MONEY Workplace

How Your Coworkers Can Help You Succeed

Getty Images

Building better work relationships can raise your visibility—and your salary

To nail that big promotion, you might want to get to know your colleagues better. Studies show that workplace friendships not only can increase job satisfaction and decrease stress, but can also boost productivity and job commitment. “Top employees don’t produce results in a vacuum,” says Marie McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. Take these steps to cultivate valuable, authentic relationships—and turn co-workers into co-conspirators.

Move in the Right Circles

Avoid aligning yourself too closely with poor performers. “You want to build your brand and reputation by associating with hard workers,” says Philadelphia executive coach Julie Cohen. Better yet, says McIntyre: Create an “influence map”—a short list of employees within and outside your department who could have a positive impact on your career. Assess which of these relationships need nurturing and target your efforts. Cozying up with a peer in HR, for example, can be very valuable; though he may not have decision-making power, he’ll know when a high-profile job opens.

Take It to The Next Level

Attending the happy hour will help you build camaraderie, but meet with key co-workers one on one to establish deeper connections, says Peggy Klaus, executive coach and author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills. Start with lunch or coffee. For those you don’t know well, you might say, “I’m interested in how your division works. Do you have 15 minutes to chat over a latte?”

Since misery loves company, commiserating about work can also solidify a relationship. After a tense meeting, you might say, “That was a rough one! Do you have time for a debrief?” The trick is to avoid person-specific critiques and to steer the conversation in a positive direction, says Cohen.

Additionally, since helping others builds their loyalty, offer to cover for your pal when she’s on vacation. And make sure you sing her praises in front of VIPs after a major win (“Did everyone notice how sales took off since Mary’s campaign launched?”).

Leverage the Relationships

By having high performers as pals, you’ll know early about their high-profile projects. Offer to assist when you have relevant expertise so you can join in their successes.

Your friends can also help you nab the title and pay you want: Ask them to role-play negotiation conversations with you, suggests Spencer Harrison, professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. The office stars are likely to know best what the boss values.

Finally, keep in touch when your buddies move on, says Harrison. They might go work for a desirable employer one day, which will give you entrée there too.

MONEY Workplace

Why It Pays to Make Your Boss Your BFF

Illustration by Mikey Burton

Get the person into the corner office in your corner, then watch your career take off.

Buddying up with the boss can pay off, literally. In a study of executives done at Georgetown University, nine in 10 acknowledged that favoritism occurs in larger organizations, and 23% of them said they had personally practiced favoritism in making promotion decisions. Read: Getting more familiar with the person who signs off on your raises can help you make sure they’re bigger. Follow these tips to cozy up without crossing the line.

Break the Ice

Start by trying to engage the boss in small talk when riding the elevator or meeting at the water cooler. And if you know he is going to happy hour, be there. “Take advantage of any opportunity to rub shoulders outside work,” says career consultant Donald Asher, author of Who Gets Promoted, Who Doesn’t, and Why.

To find common ground, Asher suggests posing open-ended questions like “How about them Spurs?” Use the person’s response to gauge his level of interest. Does he talk at length about the season? Depending on your relative positions, you might ask the boss to lunch to discuss your ideas on a particular project—and who will make the playoffs.

Keep Up on Facebook

“Friending” the boss on Facebook can help you cement the relationship, says Nancy Rothbard, a Wharton School professor who studies social media in the workplace. But first make sure your boss is willing to connect with subordinates—you’re good if other direct reports are in her circle.

Once you’re in, occasionally “like” and comment on posts about shared interests. “It authentically reinforces your offline interactions,” Rothbard says. Just save communication for off-work hours so you don’t look as though you’re slacking off.

Leverage Your Friendship

When the relationship is established, your boss may be naturally more inclined to advance your causes. But be strategic in your asks. “You don’t want your boss to think you’re a user,” says Asher. Chatting about weekend plans? You might slip in a mention of your desire to attend a senior staff meeting. “If you have a good relationship, your boss will go out of his way to get you in,” says Richard Klimoski, a management and psych professor at George Mason University.

Don’t Let Your Nose Get Brown

Your peers may grow jealous of your rapport with the boss. Keep them on your good side by continuing to collaborate well and publicly praising peers for achievements, says Jennifer McClure, president of leadership strategy firm Unbridled Talent. “Befriend your boss,” she says, “but don’t put a target on your back.”

Read next: Why You Should Friend Your Boss on Facebook

MONEY selling a home

If You Want to Sell Your House This Year, Start Doing These Things Now

Living room
Michael Grimm—Gallery Stock

With home prices recovering and interest rates still low, now may be the time to act. Here are 8 things successful sellers need to know.

In part one of our Spring Real Estate Guide, we told you what to do if you want to buy a home this year. In today’s part two we’ve got tips for sellers. Stay tuned for part three, with advice for those who want to say put and add value with home improvements.

