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Friday, August 21, 2009

Back To School Shopping And Tax Free Weekend

It is time for back to school shopping and one of my wife's least favorite times to shop, luckily she is not big on shopping. School starts next week and this weekend is "tax free" weekend in Texas. Most of the time we do not bother with the tax free sales simply due to the crowds are worse than the last minute Christmas shopping crowds. However, this year we have put school shopping off due to being unemployed and our youngest will be wearing uniforms this year.

Texas has had tax free weekend for several years now and have made changes over the years. In general you have to spend over $100 to get the savings, easy to do when shopping for school supplies and clothes. Here is a link to the tax free list. For the most part the list makes sense but, there is part of the list that is a bit like the old Texas Blue Law. You may ask what is a Blue Law? Today, it is directed at alcohol sales. However, as many many years ago it was expanded to things like; you could buy nails but not a hammer, ammunition but not a gun, a camera but not film, etc. Now on the tax free holiday list here are some "blue law" type of gaffs; backpacks (only for elementary and secondary students - are the cashiers the backpack police?), golf hats but not golf gloves, diapers (baby and adult), pajamas and robes?, swimsuits but not other athletic type clothing.

Anyway, off to fight the tax free shopping crowds. I will post later on how much money if any we saved.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Care And Medical Insurance What To Do?

After having medical insurance through my employer for over 25 years, I am soon approaching either not having health insurance or paying outrageous premiums. Now, since I was employed for over 20 years, I qualify for "retiree" rates if I want to keep the insurance coverage (medical & dental) that we have had minus vision. Back in February, my wife called and got the following rates for "retiree" medical and dental insurance... For myself, my wife and dependents the medical is $10,323 per year and dental is $1,366 per year. Why we don't have the option for vision is beyond me? I can do without the vision, my wife qualifies for eye exams through the medical but our youngest needs glasses and does not qualify under medical. Back to the cost, the medical and dental comes out to $11,689/year or $974.08/month! At this point, I am not sure where the money to cover this is going to come from and we can live without it either? I recently went to eHI (e Health Insurance), plugged in our information and was shocked at the figures that I found and did not find. For years, we have paid a little extra to get a lower deductible and co-pay ($300/per person or $600/family, 10% copay for doctors and 20% for hospital or non-doctor office), a PPO plan (through Blue Cross Blue Shield) that allowed us to not have to deal with typical HMO problems. Back to the quotes from eHI, the top 3 least expensive and the top 2 most expensive plans:

Plan Type
Office Visit
Monthly Payment
BCBS TX (Hospital Only)
Not covered
United Health One
Not covered
BCBS TX (Select Saver)
25% after deductible
United Health One
20% after deductible

I don't think that either my wife or myself would ever be picked up with any of the companies that I have listed or the rest that I did not list. Even though I had cancer over 16 years ago and am considered "cured" most insurance companies would consider it a "pre-existing" condition. Then there is my wife, she has numerous pre-existing conditions. Several years ago she had one of the "most treatable" Thyroid cancer's and has a 5 year cure rate(she is 1 year short), Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Anemia (they have still not found the cause of), Pre-Diabetes due to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Hypocalcemia due to surgery for the thyroid cancer. With all of that I doubt that anyone would write a health insurance policy for her. With my wife, she has three doctors that she has to see every three month which winds up being average once per month. Then during the school year when our youngest is in school she is at the primary care doctor every month to every other month. Most of her medications are fairly inexpensive but, there are so many the cost will add up without any type of insurance.

No matter what your views are on President Obama's health care reform, something desperately needs to be done with the US health care system! The way that the system is currently set up is not working. Our oldest child is married and her and our son-in-law both have good jobs with health insurance. But, their problem is that for the most part they don't get sick very often and never seem to make their yearly deductible. So, most of the time they wind up not going to the doctor unless they can not get rid of their cold or virus and then pay 100% out of pocket since the deductible has not been met. At this point I am just completely disgusted with all of it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part III

Format is yet another part of the resume. What format is best Chronological, Functional or Combined? Many word processing programs have resume templates, which are good but don't really help you with questions that you may have about what to put in your resume. We found a resume program at Half Price Books called Resume Works Pro for less than $10, you can also find a copy on from $15-19. It is easy to use and has a lot of helpful features.

