Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Quick Update

Just a quick update.  I've been completely swamped getting into a rhythm with school and my new job, and ramping up the wedding planning on top of that.  A homework assignment that was posted late (meaning I completely lost one of the days I normally work on homework) resulted in me getting only about an hour and a half of sleep last night.  I'm hoping to be caught up enough to get a real post written tomorrow, but I wanted to post a few quick thoughts in the meantime.

  • I think I have all of my tax paperwork in hand, and I'm super excited to do my taxes.  (Hey, I'm young and I don't have to deal with anything too complicated.  Also, due to having several part time jobs at different times of the year I always end up having too much taken out of my check, which means refunds and the sooner the better.)
  • I let myself buy something I've been wanting for a while that was about to go up in price significantly, so I'm holding myself to no dining out in February to compensate for the expenditure.  What I've decided is that I can eat out as long as I'm not paying or obligating myself to pay in the future.  This serves a dual purpose, because my eating out has been increasing lately and I really need to get better about it.  Things are so busy right now that if I let myself slip up a little bit I'll never recover.
  • First quarter goals updates and spending/budgeting updates are in the works.  I also still have one or two resume posts on my to-do list, but the sample resume I was working on as an example of formatting and layout got lost when I was dealing with my computer issues at the beginning of January, so I may or may not get back to it.  
  • My hybrid battery probably doesn't need to be replaced yet (the indicator lights have both turned off on their own) which is nice.  It's still going to need replacing at some point in the next year, but if I can wait until I'm out of school it would be really nice.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Do You Budget?

I like to control my spending by using separate accounts.  When I entered college I had accounts at two different banks, which I'll call Bank A and Bank B for the purposes of this post.  When I got money from my parents to cover groceries, text books, or other necessities I would deposit the money in Bank A.  Any money I earned for myself went into Bank B.  To further separate things, I would split the money in Bank B between my checkings and savings accounts.  Typically I would put about $20-25 a week into checking (for discretionary spending) and the rest into savings for grad school tuition or living expenses after I graduated.  I found that this worked really well for me, because it allowed me to see very clearly how much money I had to spend in any given category.  It also made me stop to think before pulling out my debit card, because I had to decide which card to use.

I have a lot more expenses now, and my income needs to cover necessities, discretionary spending, and saving.  On top of that, I no longer have the ability to have my paycheck direct deposited into multiple banks (I'm working for a very small company) and transferring money from one bank to another can come with fees.  As a result, while I still have two bank accounts I am generally only working out of one of them.  Instead, I now use credit cards the way I used to use my debit cards.  One is designated for groceries, textbooks, and other necessities while the other is reserved for dining out, entertainment, and gifts.  That way when I look at my bill every month I can see exactly how much I'm spending in each category and I notice if my bill goes up.

That isn't to say that I'm not tracking my spending outside of my credit card statements, because I am.  Sometimes I run into a situation where the card I want to use isn't accepted somewhere or I forget to put my card back into my wallet after making an online purchase, so I have to use the other one.  For those reasons, as well as times I write checks or pay cash, I still bring all of my expenditures into a spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet also allows me to break my spending down into smaller categories, so I know if my discretionary spending went up because I've eaten out too much, I went to the movies more often, or I was buying Christmas gifts.

I also find that separating my spending by credit cards isn't as affective as using separate checking accounts and debit cards.  I look forward to when I can have more direct control over my direct deposit, because sending the money to separate accounts really does make a big difference to me.  (A cash only budget wouldn't work at all for me because I spend cash much more readily than I swipe my cards.  I know the money is there because I can see it in my wallet, and I don't have to worry about being accountable for it later because the transaction won't show up on my bank or credit card statement.)

Do you keep your spending in check in a similar way?  What do you find works the best for you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are Offices Becoming Obsolete?

I've mentioned previously that I'm engaged, so it makes sense that a lot of my attention these days is being directed toward wedding planning.  One thing that I've noticed lately is that many of the people we've considered hiring in different capacities don't have home offices.  This has been particularly true for wedding coordinators and photographers, but I'm sure I'll run into other venders working out of their homes before my wedding roles around next fall.  I think this is due to two primary factors, both of which come back to the economy:

Freelancing is an Attractive Option During a Bad Job Market
Many people who were laid off or unable to find work during the recession took the opportunity to start their own business.  Wedding coordinators don't necessarily need much training or equipment; their most important assets are their organizational skills and ability to communicate.  Sure, it helps to know people in the business who you can refer to your clients, but many coordinators and consultants are focusing on "day of" services which are focused on the 4-6 weeks leading up to the wedding, when the contracts have all been signed and simply need to be carried out.  Similarly, an amateur photographer can transition into a professional wedding photographer with only a few extra lenses or better photo editing software.  If you decide to get into one of these businesses because you don't have a lot of other job possibilities and your savings are starting to run out, chances are you aren't going to spring for office space right away.

Technology Streamlines Businesses 
Fifteen years ago when professional photographers didn't really have the option of taking digital pictures, they required a darkroom with all of the relevant equipment for developing the film and printing the photos.  Nowadays, you just pop the memory card out of the camera, stick it into your computer, edit the photos, and send the files off to your preferred printer.  Additionally, it's no longer necessary to have a physical showroom where potential clients can come in to view your work.  You can post photos, videos, testimonials, biographies, and anything else you can think of on your website.  I'm meeting a couple of photographers at coffee houses to look over their albums and discuss details, but only after checking them out online.  

I'm curious whether this is going to become more prevalent.  As it becomes easier to handle more and more transactions online rather than in physical stores and offices, it becomes much easier to run a business out of your home.  I've definitely day dreamed about having a small business run out of my home.  It wouldn't be a full time operation, because I love engineering and it will be a long time before I would be in a position to set off on my own for that, but a small niche shop online or something.  I doubt it will ever happen, but when I see people running other businesses out of their homes it certainly makes me wonder.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Working Girl

I mentioned yesterday that I've started a new job.  This is great for a number of reasons:
  • Money.  I can pay my bills now!  I should be able to pay my typical living expenses if I average around two days a week of work.  Things are really busy there right now, though, so I'm hoping to pull in three days a week until my homework load inevitably explodes.  That extra day of work can go toward those car repairs, upgrading some of my work clothes, and preparing for the expense of moving in May.
  • Licensing.  To become a licensed engineer, you need to sit for the PE Exam.  In order to sit for the PE, you need a certain amount of time working under other licensed engineers in your field.  (I believe the exact amount varies based on your specific field of engineering and what state you're applying to be licensed in.)  Since I already have my undergraduate degree, the time I spend working at this job applies to the work experience I need to get licensed.
  • Clothing.  That sounds weird, but I hate shopping and don't do it unless I need something.  Last summer I bought about a week's worth of work clothes for my internship, but because I didn't go shopping until late April all of the clothes out were short sleeved.  I get cold really easily, especially in office buildings where the air conditioner is being cranked.  Having a job that starts in January allowed me to go out and get a few sweaters and turtlenecks that were on sale (stores are trying to eliminate their winter clothing stock in preparation for spring) and I happened to go on a day when all sale items were an additional 40% off.  I'll definitely take 4 work tops for $40.  They fit much better and are higher quality than the Target and Walmart stuff I bought last summer, which means I can feel more confident wearing them and not be constantly distracting by the cold.
  • It gives me something to do.  I feel bad saying it here given how much I ignored my blog last week, but without a job I don't have enough to do this semester.  I'm only taking two classes, and neither is giving very much homework so far.  My research is kind of at a stand still because I'm waiting on various professors to read through some papers I've written and get back to me.  Given the way my class schedule is, I can get all of my homework and research done between classes, giving me nothing much to do on days I don't have class.  If I'm able to get all of my blogging done on the weekends, that leaves my evenings free for reading other blogs, spending time with my fiance, and getting enough sleep.
So, yeah.  Work is good.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Update and Carnivals

Weekend Update 
  • I apologize again for the lack of updates last week.  In addition to being the second week of school, I also started a new job.  The hours aren't necessarily going to be consistent -- the job is at a very small engineering firm and the workload fluctuates depending on when various projects come in, so I'll be working more when things are busy and less when they aren't -- but the pay is pretty good and the work is more interesting than I was expecting.
  • The Declutter Challenge is going well.  I now have 21 items to go to Goodwill along with the seven items I mentioned getting rid of in my last update.  The items were in three bags, but only two of them made it to Goodwill last weekend and I don't feel like sorting through the remaining bag to count, so I'll update the status bar once I actually get all them out of my apartment.  I also know I have more stuff to go out.  A few items got thrown in the laundry pile before I donate them, so whenever I get around to folding laundry I can start a new bag.
  • I managed to get my three workouts in last week, so I'm happy.  I found that Netflix has some workouts in their streaming section, so even though it was raining some (and I hate going outside in the rain) I was able to get a little bit of activity.  This past week was not as good, as I haven't made it to the gym (or Netflix) at all.  I definitely need to, because the extra time sitting while I'm at work is doing a number on my back and I really need to strengthen my core and improve my posture.
  • I took my car to the shop for a check up last week, and in addition to the normal maintenance I found out that I need to replace my drive belt (it's cracked, not broken yet) and my IMA battery.  I have a hybrid, and the IMA battery is the extra one that helps you accelerate without wasting gas.  I'm undecided about what to do about the IMA battery.  It will cost $2500-3000 to replace, and my car is only worth $4000-5000.  I haven't actually noticed any problems with my battery charging or any issues accelerating.  All I know is that a warning light came on for it right before I needed to take it into the shop any way, and the mechanic told me that the warning code says it needs replacing.  I can't seem to find anything that tells me if this will be a sudden failure or if it will just gradually lose its ability to hold a charge.  If it's the latter it makes sense to me to just wait until I start having issues with it.  My car has been really good to me so far, and I haven't had to do any major repairs.  It's pushing 8 years old now and has 90,000 miles, though, so I feel like things are bound to start breaking.  I don't want to sink that much money into a battery and then have a bunch of other things go, but I won't have a real income for another four months.  I would prefer to wait until then to make a decision, but I don't know if I'll be able to.  I'm trying to research my options, but it's hard to find a lot of information.  The technology is just too new so most of the people reporting on this are people who've had problems with they're batteries dying earlier than they should.
  • The IMA light magically turned itself off on Wednesday, but the check engine light is still on and when I took it in this weekend for the drive belt the technician said the code is still indicating the battery needing replacement.  (He did say I could buy the battery for cheaper somewhere else and bring it to them to install, though I don't know how much of the quoted price is parts and how much is labor.)  At this point, I've pretty much decided that the battery DOES need to be replaced, but the question is when.  Whenever I do decide to sell this car or trade it in, no one will buy it if it needs a $2-3000 repair. I have one other small (not super expensive) part that needs to be replaced, and I'm hoping to get my usual service technician for that so I can discuss the battery with him.  (My appointment was supposed to be with him for my last service, but for some reason a different technician ended up doing it and the subsequent belt change, and he hasn't been very informative.  I also don't fully trust that he's actually checked out the problem aside from just reading the codes that aren't being output, so I'd like to get an opinion from my normal guy.)  I have no idea whether this will be a gradual failure, with the battery just holding less of a charge each time, or if it will be sudden and I'll find myself having trouble getting up to speed getting onto the highway without any prior indication of a problem aside from the warning light.  If it's the former, I definitely want to wait until I notice a difference in the performance of my car.  If it's the latter, it's more of a safety issue and fixing it becomes more urgent.  Unfortunately, the technology is still too new.  My google-fu is failing me and I can't find relevant information online.
Carnivals and Link Love 
I got a huge amount of link love over the past two weeks.  The following blogs have included me in their carnivals and roundups since my last update:

I have a guest post up at Frugal Freebies and Deals on Basic Steps for Setting up a Budget.  I'd appreciate it if you went over and checked it out. 
Wealth Pilgrim selected me as an Editor's Pick in the Carnival of Personal Finance, Ask the Right Questions Edition.
Family Money Values included my in the Totally Money Blog Carnival, Martin Luther King Day Edition.
Prairie Eco Thrifter included me in the Yakezie Carnival, Credit Card Edition.
My University Money included me in the 16th Edition of the Carnival of Financial Camaraderie.
Control Your Cash included me in the Carnival of Wealth, Angry White Female Edition.
The Simple Dollar included me in their Weekly Roundup, Election Returns Edition.  (I'm particularly appreciative of this inclusion, as it generated a very large amount of traffic to my site.  I think some of those readers have stuck around, too, so if you found me through the Simple Dollar round-up, hello and welcome to my blog.  Sorry it's been so empty lately!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My apologies!

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while.  I've been swamped getting into the swing of a new semester and starting a new job.  Also, I blew through my back-up post supply when I was sick and out of town.  I should have real content back up by the end of the week.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Discrimination During the Job Hunt

On Monday I wrote a post about what information you need to include in your resume, and some interesting discussion popped up in the comments.  One of the topics that came up had to do with discrimination.  According to FindLaw, employers in the United States are not legally allowed to discriminate based on:
  • race
  • national origin
  • gender
  • pregnancy
  • age
  • disability
  • religion
It's also possible for state or local laws to add other items to the list, like sexual orientation or marital status.

One of the issues that I've worried about when looking for jobs was the issue of kids.  I don't have any yet, and won't for a couple of years, but as a female employee it's something that employers could see as a negative.  Sure, we're not in the 50's any more.  Fathers are taking a much more proactive role in raising kids the work load distribution has been changing.  That being said, the default assumption is still that when a kid is sick the mother is more likely to be the one to stay home from work and take care of them the majority of the time. 

The question is, though, what do you do if you're sitting in an interview and you're asked a question that's out of bounds?  There are a lot of questions that could set off that alarm bell.  Aside from directly asking about any of the bullet points above, here are some questions to be careful of:
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?  This could be an attempt to find out if you're married and/or have kids, or it could be a way of determining your sexual orientation.
  • How's your health?  In addition to wondering about a disability, the employer may try to figure out whether you'll cost them when it comes to the health care plan.

So, what do you do?  It depends on the situation, but the last thing you want to do is immediately take offense and respond angrily.  Stay calm, and follow one of the following tactics:

Politely inform them that the question is out of bounds.  You could say something like, "I don't see how that question relates to my qualifications or ability to perform the job duties."  You could be even more direct and mention that it sounds like they're asking a potentially discriminatory question.  The risk with being blunt, though, is that you may offend the interviewer and get your resume blacklisted.  Most of the time these sorts of questions are either completely innocent -- the interviewer is just curious and has no plans to report the answer to the question to anyone else -- or unintentionally discriminatory -- the interviewer doesn't know that what they are doing is wrong and potentially illegal.  For instance, on the matter of discriminating against mothers, the employer may not view it as discrimination but as avoiding hiring someone who may need schedule accommodations or call in sick more often.  From a purely business standpoint, all else being equal, it would be a better financial decision from their standpoint.  It's still wrong, though, and maybe they aren't aware of it.

Answer the question.  You always have the option to answer the question.  It's possible they don't mean any harm by asking and don't plan to base any decisions on the answer.  If you feel like the chance of negative repercussions is low or you want to avoid being confrontational then giving a direct, honest answer may be the right choice.  

The third option is to try to deflect the question by giving a non-answer.  For instance, if they ask you how old you are you can tell them you're old enough to vote.  That would also tell them that you're old enough to work legally (they are allowed to ask if you are at least 18 because that has an impact on things like how much you're allowed to work).  If you can give them an answer that addresses part of the question or gives them some information without giving them the opportunity to discriminate, that's ideal.  Otherwise, you can try to say something funny or insightful instead.  If there's something in particular that you're concerned about being asked, try to come up with a way to deflect the question before you get to the interview.  

If you try to deflect the question and they still press you for an answer, you'll have to choose between answering the question or telling them you aren't going to answer it because you feel like it's inappropriate.  I'm lucky never to have been in this type of situation, so I can't know for certain what I would do.  I would probably try to deflect it and give an honest answer if pressed.

As far as what to do if you think you're being discriminated against -- and for the record, simply asking a question about one of these things does not necessarily mean that discrimination has taken place -- I'm not really a good source for that.  I would probably look through the material on the company's website and any information they had given me for indications that they are an equal opportunity employer or that they don't discriminate, and then take any concerns to their HR department.  You may want to contact a lawyer who specializes in discrimination suits first, though, to make sure you are taking the proper steps.

Have you ever been in this position?  What did you do?  If not, what do you think you would do?

This is part of my Career series.  For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Writing a Resume (Part II)

In Part I of this series, I discussed a list of things that I feel are mandatory to include in a resume.  Today I will list some other types of information you can include.  It's important to remember that every individual has many facets to their personality, their history, their training, and their qualifications.  Part of applying for a job is presenting yourself in such as way that the employer can see those facets that are relevant and beneficial to the company.  You may have several basic resumes that you keep on hand that showcase different aspects of your training and work history.  Without further rambling, here are my suggestions.

What you CAN CHOOSE to include: 
This is not an exhaustive list everything you can put on a resume, but it hits a lot of the most common categories.  Think I've missed something?  Leave me a comment or send me an email.
  •  Objective Statement
    • This is something that varies a lot by field, so you should research this before including it.  In some areas this can be a whole paragraph, and what you write and how you write it can be the deciding factor in whether you get called in for an interview or tossed in the trash pile.  These aren't mandatory for my field, so I keep it short and sweet, something along the lines of "Seeking a (part time position/full time position/internship) in the field of (_____)."  It gives the person reading my resume an idea of what I'm looking for without having to scan through the rest of my resume, which could be helpful if they have several openings.
  • Qualifications or Certifications
    • If you have certifications, licenses, or other qualifications it's a good idea to list them somewhere on your resume.
    • Only put relevant qualifications on here.  If you're applying for a job as computer programmer, your commercial drivers license probably isn't relevant.  Use your common sense.
  • Other Work Experience
    • By "other" I mean experience that isn't directly related to your field.
    • I would not include this is if you have 2-3 related jobs or if they're more than about five years old, but use your best judgement.
    • When highlighting your job tasks in these positions, focus on things that can transfer to your field.
  • Skills or Capabilities
    • What you include in this category depends on the job you're applying for.  Here are some examples:
      • Typing speed
      • Software proficiencies
      • Computer languages you are comfortable with
      • Foreign languages you speak
    • Make sure you are choosing the most beneficial skills to highlight.  Early versions of my resume included proficiency in Photoshop.  Once I learned more engineering software programs I dropped that off the list.  At this point, my list is almost entirely comprised of software that I have used on the job as an engineer or in my classes.
    • Don't think that this list needs to be entirely computer-related skills.  Those are the ones that have been relevant to me in my job searches, so they come to mind readily.  If they don't apply to your field think of some that do.
  • Membership in Professional Organizations
    • If you are a member in professional organizations you should include them if you have space.
    • If you have taken on any leadership or committee roles in those organizations, include them too.
  • Membership in Community or Student Organizations
    • This is really your call.  You should try to keep it restricted to organizations that are relevant to your field, but if you are still a student or don't have a lot of hands on experience you can include other organizations.
    • Try to focus on leadership positions and roles you've taken on where experience is transferable.  It may take some creative thinking to figure out how to relate those organizations to the job you're applying for.
  • Volunteer Work
    • This is more appealing to employers in some fields than others.  Get a sense for what the expectations are, and then follow the guidelines I've listed for community or student organizations.
  • Awards/Recognition
    • Again, keep it relevant.  No one needs to know that you won best costume at your fraternity's Halloween party.
    • If you've gotten scholarships you can include these here as well.  
    • I would avoid listing university awards and/or scholarships once you've been out of school for a few years unless they are particularly well known awards.  Being a Rhodes Scholar or Fulbright Scholar garners enough recognition to warrant leaving it on if you have space, but a generic faculty award may not.
I will close with one more plea to keep in mind that you are trying to put forward the best version of yourself for the position to which you are applying.  You aren't trying to make a new best friend or auditioning for a reality show.  Also, unlike applying for college, it doesn't really matter how well-rounded you are.  Stay focused on the job and its requirements, and keep your resume clear and to the point.  The person reading your resume likely has a giant pile to go through, so make their job easier by showing them how you're qualified. 

I will finish up my mini series on writing a resume next time with a post containing tips on formatting and presentation.

This is part of my Career series.  For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Writing a Resume

Standard practice for resume content and formatting varies by field, so the first piece of advice is to do some research online.  There are countless websites dedicated to teaching you how to write resumes and cover letters, so browse through those and look at examples that geared toward jobs in your field.  I'm an engineer, and that likely colors the way I handle my resume.  I'm not an expert by any means, as I've never received any formal training in resume writing or been paid to do it, but I've gotten a lot of comments at career fairs and interviews that I have a nice resume.

In order to keep the size of these articles reasonable, I've broken this guide down into smaller pieces, similar to how I published the series on career fairs.

