Monthly Archives: September 2011

friday quote: learning versus creating

It is better to create than to be learned, creating is the true essence of life. — Barthold Georg Niebuhr

Niebhur was a German statesman and philosopher in the late 18th/early 19th century, whose most well-known contribution is his “Roman History” (shameless affiliate link, natch) .

He’s probably not therefore that well-known, but his quote is excellent. If I learned everything about everything ever learned by others, I have still not added to the total sum knowledge of the human species. To create one new thing is to have added something to this big amorphous blob we call humanity. Whether or not you feel that there is value to that addition is a matter of personal opinion, but step back for a second and consider: even the stupidest, most banal movie you’ve seen that elicited a chuckle added something to your life, and most likely others.  Learning about something adds to your life, but nothing to others.

Whether or not you feel there’s any value to contributing to the entity we call humanity is entirely up to you.  Many people – rightly so – feel that there’s no particular need to contribute further. I have a desire to contribute something to the world that will last beyond me, however small or short-lived.  For most people that desire manifests itself in children, but you can look on your own great-grandparents and see how short-lived that contribution can be.  How many of us can even recall our own great-grandparents’ first names?  But having been recently introduced to the idea of the singularity, I’m now quite focused on the idea of making a contribution to the human entity as a whole, or at least hanging  on until you do.  Even today, pre-singularity, we’re at a point where things we write/compose/develop will live long after we do.  That’s been true for millenia, but never more true than now with the explosion of electronic media.  If that idea doesn’t inspire you start creating, I don’t know what will.

Learning in our society is often confused with contribution.  Learning is supposed to be the springboard for contribution.  Creation is contribution.  There’s really no other way that you can establish your worth to the future other than to teach, to create or to contribute to something greater than yourself.  Learning for your own sake is ultimately satisfying for no one other than yourself.  Whether you view this as an admirable goal is entirely dependent on your own view of life.

I’ll be harsh:  learning is prelude.  Creation and its results are epilogue.  Creation is the only thing that really matters: everything else is stasis. Share what you learn.  If you don’t, you’re irrelevant.

rapid early acquisition of tech adaptability

hi tech

What is “rapid early acquisition of tech adaptability”?  It’s a term I made up.  I haven’t yet Googled it to see if I’m ripping something else off, so for the time being I’ll keep it as my own term.  I’ll call it REATA because I’m not going to type that unwieldy phrase more than once.

Here’s how I’ll define it.  All of us know the guy who claims to be Mr. Nontechy-guy.  “I just can’t manage a computer,” he guffaws.  “My kids have to turn it on for me!  I don’t know how to text, so forget these smartphones!”  This guy is proud to be tech-illiterate.

And we all know the woman who just gets flustered when dealing with all the buttons and sites and likes, oh my.  She could figure it out but she gets overwhelmed in a minute or two.  She doesn’t like dealing with all the emails!  the Facebooks!

Finally, we all also know the outlier.  The great-grandmother who’s active on Facebook.  The business exec who is a master of Excel.  The mom who runs multiple blogs.

What’s the difference?  I think people who experienced significant life changes at an early age become far more adept at embracing new technologies – and new ways of thinking in general – than people who locked into a lifestyle early in life.  Think of immigrants.  According to “The Millionaire Next Door ” I learned an astonishing statistic – the ethnic group with the highest likelihood of becoming first-generation immigrant millionaires was ex-Soviet Russians.  Think about that.  People from a non-capitalist society with no cultural commonalities with America are the ethnic group most likely to become millionaires in America.  Why?  I’ll make my nonscientific claim that it’s because of REATA.

If you’re expected at an early age to keep up with rapid changes in technology (and with life in general) I think you’re more likely to learn the skill of acquiring new tech skills than someone who slowly acquires those skills.  That may sound obvious, but it’s not.  Think of a child who learns how to program at an early age.  I did.  I got a Tandy computer at age 10.  There were no games.  I learned BASIC and coded my own games:  my favorite was a game where you headed up a rock band and made strategic decisions to tour or record an album – making the right choice gained fans, the wrong choice lost them.  Now think of a child who wasn’t exposed to computers early, but got a job as an accountant circa 1994 when computers started infiltrating the workplace, and the groundwork for Skynet was laid down.  That person might work just as intensely with computer, but never would have been forced to engage in the steep learning curve of a child desperate to make a fun game out of nothing.

