Using Keywords In Your Job Search – Make Or Break Your Application

Keywords – the Achilles Heel of every student’s resume. Knowing how to craft a killer resume and cover letter that grabs employers attention (and keeps it) will only help once you get your resume in the hands of a recruiter. Unfortunately, today anyone can apply to just about any job anywhere, so that great new opening you have your eye on may already have dozens, or even hundreds, of other applicants. How can you get your resume read, let alone rise to the top of the pile? Enter keywords – your new job search best friend. This will help you float through the resume database (the “black hole” of the application process) and make sure your resume gets read by the right people, right away.

The Resume Database

paper stacksWhen you apply for a job, you already know you are not the only one. In fact, on average, companies receive around 250 resumes for each job posting, and only 2% of applicants ever get a call back. For the average hiring manager, they realistically are not able to read 250 resumes in detail and make a detailed “pros” and “cons” for each candidate. In fact, the sad truth is that your resume probably will never be read by human eyes at all.

Machine Sorting Candidates

machine sortingBig companies looking to fill a position need to be able to sift through hundreds of applications for every job. Since they are typically listing dozens of jobs at any given time, that means they need to be able to sort through thousands of resumes every day. Even extremely dedicated HR managers who have every intention to give every applicant a fair shot would not be able to handle the sheer volume of resumes and cover letters coming across his or her desk. To cope with this, systems called “Applicant Tracking Software” (ATS) have been developed. This system does two things:
  1. Takes all resumes and enters them into a database
  2. Allows the hiring managers to search, sort, and filter all applicants to narrow down the search
This means that the hiring manager is machine sorting through all the resumes to try to find candidates that push the right buttons. If your resume does not have what they are looking for, chances are that nobody will ever read it.

The Six Second Resume

the 6 second resumeEven if you get past the ATS, a study from recently found that recruiters only spend about 6 seconds scanning a resume before deciding to move them forward to reject. This means that chances are, your resume will not be given its full time in the limelight even if it reaches human eyes. By focusing in on the keywords that the hiring manager is looking for, you can make those six seconds count. Draw their eyes to what they are looking for to maximize your chances at a call back.

Keywords – Search Engine Optimization

If you want to make sure that your resume pops to the top of the research results, you will need to make sure that it is easy for the searching machine to read. The easiest way to do this is to simply make sure your resume will have the words and phrases that recruiters are searching for! You are advertising yourself with your resume, so make every word count.

Think Like Google

Google Google is built on search engine optimization. Try searching for “Brown Shoes” and “Black Shoes“. Which websites are the highest in the search results? What is special about these pages that makes the search engine in Google think it is the best result for that search? You want to be that #1 result when the recruiter is searching their database – think of the terms that the recruiter is most likely to be looking for, and make sure your resume features those words or phrases well.

Think Like LinkedIn

Linkedin - the professional social networkLinkedIn is the premier professional social network, and it includes a great resource to help pick keywords for your resume. Check the “Skills and Endorsements” section – these are all keywords that you can build in your resume. The more endorsements you can get, the stronger that keyword probably applies to you. Play your strengths and pick keywords you can back up.

Choosing Keywords

Once you know how to think like Google and hone in on specific words, and think like LinkedIn to figure out which best apply to you, the next step is identifying which keywords each potential employer is probably searching for. Take a look at this sample job posting found using the StockTrak Browse Jobs Tool:
Entry Level Sales, Marketing, Entrepreneurship Mutual of OmahaBraintree, MA
Requirements: ‎‎-‎ Health and Life Insurance License or the ability to obtain one prior to your ‎start date- Obtain Series 6 and 63 or 7 and 66 within one year‎-‎ Reliable transportation-‎ Bachelors or Associates degree preferred, or experience in the industry- Appropriate legal documentation to work in the US. ‎Attributes: ‎‎-‎ Confident-‎ Self-motivated-‎ Goal-oriented-‎ Outgoing-‎ Adaptable A national financial services and insurance company, Mutual of Omaha has been in the business ‎for more than 100 years. With affiliates, the company manages assets in excess of $32 billion. ‎Our advisors are responsible for providing insurance, investment ‎products and advice to our ‎clients. ‎Whether you are just starting in the industry or want to further develop an existing practice, the ‎New England Division Office is dedicated to helping you toward many years of success.
There is a lot going on in this very short job posting, but you can very easily pick out some keywords to make sure you have featured in your resume and cover letter:
Entry Level Sales, Marketing, Entrepreneurship Mutual of OmahaBraintree, MA
Requirements: ‎‎-‎ Health and Life Insurance License or the ability to obtain one prior to your ‎start date- Obtain Series 6 and 63 or 7 and 66 within one year‎-‎ Reliable transportation-‎ Bachelors or Associates degree preferred, or experience in the industry- Appropriate legal documentation to work in the US‎. Attributes: ‎‎-‎ Confident‎-‎ Self-motivated-‎ Goal-oriented-‎ Outgoing-‎ Adaptable. A national financial services and insurance company, Mutual of Omaha has been in the business ‎for more than 100 years. With affiliates, the company manages assets in excess of $32 billion. ‎Our advisors are responsible for providing insurance, investment ‎products and advice to our ‎clients. ‎Whether you are just starting in the industry or want to further develop an existing practice, the ‎New England Division Office is dedicated to helping you toward many years of success.
We have two tiers of keywords highlighted: Orange words are ones that are easy to spot, but not very likely that the hiring manager will be searching for. These are the “Low hanging fruit”. Green words are the important ones – key job requirements that the hiring manager is going to look for specifically. These are the “High value keywords”.

High Value Keywords

The Series 7 course is a great addition to your resumeThe “High Value” keywords are the core job requirements that the hiring manager is almost certainly going to filter for. In this case, the recruiter outlined several:
  • Health Insurance License
  • Life Insurance License
  • Series 6
  • Series 63
  • Series 7
  • Series 66
You will want to make sure your resume contains 2 or 3 of these at the minimum, in prominent positions that are easy to spot at a glance.

Low Hanging Fruit

these are easy keywords to addThe “Low Hanging Fruit” keywords are the ones that the recruiter specifically outlines in the job posting, but they are less likely to be specifically searching for. These keywords come in to play during your Six Seconds the first hiring manager is filtering your resume. If you have some of the buzz words they have in mind for their ideal candidate, you are more likely to get a call back. The trick with low hanging fruit is not to over-do it. Pepper in one or two of these keywords, but if you hit on all of them (or too many too quickly), your resume can come off as disingenuous .

Customizing Your Resume

You probably already have a killer resume you’ve written. Your biggest mistake now is using the same one to apply for every job. Once you have your keywords in mind, it is time to start customizing your resume for the job you are applying for. If you are a student just graduating from school, this can be tricky. Always keep in mind that you should only apply for jobs you are qualified for. If you are qualified, fitting in the keywords should not be a stretch.

Your Objective Statement

Your objective statement, the short sentence or paragraph at the top of your resume, is a great place to pepper in one or two of the “low hanging fruit” keywords. This helps set the tone for the rest of the page.

Qualifications Area

Your qualifications area is the best place to drop in any high-value keywords that apply to you. For example, if you are still in school, some of these phrases could apply:
  • Passed Series 7 Prep Course
  • On track for Life Insurance License
  • Completed Health Insurance License coursework

Avoid Fluff

Fuzz is something to avoid in a professional resumeA common pitfall of recent graduates starting their job search is a habit of adding in “puff pieces” or resume padding – these are words or phrases that make your resume look “fuller”, but do not add any relevant information for the recruiter. This tends to be an unfortunate side effect of padding to reach word limits on term papers and other academic writing projects, but it has no place in your job application. Remember: the recruiter will only look at your resume for about six seconds. If your resume cannot be easily digested, the recruiter will most likely miss anything that was not at the forefront. Make sure they see what they are looking for as soon as they look at the page.

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Ace Your Interviews – Tips and Tricks

What separates a “good” job interview from a “great” one? There are many factors that will work for or against you when you head in for an interview for a great job. Some factors you don’t have much control over, but most job interview “bombs” are very easy to avoid, if you know what you are looking for.

The Basics

Dress to impressTry to look at the interview process from the perspective of the hiring manager. Like we have said before, the average new corporate job posting gets over 250 applications – in order to whittle down that massive stack down to a final hiring decision, it is much easier to eliminate candidates for fairly trivial reasons than it is to try to find the redeeming qualities.
  • Show up to the interview on time. If you arrive too early, the interviewer will not be prepared to meet you, and may not have had a chance to fully look over your resume and come up with questions meant to better get to know you. Arrive late and you can mess up the scheduling for the rest of the day.
  • Be showered – a strong odor will leave an impression, but not a good one.
  • Dress appropriately. This can be harder to judge in advance, so err on the side of formality. Showing up for a job interview at a bar in a full suit can be just as bad as interviewing for a corporate banking position in a t-shirt and flip-flops. Doing some research on the company’s corporate culture can go far for this, since it helps if you already “look” the part of the person they want to hire.
  • Have a hair cut/shave. This does not mean no beards or big hair – just that you should rock the best look you have for the interview. Try to look the part they want to hire, not shock your interviewer. They should be impressed by our resume and responses, not at the first impression.
  • Know what you are there for. You will probably send out dozens of resumes, but before you get to the interview you should do some intensive research on the company, its background and corporate culture, and anything you can learn about the specific role or team you aim to join. The more at home you seem talking about the role, the better.
  • Take Notes. Bring a notepad and pen to the interview, write down key parts of the job position, and write down questions you have to ask. Taking notes makes you look more engaged in the interview, and having your questions handy means you are less likely to forget anything.

