Attack The Block

Well, friends, all my nightmares have come true.  The horror is upon us.  I am in a glass case of emotion and nothing can save me now.

My office blocked WordPress at work.

It really doesn’t get worse than this.  Somewhere, in the deep recesses of our building, some IT troll was tasked with expanding the definition of “social media and networking sites” and because they are a friendless freak, decided that WordPress and Twitter and Tumblr and every other site that brings me joy and distraction during the eight hours that I am desk-bound.  Perhaps it was a long time coming, but for me, this is akin to someone slashing my benefits package.

Thankfully, I am through the grieving process and starting to move towards acceptance (and towards manipulating the system.)  Luckily, I have a hack around the Twitter block (thanks, Hoot Suite) but am still not sure how to get through to WordPress during the work day.  If anyone has suggestions for accessing WordPress through blocks, let me know!  I will also work more diligently in the next few weeks to post in the evenings or stockpile some posts so that this blog can continue to grow.

As always, thanks for your unending support and continuing to check in on the blog.  As for me, I may be slowing dying inside every second I can scroll my Tumblr dashboard at work but as least I’m started to move towards acceptance.

Neither An Oversharer Nor An Undersharer Be

21st century life is a strange beast.  We’re a generation so accustomed to living life online that it’s practically second nature.  When we meet someone cool, we Facebook friend them the next day.  If we want to get the latest on a news story, we check on Twitter.  Job seeking, apartment hunting, shopping, dating, food ordering, and just about everything else is done online or through an app or in some sort of virtual world that doesn’t involve actually going anywhere.  Everyone blogs or Tumbles or shares personal playlists on Spotify or contributes to crowd sourced Flickr streams – doing any or all of these things doesn’t make you stand out, it makes you part of the crowd.

With all of this said, it can make blogging both a very rewarding and a very challenging task.  I love to blog – I’m not particularly good at talking about my feelings or concerns or fears in person but for some reason, I’m happy to expose my insecurities and anxieties and small moments of triumphs with my wonderful world of Internet friends (and people who find me with really strange Google searches).  The sense of community and connection that can build out of something so small as putting a few words on the Internet about how life in your 20s can be terrible and awesome all at once is pretty incredible.

But it’s not always as easy as it seems.  I find myself culling not just my personal experiences but the experiences of others for blog fodder.  Whenever I’m having a conversation with a friend whose struggling with a job hunt or freaking out over a cross country move or drowning in financial uncertainty, my mind often starts drafting blog posts in my head.  Conversely, when I write a really personal, honest post about my own failings, I hesitate to put it out there too much, worried what my friends will think about me when they see me in the flesh.  Am I tapping into a vein of shared misgivings and misadventures or am I truly the one screw-up in the bunch?

I’m coming off of a couple of pretty good weeks – I’m hitting a stride at my job despite still having way to much free time, I have a great group of friends, and I’ve even had the chance to do some guest-blogging.  But all those fears and anxieties and uncertainties don’t go away and whenever someone I know confesses they share that fear, it takes everything in my power not to rush to the nearest laptop and start transcribing our conversations.  So, consider this blog post an apology of sorts – for my friends, I’m sorry if things we discuss occasionally end up on this blog and I promise to never purposefully share your stories without your permission.

For my readers, I’m sorry if sometimes I hold back on the really juicy real life examples until I can ply my friends with booze and promises of low readership into granting me permission to help illustrate that we’re just hot messes pretending to have our lives together online.

The Price of Privacy: Are Facebook Passwords Fair Game?

First, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to my new followers – it’s so great to be connecting with other bloggers and I love all of your tweets, emails, comments, etc.  Y’all are truly the best.

Also, I’m looking for new faces to feature in the Fearless Post-Collegiate interview series.  Drop me an email at postcollegiateblog [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me a little about yourself and we’ll go from there.  I’m looking for anyone of any age and any background whose willing to share a little bit about their life, their triumphs and challenges in post-collegiate living, and their future ambitions, whatever they may be.

