Monthly Archives: November 2009

expanding your means

“Most people would rather live within their means rather than expand their means.” – Robert Kiyosaki, Retire Young, Retire Rich

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Most of us would rather be rich than poor. Rich may not mean monetarily rich – it may mean experiences, family, friends – but generally wealth enables the accomplishment of many other goals.  How can you do it?  You can save.  You can invest wisely.  You can reduce debt or decrease expenditures.  The hardest way to get rich, but the only way that really works, is to expand your means.  You have to earn more than you spend, consistently and constantly.  You have to expand your means.

I get frustrated reading about achieving wealth by cutting out lattes. Sure, you can be better off if you don’t waste money on Wii’s and lattes.  You’ll achieve your goals sooner if you invest in index funds instead of speculating on stocks.  You’ll be richer, sooner, if you choose a good career that allows for upward mobility.  You’ll win out – in today’s America – if you choose a public-sector job that guarantees benefits.  Sad, but true.

But one thing that most people will never try is to increase their “means” past their primary income. It’s hard.  I struggle to do it.  If I asked you to generate, tomorrow, an extra $10 cash in hand, could you do it?  Even if you make six figures a year, could you figure out a way to generate $10 above your normal daily haul?  It would be difficult for most of us.  Most of us would rather watch Lost than attempt it.

Expanding your means will make you wealthier than saving money. If you save $5, you’ve saved it once and you’re done.  If you come up with a new business model that makes you an extra $5 today, and might – might! – make you an extra $5 tomorrow you’ve created a new income stream.  Making a tiny bit more will change your life far more than saving a bit.

Kiyosaki’s phrase is telling. Most people would rather live within their means… and they’ll pay for it in the long run.  Don’t kid yourself:  it’s tough to live within your means.  With the onslaught of advertising and “keeping up with the Joneses” it’s hard to resist the Wii’s and the Kindles and the latest fashions and the gourmet foods.  If you can, kudos to you.  I think I have so far, but it’s a constant struggle.  But it’s akin to health:  if you can avoid heroin, you’re in better shape than a junkie.  It doesn’t mean you’ll live to 100.  To do that you have to excel – you have to beat the norms, the average and the mean.  Don’t think that skipping the morning latte is enough.  You have to make that extra effort to create more wealth.  Sitting back and “not buying” is not enough.  You have to go out, and make more. You to create wealth, not just avoid spending.

photo by matze_ott

linklings, score one for renting edition

If you read more than one blog, I’m sure you’ve already read several “Happy Thanksgiving” posts, but I’ll add one more – hope everyone enjoyed a couple of days of wassail and sodality (and yes, I know I’m not using that word in exactly the correct way, but it was a new one for me and I decided to give it a whirl).

sink

As we’ve closed on our home purchase and start moving out of our rental I’ve been reminded of one of the benefits of renting. Following Murphy’s Law almost to a T, our kitchen sink backed up severely on Thursday.  Drano and Liquid Plumber helped slightly, allowing a trickle to drain through, but for all intents and purposes the sink was useless.  We decided not to interrupt our landlord’s Thanksgiving, being the selfless tenants we are (ha), and waited until Friday.

On Friday, our landlady gave us the number of a plumber who made emergency calls. He came out promptly and discovered that there were some problems far, far down the line.  In other words, Drano wouldn’t have made a bit of difference – it was a problem that had grown long before we rented the house.  Lots of heavy equipment was hauled up on the roof and an hour later the sink was flowing like new.

Our bill for all of this?  Nothing, other than the tip I gave the guy because he had given me three calls before arriving to keep me posted on exactly how long it would take him to get there.  If the same problem happened in a house I owned, I’d be spending plenty.  As a renter, nothing.  So, score one for renting.  Renting certainly has its share of drawbacks but in this case, renting wins.

A few links, gathered around holiday themes – I suppose from now until Christmas plenty of blogs, including mine, will be focused on the orgy of consumerism and how “you don’t need things to be happy” etc. etc.  Lots of frugality tips and affiliate links, no doubt.  My holiday spending tip?  Decide what you can afford, stick to it and don’t worry about it further than that. And pay cash (or, if you are the type who can control your credit cards, pay off your balance immediately).

