I’m no expert in writing resumes, cover letters, or letters of interest to prospective employers. Granted, I’ve written a few and I even worked at my university’s writing center as a college estudiante, but when it comes to real-world practice, I’m constantly changing the way I put together my resume—we’re talking tone, style, and word choice just as much as format and font.
Somewhere inside the Internet I once read an article about making yourself stand out (old hat, I know) in the application process. This article went on to postulate that the best way to do this was to have a unique style in your cover letter and resume—both in deviation from the template provided by your ‘puter and the information with which you stuff it. I thought this to be a load of horsefeathers, since I always imagined a horde of bespectacled sexagenarians blanching as they reviewed my uncouth resume before their shaking hands swept it into the nearest trash can (sexagenarians generally hate recycling).
I unconsciously maintained this mindset until sharing some asparagus and steak with a roommate (let’s call him “Dan”) I had had in college. During our conversation, in which he was tootin’ off about his new suave job, “Dan” told me he had decided to take a risk in the application process.
“I wanted to make myself stand out from every other graphic designer out there,” he told me. Leaning back, he breathed through his nose, opened his eyes wide, and fanned all ten of his fingers flat on the table. “Under objective, I said I wanted a job that paid enough that I could buy a sports car, snag a trophy wife, then drive around maniacally before falling asleep on a pile of money.” He blinked, then smiled. “And it worked. The interviewers said they absolutely had to talk to me after seeing my resume.” “Dan” landed the job with ease, and said that in the interview, his soon-to-be boss again commented on the ability of the unorthodox resume to grab her—and others’—attention.
Now, I haven’t had to interview for a job since I had this discussion, so who knows how well this tactic might work in any other situation. However, in an employment environment such as this one, taking such a risk as a tongue-in-cheek objective statement might be your ticket to Destination Payday.
I clean out my closet once every six months and consign whatever possible. Because consignment stores split the profits from their sale with the consignee, it’s a win-win situation: I get rid of clothes and I make some cash!
Here’s how to consign your clothes:
- What can you sell? Shirts, pants, shoes, jewelry, handbags, outerwear, scarves… Most consignment stores will accept both men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. This goes without saying, but don’t try to consign torn or stained clothing or your underwear.
- Wash and iron the items you want to consign. If an item smells funky or looks dingy, the shop may not accept it.
- Research your local consignment shops. Check out their websites or call them to figure out what types of items they accept, when you can drop off clothing, their consignment rates, and reimbursement methods. Many stores will wait for your items to sell before they cut you a check. They may also offer higher in-store credit (for example, you could get 20% of your sale in cash or 40% in credit for shopping at the store).
- What happens to your clothes if they don’t sell? Many stores automatically donate items after their retail period is up (stores like to stock in-season items, so they won’t need your cashmere sweater after winter). Talk to your consignment shop and see if you can pick up your items if they don’t sell.
- Choose the store for you and set a reminder for when your items may be picked up if they don’t sell. If you’re game, you may be able to make a few extra bucks taking items that don’t sell at one store and consigning them at another, provided they’re still in-season. But this won’t work at a consignment store that cuts you a check outright when you drop off your items.
I’ve never made boatloads of cash consigning, but $20 here or $30 there is perfect to help out a little with date night.
I’ve sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist over the years–mostly furniture and household items. Before a recent big move, I sold five pieces of old furniture (a bookshelf, two wall shelves, a dresser and a desk) in 3 days, for the full price I listed each item at, easy peasy. You can too.
A few tips:
1. THE most important thing, by far, is to make yourself not seem like a weirdo
Craigslist is super useful, but everyone has heard too many Craigslist Killer stories that freak ‘em out. Make sure you present yourself as normal. I mean, assuming you are.
Don’t post some freaky-sketchy photo of your furniture with creepy lighting and trash everywhere that makes you look like you live in a meth house.
Don’t sound scammy. I want to spam everyone who lists stuff like this: ***AWESOME DRESSER, GOING FAST, CALL NOW!!!*** Asterisks and caps are not cool.
Attempt to sound like a warm, genuine person. A personal detail can be good (like “Have to sell it because I upgraded”). “Thanks for looking!” is also a nice, friendly touch.
2. Describe the product well, and don’t be afraid to sell it
Provide measurements, and be honest about any defects. When it comes to furniture, a lot of people don’t mind doing some refinishing or fixing up, but be honest if there are scratches or dents or other things that need some attention.
