6 Rules for Job Interviews

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker in America holds 10 different jobs before the age of 40, and today’s youngest workers are projected to hold between 12 and 15 jobs in their lifetimes.

Far gone from the days of retiring after 40 years of working for the same company, interview skills are more crucial than they’ve ever been. Whether you’re interviewing for a job at a small business or a Fortune 500 company, check out these six tips for acing job interviews.

  1. Practice. Yes, you read that right. If the job you are interviewing for is important to you, then like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Pull a list of generic interview questions off of the Internet and have your spouse/parent/friend interview you. This will help eliminate nerves and allow you to formulate answers to standard interview questions in advance.
  1. Research the company. You should know the expectations of the company you are interviewing for before you go to an interview. Research the company’s mission statement and requirements and obligations of the positioning you are seeking.
  1. Dress professionally. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Regardless of the dress code at the business you are interviewing with, dressing professionally for an interview demonstrates respect and lets potential employers know that you are serious. Gentleman, you can’t go wrong with a suit and tie or a blazer and slacks. Ladies: no skirts above the knee, keep the heel height modest and the neckline appropriate. Fortune 500 interviews may warrant a power suit for both men and women in neutral colors like black, navy or gray.
  1. Arrive early. Punctuality is a vital asset in an employee—time is money as they say. Arriving late to a job interview immediately casts a negative shadow on you and leaves you flustered and anxious before the question and answer portion has even started.
  1. Ask questions. Once the relief settles in that no more questions are coming your way, feel free to ask your own questions. It is normal to have additional inquires about the company, the office environment or salary/benefits, and asking questions demonstrates a genuine interest to the interviewer.
  1. Follow up. A follow-up phone call or e-mail can be the thing that sets you apart from another potential employee. A day or two after your interview send a friendly e-mail or place a phone call letting your interviewer know that you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to hearing more from them regarding the position. This will help the proctor remember you in the case that he or she interviewed a large number of people for the same position. Common courtesy can go a long way.

5 Lunchtime Alternatives

Sitting at your desk all day can be mentally and physically draining, and when you work in an office environment, it may seem difficult to promote mental and physical health.

If you put in extensive hours at the office, you may have never given any thought to how you can utilize your work space, but no worries—we’re here to help! Even the smallest movements or the slightest changes to your routine can help reduce stress and increase productivity. Check out our five lunchtime alternatives for a happier, healthier work day!

1. Exercise at your desk
Exercise often becomes a scheduled even that you have to squeeze in before or after work, but you can do simple exercises right from your desk! Even moderate levels of movement throughout the day promote heart health and decrease the risks commonly associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Waiting for a large document to print? Don’t just stand there! Try some low-impact calf raises by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and raising up on your toes. Hold the pose for a few seconds, and then lower yourself back down. Repeat this exercise until the document is finished!
  • While seated at your desk, straighten one or both legs out in front of you, and hold them in place for 10 seconds. Then raise your legs as high as you can for five more seconds. For added difficulty, hang your purse or something else with a little weight around your legs. You should feel this exercise in your calves and glutes.
  • For exercise and stress relief, sit with your feet flat on the floor, and clasp your hands together like you’re giving yourself a handshake. Pull your arms in opposite directions without letting go. The resistance should be felt in your biceps, but it’s also a great way to release a little tension. Hold it for 15 seconds, release and repeat

2. Stretch
Simple stretches for your neck, back and shoulders can do wonders for your productivity! If you’re tense due to stress, try keeping a stress ball at your desk, taking a lap around the office or stepping outside for a moment to get some fresh air.

3. Pack your lunch at home
It is a lot easier to stick to your guns about eating healthier when you pack your own meals. Throw in a wrap, fruits, vegetables and snacks like cheese, nuts and granola. Fast food is quick and cheap, but it will cost you a lot of money over time—not to mention your health. If you don’t have time to pack your lunch, try ordering the salad or another healthy option from the menu.

4. Take a walk
Depending on the length of your lunch break, try taking a walk. If you have an hour lunch, a leisurely walk can promote health and help clear your mind. If you only have 30 minutes, try a brisk walk around the office or parking lot to stretch your legs and jump start your productivity.

