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Job Hunting During a Pandemic
Many have found themselves looking for employment during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether your hours were reduced at work, or you just need a change, there are some dos and don’ts that come with job hunting during a pandemic. Read on to learn some of our favorite tips for employment success:
Know What You Want
Everyone’s situation is different – some people need a new job altogether, while others are looking to supplement their current income due to reduced hours. This means you need to decide what you are looking for in a job before you even start. Will this work be temporary? Are you hoping to turn it into a career? How many hours do you hope to have each week? Knowing these answers before you start your search will help narrow your choices to only the best options for you.
These are unprecedented times – which means you find yourself looking at an unprecedented line of work. If you are searching for a job to pay the bills, keep an open mind. You may have never pictured yourself working the jewelry counter at Macy’s after two decades in government service, but if it suits your needs, try something new – and maybe even be open to enjoying it.
Brush Up on Your Interview Skills
It may have been a while since you last interviewed for a job, so take the time to review some common interview questions, as well as practice your answers. You can even role-play with a friend or family member to practice giving your answers out loud. Bonus tip: Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer, too.
Go to Where the Jobs Are
These days, most, if not all, jobs are posted online somewhere. Places like Indeed.com, LinkedIn, and even Craigslist are good places to search for potential employment. If you have accounts on social media platforms, let your friends know you are looking for a job and what you hope to find, which will increase your odds of landing an interview or two.
Prepare to Zoom
Many employers are utilizing video services, like Zoom or GoToMeeting, to interview prospective employees. Treat a video interview like an in-person interview, and dress for the part. Prepare for the call beforehand by checking the sound and microphone on your computer (or the device you plan to use), and look at your video feed ahead of time to ensure that any visual distractions are out of the picture.
Do Some Networking
We already discussed utilizing your social platforms to find employment, but you can take it a step further. Research online groups that are dedicated to helping people find jobs, and go out of your way to make connections with people who are looking to hire. It’s important to be genuine during this process – don’t ask for help without giving some as well, even if it’s just your perspective as someone who has successfully held a job for most of your life.
Update Your Resume
When is the last time you reviewed your resume? This is the perfect opportunity to give it a once-over and make necessary adjustments. You probably don’t need to keep your high school baseball stats on there, but you will definitely want to update your certifications and any training you have completed. Another bonus tip: It’s time to remove the line that talks about how proficient you are in Microsoft Office products.
Ask for Feedback
If you were laid off from a job that you otherwise had a successful career in, reach out to your former boss and ask for their thoughts on your job performance, including your strengths and areas in which you needed to grow. You can even ask them to be a reference for your next interview, which can go a long way in helping you secure the position you’re seeking. Consider asking for feedback from family and friends in regards to your resume, the job you are applying for, and even the way your video looks over a virtual call to ensure that no detail is overlooked.
Take Some Classes
If you are between jobs or even just find yourself with a few more free hours each week, this might be the perfect time to take a class or to get a certification in another field that interests you. You may not make a career out of it, but you will learn something new that may give you an advantage when looking for your next job. Educating yourself will always work to your benefit.
No one can predict the future, but you can make yours a little less uncertain by taking steps to find your next job. Grab a cup of coffee and start making a list of what you will do today to help your new career begin.
How to Make Your Zoom Set-up Rock
Before March of this year, you may have never used Zoom in your life. By now, you have probably logged quite a few hours on this service or other video conferencing services, as it has become the communication tool of choice for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As many employees are still working from home, now is the perfect time to brush up on some basics to make your Zoom set-up fit your needs. Not working from home? These tips can still go a long way making every video call a little bit better.
Lose the Silly Backgrounds
You have probably spent time playing with the different background options Zoom offers, ranging from a lovely mountain scene to a still from a recent Godzilla flick. While these certainly add some fun to your conference call, they aren’t always the best choice. For starters, they are distracting: It’s difficult to discuss a budget report while you are watching a coworker sitting in Jurassic Park. The backgrounds also cause visual glitches on the screen, meaning that if you are using visual aids, they may not come across to those watching your screen if you are also using one of the fake backgrounds.