And how was your Black Friday? I’ve never “done” Black Friday, and never plan to do it.  What a horrible mess.  Why people would subject themselves to that kind of abuse for the sake of good but not unbelievable savings is beyond me.  Wait one year and that will be the day-to-day price on a TV.

photo by 5533

My Up Close Look at Health Care

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By Curmudgeon.  Just to make sure none of my anxious relatives read this and think this is me, I’ll repeat – no, I didn’t write this.  That having been said, Curmudgeon has a few important notes about health care in America that we’d all be better off thinking about now rather that later.  My family is also struggling with this with some of our family members, as well – the good and the bad.

I was just discharged from the hospital. I went in through Emergency, with a life-threatening condition.  I had my wits fully about me during most of the time (when not on painkillers), and tried to pay some attention to what was going on around me.  The hospital was a mid-sized facility in a small city in New England, and is probably fairly typical in that regard.

I’ll start with a couple of neutral observations.

  • Health care, and health care delivery, are highly complex and involved.  The machines used for diagnosis and treatment are big, highly sensitive, and expensive to operate and maintain.  Yet because my hospital had them on site, I was able to get a diagnosis within two hours, rather than days.
  • The machines are not compatible.  They produce paper as output, and are not wired together in any sort of process as we might understand in business.  This result in a huge paper file that must be available to the caregivers, and must be read and comprehended.

The processes involved are enormously complex and individualized. No two persons’ care is identical, and while individual steps are well-known and practiced, the process as a whole is driven by the needs of the patient.

Now a couple of positive observations.

  • I was attended to by a large number of dedicated and caring professionals.  I can’t say enough about the people who attended and assisted me.
  • In the hospital no one is asked how they are going to pay for a particular test, procedure, or treatment.  This is a really good thing; patients are in a poor position to make economic tradeoffs with their health.

Next a couple of not-so-positive ones.

  • At my estimate, approximately a third of the time of these dedicated professionals was spent checking and correcting errors, omissions, or inconsistencies caused by others, or by the system itself.  Some of this is to be expected; the processes involve humans, after all.  But not this much.
  • As a patient, you deal with a confusing array of care providers on a daily basis.  For example, I counted a dozen different types of nurses before giving up, and that doesn’t include specialty nurses.  No doubt these distinctions are made to differentiate both function and skill set, but to the outsider it is pretty opaque.

The number of specializations concerns me, but perhaps is justifiable by the complexities involved.  However, I’m much more concerned by the lack of a seamless and accurate flow of information between them. There is also not one “master truth” in the system, as many professionals hold many different understandings of what tests were conducted and what treatments administered.  I had to go through a stress test, for example, because the admitting doctor’s offhand remark that I seemed to have a mild heart murmur lead others to believe I was experiencing chest pains, which I was not.

I would like to think that much of the confusion and misunderstanding can be eliminated. As a computer guy, my inclination is to think of a set of automated solutions, but that may not be the full answer.  But there are inefficiencies in the system that can be corrected, letting the health care professionals do the jobs they need to.

photo by Rodrigo Basaure

too busy for vacation

When I worked in Germany I was surprised to see that most German companies shut down for at least a couple of weeks in August. I don’t mean that most of the employees stayed away, or that business continued remotely. The accepted cultural norm was just to shut down, turn off the lights, set up out-of-office emails and leave. Everyone.  The whole office, except for a few IT guys.  Yet I see employees here in America postpone vacations because they are “too busy.” I suspect, however, that they are not “too busy,” and that there are more sinister psychological factors at work. So why are Americans so terrified of time away from work?

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Here are a couple of interesting facts:

  • A survey by Management Recruiters International of 730 U.S. executives in 2003 found that 47 percent surveyed wouldn’t use all their vacation time, and 58 percent said that the reason was job pressures. This same study also found that 35 percent said that they had too much work to take a vacation and that 17 percent felt that their boss was not supportive of employees taking all of their vacation days.
  • A study by Circadian Technologies found that the average overtime rate in extended-hours businesses in 2004 was 16.2 percent – that is almost one extra day of work each week. This is an increase over the 12.6 percent rate in 2003. Along with the increase in overtime came an increase in the absenteeism rate, up from 5.8 percent in 2003 to 12.4 percent in 2004. Of course this compounds the problem because when people don’t show up for work other people are asked to do overtime to pick up the slack. In general companies with high amounts of overtime had absenteeism rates of 17 percent, versus 9 percent in companies with low amounts of overtime.

