Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Business Idea: All-Natural, Organic Perfume

The ingredient list on perfumes scares the health-conscious, not to mention those with "chemical sensitivities."

Yet when I went to Sephora, which has an incredible collection of fragrances, I saw only a couple that were all-natural. And when I googled "All-natural fragrances," there were limited options. Example.

I believe a well-marketed, delicious-smelling, all-natural fragrance, made of carefully crafted blends of organic lemon, orange, tuberose, and other fragrant flowers and fruits could be a terrific seller, even a category killer. Not to worry that there are a few already out there--there are hundreds of non-natural fragrances out there that have millions of dollars in sales.

I'd call it: O. (evoking orgasm and The Story of O, as well as organic.)

Because it wouldn't include chemical preservatives, customers would need to replace it frequently, which, of course, would be good for sales.

Whaddya think?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How to Get Hired in the C-Suite: CEO, CFO, COO, CIO.

I just finished a session with a client who is looking for a CEO or COO job. I told him these ways of landing one:
  • Using the Red Book or your connections, identify the key 20 retained headhunters who specialize in C-Suite biotech companies and get your high-level connections to tout you to them.
  • Email, phone, and/or meet with all your colleagues who are or are connected to C-Suite or corporate board members. Tell them the sort of position you're best at. (In his case it's mid-stage startup neurobiology-centric companies.)
  • Do high-level volunteerism, for example, join a board.
  • Write an article for a leading industry publication, especially an article that includes interviews with industry leaders.
  • Give a presentation at an industry conference, perhaps co-presenting with an industry leader.
  • Throw a party in which your connections plus others are invited.

Does It Matter?

I just opened the collection of junk mail that comes with my snail mail. That's the last thing I'd expect to cause me to feel useless. But it did.

One of those ads was this week's Safeway four-page supermarket circular. It's emblazoned with pink breast cancer ribbons and crowned by a headline, "Together for a Cure." Throughout, there are large sections urging focus on breast cancer. Example.

Of course, that reminded me of my earlier efforts to educate the public, the media, and Safeway in specific, that men die much younger and, for example, that far more men die younger of unexplained sudden heart attack than do women of breast cancer, yet the large majority of gender-specific health care research and outreach for the last 60 years(!) has been on women. The male death gap has grown from just 1 year in 1900 to 5.2 years today! I urged Safeway to address this. Other than the tiny-in-comparison prostate cancer promotion Safeway had done before I started my efforts to convince its president Steven Burd, nothing changed. In today's feminist dominated world, men are the disposable sex.

Then I turned my thoughts to all my other decades-long activist efforts, toward reinventing education, reinventing career counseling, fighting for fair treatment for males, against big government, for gifted kids' getting at least as appropriate-leveled education as special ed kids' do. None of my efforts have made a bit of difference.

So I wonder, "Why waste my time doing any more of that "make a difference" stuff?" Maybe I'd be wiser to leave the activism to the next generation of wide-eyed youth and spend my remaining years watching movies, playing with my dog, playing the piano, being my wife's acting coach, and going out to eat. As Peggy Lee sung, "If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing and break out the booze."

Yet as soon as I finish this blog post, I'm going to continue my search for someone who can get more people to read my articles. People aren't explainable simply.

By the way, if you know someone who'd be great at that, let me know:

How to Choose a Career

It's probably not your fault if you still don't know what you want to be when you grow up. Reasonably, you assumed school would help you figure it out.

Alas, instructors live in an ivory tower, so most are ill-suited to helping you find a career. And even most students who go to their school's career center leave still unsure what they want to do.

This is a better approach:

Step 1. Scan annotated lists of careers in such guides as the online Occupational Outlook Handbook, or my book, Cool Careers for Dummies.

For even more under-the-radar but currently in-demand careers, go to and search on a work-related skill that you'd like to use in your work, for example, writing, analyzing, organizing, selling, or programming. Pick out the one, two, or three careers you find most intriguing.

Step 2. Google the name of that career and the word "careers," for example, "geologist careers." or "writing careers." Read a few articles that seem on-point.

Step 3. For any career that still seems interesting, search Amazon for a book on that career. In the best such books, each chapter is a different person's report on what it's like in that career.

Step 4. For any career that's still of interest, job shadow at least three (one or two might give unrepresentative perspectives) people in the field. Find them in the Yellow Pages, on the website of the profession's professional association, for example, The American Optometric Association (, your alumni association, or simply ask your in-person or LinkedIn and Facebook networks for referrals.

While you're job shadowing, ask questions such as, "What's your typical day like?" "What ends up being most important for success in this career?" "Why might someone leave this career?" and "What's the best way to get training so you're excellent in this career?"

Step 5. If a career still sounds good, choose it, even if you're not sure. Otherwise, you may be waiting for Godot. Career contentment usually only comes after you've entered it and, like a great-looking suit, tailored and accessorized to fit you.

