October 8, 2013

I took the FSOT

Posted in career, education tagged , , at 6:53 pm by weiszguy

I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) on this weekend. The FSOT is the entrance exam for people who want to work in the Foreign Service, i.e., work in embassies and consulates in other countries. I don’t have the results yet, they said to expect results in 3-4 weeks.

The test is in four parts: job knowledge, biographical information, English expression, and the essay.

The job knowledge section was the hardest. Dozens of 4-choice multiple choice questions, covering history, geography, politics, economics, computers, and probably several other topics. The questions were difficult because many of the answers were very similar. I took several practice tests and was scoring in the mid-80s. The real test felt very similar to these practice tests, so my real score is probably similar.

The hardest section was the biographical information section. Again, dozens of multiple choice questions, this time about yourself. For example, how many times in the last six months have people come to you for help resolving a personnel issue? 0,1,2,3,4,5. If you answer anything other than zero, you have to list the specific incidents. This one in completely impossible to get a feel for. I decided it was best not to be humble, but not to stretch the truth either. I answered truthfully, but there’s no way to know exactly what they’re looking for. Don’t try to game this one.

The English expression portion of the test was the most difficult. You have  several paragraphs of text, with certain words or phrases underlined. You have to pick the best substitution for the underlined portions, from a list of substitutions. The test measures your grasp of the English language. I wish I would have had more time to think through all the choices, but I think I did alright anyway.

Of all the sections of the test, the essay was the most difficult. You have thirty minutes, including the time it takes to read the prompt (which is itself a small essay) and think of responses. THIS IS NOT MUCH TIME, although I suppose if you had more time, you would just think and type slower. I was able to come up with three points, and intro and conclusion, and beautiful transitions between them all. I don’t know if any of it made sense, but they kept saying they were looking only at the structure of the essay, and not the content. I went right down to the wire, finishing with seconds left on the clock. Also, typing QWERTY rather than Dvorak would be a big help.


January 20, 2011

value of a college education

Posted in career, education tagged at 6:13 pm by weiszguy

College isn’t for everyone. So many people go to college without knowing why. They go just because that’s what you’re supposed to do after high school. But they don’t have a goal in mind – there is nothing that they are trying to do that requires the college education.

So they end up wasting several years of their lives while racking up astronomical debt that they can’t repay because they don’t know what they want to do.

Now add to that this study that shows a large chuck of the college population isn’t even learning anything.


If you are finishing high school and you don’t know what you want to do – DON’T GO TO COLLEGE!  Kill some time, goof off, join the military, work in the family business, start your own business – heck, get a job flipping burgers. After you’ve done that for a while you’ll probably have some idea what you want to do. But whatever you do, don’t go to college unless you can tell me in two sentences why you’re going.

September 16, 2008

I got a job!

Posted in career, money tagged , at 6:43 pm by weiszguy

I started my new job yesterday.  I’m pretty excited about it for a number of reasons:

  • My new company does what my old company did, so I already know what I’m doing.  The learning curve is almost flat.
  • My period of umemployment was extremely short – less than two weeks from the time I got the layoff announcement until the job offer came in.  I’ve never had such a short job search.
  • My new company is publicly traded.  I realize, of course, that layoffs and bankruptcies can occur at public companies as well as private, but the public companies have an additional layer of accountability.  It’s hard to hide blemishes with the public rifling through your books.
  • Opportunities for advancement.  In a large, dynamic (two terms which, apparently, are NOT mutually exclusive) company, there are always new things happening, new clients coming on board, new projects starting up.  I don’t want to be a consultant forever, and the future looks bright.
On a sadder note, the business unit I’m part of is based in Houston, and they are still cleaning up from hurricane Ike.  100% of the zip code our office is in is without electricity.  We hope to be fully operational by the end of the week, but much of that will depend on the electric company.

August 28, 2008

job search progress…

Posted in career tagged at 6:55 am by weiszguy

Yesterday I sent out dozens of resumes and had several more requests for resumes.  I had one formal interview and six informal chats with recruiters.

