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How to Sell Yourself as Unique on Your Resume

How do you make your resume stand out when there are literally hundreds of applicants? Most hiring managers agree that there are certain characteristics of winning resumes. The resumes that encourage further discussion, an interview or a job offer, incorporate many of these characteristics. Learn what those characteristics are so that you can sell yourself as unique and create a resume that will stand out from the crowd.

Learn the Lingo

Many job applications are electronic these days, so you must account for that. Research your industry and analyze the job position closely for industry “buzz words,” then work a few of those words into the body of both your resume and cover letter. The software that reviews and filters resumes when they are submitted will select your resume as more relevant and move it to the top of the pile. Be careful to not overuse the keywords, though, as employers and hiring managers know that savvy applicants will know to use them. Overusing them can give the wrong impression and, in the end, can work against you. The best rule of thumb is to use one industry word every few sentences or so. You can find out what the industry words are by going to the company’s website or researching online.

Customize the Resume to the Job

It is acceptable to use the same resume to apply for similar jobs, but you should avoid sending the exact same resume out. In other words, tweak each one slightly so that it is specific to the job that is being applied for. Include all of the accomplishments and skills that are relevant to that particular job and opt to leave those that are least relevant out (especially if you need the space). Experience that is decades old, unless it is directly relevant, should be removed, as listing something more than 10 years old can work against you as well.

Avoid Cute Graphics or Fancy Fonts

Hiring managers and human resources departments do not have time to deal with resumes that are difficult to read with fancy fonts, garish colors or cute graphics in the corner. The best resumes are printed on high quality paper, using standard fonts and black ink. Many new to the job search will attempt to use ornate fonts or colored inks in order to catch attention. Unfortunately, it catches the wrong kind of attention and sends the wrong kind of message. Where resumes are concerned, just the relevant facts are required. Remember, the entire purpose of a resume is to encourage the human resources manager to call you in for a face-to-face interview.

Make Sure There are No Mistakes

Resumes can stand out for good reasons and they can equally stand out for bad reasons. Making simple spelling mistakes or using poor grammar in a resume usually signals laziness to the interviewer. This is why it is crucial to make sure your resume is error free and that the most important information, as it pertains to the position, are listed early in the resume.

Numbers Rock

Quantifiable results speak volumes to hiring managers. Showing specifically how you kept costs down, the percentage growth you brought to a project or any other achievement that can be quantified using numbers, is resume gold. This is because most human resources managers know that past performance is often a very good indicator of future results. Most human resources managers have a rough understanding of most job titles, but where many resumes fall flat is on the job description portion. What the hiring manager most wants to know is how you contributed in a meaningful way in this position. A good rule of thumb is to go back through your resume and count the number of percent (%) or dollar signs ($) that you have, then make a point of revising and doubling those.

Use bullets whenever possible, in combination with the numbers or percentages because they make information easier to digest for the reader. Plus, the bullets call attention to the accomplishments. Above all else, your resume should be reader friendly.

Create a Dynamic Objective Statement

Objective statements are sometimes the hardest part of the resume to write. It is difficult because most job applicants make them too long. Instead of a very long, descriptive paragraph following a header, try condensing everything into an executive statement of a line or two. The objective statement is a preview of coming attractions and should include what you want the hiring manager to know most.

Clean Up Your Social Media

While it is not part of your resume, so to speak, most interviewers, if they are seriously considering you, will view your social media. LinkedIn, specifically, is geared toward business and often recruiters will flip through LinkedIn rather than post a job position. Make sure your social media is not presenting an alternate view of you, and if you are in the job market consider toning down other social media sites as well. Resumes uploaded to LinkedIn should match your current resume. It is all too easy to forget to keep that current. You can also post your portfolio to your profile there, increasing the visibility of your resume.

Business Management Practices That You Can Apply to Your Everyday Life

Business management skills are used by managers and workers alike to achieve success in the workplace. Many of these business management skills also apply to everyday life. Developing these business management skills is very important for workplace success, but understanding how they work is necessary for applying those same skills to everyday living. Most successful people, and those who state that they are happiest, are individuals who have managed to bring some of their workplace discipline into their personal lives.

