Wednesday, August 20, 2008

For the time traveling executive. How to dress for your interview (if your interview is in 1983)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Making of a Corporate Athlete

The Making of a Corporate Athlete

Some executives thrive under pressure. Others wilt. Is the reason all in their heads? Hardly. Sustained high achievement demands physical and emotional strength as well as a sharp intellect. To bring mind, body, and spirit to peak condition, executives need to learn what world-class athletes already know: recovering energy is as important as expending it.

by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

If there is one quality that executives seek for themselves and their employees, it is sustained high performance in the face of ever-increasing pressure and rapid change. But the source of such performance is as elusive as the fountain of youth. Management theorists have long sought to identify precisely what makes some people flourish under pressure and others fold. We maintain that they have come up with only partial answers: rich material rewards, the right culture, management by objectives.

The problem with most approaches, we believe, is that they deal with people only from the neck up, connecting high performance primarily with cognitive capacity. In recent years there has been a growing focus on the relationship between emotional intelligence and high performance. A few theorists have addressed the spiritual dimension—how deeper values and a sense of purpose influence performance. Almost no one has paid any attention to the role played by physical capacities. A successful approach to sustained high performance, we have found, must pull together all of these elements and consider the person as a whole. Thus, our integrated theory of performance management addresses the body, the emotions, the mind, and the spirit. We call this hierarchy the performance pyramid. Each of its levels profoundly influences the others, and failure to address any one of them compromises performance.
Sidebar IconThe High-Performance Pyramid

Our approach has its roots in the two decades that Jim Loehr and his colleagues at LGE spent working with world-class athletes. Several years ago, the two of us began to develop a more comprehensive version of these techniques for executives facing unprecedented demands in the workplace. In effect, we realized, these executives are “corporate athletes.” If they were to perform at high levels over the long haul, we posited, they would have to train in the same systematic, multilevel way that world-class athletes do. We have now tested our model on thousands of executives. Their dramatically improved work performance and their enhanced health and happiness confirm our initial hypothesis. In the pages that follow, we describe our approach in detail.
Ideal Performance State

In training athletes, we have never focused on their primary skills—how to hit a serve, swing a golf club, or shoot a basketball. Likewise, in business we don’t address primary competencies such as public speaking, negotiating, or analyzing a balance sheet. Our efforts aim instead to help executives build their capacity for what might be called supportive or secondary competencies, among them endurance, strength, flexibility, self-control, and focus. Increasing capacity at all levels allows athletes and executives alike to bring their talents and skills to full ignition and to sustain high performance over time—a condition we call the Ideal Performance State (IPS). Obviously, executives can perform successfully even if they smoke, drink and weigh too much, or lack emotional skills or a higher purpose for working. But they cannot perform to their full potential or without a cost over time—to themselves, to their families, and to the corporations for which they work. Put simply, the best long-term performers tap into positive energy at all levels of the performance pyramid.

Extensive research in sports science has confirmed that the capacity to mobilize energy on demand is the foundation of IPS. Our own work has demonstrated that effective energy management has two key components. The first is the rhythmic movement between energy expenditure (stress) and energy renewal (recovery), which we term “oscillation.” In the living laboratory of sports, we learned that the real enemy of high performance is not stress, which, paradoxical as it may seem, is actually the stimulus for growth. Rather, the problem is the absence of disciplined, intermittent recovery. Chronic stress without recovery depletes energy reserves, leads to burnout and breakdown, and ultimately undermines performance. Rituals that promote oscillation—rhythmic stress and recovery—are the second component of high performance. Repeated regularly, these highly precise, consciously developed routines become automatic over time.

The same methods that enable world-class athletes to reach IPS under pressure, we theorized, would be at least equally effective for business leaders—and perhaps even more important in their lives. The demands on executives to sustain high performance day in and day out, year in and year out, dwarf the challenges faced by any athlete we have ever trained. The average professional athlete, for example, spends most of his time practicing and only a small percentage—several hours a day, at most—actually competing. The typical executive, by contrast, devotes almost no time to training and must perform on demand ten, 12, 14 hours a day or more. Athletes enjoy several months of off-season, while most executives are fortunate to get three or four weeks of vacation a year. The career of the average professional athlete spans seven years; the average executive can expect to work 40 to 50 years.

Of course, even corporate athletes who train at all levels will have bad days and run into challenges they can’t overcome. Life is tough, and for many time-starved executives, it is only getting tougher. But that is precisely our point. While it isn’t always in our power to change our external conditions, we can train to better manage our inner state. We aim to help corporate athletes use the full range of their capacities to thrive in the most difficult circumstances and to emerge from stressful periods stronger, healthier, and eager for the next challenge.
Physical Capacity

Energy can be defined most simply as the capacity to do work. Our training process begins at the physical level because the body is our fundamental source of energy—the foundation of the performance pyramid. Perhaps the best paradigm for building capacity is weight lifting. Several decades of sports science research have established that the key to increasing physical strength is a phenomenon known as supercompensation—essentially the creation of balanced work-rest ratios. In weight lifting, this involves stressing a muscle to the point where its fibers literally start to break down. Given an adequate period of recovery (typically at least 48 hours), the muscle will not only heal, it will grow stronger. But persist in stressing the muscle without rest and the result will be acute and chronic damage. Conversely, failure to stress the muscle results in weakness and atrophy. (Just think of an arm in a cast for several weeks.) In both cases, the enemy is not stress, it’s linearity—the failure to oscillate between energy expenditure and recovery.

