Archive | March, 2010

Kids and Twenty-Somethings: More in Common Than You Think

31 Mar

After Jurassic Park came out, I wanted to be a Dinosaur Princess.

I just turned 23 last week.  Every time you have a birthday, you may take a moment to reflect and think, “Is this really where I thought I was going to be when I was a kid?”  The answer is: probably not, unless you envisioned living at home and watching Law and Order: SVU with your mom ad nauseum.

For one, most kids can’t grasp the idea of aging; I’m pretty sure that as a five year old, I didn’t think the age 23 existed; you were either a baby (and no fun because you couldn’t ride Big Wheels), five, or old.  And if you asked me how “old” old was, I would probably either say 100, or 12.  Nothing random like the early twenties.  Secondly, your adorably clueless five year old brain couldn’t understand that one day you would have to have a serious answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  There comes a point where you just can’t respond with “Batman!” or “a ballerina!” or, as my overachieving six year old sister aspires, “The President, a ballet teacher, a doctor, and in the Olympics.  For figure skating.”

So, my five year old self thought I was either going to be five forever, and the oldest I would probably get would be 13, maybe 14. And if I ever got to be that old and was forced to retire my Big Wheels and get a real job, well then, I would most likely become a princess.  (And if you asked me how I would enter the ranks of royalty, I would shrug, “I dunno, magic, prolly.”)

If this childish innocence doesn’t seem familiar to anyone (really, who are you humorless people?), just look around today’s youth and you’ll see it in droves.  According to Forbes.com, kids are drawn to the fantasy and allure of employment, and have no idea about the true salaries or the availability of positions regarding their dream jobs (like, duh).  For example, some young respondents thought that police officers make a grand total of $29 a year, while older kids thought that dancers rake in $116,000.  The reality? $48,410 and $28,829, respectively.

I think that there are some interesting parallels between kids and recent unemployed grads.  How many of us can say that we aren’t just as clueless about our dream jobs than our five year old counter-parts? Do we know if said dream is a happy, shiny fantasy or a true fit for us and our career ambitions?  What do we actually know about the salary and the upward mobility of this job?  Is this a stable vocation that we can carry-out for the long-term?

Our early twenties is this strange transient phase of our life.  In order to settle it down, we have to be well-organized and well-researched when it comes to our professions.  Do your homework to find out if you truly want to be an astronaut, a movie star, or SpongeBob.  Which may be possible through…I dunno,  magic, prolly.

Funemployment Ideas

25 Mar

A friend of mine, Lijia Xie from San Francisco, wrote up a list last year of things to do in what she called “funemployment,” after graduating from University of California Berkeley (pre-protests). I suggest making your own list. Here’s what she wrote:

after attending numerous job interviews in the last month and drinking too much coffee, i have decided to look into alternative temporary careers:

  • design a board game, prospective themes – Communism: The Multi-Player Table-Top Strategy Adventure (includes domino board pieces), Diagnostic Medicine: A Family-Friendly Game of Chance
  • sell vintage clothing, hats, and home-made jewelry on Etsy
  • freelance writer
  • write/edit poems, submit & repeat, perhaps funded by Kick Starter
  • grant writing for the Berkeley Free Clinic
  • start yet another funemployment blog which documents all of the above activities and links to a PayPal account for advanced investments in my board game
  • do something with the 3 volumes of medical textbooks from the 1950’s I just purchased for $1 each from the SF Public Library because they were $1 each
  • start a blog documenting things that cost less than $4.99 in SF, including entire outfits, books, booze, and entertainment
  • start my own food cart selling hand-made dumplings with exotic dipping sauces, like ginger creme fraiche, pickled garlic puree, balsamic vinegar & sesame oil, filling a much-needed niche in the SF street food scene for Chinese comfort food for hipsters
  • join the Floating Doctors!
  • take sailing and windsurfing classes at the Berkeley Marina co-op
  • attending a two-week artist residency in Michoacan, Mexico

Guess what? A lot of her ideas are legit. Take the food card idea — someone is making a dim sum cart happen in Los Angeles. 400,000 people sell on Etsy with the average sale being $15-$20. Kickstarter.com helps find you folks to fund your ideas.

As my colleague Sarah writes, put some pants on.

Job Websites: Because Google Failed You

25 Mar

There are a ton of job websites out there. I know you’ve been to monster.com and careerbuilder.com. I’m going to go out a limb and say those aren’t the best places for you liberal artists. For once in your life, blindly searching the Google Goddess ain’t going to get you anywhere.