Time Management

One of the most important workplace skills is time management. In the workplace, time management involves setting an appropriate amount of time to accomplish a task. Managers have to create an overall deadline as well as a day-to-day schedule that determines how many hours must go into specific tasks to accomplish the overall deadline. Time management skills directly transfer into everyday living. One of the most common examples of using time management skills in everyday life is getting out of debt or avoiding falling into debt.

Individuals can create a set schedule for when they will pay off their bills or debt. For many, this is very important, since many plans have interest rates increase whenever individuals miss a payment. Without properly managing a payment schedule, it is very likely the individual will fall further into debt because he or she did not prioritize when to make payments.

Time management also helps any individuals who have a habit of procrastinating. By creating a set schedule to follow, individuals ensure they are always getting their necessary tasks done. It can prevent people from scrambling to complete a task they had forgotten or put off until the last minute.

For parents, instilling proper time management at home is very important. Parents can create set schedules for their children to ensure they have time to get schoolwork and chores done, while still having time for themselves to pursue their own activities. It is even more important for children involved in after school events, since these can end up being very time consuming. Just as in the workplace, it is important for children to understand when they may have taken on too much and know when it is time to bow out, ask for help or delegate tasks.

Project Execution

Project execution often goes hand in hand with time management. In the career sense, project execution refers to all the steps necessary to complete a goal. For example, a manager has to file 10 reports within the next five days. Before the manager can use time management to create a schedule, he or she has to identify what is needed to complete each report. If certain reports require additional time to research, the manager must take that into account before setting a schedule.

In everyday life, project execution is usually much easier to apply than in the workplace. Workplace managing is often complicated because certain tasks may take significantly longer than expected. For example, a simple research project may turn out to be much more involved for the manager. There may be situations when this happens in everyday life, but it is typically not as involved. A trip to buy groceries may take longer than expected because of traffic, but that should only have a minimal impact on the rest of the scheduled events.

Communication and Conflict Resolution

Communication refers to knowing what to say to someone and how to say it. In the workplace, managers rely on communication for a variety of critical tasks, such as establishing meetings, informing other workers of what is required of them and making deals with other businesses. Conflict resolution is a specific type of communication that involves solving a conflict between two or more people. While conflict resolution often involves more than just communicating, communication is still important since it allows all the involved parties to express their problems and determine a possible solution.

Communication is just as important in everyday life as it is in the workplace. Individuals constantly communicate with friends, family members and anyone else they encounter in their day-to-day activities. It is important to understand when something is or is not appropriate to say, as well as how to effectively convey a message. A joke might be appropriate to make around a friend, but to a complete stranger it may come off as crude or offensive. When giving instructions to someone else, it is important to keep in mind the level of education or training the other party has. For example, an IT specialist would simplify his or her speech if he or she was trying to walk a friend or family member through a technical problem.

Proper conflict resolution keeps problems from escalating. Conflict resolution does not always have to relate to two parties having a disagreement. Sometimes conflict resolution is used in deal making, with one party agreeing to help the other in exchange for assistance with a problem he or she is not equipped to handle. Understanding how to reciprocate and assist each other is a skill that, when learned, can ease stressful situations both at home and at work.

How to Encourage Your Kids to Eat Healthy

When it comes to getting your kids to make healthy choices, eating nutritious meals may not be as difficult as you think. While it will be an easier task if you start with them from the beginning (yes, as infants), older children and teens can be persuaded to make better decisions regarding the food they put into their bodies. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the ability to make good food choices. A child’s ability to select foods that will keep his or her body healthy and disease free is the gift that will keep giving, because your child will teach their own children one day. The far-ranging implications of eating those peas and carrots is profound. Find a way to begin healthier eating with your family today. Here are a few ideas for encouraging children to eat healthier.

Be a Good Example

Children will model their behaviors and choices after their parents’ food decisions and statements about food. Instead of constantly barraging them with the healthy food language, simply be the example. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and select lower sugar alternatives for snacks and desserts. When opting for high calorie desserts or meals, frame it as the exception and not the rule. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet can go a long way to encouraging your kids to do the same. The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not apply here.

