Viewpoint -- How To Survive Worst-Case Scenarios

Handbook offers interesting tips to would-be CEOs and forklift operators.

Like many media outlets, IndustryWeek gets its fair share of books from publishers hoping for coverage of said books. Sometimes the books are set aside for future reference, donated to the local library or reviewed in the magazine if they seem worthwhile for our readers. Other times they act as fodder for columns like this one. The latest book to cross my desk: "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work" (2003, Chronicle Books). Being familiar with the original Worst-Case Scenario book -- the one that made me go out and buy a gadget to break my car window in case my car and I ever become submerged in water -- and having just played "The Worst-Case Scenario" game at a party, I was curious what the authors of the book knew about the workplace. The teaser on the cover didn't hurt either. It read, "How To: disguise a tattoo, deal with a nightmare boss, restore a shredded document and sneak out of a meeting." While I never would dream of sneaking out of a meeting, I have thought about disguising my tattoos (bored college students and beer can spell trouble). For that alone I opened the book. Flipping through its pages, I came across some humorous advice for IW readers: For example, in the chapter, "How to Get a Job You're Not Qualified For," there is a section about landing a CEO position. While some employees may feel that their CEO is not qualified for the job, I hardly think the tips in this book would enable a high-school dropout to slip into a high-level position -- or would they? You be the judge. The tips include: Attire:

  • Navy or beige suit, white shirt and a solid or wide-striped tie
  • Expensive-looking watch
  • Shined shoes
Paraphernalia To Bring:
  • Leather portfolio
  • Ultra-expensive fountain pen
  • Cigar clipper
  • Putter (collapsible)
  • Credit cards and large bills -- no coins, or bills smaller than $20.
Buzzwords To Use:
  • Gross margin (the difference between sales revenue and the cost of goods sold)
  • Book value (the value of all assets)
  • EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization)
Insider Tip:
  • When asked about your hiring strategy, say, "To hire people smarter than I am." Presidents like hearing this -- it makes them trust you.
  • Always negotiate for a higher salary and better benefits than offered -- presidents will be more comfortable placing the business in the hands of a bulldog.
While some of the advice is sound -- wearing a suit and shined shoes is a good thing -- I hardly think a cigar clipper and a pocket full of $20s will cinch the position. Additionally, reciting what the acronym EBITDA stands for may be a telltale sign that you are a novice. For readers who don't have an expensive-looking watch and ultra-expensive pen, the book shows how to fake your way into becoming a forklift operator. Tips include: Attire:
  • Clean T-shirt
  • Work boots
  • Baseball cap
Do Not Wear:
  • Loafers or flip-flops
  • Necktie
  • Collared shirts other than flannel
Paraphernalia To Bring:
  • Lunch box/cooler
  • Cigarettes or chew
  • Multipurpose tool on belt
Critical Knowledge:
  • A fork has a transmission selector (forward, reverse, neutral), steering wheel, parking brake, and accelerator and brake pedals.
Insider Tip:
  • Since most people who operate forklifts are not licensed to do so, don't worry that you do not have a license to show.
Aside from not wearing flip-flops, I'd say the forklift-operator advice is better left alone. Hiring a less-than-stellar CEO won't kill anybody. Hiring a forklift operator who needs to be told that there is a steering wheel may. Much of the book is meant to be tongue-in-cheek -- for example, there are sections to help you survive if you are caught slacking and to alter your business card to improve your stature -- but it does provide the humor needed to survive a rough economy and uncertain times. And who wouldn't want an excuse to buy a collapsible putter? Traci Purdum is an IW associate editor. She is based in Cleveland.
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