Academic Writing: An Interview with Author Roy Christopher

21 05 2010

by Jenna Reisch  

Have you ever considered a career in writing?  This week’s interview features writer, Roy Christopher, author of Follow for Now, who describes his unconventional career as an academic and para-academic writer.  Read on!  

If you could give yourself a job title, what would it be?  

RC: Once I was unemployed during tax time, and I got to the end of my taxes where it asks for your occupation. I toyed with several ridiculous titles (e.g., Freelance Rabble Rouser, Mind Terrorist, Poet, Intergalactic Warlord, etc.). I think I settled on Writer, as I thought the others would surely get me audited.  

Roy Christopher


If the word “theorist” didn’t sound so pretentious, I’d just say I was a Media Theorist. Writer definitely works though. Almost everything I do and want to do involves writing in some form.  
The goal of our blog, Unconventional Jobs, is to give the public information about different professions and hobbies that are unique, cool, fun, etc. Our motto is: “think outside the cubicle”.  

As a writer, what makes your job unique and unconventional?  

RC: I’m able to get by because I do other things besides write. That’s the first unconventional part: being okay with focusing on something because I want to do it, not because it pays. I’m also fortunate enough to have found a line of work (academia) that is pretty well integrated into my writing and allows me to pursue it without much hindrance.  

With that said, the open schedule and the freedom are probably the two main things. The open schedule is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I tend to thrive in a project-oriented, deadline-driven environment, so the 40-hour-a-week, 9-5 gig doesn’t really work for me. It’s a curse because writing is often largely driven by inspiration, so often deadlines come before real inspiration, forcing me to turn in work that maybe wasn’t up to my standards. It happens less and less as one becomes a better writer, but it still happens.  

By “the freedom,” I mean not only the personal, day-to-day freedom as above, but also the freedom to explore my interests. For the most part, I write about the things I am passionate about. The freedom to follow my curiosity that writing affords turns nearly everything else I do into research for my writing. It makes my whole life fun and full.  

You’ve written Follow for Now, which I read in my Writing in Electronic Media course at the University of Illinois, Chicago. I also read on your blog, that you are in the process of putting together another book.

How did you get started in academic writing and what interested you the most? Is research a large part of this career?  

RC: Well, academic writing, strictly speaking, is done for academic journals and is mostly written by scholars for other scholars. What I do and want to do is either called “para-academic” writing or “public intellectualism.” I’m not really interested in writing strictly for an academic audience. I want to write about smart stuff, but to write about it for everyone.  

How I got into this is probably a longer story than we have room for, but I’ll try to make it brief. After several years of doing music journalism, writing for magazines about bands and records, I read a book by James Gleick called ‘Chaos’. It blew my head wide open. I suddenly realized I wanted to do so much more. From there I read tons of “sciencey” books until I zeroed in on what interested me most (which turns out to be human communication and technology), and I went back to school to study it, which is where I still am.  

Research is a huge part of this. As I mentioned above, following my interests turns almost everything I do into research, but good, old-fashioned reading and note-taking are also a big part of it. Fortunately, I love that stuff!  

It must be a pretty amazing book! That’s a cool way to realize that human communication and technology is really what you’re interested in studying.  

What are your future goals in terms of your writing and do you have any recommendations or tips for people who are interested in pursuing a career in academic writing/research?  

RC: My goal is to write for a living, but that’s kind of like saying I want to play guitar for a living. One doesn’t just go do that. So, academia is my back-up. Fortunately, the two are closely related. That is, the subjects I research teach, and write about in school are fairly aligned with the subjects I want to write books about anyway.  

As far as getting into this line of work, the academic route is pretty established: get the degrees, do the research, get published, get tenure, continue. As for the work I’m trying to do outside the academy, it’s all about building a name for yourself. The tools for that are readily available and growing, but the work spreading the word is up to you.  

To get more information and to contact Roy Christopher, check out Christopher’s website or follow him on twitter:!


