Aug 25, 2009

Newsflash: I'm going to "The Bins" with Mei Mei Pomegranate.

This is her legal last name. No, really. She's my roommate's younger sister. I've been hearing stories about her for months, including how she changed her last name to Pomegranate when she was 16. My feelings toward her are something akin to worship.

It's like meeting a celebrity.

I'm so excited.

(Also, "The Bins" is the Goodwill cast-off store. I have no idea if that's what it's actually called, or if that's just what Kellen and Max are calling it. From what I understand, it's some cross between Gollum's lair and Antique Roadshow jackpot. Still excited.)

Aug 23, 2009

Attaching my personal brand to my job search? I don't think so.

So last weekend, my friends Kim and Will were in town. (Yes. I had a life for a whole 48 hours. This translates into months of blog fodder for the girl who has no life the other 363 days of the year.) As I said before, both of them do web design and are interested in running their own companies and blah, blah, blah. We were talking about "personal branding," (it's one of those hip buzz phrases that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but whatever, it's the only phrase I've got for it) and whether or not it is smart to attach your online personal brand to your professional image.

Let me be completely clear. I am a girl who got a facebook account before facebook was available to the general public. There are pictures of me on facebook doing things that I never want any employer to see me doing, and while yes, I can un-tag all of those pictures, I would say the far safer and easier thing to do is just to throw up privacy settings all over the place so no employer will ever be able to see those photos. And, I still get to be myself on Teh Internetz.

Generally speaking, this describes my entire approach to recreational internetting. I have a facebook account: totally private. I have a myspace account: totally private. I have about 20 different blogs: not private, but completely devoid of my name, and therefore impossible to find on any kind of search. Despite having a sizable web presence (i.e. the 20 blogs, the tumblr, the twitter, the facebook, the myspace, etc.), you really can't find me on the internet unless you know what to look for. I like it this way.

My "personal brand" so to speak is not necessarily what employers would want to hire, I don't think. I am a pessimist. I complain. I'm not perfect...at all. 99% of the advice I give on this blog is directed at myself: the procrastinating, the needing to actually DO something if I want to BE something, the how-to-get-noticed at work business. Nothing I blog about is very, well, professional. I am not speaking as any sort of expert: not on my field, not on career building, not on life. When I read the blogs of the 20-something girls who do attach their names to their blogs (you know who I'm talking about), I think, "Oh, fuck. I'm so fucked." I'm not inspired. I'm not motivated. I just feel deep, overwhelming inferiority. Because I am not, and never have been, one of those girls.

I am 25, and most days, I'd prefer to be in jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops. I do not blow dry my hair, and it's some combination of curly and A GIANT EFFING MESS that prevents me from ever being able to just wear it down and let it air dry. So it goes straight into a ponytail as soon as it air dries enough that it won't still be wet when I pull it out of the ponytail at 10 PM. I do not wear make-up. Most of the time, I can't even be bothered to pluck my gigantic manbrows or cut my toenails. I dream of doing approximately a bajillion things, but most days, I make no meaningful strides toward any of them. Occasionally, I blog about them. The thing I get most riled up about is what lies the GOP is telling about health care reform today (and I'm completely obnoxious and over-emotional in my response, and succeed only in irritating people, I'm pretty sure) and what happened at work that day (and am completely obnoxious and over-emotional in my response, etc.)

This is who I actually am, and there is no way in hell that I want potential employers, or even my current employers, to know the full extent of my actual personality which I freely communicate on the internet, but try my best to keep under wraps everywhere else. It's not attractive. And I really, really do not want to write another one of those fucking blogs where I'm the Perfect Girl who does everything Just Right and tells everyone else How To Be Perfect, Too. I could probably do it. I could probably do it well, attach it to my resume, and have future employees go, "What an impressive young lady."

And I'd be forced to gouge my eyes out every single day for trying to tell people they should be something even I am not capable of being. Actually, really, I think it would just make my insecurities worse if I tried to write every single day about how to be Perfect.

Maybe there are companies out there who could appreciate me for who I am. Who would read my blog and see something real and legitimate and that a lot of people go through. Or they could just see another fucking whiny kid (and I know a lot of the people who read this blog often times think this, so I'm not going to kid myself by thinking other people wouldn't). Maybe it would be better if I could let potential employers see who I actually am and let them pick me on the basis of my...quirks...rather than picking me on the basis of someone more perfect and awesome than I actually am. I would probably be happier in a place where people actually like me, than being in a place where people constantly expect me to be something else. (Right now, I think the ideal at my company is some combination of Tech Genius and Brainless Corporate Drone. *sigh*)

But let's be honest. The economy isn't in a place right now where I can afford to be myself. Maybe in a year or two when things are back on track and maybe I've got something other than my bitching on the internet to show potential employers...

