Resume Tip Number 1: Proofread Your Personal Information

Every day, there are new articles about things to do to improve your chances on a job search. Many of these concentrate on tips tied to your resume, and how to make sure it stands out and presents you in the most favorable light to get that ‘dream job’.
I’m here to reinforce one tip, and that’s tied to proofreading: Make sure you proofread EVERY part of your resume. And I mean every single part.
Here’s a true story that illustrates the reason for this:
A week or two ago, I came in from work, excited as always to see my wife and newborn son. I heard my wife’s voice from another room and could tell that she was just answering the phone. Her end of the conversation went something like this:
“Hello?”
“No, you have the wrong number.”
“It’s OK, but this is like the third or fourth call I’ve received today for that name, so I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’d really appreciate if the calls here could stop.”
“Oh, really, then she has the wrong phone number listed on her resume, because this has been my phone number for years.”
“Thanks, goodbye.”
That’s right, folks, the calls that my wife was receiving was for someone else’s job search. They posted their resume online, and had my wife’s number listed as their own. The person obviously must have had quite a resume, since she seemed to be getting a number of calls.
Still, this is one of the more bonehead moves I could think to make when posting your resume. It’s one thing to spell a word incorrectly or to make a gramatical error, but to get probably the most key piece of information besides your name incorrect?
I just hope she wasn’t applying for a position of proofreader.
So, it just goes to show that reading every part of your resume is critical before posting it or sending it to prosepctive employers. Who knows how many of the recruiters that had been calling simply bypassed her and went on to the next resume after realizing that the number they were calling was incorrect? In this job market, I certainly wouldn’t blame a recruiter for saying “Hmmmm….doesn’t list own phone number properly….REJECTED” and hitting the next resume. Somebody may have been kind enough to alert her (possibly through e-mail or snail mail) of the error, or she realized it herself, because the calls have stopped.
Yet, I wonder, could she have missed out on her dream job because of not re-reading every part of her resume?

So Much To Do Around The House

Have you ever noticed how there are times when things just seem to pile up around the house or all come due at once. Here are just a few things that are looking to be done around the Beagle household:

  • Stain the deck – With the help of my parents, I power washed it, but now I need about 72 hours of rain free time to get it done (48 before and 24 afterward). The Michigan weather has not been cooperative and may not be for a few more days.
  • Fix the sprinker head (part 2) – I noticed a sprinkler head that wasn’t getting a lot of pressure. I dug it out of the ground and noticed that it not very tightly connected. I tightened it and buried it, yet the pressure problem persists. I think there may be a problem with the line, which is a more tedious (and dirty) prospect.
  • Fix the toilet – I noticed last week that the toilet downstairs was running by itself every once in a while. After making sure that it wasn’t leaking onto the floor (which would be bad, since there are wood floors in that bathroom), I started the process to get the insides replaced. By this I mean that I started drying out the tank. I drained it and soaked up water, and now am letting things dry out. I’ve replaced the ‘guts’ of the toilets on numerous occasions, and the part that I’ve hated the most is how much water leaks out when you start taking everything apart. Hopefully I’ve minimized that this time!
  • Finish taping the ductwork – Over the winter, I started taping all the joints in the basement for the ductwork, as there is a lot of air leak when you add together, air that’s not getting to where you want it. I was able to get about 60% of it done, which was the stuff in the unfinished part of the basement. The remainder will be a bit more difficult, though, because it’s above ceiling tiles. I need to bite the bullet and get that finished up now that air conditioning season is upon us.
  • Do some painting – I want to paint the stairway to the basement and do some touch up work around the hallways, where things have gotten scuffed up over the past two years since we moved in.
  • Take stuff to the Salvation Army – There’s a growing pile of stuff in the middle of the garage that I need to donate.
  • Replace the step to the front porch – The step we have is slowly turning to gravel as it’s run it’s course. This isn’t difficult, but I need help to get the new step as well as a car that can handle it (most likely a van or SUV).

Lots going on but all part of the fun of having a house. Good things I enjoy doing things like this and knowing that I’ve helped keep our household in running order.