If you haven’t sold a house in the past decade, brace yourself. Today’s buyers are demanding. They’re savvier about market dynamics and data and want to see houses on their own schedule, says Redfin’s chief economist, Nela Richardson. “We’re finding that buyers want access to your house when it works for them,” she says. “They don’t want to wait for the open house.” Baking cookies won’t cut it anymore.

Some things in your favor: Low interest rates are your friend too. Buyers know that rock-bottom mortgages can’t last forever. If interest rates start to tick up, there could well be a rush to buy. On the other hand, if rates go up too far, that will almost certainly dampen prices. “As a buyer’s monthly payment goes up with rising rates, something’s got to give—and that’s likely your home price,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH, a mortgage information provider. In other words, sellers: If you snooze, you may well lose.

Your Action Plan

Sell first, then buy. The dilemma most sellers face is whether to buy a new place at the same time. In general, it’s smarter to sell before you buy—there’s nothing worse than having to carry two mortgages at once. You may be able to rent your house from the buyer for a few months, or at least find a short-term rental elsewhere. The one thing you don’t want to do is try to buy a new place with the contingency that you have to sell your old place first. Nothing kills a deal faster, especially if you’re up against other bidders.

Don’t just list your home—market it. Gorgeous photographs, video walk-throughs, perfect floor plans—buyers want it all. You need an agent who can develop a full-blown marketing plan, including social media. “People are doing so much more research ahead of time, going through listings online, and weeding out properties before they see them,” says Benjamin Beaver, an agent with Coldwell Banker in San Angelo, Texas. That’s especially true of millennial first-time buyers, who have grown up with information on demand.

And a top-flight agent can help pay for himself. Redfin found that listings with photos taken by a professional got 61% more views, and homes listed between $200,000 and $1 million sold for $3,400 to $11,200 more than similarly priced homes. A video tour including views of the neighborhood (parks, restaurants, main street) is another great tool. “If your photos capture an interested buyer, the video can help boost their interest,” says Rae Wayne, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Plus, a video can help drive additional traffic to your listing.

Negotiate with your agent. Bernice Ross, the CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, has a brilliant method for testing a potential agent’s bargaining skills: Ask her for a reduction in her commission—and then think twice about hiring her if she agrees. “If they can’t negotiate a full commission on their own behalf, how are they going to negotiate the best price for you?” she says.

Don’t “test” the market. Pricing right is an art these days. The last thing you want to do is accidentally list too high out of the gate. Not only does it require cutting the price—in many cases to less than the estimated value—but it also means more time on the market. “It’s not like the old days where you put in a 10% buffer,” says Jacquie Sebulsky, a broker with Cascade Sotheby’s International in Bend, Ore. “People are savvier, and many agents won’t even show a house if it’s overpriced.” According to Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, a house that is priced right will sell in about half the time of one that is overpriced.

Another reason to price right: traffic. In the first week a listing goes on the market, it gets four times as many visits as a month later, Redfin found. Moreover, if you do end up dropping your price, says Richardson, it sends a signal to buyers that you’ll come down more. “One agent described it to me as ‘blood in the water,’ ” she says.

To help you arrive at a price, your agent should show you up to 10 comparable active, pending, and recently sold (in the past three months) listings and sales. The most recently sold and the ones that are pending are the best; six or even four months ago may not reflect today’s market, says Brendon DeSimone, a broker in New York City and the author of Next Generation Real Estate. Automatic valuation tools, such as from Zillow and Trulia, are definitely great sources of intelligence. They’ll show you how quickly houses are selling in your market, how close they are going to asking price, and more. But data can tell buyers only so much. “The computer can’t see the inside of the house,” says Ross, “and it can’t see if your house has a view.”

Go green. With homes selling at a healthy pace, you probably don’t need to make any major pre-sale upgrades. One that does pay off: the front lawn. A 2012 Texas A&M survey found that curb appeal increases sales prices by up to 17%. “Green grass is huge, whether that means new sod or just fertilizer and lots of water,” says Wayne. Sustainability and low maintenance are the top trends for residential landscape projects, according to the 2015 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, so you might add simple native plants. You don’t have to spend a lot. See what’s on sale at Home Depot. It only has to be green, not gorgeous.

Fix what’s broken. Paul Reid, a Redfin agent in Southern California, recommends getting a home inspection and fixing any problems before you list the house, despite the out-of-pocket costs. “First-time homebuyers in particular don’t want to come in and do a ton of work,” he says. “They’re making a huge financial commitment and don’t want a money pit. I’ve seen it time and again where a buyer will get in escrow, have the inspection, and back out because the list is overwhelming.”

Go clean. Ten years ago it was mostly upper-end sellers (and maybe desperate ones) who went to the trouble to “stage” their home. Now, the idea that you need to clean out your closets, clear off the counters, take down your photos, and pare down the furniture and accessories is Real Estate 101. That said, you don’t need to hire anyone (though you may need to find someplace to store all your junk). Two areas not to forget: the entrance (that expression about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression is true) and the bathrooms. “I like to say that big, fluffy, white towels can add $10,000 to the price of a house,” says Sebulsky.