For example, career coaching fit me only moderately but I now love it, in large measure because I adapted it to fit me: I made nonnegotiable that I'd work from home and that I'd be a more active participant in sessions than the typical counselor who mainly just listens. I also stayed committed to getting better and better rather than giving up after a couple of years of mediocre performance.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How the Mainstream Media Could Thrive

The demise of the traditional media outlets (newspapers, TV, magazines) has long been predicted, and indeed revenue has plummeted. The mainstream media has largely failed to figure out how to remain relevant in an era of nearly infinite free content: blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter streams, etc.

I think I've come up with the answer.

It has now become cost-effective for a major media outlet to create a rich, multi-faceted presentation of each story it covers. That is a level of sophistication and cost beyond the capability of most bloggers. I call it rich reporting.

So for example, while a blogger could certainly write a good article on whether Obama has been good for business, that piece would be grossly inferior to this week's Economist feature on that topic. That consists of a text-based debate between two world-class opponents on the issue. It's moderated by another world-class person. Readers can vote during the debate and change their votes as the debate proceeds. The up-to-the-minute pro/con voting is published in real time as are reader comments. After the debate, there's a post-mortem in which readers can participate. Now imagine that when the topic was appropriate, the debaters could introduce video evidence. Even without video, such content is much more appealing than nearly all citizen journalism.

Let's take another example. Many news stories start with an anecdote about a person. Imagine that the reader could elect to see that person's story in a one-minute, high-quality video. Or in the case of a science story, the viewer could see a vivid video presentation of the core complicated scientific process, for example, the mechanism via which global warming could be the result of sunspot explosions. Such high-quality user experiences would be infeasible for solo content providers to provide.

Rich reporting could even extend to the Web's most trafficked sites: porn. Sure, YouPorn and PornHub feature thousands of free porn videos, but most, I'm (ahem) told, are story-light, script-idiotic, visually grainy and/or poorly lighted. I believe there's a market for porn in which users would subscribe to a site with high-quality porn of varying lengths. Nick Bolton, New York Times writer and author of I Live in the Future says that porn industry has always led the way in the use of technology and predicts, "The next generation of porn and storytelling will be hyperpersonalized, placing you almost directly in the scene. That will give you control over what you see--almost like you're standing on a holodeck, a room that uses holographs to simulate reality."

The mainstream media has the advantage of money. If the MSM exercised the restraint to cover fewer stories but with rich reporting, I believe the mainstream media would not only thrive but provide a better product for all of us.

The Most Important Skills You Never Thought Of

Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute (10 million copies sold) asked me to come up with a list of under-the-radar yet critical skills. Here's what I've come up with:

Time-effective digging for information. With nearly unlimited information merely a few keystrokes away, one of today's most crucial skills is the ability to derive on-target information in minimum time. That skill would subsume, for example, a good instinct for knowing what term to use in a Google search, how to use Google's syntax well, how to wisely read the search results: what useful content is available right there in that page of search results, which sites on page 1 of the results are worth clicking on, is it worth clicking on page 2, on a given site, what to ignore, skim, or read carefully, and what's worth copying and pasting into your working document.

The ability AND liberal use of risk-reward analysis. What's the risk versus reward of not only a physical risk but, for example, of being confrontive versus silent, investing in something, hiring someone, etc.? The ability and willingness to think probabilistically is a subset of that skill.

The ability AND liberal use of predictive listening: when it's worth interrupting, listening, or thinking ahead to what you want to say.

The ability to wisely decide when to put aside confirmation bias. It's well known that we tend to dismiss or not even take-in ideas that are dissonant with our cognitive schema, the core things we believe. Yet to create new solutions to problems and simply to be a person who is growing, one must be able to, in listening to an idea that's discordant with their cognitive schema, wisely decide whether that new idea should be dismissed apriori or is worth considering.

The ability to assess a person's openness to criticism and, more broadly, new input. Some people get discombobulated when offered merely one new idea or when receiving even a bit of tactfully dispensed criticism. Other people are more open and resilient. Effective communicators must be able to accurate assess their conversation partner's openness to criticism and new input.

Valuing productivity: In our ever more demanding society, people who try to be very productive will be ever more highly valued. Two supermarket checkers can use the same method: they simply look for the bar code and scan the item. But the person who values productivity does it as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy while a less productivity-valuing person will scan the items at a leisurely pace. A related inverse term is laziness: the person whose micro and macro life choices are mainly toward hedonism (short-term pleasures) rather than the eudamonic, longer-term contentment that comes from being productive.

Can you think of another under-the-radar but critical skill? Feel free to post it as a comment. If I like it, I'll let you know and will forward it to Dick.

Why the Wealthy Never Retire

I've always felt that the slogan, "No one ever died wishing they spent more time at the office" is a myth.