I see it as an adult:  executives or ex-execs claim not to know Excel and chuckle about their lack of tech skills.  Would you chuckle along with someone who never learned to drive?  Cook?  Manage their finances?  No.  People who have to learn early on to self-educate and self-manage are going to have far greater success later in life.  I bet that great-grandmother who’s on Facebook probably had to take care of her two little sisters while mom worked the farm and dad was fighting in World War I.  I bet the business exec who mastered Excel had a bad setback early in his career when he couldn’t get something done and gritted his teeth and learned how to do what needed to be done.  I bet the mom who mastered blogging felt like she had to get a story out and learned what to do.  The people who didn’t were the people who early on learned to adapt only when pushed to the brink.  Or maybe they never learned.

As we age, the temptation to rest on our mental laurels increases.  I am well-read, so I ease off on reading challenging new works.  I am tech-savvy, but for years I resisted learning to text, because it’s fine to get by on “calling” (that’s the thing you do with your phone and your voice, kids).  I know how to work with Excel, so there’s no need to learn how to work with XML.  It can go on and on.

But I think once you’ve learned to adapt to new systems – and if you learn this skill early on – you’re going to have an advantage over others in life, and this advantage will be massive.  It’s fine to be an expert in one area, and hammer away at it.  Then again, there’s a trite old saying – no less true for being trite – which says that “the only constant is change.”  People who don’t learn early in their lives to adapt to change are eventually going to hit that brick wall.  Would you hire someone who doesn’t know how to do something a 20-year old can do effortlessly?  By that, I mean, would you hire an accountant who scoffs at Excel or QuickBooks and says “hey, ledger paper’s worked well for me, kiddo!”  No, I don’t think you would.  I think adaptability – regardless of what you’re adapting TO – is a skill in an of itself, and the lack of adaptability is a major problem.  How do you avoid that?  Learn something new – and just start today.

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by MiromiTintas

go out and brip it

snowboard brip

I have to admit that I’m puzzled by the internet from time to time.  I’m no novice – I’ve been online since the headset-inserted-into-the-modem-receiver-with-the-screechy-noise days, but sometimes the craziness of it all amazes me.  I started getting some hits for ‘brip’ and found out that brip is a reference to a snowboard move:


1. brip

Shredding a turn on a snowboard or skies. Also accomplishing anything in general, but usually only exuberant things.
I bripped that mountain.
You sure bripped that RBV.
Cherish the Brip.

2. brip
To bong rip, or rip the bong.

To inhale smoked marijuana from a water pipe.


The third definition was pretty negative, so I’ll leave it out for self-serving purposes (it was #3: to lie, but it was overwhelming voted down, so I’ll dismiss it as a hater).

I liked that first definition. I know the urban dictionary has nothing to do with my writing, but I have to say I’m fairly pleased to see ‘brip’ – as in brip blap – associated with such a positive term as laid out in #1. And hey, #2 is not all bad, either.

So go out and brip it! 🙂  I love the idea that a word that I associate so closely with myself now could be a positive term.  Go brip it!  I think I’ll work it into my daily speech now, and you should too – not just for my sake or my site’s, but because that’s a great definition for a great word:  “accomplishing anything in general, but usually only exuberant things.”  That’s great- accomplish exuberant things:  brip them!

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by alexindigo


would YOU take a pay cut?

El obrero
In discussing contract consulting rates with two recruiters in the past, I was forced to face an interesting question – is a recession the time we should be willing to accept reduced rates (or salaries)? Can you justify making 66.67% of what you once made, just to keep making money?  Or is it better to grit your teeth and keep searching for – at least – pay equal to your previous position?

