Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Eleventh-Hour Job Search in a Challenging Time

AS SEEN IN THE ETOWNIAN

Whether graduating and seeking a full-time career or looking for a summer internship or employment, this year will likely be more challenging than most due to the economic recession. Particularly challenging is the task of finding a job in the financial sector due to the recent downsizing in many of these organizations. Although there are than two weeks remaining until the end of the academic year, many are still in search of summer employment. While “Job Search 2009” may be a daunting proposition, there are several resources available to aid prospective workers in their quest for the right job.

Since the break of the 21st century, many job search websites have debuted online, offering personalized job recommendations and submitting resumes to potential employers. Although popular websites such as Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com purport to be the perfect place to search, they are often targeted by headhunters or recruiters due to the large volume of users on these sites. All Etown students have access to the Jobs for Jays employment search portal, which can be accessed from the Career Services page of the College’s website. This provides a listing of all employers soliciting through the College, and is a much more reliable way to find jobs than online search sites. Etown also offers a dedicated Career Services staff which can be found within the Counseling Services suite in BSC 216, located at the north end of the administrative wing on the upper floor. Each department also offers its own career coordinator. If you are focusing on the online strategy, several websites can search for openings based upon your credentials and desired position, including Indeed.com, JobCentral.com, and SimplyHired.com. There are also sites specifically tailored to your individual career.

Networking is an ever-important part of the job search, and the Internet has made it both more convenient and more critical than ever before. Websites such as Facebook and, even more relatively, LinkedIn.com, have facilitated the creation of career networks. LinkedIn allows you to upload your resume, detail your professional background, and have associates reference you online. Although online networking has blossomed in popularity over the past five years, it is still important to attend social functions and develop contacts with people over dinner and drinks. As is frequently said, yet never clich├ęd, it is not always what you know but who you know that matters.

It also helps to apply to companies that are not currently seeking applicants, particularly smaller firms in need of employees. When applying for jobs, you can usually submit your resume and cover letter via the company’s website. Resumes should be distinct and unique but not overly flamboyant with extravagant fonts or colors, and should incorporate specific examples of accomplishments rather than a raw description of your talents. The cover letter should also follow this guideline, but be tailored to the individual job for which you are applying. Although the job search may become discouraging during this atypical economic climate, remember that there are many going through the same experience, and by following these recommendations you can put yourself on the right track toward landing that elusive job.

Money's on Obama - The Financial Team

AS SEEN IN THE ETOWNIAN

Throughout the current mortgage and loan crisis, much attention has been paid to George W. Bush-appointed treasury secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs chairman Henry “Hank” Paulson. The Secretary of the Treasury holds influence over the allocation of government funds, and as such Paulson has developed a “rescue” or bailout plan for the U.S. economy, including certain major corporations. This important individual and their staff members, along with the Federal Reserve Bank (or “Fed”, our country’s central bank), maintain a major influence upon the regulations and planning of our economy. For example, former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has been credited with overseeing the economic growth of the late 1990s.

It is customary for an incoming president to appoint their own cabinet of secretaries of the constituents of the executive branch. By inauguration day, President Barack Obama had finalized all of his selections for his Cabinet with the exception of the void left by embattled commerce secretary nominee Bill Richardson, and has made his selection for treasury secretary in New York Federal Reserve Chairman Timothy Geithner. Geithner is credited for his diplomatic dealings with the governments of Asian countries during that region’s 1997-98 financial crisis, in addition to his orchestration of the early 2008 buyout of investment bank Bear Stearns by J.P. Morgan and development of the proposed $800 billion “troubled assets relief program”. He also appointed former Harvard University president and Clinton Administration official Lawrence (Larry) Summers head of the National Economic Council, Christina Romer as Council of Economic Advisers Chair, and Melody Barnes as Domestic Policy Council Director. Each of his selections are accomplished in their fields - Romer and her husband are well-regarded economics professors at the University of California at Berkeley, and Barnes has served as a counsel to Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy as well as the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s selections for his financial team, with Geithner being widely recognized for his diplomacy in Asia to improve economic value of the affected countries and Summers being complimented by Blackstone Group co-founder Pete Peterson, who said “if there’s a more brilliant economist in the United States, I wouldn’t know who that is.” The Bush Administration also praised the new Treasury Secretary, with deputy press secretary Tony Fratto calling Geithner “exceptionally talented” and Paulson lauding him for his “understanding of markets, his judgment and leadership, and his ability to meet the challenges that lie ahead”.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who has become a familiar face to news viewers throughout the recent economic downturn, will remain in his position under the new administration. We can expect him to work cooperatively with Geithner to develop strategies for dealing with the market slump. It is the Fed’s responsibility to control the money supply and set interest rates on federal loans, factors which will be important in resolving the current situation. Bernanke has three years experience in this position, so he is well poised to continue to handle the current recession. While Obama has warned that economic conditions are likely to worsen over the next year or two before recovering, only time will tell if his “dream team” of economic hard-hitters will pull a miracle or perpetuate the downturn.