No – The Interview Stop Word

You’ve done it – your cover letter rose to the top of the pile, and you were called in for an interview. Everything seemed to be going great – you have all the skills and knowledge they were looking for, and the interviewer laid out all the responsibilities of the position. There are some parts of the role that you have not done before, so you make it clear you wouldn’t be comfortable doing that just yet, or you feel that it is not your strong suit so you would prefer to orient yourself towards other aspects of the role. Everything else went great, but you were shocked to get an email back the next day that they are going with another candidate.

What Went Wrong?

Always try to think about an interview from the perspective of the manager who wants to fill a position. The manager has specific needs and wants for the candidate, but the most important condition is that whoever they hire needs to be able to fill the gap in the team. If you give the impression that you cannot (or do not want to) do the job they need, they will probably move on. This is even true if you are the most qualified candidate for the position. Most corporations would rather spend extra time training a candidate who is excited for a role than hire someone who does not want to do part of it.

How To Do Better

No, the interview stopwordWhen you are interviewing for a job, the interviewer’s primary concern is whether or not you can do that job. If they get the impression that there is something you cannot, or will not, do, chances are they will move on to another candidate. This does not mean you should overstate your qualifications or say you can do something you can’t. Instead, if there is a part of the position you feel under-qualified to fill, mention that you would need some extra training for that aspect. When given the choice between an under-qualified candidate who is willing to learn and a fully-qualified candidate who does not seem like they want to do the job, managers prefer the first. If you feel that there are aspects of the job that you truly would prefer not to do, you might not be a great fit for the position.

Ask Questions

Your interview is just wrapping up – the interviewer seems impressed by your resume, the position seems like a great fit for your skills, and everything seems clear for both you and your interviewer. Since you do not have any further questions, you shake hands and head for the door, confident that everything went well. Unfortunately, they decide to go with another candidate.

What Went Wrong?

Candidates who ask just one, or none at all, can appear disinterested or incurious about the post. With great candidates, between 1/4 and 1/3 of the interview length should be dedicated to questions you ask the interviewer. If you are really “hitting it off”, this number can go up, but if you stop short, it is probably a red flag.

How To Do Better

Asking questions at your interview serves two main purposes:

Sets yourself apart from other candidates

Ace your interview by asking more questionsThe questions you ask are something unique to you, meaning this is where the interviewer leaves their prepared script. Asking questions makes the interviewer stop and think of a response, meaning it is one more hook that will help you stick in their mind later – interviewers are more likely to remember specific details about candidates who ask questions. The types of questions you ask will also set you apart from everyone else they spoke with that day. This extra edge is often what separates you from the rest of the pack. This can also be a two-way street – you should have questions prepared for the interview, but beware of using “best questions to ask at an interview” lists. If the questions you ask seem a little too pre-baked or rehersed, the interviewer can get the impression you’re asking it just to have something to ask. This can suggest a lack of curiosity or disinterest. Using one or two “boilerplate” interviewee questions can work well to cover bases your interviewer has not, but make sure you come up with your own unique to the position.

Show Off

By asking certain questions, you can also highlight your strengths. If you have a set of skills or interests that have not yet been explored in the interview, having some questions prepared can set you up to talk about them. Do you enjoy writing? Ask about how much writing the position requires, and segue into how much you enjoy it. Asking the right questions is a great way to highlight any other skill or competency you think you have relevant to the job, but has not yet come up as part of the interview. Try to have a couple questions reserved just to talk about parts of the job you are most excited about to make a good impression.

Be Prepared For Common Interview Questions

You sat for your interview, but were blindsided by most of the questions the interviewer asked. “Can you tell me about yourself” left you rambling about your latest hobbies (of which he or she takes no interest).  When asked “How does this position compare with others you have applied for”, you were left stammering about how you already blew your first two interviews. You left the interview sure there was no call-back coming, and an email you received the next day confirmed your suspicions.

What Went Wrong?

Your interviewer will probably ask some of the same basic questions asked millions of times before at nearly every job interview. Candidates who have a thoughtful, concise answer will always look more polished than those grasping at straws. There are two ways these questions can go badly – giving the wrong answer, and giving a rehearsed answer. A “wrong” answer is one that sets off a red flag for the interviewer. If when describing yourself, you do not list any qualities they are looking for to fill the position, this can be a red flag. A “rehearsed” answer can be just as bad – the interviewer does not want to feel like you are trivializing the question and not putting any serious thought into your response.

How To Do Better

This one is very easy to prepare for, but most candidates overlook it. Prepare for common interview questionsJust as you are reading this for tips on how to make a great impression during your interview, your interviewer is probably reading up on ways to filter candidates by asking the right questions on their end. This gives you an advantage, since you can easily look up common interview questions, and even some of the best ways to answer them. On the other hand, if you have prepared answers you can list off without a second thought, it can also come off as dishonest. For example, one of the most common interview questions is to list your strengths and weaknesses. What interviewers want to hear is that your strengths are something that will specifically help with the role you are interviewing for, and your weaknesses are something you are aware of, are working to improve, and will not impact your performance at this role. This means that for every interview you sit for, the way you answer this question should be a bit different, but keeping with the same theme. It also helps to practice interview questions with a friend, taking turns as both the interviewer and interviewee.

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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Of Job Seekers

Experienced workers have a job search lasting about 43 days, and fresh graduates can expect a longer wait. Your search will be much harder if you make one of the following very common mistakes. Avoiding all 5 will not promise an interview, but hitting any might mean you are missing out.

Errors In Your Application

crumpled resumeWhen you are applying for a job, you should be triple-checking everything you want to send to your potential employer. Every job posting gets over 250 applications, and every hiring manager is looking for the fastest, easiest way to chop down that pile into something manageable. If you have typos in your resume, or misspell the manager’s name in your introduction or cover letter, chances are you will never get a call back. Even earnest job applicants fall into this trap. If you are applying to many jobs, and making tweaks to your resume for each one (as we recommend), it is easy for a typo or two to slip in the cracks.

How To Avoid It

Your secret weapon is checklists. Surgeons use checklists to make sure they never skip steps, and you should too. You may want to customize the checklist for your own job search, but you can find a good template below.
  1. Does my resume and cover letter include everything I want it to?
  2. I have at least 2 keywords in my resume.
  3. I have at least 3 keywords in my cover letter.
  4. My resume has no spelling errors.
  5. I have the correct company name, job title, and hiring manager name (if applicable) in my cover letter.
  6. My cover letter is free of grammar errors
  7. My cover letter has no spelling errors
  8. I have included the correct attachments on the email I’m sending to the hiring manager

Applying for jobs you are not qualified for

tossed application
Another way to get rejected, and blocked from applying again
This mistake will come up more often the longer your job search drags out. As your savings start to run low, you may try to stretch your qualifications and apply for more jobs outside of your element – this can cripple your chances of getting an interview (and an offer). The problem arises from what are called “Blacklists”. These are lists of applicants that a hiring manager was hit with such a bad impression that they basically strike the applicant from consideration at any other posts in their company. If you are on a blacklist, that means that the hiring manager felt that you wasted their time, and so your name is removed from consideration from all jobs at that company. The most common reason to be blacklisted is applying for jobs that you are not qualified for. If the hiring manager thinks you are stretching your qualifications to the limit, or not meeting their baseline application requirements, you are risking the blacklist for that company, so not only will you not get a call back for this post, but probably any others too.

How To Avoid It

This is a tricky one to avoid. Hiring managers usually put far more “essential requirements” for a job than are really needed. You can usually safely apply to a job where you meet 50% of the required qualifications because of that. The real trick is finding out which of the qualifications you can ignore, and the ones that can get you blacklisted if you ignore. Required education (bachelor’s degree, associates degree, MBA) are usually strict requirements. If you do not meet the education requirement, you better have quite a lot of experience to make up for it. Certifications can be trickier. If a position requires a certification that you do not have, read about that certification before applying. If it is something that requires sponsorship from your employer, then you can usually apply so long as you express your intention on obtaining it as soon as you start. Having a pre-certification, like our Series 7 Course, is also a great way to get your foot in the door. Being able to use specific software or have a specific skill is more lenient. These are usually more of a “wish list”, so having a couple of these will help, but you can confidently apply even if you just have one or two (if you have none, that is a red flag). Always use your head – if you are applying for a Graphic Designer position but you do not have the required proficiency in Photoshop, that can be just as bad as missing the Education requirement.

Cutting your job search short

confident business student
Just got his first call back
If you have been searching for a position for more than a couple weeks, there is no bigger relief than a call back or an invitation to an interview. Searching for positions to apply for, writing new cover letters, and constantly tweaking your resume can be an exhausting process, and getting that call back seems like a light at the end of the tunnel. The only problem is when you decide to put new applications on hold while you wait to see how your interview goes. Before you know it, 2 weeks have passed, you finally send an email to ask how the interview went only to find out they went with another applicant. Now you are 3 weeks behind on your job search, with nothing to show for it.

