Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Archive for the ‘The lighter side’ Category

Vault’ s Careers Blog is Moving

leave a comment »

An announcement: after almost a year on WordPress, we’re discontinuing Vault’s Careers Blog on WordPress. But don’t worry: you’ll still be able to get your fill of career information and advice on–where our blogs are going from strength to strength.

Our full blog lineup on is as follows:

Vault’s Careers Blog
Vault’s Law Blog
Consult THIS: Consulting Careers, News and Views
In Good Company: Vault’s CSR blog
In the Black: Vault’s Finance Careers Blog
Admit One: Vault’s MBA, Law School and College Blog
Insider Career Advice from SixFigureStart
Innovate with Influence: Global High Tech

Thanks for reading us on WordPress.

We hope to see you over on soon!

–The Vault Editorial Team

5 Things Comedy Class Teaches You About Job Search

leave a comment »

For six weeks this fall, I’ve been studying writing of a different kind—Karen Bergreen’s beginner comedy class at the Manhattan Comedy School. I always tell my job-seeking clients and column readers to be well-rounded and unique and to keep learning and stretching. So learning about things seemingly unrelated to my own day job is part of taking my own advice. Luckily, comedy is relevant to job search technique:

Be specific. The funniest comedians give very specific details. The same can be said about compelling job candidates: the best candidates are specific in explaining what they want and what they contribute. When good job candidates give an example, we understand the scope of their responsibilities and the scale of their accomplishments.

Edit ruthlessly. You don’t need a lot of explanation before getting to the punch line of the story. In fact, too much explanation diminishes the power of the joke. Similarly, don’t ramble in your interview responses and other job search communication. Get to the point quickly and keep your listener’s attention.

Talk about what you know. Being comfortable and familiar with your subject matter made it infinitely easier to be specific and find the humor. Successful jobseekers need to get comfortable and familiar with the industries, companies, and jobs they are targeting. Do research before meeting people. Prepare your interview examples. When you talk about what you know (because you have researched and prepared in advance), you captivate your listener.

Be yourself. There is no one profile or style that is the funny one. It is better to infuse who you are genuinely into your comedy set. In the case of job candidates, your unique personality differentiates you in addition to your professional attributes. There are other good communicators, exceptional problem-solvers, and strong leaders. You compete on skills and experience but also contribute your unique style.

The audience needs to get the joke. Sometimes a student was really attached to a joke that others in the class didn’t understand or didn’t think was funny. Instead of arguing the point, students were encouraged to rewrite and rework the original premise. Similarly, jobseekers should pay attention to any feedback that suggests what you’re doing isn’t working. You may think your job search technique is fine, but if it’s been several months and you haven’t landed anything, employers clearly aren’t “getting” you. Don’t argue with the market; rework your job search.

Sometimes when you are overly-focused on a goal, you can get stuck. It’s very helpful to step back and focus on something very different—to refresh, reignite your creativity, and broaden your perspective. You may find that you come back to your original goal with fresh eyes and are more productive. You don’t have to take comedy class specifically or even do something artistic. It can be sports, cooking, joining a book club. Diverse interests are valuable to the jobseeker because they make you more unique, they stretch and challenge you in different ways, and they enable you to remain fresh and productive.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Written by A.A. Somebody

November 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Why Wearing Your Costume to Work is a Bad Career Move

leave a comment »

It’s Halloween and the temptation to wear your costume to the office can be hard to overcome—especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in getting it just right. But when it comes to dressing up at the workplace, those who value their careers should think hard about their wardrobe selection, and consider removing some of the “tricks and treats.”

While many people seem to take on a whole new personality at Halloween, workers should tread carefully when choosing a costume to wear at work—even if it means being forced to choose separate outfits for the office and their Halloween night shenanigans. Even if your company permits masks and costumes during office hours, it’s better to play it safe, and remember that the harassment policy you signed earlier in the year does not magically disappear with the holiday.

“People in costume lose inhibitions and behave as if a tail and mask give them license to act out,” says Vicki Lynn, Vault’s Vice President of Research and Consulting. “It’s important to keep a level of decorum when observing Halloween in the workplace.”

Steer Clear of “Sexy”

“Never wear anything that oozes ‘date’ or ‘sex,’ such as a bunny costume, sexy witch, cow girl, nurse, or teacher,” says Lynn. “If you think it crosses the line, it probably does. These would be costumes that show too much leg, butt and décolletage.”

