Career Fair I

Job hunting can be an onerous task. Between rummaging through classifieds and Craig’s List, there are resumes to mail, interviews to schedule, and the lingering dread that the right job is out there, but you’ve just missed it.

For the workforce-bound, Rutgers University’s New Brunswick Career Services is sponsoring the state’s largest one-day college rcruitment career fair at the Rutgers Student Center on College Avenue on Friday, January 4, starting at 9:30 a.m. The New Jersey Collegiate Career Day is free and open to anyone who is about to graduate from college, as well as college graduates. Register online at careerservice.rutgers.edu.

The day will feature more than 250 employers from various fields, including business, sciences, liberal arts, and technology. All degrees at all levels are welcome.

Jobseekers can not only register online, but submit resumes that will be distributed to participating companies (up-to-date list available at Career Services’ website). Employers can register through the website to participate. Cost: $600.

Jobhunters are advised to bring several copies of their resume to the fair, since no copy services will be available. Career Services also offers these tips for candidates:

Dress to impress. It may sound obvious, but inappropriate clothing can kill a potentially rewarding relationship with an employer. Avoid sneakers and jeans and cover tattoos. Women should wear a suit, pants suit, blazer with skirt, or dress, in conservative colors and avoid heavy jewelry or perfume. Men should wear a suit, jacket and tie with slacks, also in a conservative color, and go easy on the cologne or after-shave.

Know your resume. Bringing more copies than you think you might need is a good start, but make sure you’re not handing out shabby papers full of typos. Resumes are the first impression most employers have of a candidate – don’t sabotage yourself with bad grammer, spelling mistakes, or other easily remedied flaws.

Know your employer. Career Services provides a list of employers taking part in the career fair through its website. The list features hotlinks to each employer listed and breaks down the type of degree and specialty each looks for. Use this list to narrow your search and court those employers you feel are a good match when you arrive.

Know yourself. While a resume is your first contact with most employers, you yourself are your own best calling card. Develop an introduction for those companies you’re interested in pursuing. A brief introduction of yourself, your experiences, and your achievements can go a long way toward making a lasting (good) impression. Career Services offers online tips on how to make a great first pitch.

Tuesday, January 8

Career Fair II

The Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting its fourth annual Career Connections job fair at Rider Univesrity on Tuesday, January 8, in the Bart Luedeke Center. Snow date: January 9. Beginning with free seminars at 9:30 a.m., the fair proper kicks off at 10 a.m. The event is free and runs until 3 p.m. Visit www.mercerchamber.org/events/jobFair2008.asp.

Chamber president Michele Siekerka says the fair stands out from other job fairs in that it is not about "one company looking to fill a few specific jobs," but a chance to network and interview with several agencies looking to fill spots from entry to senior level.

Companies expected at the fair include Nassau Broadcasting, Rider University, Sovereign Bank, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton. A complete listing is available online.

The event features free workshops throughout the day and information about various career-related programs. The workshops, says Ed Kourocka, chairman of the chamber’s Education and Workforce Development Committee, are designed to provide useful tips to anyone entering the job market or considering a career change. The advice will cover such bases as:

Looking Online. Everyone knows the Internet is the way to look for jobs these days, but knowing how to navigate can save loads of time and trouble. Creating search agents and preparing Internet-compatible resumes can help you zero in on the jobs you want.

Networking. There is a justly famous saying in business – "it’s who you know." But getting to know people can be intimidating to the novice and the shy. Learning to make lasting (and valuable) connections starts with knowing you might need help in polishing this highly impotant tool. And a good first step is to hand out and pick up business cards.

Honing the Resume. A dynamite resume is a must, but not everyone has one that sells the most important product – you. Build a resume that highlights achievements and skills, rather than a simple, chronological list of your employers, and you’re on your way.

The career fair will feature an ongoing resume clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but organizers warn not to expect a how-to-write workshop. A current, professional resume is needed to attend the clinic, which is designed to beef up the weak spots. An onsite copy machine will be available free of charge for those who need to get more copies of their resumes out there. But remember to bring several clean copies.

The event’s organizers strongly urge attendees to dress for business, show up early, and prepare to ask potential employers what the next step in the hiring process is. One last tip: send thank-you notes after the fair is over to the employers you talked to. This can be done by regular mail or by E-mail and is a good way to make a lasting impression.

Tapping Into Web 2.0

In the 1950s, forward-thinking writers and illustrators turned loving attention to the potential of the Machine Age. In the push-button future, great, automated machines would pave our roads and span our oceans. They would shrink the world by eliminating natural boundaries and unite humanity by connecting us, physically, to anyone we wanted to see, anywhere we wanted to be.

