Job searching: The summertime job hunting advantage

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By Alicia Sakal

Many Americans take late summer vacations right before Labor Day weekend. If you are in active job search mode because you are an unemployed job seeker, or need to make a job or career change soon, then now is not the time to take a vacation.  Don’t let these lazy days of summer tempt you into putting your job search efforts on hold for even just a few weeks.

Now is the perfect time to be planning your job search strategy for the upcoming peak hiring season. You should update and refresh any outdated career documents such as your online resume and social media professional profiles.

The reason for doing so is quite simple. Many Human Resources (HR) professionals and recruiters aren’t sitting on a tropical island watching the tide roll in. In fact, they are typically starting their behind-the-scenes hiring ramp-up process now and through August.

It is important to also keep in mind that often times new employer and recruiter job postings go up a few weeks before Labor Day weekend.

As a job seeker, this is a golden opportunity to get a head start over the “other” job applicants who may be taking a late summer vacation or mental break from their job searching efforts.

Applying to jobs now, before the next peak recruitment cycle begins in September through early November, can also put you ahead of other job seekers in landing a job interview.

In other words, your chances of getting noticed by an employer or recruiter increases this time of year because there are less job applicants applying to the jobs you are going to apply to since they have taken a break.

Originally published on Examiner.com: Job searching:  The summertime job hunting advantage

The job interview: Be nice to every person, and not just the hiring manager

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Photo By John Jacobi, Flickr.com

The in-person interview starts well before the scheduled time of the interview. How will you fair?

By Alicia Sakal

Some of the most desirable companies to work for value their employees of all levels, including contractors and onsite laborers.

Conventional wisdom knows that it’s always a good idea to be nice and respectful to, literally, everyone you meet and come into contact with. Yet, some people are just naturally better at being personable than others.

Especially when interviewing for a job, sometimes interviewees may appear abnormally focused or edgy right before the onsite job interview begins. Some job candidates may also fail to give a friendly smile in the parking lot, hold the elevator door for another person, or say thank you to the receptionist.

When you find yourself going on an in-person job interview, it’s important to be aware of your new environment, and all of the people in it, the very minute you arrive on the company’s property.

The reason being, never underestimate nepotism in the workplace and how people will talk.

To illustrate this point:

Company X’s parking lot attendant is the CFO’s nephew who is earning money after school to buy his first car.

The front door security person knows every employee on a first name basis.

The nice receptionist happens to be the hiring manager’s aunt.

The cleaning person that was helpful with the empty towel dispenser in the lavatory is endearing to every employee in the office.

As for the mailroom clerk you met on the office tour, he is working on his college degree. When he graduates, the VP of Marketing promised him an entry-level position in the marketing department.

In other words, you just don’t know what the company dynamics are so it’s a good idea to be at your personal best at all times, before the interview even begins and after as well.

Whether job seekers realize it or not, company employees are paying attention to how job candidates interact with the entire office and their supporting contractors.

Therefore, it’s wise to remember to thank the parking lot attendant for telling you where the visitors parking area is; and to be respectful and pleasant to the receptionist, the cleaning person, the mailroom clerk, and anyone else you come into contact with.

After all, chances are good that the astute hiring manager will ask the receptionist right after the job candidate leaves, “so, what did you think of him?”

An unfriendly job seeker with poor business etiquette skills will not get the job offer in a company that values its employees.

Originally Published on Examiner: The job interview: Be nice to every person, and not just the hiring manager

The job interview: Not saying thank you can cost you the job offer

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The in-person interview starts well before the scheduled time of the interview. How will you fair?

By Alicia Sakal

Especially in a pro-employer job market, when all skillsets are equal between the job candidate finalists, the politest and most personable professional will likely get the coveted job offer.

The reason is simple:

Personality and good manners are often times more valuable than the actual job skills a candidate brings to the table. As unfair as this may seem, humans make the hiring decisions and usually hire who they like and who will fit into their corporate culture.

Naturally, some job candidates get nervous about interviewing for a position. As a result, they can forget to say “thank you” during and after interviewing.

By being appreciative, thoughtful and aware of others throughout the interviewing process, this conveys that you can be a team player. Doing so also demonstrates that you have good business etiquette skills, which is important for retaining and growing the company’s client base.

Helpful tip:

Before the interview, write the words “remember to say thank you” on a yellow sticky or piece of paper.  Then, review it one last time before getting on the phone interview or walking through the company door.