Empowering Women to Participate in Their Health: The Mission of the Midwifery- featuring Cynthia Mason and Sherri Ruerup

6 05 2010

by Monica Jackson

The medical field is one of the most challenging and exciting fields of study within today’s society. It is all about maintaining our health while also teaching us how to better maintain our health outside of the doctor’s office simultaneously. One of the most unconventional forms to help us maintain our health is the midwifery field. This field empowers women with the opportunity to be more involved in the decision making process regarding their health, including during pregnancy. To help us better understand the significance and benefits of midwifery, I talked to two certified nurse-midwives (CNMs), Cynthia Mason, who works in private practice for a CNM- owned midwifery practice in Oak Park, IL (West Suburban Midwife Associates, Ltd. ) and Sherri Ruerup, who is a CNM and director of the Nurse-Midwifery group at Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Cynthia Mason works as a private practice midwife at West Suburban Midwife Associates

Midwives are trained specialists who handle low-risk pregnancies. Their job is to help women through the process of labor and birthing as well as to teach them about post partum care. CNMs practice in hospitals, medical clinics, and private offices and may deliver babies in hospitals, birth centers, and at home. They are also able to prescribe medications (in all 50 states, as CNMs are recognized in the U.S.).

Midwives can even be a part of a woman’s pregnancy before the woman is actually pregnant. This is because many midwives act as the primary caregiver for many women, but it is more like a partnership between the women and the midwives, known as well-woman care. Similar to a gynecologist visit, well-woman care includes Pap smears, breast exams, birth control, family planning, and menopausal care. According to Mason, the specific duties of a midwife depend on the area and location the midwife is stationed in. She says that some midwives work in hospital settings where they teach and mentor OB/GYN residents and/or evaluate and care for pregnant women.

Other midwives work in office settings where they provide health for women throughout their life span in concordance with well-women care. According to Mason, most midwives work in both hospital and office settings.

“A full scope certified nurse midwife cares for women before, during, and after pregnancy.  We provide well women care…  [and] prenatal care for healthy, low-risk women who are pregnant.  During a typical day, we will see patients in the office providing these services or can be on call attending births and supporting women during labor,” said Ruerup about CNMs working in a hospital setting. Midwives, overall, can be beneficial to the health of women throughout her life, especially during the biggest, most difficult moment of a woman’s life—childbirth.

For those of you who are considering getting into this important medical field, both Mason and Ruerup offer helpful information to move you in the right direction. As Ruerup explains, CNMs usually have a Master’s degree in science specializing in midwifery. They also have to pass a board exam to become certified. Other midwives, according to Mason, have Bachelor’s degrees, in which they have to pass a rigorous written and oral exam, as well as complete their clinical hours and competencies, in order to become certified.

Interestingly, Mason also refers to some midwife careers that do not require a high school or college diploma; instead the midwives receive their training and develop their skills through apprenticeships (referred to as Direct-Entry Midwives). Some midwives have even learned the field through self-study. However, these types of midwives are not recognized by medical officials in all 50 states, like CNMs.

Another important issue when learning and practicing to become a CNM is to know how to handle the various issues that can occur within a pregnancy, as well as deciding when the pregnancy needs to move to care beyond midwifery. So having good judgment is key within this field. As previously mentioned, CNMs typically deal without low- risk pregnancies; however, sometimes CNMs work with physicians (usually OB/GYN physicians) through collaborative agreements  According to both Mason and Ruerup, the physician and midwife  together decide what situations classify as “high-risk” and whether or not the physician and midwife will co-manage the patient, or transfer the patient out of midwifery care.

Overall, though, it depends on the individual midwife’s practice and the collaborative agreement as to what level of involvement the midwife may or may not have. For example, Ruerup says that her midwifery group will transfer patients with twins or triplets or insulin dependent diabetes to physician care because these patients are what they consider high-risk.

Mason states that when the midwives do manage or co- manage a high risk pregnancy, they require more fetal monitoring and surveillance (usually ultrasounds to monitor the baby’s heartbeat) and during birthing they have a neonatal or pediatric team member on hand for support.

Midwives, like Sherri Ruerup, attend to more than just pregnancies, such as conducting Pap smears or breast examinations.

Some other interpersonal skills Ruerup and Mason feel CNMs should have are approachability and good listening skills, and they are expected to “provide holistic, supportive care to women and their families following evidence based guidelines”[Ruerup] and “support empowering women to make informed choices and making safe health decisions.”[Mason]

Furthermore, Mason and Ruerup offer what they believe are the benefits and challenges of going into midwifery. For Mason, she feels the best part about her career is getting to be present and involved in such a significant moment  of a woman’s and family’s life. She also finds herself to be drawn to the unconventional scheduling of the job. She finds it to be an adrenaline rush when she receives a call in the middle of the night and hurries out to a delivery. However, she feels that this may not be as rewarding in the eyes of other midwives.  Mason also likes that her career empowers women to take an active role in maintaining their health. Ruerup echoes this sentiment, adding that she enjoys being able to support a woman during the birth of a child.

