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Author Archive: "Chris Guillebeau"

Don’t Polish Your Resume, Opt Out of the Whole System

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future Have you ever met a barista with a college degree? What about one with a master's degree? Spend time in Portland, or likely any other major city in North America, and this experience is not uncommon. Between those who are completely unemployed, those who are underemployed, and those who have just gone off the grid, there's no shortage of people who aren't working at the jobs for which they trained.

Last year in Portland, an opening for a receptionist position that paid $14 an hour with no benefits attracted more than 300 people who showed up for interviews, many of them college graduates. As you'd expect, the vast majority of these applicants were qualified or overqualified, but at the end of the process, only one could win the "prize" of moving off the unemployment lists to a menial job.

What's the real problem here?

It used to be that when we met someone with advanced education who wasn't working in their chosen field, we would think they ...

Happy Hour in Karachi

Thanks for all the nice notes and death threats on yesterday's post. For my final post on the great, I thought we'd do something different.

I visited Pakistan last fall and managed to get the first visa-on-arrival for a U.S. citizen in 28 years — or so I was told by the immigration supervisor who finally gave in to my pleas after two hours of waiting. I hung out around town for a couple of days before heading back to Hong Kong and beyond.

Here are a few more memories from the trip.

÷ ÷ ÷

Happy Hour in Karachi

Arriving from Hong Kong
the immigration notice reads:
"Welcome to Pakistan
Drug users will be punished by death."

Three a.m. arrival
and all of South Asia is awake.

In the markets the next day
"My friend! My brother!"
In Karachi, I have hundreds of friends
and dozens of brothers.
I'm offered the last price, the best price,
the Thursday price —
no matter the day.

I jump in a taxi and return
to the sanctuary of the privileged traveler.
It's Happy Hour at the Sheraton
Fruit juice for everyone, on the house!

Contractors from America, Britain,
Holland, France
discuss home, country, and exchange rates
while eating ...

How to Find a Job in Portland, Oregon

Two years ago, I moved to Portland without a job. I know, I'm sorry — everyone does it. At least I didn't come from California, OK? I came from West Africa via Seattle.

And don't worry: I'm trying hard to fit in. It's hard to keep up with the local per-capita consumption of Stumptown coffee and Bridgeport ale, but I'm doing my best. More importantly, I'm self-employed, I pay my fair share of Oregon taxes, and I'm not competing for anyone else's job here.

Which is a very good thing, because I really have no idea how I'd get a job in this town if I wanted one. Earlier this year I heard the story of 300 applicants lining up to compete for an $11-an-hour receptionist job. Three hundred applicants! Most of them were qualified or over-qualified for the job, and many were college graduates.

Yes, it sucks. Really. And I wish it would change, but wishing does not cause anything to be different.

So here's some free advice, which I'd be the first to say might be worth less than the proverbial $0.02. If you're out there trying ...

Travel Hacking Your Way to Anywhere

Welcome back to the week of unconventional ideas. Yesterday we looked at higher education, but forget about that for now. Let's say you want to see the world, or at least more of it. You have three options:

  1. Spend a lot of money
  2. Complain about the high cost of travel — and stay home
  3. Find a way to travel wherever you want without spending a lot of money

I vote for number three, and that's what travel hacking is all about — how to head out in the world on a limited budget. Here are a few tips and tactics to get you started.

  • If you're looking for lodging and hotel prices are high, check for a large database of guesthouses and smaller establishments. In addition to dorms, many of the properties offer private rooms with breakfast and internet access. If you're up for company, you can also stay for free thanks to
  • As mentioned yesterday, Round-the-World tickets can be a great option for extended travel. The booking process takes some time to navigate, but if you travel extensively, it's well worth your time to


Skip Graduate School, Save $32,000, Do This Instead

Three years ago, I invested $32,000 and the better part of two years at the University of Washington for a master's degree in International Studies. The verdict? It wasn't a complete waste of time and money. Once I accepted that 80% of the course requirements were designed to keep people busy, I enjoyed the other 20% of the work.

If you're strictly interested in learning, however, you may want to get a better return-on-investment than I did. Here's how to save $32,000 (or more) through your own self-directed, alternative program. Feel free to revise, subtract, or drop out whenever it's convenient to you.

The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School Experience

• Subscribe to The Economist and read every issue religiously. Cost: $97 + 60 minutes each week.

• Memorize the names of every country, world capital, and current president or prime minister in the world. Cost: $0 + 3-4 hours once.

• Buy a Round-the-World plane ticket or use Frequent Flyer Miles to travel to several major world regions, including somewhere in Africa and somewhere in Asia. Cost: variable, but plan on $4,000.

• Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha. Visit a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and a temple. Cost: Materials can be obtained free online or in the mail — or for less than $50 + 20 hours.

Day 1: Bridge-Jumping and the Case for Unconventional Ideas

Greetings, fellow Portlanders and fellow Powell's fans from around the internets. I've made it over from my usual home to write on unconventional ideas for Powell' all week. My thanks to the team here for having me, and thanks to you for reading.

Tomorrow we'll look at how to skip graduate school and save $40,000. Wednesday will be about travel hacking — a system of mistake fares, Frequent Flyer miles, and geographic arbitrage to go anywhere in the world on a budget. Thursday will be on how to find a job in Portland (hint: it doesn't involve Craigslist or mass resume mailing), and Friday we'll do something... much different.

But let's start with the basics. My new book, The Art of Non-Conformity, begins as follows:

When you were a kid and wanted to do something your parents or teachers didn't like, you may have heard the question, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?" The idea is that it's not good to do something stupid, even if everyone else is doing it. The logic is think


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