The High-Performance Pyramid

Peak performance in business has often been presented as a matter of sheer brainpower, but we view performance as a pyramid. Physical well-being is its foundation. Above that rests emotional health, then mental acuity, and at the top, a sense of purpose. The Ideal Performance State—peak performance under pressure—is achieved when all levels are working together.

Rituals that promote oscillation—the rhythmic expenditure and recovery of energy—link the levels of the pyramid. For instance, vigorous exercise can produce a sense of emotional well-being, clearing the way for peak mental performance.

check out the full story at the Harvard Business Review site:

Thursday, August 07, 2008

How to Pull Off "CEO Casual"

If you catch Trevor Kaufman in a business suit, you can bet he's anxious. Mr. Kaufman is chief executive of Schematic, a digital-branding agency whose work you've seen if you've visited or glimpsed Nissan's online advertising. Despite a roster of blue-chip clients, Mr. Kaufman doesn't subscribe to the old-school uniform for chief executives.

[Go to discussion]
Who are some CEOs that you respect for their business-casual look? What do you wear to look executive yet casual? Discuss

"The suit is a signal that something's going on that I'm nervous about," says the 38-year-old Mr. Kaufman. "A suit has become something you wear when you're asking for money."

There was a time when a CEO in a dark business suit was safely dressed. That's still true in many fields: Lawyers, financiers and bridegrooms are largely expected to arrive suited up. But at creative or high-tech businesses today, a suit can feel as out-of-sync as a pair of denim overalls. It signals old-fashioned inflexibility when what's called for is casual authority.

"When people wear suits in the music business, it feels like they're not insiders," says Anni Sarah Lam, CEO of Parc Landon, a Houston-based music, sports and entertainment agency whose clients have included Broadway shows, the rapper 50 Cent and David Beckham.
Trevor Kaufman, CEO of consulting agency Schematic, discusses the role of clothing in running a business. His biggest challenge, he says, is to convey the authority of a suit without wearing one. WSJ's Christina Binkley reports.

"CEO casual" is seen most often on young people. But age isn't the determining factor here. It's all about presenting a modern, creative message.

Still, business casual is notoriously tricky, and for chief executives it has additional risks. Suits and ties convey a sense of command by hiding the body's flaws and augmenting its strengths, as well as providing psychic distance that a CEO can use to advantage. Shedding these signs of authority risks the vulnerability of exposing physical characteristics, such as a man's chest hair. A dressed-down chief executive can be shown up by a formally dressed underling. So how can a CEO signal command without pinstripes and worsted wools?

Ms. Lam, 28, indicates her insider status by wearing crisp jeans and trendy jackets to meetings. She signals her chief executive stature by carrying Louis Vuitton handbags and Montblanc pens.

Showing authority doesn't require designer labels. Steve Jobs created his own CEO uniform, with smooth, dark turtlenecks that protect the neck in much the same way ties do.

Schematic, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Minneapolis and London, has been expanding rapidly. Its $30 million in revenue last year is expected to double this year, with clients that include GE and Coca-Cola -- and it was purchased last September by the British marketing group WPP Group PLC.
[Steve Jobs]
Getty Images
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has created his own uniform with smooth, dark turtlenecks.

As Schematic's co-founder and CEO, Mr. Kaufman wears made-to-measure shirts, tailored blazers and polished leather shoes. "I want to be viewed as a creative person, not a salesperson asking for money," he said recently, attired in blue jeans, a white buttoned Prada shirt over a Marks & Spencer undershirt, and brown Prada loafers with no socks.

When I saw him a week later, Mr. Kaufman wore a white Brooks Brothers shirt, custom-made with a lowered top button to accommodate a tie-less look without flashing too much chest hair. He has had the left cuff widened to make room for his thick Audemars Piguet watch.

Those Brooks Brothers shirts are made from no-iron cotton to withstand life in a suitcase. On the day I saw him, though, his no-iron shirt was crisply pressed. Mr. Kaufman said he also has his Levis 511 jeans pressed. They were dark blue and looked as though they'd recently walked out of the store.

His two-button Burberry jacket, worn as a sport coat, was actually part of a suit. Its trendy, 1950s-inspired, tapered British cut reminded me of the television show "Mad Men," which Mr. Kaufman says he watches with zeal.
[Trevor Kaufman]
Lori Hawkins for The Wall Street Journal
Trevor Kaufman achieved an informal yet strong look recently with details like an Audemars Piguet watch, Armani shoes and a Comme des Garçons shirt.