So I was pleased to see the results of a Barclay's survey reported in the Wall Street Journal that finds that even most wealthy people want to work until they drop--They feel more worthwhile working than retiring.

Even if you don't have a great job, it's difficult to understand how an even modestly healthy person of whatever age wouldn't feel more valuable being productive than, for example, puttering around on a golf course, that staging area for the hereafter.

I hope to die right here at my computer.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Making a Difference:" A Foolish Fad

Everyone's trying to "make a difference." Even right-wing advertisers like American Express are jumping on the "make-a-difference" bandwagon.

Sounds good, right? Not to me. "Making a difference" is code for redistributing fiscal and human resources from the haves to the have-nots. Still sounds good, right?

Not to me. For example, let's say a financial or intellectual "have" decides to devote money and time to a "make a difference" initiative, say, to the cause du jour: environmentalism: trying to cool the globe or restore some swamp (oops, wetland) to a more pre-human state. Do you think he'd make more of a difference doing that or devoting his time and money to providing a program for intellectually and/or emotionally gifted kids: those with the greatest potential to cure our diseases, create an ever more helpful iPhone or Google, or revolutionalize (finally) education? For me, it's not even close--especially when most funds for gifted programs have been redistributed to programs for special education and other at-risk students.

Another example: Let's consider a literacy program. Its students, by definition, have long struggled in learning to read. Even extensive, expensive, one-on-one tutoring will raise their average reading score only modestly--at best, say from a third to a fifth grade level. That will have only a minor impact on that person's ability to be even self-sustaining. Even assuming that government-run literacy program were run efficiently (dubious,) a have who invested time and money on that would likely be of less benefit to society than if he had invested the money and time in high-ability kids.

Let's turn to career. Let's say there's a pair of identical twins. One chose a "make-a-difference" career like social work, teaching the at-risk, or administering a government or nonprofit program for the have-nots. The other twin chose a career, for example, developing a better search engine, car engine, disease cure, or even something more mundane, more accessible to more people, like selling items that offer good value to the consumer: Whirlpool appliances, Toyota cars, or even no-iron cotton. Do you honestly believe the "making a difference" twin would actually have made a bigger difference?

No doubt, this essay evokes an "ugh" response, especially from liberals (oops, "progressives.") That visceral response will likely be followed by a slightly more intellectualized version of "ugh," labeling me "elitist," "mean-spirited," or some such.

I challenge such readers to put aside their reflexive response and instead try to be really honest with themselves: If your goal is really to make a difference, wouldn't you--beyond a humane level of investment in all humans--invest your time and money not on those with the greatest deficit but on those with the greatest potential to profit?

Alas, most of us cannot resist fads--we'll feel compelled to "make a difference."

A Variant on My Favorite Small Business Idea

Because rent is low or free, I've long advocated selling coffee, soup, gift baskets, scarves, desserts, etc. from carts or trucks placed in high-foot-traffic locations, for example, near a busy train station.

To learn the business, you run the first cart or truck yourself and then, because just one of them is unlikely to generate sufficient income, once you've got one running well, you keep cloning it until you've made as much money as you need. To minimize employee theft, hire your friends or empty nesters to run the subsequent carts/trucks, and treat them well.

The new variation? Gourmet food. How about sandwiches like organic turkey sandwiches with pesto and Danish havarti cheese and heirloom tomatoes on ciabatta bread? Or French crepes--the savories with imported ham and gruyere, the sweet with gourmet chocolate and whipped cream? Or baby lettuce salads with fresh pears, gorgonzola, and candied walnuts?

You can charge $2 to $3 more per item for food that will cost you just pennies more--and you'll be a cut above other fast-food operations, mobile or store-front.

Want to Get in On the Ground Floor? Try Modular Housing

We build houses pretty much as we did hundreds of years ago: each one built individually, with an architect for each building--none of the benefits of mass production.

Imagine instead that a company hired world-class architects to design say 10 models, each consisting of some of the following modules: bedroom, great room, living room, dining room, family room, home-office, kitchen, full bath, half-bath, deck. Each of those would come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Each buyer could select low, medium, or high-grade finishes, and paint in the colors of their choice. Options would include, for example, a wall-built-in home entertainment system, home-office package, fireplace, whirlpool bath, etc. Of course, each buyer would customize further by decorating it to taste.

The same sort of approach could be used in building office buildings, restaurants, factories, etc.

Of course, modular home building has been around for a long time but has mainly been used for vacation homes and storage buildings because customers have preferred to pay the additional costs of an individually built home in exchange for greater flexibility of design and the good feeling of knowing your home wasn't stamped out by the hundreds. Also, quality had been variable.

But if, as I predict, the American economy is likely to remain weak or get even weaker, people will not be willing to pay so much for their homes not only because they won't be able to afford it, they won't be able to count on it appreciating in value. People used to think, "Okay. I'll spend a lot on the house now but it will be worth more as time goes by." Fewer and fewer Americans now think that way.