  • Resume samples
  • You can convert the resume that you create in Resume Works Pro to MS Word, PDF and text files
  • Tons of sample cover letters
  • Contact manager
  • The ability to easily edit the look and content of your resume after you finish to change the style or add/delete sections.
  • A walk through much like many Income Tax programs.
Formats, Chronological is the most common but may not be for you. I found a good explanation of the three types here it is for Psychology but much of it applies to everyone. I found that the Combined format works best for me, due to the complexity of my job field. Next, is the different sections within your resume. Which ones to use is up to you but, I have the following; Name and contact information, Job Title, Summary, Work Experience, Designs, Skills, Patents, Security Clearance, Education and References.

  • Name and contact information - Pretty self explanatory (Name, Address, Phone numbers & Email). If you have an online resume on Monster or one of the others, I suggest that you only put your name and maybe the area in which you live (Dallas, TX or San Diego, CA) and leave off the rest of the information.
  • Job Title - I use the industry standard job title for my profession "IC Mask Designer"
  • Summary - I use Summary as opposed to Objective just because one it tells someone exactly what you do and two if you are sending a resume "duh, you are looking for a job." This is just my opinion.
  • Experience - For my situation, since I worked for the same company but several groups within the company, I chose to use the following format for my experience. Company Name - Group Name, Location (Dallas, TX), Dates and Title. Then used bullet points for each detail of my job, this comes in to the keyword searches from employers.
  • Skills - I have all of my programming languages, programs (MS Office, AutoCAD, Photo Shop, etc.), operating systems (Mac, PC, Linux, Sun workstations, etc.)
  • Designs - A list of all of the designs that I worked on.
  • Patents - A list of my patent number's and what they are used in.
  • Security Clearance - This helps if you wind up applying for a company that contracts with the government, even if it is not currently active.
  • Education - I only have use my college education. Most people say not to use your high school since it dates you if you are "cough cough" a middle aged to older person. In my case though my college eduction still dates me.
  • References - I put "Available upon request" for one references will extend your resume. Always ask before you put someone as a reference.
This software has tons of resume examples from Account Executive to Worldwide Procurement Director. Although, I did not find exact matches for my field, I did find a lot of examples that I could adapt to fit my resume. I wound up with a great resume that is also pleasing to the eye that will hopefully help get me a new job.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part II

Continuing with my last resume post, the length of your resume seems to be a BIG question and depending on who you talk to they may tell you one page "period" and no more and others up to three pages. When I was laid off, my group manager told everyone that we needed one page resumes. When I heard that my wife and I thought "What!?!" How in the world can someone with an Engineering background and who has worked for over 25+ years have a one page resume??? Finally, after many edits, deletions and revisions my wife finally got my resume down to two full pages.

My old boss was not the only one that told me that my resume needed to be one page. So, after searching around the web and blogs I found a great blog Liz Handlin's Ultimate Resume Blog
and found this post Tips For Writing the Ultimate Resume and posted the following question on how long should a resume be "I have a question about resumes, how long is to long for a resume for someone with a lengthy job history in a hi-tech profession? I was laid off from my one and only job that lasted almost 30 years. I worked in a hi-tech engineering field and have several areas to list; patents, designs, security clearance and technical skills. After several revisions, I finally have my resume down to two full pages. Is this to long? If so what do you leave out?" Very quickly Liz emailed me the following answer "Thanks for you post and kind words. A 2 page resume is fine but if you have a lot of experience a 3 page resume is appropriate. Resumes should never be more than 3 pages long. with that said, what I often do for clients is separate long lists (patents, board memberships) and create separate documents that you can hand to employers in addition to the resume. That way you can still submit all of the information but you can do it in a way that isn't intimidating....I think that candidates who had recruiters/hiring managers a huge resume are pretty much guaranteeing that it won't be read."

iz's answer made a lot of senses to me. Say you have you Masters, PhD or Doctorate school alone would take up one full page. Then if you have published articles, patents, etc. that will take up a large portion of a page. So put in only what you need but, don't leave important information out either.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Resume What Do You Really Need? Part I

If you are looking for a job more than likely, you need a resume. But, what do you really need in it, how long and how long? I started this post as one post but it has taken on a life of its own and it will need to be continued in parts.