Also, don’t hesitate to do a bit of “selling.” I posted an old, scratched up Ikea dresser that I’d drilled holes into in order to add knobs. I didn’t want to sell the knobs–so basically I was just selling a dresser with holes in it. In the description, I turned this into a selling point: “Holes are intact and ready so you can customize the dresser with your own knobs. Sorry, can’t part with mine!” It totally worked.
Real Craigslist Ad: "Selling it" only goes so far, though. I highly doubt this bunny looks any less creepy in real life.
3. Take flattering photos, including one that’s styled
I posted some cheap basic wire shelves that weren’t really anything special, and got over 20 emails in an hour–thanks in part, I think, to the photos I posted of the shelves styled in a cute way (with kitchen jars, colorful cookbooks, and natural lighting). Not everyone can picture your old junk looking good, so help them out.
4. Post a time limit–-must sell by Friday!
Potential buyers will be more motivated to get their butts into gear and make a decision. If the date passes and no one bites, simply edit the deadline and re-post the ad.
5. Don’t stress over the price
Just list a price that you think is fair. If it’s high, people will likely respond and try to haggle it down anyway (warning: may include sob stories involving their kid’s bedroom). If you don’t stir up any interest, you can always change the price and see what happens. Don’t overthink it.
Disclaimer: Like I said, I’ve mostly used Craigslist for selling old furniture and random household stuff. I can’t speak for how this would work for other items (though I’m guessing modeling your old clothes on your hot self or a good-lookin’ friend wouldn’t hurt). Let us know if you have tips from your own experience.
Now get out there and sell your stuff!
Growing up in Oregon as a classically appearing white boy, I never learned the fine art of regateando, or haggling. Sure, I went to garage sales and could dicker a few dollars off a tent, but it wasn’t until my travels in Central America that I came face-to-face with the reality that I actually had the power to change the destiny of the purchase price. Even though I’ve found that upon my return to gringolandia, I’m not always omnipotent–thanks to fear of the stigma of challenging price tags.
For example, I recently went Goodwill hunting and when it was time to check out, I asked the straight-haired cashier if she could give me a deal on the jeans and tin coffee mug I picked out. She didn’t look at me, said “No”… and I paid full price and felt like a real piece. But I didn’t stop.
At lunch with some great bros, I asked for the $3 pint special. The goateed bartender told me that they were all out of that beer for the day, so I asked what else I could get at that price (how clammy were my palms?). He shrugged and said “Get whatever you want.” Which I did.
Inspired by success, when a pair of sandals I bought and then wore and hiked in for three weeks started rubbing me the wrong way–the toe strap made my big toes bleed (too much TMI?)–I took them back to the store and shared my woes. The quite tall register attendee said the refund was up to the manufacturer, not the vendor. I inhaled and asked her if I was just out my $80, then. She blinked and said, “Yes.” Fortunately, her smiley coworker chimed in and said they’d take care of me. Which they did.
True, these few experiences might not revolutionize our buyer/seller infrastructure, but there’s definitely some scrilla to save by jumping on the NPR gravy train—as long as you can handle breaking social norms.
What one thing would you bring if you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island? Which things would you save in a fire? What would your most prized possession be in a zombie apocalypse?
It’s important to be prepared in times of emergency. But what constitutes an emergency? What kinds of things should you prepare for?
- Losing your job. This may not seem like an emergency, but if you’re one of the 38% of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, losing that paper is going to be a serious disaster when your bills arrive. There are some great financial tips on what to do next here, but the best way to prepare is before you lose your income. Squirrel away money every month to pad up your savings—use automatic transfers every month if you have to. You’ll most likely need to have enough cash saved up to cover a few months’ worth of expenses, and not worrying about paying your bills will help you focus on your job search.
- Natural disasters. Wildfires, earthquakes, floods…these are the kind of things that require serious preparation. Lazy Man and Money has a great list of what you need to do to prepare for any of these, including uploading important photos online and buying an emergency kit (or assembling your own using these handy Red Cross checklists for any disaster imaginable). Ready.gov also has a family emergency plan guideline that will help you and your family prepare.
- Zombie apocalypse. Since the Centers for Disease Control and Homeland Security both have preparations, it’s best you do, too. The good news is that the same stuff you’ll need to prepare for a natural disaster will work, according to the CDC link.
What other disasters you worry about and how would you prepare for them?
I can’t read road signs when I drive because my distance vision sucks. So I wear glasses.
I got my first pair 5 years ago. I was in college, and I’d just made the discovery that the reason people were furiously taking notes in organic chemistry over the smudges of chalk on the chalkboard was that those weren’t smudges of chalk at all…but drawings of molecules. Drawings of molecules that you had to know to pass the class.
