Tag Archives: life advice

The Heartbleed Bug takes over your internets!

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Mashable Article: The Heartbleed Hit List: The Passwords You Need to Change Right Now

Another craze has hit the web, and this time it looks bad for users of a LOT of common websites. The Hearbleed bug is the newest cyberthreat, or so says news outlets like the BBC (my go-to even for US news). This new cyber-threat has resulted in a breach of security of many major websites, resulting in news outlets to recommend a mass change in passwords. Check out the above article to see if any website account you have has been affected (most likely that’s a yes).

My advice: If you’re like me and don’t change your passwords that often (I do really like having them memorized…), then it’s probably about time you change your passwords anyway. As daunting and tedious as it sounds, spend a couple of hours going through all your accounts and making new passwords. I understand that it’ll take a long time, I did it this morning. What did I get out of it? Other than a major headache (or possibly my first migraine?) and a bunch of websites that I can’t remember my password to, I now am content to know that (at least for today.. probably) my secure accounts will remain secure.

Don’t know how to make a secure password? Google it. Or just click here: Tips for creating a strong password– Microsoft.com

If you’re like me and want to have a little more information about this cyber heart-breaker, check out these BBC* articles about the Heartbleed Bug:

Heartbleed Bug: What you need to know

Heartbleed Bug creates confusion on the internet

*I shamelessly promote using the BBC as your new source, even in the US. It’s got great international news that covers worldwide, and is a very reliable, fairly unbiased and well-written source. Here’s there homepage, check it out.

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Playing House

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a serious “Life Lessons” post frankly because I couldn’t think of anything to add. Sure, I’ve been keeping myself busy with little projects here and there, but I don’t want every post on this blog to be about a new cooking adventure, my writing, or the craft projects I’ve been doing. This started out as a blog to talk about advice and my own learning about how to “be an adult”, and I want to make sure it stays true to that topic.

To tie up some loose ends:

  1. No I did not meet my March writing goal. I didn’t even get halfway there. I’m having some existential issues with books two and three and also rethinking my editing of book 1, so I got sidetracked from the writing part. I signed up for Camp Nano this month, so we’ll see if I can meet my 30k word goal.
  2. I have been busy with projects. Cooking is the main one; I recently prided myself on making jello shots in clementine skins, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks, and a veggie pizza that actually holds together. In the crafts department, I made a towel robe out of oversized towels for my boyfriend, but after sizing it to him I need to go back and cut it WAY down (apparently when I don’t see him I think he’s a giant…). ** I’ll post some photos in another blog**
  3. I am currently house/pet sitting for my parents while they are out-of-town. Which is the inspiration for this blog.

The Grown-Up Test aka House-sitting.

So my parents are off in Europe for two weeks to do the second part of the Camino de Santiago. They walked the first part last year and will do the last part next year. So, while they are gone, I essentially am the caretaker of the house; care for the cats, make sure the house doesn’t get destroyed by the cats, do all the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance, and in general keep things going like normal. Here are some things I’ve been learning in the past week or so:

  1. Going to the grocery store is actually fun. I can honestly say that I usually HATE grocery shopping. It’s always crowded, the prices are always more than I want to pay, I always forget to buy something, and I always feel slightly judged by the cashier for buying beer (plus the inevitable “you can’t be old enough for this, can you?” before I pull out my ID, and then the awkward “well, you’ll always look young for your age” comment). It’s just an ordeal. But after you’ve been stuck alone in the house for a few days with only your cats to talk to (I do realize how lame that sounds), going ANYWHERE with people is fun. And to get the ingredients for the recipe you’ve been wanting to try for days? Amazing.
  2. Just because you’re at home with nothing to do doesn’t mean you do nothing. So I kind of blew off my own advice for a few days. I had just gotten back from a vacation with my boyfriend when my parents left, and all I felt like doing was sleeping and watching TV. But after a couple of days watching TV and not changing out of my PJs, I realized how lazy I was being. And it wasn’t just my conscience scolding me for being a bum, I felt terrible. I was always tired, but I didn’t sleep well at night. I felt like I was gaining weight. My brain felt fuzzy, and no matter how bored I felt I couldn’t get myself to do something productive like read a book or write. No matter how cool it may seem of be able to sit around watching TV all day in your PJs, eating junk food, etc…. it’s not. I stopped that pretty fast and set a loose schedule for my days.
  3. Time flies when you’re doing things. So before, when I was just watching TV and doing nothing productive, it seemed like the day took forever to go by. It was one crappy daytime TV show after another, and it was boring. But once I started to actually do things with my day, the time went by faster. Morning breakfast, exercise and shower took until almost eleven. After lunch I either read, work on a puzzle, or work on some craft/cooking project. Before I knew it, it was dark. Then it’s dinner and then  I can allow myself to veg out by the TV for a few hours before bed.
  4. Animals are a HUGE responsibility. This is really something I already knew, but wanted to emphasize it even more. Our pets are like family, and we make sure they’re taken care of. But it’s constant hard work. I know a lot of people who adopted pets before realizing how much of a responsibility they were, and the pets don’t get the proper care because of it. Honestly, I’d recommend waiting until at least after you graduate college and have a job to consider a pet. They need food, water, toys, and care products that take a lot of money. They need constant attention (even cats) and love. If you’re not ready to dedicate your time, money and attention to them, don’t adopt them. I love my cats, but my mom is really the one that cares for them usually. And when my parents left, I was shocked at how much attention the cats needed– the first few days they kept me up at night because I didn’t play with them enough to tire them out (that and they were worried about why my parents had left them). I love the cats, but they are a lot of work. (Also, it makes me sympathetic for mothers everywhere. I find myself constantly yelling “Don’t scratch that!”, “Don’t eat that!”, “Stop fighting with your sister!”)
  5. Being safe doesn’t mean being crazy. Being alone in a big house at night is never very fun. Besides the cats being noisy and annoying when I tried to sleep, I was constantly worried about the house. My parents moved into the house last summer, so it’s still pretty new to me and I’m learning all the normal bumps and creaks of the house at night. I’d get myself worked up over some little noise that was probably a cat, and go downstairs with all the lights on to recheck the door locks and the alarm. Yes it’s important to check the locks before going to bed and make sure the alarm is on. But every little noise is not someone breaking in, just relax and go to sleep.
  6. Screening your calls makes life a lot easier. So I do this already on my cell phone. If I’m not expecting a call and I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message. I have been doing this at the house while I’ve been here alone, and out of the 2-3 calls a day we’ve gotten, only 1 (total) has bothered to leave a message. Obviously the others were telemarketers and not worth my time on the phone.