5. Socialize
Sitting in your cube or office alone all day staring at your computer can take a toll on your mind and cause you to lose momentum. Socialize with your coworkers during breaks or at lunch to bolster your motivation.

The Power of Networking

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In the world of small businesses, networking is everything.

Being well connected leads to opportunities to expand your business, obtain new clients and employees and get the word out about who you are and what you do.

While advertising and social media have certainly changed the world of marketing, word-of-mouth and face-to-face meetings are still the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal.

Networking allows small business owners and employees to make personal connections and stand out among the crowd, and people are more likely to do business with someone they like, trust and remember.

Use networking as an easy, effective resource for your business with these tips:

  1. Be articulate. While networking is an opportunity to be more personal, time is still important and valuable. Be able to articulate the highlights of your business operations without hesitation so you can make the most of your time and meet as many people as possible.
  1. Make strategic connections. If you are attending a networking event, conference or social event, be sure to make strategic connections. That is not to say you should snub anyone who wants to talk to you, but try to spend your time talking to people in a similar field or whose relationships could benefit your company in the future.
  1. Do your homework. A great networking tip is to know who’s who before you go to an event. Obviously you won’t know everyone, but you should be able to recognize important business figures, CEOs, etc. and call them by name.
  1. Become a strong resource. When you are helpful to your new connections, they will remember. Within the guidelines of ethical behavior, sharing resources, information and ideas with your new connections will in turn prompt them to do the same for you.
  1. Keep in touch. The best way to make networking work for you is to not let it be a one-time thing. If you meet someone that you think could benefit your business or who you would like to work with in the future, keep in touch. Express that you enjoyed meeting them and exchange contact information.

Don’t be intimidated by networking. The bottom line is that meeting people and showing them you are passionate about your work will lead to bigger and better things.

3 Best Apps for Managing Your Money

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Many people find themselves in debt because they don’t manage their money well. There is a negative stigma on debt, but it is often the result of a series of small mistakes such as forgetting to pay off a credit card bill, not regularly checking bank account balances, not moving any money into savings or forgetting to make student loan payments and getting behind.

Luckily, there’s an app for that.

You can find an app for almost anything these days—editing photos, meeting new people, tracking your steps, booking a flight and even figuring out what song is playing on the radio. Take a look at these top user-rated apps for managing your money conveniently from your smartphone!

  1. Mint

Often touted as one of the best financial apps available, Mint is a collection of different apps for managing money. For example, Mint Bills lets you set up bill payments directly from your phone, while Mint Personal Finance keeps a log of all of your recent transactions and allows you to create and track budgets and credit scores.

You can manage your earnings, spending and savings via your bank account, mutual funds, 401(k) and/or IRA. Mint will alert you if you go over budget, overdraw your bank account or if an unauthorized payment was made using your debit or credit card (to help prevent fraudulent purchases).

Mint is available for iOS, Android and Windows, and it is free to download!

  1. Expensify

Expensify has both an app and web interface, so you can check your information from any of your devices. It is rated high in easy navigation and usability and offers four main features: SmartScan, Add Expense, Track Time and Track Distance.

The SmartScan feature allows you to take pictures and categorize your receipts. Expensify can use these receipts to generate reports and track your spending habits. This feature is mirrored in the Add Expense button, which allows manual entry.

  1. HealPay Reminders

healpayLast month, a Michigan-based company called HealPay released an app unique to their innovative bill pay solution—SettlementApp. HealPay’s “reminders” allow consumers to opt-in and create bill reminders via SMS and e-mail. Reminders allows for custom messaging, real-time delivery and unlimited reminders. This app, in conjunction with their online SettlementApp, reduces overhead and automates operations for companies that receive routine, reoccurring payments while reminding their consumers at no cost—a win-win for all parties. Learn more at http://healpay.com.

With today’s technological advances and a free app for managing nearly every aspect of your life, do your research and take advantage of the tools that can help you rest well knowing nothing has been forgotten!

How to Choose the Right Credit Card for You

Credit Card Reform Legislation Would Tighten Rules On Rates And FeesMany people fall into debt as the result of charging too much to their credit card(s). In general, credit cards should be used to buy things you need or want to make payments on—not to buy things you want but can’t afford.

