MONEY Careers

4 Ways to Find an Unlisted Job

Magnifying glass looking at classifieds
Mikey Burton

With a little digging, you can make sure you’re in the know when a sweet office opens up at your dream employer.

Your next job probably won’t be advertised. When it comes to filling positions at the director level and up, hiring managers prefer to target their ideal candidates rather than sift through applicant résumés. But don’t just count on a call from a recruiter to pluck you from the ranks. “The job seeker who waits to be tapped on the shoulder might be waiting awhile,” says Tonushree Mondal of HR consulting firm Mercer. Take these steps to find the job, since it may not find you.

Talk to the Top Recruiters

Higher-up HR reps tend to be gate- keepers for higher-level positions, so identify recruiters with sway at the businesses you admire. Can’t determine the right person via LinkedIn? Scour the employer’s career page for the most senior posting in your area and reach out to the person listed, says Kurt Kraeger, New York managing director at Robert Walters recruitment firm. Send a note saying, “I submitted my résumé via normal channels but wanted to get in touch directly about my interest.” Stay on the person’s radar with a periodic email. “They may not look at it, but they’ll remember your name,” says Fred Coon, CEO at executive search firm Stewart Cooper & Coon.

Make a Friend on the Inside

Since upper-level jobs are often revealed only internally, it can pay to establish relationships with peers at companies on your wish list, says Edina, Minn., executive career coach George Dow. Use Linked­In to find a second-degree connection, then request an introduction from your mutual pal. Explain that you’d like to learn about what the company looks for in candidates. Once trust is established, ask your confidant for the favor of letting you know of openings. (“Forget about saying, ‘Can you help me get a job?’ or the person will feel used,” warns Coon.) Offer something in return, like an intro to influencers in your network.

Impress the C-suite Crowd

For you to be identified as a candidate, “companies need to see that you’re a known commodity,” says Job Search Magic author Susan Whitcomb. That means going beyond attending industry events. To capture the attention of those with hire power, you must steal the spotlight. Whitcomb suggests getting on the speaking docket at a trade conference or forming a cross-industry group on a trend in your field.

Get the Boss’s Buy-in

Want to climb at your current ­company? Ask the boss for a boost: “Under your direction I’ve learned so much and feel ready to take on a higher role. Can you help me find new opportunities here?” If that’s uncomfortable, schedule a visit with the head of HR. “Say you’re interested in moving up, and why,” says Coon. Also, find a mole in finance, since filling jobs often requires budget sign off. Adds Coon: “It’s detective work, pure and simple.”

MONEY Obamacare

How New College Grads Can Score a Health Insurance Deal

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Obamacare opens up new coverage choices—and another reason not to go without.

Q. I just graduated from college but don’t yet have a full-time job. What are my best health insurance options?

A. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act—a.k.a. Obamacare—you have more good choices than you once did. Since 2010, young adults can stay on a parent’s employer-sponsored plan until age 26. Of the estimated 15 million young adults enrolled in a parent’s plan last year, nearly eight million would not have been eligible before the law took effect, according to a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund.

Even if you have that option, though, you may not want to take advantage of it. If you’re living far from your childhood home, for example, doctors near you likely won’t be included in the plan’s network, and you’ll pay more at out-of-network providers. You might also prefer that your parents not receive any explanation of benefits about your health care. “Your child may decide he or she wants to graduate from the parent plan,” says Bryce Williams, managing director of benefits consultant Towers Watson.

The Financial Aid You Can Find

At this stage of life, breaking free of your parents’ plan doesn’t have to be costly. Even though general enrollment on the new government health insurance exchanges has closed for 2014, you qualify for an exemption if you lost your previous health insurance when you graduated or moved to a new state. You typically must enroll within 60 days of losing coverage. Miss that window, and you’re locked out until 2015. Shop for policies at healthcare.gov.

Since that first year out of school can be a lean one income-wise, you’ll be glad to hear that low earners qualify for subsidies that make plans more affordable. If your income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty leven, or $11,670 and $46,680, you may be eligible. You can’t choose any old plan, though. You’ll need to sign up for a so-called silver level plan to qualify.

You’ll be disqualified for a subsidy if you have a part-time job that offers you an affordable plan, meaning it costs less than 9.5% of your income and is designed to cover 60% of the average enrollee’s costs. You also won’t qualify if your parents claim you as a dependent on their tax return, says Christina Postolowski, a senior policy analyst at Young Invincibles, unless your family’s income is low enough that the whole family qualifies.