This question first of all depends on whether you’re in a position to weather a long downturn. If you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, this question is answered with a resounding “yes.”  If you have some money set aside, you may be able to hold out longer for a better rate.

But what about taking that lower rate when you move on to the next job? Do you think the excuse that “it was just a filler” or “I just needed to keep working” will work to explain the pay cut to the NEXT company you work for?  Do you think the next company will bump you back up?

And what about titles, or responsibilities? Does it appeal to you to work your way back up the line?  For most people it is not desirable if avoidable.  Nobody wants to be the 40-year old supervised by a 23-year old.  No-one.

It’s not always easy. I know plenty of people who, for one reason or another, have had to make the decision to scale back in their careers, either salary-wise or responsibility-wise (or both).  People do it out of fear or desperation or sometimes simply out of a desire to work, no matter what the level.  It’s admirable if it’s done out of a position of self-confidence or honor, and heartbreaking if it’s done out of desperation.

Many people may see this as an analytical question:  should you accept an X% reduction in pay during economic hard times? I think this is a question that can only be answered by the individual in each case – what is your balance of pride versus need to work versus will to work?  Can you be effective knowing you’re working as hard (or harder) for less?  Can you make do? In the end, it’s not something a career blog or a coach can help you with; you need to know whether you can handle the reduction, and live with the consequences.

photo credit: Libertinus

foreign language immersion and links



The phone rang, and my stomach clenched when I heard her voice. “Daddy? I want to go home,” said my 8-year-old daughter, Arden. Two hours earlier, I dropped Arden and her two siblings off at their new school in a squat building in a forest of Soviet-era apartment blocks on Krasnoarmeyskaya (Red Army) Street in Moscow. They hugged me goodbye, clinging a little too long, and as I rode the metro to my office, I said a kind of silent prayer to myself that they would get through the day without falling apart.

My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling

Great read.  My wife moved to America as a first-year college student, but her younger sister (much younger) was just starting kindergarten.  She struggled to adapt but is today fully Americanized and fluent in English.  In my case, I credit my brief immersion in German schools with my continued more-0r-less fluency in German (I am generally able to read and hear German without any trouble comprehending, although I do stutter speaking it).  It’s a terrifying thing to land in a town where your host parents don’t speak English, your school is conducted entirely in German.  It’s also an amazingly empowering feeling after a few weeks to realize that you are rapidly acquiring a huge vocabulary in a foreign language out of necessity.  I’ve always said that one of the most astonishing mental events in my life was the first night I dreamed in German.  Not in translation – the dream was in a foreign language, and it felt natural.  I’ve seldom dreamed in Russian – unfortunately I learned it later in life so I’ve always felt it’s an “artificial” language for me – but German still feels like it’s burned in my head.  It’s a worthless language – almost every German person I’ve met speaks English better than I speak German – but I’m glad I know it, because it was a useful intellectual effort and because it made me understand and appreciate German culture.


Photo By dicktay2000

friday quote: self-education

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

-Jim Rohn

Rohn’s right.  Most of my formal education (a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a failed stint in math PhD school, then a successful unclassified accounting-major equivalency followed by a master’s degree in accountancy) helps me land consulting work via the old-fashioned “pass around the resume” method.  But truth be told, almost all of the work I do today is derived from the technical skills I’ve acquired on my own over the last few years.  I’ve become proficient at Excel and mastered a few other arcane skills (Sarbanes-Oxley and the minutiae of Wall Street financing).  My self-education in these areas is far more valuable in doing the work than it is in obtaining the work.

I think employers will have to catch up to this at some point. They like to look at resumes and past achievements, but frankly what their employees/consultants can do today is the critical question.  Sure, I have a fancy degree in accounting from the mid-90s, but you know what?  Accounting’s changed a lot since then.  My master’s degree indicates one thing:  I have the intellectual discipline and personal focus to complete that kind of degree: I worked well with others and managed my time.  But in terms of technical skills, it doesn’t mean much today.

just start



I don’t often blog about the business of blogging, but a conversation with a friend of mine and the reading of a blog post covering the same topic prompted me to share my opinion on building a successful blog. More specifically, the first step that is universal to all successful blogs: the author chose to start blogging.