Now obviously this experience hasn’t given me insight into everything that I’ll have to do and worry about as an adult. There are bills and taxes and those pesky jobs… but I have learned that if I decide one day to become a stay-at-home wife/mom, I can not only manage it, but have fun doing it. I love cooking for my boyfriend (he stayed over the weekend so I cooked him pizza and jalapeno poppers) and I can manage my days to be productive. It’s all about self-discipline, structure, and the drive to have an adventure everyday whether with a new craft, a new recipe, or just continuing a project.

Projects: Chromebook, Writebox, and Writing on the go!

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and it’s because I’ve been gone the past week on a ‘spring break’ trip with my boyfriend (his spring break… I guess just a normal week for me!). He was invited to interview with a company in Florida, and we were able to make an almost week-long trip out of it.

Now, for anyone who writes often, taking vacations can be difficult. You have to decide if you’re willing to take a break from writing or not, how you want to write while you’re gone, and how to save your writing. I prefer to write using my laptop, but it’s old and has only about a 20 minute battery life at this point, so not ideal for long car rides or days without guaranteed electricity access.

For graduation, I was given a Chromebook. I love the lightness and the long battery life, and have been working on how to adapt my writing to more easily use the Chromebook (I really only love using my laptop because it has all my documents saved to it and I don’t have to alter my formatting). So here are the pros and cons I’ve found to using a Chromebook:

Chromebook Pros:

1) Long battery life. You really don’t need to worry about a charging cable unless you’re going to use it for more than four or five hours, and that’s with doing a lot of internet surfing and keeping the screen brightness up. If you were to turn off the wi-fi completely and turn down the brightness (plus other battery-saving habits), you can get even more time out of it.

2) It’s light, so easy to carry around with you. I walked two miles from my hotel to the beach with it in my shoulder bag. I shudder to think of the back pain I’d get from doing that with my 17 in. laptop!

3) Easy access and upload to Google Drive. As long as you have wi-fi, the Chromebook syncs automatically with your Google account, which allows easy access to documents on your Drive. You can also set up specific documents to be able to be viewed offline.

4) Offline functions. I haven’t fully explored these because I almost always have internet, but the Chromebook has an assortment of offline options. You can compose emails, documents, and do an assortment of other activities once you’ve fully set up your offline features. Here’s a full list of the offline functions: Use your Chromebook offline.

Chromebook Cons:

1) Formatting issues. I’m used to using Microsoft Word to write in. I love all the options I have for formatting and editing, and just got used to it. As far as I have found I can’t really get an offline version of Word for my Chromebook, so I’ve had to look at other word processing application options. Google Drive tends to mess up any Word formatting if it’s converted to a Drive document and while I can view a Word document in its original formatting, I can’t edit it. In addition, since all my previous work has been saved as a Word document, I have to transfer all my Drive documents to Word on my laptop later.

2) Original Apps. The Chromebook comes with an app called Scratchpad, but it’s not so much a word processor as a note-pad. I knew I couldn’t use it for writing anything of length.

After using my Chromebook for a few months, I love it! I still prefer the ease of saving and organizing my documents on my laptop, but as for just writing, I love to use it. And now that I’ve been exploring word processing apps, I can say that my love for writing on my Chromebook has only increased now that I use Writebox. For some reason I really dislike writing with Google Drive; it just seems slow and the formatting always seems to mess up somehow. I have started using Writebox to do my word processing, and it seems to work a lot better. Here’s why:

Writebox Pros:

1) Offline access. No matter where I am, I know that I have access to a blank Writebox page. Saving is a bit tricky without internet, but you can write however much you want.

2) Syncing to Google Drive and Dropbox. The way Writebox works is you compose in the application, then use the syncing feature to save the document to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. You can manipulate the file name and saving location within each account, and it shows up immediately. I like to use this to copy-paste into a Google Drive document for future editing, while saving the formatting structure that can easily transfer to Word.

3) Simple and Distraction-free. Maybe the reason I don’t like to write with Google Drive is because it’s too busy for me. I’m used to the business of Word. Somehow, I don’t see all the little buttons and features while I’m trying to write. But put me on a Google Doc and I keep having to check to see when it last saved, click through several buttons to find the cord count. Also, my go-to font, Times New Roman, looks different both in spacing and design on Google Docs, and that throws me. But Writebox is absolutely no-frills. There is a small toolbar at the top that gives options for opening a document, creating a new document, seeing recently created documents, a preview button, a short menu (save, download, settings, etc), and the sync button. At the bottom of the screen is a breakdown of word count, characters, and lines. Nothing else. I LOVE being able to see the word count as it grows (which you can’t do with Google Docs), and I’m not distracted by anything else. The text looks the same as in Word, and it’s easy to use.

Writebox Cons:

1) A bit too simple. There’s not real option to alter the formatting. I like it, but anyone who doesn’t like the Writebox formatting is SOL. You can’t double-space, you can’t center any text, and you can’t change the font at all. Again, not a big deal for me, but it might be for someone else.