That doesn’t mean you should stop looking online. Just look in the right places.

Here’s a great start: One Day, One Job. The trick to this website run by an ’06 Cornell grad is that he doesn’t actually list job listings out. He starts thinking about employers, what they do, who they’re looking for, etc. And that yields a lot of companies you wouldn’t think to look into. He presents places that you would never find yourself.

Don’t just keep track of the daily posting. Look at the archives to see if there are particular companies that match your interests or location.

Go ahead, give ODOJ a spin and report back.

Put down the Cheetos, and put on some pants: How to get out of a rut

23 Mar

Freedom.

No matter how big or small they are, having commitments gives “liberal artists” a sense of meaning and accomplishment.  At college, we’re busy with work, papers, clubs, etc.  That all mattered to us, and in turn made us matter to others.  As graduation loomed, we reacted with glee as we contemplated a future free of all-nighters at the library and late shifts in the student union.  “Oh squeee! No more! ZOMG yaaaaaay!”  we thought while we had a dance party to the 32 second chorus of George Michael’s Freedom (yes, just the chorus, because I suspect the rest of the song is about his homosexuality and NOT freedom).

Without those occasionally pesky obligations we’re used to, the steady routine that you probably donned real, non-stretchy pants for every morning gets cast into a nebulous galaxy of cheetos and Hulu.com.  However satiating it may be, this holds a rather sobering experience; for 14 years of our academic lives, we’ve been accountable to others or else faced the repercussions.  Now, no one cares if we continue to messily munch and watch online tv except Chester Cheetah and the ad execs at Hulu.   Sad face, seriously.

To put it bluntly, how do you make your life matter again?  Or will you forever be watching Arrested Development online until you die from cheese dust inhalation?

HARK! THERE IS A SOLUTION: hold yourself accountable.  Only you can get yourself out a rut, so it’s time to act like grown-up and implement habits that will also carry over into your career.  Start by putting on some friggin’ pants, and not the kind with a drawstring.  Looking the part of someone who’s got their shit together will allow you to grab life by its testicles, hard. Begin each day with at least one goal you’re going to accomplish, and then do it.  These tasks don’t have to come anywhere near the level of commitments we had in school, but on the flipside, don’t make it an obligation to watch 3 hours of tv.  Tell yourself you’re going to read a new book, go to the gym, reorganize your closet, apply to a job, volunteer at the nursing home, literally ANYTHING.

By giving yourself goals and then adhering to them, you’re not only regaining that sense of meaning and routine, you’ll become an asset in the office.  You’ll know how to work towards the company mission, and what employer wouldn’t love that?

Out of state interviews: why I may never get a job

21 Mar

This plane is bigger than New Jersey

I had to pull out of two interviews in New York City yesterday.  Why?  Because I don’ have $400 to blow on a plane ticket so I could sit through 90 minutes of “How do you work under pressure?” and “Describe yourself in three words” just to receive a “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Let’s break this down even further: A) It’s money I just don’t have B) Why would I spend nonexistent money on a job that has no guarantee of hiring me?  C)  If I’m so hellbent on spending imaginary money, I could play online poker.  Or the stock market. Whatever.  D) These jobs weren’t toe-curling exciting.  If jobs were pastries, these two were more of a bran muffin, and I’m looking for a chocolate eclair.  If I’m going to travel 1200 miles, why shouldn’t I aim for the eclair from the start, rather than settle for boring bran?

Being broke blows harder than watching daytime TV, like the View (Elizabeth, no one cares about your stupid fashion line, so STFU; Sherri, you somehow think the world is flat but they let you on TV anyway; Joy…we cool).  Being broke blows harder than watching commercials that air during daytime TV, because they know that you’re unemployed and that you’re either doing one of three things 1) looking for new ways to clean your house 2) dying, so you need new prescription meds 3) looking for a cheap degree so you can get a job (No thanks, University of Phoenix, I’m all set. But I’ll call you in a couple months if this Religion degree is really as useless as the skeptical masses are telling me.)

But really, being flatout broke just flatout blows.  Because on top of this crap economy and the increased competition new graduates face, opportunities become increasingly inaccessible to you if you can’t fulfill basic requirements like an in-person interview.  The key to getting a job is to cast a wide net and see what you reel back in.  When you have money concerns, your fishing net shrinks exponentially.

