Because I understand that half of the path to financial independence is making money (the other half = not squandering it) and because job hunting season is in full swing on campus, here’s a quick refresher on resumes and cover letters.
- No longer than ONE PAGE.
- Font – Standard (Times New Roman, Arial, etc..) and 10-12 size.
- Formatting – Keep the formatting consistent throughout (if one job title is in italics, all job titles should be in italics).
- Order – Reverse chronological order within each category (Most recent experience 1st, next most recent experience 2nd, etc..).
- Quantify actions & results whenever possible (“Raised $20,000” is more compelling than “Raised money.” Ditto on “Managed 40 volunteers” v. “Managed volunteers”).
- Put the most impressive/relevant experiences for the job you’re applying to in the top third of your resume. This is your chance to make a good 1st impression.
- Verbs – Use varied and exciting verbs. (“Designed” not “Worked on.” Using any verb more than twice is a no no.)
- High school – I’d advise only including high school only if it’s a well known school, is in the city in which you want to work, or you did something unusually impressive/unique (i.e. Founded international nonprofit to fight anablephobia in male monkeys).
- Skills – Include foreign languages (Be honest – a friend of mine wrote “Spanish – Proficient” on his resume and was interviewed completely in Spanish. Needless to say, 2 years staring at the cute girl in front of him in his high school Spanish class had not adequately prepared him for this), computer skills (Microsoft Office, STATA, etc…), and lab skills.
- Interests – Include only if you’re actually interested in them and they’re truly interesting. (ex: “Singing 17th century opera, mountain climbing in Africa” = yes. “Reading, running, photography” = no.) Interests show the recruiter you’re a real person and are interested in the world outside of your school’s library. Can’t think of anything good? Don’t put anything.
- Structure/ Order
- Contact Information – Name, address, phone, email
- Education – University name, graduation year, study abroad programs, GPA and/or SAT score (if requested)
- Relevant Experience – The most impressive/most relevant experience for the job you’re applying for
- Other Experiences – Grouped by category (Research Experience, Leadership Experience, etc…)
- Skills/Interests – 1-2 lines
- “References available upon Request.” PSYCHE! DO NOT INCLUDE THIS! It’s outdated and occupies space unnecessarily (We’d hope by the time you’re over 22 that someone can put in a good word for you, right?)
- No longer than ONE PAGE
- Pick 3 activities (max) that you want to explain in more detail. Don’t regurgitate your entire resume.
- Link each experience to the job you’re applying for (ex: I did X and learned X which will help me do X at “Company Name”)
- Focus on how you approached each problem and broke it into pieces.
- Highlight any results or success you’ve had that were based on your unique contribution and times you took initiative or went “above and beyond”
- Introduction/Why do you want to work for Company X?
- I am so great because I did this.
- I am also great because I did this.
- Closing/Thanks/I look forward to working for Company X.
- Creativity – Resumes and cover letters are not the place to showcase your brilliant and daring creativity. I’d stick pretty closely to whatever format is suggested and save the creativity for your next modern dance recital.
- Double check that the recruiter’s name and company name are spelled right. Nothing is worse than sending a cover letter talking about how much you want to work at Apple to Microsoft.
- Looking for an example? Here’s an resume and cover letter resume and cover letter that is a mash up of several good ones I’ve seen. This is not meant as an ideal to be copied exactly, but one example of what it looks like when you follow the guidelines above.
Sample Resume and Cover Letter
- Lastly, don’t take anything anyone (even Beyond Beer Money) tells you about resumes & cover letters too seriously. Every opportunity is different, and resumes and cover letters are read by people – meaning that each reader is intrigued by slightly different things.
Do you have something to add? Disagree? Want advice? Comment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you ready for this? Are you sure? The one thing financial gurus, blogs, talk show hosts, authors and billionaires all agree is the most important step to being financially independent (and certainly to being rich). If you do this for 2 months you will blow yourself away. Here it is………..
TRACK EVERY DOLLAR YOU SPEND!
(for at least 2 months)
- You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken – I started doing this last summer and within the 1st 2 months realized I was spending more than 25% of my food budget on ice cream!! 25%!!!!! Ice cream!! I like ice cream (obviously) but I like having the money to do whatever the heck I want more. Needless to say, I now think twice before making a Ben & Jerry’s run with friends.
- You’re likely to spend less money. – 1. Because you’ll be more aware of your spending ($5 of my hard earned money on a crappy magazine? I don’t think so.) and 2. Because keeping track of your spending is a pain in the butt. (I all but stopped buy gum at convenience stores when I started keeping track of my spending because recording it was annoying. Now, I buy gum in bulk when I go grocery shopping – which is cheaper than buying a pack at a time anyway.)
Create a log that’s convenient for you (the key goal here is that you use it, so keep it simple)
- Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets – This is how I do it. I like this because it’s simple and makes it easy to divide the money I spend into categories. Also, seeing it on my desktop while I’m wasting time stumbling around online reminds me to fill it in. To get a free sample templates of how I organize tracking my expenses, email me at email@example.com.
- By hand – A moleskine or other small notebook works well and is portable. I’d suggest coming up with 5 or fewer categories and for each month, labeling the top of 5 consecutive pages w/ your categories (i.e. Pg.1 – Transportation, Pg. 2 – Rent + Utilities, Pg. 3 – Entertainment, etc…)
- Online – For technology geeks out there, Quicken now offers its software for free online. I’d recommend this only if you feel comfortable using it and are likely to stick with it.
