The Ultimate Layoff Survival Guide

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Paul Catala, a 53-year-old entertainment reporter in Lakeland, Fla., knows firsthand about the struggles of unemployment. He was the victim of massive layoffs at a Tampa-area newspaper in December 2012. The result? A severance package of about $1,500.

“I was pretty much financially panicked,” Catala told MagnifyMoney, who also lost his health insurance. “All I had was my severance and nothing more than a couple thousand dollars in savings.”

As a single guy, he didn’t have a spouse’s salary to fall back on, but he made it work. During the year and a half that followed, he patched together a steady income by picking up a string of odd jobs and side gigs (more on this in a bit) before eventually securing a full-time job.

In 2017 alone, at least 255,000 planned job cuts have been announced, according to a report put out by the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. (The bright spot, however, is that the report also found that job cuts are on the decline.)

If you’re newly unemployed and not sure how to move forward, this ultimate layoff survival kit is for you. Here’s everything you need to know about weathering the storm.

What to do when you lose your job

Step one: Don’t freak out

If the financial implications and the stress of having to find a new job have your head spinning, you’re not alone. The longer you’re unemployed, the more likely it is to take a toll on your psychological well-being. According to a 2013 Gallup survey, roughly 20 percent of Americans who’ve been unemployed for a year or more have been affected by depression.

But while it’s certainly wise to make a plan, don’t take such a long view that you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of unemployment. As the old saying goes: “Inch by inch, life’s a cinch. Yard by yard, life’s hard.”

Do one thing at a time to avoid “analysis paralysis” (aka feeling so overwhelmed that you take no action at all).

Step two: Exit your current job with grace

Getting laid off hurts, but think twice before storming out in a blaze of glory.

“Anything you can do to leave on a good note is a good idea,” career coach Angela Copeland tells MagnifyMoney. “Thank-you notes and goodbye lunches all help to give positive closure.”

The last thing you want to do is burn bridges on your way out. When applying for new jobs, Copeland says you’ll be asked for references the hiring manager can call, which will likely include your previous employer. It’s in your best interest to keep these relationships positive.
Negotiating your severance package before hitting the road may also be on your to-do list.

“Some people have been able to negotiate an extra month of severance because they’ve been there longer and can quantify what they’ve brought to the job,” said Shannah Compton Game, certified financial planner and host of the “Millennial Money” podcast.

“Try and correlate it to something positive, like revenue or growth you’ve been able to do for the company,” she said. “Keep good records of the successes you’ve had because you just never know when you’ll be able to use that.”

On a similar note, you might be able to use rumors of impending layoffs to your advantage. Game says that it’s usually the people in the early rounds of layoffs who get the better severance packages. If you’re likely to be on the chopping block, volunteering to be let go sooner rather than later could be used as a bargaining chip to secure a better severance package.

Step three: Get your finances in order

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Before you panic, sit down and do a thorough audit of your financial situation. List all your monthly expenses, from fixed costs like rent and utilities to discretionary spending like entertainment costs. Then factor in any income you still have, like unemployment benefits (we’ll dive into how to apply in a minute), a severance package, and any cash you have coming from side gigs or passive income streams.

Now for the obvious question: What does your savings account look like?

“The goal marker is to have three to six months’ worth of fixed expenses saved in your emergency fund,” said Game.

To help curb temptation, she recommends parking it in an interest-bearing savings account that’s separate from your regular bank. (We’ve rounded up the best online savings accounts here.) If you’ve got an emergency fund, getting laid off is as good a time as any to dip into it — that’s what it’s there for. Of course, the idea is to make your savings last as long as possible. This is why Game suggests retooling your budget right out the gate.

“Is there anything in there you can cut, or at least make better?” she asked. “Can you negotiate a better cellphone or internet plan? Are you overpaying in some areas? When you’re unemployed, every dollar helps.”

Another thing to think about is your 401(k). Getting laid off makes you ineligible to take out a 401(k) loan, according to Game, but you can withdraw from it — for a hefty price.

“If you pull out of your 401(k) and you’re under 59½, you’ll have a 10-percent penalty, plus whatever you take out is added to your taxable income, so it could shock people if they took out a sizeable amount,” warned Game, who also recognizes that sometimes you don’t have any other choice.

Tapping your nest egg should be an absolute last resort. If it comes to that, Roth IRAs are a little more appealing because you can pull out your contributions at any time without tax or penalty (It’s just the appreciation you can’t touch until you’re over 59½). If you’re financially stuck between a rock and a hard place, a Roth IRA could serve as an extra backup emergency fund.

As for a 401(k) from your old job, Game says you have a couple of options. Some companies will let you do a direct rollover, which is a hands-off option that’s way easier than rolling it over yourself. This way, you won’t get a check for that cash.

“If you do, you have to have it deposited into your new account in a short time period so you don’t get taxed on that amount, which is why it’s better to do these things electronically whenever possible,” said Game.

No emergency fund or Roth IRA to tap into? You’re not out of options. Read on for more ways to access cash during unemployment.

Step four: Rev up your job hunting efforts

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“One of the biggest mistakes I see from people who’ve been recently laid off is that the experience is so stressful that they want to take a break,” said Copeland. “They think, ‘I need a few months to take some time for myself.’ What they don’t understand is that the longer you wait, the harder it becomes.”

Begin by dusting off your resume and updating it with any relevant new skills, accomplishments, and/or trainings you’ve completed. Do the same for your LinkedIn profile, which includes adding keywords that potential employers may be searching for (To get an idea of what these are, Copeland suggests browsing job postings you’re interested in). You’ll also want to follow companies on LinkedIn and connect with influencers within those organizations.