Keep in mind that if you land a job and end up making too much money over the course of the year, you’ll have to repay at least part of the subsidy, warns Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of marketing at GoHealth.com, an online insurance marketplace. One workaround is to accept only a portion of the subsidy for now and take the rest at tax filing time, when you’re certain of your total annual income.

Only Insure For the Worse

If subsidized coverage isn’t an option for you, check out so-called catastrophic plans, created specifically for young adults. You’ll find them at healthcare.gov. The premiums are lower than what more comprehensive plans charge. The tradeoff: you’ll owe a higher bill if you need care. “One caution with these plans is they have high deductibles, so if you have a chronic condition you could owe quite a bit out of pocket,” says Postolowski.

What happens if you forgo insurance all together? Nothing, necessarily, if it is only for a month or two, assuming you remain healthy. If you are uninsured for more than three months over the course of a year, though, you may end up paying a penalty come April 15 when you file your 2014 taxes. The penalty is either $95 or 1% of your income, whichever is greater, though it rises next year.

Will mom and dad be okay with you going without? Likely not. “The worse decision of all in today’s world is to let a child remain uninsured,” says Williams. “Either put them on your plan, or nag them to enroll in an exchange plan.”

MONEY Careers

Is a Grad Degree Worth It? This Article Could Save You $100,000

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Nancy Palmieri—AP

In many cases, an advanced degree can do more harm (read: debt and years out of the workforce) than good. Here's how to make sure you'll actually benefit.

You might think graduate degrees are more necessary than ever in today’s hyper-competitive job market. But a recent report suggests that post-grad education often comes with a very big catch: crippling debt.

The New America analysis found that America’s trillion-dollar student debt problem is disproportionately owed to graduate and professional degrees, not undergraduate educations. About 40% of federal loan dollars go to grad students, even though post-baccalaureates make up only 20% of higher-ed students.

“A lot of people go back to school because they don’t know what else to do and want to get out of a tough job market,” says former hiring manager Alison Green, author of askamanager.org. But you should be more conscious about your decision-making, she adds. This is not only because a grad degree can leave you with a six-figure debt, but also because pursuing an advanced degree takes you out of the workforce and doesn’t always lead to better job prospects.

So how do you decide whether a grad degree will be worth it for you? Here are three questions to ask before applying:

1. Will I realistically be able to pay off my debt? If you’re going to law or medical school, and intend to practice, you’re in a decent position to eventually pay off your student loans. “But if you are thinking of getting a masters degree in liberal arts, you should carefully scrutinize the cost,” says Green. In 2004, the median debt for an MA was $38,000, but in 2012, it was $59,000 (inflation-adjusted). Look into average starting salaries for your desired field before you apply. Then plug in your numbers using this LearnVest calculator.

2. Do I have clear goals—and a backup plan? Going to graduate school simply because of a lack of a better idea can be a dangerous move, especially if you’re just putting off the big question of “What am I going to do with my life?” until you are a few years older (and a few hundred grand poorer). You should know why you’re getting your degree and what you’ll do if your Plan A doesn’t pan out. And consider whether your degree will make sense for both your primary and contingency plans. A common problem for law students, for example, is realizing soon after graduation that they don’t want to practice law—and discovering their degree can actually make them seem overqualified for positions in other fields, Green says.

3. Is a grad degree valued in your desired field? If you want become a software programmer, you don’t need to go to MIT to learn coding. Between MOOCs and online resources like codecademy.com, there are many options for learning the same skills more cheaply—while you keep your day job. In fact, in some fields, leaving the workforce for a year or three might actually hurt you when it comes time to job hunt. “Hiring managers increasingly place a higher premium on professional experiences than academic credentials,” says Green. “That’s especially true in technical areas like programming, software development, and IT.” So consider whether your intended field really values post-graduate education—or if an apprenticeship or alternative training program could give you the same pay bump. A recent Georgetown University report shows that a graduate degree does not boost incomes uniformly: If you are a biology or life sciences concentrator, your income could jump more than 100%, but in the arts, you’d get only a 23% boost. Finally, if you are really serious about locking down a diploma, consider pursuing a degree part time while continuing to work. That keeps your resume uninterrupted and your income flowing.