What? These days "most" large companies use a software to look for key words. this is one reason the preferred format is MS Word. After talking with several Headhunter/Recruiters, I have found that even if you have all of the pertinent key words with in your summary section, you also need them in "each" of you job duties for each job. Example; in the past 25 years, I have worked for several different groups within the same company. I basically many of my job functions were the same just different processes, programming languages used and EDA (Electronic Design Automation) tools that I created. So, even if you have the keywords pertinent to the job that you are applying for in you summary section you also need to put it in bullets under each job or company that you have worked for. Personally, I think that it is a bit of "word over kill" but if that is what they want that is what we must do. Not to mention the fact that more than likely these very same keywords will likely be in your skill section, too. For the most part, long gone are the days that people not programs first looked at your resume.

With keywords, look at the job description that you are wanting to apply for. If I were looking for a job programming

I will talk more about keywords in a later post on the format of your resume.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Another Reason To Network While Unemployed

As you may know, I have been unemployed since the beginning of this year. I have been looking for a job in the semiconductor industry with no luck so far, most of the companies have hiring freezes in place. Luckily for me, I was there long enough that my severance will carry me for several more months. Since there are basically no jobs (even though I do look) I have mainly been focusing on networking.

Through my networking, I have found previous bosses, managers and coworkers (even those who had left the company that I last worked for). Quite a few of these people have started their own design house consulting companies. One of the owners of these new companies found me though one of my LinkedIn connections. We have met several times and are now collaborating on creating a computer program. While this is not bringing in income yet, it could possibly turn out to bring in quite a bit of income for the both of us.

So, make a list of past bosses, managers and coworkers find them and see what they are doing now. You never know when you will find someone who knows of a job opening that is now publically posted or finding someone to collaborate with on a new idea. Even if this collaboration does not turn out to create income; it keeps you busy, uses your job skills and keeps them current, can keep you sane in a lengthy unemployment period and it keeps your name out there.

Like the quote that I am sure everyone has heard at least one time "it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease" the more that you are out there and in peoples minds the more likely you are eventually going to find a job. I think this is more true in these times than ever. I was looking in this Sunday's Dallas Morning News papers job section and there was only one page of want ads. Years back, the same paper had sections of want ads. Today's job market is not what it once was.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Money Saving Monday - Cheap Summer Fun In Dallas

As you might guess, I live in Dallas, Texas. Whether you are unemployed or just trying to save money in the terrible economy, there are ways to have fun on the cheap. This morning on Good Morning Texas (GMT), they had several money saving segments. Some of them we were aware of and others were news to us, here is a link to several summer fun ideas on the cheap.

One of the favorites for the kids is swimming and this weekend we took them to one of the local recreation center pools that also has a water slide and splash area. For the four of us the total cost was $16. Check before you go but, some of the smaller water parks and pools will allow you to bring in your own food. We brought drinks, sandwiches and chips. This week we plan on going to Hawaiian Falls, there are three in the Dallas area; Garland, The Colony and Mansfield. The offer several package options and they allow you to bring in a cooler (always a plus!).

Movies are always fun but, can be very pricey. AMC is having a "Summer Movie Camp" and these $1 movies for charity are from June 17th through August 5th. The shows are every Wednesday at 10:00 am.

Specially with children they need to feel secure and normal and they don't need to be worrying that you do not have money for this and that. So, I hope that this has given you some ideas of how to entertain and have fun on the cheap.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Searching For Jobs While Receiving Unemployment Benefits

In Texas you need to file for Unemployment Benefits/Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UI), you need to file through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and sign up on line for UI at this link. The TWC requires you to do a minimum of 5 job searches per week to receive your benefits. Personally, I do not like the TWC job search site. I am in a very specialized Engineering field, IC Mask Design Engineer, and there are very few matches under the "job search" page and ZERO under "my job matches." The times that I have found a job match, the position has already been filled.

