Money, Health, and Other Things

Educational Blog in the Area of Family and Consumer Sciences for the Middle Peninsula


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Six Interviewing Tips

Last week we discussed six resume writing tips for those looking for new jobs. This week we’ll follow up that post and discuss six interviewing tips!

  1. Don’t show up unprepared with little knowledge of the organization and their initiatives. Learn as much as you can about the company; at minimum, researching some of their history, their focus areas, and their organizational mission.
  2. Show an interest in the job first. In most situations, it’s not a good idea to ask about salary, benefits, and perks right off the bat, and avoid talking about future aspirations, especially if they don’t involve that company.
  3. Don’t turn the weakness question into a cliche positive. Avoid answers like “my greatest weakness is I work too hard” or “my greatest weakness is I care too much about my job,” most interviewers have heard it before, and they’re not buying it. Instead, think about aspect of your resume that may be weaker than other job candidates, particularly things the interviewers probably already know about, like limited experience, lapse in time working in that field, different educational background than that position, etc. Discuss that weaknesses and how you would overcome it, that way you’re not admitting a new weakness and have the opportunity to address it with your interviewers.
  4. Be conscious of your body language. Even if you’re not interviewing in person, if you’re interviewing over video-conferencing, like Zoom, professional body language is still important. Be sure you have good posture, positive facial expressions, and avoid playing with hair, adjusting your clothes, or biting your nails.
  5. Give specific examples when answering questions, but be concise. Avoid answering too many questions with a simple yes or no, but don’t rattle on for 15 minutes with each answer.
  6. At the end of most interviews, your interviewer will ask if you have any questions for them. The worst thing to do is say “no.” This is your opportunity to ask more questions about the position and the company. Not only does this show interest from your end, this also gives you a chance to evaluate the company and the position. Remember, interviewing isn’t just about convincing the interviewer that you would be a good fit for them, it’s also about figuring out if they would be a good fit for you!

 


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Six Resume Writing Tips

 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has resulted in a number of layoffs and increased unemployment. If you find yourself looking for a new job, here are six resume writing tips:

  1. Only include what is relevant and applicable to the position you’re applying for. This means omitting things like hobbies, and possibly excluding past employment, education, and skills that are not relevant to that specific job. This means that if you’re applying for multiple positions in different industries, you will likely need unique resumes for each of those positions. Also, remember that what’s relevant in one situation may not be relevant in another. One individual fresh out of college would likely want to include employment information during college and high school, to show some level of structured employment experience, while someone applying for the same job but with 20 years of relevant full-time experience should likely omit that information.
  2. When listing your job duties from past employment, be sure to describe what you specifically did using action verbs, and avoid vague terms like “assisted”, “contributed,” or “provided customer service.”
  3. List education and job history in reverse chronological order, most recent listed first. If your resume is growing too large, beyond the typical rule of thumbs of one to two pages, consider removing past employment information from more than 15 years ago, especially if it’s not related to the position you’re applying for.
  4. Don’t forget to include applicable skills, and relevant extracurricular and volunteer experiences – to some employers this can be just as valuable as previous employment experience.
  5. Include a cover letter – cover letters allow you to stand out and sell yourself in a more personal way that shows your interest in that specific position.
  6. For your section on education, if you have a college degree, you probably don’t need to include information about graduating high school. Additionally, for recent college graduates, a good rule of thumb is to exclude providing information on GPA unless it was 3.0 or higher.


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Dealing with Financial Issues Caused by Coronavirus

 Are you dealing with financial challenges as a result of COVID-19? Here are six possible action items:

1. If you’ve experienced a significant loss of income or a significant increase in expenses because of coronavirus, it may be worth seeing if a loan forbearance makes sense for you. A forbearance is a pause or reduction on loan payments for a limited period of time. The recent CARES Act has provided some assistance related to this – automatically suspending payments for federally-backed student loans, and allowing homeowners to request a forbearance of up to 180 days for federally-backed mortgages. Keep in mind, while the suspension of student loans is automatic, if you need a forbearance for your mortgage, you need to contact your lender and make a specific request. While the CARES Act did not cover forbearances for auto loans or personal loans, numerous financial institutions have been providing additional payment relief options as a result of COVID-19. Before you commit to a forbearance, there are a number of questions you should ask you lender: will there be penalties or fees involved? Will this be negatively reported to the credit bureaus? How will the payments be adjusted after the forbearance period? Will additional months/payments be added to the end of the loan, or will I have to pay all of the delayed payments at once at the end of the forbearance?

2. See what local resources can help you with any temporary needs. Checking with your local Department of Social Services can be a great start – in addition to seeing if you qualify for any of their programs, they’re also often very knowledgeable about the network of non-profits in your community. Virginia 2-1-1 is also a great free service for finding local resources.

3. Start tracking all of your expenses. This is often a crucial first step to identify your spending leaks, or unplanned non-necessity spending. At the end of the month, add up how much you spend on things like food, entertainment, clothing, and other flexible expenses and see if there are any spending leaks you can remove or reduce moving forward. For more about spending leaks, check out our post on the topic from a couple weeks ago!

4. Once you have a month’s worth of tracked expenses, now you can develop a budget. Figure out how much you would like to spend in each area per month, using your past spending to give you an idea of what may be realistic, and continue to track your expenses to see if you’re staying within your target budget amounts. Our My Money Lesson 5 has a great example of a simple budget.

5. See if you can cut back on how much you spend on utilities. This includes reducing your use of electricity, using fans more often while keeping the AC at a higher temperature than normal, and using more energy efficient light bulbs. For more on this, check out our post on this topic from a few weeks ago!

6. If you need help with your finances, there are quite a few free resources available to you. To name just a few – the Yellow Ribbon Network has provided a HIPAA compliant online platform for you to be connected with an Accredited Financial Counselor who will help you navigate through your financial challenges, for free! Also, Virginia Cooperative Extension has a free, self-paced mini personal finance course, with 11 audio-visual lessons, text, and optional assignments or action items.


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Five Tips to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Unfortunately, we’ve seen a number of COVID-related identity thefts and scams the past few weeks, so now more than ever it’s important to protect yourself from identity theft. Here are five tips to consider!

  1. Do not provide personal information unless you initiated the contact – it is VERY rare that a legitimate financial institution will ask for sensitive personal information over the phone or through an email, unless it’s regarding a subject where you initiated the contact. If you believe it might be a legitimate call or email, contact them back by looking up the organization’s contact information from a different, reliable source.
  2. Regularly check your credit report – regularly checking your credit report is one of the few ways to see if someone has opened up a credit account using your personal information. Normally, you can check your credit report for free, once per year from each of the three major credit bureaus at com, however, until April 2021, you can now get weekly credit reports for free! If you see an account that does not belong to you, contact the creditor and send a formal dispute to the credit bureau (each credit bureau has an online tool for this), which they typically have to investigate within 30 days.
  3. Shred anything containing personal information – make sure to shred any sensitive information (such as credit receipts, account statements, pre-approved credit applications, etc.) before throwing it away. This includes any financial statements or documents that have information such as your Social Security number or credit card number.
  4. Safeguard your account information – there should be no situation where your financial institution would need your account ID or password! If you’re unsure if a request is legitimate, call the financial institution back yourself, by looking up their number, and not using one they gave you.
  5. Use unique passwords that you’re capable of memorizing – have passwords with a good mix of characters and numbers, and add at least one symbol, but don’t use a string of number or letters that would be easy for someone to guess, such as your birthday, anniversary, or college name. However, it should also be something you’re able to remember. One way to accomplish this, pick a word and number you know you’d remember, but interchange the numbers and characters and add a symbol. For example – “beach” and “90488” could become the password b9e0a4c8h8!