Schematic's other co-founder and president, 43-year-old Nick Worth, has also adopted an alternative style, a touch more preppy than Mr. Kaufman's. In the company's early days, he bought Turnbull & Asser shirts on eBay and wore them without ties. "You don't really want to buy cutting-edge digital service from a guy in a suit and tie," says Mr. Worth, wearing jeans, a white tailored jacket from British label Connelly, Converse sneakers, and a blue-and-white checked Paul Smith shirt. Details, details: The shirt had purple-stitched buttonholes and matching cuff-knots.

The two executives aren't shy about asking employees to adhere to the uniform. At a recent meeting in Chicago with a potential client, Mr. Kaufman asked his creative director to remove his tie. He is equally critical of sloppy looks and encourages subordinates to buy clothes at department stores, where they can be conveniently tailored in-house.

There's a fellow in the Los Angeles office whose unpressed collar often curves up "like the Flying Nun's." Mr. Kaufman is not above a little humorous nudging. "Gee," he's said, "no collar stays today?"Write to Christina Binkley at

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympians training includes etiquette 101- do not jab fellow competitors with chop sticks after winning!

U.S. Olympic Training Features
A New Requirement: Etiquette 101

Bode and Other Embarrassments Prompt
Course on Booze, Hugs and Chopsticks
August 6, 2008; Page A1

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- As the Beijing Games start this week, the leadership of the American team is hoping its athletes will embody the Olympic motto: faster, higher, stronger.

It also hopes they'll behave.

"I don't doubt you will do your best as ambassadors," former President George H.W. Bush said recently in a video shown to about 50 U.S. Olympic swimmers and coaches here. "You are role models -- and your actions matter."

[Beijing 2008] BEIJING 2008
Read complete coverage of the Olympics and China's efforts to prepare for the Games.

Jen Pan, a Chinese-language teacher dressed in black pants with floral designs at the cuffs, then ran the group through a crash course on Chinese culture. She included some vocabulary ("Everybody say ren-min-bi!"), social customs ("Chinese do not hug"), eating etiquette ("Do not spear the food with your chopsticks"), and drinking habits ("Chinese don't really drink, except at banquets.")

The U.S. Olympic Committee, for the first time ever, is requiring all of its 596 Olympians to attend this course prior to traveling to Beijing. The committee has dubbed it the "ambassador program."

Some athletes have another name for it: the Bode Miller show.

"The USOC isn't calling it that, but everyone knows what this is about," says Eli Bremer, who will be competing for the U.S. in the modern pentathlon.

What this is about, according to Mr. Bremer and other athletes, is avoiding a repetition of what happened during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy. Mr. Miller, the American skier who was expected to win a medal in as many as five events, portrayed himself throughout those Games as more interested in partying than winning. He was photographed drinking in bars the evening before races, in one instance prominently displaying his middle finger.

Mr. Miller was unrepentant. "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level," he said in much-reported remarks that embarrassed the USOC and angered sponsors. He finished no higher than fifth in his events.

Mr. Miller couldn't be reached for comment. Messages to his agent and his family in New Hampshire were not returned. This past winter, however, Mr. Miller won the overall World Cup title for the second time, after breaking from the U.S. ski team and renouncing alcohol for the season.

A Two-Day Course

Keen to avoid such scenes on the much bigger stage of the Beijing Olympics -- expected to be the most-watched Games in history -- the USOC last autumn launched the new program. U.S. Olympic officials are hoping for exemplary behavior, especially in light of the diminished U.S. image abroad, due in part to the unpopular war in Iraq.

[Amy Van Dyken]
Associated Press
Amy Van Dyken, above celebrating her performance at the 2000 Olympic Trials, caused a stir at that year's Games when she spat into the lane of Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn before a race.

The course includes role-playing and group games and typically lasts two days. In the past, the USOC devoted no more than about 15 minutes to behavioral guidance.

"It is a response to lessons learned that we need to do a much better job of providing a basis for decision-making," says Darryl Seibel, one of the course organizers and head spokesman of the USOC. "This is to make clear what America expects of its Olympic team."

Mr. Seibel declined to say if the effort resulted from Mr. Miller's actions in Torino. There have been other episodes in recent years.

Last July, at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, a Brazilian journalist photographed a message board at the American media center that said: "Welcome to the Congo." The incident triggered an outpouring of anti-American fervor among Brazilians who felt their country had been called primitive. The USOC apologized -- explaining that the message referred to tropical heat -- and sent home a USOC official shown in the photograph.

The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney featured several embarrassing moments, including U.S. swimmer Amy Van Dyken spitting in the lane of Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn before one of their races. Members of the U.S. men's track team apologized after excessive celebrating following their win in a relay race, including flexing their muscles and sticking out their tongues. U.S. hockey players in Nagano, Japan, trashed their hotel rooms during the 1998 Games.

