Tips to Use LinkedIn Effectively

September 29, 2015

How-to-Use-LinkedIn-EffectivelyLinkedIn can be an effective tool for job hunting, networking with like-minded professionals and opening doors that may have not opened otherwise. Of all the social media platforms, it ranks third in users, just behind Facebook and Twitter. With nearly 400 million users, it is important to utilize your profile to stand out and showcase your unique abilities and talents to potential employers. With some homework and preparation, you can build a strong LinkedIn presence:

  • Have a professional profile photo. Just by having a photo on your profile, you’re 11 times more likely to be viewed. But save the selfies for Instagram and opt to have a friend snap this photo. Dress professionally and look your best since this will be the first impression recruiters have of you, even before reading your dazzling profile info.
  • Do your research. Before you start filling out all those text boxes on your profile, take some time to research what other users have done in the same career field. Find out which titles and descriptions are used the most and utilize them. Recruiters use key words to wade through piles of profiles, so optimize your profile with those words to grab their attention.
  • Fill out your profile. All of it. While some consider LinkedIn just to be their online resume, it’s better to consider it a chance to take your resume to the next level. With LinkedIn, you aren’t limited to a single page of career history. Expand upon previous job duties, list your skills and strengths, boast your achievements, awards and volunteer work. Entice recruiters with a charming summary that paints a full picture of who you are as a person and a professional.
  • Post examples. Recently, LinkedIn has begun to offer users the opportunity to post pictures, videos and links to samples of their work. If you are a chef, post pictures that’ll make a foodie drool. If you’re a blogger, attach a link to your blog (and you might get even more readers). Post the PowerPoint presentation you spent weeks creating or the rousing speech that took a month to write. Potential employers will gravitate to those who have concrete examples of their craftsmanship.
  • Ask for recommendation from your connections. A recommendation can go a long way to potential employers. Ask previous co-workers and supervisors to write a short blurb praising your work ethic and achievements. If you don’t seem to have luck in asking someone to write a recommendation, try writing a few for others instead; oftentimes they will return the favor.
  • Join a group. Groups are a great opportunity to network outside of your personal social circle and connect with like-minded professionals across the world. If you are looking to break into a new field, this is a chance to ask experts what credentials and skills to pursue. When job hunting, group members may offer new connections or suggestions you wouldn’t have found on your own.

Heart of Florida United Way is dedicated to changing lives for the better by helping families and individuals gain access to resources they need to stay afloat and succeed financially. For more information about Heart of Florida United Way’s efforts to improve employment and financial stability in Central Florida, visit www.HFUW.org.


Student Loan Repayment 101

June 22, 2015

Student-Loan-101a

With college graduation comes celebration and relief. But after the parties end, reality sets in. For 40 million Americans, student loans are a necessary evil in order to pursue higher education. Facing a large loan balance can be overwhelming and confusing, so it’s important to understand your loans and your repayment options.

When do I start paying the loans back?

For most federal loans, you have a grace period of about six months from the time you graduate until you need to start making payments. During that grace period, if you have an unsubsidized loan your account will still rack up interest charges; you just won’t be responsible for the principle (the amount you borrowed before interest). If you get a job after graduation and can afford to start making payments before the grace period is up, absolutely do so. It will help bring down how much interest you pay over the term of your loan.

Some loans do not have a grace period, so be sure to double check your lender agreement for your payment start date.

What do I actually owe?

It’s not uncommon for loans to change lenders over time. If you can’t find your lender or loan details, this site can be a huge help. This will help you locate your lender, figure out how much you owe and what your monthly payment will be.

I’m supposed to pay that?!

Your student loan payments may be hefty, and your starting salary may be too low for you to handle basic necessities and your full payment. Understand all of your options regarding repayment. Common options include:

  • Standard: You pay a set amount every month for up to 10 years. Under this plan, the payment amount never changes and you pay it off faster and with less interest than other plans.
  • Graduated Repayment: You’ll pay less on your loan every month at first, then it will gradually increase. This can give you some more wiggle room when you’re first starting out but you will pay more on your loan than if you did the standard repayment plan.
  • Extended Repayment: Rather than a 10 year term, your loan can be extended in certain circumstances to as long as 25 years. This can greatly reduce your monthly payment, which can be a huge help if your salary isn’t cutting it, but you will end up paying much more than on a standard or graduated repayment plan in the long run.

What if I can’t afford it?

If even on an alternate repayment schedule you can’t afford payments, it’s imperative to work with your lender. Student loans are one of the few kinds of debt that can’t go away with bankruptcy. If you don’t pay, your credit score can get wrecked and the lender can even garnish your wages. No matter how long it takes you, you have to pay back your loans.

But there are options to help you through a tough time, such as unemployment or a medical issue.  Carefully consider these options and work with your lender to find what works best for you. Call the number listed on your lender account website and explain to the representative that you cannot afford your payments. Make sure to say why that is—temporary job loss, disability, etc—since that will determine what your options are:

  • Deferment: During a deferment, your loan payments are delayed for a set period of time up to 3 years. You can be eligible for deferment if you are unemployed, are deployed in the military or are experiencing significant financial hardship. Deferments are not automatic and you are not guaranteed to be granted one. You’ll need to contact your lender to talk through the application process to have a deferment enacted.
  • Forbearance: If you don’t qualify for a deferment, you may qualify for a forbearance. Your payments can be stopped or reduced for up to 12 months. A temporary financial hardship or illness may get you qualified, but again, the process is not automatic and you have to work directly with your lender.

Completely overwhelmed? Lifehacker has a quick guide to help walk you through the process of talking options over with your lender.

I have a good job and can actually make my payments! Should I pay extra?