To draw a conclusion between these two facts would be premature, but I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it. I see a lot of grinding overtime and delayed vacations in the corporate environment where I work. I also see a lot of “pseudo-vacations.” Here are a few examples:

  • Employees take their BlackBerries on vacation with them and answer emails – sometimes even if they don’t need to do so.
  • I had one colleague tell me he would never go on a cruise because he would be unable to check email or voicemail while at sea.
  • Another colleague answered an email at midnight the day before she was scheduled to be induced to give birth.
  • I once passed out from a raging fever and a bad case of pneumonia (a weird experience, waking up on the floor half an hour later) right before a meeting because I felt I could not miss it.  Instead of going to the hospital, I dragged myself into the office. Being recently unconscious, my contribution was minimal.
  • I know people at work who have missed weddings and funerals and children’s birthdays – because they were “too busy at work.”
  • I know more people than I can count who broke up with their boyfriends/girlfriends because they were too busy to maintain their relationships.

Just to keep things in perspective, I’m not a neurosurgeon and my colleagues are not oncologists. No one dies if our work is not done on time. Sure, some critical earnings info might be late or a SOX certification might be delayed, but these are big companies and there are many people to cover the slack. I always need to ask someone who is too busy for vacation: “If you are so mission-critical that you can’t miss work for vacation, would Massive Corporation, Inc. still be able to continue if you were hit by a bus?”

Many colleagues would answer “no” but the truth is “yes.” The corporation will continue if you go on vacation. I sometimes wonder if people are just frightened of demonstrating just how unimportant they are to the overall machinery of the company. I have taken several cruises and long European vacations and never once checked my email or voicemail. Once there was an emergency that needed my attention, but one of my staff stepped up and handled the situation, as I knew they were able.

(this post originally appeared in slightly different form back in 2007)

photo by cell105

How to Fix Up Your Resume (guest post)

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In a job market like this, it’s not surprising that one open position can receive many, many resumes. Often, your resume might have just a few seconds to make an impression. And that can be difference between getting in your foot in the door or getting that door getting slammed in your face.

Here are a variety of ways to make your resume better:

  • Formatting – When used appropriately, bullets and bolding make a huge difference. The perspective employer  isn’t going read one long paragraph.  You may have noticed that this article is written with scannability in mind.
  • Grammar and spell check – Microsoft Word provides a very good grammar checking tool. Spell checking tools are so abundant that  there’s no excuse for not using one. In such a competitive landscape, one spelling error could get you labeled as lacking attention to detail.
  • Consistent tense and use of phrasing – This is one that a lot of people miss – and the one I have the most difficulty with, myself. Sometimes I don’t know whether to put older jobs in the past tense and current jobs in the present. That’s where it helps to have experts like those at Pongo Resume to help. Always stick either full-sentences or fragments. Switching back and forth between the two will only confuse the reader.
  • Have more than one friend review it – Sometimes you spend so much time on you certain parts of your resume that you miss the obvious. Your friends will be looking with a fresh eye, just as a potential employer would.

Even if you have great form to your resume, there’s no guarantee to you’ll get the job. Experience, education, and the interview process are very important – the key is to make sure you don’t get passed by before you get show off those skills.

How To Fix covers a wide-ranging set of topics including household repairs such as how to fix a toilet and How to Fix a Lamp as well as computer topics like how to speed up your computer.

photo by dbdbrobot


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linklings, the lady gaga edition

I’m sure this happens to everyone. You hear a song and it sticks in your head.  You may not even like the song.  You may even DISLIKE the song.  Yet you can’t shake it.  You try to play Macarena, or Ice Ice Baby, just to dislodge one awful song from your brain by lodging another.  It doesn’t work.  Welcome to my weekend, which was centered around Lady Ga-Ga (or however she punctuates her name) and her latest tune-mangling.  Enjoy the video.  I know I have permanently traumatized my kids by wandering around the home muttering “ra ra romanza!” all weekend.  Please don’t judge me….

What can I say?  I had “Der Kommisar” stuck in my head for six months.  Help me, please.  Warn me of other songs to avoid.

(Here’s the video link in case the embed doesn’t show up…)

I’m going to work on solidifying the posting schedule, and finishing my (major) blog theme revision soon. Blogging’s tough work, especially after you’ve been after it for 2-3 years and feel like you don’t have much more to say.  I often feel like I’ve been to the well once too often, which is (probably) my own mental shortcoming…

I make money off of blogging, but not enough to make me highly devoted to it. I like writing, but I feel that I’m not on-topic enough to keep people involved – I’d be happy to accept some (positive) criticism.  I toy with the idea of abandoning any specific topic from time to time – but then again sometimes I think I should just switch brip blap to an astronomy blog.  It’s tough to know what to do when you don’t really know what you, yourself, want to do.

