The Traveling Motivational Speaker

Photo courtesy of Jessie Jolles

Need some motivation to get back in the work groove after a long, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend? Thought so. Well, look no further: today’s No Joe Schmo is Robert Jolles, who has spent nearly 30 years as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. And he has 2,000 pages of journal entries to show it.

At 22, Jolles began his career as an insurance salesman. Now, more than three decades and 2 million air miles later, he gives seminars to corporations across the world that inspire success and dare clients to change their working cultures.

Below, he explains the science behind nailing an interview, his rationale to a work/life balance (hint: he never stays at work past 5 p.m.), and why he wears black underwear during seminars.

Title: Professional speaker and corporate trainer, Jolles Associates, Inc.
Age: 54
Salary: Ranges between $200,000 to $2 million/year, depending on time on the road.
In the industry for: 30 years
Number of miles in the air: 2 million
Graduated from: University of Maryland, major in communications/minor in business
Biggest audience : 10,000 people. Usually speaks to 300-500.
Previous jobs: Salesman for New York Life Insurance Company; Training specialist for Computer Science Corporation; actor

Job description in one sentence: I teach persuasion and influence to a variety of clients, including over 60 financial institutions, universities, and other Fortune 500 clients.

What does that mean? I can get in front of a group of teachers and totally change the way they teach you. They’re not persuading the way students learn – they’re using fear tactics. You have to motivate and inspire someone to learn.

How he got into the business: At my first job working as an insurance salesman at the University of Maryland, I went to a meeting to find that the entire management team had gone to lunch and was stuck in the parking lot because someone had parked behind them. So I handled the meeting instead, and I ran it like I was directing actors. I got such a high, it made me want to be a corporate trainer. Another freakish occurrence made me take that to the next level. I was sent to a seminar called “How to Listen Powerfully” by Lou Hampton. They charged $250 per head, and I thought, that’s a very good day’s work that guy is having. I thought, I can do that, and I can do it better than that guy.

Why he loves his job: I get the pleasure of teaching, the thrill of performing, and the ability to feed my family.

Biggest mistake in interviews: People forget that the more the interviewer talks, the more they like the interviewee. If you want to win an interview, engage the interviewer in some questions about themselves, the company, and something they would want to brag about.

The most important lesson he’s learned: You’re as good as the last time you opened your mouth. You need to always give 100 percent maximum effort, period.

One of Jolles' three best-selling books, "The Way of the Road Warrior."

What skills are necessary for starting a business? The book answer is to have a passion for what you’re doing. But the reality is, it’s too much pressure to tell a recent graduate to go do their passion. Recent grads think they’re absolutely heading to their careers, but I think they’re just answering some questions so they know more about what they want their careers to be.

What rules do you live by? I have a fear that if I give into a temptation of quitting, I’ll open a Pandora’s Box to make it much easier to quit the next time. So I have many quirks that a psychiatrist would have a ball with. I only wear black underwear when doing a seminar; I wear a Jerry Lewis cufflink on my left arm, and a Dean Martin one on my right; I’ll pick up a USA Today sitting outside my hotel room, but won’t read it until the wheels have lifted on the plane, as a treat to myself. I’ll never drink the night before a seminar — I believe doing so would open the door to not run the best race I possibly could. Some of it is superstition, and some of it is probably crossing the line.

So you’re kind of like George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air. I measure speakers by their mileage in the air. I understood on a deep level what it felt like to have that addiction to travel that was portrayed in the movie.

Favorite quote? “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living, we were put on this earth to make a difference.” During my first two years in the business, I was caught up in making a living. My travel went up to over 200 nights a year, and the more I went out, the more money I made. Limos came to my house. But then one day, my wife sat me down and told me we didn’t need all that stuff. Now, I balance my family and career, and feel like I make a difference because I help others become more successful. I never stay at work past 5 p.m. so I can spend evenings with my family.

Jim Carrey in the movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Photo credit:

Does being positive 24/7 ever get tiring? I live in the positive, and that’s not crap. I’m not bullshitting you. The only time I had serious trouble with that was on 9/11 – I couldn’t think of anything positive, and there was nowhere to go mentally.

If you could be reincarnated into someone dead or alive, who would it be? Jim Carrey.