How To Avoid It

To avoid this one, first you should understand the “Hiring Funnel“, as John Sullivan puts it. You were one of the 200 or so people who applied for this job, and the hiring manager picked out probably around 20-25 for a first-round interview. If you are one of these, you have passed the 90% mark, but you still only have about a 10% chance of getting the job. If you are called back for a second round interview, then you know it is serious, but the hiring manager probably called another 4 or 5 people, so you are still only looking at a 20-30% chance of getting this job. Even if you hit the final interview stage, you are still competing with 2 or 3 other people. Until you actually have a job offer in-hand, probability says that you likely will not get this be their first pick, but there will probably be between 2 and 4 weeks between when you first get a call for an interview and when the final decision is made. If you are called back for a second or third round interview, you can safely put your search for new jobs to apply for on hold for a couple days to make sure you are fully prepared. The most important thing to remember is that your job search “isn’t over until its over”.

Applying for too many jobs

Exhausted job seekerThis pitfall is the opposite of the previous – you are so concerned with getting an interview that you tried to cast a very wide net and make sure you always have applications sent out. This is a common problem because it is also a productive habit. Maybe you set a goal for yourself to find and apply for one new job every day, or spend 8 hours searching for a job every week. The problem does not usually come up until a couple weeks of trying to meet your “quota”. As you move farther into your job search, the grind of constantly finding and applying to jobs will begin to wear on you, and quickly. This means you are much more likely to start cutting corners (not properly optimizing your resume for keywords and the job you’re applying for), make mistakes (more typos, less likely to follow your checklists), and apply for jobs for which you are not fully qualified.

How to avoid it

This might be the hardest one to avoid, if you are a dedicated job seeker. Setting goals for yourself is one of the most important ways to stay motivated and keep your job search running. It is equally important, though, to recognize when the grind is getting to you, and take a break. If you have been at your job search for more than two weeks, ask yourself the following questions before you start to apply for a new job:
  1. Am I applying to this just to say I’ve applied today?
  2. If I saw this posting last week, would I have skipped it?
  3. If I got this job, would I probably quit within the first year?
If you answer “yes” to any of these, it may be a good idea to skip this posting and take a break from applications for a day or two, and come back with fresh eyes later.

Starting Too Late

out of timeAs we said in the intro, the job search process will last around 43 days for experienced workers, longer for fresh graduates. This application time is going to be stressful – probably a lot more stressful than any job you secure, so you should count your job search time as work. A very common problem with graduating students or people who are looking to leave their current position is that they do not start their job search before graduating/quitting. This is done for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common are wanting a “clean break” (some space between school and work, or between jobs) and underestimating the competition in the job market. If you start your job search too late, the total time you will spend unemployed will go up, but you also increase the chances of making any of the mistakes above. If you get call backs for interviews right away, you will probably underestimate the competition and think that your break was justified. If you don’t get calls for interviews right away, you may begin to panic and apply for too many too quickly, without giving yourself adequate time to customize your application for each job you apply to. Either way, you will always wish you started the job search sooner.

How To Avoid It

A question we get all the time is “when should I start looking for a job”? The answer is always right now. Even if you will not graduate for another 3 years, start looking for jobs right away. You may not start applying, but you will get to know the job market, and the skills that employers are looking for in the jobs that you want. This will give you an opportunity to cater your educational path towards the skills employers want. If you are graduating within the next year, searching for jobs now can help you find what certifications you can start working towards right away to get you a leg up over the competition. If you are graduating at the end of this semester, you should be searching and applying for jobs or internships as soon as possible. Companies generally hire entry level positions in cycles, so try to get any interviews you can lined up before you graduate. Applying while you are still in school, getting ready to graduate, is also a great way to show initiative to potential employers. You can get started with our job search tool, which posts listings from all over the world in one easy place.

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The Truth About Internships

The Truth About Internships
The internship season is upon us. It might be better to say that it never ended. Some estimates put the total number of internships in the United States a bit over 1.5 million positions per year, and with new spots opening with every school term, students with an eye for work experience are usually keeping tabs for interesting posts opening in their area. In fact, internships have become such a standard part of the college experience that your university might require it for your major, or assume that most students will partake on their own initiative. What should you, the intrepid business student, be looking for when you start applying for internships?

The Value of the Internship

The most valuable benefit of an internship is, of course, getting some work experience under your belt, which is why so many students are keen to have one or two added to their resume before they graduate. Internships are also seen as a great way to get recruited and have a job waiting after you graduate – making a great impression on a company you want to work for during your internship can help skip the line when they start hiring fresh graduates. Getting an internship after you graduate is also a tried and true method of getting your foot in the door. We digress – these are the benefits you have heard about from every angle by now. What you might not know is how much the circumstances surrounding your internship will play out for your job prospects after you graduate.

Paid Versus Unpaid

Everyone would prefer an unpaid internship, of course, but you might be surprised at how big a difference it comes to whether you are paid for your work. The conventional wisdom over the last few years has been that the experience of the internship is the most valuable part of the experience, but paid internships offer a lot more than a bit of extra cash.

You get what you’re paid for

Paid internships are always better than unpaidEvery year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers surveys internship participants about their experiences. For students who undertook paid internships, all the common knowledge of internships applied: students graduated with job offers nearly twice the rate of students with no internships (63% vs 35%), earned far more in their first jobs ($51,200 vs $37,000), and generally benefited in every way that was expected. Students who went with unpaid internships had a very different story. On the whole, they were barely better off in terms of job offers than their peers with no internship at all (37% vs 35%), and worse, they started at even lower salary points ($35,700 vs $37,000).

Why The Discrepancy?

fetching coffee
Should not be a major part of your internship experience
There are a few factors at play when it comes to unpaid internships. The first is that companies who tend towards hiring lots of unpaid interns are generally more strapped for cash than those who pay for student labor. This means when it comes to hiring, they are less likely to have many openings to offer even the best interns. Another factor at play is that when a company hires an unpaid intern, they are making a much smaller investment in that student, so there is less incentive to make that intern be fully productive. This translates to less training, less important tasks assigned, and (most importantly) less incentive to keep them around after the internship expires. This means that the job experience you get with an unpaid internship is likely much less valuable than a paid internship.

Are unpaid internships worth it?

Not worth the effortLower starting wages, barely better chances of getting a job, less interesting work while on the internship, why would students offer to work for free at all? At the end of the day, the solution is not quite as simple. Taking an unpaid internship in finance is not the same as taking an unpaid internship in social services, for example. If you intend to enter a field where you simply do not see many (if any) paid internships advertised, the field itself may require unpaid internships as a proving ground. This is especially the case in industries like fashion and writing. The truth of the matter is, though, that even in these industries where unpaid internships are the norm, you will probably struggle to find work after graduating because the industries themselves are so competitive. Internships are only valuable if you gain work experience that will help you later in your career. If you cannot find a spot at a company that you want to work with, you may be better off sticking with the classroom and try to build up your resume through certifications or other training programs.

How To Land A Great Internship

Dress to impressWhen you apply for an internship, all of the standard rules for job seekers apply. Have a great resume. Write a killer cover letter. Be ready to crush your competition with a great interview. There are some extra tips and tricks to keep in mind though. Companies generally hire interns in cycles, but the recruitment process to fill each internship starts an average to 6 to 8 months ahead. If you want to get an internship before you graduate, you need to start right now (click here to go to our internship search page). Internships are also extremely competitive, moreso now than ever. Companies expect to hire fewer interns in 2016 than they did in 2015, so your pool of competition is getting fiercer. Be ready to apply early and often, and be ready for rejection (as with any job hunt).

What if I miss out?

If you try and fail to land an internship, it is not the end of the world. Per the most recent survey data, you have some things to take solace in:
  • You’re probably going to earn more after you graduate than someone who took an average unpaid internship out of desperation to have “something”.
  • Just because you get an internship doesn’t mean you have a secured job. After 1 year, workers who had no internship had more secure jobs than people who took an internship, but were hired by a different company after graduation
  • After 5 years, workers who had no internship at all had the most secure jobs (64.2% were still with the first employer they worked with after graduation).

Where To Find Internships

You can use our Job and Internship Search Tool – we pull in listings from several different job and internship databases around the country, so it is a great place to start!

Pop Quiz

If reading this page was an Assignment, get all 3 of these questions right to get credit!

Click "Next Question" to start the quiz!

1 of 3) Which group of students had the highest starting salaries after graduation?
2 of 3) When do companies usually fill internship positions?
3 of 3) Which group of students had the most secure jobs after graduation?

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New Diversification Rules – Keep Portfolios Separate!

New Diversification Rules – Keep Portfolios Separate!
Stock market games are an awesome way to introduce your students to investing, but keeping them on the right track can be tricky. Some students want to dive into day trading penny stocks, while others will want to pick out a mutual fund and stay out of the action. Striking a balance can be tricky, which is why our new Diversification Rule is here to help!

How It Works

When you next set up your HTMW class, you now have 2 settings to make sure your students are building a diversified portfolio.

Position Limit

Position Limits have been part of HTMW for some time, but they are now more important than ever! Setting a “Position Limit” puts a cap on how much a students can invest in a single security. For example, if your students have $100,000 portfolios and a 25% position limit, they can only invest up to $25,000 in AAPL stock.