Pertaining to the challenges within the field, Mason sites the difficulty with reimbursement that midwife practices face from insurance companies, which makes it difficult for midwife practices to stay in business. Also, she refers to the lack of opportunity to educate other health care provides about midwives and their significance, something that is very important right now due to the many misconceptions about midwives within the field. As for Ruerup, she too mentions the challenges with the misconceptions in the medical field. Ruerup also finds it difficult to collaborate with physicians due to the differences in birthing philosophies and management. However, despite the various challenges Mason and Ruerup discussed, both women feel that the rewards long outweigh the challenges.

As for salaries, according to, the average salary is $57,600, and it can range between $55,600- $87,100. Keep in mind, however, that similar to doctors and other medical professionals, insurance costs are going to be a factor that deducts from yearly salaries.

To sum, I asked both women why they felt this career is important and they both offered some important reasons. Ruerup refers to the belief among midwives that pregnancy needs to be treated as a natural stage of life, and not as a condition that needs to be treated. “Nurse midwives are trained to partner with and empower patients, which will give them a higher level of satisfaction with their care and their birth experience.” Ruerup also refers to the fact that midwives have lower cesarean section and operative delivery (forceps and vacuum extraction) rates than physicians and how this relates back to “non-interventive birth and being present during the labor to ensure frequent position changes and provide relaxation techniques to support the labor process.”

Mason spoke of the fact that midwifery gives women more health care options than just seeing a physician. She also notes that midwives are more cost-effective than physicians when providing care for women.. She even refers to the influence midwives have had historically and internationally on health care. “Midwives have been used as health care providers and caretakers for women during pregnancy and throughout the lifespan for thousands of years. Internationally, midwives are the primary caregivers for pregnancy and women are only transferred to physicians’ care if a high-risk condition arises. Therefore, all women should inform themselves of using midwives as their primary women’s health care professional because it just may be the best option for them!”

For those interested in pursuing a career as a midwife, here are some sites that may be of use to your quest, provided by Cynthia Mason. (The American College of Nurse Midwives Website) (A questionnaire that women may take so that they can find out who/what may be the best “provider choice” for them…whether a physician or midwife would be better suited)

A Profession in Piano; Christian McCann’s Practice as Dueling Pianist and Piano Professor

5 05 2010

by Tracy Weber

McCann playing at a neighborhood party. Provided by McCann.

Years ago, eight-year-old Christian McCann began the challenging process of learning to play the piano. With time and practice, the challenge turned into a passion for the 88-key instrument. Now, at 26, he gives lessons and plays at piano venues with Chicago Dueling Pianos. Two pianos are pushed together for a dueling pianos show, but the players actually enhance each other’s sound instead of rivaling. The duo take turns playing while patrons sing along with them, making the players the life of the party. I first met McCann six months ago, and was surprised to hear that he plays the piano… I thought, “Isn’t that something you learn for two years and forget, like a high school foreign language class?” So I met up with him to find out how he stuck with it, and how he’s turning his talent into a career.

How did you get into playing the piano?

My dad is the biggest reason. We had this orange piano in the basement…it came with the house. It was from the ‘70s and all the keys were chipped off and somebody had written with marker where the keys were. I remember summer days with the sun coming through the little windows and I could hear my friends having fun outside. And my dad was like, “All you gotta do is practice this, and then you can go. I don’t care how long it takes you, just get through it.” And I would diddle around down there forever…

Did you practice every day?

Yeah… [my dad] wouldn’t let me [get] up until I got it done, so eventually I’d do it. I used to hate it. Every day was like that. Just hated it.

But then, there was a girl at school who could play [piano]. I saw the way that people would want her to play and how people would sit and listen while she did it. And I was like, “Well, I kinda like that idea; that’s not bad. I kinda want to do that.” Entire rooms of people would stop what they’re doing and sit and listen. So that’s actually why I started trying to get into it. And then before I knew it, I was doing that—the whole room would be listening to me play. After that, I thought I’d stick with this. I wanted to do it. I’d actually sit down by myself and my dad never pressured me to practice again.

So now you teach piano.  How often do you give lessons?

