Sunday, July 21, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Four Underused Job Search Tools
Public Relations Chair of Downtown Chicago/IFBWC
Every job hunter knows that finding a new job is a job by itself. Of course, there are certain “tools” that can help make landing a job easier. Ask most job seekers to name some job search “tools” they’ll probably mention a resume and cover letter. And, indeed, both of these are necessities when you’re looking for work. The only hitch is that all too often people assume that the same resume and cover letter are suitable for every position they apply for. They’re not. Any more than the same screw driver is appropriate for tightening every screw in your house. (Ever try tightening the screws on your laptop with the same screwdriver you use to hang a curtain rod? Good luck!)
But resumes aren’t the only tools a job hunter should have at the ready. There are several others that many candidates ignore or misuse. Here are some tips on how to make these other tools work for you - not only during a job search but throughout your career.
They are the ultimate career development tool. Totally portable, easily affordable, and appropriate for all occasions and audiences from interviewing at a job fair to meeting your best friend’s new sister-in-law at a birthday party and she just happens to work with the very person you’ve been trying to interview with for the last six months. But here’s the sticky part – if your cards look cheap, dreary, boring, or overdone, they could work against you. Presenting such a card is sort of like wearing designer shoes that aren’t shined or an interview dress that’s badly stained. So make the effort to come up with a card that reflects your professionalism, creativity, and attention to detail.
The purpose of business cards is to make it easy for people to: (1)remember you and what you do and (2) get in touch with you again. They should always provide at least two ways (e-mail and phone) for someone to contact you. If you also list your Web site and your LinkedIn URL on the card, every recipient will be able to pull up your resume, work samples, testimonials, and photo immediately (assuming you've completed your Linkedin profile). What could be more convenient than that or a more effective way to sell your professional skills?
Vista Print (http://www.vistaprint.com/) is one resource that gives you lots of design options, good service, and reasonable prices. They even let you insert your own logo or design elements on the cards. Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot are other resources you could look into – not to mention your local printing shop.
Anyone who works in advertising regards her portfolio of samples or “book” as her most essential job hunting tool. For writers and art directors their books clearly demonstrate the level of their talent and the breadth of their experience. Account executives and production managers also use books to showcase their contribution to an ad campaign's success. But what if you’re not in advertising? Well, if you’re job hunting you are definitely marketing something – your skills and experience! And a portfolio is a great way to help interviewers appreciate what you’ve done in the past and may be able to do for them in the future.
What do you show? If you’re in management or sales you can present any document that demonstrates how you enhanced the success and profitability of your company. For example, you could include graphs showing how your department grew, sales soared, or productivity rose due to your efforts. Also thank you notes from clients and internal supervisors or perhaps a photo of your department accepting an internal award for achievement. How about internal documents you worked on to increase the efficiency of your staff? Assuming these aren't confidential, you could present a new review form you created or brand guidelines that you initiated. Then there are those white papers you contributed to, RFPs you worked on, materials from marketing or sales campaigns you oversaw. Ideally, you should be able to present a visual aid to talk about most of the achievements on your resume. This will help you discuss them more effectively and reinforce your achievements in the interviewer’s mind. This is just Marketing 101. Visualization sells products and it can also help you “sell” yourself as a candidate.
To expand the value of your portfolio, create an electronic version by scanning in the contents and storing them on your desktop. Add cover pages to each file explaining what the project was, what your objective was, what you actually did on the project, and the result of your efforts. These files can then be sent as email attachments along with your resume and cover letter.
You don’t necessarily want to submit these samples every time you send out your resume. However, if you’re applying for a specific job and your samples are a clear demonstration of your previous success doing something similar, they’ll help increase the likelihood of your getting an interview. (By the way, recruiters LOVE these samples because they make the job of selling you to their clients much easier.) Note: Please remember that with any document you post online, it can be shared with the entire world including your former employer and colleagues. So be careful to always tell the truth about what you did and how successful it was - without exaggeration.
Thank You Notes
I know, I know. I sound just like your mother! Well, it may be old fashioned and seem silly, but sending a handwritten note within a few days of interviewing is a very valuable job search tool. Here’s why: people hire people they like and no one likes or wants to work with someone who’s selfish, inconsiderate, and full of their own self-importance.
When you send a thank you note you immediately identify yourself as a person who is well-mannered and appreciative of the interviewer’s time. Call it buttering up if you like, but in the grownup world it’s how civilized adults behave. Show the interviewer what a pleasure you'd be to work with by sending a personal note. If you’re the only candidate who does so, you’ll stand out just that little bit more. And if all the other candidates sent one, you’re not doing so will definitely count against you.
Wendy Lalli is a freelance marketing and corporate communications writer who also coaches professionals in transition or on the job. She has written career advice columns for the Chicago Tribune, 25 newspapers in the Chicago Sun Times network, and various online educational sites. Visit www.wendylallicoach.com to learn more about her coaching activities and www.wendylalli.com to see examples of electronic portfolio presentations.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
A Holiday Treat: Year-end Tax Tips
For a more Prosperous New Year
Public Relations Chair of Downtown Chicago IFBWC
We thought that this time of year would be the perfect moment to offer our members some tips on how to save on their taxes. So we turned to Martrice Caldwell of M Caldwell Enterprises (email@example.com) - CPA and a new member of the Illinois Federation of Business Womens’ Clubs to help us. Here are some strategies* Martrice suggests can help lighten your 2011 tax burden and make your future a bit more secure.