Find the Right Background
So if you can’t use the fun backgrounds, what should you use? This really depends on the purpose of your call, but for professional calls, try to find the least distracting background in your house or office. A blank, light-colored wall looks best, but if your desk is in front of an organized bookshelf or decorative wall hanging, that works, too. The key is to keep your background space as clean and organized as possible, both to minimize distractions and present a professional image during your call.
This may seem obvious, but if you are on a professional call – or even if you are chatting with a buddy – what you wear is more obvious than you think. Even if only your top half is visible, you will inevitably get up to grab a file, or to refresh your drink, and wind up sharing a lot more personal information than you intended, like your love for Ninja Turtles pajama pants. It’s just for an hour, so put on your slacks and look the part for the job.
Go Towards the Light
Good lighting is a key part of a successful Zoom call. For the best lighting, use a light source that is close to your face, like a lamp. You can also use natural light from a window, and even increase your screen brightness to add to the visible light around you. Avoid sitting with your back to a window or any other light source, unless you are trying to conceal your identity and only show your silhouette.
Dress for a Meeting
Sure, you may be at home, but if you are jumping on a Zoom call for your job, act like the meeting is in person. This means combing your hair, dressing as you would for the office, and double-checking to make sure you haven’t buttoned your shirt incorrectly. Dressing in a solid color is your best bet, though it’s better to stay away from solid white or solid black shirts, because they can cause you to look distorted on the camera.
Find Your Sound
A Zoom call only works if you can communicate, which usually means you have to hear everyone clearly. Invest in some headphones or earbuds that will allow you to hear the other people on your call. Make sure your computer has a reliable microphone, or use an external microphone so your words aren’t cut off. While you’re at it, eliminate other sounds as much as possible – silence your phone, turn off any alarms, and kick your pets out of the room so your sound will not be interrupted.
Set the Stage
Before you even join your call, take some time to prep the area in which you will be working. This means having supplies, like a pen and paper for notes, as well as any materials you are supposed to have available for the meeting. Consider keeping a water bottle nearby if you will have to do a lot of talking, so you don’t have to get up and leave during the call if you need something to drink.
Test it Out
Even though your laptop has been reliable for the last seven Zoom calls you made, it’s still a good idea to double check that your headphones and microphone are working, as well as your Internet connection, before each meeting. Each device has a different way to test the volume and sound, but if you’re not sure what to do, you can always have a quick Zoom call with a friend or colleague to make sure they can see and hear you well.
We realize this sounds harsh, but it’s for the good of the group. If you are on a Zoom call with multiple people, go ahead and mute your microphone until it is your turn to speak. Zoom will automatically give the spotlight to the person making the most noise, and that construction going on next door is louder than you think, so do everyone a favor and mute yourself until you are speaking. If you are the meeting host, consider muting everyone at the beginning and instructing them to stay muted until you call on them.
Keep it Steady
Make sure your device is set up in a place where it will not wobble or tilt at an awkward angle. Use a stand for your phone, or find a good place to set your laptop for the duration of the call. Don’t carry the phone around with you, or even hold it up – no matter how steady your hand is, your phone is heavier than it looks, and the other people on the call will be treated to a roller-coaster effect as your screen begins to shake and move.
It may sound like a lot of rules, but for services like Zoom, a few details make a big difference. Take some time to prep your meeting spot, gather what you will need, and iron your best button-down to create a Zoom experience that will be successful for everyone involved.
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits
People everywhere are being furloughed, laid off, or even being let go from their professional positions. In this time of uncertainty, there is no way to predict which industries or business will have to take those types of steps to stay afloat.
If you do find yourself without a job, you may be able to apply for unemployment benefits, which can keep you financially afloat until your employment situation is rectified. Read on for some tips on the process of applying for unemployment and what you can expect.
Talk to your employer
If you have been furloughed due to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s important that you speak with your employer about your options. Many businesses have received loans or grants that may allow them to offer at least partial paychecks to their employees.
