Archive | June, 2010

Being Wrong, Decent Work, Getting Good

29 Jun

I’m having a bit of an Ira Glass day:

…I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it’s usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that goes nowhere. …In my experience, most stuff that you start is mediocre for a really long time before it actually gets good. And you can’t tell if it’s going to be good until you’re really late in the process. So the only thing you can do is have faith that if you do enough stuff, something will turn out great and really surprise you.

(via PopTech)

That quote brings me back to this video I continue to come back to not so much for solace but reassurance. It’s a clip from a longer interview with Ira Glass but the gems range from “do a body of work” to “you still have killer taste.” Watch it all.

Colleges Should be More Career Focused: Yay or Nay?

28 Jun

Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, has stepped forward and begun criticizing our nation’s colleges.  He maintains that colleges need to dramatically change the way they educate students–curriculums should be aligned with specific careers.

The colleges that most students attend “need to streamline their programs, so they emphasize employability,” said Carnevale.

The key psychological change that is needed, he said, is to move away from “the old model, where you go to college and then go out and find a job” to one in which the college years are explicitly “preparing for an occupation.”

Carnevale proposes these changes in light of a new study which finds that by 2018, there will 22 million new jobs for employees with college degrees, but there will be a shortage of 3-4.7 million workers who lack have some postsecondary degree or certificate.  To ensure the economic needs of the future are met, more money needs to be spent on higher education to ensure accessibility, and a stronger focus should be placed on careers to those entering college.

[Carnevale] said he wants high school students not only to realize the importance of going to college, but also to plan for a career at the time they make their college choices. “It matters a great deal that they go to college and get a credential, but what matters the most now is the occupation that they will pursue,” he said.

So, what do y’all think?  Would you have benefited from an educational system that forces you to choose a career as soon as you enter?  I would only feel boxed-in by these changes–I didn’t declare my major until the second to last day of my sophomore semester, and it was mostly because I was debating between 3-4 other possibilities.  As for careers, I have no clue what I want to do with my life!  My career ambitions have been as follows: doctor, lawyer, teacher, consultant, lawyer again, ANYTHING AT ALL, and now finally, anything in educational reform (which is a big anything).  How can people be made to decide the next however many decades of their life as a stupid 18 year old, when as a slightly less stupid 23 year old, this is a feat that flies way over my head?

Granted, these reforms would be directed at people for whom higher education may not be a reality, so perhaps my concerns are irrelevant.  But I can’t help but think that if money is being spent to send people to college, they should enjoy the freedom of choice and exploration, and not be funneled into rigidity from day one.

Best if used by…

24 Jun

Sarah says I have to prove I am not a robot by writing a “feelings” post on this blog. F that. Robots can’t appear convincingly in multiple video blog posts like I did. So there, Sarah. Eat my shorts.

I’m not a robot, but I do have feelings and part of this blog is sharing. So, Sarah will get part of her wish at least anyway. To be honest, I am not stuck in a rut. I am not riddled by the What-if Gremlin. I don’t think I’m even on the feelings cosine roller-coaster. That’s because I have a job, and it’s one that I actually kinda like.

My issue is that even though I have a job, I am so far from having my life figured out. A job does not equal stability or even mild satisfaction. Even worse, I worry that having a job is timing-out my inspiration. To put it as the book Rework does, “Inspiration is perishable.”

One of the great things about being a liberal artist is that I have no shortage of inspiration, but the ability and opportunity to act upon inspiration is limited. I fear my job and a devotion to doing my job well barricades me from thinking beyond the job. What’s going to fulfill me beyond a paycheck and an office? What question or problem should I spend my life devoted to addressing? What defines a career? These questions aren’t in focus.

It’s a privileged fear, I know. Most people would say, “you should be thankful to have work” and “put your head down and just work.” But that’s not who I am. I can’t let inspiration go to waste because it’s probably the only thing I have going for me.

The 30 Steps of Cover Letter Writing

23 Jun

1) Check email.

2) Stare at job description.

3) Wonder if inherent awesomeness and clear fit for the job will shine through based on resume alone.

4) Check email.

5) Open up Word Document.

6) Omigod HUNGRY! Must eat.  Eat bastardized version of lunch (2 cookies, slice of toast, pasteurized cheese food slice NOT on toast, droopy salad, leftover manicotti, water).

7) Back to desk.  Re-examine desire to apply for position.  Compare said desire to overwhelming wish to become contributing member of society, and to also leave parents’ house.  There is an obvious victor.

8.) Open up resume, in order to feel productive.

This is actually set as my homepage.

9) Begin typing rudimentary cover letter trappings: address, date, salutation, etc.

10) PROGRESS! Rejoice in your ability to accomplish small tasks. Celebrate by spending next hour on the PCP fueled house party known as the Internet.

11) Text best friends demanding that they write cover letters for you. Become only slightly pissed when they all refuse.  Send follow-up texts with offerings of pie, sexual favors, or even threats of friendship termination.  Question strength of relationships when they ignore you.

12) Remember you’ve done this before!  Can those letters work here?  Not really, but you’ll be damned if you won’t TRY.

13) Copy and paste entire letter used for entirely different industry.  Revel in how full the page has suddenly become!  Congratulate self on ingenuity.

14) Clearly deserve some type of small break…the house party beckons.

15) CRAP, is that really the time? Must get back to work.  First, email.  And water.  And peeing.  And then work.

16)Decide that bedroom is stifling creative flow–move to living room couch.

17) Decide ambient noise would nourish creative flow.  Turn on tv.

18) Decide that ambient noise would be most nourishing if the source was HBO and not MSNBC 2.

19) Is that the latest Harry Potter movie? ZOMG! Figure if you leave all documents open and glance at them occasionally, it still counts as “multi-tasking.”

