Money Monday: How To Unlock The Hidden Job Market

BY: - 21 Jan '13 | Money

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Photo Credit: photologue_np via Flickr

Imagine spending day after day submitting online job applications only to receive rejection email after rejection email, or worse, no response at all. Unfortunately, I see this way too often. Endless hours of effort and mountains of rejections can lead to despair, doubt and even hopelessness.

But, the problem is often not with the applicant, but with the way he or she approaches the job search.
Here’s a subtle but important fact to consider; most job hires are made without the position even being announced. If a job opening is advertised, it’s often despite the fact that the hiring manager already has a specific candidate in mind.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Duncan Mathison, co-author of “Unlock the Hidden Job Market,” estimates that 50% of job positions are currently filled on an informal basis.

Howard Poplinger, owner of human-resource company Epic Development and Evaluation, puts the number even higher, suggesting that over 80% of today’s job openings aren’t even advertised.

It makes sense, a manager looking for a new employee is more likely to take advantage of her close network of co-workers and colleagues when searching for suggestions of people who can fulfill the position. She may even consult her peers in similar positions at other companies or her alumni networks to seek out qualified candidates. The power of personal referrals she can trust beats announcing the position to millions of job-seekers combing job search sites.

So what does this mean for the typical job applicant? Instead of spending valuable time endlessly submitting low-yield online applications, they should spend just as much time and energy networking.

Yes, you’ve probably heard it all before, but what does networking really mean? Here it is plain and simple. It involves getting your name, qualifications, and the position you’re seeking out to as many people who know and like you as possible.

These people will become your job search army. They are the ones who might be in a position to mention your name the next time someone asks about fulfilling a job position. Most importantly, there should be no shame to your game. Your goal is to let as many people as possible know about your job search.

Job recruiters claim one of the most important, but most overlooked steps, in achieving this goal is the crafting of a networking letter. This letter mentions your qualifications, skills, and the type of job you’re interested in applying for. Send it to as many people you know including family, friends, colleagues, former classmates, and alumni associations, as well as to people you’ve met through volunteer organizations, civic groups, and at church.

Take a look here to see how one man used such networking letter in his job search.

Next, make sure to network with people already in the field.

Let me give you an example:

A relative, frustrated with repeated online job application rejections, decided to join the professional association of the field he was seeking a job. In his case it was the International Right of Way Association (right of way agents negotiate compensation for individuals who allow utility companies to use their land).

Immediately, he received the organization’s journal which was chock full of job offerings not listed on typical internet job search websites. More importantly, he was able to attend a regional conference where he met a director of a company looking for new hires. The introduction led to a series of high profile job leads and interviews.

Today networking is king. Use it effectively and you’ll supercharge your job search. Stay at home endlessly pounding out online job applications and you may remain frustrated and jobless.

BMWK — What are some of the tips you have to share for people looking for a job in 2013?

About the author

Alonzo Peters wrote 298 articles on this blog.

Alonzo Peters is founder of MochaMoney.com, a personal finance website dedicated to helping Black America achieve financial independence.

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Money Monday: Retailers Can Now Charge You A Credit Card “Checkout Fee.” Are You Willing To Pay It?

BY: - 28 Jan '13 | Money

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Just when you think you’re up to your eyeballs in fees here comes yet another one. As of January 27th retailers are now allowed to charge you a fee for using a credit card. This  surcharge could be as high as 4% of the amount of your purchase.

The new charge, known as a “checkout fee”, is the result of a class-action lawsuit brought by retailers against MasterCard, Visa, and several large banks.

Typically, every time you make a purchase with your credit card, the retailer must pay a fee to MasterCard and Visa to process your transaction. In the past both MasterCard and Visa prohibited merchants from passing this charge along to consumers.

Retailers balked that the processing fee, which ranged anywhere from 1% to 4% on a typical purchase, cut deeply into their profit margins. This was especially true for businesses with razor thin 1-2% profit margins like supermarkets and gas stations where the fees could actually wipe out any profit at all.

As part of a negotiated settlement reached last year, merchants won the right to pass the cost of their credit card processing fee along to the consumer in the form of a checkout fee. But implementing the checkout fee is optional. Retailers don’t have to charge it if they don’t want to.

And merchant trade groups argue that most retailers won’t implement the new checkout fee for fears of losing customers. Studies also show that consumers spend more when they use credit cards, another incentive for retailers to hold back from charging the new fee.

But others aren’t so certain. Years ago few predicted sky-high ATM fees. They claimed, in a similar argument with the checkout fee, that competition would keep banks from implementing excessive ATM surcharges. Experts also point to Europe and Australia where credit card checkout fees have become ubiquitous and a major source of profit for retailers.

Consumer advocates claim merchants have been actually passing their Visa and MasterCard processing fee along to consumers for years in the form of slightly higher prices. The fee is reflected in the few pennies more we pay for our stick of butter or gallon of gas.

It’s highly unlikely that these same merchants will suddenly lower their prices as a result of the new settlement, meaning consumers could get charged twice for the convenience of using credit cards – once because prices already factor in the merchant’s credit card processing fee, and twice if the merchant decides to charge a checkout fee.

To ensure you don’t get blindsided, retailers must post clear signage near store entrances and at the point of sale informing you that they are charging a credit card checkout fee. In addition, disclosure of the checkout fee must be printed on your receipt.

To further inform you of your rights, the consumer advocacy group Consumer Action has created an online pamphlet explaining the new credit card checkout fee in detail.

There is good news. Despite the new settlement, credit card checkout fees are still illegal in ten states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas.

With sky-high credit card interest rates and potential new checkout fees, using cash is starting to look more attractive.

BMWK — Do you think merchants will start implementing the new credit card checkout fee? Will you continue doing business with retailers that charge such a fee?

About the author

Alonzo Peters wrote 298 articles on this blog.

Alonzo Peters is founder of MochaMoney.com, a personal finance website dedicated to helping Black America achieve financial independence.

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