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Yin and Yang

May 6, 2012 1 comment

“I’m pretty sure you’re two different people,” said a friend and coworker as I stared inside a glass of whiskey at a downtown bar. She was referring to the person I was at work and who I am on the weekends. One is an overworked, professional, dedicated employee who goes to bed by 10, exercises, and eats well. The other comes out on Fridays and Saturdays and still thinks he’s more or less in college. It’s not exactly a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, but that’s the first thing that comes to mind. I’m not sure which one is supposed to be the monster.

That distance between professional and personal lives never truly goes away, but I don’t think it’s ever larger than when you’re a twenty-something in a hard-partying college town with a lot of disposable income, very little stability and an allergic reaction to boredom. We’re bored and unmoored.

I’m quick to melodramatically tell everyone what a wreck my personal life is and like to make jokes about how many shambles my life is in, but I’m pretty sure that’s a common feeling for those in my demographic. You’re confused. You feel a bit lost at sea without an anchor. You don’t know how you’re expected to act. The fragments of who you were keep bubbling up to the surface, and the person you’re supposed to become hasn’t arrived yet. We’re all just passing time until the train gets to the station. There isn’t really anything else to do, so we go out to bars, order one too many, and traipse around the city like kids in an ever-expanding, endless candy store. We make friends through drinking games, random hookups and laughter. We are young and wild and that is, to an extent, how we like it.

I think the confusion comes from the idea that I want both poles at the same time. I want the unexpected confusion and randomness of the night, but some nights I just want to watch a shitty movie on Netflix with a girlfriend. I want to be unaccountable and free, but also reliable, loyal and professional. I want the shirt-and-tie nine-to-five, but also the rock-and-roll lifestyle. Those two sides fight each other for my attention.

I keep looking forward and trying to figure out what I am actually supposed to be doing. I keep thinking that I should be acting my age, whatever that means. The more and more I think about it, I am acting exactly how I should be. I think the expectation is that as a twenty-something college graduate, my particular brand of dualism isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s expected, and it’s reflected and reinforced by the pop culture we breathe in. Look at the group on How I Met Your Mother; the characters are successful, professional, productive members of society but they also spend their free time at the bar looking for beer, bedmates and laughter.

Eventually, we’ll meet an anchor that makes the boredom go away, and we’ll be content just sitting around. We’ll be happy doing couple-y things, and “adult” things, and we’ll give less and less time to the other side. Eventually, the distance between your own personal Yin and Yang is almost undetectable. We’ll find a balance. It just might take a while, so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re waiting.

Categories: Gen Y Tags: , , , ,

Stage Fright

July 4, 2011 Leave a comment

It starts like this:

My heart pounds and I can feel the veins in my neck pulsating. The necktie gets tighter and I start to feel like I’m suffocating. I get butterflies in my stomach like I’m having a first date with a girl I really like. The fight-or-flight kicks in and I feel like a speed-freak from the rush of adrenaline, and without being able to spend all of this newfound energy I start getting jittery and talking faster and faster and it feels like a million eyes and ears are all fixed on my every word and what if I screw up and what if I say the wrong thing and what if everyone laughs at the wrong moment? I just want it to be over.

But then it’s done, and everything goes well, and the adrenaline surge turns into a calm buzz and relief washes over me. I feel electric and accomplished. Another presentation is through.

I hated public speaking. I still do, to an extent, but it’s getting easier to do and the dread declines each time I step up to the stage.  Since I have to do it quite a bit for my job, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that make speaking in public easier. Here are five of my favorites:

Happy thoughts

You don’t have to be confident to appear confident. Even if you think you’re shaking like a tree in a hurricane and speaking a mile a minute, you’re probably not. You can trick your audience into thinking you’re confident by looking confident. Dress well. Smile a lot. Tell (non-awkward) jokes. Project confidence and eventually you will feel confident, as if it happened by accident.

It’s your time. You’re the expert, and for the next 10, 20, 30, or more minutes, your audience is obligated to be there and listen to you. That’s powerful. For the next X minutes, you are the most important person in the room. Keith Richards said it best (I’m paraphrasing): “It’s your time to let the tiger out of the cage.” 