What you MUST include: 
  • Name
  • Email Address 
    • Use an address that looks professional.  This means it shouldn't be CutiePatootie@domain.com or anything else that will keep people from taking you seriously.
    • It's preferable to use a university email account or Gmail.  Hotmail, aol, and the like don't come across as well.
    • DO NOT use your current work email.  You shouldn't be looking for your next job while on the clock at your current job, and this just looks bad.
    • If you are self-employed, own your own consulting firm, or have your own domain then those would be exceptions to the last bullet point.  
    • If you don't have an email address that meets these specifications, go to Gmail and open one now.
  • Mailing address
    • If you are currently a student and your permanent mailing address is with your parents, include both your permanent address and a local one and label them as such.
  • Phone number
    • Don't forget the area code.
    • Make sure your voice mail message is something you don't mind potential employers hearing. 
  • Education History
    • High school diploma or GED only if this is the highest education you have received
    • Undergraduate and graduate degrees that you have received or are in the process of earning with the following information:
      • University name
      • Date you received it
        • Month and year if you are still in school or graduated less than 2-3 years ago
        • Year only otherwise
        • List it as anticipated if you are still in school (e.g. "Anticipated May 2012")
      • GPA
        • If your GPA is low and/or you have a lot of work experience, you could choose to leave this off.  That is at your own risk.  Employers may assume you left it off because it's bad and not call you in for an interview at all.  They also may not care that it's left off.
        • If you are still in school you should list your GPA as of your most recently completed semester.
        • You can include both an overall GPA and a major GPA if your school calculates both.  You can also calculate them yourself if you choose.  This may be helpful if you have some irrelevant general ed. classes pulling your GPA down.  It's not likely to help if your major GPA is lower than your overall GPA.
      • Relevant Coursework
        • If you are still in school or are a recent grad, this can be a good way to show some of the areas you've been trained in.  
        • Use course titles not numbers because course numbers mean nothing to employers
  • Relevant Work Experience
    • This includes any work experience you've had in the field in which your are applying, including full time positions, part time positions, internships, and co-ops.
    • It's generally best to list your positions chronologically, starting with the most recent position.
    • Include:
      • Company name
      • Job title
      • Description of your responsibilities, daily tasks, or projects worked on
      • Include your start and end dates
    • The level of detail you should include depends on the number of jobs you have to list and how long you were there.  If you have a lot of experience, focus on your most recent ones and include less detail for older positions.
I will continue this next time with other types of information that you should consider including in your resume.

This is part of my Career series.  For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Weekend Update and Roundup

  • My Virtual Stock Market Game is getting really boring.  Every time I look at it, I'm down roughly 10% from where I started.  I'm pretty much just waiting for the end of the game to put me out of my misery.  Part of my plan was to just let the stocks sit there until they made some money, and then consider selling some and buying others, but since I never broke even I didn't make it that far.  I'm not sure I'll start a new one when this game ends.
  • I'm slowly starting up on the Declutter Challenge.  I have found 8 things to get rid of.  7 have gone out in the trash.  They were all shoes or clothing items that I have been holding onto, telling myself that I will wear them again despite the fact that that just isn't going to happen.  None of them were in good enough shape to sell or donate, though.  (I wear things well beyond the point at which they should have been trashed.)  I also pulled one pair of shoes that has barely been worn, so those are in a donation pile.  They don't count until they're out the door, so I'm currently at 7/366 items decluttered.
  • Exercise will be starting this week since I was sick all of last week.  (I did walk a few miles a day on January 1-3 despite being sick, and I normally don't walk much at all, so the week wasn't a complete loss.  I just don't think it really counts because it wasn't fast enough to get my heart rate up.)

Blog Roundup 
So, I had a roundup prepared for today, and then my computer caught a virus.  (Can anything around me not be sick right now?  Please?)  I had recently created a full backup of my computer so when my anti-virus software couldn't find the problem I just went ahead and reinstalled Windows and restored from the back-up.  After a day and a half of fiddling around with settings, I finally have just about everything back where it should be.  Unfortunately, my Microsoft Office disks are not with the rest of my software and I haven't been able to find them yet.  The roundup was in an excel file and I can't open it without Office.

Long story short:  Thank goodness for Google Docs and its ability to convert excel spreadsheets to GD spreadsheets.

Carnivals and Mentions 
I've been mentioned by the following blogs since my last recap: 
Help Me To Save included me in last week's Totally Money Carnival: First Foot into 2012
Aaron Hung mentioned me in his post Hung Articles of the Week #8 Happy 2012!
Funny about Money included me in this week's Festival of Frugality: The New Year 2012 Edition

Friday, January 6, 2012

Starting the New Year Slowly

2012 has started slowly for me, and not entirely pleasantly.  I was visiting friends out of state for the holiday.  The first two days were great, spent sight-seeing and eating at lot of awesome restaurants.  Then I got sick.  I caught a 48-hour stomach bug that hit in the last half hour of 2011 (cheating me out of both the champagne toast and my New Year's kiss with my fiance) and half-way through that I managed to get an awful cold.  I had to spend a whole day on airplanes while queasy, congested, and coughing violently.  On top of that, I had no internet access during my trip aside from my phone.

I had at least predicted the possibility of not having internet access, so my blog posts were written ahead of time and scheduled to go up.  I normally go back for a final round of edits the day before the post, though, so if there were any weird typos or the posts seemed to be missing parts I apologize.  I'm going to be going through them all in the next couple of days to check for that and to add in all of the reference links to previous posts and get them all added to the Career page.  Before I do that, though, I need to get my supply of written posts back up to an acceptable level.  I had been expecting to be able to get at least one or two posts written while I was gone, and that didn't happen.  (Even without the internet issues, I was really short on time and the sicknesses sapped my energy and concentration completely.)

I'm now on anti-biotics and heavy-duty cough medicine.  My stomach trouble has settled itself out.  Hopefully I'll be completely back to normal in the next few days and can get caught up on all of my blogging tasks before classes start up.  I'm considering my first quarter goals to start next week, because this week has been completely beyond my control.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Career Fairs (Part IV)

(This is the forth and final part of my section on Career Fairs. If you missed them, here are Part I, Part II, and Part III.)

The Career Fair Is Over -- Now What? 
Wash you hands.  Literally.  Career fairs always seem to be held at the height of cold and flu season.  I've watched recruiters literally sneeze, blow their nose, and then turn to shake the hand of the next person in line.  You're going to be shaking hands with a lot of people, and you don't know how many people they've shaken hands with.  (You know how people say when you sleep with someone you're really sleeping with every person they've ever slept with?  It's kind of like that.)  You can't really get away with not shaking hands, and pulling out the hand sanitizer immediately after every handshake isn't really the most diplomatic thing you can do, so avoid touching your face or eating until you've had a chance to scrub with antibacterial soap.

Go online and apply to all of those positions.  You will have picked up business cards and brochures from every company you talked to.  Go through the pile piece by piece and apply to all of the ones you're even a little bit interested in.  This can take a whole day, so make sure you're focused.  You should try to do this within a week of the career fair so that everything is still fresh in your mind and so that they haven't already filled the positions before you get around to it.

Contact the recruiters to follow up.  Send them all a quick email.  Make sure they are individual emails, not a mass email sent to everyone.  That looks horrible and is likely to result in your resume getting pulled and sent to the trash.  In the email mention the recruiter by name, say that you enjoyed speaking to them at the career fair, ask any follow up questions you may have come up with, and thank them for taking the time to talk to you.

Set reminders for all of those positions that won't be posted for a few months.  You don't want to forget to apply after putting in all of that hard work.  Set reminders on your phone, in your planner, or wherever you are likely to find it.  Make sure to include the company name and website in case you have misplaced the paperwork.

If the jobs aren't appearing online, contact the recruiter again.  Part of their job is to answer your questions, and they may be able to tell you what's going on.  Maybe the funding fell through or last summer's intern is coming on full time so the position is no longer available.  On the other hand, maybe they needed more time than they thought to finalize the details, but in the mean time you've just reminded them that you're really interested in working for them.  Don't pester the recruiter on a daily basis, but if you correspond with them a couple of time and they recognize your name it could help you later on.

This is part of my Career series.  For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Career Fairs (Part III)

(This is the third part of my section on Career Fairs.  Please read Part I and Part II if you haven't already.)

You're At The Career Fair -- Now What? 
If you've followed the advice in Part II of this series, you have prepared yourself thoroughly.  You look like the model employee, you know what companies you want to talk to, and you're ready to hand out resumes like candy on Halloween.  What's next?

Arrive on time.  Try to arrive at the start of the career fair.  It might be a little bit awkward if some companies are still setting up when you walk in, but making a good impression early in the day is really helpful.  The recruiters will likely talk to hundreds of people during the career fair, and by the end of the day they're exhausted and everyone starts to blur together.  You have the best shot of making a lasting impression if you talk to them while they're still fresh.

Get you bearings.  Take a quick lap around the room before you talk to anyone.  It's easiest to find the booths of the companies you're interested in before the place becomes a total zoo.  Make a mental note of where those companies are located and any that you can't find.  Better yet, if you've been given a maps of booth locations, make marks on the ones you want to visit.

Approach with confidence.  Take a second before you walk up to a recruiter to remind yourself of the company.  Then walk up, hold out your hand for a handshake, and introduce yourself.  If there's a line, obviously you can't just walk up.  Stand in line and try not to look bored, annoyed, or tired.  Be patient, and when it's your turn smile and go through the actions I just listed.

Have answers prepared for the most common questions.  This won't be a full interview and you aren't likely to be tested on any of your coursework, but you will be asked questions and your answers do matter.  What questions are you likely to be asked?  Here are a few:
  • What year are you?
  • Are you planning on getting a master's degree?  A doctorate?  An MBA?
  • When are you planning to graduate?
  • Are you involved in research?
  • What kind of job are you looking for?
  • Do you have prior experience?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Why do you want to work for my company?
  • What aspect of this field are you most excited about?
  • Are you planning to pursue any professional certifications or licensing?
That isn't an exhaustive list, and some of the questions are really easy to answer.  It's really important that you have concise answers in mind already, because taking five minutes to answer a question about when you plan to graduate may frustrate the recruiter who's only trying to fill in a box on a questionnaire. 