When it comes to references, Copeland adds that asking folks to leave you a written, public recommendation on LinkedIn can do wonders. Future employers are going to be looking at your profile. Seeing that people you’ve worked with have positive things to say is going to make them much less suspicious that something negative happened at your old job.

One other thing: Fine tune your elevator pitch so you’re ready to comfortably, and confidently, talk about yourself at a moment’s notice. After that, step away from your computer and get yourself out there (literally).

“A lot of people are told to apply online — ‘If you’re a good fit, we’ll call you ‘— but very rarely is that true,” said Copeland.

“It’s one-on-one personal connections that are going to help you find a job, and those people will be most helpful and empathetic very soon after you’ve been laid off.”

Let your network know you’re actively looking for work, attend industry events, and reach out to people for informational interviews. In some cases, this might mean cold emailing a colleague of a colleague and asking to pick their brain over coffee. They could always say no, or even ignore you, but Copeland says that when up against unemployment, this isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Step five: Protect yourself against the worst-case scenario

If your job hunt stretches past the one-month mark, you could end up draining your emergency fund faster than anticipated. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of long-term unemployed workers (i.e. people who’ve been out of work for at least 27 weeks) held steady at 1.5 million as of December 2017. This makes up 22.9 percent of the unemployed.
If you find yourself in this boat, you’ll need to go beyond cutting cable and scaling back your entertainment budget to make ends meet.

“Can you call your student loan servicer and defer your loans for a few months?” suggested Game. “Remember, you’ll still be accruing interest when you do this, but it might help you out for a few months.”

Looking for other high-impact ways to free up cash? Game also suggests considering:

  • Taking on a roommate or renting out a room on Airbnb.
  • Getting a part-time job.
  • Taking out a short-term loan from a family member.
  • Using balance transfer offers to lower your credit card interest rates by moving debt to a 0% APR card.
  • Researching a personal loan. Going into debt is never advised, but if your situation’s getting dire, it may be your best worst option (It’s sure better than getting evicted or defaulting on your car payment).

This is precisely why Game says it’s so important to get your financial house in order while your career is going well. Flash forward to being laid off: Having a solid credit score is what’s going to enable you to get the best rate on a personal loan. The same goes for locking down a low-interest credit card, if it comes to that.

4 tips to help stretch your finances when you’re unemployed

How to apply for unemployment

Taking advantage of unemployment insurance can help stretch your savings and soften the financial blow of a layoff. Whether you qualify depends on a number of factors, one of the top ones being where you live; every state is different.

As long as you’re looking for work — and meet the qualifying criteria below — most states allow participants to collect benefits for up to 26 weeks (about six months). Just keep in mind that a severance package could impact how much you qualify for, depending on the state you live in.

  • Losing your job was out of your control: Being laid off generally ticks this box, but if you were fired or quit voluntarily, you’ll be ineligible.
  • You worked long enough and earned enough wages to qualify in your state: Every state’s threshold is different, but applicants must meet requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established time period in order to collect unemployment. You can research your state’s rules here.
  • You were laid off from a W2 job: In other words, you weren’t a freelancer or independent contractor. Since employers don’t pay unemployment taxes for these folks, benefits are typically off the table.

That said, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how much money you’ll actually get. What you were earning, where you live, and whether or not you received a severance package may all come into play. Your best bet is to contact your state unemployment office to start untangling the details.

How to apply for food stamps

Applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aka food stamps, is also a state-specific process. In order to qualify, you must meet resource and income requirements (SNAP provides this handy pre-screening eligibility tool to help clarify whether or not you qualify). Eligibility varies from state to state but is largely determined by your:

  • Resources: Things like bank accounts and vehicles fall into this camp. Some resources are generally off limits, like retirement plans and your home.
  • Income: You have to meet the income requirements outlined here. Some exceptions — like having an elderly or disabled person in your household, for example — may make it easier to qualify. Just keep in mind that any unemployment benefits you’re collecting will be factored in here.
  • Employment status: If you’ve been recently laid off, this one’s a biggie since SNAP eligibility is hinged, in part, on meeting work requirements. They include:
    • Registering for work
    • Not voluntarily quitting a job or reducing your hours
    • Taking a job if one is offered
    • Participating in your state’s employment training programs
    • If you’re an able-bodied adult without kids, you’ll also be required to either work or participate in a work program for a minimum of 20 hours per week to receive SNAP benefits for longer than three months in a 36-month period.

Ready to apply? Find your state here to get the ball rolling.

How to get help with a job search

There are a number of federal government programs in place to help see you through a stint of unemployment. CareerOneStop (backed by the U.S. Department of Labor) is packed with free job search assistance and training resources. Here you’ll find everything from job openings and resume guides to salary data and interview and negotiation tips.

COBRA might also make sense for newly unemployed folks. The program allows you to keep your employer-sponsored health plan after getting laid off. Before pulling the trigger on enrolling in a new health plan, be sure to check if COBRA makes sense for your health care needs and budget.

Pick up part-time work

Another way to unlock cash is to think of out-of-the-box ways to make money. Before Catala secured a new full-time job, he picked up a ton of side hustles to fill in the missing income. This included everything from tutoring at a local community college to cutting lawns to booking music gigs (He happens to be a pianist.). The takeaway? Look beyond your 9-to-5 skill set to pay your bills.

“At one point, I was doing like five different things and just making money,” said Catala, who earned too much from the gigs to collect unemployment.

“If you’re creative and willing to hustle, you’ll be fine. Even if it’s just $50 a week, that’s better than nothing.”

The post The Ultimate Layoff Survival Guide appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Life After Graduation

Adult life can be tough. Here are some hard truths new graduates should know as they head into the world.