Once a week on Sunday. There are two little girls: one’s three, one’s seven. The seven-year-old… she’s pretty good, she knows some of her scales now and she’s learning some songs. The younger one, the three-year-old, has an attention span like a humming bird. Any little sound and all her attention is there and it’s hard to get her back to “Okay, you gotta be paying attention to this.” It’s kinda frustrating, but she’s coming along too. You just have to have a lot of patience with the little kids.

How do your beginning piano lessons compare to the way you’re teaching now?

I remember taking lessons [at school] in second grade. But later I took lessons with a guy, Steve, and he taught me how to play. Then, I took lessons with a lady, Pam, and she taught me how to read music. She had to start me all the way at the beginning again and I was so frustrated with it—this was like in the seventh grade. But I was really glad she did that because now I can do both, play and read…it would be pretty bad if I’m trying to give lessons and I don’t even know how to read music.

So with this girl that’s seven, I’m trying to get both things in there, but it’s too early to teach her how to read music. So I want to teach her the scales first and then say, “Now this is what you’ve been playing.” [Then,] she can look at it, see the black dots go up, and she’ll already know what’s being played.

I’m hoping to snowball off that, because these little girls are in school so they’ve got friends, and their parents might say, “Hey, I want lessons too.” I’m hoping to start networking, and set it up every week so I can knock out eight hours of lessons in a day.

The lessons seem like a nice supplement to piano gigs. Did you always want to do dueling pianos? How did you get into it?

McCann performing at Sluggers over St. Patrick's Day weekend.

Well, I knew I wanted to make my living by playing the piano. I wasn’t really sure how. I didn’t know who to talk to or how to get into that… It was around Christmas time and I was on the train between Chicago and Buffalo. I brought a bottle of vodka with me and thought [that] if I met some people, I’d share it with them and see how that goes. I went to the dining car and this lady’s like, “Look at this guy, he’s got a bottle of vodka.” So I ended up sitting with this couple and we poured some drinks and played some cards. We got to talking and they asked, “Would you ever do anything like dueling pianos?” I said, “That’s so weird! I was trying to audition when I get back to Chicago.” And they said they’re good friends with this family who owns a place that does dueling pianos and knows the director of Chicago Dueling Pianos. So I got back to Chicago and gave them a call. Then I called up the director and he said, “Yeah, why don’t you come up and sit in.” So I went up for the first time and sat in…

So your first time playing for him was in front of a bunch of people?

Yeah, at Sluggers. He had never heard me play. He just sat me down at the pianos and I took requests. And he asked me to come back. So I kept sitting in every single chance I got. Things were going well; I was getting better every time. I was playing at Luxbar not too long ago, and I was asked to play a solo show at Hugo’s Frog Bar in Naperville. It’s 8 to 11pm and only $150 plus tips, but I said, “$50 an hour is alright with me.” So I just got hired by them.

With dueling pianos people give you song requests. Is this what you usually do? Do you ever have to think of songs yourself?

The first half of the night you’re thinking of your own stuff, because people haven’t drank enough to get up the courage to go up to the pianos in front of everybody and request a song. There are requests and there are suggestions. Suggestions are a piece of paper; requests are a piece of paper with money attached to it. Those will probably get played. Suggestions? Probably not, unless you’re bored and know the song. But if somebody gives you $5 or $10, even if you don’t know the song you’re going to fake it. You’re going to do it well enough to make them happy so they think they’ve heard it. As long as you know how the song kinda goes and you know most of the words, you can mumble into the microphone…usually get it pretty close. As long as it sounds like it, they’re playing the song along in their head so they think they’re hearing it.

Kinda like a placebo affect…

Exactly, it is a placebo. But it works because they’re happy and I’m happy.

What are your favorite songs to play?

Every week it’ll change. But one I’ve really stuck with when I sit down is “Lady Madonna” by the Beatles just because I love how the bass line never stops going, so your left hand is constantly doing something. Now I can play it in my sleep. It’s just a lot of fun because you can do something different every time. I really enjoy playing solos from some songs. I love to play the Boston “Foreplay” organ solo because people always seem to enjoy that. I’ve never heard anyone else play that at a bar. And the solo from “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (link is of McCann). As far as whole songs, almost anything Beatles—that’s my favorite band.

McCann gathering folks around the piano at a retirement home. Provided by McCann.

How often do you practice?

Everyday for at least an hour. If I have the time in a day I’ll do three hours.