Diversification Limit

Diversification Limits are new for 2019 – this is a brand-new setting that determines how much your students can invest in an entire security type. For example, if your students have a $100,000 portfolio and a 50% Diversification limit on Stocks, they can only invest $50,000 in stocks as a whole – the remaining $50,000 must be invested in Mutual Funds or held as cash. Try to mix and match your Position Limits and Diversification Rules to make sure students get their feet wet in a variety of different securities – and make this the most exciting stock game yet! If you haven’t already, make sure your create your class for this Spring by Clicking Here.

Will Robo-Advisors Replace Human Financial Planners?

Will Robo-Advisors Replace Human Financial Planners?
Trading, investing, and saving requires skills. There is no doubt that the complexity of the financial markets warrants an in-depth understanding of the interrelatedness between multiple variables. Consider inflation, employment, and interest rates as cases in point. These macroeconomic elements have a substantial impact on stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, currencies, commodities, and indices trading. Even with a tertiary education in economics and strategic management, it’s no mean feat to dabble in the financial markets and stay afloat. Stocks are inherently volatile. They are associated with peaks and troughs, cycles and patterns. Traders and investors are best served by conducting in-depth analysis of these securities before putting hard-earned money into a company’s stock. The performance of stocks is affected by a myriad of factors, notably consumer confidence, business confidence, the dollar index, the inflation rate, interest rate, fiscal policy, and company performance, et al. But that’s only one side of the equation; multiple other elements impact stock prices and company performance, most of them in a non-linear fashion. For example, one might expect that an interest-rate hike would encourage foreign investors to acquire more USD. This would naturally boost the strength of the USD which would make US exports relatively more expensive on the global stage, thereby having a negative impact on company sales, performance, and earnings. This should decrease stock prices. From another perspective, interest rates should also lower stock prices by dint of their effect on the cost of borrowed funds. When companies finance their activities through bank loans, the cost of borrowed capital increases. This means that profits are lower and consumers will ultimately be forced to pay for this in the form of higher prices. However, the performance of the US stock markets does not in any way reflect such behavior. Stocks are running rampant.   A classic example is bank stocks. Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo, (WFC) and Citibank (CITI) have largely underperformed, even in the face of a booming economy, deregulation of the banking industry, and rising interest rates. This is largely unexpected. However, there are many underlying reasons why bank stocks are underperforming, including management giving away billions of dollars in stock buybacks, weaker products, and weaker fundamentals in the broader market. There is also the issue of the Federal Reserve bank slowing money growth, and the costs of raw materials rapidly rising. Of course, the everyday investor is not expected to know this information. Many of us chase soundbites when making trading decisions or long-term investment decisions. If the interest rates are rising, surely bank stocks will appreciate? As you can tell, there are simply too many unanswered questions and investors want things simplified.


How to Avoid Poor Investment Choices with Sophisticated Tools & Resources

Nowadays, traders and investors have many powerful tools and resources available to them. The leading trading platforms provide their clients with expert insights, auto invest options, charts, graphs, technical and fundamental analysis. The advent of augmented reality and artificial intelligence systems has created an entirely new investment framework.   Experts at leading trading brokerages have reviewed many of the available resources on the market, and found that one of the most useful tools on the market is a robo-advisor. We put multiple brokerages to the test and ended up shortlisting a handful of trading platforms. By reading this WealthSimple review reveals that this trading brokerage is best suited to using advanced trading tools and resources. It offers cutting-edge innovative features such as automatic portfolio rebalancing and multiple tiers of accounts geared towards investor preferences.   Robo-advisors are algorithmically-based systems which assist investors with their financial portfolios. They are automated platforms which help with savings and investments. You don’t need a human advisor – you can defer to an algorithm. Over the years, significantly more assets have been invested in the financial markets with robo-advisors, including the following past and future projections: 2015 – $47.3 billion 2016 – $98.5 billion 2022 – $460 billion (anticipated) Assets Under Investment
Source: Charles Schwab & Co
Robo-advisors are designed to help achieve your strategic investment objectives. They do this by delivering a cost-effective solution to clients. Among the many benefits of using a robo-advisor are the following:  
  • Tax loss harvesting
  • Diversified investments
  • Zero-emotion investing
  • Optimization of asset allocation
  • Automatic portfolio rebalancing
  • Lower fees (0.25% – 0.5% of the financial portfolio)
  The fact that robo-advisors are such a sophisticated tool has led many to question their efficacy for first-time investors. Opinions are divided on the topic of whether a novice investor should employ the services of robo-advisors, or not. Truth be told, a robo-advisor is not capable of offering holistic financial planning for investors. Many important issues such as saving requirements for retirement objectives, defining strategic objectives, and selecting the best types of accounts are not within the general purview of robo-advisors.   There is scant evidence to support the notion that a robo-advisor would be well-suited to calming investor fears if the market collapses. For example, would an algorithm maintain market stability by preventing a mass sell-off of stocks as happened in 2008, or not? On the flip side, they’re accessible at any time – no appointment necessary.  

How to get started with a Robo-Advisor?

There are scores of robo-advisors populating the trading and investment arena. Regardless, the steps required to get started are similar:  
  • Fill out a questionnaire to evaluate your investment requirements
  • The robo-advisor suggests a diversified portfolio of ETFs
  • The portfolio will be rebalanced by financial experts via an algorithm
  • Certain robo-advisors may allow access to financial planners
  • Clients can easily track their portfolio progress online
  One of the problems that many investors face in the financial markets is that of selling when markets are too low, and buying when markets are too high. This happens when panic sets in and emotional investment decisions are made. The human element cannot truly ever be removed from an investment decision, given that people need assurances about different asset categories, classes, and types. A hybrid system is the most likely solution where a robo-advisor operates in tandem with an investment specialist (when required).   Robo-advisors may well see many investors placing their finances in the bond market if we see interest rates of 5%. This will have an adverse effect on overall client wealth since wealth is largely created in the stock market. The best financial portfolios are the ones which bring multiple asset classes into play. If your financial predicament is relatively simple to gauge, a robo-advisor could be a useful resource.  

Wrapping it up with a Robo-Advisor

Overall, there are many different robo-advisor options available, with greater support options available via hybrid systems. Certain companies offering these algorithmic investment resources require minimum account balances of $100,000 + and a 0.4% annual fee for hybrid robo-advisor services. Other robo-advisors allow you to invest as little as $500 or less in your portfolio, and they typically offer between 5 – 10 different ETF options. Besides exchange traded funds, there are also index funds which mirror the performance of an index such as the S&P 500 index, the NASDAQ composite index, and the like.   Most companies offering robo-advisors charge between 0.25% – 0.89% in annual management fees, although the majority of them hover around 0.5%. Fortunately, there aren’t any transaction fees with these services, which is substantially cheaper than investing on your own with companies like Fidelity. If you’re looking to save money on professional investment management services, it is a good idea to consider a robo-advisor which runs on an algorithm designed by investment experts. It is continually monitored according to performance criteria and rebalanced accordingly. Since investors are allowing the algorithm to plough funds into ETFs and not individual stocks, risk is mitigated and performance is broad-based.

Investing Basics – Stocks, Mutual Funds, Trading, and Retirement

Investing Basics – Stocks, Mutual Funds, Trading, and Retirement
This lesson plan was created by Andy Webb, of Monticello CUSD. The lesson plan includes a PowerPoint and several hand-outs.
I use How the Market Works as a supplement to my Consumer Education class. Most of my students don’t really understand what a stock or a mutual fund is much less how the companies are priced. I have a unit where I ask the students to invest in the stock market using How the Market Works and the competition lasts several months until there is a winner. The winner for the semester gets their name put on the trophy. This is highly coveted! I have attached the powerpoint that I use when I am teaching students about the different types of investing and investment products. We are on block schedule. The powerpoint has a day by day breakdown of what I do in my classes. Furthermore, I have attached all of the different handouts I have created.


Portfolio Management Project – Parts I, II, III

Portfolio Management Project – Parts I, II, III
This project was submitted by Linda Campbell, a professor of business administration and management at Siena Heights University

Project Overview and Goals

The purpose of using Virtual Stock Exchange is to give you a better understanding of trading strategies and portfolio management. You will also learn a variety of financial instruments and their risks and rewards as they apply to asset management

Parts I and II:   Managerial Finance Project– Registration

Registration for How the Market Works is free. Create a login code.   Choose a name I can identify as yours – keep a copy of your sign in name and password. Instructions to register for our classroom contest:
  1. You are invited to enter the contest, “Managerial Finance”.  The Password for this contest is:  ___________:  Go to the following website: __________________
  2. My Dashboard – Click on  Contests; click on Join; Click on Search (and find our class contest by name: “Managerial Finance”  Our Password for the contest is:
  • Begin Part I of “Managerial Finance”. Complete all Assignments – take quiz – be sure to follow instructions to get credit
  • If Dashboard is not visible, Click on “Choose Assignment” and scroll down to complete additional assignments.
Additional Information:
  • Portfolio Management Constraints:  Cash must not exceed 20% of your portfolio at any time.  We want you invested, not sitting on the sidelines.
  • This is a six-week assignment with a one-week intermission between Parts I and II.
  • Part I is a two-week simulation and is your introduction to HTMW.  You will complete all the assignments and required stock trades. At the end of Part I, your portfolio balance will be reset.
  • Part II is a four-week simulation.  You will use your experience from the Part I to make more knowledgeable investment decisions.
  Managerial Finance –  Part I:  Two-Week Stock Simulation
Week 1   Register and begin assignments – be sure to make at least three stock trades  – Due ___________
Week 2   Complete assignments and be sure to make at least three stock trades.  Due _______________________
Week 3 Intermission: Finish up and evaluate your trading portfolio.  Choose primary stocks you wish to trade during Part II By Thursday, all balances will be reset and your trading activities from Part I will be erased.  You will have a fresh start.   Now you are ready for Part II.
  Part II:  Managerial Finance Project – All balances have been reset!
Week 4 Begin assignments – Two articles and a minimum of three stock trades – Due  __________
Week 5   Complete assignments – Two articles and a minimum of three stock trades. Due _________
Week 6 Complete assignments – Two articles and a minimum of three stock trades. Due _________  
Week 7 Complete assignments-  Two articles and a minimum of three stock trades. Due _________  

Part III – Virtual Stock Exchange Debrief Paper – Due ______________

A 2-3 page, double-spaced paper about your Virtual Stock Exchange experience will be due at the end of the semester.  Please address the following:
  • What are the key things you learned from your Virtual Stock Exchange experience?
  • What companies did you invest in?  How did their stock perform?
  • Which transactions exceeded your expectations?  What conditions caused this?
  • Which transactions underperformed for you?  What factors created the performance gap?
  • How will your Virtual Stock Exchange experience influence your personal investing in the future?
  • How did you do in the rankings with your classmates?