I got my first job out of college pretty quickly. In fact, I started the day after I wrapped up my full-time internship. In hindsight, I probably should have asked for at least one day between, but I was too eager to please my bosses to do so.

Within two weeks of accepting the offer, I managed to find an apartment and a roommate. I left the last day of my internship with a mattress stuffed into my Honda Accord, enough clothes for the work week and little else. I figured I could move the rest of my things on the weekend.

That night, I ate takeout Chinese food on my mattress on the floor, and read my roommate’s copy of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” until it got too dark to see (I hadn’t brought lamp with me). That was how adulthood started for me.

Life after college gets real. Adjusting to being on your own can be a struggle, especially if you’ve been reliant on your parents to pay your taxes and schedule appointments and tell you to wake up before noon.

Here are some other things people might not tell you about life after graduation.

1. You Might Not Get a Job in Your Major

If you majored in basket weaving or worse, journalism, you might not find your ideal job right away. That’s OK. You have little experience. (Here are 50 tips for recent grads looking for work.) There’s no shame in taking an internship or even volunteering to brush up your resume.

You may also end up taking a job completely unrelated to your field of study. This is a good idea if you have student loans coming due. And you might end up loving the job. I have a friend who majored in geology and works as a computer programmer, and another who studied anthropology and works in property development and they’re both doing great. Your path will take you to unexpected places. Changing direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

2. You’ll Probably Change Jobs. A Lot

If it isn’t already, the idea of holding the same job for your entire career is fast becoming antiquated. Changing jobs is sometimes the best way to get a raise or a better title.

Because of that, you need to make sure your resume is tip-top, you’re charming in interviews and you don’t burn any bridges. A broad network of colleagues is going to be important throughout your career.

3. Money Isn’t Everything … But It’s a Big Deal

Taxes, saving for retirement, dealing with student loans, rent, dinner and everything else you’ll shell out for as a grown-up will occupy a big part of your brain power. Be sure you’re getting the right information on all these things. There’s plenty of advice on Credit.com and elsewhere online.

Many job-related questions should be directed to your human resources department. Your parents or peers can help you with budget advice. Be sure to ask if you’re confused about anything. Complacency with money can lead to long-lasting and damaging consequences. (That includes damage to your credit. Check on yours with a free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

Money is complicated and not always in your hands. The economy can tank unexpectedly. You’re going to screw up. You’re going to have setbacks. But if you start laying a solid foundation now, you’ll have a better chance of bouncing back.

4. You Need to Develop Good Habits on Your Own

Adults don’t have gym teachers forcing them to exercise. Adults don’t have people telling them to wake up on time to pack their lunch.

No one’s going to make doctor’s appointments for you or remind you to brush your teeth. A big part of adulthood is doing all that stuff yourself, even though it’s boring, because it’s good for you.

5. You’ll Probably Live With Your Parents Again

Rent is expensive. Starting salaries aren’t great. That combination, plus the inevitable tumult of your 20s, will probably lead you back to your childhood bedroom, perhaps more than once.

This is not the end of the world. Many people aren’t lucky enough to have a fall-back place to crash. If you’re really worried, we threw together a few tips on moving back home.

Living at home might cramp your style, but it can also help you save money. Savor mom’s cooking, washing machine, couch, cable subscription and all the other perks while someone else is paying for them.

6. Your Best Advocate Is You

No one else is going to ask your boss to give you the raise you deserve. No one is going to make a better case for your promotion than you.

You might feel grateful just to get your first job after college, but you should absolutely negotiate your salary and make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth. Even after you get the job, you need to continue to advocate for yourself for raises, for added responsibilities or for promotions.

You might not feel comfortable with what can seem like bragging, but you can’t depend on your superiors noticing on their own how great you are. You need to advocate for yourself.

7. It’s Not a Race

You probably have Facebook, which means when your cousin or classmate lands their dream job or buys a house before you, you will know about it and feel like a loser.

Don’t compare yourself. Life is not a race. There is no prescribed timeline by which you’re supposed to make your dreams come true.

Someone, somewhere, will always be doing better than you. But if you are reading this on an electronic device under a roof, you are probably doing just fine.

It is unhealthy to base your happiness on how well they are doing. You, like everyone else, will get some helping of triumph, tragedy, boredom and ideally, about a third of the time, sleep. Your mileage may vary, but you need to deal with it on your own terms, not anyone else’s.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

Image: FatCamera

The post 7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Life After Graduation appeared first on Credit.com.

The One Thing Job Seekers Forget Employers Look At

Brush up your resume. Update your references. Clean up social media accounts and ...

There are some steps even first-time job seekers know to take ahead of formally seeking out new employment opportunities: Brush up your resume. Update your references. Flesh out your LinkedIn profile. Clean up your other social media accounts. Network.

It’s all fairly straightforward, but there’s something else very important new graduates and beyond will want to add to do their pre-employment search to-do list: Check your credit reports.

Why Should I Check My Credit Before a Job Search?

Some employers will pull a version of your credit report as part of their application process. And patterns of money mismanagement — like a bunch of missed payments or multiple collection accounts — could wind up hurting your odds of scoring a position, particularly if that gig involves handling cash, access to sensitive financial information, company accounting or government work. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your credit reports ahead of your job search.

You can pull a copy of your credit reports from each major credit bureau — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — for free every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also view your free credit report summary, along with two free credit scores, updated every month, on Credit.com.

Financial Fact: Some states, including California, Hawaii and Washington, have banned employers from screening an applicant’s credit in certain circumstances. And, in all states, employers can only look at your credit report, not your actual credit score. Plus, they can’t pull your credit reports without your permission, so if a credit check is part of their application process, you’ll at least have a heads up. (There will be a form you’ll be asked to sign.)