2) Saving. From what I understand of it, you have to either have a Google account or a Dropbox account to be able to save anything. Not really a problem; who doesn’t have a Google account anyway? Both are free and easy to set up, and if you don’t have one or the other for document saving you probably should. (If you don’t know about Dropbox, check it out here. It’s a great file storage and sharing site.)

So for my readers here’s a question: What are your opinions of the Chromebook? And if you’re a writer, have you used a Chromebook and/or Writebox? What are your favorite online file sharing/saving/editing websites and apps?

Happy Friday night, and GO SHOCKERS, JAYHAWKS, and WILDCATS!

Edit: Thanks to twitter, I found this blog post about the Four of The Best Text Editors for Your Chromebook. Check it out and tell me what you think of the two alternate options that Mr. Price discusses.

Traveling: To Go or Not to Go

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If you’re getting close to graduation, you’ve probably heard people talk about taking trips to Europe or taking a year to backpack around the world. I know when I first heard that people ACTUALLY did that, I was flabbergasted. And it wasn’t surprise that people wanted to go abroad or take a year off to ‘find themselves’, I was more shocked at HOW CAN YOU AFFORD TO TRAVEL FOR SO LONG WITHOUT A PAYCHECK???? Because I’m frugal and I hate watching my bank account diminish with each credit card payment, the idea of traveling and spending so much money scared me to death!

Thanks to UltimosLibros for the image.

However, once I was given a ‘job’ offer with the Peace Corps and realized that I’d be living pretty much without personal expenses for two years, that savings cushion seemed to look a bit more tempting. I wanted to do something special with my boyfriend, a kind of ‘Thank you for letting me leave you for 2 years’ thing. I mentioned earlier that we had thought about going to Europe. He’d never been, I wanted to go back, etc. Well, traveling to Europe is a bit hard without a passport. I had to turn mine in to get a new PC specific one, so going outside the US was nixed.

Limited to staying within the US, my boyfriend and I decided on New York; he’d been once, I’ve never been. Once we finalized our decision about New York, I realized that we were planning VERY close to the birth of my nephew, so I modified our plans a bit: I’d fly up to stay a week with my sister, her husband and my new nephew, my boyfriend would fly up to meet me, then the two of us would take Amtrak to New York, stay there for a few days and then fly home. It definitely complicated arrangements a bit– we had to buy two one-way flights instead of one round trip, and we had to add in the expense of Amtrak. But all in all, not too bad.

Thanks to http://www.fitnessshowrooms.com/ for the image.

But here’s where it get’s hard: actually booking things. I hate booking things. I had to do it while I was in England, and it’s one of those grown-up things that is just time-consuming and annoying. I mean, who wants to spend time and hassle figuring out the best way to spend money? Not me. But I have to be a grown-up now; mommy and daddy can’t book my flight or tell me which hotel to stay at.

After doing all this, here’s what I learned:

(Rule #1) DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Check out this post on Y Travel Blog for more on how to plan longer trips.

Just like with everything else, I will spend hours if not days researching before I buy anything. Especially with travel arrangements, it always seems like you can find something better, something cheaper. But then, cheaper doesn’t always mean better and then you’re back at square one! It took my boyfriend and I about 2 weeks to finally make our final decisions. Granted, we made most of the decisions in the few days we were actually together  (he lives at school still and I live at my parents house 45 minutes away). But it still involved a lot of research and number crunching on my part.

If you’re wanting to travel, pretty much my favorite site to search flights is Kayak.com. It’s fast, it’s simple, and seems to be reliable. I like being able to easily change dates or airports, and it keeps each change saved under a new tab so you can compare quickly and without hassle. I haven’t used it for anything else (hotels, car rental, etc.), but I’m sure it works well.

Thanks to A Hopeful Traveler for the image!

Another amazing site I like to use is hostelworld.com. Especially if you’re a student or recent grad and want to travel cheap, this is the place to look for hotels, hostels, B&Bs, apartment rentals, and campsites. I used it when I was traveling in England and found an AMAZING hostel in Edinburgh. I’m using it now to find hotels in New York (my boyfriend doesn’t like the idea of a hostel). The site is reliable for booking and very easy to use!

A word of warning on booking your hotel though: make sure you check out the area you’re booking in to see what kind of transportation is available, what the area is like, etc. We almost booked a B&B in Newark, but were warned that Newark isn’t a great city to be in. While I’m sure the B&B there is excellent, we decided we’d rather pay the extra money to be in New York City close to the metro, and also know we’re in a safe area (as safe as any part of New York is at least).

Finally, you can’t plan a trip without knowing things you’re going to do. And for my boyfriend and I, that means planning out FOOD. We’re foodies; we love watching the travel channel and food network, anything like Man vs. Food or Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is amazing. So we made sure to check out our options! Two great sites for this: TV Food Maps and Nomadic Matt.

(Rule #2) BOOK EARLY, BOOK CAREFULLY. Once you’ve got your trip all planned out, you’re probably getting ready to book. I like to have all my researched prices laid out on an excel template so I know what I should be paying, it helps calm the cheap-o in my brain a little. Be ready to book well in advance, but keep your eyes open for price changes; especially with airfare, prices will fluctuate pretty regularly, and will change depending on day of the week.

Here’s a tip to a cheaper flight: book a flight for a Tuesday-Thursday. They’re significantly cheaper than the rest of the week.

Your research should have found the cheapest options for you. For my boyfriend and I, flights actually turned out to be overall cheaper doing one-way tickets. We have to add in the price of Amtrak, but even with that it comes out to almost the same price as a round-trip airfare would have been.

Now, here’s where the BOOK CAREFULLY comes in. Buying plane tickets was easy. Find the airfare, hit purchase, fill in some info about yourself, and your done. Hundred dollars spent. Easy-peasy. Buying Amtrak, not so easy. Technically it should be just as easy; the process is similar, you even fill in less information. BUT, that’s if their website is working.