Back to your minimum 5 job searches, you must keep a record of each search. The provide you with a form that you can fill out but, I prefer to keep mine on the computer and print out a monthly log. The easiest way that I have found to keep track of my searches is to:
  • Make a "job search" folder on your computer
  • Start a MS Word Document (you could use Word Pad, Note Pad or a similar word processing program)
  • Save you document as "Job Searches" or "Job Searches June 15" then you can change the week starting date and month, however you choose to keep your records (weekly, monthly, etc.)
  • Since I use the monthly, I use the same document for all of my searches and just add the date before each entry
Here is a link that I found with a US map to find the correct link for all states at American Service Locator.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Money Saving Monday - CMF Ads And Entrecard

I recently signed up with two ad exchange programs. CMF Ads (Changing Marketing Forever), you can find their ads on the left hand column of my blog under my "Featured Sites." What is CMF Ads you may ask? Well, it is a low cost (even FREE) way to advertise your blog. CMF is quick and easy to sign up and for your site to be approved. This very user friendly site is a must for any blogger and especially for new bloggers to get exposure. CMF is not olny for publisher but advertisers as well.

CMF Ads - Low cost, no-nonsense advertising

Once you get signed up, you choose you ad price. The minimum ad price is 1 credit or $0.25 per 30 day ad. There are two ways to get credits on CMF; 1. accept ads from other publishers/advertisers or 2. buy credits. To buy credits you can choose from 40 credits for $10.00 all the up to 2,000 credits for $430.00. Unlike a lot of other sites that offer PayPal (I have but I am not all that crazy about), they offer several payment options; MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express and PayPal. Next you need to get the widget code onto your blog. They have 5 separate options of widgets, I am using the 2x2 widget now which shows four ads at at time.

The other advertising site that I have recently found and added is Entrecard. You can find their ads under the "Featured Sites" as well. One difference that I have found between CMF and Entrecard is that on Entrecard, you earn credits by clicking on other Entrecard sites. So far, just by clicking on other sites I have 5 ads that other bloggers have places on my blog and I have purchaced 12 ads for my blog to appear on other blogs.

There is much that I need to learn about each of these sites but, so far I don't see how you could go wrong with either as an inexpensive way to advertise your blog. As of today, I have spent $0.00 on advertising and increased my blog exposure. These are a Money Saving Monday must have!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Filing For Unemployment Benefits - How, Where & When

If you have been laid off from your job, more than likely you will qualify for unemployment benefits. This can be a bit complicated since there is more than one type of layoff. Take me, I was part of a mass layoff and I am receiving "Severance Pay." Before the layoff took place, the group that I was in was going to be sold to another company. When we were told about the sale, we were split up into two groups (the "sell" group and the "stay" group). The sell group was told that since we were part of the sale we could not; leave the company, find another job within the company and if the sale did not go through that we would be laid off. The stay group were told that they would still have jobs within the company even if the sale did not go through. In the end both groups were laid off and we all received severance benefits. I filed for unemployment benefits the last day that I was "employed" and "working for money." I filed online here is the Texas TWC apply link and I found another unemployment blog that has a great link for most states here on the Layoff List blog.

At first my former employer denied my claim saying that I was receiving "wages in lieu of notice" it was not long before the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) contested the denial and concluded that I was not receiving wages in lieu of notice. Here are the definitions of "severance" and "wages in lieu of notice" quoted from TWC.

Severance - Severance pay that is promised in a written policy or other form of agreement is an enforceable part of the wage agreement under the Texas Payday Law. Under § 821.25(b)

Wages In Lieu of Notice - It is not the same as wages in lieu of notice, which is a post-termination payment that the employer has never previously obligated itself to give. Just like the name implies, it is a payment that is given in lieu of advance notice of termination, and it is not based upon any particular formula, but rather upon whatever arbitrary amount the employer thinks is appropriate to give. It is usually given to "make up for" the lack of advance notice and can be given in a lump sum or in installments. A payment of wages in lieu of notice is not enforceable under the Texas Payday Law, since there was no prior obligation to give it.

Here are some other good links related to unemployment:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Money Saving Monday - DIY Laundry Soap

Today is the first "Money Saving Monday" and I would like to share a DIY Laundry Soap recipe. My wife and I started making this after I learned of my pending job loss and when the price of laundry soap not to mention everything else went sky high.

I found the recipe below on a google search here. There are lots of recipes out there this just happens to be the one that we use. We were both a little bit skeptical but, thought why not just give it a try? After all it does not cost that much to pick up everything that you need and the price per load is much less than what you pick up at the store. We made our first batch and were surised that the clothes were clean, smelled clean and there was half the amount of lint in the dryer trap!

