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Yikes! It’s Tax Time Again.

Tax season is underway, and I know I have options when it comes to tax preparation: I can do it myself and hope I don’t make an expensive mistake. I can buy software and hope that I understand exactly what the program is asking me to do, or I can bite the bullet and shell out a few hundred bucks and get help from someone who knows convoluted tax code inside out. I don’t have time to keep up with the changes from one year to the next. And figuring out my tax burden is just not fun for me. Many people feel the same way about writing a résumé.

Tax preparation and résumé preparation are not that different. Both processes work best when you save vital documents, such as mileage and receipts for the IRS; and performance evaluations from previous jobs for your résumé. Not saving documents can be a liability, because it’s difficult to remember what to accurately list on your résumé or tax returns. Also consider how much is at stake if you’re ever audited. Yet many job seekers fail to understand the long term expense if a self-written résumé doesn’t generate interviews.

Additionally, I scratch my head at folks who look at résumé samples and copy sentences word for word thinking that’s going to grab the attention of a recruiter. I know I’d never copy anyone else’s tax return in order to get mine done, because it just won’t work. We all have a unique background. The same is true for the job search. Do you really have any idea what you might be leaving off? And what if the résumé you copied is out-of-date and has information no longer necessary?

If you’ve ever tried to complete your own taxes chances are you had to complete worksheets. A good resume starts with good information gathering as well. Both industries rely on worksheets, and client interviews for the best outcome.

While taxes need to be filed every year, thankfully we don’t need to apply for a job every year! Although a résumé should be updated once a year, or you should at least keep a running list of accomplishments and compile them in a folder. This should include annual performance reviews, job descriptions, awards, sales figures, and anything else where you helped your company make money, save money, become more efficient, etc. And just like your taxes, you’ll need to quantify in dollar ($) figures or percentage (%) points. Numbers are important!

Tax Filing fees are tax deductible. The same holds true for expenses related to the job search, which includes professional résumé services and software programs. So don’t forget to save those receipts if you do decide to invest in professional services.

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Is this job for Real?

You see the ad. It reads like a perfect fit for you, and you have all of the qualifications and even a perfect resume;  Perhaps you even followed up with a phone call. So why aren’t you getting a callback? What gives?

It could be that the job doesn’t exist. Or the company is collecting resumes, but on the fence about whether or not to go forward. Or maybe they already have someone in mind. It happens. And it happens a lot. Unfortunately there is no solid proof on how much. Why? Because rarely will you find a hiring manager who will spill the beans and say whether or not it’s a common practice at their company. It’s wrong on many levels, and they know it.

In their defense, our federal government has tied their hands. Many vacancies are required to be advertised in order to  comply with EEO compliance laws. I know this firsthand, because several years ago I was brought into a company as an “emergency hire” to cover for a guy who needed to take a 3-month medical leave. There was no time to advertise, hire, and train a temp;  I was already living nearby and had the experience they needed. When the employee came back to work, I was slated to exit gracefully; but the company decided they wanted to retain me and created a position for me. However, broadcasting rules dictate the position had to be advertised publicly. No where in the ad, did it reveal, “you need not apply, this is only a formality. Therefore, 29 people applied for a position that was already mine. I’m sure that many were qualified and interested in the job,. yet wondering why they weren’t granted an interview.

In this economy, I’m hearing rumblings from ad salesman, that some classifieds are being “stuffed” with ads to make the job boards look more robust, so they can solicit new advertisers. I’m also learning that resorts will do huge recruiting events all season long to keep resumes on file to ensure a good pool of candidates throughout the busy season. In the hospitality industry there is usually high turnover and resorts need to act quickly to keep staff at optimum levels.

There can also be economic pressures on the company, or executive team infighting. Even the Federal Government collects resumes for “potential” openings. These are the vacancies that are usually open for a long span of time. If you see one on that opens and closes the same week, there’s a good chance they already have someone in mind.

So what do you do? Apply anyway. It’s good practice, gets your name out there, and shows your intent. Persistence and patience are important traits of a successful job search.



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Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

1st Rate Resumes is marking down fees for the holiday season. We realize that money is tight and there are a lot of people out of work. And a gift certificate from 1st Rate Resumes makes the perfect holiday gift! During the Thanksgiving weekend, 1st Rate Resumes is lowering fees on resume services. These rates are 50% off our normal everyday fees.

