Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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Getting the Job
The unemployment rate breached the 9 percent mark in April 2009, and has not fallen below that point in over two years now except for February 2011's 8.9 percent figure.
This is not news. Especially to those of you among the ranks of the unemployed.
But what is new is the way you have to go about finding your next job. This subject has been covered extensively in past issues of GCFlash. Yet when there are 5.6 unemployed job seekers for each new opening posted, you must offer something unique to be considered for any position.
Are you using the same resume as when you began your job search? Toss it aside. The Objective section that was once a standard is no longer relevant. Employers are more interested in their own objectives, not those of the applicant. And they realize most people will customize this section to match the specifics of the open position, rendering it useless.
Replace it with a Summary of your strengths and experience. It should be no longer than two or three sentences and highlight how you will benefit the employer.
Unless you're just out of college, omit the GPA. Work experience is more relevant. List only the past 10 years chronologically in a simple, clear, easy-to-read format. Company name, job title, dates of employment, a brief statement about the position and bullet points with achievements and results provide plenty of information for a prospective employer.
Hobbies and personal information should only be included if they specifically apply to the job you're seeking. Be honest. Any exaggeration can damage your credibility when uncovered.
If you're not already on LinkedIn, create a profile now. It provides a simple format to present your qualifications and allows people to share their experience with you, giving prospective employers a better view of your work habits. It also gives you opportunity to clearly identify the important skills that a future employer may find valuable. You may learn something from comments made by those that have connected to you as well, such as an event you took as trivial that made a significant impact on co-workers. You could find strengths you didn't even know you had.
Rather than think of yourself as job-hunting, consider yourself as a product you're trying to sell. Write a 60-second commercial about yourself. No need to produce it or buy TV time, merely writing the copy will prove useful. The next time you're sitting in an interview and asked why you are the best candidate for the position, you won't need to stammer for a response. Recite your commercial with confidence.
Technology gives us new tools to help our job search efforts in addition to those on the Internet. Use your webcam to produce a mock interview. You may see something in your demeanor that would hurt your chances for getting that job. Are you focused on the interviewer or do you keep looking down at your fingers? Do you twirl your hair when considering a reply or frequently look at your watch? We can be completely unaware of some of these nervous habits. But you can bet the person conducting the interview will notice.
Your skills can get rusty when you're unemployed for any length of time. Don't sit idle. Take a class, volunteer, research new career opportunities. Not only do they demonstrate personal growth but they also broaden your network. You might just meet the person who helps you find your next job.
Become a consultant or take a temporary position. Both can lead to a full-time, permanent opportunity.
Be persistent. It's undoubtedly harder to find a job in this economy. Be creative and you'll be ahead of the competition.
The racing world was stunned on Sunday by the loss of one its fiercest competitors. IndyCar veteran Dan Wheldon lost his life in a horrific track accident that has been the subject of news highlight reels since it occurred.
Dan was 33 years old and realized the risk he took each time he donned a firesuit and stepped into the cockpit of his racecar. Yet that is little solace to his wife and the two young children she will now have to raise alone.
Wheldon was a veteran of the sport. The British-born driver amassed 16 career victories over his eight-season IndyCar career. He was the 2003 Rookie of the Year. He won the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and reigned as the series champion that same year. Wheldon earned his second Indy 500 victory this year, becoming only the 18th driver in the 100-year history of the prestigious race to win it more than once.
The man knew how to wheel a racecar. But as this tragedy displays, not even the best of the best have any control once their vehicle becomes an airborne fireball.
For NASCAR fans, the tragedy brought back thoughts of the 2001 Daytona 500 wreck that took the life of 7-time series champion Dale Earnhardt.
Earnhardt's death capped off a nine-month period that also saw the loss of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and truck racer Tony Roper in similar track accidents. The sport had already taken steps to improve driver safety. But when it lost members of two elite racing families in such a short time - Earnhardt and Petty - efforts to prevent future deaths went full throttle.
Certain driver-safety features were covered in the Mr. Goodwrench article that appeared in the February 1, 2001 edition of GCFlash. You can read it online.
In addition to the features described, NASCAR revamped the car itself. Sensors and monitoring equipment was placed at strategic points within the framework of the car to detect the exact force and impact a car would sustain during track accidents. Data was relayed that allowed engineers to study results of a wide range of variables. Damage from swiping a wall or trading paint with a fellow competitor was quite different from that of spinning head first into a concrete barrier. Impact from a slower-speed road coarse collision was weighed against a superspeedway wreck where the high rate of speed often launched a car airborne, rolling a few times upon re-entry until eventually skidding to a stop.
The new stock car that debuted in 2008 bore little resemblance to its predecessor once you removed the sheet metal.
The cockpit was increased in size and moved more towards the center to increase the car's crumple zone. The crumple zone absorbs the kinetic energy of an impact and crumples during a collision, diverting the energy away from the driver.
The doors are filled with several inches of thick foam to help absorb impacts with steel-plated bars on the driver's-side door for the same purpose. The seat is more rigid to better support drivers who experience high G-forces. Windows are bigger to allow a driver to escape the car more quickly. Fuel cells are smaller with thicker walls to reduce chance of a fuel leak resulting in a fire.
So far, the new design has worked. While fans lament the competitive difference offered by individual manufacturer style, not one driver has died in a track accident since Earnhardt ten years ago.
