Not-Quite-Friday Frivolity: Quitting Via The Front Page

I know, I know…it isn’t technically Friday yet.  But it’s my Friday, so as soon as the ol’ quitting bell rings, I am dashing out of here to catch a flight home for a three-day weekend.  I’m looking forward to it – a little family time (but not too much), a lot of good eatin’ (tamales and kolaches and brisket, here I come!), and a little bit of do-goodery with an organization that I’ve been involved with since childhood.  All in all, I believe I’m in for a pretty stellar weekend.

Of course, the guy whose probably going to have an even BETTER weekend is Greg Smith, whose op-ed in the New York Times yesterday made quite a stir.  Smith, who was an executive director over at Goldman Sachs, quit in the most spectacular fashion – by penning a harshly-worded screed on all the ways his soon-to-be-former employer was terrible.  The diabtribe is a bit ridiculous – he doesn’t really say anything about Goldman Sachs that hasn’t been said before and he totally humblebrags his Rhodes Scholar status and a bronze medal at the Maccabiah Games but it does make an impact.  Many of us have said terrible things about past jobs but most of us do it over drinks, on a blog, or in an email – not in the largest local metropolitan paper in the country!

What’s truly great about Smith’s missive is that he gave me some great Internet finds for me to with you today.  The first is a brilliant spoof of the editorial, written from the perspective of Darth Vader.  With lines like “the Empire today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about remote strangulation. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore”, any self-respecting Star Wars nerd will be rolling.  And, over at NPR, they’ve pulled together a list of four great “I Quit!” moments that may just inspire you to pull a Greg Smith.  Naturally, Stephen Colbert had a few quips for Smith as well, reminding him that there’s a “sacred trust” on the Street.

[Update]:  Slate posted a series of “Why I Quit…” parody quotes that are just too funny not to share.  This definitely wins for concluding with a pretty hilarious Stringer Bell quote:

I sat in meetings that were all about taking over corners. How many corners do we need?
—Stringer Bell, “Why I Am Leaving the Baltimore Drug Trade,”

[FURTHER UPDATE]  I know, I know – two updates to one silly little post is a bit much, but a dear friend who wishes to remain anonymous as they do not have the kind of job where one should be reading Vanity Fair online pointed me to VF’s own parody – Why I’m Quitting Pinkberry.  Worth reading simple for the line that reminds us that Pinkberry is “world’s largest and most important remaining vehicles for Cap’n Crunch

Whether you’re inspired to quit your job, writing your own (never to be published) version of all the ways your employer is the worst, or just enjoy giggling at someone else’s public display of disaffection, let’s all thank Greg Smith for giving us a little frivolity for the weekend!

Are We The Go-Nowhere Generation?

Oh, New York Times, what will you think of next?

A couple days ago, economist Todd Buchholz and his daughter Victoria Buchholz, published an op-ed in the newspaper of record about young Americans and their resistance to moving.  Before you get too offended, he isn’t commenting on America’s obesity problem but rather, the fact that, despite rising unemployment and a tightening job market, 20-somethings are refusing to move.  The Buchholz’ point to Census Data, the number of post-collegiates still living at home, car ownership, and Facebook (the cause of societal ills, I’m sure) to illustrate their theory.

It’s an interesting theory and one that bears out at least in terms of some anecdotal evidence.  Aside from the handful of personal examples they use in the my article, my own experience proves their initial point: have only lived a handful of places – Texas (born and raised, 18 years), northern Virginia, central Virginia, and then back to northern Virginia.  Those locations have covered a variety of circumstances and employment situations but for the most part, I have never actively pursued moving or living in just any old place.  So, even if the Buchholz’ statistical evidence is shaky (and it is), I’m willing to cede the point that our generation may not be hitting the road as we once did.

However, what really starts to irk me is the implication that because we aren’t traveling cross-country or changing zip codes every few years, we’re a lesser generation.  Buchholz laments:

In the mid-’70s, back when every high school kid longed for his driver’s license and a chance to hit the road and find freedom, Bruce Springsteen wrote his brilliant, exciting album “Born to Run.” A generation later, as kids began to hunker down, Mr. Springsteen wrote his depressing, dead-end dirge, “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” We need to reward and encourage forward movement, not slouching. That may sound harsh, but do we really want to turn into a country where young Americans can’t even recognize the courage of Tom Joad?

According to Buccholz’ logic, Generation Y will become Generation Why Bother if they don’t long to “hit the road” and move around the way that our wiser forefathers did.  Instead of possibly exploring the concept of virtual movement and growth or a more economic discussion on factors that may limit the ability to change locations, the authors just chalk it all up to Internet-fueled laziness and paint a picture of a generation of do-nothings who lack the passion and drive of Tom Joad.  Also, spoiler alert, in Grapes of Wrath, parole-jumper Tom ultimately ends up killing a dude, so I don’t know if he’s an ideal role model.

