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put technology to work for you

If you think about it, you have “employees” of your own. You pay them to do things for you — find information on what concerns you, keep track of data you need to access again, and anything else you don’t want to do yourself. Some of your employees are paid when you get the bill from the phone company and your internet provider. Others are paid when you get your electric bill. Some are actually people who provide a service you appreciate.

Technology can be an excellent employee, if used correctly. How much easier is life when your smartphone works? How much harder is it when you can’t figure it out? If you don’t have a smartphone (“substitute computer”), or whatever technology you use on hand, life can feel out of control.

One problem with this employee of yours is that technology changes over time. Your comfortable way of doing things gets out of sync with the way the rest of your world is moving and you miss out on important details. This is when a person who provides a service can help. You could catch up with the current technologies yourself, if you spent the time and energy to figure it out. But employing someone to get you started lets you get up to speed much more quickly and you get a head start.

The LinkedIn Profile Development service is a good example of what I am talking about. Right now, LinkedIn is one of the best technological tools available for connecting with others in your career field. But they are moving at a very fast pace. This service puts you in the best position to start putting technology to work.

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snow day! what are you going to do?

The kids are in their jammies, jumping up and down while screaming in delight, “Snow day! School’s closed! YAY!” The babysitter calls to say she can’t get out of her driveway. When you look outside, you don’t even want to attempt getting to work. This has been a regular thing at my house. The kids are thrilled, but it puts mom and dad in a jam.

This is the time of year when Mother Nature throws us regular curve balls. Actually, I guess you could say they are snow balls, and it’s pretty if you don’t have to go anywhere! If you must get to work or be penalized, it isn’t pretty at all. When you have built some flexibility into your work schedule, you are in a better spot to deal with the problems that all this white stuff creates.

First, be like the school districts and build some “snow day” plans into your calendar. After the winter weather is long gone, you can use them for vacation if you didn’t need them during that blizzard. You know that there will be at least one time, and probably more, that you’ll wish you could just call in and say you are taking a snow day without creating havoc at work. Every job is different, and you might not be able to do this, but it sure works great when you can.

Second, utilize the same skills that are required in job sharing. If you have been communicating with your co-workers, documenting your progress on projects, and organizing your space at the end of the day, then you have made it easier for someone to keep going in your place temporarily if it is necessary. It really makes a difference if you aren’t ashamed to have someone peek into your office or cubicle. It also makes a difference if you have to explain where something is when they call you at home.

Third, appreciate the sudden break and spend some time with your family. These days will soon be gone, just like the snow outside. Be prepared for them and you can make some memories that last.

 

 

 

 

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look past the trends to find a job

There are many experts analyzing the numbers to figure out the trends in the job market. One example from CareerBuilder has published their 2014 U.S. Job Forecast and it has both good news and bad news.

Good news — the economy is improving and unemployment is at a five year low point.

Bad news — Washington’s debt issues probably will keep hiring at a slow pace.

Of course, the experts are looking at huge amounts of data and the overall picture of the job market. They are crunching the numbers from every industry and profession to get the numbers on the charts and graphs that illustrate what they predict. But you are not looking for a job in every industry and profession, right? You want to know how all this data boils down to something that will help you get your next job.

This is where an expert who looks at the big picture but is being paid to distribute your resume focuses on those things that will do exactly that. I’m not talking about someone who does a canned blast to all the headhunters. That really doesn’t work all that well. What does work is a resume distribution that starts out by asking you –their customer– for 6 to 10 industry/positions/salary targets. Then a letter targeted to recruiters who meet your preferences and requirements is sent out in MS Word format to each one. After that, you get a Microsoft Excel file with the contact information on every recruiter who got that letter. This gives you the ability to follow up, track activities, etc. In fact, it’d be good to have the ability to send out that letter again within a month to keep you in the forefront of consideration.

This is exactly what Professional Resume Services’ Resume Distribution Service does. It is like getting out the magnifying glass and looking past the trends to find the job you are interested in.

 

 

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one surprising way work/family balance affects salary negotiation

Most of the time you hear about the wage gap between men and women — and how the gap is caused by the struggles women face in balancing work and family responsibilities. But the effects of that struggle are not all bad, because the result of your efforts has given you strength as well.

This applies to both men and women. I don’t want to act like men don’t struggle to keep job and family priorities straight. But since the majority of the wage gap conversation seems to focus on how women have lower wages as a result of motherhood, it’s a good thing to consider the strengths you have when it comes to negotiating your salary.