It’s been a while since then, so a few weeks ago I decided to make the ol’ four-eyes look a little more in-the-now with a brand-new pair of specs.
I didn’t want to pay a fortune. I didn’t want to drive all over the place trying on frames. And I wanted a pair that was relatively stylish.
So I found myself looking for glasses online, and–to cut to the chase–ended up ordering myself a pair from online retailer Warby Parker.
Now, Warby Parker’s a pretty hip company, so it’s no wonder I was wooed by their sleek website design and vintage-inspired frames. They also have a buy-a-pair-and-we’ll-give-a-pair TOMS-eqsue social program that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. But those aren’t the primary reasons I bought from them.
Why, then? As Matt Haughey put it,
“It’s as if the people behind Warby Parker looked at every weakness in the online glasses buying process and came up with a solution, turning the whole thing into a positive.”
The typical problems with buying glasses online? Take it away again, Matt:
there is too much selection at most sites
you never know what you are going to get sight unseen
it takes a lot of technical knowledge to figure out the sizes of temples, nose bridges, etc
at most sites, stupid glasses you would never wear are right next to cool looking ones, which are surrounded by 200 ho-hum options
Warby Parker kills all of these so-called weaknesses, or what I would call annoyances.
First up, they offer only 30-40 frame options, which actually makes shopping less fussy and complicated.
Then, they provide a “home try-on” program where they’ll mail you five frames of your choice to try on for free. This means you don’t even have to get up off your couch to pick out glasses (it’s also free to mail them back). When you want to order, you simply enter in your prescription information, and the glasses get shipped out ASAP.
Plus, Warby Parker glasses are surprisingly affordable. My order came in at a crazy-cheap (for prescription glasses) $95, which is even better than what I’d have paid at Costco.
But the point here isn’t to praise Warby Parker. It’s that I had an epiphany during the process: the reason I had a good experience with Warby Parker is that they made buying glasses as non-annoying as possible.
This same concept has broad application–from starting a business, to even small ways to make a little money on the side.
For example, when I recently started teaching piano lessons to a few students for extra cash, I offered the parents the option to drive out to their house to do the lessons. They snapped it up. (Which was a relief, since I also don’t happen to own a piano.)
Parents already have like 15 car trips to take during the day. This immediately cut out one small annoyance that normally goes along with enrolling kids in piano lessons. It’s just a tiny thing, but it worked. (Unfortunately I cannot alleviate the annoyance of listening to a 10-year-old play “On Top Of Old Smokey” over and over again during practice.)
More notably, over at Entrepreneur‘s “100 Brilliant Companies 2012” list, many of the coolest business ideas solve what could be called small annoyances. The basic simple frustration of “I freaking lost my keys agaaaiiiin!!” is significant enough that many people will pay for a product to fix it.
Here are eight sample annoyances and how companies from the Entrepreneur list are trying to solve them.
1. Annoyance: Websites taking forever to load.
The fix: Yotta. “Its site speed optimizer doubles the speed of any website’s load time without additional coding or software.”
2. Annoyance: You bike to work and then end up sweaty and B.O.-laden all day
(Sidenote: this is precisely why I don’t bike to work.)
The fix: Ridekick. “Bike to work without the sweat. This electric trailer turns your lowly ride into a kickin’ motorbike that can reach speeds of 19 mph.”
3. Annoyance: Packing half-a-dozen mini bottles of shampoo when you travel and them leaking in your suitcase
The fix: Ogomo. “A business traveler’s dream, this online store offers travel-size products that can be delivered directly to hotel rooms.”
4. Annoyance: Screaming kids on airplanes
The fix: Nanny in the Clouds. ”Matches parents with experienced nannies already booked on the same flight who can help take care of kids during air travel.”
5. Annoyance: Shopping for clothes and not finding anything that fits
The fix: Me-Ality. ”Finds the best-fitting clothes for your body by scanning your measurements and matching them to the sizing specifications of the 60 brands in its database.”
6. Annoyance: Being stuck on hold listening to elevator music on a customer service phone call
The fix: FastCustomer. “Spares iPhone and Android users the aggravation of waiting on hold. Register your phone number, then get a call back from any of 3,000 companies.”
7. Annoyance: Having a song stuck in your head and not knowing the name or who sings it
The fix: SoundHound. ”Allows even the utterly tone deaf to search for tunes simply by humming or singing into a smartphone.”
8. Annoyance: Losing your keys/wallet/phone/child…for the hundredth time
The fix: Bikn. “To ensure that nothing goes missing (phone, keys, dog), Treehouse Labs’ system uses an app, smart case and tags to stick on your stuff.”
