.

So, would you join the military if you were promised funds for college? The Army's website indicates that there are many options depending on the type and length of service.

Here's my next question: What percentage of young people actually go to college (using those promised funds) after completing their service? I mean, wouldn't their years of service prepare them for the job market more so than going to college?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Holiday Jobs: "Are you hiring?"

A little thought can go a long way...

Have you ever noticed how early Christmas decorations are put up every year in the retail world? It happens right after Halloween. How early in the year do you think retailers plan for the holiday season? Definitely before Halloween. And, how early do you think they start hiring holiday help? EARLY. Keep this in mind if you plan on finding a seasonal job next year. There are still some holiday openings for this season (I've seen them) but most retailers have already hired.

When you visit a retailer to ask for an application there are techniques you can use that may actually get you a job. I'm working in the holiday portion of my bakery and people are still asking me if we're hiring for the holidays. My response? "As far as I know we're not hiring." None of these people bother to ask me if I'm the manager (which I am not), if they can speak with the manager, or for the manager's name and number. Do they assume I'm the manager? What if I was lying? What if we were still hiring? What if I was afraid someone was going to take my place? Why would I say we were hiring if I was afraid of losing my job? (FYI: I'm not lying and I'm not afraid of someone taking my place. However, there are plenty of people who would do this.)

Make sure you talk to the right person if you're looking for a job. Be professional and direct. If you want a job, then be serious about it. A few days ago a woman came into the store talking on her cell phone. When she saw me she told the person on the phone to hold on and asked me if we were hiring. (She didn't even take the phone off of her ear.) When I said, "As far as I know we're not hiring" she went right back to talking on the phone and left the store. If she can't even take the time to properly engage herself while asking for a job why would I ever believe that she would complete anything as an employee? Lesson to be learned: Don't do a half-ass job.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interviews: Questions for your potential employer

Always create at least three questions before your interview for your potential employer during the interview so that you are prepared when they ask, "Do you have any questions for us?" Even if they don't ask you that question you should say, "Actually, I have a few questions about this company, may I ask you at this time?"

I suggest looking at the company's website to get ideas for questions. Here are some possible questions:

+How soon will this position start?

+When will you be making your hiring decision?

+What benefits are included with this position?

+How many people will I work with directly in this position?

+Are their opportunities for advancement within this company?

+Are their opportunities for professional development within this company (courses, conferences, etc.)?

More Specific
+If you interview with a non-profit it may be wise to ask a question pertaining to fundraising such as, "Will I be fundraising?" Or, "How much of my time will be devoted to fundraising?"

+What is a "day in the life" like for someone in this position?

+Ask a specific question about one of their newest projects or developments. This will demonstrate that you've done your homework and investigated the company website.

+How much of my time will be devoted to specific tasks? Tasks will depend on the type of job. For example: travel time, time with clients, grant writing, fundraising, field work versus indoor work, etc.

+Don't ask about your salary during your first interview.

+Don't let the company "bait you" on the first interview about salary. If they ask something like, "What salary range are you looking for?" during your first interview your response could be, "My salary is negotiable. I will have to consider the cost of living in this area and what I would be doing on a daily basis for the company."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Career Choices: What am I supposed to do now?

In case you didn't know, I answer career related questions on Yahoo Answers. One day last week there was an overwhelming number of questions related to choosing a career. There were young people looking for college degree advice, 20 somethings who were laid off and searing for insight, older people trying to start fresh in a new field, and people looking for easy jobs that pay big bucks. I felt so bad for all of these people. (Well, except for the easy job/big bucks people.) Since I am clearly not wise enough to advise anyone on how to choose a career I felt pretty helpless. According to Penelope Trunk, it is quite o.k. to be lost for awhile (especially in your 20s) in order to allow things to work out...

I have a friend who was laid off a few months ago. She is looking for the right career for herself and she just isn't interested in doing any old job. When I met with her recently she wanted to know why no one ever seems to have good career advice for her (specifically). She said that if she knew of a job that one of her friends would be perfect for then she would totally let them know about it. Thus, she wanted to know why no one has done that for her. At first I thought maybe it was the recession and the lack of jobs. Later, it dawned on me that perhaps most people aren't happy in their current professions.