Cheap Ways To Extend Your Computer Life

We’ve all had the itch for a new computer. I work with computers, so I know how quickly technology changes. With that comes the ever-present knowledge that today’s technology will become tomorrow’s obsolete dinosaur.

My computer is now four years old, and I have noticed it slowing down. Not just because it is slow compared to other computers, but because that’s what computers do over time, especially if you run Microsoft Windows.

There are some good ways to put the itch to rest for awhile. None of these will get you to where your computer compares to the latest and greatest, but they can get you noticeable improvement over what you have today.

  • Defrag – Most computers have a tool where you can defragment the drive. The operating systems are lazy and will just place data on the drive any old place it can. Over time, this leads to the data being spread out. The computer runs better when the data is on one part of the drive, and the Defrag tool can assist you with this. Note: If you haven’t run defrag in a while, you may want to run it a few times in a row to get things organized.
  • Spyware and Virus Removal – Many people have programs to check for viruses and spyware, but do you really know if they’re working? Check into them to make sure that they have the latest definition files, so that it recognizes the latest attacks. Make sure to do a full system scan if you’re not sure that it runs regularly. You’d be surprised what little buggers might be on your computer slowing them down.
  • Temporary Files – Most programs are supposed to clean themselves up but many do not. Most programs will create files in the system TEMP folder, which is normally under C:Documents and Settings%USERNAME%Local SettingsTemp. Find that through ‘My Computer’ and clean it up. I typically go after anything older than a month, which should help minimize the risk that you’ll delete anything important. Tip: Do this before you defrag.
  • Add memory – My computer shipped with 512MB of RAM. Good at the time, but not so much now. I recently added 2GB to bring it to 2.5GB total, and it’s helped. Memory is pretty cheap. It cost $20 to add that amount to my computer.
  • Start from scratch – After awhile, it might just make sense to start from scratch. You probably want to be pretty savvy or know someone that is, but most computers come with a system disk that will let you re-create it as it was ‘out of the box’. There’s a lot of work involved in getting it up to where it needs to be. You need to re-install any programs. You have to re-create your settings. You need to install all security updates that have come out since then, which can be daunting. But, this is probably worth around the three year mark. Tip: The ideal way to do this is to purchase a new hard drive and start from scratch on that one. You can still keep your old one plugged in and boot to either one. That way, it’s much easier to transport your ’stuff’ over, and it also gives you the flexibility to log into your ‘older’ system if need be.

There are a lot of other things you can do, but this is a few things that might help extend your computer life. In this day where we’re holding onto things longer (a good idea), hopefully this helps get you started.

Happy computing!

Avoiding The Mess Left By The Snow Plow

It’s been a very snowy season here in Michigan. I think I saw a statistic on the news the other morning that we’ve already exceeded our average snowfall for the season, and we still have a couple of months to go!
Although I have a snow blower (compliments of my dad), the hardest part of our driveway is the mess left at the end after the snow plower goes through. Nothing drives me more crazy than cleaning off the entire driveway, only to have the plow come through and leave a huge pile of snow at the end of the driveway.
I decided to look and see if anything can be done, and it turns out that there IS a way to reduce the amount of snow left by the plow.
Most people clear off the area in front of their driveway. To ‘avoid the plow’, you need to take it one step further. Clear off the street on either side of the driveway. The reasoning behind this is that you will then create a ‘drop off’ area for the plow to drop off what has been collected so far. According to some of the reading I did, you should still get some snow left in front of the driveway, but at a greatly reduced level.
I decided to try that this year when possible, and it does work! My wife even commented last week after one of our many snowfalls that we had less snow in front of our driveway than other neighbors, even though the plow had come during the day while we were both at work. I proudly told her that because of the little bit of extra work I did the evening before, it was indeed a lot less of a mess. Going out and cleaning up the little bit that was there was a breeze, compared to what it would have been had I not.
So, for those who have to shovel snow, my suggestion is to make an investment in your time in order to save some time later.