In short: want to make some money? Find a way to make something less annoying for someone.
How much would you love to work for Amazon, or eBay, or Google? You might be a perfect fit for the job, but there’s a lot of competition. These large companies often use recruiting systems to wade through the sometimes hundreds or thousands of applicants. The more you know about this process, the better your chances of making it to an interview and hopefully, a job.
I had the opportunity to speak to Steve Linder, partner at Workplace Group, a recruitment outsourcing agency, and Amy Hunt, a career recruiter who has worked for several different companies and recruiting agencies, mostly recently for Duct Tape. They had some amazing tips and advice about how to look good to a recruiter and make it through the process from application to interview. In fact, they had so much that I can’t fit it all into one blog post, so expect at least one more.
Despite all the expertise that I was able to tap into, both Amy and Steve said that processes can vary from company to company, and some recruiters may consider some information (such as employment dates or past salary) more important than others. However, many of these tips will be useful even if you’re applying to the Kwik-E-Mart down the street, and any peek behind-the-scenes is going to be helpful if you’re working to get a foot in the door.
This first post will be entirely about your résumé. It’s the absolute most important item in your arsenal. It’s the first thing a recruiter (the first human to see your application) will look at. If it doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications, the accompanying cover letter won’t even see the light of day. There are a few essential things to know when preparing your résumé for a recruiter.
- Your résumé is your one chance to prove you’ve got what it takes to do the job and do it well. A recruiter may not look at your cover letter at all, even if he/she sends your application to the next step, to the hiring manager. “As a recruiter, I don’t have time to read cover letters,” says Hunt. “I need to get to the meat.”
- “Every résumé does get reviewed,” Hunt says. The recruiter may use pre-screening questions on the application, looking for and weeding out some basic qualifications, such as “what is your degree in,” “what are your salary expectations,” and “what were you making in your last job.” However, even if your application “fails” the pre-screen, a recruiter may still open your application to see why and if you may still be a fit for the position.
- Your résumé and application should be completely accurate and honest. Any inconsistencies will immediately send your application to the trash pile. “Honesty is the best policy,” Linder says. “Disclosure means everything. Forgetting about a violation, a conviction, is going to be problematic. Misrepresenting dates of employment is going to be problematic.”
- Showing relevant experience in your résumé is very important. If you don’t have the experience necessary for the job, no amount of fancy wording is going to get you pass the recruiter. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements for the job, you have no business applying for it.
- In your résumé, use the same language used in the job posting. “Using words in your résumé that match the words in the job posting is probably a really smart thing to do,” Linder says. “Using creative, colorful language when applying to these systems isn’t going to be all that helpful.” You want to make it easy for a recruiter to see that you’re a good candidate for the position. Be clear and specific, and show that you have relevant experience to offer the company.
- Long résumés are okay. “The whole ‘keeping it to one page’ is only true for current graduates,” Hunt says. “It’s totally ok if your résumé is two pages. It’s totally ok if your résumé is three pages if you’re some super technical engineering technology guru.” If you have extensive experience, include it all. Take the time and space to make sure your experience matches the job description, assuming you’ve done all those things. “It’s been drilled into everyone’s head that they should be one page, and I just want to go around and smack all of the professors for saying that. Stop telling people that.”
- With the exception of the length rule, most of the standard résumé rules apply. Formatting doesn’t matter so much, but making sure it is clear and concise, easy to read and to the point, and includes dates of employment (month and year) will encourage a recruiter to send your résumé to the next step.
- Gaps between jobs on your résumé aren’t such a big deal. Times are hard, and recruiters get that. Hunt says, “What have you been doing, that’s probably the big thing. What have you been doing between the gap? Were you sitting around watching television and collecting unemployment, or were you taking classes, job searching, interviewing?” Showing that you were productive during a break between jobs is far better than otherwise. If you’ve been at a place for less than three years, consider adding the reason for leaving on your résumé. The fewer questions a recruiter or hiring manager has with your application, the better.
I’ll be a *cough, cough* twentysomething this year. What should friends, family, and other loved ones get someone like me?
You may be hesitant about giving money. You may think it seems cheap, impersonal, or in bad taste.
Get over all of that. Because nothing is better than getting exactly what you want, and the best way to ensure that is if you give me the power to purchase what I want, when I want it. Almost all of my paycheck goes to rent, bills, and food. I’m always wishing I had a little extra cash. So gift cards are perfect!
There are plenty of ways to get personal and creative about this:
- Gift cards to specific businesses. This is the best way to personalize a gift because you can tailor it to their interests.