Wearing provocative outfits could make co-workers feel uncomfortable or lead to unwanted sexual advances, potentially resulting in legal actions—something that no employer wants to deal with. This means that if you wouldn’t normally go to the office in an outfit that would make Lady Gaga blush, you should continue that practice at the office on Halloween. That goes for the guys too: Halloween is not an excuse to come to the office without a shirt on, no matter how much you enjoy those Old Spice commercials.

Watch What You Say With Your Costume

It’s possible to get into costume-related trouble even if you’re only revealing an opinion with your outfit.

“Beware of the signal or message that might be conveyed with your choice of costume—i.e. anything that could be conveyed as offensive to different religions, ethnicities, genders, and/or political leanings,” says Lynn, adding that “the best outfits are non-political masks.”

So, if you were thinking of using your costume to make a point about one of the issues of the day, stop and think about how colleagues or clients may react. Could you open yourself up to a harassment claim or altercation that could carry on past the Halloween season? Even if you’re only poking fun at a political figure, keep in mind that your colleagues may not share your opinions.

If there is even a remote possibility of causing offense, you may want to stick to something tried and true like a vampire. After all, with the way people react to Twilight, yours willl almost still seem cool.

Some Other Halloween at the Office Tips

  • Employers should voice their thoughts on Halloween protocols in the office so that everyone is on the same page before the big day.
  • Remember that even if you do show up in costume, you still have a job to do. Despite your disguise, the actions you take today will be remembered tomorrow and could contribute to the unemployment numbers next week. Stay in control.
  • It’s ok to celebrate but keep noise down and celebration contained to the lunch hour.
  • If you are client facing, your customers may not be amused by the costume, so keep it strictly for the lunch party with officemates only.
  • Halloween at the office can still be fun. Just pay attention to others around you and leave the more risqué fun, if that’s what you choose to do, for the witching hour.


— Jon Minners,

Written by A.A. Somebody

October 29, 2010 at 8:48 am

How Video Games Can Help Your Career

leave a comment »

Video gamers

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Here’s a piece of career advice that you won’t hear too often: spend more time playing video games. Specifically action-oriented games such as “Call of Duty 2.”

No, seriously.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, research has found that “[p]laying action video games primes the brain to make quick decisions.”

The study pitted two groups of against each other in a problem-solving exercise: those who had played fast-paced action games versus those who had played slower strategy games such as “The Sims 2.” The results: those who had played the action games “made decisions 25 percent faster than the strategy group, while answering the same number of questions correctly.”

The takeaway, according to the scientist who led the research team: “Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference.”

So now you know: if you want to improve the speed of your decision-making—a key leadership skill—bust out the Xbox and start shooting something. Or at least use this as an excuse the next time you get caught scratching a gaming itch during office hours!

Written by Phil Stott

September 15, 2010 at 10:04 am

Before JetBlue: Other Great Escapes in American Occupational History

leave a comment »

By now you’ve certainly heard about Steven Slater, the 38-year-old JetBlue flight attendant who yesterday went airline (akin to going postal but a tad less messy) on a flight from Pittsburgh to New York, telling about 100 passengers to f— off after one passenger violated airline policy, getting out of her seat and removing her baggage from the overhead bin while the plane was still taxiing to the gate. (The passenger also, reportedly, told Slater to f— and called him a mofo.) After telling off the passengers, via the onboard intercom, Slater infamously quit his job, stole a beer (or two; reports vary) and slid down the emergency slide, to the envy of American man, woman and child.

This story has received so much press that you might think Slater’s was the most outlandish job exit ever to occur on American cement. But au contraire, there have been numerous equally as outlandish exits in American occupational history, it’s just that these others occurred prior to the proliferation of the Internet (and some prior to the proliferation of the printing press). In chronological order, here are a few other infamous job exits from the past three centuries:

March 14, 1777; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; John Dedrick Greenhoffer, calligrapher. Greenhoffer was given the task of copying of the Declaration of Independence, freehand, 20,000 times. The DOI, as the document was called then, was to be circulated, via stagecoach, throughout the colonies once Greenhoffer had completed his copying. Greenhoffer was a master calligrapher (having trained in the Far East) and was widely known to be extremely meticulous, though rather slow of hand. When pushed to scribe faster by the Founding Fathers (even berated, it was said, for his slowness of pace) Greenhoffer broke one day, becoming so enraged that he splattered two Founding Fathers with ink, pinched a pint of federally-sanctioned moonshine, yelled from a clocktower that the “Redcoats Were Coming Back!” (frightening numerous children) and then descended a bed sheet, tied to an oak bedpost, from the five-story tower, which, at the time, was the tallest structure in the United States of America.

