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Friday, July 30, 2010

I Moved

I have my own website now; it's http://tmiesen.com. You can also still catch me on Twitter and Tumblr.


Cheers,

Tom

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why You Should Watch "Mad Men"

Don Draper and his rag-tag team of advertising misfits at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce come back to the small screen today, and that’s a good enough reason to write about it. You should give the show a try. Unless you’ve been living under a culture-proof rock for the last 4 or so years, “Mad Men” is an award-winning show on AMC about advertisers in the 60’s. That’s the abbreviated version. If you watch the show religiously, you know it’s really about the existential crisis of a man who never is quite sure of who he is or who he wants to be, set in a 1960’s Ad Agency. It’s a time machine to an era full of drinking, smoking, and philandering, but also an era full of change and empowerment. I could continue the pretentious drivel for a while, but I figured it’d probably be easier to persuade you to watch the show through quotes and videos, and a little commentary in between.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Go Forth, Get to Work, and Be A Pioneer

 | Why Levi's "Go Forth" Campaign Resonates With My Generation |

About a year ago, I was watching TV commercials, and one came on that piqued my interest. It was mostly dark, the copy was some sort of poem, and I instantly LOVED it. That ad was the first part of Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. The ads use Walt Whitman poems very well (on one ad, apparently it is his own voice). The copy of the poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” is supposed to evoke an emotional response from my generation, and I think it does. Here’s a snippet:

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers
(Rest of poem here. Highly Recommended)



The first few ads (one embedded above, the other you can just watch on YouTube) show young people running around interspersed with grim visions of Wall Street and America. “America” is literally half-underwater in one ad, which I think is supposed to symbolize the grim, hopeless recession-era we were in (and still are, to a degree). Some people loved it. Some thought it was too arty. Others mocked it (which usually means people are at least paying attention). Either way, it really struck a chord with me, and I assume other millenials were at least intrigued.

Fast-forward a year, and Wieden & Kennedy comes back with new ads for Levi’s. W&K, out in Portland, is this year’s hot ad agency. Remember the Nike “Write the Future” ad right before the World Cup? Ever heard of the Old Spice Guy? We know that campaign resonates with the millennial generation. W&K is behind both.

Anyways, they come out with this new part of the campaign based on a dingy old town called Braddock, Pennsylvania. This town is desecrated. Dead. Like Detroit and countless other cities on the Rust Belt, this town used to be a powerful industrial city, a steel-creating powerhouse, but then jobs faded away and so did the city. Braddock is a stand-in for our broken country, and Levi’s is here to rebuild it. Levi’s is even sponsoring workshops, teaching valuable skills, so we can work.Watch the ad:



“A long time ago, things got broken here. People got sad and left. Maybe the world breaks on purpose, so we can have work to do. People think there aren’t frontiers anymore. They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”

The ad is all about rebuilding. We know about rebuilding and repairing. Fixing New Orleans. Fixing the Gulf. Fixing the banks, and fixing health care. We’ve been left with a country in ruins. We’re here to build, to work, to find new frontiers. It’d be easy to think the only frontiers are in new tech, but we have a lot more than that to create. The new ad shows people getting ready to work. The older generations think we don’t want to work, but we do. We’re an entrepreneurial generation, ready to find these new frontiers. We’re trying to work, but for ages 20-24, the unemployment rate is somewhere around 18%. My friends and I graduated from a great university (On Wisconsin!), yet most of us are still unemployed and looking. It’s time for us to get to work.

This whole campaign is, in my mind, pretty brilliant. A year ago, when the country was even more financially broken than today, Levi’s showed us that America was broken, but we still had our youth and we could still be pioneers. Today, it’s giving us a call to action. The ad is saying that the future is in our hands, and we can rebuild. We need to rebuild. It’s up to us to fix the country.

Look, I know these ads are just here to sell jeans. They’re ads, so the main goal is to increase sales, so the effectiveness of the campaign is based around how many jeans they can sell (I’m not exactly racing to the stores). But I think good ads can resonate with the zeitgeist and create culture. Great ads become art. I think W&;K did a great job finding a basic truth about our current situation, finding a message that would resonate with our generation (the target), and boiling it down into great copy and art direction to convey that message. That's all you need: a great insight, a message from that insight, and a way to communicate that message to the right people.