Explaining the Rings

The course, held in five cities across the U.S. in recent months, covered educational topics such as what the five interlocking Olympic rings represent -- unity among the five continents from which athletes hail. Also discussed was how to hold the American flag during a victory lap. (Answer: not upside down.)

"When someone throws you an American flag, we want to make sure you know what to do with it," says Andrew Valmon, who won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay for the U.S. track team in both the 1988 and 1992 Games. He was one of several former Olympians helping with the program.

[Bode Miller]

The course also taught athletes to go along with rituals that might seem silly. In one game, called "energy ball," athletes formed circles of a dozen or more and passed around an imaginary ball. The participants had to say "whoosh" when handing it to the right or left, while an imaginary throw across the circle required a "zap."

If someone wanted to hold the ball for a moment, he had to say, "groove-alicious," the cue for the circle to break into a little jig.


"We want to help them with things that make them uncomfortable," explains Cathy Salit, whose New York performance-training company, called Performance of a Lifetime Inc., was hired by the USOC for the program. "If they are going to be ambassadors, they have to be attuned to what's going on around them and be able to respond."

Ms. Salit, who also performs with an improv troupe in New York, says this was her first time working with Olympians. Her clients typically come from the corporate world.

"Compared with the folks at Citigroup, they were very good at getting into the groove of it," she says.

Back at the Palo Alto hotel, Ms. Pan, the language teacher, continued with her advice on Chinese practices: "If Chinese say they are not quite sure, they are probably saying 'no' to you."

Boys Being Boys

At times, the room took on the look of a college lecture hall. In the third row, swimmer Michael Phelps, the superstar who is vying for a record eight gold medals in Beijing, ate steadily from a bag of candy, his long limbs stretched over three chairs. Nearby sat Ryan Lochte, another top U.S. swimmer, thumbing text messages into his cellphone.

Ms. Pan passed out chopsticks to the entire group for a lesson on how to use them. Mr. Phelps took his and began jabbing a coach sitting nearby.

To review the handful of Chinese phrases Ms. Pan had taught the group, she asked, "If you step on someone's toe in China, what do you say?"

"Xie xie!" shouted one of the swimmers, using the Chinese term for "thank you."

Write to Christopher Rhoads at

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The 4 Worst Athlete-Backed Startups of All Time

The 4 worst athlete-backed startups of all time

Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter and LeBron James today announced they've joined an $8.6 million funding round for social network Weplay. Weplay isn't going to work out — vertical social networks are so 2007 — but at least the sports-star troika can take heart in knowing they're following the same path as other fading jock stars. A bubble ago, John Elway, Michael Jordan, and Mike Piazza also let slick schemers take advantage of their egos and cash, funneling them into ill-thought-out, poorly timed investments on the Web. Our three favorite athlete-startup bloopers, below.

Shaquille O'Neal, Mike Piazza and DeLisha Milton's
Launched in 1999, Santa Monica startup was supposed to promote Shaq's shoes and sports apparel with marketing help from a pre-Mets Mike Piazza and WNBA great DeLisha Milton. But within months of founding, laid off its entire staff and replaced the CEO with a marketer tasked with resuscitating the company. Didn't happen. Now is owned by a domain squatter.

John Elway, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky's
Back in 2000, chairman John Elway and board members Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzy piled their cash together to launch, an online store. They pledged to spend $50 million marketing the site over the next year. A couple of years later and several rounds of layoffs later,, owing some $120 million folded as a failure into

Mets reliever Billy Wagner and sports author Burton Rock's
After writing a bestselling book about Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill and his father, author Burton Rocks convinced Wagner, another New York baseball star to help fund, a celebrity blog portal, featuring such well known voices as Miss USA 2006, Tara Conner. The site, launched with a party at one of Jay-Z's bar in 2006, no longer exists. We're still holding out for the company's "blogmobile," though.

Making the Move to your Second Job

90 Days: Planning a Move to Your Second Job

More than just the next move, your second job can be a key stepping stone to the rest of your career. Consider your search carefully.

Ask most people about their first job – how they got it, how long they were there – and they can probably share a lot of details. But, ask them about their second job, and their responses will probably be a lot more elusive. For some, it will be a struggle to even remember what the job was. But that second job actually holds a lot more weight than many people realize and can often set a particular career path – and its success -- in motion. Ample thought should be given to when and where to move, say experts like Steve Piazzale, a career and life coach in Mountain View, California, who runs

Your First 90 Days

Take advantage. Coming off your first job, you're in a solid position. "You have experience coupled with recent education, a great combination," says Mr. Piazzale. If you've had any opportunities to work on big projects or have tangible results to show, even on a small scale, mention it. Play up these facts in your cover letter and in your interview.