3 C. Water (boiling)
1 Bar soap (grated or chopped) we use Ivory and chop it very fine
1/2 C. Borax
1 C. Washing Soda (we were unable to find Washing Soda anywhere, you can substitute it with "pH increaser" you can find it where your store keeps their pool and spa supplies)
5 Gallon bucket with lid
  • Grate or chop the soap and add it to a large sauce pan (we use an old camping pan that we never use for anything else) with the boiling water. Stir over medium to medium-low heat until the soap disolves and is melted.
  • Fill the 5 gallon bucket half full of hot water. Add the melted soap, Borax and Washing Soda/pH increaser. Stir until everthing is completely mixed.
  • Fill the rest of the bucket up to about 2 inches from the top and stire some more.
  • Put the lid on the bucket and use about 1/4 of a cup for every load, we use a little more for towels or really dirty clothes. You need to stir before each use.
Each bucket costs less than $2.00 to make. In the past six months we have made to 5 gallon containers with a family of four. In our laundry room we do not have room for the bucket to be so, we transfer some of the laundry soap into an old liquid laundry soap bottle.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ways To Stay In Touch, Network & Stay Sane

If you have worked anywhere for any length of time, not having a job to go to every day can start to drive you a little nuts. Sure at first, it can be like a much needed vacation. But, after a while of endlessly looking for a new job, the “vacation” effect soon wears off.

What I and the rest of my co-worker’s a.k.a. co-layoffer’s have been doing is to get together once a week for lunch. 1. You have a chance to get out of the house, 2. You have a chance to socialize with your peers, 3. You get to network face to face and 4. Exchange possible job information.

Tips on layoff lunches:
  • Try to keep the restaurant choices on the less expensive side (cheep), in this economy we all need to save money!
  • Even in large urban areas, try to keep the restaurant location in a centralized area to cut down on commuting.
  • Be conscious of the rest of the groups diets (Diabetes, food allergies, vegans, vegetarians, Muslims, etc.)
  • Finally, if you have a large group, don’t choose restaurant’s that have small areas. You may also need to make reservations.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Professional Social Networking

To be perfectly honest with you, the only professional social networking site that I am currently signed up with is Linkedin. I am looking into others but; Linkedin so far seems to have the most people signed up in my field of Engineering. As I find others I will post them and if you have a favorite, let me know which ones.

Linkedin has several levels of memberships; the Basic “free”, Business for $24.95 per month, Business Plus $49.95 per month and Pro $499.95 per month. I have the Basic and am perfectly happy with this version. I have found and linked up with coworkers that I have not worked with in years. Many of them have found themselves in my position, years of experience and no job. These connections have sent me leads to other potential jobs however, most of these jobs are in the Silicon Valley area and I am not to the point that I am ready to move to California.

Aside from connecting with former coworker’s, on Linkedin you can post your resume under your profile (which can be searched by potential employers), what you are doing now “Looking for work”, where you are willing to work and what field you have experience in. Also, under you profile there is a place for recommendations and you can choose to accept or decline any recommendations that you receive.

The “Job Search” feature is very good and does not pull up a bunch of junk jobs that do not apply like some other job search sites do. If you do a city specific search and no results come back for that area, it will show you a list of other cities that do have jobs within your job search criteria.

Another one of my favorite features is the “Groups” you can search, sign up or start a group that is specific to your field of work. This is another great way to connect with possible new connections and jobs.

With mass layoff’s and today’s economy, it is a must to keep connected with your peers

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Journey From Engineer To Blogger

At the beginning of this year, I was part of a mass layoff at the company that I had been with for over 27 years. Aside from working for my parents company in high school and my photography business at the same time, taking and selling picture at the local high school sport’s events, I have never had any other “real” job. Now, well over forty, I am either over qualified or not qualified enough to find another job in another field.

Now, with the economy the way it is and so many companies laying people off, there are fewer and fewer jobs for anyone. Searching for jobs on the unemployment website is a joke for any kind of technical job. Dealing with the unemployment people if you have a problem is next to impossible, due to so many people unemployed. The last time that I had to call the unemployment, I was on the phone (on hold) for close to an hour. Who has the time for that? I know, I am not working but still.

My hope for this blog is to first of all find me a job but, to also help others find quality job search sites and other helpful links. If you have any good links to job search sites and related sites geared to the unemployed/laid off, please post a comment.