The “thank you” touch points for each person you meet…

The phone interview:

Thank the person for her time and for the initial phone interview.

Follow up with a thank you note via email or snail mail the same day or next morning.

Note: If Human Resources (HR) or the interviewer shares with you that the hiring team will make a decision in a few weeks, and time is on your side, then nothing says “thank you for the interview” better than a handwritten note on professional-looking card stock.

Rebecca Black, Business Etiquette Coach and Author, says that “if a job candidate is serious about getting a job, then she will thank the recruiter and interviewing team personally and in writing.  The handwritten thank you note in the mail works best.”

Either thank you method also demonstrates responsiveness and great follow-up skills.

The in-person interview:             

When applicable, thank the person in conversation for any information you found particularly interesting or useful throughout the interview. Be care not to overdo it. Also thank the interviewer for his time at the end of the job interview.

Then, follow up the same day or next morning with the thank you note.

Helpful tip:

Write on the same check list a note to “ask for business cards” from anyone you meet at the interview. Having to ask the receptionist or HR person to find out the person’s contact information, like email address or job title, later on can look forgetful on your part if you cannot find out the information on your own via LinkedIn or the company’s website.

After being on the interviewer side, more often times than not, the job offer truly will go to the politest job candidate when all skills are equal.

So, don’t forget to say “thank you for your time and the interview” to every person you meet or speak with. Then, follow up with a thank you note that also reiterates why you are the best person for the job.

Originally Published on Examiner.com:The job interview: Not saying thank you can cost you the job offer

Why I Bought Real Estate in Small Town, USA

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12 reasons why I will never go back to an urban lifestyle.

By Alicia Sakal

Simply put, “Big City Life” can be very stressful. For this reason, my husband and I made the decision several years ago to buy real estate in Small Town, USA for a much better quality of life.

If we had to work our lives away, we decided to at least live in a place that felt like we retired early and were on vacation in the evenings and weekends. So this is how we ended up living in a scenic small town community in Connecticut, Population – 3,500. Our Connecticut / New York border town is just 90 minutes away from New York City, yet it feels like a different planet.

12 Reasons I Will Never Go Back to Urban Living…

1. Oxygen, Glorious Oxygen. There’s nothing like fresh air, and plenty of it.

2. Well Water. Naturally pure, thirst quenching H2O that happens to be free.

3. Farm Fresh Produce. Organic, local farmers market options. Farmland is plentiful. Strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry picking… a favorite of mine. We have a winery; too, that’s part of the Connecticut Wine Trail.

4. Spectacular Country Views. We enjoy breathtaking sunsets, sparkling lake water, mountains full of trees, and crystal clear night skies perfect for stargazing with our child.

5. Outdoor Recreation Activities. Choices are endless like boating and swimming on a lake, biking and hiking on trails, and horseback riding at farms.

6. Family-Friendly Neighborhoods. We, “The Locals”, know each other. All of us have names. We smile and wave” hi” to each other. It’s extremely civilized in a small town, and we try to help each other out.

7. No Rush Hour Traffic. There’s only one traffic light in my small town. “Rush hour” is 5 cars in a row, a duck crossing, or a tractor slowdown.

8. No Strip Malls or Overdeveloped Land. A typical New England small town may consist of the necessities like a bank, small grocery store, post office, library, and a small church. “Maybe” even a block or two of unique retail shops, along with a few restaurants. If the town is “lucky”, there might be a gas station.

9. Slower Paced Lifestyle. Ahhh, peace and tranquility. There’s very little stress out in the middle of “the country”.

10. No Crowds. Lines are never long at the post office or bank.

11. Low Crime Rate. No place is ever crime-free, but it’s nice to live in an area with low criminal activity.

12. Lower Taxes. We only have a Pre-K through Eighth Grade school. Since there is no high school, this is one main reason why taxes are low. High school teens have their choice of 4 reputable high schools in neighboring towns.

I definitely don’t miss some of the major “Big City” negatives like expensive real estate prices, crowds of people, air and noise pollution, and high crime rates. I’ll take my pure, clean air any day with a much lower cost of living.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.

How I Save 72 Percent on My Auto Insurance

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For Getting the Better Rate on Auto Insurance, carefully examine your current policy’s “Summary of Discounts” and know what they are inside-and-out. If you don’t see this section on your statement, then you are overpaying!