Sense of humor: I never tell jokes, but I can have you falling out of your seat laughing. I have go-to lines, but you’ll never hear me say, “Two guys walked into a barber shop…”

Want a job based on inspiring others? Rob Jolles offers the steps to get there.
1. You need to be energized by getting up, performing, teaching, and motivating others. You also have to like to write, since you need to study and know your subject matter.

2. A job as an entry-level training specialist is a great place to start. It’s the step before becoming a professional speaker. As a professional speaker, if you do a good job, everyone knows it. But if you don’t do a good job, everyone also knows it. If that scares you, don’t be a trainer. But if that makes you smile, let’s keep talking. At the end of day, I’m just a training specialist on steroids.

3. Remember the quote by Jerry Lewis: “If you finish a performance and you’re not sweating, you’re an amateur.” Not only will I sweat [during seminars], but I will very rarely wipe it away. I want people to see me go across the stage and think: wow, that guy is really working.

How do you prepare for interviews or presentations? Any superstitious quirks? Share them by commenting below! To learn more about Rob Jolles and professional speaking, visit You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @Jolles.


Foodie Friday: The Ice Cream Tastemaster

Ray Karam enjoying a Cold Stone Creation.

Today marks the first of the Foodie Friday series. Every Friday, No Joe Schmo will feature someone who works in the food industry. I’ll give you a sneak peek: upcoming Foodie Fridays will include a potato chip inspector, a fortune cookie writer, and the creative director at Dylan’s Candy Bar!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Below, Cold Stone Creamery’s senior tastemaster Ray Karam tells you about his specialty French fry ice cream, the summer flavor lineup at Cold Stone, and everything you ever wanted to know about the dessert. Talk about a cool job! (Pun intended.)

Title: Senior Tastemaster, Cold Stone Creamery
Age: 54
Job description in one sentence: I’m constantly tasting and testing flavors, and I try to develop a new concept or flavor every day using frozen desserts as the basis.
Salary: More than $50,000, but less than $100,000/year
In the dairy industry for: 33 years, including 9 ½ years at Cold Stone
Graduated from: State University College at Oneonta, NY with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry; graduate coursework in agribusiness and food science at Arizona State University
Dream job in college: At first, a doctor or dentist. But then I fell in love with teaching, so I wanted to be a teacher.
Previous jobs: Microbiologist at Nestle; senior-level positions at Sun Street Ice Cream Company and Native Planet Foods Inc.

How he got the job: Just about all the plants I worked at in Arizona – Nestle, Sun Street Ice Cream, Native Planet Foods – got sold or broken up, so I went to graduate school for food science. At the end of my time there, the job at Cold Stone came up. I faxed, emailed, and snail-mailed my resume to them. On Monday morning, I was there with a shirt and tie, shoving my resume in the secretary’s face. I created my own buzz, and they couldn’t help but give me the job.

Best part of his job: I have a wide degree of freedom to explore tributaries beyond chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. I want people to follow me, so I do things that nobody else has done, or do things better than the competition.

Like what? I created ginger wasabi cream, chipotle chili chocolate nacho cheese ice cream, and French fry ice cream. I see people dipping French fries into milkshakes, so the stretch to ice cream isn’t that far off. I took a few pounds of French fries, blended them into a chunky mix, and froze it into the ice cream mix. People went nuts.

What makes a successful ice cream flavor? First, it has to be visually appealing – that’s what will attract people on the initial level. Secondly, when you put it in your mouth, it has to have a just-right consistency. It has to be the right combination of what the flavor says it is. When I was creating a PB&J ice cream, I tasted the flavor at other stores, and all of them missed the bread part. There needs to be a bakery item in the mix to imitate the bread, so I used graham cracker piecrust.

Our Strawberry Blonde: strawberry ice cream mixed with strawberries, caramel, and graham cracker.

Where do you look for inspiration? Traditional desserts, and especially international desserts. The flavor Our Strawberry Blonde – which is strawberry ice cream mixed with strawberries, caramel, and graham cracker – was derived from an Italian dessert called Strawberry Caramelito.

One essential piece of career advice? You can be creative in any job, no matter how boring you think it is. Learn on the job and make yourself valuable by doing more than what you’re asked for. If you have more skills than what you were hired for, companies can’t get rid of you as easily during layoffs.