-Just contribute a bit extra to your 401(k) or SIMPLE plan. The money you put aside is that much less Uncle Sam can tax now and it will add that much more to your retirement income - and your peace of mind.
-Contribute to a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) for expenses you anticipate incurring for healthcare and childcare. The money is put in an escrow fund and the government can’t tax it. Yet when you need to pay a medical bill or for childcare you can withdrawal it from this fund. Caution: FSAs have a use-it-or-lose-it feature. If you don't spend your full contribution, the money is lost; it doesn't carry over to the next year. So make sure you work out just how much you’re likely to spend on health and childcare than contribute that amount to a FSA.
Taxpayers should plan ahead for long-awaited tax changes that may occur in 2013. To prepare for these changes consider:
-Asking your employer to pay out bonuses in 2011 instead of next year
-Selling off stocks and other investments with taxable gains in 2011 instead of next year to absorb capital loss carryovers or to lock-in gains at the 15% rate
-Converting pre-tax retirement savings to a Roth account to lock-in a known tax liability.
Accelerate your Deductions
-Pay tax deductible expenses in 2011 instead of 2012, such as medical bills, charity donations and property tax.
-Sell off stocks and other investments that have lost value so you can take the losses on your 2011 return.
-Pay January mortgage in December.
-If you have a home office, deduct a percentage of your house expenses - utilities and water. (Consult with a tax specialist like Martrice to find exactly what percentage of these expenses is appropriate for you.)
-Put off paying your medical bills, charity donations, property taxes, and other expenses that are deductible until early next year.
-Consider funding a Roth IRA instead of a tax-deductible traditional IRA. By forgoing the deduction, you'll be locking in a known tax rate on your contribution in return for tax-free investment returns.
Claim Tax Credits
- Get credit for making your home energy efficient or buying energy-efficient products. Go on this link for more information -
American Opportunity Tax Credit. Note: This program was supposed to end in 2010 but it has been extended for an additional two years through December 2012 by the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2010. It enables more parents and students to qualify for, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, to pay for college expenses. For details click here: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=205674,00.html.
Pay Attention to Expiring Current Provisions
-Classroom expense deduction expires at end of 2011. Teachers can deduct up to $250 for books, supplies and other expenses related to their classroom until then.
-Mortgage insurance premiums can still be deducted for 2011. But this is scheduled to be the last year for this deduction.
-Sales tax deduction will also end in 2011. This is an optional itemized deduction that can be taken instead of the deduction for state and local income taxes paid.
-Deductions for college tuition expire at the end of 2011. But if you pay for classes starting early in 2012 before the end of 2011, you can still deduct up to $4,000 on your 2011 tax return.
-Mass Transit Fringe Benefit Reduced. For 2011, the tax-free exclusion for mass transit fringe benefits was set at $230 per month and was the same amount for tax-free parking benefits. The 2012 amount for mass transit benefits eligible for tax-free treatment will only be $125 per month; while the parking benefit amount will be set at $240 per month.
Hope this helps you save some money this year - and next - for a happier and more prosperous holiday!
Wendy Lalli is a freelance marketing and public relations writer who also coaches professionals in transition or seeking career advice (www.wendylallicoach.com). She writes marketing and corporate communications for ad agencies, banks, and businesses as well as copy content, articles, and blogs for Web sites, newspapers, magazines, businesses, and non-profit associations. Her written communications web site is www.wendylalli.com.
M Caldwell Enterprises is one of the leading firms in Chicago providing quality, personalized financial guidance to local individuals and businesses. It offers a variety of services including basic tax management, accounting services and financial statement compilations. Combining expertise, experience and the team mentality of its staff, M Caldwell assures that every client receives the close analysis and attention they deserve. The company’s dedication to high standards, hiring of seasoned tax professionals, and work ethic is the reason clients return year after year.
*To the extent the preceding message contains written advice relating to a Federal tax issue, the written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient or any other taxpayer, for the purposes of avoiding Federal tax penalties, and was not written to support the promotion or marketing of the transaction or matters discussed herein.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
What would you spend on a new pair of jeans? That's how much it costs to fight breast cancer. Did you know that one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime? That's one every three minutes. With your help, we could change that number. If an organization in your local area is hosting a Lee Denim Day please support them. If not, you can go to denimday.com to make your donation now.
Lee National Denim Day® is one of the largest single-day fundraisers for breast cancer. On Oct. 7, millions of people nationwide will donate to the cause and slip into their favorite jeans to support the Women's Cancer Programs of EIF, who are bringing together world-class scientists to develop an early detection blood test; to work in Lee Labs nationwide to find less toxic, more effective treatments for breast cancer patients; and to fund the Cancer Support Community.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The Supreme Court has made a decision in the Wal-Mart vs. Dukes case, ruling against the female plaintiffs in a 5-4 decision. This decision is a huge setback for working women in America, who, unfortunately, are all too often saddled with the need to fight for equal pay. For more information on the case, including background and analysis, please see NWLC.