By Alicia Sakal

How did I save several thousand dollars on auto insurance over the course of just the most recent decade? By being an aware comparison shopper that knows what kinds of “Summary of Discounts” options are available. By doing so, the opportunity to qualify and negotiate for “discounts” to get a better auto insurance rate improves significantly.

Whenever I “stop-by” or call my insurance company, the #1 question I ask: Are you offering any new discounts? This gets the dialogue going on what’s new and what has changed.

For 2 Cars: I pay $858 per Year ($429 for 6 Months) on Auto Insurance.

My 72% Off “Discounts”…

1. Go 100% Paperless. I auto-pay online by credit card, and receive a 10% discount. Recently, I found out that if I go completely paperless then I can save 10% more on my auto insurance. Save those tree branches! – 20 Percent Combined Discount, $172 per year

2. Have a Flawless Driving Record. Being part of my insurance company’s “Safe Driving Club” is certainly worth its weight in platinum. – 16 Percent Discount, $136 per year

3. Get a “Multiple Policy”. Add auto insurance (boat and life, too, if applicable) to your Home Owner’s or Renter’s Insurance Policy. Bundling different insurance needs with one “umbrella company” is usually the best way to go because they want ALL of your business. – 16 Percent Discount, $136 per year

4. Always Pay On-Time and In-Full. Being a habitual “Responsible Payer” makes a lot of difference and, literally, pays off. – 10 Percent Discount, $86 per year

5. Own a Car with Safety Features. Antilock brakes and electronic stability control, for instance, make perfect sense for obvious safety reasons. – 10 Percent Discount, $86 per year

What I also find: Discount “types” vary by auto insurance company. For example: My provider no longer offers a “reduced mileage” discount or a major discount for having a higher deductible, but others still do.

Seventy-two percent off in discounts adds up: $616 savings per year ($308 savings for 6 months)

But, don’t get too comfortable with any insurance company…

Routinely Comparison Shop.

For peace-of-mind, it’s always good to find out what a competitor offers. If the quote is better, in most instances I find that it’s not, then first use it to negotiate for a better rate with your current insurance company.

In the end, the “total discount” is relative and arbitrary.

When I comparison shop next, I could find out from a competitor that my 72 percent discount is more like a 10 percent discount. Worse yet, I can find out that there is no discount because the competitor’s rate is better.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to “shop-around” a few months before your current policy expires. Then, you won’t feel pressured if you need to negotiate or change providers.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices

 

Laid-off from a Job? 3 Proactive Ways to NOT Have a Big Gap on Your Resume

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There is No Need to Feel the Stigma of Being Unemployed If Action is Taken Right After a Job Loss

These resume filler options are attainable and realistic. They should not become all-consuming to both your job search and your personal life.

Alicia Sakal

In this Great Recession, ahem… now called the “New American Economy”, being laid-off at some point over the past 6 years is not unusual. Especially if you are recently laid-off, find meaningful ways to not have a glaring, deep black hole of unemployment time on your resume.

Believe it or not, employers and recruiters are well aware that the economy is still bad. They are more sympathetic to job seekers “if” they can demonstrate they use their time well to improve their professional qualifications.

So… what can you do from home, on your own time, at your own pace, and can ramp up or down quickly while seeking full-time work AND balancing a personal or family life? The answer: Start filling your resume now with new job skills that matter.

1. Get an Accredited Professional Certificate Online

Depending on your education level, you may need to take more courses to finally get a BA or BS Degree. Or, perhaps you always wanted to get a Master’s or Doctoral Degree. This is a super idea “if” you have years of time and money. What’s less of a time commitment and costs significantly less would be a professional certificate online that relates to the career you want to stay in or transition into. In the U.S. News & World Report – 2014 Best Colleges Rankings, you can use a simple search tool to find online accredited certificate programs.

To illustrate the point as to why accredited certificate programs can help your job search: If 200 people are applying for a project manager position, and a project management certification from the PMI Institute is a preferred company criterion, then chances are only those who have this certificate will be selected for interviews, especially in a sluggish economy.

2. Find Freelance / Contract / Consulting Work

The reality check, you could be out of fulltime work for a few months or a few years. Freelance, contract, or consulting projects are perfect for filling gaps in employment history. Plus, these short-term assignments keep you highly marketable and attractive to an employer. Sometimes, there may even be a job offer at the end of the project.