A couple of them seem to really like me, so I’m hoping for the shortest job search in history!

August 27, 2008

looking for work!

Posted in career tagged at 12:58 pm by weiszguy

I was laid off from my job as developer at Crown Partners this morning.  Sucks.

So I’m looking for work.  My experience is in C#, .NET, Java, and EMC Documentum.  I have experience in writing and in sales.  I’m willing to travel, I don’t take vacations or personal days, and I never get sick!

See me on LinkedIn or write to me for a resume!

January 24, 2008


Posted in career, money, newspaper, opinion column tagged , , at 5:16 pm by weiszguy

Haven’t you heard?  There’s a recession going on.  Well, technically, it’s still a little early to call it a recession.  To officially be called a recession, our Gross Domestic Product must decline for two successive quarters.  But that’s not much comfort to the people today who are worried about job loss, declining sales, or even business failure.  If recession is on your radar, what can you do prepare?  How do you plan to withstand it’s impact?

Obviously, if you are worried about your income being reduced for any reason, you should immediately put yourself on a financial diet.  Spend as little as you possibly can.  Try to build up a short term cache of cash you can use to even out dips in your income stream.  With any luck, the recession will be over before your cache runs dry.

You should also dust off your networking skills.  What industries seem to be unaffected by the present downturn?  Who do you know in those industries?  Give ’em a buzz.  The worst that can happen is you’ll get reacquainted with an old friend.  And don’t forget to be on the lookout for other people who are affected by the recession.  If there is any way you can help somebody else, their gratitude may be invaluable down the road.

Is there any way to take advantage of a recession?  If you aren’t worried about any sort of income loss, you might be in a position to make a little money.  You’ve heard the saying, “Buy low, sell high,” right?  Stock markets around the globe suffered huge losses this week, with drops as high as 10% in just a few days.  If you believe, as I do, that the markets are fundamentally sound, then this may be a great time to buy.  If you do buy in now, just be prepared for further declines before the climb back up.

So stow the sails, batten the hatches, and keep your eyes on the horizon.  I’ll see you on the other side.

This article originally appeared in the  January 23, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.

March 14, 2007

professional interests

Posted in career at 4:39 pm by weiszguy

Recently, I got to participate in a career planning exercise with my employer, Crown Partners. In one section, I had to write about my professional interests, and I thought that would make good blog material. Enjoy!

Professional Interests:

  • I love making computers do what I want them to do. That’s why I got into development in the first place; it is extremely satisfying to see my work actually being used in production.
  • I love writing. Granted, I haven’t done much of it; my experience is mainly limited to writing a few marketing pieces for my previous company, and my personal blog. Oh, and I just started doing a weekly personal finance column in my hometown newspaper. They haven’t been published yet. I currently have three columns written; when I get the fourth completed, the editor will start publishing them. I need to have the fourth done by the end of next week, but I hope to have it done sooner. I’ve often wondered if Crown would benefit from a corporate blog. I have some ideas for putting one together, if management so desires.
  • I understand C# very well, but I feel like a fish out of water with Documentum. I don’t doubt this is because I am completely new to DCTM, and it will get better as I gain experience. I’ve already learned more this week at [client] than I have in my first four months of “training” with Crown.
  • I love working on new things. If there was a completely new application needing to be developed, instead of maintenance on existing systems, I’d be all over it. (In this same vein, I recently moved to a small town to help start a church.) Trying to learn someone else’s code, and figure out why they did things the way they did, is difficult and fatiguing work.
  • I like being involved in planning meetings. The kind of meetings where input is eagerly sought and incorporated into the strategic plan. This can include developing procedures, methodologies, systems, and best practices. (As the treasurer of our new church, I am one of a half-dozen people constantly involved in steering our group.) Again, when I come in after all the planning is over, I’m left to discover what was decided and why, and how to work with the plans that have been made. It can be difficult and fatiguing work.