What do you guys think of this issue? Is it better to show employers who you really are, or to hide your true self from the job-offering public in an effort to make yourself more broadly appealing? Would you be okay revealing your webbie self to the potential-employer universe? Or do you just try to make sure that your webbie self is your most perfect and awesome self that it's not a completely horrible thing if employers make the connection between you and your web presence?

Aug 18, 2009

Grad school vs. real world...maybe grad school isn't that bad?

A while back I wrote a post that discouraged all but the most passionate from using grad school as an escape from the real world and the real recession. In it, I quoted Thomas H. Benton's persuasive summation of grad school: "Grad school is a confidence-killing daily assault of petty degradations. All of this is compounded by the fear that it is all for nothing; that you are a useful fool."

Having been out in the real world a while now, though, can I just say...I think you could substitute "Entry level jobs" for "Grad school," and that statement would still be just as true.

Aug 17, 2009

Gen Whine?

Our parents told us a number of things. Stay in school. Study hard. Stay off drugs. Keep your grades up. Get into the best college there is. Be the best at everything you do. Learn. Research. Excel. For me, the all-nighters doing homework started in seventh grade. School followed by extra-curriculars would start a bit before 8:00 in the morning and, for some parts of the year, could run until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Then I started studying. Through college, commitments might go until well after midnight. Do all of this now, we were told, and when you finally graduate there will be a job for you. It may not be easy. Nobody is handing anything to you on a silver platter and you might get some dirt under your fingernails. But we had an understanding. There is, we are told, a rational system, and if we are smart enough and work hard enough, things will turn out okay. Will you achieve all of your dreams? Realistically, maybe not—but you should at least be comfortable. So what happens after graduation?

Congratulations, graduate! Go out and take on the world. What? No job? Surely you applied? You interviewed? Maybe you’re being unrealistic. Have you considered temp agencies? Retail? They’re flooded as well? Have you called? Dropped in in person? Pounded the proverbial pavement? Have you tried working your network? Is that really a stack of a hundred rejection letters? You must be doing something wrong.

For those who just graduated, there was no job. That’s not technically true. There was a job—but somebody older has it and isn’t letting go. It turns out the whole system is rigged. Education and intelligence and everything we were told was important turn out to be worth nothing next to seniority and experience.

Maybe the system was relatively fair twenty or thirty years ago—but it certainly isn’t now. Maybe there was a time, relatively recently, when young job seekers could weigh different offers or meaningfully negotiate salaries. When things got tough, that was the first thing to go. As the economy contracts there is a larger and larger focus on protecting people who already have jobs—or those who have recently lost them. Extending unemployment benefits won’t help recent graduates. In today’s economy, seniority is more important than merit. And through all of this, the wealth gap keeps expanding.

Sure, the economy is tough. Nobody meant for this to happen. People screwed up. Accidents happen. Normally, if you bungle something up and can’t fulfill your end of a bargain, you would and try to make it right. You broke it? Fix it. Or at least look embarrassed. That hasn’t happened. I turns out, we’re just whiners. We did everything that was asked of us … and when the older generations don’t deliver their half of the bargain, it’s somehow our fault.

- Squashed



If you would like to read a well-researched, well-written blog on progressive politics, Squashed is pretty awesome. But sometimes he turns out non-political gems like these, too, and they are also well worth reading. Highly recommended blog.

Everybody's going through this

So this past weekend, a couple of my friends from Texas came to Oregon to visit for the first time ever. (Hi, Will! Hi, Kim!) It was a super fun weekend. We ate at the Kennedy School in East Portland, hit a couple of brew pubs downtown, went to the Rose and Japanese Gardens, got some produce and BBQ at Sauvie Island, and then hung around downtown yesterday. I guess I'm getting pretty good at giving tours of Portland?

Saturday night, though, while we were sitting around in the Rogue downtown, we got to talking about jobs... I guess this is a big topic of conversation for most of us in our 20s. Will and Kim both do web design, and Kim also does a lot of web copy and journalism work (she just got her master's in journalism and public affairs). All of us seem to be in transitional jobs, jobs that are good for experience or for a paycheck or for building skills, but not necessarily the jobs we want to be in forever. It was so nice to talk to people who are going through the same things for a change. Sometimes, it feels really lonely being in a position where you aren't exactly satisfied with your current situation, and it seems like everyone else has got it figured out. Thank goodness I'm not the only one who's in this spot!

Will, at least, seems to be making some pretty serious inroads into starting his own company. I'm very impressed with how knowledgeable he is about running your own business, dealing with legal issues, and also, obviously, design. I think he'll be a good resource to have if I keep doing design. It was still a little frustrating, though, seeing someone my age who seems to have it so together. He knows what he wants, and he's really going after it, and I am so eager to be in the same position. I'm still not 100% what I want to be doing yet, though, and it's hard to go after something when you don't know what that something is.

This is something I've been thinking so much about. I keep going over these lists I make: things I can do, things I'm good at doing, things I like to do, things I would love to learn. I feel like I'm so close to figuring it all out. Just...need to keep working on it.

We also discussed how the recession is effecting people our age. I didn't realize how many people I knew back in Austin are currently unemployed. Or have taken pay cuts, while taking on heavier work loads to make up for layoffs. Or are working part-time because the full-time jobs just aren't there. Sometimes, because I have a job and most of the people I know up here have jobs, I forget that the recession is going on. Apparently it is, and boy, is it ever for people in their 20s. Makes me a little nervous about Kellen hunting for jobs right now... Keep your fingers crossed for him.

And, at the very least, I have a job to be very, very grateful for. Good luck to all of you out there still looking.

Aug 11, 2009

Behind the scenes

So I haven't really been talking much about what I've been up to these days, and surprisingly, it's been a lot. After putting on 15 lbs. in a handful of months (I can only assume that turning 25 means your metabolism gives out on you), I decided it was time to stop pretending that the weight was going to magically come off in my sleep one night and start being healthier. I've been working on improving my diet (no more Dr. Pepper, no more junk for breakfast, lunch and dinner), and I've been doing 20-30 minutes on the elliptical 5 times a week. I have the not-so-greatest knees, so the low-impact workout I think is a nice way to ease into the habit without hurting myself or scaring myself away from at least trying.

So far, no noticeable weight loss, but I do feel better, and that's good enough reason for me to keep doing it. Plus, it makes me feel like I'm actually doing something, and it's just nice to feel like I haven't quit something lately.

I've also been working on improving my photoshop skills, building my professional website, and also doing more web work to build my portfolio. That takes up a lot of my spare time.

While my adult community band is on a temporary late-summer break, I've been ramping up my activities with the local alumnae chapter of my sorority. I'm the VP of Communication, which means I basically build and maintain the website and show up to officer meetings to help with activity planning for the whole year. I'm pretty excited about it, particularly our upcoming Founders' Day festivities, which I have never been able to participate in and for having activities to dress up for once again. Jeans and t-shirts get old after a while...

The weekend schedule is also getting crazy. The week before last my parents were in town, I don't even remember what I did last weekend, and then this weekend just past, Kellen's friends from college came into town to visit before they move off to Hawaii (so jealous), Saturday night I hosted a Rock Band party for co-workers at my house, and on Sunday we went down to Salem to see the new house (with air conditioning!) some friends of ours moved into. This weekend, my friends from college, Will and Kim, are coming into town so I'll be showing them around Portland. Kellen will be preparing for Burning Man (including buying a beater to drive out there and a boat load of supplies), which he leaves for next Saturday and won't be back from until the next weekend. One of those weekends, I have plans to help clean up at a local elementary school before school starts back.

Once Kellen is back, we've got two weekends in a row of out-of-town weddings, including his brother's which is going to be out in Bend. The whole shebang is happening out at FSIL's parents' house (future-sister-in-law) and the families are doing the catering, so that should be a super fun/super busy weekend.

Then, I think, we'll have one bless'd weekend free. Maybe.

At some point, I've got plans to go to Austin and/or San Diego, depending on money and time off, in October. Trying to decide where funds would be best allocated and which will involve the least amount of time/money spent. I've almost got my credit card paid off ($238 left!), and I'm apprehensive about putting a lot of new charges on it.

Oh, yes. And Kellen has been applying to jobs like crazy since his internship/school is up in December, and he will then be free to join the working world. So there've been a lot of resumes and cover letters floating around my house of late.

Band will start back sometime in September, and I'm thinking about taking a javascript course in November/December that will involve taking off from work early two nights a week and hauling butt all the way across Portland. So it's been busy, and who knows when it will let up? I'll try to keep you all posted though.

PS: Two women I work with announced they were pregnant at our team meeting on Monday. I'm on a small team. I'm beginning to think I should be concerned about what they're putting in our water...

Aug 9, 2009

Be fearless!

I just got home from watching Julie and Julia. It was...wonderful. Even with the boom mic rearing its ugly head in every other scene (literally), I can't remember the last time I felt so inspired by a film.

Julie and Julia is about two women: Julia Child and Julie Powell. At the start of the film, both are two women who seem to be floundering for "something to do." Julia isn't interested in sitting around being just a housewife, while Julie is just looking for something other than her miserable cubicle job. This is obviously something I identify with. And both women find their niches—Julia in cooking, Julie in Julia.

I won't lie. I identified more with Julie than Julia. The girl is originally from Texas, has a crazy Southern mother, wants to be a writer (but isn't), who never finishes anything, who is languishing in a cubicle job, who writes a blog(!), and who desperately wants to be Doing Something. She's more like, well, like me. Julia, though, is that amazing person you want to be more like, and I think that's why Julie is so drawn to her. Julie comes across as a meek, nervous person who lacks the confidence to really go after life, and Julia's motto seems to be, Be Fearless! Have Courage! Have Confidence!

I loved them both so much. I loved all the lessons about life and passion that Julia has to offer—not to mention that I am blown away by her passion for real cooking, which is something I think is very important. And I loved that Julie tried so hard to learn those lessons and make them her own. The whole thing made me want to go home and start figuring out how I could tackle life the way Julia attacked her cooking or the way Julie attacked her blog. The way they went after the things they really wanted. Not many movies leave you with that feeling.

Also, there is a love of butter going on in this movie that, I'm sorry, any self-respecting Southern girl has no choice but to appreciate.

In short, I loved the movie. Boom mic and all.

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!"

- Julia Child

Aug 3, 2009

The worst part of wedding season...

katie+ericaSo I'm sure I'm not the only one who lately has been inundated with wedding invitations, new wedding albums on facebook, and nearly non-stop chatter about "We're going to Cabo on our honey moon." (To all my recently-wed sorority sisters: I'm not entirely sure how you guys managed to get through all of your honeymoons in Cabo without tripping all over the half dozen or so of your sisters who were in town honeymooning at the exact same time.) And really, there are lot of things that blow about wedding season. There's the, "OMG, I'm getting so old," thing. And the, "There really is nobody NORMAL left," thing. And there's the whole, "All of my friends have married and disappeared off of the face of the planet," thing.

But really, none of these is the worst thing about wedding season. The worst thing is seeing picture after picture of girlfriends all hanging out together, getting drunk at bachelorette parties, dancing around in penis-laden veils, and hugging each other post-ceremony in matching gowns. Why? Well, at least for me, it's because I don't really have any girlfriends.

Wait. Let me clarify. I have girlfriends. They're all just 1,000-2,500 miles away.

*ahem* But back to the story. I have no girlfriends in Portland. And I think this is a normal affliction for a lot of 20-something women. Our once-single girlfriends start coupling off and get separated from the herd (never to be seen again), the rest of our girlfriends move far, far away, or worse, we ourselves move far, far away. It's hard not having other women around whom you can talk to, giggle with, go do things with that don't involve either a lot of dinners for one OR action movies, dumb boy humor, and electronics. *cough* Not...that...I don't...love those things...Kellen... *cough*

Now, I do think the single girls have it a little easier when it comes to making new girlfriends. Whereas most nights I already have someone to eat dinner with and someone to go see movies with, most single girls don't. They do those things with other single girls. And while, yes, I know I can ditch my boyfriend a couple of nights a week to go hang out with other girls, that's not the same as the single girl relationships of yore where we all spent every waking hour together and never really had to worry about how we divided our free time. Those single girl relationships have a certain degree of intensity to them that you don't get post-singledom because, well, you're not relying solely on that person or group of people to meet your social needs. And I don't mean this as an insult to single girls at all. I think it's fantastic, and this is precisely what I miss in my life.

Even if you move to a whole new city, if you're single you'll probably be able to pick up some new girlfriends eventually. However if you're like me, and you've moved 2,500 miles to be with your boyfriend, well, then you don't meet as many girls and you don't make those really intense, bestie relationships that really seem to dry up the longer you're in your 20s and the longer you're in a couple. In fact, most of my female friends are either Kellen's friends or girlfriends of Kellen's friends, and most of them who hang out with me also hang out with Kellen and usually are flanked by their boyfriends. It's never "just the girls."

And they really are just female friends. They aren't girlfriends. They aren't the girls who told me I was gorgeous and awesome right after some douchebag had just broken my heart, who cleaned me up after a night of hard partying, who went out to dinners and movies with me, who made me laugh and made me cry and were basically the coolest people I've ever met. (And yes, you know who you are.)

I guess this is what happens when you get into a relationship where your boyfriend really does become your best friend and you really do share a family/home/life together. That kind of relationship is an all new kind of intense, and I'm really glad I found it. All the same, there's still the tug of nostalgia for the relationships I had before, with girls who live thousands of miles away, who have new lives and new adventures. Many of them are still my friends. We still talk. They're the people I will travel thousands of miles cross-country to see. But...it's not the same.

So I'm missing those female relationships and the unique friendships that come in an age when you've left your family but yet to make a new one, and so your family becomes the girls around you who make that period of your life worth remembering. And maybe with all those girls in their pictures from bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners and receptions who are all clinging together and grinning and laughing are doing so so fiercely because they also feel nostalgic for something gone by. I know a lot of them also now lives thousands of miles apart and rarely ever see each other and spend their daily lives with their SO's, and as much as you might love him, you know that nothing will ever completely replace your super awesome wonderful fabulous girlfriends.