Unfortunately, it was my job to buy the Amtrak tickets (my boyfriend bought the plane tickets from New York, so it was only fair), and even more unfortunately I happened to try to buy  them while Amtrak was having a miniature crisis on Monday. As far as I can tell, for poor Amtrak it was the day that NOTHING went right. The snowstorm caused train delays and cancellations. The website crashed, which meant the phone lines were swarmed, and all their potential and current customers were angry. I tried to purchase tickets and kept having problems getting through the website, which should have been a warning to me to stop and try again the next day. But I was impatient. Finally I got to the payment page and was able to enter all my payment information and click “purchase”, only to receive a website error. I was worried. Did they have my payment info? Did the tickets get reserved? Would they bill me? I stressed all day, sent an email to them, checked my credit card account, checked the Amtrak twitter, tried to call (gave up on the 110 minute wait), and finally gave it up for the day. They hadn’t billed my card hours later, and I still hadn’t received a confirmation or a reply to my email. Who knew what was going on? Next day (today) I still hadn’t received anything from them and my card still wasn’t billed, so I felt a little more confident and a little more annoyed. Honestly, this seemed like too much of a hassle. If my boyfriend didn’t get motion sick, I could have bought two Megabus tickets for $9 total (check them out, they’re cheap, reliable, and did I mention cheap??)! I sent another email to Amtrak, which also went unanswered. I tried to call, and was given a 49 minute wait so I hung up. I finally was able to contact Amtrak through twitter, and they answered that without a confirmation there is no reservation. That’s all I needed. So I booked the train (again) and this time I received a confirmation, and my credit card did get billed. What an ordeal! I’m thankful to Amtrak’s Twitter people, but frustrated with their other forms of customer service failing. I know that they’re busy, but I gave them a whole day to answer an email! Now don’t take this as me telling you not to buy Amtrak. They seem like a great service, though a bit pricey. I will reserve judgement until I ride the train, but don’t expect to be displeased. If you’re willing to pay the money and don’t need to bother with customer service, give them a try!

(Rule #3) KNOW WHY YOU WANT TO TRAVEL. I’ve read the advice books that say everyone should travel in between graduation and settling into a job. I’ve gotten so much advice from friends and family to ‘just go’! Well, it’s not that easy. And if you feel the same way, then don’t go! If you want to step right into working, do it. If you don’t think it’s the right time for YOU to go out and spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and weeks or months traveling, don’t do it. Yes, it’s a great time for you to travel because you’ll never again have as much free time or as little responsibility. But will you enjoy it as much if you’re constantly worried about running your bank account dry?

The way I see it, the decision comes down to what you value. If you travel now you’ll have the time to see whatever you want and be gone as long as you want. But, you may have to sleep in train stations or in a 12-person dorm in a crappy hostel, and you may have to eat at fast food restaurants or out of vending machines, all to save money. If you travel after you’ve been working and saving up money your time may be limited to a week or two, but you’ll be able to stay at a nicer hotel and actually get some sleep, you’ll be able to eat out at nice local restaurants and participate in more activities without worrying about draining your bank account to zero. So weigh your options and make a decision. This is your life, don’t listen to wayward advice if it’s not right for you!

Good luck in your decision or planning, now I’ve got a hotel booking to figure out!

The Interview

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…or, “how to succeed at BSing but still staying honest”. Interviews are hard work. Not only do you have to look the part– professional, responsible, adult— but you also have to do it in a way to convince the person staring at you from the other side of the intimidatingly large and usually cluttered desk that you are the one person that they desperately need to hire. And to do this successfully you have to be able to talk up your skills, which requires a good bit of BSing skills and thinking on the spot, but also keep from embellishing past the point of honesty. Here is what I’ve found both through my experience and the experience of others that will help you to get that professional look and keep your head during the daunting, nerve-wracking interview process.

Thanks to Rainmaker Resume for the image. This is another good job search blog!

(Rule #1) LOOK THE PART. You need to look professional and like you’re a part of the company already. That means wearing a position-appropriate outfit, having a professional looking folder or resume book to keep your extra resumes and notes in, and the adaptability to be able to fit in with the interviewers or the other interviewees.

Part I: Dress well. The first part, wearing an appropriate outfit, can seem daunting especially if you’re younger. Maybe you’ve never done and interview and don’t know quite what ‘business formal’ or ‘business casual’ mean. Maybe, like me, you have no idea where to get appropriate clothing. Or maybe you’ve seen suits and blouses and whatever else you need, but are blown away by the high prices that the more popular stores advertise. Don’t let yourself be discouraged: you can easily look good without paying a fortune if you’re creative and willing to do some research for your shopping.

I absolutely hate shopping. At 4′ 7″, it’s hard for me to find anything sophisticated enough to wear to an interview that actually fits my body (no, unfortunately nowhere sells girls size skirt suits). It seemed like I shopped forever, and was always disappointed with the selection of petite suits. I was even willing to pay department store prices to get something nice I could wear. Finally, I checked out H&M, which runs very small compared to normal department stores. They actually make business-appropriate attire, and I was able to find something that fit better than anything else I’d found for significantly cheaper than anywhere else (read: suit jacket and skirt combo for less than $100). You can also get some pieces at decent prices at discount department stores like Khols (and they even have kids dress pants!), but good luck finding girls sized dress shirts (if anyone knows where to find those, let me know).

A step up in quality are places like K&G and J&R Clothing, but they are also a bit pricier. If you want something nice that’ll last, those places are where to go. However, their women’s selection is a bit sad, and their sizes run too big for anyone as small as me.

Finally, regular department stores and mall stores like Express have good quality clothes as well. But again, they are pricey and they seem to have a very limited selection of sizes, which favor those who are bigger. I can’t find anything to fit me, so I don’t bother going there.