Get Everyone Involved in Meal Planning

It is much easier to get everyone onboard if everyone has a say in what is going to be offered at the table and for snacking. Allowing young children to select from a list of options can be empowering for children and it teaches them to take responsibility for their own bodies. This creates time in the day for parents and children to make the meal together and to spend time with one another in a common chore.

Make Grocery Shopping an Adventure

Groceries do not always have to come from the supermarket. Many farmers markets have the same produce, and often in better quantity and quality, than the grocers. Children love to make special trips to pick out the perfect corn for dinner, or in-season berries. Dairy farms, u-pick farms are also excellent ways for younger children to learn about food production and where it originates, and to give the food that is gathered special meaning. Vegetables are elevated to a special status when they have been picked by your own hand.

They Will Choose Fruit

It is a myth that young children, when given the choice, will usually choose junk food over fruits. Place a gleaming bowl of raspberries or a box of cookies on the table, and chances are the raspberries will win each time. The color of the fruits naturally draws the eye and, besides being good for you, fruits are nature’s candy (without the empty calories). Make sure you have a wide assortment of fruit and bite-sized vegetables within easy reach for children when they want to self-serve a snack. Teens will appreciate the grab and go options of fruits and vegetables, especially if there is a low-calorie dip to go with them. Smoothies are a great way to get those required servings of fruits and vegetables, and they taste great.

New Food Phobias

Children will sometimes refuse to eat a food simply because they have never eaten it before. This is nature’s way of making sure they do not ingest something dangerous. Unfortunately, for parents trying to get their children to try something healthy for the first time, this failsafe can work against them. One way to introduce a new fruit or vegetable is to simply eat it yourself and offer them a bite of it. Other times, a good technique is to mention that someone the child admires likes this type of food. Start slowly.

Do Not be the Food Police

Forcing someone to eat a food he or she does not want to eat is a guarantee that this person will hate it for life. If your child refuses to try a new food, taste it or eat the entire portion of a new food, just continue to make it available. Making comments will only slow down the transition and the acceptance of a new food. In the end, your child may simply not like the taste of something. That is okay. There are many, many fruits and vegetables to try and discover. Discovering new fruits and vegetables together can be a fun outing and a great way to introduce new foods. Tasting them together can be a fun family event.

Moderation with Junk Foods

Cutting junk food out altogether actually works against you, because it develops the idea that the junk food is a guilty pleasure (which makes you and the kids want it even more). Having junk food occasionally, relegates it to foods that you sometimes have, which makes junk food no big deal. In the end, if there are other alternatives, the taste and desire for the junk food does go away.

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How to Decide Between a House and an Apartment

When you need to find a new place to live you will be faced with deciding to either rent an apartment or purchase your own house. Both homeownership and apartment rental have upfront and ongoing costs associated with them. You must also consider the fact that the responsibilities associated with renting versus buying vary a great deal, such as the level of property maintenance for which you will be responsible. Your lifestyle, the size of your family and your short and long-term needs will also play a role in whether you should rent an apartment or purchase a home. Prior to either buying a house or renting an apartment you need to think about your budget, your family’s needs and how much time and effort you have available to invest in your new home. Below you will find information which will help you to decide if you should rent an apartment or purchase your own home.

The Immediate Costs of Home Ownership Versus Apartment Rental

If you have a limited budget then you will find the immediate costs of apartment rental to be much more affordable than the immediate costs of buying a home. Renting an apartment will typically require you to pay for your first and last month of rent upfront. You may also be required to pay a security deposit. You must inquire about whether a security deposit is required prior to signing an apartment rental agreement because security deposit rules vary from one property owner to another.

Purchasing your own home will require you to pay for a home appraisal, inspection, down payment, insurance and other closing costs. As a new home owner, it will also be your responsibility to make any repairs or additions to your home that are required. You will also be responsible for furnishing your home, which may include purchasing new furniture, paying to have your existing belongings moved or a combination of both.