While some people choose not to have one at all, having a credit card is almost a necessity in today’s economic environment. Many young people apply for credit cards to begin building credit in the hopes of one day securing a loan to buy a house, car or a even a small business. Having a credit card and using it responsibly are great ways to manage your money, but with so many to choose from, how do you know which is the right fit for you?

Check out these tips for choosing the right credit card!

1. Check your credit score. When choosing a credit card, you first need to see which ones are available to you. If you have a low credit score, it may be the ones with sky-high interest rates and baseline spending limits due to your credit history. While making purchase and paying them off with a credit card will help boost your credit score, you may want to consider other ways to improve your credit.

2. Don’t get blinded by rewards. In the colorful world of marketing, there are hundreds of impressive commercials about travel rewards and cash back. However, be sure to read the fine print. Advertisements fail to mention important information like annual fees, minimum payment requirements, penalties and reward caps.

3. Consider your lifestyle. There are several specialty credit cards that are geared toward specific groups like college students and small business owners. If you travel a lot for business, check for cards with point systems that reward you for hotel stays, airfare and car rentals. If you are a stay-at-home mom or dad, consider cards that allow you to earn points on gas and groceries.

No matter which card you choose, make sure you pay your bill on time to avoid penalties and high interest rates.

5 Tips for College Grads

Congratulations! After four years (or maybe five) of midterms, finals, all-nighters, projects and presentations, you’re finally ready to take your first steps out into the “real world.” For some, this may mean starting a job you’ve already secured, moving out of the dorm and into your first apartment, moving away from your family or moving back in with your folks until you figure things out.

Just breathe—it’s going to be okay.

While post-graduation can be a stressful time if you’re on the hunt for a place to live, a place to work and a way to pay back those student loans, it is also an exciting time to start fresh. As you begin establishing yourself in the business world, check out these tips to help you transition from the classroom to the board room.

  1. Spend less, save more. You’ve probably seen those movies where 20-somethings sit on the floor eating Spaghetti-Os because they can’t afford furniture or actual food. While that may be a slight exaggeration, you will probably not be going out to eat as often or splurging on weekend getaways. While it might still be difficult to imagine yourself buying a new home, you’ll be happy you put your money toward sensible goals like paying off your loans, buying a reliable car or building a comfortable savings. Don’t fall victim to quick loans with high interest rates or “buy now, pay later” schemes—buy only what you can afford.
  1. Clean up your social media. College is usually a fun time for all, but in the world of job interviews, it is wise to clean up your social media pages. Now more than ever, employers are looking at the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages of potential hires, and provocative pictures and offensive language may be the difference between you and John Smith getting the job.
  1. Learn how to sell yourself. In a marketing-driven world, knowing how to sell yourself is key to landing a job. Whether it’s in-person in an interview, through your resume or on your LinkedIn profile, make sure you know how to put your best foot forward. Don’t be shy about talking yourself up, displaying your strengths and admitting your weaknesses (nobody wants to hire someone who cannot answer the question, “What are your weaknesses?”). Which brings us to our next tip …
  1. Practice humility in the workplace. It’s okay to be proud of the degree you worked so hard to earn, but make sure to remain humble. The truth is, you are fresh out of college, and the people interviewing or supervising you have likely been working for several years. So while your advanced degree and amazing computer skills will make you an asset to the company, you still have a lot to learn (and that’s okay!).
  1. Don’t get discouraged. In today’s economy and job market, getting hired is harder than ever. Remember that you might not land the dream job right out of the gate—but just give it time. You need experience, and it might take you several years to work your way up the chain. Don’t get discouraged, and never stop aiming to do what you love.

In the News 05/12/2015

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) recently granted a petition seeking the review of what may be a historic standing case. SCOTUS will hear this case against the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) during the October 2015 term.

The case involves a plaintiff claiming that he suffered actual harm when an online search engine acting as a credit reporting agency (CRA) published inaccurate information about his character and background, a violation of the FCRA. The act requires CRAs to maintain accuracy and provide notice of published information.

SCOTUS’ decision to hear the case has gained national attention. Various briefs have been written highlighting the affects a ruling on this issue could have.

