Online Job Searching (part 2)

Here are a few common phrases from online job postings, along with what the phrases really mean:

"entrepreneurial minded" or "self motivated" = you're on your own

"unlimited earning potential" = you'll be on commission and will probably earn less than fixed salary

"outgoing personality" or "great people skills" = cold, hard sales

"fast-paced job" = stressful

"no experience necessary" = you can get a better job than this

"independent position" or "1099" = you'll pay double tax next spring

"possible management opportunities" = we'll probably ask you to recruit your friends

Online Job Searching (part 1)

There seems to be three main types of job listings online:

1. The amazing job... that is a scam.
"Make $100,000 a year working part-time!"

2. The good job... that you're not qualified for.
"Great pay, great benefits. 6 to 8 years of industry-specific experience required"

3. The crappy job... that you really don't want.
"How would you like to make $8-$10 an hour???"

Loss Averted

One of the principles that I keep running across in several of the books I've read lately (The Paradox of Choice, Stumbling on Happiness, and Nudge) is that of loss aversion. Basically put, this is the idea that most people strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. Additionally, losing seems to be a lot more bitter than winning is sweet.

This is why I try not to put to much emotion into the outcome of sporting events. In NCAA football, winning every game is often necessary in order to earn a BCS berth. It's kind of sad (and a little funny) to see the faces of the fans of a team that just lost their first game of the season after winning 8 or 9 or 10 straight. Clearly that loss causes more hurt than any of the wins caused joy.

On a somewhat related note, Stumbling on Happiness describes studies that show most people are not significantly happier or sadder three months after a major event in their lives (winning the lottery, death of a loved one, getting dumped etc.) Anter one year, almost nobody maintains significant change over their pre-event state.

I think all of this serves to remind us that when life stings us, keeping perspective can surely help us press on. Within a few months, chances are that everything will be back to normal.

Just Solve

I just spent 40 minutes on the phone with an Orbitz rep trying to book a flight. Their site wasn't accepting my credit cards. The very kind rep immediately ignored my concern and began to try and book the flight for me. This wouldn't have been a problem, except that she could not get the city (Seattle?), flight, or even month right.

After trying to be patient for fifteen minutes, I started to become a bit more coarse saying that I really just wanted to know why my order wasn't going through. The rep then put me on hold for 10 minutes and came back and told me that I was using a debit card.

Um. No.

I'm on the other side 40 hours a week. Lately at work, we are becoming more and more sales-focused. We're constantly being pressed to get people to open up new accounts and to bring in more money. Someone calls in for their balance? Ask them about their 401k. Password reset? Tell them to send a wire. Of course our offer stats are recorded, so that leads to weak attempts and awkward conversations on almost every call.

The point is, customer service should be about fixing what's broken. Customers will be most satisfied if you just solve their problem. Period. Not find a substitute. Not solve and then solicit. Just solve.

B-Schools Should Know Better

Having elected to make my GMAT score public to graduate schools, I have lately been receiving many solicitations for MBA programs across the country. I have been heavily recruited by a number of programs, from Top 20 schools like MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Virginia, to relatively obscure schools like the University of Denver and Webster University. What surprises me about nearly everybody is the poor job they do in trying to recruit me to their institution.

One would think that with even a little bit of the business savvy these schools purport to be able to teach me, these schools would be able to come up with something better than send me endless spam and junk mail. If I really am a priority candidate, why not call me to speak with me in person rather than sending out a blanket message that may as well be for replica watches or fake prescription drugs?

One exception to all of this has been Notre Dame. They sent me a substantial packet with a pamphlet about the school. In addition was a letter expressing interest in me. What was different about this letter, however, was that it was actually signed with a real pen, and the recruiter had written me a personalized message. Though it was a small gesture that probably took 15 seconds, I was impressed.

As I looked into the program, I decided that I would actually apply. Upon noticing that their application fee ($112) was twice that of most schools, I called them to see if they would waive it for me. If they really wanted me, I reasoned, they should waive it. They did. Again, I was impressed.