By the 1990s, futurists had drafted other designs. Gone were the hopes of industrial salvation. The machines that helped us in our lives and jobs were not the massive, clanking behemoths optimists once dreamed would be the zenith of civilization. They were, actually, rather small, not much bigger than a television set, and propelled by information, rather than oil and steam.

But already, in the first few years of the 21st century, the original lifeblood of the Internet has changed. What once was so optimistically called the Information Superhighway quickly became the Worldwide Web. Then, simply, the web.

Today, the web you knew as little as three or four years ago is a vastly different place. Today’s web is not merely a storehouse of information, accessed by consumers rifling through online databases. Today’s web is being crafted into a tool as far-reaching as any dreams cooked up in the 1950s. This is Web 2.0.

If you haven’t heard of Web 2.0, or if you don’t fully understand what it means, Janie Hermann, technology training librarian at the Princeton Public Library, can help you out. On Tuesday, January 8, at 7:30 p.m., Hermann will present "Enhancing Productivity with Web 2.0 Tools" at Princeton University’s Jadwin Hall on Washington Road. The free seminar, hosted by the Princeton Macintosh Users Group (www.pmug-nj.org, or 973-912-7725), is designed to provide anyone with computer access (Mac or PC) with a wealth of free sites that can help schedule daily life, convert files, or keep in immediate communication with everybody – including yourself.

A pair of related discussions take place on Wednesday, January 9. At noon Nancy Pressman Levy hosts "Google SearchStrategies" at Princeton University’s Frist Center (609-258-3000). At 1 p.m. Terri Nilson discusses geneaology and digital libraries at Princeton Public Library (609-924-8822). Both events are free.

Like most anyone else, Hermann says she never foresaw the writing on the digital wall when she started working in a library 11 years ago. A native of Kingston, Ontario, Hermann originally set out to be a teacher. And, for a while, she was. But when she missed an application deadline for a master’s program, a career counselor advised she look into library science.

Two years later, in 1996, the self-admitted non-techie graduated from the library sciences program at the University of Western Ontario and went to work at Hobart and William Smith colleges in Geneva, New York. A chance meeting with Jackie Thresher soon landed her what she thought would be a temporary job in Princeton. Nearly a decade later, Hermann heads the public library’s technology training.

This is a far cry for someone who says her first exposure to the Worldwide Web didn’t happen until after she started her first library job. Hermann says working in a "small, isolated library in upstate New York" led her to discover the wonders of the online world. Once smitten, she became a voracious student of new web technologies.

"I have a little laptop at home," she says. "I can’t sit there and watch TV, so that’s what I do. I’d say about 90 percent of my training is self-directed."

The change in her understanding of software and, of course, in the software itself, she says, is amazing. When she started out, the web was used almost exclusively for information gathering; a one-way relationship in which people would log on and search through text files or pages of photos, looking specifically for one thing or another.

But things took an unanticipated turn. In 2003 O’Reilly Media, a publisher of books and websites on computer technology, reflected on the way people were using the Internet and realized the fundamental relationship had changed. It had become more of a partnership. The company’s owner, Tim O’Reilly, coined the term "Web 2.0," and referred to it as the next generation of the Internet. In evolutionary terms, it is a staggering step forward. Where once online bulletin boards, chatrooms, and E-mail connected us with the world at large, today’s savvy web users are tapping into a host of sites that has made the web more of an interactive entity and put the people in control of its content.

"On Web 2.0, you no longer just consume," Hermann says, "you can be an active participant. Just think of MySpace or You-Tube."

As technology advances, people are able to use the net as a social networking base, a business tool, or, essentially, a replacement for pencils and paper in daily life. Though MySpace and You-Tube, like blogs, are among the first popular incarnations of the potential for becoming an active part of the web, Hermann says, they themselves are somewhat rudimentary tools, unless you know how to use them effectively.

"Yeah, it’s fun to put a video up on You-Tube, but how does that really enhance your life?" she asks. "There’s a lot of hype, but what is it that one person can take away?"

The short answer is, plenty. Among the latest sites to offer something new and exciting:

Doodle.ch. Be aware that this site is a dot-ch and not a dot-com. Doodle allows you to schedule events or craft polls and then draw the results. Hermann says this is especially useful for setting up meetings and events because any number of people can check in and present their schedules. When you’re ready to see the results, Doodle tabulates them, so you can see who can get together when and where.

Jott.com. An impressive little site built to open communication channels, Jott allows cell phone users to leave messages in someone’s E-mail. Voice messages are translated into text you can leave for someone else to find or to remind yourself of things in your own E-mail.

Hermann says she uses Jott quite often, particularly to dictate her to-do list to her work E-mail while she’s elsewhere. Last year she used it to stay in touch with her husband while she was at a conference in Washington, D.C.