Downplay the negative. If you haven't been in your first job for very long, it could raise questions about whether you're a "job hopper." You can soften the reaction by being clear about your reasons for moving, focusing on a desire for a new challenge or a readiness for increased responsibility. Or, if your first job was in a field unrelated to your training and education and you want to get back into your original field, be prepared to do a bit of work before you launch a job search. "Companies would rather hire someone with clear direction," says Mr. Piazzale. If you're contemplating a move to something different, give yourself that direction while still in your current job. Ask for more responsibility in areas that mirror what you'd like to be doing in job No. 2 to show potential employers you know what you want to do.

Update your resume and interview style. It sounds like a given, but a first-timer's resume is likely to list internships and college leadership roles. Now you've got experience and you'll need to make sure it shows. "The resume definitely needs to change to emphasize your accomplishments," says Mr. Piazzale. "It's important to keep in mind that the best kind of resumes communicate what you can do for a potential employer." And that requires a style update, too.

Your resume bullet points should demonstrate how you used your skills to solve problems and produce value at that first job. "With a first job under your belt, you can also use them as stories of value during interviews," offers Mr. Piazzale.

Now that you've had bottom-line responsibility, you've also got more to talk about in an interview. Bringing up the time you helped your fraternity raise $10,000 for charity isn't as valuable an example for job No. 2 as a story about the time you saved the company $100,000 when an idea you had was implemented. Play up the on-the-job experience and leave your university days as an afterthought. Practice mock interviews with a friend, if possible.

Don't burn bridges. When it comes to the second job, college or summer job references alone won't do, either. It's important to have at least one reference from your first job, so try your best to leave on good terms. "Give them plenty of notice, provide an orderly transition," says Mr. Piazzale. "When the potential employer calls your old employer and asks (if you are) re-hirable, the answer will be yes." A peer reference is better than no reference, so, if you have to hide your job search from your manager, find a coworker who can speak to your skills.

Slow down. If you're at your first job and simply pondering a move, give it a little time. "Try to stay in your first job – assuming it's related to your degree – for at least a few years before making the job change," recommends Mr. Piazzale. And, if you need more specific experience to get the job you want, it might pay to stay at your first job for another few months. The more experience you gain, the better off you'll be when it comes time to jockey for your next position.

Reach out. Once you've updated your resume and determined your expectations, it's probably worth your time to reach out to recruiters who specialize in your field to test the waters. A good recruiter will honestly assess your experience level and your chances of landing the second job you're looking for.

Making the most of a Summer Internship


Tips to Make the Most
Of Summer Internships


Whether it's to test their interest in a certain industry or to gain a leg up on the competition come job-hunting season, internships are more popular than ever among college students. And landing the perfect one is just the beginning. Here's how to make the most of your summer internship:

Be Early. Arrive early the first day and keep it up. Be early to the office, to meetings and on conference calls. Chris Duggan, president of internship placement firm University of Dreams and, recommends students practice their commute before starting and test alternate routes in case of traffic delays. "Wait outside the building if you have to," says Mr. Duggan. "But always be early."

[90 Days]
Espie Santiago advises Stanford students to keep good notes on their summer internships -- it will help make that important recommendation letter easier for a summer boss to write later.

Get real. "For students new to the work world, they might expect 'Wow, I'm going to have this glorious internship with fabulous assignments,'" says Espie Santiago, career counselor for internships at Stanford University. "But many of them don't actually have a realistic idea of what's expected of them." If you didn't have a formal one-on-one with a manager during orientation, ask for one. That's also the time to request and review a set of guidelines and expectations.

Drink coffee. Find out where the water cooler, break room or coffee station is, and make a point of stopping by. You never know when the boss or the head of human resources might be taking a break. "Students are often too intimidated to go up to their managers and say hello," says Mr. Duggan. But internships are as much about building interpersonal relationships as they are job training. And experts agree you often learn more about the business from casual conversations in the break room than formal meetings.

Don't get discouraged. If it's been a few weeks, and you're still just making photocopies, don't fret -- or complain. Request a meeting with your supervisor to ask about new projects. Ms. Santiago says managers are often open to expanding on their list of intern tasks, but "you won't know unless you ask."

Resist the urge to stand out. Ms. Santiago says many students view an internship as a chance to show off their skills but, "employers are really looking for someone who [fits] the corporate culture." When you are reliable and consistent, your work will speak for itself, she says. Mr. Duggan warns against being too competitive with other interns. "You want to get along with everyone."

Take notes. Keep a log, notebook or some record of everything you do. Not only will it come in handy when it's time to update your resume, but it will also help your supervisor pull together a letter of recommendation down the road.

Play softball. Think carefully before turning down any offers to get involved. Asked to join the company softball team? Go for it. Invited to go along on a Starbucks run? Say yes, even if you don't drink coffee. Asked to tag along on a client meeting? Accept graciously. Employers "want someone to take whatever is thrown at them, do it well and then come back for more," says Mr. Duggan.