You probably don’t even keep track, do you?

No, because there’s a lot of sporadic times in the day I’ll just sit down because I want to. And I’ll play a couple of songs. I never try to play too late anymore because I have this neighbor downstairs that complains nonstop, but she hasn’t made a peep in a long time and I’m wondering if she moved or gave up… or maybe I started playing songs she likes, who knows.

…She starts slipping requests under your door.

[laughs] …Yeah.

Once you’re playing shows full time and giving lessons… can you live on that?

Definitely. What these piano players do is just stack up gigs; they’ll have two or three a night. The pay is very good. The only downside of the pay is that you have to pay 15.3% at the end of the year on top of your income tax because you’re self-employed. But if you spend that 15.3% you can write it off as a deductible. So I can go out and buy myself a new keyboard, or if I buy sheet music, I can deduct it. The piano players I’ve met so far live pretty comfortably.

Where is this profession going to lead you?

[Chicago Dueling Pianos] fly their piano players to Cancun…all sorts of stuff. [The director] is putting people on cruise ships. He just sent someone to France and someone else to Holland… that’s what I’m looking forward to maybe in a year. Right now I’m the newbie, but the other piano players have been really nice about it.

Now that the Cubs’ season has arrived, they’re going to need more [piano] players, because after every game there’s a show at Sluggers. This is just the beginning, and it’s really pretty fresh as of right now.

Visit Chicago Dueling Piano’s website for venues, and go see talented players who stuck with the piano lessons everyone else gave up in seventh grade. Maybe you’ll catch a show with McCann…I’ve seen him out a few times myself.

Getting Animated with Cartoonist Chiyu Tom Tian

1 05 2010

By Janine Loechel

For all those with a passion for art, drawing doodling or the like, a career in cartooning may be picture perfect. Cartooning and animation allow not only for creation in the workplace (which may comfortably be your own house), but your own hours and pay rates as well. While drawing careers are rare, they are not impossible and neither is channeling your art into a free-range paycheck. Professional cartoonist, Chiyu Tom Tian, whose signature is T2 (for Tom Tian), discusses the perks and drawbacks to turning a passionate hobby into a paying profession.

Editorial Cartoon published in University of Chicago’s Maroon. Illustration courtesy of Tian.

Throughout the last eight years, Tian has had about 100 of his cartoons published. His cartoons have been featured starting in his high school newspaper, The Stinger, in the University of Chicago’s Maroon and other departmental publications at U of C, and for various freelance projects. Tian’s creations were even featured and televised on Al Jazeera International.

“I’ve been drawing ever since I figured out how to move my opposable digits,” said Tian. While he didn’t take any formal art classes until attending college at the University of Chicago, Tian has done a lot of independent study. “Mostly, I study and practice on my own. The latter part is especially important,” said Tian.

Tian’s drawings mostly depict political cartoons, but he also draws editorial illustrations to accompany articles in the Maroon. He draws holiday cards, to which he added, “general graphic illustrations, information graphics, and event posters.”

Professional cartoonist, Tom Tian (T2). Courtesy of Tian.

While the ability to draw is a definite requirement to becoming a cartoonist, Tian recommends that aspiring cartoonists must also be analytical about their surroundings and have “an understanding of what you want to draw rooted in careful observation and analysis. If you want to draw people or a specific species of humanity, then examine how they behave; the same applies to pretty much everything else…” The understanding of body language and emotions will beneficially transfer into the quality of your drawings.

To help get a concrete understanding of body or animal movement and natural (or contrived) interactions, Tian also suggests photography. “Getting a camera and taking up photography will do wonders for your illustrations and design work,” he said.

Other than individual design, illustrations are subject to deadlines. Additionally, political and current event cartoons are time-sensitive; the drawing must still be relevant news by time of publication. In most cases, interaction with the client is necessary to get client feedback and eventually come to an agreement.

Jobs that offer contracts to cartoonists through newspapers, magazines, or journals with sufficient salaries are rare, but it is not impossible to find freelance jobs. One of the benefits to creating drawings is the ability to sometimes create your own rates. For example, according to Tian, one illustration project that spans for two weeks may bring in $250. However, the same benefit may also be a drawback:

Illustration using India ink, watercolor lampblack wash, and color pencil on bristol board. Drawing courtesy of Tian.