The Long-Term Costs of Home Ownership Versus Apartment Rental

You must pay rent each month when you rent an apartment. The amount of rent you are charged will depend on the location and size of the apartment. Apartments rental rates vary greatly, but are often highest in large cities. You may also have the ongoing expense of paying to do your laundry, unless you happen to rent an apartment with its own washer and dryer area. In addition, you may be required to pay additional monthly fees for pets and public transportation, if there is nowhere to park a vehicle at your apartment.

If you choose to purchase a home instead of renting an apartment then you will not have to pay monthly rent, but you will have to make monthly home loan payments. You must also pay for your own utilities, property maintenance and repairs. Your other long-term expenses will include property taxes and home insurance payments.

The Flexibility of Apartment Rental Versus the Long-Term Stability of Purchasing a Home

When deciding whether to buy your own home or rent an apartment you must also decide if you value long-term stability or total flexibility more. Apartment rental can often be done from one month to the next, which would allow you to move out on short notice. If you or someone in your family may be transferred for work on short notice or should move quickly for some other reason than the apartment lifestyle might be best for you.

Home ownership provides long-term stability, which is something you will want if you are trying to raise a family. That way your children can attend the same school system for many years and you can form close bonds with your community. You will also have the option of passing your home down to your children when you get older.

How to Choose a House or an Apartment Based on Your Lifestyle

When choosing an apartment or a house based on your lifestyle, your first consideration should be your family. If you have several children or pets then living in a small apartment is likely to be a poor choice. Purchasing a home will give your children and pets plenty of space and freedom to move about without disturbing neighbors.

If you live alone or live only with a spouse and do not have immediate plans for a family then living in a small apartment may be your most convenient choice. Apartment living will prevent you from having to worry about property maintenance and reduce the amount of time you must spend cleaning your home each week. Therefore, your schedule will be freer to focus on work, continuing your education or enjoying your favorite hobbies.

Choosing a House or an Apartment Based on Neighborhood Considerations

The neighborhood in which you plan to live will also play a role in whether you choose a home or an apartment to live in. If you prefer to move to a large city then apartments will be more plentiful. If your preferences lean more toward small town living then a house may be your only option. Proximity to resources your family needs around the neighborhood must also be considered when you are making your final decision regarding choosing a new home. Some examples of such resources include schools, fire departments, police stations, hospitals and shopping centers.

5 Surefire Tests to Gauge Your Overall Health

Keeping track of health is very important for people of all ages. Unfortunately, determining health can be a little tricky. There are many individuals who only concern themselves with their health when something is wrong. While it is naturally very important to treat health issues as they come up, it also helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent any issues from occurring in the first place. There are several important tests that individuals can perform to gauge their overall health. Some of these are tests can be done at home, while others are tests that require visiting a doctor’s office.

Blood Pressure Test

As patients get older, their doctors remind them how important it is to test their blood pressure. A blood pressure test is part of a standard checkup, but there are also several ways to test blood pressure outside of a doctor’s office. Individuals can purchase their own blood pressure device. Many stores that have a pharmacy or a health section also feature a blood pressure test. The test just involves placing an inflatable cuff around an arm and then measuring the blood pressure with a gauge.

A healthy blood pressure is 120/80. Anyone with a blood pressure ranging from 120-139/80-89 are at risk of prehypertension. If it is not treated over time, it will progress into either stage one or stage two of hypertension. Hypertension is very dangerous because there is very little warning when a patient has it. Despite not having visible symptoms, it causes series damage to the circulatory system. Patients with hypertension are at risk of many other health conditions, several which may be fatal.

Diabetes Tests

A diabetes test measures the average blood sugar in a patient. There are a couple of different types of diabetes tests. The most common is known as the A1C test, which looks at the average blood sugar level for the past two or three months. If the test turns up unusual results, there are three other types of tests available. The first is a random blood sugar test, which is just a blood test taken at a random time to view the amount of blood sugar in the patient. A fasting blood sugar test is blood tested after fasting for an evening. The other type of test is an oral glucose tolerance test. It involves fasting overnight, but then drinking a sugary liquid for the test.

If a patient has diabetes, there are additional tests that are available depending on his or her condition. There are simple diabetes tests available for home use, but anything more complex requires a doctor visit. In most situations, home tests are only recommended after a patient has been diagnosed, then he or she can use the test to monitor his or her condition.