Give yourself a deadline. It’s true that houses tend to sell faster in spring and summer (in large part because families want to be settled before the new school year begins). And if your home is still sitting come Labor Day, think twice about keeping it on the market into the fall. “By then a lot of people have made their choices, and if your house has been on the market for six months, people automatically assume something is wrong,” says Sebulsky. Every market is different, of course, but winter may actually be a better option. There’s less competition from other sellers, as well as some pent-up demand after the holidays. Bonus: Anyone trudging through open houses during the winter “tends to be pretty serious about finding a house,” Sebulsky says.

Get more answers to your questions about home buying and selling:
How do I make my home attractive to buyers?
What renovations will pay off when I sell?
Will I pay income taxes on the sale of my home?

MONEY home buying

If You Want to Buy a Home, Here’s What You Need to Do Now

suburban neighborhood
Dan Saelinger

For the first time in years, the boom-and-bust housing market may be finding its sweet spot, with good deals for buyers and sellers. Is it time to jump in?

Too hot, too cold, too hot. For more than a decade the housing market has been nowhere near its Goldilocks moment, a just-right rate of growth that offers opportunities for both buyers and sellers. By certain markers, we’re finally starting to get there: Home prices nationwide are expected to rise 4.9% on average this year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). That’s closer than we’ve been in a while to the long-term average of 3.3%—and a lot more manageable than either the sharp drops of the bust years or the 12% spike we saw in 2013.

What’s more, inventory is expected to loosen up, with 1.9 million units on the market this year—far below the flooded supply of 4 million we saw in 2008. The number of homes that were “flipped” (bought for a quick-sale investment) has dropped for the second year in a row, while the foreclosure rate is less than half what it was two years ago. Those are healthy signs for everyone (except, perhaps, for the small army of TV shows obsessed with renovating and flipping).

Can the center hold? The big question now is whether this manageable growth is sustainable in the long term. Economists such as Moody’s Analytics’ Mark Zandi note that we certainly need more first-time homebuyers in the mix to make that happen, because they drive a good piece of demand, allowing current homeowners to trade up—or cash in. In 2014 the percentage of rookie homebuyers on the market hit its lowest level in decades, just 33% of sales, vs. 40% historically. That said, a new report from BMO Harris Bank finds that 74% of Americans 18 to 34 plan to buy a new home in the next five years, and they are budgeting $240,000 to make the sale, a 24% increase over just last year.

On the other end of the spectrum, experts warn that prices in some markets have already pushed past the bubbling-over peaks, according to RealtyTrac. In San Francisco the median price for a house in December 2014 was $1 million, up 18% from the peak during the bubble. Prices in New York City (median house: $935,000) are 15% above the peak. It’s not just the coasts either. Prices around Austin are 8.6% higher than they were during the mid-2000s. “What we’ve seen so far,” says Zillow’s chief economist, Stan Humphries, “is still a long way from normal.”

What does it all mean for you? If you’re a buyer, you don’t have to worry as much today about being priced out in a bidding war or by all-cash offers. Sellers who didn’t have enough equity in their homes just a few years ago to justify a move could find themselves in a much better position now. And renovators can still get low rates on home-equity loans and lines of credit. In short: If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, this may be the time to act—or at least to do some serious number crunching.

Here’s some advice to help would-be home buyers plot their next move. In future posts in this series we’ll offer tips for sellers and those who want to stay put and add some value with smart upgrades.

If you’re in the market to buy

The good news: There are a lot more homes to choose from. In addition to the additional properties already on the market, Zillow’s Humphries is forecasting an increase in houses and condos for sale this year as builders pick up the pace and more homeowners cash in on their rising equity. As prices have risen from the depths of the recession—the median sales price hit bottom in 2012, at an average home price of $152,000—the flippers have started to flee, which has helped the overall market stabilize. “Home prices have risen to the point where, in many markets, houses don’t make sense for investors,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of Realty-Trac, noting that cash buyers dipped to 30%, the lowest in four years. “That helps level the playing field for regular buyers.”

Then there’s that other important factor: interest rates. Despite prognostications that they could tick up by summer, the 30-year fixed rate—recently at 3.7%—”is still within shouting distance of 60-year lows,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH, a mortgage information provider.

suburban house
Dan Saelinger

Your action plan

Start hunting. Sure, you’ve been hearing for years that interest rates would shoot up soon. This time you can believe it—Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen signaled as much in her most recent Federal Open Market Committee statement. The NAR is forecasting that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will average 4.3% in the third quarter of this year, 4.7% in the fourth, and 5.3% over all of 2016. On a $300,000 loan, the difference between 3.7% and 5.3% would be $285 a month (a payment of $1,381 vs. $1,666) and $102,600 over the life of the loan.

