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Money Matters: A tale of jobs

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KAI RYSSDAL, host: The grass is always greener in your colleague's cubicle: better hours, better pay, better window view. We all know somebody who gets paid the big bucks for basically doing nothing. Humorist Stanley Bing's new book looks at the art of finding such jobs. It's called "100 BS Jobs . . . And How to Get Them." Stanley, do me a favor, would you, and define what you mean by that term BS?

STANLEY BING: Well, the terms of this book, the kinds of jobs that I'm talking about are jobs that pay enough to satisfy you, that give you a certain buzz, a certain kind of respect that a decent job gives you, and have no definable duties that will tax you, or any kind of report card that will make you feel bad about yourself when somebody says you're not really doing anything.

KAI RYSSDAL: It's the whole 'Live to work/work to live' thing, right?

STANLEY BING: It's about sort of the world we live in right now. I mean, it's a recognition that we're sort of waist-deep in this stuff, and those who really are thriving in this environment know how to either get themselves a good BS job, or to transfer what they're doing and inject it with enough BS to make it palatable.

KAI RYSSDAL: Do you have to be a BS artist to be able to do a BS job?

STANLEY BING: No, I don't -- you know, I think the Shakespeare's line, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have it thrust upon them." There are those who are, you know, pretty normal people who then occupy a job like, say, lawyer. As the years go by, their BS quotient raises itself to Herculean levels.

KAI RYSSDAL: Let me just flip open to page, oh, just choosing at random, page 49 in your volume. The job listing is No. 12: best-selling author, of which you are one many, many times over.

STANLEY BING: Yes, I am a best-selling author, but I still, unfortunately, haven't reached the level of a true great, because I still have to write these books. And that is truly annoying to me. I mean, I look at these books at the airport where it says, you know, 'By John Smith,' and then in small letters it says, 'with Ernest Foidboinder.' And you know, I want an Ernest Foidboinder to be writing my stuff. It is extremely inconvenient to have to write the book in order to sell it. That's where the true BS artists come in, and we must admire them. The thing about it is, you know, the best-selling author's interesting. Like, doctor and lawyer and some of the other professions in the book, you do have to sweat a little when you're a best-selling author. You have to have written a few books that worked.

KAI RYSSDAL: It's not without some pain, then.

STANLEY BING: Sometimes you have to pay for it. Other times, you know, you really don't. I mean, executive vice president of new media, for instance, which is sort of the quintessential corporate BS job. You know, you could just be somebody who has talent at making people nervous. You could come into a room and say, 'Boy, we're really not doing anything about . . . ' -- fill in the technology, and then the executives around the table go, 'Well, why don't you look into that?' You go, 'Great. I'll see you in five years.' That's how it works, you know? And they say, 'Well, how's he doing?' Well, nobody knows he's--you know, he'll be back to us in two years. That kind of thing. That's true of consultant, also. There are some excellent jobs where the report card comes about once a decade.

KAI RYSSDAL: Now, this is not to say that, you know, anybody here at Marketplace has a BS job. Of course, we all work very, very hard, and are all very skilled at what we do, but it can be a little bit corrosive in the office environment if you're working with somebody who just really just has an enormous huge pile of BS kind of job.

STANLEY BING: It's like anything else in life: It's a balance, you know? A person who is incapable of BSing is annoying in the work place, I find. You know, somebody who's very serious probably belongs in audit, you know? And they don't really have a lot of fun, and nor are they much fun to talk to. The person who's completely full of BS and is in, say, human resources, on the other hand, that can be annoying, too. So, again, you're looking for a kind of a balance, and everything is different. But, you know, the capability of transforming actual content into BS, that is a gift, and that is why we call the people who are good at it "artists." You know, we don't call them "craftsmen," we don't call them "experts." We call them "artists," and that's because it's part gut, it's part instinct, it's part inspiration and some perspiration, as Einstein might have said.

KAI RYSSDAL: We're making a little bit of fun here, but there's a semi-serious point.

STANLEY BING: Yeah, as always. I mean, in the keeping of the book, yes there is a semi-serious point, which is that, you know, this idea that we live in a society that is awash in BS, and why should our jobs be any different? I mean, you know, in a way, if you look at the subject of BS, if you look at that subject, you're also, in a way, looking at truth. What is true, what is not? What is worthwhile in terms of the way you live your life, you know? And if you have an occupation, you're asking yourself, 'Is it worth it, you know? The time I take, the effort I put into it. Is that worth it?' I think this is kind of a mirror world where you're looking at jobs that are well worth it, because who knows what they are?

KAI RYSSDAL: Stanley Bing's latest book is called "100 Bullsh*t Jobs . . . And How to Get Them." I'm happy to say that radio host is not on that list. Mr. Bing, thanks very much for your time.

STANLEY BING: It's always fun. Thank you.

KAI RYSSDAL: You can find an excerpt from Stanley Bing's book on our Web site. It's marketplace.org.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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