Widely considered the most talked about privacy class action law suit of the year, Robins v. Spokeo, Inc. (No. 13-1339) was originally heard before a federal district court. The court ruled that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate the “injury-in-fact” standard. Also called “standing,” “injury-in-fact” is a term used for the ability to demonstrate sufficient harm. The Ninth Circuit Court reversed this ruling, suggesting that the plaintiff does not need to demonstrate actual damages to file suit.

SCOTUS’ final decision will affect the degree to which consumers can utilize federal statutes to recover without proving additional causal injury, and an affirmation of the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision could open the courts up to a flood of “no-injury” lawsuits that force defendants to pay millions of dollars in damages without plaintiff’s proving any actual harm.

For more information, visit http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/supreme-court-to-hear-historic-fcra-stan-39074/ or http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/393448/trials+appeals+compensation/US+Supreme+Court+Accepts+Review+Of+Robins+v+Spokeo+Inc.

Escaping Debt: Consumers Considering Moving Abroad

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Debt can be overwhelming. While most people don’t intend to enter into a debt that they cannot repay, life gets in the way, and things happen that are outside of our control.

For some with a very large debt, it may be tempting to escape it; some people even take extreme measures by moving to another state or country. Here we’ve broken down some of the most common questions about the collection of debts in the United States and abroad.

What happens to my debt when I move to another state?

Assuming you have been found liable for your debt and there is a valid “judgment” for it recorded in the state in which you live, the collections company will get a triple sealed authenticated copy of that judgment and mail it to a collections company in the new state. The company will file a new action called a filing for a foreign judgment. Even if you have not yet been found liable for your debt, these proceedings can occur at a later date, even after you have moved to another state.

What happens to my debt when I leave the country?

Debt remains outstanding until it is paid, and interest and penalties continue to accrue. While it is technically illegal for a creditor to sue you in a country or state in which you no longer reside, sometimes this issue rests on the language of the contract or the sentiment of the court. Most contracts and loan agreements specify in which states legal arguments and court cases must be settled.

If a lawsuit against you does go uncontested while you’re away, the collections process will continue as it would if you were stateside. Leaving the country can cause serious problems with your credit rating if you do decide to return. Creditors can begin the judgment process on your last known address (despite legality), and your debt will be waiting for you if and when you return.

If you still have assets in the country, the creditor can secure these as partial payment. You could return to a judgment against you or the repossession of your belongings. The IRS expects U.S. citizens to file tax returns and pay what is owed. If you leave the country with unpaid debts, eventually those balances will be written off and your creditor may file a 1099-C form with the IRS reporting these unpaid amounts as “income.” The IRS will expect payment of this phantom income.

Another consequence of leaving the country could be causing the burden of your debt to fall on your family or co-signer(s). In addition, a collector could sell your debt to an agency in another country, and foreign creditors can order a copy of your United States credit report.

Are contracts for debt enforceable outside of the United States?

Contracts for debt are not enforceable outside the United States. So essentially, it is true that leaving the country is a way to leave your debts behind. While foreign countries will not seek to extradite you for debt, there are other actions that may be taken.

Some debt collection agencies operate in multiple countries, expanding their reach. However, that is not typically the case. You may find that the country you’ve chosen has a reciprocal agreement when it comes to tracing debtors, like Germany, Canada and the UK. HM Revenue & Customs, the UK’s tax and customs authority, has a long reach. HM has a mutual assistance agreement with several countries to recover money owed.

While relocating may help you outrun your debt, it is not as simple as it sounds. Not only will you have to come up with the money to purchase a plane ticket, invest in housing and sustain yourself, but if you plan to stay in a foreign country for a long period of time, you will have to secure residency, which requires income. You have to prove that you have a reliable source of monthly income to meet the country’s minimum requirements.

Also, lenders are not as generous and quick to extend credit in other countries as they are in the United States. If you have become accustomed to using your credit card when money gets tight, building a new and better credit history elsewhere may prove difficult.

Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Small Business

While debt collection is certainly a niche industry, it still operates within the business realm. Especially when it comes to small businesses, keeping your environment, procedures and employees fresh and renewed is important to prevent becoming bogged down and burned out.