Earnings and Income Boosts From Graduate Degrees
SOURCE: “What’s it worth? The economic value of college majors” from the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce.
TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Things Happy People Choose to Do Every Single Day

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Blend Images - Peathegee Inc—Getty Images/Brand X

Science shows that you can have an impact on only 12 percent of the things that determine whether you're happy. The happiest people among us understand that if you make the right choices, that small sliver is enough.


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

What separates the world’s happiest people from the rest of us?

About one-third of the U.S. population describes itself as “very happy,” according to the polling agency Harris Interactive–a higher number than I think many of us might expect.

These are the people in your office who are upbeat and eager no matter what unexpected challenges come their way, and the ones who seem to get genuinely excited over the smallest opportunities and kindnesses. They’re the folks in your social circles who endure hardship with smiles on their faces and who seem hard-wired always to look on the bright side.

Studies show that half of happiness is determined by genetics, and a little under 40 percent is governed by the impact of external events. You own the 12 percent of the package that’s left, however, and it turns out that the choices you make within that sliver make all the difference between being happy or not. Happier people realize this, and as a result they make seven key choices every day.

1. They choose to exercise.

There are many happy people who aren’t in great physical shape, so how does this make sense? The explanation is that you need only seven minutes of exercise a day if you’re exercising for the sake of happiness. That’s enough to make your body release endorphins, the neurotransmitters responsible for that famous “runner’s high.” They might not even call it exercise, but happy people find at least a small period of time each day to devote to moving around.

2. They choose to spend time outside.

Just 20 minutes a day outside is enough to elevate your level of happiness. You can even combine this with choice No. 1 and take your short exercise break outside. A simple walk at lunch or even a little time in the backyard, on the patio, or at a nearby park makes the difference. They might not even realize its impact on their happiness, but happy people make it a point to get outdoors.

3. They choose to focus on their families.

Three-quarters of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2010 said that their family was “the most important, most satisfying element of their lives,” according to a U.S. News report on the study. So, bury the hatchet with your brother-in-law and focus on your parents, children, or siblings if you want to be happier. Happy people might not always want to, but they find at least a few minutes every day (often much more) to do things to improve their family relationships.

4. They choose to make time for friends.

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves, and at least some small amount of social time with them every day is necessary if you want to improve happiness. Even just checking in with friends for a few minutes on the phone or a 10-minute conversation or activity together can make a difference. If you’re truly among the busiest people among us, merge this with choices No. 1 and 2, and exercise outside together. Happy people might not always have as much time as they’d like, but they find a way to interact with friends.

5. They choose to find meaning in their work.

It’s uniquely American in that work satisfaction can make or break our happiness, but as an entrepreneur, you probably think about this choice all the time: Part of happiness comes from using your gifts and talents every day to make some kind of difference. Happy people might not have found their dream job or their true calling–heck, they might not love their work–but they find a way to put their daily tasks in perspective and to take pride and joy from what they do.

6. They choose to contribute to their communities.

Being part of a community gives you a sense of belonging and helps improve your sense of self-worth, even as you work to define who you truly are. Thus, every day, truly happy people find a way to share something with their broader communities–going beyond their families and groups of close friends. Happy people might be involved with professional associations, church groups, athletic organizations, or something else, but they make sure to find some way to share with them every day.

7. They choose to get enough sleep.

It’s true: Lack of sleep will ruin your life. If you don’t get enough shuteye, you’ll be more likely to be irritable, your judgment gets impaired, and your libido suffers, all of which affect your overall happiness. Happy people might be no less busy than the rest of us, but they squeeze something else out of their lives if necessary. They give up television watching, Internet surfing, or simply worrying about things they can’t affect–and they choose to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every day.

Read more from Inc.com:

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

The One Trait That Guarantees a Good Hire

7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

TIME Careers & Workplace

9 Guaranteed Ways to Kill Your Credibility

Frustrated businessman sitting at desk with head in hands
Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/OJO Images

These common mistakes make others wonder whether you're worthy of their attention


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Your ability to influence others is directly dependent upon how credible you seem. If meeting attendees don’t perceive you as intelligent, competent and trustworthy, they’ll want to do business with somebody else.

With that in mind, here are nine common meeting-room behaviors to avoid:

1. Phrases that imply deception.

Beginning a statement with “In all honesty,” “Honestly,” or “To be honest,” it implies that up until that point, you’ve been lying

2. Words that sound sales-y.

Most people don’t trust salespeople (wrongly, in my view) so using words like “guarantee,” “discount,” and even “solution” makes you seem less trustworthy.