Unskilled/high school entry level resume:  $99

Blue Collar trades:  $175

Middle Manager w/5+ years:  $225

Senior Manager:  $300

Cover letters may be purchased for an additional $25 each. Cover letters will not be sold alone, and must be included with a resume purchase. C-Level Resumes are not on special.


Clients must order the service by this Sunday Nov 27th and  pay by check, PayPal, MasterCard, or Visa. Client will receive a questionnaire to fill out and return to 1st Rate Resumes no later than Dec 31, 2011. No questionnaires will be accepted beyond that date for the sale price.

Turnaround time is 5-10 days. Client will have one opportunity to request minor revisions and changes at no additional charge. All revisions and projects must be finalized by 1/15/2012.

1st Rate Resumes has the right to add a surcharge for an excessive work place history beyond 5 jobs.

Questionnaires must be completely filled out in order to produce the best resume. You don’t have to worry about grammar or spelling, but you do need to describe what you do for a living, what your working environment was like, and the difference you made in the company’s bottom line. The better the information, the better your finished resume.

Client must be computer literate in MS Word. Documents will be delivered by email.

How to get started:  Contact us at SusanGeary (a) Subject Line: Black Friday Special. Make your you provide your telephone number, occupation, and an old resume if you have one. I’ll give you call and answer any questions you may have.

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I’ll Take Anything…. Not!

Last week I stopped by a fast food restaurant during a slow period. While I was waiting for my order, I overheard the Assistant Manager tell a co-worker he was desperately looking for a new job. I politely interrupted and asked what type of job he was looking for. He replied, “anything, if it gets me out of here.”

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

One of the trends that has surfaced in the Great Recession is discrimination against the long-term unemployed. Last summer I noticed vacancy announcements clearly stating “only those currently employed need apply.”

The Department of Justice stepped in to examine this practice and so far has stated it is not illegal. That being said, even if employers remove the stipulation from their ads, who’s to say they wouldn’t discriminate anyway.

Therefore, if you have a job, and even if you hate it, don’t quit yet until you find new employment. Otherwise you’ll have a cross to bear.

If you have been out of work for a very long time, do volunteer work, or take classes, or something to show that you’re are actively staying up to date on your skills and to close the gap to make you more salable to employers.

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You Get More with Carrots than you do with Sticks

I’m reading a book this week on employee engagement and how to motivate employees to love working for you. Throughout my career I have worked for some wonderful companies, one of them was Buck Owens Broadcasting, another was America West Airlines. Both of these organizations understood that praise and reward are much better motivators in the workplace, than fear and punishment. Tyranny builds resentment and erodes loyalty and commitment. Sad to say, not all managers understand that. These are the people who feel the need to watch their employees every move to find fault so they can “start a file” on them. Any positive performance is either said privately (if at all) or awarded in writing to the entire team on a job “well done.” But none that is documented in your personnel file.

When I worked for KNIX in Phoenix, we had lavish holiday parties, quarterly get-togethers (with lots of free alcohol), and a gym on the premises. Buck and his sons wanted us to be happy employees. And we were! Ratings and revenues soared and we broke all kinds of company records. There was so much love in that building, you could just feel it.

It wasn’t like that at a few of my other radio jobs. At one place, the management promised listeners meet and greet parties with the announcers, but then didn’t include the air staff. Instead, the managers brought their spouses, leaving listeners to wonder who are these people, and the deejays feeling slighted. The environment in that building was stifling; and workers were always complaining and resentful. That in turn made the manager even more paranoid, turning the place into one giant viper pit, and worker against co-worker. Then with all the rudeness going on, there were additional opportunities for the manager to write up the employees. It was hell.

I forgot about these experiences until I started reading Finding Happiness, by Todd Patkin. In Chapter 12: titled “Treat Them Like Kings,” Patkin outlines why it’s in every managers best interest to treat their employees well, rather than reprimand and criticize them at every turn.

From my experience, Patkin is right. I am a firm believer that a fish rots from the head first.

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Career Matters Radio — New time and day!