It may seem like a trivial step, but it’s not. I know that many people have asked me for advice on writing (as it relates to blogging, mostly) and I’ve seen three different results: (a) they never start writing themselves; (b) they start writing but quickly give up when they realize how difficult it is to create content; or (c) they start writing, develop the habit of writing and succeed.

Now, the level of success may be quite different. I feel brip blap is moderately successful. I have a decent amount of traffic, subscribers, Twitter followers and Facebook fans. I am certainly no Get Rich Slowly or Zen Habits.  But fine.  But I did start, and because of that I have a certain level of “cred” according to Google and the other “gods of search”.

This principle applies to much of life.  Just start.  If you want to learn guitar, the one unavoidable step is to start learning – buy a guitar or get lessons or at least watch videos of people playing.  Just wishing for the skill won’t make it happen.

I’m guilty of doing this.  I’ve aspired to many skills and simply failed to take a first step to achieve them.  On the other hand, I’ve made good stabs at starting some projects and simply decided after that initial go that I didn’t care, after all.  But that’s an important distinction.  I always suspected I’d be good at consulting, and I tried it, and I was.  I’ve always suspected I’d be good at writing, and I (flatter myself that I) am.  On the other hand, I love appearing on radio and podcasts as a guest, but I’ve never tried doing my own.

Try everything.  As the parent of two young kids I repeat this mantra in terms of food all the time, but it’s easy to forget to apply it to yourself as you grow older.  Make time to try new things and not to assume that you’ve reached the limits of your growth.  It’s an easy trap to fall into, and I don’t think anyone has to fall into that trap, because the opportunities for learning are so limitless.  Expand your life.

photo  Some rights reserved by @boetter

my life up in the air



I’ve written about this before, but digging through my files I found my schedule from the early 2000s on a European business trip.  The headlong hectic nature of the trip is almost unbelievable to me today.


  •  evening: Depart from New York, headed to Frankfurt.


  • morning (German time): Arrive in Frankfurt, go to hotel, shower up, work a 10 hour day.
  • evening: out late for drinks with colleague from Frankfurt office, don’t make it to sleep until 2 am-ish.


  • morning, afternoon: meetings with Frankfurt colleagues; separate off-site meeting with consultants
  • evening: fly to Paris


  • morning and afternoon: meetings, meetings, meetings
  • evening: fly to Istanbul


  • morning: meetings at consultant offices, quick lunch with partners and managers before heading off to local office
  • afternoon, evening: on-site meetings with local office, carried on into dinner


  • 12 hour day; mercifully left alone for the evening


  • work, both at consultant’s offices and in my hotel; a mere 7 hour day


  • day off, flew to Warsaw in evening


  • meetings with Warsaw office in the morning
  • in the afternoon, met with officers from the Moscow office who happen to be in Warsaw – schedule meeting in Moscow in a month


  • morning, fly to Bucharest; spend day at work (approximately 10 hours)
  • evening in local sports bar (befriending Romanian bartender named Magdalena), moving on to a casino


  • 14 hour day at the local Bucharest office; return to local sports bar where said Magdalena provides far too many free glasses of tuica.


  • take 14 hour connecting flight from Bucharest to New York wishing tuica were not so strong.  Preparing reports and memos for most of flight back.


  • Back at work at corporate headquarters in New York.

That’s 5 international cities in 10 business days (12 days total). Most of the days tended to include approximately 14 hours worth of “work”. That might mean 4 hours of meetings, 4 hours of email/calls to New York HQ, and 4 hours of report writing either in the office or in the hotel room (2 hours of “other”, natch). I usually took a break for 2-3 hours starting at 7 or 8 for a trip to the hotel bars (which tended to be quite fun, filled with other business travelers and local cheerful bartenders and waitresses), then return to my room for another 2 hours of work before collapsing. I saved the drudge work for those last two hours – updating my assistant on travel plans, filing expense report info, dealing with the non-technical emails, formatting reports (gotta get the TPS just right).