At the same time, improved high-tech manufacturing methods have improved modular homes' quality while reducing build time and cost. Currently, cost savings versus stick-built homes average just 10 to 20% but I predict the cost will decline as the technology advances, housing resale prices decrease, and demand increases.

So if I were looking for an industry to enter, modular housing, especially condominiums and mixed-used commercial/residential, would be on the roof top of my list. After all, it's good to get in on the ground floor.

For more on the modular housing industry, including the video referred to in the caption, click HERE.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Response to Newsweek's Call for a "New Masculinity"

The current Newsweek cover story, "Why We Need to Imagine a New Masculinity," insists that men must do more child rearing and aim for more female-centric jobs like nursing and teaching.

That's no fairer to men than to insist that most women must direct their job aspirations to the likes of plumbing and roofing and spend their evenings playing with power tools in their workshop.

Of course, some men would be well suited to such changes just as some women are well-suited to be plumbers, roofers, etc. But for a Newsweek cover story to suggest that men overall need to make such a change is merely the latest in an endless series of insults to and invalidations of men.

A Libertarian Response to the Republicans' "Pledge to America"

In response to the recent Republican "Pledge to America," Libertarian Party executive director Wes Benedict released the following statement:
Instead of a "Pledge to America," the Republicans should have written an "Apology to America." It should have gone something like this:

"We're sorry, America. Sorry we grew the federal government budget from $1.7 trillion to over $3 trillion. Sorry we added $5 trillion to the federal debt. Sorry we doubled the size of the Department of Education. Sorry we started two incredibly costly foreign wars. Sorry we supported the absurd and costly TARP bailouts. Sorry we created a huge and costly new Medicare entitlement. Sorry we did nothing to end the costly and destructive War on Drugs. Sorry we did nothing to reform the federal government's near-prohibition on immigration. But hey, at least we helped you by shifting a lot of your tax burden onto your children and grandchildren."

There are so many lies, distortions, hypocrisies, and idiocy in this document that it's hard to know where to start.

It is deeply insulting to see the Republicans refer to "America's founding values" on their cover. The Republican Party has no understanding whatsoever of America's founding values. They have proven and re-proven that for decades.

The document talks a lot about "tax cuts." Unfortunately, the Republican "tax cut" proposals would really do nothing to cut taxes. All their proposals achieve is to defer taxes, pushing the burden onto our children and grandchildren. The only real way to cut taxes is to cut government spending, and the Republican document does almost nothing in that regard.

The Republicans say they want to "roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels." In other words, to re-create the situation near the end of the Bush administration, after Republicans had massively increased federal spending on almost everything.

Republicans must love it when Democrats expand government, because it gives them the opportunity to propose small "cuts," while still ending up with huge government.

One shocking aspect of the document is that it actually includes subtle Republican proposals to increase government spending.

The Republicans offer no plan whatsoever to reduce military spending, America's foreign wars and nation building, or our military defense of rich foriegn nations. On the contrary, the Republicans apparently want to increase military spending, promising to "provide the resources, authority, and support our deployed military requires, fully fund missile defense, and enforce sanctions against Iran."

The Republicans also appear to want to increase government spending on border control. They say "We will ensure that the Border Patrol has the tools and authorities to establish operational control at the border," a costly proposition.

Furthermore, as expected, the document complains about "massive Medicare cuts," implying that Republicans want to make sure Medicare is kept gigantic.

The bulk of federal spending is in three places: Social Security, Medicare, and the military. The Republicans propose absolutely nothing to reduce spending on these three things, or even to slow down their growth.

There must be a typo in the document where it says "Undeterred by dismal results, Washington Democrats continue to double-down on their job-killing policies." That probably should read "Washington Democrats continue to double-down on Republican job-killing policies."

The best way to restore American prosperity would be to implement the straightforward 28 planks of the Libertarian Party platform, or even just follow the Constitution. I mean the actual Constitution, not the Republican re-write that allows for every federal government program imaginable.

I suppose the one positive aspect of the document is that it finally dispels any illusion that Republicans want to shrink government in any meaningful way.

Apparently the Republicans are hoping they can "fool some of the people all of the time." The Libertarian Party is ready to point out Republican lies and hypocrisy to American voters, and we hope that Americans who actually want small and constitutional government, not just hypocrisy and worthless rhetoric, will vote Libertarian this November.
The Libertarian Party has 21 candidates for U.S. Senate and 170 candidates for U.S. House in the upcoming November 2010 elections.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, call LP Executive Director Wes Benedict at 202-333-0008 ext. 222.

The LP is America's third-largest political party, founded in 1971. The Libertarian Party stands for free markets and civil liberties. You can find more information on the Libertarian Party at our website.

P.S. If you have not already done so, please join the Libertarian Party. We are the only political party dedicated to free markets and civil liberties. You can also renew your membership. Or, you can make a contribution separate from membership.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Is Yet More Government Regulation Worth It?

