Mar 31, 2009
Anyhow, four days without me officially on the team (even though I was still doing work for them), the folks in South America decided they couldn't live without me and budgeted me back in! Hooray! I feel both loved and very useful, and I'm super excited about the switch back. Although, Brazil showed me exactly how much they loved me by chucking more work than I can do in a month at me first thing on Monday and telling me it was all due by...Wednesday. That's okay, though. I can't help but think maybe they put me back on the team because they know I can handle it. Or they have no idea whether I can handle it; they just realized they needed an extra hand to do the work once one of us up here was off the team. Either way, I'm pretty satisfied to be back.
And I'm stoked I still have a job!
Mar 30, 2009
"But! But! It's your special day!" you (and pretty much everyone else) protest. Ah. But there are so many reasons why I don't want my special day to be a big wedding. Here are a few:
- My parents live in Texas, about two hours from the nearest airport. His parents live in Oregon, about two hours from the nearest airport. We have aging grandparents sprinkled around the country, and even an aunt and her entire family in Scotland. Just mentioning "wedding" is enough to set off arguments over where it should be and in depth conversations about the logistics of getting all of these people in the same place at the same time. Have you heard the story about the fish and the bird who fell in love, but didn't have a place to live? Here's another one for you: an Oregonian and a Texan can get married, but where will they tie the knot? These are arguments I wish to avoid leading up to my special day.
- Have I mentioned before that I'm a miser? I am. A big one. And I'm not dropping $10K on one day. That's certainly special, but not the good kind of special, if you know what I mean.
- I don't want to have to deal with 200 strangers on my wedding day. I don't even like talking to people I know most of the time, because it makes me so nervous. Why would I want to have to talk to dozens of people I don't know all in a single day?
- I don't want to have to deal with bickering relatives on my wedding day. Family, I love you to pieces, but I know how you all are (I'm talking to Kellen's side, too) and I especially know how you are when you all get together. Where would you all rather be on your wedding day? Peaceful, quiet romantic getaway with your lover? Or hectic, stressful packed venue with 20 stubborn, opinionated, and very vocal relatives? And if I still haven't driven my point home, just think about how hard it is to plan for Christmas when we go to the same place and everyone brings the same dishes every year. You really want to have to go through that (times a bajillion) for a wedding?
- I love to travel, and I'd love to combine my special day with doing something that I actually like--seeing something new.
Mar 29, 2009
This hasn't always been the case. In college, I had a ton of friends. I think it still sort of baffles my boyfriend, who met me when I was in college, that I don't have a ton of friends and that I'm not always at the center of everything the way I was back in those days. Of course, what I don't think he realized then is that by the time he'd met me, I'd had three years of being in college to make friends. And it took me all of those three years to make those friends. The first two years I was in college? Completely friendless. You can ask my sophomore year roommate. It drove her absolutely nuts that the totality of my social life pretty much took place on the internet.
I don't really know why I have such a hard time making friends, but I always have. I'm just sort of...awkward...around people I don't know very well. This afternoon, the boyfriend and I went to see I Love You, Man, the new Jason Segel/Paul Rudd movie, wherein Paul Rudd has no friends outside of his girlfriend and spends most of the movie failing pretty outrageously at making friends, mostly because he's painfully awkward. Watching it, I really sympathized with Rudd because, hey, that's pretty much been me my whole life. As we were walking out of the theatre, I asked the boyfriend, "So, uh, did Paul Rudd remind you a little of me?" He immediately started cackling and said, "Yeah. Why did you think I was laughing so hard?"
After leaving college, I went almost immediately into flight attendant training in Minnesota. Even though I spent pretty much 20 waking hours of the day with these three other girls who were my same age and who shared close living quarters with me, I had a really hard time ever feeling NOT awkward around them, much less making friends with them. They had all become best buds before I showed up with my suitcase on the very first day—a matter of hours to start braiding each others' hair and swapping friendship bracelets—but over a period of 6 weeks, I barely felt comfortable being in the same room with them. I'm not even sure why. They were always really nice to me and tried to include me in everything. But I always felt out of place with them.
Same thing has happened in Oregon. I've been at the same workplace for a year, and I still feel incredibly uncomfortable with almost everyone I work with. And the thing is, there's no reason for it. No one has ever been anything but nice to me or done anything to make me feel uncomfortable. I'm just uncomfortable with myself. I say and do awkward things, I have a hard time coming up with things to talk about that aren't sort of strange. Give me a blog, and I can talk for hours, but put me in a face-to-face conversation? I turn into a puddle of embarrassing yuck.
And the idea of making friends outside of the workplace? Forget about it. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I've heard from a lot of other twenty-something's that making friends once you start your real world job (especially if you leave the town where you grew up or went to college) is difficult even if you aren't impossibly awkward. On tumblr (yes, I'm back to 99% of my social life being on the internet), I'm always encountering posts that have been reblogged dozens of times where people in their early 20s ask, "Is it this hard for everyone to make friends after college?" Everyone's answer seems to be, "Yes."
So while I know part of my struggle to make friends is that I'm uncomfortable putting myself out there enough to do it, part of it is just the nature of being in your 20s. It's making big moves away from your friends from childhood or college. It's spending most of your time at work. It's not really having many opportunities to run into other people your age or with your interests. It's everyone coupling off, getting married, having babies. It's a lot of things.