3. Excessive corporate-speak.

The occasional use of words like “leverage,” “impact,” and “reach out” is no big deal but it sounds ridiculous when every sentence is splattered with biz-blab.

4. Overuse of acronyms.

Acronyms are OK as shorthand, but if you use them too much, people get lost in the alphabet soup and start wondering if you actually know what you’re talking about.

5. Non-commitments.

Phrases like “I’ll try” or “I’ll see what I can do” make you appear unsure of your own ability to deliver. Either commit or don’t commit; there is no “try.”

6. Riffing.

When you admit ignorance, your credibility may suffer, but not nearly so much as when your improvised answers are revealed as a huge pile of BS.

7. Inappropriate humor.

A little light humor never hurt anyone, but any “joke” that references race, sex, gender, politics or religion is best left unsaid.

8. Repeatedly interrupting.

It makes you look both insecure AND disrespectful when you keep inserting yourself when someone else is speaking. The absolute worst: finishing other people’s sentences.

9. Failure to take responsibility.

Mistakes don’t help your credibility but trying to fix blame elsewhere is far worse. It’s always smarter to ‘fess up than finger-point.

Read more from Inc.com:

The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship

14 Tactics for Reading People’s Body Language

The One Trait That Guarantees a Good Hire

7 Things You Can Do on Friday to Make Monday Awesome

Sheryl Sandberg and the Hypocrisy of Lean In

MONEY working in retirement

Don’t Buy Into the Retirement Gloom

Senior in the workplace
Thomas Barwick—Getty Images

In the emerging Unretirement movement, you are your best investment.

This story was originally published at Next Avenue.

Gray wave. Age wave. Geezer tsunami. (Pick your favorite — or most hated — euphemism.) Catchphrases like these capture the realization that we’re living longer and that older Americans make up a growing share of the population. As economist Laurence Kotlikoff and columnist Scott Burns say in The Coming Generational Storm: “The aging of America isn’t a temporary event. We are well into a change that is permanent, irreversible, and very long term.”

Living longer should be a trend worth celebrating. But many people believe that America’s boomers can’t afford retirement, let alone a decent retirement. They fear that aging boomers are inevitably hurtling toward a lower standard of living.

And here’s their evidence: We’ve just been through the worst downturn since the 1930s, decimating jobs and pensions. Retirement savings are slim. Surveys show that boomers aren’t spending much time planning for retirement. The prediction that the swelling tab for Social Security and other old-age entitlements will push the U.S. government and economy into a Greece-like collapse seems almost routine.

The Unretirement Movement

Don’t buy into the retirement gloom. I’m not.

Here’s why: The signs of a grassroots push to reinvent the last third of life are unmistakable. Call it the “Unretirement” movement — and it is a movement.

Unretirement starts with the insight that earning a paycheck well into the traditional retirement years will make a huge difference in our future living standards. You — and your skills and talents — are your best retirement investment. What’s more, if society taps into the talents and abilities of sixty-somethings and seventy-somethings, employers will benefit, the economy will be wealthier and funding entitlements will be much easier.

The Unretirement movement is built off a series of broad, mutually reinforcing changes in the economy and society that are transforming an aging workforce into a powerful economic asset. Boomers are the most educated generation in U.S. history and they’re healthier, on average, than previous generations. A century-long trend toward a declining average age of retirement has already reversed itself and — it’s safe to say — you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

“Many people aren’t slowing down in their 60s and 70s,” says Ross Levin, a certified financial planner and president of Accredited Investors in Edina, Minn. Adds Nicole Maestas, economist at the Rand Corp., the Santa Monica, Calif.-based think tank: “Yes, America has an aging population. The upside of that is a whole generation of people who are interested in anything but retirement.”

Your ‘Next Big Thing

Just ask Luanne Mullin, 60. She has done marketing for a dance company, opened a theater company and run a recording studio. These days, Mullin is a project manager at the University of California, San Francisco, overseeing the construction of scientific laboratories (she does mediation at the school on the side).

“I think there’s more and more of us at 60 who are saying, ‘OK, what’s my next career? What do I want to do that’s fulfilling?’” Mullin told me. “I’m all for what’s my next big thing.”Mullin loves her work, but she’s also wrestling with the same questions as many of her peers. “What is this aging thing?” she wonders. “Am I living fully? Is this the second half of life I dreamed of, or if not, how do I pull it together?”

When Unretirement is Tougher

For many in their 50s and 60s, the transition to Unretirement is much tougher — especially for those who are involuntarily unemployed, like Debbie Nowak.

She didn’t see the layoff coming. Nowak worked for more than 30 years in customer relations for the pensions and benefits department at Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., In November 2011, at 58, she lost her job there.

Nowak, who has a high school diploma, let herself grieve until the holidays were over. In the New Year, she got her severance, went on unemployment and began thinking about embracing something completely different from her old job. “I never thought of myself as a risk taker,” she says. “After 30 years, I thought I should take a risk.”

Nowak had a stained glass hobby, making window panes, mosaic trays, and other objects. That led her to the idea of working in the wood finishing and furniture-restoring business. Last year, she got a certificate from The National Institute for Wood Finishing at Dakota Community Technical College in Rosemount, Minn. To pay for it, Nowak took out a loan and the state chipped in from its displaced workers fund.

Today, she has a part-time job at small furniture-restoration company. “It’s a crap shoot, a risk I was willing to take,” says Nowak. “This is also a way to produce additional income in retirement.”

As Mullin and Nowak demonstrate, we’re living though a period of experimentation while redefining retirement. Many people are stumbling about, searching for an encore career, a part-time job or contract work that offers them meaning and an income.

Some find it extremely tough to get hired, cobbling together a job here and a contract there, assuming they’re healthy. Especially vulnerable are less-educated workers who never made much money or never had jobs with employer-sponsored retirement and health benefits.

How Society Will Change

The rise of Unretirement calls for a whole cluster of changes in how society rewards work, creates jobs, shares the wealth and deals with old age. Unretirement will affect where Americans live out their lives, too, as they seek communities and services equipped for them.

Taken altogether, boomers will construct a new vision of their retirement years, which will impact how younger generations will think about their careers.

“People tend to learn from examples or stories handed down from previous generations — but there are few stories to navigate the new context of old age and retirement for the baby boomers,” writes Joseph Coughlin, the infectiously enthusiastic head of MIT’s AgeLab, a multi-disciplinary center. “When there are no set rules you make them up. The future of old age will be improvised.”

Send Your Unretirement Questions

This blog aims to take a first draft at the Unretirement improv act. I’ll particularly focus on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications of the movement. I’ll talk about successes and failures, the impediments of age discrimination and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income in their next chapters.

Most of all, I hope to hear from you and find out about your experiences so I can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to me at cfarrell@mpr.org. My twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

Peter Drucker, the late philosopher of management, noted that every once in a while, society crosses a major divide. “Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself — its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts; its key institutions,” Drucker wrote in Post-Capitalist Society. “Fifty years later there is a new world.”

The transformation of retirement into Unretirement marks such a divide. Welcome to a revolution in the making.

Chris Farrell is economics editor for APM’s Marketplace Money, a syndicated personal finance program, and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He will be writing on Unretirement twice a month.

Related Links:

‘Partial Retirement’ Is On the Rise

A Manual for Encore Careers

 

MONEY Careers

New Degree, No Job? 4 Steps Grads Should Take to Jumpstart the Search

Now that commencement's over and real life is about to begin, career coach and former HR exec Caroline Ceniza-Levine offers strategies to get your career in gear, stat.

As a former recruiter, I have hired thousands of new graduates into their first full-time jobs, so I’ve seen the hiring process up close, inside and out.

Some industries—like management consulting and investment banking—do the bulk of their hiring well before graduation. If you have classmates entering these fields, you might be anxious if you don’t have your own first career step confirmed. (This goes for parents, too!)

Temper your anxieties by keeping in mind that the vast majority of companies only hire as needs arrive. Some of those companies are looking to fill entry-level slots right now, just a few heartbeats after commencement. So it may not be long before you (or your child) is launched—assuming you’re strategic. Take these four steps to take now to get the search in gear:

Figure out the finances first

You need to have time for your search. Even in the best-case scenario, it may take a month or two for you to go through the interview and vetting processes and land your first gig. In that time, you need to have a stable living environment where your basic needs are met so that you can be confident and relaxed as you meet with employers.

That requires answering this question first: How are you going to cover your expenses as you look?