Anyone that is overweight should consider getting a diabetes test. In addition, any patients over 45 years of age are encouraged to get a diabetes test, even if they are not overweight.

Abdominal Plank Test

Having a strong core is very important for the body. As an individual gets older, a strong core prevents possible back pains. A strong core is also important for maintaining basic movement and stability. A simple way to test abdominal core strength is to lay down in the planking position. If an individual is able to maintain the planking position for at least two minutes, he or she has a healthy core. To get the best results, the tester should pull in his or her bellybutton to help achieve the plank position. The tester can draw in and tightening the lower pelvic muscles, doing a squeeze allows testers to feel their core abdominal muscles.

The Sitting and Rising Test

Another simple test that individuals can perform at home to test their health is known as the sitting-rising test (SRT). The SRT just measures an individual is able to sit and rise from the floor without using either their hands or knees. The tester can achieve a maximum amount of 10 points. For every body part used to help the tester rise, he or she subtracts one point. For example, if a tester has to use his or her hand to push up, he or she would subtract one point.

The SRT is a very simple test, but it does a very good job of measuring several important health factors including flexibility, balance, muscle strength and overall motor coordination. An ideal score on the test is eight. Anything lower than three is considered a very serious sign that the tester is in poor health.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Another simple way to measure health is comparing waist-to-hip ratio. This very simple test involves the tester using a tape measure to record the circumference of his or her waist and hip. After measuring, divide waist circumference by the hip circumference. The results will help determine whether or not the tester is overweight. The ideal result is 0.8 for men, and 0.7 for women. The purpose of the test is to determine how fat is distributed in the body. Carrying too much fat on the top is dangerous, since it increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

10 Family-Friendly Games You Can Play with Your Children

You want to spend time with your family, but need something that everyone will like? Finding something that interests everyone is a tough balance, especially if you have children whose ages span more than a few years. The following offers 10 different games for all venues and age ranges. These games are appropriate for the ages specified and, ultimately, it is up to the parent to determine the maturity and ability of his or her children when attempting the games.

Indoor Games

Weather does not always cooperate and being stuck inside does not have to equate to a boring day. Keeping craft items on hand can make playing this game an easy task, one that all family members may enjoy taking part in.

Younger Children – Paper Bag Divas

Gather the following materials:

  • Paper bags (or old socks)
  • Yarn
  • Glue
  • Markers
  • Craft eyes
  • Cell Phone (with music apps)
  • Pipe cleaners, construction paper, buttons, etc.

Spend time creating paper bag popstars. Make sure to give the paper bag rock star a name and then create a name for the band. Next, select a family-friendly song that the band can perform. Pick a song that everyone knows and sing along with the music. Do several in a row and create a concert to perform for invited friends and family members.

Older Children – Twister

Twister is a game that even older children love to do, especially when it is with their less than flexible adults. Twister is a game that is played on a large plastic sheet covered in colored circles. Players take turns spinning an indicator that will show which circle must be touched by the player. The player who fails to touch the colored circle on his or her turn, or who falls in the attempt, is out. Play continues until there is only one very flexible player on the mat.

Board Games

While board games are most often played indoors, many board games find their way into the out of doors as well. Here are a couple of games that will do well in either environment.

Younger Children – Blokus

Blokus resembles the old Tetris games. The rules are very simple to follow and if your child knows his or her colors, he or she can play reasonably well. Blokus asks players to place their piece on the game board, then add to their color. Colored pieces must touch their corresponding color piece. Faces of pieces can never touch. Play as many pieces as possible. The person who plays the most pieces, wins.

Older Children – Oh Snap!

A hilarious game that will have older children rolling on the floor laughing. The game is a spin-off of the earlier game called Jenga, where blocks are removed without toppling the tower. In this game, the player must remove a wooden disc from a spring-loaded tension bar on a provided board. Since they are so tightly packed, some pieces will be able to be removed easily, while others will cause the bar to snap, shooting pieces around and rearranging the board. It is a very suspenseful game.