Write to Erin Chambers at

I have a network dedicated to connecting current & former collegiate athletes with career opportunities ( I routinely help these talented individuals navigate their career path & aid them in the selection of internships & summer employment. These student athletes acquire numerous skills during their course of athletic play; these skills are directly transferable into the job market. Skills such as: competitive drive, work ethic, goal oriented, coachability, ability to overcome adversity or control negative emotions, presence & positive attitude. These skills will always be in high demand in our competitive job market. I have routinely recommended summer employment that forces them to articulate these skills while building marketable experience for future employment. It's no surprise that that a straight commission direct sales position is highly marketable. The pure grit required to succeed in selling Cutco is highly attractive, let alone the communication, presentation & prospecting skills gleaned from this experience. It will never win a popularity contest but the lessons learned will translate well into all facets of life:

Summer Job: Nice Pay, if You Can Cut It


When Derek Kernus failed to land a summer internship at a big company, the College of William & Mary student responded to an ad in the paper for an admittedly unusual job. Now he's spending the summer traipsing through the homes of friends, neighbors and strangers -- armed with carrots and rope -- selling stainless steel kitchen knives.

[open slideshow]
Brendan Smialowski for the Wall Street Journal
Derek Kernus is spending a summer selling Cutco knives in his hometown of Fairfax, Va.

It might sound odd at best, nightmarish if you're shy -- and a far cry from an elite internship at an investment bank, law firm, or media company. But, say many an alum of the knife-hawking business, the skills and experience you need to boost your résumé and land a job postgraduation can be found in the quirky summer job.

The knife company in question is Cutco Cutlery, an Olean, N.Y., manufacturer with $198 million in revenue, according to Sarah Baker Andrus, director of academic programs for Vector Marketing, Cutco's sales arm. Ms. Andrus says the company brings in 60% of its sales over the summer, when a force of 40,000 -- 85% of whom are students -- fan out to ply their wares.

These junior salespeople don't receive an hourly or weekly wage. Instead they earn a commission that starts at 10% and can climb to more than 50% for top sellers. Ms. Andrus says students who work the whole summer earn an average of $3,000 to $5,000. But there are plenty who earn more.

Students around the country earn money every summer hawking books, makeup, pet supplies and other goods via rehearsed demonstrations in their own homes or those of their customers. It's tough work -- even those who are successful at it say so.

"It's not for everyone, but people who go through the process are better for it," says Larry Curran, a managing director for Garrett Sayer Group, a temporary and permanent staffing firm in Parsippany, N.J., who made $5,000 selling Cutco knives in 1989, between semesters at Eastern Connecticut State University.

But Mr. Curran and others who have done it say that it provides a more marketable experience than other fallback jobs.

John Williams, 34, who now does research and consulting in Cincinnati for a technology-oriented think tank, sold Cutco knives in the summer of 1992 before he entered Northwestern University. "It was a unique and, in some ways, unnatural experience," he recalls. "You have to go into someone's home and quickly gain their trust." But in the process, Mr. Williams says, he learned how to market himself and his product, make presentations and respond to questions, adjust to new and unexpected situations, and quickly connect with people. "You also learn about integrity and following through," he notes.

These are skills Mr. Williams says he has touted in every job search he's conducted and used every job he's worked in. What's more, he and others say, the experience has caught the eye of recruiters and interviewers.

Asher Abraham also has fond memories of his Cutco years. He sold the knives throughout his four years at Queens College, in New York, and earned more than $100,000 one year, and he learned a lot in the process, he says. "The first time my [Cutco] manager asked me to speak at a weekly meeting, I thought, 'Who, me? Talk to everybody? No way,' " he recalls. But he did it, and after doing it over and over, it became second nature, he says. He graduated in 2006 and left Cutco a year later for a job at Liberty Mutual, selling commercial insurance.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, based in St. Louis, recruits several thousand new grads into its management training program every year, according to Marie Artim, assistant vice president for recruiting. The company has hired numerous Cutco alumni over the years, and hiring managers look for the experience. "We've found that the job can give people the things we look for," she says. "Things like communication skills, discipline and a work ethic, knowledge of customer service, sales and marketing, and the ability to work on your own."

Gary Brulez, an executive recruiter with Corporate Personnel & Associates in Kansas City, Mo., says that the Cutco experience gives college kids basic "real-world" skills that they often don't learn until later in life.

Associates get training and support during the summer, a particular boost since the salespeople -- like Mr. Kernus, who has already sold $32,000 of cutlery -- lay out their own cash and earn only commission. Mr. Kernus spends about $10 a week on supplies and $40 for gas. Salespeople also lease a set of knives for about $135.

Newbies like Mr. Kernus get a three-day training session to learn telephone and presentation skills and role-play to practice them. There are weekly meetings at local sale offices to commiserate over difficulties and learn from successes. And there are periodic conferences with workshops that teach money management and develop business skills like public speaking and time management.