I've tried putting myself out there more. I joined a community band, and I'm going to take a Spanish class starting next month. I've started accepting and extending more invitations to people I work with. I can feel it slowly starting to happen. But the boyfriend and I are planning on moving after he finishes school. What then? Do I have to start over all over again?
It really stinks not having friends, too. Like tonight, when Kellen has gone back to school and I'm sitting around on what is a really beautiful afternoon wondering, "What do I do now?" I'm completely capable of being alone with myself. In fact, hanging out on my own is something I've gotten pretty accustomed to and cool with in the nearly two years I've been out of school. All the same, sometimes you want to be around other people. You want someone you're close enough to that you can bitch about your life or tell silly jokes or go do something fun and interesting with or just...be yourself, however awkward you might be.
So making friends. It's something I'm still working on, and hopefully, the situation will improve soon. I just wish I had friends now, though. I wish all the awkward "we might be able to become friends, so let's test the waters and see how it goes" conversations could all be over, and we could already be friends, and I could stop feeling so awkward all of the time. That would be awesome.
Mar 27, 2009
It's about $40 less than I'm used to, which means that spread over the month I'll be making about $160 less than I was last month. I know it could be a lot worse, and I've been preparing for this for the past few weeks, so my budget has already been shifted to accommodate the lower income. Still, it's sad to see that lower number pop up in my online checking account.
Oh, recession. How I hate you.
Mar 26, 2009
Honestly, I'm of the opinion that what you do on your own time is what you do on your own time. So if you're drinking after work, someone snaps a photo, and it ends up on the internet, who cares? I mean, it's not a photo of you sneaking sips from a flask in your cubicle. It's not affecting your job performance. And 10 years ago, if your friends possessed drunk photos of you making out with a pirate statue at some bar you went to over the weekend, your boss wasn't going to go looking through your friends' personal items to find proof that you aren't a saint after all. If it didn't matter that I did it then (as long as you didn't have blatant proof) why does it matter now? As long as I'm not flashing people, cussing, or acting a fool at work where this behavior matters, I don't see why it matters to my boss. (If a client finds some "unprofessional" pictures of me from my personal time, I don't see why that should matter to them either. As long as I'm doing a bang up job at work, I must be doing something right...right?)
The gray area, though, comes when I start blogging about work. Ah. Here's a topic I could genuinely understand an employer getting upset about, and this is one of those subjects I've tiptoed around in my blogs ever since I started working. To this day, I don't think I've mentioned the companies I work for anywhere on the internet, or even the first names of any of my coworkers, and I don't think I ever will. All the same, if one of my bosses came across this site, what would they think? After all, I was very frank about not being 100% satisfied with my job about a month ago and about not being 100% psyched about a forced role change this past week. In a time when the economy is bad, when you have proof that one of your employees is dissatisfied, wouldn't it be better to let go of someone who is unhappy in their job, rather than cutting someone who isn't? And...isn't this sort of unprofessional behavior anyhow? What if one of our clients finds this? (Granted, it would have to be a client I already have a pretty good relationship if they can divine from the scant information I've provided here that I am, in fact, myself.) What does this blog say about the company I work for? Could even the most minimal critique be taken as hostility or, worse, grounds for termination?
I've tried very hard to walk the fine line between honesty and professionalism when it comes to talking about my job here. But it's not always easy, and a lot of times I worry I've gone too far. There are a lot of topics I will obviously never be able to touch upon here that absolutely do influence my work life. There are also things that happen regarding my job, my company, etc. that I legally can't discuss. But what about the simple complaints? Would that be enough to offend my employer(s)? Could my seemingly harmless griping get me into real trouble at work?
The question is, in a world where almost everything personal is also very public, how careful do I have to be in what I say, how I say it, where I say it, and whether or not there is a camera or a stealth copy&paster around to immortalize these things I say or do on the web? Do I always have to be on my best behavior? Since my behavior affects my job not only when I'm at work, but also when I'm not at work, when do I get to relax and just be myself? Do I have to unplug myself from the internet entirely and go Chris Martin on anyone with a camera within a 1000-foot radius in order to avoid the fear of being constantly spied upon by the people I work with and for? And what does it say about us as a society when we are so deeply engrossed in other people's personal lives that we not only go out of our way to monitor people's personal lives on the internet, but act as enforcers in the workplace when we see someone getting out of line outside of the workplace?
I guess I wouldn't have as much to worry about if I didn't so freely broadcast my life and my feelings on the internet, but... I guess I fail to understand the mentality where employers feel the need to police their workers' in their time off.
I want to say, I have no reason to think I am being monitored by my employers or anything like it. But I do worry sometimes that my blogging, no matter how innocuous, will end up getting me into trouble. I write mostly because I'm hoping that there will be people who identify with me, who understand what I'm going through and who, in a sense, will act as a kind of virtual support group to help me get through what has been a rocky transition in my life. I really hate that "who will see this?" is something I have to feel paranoid about every time I sit down to write.
I used TurboTax and to be honest, it was super duper easy. I also was very excited about my refund amount: $1504. Student loan payments and moving a bajillion times are good for something, apparently.
The problem? I filed my taxes over a month ago, and while I have been anxiously awaiting the day the check would show up in my online checking account, the day never arrived. I was pretty upset. After all, I'm moving (yes, again) in a few weeks, and I'm having major dental surgery done on Monday, so I was really looking forward to having that extra cash either to pay the deposits and fees at my new apartment or to pay for my teeth. Whichever seemed most pressing. Either way, with $2800 in extra stuff to pay for in the coming month, you can see why I'm kind of ready for that $1500 check to show up.
So today I finally call the IRS to find my check. Of course, the first thing that happens is that I'm put on hold and told by a robotic female voice that my wait time is 15-20 minutes. Lucky for me, I don't have any meetings or anything this morning, so I can sit around listening to the Nutcracker Suite for the whopping half hour it finally takes the IRS to get to my call. Visions of rebate checks were definitely dancing in my head by the time someone took my call.
And when the IRS finally does take my call, what do I get but a whole mess of rude from the lady on the other end. I'm thinking, "I don't know what you've got to be rude about. You're not the one missing $1500." But I guess when you work for the IRS, you don't really have to worry about being nice to people. You could just threaten anyone who comments on your rotten attitude with an audit, and people will happily tolerate the snarling.
Anyhow, after answering several questions and being put on hold another five times (more Nutcracker—really, it isn't Christmas anymore, you should change the music already), she finally comes back with an answer. My bank has rejected the EFT, and they're going to mail the check. Tomorrow.
*sigh* At least I'm not being audited?
If you're wondering where your tax refund is, you can find out by checking the IRS's "Where's My Refund?" page here.
Mar 25, 2009
I grew up in a very small town in Texas. The population is just a hair above 1,000 and the nearest city is a good two hours away. The biggest employers in the area are an army depot (which experienced a series of massive layoffs and closures in the 90s), the electrical company, a tire company, and local schools. None of these are areas where I really ever saw myself working. So when I left home a couple of weeks after my 18th birthday to attend college in the big city of Austin (6 hours away), I knew that the chances I would ever come back were pretty slim. At the time, of course, that was incredibly appealing.
And, you know, it's not that I'm really dying to move back to my one-horse Texas town (actually, I'm not interested at all), but there are a lot of times when I wish my parents had chosen to settle down in a place that was a little more...centrally located. Because when I graduated from college, my parents' location meant that I never had the option to move back home, to take time to scope out the job market or to maybe even work in the same area where my parents lived to save money for a while. As soon as I graduated, I had to find a job and a place to stay and a way to pay all of my own bills immediately, and then when things went wrong or plans fell through, there weren't even any parents around to feed me a big meal and give me a hug and tell me everything was going to be okay. It's pretty stressful knowing that there is no safety net, that you rely on you and you alone, and that if you screw it up, you're going to be the one who has to deal with it. All of it. By yourself.
So...pretty much since I turned 18, I've felt pretty alone in the world.
I probably made all of this worse for myself by moving to Minnesota three weeks after graduation to become a flight attendant, and then deciding to move to Seattle and Portland to be closer to (but not close enough to) my long distance boyfriend. For the better part of the last two years, I've been 2,000 miles and some very long plane rides from my family and friends in Texas. And it's not so much that I expect any of them to take care of me, to support me, or anything like that. I mean, it would have been nice if when I'd gotten into my car accident, my mom had been there to hold my hand through the whole thing, or similar kinds of moral support things in bad situations, but really, I just miss the people I love. And you don't really realize how much you value them until they're not around.
They say you can never go home again, and while I don't think this has been true for everyone, it's certainly been true for me. And unfortunately, I haven't really been in one place long enough, haven't put down roots strong enough, to feel that any of the new places that have come along are home, either.
Mar 24, 2009
Mar 23, 2009
The thing that I've noticed is that while a lot of these blogs are super popular, most of them are incredibly boring. To tell the truth? I can't figure out why anyone is reading them at all. Maybe half the problem of why I can't get a blog off the ground is because I just don't find what 99% of the population finds to be interesting/relevant either interesting or particularly relevant, but. The thing is reading these, I not only find the same content and advice reworked and rehashed and redone repeatedly, but also I find the same overused formats and formulas for every single blog. It gets old and fast.
These are the things I'm tired of seeing:
- Numbered lists. Five ways to land your next job. Seven ways to impress your boss. Ten ways to a happier you. The numbers are supposed to make it seem "easy." Just follow these simple steps and your problems will be solved. I'll just ignore the fact that while the numbers occasionally change, the advice doesn't from blog to blog (or even within the same blog as the case often is.
- I know THE SECRET. The secret to personal branding. The secret to wowing clients. The secret to finding the perfect career. The secret to finding your One. True. Love. And all you have to do is read my blog to find out what "the secret" is. Again, it's all a ploy to make you think something is simple when more often than not, it isn't. The secret they give you is probably something you've already heard, it's probably not as simple as it sounds, and it's probably not as effective as the author makes it seem.
- Questions. That is to say, every post opening with an open-ended, "please read and comment on this" question. Do we rely too much on the internet? Is twitter really the best way to advertise yourself? Is our generation really that self-absorbed? I know why they're asking. I ask, too. But for the most part, you are running a blog. Very few blogs really allow much back-and-forth dialogue. This is an "I talk, you comment," medium. And really, if it's a good question, by all means, ask it, but for the most part, the questions just aren't that interesting. It's just trying very hard to inspire reader feedback, because that's what all the blogs about running a good blog tell you to do. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, but...it doesn't make for good blogging.
- Buzz words. Oh my god, could it be any more obvious you're trolling for search engine hits? I know it's effective, but lord, does it make a blog unreadable fast.
- "Experts." In general, the thing that bothers me most is all the people who claim to be experts on any number of topics. Everyone is an expert on something, everyone has some advice to dole out, and more importantly, everyone knows exactly how you can solve all your problems. When I see unemployed people giving advice on how to land a great job, I can't help but think, "Are you really the expert I'm looking for?" And while the unemployed "become employed" blogger is only one example I can think of immediately, generally speaking, I feel this way about a lot of the "expert" blogs I read: you're not actually an expert. Most of the advice, how to's and proclamations of "I know how to solve your problems" are in fact the stuff that most of us learned how to write when we were undergrads and had to do papers on topics we cared nothing about: bullshit.
- The same old thing. When I could find the exact same advice on 100 other blogs or when I've read the exact same information on your blog three or four times in a matter of pages, I cease to be impressed. Especially when people who advise you to "think outside the box" are themselves experiencing a shortage of fresh ideas. I just have to wonder, why do you keep a blog at all if you have nothing new to say?
So knowing that these are the things that I hate about other blogs and that turn me off from reading, where should I go from here? The first thing I'm going to do is tell everyone, from the start, that I'm not an expert on anything. I can't tell you how to solve all your problems. I can't tell you how to make your life better. And really, you have no reason to believe I'm an expert on anything. I'm just another kid who works in a cube, struggles to make relationships work, and fights tooth and nail to stay on top of my bills and debt. I can tell you what I do in my life, but I don't know how to make your life perfect. And in fact, that's not why I'm writing. I'm not here to tell you what you should do.
The second thing is, I'm going to focus on what I find interesting: the problems that come with being 20. Whether it's obnoxious Boomers who write newspaper articles about how much they hate Millennials or talking about how people our age suffer from the highest rates of unemployment, lack of insurance, and debt...I want to focus on the areas that need most attention. And then I want to talk about how I've experienced them or how I struggle to keep from experiencing them.
The third thing is, I want to be myself. I'm going to stop reading all of the "how to be a great blogger" blogs and the "how to market yourself" blogs and the "how to be perfect" blogs. I don't like reading that crap. It doesn't make me feel better about myself or about my blog. And most importantly, it doesn't make me a better blogger. I'll write about what I like, how I like, and I can only hope that people find that interesting. Because if people don't find my personal perspective interesting, they're definitely not going to find my rehash of 20 other people's blogs interesting, either.
I’m tired of the 20-something stereotype. I’m tired of the assumptions that because we’re young, we don’t care. We do care, maybe more than anyone else I’ve ever met. We know that today’s world is ours to better, that we’ll be the ones inheriting the problems and therefore need to work as hard as we can to find solutions. We know that small actions can have big results, and that each individual voice only gets stronger when it’s joined by another voice, and another voice, and that it doesn’t take too many voices to sound a deafening call to action.
It’s in this spirit that I’ve created HandsIn, an organization to inspire 20-somethings to change their world through dedicated community service and a shared commitment to a sustainable lifestyle.
I highly recommend everyone check out this site, HandsIn, and not just because of the amazing $200 giveaway that anyone who goes and checks it out is registered for. I think it is a really fantastic idea.
Mar 22, 2009
As a former flight attendant, though, my favorite part was closer to the end, where he makes fun of people for complaining about their flights. When my passengers had nasty things to say about me because there were delays or because they weren't satisfied with the service, all I could think was, "Just be thankful there's someone willing to serve you your free soda on this thin metal tube hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour and that you'll get to your destination tonight (even if it's a few hours late) instead of a few months (and a case of dysentery) later...or never."
I'm not even kidding. I got bitched out so many times on flights over truly silly things that I had no control over (or worse, over situations where the delays or "obnoxious" inconvenient/time-consuming requirements were because to do otherwise would compromise the safety of our passengers), that there were many occasions where, by the end of the flight, or actually sometimes before the flight had even started, I had already decided if the plane went down, I wasn't going to help certain people off the plane. I might even encourage the person in the aisle seat on their row to start trying to get their carry-on out of the overheads if the plane crashed. Yeah. See how you like that when the whole plane is on fire, jerk. That'll really give you a delay to complain about.
Honestly, I can't say that the critique is entirely off the mark. We have grown up in an age of unprecedented privilege and wealth, and for those who grew up in a certain social set (certainly not the one I grew up in, but I've known those for whom this would apply) many Millennials have been told their entire lives that the sun shone out of their perfect little backsides. And yes, the parents of some of my cohorts have definitely shown up at the doors of our college professors and bosses to defend us in a way that was completely inappropriate. (Much to the rest of our generation's chagrin.)
That being said, I think a lot of people get our generation wrong. Do we expect better for ourselves? Yes, we do. But our generation has proven itself to be hard working and willing to do whatever possible to make "it" (whatever "it" is) happen. Are we unaccustomed to failure? Yes, to an extent. Most of us grew up in a period with little economic or political difficulty, where our parents also notably never really experienced failure. But as this writer points out, our generation's overwhelming positivity and can-do attitude means that failure, for most of us, automatically is spun into something positive or productive.
While our generation has experienced less hardship and more undeserved praise, we haven't used that as an excuse for laziness. Millennials are incredibly civic-minded, with 80% of all Gen Y'ers volunteering in the past year. (We prefer to work for companies that share our social ideals—that is to say, are socially and environmentally responsible.) Gen Y is rapidly making a name for itself as an entrepreneurial generation, with many of those in our cohort starting highly profitable and successful companies before they're even out of their 20s. You will also find that more and more in our generation have taken part in success-focused activities all our lives, cultivating skills that make us highly competitive and productive in the workplace. Part of the reason why failure is so unfamiliar to us is because we've spent our entire lives focused so wholly on succeeding at whatever we do. And even when we have failed, we've powered ahead into new endeavors where we will do our damnedest to make sure we don't fail again.
One of the comments on my generation that you routinely see is that while we're very "high maintenance," we're also very hard working. And while there are certainly things you could find obnoxious or hard to deal with about my generation, the truth is, I think we're going to change the way things are done in the market. We've seen the way the generations before us (the Boomers and Gen X) devoted themselves to a business model that was completely unsustainable, unfulfilling, and often, not as efficient or as effective as it could have been. Because we've always been taught to look at the world not only as a problem to be solved, but as a problem that we could solve ourselves, we are unlikely to tolerate unsatisfactory or unproductive business practices, methods or environments just because "that's the way it's always been" or because that's the way we are told to do it. That's not the way we work. In the end, we might become one of the most productive generations in a very long time. Or, we might become a bunch of indulgent whining do-nothings who think updating our twitter accounts is "work." That's what people keep saying about us, but somehow, I can't see that happening...
Only time will tell. For now, most Gen Y'ers are still working on getting through school or trying to break into/keep jobs in a job market where unemployment for our cohort is twice as high as it is for older workers. On the whole though, I'm incredibly optimistic about my generation. While I usually laugh at the hyper-negative portrayals of my generation that I see so frequently in the media, I can't help but be frustrated at the commentary that writes us all off as selfish, entitled snots. I know in part this kind of negativity comes from the natural inclination to think the generations that come after you are going to send the world hurtling toward a dramatic end, but I can't help but wonder if maybe there's not something more to this particular critique. Maybe it's just resentment that we have, on the whole, been a very lucky generation and have experienced luxury to an extent that no generation before us has. Maybe it's simply Boomer narcissism to believe that nothing better will ever happen to the world than the Boomers. (*snort*) But maybe also some of it is a little bit of fear. It's unlikely that business will look the same after our generation gets through with it. The model we expect is fairly different from what exists now, and when we can't find what we want, Gen Y'ers more often than not just start creating it ourselves. Do the older generations see us as a threat?
I'm always kind of curious how other Gen Y'ers view our generation, whether they feel the critiques directed at us are accurate or overblown and what concerns they have about our transition into adulthood. Everyone is predicting apocalypse—or at the very least, a very rude awakening. What do you think when you read these critiques?
UPDATE: Just a few minutes after I published this post, I came across a video about our generation on Jamie Varon's twitter. (I love when that happens!) It's about our generation, the Millennials, or as this video calls us, "Generation WE." It talks a lot about the strengths and challenges of our generation. It nails the traits that I think are not only good about our generation, but which are completely vital to the long-term survival and success of our generation. Watch it. It embodies the exact kind of optimism and sense of social responsibility that I discussed our generation having.
Generation WE: The Movement Begins... from Generation We on Vimeo.
¹ It's worth noting that the example the author closes with (a young man in the 18th century who didn't need his parents help getting him a job when he was 12) is in fact, completely and totally wrong. For centuries, parents in well-to-do families have been helping their high-born brats end up in the best marriages, the best jobs, and the best situations in general. I'm not arguing that it's a good thing, but it's not as if parents using their wealth, power or know-how to get their children into a better life is a new thing. The only thing new about it is that this mentality of mommy and daddy wrangling their kids a good job or a better paycheck now extends to the middle class--not just the extremely wealthy.
Mar 20, 2009
Anyhow, I'm using this as a tool for a quick self-evaluation for my job performance.
Things I'm already doing:
- Don’t “backstab” anyone. Backstabbing has never really been my scene.
- Do every task you’re given as well as you can. We just finished our yearly evaluations, and I know this area is my strong suit. I'm really good at what I do. I know that isn't always enough, though.
- Never use your sick leave as “extra vacation.” It's far more likely that I will use my vacation for sick time. No worries here.
- Step up to challenges when they present themselves.
- Own up to your own mistakes.
- Go to work well-rested and presentable. While I definitely practice good hygiene, I think I could definitely work more on getting a full 8 hours of sleep and sprucing myself up a little for work. I just hate wearing make-up or putting a lot of effort into my hair.
- Minimize negative comments. I'm not negative about work at work. Any time I have a complaint, I try to frame it constructively so that it's more a well-meaning critique than a whine-fest. The past few months, though, I've definitely been complaining more about my personal life at work, and I need to knock that off.
- If you have downtime, find something useful to do/Improve yourself in your spare time. I've started taking some of the lynda.com free courses in my spare time, and I've signed up for a Spanish course (I work for the Latin American team) starting in two weeks. I think it's an area I still really need to work on, not only for my job but also for me, personally.
- Learn from (and emulate) the people who do their job well.
- Build positive relationships with everyone in the workplace. I'm very shy, and I'm uncomfortable meeting new people. As a result, the few people I do have a relationship with, it's great. But most people, I don't have a relationship with at all.
The other things, I either haven't encountered opportunity for or the issue hasn't come up in my workplace. I feel pretty good about my performance overall. I think I could go from being a good employee to a great employee, though, with a little bit more work on the side. Looking at this list, is there anything you need to work on at work? Can you think of other things that people can improve upon to be better employees?
Mar 19, 2009
Protesters are bitterly opposed to the new First Employment Contract (CPE), which allows employers to end job contracts for under-26s at any time during a two-year trial period without having to offer an explanation or give prior warning.
The government says it will encourage employers to hire young people but students fear it will erode job stability in a country where more than 20% of 18 to 25-year-olds are unemployed - more than twice the national average.
- BBC News
I find this very interesting. Youth unemployment rates in most places tends to be higher than that of the general population. (In America, for instance, youth unemployment rates tend to be a little more than twice as high as in the adult population.) In France, however, the number is incredibly high, reported to be as high as 1 in 4 young people. I've read a number of reasons for why the youth unemployment rate is so high: high unemployment in general, a high minimum wage, longer stays in college (as some higher education in France is less expensive), and better long-term unemployment benefits (although as I've also read, you have to lose a job before you qualify for unemployment, so this has less influence over the youth population.)
The International Labor Organization shows that while youth unemployment rates in France are tied to adult unemployment rates, and often remain at proportionate rates (about 2:1), youth workers tend to be the most vulnerable in the labor market if the market goes south, as well as have greater movement both in to and out of the labor market, meaning the steady employment is not as common for young workers . That being said, I find it odd that a bill that would simply make it easier to fire young workers and which would likely increase the number of young workers coming into and out of the job market would be proposed as a solution to high rates of youth unemployment, when these two things are already key factors in youth unemployment. I also find it odd that, considering France's overall unemployment is high, such a measure would not be extended to all laborers in the market. In my opinion, it's just making an already vulnerable demographic even more vulnerable.
I also think it's interesting many of the responses to the French youths' protests. I've noticed a lot of comments arguing that France's young people just don't want to work. I think this is an incorrect assumption. Most of the protesters' complaints tend to be centered on the fact that it will make it easier for them to be fired, and also easier to place them into "disposable" positions where cheap, inexperience labor could be easily brought in and then thrown out before being forced to give a better contract. It's being called the "kleenex contract" -- as soon as you're done with it, you throw it away and get a new one. I think the argument is that this would just introduce more instability in an already volatile market.
For me, the biggest hang up is the fact that these laws only apply to workers under the age of 26. If this were really such a great law to remedy unemployment, this would be applied to everyone, regardless of age. If this is, however, a way to put a very temporary band-aid on the unemployment problem, in hopes of creating a brief up-swing of hiring of young workers, in the long-term I think this will just create more problems for youth labor.
Any way you look at it, though, I'm glad this kind of inequality isn't being introduced into the market here. I think young workers already face enough challenges breaking into the labor market, what with lack of experience and often being the first to go in a round of lay-offs. Legislating incentives, however, for treating your young workers differently... I don't really care much for that.
Update: About five minutes after I posted this, I read the new Work Buzz post about unemployment in America. Awesome statistic of the day? 3.7 million people between the age of 16 and 29 are unemployed.
Mar 18, 2009
- Pay off credit cards. (1 year)
- Put back 10K. (3 years)
- Learn: photoshop (yeah, yeah), PHP, Ruby. (2 years)
- Start freelance business on the side. (1 year)
- Find job that allows me to work from home. (3 years)
- Start teaching on the side. (3 years)
- Keep my mind on what I can do to improve my resume and personal marketability at all times. (immediate)
- Stop complaining so much! (immediate)
- Travel somewhere really cool. (2 years)
What are some of your goals for the coming years?
Mar 17, 2009
Calling the dentist this morning and telling him to write a letter of appeal ASAP. Three months from now, I guess I'll find out if it all works out. Hooray for speedy filing!
Mar 14, 2009
"Marketed under the decidedly unappealing name of "income-contingent loans"—how about we call them "smart loans" instead?—the concept is simple: Instead of paying upfront or taking loans with repayment schedules unrelated to income, students would accept an obligation to pay a fixed percentage of their income for a specified period of time, regardless of the income level achieved. Suppose a university charged $40,000 a year in annual tuition. A standard 20-year loan in the amount of $160,000 (40,000 times four) would produce an immediate postgraduate debt obligation of $1,228.50 per month, or $14,742 per year, not sustainable at a salary of $25,000 or anything close to it. Under a smart loan program, the student could pay about 11 percent of his income, with an initial payback of $243 per month, or $2,916 per year, which is feasible at a job paying $25,000. If, after five years, the student's salary jumped to $100,000, payments would jump accordingly and move up over time as income increases. After 20 years, assuming ordinary income increase, the loan would be paid off."
As a person who has around $30K in student loans waiting to be paid off, I have to admit I'm interested in any proposals that would make paying down student loan debt easier. At the same time, I'm kind of a contrarian and because I take issue with just about everything, I take issue with some parts of this proposal as well.
For one, I don't know if you've ever made $25K/yr., but I have and I don't think $243/mo. is a "feasible" monthly payment. I think Spitzer's argument that it is comes in part from the fact that, well, he's probably never made $25K/yr. so he has no idea how quickly $1500/mo. goes when you live in a city where rent is $500, basic utilities are around $200, groceries $200, gas $150, car insurance is as much as $250 (especially for boys who have not turned 25 and have not had their rates lowered), other insurance is around $150, and we haven't even started talking about if you have recently bought a car or if you have to buy new furniture or appliances that most adults already have. But I digress. The first problem is that having a bunch of rich white guys deciding what they think is "feasible" for people living on an income they've never lived on is probably going to be a bad idea for the people who have to actually live with their decision.
The other problem is that because cost of living varies from place to place, $25K in Topeka, Kansas is a very different number than $25K in Seattle or New York City. So I think that if they do set up this kind of progressive interest rate, location and cost of living should absolutely figure in to the estimation of what percentage of a given income real people can pay.
And while I think it's great to talk about how people with existing student loan debt can have easier payment plans, I think a better conversation to have is about making college more affordable. The average annual cost of a college education today looks something like this:
- 4-year private institution: $37,390
- 4-year public institution (in-state): $18,326
- 4-year public institution (out-of-state): $29,193
- 2-year public institution (in-state): $14,054
These aren't pretty numbers for students in college, and they're even worse for those looking to start college in the coming years when the tuition inflation rate runs at almost 6%--or twice the rate of inflation for everything else. Considering that the average American household brings in about $70K/yr., this isn't really a price tag that most families can afford, which means that most students will leave college with student loan debt. (Actually, 65.7% of students at 4-year institutions leave with student loan debt and the average amount of that debt is nearly $20K.)
Looking at these numbers it becomes very clear to me that the best way to address the issue of high student loan payments is to talk about how to make college more affordable, so we can reduce the amount of student loans that have to be taken out period. That really needs to be the direction we need to steer the conversation in the future, although for now, I am definitely willing to strike up talks about how to reduce my own student loan payments, because at $300/mo., that's pretty much every penny of spare cash I have that isn't going toward necessities.
But I've gone on enough. What do you think of this proposal? Do you have a better idea you'd like to put forward?
Mar 12, 2009
Using the American Time Use Survey, I calculate that Americans age 15 and older collectively spent 847 million hours waiting for medical services to be provided in 2007. That’s a lot of bills to be delivered to health care providers.
Three percent of Americans traveled from their home to receive health care on any given day in 2007. The corresponding figures are 5 percent for women and 2 percent for men.
If you count health care-related activities writ large – including time traveling to a doctor, waiting to see a doctor, being examined and treated, taking medication, obtaining medical care for others, and paying bills – the average American spent 1.1 hours a week obtaining health care in 2007.
Not surprisingly, those over age 60 spent twice as much time obtaining medical care, on average, than did those age 15 to 60. Women spent about 70 percent more time on health care activities than men.
If we value all people’s time at the average hourly wage of production and nonsupervisory workers ($17.43 in 2007), Americans spent the equivalent of $240 billion on health care in 2007.
Put another way, omitting patients’ time caused national health care expenditures to be undercounted by 11 percent in 2007.
- A Hidden Cost of Health Care, Alan B. Krueger
Add to this that the amount of time we spend waiting to receive health care increases even as the cost of health care increases, and what you've got on your hands is a big, expensive mess.
I'm not exactly sure how this is a "hidden" cost of healthcare. Every time I have to mark against my sick time, or even my vacation time, because I had a dentist or doctor appointment and I have to take an additional hour here and there for time spent sitting in the waiting room, it's a cost that certainly isn't hidden from me. Since October I have had some 10 dentist visits to have a crown filled, a tooth pulled, a bone graft -- and will have several more once they put in the post and crown over the coming months. In addition to using all of my sick time last year, I also went through two of my five days of vacation time so that I could make it to all of my appointments. One more dentist appointment and I would have had my paycheck cut at the end of the year.
I agree that doctors should do more to monitor and improve wait times for their patients, but...what more? If we do keep medical records and doctors are already getting patients through the system as quickly as possible, what to do with all of those lost hours and all of that lost time or money? Compensate patients for time wasted in waiting rooms? Offer tax credits? What?
I'm not really sure what it is about dating that makes it so tempting to blog about it for the whole world to see. Probably has something to do with all of the hormones clouding your judgment. Regardless, whether it's because the relationship is going very well or because it's going down the toilet, or even because it's ended and you can't seem to stop thinking or talking about it, it's hard to keep that part of your life out of your blog. Even if you know blogging about it in a very public forum could cause problems with your partner (or ex) and even with your friends.
During my senior year of college/first year of grad school, I was in a fairly tumultuous relationship. Both of us kept blogs, both of us read each others' blogs, and both of us had a fair number of mutual friends and acquaintances who also read both of our blogs. Both of us also were better at communicating with each other through our blogs than we were with communicating with each other face to face. It all turned out very badly, and at least among my friends very publicly because of the whole blog things, and because of that, I've been fairly reluctant to blog about my relationships in a public forum ever since.
Still...sometimes I do mention my relationship here and elsewhere, and sometimes, I don't always have nice things to say. Don't get me wrong. I'm completely nuts about Kellen and he's a super wonderful guy and I have no complaints whatsoever about him. But long distance blows, and there is a part of me that really wants to talk about how lonely and frustrating it can be sometimes. I'm hesitant though, because I don't want him to think that I blame him for the situation (I don't) or don't appreciate how hard he works to include me in his life and to make me feel loved, even miles apart (I do). It's one of those topics I have to tread lightly: what is it okay for me to talk about? what is off-limits for public discussion? how can I talk about this in a way that makes it clear it's the circumstance, not the boyfriend, that I want to address?
Blogging about your relationship is rarely ever an easy topic to wade into, although it seems like something that is so important is almost impossible to avoid writing about on occasion. How do you deal with writing about relationships in your blog? Have you ever had any times when blogging about your relationship backfired?
Mar 11, 2009
- Ruby on Rails
In my defense, she was laughing when she said it. She, like most people, think it's cute when I get mad, probably because I'm very small and for some reason people find small, angry people funny instead of, well, not funny. And also in my defense, I was just explaining how difficult it is to balance your budget when you've had $8500 in unexpected expenses come up in less than three months.
But...she has a point. I am too young to be this grumpy. Add that to the list of things that I need to work on.
Mar 9, 2009
Mar 8, 2009
Through coupons and rebates, she manages to keep with her budget while feeding her family what appears to be a pretty well-rounded diet. It's quite a feat! Anyhow, you can bet your pretty penny that I'm taking notes. When you see that she's saved her family some $700 for the year by smart shopping and clipping coupons, and it's only March, it really drives home how much you can save just by taking a few extra hours out of your week to do some research. Definitely a must-read for anyone on a budget.
PS: She uses swagbucks, one of my new money-saving experiments. Can't wait to see what other tricks she has!
Mar 7, 2009
- I've suddenly got some giddy-up behind my several-months-in-the-making website redesign. I've even gone so far as to make a complete mock-up. Now to do the page itself...
- Two years ago, my college roommate bought me a Wacom tablet for my birthday, after I went around telling everyone I wanted one because I used one at work and it was awesome. Once I had it, I never took it out of the box, though. It stayed packed away in boxes as I moved from Austin back to my parents', from my parents' to Minneapolis, from Minneapolis to Seattle, and then from Seattle to Portland. (Phew! That's a lot of moving!) This week? Finally cracked that box open, installed the software, and began re-learning how to use the tablet.
- I'm working on my resume and actually learning some new terms and new ways of doing things in terms of applying to companies. For me, talking about my skills and abilities is always a little painful. I want to make sure I accurately represent myself and my skills (i.e. not exaggerate my abilities), but keep from minimizing my abilities to the point that I seem incapable. I did that in the interview for my current job, and a year later, I'm still paying for it with lack of confidence from my supervisors. That is a mistake I won't make again.
- I'm reminded once again of my limited skillset and how important it is for me to keep learning new things. I'm thinking about taking some classes and trying to learn more of the back-end part of web developing. I'd also like to learn more about graphic design. The things on the top of my list include: PHP, Ruby, Photoshop and Illustrator. If you guys know of anything that would be relevant right now, please let me know. I'm always open for suggestions.
- The prospect of losing my job in my current field, and the awareness that my skillset isn't where it should be to be competitive in today's job market, reminded me that I both love my field, even if I don't love my job, and that it's someplace I want to stay. So...beefing up on my skillset, gaining a little self-confidence, and starting a more serious approach to freelance work is critical, I think, to achieving my career goals. Not exactly sure what they are, but something tells me they lay in design. It's the only thing I've consistently loved doing since I was 13. I want to hang in there a little while longer.
Mar 6, 2009
Mar 5, 2009
The recession has finally hit me.
Mar 4, 2009
Mar 2, 2009
Plus, one of his roommates is in the same program, so if he ends up in the Portland area, he might be living with us, too. The roommate is pretty clean, likes to cook, loves the dog, and is generally speaking awesome, so I'm excited about that as well. The fact that it means I'll be paying a hair over $200/mo. for rent if we have a third roommate is also major bonus points.
Such a relief. I'm very excited about the summer.
Mar 1, 2009
I left the job I loved primarily because I couldn't buy groceries. I certainly couldn't pay for doctors or make my $300/mo. student loan payments. So while, yes, money motivated me to leave the job, I wasn't interested in buying designer clothes or expensive trinkets for my house so much as I was interested in paying my bills and getting myself healthy.
I didn't have much money when I quit the flight attendant gig, and I didn't have a lot of time to find a new job. When a job with a $45K salary was offered to me, I took it without thinking. I was more concerned with things like taking care of the tooth that was falling out and getting myself into a position where I wasn't relying on credit cards to pay for my basics.
There is an argument out there that people who work in cubes are only there because they want a lot of money and it's their fault for allowing their greed to get in the way of happiness. Those who make that argument, I would argue, have probably never been forced to choose between happiness and paying their bills--and they are among the very lucky few who have never experienced that.