What Am I Checking For?

First, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any errors on your file that could needlessly cost you a prime position. These errors are more common than you think: a Federal Trade Commission study from 2012 found that one in five Americans had an error on their credit reports. If you find one, be sure to dispute it with the creditor and the credit bureau in question. You can learn more about disputing errors on your credit reports here. Keep in mind, credit bureaus have 30 to 45 days to investigate a credit report dispute, so won’t necessarily see that error disappear right away. Hence the reason you’ll want to do check your reports before your job hunt kicks into full gear.

Second, if you discover legitimate blemishes, you’ll want to determine if anything can be done to fix them. For instance, you might want to shore up unpaid collection accounts or pay off high credit card balances. Keep in mind, many missteps will stick around for awhile as most negative information stays on your credit file for up to 7 years. (Certain bankruptcies can even take up to 13 years to age off your reports.) Still, even if you can’t undo a troublesome line item, you’ll at least know that one is there — and will be able to address any issues upfront with prospective employers.

Finally, work on improving your credit overall so you won’t have to worry so much about a dreaded credit pull the next time you’re looking for new employment opportunities. You can rebuild bad credit by using a starter credit card to establish a new and improved payment history, keeping credit card balances below at least 30% and ideally 10% of your total available credit limit(s) and adding a mix of credit accounts organically as your score and/or finances rebound.

Not sure how to fully prepare for a job hunt? No worries. Recent or soon-to-be college graduates in need of some help can find a full 50 things to do to score their first job right here

Image: Mikolette

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The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Better Job This Year

You've decided it's time to get a better job — now here's how you do it.

This is the year you’re going to make more money — or take on a leadership role at work, apply for your dream job or even try a completely new career path. Whatever it is, you know you want something in your professional life to change.

Understandably, you might be overwhelmed by the prospect of making your work dreams a reality. These job-hunting tips from the pros should make it more manageable.

If You’re Just Starting to Look for a New Job (or Thinking About It)

Evaluate What’s Truly Important to You
Yes, the amount on your paycheck is important. After all, you need to pay your bills. But what else do you want from your next gig — a shorter commute? A place you can advance? Flexible schedule? Whatever it is, make the added elements of your next job part of your search to help increase the odds you’ll be happier wherever you land.

Look at Companies, Not Just Jobs
Instead of only focusing on job listings that are already posted, expand your search to find companies you think you’d enjoy working at. They may not have anything right away, but taking the step toward talking with a hiring manager about what you think you’d bring to the table may provide opportunities you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

“Make a list of the items that you like and wish were part of your current culture and compare it to future opportunities,” said Tony Gulley, managing partner of Executive Casting, a recruiting firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Culture is the foundation of satisfaction and a cornerstone for employee retention, so you should not overlook this.”

Find a Mentor & Heed Their Advice
If there is someone in your field (or in your place of work) whose career, motivation, abilities or other traits you wish to emulate, tell them so and ask if they would be willing to help you become better at what you do. Don’t be shy about asking for this help. It’s not a one-way street, and the mentor as much as the mentee benefits from the relationship. Mentoring can help a seasoned professional become more cognizant of things they may do as a rote response to business situations. This will position you to advance in your current workplace or seek a better job elsewhere.

Pick Up New Skills
Eyeing a job in sales but deathly afraid of speaking in public? Perhaps it’s time to brush up on your skills. A little training or an after-work class can help you beef up your resume where you need it most.

Revamp Your Resume …
Are you still using that resume you crafted in college? Sure, you’ve updated it along the way, but maybe it’s time to consider either starting from scratch or getting rid of some of the details on there that are taking up prime real estate. Ask yourself if those early jobs are really reflective of your skillset or where you want to go in your career. If not, clear them off and make room for other more important details.

Remember, a lot of companies and recruiting firms use software to scan resumes, so prepare yours for a digital review. Dawn D. Boyer, a Virginia-based resume writer and career consultant, stressed the importance of composing digital resumes in word-processing documents with simple, easy-to-read formats that include keywords related to the type of work you’re looking for.

… And Make Sure You Proofread It
There are enough challenges to getting a new job, so don’t stand in your own way by sending application materials with errors.

“It’s shocking how many resumes cross my desk with incorrect grammar, improper punctuation, and multiple misspellings,” said Susan McNeill, a recruiter for Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, an education company in Delaware. “A sloppily written resume is an immediate red flag.”

Network, Network, Network
Sometimes the best way to find the next step is by talking to someone who’s been there. Reach out to your alumni network, tap friends or send cold emails to start conversations.

“Cold call companies and express your interest in hearing about any future openings in your line of work” said Jana Tulloch, a human resources professional at software education company DevelopIntelligence in Boulder, Colorado. “Often there are vacancies on the horizon that just haven’t been posted, and you could be the early bird who gets the worm.”

If You’re Actively Looking

Get Uncomfortable
Growth doesn’t happen by sitting still. You don’t improve your skills or opportunities by not stretching a bit, so volunteer to take on duties and projects that you might not feel completely qualified for. The same holds true when applying for jobs, especially if you’re a woman. Men are far more likely than women to apply for positions for which they might not meet every criteria.

Find a Recruiting Agency
There are plenty of services out there that help companies fill positions with qualified candidates, and the companies using these services tend to be larger employers with better benefits and salaries (they also pay the recruiters, not you, so don’t think you have to pony up any cash). You can reach out to these companies directly to make sure they know you exist, but it’s also wise to make sure you’re easy to find on the internet. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated and your resume is linked to it. Also, making your profile searchable on job sites like Monster.com and TheLadders.com can be helpful.