For those businesses who cannot do this, they can still take steps to ensure that your unemployment application process goes more smoothly. Speak to HR before you get started.
It’s important to note that if your employer is filling out the unemployment forms for you because you were let go/have reduced hours due to COVID-19, you do not need to fill out the application form. Your employer will tell you if this is the case.
Get your information together
Applying for unemployment is not a particularly grueling process, but you will need to know specific information. Your employer can provide you with some of this info, and much of the rest should be easy enough to obtain – for instance, details like your company’s mailing address and phone number will be beneficial for you to have beforehand, along with things like your Social Security Number.
Do your research
Applying for unemployment may be something you have never had to do before, so it’s a good idea to do a little research. If you have colleagues or local friends who have applied, send them a quick email to ask for any tips they have for the process. Again, the actual application will not be too difficult, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared. You can also look at places like the Georgia Department of Labor website to learn more details.
Fill out the forms*
Now it’s time to sit down and start the paperwork. The entire application process will take place on the GDOL website, and you will start with entering in your Social Security Number for identification. You will also set up a PIN, which will allow you to access your application later if you are not able to complete it in one sitting.
*Again, please note that if your employer is filling out the forms for you because you were let go or have reduced hours due to COVID-19, you can skip this step. You do not need to fill out the application form.
When a Georgian applies for unemployment insurance, they usually have to enter in weekly work searches to prove that you are actively seeking employment. However, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, that requirement has been waived, as long as the separation of employment is related to the pandemic. But it’s still a good idea to keep up with where your application is in the process. You should receive regular updates; if you don’t, contact the GDOL to find out if they need more information.
Know what to expect
Once your application is received and approved, you will be contacted by the Georgia Department of Labor. They will begin sending you weekly payments, either by a Georgia UI Way2Go Debit MasterCard®, which will be mailed to your home, or through direct deposit – you can choose which option you prefer.
The typical amount you can expect to receive weekly (Weekly Benefit Amount, or WBA) is your total wages for the two highest quarters combined, divided by 42. For those applying due to COVID-19, you can also expect a weekly addition of up to $600, depending on whether you elect to have taxes taken from the extra weekly amount.
Other things to know
- As stated above, you can choose to have your unemployment wages taxed before you receive them, or wait to pay those taxes until filing for 2020 next spring. If you do choose to have taxes taken out, there will be 10% taken for federal taxes and 6% for state taxes.
- Even if you are still working, but have reduced hours because of the pandemic, you may still be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
- The GDOL has compiled a list of FAQs for these specific circumstances that can be accessed online at any time.
These times are uncertain, but you can still take steps to make sure you and your family have their financial needs met. Be sure to speak to your employer about any questions you may have, and remember that there are many resources on the GDOL website available to you.
Five side businesses that could earn you extra cash this year
Earning extra cash with a side job can be a huge boost to your finances and improve your quality of life. Whether it’s to pay down debt, save for a vacation, reduce the stress from living paycheck to paycheck, or simply to retire earlier, it’s an option worth considering.
The key to success, though, is doing something that you enjoy, that doesn’t take a ton of extra energy, or that isn’t a huge inconvenience. No one wants to spend their weeknight or weekend doing something they dread. Let’s face it, money earned that way probably isn’t even worth the toll it takes.
Here are a few suggestions that might just fit the bill:
Turn miles into money
If you’re a driver with Uber or Lyft, you can make some extra cash when it’s convenient for you. Early morning hours, evenings, weekends…even on your lunch hour. According to Lyft, some drivers make more than $800 just driving Friday nights and weekends, and Uber guarantees you’ll earn at least $1,400 for your first 200 trips in Atlanta (terms apply). Don’t have a car? Both companies can offer a flexible rental plan. Check out this Uber and Lyft earnings calculator to see how much money you could make.
If you have a car but don’t want to drive others around, why not make it available to others? If your vehicle is listed through Turo and rented just nine days a month by drivers who need to borrow a ride, you could cover your entire car payment, or at least make a pretty good-size dent. You choose your own rates, and you’re covered with $1M in liability insurance. See how much extra cash you could bring in with Turo’s CARculator.
Market your social media
Have a ton of Instagram followers? Major brands that market clothing, makeup, shoes, travel gear, furniture, or food could be interested in leveraging your influence. When you focus your content on a specific topic and successfully establish a loyal following, you could become a brand ambassador and charge anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to $5000 per post. You might also score some free products! Brand sponsorship is big business, especially in this age of digital marketing and social media.
Buy low and sell high
Love to scour Craigslist, haggle at an estate sale, or find a great deal at a garage sale? If you’ve got an eye for value, why not turn that into cash? Resell new, gently used, vintage, or hard to find items on Amazon or eBay. If you want to step up your game, you might even venture into police auctions, liquidations, and abandoned storage sales. Check out how 32-year old Mike Meyer makes six figures a year selling other people’s stuff. Now that won’t be the case for everyone, but if it makes you a few extra bucks each month, it might be worth your time.
Freelance your expertise
Are you skilled in a particular field? Whether you’re a mobile developer, web developer, writer, designer, consultant, accountant, or offer any other specialty, you can find some great freelance gigs on Freelancer, Fiverr , Indeed, or Upwork, or Remote.co. Companies submit their project online, the site suggests qualified candidates, and the client asks freelancers to submit bids. Voila! You’re hired. Take on more jobs when you have time and scale back when your schedule is busy and work from anywhere in the world.
Stock photography is in high demand. From websites to brochures, from social media to editorials, pictures of happy babies, coffee house scenes, and oak-tree shaded drives are available for instant download. They’re less expensive than scheduling a professional photo shoot and ideal for companies and projects with a limited budget. If you’re a photography buff, even if it’s just a hobby, you could sell your images to stock photo companies like ShutterStock, iStockPhoto, or Unsplash and you’ll get paid every time someone downloads your image. Over time, it could potentially lead to more lucrative work from higher paying private companies.
There are tons of ways to make extra cash on the side and big benefits to doing so. Find what you love, or even like a lot, and figure out a way to market those skills. Look around and sell what you don’t need, want, or use, and unclutter your life. In the end, you’ll have more cash in your pocket, more control over your circumstances, and a stronger financial strategy for your future plans.
A Quick Guide to Becoming a Freelancer
Freelancing comes with endless freedom, but also endless responsibilities. Businesses have accountants, marketing teams, benefits administrators, and everything in between. However, if you want to be your own boss, then these responsibilities fall on—you guessed it—you! Before taking the plunge into freelancing full-time, consider sticking with your day job with a steady income until you get your footing.
Before you can begin your freelance career, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Why do you want to freelance? Can you afford it? How do you plan to present your “brand” to future clients? Who is your target audience? Asking yourself these questions will help set you up for success in your field. Most companies and start-ups want a specialist to complete the job – wouldn’t you? Decide what your biggest selling point is and go from there. If you love graphic design, think of one area that you’re best at. Maybe your niche is designing graphics for t-shirts, but consider who those t-shirts are for. Continue narrowing down your market so you can brand yourself as a specialist in whatever field you’re in. This will allow you to build a dependable reputation and control how clients perceive you.
Showcase your skills by creating a portfolio or a website that features your best work. When a potential client sees your website, they’ll want to see your past experiences, your personality, creativity, and, most importantly, how to contact you. Keep your website domain name and social media handles consistent so it’s easy for potential clients to find you. Your online presence is often the first impression a new client will have of you, so make sure it’s professional, consistent, and on-brand.
Now that you have some of the groundwork out of the way, it’s time to start selling yourself and landing gigs so you can start earning money. If you already have a few clients lined up, great! If not, there are job sites for freelancers to help you get started. Ask friends and family for referrals, and consider reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.
Managing money as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out, since you won’t know how much income you’ll have and how steady that income will be. Now’s the time to put on your accountant hat and start to develop a monthly budget. Start by tracking your revenues (income) and expenses. Find your monthly income by adding everything you’ve made in a year and then dividing it by 12. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can spend and save each month. Each time you get paid for a freelance project, write it down, and every time you purchase an item to complete a project (e.g., a Photoshop subscription), write that down, too. Keep track of all of your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, etc. Create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to track and organize your income and expenses.
If your budget is doing its job, you should be earning more than you’re spending. It’s tempting to use that extra money for travel or fun activities, but it’s more important to start saving some money and funneling at least 30% of every paycheck into a separate account to cover self-employment taxes. Don’t forget about retirement (you do want to retire, right?) – consider contributing to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) each time you get paid for a project. Your future self is already thanking you!
Freelancing is an enticing choice for many reasons, but it’s still a huge career choice that requires a lot of work, especially in the beginning, in order to be successful. If you’re ready to make the leap, congrats! If you’re still on the fence, why not freelance part-time to see if it’s right for you? After all, freelancing is about flexibility and freedom.
How to start your career without a college degree
Not everyone heads to college after high school. Some jump straight into the workforce. You might think they’re at a disadvantage because they don’t have a college education, but there are many well-paying and satisfying careers they can pursue. Some opportunities are even higher paying than those that require a degree.
If college isn’t the next step for you, here are some tips for starting your successful career on the right foot:
Opt for on-the-job training
The best way to hone your skills is on-the-job training. It’s real-life experience that presents you with the normal day-to-day activity and the unique challenges that you won’t encounter in the classroom. Maybe you followed the technical or vocational training path in high school and can work as an apprentice in your field of interest. You could also opt to voluntarily shadow a skilled professional who can show you what an average workday entails.
Contact some professionals in your community and set up a time to meet. Even if it doesn’t result in a position, you’ve earned some networking experience and the chance that you’ll be top of mind in the future. The U.S. Department of Labor website can also help you find an apprenticeship in your area.
Take your idea to the bank
Innovative ideas for products and services happen every day. If you’ve got an idea for something unique, a product that fills a need or makes life easier, you could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs. They’ve proven that you don’t need a college degree to change the world.
David Green is the founder of Hobby Lobby. He was also a high school graduate who started the company with $600. Steve Madden, shoe designer, dropped out of college, Wolfgang Puck, chef and restaurant owner, left high school at the age of 14, and Wally “Famous” Amos, founder of Famous Amos Cookies, joined the Air Force at 17. Clearly, a college degree isn’t the golden ticket to success.
Consider the military
In addition to serving your country, joining any one of the military branches can also be a jumpstart to a successful career. Whether it’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, or Coast Guard, they all provide educational benefits and job-placement programs. Moreover, all tuition and fees for trade schools or public in-state colleges are covered by the U.S. government. If you’re interested, check out each branch’s website for more information or contact your local recruiter.
Earn a training certificate
A popular alternative to a degree program is a short-term certificate training program. From healthcare to web design, and court reporting to information technology, these programs can help you develop the skills you need and increase your chances of finding a well-paying job. With a few months of hard work and commitment, you’ll be better prepared and more qualified for the opportunities in your field. Here’s a list of high-paying certification programs that offer the potential for advancement.
The governance structure and policy and program priorities differ for each state. The Association for Career and Technical Education has a database that includes details about the system for each state’s technical schools.
Think about law enforcement and firefighting
Some law enforcement agencies require 60 hours of college credits, but many only require a high school diploma or GED. Detention officers, police officers, police dispatchers, and U.S. border patrol agents, are just a few. Many people pursue a career in the criminology or criminal justice field in order to serve their community. Not only can it be interesting and exciting, but especially rewarding, too.
Another career in courageous service is firefighting. Although it does not require any post-secondary education, recruits must participate in vigorous physical training exercises. Nearly all U. S. firefighters must also be certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) before they’re allowed in the field. This training can take up to one year to complete and also results in EMT-Basic certification.
In today’s job market, there are many opportunities for those who don’t choose the college route. While it may not be in the classroom setting, you can still continue to learn, sharpen your skills, and rise to the top of your field.