NOTE: Since this post was originally published, scrutiny has arisen over the failure of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to pay his annual tax returns while he was chairman of the New York Federal Reserve during the early part of this decade. However, Obama has voiced his full support for Geithner, and it now appears likely that he will remain in his current position.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

How to "X-out" X-pensive Xmas Gifts

As seen in the Etownian.

Because of the commercialization of Christmas, department and discount stores have been seemingly displaying their holiday decorations and hot-ticket toys earlier every year. Toys and other anticipated popular gifts are often given high price tags which are reduced almost immediately following the holiday season. Due to the economic downturn in recent months, retailers are growing understandably uneasy about the coming holiday season – which some researchers predict will be the least lucrative for retailers since 1991. They are trying to counteract this by placing holiday items on the shelves even earlier than normal, a trend which has been ongoing for several years but is exacerbated during economic downturns such as the current one.

The great majority of retailers’ sales are seen during the period from the day after Thanksgiving (“Black Friday”) through the middle of January. Due to investment difficulties and job strife, many consumers have been forced to cut back on holiday spending and consequently are expected to frequent discount big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Costco this year. Traditional department stores, long the domain of holiday shopping, have been suffering in recent years due to a trend toward wholesale buying. Due to the fact that these goods are purchased in bulk directly from the manufacturer rather than through a wholesaler less expensively, they can be sold for lower prices, although some question the quality of such apparel and appliances.

Following Christmas Day, retailers begin offering clearances on the seasonal high-ticket toys, Christmas decorations, clothing, jewelry, and electronics. Gifts of a check, cash, or gift certificates can provide the opportunity for someone to obtain the gifts they desire at a lower cost to you. Most stores offer such sales to clear out merchandise, with the exception of discounters promoting consistently low prices who advertise that their items are “always on sale”. Coupons can also provide great savings at department and big-box stores during the holiday season, and they can be found in newspapers, coupon books, online, and on purchase receipts. While the congestion and hustle of Black Friday can be daunting, stores promote some of their biggest discounts on this day. It is wise to arrive early to find big-ticket items which may become sold out early on in the day, and to develop a list of what you are searching for prior to embarking on your shopping trip.

If your budget is constraining your discretionary income, do not feel pressured to buy expensive gifts for everyone on your list. Many people may actually feel inconvenienced by extra gift items, and would instead prefer a get-together such as a special dinner or holiday party. “Homemade coupons” can also be given to promise a favor, gift, or outing redeemable a later time if you do not have the ability to give these things at the present moment. Also, homemade gifts are practical and can be made from inexpensive materials in one’s own house. If you are not interested in going about the Christmas shopping routine at retail stores, which consumes time and gas, the websites of many large retailers allow you to order similar items at discounts from what you would find in-store. Also, shopping websites such as Amazon.com offer similar products, and the shipping-and-handling costs are often cheaper than the gas which you would expend driving to the store. Another convenient strategy is to shop year-round for gifts during other shopping trips to avoid having to make an extravagant outing specifically for the holidays.
With the right strategy, which involves shopping at the right stores at the right time, one can keep everyone on their holiday gift list satisfied for the next year. The most expensive gifts are not necessarily the ones which receive the most attention, as even personal artwork or stories can be a treasured present. Keep in mind the preferences of those for whom you are shopping, and try to find cost-efficient ways of giving them a gift to remember.