Those rates could go even higher if Europe’s economy starts to recover, warns Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic. One reason that American mortgage rates have stayed so low is that in recent years global investors have poured money into the relative safety of U.S. Treasuries, a main factor influencing the price of mortgages. If money starts flowing back out to the rest of the world, domestic rates will inch up.

Home prices have been heading up as well. Not as fast as in the bubble years, of course, but some areas have already seen double-digit growth. “Until recently the fastest-growing markets were those hit hardest,” says Khater. “Today the fastest growing are those with healthy economies.” With the economy on the upswing, there are a lot more of those now too.

Go fixed-rate, not flex. Adjustable-rate loans may look irresistibly low now—around a 3% average for a five-year and as low as 2.5% for borrowers with credit scores of 760 and higher. But you’re likely to end up paying significantly more at the reset date with rates heading upward. “It’s hard to argue against a fixed-rate loan,” Gumbinger says. The exception: Buyers who plan to stay in the home for less than 10 years may benefit from the low ARM rates in the fixed period.

Right-size your down payment. If you’re looking in a highly competitive market, offer to put down more than the standard 20% if you can afford it. That gives the seller the extra reassurance that if the house appraises for less than the asking price, you’ll still be able to secure a mortgage. Signs that market conditions warrant sweetening the down payment: if houses where you’re looking are going to contract within a matter of days or if they are routinely selling for more than the asking price.

Find a savvy broker. Buyers have so much more information at their fingertips: comparable sales, school district reports, walkability, and more. But don’t underestimate the kind of advice you’d get from a broker. A buyer’s agent will have on-the-ground knowledge of market trends and be able to identify unseen circumstances that affect a property’s price, anything from a cracked foundation or a dead boiler to whether there’s been a recent school redistricting or a zoning change in the area. She might also have access to “pocket” listings that don’t make it online because the privacy-minded sellers don’t want their home flooded with prospective buyers.

Take a little time. Sure, you want to keep an eye on the prospect of rising interest rates. But in a balanced market with steadily rising inventory, don’t feel pressure to jump at the first house you like, says Craig Reger, a broker in Portland, Ore. Visit a good number of open houses (at least five) to get a sense of what’s out there, and go shopping with your agent. You’ll start to learn if a property is over- or under-priced and why.

The rules are a little different if you’re looking at new construction, because builders don’t negotiate on price very often. “They tend to sell at 100% of their list price because that’s their comparable for the next house,” says Jacquie Sebulsky, a broker with Cascade Sotheby’s International in Bend, Ore. That said, if you buy in the early stages of construction (when the developer knows you’ll have to live through months of noise, dust, and other hassles), you may be able to ask for help later with closing costs, upgrades, and additional amenities, such as appliances, in lieu of a price cut.

Remember that money isn’t (always) everything. Even in a market where inventory is tight and sellers aren’t negotiating much, you still have some leverage. That starts with minimizing the seller’s potential headaches. If you have attractive financing—a pre-approved loan from a reliable lender or a large down payment—say so. If you can close on the seller’s schedule—whether that means quickly or letting him stay an extra month—do it.

And don’t be shy about plucking a few heartstrings. It never hurts to write a letter explaining what the house means to you. “A lot of sellers don’t want to sell to investors,” says Tim Lenihan, a broker in Seattle. “Hokey as it sounds, it can help you get your foot in the door.”

MONEY Autos

How to Beat a Car Dealer at His Own Game

Used car lot
Patti McConville—Alamy

With these strategies you can save money and win on the car lot—before you even get there.

As consumers have gotten better at researching cars online, auto dealers have had to learn new tricks. Some have even gone on corporate retreats to Disneyland to get tips from the entertainment brand about winning over customers.

Given how persuasive some salespeople can be, you’ll want to plan your negotiating strategy before you arrive at the dealership. When it comes to haggling, there’s plenty up for grabs: According to Kelley Blue Book, the fair price for a new Toyota Camry is $2,000 less than the manufacturer’s suggested retail.

Here’s how to win before you ever set foot on the lot.

The scenario: You see an ad for a specific car at a great price.

You should: Call ahead and say, “I want to see if the 2013 preowned hybrid SUV is still available. It is? Great! Can you have it ready to test-drive when I get there?”

Why it works: Car dealers may advertise one car to get you to the lot and then avoid showing it to you so you buy a pricier one, says Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com.

***

The scenario: You know what car you want, and you want to compare prices at different dealers.

You should: Send an email that says, “I’m looking for an out-the-door quote on the 2015.” Then specify the trim, options, and color.

Why it works: If you call around, dealers may try to draw you into the shop without giving you the info you are looking for. By specifying all the details and making sure to get a price that covers everything, you’ll be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons, says Joe Wiesenfelder, executive editor of Cars.com. And you’ll have neutralized a salesperson’s big advantage—the gift of gab.

Read next: 10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer

MONEY lifehacks

10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer

150302_HO_LifeHacks
Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Mark Anderson/Corbis (woman); Getty Images (buckle)

These clever shortcuts will help you earn more on the job and cut down on needless costs.