  • You have a life outside your cubicle. No matter what the result of your negotiation brings, your identity is not solely defined by the title on your paycheck or the amount written on it. This can give you the strength of perspective, allowing you to negotiate without focusing on one issue at the expense of others.
  • You have a lot of experience in negotiation. How many times have you had to work out the details to juggle childcare and career? If your kids are older, how much negotiation have you done over chores and homework? You have the strength of past experience in countless encounters in figuring out compromise.
  • You have a solid goal in mind. You know what the bills are and you know what your income is. If you can’t reconcile the numbers on your current salary, you need to be prepared to look for a different position if this one can’t provide the paycheck your family needs to survive. You have the strength of vision, that goal of providing for your family.
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three tips for using electronic job applications

It is very likely that your next job application will be done electronically. In some ways this makes the process easier, I think, since many find it laborious to fill out paper applications by hand. Still, there are some issues you can run into with an electronic application that could cause problems if you’re not paying attention.

  1. Read the instructions.  Don’t assume you know how this particular company’s software will work just because you have filed online in other places. There might be a nuance that makes a difference to the person (or computer) screening the applications. When hundreds of applications are being screened, little things can get you in the wrong category.
  2. Load your resume in the right format. There’s a reason why Professional Resume Services offers both ASCII and PDF versions of your resume in our professional resume packages. We don’t know what your (hopefully) future employer will want. Having both versions gives you the best chance of having the right one.
  3. Check all the information carefully! It happens all the time: the resume is attached and the little boxes of the electronic job application magically fill up. But those little boxes don’t have the information in the right place and, again, a little thing makes a big difference in getting your application passed through the initial filter. You need to look it over with the idea that you are proofreading, even though your resume was already proofread. Otherwise, you could end up verifying that your college degree was earned at your last job when you carelessly submit it. That scenario isn’t as farfetched as it sounds–so check to make sure the right information is in each box.
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when is your digital birthday? why should you care?

Have you seen a sonogram of a pregnancy in a friend’s announcement online? That sonogram is the beginning of a particular child’s digital footprint, before they are born. Similarly, every time someone posts a cute picture, mentions their name, and shares a funny video of the child, their digital footprint expands. This is the beginning of their online brand — their digital birthday.

That child does not have control over what other people are posting about them now. But someday, they will ask a search engine to compile every bit of information that has been posted with their name online and the digital version of naked-baby-on-a-rug will not seem so cute. At that point, online branding and profile development coaching start looking like a good idea.

You have more control over your digital footprint than a child does, but it takes work. If you are not proactively curating everything that can be connected to you, then it will accumulate without your control. Even not tagging your photos and using privacy settings will not prevent a facial recognition program identifying you or a security breach. Mistakes can be made, too, and your identity might be confused with someone else to your detriment. Once stuff goes viral, there isn’t anything you can do but damage control.

Because employers are increasingly using search engines to find candidates, your information might not even show up in the first few pages of “qualified potential candidates” when they start looking. If the computer doesn’t select you as suitable, there’s no chance to make an appeal. If you are not active online, monitoring all your information and adding value to your digital presence with LinkedIn activity, professional posts, and making sure your brand is what you want it to be…

then you will be as helpless as the infant in the sonogram, subject to whatever someone else says about you and unaware of what is going on.

 

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good news! some job search expenses are deductible!

Sometimes it might feel like all the money you spend trying to find a job just blows away in the wind. But that really isn’t true if your money was being invested in your future career because that investment will bring a return eventually. Until then, you might want to check out what the IRS says about deductions for individuals: under “Job Search Expenses,” there are some that can help. Of course, there are restrictions, and you will have to do your homework to see if you qualify.

The IRS does not allow deductions for first-time job seekers, those who have been long-unemployed, or those switching career fields. You have to be looking for a new job in your current occupation. For example, if you have been a carpenter, there will be no deductions for your search to be a pastry chef, but there might be if you are looking for better-paying carpentry jobs.