What does everyone else think about the campaign? Do older generations “get it?” Am I missing anything? Let me know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Five Ways You Can Use Social Media to Get Hired

As one of my loyal readers (all fourteen of you, and that’s being optimistic), you probably know that I like Twitter. Quite a bit. I’ve written about it before. Twitter is a portal to the collective thoughts of the world. I recently commented about it on a post about why I love Twitter:


I think Twitter can fundamentally change the way those with little industry experience look for work. Connecting with the right people, posting high-quality information, and making insightful observations on Twitter could potentially catch the eye of employers. It’s an interesting new way to think about job hunting for my generation.


Twitter can change how you find a job. See, I spent a good chunk of my senior year in college sending in resumes, writing cover letter after cover letter, attending job fairs, and occasionally landing an interview because of it. This method I’m going to call the “push” method of job hunting. This is how those with little-to-no experience have been doing it for quite some time. In my case, this was (and continues to be) like shoving a boulder up a hill or getting Zooey Deschanel to marry me. 
Already Married? Rats.


But here we are in the digital age, where mere mortals like me can have real conversations with C-Level employees and thought leaders in the industry using Twitter. This is enough to make me think that perhaps there is a better way to find a job. I’m going to call it the “pull” method.

The pull method is simple in theory and difficult in execution. Basically, you get other people to want you. It’s easy if you’re LeBron James, not so easy if you’re Applicant #4000. This is where our pal social media comes in to save the day. Social media won’t get you “pulled” through to a new career on its own, but it will definitely make pushing that boulder a little easier. Using social media isn’t a direct means to employment, but it can definitely help. Here are five ways you can use social media to (help) get hired:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Spice"-ing Up Advertising

Why the "I'm On a Horse" guy is a cultural phenomenon

By this point, you’d have to be under a very large rock for a very long time to have missed the Old Spice ads. The campaign went viral when it began and continues to garner a lot of attention with each new ad. The campaign managed to get star Isaiah Mustafa a deal with NBC. It also won the Grand Prix Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, which is sort of like the Best Picture Oscar. Additionally, the ad was recently nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Commercial, and will most likely win (with their momentum, none of the others can really compare). So, what makes this ad campaign so special? Why does it connect with us, and why did it go viral?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Jaded Gen-Y Guide to Business Buzzwords

Every profession has jargon that is used as shorthand, and that’s great. Using jargon is necessary so a carpenter doesn’t have to say “that big metal doo-hickey” and so scientists don’t have to use long, boring explanations to explain what a uberthermodynamic enthropic reaction is (disclaimer: I don’t think that is real). These words and phrases are around to make their lives easier and less confusing. Buzzwords in business, however, seem to be around solely to make everyone a little more confused. I think they’re around so that you can convey meaning where none actually exists and so you can sound more important than you actually are. It’s the same reason some writers use the term “antediluvian” just to say “before the flood” or “really old.”

I’m not very fond of buzzwords. For the reasons I previously listed, they’re made fun of by a lot of people (present company included). This scene from 30 Rock is a great parody of using buzzwords. I went to B-School (Go Badgers) so I have a pretty good idea of what they actually mean (most of the time). I’ve seen more acronyms than I could ever remember, have heard of more “blue oceans”, and have explained the “hedgehog concept” (all it means is “do what you’re good at.” HOW IS “HEDGEHOG CONCEPT” EASIER?). Naturally, I’m a little jaded.

I’m currently in the middle of creating a fake press release using “The Most Overused Buzzwords in PR” as a satire of the industry for The Black Sheep Agency. Somewhere in the middle of using 75+ of the buzziest buzzwords in the industry, I started to realize that there are very few people who know what any of these words actually mean. Therefore, here’s a layman’s dictionary of buzzwords you’ll hear in business, PR, and marketing from someone who is a little cynical about them. If this blog was a tabloid, I’d call this post “The Definitions THEY Don’t Want You to Know!!!” Check it out after the jump, and leave some more of your favorites in the comments.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Millenial Dilemma: Trying to Find a (Work/Life) Balance

My generation is a lot of things. We have a lot of great traits: we’re tech-savvy, we’re mobile, we’re driven (albeit in a different way than the other generations), and we’re always trying to be better. We’re also viewed very negatively by “them.” They say we have a high sense of entitlement without having earned it and have no attention span, but that’s for a different post. We tackle work differently too.