Staffing firm executive Mr. Curran says that he routinely looks for Cutco experience when searching online job boards for entry-level sales positions, which can be tough jobs to fill. The Cutco experience "puts some calluses on you for dealing with rejection," he says.

Friday, August 01, 2008

10 Most Lucrative College Majors

10. Marketing - With a degree in Marketing, the gatekeepers at predict that on average you'll be earning $39,400 after 5 years. And then, if you stay alive this long, after 20 years you will be in the $72,300 range.

9. Political Science - 5 years = $ 39,400. 20 years = $74,400

8. Civil Engineering - 5 years = $52,600. 20 years = $81,700

7. Mathematics - Not really sure what specific career they mean by this. The image the Forbes list uses is simply of a guy sitting at a desk staring off into space. Professional mathe-magician, perhaps? 5 years = $43,500. 20 years = $82,200

6. Finance - 5 years = $46,900. 20 years = $84,400

5. Mechanical Engineering - 5 years = $56,900. 20 years = $88,100

4. Computer Science - 5 years = $45,200. 20 years = $94,000

3. Electrical Engineering - 5 years = $59,900. 20 years = $96,100

2. Economics - 5 years = $48,100. 20 years = $96,200

1. Computer Engineering - 5 years= $60,500. 20 years = $104,00

Well, I'm pretty sure there are no surprises on this list. Most people choosing these majors are the high-earning and high-achieving stock of the college crop.

Most people who thought a 'Philosophy' major was going to be earning some serious bank, were probably not the brightest to begin with.

This list is compiled of just the national averages, though. You've gotta be kidding me with that Finance job earning only $84k after 20 years of work. That's probably not including all the big Wall Street banks.

Forbes: Most Lucrative College Majors, June 18, 2008

Ten Most Worthless Degrees!

The 10 Most Worthless College Majors

College is a great place to learn and have fun. But let’s not kid ourselves, some degrees are as useless as the plot in a Michael Bay film. Here’s a list of 10 degrees that may be interesting, but do jack shit for you in the real world.

10. Art History


Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: With an art history degree you could maybe curate an art gallery or work at a museum or….yeah, that’s it. That’s all you can do. And seeing as how every art gallery and museum I’ve ever been to has exactly one dude sitting quietly at a desk reading a New Yorker and eating a food that requires chopsticks, I’m going to go ahead and assume there’s not a lot of positions open in the field. That means you’re going to have to venture out into the corporate world. And let me inform you, when you’re interviewing with Bob from the HR team at Wal-Mart who’s wearing a tie that has the twin towers smoking with writing underneath that says “We Will Never Forget,” your art history degree says to him “I’m a commie a-hole who thinks I’m better than guys with 9/11 ties.”

What Job You’ll End Up With: After your parents boot your ass from your bedroom to make room for anything that’s not your bedroom, you’ll wander towards the nearest coffee shop and get a job there, which will allow you to meet artists who will thank you for allowing them to put fliers by the cash register that inform people of their upcoming show that touts “the combination of art and flute.”

9. Philosophy


Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: This isn’t ancient Greece: No one is going to pay you money, or allow you to sodomize their attractive son, in exchange for your knowledge of existence. Never has there been an employer who’s said “Man, we’re having all kinds of problems, I wish we had someone on our team who could reference and draw conclusions from the story of Siddhartha that would pull up our fourth quarter numbers.” I took many philosophy classes and it involved reading and smoking a shit pile of weed. You don’t need to pay 20,000 dollars a year to do that. All you need is twenty dollars and a library card.

What Job You’ll End Up With: Thanks to your extensive knowledge of philosophy, you’re now self-aware enough to know that most jobs out there will make you totally miserable. So most likely you’ll wait tables part time and hope someone starts paying you for the bi-monthly entries on your blog.

8. American Studies

american studies worthless college degrees

Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: If you’re not named Achmed or Bjork or G’Day Mate this isn’t a degree, it’s the last 18 years of your life. If you really want to study us you don’t need to go to some stupid class, you need only to sit back and watch a two-hour block of Must-See TV to understand The American. After doing my own research, it seems that this mysterious creature is a pot-bellied humanoid with a hot wife and bad credit who has a penchant for low-calorie beer, Chilis, Applebees, TGIFridays, Denny’s, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Dave and Busters, Steak and Shake, Chilis (again) and Red Lobster. Oh and he can totally demolish a White Castle Crave Case in, like, 20 seconds. OK, now give me my degree.

What Job You’ll End Up With: To take your American Studies degree one step further, you will be qualified to do 40-50 years of “graduate work” cleaning tables and taking orders at a Chilis, Applebees, TGIFridays or Red Lobster. Or possibly Denny’s.