Yesterday, I turned on C-Span and heard members of the SEC try to explain why, despite multiple tips and indeed multiple recommendations from within the SEC, it didn't, for eight years(!) investigate massive Ponzi-schemer Allan Stanford, despite the SEC having a multi-BILLION-dollar budget.

Of course the SEC's failure to provide meaningful oversight even when tipped off shouldn't surprise me. After all, government regulatory agencies ignored multiple tips about another mega Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, the tainted peanut plant, and two decades worth on the salmonella-ridden egg facility.

Then I turned to C-Span2 and heard members of a California state regulatory board try to explain how they didn't notice the $800,000 salaries paid to Bell, CA government employees.

Ah, government.

And now President Obama wants to spend more BILLIONS of our tax dollars to increase regulation and oversight--for example, to give an additional $1.1 BILLION to the SEC. And Obama has called for increased government regulation and oversight in many additional areas.

Can Mr. Obama honorably look the working- and middle-class taxpayer in the eye, the group that pays the most painful share of taxes, and say that it's a better use of their money to wrest it from them in taxes to pay for yet more government regulation and oversight than to leave it in the taxpayers' pockets?

The "Paycheck Fairness Act" is Unfair

Finally, even the New York Times is publishing pieces that recognize that women are, for the same work, not, on average, underpaid.

The op-ed, Fair Pay Isn't Always Equal Pay, by Christina Hoff-Sommers, says,
The bill has received strong support from women’s rights groups, professional organizations and even President Obama, who has called it 'a common-sense bill.'

But the bill isn’t as commonsensical as it might seem. It overlooks mountains of research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control.
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration and the liberal Congress ignore the facts. It's easier to kowtow to the feminist movement's Power Players: NOW, Catalyst, AAUW, etc. So the Democrats are proposing a Paycheck Fairness Act which would make it yet easier for women to file class-action(!), punitive-damages(!) lawsuits against employers they accuse of sex-based pay discrimination.

As a result, women will have an easier time of extorting big bucks from employers who are innocent but, in today's era of political correctness, will feel little choice but to pay off those women and their shark attorneys to make their expensive, time- and stress-consuming lawsuits go away.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Landing A Job Without Prior Experience

It's a Catch 22: You can't get a job without experience and you can't get experience without a job.

The standard recommendation: volunteer or do an internship. But that's risky: Too often, such positions contain more scutwork than resume-building work. Antidote: Upfront, negotiate a worthwhile assignment and quality supervision.

Too infrequently do employers hire interns/volunteers as regular employees. Antidote: No surprise, work harder and smarter than the other interns, and kiss the right asses.

Other routes to getting a job without prior relevant experience:
  • Ask relatives, friends, parents of friends, etc. Usually only people who love you who will--especially in this job market--give you a good job without prior experience. Be sure to tout your transferable skills--for example, the leadership and organizational skills you acquired as your fraternity's activities chair.
  • Send a portfolio of your work samples to target employers. Want to be a teacher? Videorecord a lesson you teach in his friend's classroom. Want a career in advertising? Design an ad for your favorite products. Are you an aspiring fundraiser? Develop a marketing plan for a nonprofit. Send your portfolio in response to advertised jobs and to target employers that aren't advertising an appropriate position.

Finding a Good Job in a Bad Market

A cool career often leads to a bad job. That's because so many people aspire to cool careers: in the entertainment or fashion industries, for example.

The oversupply of aspirants not only makes it tough to find a job in those fields, employers generally pay and treat non-stars poorly because a zillion wannabes are champing at the bit for their jobs. Do what you love and you may starve.

Far wiser for most people to aspire to careers that are not cool, because jobs in them are more likely to provide the attributes that people actually end up valuing more than its coolness:

__ Work that is moderately challenging
__ Work that requires abilities the person enjoys using (e.g., words, hands-on, detail, entrepreneurialism, specific expertise, etc)
__ Good coworkers
__ Good boss
__ Pleasant work environment. For example, being in a noisy cube constantly affects your job satisfaction.
__ An organization you believe in (e.g., an ethical company that makes a good product, a nonprofit that efficiently uses donor money for an important cause.)
__ Opportunities to keep learning, but not so much or so hard that it's overwhelming
__ Job security
__ Good-enough pay. Don't let pay dominate your decision. The after-tax difference between an okay and good salary is less important than most people make it. Nor is a salary than enables you to keep up with the Joneses worth forgoing an otherwise good job.
__ Benefits. Especially if you're older, health care coverage is important.
__ Reasonable commute. If the commute is bad, consider asking for a day or two a week of telecommuting. That can dramatically improve your job satisfaction.

You might want to use that as a checklist in evaluating your next job offer.

Note that I didn't include "interests" in the list. Even if the job centers around something you don't care a bit about--for example, soybean processing--if the job has those other characteristics, you'd probably still feel fine about it.

