Here's a link to a recent article that includes some guidelines for deducting job search expenses from your 2011 taxes, as well as a very helpful reminder that unemployment insurance benefits ARE taxable.
If you had to move for a new job, went back to school or took professional development courses, or spent more than 2% of your gross income on job search expenses, you may be eligible for some nice breaks.
Of course, you do always want to consult with a tax professional instead of just trusting things you read on the internet. ;)
The new Fortune list of 100 best companies to work for just came out - pretty interesting to see the mix of different industries, but also you can click on each company to read a little blurb about what makes it such a great place to work.
For people considering changing jobs or careers, this list is a great way to take a look at some of the options out there (and a nice reminder that some people actually DO have great jobs they love!)
After speaking with a client who has just entered the informational interviewing stage of her job search, I thought it would be a great quick blog post to introduce the general concept, conversation topics, and outcomes.
The informational interview is really just a form of field research. The term was coined by Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute (and lots of other career books). Ideally, you'll be conducting your informational interviews in person, but you'll often find yourself using the same techniques on the phone or by email. This conversation should be pretty short - 20 minutes is a good general target. Much more than that and you'll be asking too much of your contact... which brings me to the next point...
During the informational interview, you're not asking for any favors. Not outright, and not right now, anyway. This is the time that you're asking people about something they have expertise in - most people are happy to talk about something they know well and have been successful at, so you don't want to throw off that comfortable conversation feeling by appearing too eager. Of course, you're not only giving them a chance to talk, you're getting to learn about a topic from an insider, and you're building your network for down the road.
The best way to introduce yourself to your contact is by showing that you already know (at least a quick Google search worth of) something about the contact. It could be as simple as saying, "My colleague recommended I contact you regarding..." or "I read an article you wrote on...". And then one of the next things you say should make it clear that you're not asking for a job. One of the things you are asking for at this point, will be directions to the next step. There was a great New York Times Shifting Careers blog about it a few years ago with a list of questions you might want to ask during your conversation. You could ask your contact who else would be good to speak with, if there are any books you should read on the industry, what professional organizations are active in the field, how he or she got into his or her position, etc. (Oh, and you should absolutely be taking notes during all of this!) You're not only talking about what's great about this type of work - you're also addressing the difficult parts. By the time you're done, you should have a solid list that can serve as an outline for the next steps you'll take. If you still think this might be the right path for you, you'll have a good idea of who to contact next. You might find out that it's not exactly what you imagined, but there's another related job that could be more up your alley, so you can also ask your contact about that.
After your conversations, be sure to send quick thank you notes to your contacts. This will not be the last they hear from you, though! About a month after your informational interview, you should send your contact another thank you note - this one will be a bit longer, and will tell your contact what you did following your conversation. You might say that you went on to talk to other industry experts your contact had suggested, you might say you went to an industry meeting or job fair, you might say you read a recommended book or article. Not only does this second thank you note show your contact that you really did value his or her advice and that you're really committed to this pursuit, it also gives your contact a great opportunity to give you more contacts or tell you about anything that has come up in the last month. And it's further solidifying your connection by keeping you fresh in your contact's mind. Next time a job does open up, you could be the one they call!
Although we all have a different idea of the ideal work-life balance, it takes a certain base set of values to truly enjoy going to your job - whether you put in an 80-hour or a 4-hour workweek.
In addition to new year's resolutions focusing on physical health, family and important relationships, educational goals, and community involvement, the start of the year is a great time to conduct an audit of your career and determine whether your work is meeting your own objectives. For some people, work is life. For others, work facilitates a certain lifestyle. But no matter who you are, it makes for a more complete self to have a job you find valuable. And those of us who have jobs we love are always looking for a way to improve our own performance, get more out of it, and ensure our continued prosperity.
The start of January is such a perfect time for career evaluation not only because it is the start of a new calendar year and the traditional time for resolutions, but also because the job market starts hopping in January. Everyone has just received (or not received) their holiday bonus, vacation time / PTO has been replenished, and there's that feeling of movement in the air (and on the job boards) as workers begin transitioning between employers. New openings are popping up with greater frequency now than perhaps at any other time of year. Even if you're not ready to make a move yet, this is an excellent time to research employment options as companies publicize job openings and tell you exactly what they want from candidates and what they are willing to offer candidates. (Although I have lots of things to say about an active job search vs. a passive job search and about how relying on job postings to find work is absolutely ridiculous, there's also a lot to be gained from reading the job boards to see what's being listed out there, where the demand is, and what employers are willing to put on the table to the general population.)
If you're committed to believing in your work, excelling at your work, and getting the greatest return from your work, you'll find enjoyment and meaning in your work. Aligning your career with these objectives will lead to having a career that makes sense to you and pays you back for what you put into it.