IndyCar, too, had begun the process of revamping their cars to increase driver safety. But rather than institute a cookie-cutter design as NASCAR did, IndyCar changes will add to each product's diversity.
Since 2003, cars in the IndyCar series all ran the same Dallara chassis powered by Honda engines. Beginning in 2012, Lotus and Chevrolet engines will also be used. All will offer their own aero kit of the front and rear wings, sidepods and engine covers to improve handling as well as add uniqueness to each vehicle.
The chassis will be lighter and safer than what they currently run. A front bumper will prevent one car's wheel from brushing another's and eliminate the resulting loss of control. Dallara will name the new 2012 chassis after Dan Wheldon to honor his contribution to its development.
A safety cell composed of three-inches of foam surrounding the cockpit will better protect drivers involved in a crash.
Dan Wheldon was one of the drivers who tested this new car. He liked the way they handled and looked forward to being back in the series full-time next season.
Will they put a halt to tragedies such as the one in Las Vegas last Sunday? Probably not. These safety improvements will likely lessen some of the more severe injuries but it may be impossible to avoid the danger of open-wheel, open-cockpit cars traveling in packs with speeds in excess of 200 mph.
Danger is inherent in this sport. Not only on the track, but it's the nature of these very drivers who are willing to take this risk.
Dan Wheldon was not the only racer to lose his life this past weekend. Off-road champion driver Rick Huseman was killed in an airplane accident along with his brother, Jeff. Airplane accidents have also claimed the lives of NASCAR legends Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison. With all the travel required, many drivers are also licensed pilots.
Racecar drivers are a breed of their own, driven by the desire to master high speeds and fueled by competition. While they realize the risk they take behind the wheel, they tend to think it will never happen to them. And that's a good thing. They can think themselves into a wreck otherwise.
But there is still much room for improvement when it comes to IndyCar safety. Unfortunately, it may take the death of one of the sport's superstars to inspire engineers to dig deep enough to find the answers as it did with NASCAR. Yet preventing future deaths is a legacy in itself. One that Dan Wheldon is certain to carry through the ages.
"Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." - Archimedes
This is how the Greek mathematician and physicist described the impressive effect the proper amount of leverage could bring to the physical realm. If you have ever used a pole to move a heavy rock, you will understand. In finance, however, "leverage" is a borrowed term and defined as any method used to increase both gains and losses. The British refer to this as "gearing." Most people utilize some amount of leverage in their financial affairs. Some leverage can be good, too much disastrous.
A simple example (for sake of simplicity, we'll ignore taxes and transaction costs):
You have $100K to invest and you decide to buy a condo for that price in an up and coming "chic" shore community. You pay cash. A year later, others have also flocked to this trendy locale and the value of your condo has increased to $110K. This leverage-free transaction provided you a return on investment of 10%. Not too shabby. Of course, if the value had gone down by 10%, you would now have a condo worth just $90K, for a loss of 10%. In a leverage-free transaction, your losses are typically limited to your investment. So even in the unlikely event your condo's value plunges to zero, the most you can lose is $100K. A ton of money, but no greater than your initial investment.
Now take a second example: Suppose you take the same original $100K and decide to buy two condos and borrow the remaining $100K ($50K per unit) from a bank. If prices were to rise the aforementioned 10% per unit, your investment would be worth $220K ($110K*2). This transaction would yield you a net return of 20% (remember you started with the same $100K). If banks gave money away for free, the use of leverage would DOUBLE your profit. In reality, banks are not so benevolent, and demand interest on their funds. Assuming the bank charges a reasonable interest rate of 5%, your cost of using the bank's money (as opposed to more of your own) would be $5K ($100K * .05%). Still your profit would be $15K, 50% higher than the non leveraged transaction. Conversely, if prices decline by 10% over the year, your two units will be worth $90K apiece and would equate to a loss equal to $20K - double the non-leveraged transaction. And don't forget the interest you will still owe the bank, regardless of the value of the units. After including the interest expense, your loss ($25K) is now two and a half times the non-leveraged transaction.
Now a final more extreme example: Suppose you take your original $100K and buy four condos, making a $25K down payment on each and borrowing the remaining $75K per unit from the same bank. If the units increase in value by the same 10% as in the previous two examples, your units would be worth a whopping $440K ($110K * 4) - for a $40K, or 40% profit. The interest expense is higher at $15K (remember you borrowed $300K), but you would still net a tidy 25% return. Once again, if values decline by 10% during the year, you would have an investment loss of $55K ($40K value reduction + $15K in interest). This represents a loss of more than half your original $100K investment, where as in the non-leveraged transaction, your loss was just $10K. If for some reason the condos lost all their value, you would be on the hook for $415K (including interest). This is more than four times your original investment including interest. Ouch.
Wow. Although these examples ignore many real world considerations, it is easy to see how leverage can, as economist Milton Friedman once quipped, "make the good times better and the bad times worse."
So should you employ leverage? Yes, cautiously - in selected instances. Anyone who has taken out a mortgage is employing leverage. History has proven this to be a safe bet on a primary residence, as the appreciation in value of the property generally exceeds the cost of the leverage (not to mention you get a place to live much sooner!). For a vacation home like our shore condo example, maybe caution is in order. As long as you can afford to lose the magnified losses created by the leverage, then proceed. If not, better save some more and pay cash.
One final point: It is widely agreed that the most recent financial meltdown was caused (mostly) by an over-leveraged real estate market. Proceed with caution.
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