As far as what to wear, make sure you do your research. If the company interviewing you doesn’t say what type of dress, look it up on Glassdoor or Linkedin, Google search the industry, company, or job title. Worst case, assume you need dress pants/skirt, a nice button up shirt or blouse, and a suit jacket or nice blazer.

In addition to your clothes, you need your hair, make-up, and accessories to scream professional and put-together. It’s pretty easy for men– keep your hair as neat as you can and don’t stink is pretty much it. For women it’s a bit more complicated. Rules about hair styles and jewelry change depending on the job industry and company; for instance a more artsy industry might approve of creative jewelry or a loose hair-do, while a managerial position might want you to keep the jewelry at a minimum and the hair tied back. The safe choice if you’re unsure is usually to have a conservative hair style (in a bun, a low ponytail, or a half-pony) out of your face, and limited jewelry (no large necklaces, no loopy or large hanging earrings). I have a nose-ring, so I have always wondered about whether that is acceptable or not. I’ve never had any mention of it, because it’s small and fairly unnoticeable, so I don’t worry too much about it. However, if you have anything big and shiny, consider removing it temporarily and asking about its appropriateness after you get your offer.

Part II: Accessorize to impress. Accessories are also important. For the longest time, I carried my extra resumes and note paper in a bright red folder because I had nothing else. Finally, however, I broke down and bought a resume book. These come in leather or faux leather in black, grey, and brown, and have a pocket for resumes and notes, a pocket for business cards, and a notepad. I bought this Black Padfolio from Amazon and it worked nicely. I now have a different one with the Georgia Tech logo on it, but this one held up for as long as I had it and has now been passed on to my sister. It looks good, and making a good impression is the first step to a good interview.

Part III: Adapt to your environment. Did you overdress? Maybe take off your jacket and hold it to look a bit more casual. Let your hair down. Keep yourself looking put-together, but try to give off a more casual vibe. Did you underdress? This problem is a bit more difficult, which is why it’s better to overdress (you can’t pull a suit out of your purse or anything). remove any inappropriate jewelry, tie your hair into a bun or low ponytail, maybe tuck your shirt in. Mostly, you just have to make sure you carry yourself with extra professionalism to compensate. However, don’t apologize– if they don’t bring attention to it, they may not notice. If they do mention it, explain that you were not clear about the dress code, and that it has been a learning experience for you.

(Rule#2) ACT HOW YOU WANT TO BE VIEWED. Or, maybe not exactly how you are. I’m naturally introverted, but at interviews I make every effort to keep conversation going, be friendly and show my personality. I don’t typically like to  embellish my successes, but in an interview I love talking about all the great things I’ve done and how I can apply them perfectly to the position.

One thing I’ve learned is especially in technical jobs, a lot of the interviewers are pretty new at this too. Interviewers are people too, and if you are personable and make them comfortable with you, you might have a better chance of landing the job. If you’re nervous, it’s sometimes even helpful to tell them. Don’t let the nerves get to you, but letting them know will tell them that you’re serious about the interview and consider it important. However, make sure it also comes across that you did your research and, while you might be nervous, you can answer the questions they ask and keep up a conversation. Especially for jobs that you’ll be dealing with group projects or working with new people often, they want to be sure you can contribute under pressure.

Another great pointer I got from my boyfriend via his parents is to make sure to send thank you’s. The best way to do this is to ask for your interviewers names and mention them specifically in a thank you email you send the day of the interview. If possible, get the business cards of everyone and use them to send personalized thank you’s to everyone you talked to. It looks great to be proactive, and makes you look even more professional if you can at least mention, if not thank individually, each person you talked with. If you can, even make notes of specific things you talked about with each person so you can modify each email and show them that you were paying attention to each of them. For some help on writing a basic interview thank you, check out About.com’s guide.

(Rule #3) ALWAYS BE OVER-PREPARED. Like I mentioned earlier, have multiple copies of your resume. You may have several interviewers, and it’s not guaranteed that they’ve all seen your resume or that they remember what’s on it. In addition, depending on the job you are interviewing for, have a list of professional and personal references available and a writing sample. If you’re unsure of what you’ll need do a quick Google search. For me, I’ve never needed to give anyone a writing sample, but anyone interviewing for a writing-specific position might. I’ve only needed a list of references once, but it’s nice to have it on hand just in case. This is why it’s important to have the resume book– it’s difficult and looks disorganized to carry all the papers in your hand, and basic folders look sloppy. A briefcase is very nice, but is also expensive and I think it’s a bit of overkill for entry-level positions. Other things you might want to consider keeping in your resume book are any certifications you might have, notes you’ve made about the company or position, test scores (SAT, GRE, etc), and a copy of an unofficial transcript. They’re not necessary and I don’t use them, but use your best judgement based on the position and your research.

And like I keep emphasizing, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Maybe because I graduated with a research-heavy major and minor, but I love to research. And by love, I really mean I am addicted to it. I don’t feel comfortable driving to a new restaurant without Googling them and looking up the menu, the prices, and the location. So suffice it to say, I am a research junkie. I love Google searching the heck out of anything new, and am always over-prepared with knowledge about what I’m doing. For example, I recently went to a new doctor. I had to look up the office and see who the doctors were, where the office was, and look at reviews of the practice. Total overkill. For one of my more recent job interviews I spend hours pouring over the website looking at all the projects that they did, memorizing the mission statement of the company, and making notes about the job details and how my experiences would apply to the position. Being over-prepared helps limit the stress of the interview, makes you look like you know what you’re doing, gives you a confidence boost. It’s never a bad thing.