I contrast this with my schedule now:

Monday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Tuesday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Wednesday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Thursday: leave for work at 8, home at 6.
Friday: leave for work at 8, home at 5:30 (skip out early).

I look back and think that my previous schedule was certainly glamorous from outward appearances. I was the very definition of a jet-setting businessman. I had an American Express Corporate Card and no limits on spending. The horrific demands of traveling (physical, mental and emotional) meant that the company was willing to make every single last creature comfort available, because otherwise people just wouldn’t do it. I didn’t mind so much because I was single (and likely to stay so, with my “2 weeks in New York, 2 weeks overseas” schedule. I never understood how the people who were married with kids tolerated it. Now that I’m married with two kids, I couldn’t tolerate it.  I don’t even vaguely understand how it could work, although I know married guys with kids who do it.

So if you’ve ever wondered what a big-shot corporate international travel itinerary looks like, voila.

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by

Making Ends Meet During Prolonged Unemployment



The American job market is fairly grim, and one of the hardest aspects of unemployment in the new millennium is the length of time workers are going without a job.  According to a recent Labor Department study reported in the New York Times, the average length of unemployment has now surged to approximately 40 weeks.  Unfortunately, that amount of time spent pounding the pavement is not only demoralizing, but it’s also extremely tough on a family’s budget.  Here are some very important methods for keeping afloat while you work to find your next job:

1.  Register for unemployment.  There is good news and bad news when it comes to unemployment.  Even if you did not immediately file for benefits after you lost your job, that does not necessarily mean it’s too late to take advantage of unemployment.  So if you believed that your period of unemployment would be a quick blip rather than a weeks-long (or longer) phase of job-searching, you can still qualify for benefits.

The bad news is that unemployment benefits have fairly low dollar amount caps that differ from state-to-state.  The average unemployment check nationwide tops out at $270 per week.  So the money you receive from this program can help, but do not expect it to replace your income.

2.  Make your budget your new best friend.  One silver lining to the big fat hairy storm cloud of unemployment is that it forces you to differentiate between your wants and your needs.  While denying yourself retail therapy and dinners out is hardly fun at the time, many families find that Thoreau was absolutely right and living simply is much more satisfying.  It also establishes the excellent habit of tracking your spending, which is something that will help you both weather any future financial upsets and keep you on track with all of your money goals.

3.  Find alternative ways to make money.  Most American attics, basements and garages are full to bursting with items the owners don’t even remember buying.  Hold an old-fashioned yard sale (or a virtual one via Craig’s List or Ebay) and sell off that old bread machine, exercise bike and tie rack you only used once each.  Don’t worry about seeing your stuff sell for less than you paid for it.  It’s still worth more to you in someone else’s hands.

You can also look for small ways you can add to your income while you’re looking for a job in your field.  Baby-sitting, dog walking, handyman repairs and house-sitting are all services you could provide that would not take away from your job search.  As a bonus, doing this kind of work will also get you out and talking to new people, and networking really is the best way to find a new job.

4.  Talk to your creditors.  If you simply do not know how you will get all of your bills paid, it’s time to have a chat with your lender.  Creditors would prefer to have an open and honest discussion with you about what you can and can’t handle financially than sic a collection agent on you.  Even the most monolithic of banks is still made up of people who do not want to see you default, and letting them know that you are struggling will assure them that you are responsible and fully intend to take care of your debts.  Simply not paying your bills gives them no such assurance.

Keeping your finances on track after a lay-off is not an easy prospect, but getting through it will give you confidence that you can handle anything life throws at you.

Emily Guy Birken is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mother in Lafayette, Indiana.  Her musings on life and parenting can be found at The SAHMnambulist.

Attribution Some rights reserved by jronaldlee


As we near 9-11’s 10th anniversary…

After you read this post (or before, it’s up to you) read the first article I wrote about 9-11 here… dark day.