The 9 to 5 work schedule is crumbling because of technology. Smartphones are keeping us connected and able to answer emails all day and night, but they’re also allowing us to access our Facebook and Twitter accounts while we’re “working” (a lot of companies are very worried about this). We can stay connected to both worlds all day very easily. More than any previous generation, we’re seeing a merger of professional and personal life.

In the past, it was easier to keep work at work. If you were someone like Don Draper (Mad Men is back on July 25th!), you didn’t bring work home and definitely didn’t have the wife and kids on your mind at work. You’d go to work, flip on the “work mode” switch in your brain, and get working (admittedly, “work mode” in Mad Men sounds pretty great). Then, you’d come home (or the home of a mistress, or a bar, in Draper's case) and flip that switch off. Now, we’re never completely “off” and never completely “on,” which is restructuring how we spend our time. So the real question is this: How do we separate work and our personal lives? Here are a few ideas.

Set Clear Boundaries: Because of the speed at which information is passed these days, it’s hard not to be connected. We get emails, notifications from Facebook, text messages, and Twitter updates all day, and it is frustrating when we can’t answer them in real-time. We’re hooked on technology because it literally affects our brain like love and cocaine. But in reality, is it really life or death to answer email while you’re out at a baseball game or a bar? Most of the time, everything will still be OK in the morning. Give yourself some time off.

Separate Social Media Accounts: Some people have a personal and a professional twitter account. By keeping your personal contacts and friends on one Twitter account and then an occupation-specific account, you can make sure your lives don’t bleed into each other. This is something I don’t personally believe in. A lot of people think that you should keep separate ones, but I don’t see the point. I’m not about to whitewash myself just so employers think I’m someone else; I see it as inauthentic. Our generation is pretty into authenticity.

You know, the more and more I try to think of ways to separate life and work, the more I stop believing it’s possible. It’s not really an “on” or “off” life anymore, it’s more of a dimmer switch. This means that we’re going to need to adapt. Employers are going to have to learn how to deal with workers who are making plans and communicating with their friends over various channels while at work. Families will have to learn to cope with other family members who are always checking their email, never completely disconnected from their job. Some people going to learn how to balance these things, but I fear a lot won’t be up for the change. That’s too bad. We’ll move forward without them.
 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Life 2.0

When I was a kid, I remember how awesome renting a video game was (yes, I’m old enough to remember video stores. When I was a kid, we didn’t have Netflix). I’d play as long as my parents would allow it, then wake up SUPER early the next morning so I could beat my brothers to the SNES. I’d play and play and play, only stopping to eat and sleep. Because we only had the video game for a few days, it was important to play as much as I could to get as far in the game as possible. It was a good childhood.

Even though I no longer really play, I still like the idea of video games, how you can jump into an entirely different world for a few hours and do strange, impossible things. Luckily enough, we’re entering an age where life itself is turning into a video game. This is facilitated by mobile services and new technology, each seeming more like science fiction. Here are just a few of the relatively new services that make life just a little bit more fun. These technologies are probably going to become (or already are?) the next big things.
UPDATE: I forgot a few really interesting advances in technology, so I put them at the top.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

What I Learned (and Still Learn) From My Dad

Father’s Day. One day a year. As a teenager, I always wondered why dads got a day, and moms got a day, but kids didn’t. Seemed unfair. The answer I got back was always, “every other day is kid’s day,” and I believe it now. Every other day of the year is devoted to children. So we have father’s day, one day a year, to honor everything our dads have done for us. Since the average cost of raising a kid these days is somewhere in the ballpark of $220,000 (if THAT isn’t effective birth control, I don’t know what is), we owe quite a bit. However, this debt goes so far beyond the physical things our fathers have provided for us. Everything I know, everything I’m currently learning, and everything I will learn has somehow been shaped by the lessons I was (and continue to be) taught by my mom and dad. I wish I had thought about doing something like this on Mother’s Day in May, because there are so many lessons from Mom too, but this post is about what I learned from my Dad.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Damage Control