On to the topic of the week – and it’s a doozy:  how much privacy is a job seeker afforded these days?  As the Internet has been buzzing about the practice of requesting Facebook passwords from job seekers, it’s been interesting to see the reactions ranging from “HELL NO, HANDS OFF MY PRIVATE INFORMATION” to “If you really need a job, you’ll do anything.”

It’s a tricky issue – I tend to believe that you have to stand behind what you say, which includes what you say on the Internet.  If you have information that is shared publicly, you have to accept the reality that people (including potential employers – and your mother!) will see it.  This is why private accounts were invented – to allow you to share information that you choose with the people that you choose.  It’s also why many college career centers are encouraging young graduates to be smart about their Internet presence – Google yourself to see if anything unsavory can be found, keep personal information private, and develop a professional persona that will satisfy a future employer.

But are there legal grounds to request your password?  It’s legally within your right as a job seeker to refuse but are you jeopardizing your chance at a job?  That seems to be the concern most heavily raised on Twitter and blogs in the last day or two – if you’re desperate to find the right job, are you willing to sacrifice a little personal freedom, even temporarily?  This has never happened to me in a job interview ever but if the request ever came up, I would politely refuse and insist that I would not want to compromise my personal information.  As it’s been oft-quoted, giving up a password to a social site like Facebook is akin to turning over the keys to your house – you just shouldn’t do it.

It’s hard to be unemployed and/or job hunting right now.  The economy is still slow-growing in many areas and the market feels saturated with over-educated, under-employed, talented candidates.  But this doesn’t give employers the right to force potential employees to give up any semblance of a private life.  Just as the Internet generation is learning the repercussions of sharing information on-line and how to do so effectively and professionally, employers and head-hunters have to realize that with a global shift to virtual living that the traditional bounds of the employer/employee relationship still exist in a digital world.  And as one great commenter says on The Takeaway, unless they’re willing to give up their passwords, why should you?

Making Us All Look Bad

I think twenty-somethings get a bad rap.  In various media trend pieces this past year, we’re described as self-centered, immature, foolishly optimistic, or entitled, which is of course, ridiculous.  Most people I meet my age are bright, creative, ambitious, dedicated, and compassionate.  On top of that, most of us who are gainfully employed feel a genuine sense of appreciation and responsibility, having found stability in a difficult time.

Which is why I’m a little infuriated with a hot story circulating around the DC blogs about congressional staffers engage (and tweeting) about on the job drinking.  As TwentySomething City points out, while the office of a Congressman of the minority party may not be a hotbed of legislative activity and all the messages were sent using personal Twitter accounts, this doesn’t reflect well on Congressman Rick Larsen – or on twentysomethings!

This validates two complaints I often here from collegues in their 30s and 40s about twentysomethings in the workplace – 1) they don’t know how to use social media responsibly on the job and 2) they feel they are entitled to goof off/space out/focus on personal activities on the job.  Looking at the Twitter messages of the offending staffers will make you cringe.  References to taking shots in the office, showing up drunk, bragging about your taxpayer salary paying for you to watch YouTube videos – there’s really no good way to spin this.

I realize this is a case of a few rotten apples spoiling the bunch – and I’d be lying if I said I never tweeted or blogged at work or showed up nursing a hungover – but there’s something about the brazen swagger of this trio that really grinds my gears.  I also have to call into question the senior staff – what sort of work environment, especially a public servant’s office, would allow this kind of activity to happen?

Does anyone know someone who was fired for something they said on social media?  Any positive or negative experiences with coworkers exhibiting behavior similar to these staffers, regardless of age?  Share your stories in the comments!


The Surprising Science of Motivation

My love for TED talks is not new for this blog.  I’m not usually a science person, so I love the TED talks brings together interesting science and technology with a speaker and presentation style that those of us who are humanities-minded can connect with!