If you aren't happy with your own job then how would you be able to help someone else find happiness in theirs?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview Preparation: Clothing

Invest in at least 2 sets of interview attire and keep them on-hand and ready. Here's why:

Today I will have to pick on my little brother. A few weeks ago he went to a job fair to find a summer internship. He wore khakis, a white collared shirt, a tie, and brown shoes. He told me this attire was acceptable for someone looking for a summer internship.

However, after a successful conversation with a particular company he was invited to a next day interview. My brother rarely dresses up. He called me at 10 pm the night before the interview to ask what he should wear. Since you've read my post on "What do I wear for my interview: Part 2 for Gentlemen" you know what I suggested for him...

Well, guess what? He only brought half of his suit to college, forgot his black shoes at home, had no formal ties on hand, his shirt was dirty and had no black socks. His interview was for 10 am the next day. Where exactly does one buy formal wear between the hours of 10 pm and 10 am? (Wal-mart? I don't think so.)

I'm not sure what he ended up wearing---maybe he borrowed some of his friend's clothes. The bottom line is this: Invest in at least 2 sets of interview clothing and keep it ready (cleaned, pressed, and polished) for your big day(s). Why 2 sets? You may have two interviews, maybe even 3. Trust me, prepping your attire ahead of time takes part of the interview anxiety away.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Extra Cash: TV and Internet

You can save money on your cable if you're willing to sacrifice a little...

When I was in graduate school I signed up for a special 6 month deal on cable (TV + internet). I even had HBO. It was GREAT. My 6 month deal cost me about $65 per month. After 6 months my rate would have been greater than $120 per month. Instead, I called the cable company and told them I was a student, simply couldn't afford $120 per month, and that I'd have to cancel. They put me on the phone with another representative who then offered me a deal (high speed internet and standard basic cable) for $80 per month for the next 6 months. I accepted. Success!

A few more tips:

+Some people advise shopping around for cable providers (and prices). However, there was only one supplier for my area.

+Monitor your bills or statements carefully if you're involved in a cable promotion. My company screwed up my bill several times.

+I will tell you that I tried this tactic again after my second 6 month deal ran out and it did not work. I eventually switched over to the very basic TV option (15 channels) and high speed internet.

+Here are some more tips from the wisebread blog about how to lower your cable bill:
"Stop Paying for Cable Television But Keep Up With Your Favorite Shows"
"Thirteen Minutes to a Lower Cable Bill"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What do I wear for my interview? Part 2 for Gentlemen

You should always dress for success. What does that mean? Well, a lot of things. The general rule of thumb is this: For your interview you should always dress one-step above what you would be wearing to work on a normal basis. Some companies will indicate their dress policy on the website. At other times you will have to ask about the dress policy. Don't be afraid to ask about the dress code during your interview because it indicates that you are interested in company policy and following the rules. You may also ask at your interview, "Is my attire today acceptable for work here?" Be receptive to their response in the event that you need to alter your attire. I met with an expert last week to get some tips on interview apparel. Here is Part 2:

Gentlemen Professional Dress for Interviews

+Wear the darkest suit you have, preferably crisp black. Chinos or khaki pants with a navy sport coat can also be acceptable.

+Wear a white or blue collared, starched shirt. A starched, collared shirt will indicate that you are serious about the job.

+Wear a silk tie with two colors, perhaps black, gray, blue, maroon, or hunter green. Avoid flashy colors.

Socks and shoes
+Black shoes and socks should be worn with a black suit. Shoes should be shined and have no scuffs or dirt.

+Cuff links are not necessary. You may wear them if they are not flashy or gaudy. A black belt should be worn with a black suit and black shoes. Wedding rings and college rings are acceptable.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What do I wear for my interview? Part 1 for Ladies

You should always dress for success. What does that mean? Well, a lot of things. The general rule of thumb is this: For your interview you should always dress one-step above what you would be wearing to work on a normal basis. Some companies will indicate their dress policy on the website. At other times you will have to ask about the dress policy. Don't be afraid to ask about the dress code during your interview because it indicates that you are interested in company policy and following the rules. You may also ask at your interview, "Is my attire today acceptable for work here?" Be receptive to their response in the event that you need to alter your attire. I met with an expert last week to get some tips on interview apparel. Here's Part 1 (ladies first)...

