Blog Archive - April 2011

Posted: April 7, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Writing in Common Dreams, Bill Quigley, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, offers 7 examples of how the middle class, working people, and the poor are getting screwed.  My favorite example is the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago receiving $116 million from a program that was supposed to help the poor.  This hotel has been involved in a long labor dispute with its workers.  Screw the workers and get corporate welfare.  What would Yakov Smirnov say?  “What a country!”

Posted: April 6, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

In today’s Chicago Sun-Times, Sandra Guy has written an interesting and useful article on strange interview questions, which include:

“If you could be any superhero, who would it be?” (asked by ATT)

“How many basketballs would fit in this room?” (asked by Google)

“What is the square root of 2,000?” (asked by UBS)

These questions challenge job seekers in several ways.  First, they test a person’s ability to think about something that is unexpected.  Second, they may reveal a candidate’s ability or inability to exercise a certain type of reasoning.  For example, the initial reaction to the question about basketballs might be, “Who cares?” However, if a candidate is working in a field where spatial reasoning or visual estimates is important, this “odd” question helps employers see if you have a skill that is needed on the job. Finally, they reflect an ability to work with a problem, rather than dismissing it. 

An expert from, the company that collects strange interview question, recommends that job seekers approach odd questions in a positive spirit and answer in a way that shows an ability to “thin on your feet” and “stand up to stress and pressure.”  As with any difficult question, take a few seconds to think about your answer.  Present your answer as clearly and calmly as possible.  The way you answer might be more important than the answer itself. 

Don’t let a weird question prevent you from getting a job offer.  Be ready and give it your best shot.   

Postscript:  Check out  It is a great resource to learn more about industries, companies, and salaries.

Posted: April 5, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

I’m currently listening to Senator Bernie Sanders on Thom Hartmann’s radio Show.  Senator Sanders is a hero to working people.  He told Thom that Republicans are pursuing a three stage attack on New Deal programs that have given working people security for several generations.

While the media focuses on the current budget battle, which is about this year’s budget, Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, are proposing drastic cuts for 2012 with a focus on cutting Medicare and Medicaid.  Many people will say that we have to cut because the government is “broke.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The government is not collecting revenue from the wealthy and corporations.  We’ve taken welfare from the poor and given it to the richest people and companies. 

Working people have paid into Medicare as a way to have health care later in life.  The Republican plan will move the program from government management to profit-oriented companies who will not want to serve people who have conditions that impact their bottom line.  Similarly, working people have contributed to Social Security.  Cynical politicians want to move the system into private hands, which means that retired working people will be at the mercy of the stock markets ups and downs. 

Who will have security in such a system?  The financial investment firms that manage accounts and insurance companies that control Medicare funds. As Senator Sanders puts it, this is Robin Hood in reverse: taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

Beware of what you see on corporate and cable news.  They are owned and managed by people who will benefit from the privatization of Medicare and Social Security.  Ask this question: How will this measure benefit me?  Unless you’re a banker or insurance executive, it probably won’t benefit you.  Know your interests.  Vote your interests.

Postscript:  Common Dreams reprints an interesting article by Ezra Klein on the impact of Paul Ryan’s plan on Medicaid

Posted: April 4, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

Is this good news?  In a time when many young people can’t get summer jobs because programs have been cut, it is a good thing.  As a spokesperson said, McDonald’s $8 per hour starting wage is higher than the federal minimum wage.  However, most of the jobs will be temporary and part time.  These jobs are greater starter job, but we also need jobs that can let people build a secure life.  Too many of those have been lost, and our politicians either don’t know how to bring them back or – worse still – they don’t care.

Posted: April 3, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature on work and life.]

The Boys of Summer

Earlier today, I was at Wrigley Field, watching the Cubs lose to the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4.  Baseball isn’t the most popular game in America anymore, but it’s still much loved, in no small part because it heralds the coming of spring and summer.  Unlike football, which is played giants, baseball is still the game where most people can imagine themselves on the field.  There’s one problem with that kind of thinking – it ignores the special skills of the boys of summer.

I hate it when people call baseball a boring game.  “It takes to long.” [Pro football games are longer with all the breaks and commercials.] “There’s no scoring.” [Yeah, compared to basketball or football, but that’s a silly comparison.] Too many people haven’t taken the time to learn how to watch this game and the artists that play it.

Baseball is a game where each player needs several skills.  Someone who can hit but not field (or vice versa) hurts his team.  Similarly, pitchers who can field – and hit in the National League – help their teams.  If they don’t hit a home run, hitters have to know how to run the bases, which means more than running fast.  Good base runners have to consider several factors: number of outs, field conditions, and how well the other team’s outfielders throw.  They have coaches to help them, but in the end each runner will make the decision when to run.

Pitching is also more complex than just throwing the ball fast.  Good pitchers locate their pitches in all parts of the strike zone.  They study hitters and attack their weaknesses.  Greg Maddux, a former Cub, was one of the best at out-thinking hitters.  He didn’t throw as fast as his teammates, but Maddux was mentally tough, a quality all great pitchers develop over their careeers.

Good and great hitters are also students of the game.  They practice their skills with the discipline of a monk.  I’ve watched hitters like Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki during batting practice.  While their teammates are merely warming up or trying to knock the ball into the stands, hitters like Gwynn and Suzuki hit the ball to different parts of the field.  Where most hitters have to adjust to the what the pitcher does, great hitters intimidate pitchers because they can hit a ball anywhere in the strike zone.

Like all good athletes, baseball players need to be able to run and jump.  Strength helps them hit the ball farther or stay in the game longer.  But what makes baseball a great game is the special skills it requires.  In most cases, the greatest players master those skills.  They don’t simply rely on physical attribute like strength and speed.  The better one understands these skills, the better she’ll appreciate how these athletes are craftsmen, playing a game that has fascinated Americans for more than 150 years.  If baseball bores you, take the time to learn the work each player does.  You won’t be bored anymore.

Posted: April 2, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

As the Chicago Tribune reports, the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.8%.  Good news is always welcome, but I want to use this occasion to repeat my philosophy on this statistic:  Don’t let it rule your job search.  Use the 100% rule.  Do I have a job?  Do I have the job I want?  Unless you can answer yes to both questions, you should be looking for a new job.  You are not a statistic.  Take control of you career!

Posted: April 1, 2011
By: Clay Cerny

USA Today says it all with this headline:  "CEO Pay Soars while Worker Pay Stalls."  Read the story.  Even the corporate, mainstream media is starting to get the message.

Postscript:  Who’s better off than CEOs?  Check out Huffington Post on salaries of the top hedge fund managers.