As host of Career Matters Radio heard exclusively on Fox Radio 910 in Roanoke, and streaming live at, I am pleased to announce a new time and day for our show. Beginning July 23, Career Matters will move to Saturday afternoons at 2PM ET and will expand to an hour. Please feel free to call me or email your career- and job-related questions for the show.

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Why College Career Centers Suck

It’s college graduation month, and every year I’m disappointed to hear the number of new graduates who are unable to land a job in the field they studied. I don’t blame the educators, however, in my opinion much of the blame rests with College Career Centers.

Here’s why. After spending tens of thousands of dollars on a college education so that you can learn your intended occupation, you’re given misinformation on how to actually search a job.  For one, nearly all college career service centers require their Advisers to have a Master’s Degree. Yet rarely do these folks have much experience on how to find a job. Think about it. Once they get their own steady paycheck, they don’t leave. I mean, when’s the last time these folks actually looked for a job themselves?

The obvious problem is right on the university websites. I looked at Virginia Tech and Ferrum College just this past week. Their resume samples look like they came out of a book from the mid 1990s. The word “OBJECTIVE” sits right at the top of these resume samples. Please! If you spend that much money on a college education, ignore the Career Services office and find someone off campus who is up-to-date on hiring, job applications, and resume writing. That’s the best investment you can make to enhance your college experience. Otherwise, you many end up paying far more for that college degree in lost wages and deep disappointment.


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Lessons Learned from Charlie Sheen

Watching Charlie Sheen’s career crash and burn like has been an eye opening experience. He’s given us the primer on what not to do if you want to get to the top and stay there.

And he joins the ranks of others, including that airline flight attendant who publicly severed his employment after getting fed up with conditions on the job. Looking back, I’m guessing that flight attendant knows it wasn’t a good idea to act so rashly. I don’t think Charlie is there yet.

As Hollywood’s highest paying sitcom actor, Sheen was at the top of his game. But because of his off screen antics, and reported problems on the set, combined with his very public fight with Chuck Lorre, he lost his job. And after losing his job he continues to publicly proclaim that he’s winning.

I’ll admit I watch “Two and a Half Men,” although not because of Charlie Sheen. I watch it because I find the writing to be funny. Which to me, means that just about any halfway decent actor can recite the lines of a funny writer. But it’s a lot harder to keep viewers engaged if the writing and storyline just aren’t there, regardless of the talent playing the lead role.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Ashton Kutcher will be joining the cast of “Two and a Half Men” although he won’t be playing Charlie Harper. Even CBS/Time Warner is smart enough to admit that Sheen can’t be replaced. Although Sheen did tout his own brilliance as a comedic performer.

The WSJ article adds that Kutcher comes to “Two and a Half Men” with a huge following and an 80% likability rating, whereas Sheen is only liked by 40% of Americans. What Sheen may soon find out is that no one cares if you’re brilliant if they don’t like you.

I suspect that “Two and a Half Men” will survive, if not thrive, from the talent change as long as the writing doesn’t change. And CBS was well within its rights to choose Lorre over Sheen. He’s a ratings generating powerhouse with several sitcoms running on CBS. Sheen on the other hand is a hedonistic actor who thinks the network can’t survive without him.

Lessons learned from Charlie Sheen. As an employee, don’t get your name in the press for bad behavior and lawlessness and expect to keep your job no matter how indispensable you think you are. Make an effort to get along with your co-workers. Don’t bad mouth them.

While many of us can only fantasize of dressing down an insidious co-worker the way Charlie Sheen did, not much good can come of it. Charlie Sheen is looking more ike a whiner than a winner, and CBS has already moved on. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

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I Created a New Job for Myself

For the past 6 or 7 years, I had an idea to put a radio show on the air about the Job Search. Today that dream came true when I launched Career Matters on Fox Radio 910 in Roanoke. I was paralyzed with fear, even though I have 20+ years of experience in radio and television, and another 10 years as a career coach. But I faced my fears and did it anyway. I got zero calls on my first day. But I’m not worried. If I can continue to provide timely information, expert guests with answers about employment issues, and solid advice, I’m confident I can get a following. And sponsors.

So if you’re in the Roanoke area, you’ll find Career Matters every Sunday morning at 11 AM at 910 on your AM dial. But don’t despair if you’re not. We stream it online at

Thanks for listening, and allowing me to help you reach your career dreams as well as mine.