Ladies Professional Dress for Interviews

+A black pant suit is highly recommended over a black skirt suit. Why? The employer may ask you to do a task that requires bending over or reaching. Trying to do this in a skirt can be awkward and embarrassing. If you decide to wear a skirt suit make sure the skirt is to the knee or longer. Cross your legs when you sit down!

+A white or blue collared, button-down, starched shirt should be worn---NOT a playful, flirty blouse. A starched, collared shirt will indicate that you are serious about the job.

Shoes and hose
+You should be able to walk in your shoes. I pity the girl who decides to wear her 3 inch heels for the first time to an interview. You should wear 2 inches or less. Your shoes should come around your heal and over your foot. Shoes should be clean (no scuffs or clinging dirt). I hate hose but it is recommended that you wear hose with a skirt suit, particularly in the winter. Don't wear hose with designs or ones that make you look too tan. Pick a color that matches your flesh.

+Wear modest jewelry. This can include post earrings. Necklaces should not be gaudy. Modest necklaces should be tucked into the shirt so that it does not detract the interviewer. Dangly bracelets and large rings are not recommended.

+While you do not necessarily have to get a manicure before your interview you should buff and trim your nails at the very least. A clear top coat can give a finished look. I do not recommend getting acrylics or nail colors because they can make performing a task difficult or detract from the interview.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snippet: Unemployment rate rises again

Unfortunately, the unemployment rate rose to 10.2% in the month of October (U.S. Department of Labor). That's a pretty steep percentage, folks. Did you miss the news? Well, I nearly did because I worked a 10 hour day merchandising the holiday store. (Thank you Consumerist Blog for the updates!) Check out the New York Times from today for the full article. AND, don't forget to check out their cool and helpful interactive version of the unemployment statistics.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Are you still unemployed or underemployed? Don't be afraid to let people know that you are job searching but don't slam your unemployment/underemployment in their face by telling them your sob story. Here's an article from Wisebread with networking tips.

So, don't be caught unprepared when people ask what type of job you are looking for or what you're doing right now. Prepare your 15 second statement to sell yourself and your skills. You could say:

"Hi, my name is _____ and I'm looking for a job in my field but currently working at _______. I have experience in _______."

"Hi, my name is ____ and I'm looking for environmental education positions but currently volunteering at the nature center. In the past I have taught XYZ courses for young children...."

"Hello, my name is ______. I was the program coordinator for ABC corporation for 4 years. I'm looking for a position in _______ and would like to use my experience in ______ to become an asset to this organization."

Since I moved back to my hometown I have made connections with people through volunteering, while chatting with neighbors, and through church. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to meet new people!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What does this job blog have to do with cupcakes?

Have you ever interviewed for a job that you REALLY wanted and the only thing that wasn't perfect about the situation was the fact that they decided to hire someone else?

This happened to me 3 months ago. To top it all off, when I received the rejection call I asked the employer if there was anything I could do to improve upon for future interviews. What did she say? "No, there really wasn't anything. You gave a great Powerpoint presentation, did well on all the interview questions and were very personable. We just had a large skill set to choose from." I was one of the top 3 for the position and was crushed by the competition. I spent 24 hours in mope-mode and decided to do something totally random...

This is where the cupcakes enter the scene. I am crazy for cupcakes. I love baking them. I love eating them. (And...I love the cupcakestakethecake Blog.) So, I walked into a busy bakery that has been in my town since before I was born and asked if..."they might be needing any extra help or hiring." Sure enough, they were hiring for a new store and I was offered a position about 2 weeks later.

I was worried about committing to bakery work even though I was searching for a career in the environmental field. My manager did ask what my future plans were and I honestly told her I was having trouble finding a job in my field but was utilizing all my strenghts (retail and customer service being two of them). She knew I had a Master's degree. She wanted to know about my retail experience and my work ethic.

So, to all of you recent grads out there, don't worry about your degree getting in the way of a temporary job OR a job completely unrelated to your degree. Focus on your skills, not your degree.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Extra Cash: Sell your stuff

Do you have a lot of stuff? Sell it online through craigslist, ebay, or Amazon. Believe me, people are still scouring the Earth to find discounts and savings!