Ta-da! Tadalist.com is one of many online listmakers, which include Rememberthemilk.com. Hermann says these sites could be used for to-do lists, but are better suited to making lists you’ll likely need to refer to more than once.

Take vacations, for example. Hermann keeps a checklist for ski trips on Tadalist, which she can check any time she and her family are set to hit the slopes. Lists such as these are also valuable as registries of a sort, where people from anywhere can check the list to see what’s been marked off. Say, for example, you were going to throw a Christmas party. Make a list of items needed and people coming to the party could log in and check off items as they buy them.

Zamzar and Senduit Everyone has received a picture in bitmap that they need in jpeg. Zamzar.com translates the file type into something compatible with your computer, usually in three steps.

In a related vein, everyone has received gigantic image files. Senduit.com (pronounced "send-you-it") temporarily posts a large file and sends recipients a link to find them. Such sites are not necessarily ones people need every day, Hermann says, but when you do need them, they’re invaluable.

SlideShare.com. SlideShare, basically, is the PowerPoint version of You-Tube. Slideshows and presentations get posted, like videos, for anyone granted access to your post. Hermann says that this site, more than most, is one professionals should keep a sharp watch on. She uses it often to see how libraries across the country are teaching technology, and she says it’s an ideal place to learn how to do pretty much anything.

"If you want to know anything, it’s getting up on SlideShare," she says. She adds that the site’s social networking element, a key component of Web 2.0, is making Slideshare an increasingly popular and important online outpost.

Hermann also plans to discuss other important aspects that separate Web 2.0 from its previous incarnation. A major one is "folksonomies," which refers to tagging. Similar to customer reviews or opinion posts on, say, Amazon, folksonomies are user reactions or input meant to guide future users through what something means, how it works, or even how worthwhile it is in the first place.

They are also useful in categorization, particularly where libraries themselves are concerned. A good example rests in the Library of Congress’ definition of the Vietnam War. Because the federal government never formally declared war on Vietnam, the Library of Congress lists any publications on the subject under "Vietnamese Conflict." An intrepid Web 2.0 user could link the two terms so that people searching the Library of Congress catalog under "Vietnam War" at PPL would be able to find something.

Hermann keeps up with the rapidly changing times through a mix of reading and old-fashioned trial-and-error. Annually, magazines such as Time or PC publish hotlists of innovative new websites. Library blogs, RSS feeds, and various text blogs are another resource for her to see what’s new. But the best source to find the latest in web technology, she says, are the annual Web 2.0 Awards, published by online search hub SEOmoz (www.seomoz.org).

"That’s just a wealth of things to know," she says.

Once she finds new and exciting sites, she tries them out, along with similar ones. Part of knowing how to take advantage of Web 2.0’s potential is to know what works best for you and what doesn’t.

Thanks for Giving

The United Way of Greater Mercer County has always prided itself on the power of its people. Recently, the organization said thank you to a good many of them.

In December the United Way collected holiday baskets and delivered them to 384 economically disadvantaged Mercer County families during its Thanksgiving Food Drive. All baskets came with fixings for a traditional holiday meal and included gift cards to purchase turkeys.

The agency collected baskets through a variety of corporate and small business partners, including Amicus Therapeutics, Berlitz, Bristol-Myers Squibb- Hopewell Campus, Bristol-Myers Squibb – Nassau Park, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Cenlar, Edgewood Elementary School, FSB, J & J Group of Consumer Companies – New Hires Group, Kiddie Academy of Langhorne, Lowes, Medical Diagnostic Laboratories, Merrill Lynch – Hopewell, NJBIA, New Jersey Association on Corrections, Pfizer, Rhodia, Saul Ewing, LLP, Sean John, Steinert High School hockey team, Stony Brook Elementary School, Tyco, United Way of Greater Mercer County Staff, UPS, and Waste Management.

"As the cost of gas and utilities increase, many families feel the pinch and as a result the number of requests for baskets had more than doubled this year," said Craig Lafferty, CEO of United Way of Greater Mercer County. "Thank you to volunteers for providing much-needed help."

Deed Costs: Less Than You May Think

Middlesex County Clerk Elaine Flynn says obtaining a certified copy of a deed record is not as expensive as some search cmpanies want you to believe.

"Companies are offering to research and send you a certified copy of a propety deed for $75 to $80," Flynn says. "It’s absurd. You can obtain a deed through our office for as little as $10."

Flynn says that while it might sound to the average person a good idea to hire someone else to do the legwork for you, companies charging such inflated rates are merely out to take advantage of residents unfamiliar with the system.