7. Music Therapy

music therapy worthless college degrees

Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: I didn’t even know this was a major until I found it on the Appalachian State website. According to their actual explanation of this major: “Music therapy is the scientific application of the art of music within a therapeutic relationship to meet the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of individuals.” Which is a big, fancy way of saying “We’ll teach you how to make a mix tape.” I guess I, too, am a qualified music therapist because my “Summer Jams ‘95” tape I made in the 10th grade totally rocked my house party. All my friends told me that kicking it off with Wreckz-N-Effects “Rump Shaker” followed by Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” totally met their physical, mental and spiritual needs to help them get wasted on my dad’s Schnapps and Drambuie.

What Job You’ll End Up With: After realizing that yoga studios and elderly homes don’t pay people just to come in and set mood music, you’re sadly going to end up putting your degree towards burning a fire to keep warm because you are homeless.

6. Communications


Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: Go into a communications class on any given day and it’ll smell like dried semen and booze. Reason being, communications is the major for anyone who wants to graduate, but doesn’t want to stop getting totally wasted on weekdays. Here’s the bad news, if an employer is going to hire someone to help decipher how human beings communicate, he’s going to hire someone with the letters “Dr.” before their name, not the person who first checks to see if a class is offered online, then when they find out it’s not, let’s out a “gaaaaay bro.”

What Job You’ll End Up With: You’ll go to several job interviews that turn out to be pyramid schemes, even though at first you won’t realize this and come home and tell your parents, who you still live with, “They said I’ll probably be making six figures in less than a year just by selling these beer cozies.”

5. Dance

dance worthless college degrees

Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: Despite what “Dancing with the Stars” and “High School Musical” may tell you, there aren’t a lot of dancing jobs out there—so you better be good because there aren’t any gigs for mediocre dancers. Outside of New York City or some crap in LA there is absolutely nothing you can do with a dance degree that doesn’t involve actually dancing for money. And since the Des Moines interpretive dance movement hasn’t really taken off yet, you have a better chance landing a job as an 8-Track repairman or a member of the Beatles.

What Job You’ll End Up With: After moving to New York and trying out for Hello Dolly! or Damn Yankees or any of the other seven Broadway plays that want dancers and not landing a single one because you got your dance degree from Ball State, you will find ample opportunity to show off your choreographic skills at one of the city’s many strip clubs. You’ll just need to change your name to Crystal or Bambi and you’ll be able finally live out your dream as a dancer. (Mom and Dad will be so proud!)

4. English Lit


Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: If someone can spend a weekend with a box of Cliff’s Notes and have only a slightly less conversational knowledge of what you spent 4 years studying, you probably don’t have the most employer friendly degree. Having an English Lit degree is like being a member of the Kansas City Royals: No one cares and the best you can hope for is every once in a while someone buys you a beer because of it.

What Job You’ll End Up With: You can read and comprehend, so that gives you an advantage over 99.5% of the people that peruse Craig’s list job listings. Therefore, you’ll most likely end up landing an entry level position at a random small company, or showing up to your interview and being raped repeatedly by a group of masked men.

3. Latin

latin worthless college degrees

Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: Not only does no one speak this language anymore, but we already have all the Latin that exists in the world. There’s no new Latin that’s hot off the presses that needs immediate translating. I’m no business major, but majoring in a language that doesn’t exist anymore doesn’t sound so good for job security. And I’m sorry to break the news to you, but the world doesn’t need someone to translate The Bible or the inscription on the side of a Post Office or El Loco Latino’s “Latin House Party.”

What Job You’ll End Up With: Since you majored in something that doesn’t exist, you’re going to have two jobs. Your first one will be as the annoying pretentious guy who gives everyone the Latin etymology of every big word he hears at every dinner party he attends. Your second, and most lucrative job, will be as a Subway Sandwich Artist.

2. Film


Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: No one in hollywood gives a shit that you made a short film about an alcoholic albino that discovers the meaning of life through the help of a retarded child. Unless that retarded child was played by the son of Harvey Weinstein, your film or degree will be as pointless as the last three seasons of Lost

What Job You’ll End Up With: If you’re lucky, you’ll have an uncle who can get you a job as a production assistant on CSI Miami, where your time will be spent making coffee runs and finding whores that will let David Caruso pee on them.

1. Religion

religion worthless college degrees

Why It Won’t Help You Get a Job: Sorry God, but a major in Religion is about as worthless as St. Brice (The Patron Saint of Stomach Aches.) Even Duke University can’t put a solid sell on this degree: “A major in religion offers intellectual excitement and can be a pathway to a liberal education.” OK, you sold me. So now I get to shell out about a hundred thousand dollars so I can know what to wear to a Shinto ceremony and learn how many virgins Allah will give me if I blow myself up in an Israeli square? If it’s OK with you, I’ll keep my money and stick to my sinning-a-lot-now-and-repenting-on-my-deathbed plan.

What Job You’ll End Up With: This one is tricky. On one hand you’ll probably end up working behind the desk of a Christian Science Reading Room. But on the other, you may end up with everlasting peace and spiritual enlightenment. Let’s call it a draw.