Picking up new skills as an adult can be tricky, especially when your energy and free time is precious. But prowess in different areas is not all created equal. Investing in certain abilities can get you big rewards for relatively little effort.

MONEY interviewed dozens of experts in different fields to find out which skills, tricks, and workarounds are most financially worthwhile. Here are 10 moves you can make without much preparation.

1. Master the meeting

The average pay bump from a promotion is about 7%, though it can be even more once you’re a manager, according to Mercer. But how do you get one?

“The meeting room is where we exert leadership and develop credibility,” says corporate trainer Dana Brownlee of Professionalism Matters. Don’t dominate—nudge the group toward concrete goals. If someone can’t let go of a point, try saying, “Good idea! I’m writing it down.” You’ve now freed a room of grateful co-workers to move on.

2. Lend a hand at work

Research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has shown that successful people do more favors at work, but don’t be afraid to ask for tiny favors too. We may actually feel more warmly toward people after lending them a hand—our brains figure we must have done so because we like that person. It’s been called the Benjamin Franklin effect: The Founding Father recalled winning over a legislative rival after borrowing a book from him.

“Our attitudes often follow our behavior instead of vice versa,” says David McRaney, who writes about such psychological quirks in his book You Are Now Less Dumb.

3. Learn a language

It’s easier than ever to dip a toe into languages with free tools like Duolingo, a site and app that make learning like a game. If you then want to ramp things up, real-world classes run about $300 for 20 hours of instruction.

Invest your time and money wisely: The payoff is in less commonly studied languages. A Wharton/LECG Europe study found that speaking German translated into a higher wage premium than for second languages overall. Ambitious? There’s a big market for Mandarin.

4. Get techy

Computer-science grads earn $700,000 over the average B.A. holder in a career, but those with English and psych degrees aren’t out of luck: There are ways to use technology smarter—and get recognized for it—at all levels.

For example, if there’s any need to quantify your business’s activity, being the office Excel guru makes you valuable. Two skills to focus on: building charts (great for presentations) and pivot tables (to summarize lots of data). The ExcelIsFun YouTube channel is loaded with lessons.

Want to compete with true techies? Codecademy.com can get you started for free learning code for building websites. Expertise in Ruby on Rails—certification testing is $150—snags an average salary of $110,000, says data crunched by qz.com.

If all this sounds like too much work, at least Google better. Seriously. Say, for example, you need stats about a product’s market share: Use “OR” (in caps) to Google for different words that might capture the same thing (like “percent” and “proportion”). And check the image search results: The data you need may be in a chart someone has posted. Go to Google’s help center for more power tips.

5. Write better

A clear, unfussy writing style will get your ideas heard at work. (HR pros ranked writing second, behind only computer aptitude, among skills applicants most often lacked.) Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of the new book The Sense of Style, gave us these tips for better writing:

Avoid fancy words you don’t need or understand. “Fulsome” (as in “fulsome praise”) does not mean full; it means insincere. If you use hoity-toity words to sound posh, you will look pompous and may say the opposite of what you mean.

Cut unnecessary words. John Kerry once said, “The President is desirous of trying to see how we can make our efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.” What he meant was, “The President wants to help.” Much better.

Revise. And better still, show it to someone. What’s clear to you may not be clear to someone else.

6. Learn social savvy

If you run a business or work in marketing, social media like Twitter seem like a great way to get your message out. But remember that users have zero interest in following companies that clutter their feed with ads. Use social to establish your expertise or spark ideas; then when people are in the market for what you sell, they’ll remember you.

Hannah Morgan, co-author of Social Networking for Business Success, explains that a good tweet is self-contained and has a discrete piece of information worth sharing. What works well is language like, “Baking cookies? Add eggs one at a time so you can mix in evenly. For more tips check out our Baking 101 guide.” Then add a link.

A less effective tweet is something like, “We’re having a sale on tins of our delicious chocolate chip cookies. $19.99 all day Friday” because it reads like an advertisement and is therefore is unlikely to be shared.

7. Take back your workday

If you get paid a flat salary, turning a 10-hour day into nine more-productive hours is like giving yourself an 11% hourly raise.

Try three key moves from former Fidelity president Bob Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: First, handle each email just once. Reply, file, or trash—don’t come back to it later.

Second, hide that extra chair; you’ll discourage chatty co-workers from lingering. Finally, you might want to consider timing your breaks, since research shows your brain loses focus on a task after about 90 minutes.

8. Sell yourself

“Ten years ago job seekers would write a full-page cover letter,” says executive résumé writer Wendy Enelow. A better approach now is an email designed to cut through the electronic clutter.

Use the subject line to note your key selling points. Instead of “Director of sales position,” write “Director of Sales—10 Years of Exceeding Sales Quotas—MBA.” In the body of the email, spotlight a major accomplishment. Follow up with three big career wins in bullet points.

