Stupid Interview Questions (Career Tip #19)

"Leo Tolstoy Working At A Round Table" (and writing down rockin' interview questions) - Ilya Repin, 1891

  A long-running series on career tips for, well, for anyone. It started out as a series of advice to young people starting out in the workforce, from someone with more than a little gray in his hair.  And now, just observations and reflections on job and career.  Other examples can be found here and here. Stupid interview questions.  No, not open-ended saws asked by employers, like "Tell us about yourself". These are the questions that interviewees themselves may be at some point be prompted to ask, and which are most always flubbed. The unprepared will blankly stare and offer nothing.  The mildly prepared will let fly, for form's sake, with canned questions lifted from career websites.  The truly prepared will use … [Read more...]

Keystone XL Pipeline, Boo!


So easy to mock crunchy environmental types who doth protest too much on pipeline construction.  Possible oil spills, loss of habitat, contamination of the Ogallala aquifer, say the greenies.  Jobs, jobs and more jobs, counter the oil company shills and hacks.  Oil and gas companies are evil, they club baby seals and emit lots of carbon, say the enviros.   What, don't you drive a car to get to work.  Oh wait, you don't have a job, do you? On and on... For readers who are not aware of what exactly the Keystone pipeline is all about, it's merely Phase Four of an existing network of pipelines that delivers hydrocarbons from northern oil fields in Alberta to points south in the U.S.  Phase 4, the XL version, would add a leg through … [Read more...]

Investing in marijuana stocks: consider your mellow harshed

marijuana stocks

With legalization of pot picking up a head of smoke steam all across the States, it behooves us to take a closer look at what's out there in terms of budding investments, which are safer than growing a patch of C. Sativa in the backyard.  Federales aren't going to bust down your door at 2 a.m. looking for stock certificates (not yet, at least). The title of this post isn't totally original, by the way.  "Consider your buzz harshed" was the closing sentence in a  Cracked magazine article, on four (count them, four) reasons legalized pot is still kind of a bummer: - You can't get high in public places - You can still be fired from your job [if you test positive] - Banks won't touch money from marijuana businesses [1] - You can still … [Read more...]

Ten Things You Can Do To Impress People At Work

"Baking the bread" - Anders Zorn, 1889

Another in a growing series of tips for a decent career in the workplace.  Other examples can be found here and here. Working for the Man takes some doing. The workplace can be a political jungle, populated with hazards like vengeful Vice Presidents, ambitious underlings, and fearsome human resources trolls who are just waiting for a chance to eviscerate your career with razor-sharp talons. Fear not, here's the prototypical blog list of ten things you (yes, you!) can do to get ahead and impress people at work.  Some of them may require effort, some not so much. #1 - Get Up Early. Up outta that warm bunk and hit the ground running, soldier!  The early bird catches the worm, or at least orders up the Starbucks Venti Latte-to-go … [Read more...]

Internal Customer? Oh, you mean, “Welfare Recipient”

Buy My Fish, by David Burliuk

No shirt, no shoes, no service. Might add to this, bad attitude, irrationality, hatefulness and inappropriate behavior. All or any might lead the small businessperson to cut their losses and decline to bid, as it were. Potential and/or future customers some people might be, but the pain of their interaction outweighs the benefit of their business. "Right then, thank you Sir, there's the door, and don't let it hit you in the ass on the way out." The Myth of Internal Customers This clearly isn't possible with "internal customers" and internal markets. In a large corporation, you can't decline to bid. Neither party to the internal transaction has a vote on with whomever they can do business. A corporate accountant must reconcile the … [Read more...]

Coffee Break: Case studies for companies – not so very good for investing or learning

At the coffee table, by Edvard Munch, 1883

  An irregular enough series here on USA Financial Service.   A collection of short blog posts on anything that I can write about in between bursts of sparkling creativity and complete blockage, marking time between longer and better-crafted blog posts. Other examples of 101C coffee breaks can be found here and here. ************************************************************************** From Viral Ethics, a nice quick article on the detrimental effect of teaching business based on case studies. Case studies are one of the most popular methods used today for teaching students and industry professionals about how to deal with a wide variety of issues.  However, research indicates that most of the case studies we use for … [Read more...]

It’s All Marketing


You make something and wish to have consumers part with hard-earned cash, you have to sell the sizzle somehow. Here's how backwoods moonshine* gets marketed: Bold aromas of wet grain sack, crushed whole nut, and crusty artisanal raisin bread with a vibrant, silky dry-yet-fruity medium-full body and a hot and spicy dusty gravel road finish. Opens up to some attractive macadamia nut brittle and spice cake notes with a touch of water. Very interesting and distinctive; will be great in cocktails. Regrettable composition aside ("nut" and "sack" should not be mentioned less than three words apart -- the brain does funny things with word association), tasting notes for alcohol products are some of the silliest and extreme examples of … [Read more...]

The One With The Most Data Wins

The meeting did not go well for Tyler the intern  (all photo credit to Luca Galuzzi)

Continuing on with a series on career and business tips and observations, gleaned from hanging around people with too much gray in their not-enough hair. You are invited to a meeting. Because you are quick and clever, you've remembered to bring pen and paper. The ostensible purpose of business meetings is to share information and make decisions. But because business is conducted by humans, and some humans eat their young, all too frequently the meeting's agenda will turn into a search for the guilty and punishment of the innocent.* That innocent would be you. Dare to walk unprepared into the lion's den at your own peril.  The meeting isn't a walk in the park, it's a buffet dinner in the Serengeti... and you're appetizer, … [Read more...]

Work Harder Than Europeans (Career Tip #18)

Nose, meet stone. Stone, meet nose.  Engage.

"Our goals should be the same as the Germans... work less". So quoth my old college professor of international business, in almost reverential tones. The Germans and other enlightened Europeans were held up as paragons of the good life, if not necessarily hard work and productivity.  This sentiment infests the Mainstream Media and commentariat: Why Americans should work less - the way the Germans do (The Guardian) Squeezed Dry - Why Americans work so hard, and feel so poor (The Atlantic) Why don't Americans have longer vacations (NY Times) American can learn from Europe on work-life balance (CNN) Why can't you be more like your cousin Wolfgang? He does all his homework, cleans his room every day, eats his peas, and … [Read more...]

Understanding the small print… clauses, codicils and other buzzkills

RTFC?  Pretty sure the US Government has stopped reading the contract for quite a while now....

RTFC! Read the f***ing contract!  That's a coaching mantra uttered by many a manager in E&C (Engineering and Construction) companies. Know what you're supposed obliged to do, what will make you money, save you money, or avoid massive pain down the contract road. "The customer wants us to gold-plate the railings", says the young project manager. "Is it in the contract?", answers his supervisor. "Err, I don't quite recall." "Well then, READ THE F***ING CONTRACT!"  (*) Whether  a beady-eyed charge-by-the-minute attorney combing through contract terms and conditions, a purchasing agent reading supplier proposals, or a prospective homeowner despairing that the bloody contractor will ever get his sh*t together and … [Read more...]