Though I still have several other schools where I am applying and have not made up my mind, I learned that it's not hard to attract someone's attention. You have to choose your targets carefully and personalize your message to them instead of just shotgunning out postcards and spam to thousands of people and hope that someone will bite.

Pampered or Hampered?

I little over a year and a half ago, I posted some thoughts on giving.

One of my biggest struggles when it comes to money is finding the right middle ground between spending on myself to have nice things and giving to others who are less fortunate than me. While I haven't settled on the proper balance, and will probably always be tempted to err on the side of selfish, I've tried to make the following quote my guideline.

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditures on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charities expenditure excludes them."
—C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Nike Knows

Back in 2001, I attended Business Week, a conference designed to give high school seniors the chance to get together and learn about, well, business. We were divided into "companies" and given several tasks throughout the week. One of our projects was to come up with an original product, and then develop a marketing campaign for it.

My group came up with Tracks, shoes that stored music on them that could be played while you wore them. We thought that had created something amazing. From the concept (remember this was before iPods), to the name's double meaning, to the clever shoe print for a logo, we congratulated ourselves on a job well done. In a competition with the eleven other companies, we placed in the top three.

The point of this story is that I have since learned that in business, ideas are easy. If you don't believe me, take a look at 999 right here. I think that where 99.9% percent of us (including myself so far) fall short is in the implementation. If you've really got a killer idea, you've got to cross the barrier that separates imagination from action.

Looking Big

In The God's Must be Crazy (I can't remember if it's 1 or 2), a young boy comes across a wild animal in the African desert. To make himself look bigger, the boy takes a branch and lifts it over his head, so as to intimidate the predator and prevent him from attacking.

Every organization starts small. But just because you are small doesn't mean you have to act small. A professional looking web site, excellent customer service, and well-trained employees (even if the only employee is yourself) can go far in creating the illusion of size and sustainability.

Here's one example as far as web site goes. Prampram Worldwide Education is a small non-profit organization created to sponsor the education of children in Ghana. Despite Prampram's small size, its web site is done in a way that it surely portrays an image of success. With this web site, Prampram can leverage "looking big" to help itself fill out and become as large as it already appears.


Today I came across this story about Jason Sadler, a guy who will wear your company's shirt for a day and also blog, Facebook, and YouTube, the heck out of it. For the company, it's cheap advertising. For Sadler, it is a great job that earns him a decent penny and lets him be his own boss.

For me, this idea goes into the "why didn't I think of this" category. This is a great example of how creativity is more important than $$$ when it comes to marketing.

Don't Mourn Change

In Cars, one car tells another car how her town, Radiator Springs, became desolate and abandoned. She explains that a new freeway bypassed her town "just to save ten minutes of driving", as if this was some sort of travesty. This is amusing to me because the car she is telling is Lightning McQueen, a racecar who loves driving fast.

The town in this movie, Radiator Springs, was based on the real-life story of Seligman, Arizona. Built on historic Route 66, Seligman shriveled to almost nothing after the completion of Interstate 40.

One Seligman resident, Angel Delgadillo, fought to preserve his town's legacy and livelihood. A barber by trade, Angel created the first Historic Route 66 Association. Through Angel's efforts, Seligman has become an icon of Route 66 history and also a popular attraction for tourists traveling between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. A few years ago I became friends with Angel, visiting his barbershop-turned-giftshop two or three times a week while working as a tour guide. Meeting Angel and hearing his story was inspiring for me (You can watch an interview with Angel in the special features of the Cars DVD).

It is often said that the only constant in life is change. The key to making it through is not to gripe and mope if you get left in the dust. Changing jobs, acquiring new skills, and making an effort to adapt will only help you in the long run. It surely worked for Angel.


People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.

- Andrew Carnegie

I think if I were hiring someone, motivation would definitely be one of the top three things I would look for.