9. Learn to DIY

Some jobs always require a professional but, with a little prep, tasks like painting a room or replacing your car’s air filters can be a piece of cake—and save you a solid amount of money. A painting pro, for example, could easily charge $1,600 for a big job, vs. up to $400 in materials on your own.

Rich O’Neil of Masterwork Painting & Restoration in Woburn, Mass., explains that to get professional results you must dust surfaces and tape up edges and moldings you don’t want painted. Painting should go in two types of strokes: First apply a thin layer for coverage. Then paint over it to even and smooth.

You can replace your car’s air filters yourself every 12,000 miles on newer cars. You’ll save about $50 in labor costs, says Mike Forsythe of Haynes, an auto-repair guidebook publisher, and pay 25% less for the filter by getting it at a parts store. To change an engine filter, check the housing in the engine compartment; in most cars there’s a cover you can unlatch with your fingers. You’ll typically find the cabin filter inside the car, behind the glove box.

10. Get organized

Everyone hates paying a late fee just because of a forgotten reminder to pay a bill on time. And few tasks are as irritating as foraging for receipts from months and months ago.

The key to never losing track of important papers is to keep just one bin and make sure to empty your pockets and purse into it every night. Then set a regular date on your calendar to empty the bin and organize the receipts. “If you wait too long, you may not even remember your purchase,” says professional organizer Andrew Mellen.

If you find it hard to even check your calendar on a routine basis, pair a daily check with your morning coffee—or any other routine you already have.

MONEY Workplace

How to Deal When You’re Promoted Above Your Peers

Illustration by Mikey Burton

When a promotion kicks you out of the coffee klatch, you’ll need to keep your former peers from becoming your future critics.

Right after you celebrate that well-earned promotion, reality hits: You’re now the boss of people who had been your peers. “When you become a supervisor, the relationship structurally changes, whether you like it or not,” says Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton, a Stanford University professor who studies organizational behavior.

Going forward, your work will be judged on your ability to lead people with whom you used to consort and complain. If that’s not enough pressure, you’re now at risk of being the one complained about. Make the transition seamless with these steps.

Meet One-on-One

Sit down with each person to discuss the change in leadership. “You’re in learning mode,” says Linda Hill, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Being the Boss. Ask staffers to share their short- and long-term goals, skills they’re building, and obstacles that get in the way of doing their jobs. You’ll convey respect and gain valuable info that can help you achieve buy-in.

Also, if you were promoted over a colleague, “address the elephant in the room” and alleviate worries about your ability to work well together, advises Atlanta social media strategist and job coach Miriam Salpeter.

Step Back Socially

You can be a great manager and preserve friendships by slightly altering your behaviors. Continue attending happy hour, for example, but stay for only one drink, suggests Hill. Allow your staff space to vent. “We all need to blow off steam sometimes,” says Katy Tynan, author of Survive Your Promotion! (Just make it clear to your people that if something is really bugging them, they can talk to you, she adds.)

Also, disconnect from your subordinates on all non-work-related social media. “Many times you’re doing people a favor, since it puts less pressure on what they can and can’t share on their profiles,” says Salpeter. Do let employees know before unfriending them, though, so that they don’t take it personally.

Prove You Don’t Play Favorites

Prepare to make—and to justify—difficult decisions, particularly regarding raises and promotions. To be seen as objective, try to grade everyone using the same metrics, and be sure people know what those metrics are, says Keith Murnighan, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

To show humility, solicit feedback from subordinates on your own performance, says Gentz Franz, a University of Illinois lecturer who studies job succession. “It’s incumbent upon managers,” he says, “to open the lines of communication if they want to create a collaborative work environment.”

MONEY Jobs

The 5 Best Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of

Medical Equipment Repair Technician
Sigrid Gombert—Getty Images

If you're itching for a career change in 2015, here are some fast-growing, high-paying options that have yet to hit the mainstream.

Good news, job seekers: employment opportunities look bright in 2015. Staffing levels are expected to rise 19%, according to ManpowerGroup’s annual Employment Outlook Survey. Robust hiring gains are forecast for the “usual suspects,” says Payscale.com’s vice president Tim Low—namely retail, healthcare, and technology. But peel back those broad categories, and you’ll uncover high demand for unique talents and skill sets and a bunch of new jobs you may not even know existed.

“As we shift away from conventional jobs and move forward into the information economy, there are a growing number of opportunities for workers to transfer skills in seemingly unrelated fields,” says Stephanie Thomas, researcher and program director at the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University.

Additionally, job titles are becoming more diverse, says Scott Dobroski, career trends analyst at Glassdoor, an employer review website. “Employers are looking for innovative ways to do business and are therefore [allocating money] to brand-new positions,” he says.

So if you’re itching for a change in 2015, here are some ways to break into these high-paying, still-under-the-radar careers—all of which are growing at a rate far greater than the 11% national average.

