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!]