“Generally, the independent artist/freelancer is at a disadvantage when it comes to pricing because (1) he’s not at liberty to bargain collectively (another reason to join an agency or studio), (2) someone else is always more desperate, and (3) lots of clients just don’t seem to believe that artists should be adequately paid for their work,” said Tian. Most of the jobs will come from freelance projects, unless you become a contracted cartoonist.

To further his career, Tian is currently developing a daily comic strip that he calls, “High-Functioning Failures.” The comic will feature recent college graduates who can’t find jobs, despite holding degrees, in a poor economy. He plans to pitch the idea soon and is applying for copyright protection.

To promote your own drawings, Tian recommends three strategies: publishing your work, networking, and establishing a website.

“Getting published online or in print is still the most expedient way of getting noticed, so include your contact info along with the things you draw. Otherwise, acquiring personal connections also helps… but having a portfolio site or blog couldn’t hurt.”

Honing your artistic abilities into a paycheck isn’t easy, but it is possible. Make your future less sketchy: continue to draw, refine your techniques, and distribute your images.

Check out more illustrations by T2 below:

Full-time Mom, Part-time Professional Poker Player; Annie Duke’s Unconventional Career

28 04 2010

Annie Duke. Picture provided by Duke.

by Matthew Bentel

Annie Duke is grateful that, as a mother of four and the sole breadwinner of the house, she is allowed to spend nearly as much time with her family as she would if she were a stay-at-home mom. But she isn’t. She is far from it; when other working mothers are sustaining nine-to-five jobs, Annie Duke is playing poker.

“When I began playing poker, not only was I really good at it, but it took up all my time,” Duke says.

Duke isn’t the only one in her family to become a successful professional poker player. You may recognize her brother, Howard Lederer, a perennial World Series of Poker player with two WSOP bracelets.

“When Howard and I were growing up, we played cards, but not poker. [We] played lots of gin and hearts. By the time [my brother] was playing [poker] in earnest – he was playing at Columbia University – I’d go and watch him, and then I started playing when I was 22.”

Duke has had great success at poker. She won a bracelet at the World Series of Poker (which is the Super Bowl of poker tournaments) and over two million dollars in various poker tournaments. She has her own iPhone App that offers tips and advice for playing poker, is a consultant for an online poker site, and has written a book about her experiences as a mother and female poker player, entitled How I Raised, Folded, Bluffed, Flirted, Cursed, and Won Millions at the World Series of Poker.

While being a professional poker player may sound like all fun and games, the road to the top is long and arduous. But for those who prevail, poker can be a very rewarding career.

After high school, Duke took a traditional route, attending Columbia University where she double majored in English and Psychology. After graduation, she received a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study cognitive psychology. Although she was an excellent student, she remembers having some pent-up resentment.

“It was sort of like the tide was carrying me along. I had a job lined up, and that was the decision point. Okay, this is going to be my career. And I freaked out,” Duke said. “Wait a minute, I’ve just been kind of doing this. I don’t want to do it for the rest of my life. Is this even a valid reason for doing something?”

That is when she turned to poker – but for good reason.

“In retrospect, I realized that poker was a real cool practical application of the things I actually did enjoy of what I was doing [in school],” Duke said. “It’s quite a bit of statistics and probability theory and also this whole game theory which is what a lot of cognitive psychology is about. It was this really cool in-the-minute way to apply that.”

While there are no educational or professional requirements to become a poker player, there are other necessary qualities. According to Duke, along with being good at math, such as statistics and probability theory, a poker player needs to be able to understand the way people think and how they come to the decisions they do in certain circumstances.

“Basically, what you have to do is understand really deeply how people think poorly- how they make mistakes,” Duke said.

To Duke, there are two essential, dichotomous characteristics a poker player must maintain: confidence and humility.

“Two of the most important things you need is an extreme amount of confidence in your ability to make decisions, because you’re really just relying on yourself. The other thing is [that it] really takes an extreme amount of humility and lack of ego,” Duke said.

A player must be confident in their decisions, but humble in their approach. This sentiment is echoed by other professional poker players, especially since there is so much uncertainty in which decisions are being made. As Duke said, “The day you think you’re better than everyone else and better than the game is the day you’ll start losing.”

Think you got what it takes? Think again. Becoming a professional poker player takes a lot more than skill and key personality traits – it takes luck. Duke illustrates it through a comparison to acting.