Core Stock Market Project

Core Stock Market Project
This project is the “Core”, which most teachers use as the basis for their HTMW class stock game. The other recommendations in this library usually follow this format (with some variation). This makes it very flexible to work with your classes. This project usually runs between 4 and 16 weeks. Longer contests tend to work better. This is because students are exposed to more “market news” for a longer time, and is a better introduction to “real” investing outside of the classroom.

Project Overview

The goal of this project is to introduce students to basic investing concepts, and get exposure to the real-world financial markets. Each student will build their own portfolio of stocks and mutual funds, with a set of initial investing goals, and regular investing journal entries. At the end of the session, students will create and present a 5-10 minute presentation to the class. The presentation should discuss the goals they set, and how they worked with the changing markets over the course of the contest. Students will also need to submit a report detailing their trading activities.

Project Set-Up

Contest Rules

Use these settings to set up your class contest:
  • Initial Cash: $100,000
  • Registration/Trading Dates: as long as your class allows (we recommend starting this project early – likely before your discuss investing in detail in the class itself)
  • Minimum Prices: $3
  • Short Selling: OFF
  • Day Trading: ON
  • Margin Trading: OFF
  • Public Portfolios: OFF
  • Allow US Stocks and Mutual Funds
  • Commission: $10/trade
  • Position Limits: 20% (students can’t invest more than 20% of their portfolio in any single stock)
  • No resets
  • Create an assignment
  • Keep the teacher in the rankings
  • Require Trading Notes
You will get a unique registration link to share with your students – this will let them create their login and join you into your class.


You should also add an “Assignment” to your class. Your first “Assignment” should last the first week of the trading period, and include the 10 items in the “Stock Market Basics” section. These are designed to provide students with a basic introduction to what a portfolio is and how to make trades, with short articles, videos, and tutorials.
Assignments keep the experience educational – it provides a clear structure for what your students are expected to learn, while introducing them to the game and how it works!
You can create more assignments for each week, including other tasks that align with what you are discussing in class. Most classes assign the next 10 items, under “Intermediate Investing Tips”, as the second week’s assignment.

Project Kick-Off

Kick off the project using our Cornerstone Lesson Plan – this is a short introduction to glossary terms and the concepts of stocks of investing. At the end of the lesson, have students create their logins for your HTMW class contest, and work through the first 10 “Stock Market Basics” lesson. This should usually take about 1 hour. Next, introduce your students to a few “Scenarios”. These will determine the kinds of portfolios they will build. They can choose between:
  • A retirement portfolio – the goal will be constant, slow growth, with an emphasis on avoiding losses (a portfolio for someone who wants to retire in 15 years)
  • A growth portfolio – the goal will be high growth with some risk (a portfolio of someone in their 20’s or 30’s looking for high returns)
Now put students into groups of 3-5, based on which scenario they chose. Have each group prepare a list of 10 ticker symbols (ideally from at least 3 different sectors) of companies that they are familiar with, and that they think will perform well for their scenario. Students can find the ticker symbols, sectors, and performance charts for all US and Canadian stocks in the “Quotes” tool on HTMW. This should take between 30 and 45 minutes. Then break up the groups, and have each student individually should pick 5 of these companies, and add them to their HTMW portfolio. Each student should also write a 1 page summary about why they chose the companies they did, and why they DIDN’T choose the other 5 companies the group identified (this can be homework). This ensures each student will have a unique portfolio, but based on some group thinking.

Weekly Check-In

Ensure all students are checking their HTMW portfolio at least once a week (with the class rankings, most students will be checking a lot more often!). You can post the class rankings at the front of class to make sure students are staying engaged.
Keep using Assignments! You can easily track which students are participating, and remind students who start falling behind. Plus, the lessons are a great supplement to what you are already covering in class!
You will also want to encourage students to continue trading for the duration of the contest. Require students to make at least 3 trades in their portfolio each week (you can require this with an Assignment), and they should both be keeping Trade Notes with each trade, and a 1 paragraph Trade Summary that gives a short summary of what happened in their portfolio each week. This summary should include things like what stocks did well, which did poorly, how did market news impact their holdings, and how it relates back to other class topics under discussion.

Final Report

At the end of the trading period, student’s portfolios will automatically freeze, so they can continue to log in and see how they did at the end of the last day, but not place any new trades. This gives the opportunity for students to prepare a final “Investment Report”. The Investment Report should be between 3-5 pages, divided into sections.
  • A summary of their investing scenario, and how well they achieved their investing objectives
  • A graph showing their portfolio performance for the duration of the contest
  • A list of significant events during the contest that had a big impact on their portfolio (news reports impacting stock prices, ect)
  • A pie chart showing their final holdings
  • A profit/loss summary, showing where exactly they made and lost money
  • An appendix with all of their weekly investing journals
  Happy trading and let us know if you have any questions! If you have your own awesome class stock project that your students really loved, please share so other teachers can give it a try!

Cornerstone Lesson Plan: Introducing the Stock Market

Cornerstone Lesson Plan: Introducing the Stock Market
When introducing, students need to first have an understanding of what a company is, what a share of stock represents, and the relationships to products and services. After this is mastered, then it is easier to explain what a stock exchange is, and finally teach them How The Market Works! You can also download this lesson as a PDF handout to distribute to students. Click Here to Download

Required Vocabulary


A business formed to manufacture or supply products or services for profit. Most companies are very small and have only one location like the little restaurant, dry cleaner, flower shop, or nail salon at the local street corner. Other companies have 10,000+ locations or sell their products and services globally. These may be companies you see every day like NABISCO, which is owned by a company named Mondelez International – ticker symbol that makes Oreos, or MCDONALDS .


A person who has a creative or unique vision for a product and services, and then creates and launches a business. The entrepreneur typically assumes the risk and rewards for a business venture.

Sole Proprietorship

A company owned and run by one individual who receives its profits or bears its losses. A proprietorship is not separate from its owner, who is liable for the company debts.


A company owned and managed by two or more people who share its profits or losses. A partnership is not separate from its owners, who are liable for the company’s debts.

Private Corporation

Some entrepreneurs, sole proprietors, and partnerships decide to incorporate. This means that they establish a separate legal entity. The main reasons to incorporate are (1) if someone decides to sue the company, they would be suing the corporation and not the individual owners (2) it is easier to raise money to grow the business and (3) for tax reasons. The corporation issues shares of ownership (also called stock) to show who owns what percentage of the corporation. Most corporations don’t sell shares to the public. You can’t buy shares of a private company in the stock market. Here are some examples of what are known as privately held companies such as: CARGILL, which makes agricultural products, KOCH INDUSTRIES, which is in many businesses, such as transportation fuels, building and consumer products, and fertilizers, among others., IN AND OUT BURGER, which is a fast food chain, mostly in California, AND MARS, which makes Mars Chocolate bars and other candies.

Public Corporation

Larger companies that want to grow quickly often find it easier to sell some of their shares to the public to raise money. The stock of a public company is owned and traded by individual and institutional investors. The stock may also be held by company founders, employees, and sometimes venture capitalists, which are people who invest in new businesses that are just getting started. MCDONALDS Ticker symbol: , VERIZON Ticker Symbol: , Ticker symbol MICROSOFT are all examples of public companies that make products that you may use.
HowTheMarketWorks has built-in lessons teaching students about different types of companies! When you set up your class contest, add an “Assignment” and include the lesson “Types of Companies“!

IPO or Initial Public Offering

IPO is a term heard a lot on Wall Street and in the news. When a company decides it needs to raise more money and wants to sell it shares to the public, then it files for an IPO.

Stock Exchange

Once a company goes public, then the shares of that stock trade on one of the major U.S. stock exchanges (The New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, and NASDAQ). The stock exchange is like a flea market where buyers and sellers come together and the buyers try to get an item for as low a price as possible and the sellers try to sell an item for as high as possible.

Stock Broker

The stock broker is the person who actually makes the trade for you. In the old days, you would call your broker with your order who would then call his trader on the floor of the NYSE who would then place your order. Today, you can use, and other online brokerage platforms to make trades. acts just like an Etrade account, with real stocks and real prices, just pretend executions.