2009 Financial Goals

2009 is upon us and it is that time where we start setting out goals. This is the first time I’ve ever publicly stated goals for the entire year, so I may skip around a bit. I’ll try, though to keep it organized.
Balance Sheet Goals:

  • Property – My goals here assume that we pay our normal mortgage payment, which is in our control. The thing that is out of our control is that I’m assuming that our property value remains relatively stable. Hopefully the prices in our neighborhood don’t continue double digit percentage falls this year!
  • Autos – I am assuming that the overall value of our cars goes up, but that we take on a loan. This is assuming that we sell my car, and purchase a used automobile to accommodate the baby. Neither of our cars are very ‘family friendly’ I’m looking at getting something modest and taking on a very small loan, but it’d be nice to not have to take one at all!
  • Mutual Funds – With everything going on this year, we probably will not invest in non-retirement mutual funds. We do hold some, and I’m hoping for a 10% increase in the value, which would mean that the market recovers this year. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
  • Long Term Savings – We hold cash reserves for emergency fund as well as bigger expenses we expect to pay for in the next several years. I’m hoping that this remains stable (i.e. no big emergencies)
  • Retirement – I’m hoping that the value of our retirement account goes up about 30% this year. That would follow the expected 10% market recovery this year, as well as several other things. First, I’m assuming that I will become fully vested in my company match 401(k), which should happen due to the company being sold last year. Second, I’m assuming that I can contribute 8-10% of my salary and realize the full 6% company match.

If we manage all this and things work out favorably in the market, this would increase our net worth by about 20% this year. This is what I was averaging in years past until the free fall in stock and real estate in 2007 and 2008. It’d be nice to get on the ‘right path’ again.
Personal Goals:

  • Continue my quest to level out our monthly expenses
  • Make a successful adjustment from a two-income household to a one-income household as my wife will not be working following the birth of our first child
  • Don’t freak out when the expenses hit for the baby! I took my first walk through of Babies R Us this week, which was my wife’s way of easing me into it!
  • Maximize our rewards for normal spending. We have a Citi Dividends card which pays us 2% for grocery and gas purchases, and 1% for everything else. We also signed up yesterday for our bank reward program, which gives points for using our debit card. I’d like to make sure we’re maximizing our rewards as the year goes on.
  • Reduce student loan payments by 30-40%. If we can hit this number, then the higher end loan that my wife has will be mostly paid off. This would be awesome!
  • Refinance the mortgage – We are currently paying 5.875% for a 30-year mortgage. This is a good rate, but I think that rates will be below 5% before long to where a re-finance might make sense. It’d be nice to reduce our interest obligation.
  • Begin saving for major house expenses – Our house is about 10 years old. I know that we’re getting a few years away from routine tasks that cost a good deal of money. I expect a new hot water system will be needed within 3 years, a new roof within 5 years, new windows within 7, a new furnace within 10, a new deck and driveway within 12 years. I’d like to begin saving for those now rather than figure out how to pay for them as they come up.

All in all, it will be a very interesting year with a lot of changes. I will look forward to updating throughout the year as well as looking back at the end of the year to see how we did.

Save Your Wrapping Paper Scraps For Smaller Gifts

I’m in the middle of wrapping Christmas gifts. My wife has been doing this for a couple of days on and off, and it’s my turn tonight.
Since I’m a ‘typical guy’ when it comes to wrapping, my wife handles all of the wrapping for anybody that gets gifts except for the gifts that I get her, of course. So, my wrapping takes a lot less time.
One thing we realized this year is how many little scraps get cut out that accumulate. My wife started saving anything bigger than a regular sheet of paper, and we’ve found that they can be used to wrap smaller gifts without wasting more paper.
This has saved us quite a bit of paper. The first four gifts I wrapped for her were of paper that had been previously cut. I can’t tell what the gifts were that I wrapped because my wife peeks on here and that would ruin the surprise.
I’ve also found that they come in handy for filling in an edge for paper that’s a bit too short. You know the kind. Either you mis-cut or you have a piece that’s just a fraction of an inch too little. Rather than scrap the whole thing, what I’ve done is to slip in a little piece that fills in the gap, then fold over as normal. 99.9% of the time the person will never see the ‘fill-in’ (though they probably would see the gap if you had just left it), so these little scraps come in handy to patch up mistakes too!
So, remember to hold on to those little scraps because they can really come in handy!
Back to wrapping!