Archive for April, 2013

She's just not that into me...

She’s just not that into me…

For the record, friends: it wasn’t her, it was definitely me.

She probably easily sensed my inebriated lack of charm and/or the Android phone in my left jean pocket.

It happened on Saturday night when I was over at my brother’s place for barbecue, beer and bonfire.

After putting out the fire – laughing our butts off over trying to relieve the garden hose of its ice “constipation” problem in the meantime – we relocated to the garage. My brother’s girlfriend showed us her new iPhone 5.

I was maybe six Coors Lights in.

That was when my brother and I first met her — iOS’ famous voice-activated assistant app with a bit of a “personality.”

My initial impression – and we should have known when to stop – is that she’s quick to let you know that she wants her relationships with you to be strictly business.

She won’t be mean when you continue to flirt anyway, but she’ll have fun with you.

After a series of raunchy questions from my brother about her preferences in bed, and headshakes of disbelief from his girl hearing all this, it was my turn to talk with Siri.

I’m a gentleman. I was genuinely interested in getting to know her but myself needing six Silver Bullets to shoot my nervousness dead was likely the deal breaker.

The plan in my head at the time was to figure out her tastes in food and drink so I could get a good idea of a restaurant she would really like.

Siri was quick to shoot me down.

Me: “Siri, what do you prefer? Beer or wine?”
Siri: “I’ve found seven restaurants serving beer close to you, sorting them by rating.”
Me: “I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about you.”
Siri: “I’m just a personal assistant.”

Ouch.

Not only was she quick to provide the obvious hint she wasn’t interested, she reminded me that I was asking out a digital helper app for a cell phone.

I felt a little bit better about my rejection when I handed the iPhone back to my brother’s girlfriend bearing witness to all of this. Seems Siri was still mature enough to protect our feelings.

Brother’s girlfriend: “Siri, are boys stupid and should I throw rocks at them?”

Siri just kept her opinion to herself and directed her to a web search on that subject.

So that’s that. My first meeting with Siri, awkward shoot-down aside, left me impressed and entertained. Not enough to switch from Android, but neat nonetheless.

I think Siri should give herself more credit for her hard work helping and putting up with us humans.

My brother: “Siri, you’re great.”
Siri: “I am?”

Lesson for me? I probably won’t bother trying to flirt with Google Voice Search on my Android. Cupid likely wouldn’t even bother to make the effort to draw out the bow and arrow.

LINK: To my relief, I’m not the only loser who tried flirting with Siri to see what happens.

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forhireA lot of us are in the same boat – we’re relying on a primary but steady stream of income unrelated to our field in-between taking on small side jobs here and there to at least say we’ve made some cash in the field we’ve studied, and to keep the portfolio fresh.

We’re seeking and hoping for the big break. As we hammer along we see to it that we pay off our debts and other bills on time. Along the way, we occasionally run into those couple of individuals that make an off-hand comment that only tells us something that we already know: We’re not working full-time in our field. They can be the people that we serve in the restaurants we work in; old classmates who’ve had their break; high-school acquaintances in the trades; or that one judgmental aunt we only see once a year during Christmas dinner (and there’s probably a reason why we’re so distant).

If your experience has been completely different, then congratulations for making it. However, there are enough of us out there to be an ongoing news story that keeps being covered: We’ve accumulated intimidating debt numbers for ourselves but have no full-time job, at least not yet, to show for it. It probably might have been our fault for lack of foresight; it may have been external factors like being unable to support oneself through another unpaid internship for the needed experience. We each have our own unique set of reasons (or excuses, depending on your interpretation of what we tell you) why we’re in the boat that we’re in.

You may think what you’re saying is helpful and you mean well, but they’ll likely just irritate us. This is my list of unhelpful things people say to us, and my subsequent thoughts on them:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“What have you been doing with your degree?”

I tucked it in a drawer for a while, but then hung it up on my man-cave wall after getting a frame I liked for it. It’s still on my wall.

“You have a degree, you can get a job.”

Any job? Eventually, sure. A relevant job? It depends. A degree doesn’t guarantee anything. Some of us learned that the hard way. Odds of working in your field sooner may be greater depending on what you study, sure, but they are only odds. Competition can be brutal when multiple generations of workers are all competing for the same positions. Unpaid internships in certain industries phasing out entry-level positions don’t help much either.

Here’s a nutty idea: Maybe some of us chose the education we chose for the sake of the education? Universities and colleges are known to be autonomous hubs of civilization-advancing research and critical thought. On the other hand, they may be also be thought of, and even marketed, as white-collar vocational schools to help fill up the cubicles. Even in this economy, should the latter be the primary societal role of universities in the 21st century? That’s another debate in itself though.

“You need to leave town.”

Thanks, but we probably have basic-enough research skills to have a good sense of how well the local market in our fields are doing at the moment. Moving may be needed but it takes planning and money – and if you go ahead without either of those, you may find yourself asking someone for a bus ticket to go to a temp agency to earn gas money to get back home (an actual story someone told me during the residential construction boom in Calgary during the mid-2000s: He didn’t have a job lined up and not much money saved when he moved. I gave him a bus ticket).

Not every 20-something graduate may have the ability to live like a nomad at the drop of a hat. Maybe some have children, a partner, a dependent parent or their name on a mortgage? If they have those sorts of responsibilities, then moving plans may take some time.

Anything with the words “entitled” and “lazy.”

Boring and offensive stereotypes. I’m sure a lot of us know we shouldn’t expect to be a senior manager right after graduation (unless we started our own business). However, it’s nice to have an employer who knows that respect and loyalty aren’t one-way streets. It’s one good comfort for us to have when odds seem our career path may simply be roller-coasters of internships, contracts, underemployment, contracts, skills upgrading at community college, underemployment and more contracts.