If you qualify, you can deduct these things:

  • Employment and outplacement agency fees — unless your employer pays you back or pays the agency
  • Resume costs — if you are looking for a new job in your present occupation, you can deduct the amounts spent on preparing and distribution
  • Travel expenses — this gets tricky because it depends on the amount of time your trip is devoted to your job search, but there will be some deductions in most cases

If you aren’t in the habit of keeping receipts for tax deduction purposes, you lose the chance to do it. Careful record keeping of your job search and employment expenses can keep some of that money from just blowing away in the wind. Itemized deductions need to be proven and need to be accurate for the current tax rules, so talking to an expert about your individual return is a good idea.

 

 

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now might be the time to ask...

Did you have a seasonal job over the holidays? Did you love that job and wish it could last longer? Now might be the time to ask if there are any openings in a full- or part-time position. Here’s why:

  • You have been a part of the team as a temp worker, so you know the ropes
  • You are a familiar face — hopefully, a good impression has been made
  • You can suggest ways your assets can be a good fit for their goals
  • Your paperwork is already on file

Even if they do not have a way to fit you in right now, ask that your resume be kept on file and that you be alerted to openings in the future. If there is a way to stay in touch with what is happening at the company – like a newsletter – get on the list.  There are common mistakes to avoid in a job search, like  neglecting your current temporary job to try and snag a better one. Just because a job is temporary does not mean it is unimportant, and the networking effects of doing a good job linger.

The reality is that everything you do – the interactions you have and the memories you leave behind at a seasonal job – still count. It’s part of your resume, and it’s part of your reputation. If you have been doing a good job at a temporary position, you will be remembered positively when you submit your application for a permanent one. Good luck!

 

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overwhelmed in your career? start here...

Sometimes the combination of your job or your lack of job with all the details that have accumulated over the months comes crashing down and you get overwhelmed. This is common at the end of the year when you start to look around for financial papers in anticipation of tax season…plus the New Year’s Resolutions game…plus whatever else is in your life right now. Too much stuff to think about is a recipe for feeling like not doing anything about it. Am I right?

This is why the Coaching Services offered by Professional Resume Services was established. Sometimes, everybody just needs an outside voice, giving a fresh perspective on your problems and suggesting concrete steps to resolve them. It’s a good service, one that pays off in multiple ways for every penny you invest in it.

If you are hesitant about hiring a professional, here are a few practical places to start when you feel overwhelmed:

  • Take a break. Walk, play solitaire, nap, or get a snack. Sometimes that break helps your brain to process the details that have piled up and you get inspired to do something.
  • Make a list. Start with all the things you have already done and draw a line through them. See how far you already are?
  • Plot a plan. Break down the things that overwhelm you into smaller chunks to deal with. Decide on a few realistic steps to do each day toward your goals.
  • Evaluate the results. Your plans and lists are not inflexible. If you don’t get something done one day, shift it to the next reasonable time. The idea is to consistently move toward a goal, not get it all done in one shot.

Being overwhelmed with the enormity of all there is to do is a very normal state of affairs for most of us. We can’t do it all, and we can’t do it alone.

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what are you reading? why does it matter?

 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —  Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

I tell my kids this all the time–the more you read, the smarter you’ll be, the places you’ll go, the people you’ll see. OK, so that’s my own little Dr. Seuss version of getting them interested in reading. Books and other reading material feed your intellect and affect the way you look at life. One recent buzz around Facebook was the challenge to list the ten books that have changed the way you look at life, right off the top of your head. Not classic books, or intellectual books, just the books you read that somehow lingered in your life. I made my list and it was super hard to keep it at ten. Librarians will tell you that people going through a crisis will often ask for books about someone going through a crisis because it helps to see how others cope with challenges.

In your career, reading a wide range of topics will give you a wide range of perspective on the way people think and strategies you can use for your advancement.  It’s like a balanced diet. You need stuff from every food group in order to be healthy and you need to read both fiction and non-fiction to have a healthy view of the world. There is a difference in quality when it comes to what you read. Just as there is a difference in quality of food; you will start to see that difference as your reading variety changes.

Reading anything regularly increases your ability to comprehend and articulate ideas. If what you read is well-written, it helps you develop a sense of spelling and grammar, which gives you a professional edge in your communication.

If you’re unemployed, I’d say it’s a good idea to read something work/career related every day. This is easy to do by subscribing to a few blogs, but working through a book is important. Blogs and websites like those on the Job Resources Page are carefully concentrated chunks of information like an energy bar; a book is like a banquet that has been planned and prepared by a chef.

Dr. Seuss is right: the more you learn, the more places you’ll go. Your career will be enhanced by reading regularly.

 

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