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.