How much ice cream do you consume per day? Somewhere between a “Love It” (8 oz.) and a “Gotta Have It” (12 oz.). Not all at once, though – I’ll have a spoonful here and there as I’m creating flavors.

What’s your favorite off-the-menu combo? My Oreo cream ice cream with crushed Oreo cookies on top. I asked Kraft to send me just the cream from their Oreos, and I blended that with ice cream and froze it.

Your job isn’t just about tasting ice cream. What skills did you use from your education? At Nestle, I used my background in physics and chemistry to change the physical properties of ice cream so it would flow better and stay together when it was trucked around the country.

Are you a picky eater? No. There are a few things I don’t like, but I try everything so I know what everything tastes like.

What does the summer flavor lineup at Cold Stone look like? This month, we’re featuring lemon poppy seed. June will be chocolate hazelnut, which was the winning flavor from Cold Stone’s Gold Cone contest. July will be strawberry basil, and August is mojito sorbet.

Do you ever get sick of ice cream? Never, even if it’s just plain vanilla. I will always eat and evaluate it, although I probably won’t talk about it if I’m out to dinner with friends.

Cone or cup? Cup.
Favorite candy bar? Snickers.

Food plans for Memorial Day Weekend? I’m doing the real Americana cookout in the backyard, with everything from steaks to sausages to chicken to grilled corn. And of course, ice cream for dessert! I’m thinking maybe a dark chocolate and raspberry combination.

Photo credit:

Ray Karam gives the scoop on breaking into food research and development.

1. You need the ability to function in two arenas: food science and culinary arts. In high school and college, take as many science classes as you possibly can. Lots of chefs don’t know why certain combinations work, so it’s helpful to know what the fats and proteins in foods are doing.

2. Find a two-year culinary program to get a degree as a chef — it’s a great springboard. Such programs are offered at many community colleges.

3. Exude passion for the food business, for cooking, and for learning your prospective employer’s business. If you’re applying to Nestle’s coffee division, talk about why you want to work there specifically and about your passion to make coffee better. You can have all the smarts in the world, but if you come across as a dull person, don’t waste my time. Action will carry you, I guarantee it.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor or combo at Cold Stone? Comment below!

Click here for more Foodie Fridays! You can also follow Cold Stone Creamery on Twitter at @ColdStone_Corp.

The Perks of a Side Job Outside Your Industry

One option for a side job is working as a barista. Photo credit:

After graduating from Syracuse University, I came home to find an application for Bed, Bath & Beyond sitting on my desk. Trying to be helpful, my mom had picked it up for me when she saw they were hiring. “It would just be a little something while you’re applying for full-time jobs,” she explained when I approached her about it. I was furious – didn’t she realize that applying to full-time jobs was a full-time job?

However, the more I thought about it, the more my mom’s logic began to make sense. Here’s why.

1. Cash is the most obvious reason for a side job. Before you accept a position, though, make sure the hours are reasonable and flexible – your search for a “real job” should take precedence. For example, you might only want to work nights and weekends so that your days are free for potential interviews.

2. The skills you’ll hone are extremely marketable for any position. Working as a host/hostess, waiter/waitress, or salesperson shows you’re able to handle cranky customers, use common sense, work hard, and get your hands dirty. As much as employers are looking for qualified and accomplished candidates, they also want to hire someone who will be perfectly happy to make copies or go on a coffee run.

3. Working anywhere keeps your focus clear. It’s easy to get down on yourself while sitting on the couch all day, applying for job after job after job. Surrounding yourself with a productive working culture – being around others who are also working – will keep you more motivated and have a positive impact on your overall performance.

Want to make quick cash without leaving home? >>
1. Collect all the stuff that has been sitting in your room collecting dust over the past four years (start with jewelry and CDs). Instead of keeping 60 Beanie Babies lined up on your desk, choose one or two with sentimental value and sell the rest on eBay. The site even offers a Beanie Babies Buying Guide!

2. Utilize local networks. If you’re passionate about graphic design, approach local businesses in your town and offer to design flyers for a small fee. If you’re a techie, ask your parents to email their friends to see if anyone needs computer help (chances are, they do, and are willing to pay for it). Have a younger sibling? Tap into his/her friends for babysitting jobs.