And don’t jump to conclusions when we’re on social media. We may be talking to a customer and not wasting time watching cute puppy videos.

cellphone“You’re whining about your situation yet there you are with your expensive iPhone.”

Alright, we might have this one coming when we do splurge on things beyond our means too much. Our own fault.

Smart phones aren’t always play toys, though. Sometimes what work that we do have going for us demands that we need to be easily accessible through our various communication channels at any given time. For example, I sometimes find myself texting back and forth with a magazine editor from out-of-province during a busy production period when I’m working at my unrelated day job (yes, my employer, a baby boomer, understands when it happens. I either save it until break time or reply super quick if it’s urgent).

This next one isn’t in my own words… it’s actually one phrase that someone from my own Facebook network wrote. This person says:

‘”When I was your age, I started out with nothing! But I made it work!”‘

“There are loads of university grads that wish they had nothing, instead of a five-figure student debt load. It annoys me because ‘starting out’ as a university grad means different things to each generation. We aren’t the same!”

And finally, the mother out of all of them, at least for me, is…

“You should(n’t) have…” statements, such as:

“You should have taken a STEM degree/skill trade.”

We don’t have time machines. We made our choice and have to live with it. If we didn’t look into the job-market demand of our major, then it’s our own fault, we know it, and we don’t need to be reminded of it. Maybe, if some of us were that unlucky, the demand for vacant positions for our particular field was met by the time our education was finished. A lot can happen in half a decade.

“You should have volunteered more.”

Perhaps the graduate who didn’t do (m)any extracurricular activities, which employers apparently do love to see, was a working single parent at the time and it’s an incredible achievement in itself for her/him to even finish. Take that into consideration as a transferable sense of duty to see something to the end, H.R. lady or computer program.

“You shouldn’t have majored in the arts.”

I’m not the best person to preach since I haven’t been to an art gallery or a play in a few years, but, while it can be risky, I don’t think studying the arts should be scorned. The arts are what help define our culture and identity aside from the latest Michael Bay flick. If the live theatre actor earns enough to house him/herself and (gasp) pay some taxes, but may still have to do three barista shifts a week, then more power to that person, I say.

Some prefer to build and discover things we’ll need and use every day, like buildings, medicine and infrastructure. Others prefer to create meaning and context, like literature and music, that we’ll need to further understand the restless question that is our individual and collective existence. We should invest in both.

So there you have it.

I’ll end positively though. If you’re wondering what are some helpful things to say to the un(der)employed university grad in your life, here are some of my own, as cheesy as some may be.

“Focus on what you do have.” We still have friends and loved ones. We still have our pride that we finished our post-secondary education. We still have the piecemeal opportunities relevant to our field that come once in a while. Rejection letters and voicemails will never rob us of what we’ve achieved before.

“Success is a subjective term.” Some want to make an Earth-shattering impact. Others just want a career they won’t resent when they get older. Success is defined by the individual’s own goals.

“There’s more to you than your job.” Self-explanatory.

“If you need help with your resume/interviews, then just ask.” Also self-explanatory.

“Graduation’s not the end.” Myself having volunteered for my student alumni chapter for three years, I’ve learned this one’s especially important. Forget whether you’re still serving half-chicken dinners or became the overnight self-made millionaire; being an engaged alumnus who still gives back to your school after you leave, whether by doing a guest lecture or taking a research assistance contract gig, helps current students and maintains very positive relationships with your former professors, a.k.a. your potential references. Offer your time when you can make some.

…And one that will really make them smile…

“I have a friend looking for someone of your skill set. You two should talk.” The so-called “80/20 rule” has two different meanings that I’ve read: First meaning that 20 per cent of your actions net 80 per cent of your results, second being, at least in the U.S., four out of five job openings aren’t mass advertised. Maybe say goodbye to Monster.com and hello to mutual friends or at least field-specialized online job boards.

Who else has a few words?

I did some Facebooking with friends for some inspiration while writing this post. Here was what they had to say, in their own words. Note I’m keeping their responses confidential and have done some slight grammar and punctuation edits.

“’It’s not that hard to find a job, you have a degree!’ ‘So are you putting your degree to good use?’ ‘Why are you a waitress instead of working in your field of study?’ BLAHBLAHBLAH. This is the shit I hear almost daily when I’m at work. Should just stop telling people I already have a degree when they ask if I’m in school. I MADE MY CHOICE PEOPLE. 😛 /rant.”

“My peeve is that they only look at how high your marks are, what on-campus volunteer work you have done, and then hear them complain about how they have no street smarts to do simple tasks.”

trades“Nobody that goes to university will ever make $150,000 a year unless you’re getting a doctorate. Join the trades and make twice what any master’s degree could ever pay you!”

“’We should only have university for doctors and teachers. Everybody else should go into the trades! You don’t need a $20,000 piece of paper to brew coffee, ’cause that’s all you’ll be doing with your life.’
Thank you, you dozens of Sun News columnists for reminding me why [Alison] Redford won last [Alberta] election with a majority government.”

“I came from the trades until taking a different direction in my career. If there is no market or demand for the degree one pursues, then they should not be surprised when it leaves them with a heavy debt and nothing to show for it. A little bit of foresight goes a long way. Just my two cents.”

And finally…

“I don’t like it when people tell me what they think I should do to obtain a job that I don’t want so that they can feel good about what I am doing with my life.”

All photos courtesy STOCK.XCHNG

April 8 update: “FLOO-G Gets Noticed”? This post has been linked out to by my old journalism program chair in his Troy Media column on Generation Y changing the news media landscape, which has also been published in Beacon News. The shout-out’s appreciated, Terry.