The two most recent articles I’ve written:

Last year I didn’t even write anything.  The 9th anniversary didn’t seem that special, I guess, or I was busy with life and after a few years it’s easier to forget than remember.  But now it’s 10 years.  It’s funny how humans have such an attachment to dates, anniversaries and numbers.  Some numbers are very well-known for their significance – 13 is unlucky, 3.1415926536 is pi.  But the number 2.1 means something very specific to me that I don’t share with anyone.  Some anniversaries are personal – weddings, birthdays … and some are universal like 9-11.  Everyone knows what you are referring to when you mention 9-11.

Or do they?  I wonder if we’ll remember what that meant to the world, to America, to New York, to Manhattan, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania in 100 years.  Do we remember today?  Have 10 years of the war on terror avenged that day?  Maybe, in a small way.  Have 10 years of the war on terror hurt our standing in the world?  Are the people behind the attacks better off?  Are we?  Is anyone?

I am a student of history.  I’ve read histories of the Russian Revolution over and over and I’ve been obsessed at times with (American) Civil War history, the Founding Fathers and the military history of the Battle of Stalingrad.  History is big, though.  Events that were earth-shattering when they took place become footnotes in the history of the world.  Remember Archduke Ferdinand? No checking Google.  Do you know what Beslan was?  Or Agincourt?  Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

But I’ve said this before on this blog and elsewhere, 9-11 was the great tragic event of MY life so far.  Maybe the two Space Shuttle disasters come close in emotional impact, but probably not.  This was the tragedy of my life, and although I understand in the scope of human history – for example, the tsunami of 2004 or the Holocaust or any number of tragedies – it was a small thing, it was the one I felt most intensely.  I left New York two plus years ago, but I think a small part of me died and stayed behind there 10 years ago.  It was the naïve part of me.  It was the part of me that was excited to come to the most interesting city on Earth, found out I loved it and then had a group of animals masquerading as humans (and they were – no doubt about it) attack it.

I saw the city and the world come together in love and then wrench apart in hate and never recover.  I don’t know what this event will look like in 100 years or 1000.  I won’t know, I’ll be gone.  Barring some increase in the average lifespan my children won’t, either.  I only know that 10 years after 9-11, I remember this:  I watched out the window of office on the 34th floor of a Manhattan highrise as the first and then the second tower fell with my own eyes.  I called my parents and said everything would be OK, while in my mind I was really saying goodbye, because I didn’t know.  I promised whatever else happened to find my little brother who lived in downtown Manhattan.  I walked out on the street to sirens and jet fighters.  That night the air was full of dust and fear of the unknown.  I doubt I’ll forget, even if history does.

Picture by me.

PS And as I’ve mentioned before, volunteering to help load Salvation Army relief trucks in downtown Manhattan in the following days was the only thing that kept me from curling up into a fetal position.  Support the Salvation Army, those men and women were working until they were passing out on their feet (literally).  They did good work without any intent of recognition or reward.

is it a good idea to be a consultant?

consulting presentation


consulting presentation

I don’t think anyone can prove this, but there’s probably a rising prejudice against the job description “consultant”. The reason is that as long-term unemployment becomes more and more common amongst professionals, many of them have started calling themselves consultants during their unemployed tenure. They don’t actually consult – they have no clients, they have no portfolio and what they really want is simply to be able to call themselves anything but unemployed. Is it fair for Human Resources departments to almost automatically flag people with the “consultant” title as “probably just an unemployed person who didn’t wish to label themselves as unemployed?”

It’s easy to take up both sides of this argument. One, anyone can call themselves a consultant. In a society in which you need permission to label yourself a person who administers health care to birds, it’s amazing that anyone can present themselves as an expert in a field in which they may have no expertise at all. I could advertise myself as an “expert Excel consultant” tomorrow and there’s no chance my state or country would blink an eye. If I proclaimed myself an expert accountant (CPA) or expert tooth extractor (DDS) I’d have state agencies knocking at my door tomorrow. It’s not fair that anyone be able to label themselves as a consultant – that word should imply some recognized expertise.