A sector is a group of companies that are engaged in similar businesses. For example, McDonald’s and Burger King are in the restaurant sector. General Motors, Ford and Toyota are examples of companies in the automotive (car) sector. Citibank, Bank of America, and Chase are examples of companies in the banking sector.
HowTheMarketWorks also has lessons showing students how to find stocks from different sectors, and compare them. If you add an Assignment to your class, include the lesson “How to find stocks in specific sectors“!


A person who gives money to any of the above in return for a share of the company. For example, if you and three friends pool your money to make and sell cupcakes at school, you are all investors.  

Thinking About Companies

Starting A Business

Imagine you started making cupcakes. That’s your product. You make them in your kitchen to sell them at school and your cupcakes get so popular that you couldn’t make enough of them for everyone who wants them, because your oven at home is too small. You might want to start a cupcake factory where you can make enough cupcakes to sell cupcakes to everyone who wants them. To get the money to build the new cupcake factory you would go to people who have money to invest in your business. This could be folks at the bank where you may or may not get a loan. But you have another option: you can go to the stock market and convince people to buy stock in your company. People who buy stock, which are called shares, in your company are called shareholders, because they own a fraction of your company.

What is the Stock Exchange and an IPO?

When a company goes to the stock market for the first time to raise money, it’s called an Initial Public Offering, which is also called an IPO. Companies use this money to expand their business, like building a cupcake factory. If you’re the company, you set a price at which you think investors will pay for your stock, after you release the stock into the market to let other people buy a stake in your business, which is called issuance, it is traded on an exchange. The stock’s price will rise or fall based on what investors think it is worth. There are exchanges for stock all over the world. For example, when Google went public in 2004, in other words, they did an IPO and sold shares of the company on the stock market, Google’s initial price was $85. The Google stock traded as high as $1,200 when it spun off another class of shares with $500. Today, it’s worth around $1100 to $1500. That is an incredible return on your investment. Never forget though, the first rule of Wall Street is “Let the buyer beware.” They say this because some companies lose money and eventually go out of business. This means investors’ shares in the company are then worth exactly zero. In the U.S. our largest exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange, which is also known as the NYSE, the other is the NASDAQ, which is an acronym for the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation System – it was the original computerized stock exchange in the country. The NYSE exchange is where you’ll find larger companies. It began on Wall Street in New York under a buttonwood tree where people would casually gather to buy and sell shares of companies. Today it’s much more organized. It has a building and a trading floor and is tightly regulated by the Federal government to make sure the stocks people buy are actually investments in real companies. These days, like the NASDAQ, you can also buy and sell stocks on the NYSE while sitting at your computer.
You can also add our lesson on “What is the New York Stock Exchange“, “What is a Stock“, “What is a Mutual Fund“, and dozens of others as Assignments to your class contest!
Smaller companies are generally found on what’s called the NASDAQ, although there can be big companies on the NASDAQ as well, like Microsoft (MSFT). Trading on both exchanges begins at 9:30 am ET and goes to 4:00 pm ET, every weekday, except for holidays. You may hear the term “after hours trading” if you watch some of the financial news stations like CNBC. With How the Market Works you’ll be given a virtual cash amount that your teacher choses ($10,000 to $500,000) to invest in stocks. You will buy and sell shares in the real world with your play money.

Classroom Activities

Buy What You Know!

Think about products and services that you, your family, and your friends use every month and think about where you spend their money. Is there a product that you are using more this month than you did a few months ago? Is there a new department store that you are hearing all of your friends talk about? Is there a product that’s HOT that you must have? Try to think about your spending habits in terms of what is necessary, what is nice to have, and what is more of a luxury item.
Instead of thinking “I am going to the store to buy some food”, thinking about the stock market becomes “I’m going outside in my Nike (NKE) shoes, Wrangler (VFC) Jeans, and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) t-shirt, to the Bank of America (BAC) ATM to get cash, then drive my Ford (F) car rolling on Goodyear (GT) tires with BP (BP) gas to Walmart (WMT) to buy Charmin (PG) toilet paper, Crest (PG) toothpaste, Coca-Cola (KO), and Ben and Jerry’s (UL) Ice Cream. Then I am stopping by McDonalds (MCD) and Walgreen’s (WBA) pharmacy for grandma’s Lipitor (PFE) prescription and some Revlon (REV) lipstick!
Now make a list of at least 10 different companies whose products or services you might purchase. Using the HowTheMarketWorks company lookup, see if you can find the stocks of these companies. You might have to use Google or Yahoo to find out “Who makes Oreos” or “Is Kroger a public company?” Once you’ve identified several public companies, look them up in the Quotes tool (we make it easy – students can search either by company name or ticker symbol):   Investigate their charts to see which stocks have been going up in value over the last few months or years. Then click “Company Profile” on the right side of the page to find its sector and industry: Now it is time to start building your HTMW portfolio! Try to pick 10 companies that are growing over the last 2 months, and include at least 5 different sectors in your picks.
To help understand why picking different sectors is important, you can include the lesson “How do I diversify a portfolio?” as one of your Assignments!


Teacher Help

For best impact with this (and our other) lesson plans, we recommend setting up your class contest on HTMW before you begin – click here to see how! The most successful stock games usually have students work individually – this introduces more accountability for the students, gets each student more involved in the Class Rankings (which will definitely become a highlight of the class), and lets you take advantage of the Assignments feature. However, many teachers prefer students to work in groups – the optimal group size seems to between 2-3 students. You can also mandate students keep Trade Notes – a short, 1-3 sentence explaining the rationale behind every trade. This is very helpful to ensure students are thinking through their decisions, but also is very handy when it comes to making reports about their trading activity (see some of our other lesson plans for help). Finally, to get the most out of HTMW, you should also take advantage of the Assignments tool. This will let you assign videos, articles, trades, and interactive calculators. Many of these lessons focus on the stock market, but there is also an extensive library covering personal finance, economics, and business topics – letting you pick and choose lessons that line up with what you are covering in class each week. If you want to take your classes to the next level, you can also upgrade to PersonalFinanceLab has a more robust stock market game (with no ads), and a curriculum library of over 300 lessons, all with built-in, automatic assessments aligned to both state and national standards for personal finance, economics, accounting, management, marketing, and finance.

New Feature – Public Portfolios!

New Feature – Public Portfolios!
One of the most common requests we get from teachers is if students can see each other’s trades. Well, now they can!   We added a new contest rule, called “Public Portfolios”. If you turn on public portfolios for your contest, there will be a new “View” button on the rankings page next to each participant. This will let each participant see each other’s trades, open positions, trade notes, and more! If you created your class contest before Public Portfolios were added, this is turned off by default. However, you can add it by editing your class rules, and setting “Public Portfolios” to “Yes!” Click Here To Create Or Edit Your Class Happy Trading! PS. You must read this–If you are looking for stock ideas, we have also just published a complete Motley Fool Stock Advisor Review to share our experiences with their popular stock advisory service. You won’t be disappointed.

Cryptocurrency Trading Has Arrived

Cryptocurrency Trading Has Arrived
One of the most-requested new features in Spring 2018 was cryptocurrency trading, both from students and teachers. You asked and we listened – crypto trading is now available on HowTheMarketWorks! crypto Cryptocurrencies currently share some of the rules from Stocks, such as the commissions and position limits. However, you can trade cryptos both using a quantity (such as 10 “coins”), or specify a dollar amount (“I want to buy $25,000 worth of Bitcoin”). If you are creating your own contest, you can choose whether participants can trade cryptocurrencies (we have them turned off by default): crypto point You can toggle this on or off from your “My Contests” page, and clicking “Edit Contest”.   Happy Trading!

Videos Page Update!

Videos Page Update!
With our most recent update, the HTMW videos page got a great new revision – with each video getting a bigger window and better navigation! htmw video   This also means if you create a HTMW Assignment, the links to view each video will now take your students right to the video they need! Happy Trading!

Editing Assignments!

Editing Assignments!
You can now edit your assignments on HowTheMarketWorks! In the past, once you created an assignment it was set in stone. With the newest HTMW update, you can add and remove tasks in real time, giving you more control of your class than ever before! house   To edit an assignment you’ve already created, go to your “Manage Assignments” page and click “Edit”. Click on the green “plus” button to add an item not currently in the assignment, or the red “minus” arrow to remove tasks. Happy Trading!

Using Spreadsheets – Graphing

Graphing is one of the most important features of spreadsheets. When you need to present your findings, whether as a written report or a presentation, summarizing your data in graphs is the best way to quickly communicate large amounts of data. This guide will walk through taking your raw portfolio data, making some simple calculations, and transforming the data into graphs that you can include in reports.

Line Graphs

Your Daily Portfolio Value

First, we want to make a line graph showing our daily portfolio value. First, open your spreadsheet that has your daily portfolio values, it should look something like this: portfolio values Portfolio values are calculated at the end of the day when the market is closed and all your assets (Stocks and Mutual Funds strictly on this site) are summed together which shows your ending portfolio value. To insert a basic line chart of your portfolio data, highlight your data and click “Insert” in the Office Ribbon, or “Charts” in Google Sheets: highlight data And that is it! Your new chart is ready for display. You can even copy the chart and paste it in to Microsoft Word (if using Excel) or a Google Doc (if using Google Sheets) to make it part of a document, or paste it into an image editor to save it as an image to be used for any reports you might have it to use.
portfolio value chart
Microsoft Excel
sheets graph
Google Sheets

Portfolio Percent Changes

Next, we want to make a graph showing how much our portfolio has changed every day since the tournament has began. To do this, first we need to calculate the daily % change, instead of just our raw portfolio value.