3. Get paid to try new products, services, or programs on “Get Paid To” sites (called GPT for short). Advertisers pay GPT sites to have people try their products. GPT sites then pass a portion of that money to the members who sign up to try various “services,” which can be as simple as filling out surveys or playing online games. There are hundreds of GPT sites to choose from, including CashCrate, RewardPort, and UniqueRewards.

What are your thoughts on getting a side job while looking for a full-time gig? Comment below with your opinion.

PLUS: Introducing the No Joe Schmo Facebook page — please become a fan!

Not Quite Ace Ventura: The Pet Detective

Kat (center) with two dog trainers from Italy who flew to Seattle to take her training course.

Cop-turned-pet detective Kat Albrecht risked losing all respect from her peers when she decided to become a pet detective. In 2001, she founded a national nonprofit organization to search for missing pets and ultimately trained over 125 pet detectives from across the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Ireland, and Italy.

But remaining passionate with her work isn’t always easy. Kat reveals the secrets to her commitment – and her thoughts on Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the job in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Title: Founder, Missing Pet Partnership
Age: 50
Based in: Seattle, WA
Job description in one sentence: I help minister hope to grieving and broken-hearted pet owners who have lost their pets.
In the industry for: 13 years
Previous jobs: 9-1-1 dispatcher; police officer; K-9 trainer for police bloodhounds and cadaver dogs in Santa Cruz, Calif. I’m also working on a romance mystery for teens, which features a 17-year-old girl using her bloodhound to score points with a guy she has a crush on.

Why she chose nonprofit work: I want my work to exist beyond just myself, long after I’m gone.

How a roadblock sparked the job: Back in 1996, my bloodhound, AJ, escaped in the woods. I couldn’t find him, panicked, and called the sheriff’s department. They told me that they only look for missing people, and that I was on my own. I called a friend whose golden retriever had been used to track missing people, and he tracked down AJ in 20 minutes. That changed my life. A little while later, I was injured in the line of duty and had to medically retire from police work, so I attempted to form my passion for animals into a nonprofit organization.

How did you expand the concept? Using my skills and experience in crime scene work and lost person behavior, I launched the first-ever pet detective academy to train others to help people search for lost pets. Training dogs takes a lot of time, skill, and effort, so we’ve shifted direction with the economic recession to focus on developing a base of volunteer search-and-rescue teams. We’ve partnered with local animal shelters in the Seattle area to train their volunteers, and would like to blueprint that plan at shelters across the country.

Kat training a search dog to find lost cats. There's a cat inside that black mesh bag!

Was there a time you almost gave up? My first efforts failed, which was discouraging. I knew I was risking my reputation, risking looking like an idiot, risking getting scorned by my peers. That did happen.

What turned you around? One day, in 1998, I was driving down the road and saw a lost dog poster on a telephone pole that read, “please help us.” I started crying, and knew I’d never be able to forgive myself if I were to give up on the chance to make a difference in peoples’ lives.

How did you remain optimistic after initial failure? When you pioneer anything new, you end up making sacrifices. I made a decision and commitment that I wouldn’t give up, which has crossed over into other areas of my life, like losing weight. There are times when I may not be happy, but I’m committed.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? Drivers that tailgate. When I used to be a cop, I could do something about it, but now I’m so frustrated that I can’t. I can’t believe I got paid money [as a police officer] to drive fast, point guns at people, and frisk men.

Most important career advice? If you ever have a chance to be paid for your passion, then you’ve arrived. Lane Frost, a champion bull rider who died during a final bull-riding competition, once said: “Don’t be afraid to go after what you want to do, and what you want to be. But don’t be afraid to be willing to pay the price.”

Is your job anything like its portrayal in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective? I love Jim Carrey, but the movie is nothing like what we do. We’re helping people that are afraid and consumed with grief and fear, and often they don’t have happy endings.

Love pets and nonprofit work? Kat Albrecht offers insight into the business.

Neon posters and tagged cars are equipment Kat uses to help recover lost pets.

1. Don’t necessarily make a living around pet detective work – use it as a volunteer opportunity. It’s important to give back to the community, but make sure you have enough time to devote.

2. Stapling signs onto telephone poles isn’t the right way to go about finding pets. Check out these recovery tips, such as intersection alerts – standing near intersections with bright neon signs with the information and a number to call. That way, people who are driving will see them.