Video Games

Be the cool parent who plays video games. The listed games are user friendly for those unused to toggling between too many switches.

Younger Children

Sesame Street One Upon a Monster (2 – 5 years of age)

WII Party (6 – 9 years of age)

Older Children

Child of Light (10 – 12 years of age)

Valiant Hearts (13 – 18 years of age)

Outdoor Games

Playing games outdoors can be fun for the entire family. Games that promote team work or offer ample opportunity to move and get some exercise are the best choices. Here are a couple of games that both older and younger children (even adults) will enjoy.

Younger Children – Duck, Duck, Goose!

Most children in the U.S. grow up playing this game and find it fast paced and fun. Everyone sits in a circle, with one family member being elected to be the runner (this person stands outside of the circle). Then, the runner runs around the circle tapping everyone’s head as he or she shouts, “Duck, Duck, Goose!” When the runner taps someone’s head and shouts, “Goose!”, that person must jump up and run around the circle to catch the runner. If the runner makes it back to the person’s space in the circle, he or she is considered safe and the new person becomes the runner. If the runner is caught, then he or she must continue to be the runner until he or she finds an open space in the circle.

Older Children – Geocaching

Geocaching has become all the rage for older family members. Geocaching utilizes the GPS function on cell phones. Most app stores offer free geocaching apps. Parents can set difficulty levels and most state parks now offer geocaching. What is Geocaching? Geocaching is a game utilizing GPS and when players successfully locate the item that is hidden at the given coordinates, various rewards are offered. The game is global, and has about 2.4 billion caches hidden all over the world. Decide as a family which adventure you will go on and see what you can discover together.

The Most Expensive California Cities to Live In

There is no denying that California is one of the most luxurious states to live in, but the luxury comes at a price. The overall cost of living in California ultimately varies depending on the city. While this is true of every state, the cost of living in California has a much greater fluctuation. This is due to several factors, but mainly stemming from the economy, unemployment rates and migration of populations within the state. When determining how expensive it is to live in a city, there are several factors that are considered. The price of housing, food, gas, health insurance, general utilities and transportation are all factored in to determine how expensive it is to live in a certain city.

Salinas

At a glance, Salinas might not seem like it would be one of the most expensive California cities. Salinas is primarily known for large plots of land used for agriculture, which is a large part of why it is such an expensive city to live in. Many of the homes for sale in Salinas have huge plots of land, which drastically increases the cost of buying a home. In addition, Salinas has several expensive private schools that also increases the overall cost of living in the city.

San Diego

The cost of living in San Diego has always been very high. It was not uncommon in previous years for San Diego to rank amongst the most expensive cities to live in, even on lists that look at more than just California. One of the misconceptions regarding why San Diego is so expensive has to do with the housing prices. While the cost of houses is above average for the state, they are not as high as some other California cities. What truly raises the cost of living in San Diego is household utilities and services.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa is similar to Salinas since the average visitor to California would not expect housing to be so expensive. As of 2015, it was estimated that homes in Santa Rosa are priced roughly 75 percent higher than the average cost of housing in California. One of the main reasons that many are surprised at the cost of living in Santa Rosa comes from the fact that it is very different than other cities in California, which are much heavier metropolitan hubs. What it lacks in night clubs and high-end restaurants, it makes up for in beautiful landscape, which helps contribute to the overall cost of living.

San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is another California city that is famously featured on many lists of most expensive cities to live in. One of the reasons the city is so expensive has to do with location. San Luis Obispo is located almost directly in between Hollywood and San Francisco. In addition, it is also located in one of the heaviest produce markets in all of California. Many California business owners capitalize on the prime location with expensive shops and restaurants, all of which contribute to the overall cost of living. Most of these shops cater to those who have the available capital to spend.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and environments in all of California. In addition, it is also one of the most well-known cities in California, which makes any property in Santa Barbara highly sought after. It is one of the most comfortable cities in California, but that comfort comes with a steep cost of living.

San Francisco

San Francisco is another one of the most well-known locations in California. Like San Diego, San Francisco has a reputation for having an incredibly high cost of living. The city is filled with beautiful sights to see and has a very active nightlife. San Francisco is also a very popular vacation destination, which adds to the overall cost of living in the area.