The terror goes away if you let it. The more you speak in public, the better you get at it. There’s no other way to gain the experience without feeling really uncomfortable at first. You have to take the leap and hope you can learn on-the-fly if you’re going to grow as a public speaker. It may be terrifying at first, but eventually the feeling subsides and you’re be able to relax a little.

Relax. Find a way to calm yourself. Take deep breaths between sentences. Tell yourself that it’ll be over before you know it. Find a way to zen-out. Your audience will be able to feel the relaxation flow through you and straight into them. Psyching up before a presentation is as easy as practicing in the mirror (it actually works) and having a ritual during your presentation. Some good advice I was given is to always start out with an introduction and agenda of things you’re going to talk about. If you start out with the same ritual each time, you’ll find yourself much calmer once you get into your rhythm.

There’s always an exit. The most liberating advice I’ve heard on the topic of public speaking came from a very wise person at work. She said that she just tells herself that there’s always an exit, and you always have the option to leave. You’re not physically bound to the podium. If things head south, you can always get out of Dodge and reap the repercussions later.

You may still feel the butterflies rising up and you make still feel like you’re doing a bad job, but you’re not. Every word you say and every minute you spend in front of other people is making you a better public speaker. Remembering these tips has made it easier for me to speak in public, and I hope they help you out too.

Resolutions

January 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, hey 2011.

It’s not just the start of a new year for me. It’s the start of an entirely new life. 2010 was the year I graduated college. It was the year I moved back in with my parents after leaving one of my favorite cities in the world. I got a “real person job” and moved back to that city. Quite a year.

So, let’s get this year started off right. Things to remember:

-Get distracted by shiny things. Kids go through their lives being curious, being open to new experiences, and being amazed by all the tiny intricacies of the world. Never let that childlike wonder die out.

-Stop talking, start doing. I’m not really the type of person that makes it a goal to change everything around on January 1st, because I know that there’s a difference between saying I’m going to lose weight, drink less, and exercise more and actually putting in the effort and doing it. This is true for almost everything. People love talking about doing stuff but never actually follow through with it, and ideas get lost that way. It’s easy to talk about change; it’s harder to actually change things.

-Laugh frequently.

-Do scary things. Starting a new job was scary. It was a completely new experience and my head was crammed full of new information. I had to meet a ton of new people. I get nervous about so much “new” happening at once. I also have to give quite a few presentations as a part of this job, which is something that still freaks me out. But I’m learning and just by doing more of it, I’m getting a little more comfortable with the spotlight on me. I’m glad that I’m doing these scary things. Try to do as many scary things as you can; it makes life more interesting, and it keeps you on your toes.

-Get a girlfriend. I’m pretty good at making friends. I like to think that I’m a genuinely interesting person to be around, and I’m pretty loyal. Good things to have, right? So I never worry that much about making those kinds of connections. Making a romantic connection is a little more foreign to me, and I’ve always been a bit closed off in the emotions department. I should probably change that this yearI’m learning to be more open about how I feel, though (writing helps immensely).  It would make my mother quite happy if I found myself a ladyfriend.

-Stay in touch. I’m worried about staying in touch will all of the awesome friends I made during school. Of course, Facebook does make that process a little easier, but I know myself well, and I know that if I don’t put in some effort I’ll drift away from those awesome friends. I don’t want that to happen. I want long-lasting friendships with the people that helped shape who I am.

-Document. For Christmas, I got my Dad a VHS-to-Digital conversion kit so he could transfer all of the embarrassing VHS tapes of my childhood to DVD’s. Memories are important. All of these seemingly-insignificant moments in life are actually the most important things in the world.  Time to take more pictures, write things down, and finally make friends with nostalgia. Like Borges said, “don’t lose the now“.

-Embrace silence. It’s one of the hardest things to do in an age of constant noise. Being comfortable with silence is really tough, but it’s important to unplug from society every now and then and jump into a book. Take long, meandering walks with nothing in mind. Hang out in the woods around a campfire. Or, zen-out and sit in silence. Whatever it takes.

-Just try. Just care. Just because you can coast through life doesn’t mean you should. It’s time to wake up.

