LinkedIn Is Not Facebook

(aka: Why I’m Going to Judge the Parenting Advice You Post to LinkedIn)

I’m not a parent. I’ve mentioned this on this blog before. Hell, I’ve even provided some dubious advice on how to be a parent from a non-parent’s perspective. In writing the post linked in the previous sentence, I based most of my commentary off of watching what my friends and family did (and didn’t) do correctly when it came to parenting their children. Three of the four points I brought up in that post — don’t be afraid to let your child fail, don’t plaster them all over social media, and try taking care of a pet first — are ones that I still feel are valid. And the point about not buying your kid things it can’t use properly? I’ve softened on that point, if only to allow for the concept of buying thing your kid needs down the line in advance. After all, the cost to raise a child under 1 has jumped from the $12,000 estimate from the USDA I mentioned in that old post to around $15,750 a year.

I bring up all of this to talk about something that gets on my nerves. LinkedIn is a website that is intended to be a professional networking platform. You can use it to search for jobs, keep in touch with old colleagues, and follow industry news. While LinkedIn certainly has its problems, it’s pretty good for what it’s meant to be. Problems arise, however, when people start using LinkedIn as Facebook.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a rather unpleasant increase in people using LinkedIn to share political opinions, travel photos, and parenting advice. Which, again, is not really the point of LinkedIn as a social network. If I wanted to see what you wore when you stood in front of a sunset on a beach in Waikiki, I’d get a Facebook and friend you on there. Part of the appeal to LinkedIn was the fact it wasn’t like other social networks.

LinkedIn has also taken to sharing posts that your connections have liked on your home page’s feed. While many other social media sites have already done this1And I hate Twitter more and more every day for it., it’s particularly invasive on LinkedIn if you’re using the site to keep up with what’s going on in your professional industry. It was one of these liked posts that caused me to see a parenting advice list that got on my nerves. This post was titled “Rules for My Son” and contained the following 23 rules for this man’s child[2].

  1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down.
  2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs ain’t one.
  3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king.
  4. In negotiation, never make the first offer.
  5. Act like you’ve been there before. Especially in the end zone.
  6. Request the late check-out.
  7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.
  8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard.
  9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas.
  10. Don’t fill up on bread.
  11. When shaking hands, grip firmly and look him in the eye.
  12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where your backbone should be.
  13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point.
  14. Carry two handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket is for her.
  15. You marry the girl, you marry the whole family.
  16. Be like a duck. Remain calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath.
  17. Experience the serenity of travelling alone.
  18. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room.
  19. Never turn down a breath mint.
  20. In a game of HORSE, sometimes a simple free throw will get ’em.
  21. A sport coat is worth 1000 words.
  22. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising.
  23. Thank a veteran.

Poor grammar has been kept for sake of the fact that this list annoyed the shit out of me. First off, how many colloquialisms can you fit into a 23 point list? I felt like I was reading a folksy letter from a 1950s marketing professional. Second, are you not supposed to make eye contact with women when you shake their hands? Do you not shake their hands? Also, what if your son wants to marry a boy? Does he not marry the whole family then? Does your logic pertaining to traditional marriage violate polygamy laws?

I get the intent behind this post. I get that it’s meant to sound filled with wisdom, despite the fact that it’s a lot of empty words posted by someone in sales[3]. But for the love of all things holy, don’t post this shit on LinkedIn. Your child isn’t going to see it and you’re going to look like a moron for doing so.

While I’m at it, let me improve your list, Mr. Random LinkedIn Guy Who I’ve Never Met. Here’s your list of 23 things to teach your son, only made more accurate…and made for whatever sex your child is. Because reasons.