Check Your Credit
Some employers will pull a version of your credit report as part of their hiring process, and you’ll want to keep errors or unknown missteps from hurting your prospects. You can get your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com. Got bad credit? Here’s what to do if an employer wants to check out your credit report.

Prepare to Be Googled
According to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey, 59% of hiring managers use search engines to research candidates while 60% are also looking up applicants on social media — and, yes, what they find could cause you to lose out on a position. What could cost you, specifically? Survey says provocative or inappropriate photographs and videos, discriminatory comments, badmouthing of former employers or fellow employees, and poor communication skills. What can help? Background information that supports your job qualifications, a professional image, a wide range of interests and (you guessed it) good communication skills.

Find Out What You’re Worth
Use sites like Glassdoor to find out what other people at your level in your field make. That information can help you in the job search and negotiation process.

If You’re Going On Interviews

Review Your References
You want references that can speak to your work ethic and accomplishments firsthand, not necessarily the person in your orbit with the flashiest job title. If you’re thinking of adding someone new, be sure to clear it with them first. If you’re satisfied with your current advocates, double-check that their contact information is current. They can’t stump for you if the prospective employer can’t actually get in touch with them. Plus, the hiring manager might count a wrong number against you.

Don’t Forget Interview Prep
“Don’t show up empty-handed,” Boyer, the career consultant, said. “Your carry-in list should be a paper copy of your resume, a paper copy of your list of recommendations if they ask for them, and a typed list of questions to ask the future employer.” She also recommended bringing pre-written thank-you notes so you can drop it in the mail immediately upon leaving the building.

Ask For Feedback When You Get Rejected
Use the job-application process as a learning tool. If you don’t get an interview — or if you do and they choose another candidate — ask the recruiter or hiring manager why they didn’t select you and what you could do to improve your chances for getting a position like the one you applied for.

Keep an Open Mind
While it’s helpful to have a checklist in mind, having too many requirements may hold you back. Keep an open mind so you give each opportunity the consideration it deserves.

Image: Geber86 

The post The Ultimate Guide to Getting a Better Job This Year appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Write a Resume Computers Will Notice

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Growing up, your parents may have told you getting a job was simple. You may have heard that asking to speak to the manager of a local business and giving them a firm handshake was what would be required. That may have been true at one time. But these days? You have to face background checks and drug tests. Applications and other materials have to be polished and primed. And if you don’t know how to write a resume that will get past automation software, don’t expect many calls for interviews.

In today’s job market, your resume needs to be tailored. But not just tailored to match the job description. Your resume needs to be tailored specifically to beat filters. That begs the question: How to write a resume that shows you’re the perfect fit and also beats the computers? It’s tricky, but it can be done. First, you’ll need to take a lesson from Sun Tzu, the philosopher, general, and strategist behind The Art of War. That lesson? Know your enemy. Or, in this case, research and get an idea of what you’re up against. To beat the computer, you need to know what it’s looking for.

Beat the Computers

The objective of screening software (or applicant tracking systems, ATS) is to weed people out. Essentially, it acts as the first barrier to separate the wheat from the chaff — or, the qualified from the unqualified. It’s designed to save on costs and act as an artificial intelligence. Instead of paying a human to sort resumes by hand, companies use an ATS at the initial stage to quickly and efficiently winnow the candidate pool.

Given that the average human recruiter only looks at a resume for six seconds, it’s hard to say whether your odds improve with an actual person calling the shots.

So, your goal is to hurdle that initial barrier. To do so, you need to know what the computer is looking for.

If you’ve spent any amount of time writing or working with computers before, you know that a few things are key. First, brevity and simplicity. If you were going to search Google, for example, you’d do so with as few words as possible. You’re looking for hits on keywords or phrases to get the best results. The same is true with an ATS.

You’ll also want to keep things relatively simple. It’s a computer you’re trying to impress. That computer breaks everything down to 1s and 0s, which is about as simple as it gets. Also, aim for density. You want the text to be brief, simple, and packed with relevant information.

Using that as a starting point, you can piece things together.

How to Write a Resume: A Primer

Formatting

Formatting means the basic layout of your resume. Again, because you’re trying to exploit a machine’s weaknesses, you need to make it easy for the machine to read. When it comes to formatting, that means keeping things conservative and simple. Do away with objective statements or professional summaries — they’re only muddying the waters.

Aim for a straightforward resume, in the traditional style. That should include your personal information at the top, your relevant work experience and history, education, and your relevant skills.

Keywords

Keywords are incredibly important. The ATS is looking for certain words and phrases in your text, so make sure they’re there. Use basic SEO principles, and make sure that you’re using the job description as a guide. If the job description mentions teamwork and communication skills, then you need to mention your teamwork and communication skills. Tailor your writing to match what the employer has laid out. Don’t lie, of course, but do your best.

Don’t go overboard with keywords, however. If your resume is unreadable because it’s stuffed with keywords and phrases, the system will know it’s being cheated.

Watch for Mistakes

Finally, make sure your finished document is mistake-free. Use spellcheckers and tools like Grammarly.com to point out any glaring problems. This is when you actually get to use the computers for your own benefit. If your resume is filled with grammar and spelling mistakes, the ATS is probably going to get jammed up. It’s not going to recognize misspelled words, and think you’re spouting nonsense. And just like a human screener, it’ll probably send your resume to the recycle bin.

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.

[Editor’s note: Many employers look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process, so it’s a good idea to know what’s in them and to dispute any errors that may be weighing you down. You can see your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]

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Here’s A Quick Way to Find Out if You’re Getting Paid Enough

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“Am I earning what I deserve?” It’s the question every worker has asked herself at least once. How do you know you’re being paid fairly given your experience and what your peers are earning? You could ask around the office, but even in 2016, salary discussions are still a taboo topic around the water cooler.