Thankfully, the Atlantic published a strong rebuttal to the piece, agreeing that Americans aren’t moving as frequently as in the past but offering some alternative views as to why.  Derek Thompson points out that factors such as staggering student loan debt, a difficult housing market, and the collapse of suburban growth which the Buchholz piece completely ignores.

It seems to me that New York Times is once again publishing a silly little “trend” piece just to stir up some web traffic and Internet debate – but it might be a discussion worth having.  Even though I vehemently disagree with the assessment that our generation isn’t going anywhere metaphorically, perhaps there’s an economic imperative to encourage us to literally get moving.  And maybe we’re born to run in a different way – expanding our careers, social lives, and community impact globally through virtual connectivity.  Our lives may  not be like a Springsteen song but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a soundtrack of our own.

Those Who Can’t Do, Coach?

If a teenager can be a doctor, can a 20-something be a life coach?

I am completely fascinated by the recent trend of 20-somethings who are becoming life coaches.  Think about this for a minute – across this nation (but mostly in places where crazy people live, like NYC and LA), young people who are barely old enough to rent a car (and who have only voted in, like, two presidential elections, which is my first measure of adulthood) are being paid legitimate money to give advice to people twice their ages!  This is some mind-boggling, David Lynchian crazy talk.

The New York Times, that arbiter of the ridiculous trend piece, highlights the life coach careers of several millennials who, when their first careers didn’t work out (because, you know, most of us have our career set in stone by 27), turn to life coaching.  And we’re not talking about chump change.  A 27-year-old “former” actress earns $125/week (per client!) for one hour long session!  At an average of 10 clients a week, she’s easily clearing $60,000 annually, just by chanting some mantras via Skype.

This seems absolutely ludicrous to me.  While I’m happy to dole out some advice when asked (and have no qualms about blogging my opinions on any number of topics), I would never deign to charge someone hundreds of dollars for my guidance!  I realize that times are tough for young job-seekers but is getting a quickie life coaching certification and taking on a cadre of clients in need seems to be a risky option.  For those of us who have only had a few years out in the real world, taking the lives of others into our hands suggests a level of hubris that I find disheartening.

Luckily, I’m not the only person who seems to be flabbergasted by this boon in life coaching as a viable option for under-30s.  Jezebel has a great post on the trend, puts it very succintly when they note “people who obviously don’t have their own shit sorted out shouldn’t be doling out advice to people in need of guidance, even if they can get a piece of paper authorizing them to do so.”

In Today’s Obvious and Soul-Crushing News

Anyone who has graduated from college in the last five years will be not-shocked-at-all to learn that the bachelor’s degree that you worked so hard for (assuming you define work by drinking a lot and studying a little) and racked up thousands of dollars in debt for is not special at all.  That’s right – you are just one of millions upon millions of young 20-somethings with a bachelor’s degree and it will do next to nothing in helping you find a job.

“But wait!” – you cry – “I made a smart decision after finishing my bachelor’s in Televisionary Studies at Elite Liberal Arts College and obtained a Masters in Sitcomery/Tumblr Marketing.”  Oh, poor little graduate school-attending fool – that degree is also worthless as well.  According to the New York Times (harbinger of bad news for postcollegiates), the job market is now flooded with young people desperately grasping master’s in their hands.  To put it into numbers, 2 in every 25 people over the age of 25 have a master’s – the same proportion of people who had bachelor’s degrees in the 1960s.  Again, not surprising if you’ve been to a happy hour any time in the last five or six years but depressing numbers all the same.

So, to recap the things you already knew:

1.   A bachelor’s degree is meaningless but you still need to drop some serious dough to get one.
2.  You probably won’t get a job with that bachelor’s, so you need to either marry rich (fingers crossed!), live at home forever, or get a master’s degree.
3.  Even your master’s degree is pretty meaningless but you still need to drop some serious dough to get one.
4.  We all sit and weep awhile.
The full article is worth a full read, especially if you want little nuggets like the fact that even MBAs are too broad to help you land a job now or the prediction that in 20 years, janitors will need PhDs.  Or, you know, you can just go cry in a corner for a bit.

NY Times Backlash

As you may recall, the New York Times recently explored the trials and tribulations of 20-somethings and it caused a bit of backlash in the comments section.

Psychology Today has a great response to the article here.  The author takes the stance that a lot of the criticism from the article was unfair and that the young people who defended their generation had every right too.

Talking amongst my friends about the article, we all basically agreed that it was a little too generic and a little too condescending to make an impact on our lives but thought some of the research cited was interesting.

Definitely check the link for a great perspective on the quarterlife debate.  Also, great reference to St. Elmo’s Fire.

Learning Curves on the Career Path

Great article from the NY Times on the importance of continuing education in staying relevant in today’s job market.  While my resistance to graduate school is well-documented, I do believe that there’s a strong case for continually learning new technologies, new field techniques, and educating yourself.  I am a champion of life-long learning and I appreciate the way the article looks at both traditional and non-traditional post-graduate education.

Nice effort from Steven Greenhouse but most enjoyed the comments section.  Speaking of comments, leave your thoughts here!