Talk to your family about how long you are welcome to stay. If you have student loan payments that had a grace period while you were in school, find out when the first payment is starting and how much it is. Sketch out the rest of your budget, so you know what you’ll need to cover yourself.

Pick the low-hanging fruit

If money is tight, you’ll need to land something quickly and start earning. But even if you have the finances to support a longer search, you’ll want to avoid a long gap on your resume.

People who already know, like and trust you will more readily hire you or refer you for positions. So start your search by reaching out to family, friends, former employers from past internships or side jobs, even professors. Let them know you’re available.

Employers get inundated with resumes, but if someone the hiring manager knows personally refers you as a candidate, there’s a better chance your resume will get noticed.

Don’t discount “stopgap” jobs

First jobs do not have to be exactly in your area of interest to be valuable.

One of my coaching clients worked a retail job after she graduated, while searching for something in her target area (media). That job not only gave her the means to support herself, but also introduced her to other recent graduates working the store; and as her fellow store clerks got hired into their corporate jobs, she got introductions to those companies.

One new graduate I hired had been referred to me by a senior executive—she had babysat for his kids, and he was impressed by her work ethic.

In other words, these so-called stopgap jobs can set the stage for bigger career moves.

Keep going after your ideal job

Block out specific days and times for the search for your ideal job, even if you take that retail job or freelance project in the meantime.

Identify the companies you’d want to work for, check their websites regularly and follow them on social media to hear about openings. Also, use LinkedIn to find people in your network who work there and can introduce you or at least give you more information about the company to make you a more informed (read: more competitive) candidate.

Additionally, join a professional association in your target industry or a broader networking group like your university alumni club. The member events allow you to get comfortable in professional settings and meet new people, some of whom might work for your ideal companies. You never know who might help get you your first job—or your next one.

_____________________________________________________

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart® career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

MONEY Careers

Want to Boost Your Salary? Try Learning German

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Fluency in German could boost your pay by 4%. Sehr gut! RJ Sangosti—The Denver Post/Getty Images

Fluency in foreign tongues may increase your job options — and your pay. Interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing occupations

The rewards of learning other tongues are many: more potential friends, easier travel, and even, some studies suggest, better decision-making. But what about greater earnings potential?

Research from Wharton and LECG Europe found that studying a second language is correlated with about 2% more in annual income.

That’s a pretty low return, on the face of it—and probably not even as good as the minuscule raise your boss gave you this year. As study author Albert Saiz points out in a recent Freakonomics podcast, for someone making $30,000 annually, 2% amounts to only about $600 more per year. But Robert Lane Greene at The Economist shows that once you factor in compounding, a foreign language could mean nearly $70,000 more in savings by retirement. Put that way, it’s not too shabby.

Of course, broad correlations aren’t so helpful if you’re looking for a concrete pay bump in the real world. But there are many specific cases where a second (or third) language could increase your job opportunities and income.

For example, interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with opportunities expected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022. And for those who dream of being a real-life Jason Bourne, the C.I.A. loves polyglots.

When it comes to money, members of the U.S. military can earn up to $1,000 more per month if they are proficient in multiple languages.

A foreign language can also amp up your desirability—and therefore your pay—in business or law, particularly if you speak Chinese or Japanese, says Charles Volkert, executive director of the legal department of staffing agency Robert Half. Recently, 42% of employers at top law firms surveyed by Volkert’s team saw an increase in legal jobs requiring a second language.

“With so few qualified candidates, there’s a huge demand for professionals who can speak Asian languages, particularly at globalized auto and tech companies,” says Volkert.

If learning a whole new alphabet sounds intimidating, there is good news: Saiz’s study found that the pay premium for learning German was higher than the average, at 4%. And if you, say, want to test drive Deutsch before committing to a costly class—some top programs charge thousands of dollars to get you proficient—there are plenty of ways to learn beginner language skills for free.

Duolingo, for example, starts off by teaching you to read, write, and speak basic phrases like “Ich bin ein Junge,” then ramps up difficulty—while giving you opportunities to compete with Facebook friends who are also learning languages. Next stop might be one of the BBC’s well-reviewed free online courses. After that, you might want to shell out—either for Berlitz or plane tickets.

MONEY online shopping

Boycotting Amazon: A Brief History

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Amazon employees in Germany staged a strike over wages and working conditions during the holiday shopping season of 2013. UWE ZUCCHI—AFP/Getty Images

Throughout its history, Amazon has been the target of attempts to get you not to shop there. Here's a look at past boycott efforts against the retailer, and how they fared.