I sold my car, my father's keyboard, my brother's saxophone, my old flute, and my uncle's trumpet (will full permission) on craigslist rapidly. If you've sold stuff on craigslist before then you know it can be slightly addicting. Also, remember that some of your family members may actually want to get rid of their stuff but do not have time OR may even be afraid of the internet! This is your opportunity! Here are some things you could sell with permission:

+Books (especially relatively new textbooks)
+Toys (small children can grow out of toys really fast)
+Older electronics and small appliances

PLEASE remember to exercise caution when using craigslist. Trust your instincts and always meet in public places during business hours. Take a friend with you to meet an interested party.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Job Fair Preparation Tips, Part 1

You NEED to prepare for a job fair! Don't just show up. Here's a starter list:

1. Find out which companies or organizations will be at the fair BEFORE you go. Make a list of which ones you want to visit. Preview their websites (mission statement, team members, possible job openings and descriptions, new advances or projects, etc.) so that you can hold an intelligent conversation if necessary. Prepare questions in advance.

2. Read my advice on how to improve your resume.

3. Print copies of your resume on fine resume paper (24# is good). Bring extras just in case. Also, bring a jump drive/flash that has your resume saved in a PDF an Microsoft Word document because some employers may have you upload it onto a laptop. If you're using the newest version of Word then make sure you also save a copy in the older (97-2003) version*. You never know which version of Word the employer will have and you want the format of your resume to remain intact.

4. Prepare for an on-the-spot interview. Check out my list of common interview questions.

*Don't know how to save your Word file in a different file format (i.e. PDF, or 97-2003 version of Word)? In the newest version of Word go to the very top left portion of your screen and click on the Microsoft button (colorful). Click, "Save as" and then chose the file format type from the drop down menu. In the 97-2003 version you can just select "File" from the top of the screen and then click "Save as" and select your file format, similarly.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Holiday Help (a job)

As I mentioned in previous posts, try looking for businesses in town that are thriving. They may need extra help. Many retailers may have already hired for the holidays but I've still seen some hiring signs in my retail realm. Remember, there is a technique you can use to ask for a retail application. Be ready to work because "4th quarter sales" are crucial for companies. By they way, have you been in a Goodwill recently? The one near me is oozing with customers and might be worth checking out for a job. I know Goodwill also does job training.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gearing up for the holidays

I've had quite a few years of retail experience and plenty of absurd customers. If you've worked in retail before then you know what I'm talking about. You have to grin and bear it sometimes. Then, you tell the story to your co-workers later. There are always lessons to be learned. This holiday season I will be working in the holiday portion of our bakery and will most likely have some interesting customers. So, to kick off the holiday season here is:

Story #1
A few days ago I volunteered at the fair-trade gift shop and a portly customer with a turtle fetish (yes, that's right, turtles) had some interesting words to share with me. After talking with him about the various turtle gifts we had in the store I managed to secure a sale from him. However, while I was running his credit card he said, "Let me see that ring!" (I held out my hand with the engagement ring.) Then, he said, "Well, where is the other one that goes with it?" Assuming that he was talking about a wedding band I said, "It is coming." The portly man says, "Well, you Hollywood figure types would do better if you ate a little more sweets...because if you ate more then he'd put that other ring on your finger because you'd be sweeter then." Now, let me step-back and tell you that I am kind to all customers (regardless of their absurdities) about 98% of the time. My response to the portly man with a turtle fetish? "Well, sir, I actually work at a bakery and volunteer here. I eat sweets all the time, believe it or not, and I can't gain a pound!" He definitely chose the wrong 'Hollywood figure type' person to talk to about sweets.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1.5 Months!

It has been nearly 2 months since I started this blog! Thank you for visiting, commenting, and emailing! In case you're new to my blog, here are some of the most commonly viewed posts from the past weeks:

Intro Post: My Letter to You

Interview Questions

Job Applications and Closing Dates

Resumes: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Temporary Employment

Continue to send feedback and ideas for posts to Remember, you can always post anonymously!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Extra Cash

Last week I took a day off from The Bakery to work for my father. I was promised a sizable sum for a 10 hour job which involved "touching-up" chairs with varnish in a fine dining establishment. My day started at 4:15 am and ended at 6 pm. Even though the job was tedious and some of the restaurant employees were quite demeaning I'd say it was worth the money. (Note: I will never eat in that particular restaurant because the employees were total snobs and treated us like scum.)