- Fill it in at least every few days – if you wait any longer you’ll forget what you bought
- Use your debit card -that way you can check what you remember buying against the online log of debit card transactions (Note: Looking at your account online does not substitute for tracking it on your own. It’s not divided by categories so you won’t see your spending patterns as clearly)
- Make it part of your procrastination routine – We all waste time on trivial things (facebook, twitter, etc..). Why not spend a couple minutes updating your budget whenever you’re tempted to check the facebook status of that kid you went to 3rd grade with? Hey, whatever works.
- Be Honest . – The goal is to “track your spending” not “track your spending on things that you’re proud to spend money on” If you spend $80 at Fuzzy’s Liquor store, that needs to go in your record (although maybe not in your next letter home). Remember: this is for your benefit and your eyes only. Be honest.
- Include everything. -Example Categories: Food (Groceries, Eating Out), Transportation (car payments, bus pass, gas), Housing (rent, utilities – gas, water, electric, phone, internet), Entertainment, Insurance, Financials (student debt, credit card payments), Health/Beauty (clothes, gym membership, toiletries), Pets, Misc
GOOD LUCK!!! Email me and let me know how it’s going at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Get Rich Slowly: http://www.getrichslowly.org Easily one of the most popular personal finance blogs out there, “Get Rich Slowly— recently named most inspiring money blog by Money magazine — is devoted to sensible personal finance. I share stories about debt elimination, saving money, and practical investing. I also post occasional reviews of books, magazines, and software. And, of course, I scour the web for the latest personal finance tools and articles.”
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich: http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com Focuses on personal finance and personal entrepreneurship. Good emphasis on both spending less money and earning more.
- Money Under 30: http://www.moneyunder30.com “Money Under 30 provides weekly financial advice articles for twentysomethings. The blog features a mix of articles on budgeting and money management, saving and investing, using credit wisely and getting out of debt. The site also covers career issues and offers advice for young entrepreneurs.”
- Poorer Than You: http://www.poorerthanyou.com/“Poorer Than You is a personal finance blog for college students and twenty-somethings. Topics include credit cards, savings, budgeting, earning more money, evaluating job offers… from big financial decisions down to small ones, from the latest news to time-tested advice.”
- Young Professional Finance Blog: http://www.youngprofessionalfinance.com Great variety of posts on entrepreneurship, career advice, and financial independence written in a very accessible way. Also check out the author’s other site www.ypblogs.com for a compilation of money, career, and personal advice for young professionals.
- Bargaineering: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles Written by a recent college graduate, Bargaineering offers everything from dumpster diving stories to salary comparisons between public and private college grads.
1. Don’t carry a credit card balance!
Weird advice, I realize, considering the whole idea of credit is the joy of spending money you don’t have. That said, paying 18% interest to a credit card company is pretty similar to throwing your cash out the window. I recommend getting a credit card because they are convenient and it’s important to build your credit – but only if you can pay off the minimum balance each month.
2. Pick a good credit card
…Preferably one that will give you rewards you will actually use (like cash back, but check the percentage, 1% cash back is not going to fund your trip to Tahiti) and has an easy online interface. I’m a big fan of Capital One credit cards because they’re very customizable, customer service is good, and their website is easy to navigate.
For other card recommendations, check out credit card recommendations for new college grads on www.moneysmartlife.com and/or www.moneyunder30.com.
3. Get your FREE yearly credit report. Every year.
A better use of the time you spend facebook stalking ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, go to: www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
There are 3 companies that track your credit. Check all once per year or 1 every 4 months. Make sure to fix any mistakes before they can negatively affect your credit score (making it harder to borrow money for a home or other investment).
4. Ask for a lower rate!
Call your credit card company once every 6 months and ask for a lower rate. They’ll usually say yes, and while it’s best not to carry a balance, if you’re going to have a balance might as well have a low rate.
I’ll break down key points from many of these books in upcoming posts, but for the overachievers out there that want to get ahead, here are some of the best books on personal finance for people in their 20s. The links lead you to Amazon.com but in true Beyond Beer Money style, I’d suggest you head over to the library.
- Your Money or Your Life – Dominguez & Robin. A class that presents a holistic view of money focusing on simplicity. Great ideas such include how to figure out your real hourly wage (including travel time, miscellaneous expenses- warning: it can be really horrifying). Time is money.
- Millionaire Next Door – Thomas J. Stanley. A fascinating study of millionaires and how they earn and spend their money (How much do they spend on suits? What cars do they buy?). Shatters the myth of millionaire wallpapering their bathrooms with $100 bills by demonstrating they get rich the same way everyone else does – hard work, understanding their finances, saving, and a little luck.
- A Million Bucks by Thirty – Alan Corey. Funny (how many personal finance books can you say that about?). Although Corey’s millions are the result of smart (and somewhat lucky) real estate decisions, the advice he presents on saving and making smart money choices are timeless. Also, any man who starts out eating nothing but Ramen for an extended period of time and living in the Spanish Harlem and ends up a millionaire is doing something right.
- Millionaire by Thirty – Douglas Andrew. Includes fairly unconventional advice about buying a home early with no down payment and investing in life insurance to build assets tax free. Interesting book written by 2 brothers that built net worths over $1.5 million before their 30th birthday.
Did I miss something good? Write me and tell me.