February 4, 1883; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Francis T. Redenbacher, dressmaker/seamstress. Redenbacher (no relation to the popcorn magnate), born and schooled across the Atlantic in the finest tailoring institutions in all of Europe, was well known throughout North and South Carolina as the “go-to girl” among the female elite for hand-tailored attire for grand Southern balls. Redenbacher worked for a majority of the Carolinas’ Congressional wives, as well as for most of the local lawyers’ significant others. It was rumored that Redenbacher solely sewed with imported thread and fasteners (ivory and animal hides from Africa, silk and bone from the Far East, metal from Eastern Europe, etc.), and her techniques were, to say the least, unorthodox: she sewed in complete darkness. The technique was one she learned from Tibetan tailors on a trip to Lhasa during her youth, and one that severely irked the wives of numerous Southern gentlemen (wives who, though tightlipped in public, were quite outspoken behind closed doors). It was upon a fine Carolina spring afternoon that Redenbacher broke. After Mrs. Lamont Grover Williamson insisted on relighting a candelabra in Redenbacher’s main sewing room for the seventeenth time, Redenbacher reached her boiling point and doused Williamson with candle wax, singing her bloomers and bustier, then slid down a banister on a sheet of unbleached Scottish wool before swiping a bottle of Spanish Grenache on her way out and screaming behind her, “Fasten your own bloody stockings, you wench!” (Redenbacher was never arrested, though her family was forced to set out for the West a few days later).

August 22, 1982; Southampton, New York; Anthony Augustus Esposito, ticket agent/conductor. Esposito grew up in Long Island, New York, riding the rails. The Long Island Railroad rails, that is. In fact, Esposito loved nothing more than sitting in a lone window seat, traversing the Isle of Long, eastbound and westbound, staring out through scratchiti- and graffiti-filled windows, eying the lush countryside from Montauk to Valley Stream. And so it came as no surprise that Esposito became the No. 1 ticket man on the LIRR before his twenty-second birthday. Esposito was, it was pointed out in news reports, well-known and well-liked among colleagues and passengers alike, which is why it came as such a monstrous surprise to all, including the Esposito extended family (Anthony had four brothers and three sisters, all of whom bore children of their own), that Esposito cracked that August Sunday afternoon. Though, the Esposito family, and every other American, did understand, given the grave circumstances: the passenger responsible for breaking Esposito was attempting to perpetrate the fake-sleep routine along with the feet-on-the-facing-seat tactic along with the luggage-spread-out-on-the-adjacent-seat move as well as the loud-boombox-playing-manic-static maneuver. It would’ve, as the Post reported, “broken just about anyone wearing an LIRR uniform,” especially due to the fact that the air conditioning was not operational, the temperature was approximately 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and hundreds of other passengers, some elderly and/or pregnant, were standing and sitting in aisles. In the end, Esposito was acquitted of all charges (he had yelled “FIRE! FIRE! M[OFO] FIRE!” when the train had stopped in the Bridgehampton station) and his legs healed (he had fractured both femurs after leaping from the moving train in Wainscot and rolling down on an embankment into a marsh). However, the luggage of the passenger who had, in Esposito’s words, “refused to turn off that damn ghetto blaster and move his fake-sleeping a**,” were never found (Esposito had taken the bags with him on his exit jump and reportedly buried them on a beach in Hampton Bays).

–Posted by Derek Loosvelt, In The Black

Written by Linda Petock

August 10, 2010 at 11:55 am

Career Lessons from the Yugo

leave a comment »

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and there are few better examples than the Yugo. One of the biggest business blunders of the past quarter century, it was an ambitious project felled by carelessness. In the new book The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, author Jason Vuic unravels the convolution of obstacles and errors that led to the car’s cultural infamy. However, the tale of the world’s biggest lemon also illustrates how professional mistakes occur, and serves as a lesson to avoid similar disasters in your endeavors.

Imported from Yugoslavia in the 1980s, the Yugo should have been a golden opportunity. The 1970s gas crises spurred demand for smaller, efficient and affordable cars; meanwhile, America had taken a shine to Yugoslavia—with its eagerness for trade alliances (thus rebuking Soviet Union embargos), the country was a scruffy puppy that American industry could adopt and coddle with Coca-Cola, blue jeans and Bon Jovi music. Thus the Yugo offered US consumers the cheapest car around, made by an Eastern Bloc nation’s adorably industrious people. But despite its low price, owners came to rue its fragility and poor performance. It became an instant joke, and thereafter regarded as the worst car ever.

