Archive for July, 2012

Update Your Resume, Update Your Life

Jul 23 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

How can you keep your skills and your resume fresh, even during periods of unemployment?

If you have an in-demand skill, you can make the most of your job skills by doing freelance or contract work in your field. Potential employers will be impressed with your perseverance, and you’ll be able to keep some money coming in when you’re not getting a regular paycheck.

Who Can Freelance?
There are many fields and skills which rely on contracted workers instead of full-time employees to meet their needs.   Contract work can range from highly skilled fields like programming or writing to administrative work such as transcription or data entry.  Creative fields, such as digital artists or graphic designers are often in demand as well.

How to Start Freelancing
There are several paths to freelancing work, the best method will depend on individual skills and circumstances.

  1. Use your existing network.  If you’ve already developed a great list of contacts in your filed, the first step to freelancing will be asking those you already know if they have or know of any opportunities for a contractor with your skills.
  2. Use a freelancing website.  There are several popular sites, including Elance (, oDesk ( and Rent-A-Coder, which work in a similar fashion to auction sites.  Employer post freelancing jobs and contract workers who are members of the respective sites bid on jobs.  Employers pick the best candidate based on skills, experience and price, and the website serves as an intermediary.
  3. Use a social networking site.  With the many social networking platforms available today, there are just as many ways to find work by using your digital networks.  Advertise your services on Twitter ( or Craigslist and LinkedIn ( contacts or even more specialized sites like DeviantArt or tumblr ( )

There are pros and cons for each choice.

Using your pre-existing network of business contacts will likely help you find work that is specifically tailored to your skillset, and it is probably the best opportunity to get the highest amount of compensation.  It requires the contractor to manage their own contracts and payments, which means invoicing and sometimes chasing down money for services rendered.

Freelancing websites will help facilitate connections, contracts and payments, but they do so for a fee.  Some only charge a percentage on final payment, but some also require a monthly membership fee for contractors seeking work.   Competing against many other contractors can be daunting for some contractors, and new contractors may find it challenging to land their first contract.  Many jobs pay well below typical market value, but most freelancing sites have a balance between employers who want the most work for the least amount of money and employers who will pay well for talent, reliability and experience.  All three of the freelancing sites I mentioned have a system in place to protect both employers and contractors from fraud.

Using your social networks has a mix of pros and cons from both choices above.  It takes more hustle and paperwork to manage your contract work independently, and it will require a larger time commitment to simply find available jobs than it would through a freelancing site.  Working within existing networks means it’s easier to find someone to vouch for your skills and abilities who has directly worked with you.

How Freelancing Helps Your Job Hunt
While many employers in the current economic climate are used to seeing really talented people with gaps in their work history due to downsizing, taking the initiative to keep working on your own during your caps will show a potential employer that you’re a hard worker, you’re not afraid to show initiative and you have an active network in your field.

Additionally, being out of work for even a short amount of time can be detrimental to your skills.  We all know that every field is constantly changing, especially in a challenging economy when companies are scrambling to find the best practices that can keep them in business.  Freelancing allows you to keep up with current trends as well as keeping your job skills sharp and ready to tackle any challenge.

Freelancing can be a great way to keep you, your skills and your wallet at your best while you look for work.

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8 Steps to Prepare for a Great Job Interview

Jul 13 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

If you’ve spent a lot of time looking for work, finally getting that call to go in for a face to face interview can be a huge relief. In the current economy, many employers have a multi-tiered hiring process that involves multiple steps before the face to face interview, including phone chats, background checks, internet searches, contacting character and business references and other pre-employment screening tools.  We live in a time when there are more people than jobs to fill, so employers are going to be especially picky about whom to hire.  Even low wage jobs are screening out all but the best and brightest, so it’s important to take the job interview process very seriously.
  1. Do your homework. ( Hopefully, you’ve been reading up on the company where you’d like to be hired during the entire pre-employment period.  Scour the company website, read all the press releases, follow all the links in your search engine and contact anyone in your network who might be able to tell you more information about what the company.  The more you know about the company, the easier it will be to see how you can fit into their organization in a way that’s beneficial to them.
  2. Find an honest friend and practice your interviewing skills. ( Every company has its own system for screening potential hires, and many companies have sent their hiring managers to specialized training in how to interview and screen potential candidates.  Have your friend ask you a series of work related questions to practice thinking on your feet and speaking clearly and concisely under pressure.  Note any verbal tics you might have, like saying “um” or “uh” or mispronouncing words, and work to eliminate them before the interview.   Practice giving longer answers that have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. Make sure you don’t wander off topic or get stuck trying to think of what to say next.  Practice making good eye contact with your friend, as well.
  3. Polish your appearance. ( In most jobs interviews, it’s appropriate to dress for a job higher on the food chain than the one you’re applying for.  Men can almost always wear a suit, or a button down shirt and tie for a more casual job.  Women can usually wear a suit, or a skirt or dress pants with a white blouse.  For the suit, pants or skirt, it’s best to stick with classic colors like black, navy blue or charcoal gray.  If you’re applying for a job in a more creative field, or one where professional appearance isn’t as necessary, use your own best judgment.  Make sure to take your interview clothes are clean and pressed the day before you need them.  Make sure your hair is tidy, and get a trim or haircut if needed.  Several people will be shaking your hand, make sure your nails and cuticles are looking their best.  If you have facial hair, make sure it is neatly trimmed and groomed.  Plan to brush and floss your teeth right before your interview, so you don’t accidentally try to get your dream job with spinach in your teeth.  Avoid perfume, cologne or after shave on interview day, there’s no promise the person hiring you will like it.
  4. Print out multiple copies of your resume.  Many companies will be working from a scan of your emailed resume, it’s nice to have paper copies you can hand out during the interview which you know look nice.  Even though you should have sent off a perfect copy of your resume, double check to make sure all your facts are correct and that you’ve avoided typos.  If you’re applying for a job that asks for work examples, like a writer or an artist, make sure to put together multiple copies of your portfolio that can be left with multiple people.
  5. Take care of yourself.  Get plenty of sleep and eat well in the days leading up to the interview.  Make sure to take time to relax, even if it’s just a few minutes, on the day of the interview and the days before.  Arrange everything you can the day or evening before the interview, so you keep distractions and potentially stressful situations at a minimum on the day of the interview.
  6. Smile and be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you aren’t during an interview, but make sure you’re highlighting the parts of yourself that will make you a good fit with the company. ( Good luck on your search!

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Cutting Your Expenses While Unemployed

Jul 03 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

Whether you have lost your job unexpectedly or stormed out the door with your hands in the air, being jobless is scary for just about everyone when it comes to finances. They used to say you should have 6 months of living expenses saved before you quit your job. Now, according to Susan L. Hirshman, author of Does This Make My Assets Look Fat? (, that figure has been edited and you should have 9 – 12 months saved up. Realistically, you can’t always plan for losing your job or other circumstances that may lead to unemployment. So, we have to rely on other resources to get us through.

Here are a few pointers on how to cut costs in your life to make your unemployment a little less painful for you and your family:

The first thing you need to do is a comprehensive budget outlining your expenses and bills for each family member. Visit your online bank account and get exact dates you pay each of your bills so you can arrange to have enough money in your account. Take a look and see what extraordinary expenses can be eliminated or decreased.

Before losing your job, couponing was probably a distant thought. Now you need to make it a way of life. With all the extra time you have during the day when you would normally be at work, use that time to clip coupons, look for online deals, and sort through the junk mail for local steals. If you’re new to couponing, check out online blogs, like The Krazy Coupon Lady ( or Couponing 101 ( Your local Sunday paper is the best resource for coupons you can clip. For entertainment, Groupon ( and Living Social ( offer daily deals in your area for 50% or more off normal prices.

Freeze Your Accounts
Some creditors will allow you to freeze your account until you find employment. Gyms often offer this perk, which was originally meant for people who don’t workout in gyms as much in the summer, but it’s perfect for cutting costs for the unemployed. Often times, car loans allow you to skip payments during difficult times. The key to making sure you do not ruin your credit is to get prior approval. You usually can’t get away with asking for forgiveness when it comes to credit, so call all your creditors and find out what your options are. Even if you cannot freeze your account, many times they will lower your minimum payment and take pity on your situation.

Do It Yourself
You just have to get used to the fact that you can no longer afford to pay other people to do your work. Your $50 mani/pedi will be waiting for you when you have a steady income. Wash your own car, clean your own house, and walk your own dog. Your helpers will understand that you have to cut costs for your family’s sake. The biggest thing you can do to save costs is to cook your own food. Going out to eat is no longer an option when you’re on a tight budget. Get out your coupons and shop for your entire week’s meals. Shop smartly and use leftovers to help prepare the next day’s meals. There are many cooks, like Rachel Ray (, who have cookbooks with a budget in mind. There are many free online resources as well (

Temporary Work
If you’ve cut all your expenses, clipped coupons, and you still cannot pay your monthly bills, it’s important you take control and get a temporary job until things pan out. The worst thing you can do is pay out more than you have saved. It is definitely important to take time to search for the right next job, but in the meantime, consider temping for a local temp agency for some extra money. Temporary jobs do not necessarily need to go on your resume, so don’t worry about “devaluing” your resume. There are temp agencies in just about every city, so Google ( for a listing of the ones closest to you. Read online reviews to choose the best agency for you. Most temp agencies require that you go into their office to take basic office skills tests before they find you work. They also have exclusive listings for temp-to-hire positions, so you may get lucky and find something permanent.

Unemployment is s different way of life. When you’re forced to live on a fixed income, your life changes. These changes are only temporary, so keep your chin up and full steam ahead!

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