3. When a dog disappears, it’s not abducted; it goes somewhere. So it’s a matter of getting the word out there. Now more than ever, we’re trying to spread information through social media marketing. There are tons of opportunities for web-savvy teens to start their volunteer efforts that way.

You can follow Kat on Twitter at @KatAlbrecht and find the Missing Pet Partnership on Facebook. All photos are courtesy of Kat Albrecht.

The Hot, Young, & Single Circus Ringmaster

Kevin Venardos is on the road most of the year.

Introducing the very first No Joe Schmo, featuring Kevin Venardos of the Big Apple Circus!

In 2003, People Magazine featured Kevin Venardos on their list of the 25 Hottest Bachelors. But unlike most of the other bachelors on list, Venardos wore a rhinestone-encrusted tailcoat, stirrup pants, and riding boots to work. At 23, he had become the youngest ringmaster in the history of the circus.

Being ringmaster is more than wearing a sparkly outfit and pointing at stuff and singing. It’s about forming a bond among generations in one venue. This weekend, when the Big Apple Circus opened for the season in Queens, every seat was packed with ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages.

Title: Ringmaster for the Big Apple Circus
Age: 35
Status: Single
Official title: Ringmaster, not ringleader. A ringleader would be Tony Soprano.
Graduated from: Ithaca College, BFA in musical theater
Languages spoken: Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, English

Previous jobs: Singing Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s The Greatest Show on Earth (6 years); various performing engagements in Las Vegas and Macau, China; taught musical theater workshops in Brazil

Background in the circus: None. I went to Ringling Bros. once when I was 7, and I only remember elephants pooping and guys with big shoes. I never anticipated working as a ringmaster.

How he got the job: A year after graduating from Ithaca, I was in New York City auditioning for everything from Broadway shows to singing at High Holy Days services at synagogues in Brooklyn. I answered an ad for ringmaster of Barnum & Bailey’s and got the job [in October 2000].

What you love most about your job? Like in an office, you don’t always like everyone you work with. But at the circus, everyone knows your business – there’s no escape. The silver lining? For better or worse, we are our family. When shit hits the fan, we pull together for each other. I also love the traveling that comes with the job.

Riding an elephant down the streets of NYC during the Big Apple Circus.

What do you like least? It’s tough to be on the road all the time – having a relationship with someone is a challenge. Also, what I do is so unique that moving to another dimension of the world of performing is going to be a leap.

What makes you unique as a ringmaster? I’m tall – 6’4”. But I don’t have the typical handlebar moustache or the potbelly, and I don’t carry a whip. I sing a lot in the show; I’ve got a voice that lends itself to this world.

What was your interview for Ringling Bros. like? I sang a few songs, read some copy to a group of auditors, and then spoke with the talent coordinator, who gave me his business card and said, “I don’t know what you’ve heard about the circus, but I can assure you it’s a legitimate business.” A few months later, I was with my dad, who had just retired and was about to leave New York. My flip-phone buzzed in its holster, and it was Ringling Bros., asking me if I was still interested in being the ringmaster for the Greatest Show on Earth.

Most embarrassing moment? I stepped in elephant shit in front of 20,000 people at Madison Square Garden. Another time, I accidentally said “Hello, Trenton!” at a crowd in South Carolina and got booed.

What makes a successful show? A great part of the success of a circus is good PR leading up to it: the novelty of this thing that wasn’t there yesterday, and is gone a short time later.

One show you’ll always remember? My first show in Madison Square Garden, in spring 2002, was the first event held there post-9/11. You realize all these families are coming to find some relief and joy. It was tangible evidence that we were doing something good that people really needed.

What’s your work attire? At the Big Apple, my house is a 30-foot-long trailer that’s 50 feet away from the tent. So my commute to work is about a minute, and I just throw on sweats or workout clothes. In the tent, changing to costume only takes three minutes. Ringmasters have a historically equestrian association, so for shows, I wear riding boots, stirrup pants, a tall hat, and tailcoat. At Ringling, I wore a tailcoat made specifically for me with thousands of rhinestones, which must have been in the $10,000 range.

Photo credit:

Any truth to Water for Elephants? The book is an extraordinary textual account of real things, but I don’t like the animal component and the treatment of elephants in the book and movie. It’s reinforcing what I see as simply untrue. People in the circus are devoted to giving animals a higher quality of life, and I’m proud of them.