Basic Calculations – Using Formulas

In the next column we will calculate our daily portfolio percentage change. First, in the next column, add the header “% Change”. new column heading Now we need to make our calculation. To calculate the percent change each day, we want to take the difference between the most recent day’s value minus the day before, then divide that by the value of the day before.

Percentage Change = (Day 2’s Value – Day 1’s Value) / Day 1’s Value

To do this, in cell C3 we can do some operations to make the calculation for percentage change. To enter a formula, start by typing “=”. You can use the same symbols you use when writing on paper to write your formulas, but instead of writing each number, you can just select the cells. To calculate the percent change we saw between day 1 and day 2, use the formula above in the C3 cell. It should look like this: Now click on the bottom right corner of that cell and drag it to your last row with data, Excel will automatically copy the formula for each cell: percent change 3 You now have your percentages! If you want them to display as percentages instead of whole numbers, click on “C” to select the entire column, then click the small percentage sign in the tools at the top of the page: percent change 4

Selecting Certain Columns For Your Graph

Now we want to make a graph showing how our portfolio was changing each day, but if we try to do the same thing as before (selecting all the data and inserting a “Line Chart”, the graph doesn’t tell us very much: This is because it is trying to show both the total portfolio value and the percentage change at the same time, but they are on a completely different scale! To correct this, we need to change what data is showing. If you are using Excel, right click on your graph and click “Select Data”: select data This is how we decide what data is showing in the graph. Items on the left side will make our lines, items on the right will make up the items that appear on the X axis (in this case, our Dates). Uncheck “Portfolio Value”, then click OK to update your graph: bad axis For Google Sheets, this is done similarly, right click on your graph and select “Data Range” (the letters for this example will be the same as Excel, C2:C6)   This is closer to what we’re looking for, but the axis labels (the dates) are right in the middle of the graph, making it hard to read.

Formatting Your Line Graph

Now we want to move the dates to the bottom of the graph (here they are along the “0” point of the Y axis). To do this in Excel, right-click on the dates and select “Format Axis”: excel format A new menu will appear on the right side of the screen. Here, click “Labels”, then set the Label Position to “Low”. formatting 2 The method is similar on Google Sheets as well, start by selecting “Axis” then “Horizontal” or “Vertical” Axis to edit them. With this feature you change the axis titles and add different features to it. sheets format Congratulations, your graph is now finished! You can now easily see which days your portfolio was doing great, and which days you made your losses.

Bar Charts and Pie Charts – Your Open Positions

Next we would like to make a bar chart showing how much of our current open positions is in each stock, ETF, or Mutual Fund.

Directions for Excel

First, open your spreadsheet with your Open Positions. It should look something like this: b1   Since we want to make a bar chart, we can only have two columns of data – one for the X axis, and one for the Y axis of our chart. We want one column showing the symbol, and a second column showing how much it is worth. The “Total Cost” column is the current market value of these stocks, so that is the one we want to keep. However, we don’t want to delete the quantity and price, since we might want it later. Instead, select the columns you don’t want, and right-click their letter (A and C in this case). Then, select “Hide”. b2 Now the columns that we don’t want in our chart are hidden. We can always get them back later by going to “Format” -> “Visiblity” -> “Unhide Columns”. Now select your data and insert a “Bar Chart” instead of a “Line Chart”: b3 Before you’re finished, your chart will say “Total Cost”. You can change this by clicking on “Total Cost” and editing to say whatever you would like (like “Portfolio Allocation”). b4 This graph is now finished, but you can also try changing the Chart Type to try to get a Pie Chart.

Switching Chart Types

Sometimes, our first chart type is not the best way to display our data. For example, a bar chart will show me how much of each symbol I am holding. A better choice might be a pie chart, which will show how much each symbol is as a percentage of my total holdings. To change our bar chart to a pie chart, right click your graph and select “Change Chart Type”: b5 Next, find the “Pie” charts, and pick whichever chart you like the best. b6 Last, now we don’t know which piece of the pie represents which stock. To add this information, click your pie chart, then at the top of the page click “Design”. Then select any of the options to change how your pie chart looks. b7 Congratulations, you’ve converted your bar chart into a pie chart! This one should look almost the same as the one you have on the right side of your Open Positions page. You can now copy and paste these charts directly into your Word document, or save it as an image to use elsewhere.

Directions for Google Sheets

To create a Bar Graph, select “Insert” then “Chart”, the same as we did for our previous line charts. b9 When clicking this, one of the options in “Chart Editor”, will be “Chart Type”, their you can select the bar graph or pie chart. b10 In this section you will also need your Data Range, which will be the same as the previous example (Symbol and Total Cost). To edit the axis and other information, is the same method as the previous type. b11 The pie chart will look very similar to that on your Open Positions Page as well! b12

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2 of 3) What kind of graph is best for seeing your portfolio value over time?
3 of 3) Where can you change how a chart's colors and legend appears?

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Using Spreadsheets – Calculating Profit or Loss From Trades

Using Spreadsheets – Calculating Profit or Loss From Trades
The most important reason you would want to use excel to track your stock portfolio is trying to calculate your profit and loss from each trade. To do this, open the spreadsheet with your transaction history. It should look something like this: profit 1 Tip: If you have not bought and then sold a stock, you can’t calculate how much profit you’ve made on the trade.

Simple Calculations

First, we want to change how the data is sorted so we can group all the trades of the same symbol together. Use the “Sort” tool to sort first by “Ticker”, next by “Date” (oldest to newest). trans calc 2 For DWTI and SPY, we haven’t ever “closed” our positions (selling a stock you bought, or covering a stock you short), so we cannot calculate a profit or loss. For now, hide those rows. trans calc 3 Now we’re ready to calculate! Lets start with the trade for S. This one is easy because the shares I sold equal the shares I bought. This means if we just add the “Total Amount”, it will tell us the exact profit or loss we made on the trade.
cost 3
This does not work for UWTI, because I sold a different number of shares than I bought. This means that I need to first calculate the total cost of the shares I sold, then I can use that to determine my profit.

Different Buy/Sell Calculations

First: multiply your purchase price times the number of shares you sold: trans calc 5 Second: add this number to the “Total Amount” from when you sold your shares. trans calc 6 Now you have your profit or loss for this trade. Note: this is the method for if you bought more shares than you sold – if you bought shares at different prices, then sell them later, you’ll need to calculate your Average Cost to use in your calculation.

Average Cost Calculations

To calculate this, lets use the same example of UWTI shares and delete the rows of the S shares. Suppose we bought 11,620 shares on January 12th, as we did above, but also bought 6000 shares on January 15th for a different price at $2.5 per share. To calculate our profit or loss we would first have to calculate the Average Cost of the shares we bought. To do this, we need to add our total amounts for both purchases and divide that value by the total number of shares we bought. The calculation for this would be (24402+15000)/ (11620+6000), which would give us a value of $2.24. We can easily create a function on Excel or Google Sheets to calculate this for us. In this case, our function would be “=(G2+G3)/(C2+C3)” which should look something like this on Excel or Google Sheets: calculating cost   Next, we subtract this Average Cost from the Average Sale price of $1.9 and multiply the value we get by the number of shares we sold. This will then give us our profit and loss for the trade. We will have to create another function for this onto cell G10. However, since our average cost value is already negative, we would add it on our function instead of subtracting. Our function should be “=(E4+G7) *-C4” which should give us a value of $-1681.04 (Loss). We also put a negative sign in front of our C4 value to represent a sale. Our final spreadsheet should look something like this: profit or loss

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3 of 3) How can you calculate the profit and loss per trade if you buy and sell different amounts at different times?

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Using Spreadsheets – Calculating Your Daily Returns

Using Spreadsheets – Calculating Your Daily Returns
If you’ve been trading for a long period of time you might have been curious to know what your daily returns were. Excel and Google Sheets can help you efficiently calculate this in a simple way. Suppose we started trading on August 29th, 2017. It is now September 7th and we would like to know our daily returns for our portfolio. First, we would look up our Historical portfolio values by clicking “Graph My Portfolio” under the “My Portfolio” tab in the navigation bar.   Once there, simply click on Historical Portfolio Values and a new window will pop up displaying the data. The page should look something like this: Next, you can highlight everything from “Date” to the last number under “Value”. Then, copy the data and paste it onto cell A1 in your blank spreadsheet. As mentioned in our Getting Some Data article, values may sometimes appear as “#####”. To fix this, you simply need to adjust the column widths. Next, we add a heading for Daily Returns under column “C”. We can then create a function on Excel or Google Sheets to calculate each days’ return for us in dollars. Since we only started trading on August 29th, we wouldn’t have any returns for that day and we can leave that cell blank. Instead, we would write the function onto the second cell under the column, cell C3, and drag it downwards from the bottom right of the cell to copy it onto the rest of the column. The function we would input is “=(B3-B2)”. It should look something like this on your Google spreadsheet or Excel: The values we have calculated here are our daily returns in dollar amounts. If we wish, we can also find these amounts as a percentage. To do this, we would create another heading on column D and name it “Daily Returns %”. Then, we would click on the second cell under this column (Cell D3) and input the function “=(C3/B2) *100”. This should give us a value of 0.009%. To repeat this for the other dates, simply drag the 0.009% value downwards the same way we did for the dollar value. Google Sheets/Excel will then calculate the remaining values for us.  We have now calculated our daily returns in a dollar amount and as a percentage. The final spreadsheet should look something like this:

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1 of 3) Where can you find your Daily Returns?
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3 of 3) Which of the following is the formula for the daily return % ?

