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Steve & Barry’s filed for bankruptcy this year. I had a job offer from them after I graduated with my master’s. I pondered over the job and kept it as a back-up for one month. They were willing to wait. I liked the company, the job, the boss-to-be, but the commute was too long and I really didn’t want to drive that much. Steve & Barry’s was set up by two friends. Both friends sold university-wear from the back of a truck. They got them made real cheap and sold them cheap. Soon they made it a big growing business and specialized in University-wear. Dirt-cheap stuff. You could find sweatshirts, etc. with university names. Soon they expanded into other clothing. Clothes made in India, etc. I bought a blue collared top and wore it for my interview with my lucky Tommy Hilfiger navy pinstriped pant. I wore that pant to every interview that I was serious about. Their concept worked because they set up stores in really cheap areas where real estate costs were extremely low. They were popular, so they got good real estate deals, and once they set up shop, that mall became popular and more stores followed suit. Anyway, I decided not to take that job. The company is bankrupt now. Of course I would not have stayed that long given the commute. I also did not like the quality of the clothes – they looked and seemed cheap. Of course you get what you pay for.

Valueline is another job I gave up. Valueline has a very good reputation in the world of equity research. Investment banks have equity research teams — research was funded by investment banking and trading. Over time, people felt that there was conflict of interest — equity research was basically details about companies which was made available to investors who invested based on recommendations. I considered this as a career line before I realized I would be bored to death with research. Anyway, traders could influence research by having the teams say good things about companies depending on where the company wanted to trade. So say they wanted to sell IBM shares, the research could be influenced by that and tell the investor to buy IBM shares. Which is not being truthful to investors. So a ruling was passed where research was supposed to be separate from trading and investment banking. Now who would pay for research? It was a cost function and started dwindling in importance. There are way too many research firms out there.

Valueline is primarily an equity research company. It is privately owned by the daughter of the founder. Their office is beautiful and very old fashioned. I had my interview with a guy whom I liked. I did have my doubts about the industry, but the job profile seemed interesting. Till I met the current owner. She interviewed me, and I negotiated my salary with her. We negotiated for a long time and she would not give in. Somehow my interaction with her gave me negative vibes. What did not help was when I saw the extremely old fashion computers in the offices, computers I had used in a job in India when computers were just gaining in popularity. A very old generation.

AM and I had a long long discussion – I wanted a new job, but I did not dislike my then job to jump for the first thing that came my way. I had time and the opportunity to choose what I really wanted to do. He strongly advised against Valueline, but I wanted to consider it seriously. After a long discussion, I decided to go with my gut and declined the opportunity. The person who was to be my potential manager had a company of his own so had a back-up in case this job did not work out – clearly he would not be as tied as I to the job. I called the next morning to decline and spoke to the owner – she offered a salary increase to the level that I wanted, and I told her that my decision was not due to the salary but that it was not a good fit at that time.

Anyway, I had contacted a previous employee via LinkedIn who responded after I turned the job down. She told me how miserable she was at that job, she left without another job in hand, and would rather remain unemployed than work there. The owner was extremely controlling, kept tabs on when people came in and when they left, was stingy about holidays, and people there were miserable. There were limitations with what the company could do because the owner had a very tight hold on the purse, and she did not want to include analyst/researcher videos on the website because she wanted consumers to have loyalty to the company and not to analysts/researchers. I cannot describe the intense negative vibes that I got during my interaction with her, but I really dodged a bullet there. I shudder to think what my situation would have been at that job. I always listen to my gut — always.

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