Congratulations! Paying even a little more each month can make a huge difference; Extra payments lessen the amount of interest you’ll pay off over the long-term and you’ll have your loans paid off early. The Student Loan Repayment Calculator is a great tool; enter your loan balance, how much longer you have to pay, and your interest rate, and it will show you how making extra payments will impact your loan. Even paying as little as $5 more a month can cut months off your loan terms and can save you hundreds of dollars in interest.

This article is meant as a general overview of the most common student loans, but as always, your situation and your loans may differ. Be sure to check your loan terms with your lender.

Heart of Florida United Way is focused on addressing the five major building blocks of financial stability in order to provide low-income working families the services and support necessary to succeed. For more information, visit www.hfuw.org or if you are in need of assistance, call 2-1-1, our 24-hour information and referral helpline.


Heart of Florida United Way Launches Mission United

June 15, 2015

Veteran Kyle Evan shared his story

Veteran Kyle Evan shared his story

During a special event hosted by Lockheed Martin on June 11, Heart of Florida United Way announced the launch of Mission United, a program designed especially for veterans and their families. Over 110,000 veterans call Central Florida home and forty percent of returning veterans report difficulties finding employment, accessing and completing education and connecting with necessary legal assistance. Through United Way’s Information & Referral Helpline 2-1-1, United Way’s Mission United will create a one-stop location for veterans and their families to receive services that they need, including mentorship, healthcare and connecting with potential employers. Once involved in the program, returning veterans receive a personalized plan and one-on-one case management. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7/365 to assist veterans by phone, chat, or text message (text MISSION to 898-211). United Way’s Mission United came to life with the support and leadership of co-chairs Tommy Boroughs and Major General Doug Metcalf (Ret.), veterans themselves, who lent their time and expertise to make Mission United a reality. Army Staff Sergeant Kyle Evans (Ret), a Purple Heart recipient who served two tours in Iraq, shared his own experiences returning to civilian life during this special event. “The system was so confusing, so complicated, it was too hard on my own,” said Evans. “A program like United Way’s Mission United is so important because it will get veterans what they need, faster and more easily.” United Way Board member and Lockheed Martin Vice President Frank St. John also presented a $10,000 donation to kick start the program. It’s through partnerships with companies like Lockheed Martin and other neighborhood organizations, United Way’s Mission United will succeed and make a difference in Central Florida. To learn more about United Way’s Mission United, dial 2-1-1 or visit 211MissionUnited.org.

Lockheed Martin donated $10,000 to kick start Mission United

Lockheed Martin donated $10,000 to kick start Mission United


10 Tips to Rock Your First Day at a New Job

May 27, 2015

Pinterest2

Whether it’s your first job after graduation or you’ve been part of the workforce for decades, starting a new job can be terrifying. From meeting new people to learning where on earth the coffee machine is, getting through that initial day can be confusing and overwhelming. With some preparation and research, you can arm yourself for a fantastic day, making a great impression to get you started on the right foot.

  1. Nail Down a New Sleep Routine: If you’re used to college life or have been out of work for a while, staying up late and sleeping till noon may be normal for you. That routine will make that first day of work much more difficult; you’ll have a hard enough time remembering names without being exhausted too. Set yourself up for success by starting a new sleep schedule. If at all possible, give yourself a week or two to adjust to going to bed early and waking up in plenty of time to get ready for work.
  2. Map out your route: The last thing you need to worry about on your first day is traffic or getting lost. Do a test run to work to find out how long your commute will take you during rush hour, and use a map or your GPS to figure out a few alternates in case of an accident or traffic jam. If you take public transportation, make sure you have the bus or train schedules and plan on taking the earlier route to give yourself a buffer to get to work.
  3. Do some online research: Spend some time Googling your new employer and check out their social media pages. This will help you know the major issues and key people to know within the company before you ever walk in the door, which will help prepare you for what challenges you’ll face.
  4. Pick out a snazzy outfit: Pick out your outfit before the big morning; it will make everything go so much more smoothly for you. Opt to be a bit more conservative until you know your new office’s culture and what the standard of dress is amongst your coworkers.
  5. Stockpile some food: Your boss and your new team may take you out for lunch, but don’t plan on it—you may end up going hungry. They may be busy or it may not be the office norm. Pack a lunch and some snacks that you can keep at your desk in case you’re on your own. Having some food on hand will help keep your energy up. Bring some cash and change in case you do go out for lunch with your teammates.
  6. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid of looking foolish. The company hired you because they thought you were capable. You’re supposed to ask questions when you’re new! Just time them appropriately. Rather than popping into your boss’ office several times a day, write down your questions and ask them all at once so you don’t constantly interrupt her train of thought.
  7. Take notes: Along with those questions, make sure you take tons of notes. From little reminders about who is who (i.e. long red hair=Jen) to copier codes and procedures, your notes will keep you from annoying people by asking the same questions over and over again.
  8. Be prepared: Make sure you have everything you need, from paperwork HR asked you to fill out to remembering your social security card and ID. This will make the orientation process so much simpler and let you get started without a problem or delay.
  9. Then listen some more: You’re eager to prove yourself and that’s awesome. But before you start making suggestions or doing things a different way, spend your first few days and weeks listening and understanding the rationale behind procedures. There may very well be a solid reason why they do things a certain way, so make sure you understand that before making suggestions. Once you’ve learned the ropes, if you find a way that would save time or money or increase results, by all means, speak up!
  10. And breathe: You’re going to be nervous your first day and that’s okay. Take some deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed, smile, and ask for help from your new coworkers. You can do this!

Heart of Florida United Way is dedicated to changing lives for the better by helping families and individuals gain access to resources they need to stay afloat and succeed financially. For more information about Heart of Florida United Way’s efforts to improve employment and financial stability in Central Florida, visit www.HFUW.org.


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