To find freelance / contract work: Word-of-mouth goes a long way with family, friends, and professional connections. You only need that first short-term assignment to get started. From there, word naturally gets out tenfold. I did freelance and consulting work when I was part of a dot.com mass layoff during the Early 2000s recession. Learning about new businesses, and contributing to them at an accelerated pace, can be exciting.

Another great way to find freelance / contract assignments: Use niche websites with freelance job listings like Elance or Working Mother. As for finding consulting work in many top industries, Gerson Lehrman Group offers a super way to make money for your expertise.

3. Start Your Own Business

Chances are, if you are doing freelance / contract / consulting work, then this can be a natural transition for becoming a business services provider and owner. Who knows, if you interview for a fulltime corporate job 6 months from now, you may find that you’d rather keep working for yourself instead.

Another way to find a new career: Turn a hobby, interest, or passion into a side business that can evolve to fulltime self-employment. For example, if you love photography and are talented, then become a freelance photographer. Love antiquing? Become an Appraiser. Are you Mr. Fix-it? Get a contractor’s license, and put an ad out in your local newspaper to see what happens.

Search from within, and take the next steps to open up job opportunities for yourself. Then, you don’t have to worry about ever having a big employment gap on your resume.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.

College-Bound High School Grads: 8 Academic Survival Tips

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Here’s What I Wish I Knew Before I Began Freshman Year in College…

Freshman Year can be an intense experience on so many different levels, to say the least. “Figuring it all out” in the first year is a major life adjustment.

By Alicia Sakal

“Live and learn the hard way” is an appropriate cliché that pretty much sums up my Freshman Year college experience. It was smooth sailing in the years to follow, but my first year was rather rocky.

I wish someone shared these 8 Academic Survival Tips Before My Freshman Year Began:

1. Go to the Freshman Orientation. If the university you chose is nearby, go to the orientation and get the lowdown from upperclassmen. Find out which classes are fun and inspiring, and which you should avoid. If you choose a tough yet challenging class, at least you’ll know what to expect from an intense professor.

2. Attend Registration for Classes In-Person. Getting stuck with the “leftovers” happened to me because I was out-of-state and couldn’t make registration. This was a clear disadvantage first semester Freshman Year. The 8 AM classes were way too early. The nutty professor really should have retired. I forced myself to stay awake with a boring, monotone professor. Even though I earned an “A” in one class, another professor didn’t believe in “giving” A Grades despite tons of student complaints.

3. Try Taking Only 12 Credit Hours First Semester. College is a big life adjustment. It was beyond stressful balancing academics with all the other new life experiences Freshman Year.

4. Not Declaring a Major is OK. Eventually you’ll have to choose a major, but not your first year. You can always change and end up with a minor, too. If you really don’t know what you want to do in life then eventually pick a general, broad major that spans several industries when you get out like Business Administration, Marketing, or Computer Science.

5. Quit While You Are Ahead. If a class is not going well, don’t be afraid to quit early without financial penalty. So what if you have a “Withdrawal” on your record. In the real world, it doesn’t matter if you “stuck it out” and it isn’t worth the stress. I was petrified to withdraw from one class, and should have taken an “Incomplete” after the open window for withdrawals closed.

6. Your GPA Doesn’t Have to Be a 4.0. Unless you are going to graduate school, GPA matters, but not as much as you think it does. Relax just a little. Throughout my professional career, nobody ever asked me on an interview what my GPA was. Many employers simply want to know if you successfully completed college and graduated with a degree.

7. Your Major Might Not Be Relevant to Your Career. With entry-level jobs, you are just starting out, and can go in many directions professionally, especially with a broad major. Some graduates don’t even end up working in a field related to what they majored in. It’s also good to be aware of the growth industries Freshman Year, so if you pick one, then you have the potential for steady, future employment throughout your career.

8. “Not Really Meant For College” Warning. It’s good to be a college graduate even if you really want to pursue a trade. If you are a Business Administration Major, for instance, your degree is still valuable as a business owner or manager of employees in any industry or trade.

However, if the thought of completing 4 years of college is tortuous, you were pressured into going, and your soul is absolutely miserable, get out before you and / or your parents waste tons of money. “Plan B” should include enrolling in a trade school or professional certification / licensing program BEFORE quitting college so you can make a career for yourself. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a depressing, minimum wage job indefinitely.

Originally Published on Yahoo! Voices.