-And smile more, you magnificent bastard. Life is just too damn interesting to be cynical and bitter all the time. Just smile more. It’ll change your life.

And just like that Counting Crows song says, maybe this year will be better than the last. I have some faith. Here’s to a brand new year and a brand new chapter in the Book of Tom.

Have any resolutions you want to write down? Do it in the comments.

(Image via)


Categories: Wisdom Tags: , , , , , ,

In Defense of Generation Y

October 11, 2010 12 comments

 

They say we hop jobs too often. We have no work ethic, expect too much, and want to be famous despite having no talent. We expect too many thank-you’s and pats-on-the-back, and we don’t take criticism well. Oh yeah, and we just don’t have enough respect for our elders.

At some point, hearing the same anti-millennial garbage over and over gets old.






Millennials get a bad rap. Look, I get it: Some of us are easy targets. Many people my age are poster-children for the Gen Y stereotype: They have helicopter parents, they received praise all of the time and thus expect a reward for everything they do, and they try to emulate Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Snooki .

Unfortunately for us, this is a case of a few very rotten apples spoiling the bunch. For every Snooki-obsessed Gen Y stereotype, there are a ton of entrepreneurial, hopeful, caring, and hard-working millennials that go unnoticed.

Things are going to change for the Boomer generation, and they’re slowly catching on to this fact. Naturally, they’re terrified, so they’re lashing out and trying to discredit us. There have already been some quality posts in defense of Gen Y, but I think it’s time to throw my hat in the ring. It’s time to stick up for my generation by explaining or attacking some of the common misconceptions the best I can.

Those darn kids want everything RIGHT NOW!

Yeah, we’re a generation of impatient, ADD-addled people. We want “instant” everything, and waiting on anything is annoying. We want and need everything to be instant: Communication, customer service, information, feedback…everything. It’s not natural for us to wait on these things.

We grew up with the internet and instant messaging, so we had a world of answers at our fingertips and indirect contact to every single one of our friends at all hours.  We grew up with mobile phones and text messaging (or at least came of age when they became popular), so we always have had instant access to our friends, family, and customer service, wherever we are. Our life is instant. The older generations are used to waiting for everything, but we aren’t. This is something the older generations are going to have to learn to deal with, because we are in a culture of “instant.”

Those darn kids are unrealistic and entitled

One of the often-used words to describe Gen Y is “entitled.” They say we believe we’re entitled to unrealistically big salaries. And you know what, they’re right. We DO feel like we deserve all of that. But who can blame us? We’re the ones who are paying an incredible amount of money to go to college, yet many of us still haven’t landed a job after graduation. We need a nice job with a big salary because the previous generation made student loans a HUGE hurdle in our twenty-something lives.

We believe in our own abilities to an “unrealistic” level (yes, it’s overconfident, but at least we actually believe in ourselves) because we’re the “good job for trying!” generation that “earned” a trophy for being in last place, just because we participated. There’s a quote attributed to Alex Bogusky, and it goes something like this:

“Being nice about someone’s mediocrity is the worst kind of mean”

We’re a generation that has been constantly rewarded for mediocrity, so of course we’ll feel entitled to unrealistic jobs, salaries, and lives.

Just remember: We’re praise-hungry, entitled monsters because you made us this way.

Those darn kids don’t know how to work

Yeah, we don’t want to work 9-to-5 desk jobs in traditional offices. Get over it, because that’s not going to be the norm in 10 or 15 years.

Who wants a desk job? We’ve seen how miserable our parents could get because of their crappy, thankless desk job. Of course we’re going to fight against having that, and we’re going to do anything we can to avoid it. For us, it IS avoidable….we’re the generation of dorm-room entrepreneurs. We have laptops, the internet, and smartphones; “work” isn’t bound by location or time.

Those darn kids whine on social media

Hell yeah we whine on social media. It works; smart brands understand our influence and want to make us happy (ALL brands should want to make their customers happy). We found a way to be heard, so we’ll send out our grievances in 140 characters or less and hope it reaches someone important.

We found a way to create communities that aren’t bound by geography. We found a way to band together and take the power back from the massive institutions that we can no longer trust. So yes, we’re going to keep writing tweets & blog posts to get your attention, and we will broadcast our negative experiences and expect them to be rectified (instantly, of course).