BP is in hot (oily) water. With pictures like these (only look if you want your weekend/month/year ruined) almost beating out those Sarah McLachlan ASPCA commercials for saddest-animals-ever all because of your company, there’s a lot of hatred being thrown at the Charles Montgomery Burns of oil companies (oil companies are also the Mr. Burnses of life). Rightly so. This BP disaster caused 11 deaths on an oil rig and is an environmental catastrophe. “PR nightmare” doesn’t even begin to explain the mess BP is in. “We will get it done. We will make this right” is the headline on the nine full-page ads it has been releasing in the New York Times. How do you make something like this right? Time for damage control, but how? Here are some ideas I have about getting back into the good graces of the public after something goes wrong.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Making the Idiot Box Smarter

 A few months ago, I had an interview for a company in Madison. I had to give a 10-minute presentation on anything I wanted. I chose to do a presentation on The Simpsons, but in a way that connected it to the ethos of the 90's, and how the show was an important critique of modern culture. After I started preparing for the presentation, it dawned on me how similar this show and what is generally considered the best TV show ever, The Wire, are. The Wire was a show on HBO that centered on the drug trade in Baltimore, but it was also a show about how the institutions that drive the world are corrupt and let us down. The local government, police force, public school system, and media are institutions that are supposed to aid the people, yet because of funding, red tape, and sensationalism they let us down. In its own way, The Simpsons does exactly that. What follows is a rough outline of what I said during the presentation. I may not have gotten the job, but it did allow me to think deeper about two of my favorite TV shows.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How to Sell to Millenials

A little less than a year ago, Miracle Whip came out with new ads, targeted at people my age (somewhere around 18-24, I would guess). The ad campaign proclaimed “Don’t be so Mayo,” that Miracle Whip was as rebellious as we were, that it somehow could tap into our generation and provide us with kickass mayo-substitute that wasn’t so bland, so mayo. It got lampooned on the Colbert Report, which gave it a great amount of earned media, and even ran advertisements calling Stephen Colbert out (during his ad-space). While they’ve since gone on to place their new product in a Lady Gaga video, “Telephone” (which I think is a much better way to reach our generation), I think they missed the message.

Our generation doesn’t want to be communicated to like that anymore. Our generation is one that grew up being bombarded with advertising everywhere. We know that we’re often being lied to, and we’re getting a little pissed off about it. We’re jaded and cynical about advertising, and irony is a second-language to us (if there aren’t enough ironic moustaches and three-wolf-moon shirts in your neighborhood, they soon will be). Kotex has a campaign that I think is more effective at reaching us than Miracle Whip was, all because it understands the way our generation acts.

I’m not a Kotex user (and, barring some massive operations, never will be). I have no idea what girls expect out of ads for “feminine hygiene products,” and I don’t know whether its sales are going to increase or decrease. I could care less about what product Kotex is selling, but their UbyKotex campaign is, in my opinion, done very well and tailored to our generation well. The ads (here and here)basically make fun of every tampon commercial. The imagery, the dancing girls, the white pants….they’re all lampooned here. Instead of reinforcing these old clich├ęs, these ads decide to make fun of them, Kotex admits to its own previous BS. This sort of straight-talk is something our disillusioned generation respects, and I suspect this is exactly why Kotex went with this strategy.