San Jose

San Jose is filled with large, expensive homes. While that alone is enough to raise the prices in the city, San Jose is also one of the economic hubs in California. Many workers prioritize homes in San Jose just because of how close it is to where they work. The high employment rate in the city has also led to it becoming one of the fastest growing cities in California, which further increases how much it costs to live in San Jose. Projections indicate that this will continue to be a trend.

Los Angeles

There are many different factors which contribute to Los Angeles’s distinction for being one of the most expensive cities in California. The housing is naturally expensive, but the utilities are also quite costly, similar to Salinas. In addition, many of the restaurants and social hotspots around Los Angeles are extremely expensive, offering exclusivity to those who have the money to afford it. The average cost of goods is higher, too, than in some of the surrounding counties, making it necessary for many residents to commute to neighboring communities where the costs are lower.

Mistakes to Avoid When Crafting Your Cover Letter

The cover letter is the first impression you give to a potential employer, so making certain that it represents you is crucial. Often cited as being a deciding factor when making a determination for an interview, you must be certain that the cover letter is not only grammatically correct, but that it is crafted in a way that convinces the employer to take positive action. In order to do that, you need to avoid making some of these common mistakes when crafting your next cover letter.

Do Not Make the Cover Letter Longer Than a Page

Remember, you are trying to intrigue and hint at your abilities as well as qualifications for the job. If you tell everything in the cover letter, where is the incentive to look over the resume? Resist the urge to insert graphics, icons or cute pictures on the cover letter as well. Not only does this add to the length of the cover letter, but it will look unprofessional. There are some exceptions to the rule, especially if you are a captain of industry with loads of information, but most resume builders are not in this subset. Keep the information tight, concise and relevant.

Do Not Resort to False Flattery

If you are impressed with the company and it is one of the reasons you are applying, then definitely say so, but flattery without substance can come across as insincere. The same applies for your attributes. There is a delicate balance between factually stating your skillset and motivation for applying for the job and simply bragging about your own exploits. A good rule of thumb is to read back through the cover letter and to make note of the word “I”. If there a large number of them, you are guilty of this mistake. The goal is to show how you can meet the company’s needs, not your life story.

Refrain from Repeating Resume Information

Simply summing up what is already on your resume wastes everyone’s time. Choose some of the highlights from the resume and discuss them briefly in the cover letter, perhaps adding in a short story or anecdote to accompany them. The best cover letters read like a short story with a beginning, middle and end.

Do Not Skip the Proofreading

Many employers will simply discard the cover letter and resume if there are spelling mistakes or grammatical issues in the cover letter. This indicates that you did not take the time to look it over and if you are this careless with a cover letter, what might you do with real job responsibilities or sensitive documents? Do not assume that spell check will catch everything. It will not.

Avoid Clichés

Overused phrases such as, “please find my resume enclosed” or “as my resume indicates,” waste precious space. Also, employers dislike wading through numerous cover letters that all use that same phrase. If you want to stand out, avoid using them.

Avoid Generic Salutations

“Dear Sir” or “To Whom it May Concern” are never well received by an employer, because it indicates that the candidate has not taken the time to find out the person to whom it should be addressed. If you cannot locate the name or it is a blind submission, then simply address it to the “Hiring Manager” or leave the salutation off.

Do Not Forget to Sign the Cover Letter

The only exception to this rule is if the cover letter is being sent electronically. However, hard copy cover letters should always be signed and most experts agree that black or blue ink is best, as they portray professionalism.

Resist the Urge to Template

Using one generic cover letter and sending it out to a dozen potential employers can be disastrous. The best cover letters are customized for each position, including the company’s name. Many excellent candidates for a job are passed over because the cover letter seemed too generic, was addressed to a different company or did not directly answer or address the qualifications that were listed in the job posting.

Do Not Forget to Ask for Action

The end of the cover letter should be anything but passive. Some of the most successful cover letters indicate a time or date that would be good for an interview or will promise a follow up call to answer preliminary questions that the employer may have. If you make this sort of a statement, then be prepared to follow through on it and give them a call.