1. If you’re an: executive assistant or medical administrator, consider becoming a… NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGIST

What it is: Don’t let the title scare you off; the position only calls for a degree from an accredited program, so no med school required. This health care professional operates specialized equipment including computed tomography (CT) scanners, gamma cameras, positron emission tomography (PET) scanners, and other imaging tools that physicians and surgeons use to diagnose conditions and plan treatments.

How your skills translate: Attention to detail and good interpersonal skills—already at the heart of your current job—are crucial. Nuclear medicine technologists must follow instructions to the letter when operating equipment; even a minor error can result in overexposure to radiation. A background in math and/or science is a plus.

Why it’s growing: “Jobs are developing rapidly at the intersection of health care and technology,” says John Reed, senior executive director at IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology.

Education requirements: 2-year associate’s degree and 1- to 4-year accreditation program. For more information on requirements, check out the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), or use this state-by-state map for a list of accredited programs in your region.

Average salary: $71,120

Projected job growth through 2022: 20%

2. If you’re a mechanic, handyman, or computer repairer, consider becoming a… MEDICAL EQUIPMENT REPAIRER

What it is: Someone who installs, maintains, and repairs patient care equipment. However, given the sensitive nature of medical technology, specialized repair skills are required. These can be obtained through an associate’s degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering; workers who operate less-complicated equipment (e.g., hospital beds and electric wheelchairs), meanwhile, can typically learn entirely on the job.

How your skills translate: Troubleshooting, dexterity, analytical thinking, and technical expertise—skills already in your toolbox—make for an efficient medical equipment repairer.

Why it’s growing: The increasing demand for health care services assures rapid growth for this specialty.

Education requirements: Typically a 2-year degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering. Go here for information about obtaining a certification for Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET).

Average salary: $44,180

Projected job growth through 2022: 30%

3. If you’re an IT specialist, computer programmer, or Web developer, consider becoming a… DIGITAL RISK OFFICER

What it is: To prevent data breaches—and better protect sensitive client and customer information—employers are beefing up their cyber security forces. A digital risk officer proactively assesses risks and implements security measures.

Why it’s growing: Recent hacks at Sony, Target, and Home Depot have put more companies on high alert. “Regardless of industry or size, if you have sensitive client information, you have to look carefully at what your security threats are,” says Cornell’s Thomas.

How your skills translate: Your analytical mindset, computer savvy, and problem-solving skills apply to the core responsibility of a digital risk officer: outthinking cybercriminals.

Education requirements: 2- or 4-year degree in IT and digital analytics certification. You’ll likely start as an information security analyst and need to complete a risk assessment training program as well.

Average salary: $153,602 for a chief risk officer, according to Payscale estimates.

Projected job growth: The field is so new that specific data isn’t available, but by 2017, one-third of large employers with a digital component will employ a digital risk officer, reports IT research firm Gartner.

4. If you’re a nutritionist, rehabilitation counselor, or athletic trainer, consider becoming a… HEALTH-AND-WELLNESS EDUCATOR

What it is: Previously outsourced, many companies are now hiring in-house specialists to offer health-and-wellness advice and services, says Brie Reynolds, director of online content at FlexJobs.com, which saw a spike in job postings for this position. The educator works with employees individually to assess personal health issues and create strategies tailored to each person’s needs.

Why it’s growing. Health improvements made by employees not only curb insurance costs but also boost job satisfaction, a key ingredient to retaining talent. Some employers are tying financial incentives to health-and-wellness achievements—discounting health insurance premiums for employees who lose weight, quit smoking, or lower blood pressure, among other behavioral changes.

How your skills translate: Pure and simple, you’re a “people person.” Your ability to connect with individuals and motivate them to make behavioral changes will come in handy when promoting healthy living strategies to workers.

Education requirements: 4-year degree and health education specialist certification. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing has information on requirements and eligibility.

Average salary: $62,280

Projected job growth through 2022: 21%

5. If you’re a management consultant, consider becoming an… INDUSTRIAL-ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST

What it is: Companies hire industrial-organizational psychologists to improve work performance, job satisfaction, and skills training. This person is responsible for managing and developing a range of programs, including hiring systems, performance measurement, and health-and-safety policies.

How your skills translate: Your ability to assess an organization’s structural efficiency will serve you well in your new job. Like you, an industrial-organizational psychologist must work well with corporate clients to identify areas for improvement and increased profitability.

Why it’s growing: While not new, this lesser-known job tops the BLS’s list of the fastest-growing occupations. Chalk it up to its track record of success; surveys show the position effectively boosts work performance and improves employee retention rates.

Education requirements: Master’s degree. Check out Careers in Psychology for more information.

Average salary: $80,330

Projected job growth through 2022: 53%

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the equipment that nuclear medicine technologists can operate. They can operate CT and PET scanners but require additional certification to operate MRI equipment.

Read next: The Foolproof Way to Make Sure You Land a Big Raise This Year

 

MONEY Job market

How to Take Advantage of Your Boss’s Biggest Fear

empty office chair in shadows
Max Oppenheim—Getty Images

If the economy keeps expanding at its current rate, the war for talent will intensify. Here's how to turn bad news for employers into good news for your career in 2015.