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Using Spreadsheets – Importing and Formatting Data

Using Spreadsheets – Importing and Formatting Data
The first step in using any spreadsheet is getting some data! This tutorial will show you different ways to import some of your portfolio data into a spreadsheet and how to format it to make it easier to read.  

Getting Data

The first step to using any spreadsheet is getting some data – once we have our data in our sheet, we will then start formatting it to make it easier to use.

Copy/Paste Method

The easiest way to import data is to just copy and paste it from a website or another source.

Getting Your Historical Portfolio Values

To get your old portfolio values, you can copy and paste them out of the HTMW website. First, you will need to get your historical portfolio values from the HTMW website. You can find these on the “Graph My Portfolio” page. get data button This will open up a small window showing what your portfolio value was for every day of the contest. Highlight the information you want, then right click and “Copy”. portfolio value Next, open a new blank spreadsheet and click cell A1. You can then right-click and “Paste” the data in. The column headings should be included too.
Adding Column Headings
If the column headings are not included, right-click the first row and select “Insert Row”. This will add a new row to the top of the spreadsheet where you can type in the column names. Google sheets gives you the option to add a row above or below the one you right clicked. column headings Now “Save” your file somewhere you can easily find it later, you’ve got some data!

Getting Historical Prices for Stocks

For this example, we want to get the historical prices for a stock, so we can look at how the price has been moving over time. First, create a new blank spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets. We will use Sprint stock (symbol: S). Go to the quotes page and search for S, then click “Price History” on the right side of the page: s history   Next, change the “Start” and “End” dates to the time you want to look at. For this example, we will use the same dates that we saved for our portfolio values, January 11 through January 15, 2016. Once you load the historical prices, highlight everything from “Date” to the last number under “Adj. Close” (it should look like this): price highlight Now copy the data, select cell A1 in your blank spreadsheet, and paste. Congratulations, we have now imported some data into our spreadsheet! You can now save it for future use. The data is a bit messy; we will look at formatting later.

Export Method

Sometimes, websites will make it easy for you to export data directly to your spreadsheet without copy/paste. If an export option is available, this is going to work better, since it will require less formatting later. If we look back at the Historical Prices, you can see that there is also a “Download” button at the top of the table:   download button   This will download a spreadsheet you can just open directly – you can also see the data is already easier to read and better formatted, which will save us time later.   price export  

Copying Between Spreadsheets

You can also export your portfolio data from the My Contests page – this will download one big spreadsheet showing your account balances, trades, open positions, and more: portfolio export   Once you download the spreadsheet, you can open it to see the available data: port export 2   The top red square is your transaction history, the bottom red square is your Open Positions. To use this data, you will need to open a new blank spreadsheet and copy these boxes (just like we did above) from one spreadsheet to another. Start by taking your “Transaction History”, copying the data, and pasting it into a new spreadsheet. trans history   To start using this data, we will need to look at formatting to make it easier to read.

Formatting Your Data

Now that we have a few saved spreadsheets, we can look at formatting the data to make it easy to read and use later.

Changing Data Order

If we look at the spreadsheets we have saved for our Historical Portfolio Values, it is the exact opposite of what we have for our Historical Prices. To get them in the same order, we will want to open up our Historical Prices spreadsheet, and order the data from “Oldest” to “Newest”. We will use the “Sort” function with Excel, or the “Data” function for Google Sheets. sort excel   sort sheets We can now choose what we want to sort by, and how to sort it. If you click the drop-down menu under “Sort By”, excel lists all the column headings it detects (select “Date “). Next, under “Order”, we want “Oldest to Newest “: sort 3 Now your data should be in the same order as your portfolio values from earlier.

Changing Column Width

Next, you’ll notice that some of your data appears just as “########”. This is not because there is an error, the number is just too big to fit in the width of our cell. To fix this, we can increase and decrease the widths of our cells by dragging the boundaries between the rows and columns: column width Tip: if you double click these borders, the cell to the left will automatically adjust its width to fit the data in it. If you want to automatically adjust all your cells at once, at the top menu click “Format”, and “Auto Fit Column Width”:   Once you’ve adjusted your volume column, everything should be visible!

Removing Columns

If we want to use this data for making a graph, we will not need all of the data in the sheet. We really only need the “Date” and “Closing Price”. To keep it easy to read, we will delete some of the extra data. If you just highlight the data you don’t need and press “Delete”, you will end up with a bunch of blank cells, which is not very useful when trying to read the table: Instead, click on “B” and drag all the way to “H” to select the full columns: select columns Now right-click and click “Delete”, and the entire rows will disappear. Now the Close will be your new column B, with no more empty space. You now have your historical price data, so save this excel file so you can use it later.

Unmerging Cells

Now let’s go back to our Transaction History spreadsheet. With this sheet, we cannot do many of the basic operations because there are some “Merged Cells”. Merged Cells can be used for formatting and presentation, but for now it is just getting in our way. This is the case with the Ticker, Commission, and Total Amount cells. We need to “unmerge” these cells to make our data usable. trans history To do this, select all your data, then on the main menu bar click on “Merge and Center “. Under this, click “Unmerge Cells”. On Google Sheets, this can be done by clicking on the “Format” tab in the navigation bar and then clicking on “Text Wrapping” and then “Clip”. unmerge cells

Putting It All Together

Now that we have our data all in their own cells, we can start deleting the rows and columns we don’t need. For example, rows 2 and 3 have our beginning cash, which we don’t need in our transaction history. Columns E and H are now blank, so we can get rid of those too. Once you delete the rows and columns you don’t need, you can also autofit the row width to make the “date” visible. trans formatted

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5 Tips for Your Spring Stock Game

5 Tips for Your Spring Stock Game
  If you are using the HTMW stock game for the first time, or if you’re a veteran looking for some tips, here are the Top 5 Best Practices for your late Spring stock game!

Why More Teachers Start Their Games In The Spring

The school year is entering its final stretch, and your students know it! As the snow melts away and flowers start coming out, your students’ eyes have probably been lingering out the window (or on the clock) – making this an exceptionally difficult time to keep them engaged. This is why the Spring is the most popular time to run a classroom stock game! We at HTMW always find that longer stock games work better (and teachers agree: semester-long and year-long classroom stock games are on the rise!), but we always see a huge surge of new classes created in the second half of the Spring semester. Even if teaching about investing and the stock market is not at the top of your class agenda, mixing up the volatility of the markets, researching real companies and the economy, and good, old-fashioned class competition makes the perfect recipe for engaged students, and a Spring full of learning!

#5: Use Assignments

On HTMW, an Assignment is a list of task you can give your students to complete. This is what makes our stock game unique – Assignments reinforce the learning process while making the game easier to pick up and master. Assignments include:
  • Watching tutorial videos, showing the students what it means to manage a portfolio and make their first trades
  • Reading educational articles, like “What is the NYSE?” or “How to use a Spending Plan”
  • Taking automatically-graded pop quizzes, embedded with each article
  • Making trades to start building their portfolio
Once you already have a spring stock game set up, it takes less than a minute to add an awesome Assignment that your students will love. If you haven’t used assignments before, click here to see how!  

#4: Be Sneaky With Learning!

Students have been in school since last September, and you probably have some students that already seem tired of lectures and projects, but this is their time to shine! There is so much happening in the world that impacts the stock market, which is why the stock game is such a versatile tool for learning. On HTMW, we have a special tool called “Trade Notes”. This means that you can require your students to make a short, 1-2 sentence note with every trade as they are building their portfolio. This is a great way to reinforce class concepts, without your students even realizing they are learning! Kick off your class by talking about a current event in the news, and how it relates to your class topics. This works just as well for History classes as it does Personal Finance – but it plants the seed for your students as they start to trade. Next, ask students to make at least 1 trade each day relating to that topic – and write a brief note about how it affected their decision.

#3: Let Your Game Run Long

Your class might end in a month, but your stock game doesn’t have to! In fact, HTMW has a built-in “Forums” feature, where students can post messages for other students to see and reply to. You can use the Assignments feature to even set up a Summer activity for students, and use the Forum to let them continue discussing the markets even after classes end!

#4: Give Prizes

  A little incentive can go a long way! If you want your students to remember what they learned in the stock game long after it ended, it can be as simple as handing out certificates to the winners or participants. We even have a handy template you can use! Click here to download a winner’s certificate! Alternatively, Click Here to download a participation certificate for everyone in your class!  

#5: Start Now

This might sound obvious, but your students can’t benefit from the HowTheMarketWorks Stock Game if you haven’t set up your class! There is a reason why we were voted the #1 stock game – we make it easy! So if you haven’t already, take 2 minutes to set up your absolutely FREE spring stock game! Click here to register your class  

How To Build A Portfolio

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