Archive for the ‘FLOO-G Gets Serious’ Category

This was originally posted on my J-school classmate’s blog, Hipster in a Tub.

At this point, I think it’s crucial that any friend of Kevin Rushworth should take a moment to copy/paste this post onto their own blog and spread the word within their own networks.

The more people read, the more people with help, money or things to offer can reach the person affected.

Kevin, if you are reading, we’ve got your back!


Friends, former classmates, strangers, neighbors and colleagues:

I know we’re all busy with our day-to-day lives but I’m inviting you to take the time to read the following message. For those of us who have not been directly affected by the Alberta floods, it’s hard to picture and understand the devastating consequences of the flood. But the reality is that some have lost everything, including their vehicle and all of their belongings.

Kevin, my good friend, former j-school buddy and the hardworking Editor-in-Chief of the High River Times is one of them.

On duty in High River, Kevin saw the water levels rise at a rapid rate. He had to be rescued along with other residents who were still in the area at the time.

His car keys vanished in the overflowing river, his basement suite was completely submerged along with the High River Times office, home to Kevin and Kevin’s staff.

What’s really upsetting is that Kevin had literally just moved in his new place and had a house-warming just a couple weeks back. He had bought a brand new bed and new furniture and all his belongings, including his beloved books are now gone. He was able to save his camera and his laptop computer but that’s about all, folks.

Now, if this has happened to you, you understand how disheartening of a situation this can be. If you were not affected by the floods, I’d like you for a minute to put yourself in Kevin’s shoes: You’re starting out a new job, in a new town, and you have just settled in. And now, everything is gone.

Yes, it is only “stuff”, and what truly matters is that Kevin is OK.

However, I think it’d be amazing if we could come together and help Kevin out in this time of hardship.

I’m inviting every one of you to make cash donation – minimum of $10 plz – , or cheques to the name of Kevin Rushworth. Ikea gift cards and gift cards to the mall for new clothes welcomed too!

Kevin is one of the most hard-working and reliable person I know and I know he’d be the first one to be of helping hand if one of his friends were in a similar situation. Open your heart and help a friend in need. If you do not know Kevin in person but have been touched by his story (, do not hesitate!

Contact me via phone at 403.903.0898, via Twitter @ClaireMig or via email for more information on where to drop off donations.


Claire M.


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 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.

I have been debating within my own head for a while if this picture you’ll see below deserves to be put up on the Internet.

But in light of this time of month when we recognize the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and brace ourselves for annual anti-racism rallies (sometimes white supremacists show up, sometimes they don’t – anti-racists in Calgary anticipate they won’t this year), maybe we can help achieve the goal of eliminating discrimination by seeing and understanding how and where forms of hate are expressed, as ugly as it may be to see.

I snapped this picture in a job-site porta-potty somewhere in either northern Calgary or Airdrie (I can’t remember where) during the early-January cold snap.


Now, nine years in drywall finishing on-and-off has made me bear witness to a lot of stupid racist jokes and swastika scribbles and all that crap, but this is just plain hateful vile, not to mention the Amanda Todd reference is an incredibly low blow.

The fellow who (presumably) penciled “F**” in response used a homophobic word, so that seems more like countering hate with hate more than anything.

It’s nice to see “[P-word]” calling this jerk out though, in his own way.

Jerks who write this sort of racist drivel also perpetuate another stereotype that personally concerns me: That we construction workers are just a sad bunch of uneducated, high-school drop-out losers in life.

We’re not all like that. Thinking that we all are is unfair. Maybe the young man building your house is maybe a well-informed and respectable citizen who just enjoys a blue-collar career? Or a college student needing some cash?

There are other “isms” out there as well, such as sexism and classism.

To the ignoramus who scribbled the single, lowest and most offensive piece of hateful garbage that I’ve seen in my years working in Calgary residential construction: Your actions don’t help to fight the stereotype that we’re all just a bunch of stupid hicks.

To [P-word]: The fellow servicing these porta-potties was probably miffed all the same he had to clean up or scrape off your scribble too, but it’s a glimmer of hope.