On the other hand, why not? I’m expert at many things, in my own opinion: I’m a decent writer, I’m quite good implementing, training and using several internal audit software packages, I’m a good trainer (in multiple languages) and I am better than many in the use of Excel and Access. Shouldn’t that give me the right to call myself an expert? A consultant? A coach? Whatever the term, why can’t I offer myself up and let my skills speak for themselves?

I think it’s a disservice to the title “consultant” that so many people these days grab on to that moniker the second they are unemployed. HR departments are justified in assuming that many consultants are simply unemployed people who hang that title around their necks once they lose a job. I sympathize – simply labeling yourself as “unemployed for 6 months” is much worse, of course, than labeling yourself as an “up-and-coming consultant” over that time period. But I would recommend that anyone who calls themselves a consultant be ready with a few things when coming to an HR department:


  1. A portfolio. Anyone can prepare a portfolio, of course. But the simple fact that you prepared it means you’ve put at least that much effort into it. If you don’t have a portfolio – be it online, hard copy or even just a well-constructed LinkedIn profile – you’re not a serious consultant, and nobody will take you seriously.
  2. References. If you don’t have at least 2 or 3 former supervisors or past consulting clients who can enthusiastically vouch for your work, I wouldn’t hire you as a consultant. A consultant lives and dies off the quality of their past work. I’ve hired consultants solely off of recommendations from colleagues and acquaintances I’ve trusted, and I’ve rejected consultants who couldn’t provide those references. It’s quite simple: consultants with references thrive; consultants without references die.
  3. Proof. If you don’t have a portfolio and your don’t have references, what do you do? Have proof. Be able to back up your skills. If you claim to be an expert in Access, ask for permission to demonstrate it. If you know SAP backwards and forwards, show it. Don’t claim to have expertise in an area you don’t know. But be ready to show total command of any area an employer/client is looking for: have an idea how to amaze them ready to go.  Certification is a great help here, too.  If you can show certification in an area, you’re well along to convincing an HR department that you’re qualified to provide services.

It’s not an easy thing to tell people you’re good enough to fix things. I’ve been doing it since 2005, full-time. I’ve sold to Wall Street and the Fortune 500. It’s hard to convince smart people you’re going to bring something to the table they don’t have. They don’t like to hear that. But the simple fact is that if you’re going to present yourself as the mystical “consultant” you have to bring that little bit extra. You have to sell, you have to convince, and most of all … you have to DO. Consultants have a narrow margin for error. Employees can blame politics and teams and all kinds of things, but a consultant – especially a standalone consultant – has to show results, and soon. Don’t worry about the unemployed who call themselves consultants – distinguish yourself through your portfolio, references and proof and you’ll be on your way to a six-figure career in no time.

Photo Attribution Some rights reserved by markhillary

why we work, I’m on amazon, and links


Happy Labor Day.  It’s one of the most pointless holidays we have now, the celebration of labor in an increasingly labor-unfriendly economy; much like Thanksgiving, it’s been transformed into a celebration of consumerism through sales and quick vacations.  I’m as much a participant as I am a critic, so I don’t consider myself above it all.  I love football and Labor Day, to me, is as much the harbinger of football season as anything else.  But be proud of work.  I’m proudest of my work when I do a good job and help others out.  I’m good at technological solutions for finance problems, and when I can help a company get better at what they do through my skills, I’ve done my bit for labor.  It’s not putting hoe to soil… but it’s what I can offer in America circa 2011.

I have a couple of interesting interviews coming up – I’ve been lucky to get in touch with a few good authors recently, and I’m looking forward to talking with them and sharing the results once I manage to suss out the spare time to read the books.  But in other exciting developments, brip blap is now available via on the Kindle…. click here.  I thought that was great, although Amazon’s insistence on forcing me to charge $.99 per month for the subscription was annoying – I would have offered it free if that was an option.  But it’s not, so I apologize for that and appreciate anyone who chooses to subscribe that way, it supports my efforts here.

As always, I really appreciate comments and emails, so keep them coming!

Links… these are my friends and other interesting sites online, so check them out.

(No attribution for the art since I got it from a site which seemed to indicate that it was free usage – it’s tricky getting artwork sometimes!)
1 2