Get a business card.  You need to collect contact information from every recruiter you talk to.  Business cards work best, but if they don't have one ask for their name and email address.

Make sure to give them your resume.  A very small number of companies won't take resumes at career fairs in order to make sure the playing field is level for online applicants.  Unless you are explicitly told that is the case, make sure to leave a resume with each recruiter.  If you have a cover letter, paperclip it on top of the resume.  

Find out where to apply.  Just about every company now requires online applications, even if they make most of their decisions based on personal interactions.  Make sure you find out what website to go to, what links to look for, and when to look for the jobs to show up.  Some are likely posted online before the career fair while others haven't actually determined their openings yet, and are just getting a head start on things now.  If the career fair is in February and the jobs won't be posted online until April, write that down.

Ask whether they are conducting interviews that week.  Many companies fly recruiters in for career fairs and then have them stay in town for a couple of days to conduct preliminary interviews.  They may be renting out space on campus or office space nearby.  It's more efficient for them and if you can get signed up for a time slot just by asking then you've just advanced yourself to the next round.  Note that this is most likely to happen for large national companies that are sending people from out of town.  Local companies can schedule interviews later on once they've had more time to look over the resumes.

Thank them for their time and move on to the next company.  If you feel awkward going from one company to the one right next to them, choose one on the opposite side of the room or take a walk around and approach them from a different side.  I like to take a minute or two between companies to mentally change gears, reset, and remind myself of who I'm talking to next.  You want each company to feel like they are your top priority, so do whatever you need to in order to present that face.

Keep your eyes open for Part III of this series, which will explain what to do after the career fair.

This is part of my Career series.  For the full series of Career posts, check out the Career section of my blog.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2012!

I hope everyone had a safe New Year's Eve!  I'm celebrating in a city I've never been in before with friends I don't see nearly often enough, which is a real treat.  Nothing too heavy in my post today (I'll catch back up with my Career Fair min-series tomorrow), just a few housekeeping items. 

Virtual Stock Market Game: 
My virtual portfolio has been holding steady the last couple of weeks at around 9-11% below what I started with.  I'm glad it's not real money, and I'm glad it will be over in a couple more weeks.  I think I need to do some reading on investing strategies in the next few months because I'm not learning anything from this game.  Well, I'm learning that when things are going poorly I don't like looking at my portfolio.  I have no idea, though, whether there's anything I should be doing to try to fix things or if I should just sit it out.  Any suggestions for basic investing books would be appreciated. 

Recent Changes:
I have made a lot of small changes to the blog over the past couple of weeks.  Some you may (or may not) have noticed:
  • I added a banner with a logo.  I'm not sure I like it, but I felt like I needed something there.  I'm not a graphic designer by any means, and I plan on changing some of the details and execution but I like the concept.  I need to figure out how to work in the professional aspect, though.
  • I've started a career planning series to tie in with the professional portion of the title.  I will be focusing a lot on this in the coming weeks as I return to campus and get caught up in everyone's job searches, career fairs, and interviews.  It's just that time of year.
  • New tabs on the navigation bar.  These include ways to contact me, an easy link to my first quarter goals which I will update with my progress as I go, and a page for my career planning series.
  • I added a status bar on the left side for the Declutter Challenge.  It is currently at 0% because the challenge started today and I haven't been home in two weeks, but I'll be home in a few days and plan to make some headway before the start of the new semester.
  • A Sociable gadget has been added to the bottom of every page to give you more ways to share my posts with everyone you know.  At some point this will be replaced with a cleaner way to include social networking buttons to individual posts, but that will probably be some time after I move everything over to my own domain.
  • I almost forgot!  There are now three columns instead of two!  I kept wanting to add more things to the sidebar but it was getting too long, so I added one to the left side.  I'm still shuffling things around a little, but I'm getting to an arrangement that I like.  (For now.)
Feel free to give me your thoughts on the changes I've made or ones you think I should.  I'm always open to hearing your thoughts.

I've been included in the following blog carnivals lately:

The Carnival of Personal Finance (Christmas in Australia Edition) hosted by Money Cactus
The Carnival of Financial Camaraderie (# 13 - Christmas Edition) hosted by My University Money
The Yakezie Carnival (Christmas Edition) hosted by Passive Income to Retire

I encourage everyone to check out those carnivals, there were a lot of great articles included.