Mowing lawns and babysitting are no longer for teenagers. I earned quite a lot of extra cash by babysitting through undergrad and graduate school. Do you have a knack for household things like cleaning, moving, organizing, sewing, repairing, etc.? Network with people you know in the community to see if anyone needs help. You never know who may pay you $$ to help put up a Christmas tree, repair kitchen cabinets, shuttle children, or take elderly people to the grocery store. You could say something like, "Hi Mrs. Such and Such. Yes, I hope you are doing well today. I'm still looking for a job in my field but I'm trying to earn a little extra cash by mowing lawns. Would you happen to know anyone who would be interested?"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Scientist in The Bakery

I will stand behind my years of retail experience. I work in a bakery now and actually enjoy my job even though it is totally unrelated to my academic background. (Yes, I could eat pastries all day long for free if I chose to do so but that is not why I enjoy my job.) First of all, it is nice to do manual labor sometimes---especially if you've been in school for awhile. Take a break from school and work with "the public" in the "real-world." You'll certainly get some practical work experience. Penelope Trunk has some words to say about retail jobs in her post called, "The new post-college prestige job is retail." You should check it out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Health Insurance: "Young Invincibles"

Here's a video from CNN about a young bike messenger in NYC who does not have health insurance. He says he's been in a few health-related binds on the job. See what you think. As mentioned previously, I advocate purchasing health insurance if it is not provided through your employer (some is better than none). Here are my thoughts on the bike messenger:

1) It may be possible for him to get a short-term policy for relatively cheap if he's healthy.
2) If you are a bike messenger is it difficult to obtain medical coverage? (It seems like a high risk job...)
3) Does he have a medical condition that prevents him from obtaining affordable coverage?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reference Snippet

Who you know can be very important in a good OR a bad way. Don't "burn bridges" with previous employers or co-workers. You never know when you may need that person for a reference.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Do you have "digital dirt"?

As I mentioned in a previous post, you should clean up your online profile before you start looking for a job. It is very common for employers to Google the names of potential employees. If you have a smattering of drunken photos all over the internet it would be wise to remove them. Or, according to this article from CNN and CareerBuilder, you may be able to cover up the bad with good...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Health Insurance: Short-term plans

There is a website called gradspot that has helpful career articles that are easy to understand and oriented towards recent graduates. This particular article, "Considering Short-Term Health Insurance", contains information on who may benefit from purchasing short-term insurance, how much short-term insurance can cost, and common providers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Student Loan Snippet

Do you have a Direct Loan from the U.S. Department of Education (a.k.a The Government)? Are you also a recent graduate and unemployed? Know your options for deferment and forbearance on subsidized government loans.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retail Job (Don't do this to yourself!)

I have over 3 years of retail experience. I have witnessed multitudes of THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO when it comes to picking up, filling out, and submitting a retail application. Remember, sometimes it is all in the way you go about doing it. Right now second chances are few and far between. Two examples for today:

1. Just the other day a woman turned in her application WET because it was raining the day she submitted it. Where was her purse? Or her umbrella? Or a folder to keep her application? Who wants to hang onto a wet, smeared application? Really?

2. A man came into the store in a t-shirt and asked for an application. While the manager went to the back to get an application he proceeded to tell the other employees his long unemployment story. There are plenty of unemployed people. It is very unlikely that you'll be hired because of your unemployment story. Get over it.

Want tips on how to get a retail job? See this post
Want more THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO? See this post

Monday, October 19, 2009

Health Insurance: Be a Smart Consumer're still looking for a job but you want to purchase health insurance? Or, do you have a job and access to group health insurance through your employer? Are you being a smart consumer?