- A film junkie will love a gift card to their local theater
- Lovers of shiny new pedicures will appreciate spa gift certificates
- Epicures will drool at a gift card for a fancy new restaurant they haven’t tried yet
- Pre-paid visa cards. You put a set amount of money on them and they work just like a debit card, so they can be spent anywhere on anything.
- The time-tested cash-in-an-envelope or check from Grandma is nothing to be ashamed of.
Another way of getting someone exactly what they want is asking for their wish list. Amazon.com and plenty of other websites allow you to make lists of what you’d like or allow you to share items via email, Facebook, and Twitter.
With all these options, there’s no reason to give someone a gag gift or obligatory last-minute-something like a candle or bargain bin DVD.
Picture via Jessica Fisher at lifeasmom.com.
There's a new phone service in town--Ting. And it's shaping up to be an attractive and affordable alternative to the big four cell phone providers.
I've been using Verizon Wireless for as long as I've had a cell phone. My latest Verizon phone, the Droid 2, is the first smartphone I've ever owned, and I love it. The problem is the service to use it is really expensive. I'm up for an early upgrade in July and was excited to get my hands on the Droid Razr Maxx or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but I've since reconsidered. After looking into my monthly data usage I found I'm not using nearly what I'm paying for at Verizon. My wife and I share a plan, which costs $145 per month for both phones. That's 700 minutes of talk time (the lowest available option), unlimited texting (this is basically all we use our phones for), and 2 GB of data for my phone (she doesn't have a smartphone yet). Last month, my wife and I only used 146 minutes, sent 1,419 texts, and used 695 megabytes of data. We are not getting our money's worth.
I was recently turned on to Ting, a phone service that opened its doors, so to speak, in February 2012. For starters, there are no contracts with Ting. If I want to make the switch from Verizon, on the other hand, I have to wait another six months until my contract is up in November, unless I pay $700 to break our two phones out of contract. The catch with Ting is users pay full retail price for phones up front--at larger contracted carriers like Verizon you get a discounted price on phones when beginning a two-year contract, which is usually about half off. This is significantly cost effective when considering retail on some phones is upwards of $600 or more. While this may turn some away from Ting initially--phone selection is sparse at the moment, but they offer the Samsung Galaxy SII for $485, which is a very popular and well-made phone--the savings in monthly bills quickly recoup the extra up-front costs. This is because Ting only charges you for what you actually use. You initially customize your plan (XS to XXL, like clothing sizes) based on how many minutes, texts, and data you want per month. For example, the small plan ("S") is $3 for 100 minutes, $3 for 1oo texts, and $3 for 100 megabytes of data, whereas the XXL plan is $54 for 3,000 minutes, $14 for 6,000 texts, and $60 for 3,000 megabytes of data. Based on my wife's and my monthly usage, we could get by with the Medium minute plan ($9 for 500 minutes), the Large text plan ($8 for 2,000 texts), and the Large data plan ($24 for 1,000 megabytes of data). Total monthly cost would be $53 per month, including $6 per active phone device. And the kicker is my wife and I would share every bit of the plan, so we could both have smartphones whereas on Verizon we would both have to pay $29.99 per month for 2GB of data. That's $92 of savings per month, which totals $2,208 of savings when compared with another two-year Verizon contract. Even if my wife and I both got the top-of-the-line phone on Ting (i.e., the Samsung Galaxy SII), it would take us less than 11 months to recoup the up-front costs, and thereafter would have complete savings.
So, our projected monthly bill is $53 per month; however, Ting only charges you for actual use. That means that if you go over your plan you just get bumped up to the next payment tier instead of tacking on expensive overage charges, and if you use less than your selected plan Ting actually credits your next monthly bill with the difference based on the lower tier that your usage actually fell into.
Now let's tally the pros: monthly savings (check); good phones (check); good customer service (check--according to Ting, you'll always talk to a real person rather than an automated message or menu system).
Possible cons: Ting runs off the Sprint 3G and 4G WiMAX network. For some, this could be a problem. Sprint is more widely covered on the East Coast, but for someone like myself who lives in the Pacific Northwest and frequents the Hawaiian islands, Sprint coverage is sparse. That said, Sprint and Ting users in my area haven't reported any problems with coverage, so in the end it may just be up to you: do you want to continue paying out the nose at one of the big four carriers, or do you want to start saving money?
(May was Dump Your Contract Month at Ting, so winners of the daily drawing would get their contract cancellation fee paid so they could switch. For other ideas to nix your early cancellation fee, check out this article from Lifehacker.)
If you're a Ting or Sprint user, share your experience in the comments below. Everyone else, let us know your reasons for sticking with your carrier or leaving.