(Rule #4) BE HONEST. This is a big one. You never want to be caught lying about your skills or qualifications. EVER. Recently I heard from a friend that someone told them that they have listed fake job experiences on their resume. I was completely baffled that anyone would purposefully lie on their resume, and even more that they would admit to it! Especially when you’re just starting out and going into entry-level positions, your qualifications will be scrutinized. The interviewer will ask about seemingly random things on the resume, and if it’s something that is fake or embellished past strict honesty, you’re stuck. You either lie to a potential employer or admit that you lied on the resume, and neither look good. Yes you want to make yourself look as competent and qualified as possible, but whether you get caught or hired into a job you’re not qualified for, flat-out lying is inevitably going to bite you in the butt.

If you’re asked a tough question and the truth might hurt your chances of getting the job, chances are you weren’t cut out for the position anyway (I had one ask me about my software experience, and I had to tell them that I had one course my freshman year on code writing. I can learn fast, but I didn’t have the background that they apparently expected). Sometimes an honest answer can be tough and seem like the worst possible thing, but remember: the interviewers are people too. Did you make a mistake at a past employment and get fired for it? Admit it, but emphasize what you learned from it and how you’ve improved as a person. The best thing you can do is show that you’re able to learn and grow, and show that mistakes won’t get in your way of accomplishing your goals and being successful.

 

I hope that this advice helps you to make yourself professional, prepared, and confident for your next interview. The impression you make there can give you a leg up on your competition and maybe even get you a job offer!

 

Job Search Update: More appointments, more paperwork

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Just a quick update today. I had to go in to my doctor’s office to pick up some of my paperwork and to get a TB test done. I’ll have to go back in two-three days to get it read and get the rest of my paperwork. The fun part (and by that I mean really, really not fun) wasn’t the actual office visit, it was having to scan and upload my paperwork to the online portal. I swear, I scanned about 30 pieces of paper into 6 or 7 different PDF files, then had to upload each into the portal. It took forever.

Anyway, my paperwork is still not done. In addition to my third visit to the doctor later this week, I have to wait for my gynecologist visit late in march to complete a section on the physical exam paperwork and to fill out another section of the paperwork. I’ve decided I’ll need to see the eye doctor just to get my glasses information paperwork completed, hopefully that won’t take an actual appointment and I can just walk in and get it filled out…

So no real point to this post other than to keep everyone updated on what I’m doing for my acceptance into the Peace Corps. Most jobs will have significantly more relaxed requirements, but if you’re at all interested in the Peace Corps, this is a good place to learn about everything that goes into accepting an invitation.

Job Search Update: Load on the paperwork!

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I thought getting a job would be the hardest part. But I was very, very wrong. After accepting my invitation with the Peace Corps, I was suddenly flooded with emails sending me PDFs to read, links to portals I had to access, and files upon files of paperwork to complete. So far I’ve had to print out about 20 pages from my Medical Portal, spent hours doing virtual paperwork on my New Volunteer Portal, and several documents I’ve had to complete and send in.

Thanks to A Day in Our Shoes for the image.

The Peace Corps is… very thorough. To complete the medical forms that are mandatory for departure rely on you seeing a dentist, a primary care doctor, a gynecologist (for women) and possibly an eye doctor (I’m still trying to figure out if I actually need to do that). I was lucky with the dentist; while it usually takes months to get an appointment with the dentist, I already had a dentist appointment scheduled since the summer and was able to keep that. I was also able to schedule a physical with a new doctor (since before I’d used my university doctor) for the week after I called. The biggest problem was getting a gynecologist appointment. When I called and asked for a specific doctor, the receptionist told me October was her earliest opening and “would that work?”… no. No that won’t work because I’ll be in Belize. I was finally able to get an appointment with another doctor in the same office, but her earliest was in March. Guess I get to wait until last minute, yay.

Anyway, I went to my dentist appointment on Monday, and of course the paperwork required new x-rays. The machine wasn’t working right, and finally after 2 different attempts, they told me that they’d get the print to work later. The dentist also didn’t have time to fill out all my paperwork (understandable– it was like 10 pages long), and they told me they’d give me a call when they had everything put together. Kind of an ordeal.

Then yesterday I went to my new doctor for the physical. I felt a bit guilty when I walked into the room and told the nurse about all the paperwork; she looked a bit overwhelmed with the 15+ pages I handed her. It took a while to go through the paperwork with the nurse, and then with the doctor. But finally we figured out everything that had to get done; one immunization shot (and a TB shot next week), and a LOT of blood work. I have to say, the blood draw was probably the most entertaining part of the visit. The technician doing it kept looking at me as she went through the paperwork, saying “I hope you have good veins”… well I hope so too! She very carefully selected the vein she wanted, and then twice asked if I needed to lay down while she did it. I didn’t understand why she was so cautious until she pulled out all the collection vials– I had to fill 7 tubes! After sticking me with the needle she starting drawing blood, and at least 3 or 4 times asked if I was feeling ok and if my arm hurt. Finally she filled the last vial and removed the needle, telling me that I broke the record for most vials filled. I was amazed myself that I didn’t feel dizzy or anything. I had to make an appointment for next week to get my paperwork done, get the results of my blood work, and get my TB test done. Then I’ll have to go back to get the TB test read. A lot of work to be done…

Luckily the medical paperwork seems to be the most detailed and complicated. I already completed everything I had to do for my passport/ visa obligations, I submitted two documents to my Application Portal that reworked my resume and detailed my thoughts and plans for work in Belize, and I submitted an official transcript. I’ve *finally* accessed my New Volunteer Portal (after days of trying, using two computers and three we browsers, and not being able to load the portal) and done all the activities and forms (I had to switch browsers to submit the form– if you’re doing this, don’t use Chrome). I’m still working on reading through all the PDFs and figuring out what else I have to get done.  It’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it later!