Star performers, rejoice. This is your year. More than three-quarters of human resources executives polled recently by Challenger Gray & Christmas report that they are struggling to fill open positions—and 91% say that if the economy keeps expanding at its current rate, the war for talent will worsen. Unemployment is in fact expected to continue its slow creep downward in 2015, to 5.7% from 5.9% this September, according to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s most recent forecast.

That means bad news ahead for employers but good news for top producers, who will have real leverage in the coming year. Turnover costs are especially high for positions that are significant contributors to revenue—sometimes 200% of a worker’s salary. So it’s no wonder that 57% of the 4,700 companies surveyed in PayScale.com’s recent “Compensation Best Practices Report” cited keeping high-performing workers as a top business concern, up from 20% in 2010. “Just about every HR department should be discussing talent retention,” says David Card, director at the Center for Labor Economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Here’s how you can turn your boss’s anxiety to your advantage.

Get more from your employer. Instead of waiting to discuss compensation at performance-review time (when you’ll have competition from co-workers), ask your boss to meet quarterly or biannually to talk career development, says Nancy Karas, an executive career coach with the Five O’Clock Club. Then, after completing a big project or closing a big sale, make your request, naming a specific number.

To determine your asking price, use PayScale.com and Glassdoor.com to gauge the average salary for your skill set and years of experience. Add 10% to 15% if you’re a top performer, says Ed Hunter, founder of Philadelphia executive coaching firm Life in Progress.

Highlight your contributions but also note what more you can offer. “Employers give raises based on how you’re going to perform in the future, not just what you’ve done,” says Oakland executive coach Marty Nemko.

Or polish your résumé. No room in the budget for a raise? Launch an external search, as your skills are likely needed elsewhere. Says Karas: “In 2015 top performers have the most to gain from changing jobs.”

Since many higher-level job openings are only announced internally, seek out insider info. If you don’t know people who work at your target com­panies, join professional groups on Linked­In, initiate conversation on industry trends, then ask certain people in the group to weigh in. After you’ve engaged someone, it’s kosher to message one-on-one and express interest in the firm.

Another way to capture employers’ attention: Offer to speak at an industry event, says Job Search Magic author Susan Whitcomb. From the podium, mention free additional materials you have (like a white paper you wrote) and say, “Share your business card with me afterward, and I’ll be sure you receive that resource.” That way you can follow up and weave into the conversation something like “What do you like about your company?” and “I’m always interested in learning about new opportunities.”

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MONEY

How to Compete for an Out-of-Town Job

illustration of station wagon pulling office desk
Mikey Burton

You can improve your chances of finding a new job by taking your search on the road, but you’ve got to be strategic in selling yourself.

Three out of four hiring managers recently surveyed by Challenger Gray & Christmas reported a shortage of local talent. So theo­ret­ically you could have better luck finding the job of your dreams if you’re willing and able to move.

Problem is, many companies are hesitant to hire out-of-towners because of concerns over relocation, money, and local knowledge. But you can put hiring managers at ease by preemptively addressing these three issues in your application:

How Willing You Are to Move

Transparency is crucial. “If a recruiter in Pittsburgh sees you’ve been working in L.A. for 10 years, they’ll want to know why you’re applying,” says Marcelle Yeager, president of Career Valet, a professional coaching firm.

Don’t skirt these issues or, worse, lie by using a local pal’s address. Instead, write beside your address that you would be eager to relocate to the area for the right career opportunity, recommends Jaime Klein, founder of Inspire Human Resources, a New York HR consulting firm.

What It Will Cost the Company

Hiring costs are top of mind for recruiters when evaluating long-distance applications. So pay your own way for an in-person interview if you can swing it, says Stefanie Wichansky, CEO at Randolph, N.J., management consulting and staffing firm Professional Resource Partners. A subtle approach: Indicate that you are frequently in the area and can make yourself available at the hiring manager’s convenience.

Definitely don’t bring up needing relocation assistance in your cover letter. “That makes your candidacy less attractive, as you’ll be a more expensive hire compared to the local competition,” says Wichansky. Wait to raise the issue until the company has determined that you’re the best candidate. “You’re in a better position to negotiate once you’ve proven the value you can bring to the organization,” she says.

How Well You Know the Area

Unless you have a skill set that’s unique or in high demand, you’re going to need to convince a hiring manager that you’re not ­hampered—and wouldn’t hamper the company—by your lack of knowledge of the local market, says Yeager.

One way to tap into the market from afar, besides following local news and blogs, is to join region-specific industry networking groups on LinkedIn. Start discussions to gain an insider’s perspective, then demonstrate this knowledge in your cover letter. An out-of-towner looking for work in commercial real estate, for example, might study neighborhoods and establish relationships with local developers to show he can hit the ground running.

 

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