20) While watching working, be overcome by curiosity regarding Skype happenings.

21) Log on–it’s a Skype fiesta! Begin extreme multi-tasking.

22)  Two hours later: HUNGRY! Eat crackers while standing in pantry–call that dinner.

23) Wonder how long it takes normal people to write cover letters.

24) Become depressed at incapacity to write coherent words on a page expressing to world why you would like a job, please.

25) Too depressed to function–check email instead.

26) More crackers.  Realize that dinner is lacking in protein.  Have peanut butter from jar.

27) Review progress made thus far.  Stare at job description–maybe staring hard at it for long enough will either a) inspire you b) get the cover letter to write itself c) send telepathic messages to future employer, rendering application process unnecessary because everyone wants to hire a person who CAN READ MINDS.

28) Be shamed from displayed lack of competency.  Shame acts as strange motivation to complete the cover letter.

29) Type furiously.

30) Finish cover letter 26 minutes later.  Edit? Tomorrow! Savor sweet taste of triumph (which, incidentally, tastes like waffles).

Intersection

21 Jun

Steve Jobs likes to flash this favorite slide (not doctored) when he gives Apple product announcements. But really — what is with the intersection of technology and liberal arts? Is Steve giving us a shout-out or is he busy diluting our degrees by throwing around the “liberal arts” term willy-nilly?

Jobs has said time and time again that Apple has always been at this intersection. One blog puts it this way:

This may be the single greatest factor differentiating Apple from its competitors. It’s the secret sauce, the thing that makes everything from iPods to Genius Bars to WWDC at least a little magical: they benefit from a broad, humanist perspective, and a focus on what resonates with actual humans.

Liberal artists naturally gravitate toward the intersection of the liberal arts and something. It doesn’t need to be technology. Whatever you’re doing, whatever your job — apply a broad, humanist prospective that resonates with actual humans.

Faces

21 Jun

Have you ever noticed that things don’t seem nearly as scary if you put a face on them?  Observe:

Let’s apply this phenomenon to unemployment.

The results are fairly unsettling and kinda awkward, much like actual unemployment.  I’m not sure what the conclusion of this exercise is.  Maybe it’s that there are some things that will forever remain confusing and scary, adorable googly eyes or not.  Maybe it’s that no matter what current obstacle we’re facing, it’s okay to look on the lighter side of things.  Or maybe it’s simply that drawing dumbass faces on shit is really fun.  I don’t know, I’ll leave this one up to you.

Volunteering: Leads to Diseases and Happiness

19 Jun

Lately, I’ve had kind of a warm, floaty feeling in my chest and abdomen.  My first thought was, “EBOLA?!”  www.WrongDiagnosis.com tells me that, unless I’m vomiting blood, suffering from diarrhea, and have got a bad case of hiccups, Ebola was, as promised, the wrong diagnosis.  Undeterred, I turned to the WebMD symptom checker to determine my condition.

How could I neatly plug this feeling into the pre-approved symptom checklist?  It’s that kind of sensation where you radiate zen, but also feel capable of doing backflips on a waverunner. This must be what it feels like to be Angelina Jolie, which, in all honesty, is medically concerning to me.  I did my best to translate these concerns to my Internet doctor.

WebMD Sarah is modest, and apparently owns a princess pony. I don't know why.

The two clear possibilities for my new condition was either Supraventricular tachycardia, or Constipation (adult). (Presumably, this advanced form can purchase cigarettes and naughty magazines.)

Which one is it?  Admittedly, my diet is pretty light on the Metamucil, so adult constipation is a strong contender, and likely the true culprit.  However, Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) shouldn’t be ruled out entirely.  According to WebMD, “SVT means that from time to time, your heart beats very fast for reasons other than exercise, high fever, or stress.”  Ahh.  So Doctor WebMD,  could SVT also mean that I’m riding a high, enjoying the rush and satisfaction that some newfound activity has given me?

It didn’t answer me, so I’m forced to conclude that yes, this was definitely the case.

Is it obnoxious to talk about how awesome and life-changing your volunteer work is?  Probably, and you can also probably tell what I’m about to do.

Recently I’ve been volunteering as an adult literacy tutor, and working with my two students has been invigorating.  They have different needs, and it takes ingenuity and creativity to handle both of them.  I don’t know if I’m a good tutor, but the process of learning how to effectively teach is surprisingly enjoyable.  It’s inspiring to see the dedication my students put into obtaining their goals, and knowing that they depend on my help pushes me to produce the best lessons I can.  This experience has also settled me on a career path: educational reform, something I’ve always believed in but never quite committed to pursuing until I saw the harsh realities of life without a basic education.

I haven’t worked this hard at something since college, which ended five months ago.  I went from spending 12 hours a day thesis-writing to doing nothing.  To have goals of my own again made me, in a word, happy. Having not been happy for a while, I wasn’t used to feeling it, so I was surprised when I noticed.  “Huh, I’m not miserable or even apathetic.  Cool.  What do you call this again?”

What’s really surprising is my attitude shift.  Suddenly I’m not in a total rush to bust the hell out of Florida.  I’m okay with letting my big cookie of life crumble however it pleases, and not just because I now have two good reasons to stay.  Stressing about my future got me nowhere, so why not try the opposite and see what happens?  This doesn’t mean I won’t actively pursue my job hunt, I just won’t keep at it like a dog in heat.

My point is this: Volunteering is the best thing for the unemployed. Not only are you doing something again, but you’re doing something that matters.  Having an impact will in turn positively impact you.  It’s re-energizing, and maybe it’ll help you sort out some of your priorities.  And if it leads to Supraventricular tachycardia, well, then you know you’re really doing something special.