  1. Never shake a man’s hand sitting down. Ask him politely to stand up first, hug him close, then give him a belly-to-belly suplex.
  2. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. $10 is a reasonable buy-in for most pools, however the larger the cut you can get for merely participating, the better.
  3. The man at the grill is the closest thing we have to a king. It’s never too early to overthrow him and claim the grill as your own in a bloody coup.
  4. In negotiation, never make the first offer. Or the last offer. Actually, if you can go through life without ever interacting with a sales person, you’ll be better off.
  5. Act like you’ve been there before. Except in the end zone. That’s the place to celebrate, no matter what whiny traditionalist football fans say.
  6. Never request the late checkout. It’s an extra $50. If you’re a real sales person, I’m sure you can convince someone to do it for free.
  7. When entrusted with a secret, keep it. Unless that secret is unethical, could cause you to lose your job, or cause harm to others. Then shout it from the rooftops (or at least tell someone who needs to know).
  8. Hold your heroes to a higher standard, but only if you want to be disappointed in them.
  9. Return a borrowed car with a full tank of gas[4].
  10. Don’t fill up on bread. Hide most of the bread in your purse and/or coat, request more, hide that, and then take it home with your left overs. Because free bread.
  11. Only shake hands with someone if you’re concerned they might be concealing a firearm. Or if you’re dating their child.
  12. Don’t let a wishbone grow where your backbone should be. Grow wings instead. Because it’s just as plausible.
  13. If you need music on the beach, you’re missing the point. Leave the beach. The beach sucks.
  14. Carry three handkerchiefs. The one in your back pocket is for you. The one in your breast pocket is for a guest. The third one if for magic tricks.
  15. You marry someone, you’re part of their family. That is, unless there’s a mutual agreement between you and your partner for that not to be the case. Which is also fine.
  16. Be like a duck. Eat all of the bread thrown your way. Seriously. Why was this original list so anti-bread?
  17. Experience the serenity of travelling alone. Better yet, experience the peacefulness of having your house to yourself for three hours. It’s just as good.
  18. Never be afraid to ask out the best looking girl in the room. When she says she’s not interested, never be afraid to leave her alone.
  19. Never turn down a breath mint…but brushing your teeth is better.
  20. If you’re playing a game for money, don’t make it a game of half skill, half chance like HORSE. Either go full skill or full chance.
  21. A sport coat is worth 1000 words. Most of those words are going to sound disingenuous if you’re the only person wearing a sport coat, so know your environment.
  22. Try writing your own eulogy. Never stop revising. Except the when you’re dying part. It’ll save you from doing stupid stuff.
  23. Thank a veteran. Thank everyone, as it’s the polite and right thing to do. But definitely thank veterans.

What I Learned In My 20s About…Job Hunting

A little later on this year, I’ll be turning 30 years old. In American society, this is for some reason a milestone birthday[1]. If nothing else, it’s the birthday that signals that “milestone” birthdays will stop coming at oddball intervals and instead begin showing up at the decade mark.

As I did in my previous post about finance, I wanted to try to impart some of my advice to those of you looking for some guidance when it comes to job hunting. I get that there’s thousands upon thousands of articles online about this very topic. If you’re here, you probably didn’t find this from a search — you likely know me or someone I know. That said, I still want to share my experience with the job search process.

Note that I’m really not going to go into interviewing too heavily in this post. While the interview is a critical part of actually getting a job, it’s not the job search itself. I may talk about interviewing in a later post.

1. Companies Are Going to Call Sales Jobs by Lots of Non-Sales Names

One of the various jobs I had in college had the title Marketing Advisor. Based on the title, you’d think I’d be doing something like social media campaigns, advertising, or even lead generation, right? Nope. I spent three weeks going door-to-door selling cable in rich suburbs of Columbus, Ohio[2]. This was my first lesson to not trust job titles. Over the years, I’ve applied for jobs with marketing, training, account development, account management, admissions advisor, and customer service in the name, only to find out during the interview that the job was actually a sales position — even though the job description online didn’t frame the position as one[3].