As I mentioned previously, some health insurance is better than none at all. Although I hate to say it, it is possible that the health insurance plan offered by your employer may be worse than what you could purchase as an individual. It would be wise to compare costs and coverage if at all possible to save some $$. Health insurance was offered to me through my new employer but I decided to decline because of a $10,000 (gasssp) deductible. If you go to the doctor infrequently then you might be o.k. paying all of that out-of-pocket cost. On the contrary, I'll keep my individual insurance, thanks. Here are a few thoughts to consider...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Salary Snippet

Yes, we all have a minimum acceptable salary. However, if the job application has a blank box for 'salary' I recommend putting 'salary negotiable' or 'negotiable' on the application. Wait until the employer gives you a job offer to discuss your salary.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Health Insurance: Pre-existing conditions and risk pools

After I finished graduate school and was kicked off of my university (group) health plan I applied for individual insurance through several major companies. I have a pre-existing medical condition and was determined to be "medically ineligible" for any affordable health insurance. So, what do you do when you've finished school, are unemployed AND have a pre-existing medical condition? A friend of my mother's jokingly said I could either get pregnant (be a single mother and perhaps qualify for medicaid) or get married to someone who has health insurance. Geez. I am here to tell you that you may qualify for health insurance through a state risk pool. I'm not saying that all of these policies are good or even worthwhile. I wanted to provide the link (above) so that you may investigate your options if you fall into this category.

More health insurance posts here !

Friday, October 16, 2009

Temporary Jobs and Staffing Agencies

One of my co-workers used a temp agency and was eventually hired permanently. The American Staffing Association provides an easy way to search for temporary agencies by state, zipcode, type of position, and/or occupational category. I recommend searching by state or zipcode FIRST before refining by occupation. You may be qualified to do more than you think. I have never used a temp agency before but if you have used one and would like to provide some insight for the rest of us please leave a comment!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Student Loans

Ohhhhhh....the student loan. For starters, here's a loan calculator from CNN. It asks for your loan amount, your monthly payment and your interest rate. It spits out how long it will take you to pay off the loan and the interest you will have paid in that time frame.

Are you thinking about going to school again? Play around with this calculator. Consider the cost of going to school and your future profession. Will going to school again really lead to a better salary? Or, would work experience do the trick?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Professional and Personal Reference Snippet

Don't forget: There is a difference between a personal and a professional reference.

A personal reference is an acquaintance who knows your character. This could be someone within your volunteer organization or a maybe a church or community member.

A professional reference is typically a previous employer. This person should also be able to speak of your character but provide more specifics about your previous work responsibilities and work ethic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Health Insurance: Short term plans

Are you out of work and out of health insurance? Have you finished college and been kicked off of your university's or parent's insurance? Short-term medical plan options exist.

+If you're healthy (no pre-existing conditions, illnesses, etc.) then you can often be covered very quickly.
+A short-term medical plan may be a good option if you're temporarily unemployed and want to avoid a waiting period.* *

+Keep in mind that short-term plans or gap plans may not include comprehensive medical coverage.
+And, if you develop a medical condition while on a short-term plan you may have difficulty later when purchasing your own comprehensive medical plan.

**That's right folks: If you are uninsured for more than 63 days you will have a waiting period. This means your health insurance coverage ($$) will not kick-in until after that waiting period...even if you secured a new job and group health insurance. The amount of time you will wait usually depends on your medical history. For those of us with a medical history this is financial death.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Health Insurance: Your plan and all those fancy words

If you have health insurance the last thing you want to think about when you're sick is how your policy works and what all those terms (a.k.a. "fancy words") mean. Even if you do not have health insurance and are considering your plan options it is important to know some terms so that you can be a smart consumer and compare your choices. Here's a glossary of terms for starters and some terms to consider:

1. Do you know the difference between group and individual insurance?
2. What is an E.O.B. (explanation of benefits)?
3. What is a deductible?
4. What is a copayment?
5. What does it mean to be 'out of plan' or 'out of network'?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unemployed in Georgia

I found this short article in Parade today titled, "Should Unemployed People Work for Free?" The title is a bit misleading but the article is interesting. In Georgia, many unemployed people are working for free for a limited time. In my opinion, it sounds like an unpaid internship or a volunteer stint. Basically, you have an opportunity to try out a new job (but you'll have to work for free for six weeks) and the potential to become employed after that time period. In addition, many of these people still receive unemployment benefits. See what you think...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Health Insurance: Do you need it?