Those darn kids are…just like us?

There are a lot of things that separate our generation from the Boomers or Gen X. We’re very different because we grew up in different time periods, with different cultural norms and different situations. But, remember this: Just like your generation and the next generation after us will, our generation wants to laugh, love, and live. The definitions of what these things mean may be different, but we’re still driven by the same desires. Of course I’m going to complain about the next generation, and I hope the next generation feels free to challenge their elders like we do.

But for now, shut up and give us some respect for once, will ya?

What do you think about Gen Y?

Go Forth, Get to Work, and Be A Pioneer

July 21, 2010 1 comment

| Why Levi’s “Go Forth” Campaign Resonates With My Generation |

Sometimes, an ad on TV will make me stop what I’m doing and watch without interruption. About a year ago, a Levi’s spot made me do just that. It was mostly dark, the copy was some sort of poem, and I instantly LOVED it. That ad was the first part of Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. The ads use Walt Whitman poems very well (on one ad, apparently it is his own voice). The copy of the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” is supposed to evoke an emotional response from my generation, and I think it does. Here’s a snippet:

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers
(Rest of poem here. Highly Recommended)

The first few ads (the other you can watch on YouTube) show young people running around interspersed with grim visions of Wall Street and America. “America” is literally half-underwater in one ad, which I think is supposed to symbolize the grim, hopeless recession-era we were in (and still are, to a degree). Some people loved it. Some thought it was too arty. Others mocked it (which usually means people are at least paying attention). Either way, it really struck a chord with me.

Read more…

A Millenial Dilemma: Trying to Find a (Work/Life) Balance

July 9, 2010 Leave a comment

My generation is a lot of things. We have a lot of great traits: we’re tech-savvy, we’re mobile, we’re driven (albeit in a different way than the other generations), and we’re always trying to be better. We’re also viewed very negatively by “them.” They say we have a high sense of entitlement without having earned it and have no attention span, but that’s for a different post. We tackle work differently too.

The 9 to 5 work schedule is crumbling because of technology. Smartphones are keeping us connected and able to answer emails all day and night, but they’re also allowing us to access our Facebook and Twitter accounts while we’re “working” (a lot of companies are very worried about this). We can stay connected to both worlds all day very easily. More than any previous generation, we’re seeing a merger of professional and personal life.

In the past, it was easier to keep work at work. If you were someone like Don Draper (Mad Men is back on July 25th!), you didn’t bring work home and definitely didn’t have the wife and kids on your mind at work. You’d go to work, flip on the “work mode” switch in your brain, and get working (admittedly, “work mode” in Mad Men sounds pretty great). Then, you’d come home (or the home of a mistress, or a bar, in Draper’s case) and flip that switch off. Now, we’re never completely “off” and never completely “on,” which is restructuring how we spend our time. So the real question is this: How do we separate work and our personal lives? Here are a few ideas.

Read more…

Recruitment Rebellion

April 27, 2010 2 comments

Some people aren’t good at job interviews. I’m one of those people. I see job interviews as first dates: putting on a mask and looking for a long-term relationship by saying what the other person wants to hear for an hour. Playing the game.

Ever since high school, I’ve been told to play the game, to get involved. The end goal of this, they said, was to have something to put on your college application and your resume. I never liked the idea of doing something or joining anything for the sole purpose of padding my resume. I didn’t play the game, but I worked hard and did what I wanted, and I still got into UW-Madison. I’ll still get the job I want. Eventually.

Here’s what I propose. Call it “Free Freelancing.” Give me work to do, for free, and see what I’m capable of. If I’m going to be writing copy, give me a product and a target market and let me work something out. Give me a problem and I’ll solve it, or at least try. If you like my work, give me more work. If that work is what you’re looking for, we can talk long-term. It’s cost-effective, it’s risk-free, and I imagine it’s a better predictor of future success than an interview. No games, no embellishing, no masks. If formal interviews are first dates, this is having coffee with someone you kinda might be into.

If it sounds like I’m condemning people for playing the game, I’m not. I’m just looking for a job on terms that are more attractive for me.

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