If you like sales and/or if you’re looking for a sales job, more power to you. It’s not my gig, but if you like it, go for it. If you’re not looking for a sales job, know that there’s a lot of companies that frame sales positions as non-sales jobs. If you find that out during the interview process, stay away from that company. It’s for the better.

2. In the Corporate World, Having A Degree Matters More Than What That Degree Is In

Note: The following section applies to non-specialized positions in the corporate world. If you’re a doctor/accountant/lawyer/engineer/meteorologist/etc, your specialized degree is immensely important to your career. This also largely doesn’t apply to teachers, unless your goal is to be a substitute teacher, in which case your rules are far more lax than I imagined.

I’ve worked at three relatively large companies[4] since graduating college. In every single one of them, I’ve met dozens of people working in positions that have nothing to do with their degree. I’ve met a social worker who managed a call center, a paralegal who spent all day making outbound calls, a broadcasting major who ran a rental car desk, a vocal performance major who worked as a receptionist…and so the list continues on. Finding a job in the field you go to college for is not easy. While in a utopian world we’d all be able to wait on the job that lets us do what we want in the field we want, reality doesn’t work that way. That’s part of why I was working in a call center three weeks after graduating rather than working in radio.

Companies know this and interview people with that in mind, particularly in a corporate setting. Your ability to finish a degree program (and ideally do well), along with the traits and skills you present in your interview are a big selling point. Business, communications, and English majors in particular seems to do well, regardless of industry. After all, if you can talk well and understand business, you’re a (comparatively) hot commodity, especially at entry-level positions.

Speaking of entry-level…

3. Temp Agencies Can Be Your Friend…But Only if You’re Looking For Entry Level Work

When I lost my job in 2011, I was fortunate that part of Ohio’s unemployment process was to pass your information along to temp agencies. Though I had been applying for hundreds of positions a week[5], I was getting very few calls from recruiters to set up interviews. A temp agency had managed to use my experience to help me get four interviews within the first two weeks of them helping.

The problem was that all of the interviews they could find for me were entry level positions. 24-year-old, unemployed me didn’t care about this all that much and happily took the interviews. But in the experiences that I had separate from that time and that others have shared with me as well, don’t expect a temp agency to find you anything beyond an entry-level position, even if your experience clearly has you at a middle management or higher level. If you’re a middle manager, you’re kind of stuck on your own when it comes to job searching.

4. Experience With a Formal Title Trumps All

Remember what I said about college degrees mattering less than you’d think (so long as you have one)? Part of the reason you’ll find that to be true is that it’s difficult to find entry-level positions in specialized areas. Couldn’t find a paid internship in college in the field you want to work in? Too bad. You’re probably only going to get interview opportunities for low-level positions (generally that have nothing to do with what you want to be doing). Trying to make a career path change to a different area of the corporate world? You’re likely even worse off. Companies aren’t going to take a chance on an unknown commodity, even if you’re the most skilled worker in the world. Doubly so if you don’t already work for the company.

I realize I’ve been a bit doom and gloom in this post, but it’s because one of the biggest things I learned about the business world in my twenties is that having an office job isn’t the idealized world that many of prior generations made it out to be. That rant in and of itself deserves its own post. If you do have a takeaway here, let it be that you’re going to need to work your ass off to get an interview for the job you want…and even then, don’t get your hopes up.

What I Learned In My 20s About…Finance

A little later on this year, I’ll be turning 30 years old. In American society, this is for some reason a milestone birthday[1]. If nothing else, it’s the birthday that signals that “milestone” birthdays will stop coming at oddball intervals and instead begin showing up at the decade mark.

I don’t see getting older as a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just reality. Everyone ages, regardless of if we want to or not. And while I feel like I’ve known a good bit for whatever age I’ve been at the time, I certainly found that I’ve accrued quite a bit more knowledge over the last decade. As time gets closer to my birthday later this year, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned in my 20s about various topics. I figured I’d start off with a topic that I learned a lot about as a teen then built on in my 20s — personal finance.

Take the things I talk about in my list below as items I gained from my own personal experience rather than hard gospel. While the things below worked (or didn’t, depending on the case) for me, your mileage may vary.

1. Emergency Funds Are Useful…But They Likely Won’t Feel Useful

As I was coming out of college in 2008, I had very little money and a whole hell of a lot of debt to my name. Any money I had made during college from jobs there went to car payments, car insurance, student loans, my cell phone, or gas. With my first job out of college, I got paid twice a month and I found that nearly all of one of those two checks went to student loans. That said, I was driving a car that was ten years old, trying to scrounge money together to apply for grad school, and still had other bills to handle. If it wouldn’t have been for the kindness my grandparents showed me by letting me live with them for a year and a half after graduating, I probably would have ended up in a significantly worse place than I was.

One of the things that I learned from a co-worker at that job was that an emergency fund would save my ass when I least expected it. Over the course of the first year I had that job, I set out to save enough from each paycheck to give me three months worth of paychecks in savings by end of year. I got to December of 2009 and had reached my goal a month early. It felt like a waste. That money was sitting in a savings account and gaining (very little) interest and could be used up at any time. What was the point?

Soon I realized that the fact that the money could be used at any time but wasn’t being used was the ideal situation. It was a safety net — something I wasn’t used to having in my life. The net below an acrobat seems awful useless until you fall. When my car broken down two days before moving from Arizona to Ohio, I was glad I had it.

2. Take Advantage of Income Based Student Loan Repayment

One of my biggest mistakes financially early in my twenties was choosing not to use income based repayment plans offered by the student loan companies I had my loans with. As I mentioned in the previous section, my student loans were taking up nearly 50% of my take home pay when repayment started. I was able to manage it for around six months, but eventually decided that the solution to not having to pay student loans was to go to grad school in order to get my loans back in deferment.

While graduate school ended up being a largely positive decision for me[2], I wish I would have given more of a thought to the repayment options that were available to me. I was far too stubborn in my early (and mid) twenties to be willing to consider lowering my payments. By the time I was willing to consider them, my loans were nearly paid off. Though I’m certainly not saying income-based repayment makes sense for everyone, if you’re having trouble with your student loans, I would encourage you to look into it.

3. Take Advantage of 401k Matching As Soon As You Can

There’s a lot of debate around whether or not Albert Einstein actually said that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe, however one thing is for certain — interest and market growth are immensely powerful. I came into my twenties knowing next to nothing about retirement plans, the stock market, or investing in general. On top of that, it turns out that the things I was taught about those items were very, very wrong[3].

In the USA, if you’re at least 21 years old and have been with a company for at least one year, if your employer offers a 401k plan, you are eligible by law to be able to contribute to it. Furthermore, if your employers offers something known as employer match, the money you put towards your retirement can be matched in some capacity (usually dollar for dollar up to a certain percentage and/or amount).

While retirement investing is a bit complicated and I am not a financial advisor in any way shape or form, I will say that there is one thing that I’ve found is unequivocally true. Free money to help out your future is almost always a good thing. If you’re not putting away whatever amount of money towards your 401k that your company will match, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

4. Stop Lending Money to Friends and Family

Of the four items on this list, this was probably the hardest for me to get good with. After all, friends and family are people you are close to. You care about them and want them to be successful. And yes, if someone needs a little money here or there in an emergency, there’s nothing wrong with helping them out. But when that request becomes routine — $20 one week, $40 the next, $10 the week after that — it’s a sign there are bigger problems in play.

Instead of lending the money, or perhaps in addition to doing that if you must, offer to help the person needing the money with their budget and finances. It wasn’t until I sat down and figured out a budget in my first few months out of college that I really was able to understand where my money was going. While I’ve slipped in budget management from time to time[4], I’ve always found myself coming back to math and spreadsheets to help set my finances straight. If someone is serious about making their financial situation better, they’ll work to do so. If not, they’ll just keep asking for money. Those are the very people who you shouldn’t lend money to.

The Prohibition Sign

If you’re old enough to drive, I’m sure you’ve seen one of the following signs somewhere in your life before.

This thing. Image courtesy Wikimedia.
This thing. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

The sign above is known as the prohibition sign, or more colloquially, the no symbol. If you see this sign, you know not to do something. The no symbol over a left arrow means no left turn. The no symbol over a capital P means no parking. And, not shockingly, the no symbol over a bicycle means no bicycles.

Straightforward, yes? Good. I’m glad you think so.

A few weeks ago, I was driving around and saw a sign in someone’s yard. Shockingly, it wasn’t a Clinton/Trump/Johnson/local election sign. Instead, it was a sign protesting the building of an interstate off ramp in the area in question. While I generally didn’t agree with the sign’s intended message[1], I actually had a bigger issue with the sign’s misuse of the no no symbol.

The sign had written in big black capital letters NO RAMP. Which, while an opinion I would strongly disagree with, is perfectly fine. But then over the message of “no ramp”, a prohibition sign was overlayed. The sign effectively read “no no ramp”.

As anyone who has taken an English knows, not only are double negatives poor grammar, they also change the meaning of your sentence to the opposite of its intent. I know that the sign means they don’t want the ramp. Yet, every time I see the sign, I can’t help but get excited for how many people love ramps so much that they’ve put yard signs up supporting them.

Let this be a lesson to you, all of you future protestors, complainers, campaigners, and other people who may need to make a sign for any reason. If you’re going to use the prohibition symbol on your signs, don’t also use the word no on them. You’ll just make people think you’re really excited for something you don’t support.

18 Questions Teenagers Have About College…Answered

This past Friday, I came across a Buzzfeed article listing 18 questions that teens have about college. This particular post struck a nerve with me. As a first-generation college student from an economically disadvantaged family, I had more than my fair share of questions. Even when I went to college, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into.

I was fortunate to be able to get through both college and grad school in a combined three and a half years. While I realize that my university course load was aggressive, and that I didn’t have as wild of a college experience as some people might have, after reading through the questions, I think there’s a good bit of advice I could lend to incoming students. Note that the answers below come from a combination of my own experience, my time working for a for-profit university, and my own research. Your mileage may vary.

1. How will I know what courses I should take?

As much as I hate to say this, there’s a decent chance you won’t know what you want to take. Yes, there’s likely a degree you’ll have in mind going into college. Your academic advisor will be able to help point you in the right direction if you choose to stick with that plan. That said, a significant portion of those I went to school with changed their major at least once. While I never changed my major, I actually made it all the way to my final semester before realizing there was a field of study I cared more about than what I was majoring in.

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have been an education major rather than a broadcasting major. Take advantage of those general education courses that colleges make you take. Diversify your courseload with those classes. You might find that you have a different passion than what you originally thought.

2. How do you keep in touch with friends from high school, especially if they’re planning on going to college far away from you?

Admittedly, I’m not the poster child for this question. I talk with nearly no one from high school anymore. By the end of my freshman year, there were only 4-5 people I went to high school with that I still talked to, and nearly all of them were different people than those I hung out with in high school. People change. You’ll change. You’ll find new friends at college. Embrace this.

3. Is going to a really good (and therefore expensive) college worth it for undergrad?

This one’s pretty simple. Are you planning to go to grad school, med school, or law school?

Yes: Then it’s worth every penny, provided you have good grades.
No: Not in the slightest.

In working in admissions for a graduate school, I couldn’t believe the horrors I heard from my co-workers who laughed at where some people got their undergraduate degrees. Universities are like the 35 year old version of the popular kid from high school — no matter how shitty they really are on the inside, they’re going to say they’re the best and ridicule everyone to hell on the outside. Grad school admissions, especially at prestigious institutions, is not all that it seems. If you have aspirations to be a doctor or lawyer, pay a bit more for your undergrad degree. If not, save as much money as you can. Community college is your friend.

4. Is staying focused in college as hard as adults say it is?

That depends on who you are. For me, I was willing to give up any semblance of a social life in an effort to graduate early. Therefore, focus was extremely easy. For the majority of college students, the urge to go out and party and fit into a social circle is more prevalent than you think, especially in your first semester. If you can make it through that first term, you’ll be in good shape.

5. Are parties at major universities that distracting that you flunk out?

Considering that it nearly happened to at least two[1] of my closest friends in college, definitely.

6. Is it hard to get a job right out of college?

That really depends on how willing you are to settle for an entry level job. If you think you’re going to walk right out of college and into your dream job, expect a long, uphill battle. If you’re willing to take smaller, less prestigious jobs to make ends meet in the short-term while gaining experience[2], it’s pretty easy.

7. Career-wise, is it better to choose a major that I’m not that passionate about but it will be easier to find a job, or a major that I really like but the career paths aren’t that wide?

That depends. Do you want to work in an office job the rest of your life? If so, major in anthropology.

8. On a scale of 1 to NOPE, how bad are student loans?

I can’t say they’re fun by any means. My entire college bill was paid by student loans and grants. While I’m in better shape than most people my age, I still won’t have my student loans paid off within the next five years[3]. Student loan debt is a major problem in America, and very, very little is being done to change that.

The problem is not student loan debt by itself. It’s the combination of student loan debt and other things, such as credit card debt, moving away from home too early[4], and not taking advantage of the lower tuition rates of community colleges. If you have scholarships, grants, or money from your family to pay for college, awesome. If you don’t, I’d encourage you not to let student loans stand in your way of going to college[5].

9. If you’re talented at Liberal Arts and nothing else, is it OK to try and make a career out of it?

Go for it! Just surround yourself with people who are brutally honest with you. They’ll help you to realize if you’re truly talented or not.

10. Besides having the ‘typical college experience’, is it really worth going to a four year college?

That all depends on the person. Many four year colleges have access to programs like study abroad, as well as internships that you would never get at a trade school or community college. That said, the cost difference is pretty drastic. Weigh your options carefully.

11. Will it really be as difficult as I’ve heard to get a job after getting a degree in English?

God no. Well…so long as you’re okay with working in a call center to start your career. Well-run call centers scoop up English and communications majors like a fat baby going after a bottle of Mountain Dew.

12. Will I ever be able to pay off my college debts?

If you go through college without using a credit card irresponsibly? Probably. Seriously though, if your institution offers a money management course to its students, sign up for that day one. You’ll thank me later.

13. How important is it to go to college versus just getting a job after I graduate?

That really depends on what you want to do with your life. Many businesses are now requiring at least an associate’s degree even for entry-level positions, so not going to college does limit your job opportunities. With that said, if you can get into an entry-level job at a company you love without a degree, and then work your way up, you won’t have to worry about student loan debt[6].

14. How do you make new friends once you’re there?

Keep your dorm room door open for the entirety of the first two weeks you’re at college except when you’re studying or sleeping. I cannot stress this enough.

15. Do you recommend sharing a college dorm with someone you already know or someone new?

It’s up to you really, though I have a pretty strong bias towards rooming with someone new. I didn’t get the option to room with someone I already knew[7]. What ended up coming out of that though was rooming with a complete stranger who would become my best friend. While there are roommate horror stories out there, take the chance on meeting someone new.

16. What kind of job can I get with a degree in Visual Fine Arts?

Not a fucking clue. If someone knows the answer to this, I’ll happy post it here though.

17. Should I switch my major to something more practical?

I feel like I’ve answered this same question three or four times now[8]. That said, you need to explore how passionate you are about what you’re learning and how good you are at it. If you’re not both extremely passionate and at least very good at what you’re learning, you should probably consider switching your major, regardless of how practical your current one is.

18. Why does college cost so damn much?

If I had the answer to this, I’d be rich.