Since spring has arrived, why not take this opportunity to spring clean your office—and we don’t just mean finding hidden dust bunnies. Check out these spring cleaning tips for small businesses.

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  1. Clean up your web presence

There’s no doubt that Internet presence is more important than ever—no matter the industry. Your website should be user-friendly, clean and accessible. If you’re feeling good about your website, consider reaching out to potential clients or consumers in other ways, such as social media, blogging or advertisements.

Another refreshing way to clean up online is to encourage your employees to give their e-mail inboxes a good scrub. If you start every morning by logging into an inbox that is bombarded with unread, un-replied or old e-mails, it can really take a bite out of your productivity. Delete the old ones, sort the important ones into folders and try to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible so you don’t get behind.

  1. Offer praise

It is refreshing for your employees to hear about what they’ve accomplished so far this year. Since we’re almost at the halfway mark, consider having an office meeting or luncheon to discuss what your business has accomplished since the New Year and what you could be doing better. Taking time to recognize and appreciate your employees renews motivation.

  1. Clean up your processes

If your processes and procedures are outdated or need some revamping, what better time than spring to update? This is also a great time to make sure your company is taking advantage of any tools designed to increase efficiency in areas like banking, bookkeeping, recording, etc.

  1. Room for growth

You know what they say—April showers bring May flowers. Spring is all about growth, so this spring, consider assessing or reassessing whether your company needs to grow for improved performance. Maybe you’ve taken on more clients and need to hire more employees, or maybe you need to go out looking for those new clients. Either way, expansion is an exciting way to breathe new life into your company.

  1. Go green

Create a cleaner business environment by going paperless if possible. While some degree of paperwork is always necessary, try going digital where applicable. This is another area where online tools may come in handy!

The Fab Five Rules to Follow For a Productive Office Meeting

You likely fall into two groups of people when it comes to office meetings. If you’re part of what we’ll call Group #1, you dread meeting day. It takes you away from your daily work, throws off your schedule and ruins the rest of your day. Group #2 people enjoy office meeting day. You love getting away from your desk for a few minutes, stretching your legs on the walk up the stairs and socializing with your coworkers.

Does any of this sound familiar?

While they may or may not be your favorite part of the work week, regularly scheduled meetings are necessary in business. A productive office functions like a well-oiled machine, with each person doing their part to add to the whole.

Team meetings are an integral part of your practice because they keep everyone on the same page, unite you in common goals, ensure that no work is going undone and increase office potential.

Businesspeople working on laptop in an office.

Here we’ve put together a list of ways to make the most out of your office meetings.

  1. Come prepared

If your office has regularly scheduled weekly, biweekly or monthly meetings, then you already know the structure. If your employer sends out an agenda ahead of time, look it over and review anything that concerns you in particular. Ask yourself these key questions: Are you having any issues this month? What solutions can you bring to the table? Showing up prepared and knowledgeable and ready to speak on your own topics and issues sends a message that you care about the success of the office.

Bring a pen and paper so you can take information away from the meeting and apply it to your daily work. Taking notes during a meeting lets your employer and your coworkers know that you take whatever they have to say seriously.

  1. Focus

Realize that your employer would not take you away from your important work if it wasn’t important. Put away your cell phone, and give the meeting leader your full attention. If you have a special reason to be looking at your phone, it’s professional to tell someone ahead of time why. Otherwise, put it away and send the message that you are present and ready to focus on what’s being presented.

  1. Speak up

Whether you’re the presenter or just attending a meeting, everyone is encouraged to speak and participate. Meetings can seem much less daunting or boring when you are an active participant. You can also use these meetings as a platform to make important announcement or voice any concerns you have.

  1. Keep distractions to a minimum

When you speak, it needs to be to the entire group, not on the side, if at all possible. Try to make your points at the right time in the meeting or make note that you will have a point at a later time. This speeds up the meeting time and allows everyone to get the most out of the meeting.

  1. Application

The most important part of any meeting is to take the information presented and apply it to your daily routine. If you do not apply new strategies and techniques, then meetings truly are a waste of time. New information is meant to improve the office’s productivity, which will benefit everyone.