And from a lifestyle perspective, having permanent summer is working well for me so far. We took the family biking today, November 15th, to the beach.  In shorts and t-shirts.  In a crisp blue cloudless sky.  Did I mention it’s November?  It may not mean much to most, but I’ve been cheered tremendously by the absence of winter.

And finally, I had some commentary on these links, but Microsoft’s Live Writer is acting up on me as I try to watch the Indy-New England game and I don’t have the patience to fix it. Good stuff, and I particularly liked the “Disposable” link.  Plus, I don’t like Gary Vaynerchuk, to be honest.  Go to the comments on the link and you’ll see why.

the bucket list

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I saw the movie “The Bucket List” and, to put it charitably, I sneered. It was a tear-jerker, a four-hankie sobfest and I didn’t care for the moralistic tone.  Yet the more I thought about it, I wondered why it was such a bad idea, despite the silly movie.  Why shouldn’t we have a bucket list?

Depending on what day of the week you catch me on, I’ll have one of three ideas about the reason for human life:

  1. Continuation of the species (with the admittedly naive caveat that it should be continued AND improved, not just continued)
  2. Creation of art, exploration of the universe and better understanding of humanity (and all life).
  3. Maximization of one’s own self-development (ideally for the benefit of all but ultimately for your own benefit).

#1 and #2 aren’t easy – but #3 is a bear. I’m not even going to link to it, but if you visit Steve Pavlina’s blog and read about his experiment with polyamory (extending love to other people not your spouse) you’ll see that you can make things very difficult for the ones you love in the name of “self-development.”  If you go off to meditate on the mountain for a year, fine, but if you have three kids, or a sick parent, or a dog, then maybe self-development’s a bit selfish in the short run.

Be that as it may, I think that you can’t neglect any one of these three reasons without a little bit of loss. You don’t have to have kids, for example, to help with reason #1 but you should put some effort into the betterment of mankind “after you.”  You don’t have to create art or discover Planet X, but you ought to somehow move humanity’s knowledge forward to support #2.  And you don’t have to become a self-centered ass to address point #3, but you ought to spend a little bit of time on making yourself a bit better than you were a day/week/year ago.

My bucket list is ill-formed. I have a few things that I have always dreamed of, which probably sound tedious…but they are mine…

  1. I’d like to visit the Forbidden City. Despite being a frenetic world traveler, I’ve never been to China, a country I’ve read about endlessly.  Why?  Dunno.  I have no racial/ancestral/etc. connections to China, but I’ve always been curious about it.  Singapore’s the closest I’ve been.
  2. I’d like to visit the Gobi Desert. No reason, other than wanting to see it.  I’ve been to Siberia already, so you’d think I’d have had my share of desolate areas, but no.   I would like to stand in the desert and proclaim that these three things are best in life:  to vanquish your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentations of their women (bonus points for identifying the pop culture reference).
  3. I’d like to write a book. Why?  Because I like to think of myself as the type of person who could write a book.
  4. I’d like to run a marathon.  I am in horrible running shape (although I still bike long distances).  I know I could do it, though – when I was running on a frenetic basis I could run half-marathons without much effort.
  5. I’d like to see my grandchildren (not as much of a given as it might be for other, younger, parents – I’ll be 74 when Little Buddy is the same age as I was when I had my first child).  Small thing, but then again, a big thing.
  6. I want to visit Bubelah’s childhood home in the former Soviet Union. And I want to take my kids to Moscow.  Why?  Because that city almost screams with history, both personal and global.
  7. I’d like to take care of Bubelah in her 80s (no small accomplishment since then I’d be in my 90s).  That’s a bucket list item that’s almost in the bucket, just not quite..

etc.

Anybody can put together a travel list, and it’s odd that most “bucket lists” I see are highly concentrated on travel and skydiving. I could give less of a hoot about skydiving/surfing/etc. – that’s just not me.  Other “must do’s” aren’t on my list, either.  I don’t have much desire, for example, to read “Crime and Punishment.”  I’d LIKE to be the type of person who had that on my bucket list, but I’ve started that damn book a half dozen times and every time I fall asleep before I’ve hit the 100th page.