So what can you learn from the Yugo?

1. Don’t just ask “what”—ask “why.”

The Yugo was meant to fill a demand. America’s “Big Three” automakers weren’t offering fuel efficient cars, and Toyota and Honda were themselves moving into deluxe models. The door was open for cheap, no-frills transportation, and Yugo did exactly that—all too well. By delivering the most low-end car imaginable, Yugo created an undesirable and inadequate brick. This is the first mistake: When identifying a demand, we often only ask, “What need isn’t being fulfilled,” without following up by asking, “Why isn’t that need being fulfilled?” Had Yugo America considered why no one was offering cut-rate cars at miniscule prices, they might have understood the limitations of their product, and addressed them before moving forward.

2. Have the tools and the talent

The Yugo wasn’t just the product of shoddy design and entrepreneurial myopia. It was the product of an outdated East European factory whose conditions earned observations that “OSHA would have a field day” with it (today, harmful and shoddy facilities can mean big trouble—just ask BP and Apple). Meanwhile, the manufacturer lacked adequate resources; the car’s engine was an obsolete model, and used an antiquated carburetor that failed emissions tests. Also consider that Yugoslavia’s car industry was almost nonexistent, resulting in a slim talent pool lacking any manufacturing.

When that’s your source for product, don’t expect to be marketing the next iPad. To successfully deliver in any endeavor, every aspect of your operation and resources should be the best they can be. If any element doesn’t meet the standards you expect of the end result, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

3. Have a leader you can believe in

The single greatest element of the Yugo’s folly was perhaps the man in charge, Malcolm Bricklin. Previously known for introducing America to the Subaru 360—a car perhaps worse than the Yugo, with the informal slogan “Cheap and ugly does it!”—and his reputation for fraudulent business tactics, Bricklin was a would-be John DeLorean with twice the flamboyance and a crummier eponymous car (the forgotten 1974 Bricklin). In the annals of inept entrepreneurs, Mal Bricklin is the ultimate cautionary tale: Know who is steering your ship. Learn his or her background and intended direction. Those with a history of error or half-formed plans are unlikely to forge a path to success. (And if you are the leader… well, lots of luck!)

4. And if all still goes wrong …

Take heart. The best laid plans can still come up short, but not every failure is the ultimate nadir. Even the Yugo gets a bum rap as the “worst car ever”—the aforementioned Subaru 360 was outright dangerous, with a Consumer Reports rating of “Not Applicable” to 1968 quality standards. The same goes for Germany’s three-wheeled Messerschmitt, which used a lawnmower-esque pull cord to start. Don’t forget Chevrolet’s Corvair, which inspired Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed. Or, heck, even the Pinto.

Written by A.A. Somebody

June 10, 2010 at 11:28 am

Unusual Job Search Tactics: The Radio Edition

with one comment

Last week, I wrote about unusual job search strategies, and highlighted the case of Alec Brownstein, who found job-hunting success by targeting key executives with Google Ads.

This morning, I was invited to talk about those very same strategies on Washington D.C.’s WTOP 103.5FM. You can listen to the four-minute segment on job search advice by clicking the link. Two caveats: first–you’ll need to select the appropriate link on that page (at the time of writing it’s the second from the top). And second—no, I’m not from round these parts.

Once you’ve digested all of that—or even before you do—why not tell us about your favorite off-the-wall job seeking stories? And we’re looking for the good, the bad, and the ugly. To get you started, here’s another one I heard recently, but whose provenance I am regrettably unable to vouch for:

The Delivery Guy

A keen job seeker thought he was doing all the right things when applying to a company he was interested in. He researched the company. (Let’s face it: he probably used Vault’s company profiles. I mean, why wouldn’t you?) He identified the key hiring personnel at the company. And then he figured out a plan to talk to that person face to face, so he could really make a good impression.

His plan? Well, that was the candidate’s downfall. He dressed up as a delivery person and showed up at the security desk of the company he wanted to work for, bearing a package that he claimed his target employee had to sign for. When they duly appeared, he removed the delivery outfit to reveal professional attire, and proceeded to press a resume—plus his case for why he should be hired—onto the unsuspecting employee. The result: one seriously embarrassed worker who wouldn’t dream of hiring the applicant—even if he hadn’t been ejected from the building by security and told never to come back.

If you have a story you think we should know about—or a technique you’re thinking of trying—please let us know about it in the comments field below. If we get enough of them, we’ll collect the best in another blog post—together with a critique from Vault professionals on its chances for success or why it went wrong.

%d bloggers like this: