You Can Always Go Home Again

Helloooooooo everyone!  It feels like years since my last post, even though it’s only been six days.  But I always feel like vacation time is some sort of strange black hole that warps days into feeling like minutes or hours into feeling like years.  Or something like that.  I have no idea, I’m still completely exhausted and think that today is Monday.

Going home is always such a mix of emotions for me.  On one hand, it’s nice to get away from the problems and stresses of my every day life and go back to a simpler times, when meals and basic necessities were provided to me without question and where I rarely have to make any decisions.  On the other hand, because I tend to suffer from a bit of revertigo when I go home, I also find myself acting in a manner which Normal Me would find appalling but Visiting-Home-Again Me thinks is totally acceptable, such as throwing a temper tantrum when the PostCollegiate Parentals do not provide warm fresh kolaches at my first breakfast back.

Being back home is always this weird, schizophrenic mix of feeling unconditionally loved and accepted for the special little snowflake that I am while also feeling like the world’s biggest disappointment for my lack of career achievement/advanced degrees/impressive salary/numbers of lives changed through my actions.  I vacillate between basking in superiority to Baby Sister for eschewing the option of ever moving back home and seething in jealousy when I realize what a smart decision it was.  I love watching the PCPs discover the wonderful world of the Internet through their iPads, especially as PCD realizes that he can stream the Rachel Maddow show “just like on a real television” or PCM finally gets through the first three levels of Angry Birds.  But then I worry if those little “senior moments” are just that or indicators of something more or if that nagging cough is a harbinger of another bout of medical disasters and it’s hard to enjoy the funny moments.

On top of my own parental-related crisis, this trip home was intensified by the inclusion of attending a conference for an organization that I’ve been involved with my whole life.  The conference was fun – I love seeing little dudes dressed in tiny suits and catching up with old friends – but I hate, hate, hate having to do the “life recap” every five minutes.  It goes something like this:

Yes, it’s hard to believe I’m almost 28.
Yes, I hope I always look this young – not that 28 is young but you know what I mean…*awkward laugh*
Yes, I’m still living in DC.
No, I’m not working for the museum anymore.
No, I wasn’t fired.  It’s sort of complic–never mind.
Yes, I have a new job.  It’s sort of complicated.  I like my boss but I’m a little bored but I’m applying to grad school but it’s a tough economy but I have no idea why I keep rambling about this job.
No, I’m not married.
No, I’m not close to being married.
No, I’m not too worried about not being close to being married.
No, I’m not defensive about the idea of marriage.  It’s kind of ridiculous when you think about it.  Oh, you just got married?  That’s great.  For you.  I mean, I think it’s a human right that should be afforded to everyone regardle-  why are you walking away?

This is not an exaggeration.  I’m truly this awkward in real life.  And whenever I am forced to interact with people whose life choices are so different from my own (married at 24, brood of kids by 27, stay at home mom/supporting their family via etsy crafts), I find myself completely unable to articulate why I’m generally happy with my child-less, husband-less, craft-less lifestyle and why it’s actually pretty good to be me, despite all the confusion and worry and feelings of inadequacy.

After a weekend of giving of feeling like that, it was actually very therapeutic to spend my last night in town curled up on the couch with my fam, watching old episodes of Combat!on an actual old-fashioned television.

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.

Is Your Resume a Don’t?

While Sue Ellen Crandell's resume was a don't (full of lies!), her work outfit were absolute do's!

Occasionally on the blog, I do like to do more than post culturally-significant GIFs and wax poetic about the woes of my life.  On those rare days when inspiration strikes, I hope to provide a little bit of guidance and hopefully make you feel that browsing the blog at work (or in class or wherever else you may be) is a slightly productive venture!

One topic that’s been on my mind a lot is resumes.  It seems that with the start of the new year comes emails from friends (and siblings!) asking for a resume review.  First of all, good for them!  The best thing you can do with your resume is have others look at it.  While I don’t believe that’s there’s one magic lay-out or font that will guarantee you a hire, it never hurts to have multiple eyeballs sharpen the language, correct typos, and help make sure you’re presenting the best version of yourself possible.  This brings me to my first don’tdon’t be afraid to ask for help!

It may seem silly to approach these suggestions as don’ts instead of do’s but I find that, much like The Hairpin, it’s often easier to outline what does not work than to try to pinpoint what does.  Another important don’t – don’t let others tell you that you “have” to include X or that the “only acceptable” format is Y.  Those people don’t know what they’re talking about.  While there is some widely accepted formats and common sense information to include (current contact info, employment history, educational experience, special skills, etc), there is no standard resume and anyone telling you otherwise is just being bossy.

Another piece of advice I give to anyone whose resume I review is that you don’t want to sound like everyone else.  This means watching out for overused buzzwords or tired phrases.  Having been in a hiring position several times, I can tell you that everyone says they’re creative, organized, and are a team player.  Find a way to tell your potential employer by sharing your actual, unique experience instead of tossing around a worn-out expression.

This leads me to another point – don’t be vague!  Each of you is a very special snowflake – be sure that your resume reflects the experiences that make you perfect for whatever position you’re applying for.  The more specific, quantified information you can share, the more memorable you will be.  This also works in giving you several handy talking points for your (inevitable) job interview!  Along these same lines, don’t use the same resume for every position.  Tailor your resume and the provided content to the company and position you’re applying for.  I keep a master resume on file with every tiny job-related things I’ve done, from major projects that I’ve spearheaded to odd tasks I’ve taken over for other staff members.  When it comes time to apply for something new, I can take the master list and edit it down to what is relevant for the position at hand – and then I can craft the specific language further to fit that company!

So, once you feel good about your content (and had several friends review it), it should be good to go right?  Wrong – don’t neglect style!  While you should avoid graphics, photos, or anything lavish for your resume (graphic artists not included), the visual appeal of your resume is a major component.  Avoid fonts that make your resume look like you printed it straight off from WordPad – for jobs that are more tech/design-related, go with a clean sans serif font; for more traditional careers, like law or academia, find a serif font that is dignified and easy to read.  Print off a copy of your resume and look at the layout – does the information flow?  Are all the margins in line?  Is there a consistent format from section to section?

Finally, don’t forget to submit as requested.  This is a no-brainer but be sure to follow the employer’s guidelines – email to the correct person, upload to their website, send a hard copy, etc and include all the information that is requested.  Every employer is different – taking 5 minutes to review their requirements will give you a leg up on everyone who didn’t!  Whenever uploading or emailing, it’s best to convert to a PDF – it’s practically universal and maintains the stylish lay-out you’ve created!  When your resume is free of don’ts, it will be a great tool for the second part of the job hunt – nailing the interviews!  Bring copies with you for any interviews or follow-ups – or keep a copy in front of you during a phone call.

I highly recommend The Hairpin article for some additional suggestions – they also include some don’ts to ponder on including having an objective, odd date abbreviations, exaggerated margins, and anything colorful.  If you’re working in DC (or trying to!), NIH has some nice tips specific to government positions here.  You can also read some good common sense advice here, as well as some tips for recent graduates over here.

Any don’t that I forgot?  Want to share your resume advice tips?  Leave them in the comments!

Friday Frivolity: An Open Letter to People Who Judge My Single, Post-College Lifestyle

Oh, how I love Fridays!  Fridays are easily the most slacker-ish day at my office (and given how light the workload has been, that’s saying something!)  All the doctors are usually on-call and out, so the day is generally spent planning what I’m going to eat all weekend long. This Friday is not so different as I am preparing for a pre-concert bro-date over some bangin’ burgers and a day trip to NYC tomorrow (read: a day full of eating trip to NYC).  So much eating, so little time…

Today’s fantastic piece of frivolity comes from McSweeney’s delightful series of letters to people and/or entities who are unlikely to read them.  In this edition, writer Cleo Plagg (if you know more about her, please post links in the comments – I love her style!) sounds off on all the people who judge or look down upon us single ladies who prefer to spend money on bar tabs than groceries and find Facebook updates about kids and pets completely obnoxious.  The letter reads like the inside of my brain, with one great paragraph bemoaning friends who become married:

Yet still more questions for you, judgers: Does Bed, Bath and Beyond really require a 16-month pre-registration? Do people actually like shiny vests under rented jackets? Why do committed friends of committed friends not know how to talk to me since there isn’t a relationship to ask about? Are chocolate fountains real? Why do women in long-term relationships stop wearing high heels and start dressing like my fourth grade music teacher? Why do I have to make plans with you four weeks in advance? Why are you so tired all the time?

I highly recommend you read the entire letter (link below) and post in the comments anything that you’d add to the rant!

An Open Letter To People Who Judge My Single, Post-College Lifestyle

Happy Weekend!

Only Boring People Are Bored

First things first, you all will be SHOCKED to learn that I did not do any GRE studying last night.  Instead of blaming it on wine (which may or may not have been present) or on my easily distractable nature (Colin Hanks was on Happy Endings last night!), I will simply blame it on you.  You did not hold me accountable, anonymous blog readers and therefore, I have failed.  I suppose now I will have to actually buck up and do some real studying tonight.  [Sidenote: If you were a gambling (wo)man – and let’s admit it, you probably are – I would put your money against me.  Just sayin’.]

Moving on, I’ve been wanting to write about boredom at the workplace.  While my new(ish) job has many benefits, stimulating work days is not one of them.  I realize that any job is what you make of it and I really have tried to fill my days with something other than obsessively reading Eater DC and posting unpopular opinions on the AV Club message boards but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to fill my time in a way that makes me feel even remotely close to a functioning member of society.

Betty Draper, Mother of the (any) Year

I feel like I’m struggling with something that is all too common (based on happy hour discussions) – being over-qualified and over-ambitious for jobs that just don’t provide an outlet for that energy.  My first few weeks were busy, frantic even, as I was spent time completely overhauling outdated work flow systems and organizing antiquated files and getting to know the interpersonal dynamics of the office.  The peril of having been so eager in my first few weeks is that as things come up daily here, I can take care of it right away – thus leaving long stretches of the day that are empty.  Even with new tasks being added to my desk each day, none of it seems to add up to eight hours of productivity.  My aunt once told me that I should never “work myself out of a job.”  I don’t think I’m in a danger of that here – but perhaps I did work myself “into a lot of bored days.”

This seems like the ultimate post-collegiate whine – my cushy desk job is just too easy and I hate having all this time to read blogs and email friends and mindlessly shop on Etsy.  Perhaps I should be grateful for this time, which, assuming I get my act together and get into graduate school, I will likely need for studying and homework.  Or use this time to pursue yet another new job, new career, new path, new option.  Maybe get serious about guest blogging or freelancing or learning how to make my own gifts.  Or just shut up and be appreciative that I have a decent job and stop expecting the world to indulge my every whim.

Is anyone else suffering from boredom at work?  Should I just be wasting more time during my day gossiping at the water cooler or taking long lunches?  Or should I putting this time to better use?  Am I freaking out unnecessarily or have I turned into a whiny petulant Millennial?

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Readers, as always, I open this post with an apology for my lack of posting.  February has come and is practically gone so quickly (Happy Leap Day!), I can hardly believe my last post was Valentine’s Day.  That said, I had a very disheartening realization yesterday.

My study habits are exactly the same as they were in college.

I know, this is exactly not exactly the most horrible thing that one can realize about themselves, but it’s definitely thrown me into a bit of an existential tailspin.  Here I am, thinking that I have “matured” and “grown” and “learned stuff” but apparently, I am just an older, slightly rounder version of my college self but with a retirement fund this time.

As you may have surmised lately, I’ve been softening my stance on graduate school and am applying for the MBA program here (thanks, employee tuition benefits!)  After an encouraging meeting with graduate admissions, I gathered together my application materials and felt exceptionally confident that they would be duly impressed with my academic performance, diverse resume, glowing references, and sparkling personality.  The only missing piece is an improved GRE score.

Technically, I could just submit my GRE score from the first time I took it.  At the time, it was a perfunctory task – take the GRE, apply to a few graduate schools, put off my admission to work, never think about the GRE again.  My scores weren’t horrible (especially considering my complete lack of preparation) but they’re certainly not great now.  Plus, the new GRE is preferred by the admission department, so I figured a little bit of effort wouldn’t kill me.

Naturally, I assumed that I would order a couple practice books off the Internet (sidenote:  if you want to feel guilty about ordering inexpensive study aides off the Internet, read this Mother Jones article), block off some serious study time, and use social activities as an incentive.  Sadly, my “serious study routine” has devolved into something closer to this:

  • Spend morning debating whether to haul practice books to work with me.  Decide that I much prefer showing off how quickly I can finish the crossword (in pen!) to my anonymous Metro seatmate and that said book would never fit in my cute work purse anyways.  Toss on bed and forget.
  • Consider visiting the library (job perk – favorite library branch only two blocks away) during lunch and getting in some practice questions but decide that strolling through campus and mentally rating the hotness of different graduate students based on building is a better use of my time
  • Late in the afternoon, I will access the online component to my study book and stare at a quadratic equation question for approximately seventeen minutes before I decide to troll Tumblr for gifs from Happy Endings and Cougar Town
  • On the commute home, I will berate myself for neglecting my future and SWEAR UPON PENALTY OF DEATH that I will buckle down after dinner.
  • Drink bottle of wine with dinner.  Leave study book unopened.
  • Repeat cycle daily.  Occasionally replace bottle of wine with two bottles of wine.

Not only am I frustrated with myself over my lack of commitment to studying, but I’m terrified to realize that this is the exact same pattern I found myself in during college.  In college, I would “study” by dragging a book with me to my favorite divey college bar, order a pitcher, and then proceed to do just about anything except look at that book (examples:  play darts, cajole the bartender for jukebox money, play the jukebox, convince other patrons to play the jukebox, cajole the bartender for naked photo hunt money, play naked photo hunt, convince other patrons…you get the idea).  If nothing else, I wish I had developed new and exciting ways to procrastinate something educational!

The one difference seems to be that back then, I knew that I could always pull off the grade I needed or that eventually, even the bartender would force me to focus on the task at hand.  Now, I’m realizing that perhaps my ability to learn (or, technically, re-learn) certain skills like algebra and geometry may have plateaued and I’m going to have to either embrace my math-related mediocrity or really buckle down in the next four weeks in order to earn that proverbial A.  I also know that no one can make me focus but me.

So, readers, tonight when I get home from work, I am swearing that I will buckle down and spend some time factoring and unfactoring some equations.  You’ll hold me to that, right?