One thing I do know is that although some of the bucket list items don’t require a dime to accomplish, many of them require a fair million dimes to accomplish. Money’s not necessary to buy happiness, but if you want to visit China with kids (i.e. hostels and super-budget travel being out of the question), money’s going to make the journey easier.

So while I’m not the guy who’s going to sniffle if I never parasail or eat monkey brains (had the chance, took a pass), I do think I’d benefit from making a list and starting to check it off.  Maybe I’ll start today. Maybe you should, too.

 

photo by FranciscoDiez

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how to manage money

I have an account – several, actually – with TD Ameritrade.  I like TD Ameritrade well enough.  The fees are reasonable for trading and they have a fairly user-friendly interface.  I manage my own money so I’m not looking for many bells and whistles.

Yet every time a trickle of money enters my account, they call.  If I make a shift in my investments, they call.  The simple fact?  I don’t need help.  I have a simple investing strategy that anyone can follow.  It’s not original to me, but it’s barely original to anyone else, either.

I split my money 40-20-20-20 between market index funds, overseas index funds, bond index funds and “other” – stocks, odd mutual funds, etc.  I rebalanced today due to the fact that I just rolled over my 401(k).  It’s not rocket science, either.  I looked at my current allocations and built a spreadsheet to tell me what I’d need to do to get back to that formula.

Is that formula the path to wealth?  Beats the hell out of me.  You know what it is, though?  It’s the investment strategy that lets me sleep at night.  It’s the investment strategy that reduces risk to the point I’m comfortable. 

I read a lot of tortuous investment information and a lot of maximize-your-gains type screeds on the internet and I always have to wonder: why?  I want investment that let me sleep at night.  Is investing 20% of my net worth in bonds going to cost me some returns in the long run?  Perhaps.  Is it going to let me sleep at night?  Maybe.  If it does, it’s priceless. 

Don’t over think investments.  Pick a strategy and stick to it.  I did, and it’s worked well enough to date.  I’m not exactly retiring to the Taj Mahal on my investments, but I’m doing well enough for a middle-class American.  Take a conservative approach to investing – a simple allocation or a similar strategy -  and I doubt you’ll go wrong.

linklings, dude, where’s my break? edition

dude

As noted in this article (October 2009 Unemployment Rate 10.20% – Chart of the Day) unemployment’s high.  Too high.  I was in the 10.2% for about a week, but as of next week I’m right back at it with the same client after they got a budget increase.  Although I’m glad to return to work, what with the economy the way it is, I’m a little bit sad that my “break” only lasted about 7 days.  It was a very productive break in almost every category (except, obviously, blogging).  We made a trip to visit relatives, I got a lot of the paperwork related to our looming close on our new house done, and I even managed to surprise my son by picking him up from school on my bike. 

So due to the busy week, I’ll fly through a few links:

how working overseas helps your career

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When I was younger, I was uninterested in the world outside the US. Things changed when I won a scholarship to study in Germany at the age of 15. I had a terrific experience, both personally and academically, that inspired me to continue my German studies and gave me the motivation to return to live and work in Germany someday . One of the main reasons I went into accounting was the knowledge that it was a worldwide profession – business travel, international business, and so on made it likely that I would have a shot at going overseas sometime in my work life.

During college I decided that I had studied German long enough and that I would fulfill my language requirements with courses in Japanese. This being the late 80s, Japan’s economy was on fire, and knowing Japanese seemed like a good idea. But when I showed up at the registrar to sign up for Japanese I found that the course was full. The university I went to had a fairly limited selection of languages, including mostly the usual suspects – French, German, Spanish and Italian. Despairing that I’d be stuck with a “boring” language, I noticed they had a course in Russian, so I signed up for that. I figured I could do fairly well in this language that was, at the time, a pointless diversion.

In the late 80s there was no real reason to suspect that (a) Russia would ever be open to Westerners or (b) a place that would offer any sort of opportunities to anyone other than academics and writers. That would of course change, but at the time the immediate usefulness of Russian was limited. Despite that, I studied Russian, and my professor – Dr. Don – was a real inspiration and one of the two or three best teachers I’ve ever had. He was young, enthusiastic, accessible and had a real passion for languages and linguistics. I stayed in the class past the minimum requirements and went on to be one of the first two Russian minors in my school’s history.