The recent rallying cry for a boycott of Amazon.com is hardly the first of its kind. It’s also not the first time the world’s largest e-retailer has been accused of using bullying, unfair, tone-deaf business practices.

To put the current “boycott Amazon” campaign—as promoted by The Stranger, Reuters, Gawker, and others—in perspective, here’s a brief retrospective of previous efforts to put Amazon in place by not giving it any of your money.

1999
The Free Software Foundation urged a boycott of Amazon because the site claimed a patent on one-click purchasing—something of a novelty at the time—and was suing other e-commerce companies (including BarnesandNoble.com) that used a one-click purchasing process. “Amazon has sued to block the use of this simple idea, showing that they truly intend to monopolize it,” a widely circulated e-mail that called for the boycott stated. “This is an attack against the World Wide Web and against e-commerce in general.” A couple years later, Amazon seemed less inclined to bother using its patent to threaten competitors, and the boycott was dropped.

2007
Around 2007—the year that NFL quarterback Michael Vick was suspended and sent to jail for running an illegal dogfighting ring—animal lovers began loudly calling for a boycott of Amazon because the site sold videos, magazines, and books about dogfighting and cockfighting. At least two of the titles described as “torture guides” by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are still available for purchase on Amazon.

2010
In late October 2010, a self-published e-book went on sale at Amazon with extremely disturbing subject matter, summed up in the title: The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct.

At first, despite massive protests online and calls for a broad boycott of Amazon, the e-retailer refused to remove the item from the site. The company released a statement with its justification to keeping the e-book for sale, explaining, “Amazon.com believes it is censorship not to sell certain titles because we believe their message is objectionable.” Within a few days, however, Amazon relented and stopped selling the pedophilia book.

2010
After U.S. political leaders pressured Amazon to block Wikileaks, the whistle-blowing website known for leaking classified security documents, Amazon relented, and stopped hosting the site. Free speech advocates including Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, promptly called for a consumer boycott of Amazon.

2011
For several years, Amazon was in the habit of spending millions of dollars lobbying various states to cut off local efforts to start charging sales tax on online purchases. To small business owners, the fact that sales tax was not automatically charged for e-commerce purchases gave e-retailers such as Amazon an unfair advantage—customers could easily save 7% or whatever the local sales tax rate was simply by purchasing online. (Sure, those consumers were later supposed to pay the sales tax they owed to the state, but almost no one did that.) In 2011, while California approved the installation of a sales tax on online purchases but hadn’t yet put the policy in practice, Amazon was actively trying to get the law overturned. The company’s efforts were met with a call to (surprise, surprise) boycott Amazon.

The boycott never really gained steam, and as of mid-September 2012, the campaign was totally moot, as Amazon began charging sales tax in California. Amazon customers in many other states who once could skip out on sales tax are now automatically charged sales tax on e-commerce purchases as well.

2011
In the fall of 2011, reports spread about deplorable worker conditions at Amazon warehouses and shipping centers around the country. An investigation by the Pennsylvania Morning Call showed employees at the Amazon warehouse in the Lehigh Valley enduring sweatshop-like conditions, including indoor temperatures so hot (over 100 degrees during summer heat waves) that the company arranged for ambulances to parked outside, waiting to treat workers for dehydration or other heat-related issues.

“Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain,” the Morning Call reported. “Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said.”

After consumer and worker groups got wind of Amazon worker complaints, a boycott was called for during the 2011 winter holiday shopping season. Some 12,600 consumers pledged to boycott Amazon for the holidays, if not indefinitely. If nothing else, Amazon stated that it has since installed much-need air-conditioners in warehouses, when appropriate.

The U.S. isn’t the only country where Amazon workers have voiced gripes against the company. In late 2013, for instance, Germany’s Amazon.com workers went on strike and staged protests outside the company’s Seattle headquarters due to “low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts.” Many have called for a boycott of Amazon among German consumers because of the company’s treatment of workers.

2012
Calls for a consumer boycott Amazon, as well as Starbucks and Google, throughout the UK started spreading in 2012, continued through 2013, and gained more traction in spring of 2014, with Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee in the UK, personally calling for consumers to avoid doing business with these companies.