So here’s the lesson I’ve learned from this experience and I hope to pass along to you: don’t relax once you get the offer. The interviews are hard, but you’ve got to be on your game to get through all the technicalities of getting all the legal stuff done. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and it might be expensive to get all the medical stuff completed. But in the end, it’s always worth it.

The Cover Letter

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I’m no expert on writing a perfect cover letter. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing it right at all, when other times I’m amazed at the brilliance that is my cover letter (probably not that brilliant). I’ve done my research, I’ve gotten advice from my university’s career center, and I’ve had my dad read over my cover letter. As far as I can tell, it’s been effective. While I won’t claim to be an expert or have a brilliant cover letter, I can at least pass on what I’ve learned about writing a cover letter.

(Rule #1) KEEP A ‘STANDARD COVER LETTER’ DOCUMENT. In your computer’s document files (hopefully organized into work files, then a separate cover letter folder), save a standardized cover letter document. This should be a skeleton document with the basic points/paragraphs you want to have in all your cover letters, as well as all formatting done. This way, when you’re writing a cover letter for a new job, you can save a ton of time and mental anguish by having an pre-made document that you can modify for the specifics of the job, the company, and the type of employment. Of course you need to change things up; at the very least you have to change the date, the company name, and the job title. At the most, you’ll want to add in things you want to emphasize and take out things that might be unimportant.

(Rule #2) DO YOUR RESEARCH. Not just for the job to fill in the job title, but also for the industry you’re looking at. You don’t want to emphasize something that isn’t important. That space is important, use it well! Look through the job description for what the specific job entails and what the company values. Your cover letter should be like a cheat-sheet for your resume, pulling out what the employer wants to know and giving some additional details. Do a Google search for the industry and see what is valued, that way you can emphasize those qualities. Just like with the resume, make yourself stand out!

For some good help with formatting and ideas of what should go into your cover letter, check out About.com’s cover letter help pages.

(Rule #3) SAVING IS AS IMPORTANT AS CREATING. It’s happened to us all; we type up something mind-blowingly awesome, only to accidentally close out of Word and be left with nothing. Luckily, once you have your standard cover letter saved, you shouldn’t need to change a significant amount with each job, maybe a paragraph or set of skills here and there. Once you’ve typed up your modified cover letter, remember to SAVE AS, not save or you’ll lose your awesome standard document. The advice I always got on saving is to always save it with your name, the type of document, and the company/job. So if I applied to Georgia Tech, I’d save it as “FIRST AND LAST NAME Cover Letter Georgia Tech”. This helps employers to identify who the document pertains to and what it is (the company name is mostly for you to be able to find it in your ever-expanding cover letter document folder). This rule is the same for resumes as well. Unless the company you’re applying to has a specific way they want you to name your files, putting them in this format will make you look organized and professional, and help you know what’s what in your files.

Another aspect of saving the document is file format. Microsoft Word (for us PC users) automatically saves as a word document (.doc, .docx, etc). I’m not sure how Macs operate but I know it’s a standard document file. If you do have a Mac, consider that a lot of business use PC, so you might want to save your documents as a Word document if possible. Another alternative, which I prefer, is saving as a PDF in addition to your .doc. Not only does this help with formatting and viewing on the employer’s side, when the computer creates the PDF it pulls it up for a final viewing, which can help you correct mistakes.

As I’ve been told by many sources, many places don’t ask for a cover letter specifically. This doesn’t mean that you submitting just a resume can get you a job. Cover letters are a cheat-sheet for your resume, so you want to include it whenever possible. The best way to do this is to merge your cover letter and resume into one document and submit them together. It makes you look organized and professional to have both in the same document, and then you can ‘force’ the employer to read your cover letter.  The easiest way I’ve found to do this merge is to open up both the resume and the cover letter documents in Word, then copy/paste your cover letter to the top of your resume (you want the cover letter to be the first thing the employer views!). It may take some work to get the formatting to match right, but once you do make sure you save your standard cover letter and resume documents accordingly. Make sure your cover letter stays on one page, your resume starts on page to and is only a page long as well. Then save this as a PDF (or Word document if that’s all the employer accepts, make sure to check on file formats when applying). This keeps your resume and cover letter together, looking clean and organized to the employer. Make sure to name the new document accordingly (“Name Cover Letter and Resume Job/Company”)

Good luck creating your cover letter. Make yourself undeniable!

For some additional advice on your cover letter, I’ve found some great articles from TechCareers.com. I got one of these via an email I get from the website (a great reason to sign up with several career finders– they send emails with not only job posting updates, but also advice on job hunting!). Like I said before, take all advice with a grain of salt, but make sure you actually let yourself hear (read, observe, etc) the advice and think it through. Here’s a list of the articles I found:

Four Strategies for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

Your First Cover Letter: What to Say.

How to Write a Super Cover Letter

How to Overcome Obstacles in a Cover Letter

7 Cover Letter No-Nos

Network, Network, Network

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One thing that I didn’t wrap my head around as being very valuable is networking. You hear it all the time: THIS meeting is great for networking, THAT organization provides great connections to the business world! I just never took it seriously that I would need something other than my amazing resume and charming smile to get a job. Now that I’m out looking for things, I’ve realized that you may do great with just your resume, cover letter, and a great personality. But how you’ll do even better, and get that job faster, is by knowing people.

(Rule #1) MAKE FRIENDS AND KEEP THEM. This doesn’t mean to brown-nose your 200 person lecture professor. It means that once you get into more advanced classes, with smaller group sizes and more intimate discussion-based courses, make sure to make a good impression on your professors. Especially if you’re interested in their work, keep tabs with them, maybe volunteer to do some research help, and they can not only give you amazing recommendations for jobs, but they can hand off your resume to someone who can get you an interview. It’s the very same with previous employers; even if you don’t want to pursue a career in the field (think, summer swim coaching), having a glowing recommendation from a previous employer or having them pass your resume on to an acquaintance in the field you ARE looking into is a big step up.