I know many young people who do not have access to group health insurance through an employer and have decided not to purchase individual health insurance because they are unemployed or only working part-time jobs. Sure, paying for health insurance monthly is a drain on the budget, particularly if you're not making much to begin with. Sure, some of us may not get sick very often or never develop any medical conditions. However, most of us aren't that lucky. Even if you do not get sick very often and do not currently have any medical conditions I STRONGLY suggest that you purchase some sort of health insurance because you never know what could happen. A single overnight stay in the hospital could put you in financial ruins. Take it from me: I've had a freak accident before and also developed a medical condition seemingly out-of-the-blue. You need health insurance. Protect yourself. You don't want to be a health insurance loser.

Here's an article which quickly explains why purchasing health insurance is a must.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Federal Government Job Applications and Resumes

Invest in a book or advice on how to correctly create a federal job resume. Federal job applications are very different from many online applications. They can be very long and sometimes tricky to complete. I have found that explains how the process works but it will take you some time to complete your first application. The book I purchased is called Federal Resume Guidebook by Kathryn Kraemer Troutman. It was the best book available at my bookstore when I needed it. If you know someone who works for the federal government you should see if you can get some pointers on the application process. And of course, share them with us!

From a personal stand-point, I have applied for 3 federal government jobs and was rejected twice because I was not "best qualified." Make sure you read and re-read the job description. It may be o.k. to apply even if you are not "best qualified." Just remember that there are probably people who are "best qualified."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NEW: Health Insurance Series

If you're new to health insurance, then brace yourself. There's a lot to learn and it is important that you know how health insurance works (and does not work). My mother is employed in the field of health care. When I was much younger she talked with me about health insurance and the information would go in one ear and out the other ear. Now that I have become a slave to my health insurance I can give you some starter advice from the perspective of a young professional. This is the very first post of my Health Insurance Series. I will try to cover topics relevant to young professionals and those new to health insurance. If you have a pertinent question feel free to leave a comment or email me at and I will try to steer you in the right direction. Here's food for thought:

Do not forget the recent, jobless graduates and unemployed (or underemployed) young professionals. Many who are healthy will go without insurance. However, some of us do not have that option. What do you do when you finish school, cannot be covered by your parent's health insurance, are no longer covered by your university's group plan, are unemployed, have a preexisting condition, have been determined to be medically ineligible for health insurance and only offered health care plans with HIGH deductibles? My answers coming soon in future posts...

For my international readers: I am not an expert on the health care system in other countries and would love your thoughts and opinions. Please don't feel excluded!

What happens if we Google your name?

It is time to clean up your internet presence! Google your full name. Then, Google any nicknames or shortened versions of your name. What did you find? Would you be o.k. with an employer seeing this? Do you think you would be hired if an employer saw this? Here is an article from gradspot with some suggestions on how to clean up your online profile.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Interview Handshake Snippet

Learn to give a solid handshake. No sweaty palms. No limp hands. None of those hold-on-for-dear-life-super firm handshakes. And, don't shake the interviewer's hand 10 times either. 2 shakes will be enough.

Also, it is flu season. Wash your hands with warm soapy water before an interview and wash them after an interview. Let's keep the germs to a minimum.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Phone Interview Snippet

If you are invited to a phone interview and plan to use your cell phone make sure you have excellent reception. For any phone interview, cell phone or land-line, find a quiet place (no children or family, no traffic noise, no music or TV, etc.). It is annoying and embarrassing to ask someone to repeat what they said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

YOU and YOUR Job Search

I found this great post on another job blog a few days ago. The post is called "10 Ways You Stop Yourself Getting the Right Job" The title is a bit strange but most of the post contains good advice. Remember, if you're going to find a job right now you've got to have the right mind-set...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Phone Interview Snippet

If you are invited for a phone interview and perform better at in-person interviews, ask if that may be arranged instead. In addition, if you are presented with the option of a phone interview or an in-person interview I suggest participating in the in-person interview even if the interview location is far away. Otherwise, you will miss the opportunity to show off your personality and interact with your potential employer one-on-one. An in-person interview will provide insight to both parties, the interviewer and the interviewee. Do you want to work for them? Do they want you to work for them?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Be Professional!