The system, however, is a painfully easy one to navigate. To get a certified copy of a deed, you can start by searching the clerk’s office’s online records for free at www.mcrecords.co.middlesex.nj.us. Once you know which deed you’re looking for, you can either visit the county clerk’s office at 75 Bayard Street in New Brunswick, or call 732-745-3364 or 732-745-3365 to find out how many pages (most are only two or three and each additional page is $2) you need to buy.

Winter Safety Tips

With winter upon us, the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management has created the online Winter Weather Safety Guide.

The guide, available at www.state.nj.us/njoem, offers tips and advice on how to deal with extreme weather, from precautions for drivers to what to do with your pets in case you need to evacuate your home. In all cases, the watchword is preparedness.

No matter what the emergency and no matter where you are, states the OEM, basic preparedness falls under three main umbrella categories – create an emergency kit, create an emergency action plan, and know the best radio and TV stations to listen to.

Create an emergency kit. The OEM advises residents keep a three-day supply of water and canned, non-perishable, ready-to-eat food in the house. Also, make sure there are batteries for radios and flashlights, a first aid kit, and a week’s supply of any prescription medications. Be sure to have non-electric can openers and utensils. Also, keep a few days’ supply of toiletries and items for small children, pets, or elderly residents living with you. Cash or travelers’ checks are also a good idea.

Create an action plan. Knowing where to turn for help or shelter is as important as any part of emergency preparedness. The OEM and the American Red Cross advise residents and businesses to sit down and discuss how to evacuate if things get too bad to stay. While the main advice for drivers is simply to not do it if it can be avoided, those at work know it’s easier said than done.

Make lists of emergency contacts and keep them in a central location. If you must drive, make sure your car has the proper levels of all fluids, good tires, and a good, working battery. Carry extra clothing, a shovel, a flashlight, road salt, a pull rope, and extra cables. If you have a cell phone, make sure it has plenty of battery power.

The important thing to remember about driving in a snowstorm is to do it carefully. Take your time and do not try to pass during gusts. Brake gently and, should you skid, gently steer in the direction of the slide until you regain traction.

Always be prepared to turn back or head to a shelter or hotel. If you become stranded, call for help and be sure to hang a sign that shows you need help. Until help arrives, run the car heater 10 minutes of every hour to conserve fuel and avoid exposure to the cold.

If you have to leave home, make sure you have a place to take pets or people with disabilities or special needs.

Stay informed. Radio and television stations offer up-to-the-minute coverage of dangerous weather. Stay in touch with a storm’s progress and know when to evacuate.

Tax Tips from the IRS

Drivers who use their own vehicles for business will get a bigger tax break for the miles they drive in 2008. The Internal Revenue Service has increased optional standard mileage rates, used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, by two cents to 50.5 cents per mile, as of January 1.

Rates for medical and moving purposes will drop from 20 to 19 cents per mile, and miles driven for charitable purposes will remain 14 cents per mile.

The IRS (www.irs.gov) says it has based the new rates on studies that examine the annual costs of operating an automobile. The mileage rate for charitable miles is set by law.

The agency noted that taxpayers may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle, for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

B-MS Philanthropies

A new clinical center for research and treatment of children’s immune system disorders and infectious diseases has opened at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. The center treats pediatric HIV and emerging resistant infections, such as those caused by community-acquired methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

The B-MS foundation donated $5 million for the Bristol-Myers Squibb Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology Center and two other new centers. "At Bristol-Myers Squibb, we believe that together we can prevail over serious illness," said Jill DeSimone, senior vice president of the company’s U.S. virology division, in a prepared release. "We are committed as a company in the battle against HIV/AIDS, and we stand united with others who are working to improve the lives of children and all people afflicted with this debilitating disease."

The other centers are a pediatric rheumatology center, dedicated to the research and treatment of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and a pediatric metabolism center, which focuses on obesity and its related health effects.

Another of the Bristol-Myers Squibb philanthropies, Secure the Future, is a $150 million commitment to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa, billed as the largest corporate commitment of its kind ever made. The pharmaceutical firm partners with Baylor College of Medicine to provide a network of children’s HIV clinics and the Pediatric AIDS Corps.

B-MS also sponsored AIDS Walk New York and gave nearly $20,000 last year to HiTops, a Mercer County-based non-profit group that promotes adolescent health, for an HIV/AIDS education program. It supports the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ), the pharmaceutical trade association in its "Reach Out and Read" programs that deliver books to New Jersey hospitals, health clinics, and pediatric offices. It was founded on the principle that child literacy is an important part of growing up healthy for all children, especially at-risk children.

"Reach Out and Read is about the importance of books and reading in children’s lives," said Perri Klass, medical director of the program.

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