Now that you know what a good job is, how do you land one?

In a tough job market, good jobs are rarer than Democrats at a Tea Party rally. So when someone knows of a good job opening, she likely tries to help a friend get it, just like a Realtor keeps the best deals for herself or friends. And employers ever more often hire people referred to them because it's less risky than hiring a stranger from a want ad. You want to be that person who gets referred.

So you gotta tell your network you're looking. I know, I know, you say you've already done that. But chances are you only told a few people. Tell 100 people.

You say you don't know 100 people willing to help you? You do. Let's say someone called you and said, "I'm an accountant who was laid off because all the office's accounting jobs were shipped to India. So one thing I'm doing to look for a job is checking my college's alumni directory and I noticed your name. Did you take Econ 101 with Professor Hassenpfeffer and were you in a study group because he was so hard to understand? I was in that study group too. By any chance, might you know of someone who could use a good accountant?"

If you received that call and did know someone who might need a good accountant, mightn't you tell that person? Even though you hadn't seen her for 20 years and didn't know her well then? Today, I gave a talk at KGO Radio's Girls Night Out and asked that question. 90% of the audience raised their hand.

So make a list of everyone who likes or liked you: past or current friends, relatives, coworkers, members of your church, volunteer group, college, your haircutter, a salesman you buy from regularly, even your Brazilian Waxer! The latter three talk to many people a day. Don't you think they'd be willing to tout you or even pass our your resume?

When you do answer ads, you must write an amazing cover letter: a human, honest, cliche-free yet convincing letter. Speak from your heart. That will stand out from the crowd and turn off the wrong employer but turn on the right one.

One more tip: Walk in. If someone called you and said, "I have a baby here. Will you take it?" you'd probably say no, but if you opened your door and found a baby on your doorstep, you'd probably call the police or hospital so the baby can be helped. Similarly, if you show up on the doorstep of a couple dozen potential employers and you're not asking for the moon, at least one is likely to help you.

Yes, the job market is bad and will probably get worse. It takes extraordinary measures to land a good job in a good market but the ideas in this article can give you a real edge.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Should You Vote Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian?

I've written a number of pieces that make the case that America is in its decline and fall, exacerbated greatly by the Obama Administration and others in the Hard Left. I'll post links to those articles at the end of the following essay.

This essay makes a different set of arguments for why current American policy and media-perpetrated values are disastrous.

As we enter election season, I believe this essay and mine should be kept in mind as you decide whether to vote Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian.

I'm 63 and I'm Tired
by Robert A. Hall

Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a six-month period when I was between jobs but job-hunting every day, I've worked hard since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I still put in 50-hour weeks and haven't called in sick in seven or eight years. I make a good salary but I didn't inherit my job or my income and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement in sight and I'm tired. Very tired.

I'm tired of being told I have to "spread the wealth" to people who don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.

I'm tired of being told I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in their homes." Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to help. But not if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off, $250,000 condo, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act create a bubble and a response to it that bails them out with my money.

I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In 30 years, if they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe , the freedom of the press of China , the crime and violence of Mexico , the tolerance for Christian people of Iran , and the freedom of speech of Venezuela

I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.

I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs, lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more than anyone, and in the appointment of U.S. Senators from Illinois.

I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.

I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural expenses were obscene, but think Obama's, at triple the cost, were wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin, with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.

I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in America , while no American group is allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia to teach love and tolerance.

I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We also own a three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's, and if you're greener than Gore, you're green enough.

I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them and stuff white powder up their noses while they tried to fight it off? I don't think Gay people choose to be Gay but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs. And I'm tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak when I tell them I never tried marijuana.

I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers," especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or crime. What's next? Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"? And, no, I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my religion. I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record and who is self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for three years in our military. Those are the citizens we need.

I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists trashing our military (MN: with the obligatory throw-away line about how wonderful our men and women in uniform are,) who would never wear the uniform of the Republic themselves or let their entitlement-handicapped kids near a recruiting station, They and their kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under life and death circumstances, and bad-mouth better people than themselves.. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops sometimes misbehave? Sure. Does this compare with the atrocities that were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are? Not even close. So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or Gitmo if the critics would let themselves be subject to captivity by the Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding from in fear.

I'm tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need bipartisanship. I live in Illinois, where the "Illinois Combine" of Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.

I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful indiscretions, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.

Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans didn't have that in 1970 but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars flowing.

I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination, or big-whatever for their problems.

I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just sorry for my granddaughter.

* * * * *
Here are links to articles I've written that offer different reasons why America is in its decline and fall.What Happens After America's Decline and Fall

Why High U.S. Unemployment Will be Permanent

Why America is Dying...and What to Do About It

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Immodest Proposal for Reinventing Higher Education

USA Today reports that student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt! $828 billion!