Dan Pink‘s talk, which explores some radical notions of motivation in the workplace, was sent to me a few weeks ago by a friend and I just got around to watching it this week.  Talk about a timely email forward!  I’ve been struggling a bit in the last two weeks with a serious lack of motivation.  Partial blame lays on the sweltering heat here, which made anything that didn’t involve sitting underneath an air conditioning vent with an ice cold beer feel like a crime but I’ve also been feeling unchallenged, which in turn leads me to occupying my time with frivolous activities.  Sounds familiar, I’m sure.

I don’t want to spoil some of the surprising experiments and results that Pink outlines in his talk, which is below, but I want to share one of my favorite sections with you (emphasis my own):

In the 20th century, we came up with this idea of management.  Management did not emanate from nature.  Management is like — it’s not a tree. It’s a television set.  Someone invented it.  And it doesn’t mean it’s going to work forever.  Management is great.  Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance.  But if you want engagement, self-direction works better.

It’s something that I think a lot of 20/30-somethings already know to be true but I love that Pink lays out why this is true, both scientifically and economically.  The traditional motivators and incentives, for most of us, don’t work – or don’t work over time.  Listening to Pink discuss the ways in which business is changing (and can change) really has me examining what I could achieve, both at work and in my own life, my adapting my concepts of motivation and reward.

The entire talk is embedded below – Enjoy!

A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy Of Success

I’m a big fan of TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) talks.  The concept of disseminating ideas worth spreading seems tailor-made for my liberal college-educated self.  In July 2009, author and modern philosopher Alain de Botton gave a talk on redefining success, something that seems to be a continual theme on this blog.

De Botton is an interesting creature.  His career took a turn when he wrote his first self-help essay in 1997, entitled How Proust Can Change Your Life, and began exploring some of the key questions of modern life – Am I happy?  Where do I stand in?  What kind of life am I choosing to lead and why?  His most recent book, The Pleasure and Sorrows of Work, explores ten different careers and is an extremely interesting and well-written analysis of the modern workplace.  He also founded the School of Life in London, which has the mission of making learning and therapy relevant to today’s culture.  In general, he wants people to live wisely and well.

In his TED talk, De Botton opens with an exploration something that seems to be key to most of us – career anxiety and crisis.  He keenly acknoweledges that for many of us, it’s a first world problem:  we have the ability to make a good living, but doing what? Is it fulfilling?  Is it financially rewarding – but not too rewarding so as to make us feel guilty?  What will others think of my job?  As he says,

But I think that we live in an age when our lives are regularly punctuated by career crises, by moments when what we thought we knew, about our lives, about our careers, comes into contact with a threatening sort of reality.

He goes on to discuss job snobbery, something I am incredibly familiar with.  That all-encompassing sense of dread when someone asks “what do you do” and then you have to watch the inevitable look of disappointment when you tell them you’re between jobs or temping or working part-time in retail or stuck in a dead-end job.  De Botton ties this not to an implicit interest in jobs as a way to obtain material wealth but instead posits that we want high-paying jobs (and want to associate with people who have high-paying jobs) because:

…we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It’s not the material goods we want. It’s the rewards we want.

De Botton touches on another theme that’s relevant in the life of 20-somethings, as evidenced in the New York Times article posted last week, and that’s the pressure of trying to have it all and do it all.  He talks about the dangers of a living in a meritocracy, where we believe that anyone with enough pluck and personality can rise to the top and the people who are at the bottom deserve to be there.  As he points out, this is a lot of pressure to put on people, especially emerging adults:

There is a real correlationship, a real correlation between a society that tells people that they can do anything, and the existence of low self-esteem.

He goes on to discuss the word success and makes an observation that I find brilliant – success is easy to define on the surface.  Describe someone or something as successful and a picture will enter your mind – possibly a different picture for every person you act.  That’s the part that’s less easy – if success can be all things, then it’s impossible to be successful because you cannot have it all. We should stop trying to.  As he concludes,

So what I want to argue for, is not that we should give up on our ideas of success. But we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas. And make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough, not getting what you want. But it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.

You can watch the entire TED talk here with an interactive transcript.