So, what should a person like me do?  Should I only apply to local jobs until I can afford to interview out of state?  Should I only apply to those jobs that I would definitely take if granted an interview?  My parents said they could spring me the money for the ticket, but they couldn’t do it every single time, which is why I feel compelled to spend this “gift” on a sure thing.  These are all questions that have to be answered before I can effectively move forward in my search, proving that there are more tough choices than I thought when it comes to landing that perfect first job, though I’m starting to think that it may not exist (huzzah wisdom!).

Hooters Camp Follow-Up: 2 Reasons to Go to an Interview for a Crappy Job

18 Mar

In my last post, I had pretty much stamped a big, fat, red “REJECTION” on Stacy and her offer to interview at the Hooters camp.  However, I decided that this opportunity merited a bit more reflection.  For example, I tragically have never set foot in Hooters.  If I work at the Hooters camp, maybe I could meander on over on my break and…have a sandwich?  Honestly, the appeal of this place is totally lost on me, but I guess it may be because I’m not a red-blooded male who worships the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and HG, I’d like you to meet Boobs, Wings, and Beer).

All joking aside, I did go to the interview today, and they told me that I had answered well and was a very strong candidate.  Which pretty much sounds like I have the job.  Woo. I’m not that thrilled because the idea of spending a summer in Lakeland is kind of depressing (I’ll tell you folks why I hate this place in an upcoming post).  Besides, I dreamt of changing the world after graduation, not running after 60-100 kids for nine hours a day.

So then why did I even go to the interview?  A smorgasbord of reasons, but I’ll list two that may be helpful to you.

1) I viewed this as a chance to practice my interview skills.  When I applied to Teach For America and made it to the final round, I made every unprofessional mistake you can make: I said “um,” I fiddled, I doodled, which were all actions that stemmed from my nerves, and probably led to my rejection (read: do NOT do these things!).  The Hooters camp practice interview would have been tremendously helpful before my TFA interview, so I could have caught those habits before I went into an opportunity that I really cared about. 2) It’s best to keep your options open.  Say June rolls around and I don’t have my dream job in a big city (PLEASE GOD NO).  I’d like to be able to do something that I love: working with kids.  Yeah, I may bitch and moan about how it’s a step down, but at the end of the day, doing something you like is better than doing nothing at all.  Even if it does pay $7.25 an hour.

Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined: Finding a Hometown Gig

16 Mar

I arrived at my parents’ house in Lakeland, Fl six weeks ago, and like many recent graduates, decided to look for a local job to kill the time as I continued my real job hunt in other, more urban areas (like Boston, NY, DC, the moon, just anywhere but Florida). Today, I finally received my first interview invitation.  Exciting, right?

Great big jugs.

Keep reading.

“Hello, is this Sarah?  This is Stacy from Lakeland Parks and Recreations, and I’d like to invite you to interview for the position of Camp Counselor.  Are you available tomorrow afternoon?”

“… Oh riiiiiight. Yes. Umsureyeahok.”

“Great! So, we’re located right behind the Hooters on Imperial Blvd.  Do you know where that is?”

“Stacy, I can honestly say I don’t know where the Hooters is in town.”

So.  Hooters.  Who looked behind that “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” establishment, known for its trifecta of boobs, wings, and beer, and thought, “this would be a great place for kids to play!”  Was it someone inside the restaurant who had overindulged on the goodies offered there, looked out the window, saw the grassy field, and was struck by divine inspiration?  And what about the kids who go to this camp?  I bet they didn’t expect to receive a dose of sex-ed when they go out to play kickball.

Here’s the thing about looking for a local job.  I believe you have to find the right balance between “killing the time” and “building your resume.”  I don’t think employers will be impressed by “Lakeland Parks and Recreations” when I’m competing against kids who’ve held internships at both JP Morgan and Lehman Bros.  Sure, this is something to do, and it is paid, but it seems like a step down to have a Bachelors and then go back to a summer gig I held three years ago.  I can’t help but think it would be better to do something that’s reflective of your personality and allows for potential leadership growth: stage manage a show, volunteer on a campaign…start a blog about unemployment, whatever!  You just have to be sure to step back and think, “How will this opportunity help me in the long run?”

I probably won’t take the camp counselor job.  It doesn’t start til June, and besides, I am ill-equipped to answer the question, “What are hooters?”  Because you know they’ll ask.