“Acting and poker have a lot of similarities. First, you get rejected a lot [and] you lose a lot. The other true thing about acting and poker is that the majority of people [are] doing it on a non-professional level. For 95 percent of the people playing this game, they’re doing it for fun.”

That is not to say making a career in poker is impossible. There are many players that “grind” it out, as Duke calls it. Still, as she hedges, “those people are very smart, and they very well may be making more money [than] had they chosen another profession. They were making a choice to take a pay-cut for the lifestyle that it offers.”

Still convinced this unconventional job is for you? Well there are some tips to help you along the way. As Duke’s friend and long time opponent, Erik Seidel, said, “I would say take things slow. I see many young players getting ahead of themselves and these games take time to learn. Try to be objective about your relative skills as you progress and develop.”

Another word of advice that poker players the world over try to remind burgeoning players is this: manage your playing money. “I think people should try to play at a limit that fits their bankroll and try to be realistic about expectations. Ego has busted many more players than bad bets have,” Seidel said.

“What you find with the top players [is] that they all have their heads on straight,” Duke said. “If you are pursuing poker, get your hands on everything you can. Take advantage of what’s out there, cause what’s out there is so priceless.”

Duke and Seidel agree that the game is hard to break into, but don’t want to scare potential players away. Becoming a professional poker player is as unconventional and as tough as they get, but not impossible.

For more information about Annie Duke, check out her blog:

Unconventional Job Search Strategies: Smart or Silly?

27 04 2010

posted by Jenna Reisch

Check out this article by Susan Johnston, for Yahoo! HotJobs:

Given the competitive climate, some job seekers are trying unconventional methods like Twitter, blogging, and video resumes to get noticed and (hopefully) get job offers.  According to the Dallas Morning News, one unemployed woman even spent $1,200 to rent a billboard promoting herself. But are these strategies a smart way to get an employer’s attention or just a silly stunt?

Barry Deutsch, partner at IMPACT Hiring Solutions, and Miriam Salpeter, career action coach and owner of Keppie Careers, weighed in with their advice.

Why you should try it: If you’re a strong writer, then starting a blog can be a great way to showcase your writing skills and stand out from the crowd. “A blog is a tremendous opportunity to share what you do,” says Deutsch. “One of the things that recruiters do is Google searches on candidates. Now you can start to develop a real brand around yourself.” He adds that commenting on other people’s blogs can also help you get noticed.

Why you shouldn’t: Salpeter encourages clients who write well to consider blogging, but she stresses that “You have to have someone to edit it for you or be a strong writer. You don’t want to put out a blog that is not well written. And to do a blog, you have to blog relatively frequently.” If you don’t have the time or skills to create your own blog, she suggests Twitter.

Using Twitter

Why you should try it: Twitter’s microblogging platform is great for “building a network and creating a community of people who have an interest in you and who share information,” according to Salpeter. “Obviously, the best jobs to look for on Twitter are social media jobs,” she adds. “However, as Twitter becomes more and more mainstream, the usefulness for making connections expands and grows. It’s about connecting with people in an informal and media-savvy way.”

Why you shouldn’t: Because Twitter is so friendly and informal, it’s easy to let your guard down and post comments that could undermine your professionalism. “What I’m discovering is a lot of people are posting messages and describing their frustration or pain [in looking for a job], not reaching out to others or engaging in conversation,” says Deutsch. Though Deutsch sees lots of potential for networking on Twitter, he cautions that you shouldn’t use it as a “bulletin board for venting your frustration.”

Renting a Billboard

Why you should try it: The Texas woman who rented a billboard says she got two job offers in addition to over 50 calls and emails. “I think it’s very creative,” says Deutsch. Of course, he adds, “The problem with that approach is now you have to invest some money to advertise.”

Why you shouldn’t: Some might call this approach creative, but others might see it as desperate. And as Salpeter points out, “Hiring people don’t want desperate people. [Job seekers] would probably be better off finding a coach than spending money on an advertisement. Even people whose resumes are not bad could be better.”

Posting Online Ads

Why you should try it: Although it’s not a common strategy now, Deutsch predicts that hiring managers will see more candidates “taking out ads [and] targeting them to specific sites. Or taking out a radio spot out during drive time.” Keppie points to an experiment where several recent graduates posted ads on Facebook and targeted them geographically or to a specific company. “This is something that could possibly work for a young person,” she says.