Jobs marketplace Glassdoor.com has developed a new tool to help employees estimate their own job market value. The “Know Your Worth” tool is intended to help you cut through the fog, and get a pretty decent estimate of your true earning potential.

“[Know Your Worth] is all about empowering people to do their research and really know what their market value is,” Scott Dobroski, a spokesperson for Glassdoor, told MagnifyMoney. Dobroski said Glassdoor hopes the release of the tool will encourage employers to be more transparent with their employees about how their pay is determined.

How It Works

The “Know Your Worth” tool is free to use. The tool ask for five pieces of information: your title, employer, salary, location, and years of work experience. The tool then uses an algorithm to tell you the median base salary you could earn in your location — and, most important, whether you’re overpaid or underpaid and by how much.

The market value estimates are not perfect, and everyone will not be able to get a result from the tool, Glassdoor admits. The company relies on millions of pieces of data collected from Glassdoor users over the years, as well as its own proprietary research of supply and demand for jobs in a range of fields.

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Who the Tool Is Best For

The tool has its limitations. So far, the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company says it has enough data to deliver results to roughly 55% to 60% of the U.S. workforce. However, the tool will “learn” more as more Glassdoor users continue to submit their salary and job information.

“An employee should not see [their results] and just go and ask for more money,” Dobroski said.

MagnifyMoney asked about a dozen workers in various cities across the U.S. to test-drive the beta version of the tool. The majority of workers, each of whom requested to remain anonymous, were able to get estimates successfully. Two workers were told the tool could not offer them a market value yet — one, a 23-year-old landscaper based in Atlanta, Ga., and the other, a 31-year-old hospital scheduling specialist in Onalaska, Wis.

One person who used the tool, a project supervisor working in New York, N.Y., said he was surprised by his results. Based on his market value, the Glassdoor tool informed him he was underpaid by 3.3%.
“I thought I was overpaid,” said the worker. Another worker, an entry-level sales representative in Buckhead, Ga., said he was surprised by his results as well. The tool alerted him that he was underpaid by 7.2%. He balked.

“I know what my peers make because we all graduated with the same degrees and went into sales with different companies,” said the worker, 24. “My base [salary] is the highest among the people I know.”
People with more straightforward and common job titles in more densely populated cities might have an easier time getting accurate results.

“I would definitely use this tool before my next interview,” said Jazmine Calhoun, a 24-year-old freelance writer based in Atlanta. “It was an effective tool for the millennial just starting to enter the workforce without knowledge of their true value.”

As the tool gathers new data, it will update your market value on a weekly basis. Your market value is also plotted on a 12-month chart. Logically, it should go up as time goes on and you gain more job experience, but shifts in supply and demand for your given field could also alter your market value.
You can also compare your “worth” to the median pay that others receive for doing similar work in your area.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

It’s free

Who doesn’t like free things? To top that, no cost makes the tool a good fit for a cash-strapped individual looking for a simple way to get a rough estimate of their market value.

You can use the tool to weigh potential job offers

One of the tricky parts about salary negotiations is knowing how much or how little to ask for. If you have multiple offers, you might be able to use the Glassdoor tool to find out if one job’s offer is on par with what people in your field and at your experience level are currently earning. If it’s way low, you might want to ask for more or at least do more research.

You can apply directly to better-paying jobs
The results page presents you with the salaries and links to apply for jobs with similar titles in your location, or for jobs that might be a common next move for those in your field. That could be helpful if you’re thinking of making a career shift soon.

A 21-year-old assistant media planner at an advertising agency in New York discovered she was underpaid by 24%, but wasn’t surprised. “I was warned of my company’s low salary rates, but I was striving to get my foot in the industry door,” she said.

Cons:

Missing about 40%-45% of occupations
As we mentioned, at this time the tool can only give an estimated market value for about 55% to 60% of the U.S. workforce. If the tool can’t give you your market value, try using Glassdoor’s salary explorer instead. This tool lets you play with a variety of pay factors and other types of jobs in the market.

Doesn’t factor in compensations or other benefits
All of the other things that go into a person’s pay such as bonus compensations or benefits aren’t considered in the calculation, so the base pay may not be reflective of the total compensation a worker gets. Perhaps you are underpaid on your base salary, but you are given generous benefits like a 401(k) match, 100% employer-paid health care, or several months’ paid maternity and paternity leave. Those benefits have true monetary value that can add to your base salary.

Glassdoor says as the learning algorithm gets smarter it plans to add variables like benefits to the model.

No cost of living comparison
There’s a feature on the bottom of the results page that lets you tinker with your inputs to see what you would be paid if you lived in another city, or had more job experience, etc. It gives you a base pay estimate, but doesn’t reflect the city’s cost of living to give an idea of whether or not your lifestyle would change if you moved. For now, you can use PayScale’s Cost of Living Calculator to get around that.

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Final Verdict

The tool is a great starting point for those who are looking to negotiate their pay or who are on the job hunt currently. But it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider before you decide to ask for more pay or switch jobs. Ask colleagues or mentors for guidance about how much you should expect to earn. Also, ask your employer or human resources department for information about how raises and promotions typically work, ideally before you take the job. Some employers have more structured salary guidelines than others.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not knowing that you are underpaid is enough motivation to ask for a raise or switch jobs. A lot of the time, that decision could depend on whether or not you like your job, as it did for a 22-year-old project manager working in Santa Monica, Calif. The tool said he was underpaid by 20%, but it wasn’t enough to scare him off. The company has been struggling financially, but he’s happy enough with his current job to stick around.

“I feel like I haven’t learned everything from this job just yet,” he said. “I have a lot to learn from all of the people that are above me in [management] positions that are like mine before I move on to the next thing.”