Favorite circus food? When I think of the circus, I think of the summer months outside, drinking cold beer and barbecuing sausage, steaks, and chicken with everyone I work with.

Best lesson learned: The only person who will get you a job is you. You can’t just sit there and wait for an audition – you need to make the job yourself, create the company, product, or service and market it. Be an entity unto yourself.

Interested in joining the circus? Kevin Venardos offers three simple steps.
1. Identify and hone your skill. Learn to love practicing – ritual is what gets you through the tough times of high pressure.

2. Identify companies you’d like to work for. Research others who have similar acts, and see what they’re doing to market themselves on YouTube. Create a kickass promo package with a well-edited DVD, 10 minutes or less.

3. Seek out the creative director or casting director – or whoever is responsible for hiring artists at that company. Then pitch yourself. In the meantime, volunteer your skills at festivals, and use those opportunities to get great photos to promote your work.

Unless noted otherwise, all photos are courtesy of Kevin Venardos. You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinVenardos.

7 Questions to Ask at the End of Every Interview

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The interview is coming to a close, and you can’t wait to get out of the spotlight. The interviewer asks if you have any questions. You smile, shake your head, and end with a firm handshake.

Don’t expect a call back.

The number-one way to ruin an interview is not asking follow-up questions (even if you really don’t have any, ask anyway!). If you get flustered and nervous and can’t remember the question you intended to ask, write it down on a notepad beforehand, and refer to it once you’ve been asked. That said, you don’t necessarily have to wait to be asked if you have any questions. An interview should be a two-way dialogue; you and your potential employer should be getting to know each other.

Seven questions might be a bit much for one interview, so pick and choose those that best fit your needs.

1) Why did you decide to join this company, and what’s kept you here? The more your potential employer talks about him or herself, the better.

2) Where do you see the company in five years? Tailor to the company’s longevity. If you’re interviewing at a relatively new start-up, ask where your potential employer sees the company in a year or two. There’s likely to be much more change within a year than at a firmly established corporation with branches across the country.

3) What makes someone successful at this company? And/or: How do you measure and determine success for this position?

4) Research the company’s recent activity on relevant blogs and business websites. Perhaps they just opened an international office, or underwent a merger. You should reference your knowledge of their activity with a question about how that affects day-to-day business or what it means long-term. (Don’t simply state that you read the news — anyone can do that.)

It's important to find a working environment that fits your needs. Photo credit:

5) How would you describe work culture here? This portrays your interest in the company working as a whole, rather than the individual position you’re interviewing for.

6) Integrate your career goals. Ask about the values and opportunities that are important to you in a potential career, such as training, collaborating with different departments, and travel. Remember, the job interview is just as much about making sure the company is a right fit for you.

7) What are the next steps in the interview process?

In first interviews, stay away from questions about salary — the time for talking about compensation will come later. Also avoid questions that can be easily answered by the company’s website, such as how many people they employ and where other offices are located.

Any suggestions for questions that should be added to the list? Comment below!

Underneath it all: a story

Everyone has a story. Whether it’s your local barista or the pizza delivery guy, they all have history. At the core, this is what sparked my passion for journalism and the idea for No Joe Schmo. Hearing about someone’s success story offers inspiration;  it gives us a sort of behind-the-scenes insight, which is like finding out a secret on the playground that none of the other kids know about it. It’s giddy and thrilling and enticing, but we’re not really sure why.

We’d all love glamorous careers and enough money to buy four houses and a small country. But the alternative to movie stardom isn’t necessarily a 9-to-5 office cubicle job. Behind every job are 50 more opportunities. Now-dinosaurs like Myspace and LiveJournal served as building blocks for Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Biz Stone of Twitter.

No Joe Schmo delves into the heart of local communities and finds out the essentials about their careers. Although the job market is brighter than it’s been in years, it’s important to keep your mind open to outside-the-box opportunities. We admit, some jobs we highlight — like dog food tasters — aren’t extraordinarily appealing. But those dog food tasters might offer some of the most valuable career advice.  They’re not necessarily featured in the Forbes 500s, and you probably wouldn’t recognize them on TV. But their stories and career paths are just as worthwhile.