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.

Effective Managing: A Primer For Newbies

A couple of weeks ago, I had a former co-worker email me out of the blue. Though we haven’t seen each other since I moved out of Arizona((Where he and I worked together.)), he was excited to tell me that he had been promoted at his current job. As a result, he is now in his first managerial role at a company. While I didn’t have much formal managerial experience((I’ve had about 6 months as a true supervisor, though I’ve been in leadership positions of various levels for about two and a half years at various jobs.)), he asked what advice I could give him about being a manager.

After thinking about it for some time, I decided that there were five areas he needed to focus on in order to be an effective manager. While I highly doubt that my ideas are revolutionary, I did decide to put them in a nice acronym.

Communication
Listening
Expectations
Advising
Recruiting

My advice to him was that if he follows the five items listed above, he will have the skill set to be both effective and useful to leading a team of people. I expanded a little bit on each of the points I sent to him, and I thought I’d share the same points I made to him with all of you.

Communication

The foundation of any good managerial relationship is built upon communication. While it’s an understood that managers may not always be able to tell everything that they know to those who they manage, beginning and maintaining an open dialogue with anyone who reports to you. Honesty is the primary component to clear communication, however there are a few other communication items — expectations and advising — that I’ll get to a little further down the list.

Listening

Even more important than communicating with someone by speaking to them is taking the time to actively listen to those who report to you. You’ll get two valuable pieces of information by doing so. First and foremost, those who report to you will typically let you know at least a portion of the things that they feel like they’re struggling with. Combine those items with the things you feel like they need work on and you’ll be able to make action plans that allow the employee to feel like they have input in. The second piece of information you’ll get is feedback as to how you can improve yourself as a manager. While there may be someone who says you need to work on something and they’re the only one who has that opinion, if you’re hearing the same feedback over and over, perhaps that’s where you have room to grow.

Expectations

As much as communication and listening are vital skills to leading a team of people, setting expectations for what should be done by those you’re leading is equally important. It’s great to have rules and policies about various items, including attendance, performance, and attitude. That said, if you don’t make those expectations clear…and by extension hold people responsible for those expectations…what you say begins to have little weight. Being transparent and consistent about your expectations will help you to build credibility as a manager.

Advising

I’ve had a few managers over my time in the working world who felt that the best way to lead was to teach someone what to do, then let them do it on their own with no feedback. If that employee succeeded, great. If that employee failed, too bad. Managing people is just as much about coaching people as to what they can do to improve their performance as it is making sure they show up on time((If showing up on time is what they need to work on, awesome. You can kill two birds with one stone here.)). The role of a manager is best viewed not as a boss, but as a teacher or adviser. You don’t have to be completely hands off to help someone succeed. If anything, the opposite should happen.

Recruiting

While not a direct management technique, per say, an effective manager uses their recruiting efforts to improve their team within the vision and ideals that they want to see exhibited in their personnel. Though I generally dislike the concept of a vision statement(Or similarly cliche items.)), a manager should work to build a team that has the traits that they feel will best help their team and department to succeed. Seek out people who have those qualities — and make sure you actually find people with those qualities instead of those who are lying about having them((I recommend using behaviorally based interview questions. They’ll give you a more clear picture as to someone’s future behaviors.)) — and work to improve your team as it grows and changes.

Are there specific skills that you feel are important for managers to have? Sound off in the comments.

The Job Jumping Dilemma

Note: The following post is a guest post written by a gentleman named Mike. Please enjoy Mike’s post below.

Throughout high school, we were promised that going to college would get us a good job. That we shouldn’t worry about student loans, as our job will allow us to pay those back quickly. That by going to school, we were making something of ourselves, and would excel in life. Are we REALLY sure that any of that is true?

I sit here myself only one year removed from graduation, yet like many people in my position, I feel helpless. I have student loan debt, with the need to repay it. More than that, I know it’s the right thing to do, and while it’s never easy, it’s something that must be done. However, the opportunities our elders promised us seem to be few and far between. We sit here, tucked away in our cubicles in the corner, still faced with the problem of being “the new guy” and feeling like it’s impossible to get ahead.

For many of us, we had to take the first job offer presented to us after graduating. It felt like an impossible challenge, to step away from campus and the college life style, and into the real world where real expectations and real problems exist. No longer was our hardest choice which bars to hit up, which cheap beer to drink this weekend, which flavor of Ramen noodles to eat. Our choices now impact real people and real lives, and often come with bullshit TPS reports and printers that say paper jam when there is no paper jam.

When those jobs get tiring, exhausting, depressing, and mentally draining, what are we supposed to do then? Do we risk looking like job jumpers, as we yearn for a new opportunity? What if we make the wrong choice and end up in the wrong field? What if we’re already in the wrong field?

You see, for me, this is a choice I’ve been struggling with lately. I know that I’m not alone, and also recognize the weight a decision like this could carry. For some of us, we were forced to sign contracts that ran up to a few years. Once those contracts near the end, and there’s no guarantee of tomorrow, we are put in an awkward position both personally and professionally.

For those of us who hate what we do, it can become draining on all aspects of life. Work depression can trickle over into our personal lives, affecting our relationships with our partners, friends and parents. The mental toll on those stuck in cubicles in front of a computer screen for 8 to 9 hours a day becomes increasingly difficult. The constant wondering about what other jobs and careers are out there becomes a pounding drum of war in our heads. We dream to move forward, to make a difference, to get that promotion or that raise. We feel like our jobs are literally holding us back from our future.

That’s why I’m here to say, stop it. This message goes out to not only me, my friends, but to all of those in my generation, and in my position. Worrying will only do so much for our situation, until we take the leap of faith and follow our dreams. Who cares if you have multiple jobs on your resume in just the last few years? Competent employers would see a student who was trying to get ahead in school. Employers who scoff at it are likely terrible companies whose work environment would crush your soul even harder. So take that risk. Apply for that job. Change careers if you want. Ultimately, do what makes you happy, and as long as you’re not harming anyone, don’t regret it. It’s become pretty clear from any news story about government and business for the last..decade or so that these people are out for their interests only. So screw them, it’s time to look out for our interests too. Maybe one of us will be the next major CEO, board member, or president of a company. Maybe one of us will be the Governor or Senator that shakes the whole system up. None of us will ever find that out unless we go and do it.