So approximately five years later, in late 1995, I was approached by a partner in the consulting firm I was working in. I had told everyone quite frequently that I wanted to work in Germany, and the partners had told me they would keep an eye out. Of course, Germany didn’t lack for accountants (still doesn’t), so the idea of me working there had a slim chance of success. However, the partner told me that they had received an unusual request from the Moscow office for short-term assistance for any Americans. The partner knew I had a Russian minor, and asked if I was interested.

Of course I was! I jumped at the chance. I did a phone interview and was all set to go in February of 1996. I flew to Russia and realized on the taxi ride into Moscow that I didn’t even remember the word for snow (“snyeg” if you’re curious). My Russian was rusty, in the sense that the Titanic is now a bit rusty. I had a lot of adventures in Russia, both in my initial four month stint and in my return for a year and a half for a different company, and in further visits and business trips there.

I took away five critical points from my work in Russia. I think these points are useful if you’re considering working overseas, or want a big-time corporate job. I’m not sure working in England would give you the same cachet as more exotic locations like Russia or Indonesia or China, but it might. See if the cons – a remote location, some hardships and an oft-over-exaggerated sense of danger – outweigh these pros.

  1. I learned a foreign language really well – not just grammar, but some slang, intonation, and so on. This is only moderately useful if the language in question is Russian, but considering Russia has one of the hottest economies in the world and is used as a lingua franca throughout Central Asia, it is more useful than Italian or German.

  2. I embraced a culture and by doing so, became more open to all cultures. I wasn’t close minded or terribly parochial, but I really learned what it was like to be immersed in a culture fairly alien to one’s own. I can’t say I went native. I lived in an apartment that cost 10 times what the normal Russian could pay. I spent more on a meal and drinks on a date than most Russians would see in a month. I had an Internet connection and a state-of-the-art computer. But I did make friends, and spent time at their homes and talking with them and doing things with them on the weekends that a lot of my colleagues – who uniformly didn’t speak Russian – never did. And that experience made it that much easier for me to relax in the future when I went to other countries around the world (although I never got comfortable with midnight steak dinners in Argentina…)

  3. I learned true independence. If you want to learn how to deal with customer service problems in the US, try standing in line at the Russian phone service center and arguing with a 50 year old grandmother in Russian about your disconnected phone bill. And if that example’s too mild, try going cross-country in a four-wheel drive with two bodyguards to a former prison camp surrounded by radioactive wastelands, then eating lunch with a sobbing drunken bank director choking out patriotic Soviet songs while eating toasted pine cone seeds. If you don’t feel a little bit lost during that experience and a little bit more confident about handling yourself after it’s over.

  4. I gained tremendous work experience. I had to constantly work not only on accounting, but on three different types (US, Russian and international), all while constantly switching back and forth between two languages, managing clients and handling a huge workload. I had been managing a staff of maybe 1 person, auditing $2 million dollars in sales per year companies at home. The next year, in Moscow, I was managing 25 people on an audit of one of the biggest clients of my firm in Russia, with audit fees alone of $2 million.

  5. I created a massive shining bright spot on my resume that, twelve years later, still draws more attention, more conversation and more interest than anything else I’ve ever done. I’ve worked since then in locations from Turkey to Argentina, and nothing compares to the shock and amazement your average corporate worker expresses to me when they found out I worked in Russia. It has gotten my foot in the door at several companies; it has wowed recruiters and it has become an endless source of anecdotes that seem to fascinate people (or it could be just that they are polite but I think I can tell the difference).

If you’re planning on getting a job in the corporate world, you should consider a stint overseas, preferably someplace that isn’t ‘safe’. At every step of my career there have been people competing with me for positions, assignments and promotions. Many went to better schools, had more certifications, had better connections or frankly were smarter or better looking. But I have yet to encounter many who could top the conversational firestorm I can usually unleash by dropping “that reminds me of the time I got arrested by Russian immigration on a business trip in Vladivostok” or “at least no-one is getting assassinated like the general director of my client in Moscow” and so on.

I suppose that despite my appearance, my mild southern accent or my calm outward appearance my willingness to go work in the wild East in the mid-90s, when things were just 30 minutes away from total chaos in Russia, makes me look like a super-confident, devil-be-damned risk taker to some people. It’s not true; I am a conservative guy in most of my actions. However, the appearance is enough to provide an ‘in’, and that’s usually what it’s all about in appearance-conscious corporate America.

(this post originally appeared on brip blap, in a slightly different form, in July 2007).

photo by Steve