Why you shouldn’t: Of the five grads involved in the experiment, many of them got job leads, but so far none of them landed a job from it. Salpeter does not recommend this strategy to most candidates, because she compares an online ad to “tapping a random person on the shoulder.” Instead, she recommends using social networking sites to connect in a more personal way, “as you would one-on-one.”

Video Resumes

Why you should try it: Salpeter says that job seekers might consider a video resume “if you’re in an industry that requires you to present on a regular basis and if you’re very good at that.” According to Deutsch, video resumes allow you to “engage on a personal level. It’s a great chance to see how [job seekers] communicate, articulate, structure what they want to have in that video resume.”

Why you shouldn’t: Both experts stressed that you still need a written resume, and that video resumes must be done well to be effective. “The fact is, most people don’t really look that good on video unless you have some kind of professional setup,” says Salpeter. “Why would you want to send a video resume that wasn’t professionally done?” She adds that not all employers have time to watch a video, so in many cases an online portfolio makes more sense.

Secure a Profession as a Security Guard

18 04 2010

By Jenna Reisch

Are you a protective, hard-working, reliable person? Do you like to keep things in order? Keep reading and discover insider information about a career as a security agent.

ISA Security Agent checking IDs at Joe’s bar

Travis Siebert, who works for a security company called Investigative Services Agency (ISA), has been a security agent for over two years.  He works at several different locations around Chicago such as Joe’s (a bar on Weed Street), Hardrock Café, and Hardrock Hotel.  Siebert likes his job because of the variety, and takes pride in protecting and helping, which are traits involved with security work.

“We [ISA] are a hospitality based company, meaning we try to go the extra mile to ensure a fun and safe time for the customers, staff, and artists,” says Siebert. “I got started with ISA a little over two years ago. I met the vice-president at a church event and struck up a conversation about what he does and the rest is history.”

ISA, according to the company’s website,, was started in 1998 by James Miller, a licensed detective.  Not only does the company offer security services, like executive protection, special event security, and bodyguards, but also corporate consulting and private investigations, which are divided accordingly:

Corporate consulting:

  • crisis management,
  • security staff training,
  • workplace violence

Private Investigations:

  • missing persons,
  • domestic violence,
  • surveillance,
  • criminal investigations

ISA has worked on close to 100 cases from professional services firms, small business owners, major communications and financial firms, abductions, federal agencies, and insurers.

As a security agent, Siebert handles various situations.  He works with different performing artists and does crowd control.  “Fights fall into those categories,” says Siebert.  In order to stop fights, the parties are separated and then, once things are settled down, security agents begin to ask questions in order to evaluate the next steps that they will need to follow.  In some cases, the police are involved, medics are called, charges are brought up, and paperwork and waivers are signed.

“I would definitely consider my job unconventional,” says Siebert who usually starts work between 6 and 9pm and ends between 1 and 3am. “It is usually a part-time job, so I feel that puts it into a different category as well,” says Siebert, who works between 15 to 25 hours a week.

While being a bouncer is enjoyable, there are some things that require adjusting to: “Irregular sleep patterns and long nights are hard to get used to, but I really enjoy my job for the most part,” says Siebert.

The best tools to have with you, in the security trade (according to Siebert) are a flashlight and helpful co-workers. “A flashlight is the best thing to help communicate problems and get the attention of the customers and your fellow co-workers,” he says. “Radios, hand cuffs, batons, and firearms are other things we are able to carry, but all of that depends on the venue and job at hand.”

While there is not a specific degree that is required in the security industry, most companies ask that their employees take the Permanent Employment Record Card (PERC) class.  “It is a basic 40 hour security class in which all registered security agents have to have,” says Siebert.  “There are several classes that are recommended after becoming a security agent that will help in preparing for all the duties that go along with the job: classes like Control and Escort, Baton Training, Cuffing, etc.”  These classes may be available through ISA. explains that the average bouncer makes around $14,000 annually, but compensation varies. “The type of job, the hours, the experience one has, and the venue all dictate the amount an individual gets paid per job or per hour,” says Siebert.  As a security agent for ISA, Siebert says salaries range from $30,000 to over $100,000, depending on who you are working for, what you are doing and where you are working.

For those interested in becoming a Security Agent, Siebert recommends that you research local agencies for applicant requirements and then set up an interview.  “The process is not easy and [it] takes a little time for background checks,” says Siebert, “but if you are interested, set up a time to go in and ask questions with a local agency that can fill you in on the requirements and necessary steps to take to start your new career.”