Recommendations are so important, I can’t stress that enough. So keep your professional relationships close, you can use them later!

(Rule #2) TALK TO YOUR PARENTS. Seriously, they know what they’re doing. They’ve been in this position before. Even if you’re not at all interested in what they do for a living, they were recent graduates looking for jobs once too, and they can give you advice. Have them look over your resume and cover letter, have them help you with your LinkedIn profile, have them give you pointers on career paths and salaries and all that big scary grown up stuff that none of us have any idea about.

In addition to the knowledge that your parents can impart to you, they can also be a great source of connections. Face it, your parents are always going to be biased in your favor. They know a lot of people, have met and kept up with a lot of successful businessmen and start-ups, and they can pass your resume along to them. Case-in-point, my dad is fairly high up in his company, and he knows a lot of people in the nuclear industry. While there are no positions available in his company, he knows that nuclear plants are desperate to hire engineers. So I got my boyfriends resume to him, and he was able to pass it along. And that might just get my boyfriend an interview.

(Rule#3) BRANCH OUT. Don’t be afraid to mention to friends, friends-of-friends, distant relations, and acquaintances that you’re looking for a job. Who knows who they all know, and what opportunities they can make available to you. For example, one of my previous interviews was a job that wasn’t posted online. The only way my resume even got into the right hands was because my boyfriend mentioned to a family friend that I was looking for jobs. They talked about my qualifications, I sent her my resume, I had a phone interview with her, and then I was booked for an in-person interview with her employer. I didn’t get the job, but I had a great interview and got to know about an awesome non-profit that I’ll be applying to when I get back from the Peace Corps (if I still live in the same city), and got great interview experience and confidence. And all of that was because my boyfriend mentioned I was looking for a job to someone at a party.

Another example: My boyfriend’s mom works for a HUGE international company. He applied to them and then had his mom send his resume to their engineering department. Within a few days he got a phone call from a recruiter, and after a short phone interview, set him up with an in-person interview with a daughter company in Texas. While he didn’t get that job, it was amazing to see how quickly things moved all because of his one connection. The recruiter is still working to find him a spot at the company, and the longer he keeps in communication with her, the better.

Thanks to http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~sld/ for the image.

Everybody knows somebody. And the more you advertise yourself, the more likely you’re going to get connections to those who can help you out.

Technology: Know it, Use it, Love it

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Technology is a growing industry. Almost every person in the US owns a cell phone and a computer, we’ve all watched TV if not own one (or several) ourselves. I’ve seen toddlers know how to use a tablet better than me, my parents use Facebook more often than I do, and my boyfriends grandparents use Skype regularly. Knowing how to use technology in your daily life is an ongoing education. Knowing how to use it for job search, and for job activities, is imperative.

Thanks to AnntheGran.com for the image

(Rule #1) Use your resources. Technology has significantly improved the job search process. As my dad tells it, when he was fresh out of college and searching for a job, he had to search through newspaper want ads, etc. and then physically type (as in with a typewriter) and mail his resume and cover letter to the company. Lots of work, lots of wasted resources. Now, the wonderful Google machine makes things so much easier! With the help of job search websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and many more, you can create a profile, search, and apply for jobs all in one place. You can get email updates about specific companies, job descriptions that match your profile, and see who has taken an interest in you based on profile visits. You can save jobs for later applications, you can search by job type, salary, location, or employer. If you haven’t tried these websites, do it. It’s definitely worth your time.

(Rule #2) Keep up to date on new technology. If you’re looking into a technology field, this is probably second nature to you. But for people like me who can’t even remember which if a GB or a MG is bigger… then you may need to spend some time learning and playing with things. For example: I had a phone interview a few weeks back with a software company. The job would have been with customer service, full training, so it didn’t matter that my software knowledge is extremely lacking. However, during the interview, I was asked on question that surprised me: “tell me about the newest technology you’ve used”. Luckily for me, I had just gotten a Chromebook for graduation (thanks Mom and Dad!), so I talked about how I’d been learning to use that and the differences between it and a PC, and all the benefits, etc. I may not be able to answer my boyfriend when he asks what the storage capacity is… but I know how to use it and the pros and cons of a Chromebook vs. a PC laptop.

(Rule #3) Use social media, but be careful! Facebook is great for talking to your friends, but there is always a chance that your Facebook activity, especially in college, can reflect negatively against you if an employer or perspective employer looks you up. According to gradspot.com’s “Guide to Life After College” do a self-Google to check and see what is out there on you. If there is anything questionable, while you may not be able to delete it, you can be prepared to explain it. That being said, check out your Facebook security settings as well. If you don’t mind being found, like me, great. If you want to keep certain things private, it’s easy enough to do so.

In addition to your social profiles, look into career-focused profiles. Like I said before, having a well-made profile on LinkedIn or Glassdoor can really help with finding jobs.

(Rule #4) Develop your social media skills. Especially if you’re interested in sales, marketing, business, communications, and advertising, social media knowledge is in demand. If you can create a half-decent blog or website, you’ll be a commodity. My suggestion is to look at free blog sites (shout out to WordPress!, but also Blogspot, etc. There are thousands) and maybe play around with a blog. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or anything meaningful, just get yourself used to how you use it. It does look really good to have an established blog on your resume (I use my travel blog, mytinytravels, but will soon add this blog as well). Also, website builders can make websites as easy as blogs– I have used Weebly for school projects (see my website for a Psychology project and for a seminar paper), and it’s both easy and fun to create your own full website!

Visit my LinkedIn profile and create your own!

**Citation: Schonberger, Chris, Stuart Schultz, Tory Hoen, and David J. Klein. Gradspot.com’s Guide to Life after College. New York: MG Prep, 2010. Print.**