The post Here’s A Quick Way to Find Out if You’re Getting Paid Enough appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Looking for Work? Here’s The Wrong Way to Get Your Job Application Noticed

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In a hyper-competitive job market, some people looking for work will do whatever it takes to stand out. There was the student who designed a Lego set in an attempt to land an ad agency internship. A graphic designer slapped his resume on a four-pack of home-brewed beer. And more than one desperate job seeker has donned a sandwich board in an attempt to find work.

These job hunting stunts might capture the media’s attention, but do they actually lead to job offers? In some cases, yes. Brennan Gleason, the man behind the “résum-ale,” as he dubbed it, quickly landed a job as a creative director for a digital marketing agency with the help of his one-of-a-kind C.V. But quirky job-hunting approaches don’t always yield quick results. It took Dan Conway, aka the Extreme Job Hunter, a year to find work, despite engaging in stunts like auctioning himself off on eBay and sending pizza to potential employers.

Outlandish job search techniques are more common, and may be more effective, when the applicant is in a creative field like marketing and design, perhaps because they’re a way for people to show off their skills to potential employers. Leah Bowman, the student behind the Lego resume, told Careertopia that, “For most companies, this type of application might even cross the line to inappropriate. For advertising agencies, however, I felt that showing my creativity and personality would be an asset.” But even designers and marketing pros should proceed with caution; one quarter of executives in this field surveyed by The Creative Group said gimmicky resumes were unprofessional.

Still, job hunters in all fields are under pressure to get noticed by hiring managers, who are often inundated with resumes for every job posted. The competition can inspire some desperate moves. While the instinct to make yourself stand out isn’t a bad one, some applicants take it too far, engaging in bizarre behavior than can torpedo their chances of getting the job.

“Candidates are realizing that an extraordinary cover letter and resume with strong references aren’t enough, that if you really want the gig, you have to stand out from the competition,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, said. “Unfortunately, what many aren’t realizing is that the catch is making sure you do that in a professional, respectful way.”

The Creative Job Application Gone Wrong

Overzealous job seekers don’t always realize there’s a fine line between the charmingly creative job application strategy and the wildly inappropriate. Hiring managers surveyed by CareerBuilder shared stories of candidates who took an out-of-the-box approach to getting noticed, including:

  • The job seeker who bought a first-class upgrade in order to sit next to the hiring manager on a transatlantic flight.
  • A candidate who showed up for an interview wearing a Halloween costume.
  • The person who tried to bribe the hiring manager by sending him money.
  • An applicant who wore a tie emblazoned with the name of the company where he was interviewing.
  • The dressed-to-impress job seeker who wore a three-piece suit and arrived to his interview in a white limousine (the company dress code was casual and the job paid a middle wage).
  • The candidate who had his priest call the hiring manager to ask that the applicant get the job.

What is it about looking for work that inspires people to act in a way that seems designed to turn off hiring managers? Alison Green, an HR expert, blames the “charlatans of the job search advice world, telling people they need to ‘stand out’ and be ‘memorable.’” Candidates who want to rise above the pack might decide it’s a good idea to mail a cake and a framed picture of themselves to a hiring manager (as one candidate did to a reader of Green’s Ask a Manager blog), but such brazen moves can backfire.

“I was so incredibly creeped out by this gesture … I was afraid to eat the cake and couldn’t look at him and didn’t even call him for an interview,” the receiver of this unique “gift” recounted.

Those looking for work would do better to focus on substance rather than sizzle when trying to impress a would-be employer, say most career experts. A strong resume that outlines past accomplishments and clearly shows how your past experience relates to the position you want is a must, according to CareerBuilder. (And remember, only Elle Woods can get away with a scented resume on pink paper.) A robust social media presence that shows you’re an expert in your field can be an advantage when an employers searches for you after receiving your resume.

During the face-to-face portion of the hiring process, steer clear of common interview mistakes and take the time to ask a few questions of your own, since this shows you’re interested in the job. Finally, don’t forget to send a thank you note. Many applicants overlook this basic gesture, even though 59% of hiring managers say a thank you note or email after an interview can boost a person’s chances of being receiving a job offer. And if you’re tempted to send a potential employer a shoe to “get your foot in the door,” remember this: Though gimmicky tactics might get a hiring manager’s attention, it’s ultimately your skills and experience that will land you the job.

[Editor’s note: Employers often check your credit reports before finalizing the hiring process. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep track of what’s happening with your credit. You certainly wouldn’t want errors on your reports to keep you from getting your dream job. You can get your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can check your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, at Credit.com.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

 

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Looking For a New Job

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Whether you’re preparing for life after college, recovering from a job loss or just feel ready to try something new, it never hurts to brush up on your job-search skills. Here are a few mistakes you could be making without even knowing it.

1. Not Knowing What You Want 

Too often, people don’t put enough thought into a whether job is the right fit for them, Samantha Zupan, spokesperson for Glassdoor.com, a job search and recruiting site, said. “They don’t take that moment of pause to go, ‘I need this much in terms of compensation, these benefits and this kind of environment,'” she said.

Beyond that, it’s key to know what you’re looking for in terms of the role and professional challenges. If you don’t, you may find yourself in a less-than-ideal situation.

2. Not Doing Your Homework

Some people walk into interviews without taking the time to bone up on the company beforehand, Zupan said. “Not only should you look for jobs but research the company culture, leadership, CEO and what they could likely earn,” she said. After all, you’re there to decide if the company is right for you, too.

3. Not Tailoring Your Message

“People don’t tailor their approach to each employer,” Zupan says, because they’re desperate to get a call or email back. “But that extra time you take for employers you really want to go after” is what will set you apart and make you a more viable candidate. Ask yourself, “does my resume highlight experience this employer is looking for?” If not, look for ways to play up your passion and skills.

4. Not Following Up

“If you got a call or email and didn’t follow up, that’s definitely a mistake in the job search,” Zupan said. “Even if you end up not going with that company, you may end up at the company down the road, or that recruiter could go to another company.” So whether you’re interested or not, be sure to let them know. And remember, you should always respond within one business day. Any longer than that, and you risk looking disinterested and like you lack general email etiquette.

5. Appearing Unprofessional

Whether you’re applying for the C-Suite or an assistant job, it’s best to keep things professional. “You should always be thinking about your public profiles and make sure they reflect who you are and what you are, because that’s what employees will be looking at,” Zupan said. Do a proper sweep of your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and voicemail, and sanitize them accordingly.

Remember, with more employers checking credit scores than ever, it pays to know where you stand. You can view your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

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You’re More Likely to Land Your Dream Job If You Do This One Simple Thing

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A new survey has shed light on a major inefficiency in the way most people look for a job: Getting referrals.

It turns out that 71% of hiring managers say employee referrals are their best source for finding job candidates, but only 7% of job seekers say asking for referrals is part of their strategy for getting a new job.

The survey, conducted by Beyond.com, a career content and job site, and Future Workplace, a research firm, also found that “passive” job seekers, or those who are employed but open to new opportunities, have a better chance of being hired over “active” job seekers, or those who are unemployed and searching for work.

Hiring managers really like passive job seekers according to the survey, with 80% of HR professionals saying they become the most effective employees. (The survey is based on a national sample of 4,347 job seekers, as well as 129 human resource professionals.)

So what does all of this mean for you if you’re interested in finding a new position?

“A strong application coupled with quality referrals will provide job seekers with an advantage in the hiring process,” Rich Milgram, CEO of Beyond.com said in a statement. “You should constantly be exploring new ways to nurture and expand your referral network, and it may be easier than you think. For example, attend industry conferences and events, grab lunch with a former colleague or make new connections on social platforms — a few simple actions may help you land your dream job.”

Some of those actions, based on highlights from the survey, include.

1. If You’re Still in School, Review Your Major

Fourteen percent of seekers surveyed were liberal arts majors, yet only 2% of companies are actively recruiting those majors. And while 30% of companies are actively recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors, just 15% of job seekers are studying in those fields. About a third of job seekers would, or have, changed their college major for better job prospects.

2. Focus on Cultural Fit Over GPA

While job seekers (23%) and employers (24%) agreed that internship experience carries the most weight for students when seeking jobs, employers don’t view GPA as carrying a lot of weight (6%) as much as job seekers (12%). Companies put more emphasis on cultural fit (24%) than job seekers do (15%) when recruiting.

3. Be Flexible 

Effective communication skills are at the top of the skills list for both employers and employees. After communication skills, employers look for employees with the ability to adapt to change and make sense of ambiguity, followed by being results driven and goal-oriented. After communication skills, employees report leadership ability, in-person collaboration and teamwork skills as their subsequent strengths.

4. Don’t Worry About These Weaknesses

The top three weaknesses reported by employees were virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (48%), technical skills (46%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (43%). HR professionals reported virtual collaboration and teamwork skills (43%), and being culturally aware and inclusive (also 43%) as the second and third least-important skills when hiring.

5. Look Outside. It’s Easier 

Job seekers are optimistic about the job market and may perceive it as easier to seek a new job outside their company than to make a lateral move. More than 40% of job seekers reported that it was difficult or very difficult to make a lateral move at their most recent organization, while less than one quarter of respondents reported being not optimistic about the broader job market.

Remember, a lot of prospective employers will want to check your credit before completing the hiring process. As such, it’s important to monitor what’s on your credit report. You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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Want a Better Job? Make Better Facebook Friends

Why Facebook Shouldn't Let The World See Your Teens' Pictures

The strength of your relationships on Facebook could be important when it comes to your ability to find a job, a recent study published in the Journal of Labor Economics suggests, though the relationship is somewhat nuanced.

The study, published in January, looked at whether “strong” or “weak” personal ties on Facebook were the most useful when it comes to finding a job. Researchers used photo tags and walls posts to measure tie strength, or how close the relationships actually were.

So, the better friends you are with someone in real life, the more likely they are to help you out in your job search.

Here’s where the data from this Journal of Labor Economics study gets tricky. Researchers noted that a person’s Facebook network is not an exact representation of their real life network, and that a large amount of unobservable contact takes place outside of Facebook. However, despite these shortcomings, Facebook interaction is a good predictor of real-world tie strength. And while good friends are powerful, the “weaker” friends can be as well.

“When looking at the collective power of weak ties, we find weak ties matter most,” researchers said. “But, when we look individually at all a person’s social connections, we find that a single strong tie is more influential than a single weak tie.”

How does that work?

The study concluded that there are actually very few strong ties on Facebook, but when they exist, they are “associated with a higher probability of job help.”

“Weak ties are important in aggregate because they are numerous,” researchers reported, “while single strong ties are scarce but associated with a higher probability of job help.”

Researchers suggested there’s an easy way to take advantage of this when looking for your next job.

“A person is more likely to work with a weaker tie because weaker ties collectively make up most of a person’s social network,” researchers said. “But, strengthening an existing tie should increase the probability that you will work with that specific friend.”

If you are looking for a better job, it can be helpful to keep an eye on your credit reports as they may end up being part of your evaluation during the hiring process. It’s a hotly contested subject, but employers are allowed to check your credit reports before they hire you. You can get started by checking out your free credit report summary every month on Credit.com. And you can get copies of your credit reports for free once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies.

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