Huge waste. I could provide a great college education for every undergraduate student in the nation for decades for 1/1000 of what the current student debt is: Interactive, simulation-based online courses taught by the nation's leading professors. A computer would keep track of courses taken and passed and degrees automatically awarded when requirements were completed.

Because this education would be so clearly superior and less expensive than traditional college education (and it would become a profit center for a university,) I believe I'd be able to convince a designer-label college to award degrees to completers of the program. My pitch: Do you want your name or a competitor's name on it?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Making the Biggest Difference

I attended a barbecue fundraiser for Tom Torlakson, who's running for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It reminded me of the absurdity of how we select our leaders. To think, he's traipsing around the state day after day, month after month, pressing the flesh and giving a no-one-could-disagree speech at Lions crab feeds, union hall pancake breakfasts, and luncheons at fat cats' homes.

Such a process deters the best people from running and means that, once elected, they're beholding to special interests. And do we really know how good an elected official he'll be compared with his opponents?

That made me flash back on a discussion I had 35 years ago with my doctoral advisor, Michael Scriven. We agreed that among the most beneficial things to improve America would be to require political campaigns to be 100% public-funded and just two weeks long, consisting only of televised debates and non-partisan-created online and printed lists of the candidates' voting records and stances on key issues. Then we both went back to our three-ring-circus lives and, of course, nothing changed.

Even powerful senators like John McCain and Russ Feingold, who spent a few years trying to get meaningful campaign reform, produced little. Today, for example, the superrich like Meg Whitman, can buy the California gubernatorial election.

I am pleased with the way my life has turned out: a busy career counselor, talk show host, writer, and consultant. Not bad. I make a difference while making a good living. That's more than most people get.

But I wonder if I would have made a far greater contribution if I had, after that conversation with my advisor, decided to fully devote my entire life to creating the campaign reform I outlined above. The first years would no doubt mainly be spent learning, building relationships, and making mistakes. But today, 35 years later, it is not inconceivable that I could have brought about real campaign reform. If so, the country, indeed the world, would be far better. If not, I believe I would have at least made progress and certainly lived a life of admirable integrity.

The lesson here: Ask yourself if you'd be wise to pick the biggest, make-a-difference goal that excites you and focus, obsessively, for the rest of your life if necessary, on its achievement.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Few Advanced Communication Techniques

I'm writing a book called, How to Do Life. Here's an advance look at a few of the book's many tips on communication.

Early on, be just mildly nice. Make them earn your niceness. They'll value you more. Corollary: An occasional glare may have more influence than a smile.

Be in the sweet-spot of enthusiasm. Don't be too flat, of course, but don't be too enthusiastic or you'll sound desperate or out of control. Remember when Howard Dean was the leading candidate for the 2004 presidency until, in his speech after the Iowa primary, he yelled what seemed like a war whoop. That single moment took him out of the running.

Consciously decide how much to bolster your conversation partner's self-esteem. Usually, it's wise to say things that preserve or boost your conversation partner's self-esteem.

But occasionally, it's more effective to shake a person up, even deliberately showing controlled anger. For example, if a coworker is habitually lazy yet complacent, it may, in the right circumstance be wise to firmly, with a hint of anger say, "Would you mind if I give you some candid feedback?" They'll usually say yes. Then say,

"I'm feeling increasingly frustrated that you're not holding up your end. I'm having to cover for you and even when I'm, not, the quality and quantity of work getting done just isn't good. I don't want a response now. I just want you to think about it. Come talk with me tomorrow. "
Caution: Showing unbridled anger will be less likely to get the person to consider your feedback and more likely to just write you off as a hothead.

Be low-maintenance. In today's ever more pressured workplace, it is critical that you're seen as low-maintenance. Here are a couple of non-obvious ways to be so:

Think twice before offering unasked-for suggestions. Why might that make you seem high-maintenance? Even if your suggestion is good, your overwhelmed boss doesn't want to take on any more and so may feel guilty or embarrassed if he doesn't do it. Or if he does do it, you've added to his overwhelm. The best question you can ask a boss: "Is there anything I can do for you?" Be the antidote to a boss being overwhelmed.

Tone down your "I'm offended" antenna. Be sure that your being slighted isn't a slight that's too slight to insist that you need to "process your feelings" about it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Promoted, Gaining Power, Keeping Power

Ad nauseam, you've been told that the keys to rising in your organization are intelligence, hard work, ethics, and being easy to work with. Not enough. These, should help:

Train for your promotion.What’s the next job you want? What skills and knowledge don’t you yet have? Get them.
  • Try to join a department on the rise.
  • Flatter your bosses--a lot.Jennifer Chatman, a Berkeley researcher found you can't flatter too much. A little-known way to flatter is to ask a boss for help. Not only does that make bosses feel valued, if s/he does help, s/he's invested time and expertise in you and so is more likely to want to see you move up.
  • Write a proposal for an initiative that, while consistent with the culture and mission of the organization, would be an exciting yet realistic quantum leap ahead for the organization. Send it, in advance, to the attendees of an important meeting. Get their input. Get permission to present the revised version at the meeting. Make that presentation with CEO-like crispness. (Watch C-Span, CNBC, and YouTube to see CEO types in action.)
  • Become a networking node by starting a new workgroup in your organization or forging a link between parts of your organization.
  • Seek out a better job offer from another employer.
  • Give a talk at a conference.
  • Get quoted in a trade publication. Have one of your allies show it to a higher-up.
  • When you gain a powerful position, remember that power does corrupt, so be sure to keep your ethics. But remember also that your supervisees or your peers outside your organization may not be so ethical and may try to tear you down so they can replace you or simply make themselves look good in comparison.
  • Know when to quit. If you leave when things are as good as they're likely to be, you'll more likely land an even more powerful job.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

At All Ages, the Pay Gap Favors Women

The Wall Street Journal reported a study that found that in 148 of 150 cities, women 22 to 30 earned 8% more than men.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream (liberal) media e.g.,
Time, Salon, etc then immediately reminded us that women overall still earn 80 cents on the dollar. The cover story of this month's More magazine, yells, "Pay us what we're worth damn women no longer bring in 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man."

President Obama continues to cite that statistic as evidence that more needs to be done to increase women's pay relative to men's.

Of course, women earn 80 cents on the dollar but that doesn't mean sexism is a cause, let alone the major cause. There are far more likely causes. Except for the final bullet, I've documented each of these in previous writings:
  • Even among people who work "full-time," the average woman works seven hours a week less than men.
  • Women are less likely to choose jobs that require in-demand, difficult-to-acquire, and thus highly-paid skills such as physics and software engineering.
  • Women are less likely to do loathsome and/or dangerous jobs that thus pay more such as sewer repair, police work, and rodent control.
  • Women are less likely to move their families to far-flung places to get the promotions needed to rise to top levels. For example, Bentonville, Arkansas is where Wal-Mart is headquartered.
  • Women, on average, are more interested in having kids and in being highly involved parents, even though the evidence does not support quantity of time, net, benefiting the child. In fact, helicopter parenting makes it more likely that a child will feel entitled and who is deprived of sufficient opportunities to gain self efficacy.
And all that time and energy the parent spends on the child makes a less valuable employee: years out of the workforce means you don't keep up with needed skills, you lose valuable contacts, etc. And even when parents are back to work, moms tend to give less attention to their jobs than childless women. Especially when environmentalists tell us that overpopulation is the greatest environmental threat, employers should not be subsidizing people who choose to have children by being forced to pay mothers equal pay for non-equal work.
  • This is anecdotal, based merely on the reportage of my friends, colleagues, and the 3,000+ career coaching clients I've had over the last 25 years, but I believe what I say in this paragraph in every bone in my body. There, of course, are many exceptions but in general, I've found that, on average, women at work, work less hard and are less productive. They are more likely to have "issues," on which they stew unproductively or require other workers to help them "process their feelings." I've more often heard a woman than a man say, "I was so upset I couldn't get my work done." Recent popular books have documented what I've heard from clients, colleagues and friends, that women are more likely than men to sabotage fellow workers of whom they're jealous. On average, women simply work less hard during the work day--more likely to chat, less likely to work drivingly hard. I am well aware that such statements will result in people calling me a sexist even though it's not true--I absolutely do try to judge people on their merits, not their gender. But one of the main benefits I derive from writing a blog is that unlike when I write for the mainstream media, I can say here what I truly believe. And I deeply believe every word of what I've just said.
The fact that women 22-30 (thus likely not to yet have children) are earning 8% more than men is, in my view, yet one more example of men being treated unfairly relative to their merit.

To find more of my writings in which I document the unfair treatment of men relative to their merit, just click on the phrase "men's issues" in this blog's label cloud, located to the right.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Contrarian Approach to Choosing a Career

Most people choose a career based on their previous experiences and successes. But I'm wondering if a case can't be made for choosing a career that is completely different from what the person has done in the done in the past.

If someone has been painfully shy all her life and avoided people both in career and personally, mightn't it be exciting, motivating, for her to choose a career that put her in front of people--for example, a salesperson or even a performer?

If someone has spent his life decrying capitalism, might he--if he allowed himself to admit it to himself--be intrigued by the notion of working for a Fortune-500 corporation?

If someone has been a science-centered person, mightn't she enjoy applying her mind to something artistic--for example, creating breakthrough, stunning store displays?

Most of us are attracted by doing something new and/or by exploring a yet unexpressed part of who we are. So I'm wondering if people wouldn't be more motivated to make the significant effort to prepare for a career and then land a job in it if their goal was something other than to build on their experiences and already expressed strengths.

What do you think?