Why? Due to a range of strategies employed by the companies, they pay relatively little in corporate taxes. Amazon, for instance, paid £4.2m in UK taxes in 2013, or 0.1% of its UK revenues. “It is an outrage and Amazon should pay their fair share of tax,” said Hodge. “They are making money out of not paying taxes. I no longer use Amazon. We should shop elsewhere.”

2013
In September, Boston-based author Jaime Clarke launched an odd website to help sell his new novel, Vernon Downs. The site’s url was PleaseDontBuyMyBookonAmazon.com. Clark said he was motivated to create the site because he wanted help independent publishers such as Roundabout Press, which published Clarke’s book.

“Most indie publishers rely on Amazon to sell their books, and to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, the price is high,” Clarke said in a Q&A with CNET. “Indie publishers realize a fraction of the purchase price and are at the mercy of Amazon’s discounting policies.”

What’s more, Clarke just so happens to be the co-owner of Newtonville Books, which just so happens to be an independent bookstore—the ranks of which have been depleted during Amazon’s rise to power. “Independent bookstore owners loathe Amazon and its bald-pated founder, Jeff Bezos,” a Boston Globe story on Clarke explained.

2014
The most recent boycott Amazon push is related to the company’s ongoing battle with the Hachette Book Group. Essentially, Amazon wants to sell Hachette e-books at a lower price than the publisher wants, and to get its way, Amazon has stopped selling preorders of Hachette books, and it has slowed down the process of customers buying and shipping other Hachette books. For many, this clash epitomized the view that Amazon has too much power, is verging on a monopoly, and is perhaps just plain evil. And for many, this clash is what finally makes them feel that it is time to buy stuff elsewhere.

MONEY Obamacare

How Obamacare Is Making Exiting Your Job Trickier

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

You now have more health insurance options to sort through if you quit or face a layoff, and making the wrong choice could prove costly.

Q. When I leave my job, should I sign up for COBRA or buy my own health insurance?

A. With Obamacare in full force, you have a crucial choice to make when you quit or get the ax: pay to stay on your group health plan for up to 18 months (what’s called COBRA), or buy your own policy on a government-run online insurance exchange or directly from an insurer. In May the Obama administration informed all employers with 20 or more workers that they must tell you about both options when you exit.

Your first step should be to price out an individual plan on a government exchange via healthcare.gov and through private sites like gohealth.com and ehealthinsurance.com. Thanks to the health reform law, you’re guaranteed coverage regardless of your health. And you may qualify for a subsidized premium if you earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level, or $46,680 for a single, $62,920 for a couple, and $95,400 for a family of four. If so, you must shop at healthcare.gov. Open enrollment for 2014 coverage via the exchanges closed in March—but after a job loss you have up to 60 days to shop there.

The High Price of Staying Put

Stick with your employer plan through COBRA, and you’ll likely face sticker shock. You’ll owe both your and your employer’s share of the premium, plus a 2% administrative fee. On average, you pay only 18% of the annual premium while you’re working if you’re single, 29% for a family plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The average annual tab under COBRA: about $6,000 for singles and $16,500 for families. “COBRA can be a double whammy, because you have to pay the full premium at the same time you may have lost your job and your income,” says Bryce Williams, a managing director at benefits consultant Towers Watson.

The Pros and Cons of Buying Your Own Plan

Chances are you’ll pay a lower premium on the individual market, especially if you qualify for a subsidy. The trade off is that you’ll likely face a higher deductible, steeper out-of-pocket costs, and a shorter list of in-network doctors and hospitals than you would have with your old company group plan. Make sure your preferred hospitals and doctors are in a plan’s network. Provider directories from insurers were notoriously out-of-date even before this year’s slew of changes, so check with the insurer as well as your doctors.

Also factor in how much you’ll pay for drugs, particularly expensive speciality drugs to treat conditions like cancer. An analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health found that more than half of mid-priced individual plans sold on the exchanges saddle consumers with a percentage of the cost, sometimes 50% or more. What’s more, consumers on the exchanges are twice as likely as group enrollees to need to take extra steps before a drug is covered, such as getting prior authorization from the insurer or trying another drug first.

Whatever you do, don’t mindlessly choose COBRA, figuring you’ll research your options when you have more time, says Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of marketing at GoHealth.com. “You can’t change it later,” he says. You’ll be locked into that plan until your next chance to enroll in an individual plan. For plans starting in January 2015, open enrollment begins on Nov. 15.

 

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