But Enough About Me... When you grow up, Virginia, I hope you have an expense account too.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Date: 11/3/00; 3:09:42 P.M. Eastern Standard Time From: Stanley Bing To: virginia@*.net

Dear Virginia:

Thanks for your e-mail! I'm gratified that your class has been assigned to read my column in each issue of this magazine. Here are my answers to your long list of excellent questions.

1. I work in a big office building in Manhattan. My office is in the corner, because I'm an executive vice president and a very important person!

2. I've been at my job, in one form or another, for almost 20 years. I started out in a small job with a small office and was promoted many times, getting more responsibility, money, and office space as I moved up, climbing over the bodies of people I used to work for.

3. I have no real daily routine, Virginia. I arrive at about 8:34 A.M., give or take, unless I have a breakfast out of the office, in which case I get in around 9:30. I eat a muffin or a banana at my desk, and drink a cup of very good decaf coffee. There was no really good decaf coffee until about five years ago, and now there's a lot. After that, whatever big monster has been hiding behind the phone leaps out and grabs me around the throat until about 6:14 P.M., when I start thinking about going home.

4. I like my job, except on days when I don't.

5. Well, I enjoy the power I've accumulated in business, and people listening to what I say, and getting meals and trips free because I have an expense account. I hope when you grow up you have an expense account too. It's a good thing.

6. What I like least about my job is that no matter how big you are, there is somebody bigger than you are, and it's likely that at some point they're going to yell at you. Getting yelled at is exactly the same experience when you're 45 as when you're 4.5. If anything, it's worse, because here you are a grownup person, and there's still somebody yelling at you.

7. Yes, I have to wear a suit. Unless you're in the Internet, you'll have to wear one too.

8. I got my job in 1981, when I was looking for a position in which I could make money, as opposed to what I was doing then. My aunt knew someone who was looking for a person who could make stuff up and sound good while doing so, and I got the job. The company changed around me, but I never left.

9. I'm a little fatter.

10. My job is related to technology in that my business uses a lot of it to deliver its product to people, and also in that I use a lot of computers, e-mail, laptops, Palms, beepers, etc., to get things done. I like technology because it's the closest I can come, as an adult, to buying toys without having to explain it to people.

11. I graduated from college with a BA in English and theater arts. No graduate school. No business school. I was basically a clown before I put on a business suit, and many people think I haven't changed much since. I highly recommend doing what you love when you're young, or until you can't afford to do it anymore.

12. I can't tell you where I live, Virginia, because if I did I have no doubt that many well-wishers would visit me, including one or two who would boil one of my cocker spaniels in a pot. Suffice it to say that I live somewhere within hailing distance of both a beautiful lake and a McDonald's, in a house that is neither a dump nor a starter castle. We had a decorator, but we worked with her.

13. People in my field start at ridiculously low salaries ($18,000 a year is not uncommon) and at the height of the profession can make more than $500,000 per year. On average, a corporate professional makes about $50,000 to $75,000 a year. In addition to my work in business, I am a writer for this magazine. Writers make between nothing and a billion dollars a year. Working journalists make about $60,000 to $120,000 per year, and they earn it, believe me. Unfortunately, while they seldom have to pay for their meals, many drink up much of their salaries in cheap bars.

14. Room for a promotion? For me? Not really. I'm at the top of what I do now and I intend to stay here as long as I want to, and then get out and go hang-gliding.

15. Of course, Virginia. Who doesn't want to be promoted? What kind of question is that?

16. How can you learn more about a career in business? That's a good question. For starters, there are a lot of magazines about all kinds of jobs. Local colleges also teach courses in just about every field. If you want to do something financial, you'll have to go to business school and develop the ability to fake it on a much higher level.

17. Yes, sure. You didn't say what your grade was, but notwithstanding here is my advice on what to do with your career:

--Surround yourself with people who like you, not people who think you're a jerk. It's better to hang with people who make you feel good about yourself than to reach for people who are cooler than you.

--Study, even the stuff you don't like. The practice you get doing things you don't like to do, and doing them well, is very valuable later in life.

--Whatever you like to do, do a lot of it. If you sing, sing a lot. If you draw, draw a lot. If you like math, do that a lot. If you get very good at something, even if it looks like just fun, there's a chance somebody will pay you to do it when you grow up. Drooling, pimply computer hackers have turned into some of the richest and most fulfilled men on the planet. As have baseball players and people who study gorillas for a living. The happiest people are those who get paid for doing what they love. So love something.

--Learn how to manage jerks. If you don't, they will manage you.

--Life is good. Have fun. And don't do drugs, or drink and drive.

--Work hard. Don't be discouraged for more than a couple of hours a month. You will get what you want if you work hard enough for it. And always stop to take time for the things you love to do and the people you love to be with. Don't be one of those numbskulls who are always on a cell phone either.

18. My specialty? It's writing stuff like this, very fast. This memo took me 15 minutes, and I may turn it into a column!

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.