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The Worst Part is Waiting January 14, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Personal Development.
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The Wall Street Journal has an interesting new blog entitled Laid Off And Looking.  In the most recent post, Kevin Hudson discusses the difficulty of waiting for a response during job hunting.  I have to agree that  it is the worst part.  Even a negative response is better than none.

I think this is a component of the job search that is especially hard for recent graduates to deal with.  As a student, one gets used to decisions.  Schools accept or deny your admission.  They may wait-list you, but that gives you infinitely more information than a non-responsive employer.  Personally I deal with this by using a send and forget strategy.  I send out resumes under the assumption I won’t hear anything back.

Grading and the Workplace January 2, 2009

Posted by A Texan In Grad School in Personal Development.
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My earlier post on Generation Y and the workplace got me thinking about a discussion I had recently with a friend of mine.  Like me, she finished her undergrad in May ’08, but she has just started a research job in television.  We discussed the weird disconnect between task performance and evaluation in the professional world.  The most difficult thing for me to get used to in internships was a lack of formal grading and evaluation.

This is two-fold.  First, I won’t lie, turning something in and then getting a big A on it feels good.  It’s like watching the final seconds tick away on the clock when you win a game.  Secondly, when you don’t get an A, you get told why.  The very first thing I ask about a professor is not how difficult their class is, but what kind of feedback do they give.  If a professor just flips through your paper, then writes B or C on it, that doesn’t do anybody any good.  A good professor helps you understand how the paper could/should have been better.

In the professional setting, managers don’t have time to give detailed feedback.  A professor is paid to grade.  A manager is paid to manage.  the two are different.  But, especially when you are starting out, a manager ought to set aside more time to constructive criticism of your work.  It’s an investment in the company’s human capital.

Savings Rate December 13, 2008

Posted by A Texan In The Professional World in Personal Development.
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No…. I’m not going to talk about how low our national savings rate is… although I believe it’s finally rising again!

As the end of the fiscal year begins to start taking up more room in the back of my mind I’m reminded about my obligations and those of every other new professional in the work force.   A close office buddy of mine told me at the end of last quarter about when he first entered the work force.  He and I are both independent contractors and thus “technically” self employed.  This, of course, has tax ramifications.  We have to pay our quarterly estimate every three months. There’s a plus side to this of course!  It’s very helpful with preventing one from spending money that one will end up owing Uncle Sam.

Well, my buddy got in without realizing the special tax requirements of a self employed person.  To make a long story short, he ended up paying ridiculous tax penalties last year!  We’re talking about money which is very valuable to a kid right out of college.

So, how does someone new to all of this stay out of the hot water?  Well, here’s how I do it:

1) Learn (ask questions!) about all of your financial obligations!  All of them.  Ask coworkers for advice and forewarning on future expenses even!

2) Budget your stable monthly intake, and don’t make assumptions that you’ll receive any additional commission payments.

3) Don’t spend beyond what you’ve budgeted for a certain category in a given month.

4) Pay the credit card bill EVERY Friday.  This helps keep one very aware of how much is going out (and helps you keep a running tally for the month).

5) Anything beyond my regular monthly allotment, goes into savings.  Savings may only be used (in my case) for “one time” purchases such as needed clothes/shoes, fantasy sports payments, and emergency payments (i.e. car repairs).  Even Christmas gifts come out of the regular monthly budget!  It’s up to you to decide what is worth tapping the “savings account” for…  but I strongly encourage you to lay the ground rules down in the beginning.

So, what has this resulted in?  Well, it teaches one how to say “no” to both oneself and to other people.   People who often spend more than you might.  Discipline is a good thing and it will serve everyone very well for down the road.  Also, it will help you build up your financial independence…. which is always a good thing.