Avoid Using the Wrong Tone

If you are applying for a bank position, then the tone is going to be more formal than it would be for a coffee house. When in doubt, use a more formal professional tone. However, if the job position or the company is well known for its humor and appreciation of a well-turned phrase, then it is acceptable to adopt that company’s tone. Still, aiming to be personable without being pushy, inappropriate or seeming disrespectful is a delicate balance and so you should be very certain before adopting a less formal tone.

Common Tax Mistakes That Could Lead to Serious Consequences

Each year American taxpayers file annual taxes to the government. However, according to the IRS, a large percentage of the returns sent in (either electronically or by mail) have mistakes, some that could lead to serious consequences. Entering information incorrectly, making mistakes with calculations, or assuming tax credits and deductions in error are top on the list for most common errors. Here are the top mistakes that you should avoid when doing your taxes.

Personal Identification Errors

Entering the wrong Social Security Number onto the form is one of the most common errors made on tax returns. If the tax return was filled out manually and mailed in, then the numbers must be legible as well as correct. Many times, tax payers think they have their Social Security Number memorized, but in reality do not. Without the correct Social Security Number, the IRS cannot identify you. If this happens, it can delay the return or the payment processing time. There could be fines associated with the delay if you waited to file at the last minute or used an extension.

Filing Status Errors

It is easy to become confused when reading the instructions on an U.S. tax return, especially when trying to determine how to file. Many tax payers file as Head of Household, when in reality they should have filed as Single. The IRS has a tool that will help you learn which way you should file, so that there is no confusion. The tool will take your information and determine which status is correct.

Misspelled Name Errors

For the purposes of paying taxes, all information must be correct, including your name. The name should be the full legal name and should not include nicknames. For example, if your friends call you Bill, but your legal name is William, then William is the name that should appear on the tax return. Also, for purposes of the return, there should be no abbreviations, so even middle names should be spelled out. Names should always match the Social Security card. Again, if the IRS cannot identify you, they cannot process the return.

Tax Deductions and Credit Errors

This is one of the most serious mistakes to make because it can cost you. If the IRS examines your tax return and determines that you have claimed a deduction to which you were not entitled, they will reject the return or, in the case that the return has already been processed, the IRS can retroactively assess fees for claiming deductions in error. Depending on the extent of the error, the IRS could levy heavy sanctions, fines and convict the tax payer of tax fraud, in some cases. If you figure out an error after you have already submitted the return, simply file an amended tax return and correct the mistake. To make sure that you qualify for a tax credit or deduction, use the IRS interactive tax tool.

Signature Errors

All tax returns require a signature of some sort. If you file electronically, then you are prompted by the software to electronically sign the return using a PIN. If this PIN number is entered incorrectly, the return could be rejected. If you are filing by mail, then you will have to physically sign the tax return. Returns that are sent to the IRS without having a signature will be rejected. Any fees for late filing may apply.

Missing Tax Return Deadlines

The IRS gives everyone ample time to get their tax returns in to them, so they are not lenient with people who miss the deadlines. If you know you are going need more time, however, you can apply for an extension using form 4868, which will usually give you up to six more months to get your paperwork in order. Filing at the last minute is okay as long as the tax return is postmarked by April 15th (or the final due date for the extension).

Donating to Unrecognized Charitable Organizations

The only way the IRS will allow you to claim a donation to a charity is if that charity is listed as a legal nonprofit organization. The organization must have a tax-exempt status registered with the IRS. Also, the rules have changed slightly for this, in that the donated goods must be in decent condition when released, otherwise the deduction is rejected. You can only claim fair market value for the item in its current condition, and not what you originally paid for the item.

Expired ITIN Numbers

Numbers can have an expiration date, especially if they are ITIN numbers. ITIN numbers are retired automatically if they are not used for a period of three years concurrently. If a return is filed with an out of date ITIN number, the IRS will not process any refunds associated with the return until the ITIN is updated. It can take up to seven weeks for the ITIN to be verified and reissued, so it is a good idea to verify that the ITIN is still viable well in advance.