Do not bring your children or friends to pick up job applications or to interviews. You are the company you keep. Here are two unfortunate scenarios that could happen:

1. A mother brings her child to pick up an application. The manager is there and wants to speak with the mother about the job. The child starts crying and is inconsolable. What now?

2. You and your best friend walk into a store together to get applications. You remain professional. However, for some strange reason your best friend decides to ask the manager if you can both be hired. Your best friends says if both of you can't work there then you don't want to apply. (That's a no-brainer for the manager. Don't hire either one of them.) What now?

Have a similar scenario to share? You can post anonymously or send me an email ( Thanks!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Should I Apply for this Job?

So, you have signed up for email alerts from many different job search engines. Your inbox has 30+ alert emails coming through everyday in addition to all of your regular emails. It is a lot to sort through. Which jobs should you apply for?

Some people apply for anything and everything online. Some people are more selective about which jobs they apply for online. While you will not know how many people may be applying for a specific job, you do know that there are lots of people looking for jobs at this time. My guess is that employers can probably find someone who has almost all of their required/requested skills. Personally, I tend to be more selective about which jobs I apply for online and have gotten pretty good at predicting who will call me back.

Now, on finances and job applications. These days the competition is stiff for un-paid internship positions and internship positions which clearly do not pay enough for one to live on their own or support anyone else. Sometimes it may be beneficial to take an un-paid or a low-paying internship. It depends on the organization and your financial situation. (Will it be a step towards full-time employment? How much is my health insurance going to cost? How will I pay my bills?)

Finally, as my brother says, "You can always tell them, 'no'." If the job sounds like a good fit but the salary or benefits make you uneasy, apply anyway. Salary and benefits may be negotiable.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Resume Snippet

Do not post your resume in open forums and sit back thinking your work is done. It is your job to follow-up and find an employer.

Should Your School Find Employment for You?

Are you familiar with the Trina Thompson story? She's suing her school because she can't find a job. Here is a more recent article called, "Should Schools Be Required to Help Students Find Work?" from MSN which has a few good points. Here are some things worth noting:

1. A college degree does not guarantee a job. The same also goes for graduate and professional degrees.

2. We are in a recession. Most recent graduates do not have jobs. Many people with years of work experience do not have jobs.

3. Many recent graduates have moved back in with their parents.

4. It is your responsibility to take initiative. Do not expect hand-outs.

5. Don't dig yourself into a hole so deep you can't get out of it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Not-So-Good Interviewer

Sometimes you do not know who your interviewer will be. It could be someone you would work with directly if you were employed. Or, it could be a human resources staff member. It may turn out to be just another employee within the company. What happens when it becomes evident that your interviewer has not read your resume (or does not remember reading it)? It is a bad situation to be in, particularly if you only realize this half-way through an interview. Therefore, it is wise to prepare for an interview as if the interviewer does not know anything about you. Come up with key phrases describing what you have done in the past and how those skills will benefit the organization. Figure out how to hit the high points of your resume quickly so that the interviewer knows who they are interviewing and that you are no Joe Schmoe.

Application Snippet

Are you going to send a cover letter and resume through email? If you live in the area where the job is being offered, call and ask if you may bring your cover letter and resume to the office in-person. Dress professionally and be prepared in the event of an interview.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview Snippet

Snippets are here! Most of my posts aren't short enough for twittering yet. However, every now and then I may post a single quick tip ("Snippets"). You know, one that you can read in 5 seconds and move on with life.

+Create 3 intelligent questions to ask before an interview so that you are prepared when the interviewer asks, "Do you have any questions about what we do?" Ask for details about the organization which demonstrate your initiative and interest. After a first interview do not ask about your salary.

Online job applications, a.k.a. the dreadful fill-in-the-box

Fill-in-the-box online job applications are my least favorite kind. They are tedious and time consuming. And, they are all a little bit different---enough to make you aggravated each and every time you fill one out. Do not forget that once you submit one of these application types it may fall into what I call a 'black hole'. If you do not have a referral and/or do not include specific search terms/key words that are used by computers to narrow down the applicant pool your application may be at risk of falling into a black hole. So, use the key phrases listed in the job announcement in your job application. Here is an article called, "7 Steps to Finding a Job Online" from CNNMoney, that demonstrates what I mean and what you can do about it.