Companies that want to sell something to us are going to have to begin talking like us. This doesn’t necessarily mean using our slang (that changes far too fast), but at least using our tone. We’re a generation that grew up on the Simpsons, Conan, and Seinfeld. We’re used to sardonic humor, satire, and meta-comedy. We know how to make fun of ourselves, and we expect that a brand should be able to make fun of itself too. So, the takeaway for brands here is that if you want to sell something to us, don’t dumb the message down, and don’t forget who you’re communicating to. We’ll listen, but only if you get our tone right. Either give us the straight facts or make it funny, but do not assume we're dumb one-way recipients of your message.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

RIP Privacy, Hello Transparency

Mark Zuckerberg is watching you. Facebook has been getting a lot of negative buzz lately because of its privacy settings and how intrusive they seem. Facebook also added the ability to “Like” things all over the internet, meaning it can see and aggregate all of your likes together and hopefully derive some meaningful insights from them (like the Black Keys? Here’s an Ad!). If this seems a little Orwellian, you’re probably right. Zuckerberg thinks that privacy is dead, that it’s something we no longer really desire. I think there’s a little bit of truth to that.

Think about your life online. You probably have a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account if you’re my age (or at least one of them). You’ve probably shared most of your public contact information (email, phone number, Skype/AIM name) with something on the internet, and you probably also skipped over the legal mumbo jumbo that tells you how they are able to use it. Anytime you send an email, researchers can scour them for keywords and use that data. Here we are, in the age of rabid transparency.

In this strange new world of transparency, how you interact on the internet will be remembered forever. The pages you view, the comments you make on youtube, the tweets you send out. It just makes me happy that I barely missed the age of putting your baby doing stupid stuff on Youtube (I’ll take 5 sets of eyeballs over 13 Million, thank you very much). These things are all being archived (if they aren’t, somebody is missing an opportunity). Eventually, this archive will be a time capsule, a small look into our lives in the new millennium (BEFORE everyone had hover cars and jetpacks and sentient housemaid robots). But now, it can be used for research and meaningful insights, delivering you targeted advertising based upon your internet habits. What we’re seeing now is a rise in accountability. Your 15 minutes of fame have been extended indefinitely (Andy Warhol would have loved the internet). You can’t burn your online diary, shred your emails, or hide the video tapes Watergate-style. Once it’s on the internet, it’s there for good.

So, what do you do to hide from Big Brother Facebook? You could just avoid the internet completely (Brother Jebediah), but that doesn’t seem realistic these days. The key to surviving this new world is to manage your online presence. Make sure that nothing too inflammatory comes out of your keyboard, keep the dirty pictures out, and watch where you visit. Make sure everything you do online is really just an extension of who you are. If everyone’s watching, at least wave your flag.

All this being said, I think this transparency is a good thing; it makes us look more human when some of our failures are up on the internet. It’s also nice to know that most of the time when you’re giving out information, you’re not really your name. You’re just an 18-34 year old male from Wisconsin. None of the personal information is collected; your likes, dislikes, and visits are aggregated to form a larger data set. This data is then used to figure out what advertisements to send you, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an internet experience catered to you. So, the key to surviving the brave new world of internet transparency is the same advice your mother has been telling you all of your life: be yourself.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Case For Twitter

We’ve all heard the complaints about Twitter. Why do we need to know what Kim Kardashian had for lunch? Why join a network where Ashton Kutcher is the most popular? Who the hell is Justin Bieber and why is he ALWAYS “trending?” Ok, I’ll admit it, these are all very valid questions and very valid reasons to be apprehensive about Twitter. However, once you get past these inane ramblings of celebrities, you’ll learn that Twitter does matter, especially for your company. Here’s why.

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Media Landscape We’re in an age of clutter. Advertisements are everywhere; TV, the internet, radio, billboards, before movies, during sporting events…even on people (Forehead Advertising is real). We’re overwhelmed. It’s inescapable, and we as consumers are getting annoyed. We’re so mad, in fact, that we ignore most ads; DVRs allow us to skip ads on TV and iPods let us bypass the radio. We’re sick and tired of being told what to buy, what services to use, where to eat, and how to live. How does a brand cut through the clutter? Enter Twitter, which turns a brand into your friend.

Target Practice Let’s pretend you’re at an archery range in the traditional media landscape. The brand is an archer, and the brand’s message is the arrow. Guess what, Sucker, you’re the target! The brand shoots its message at you, and you just have to sit and take it. Not so fun, huh? Well, social media gives you a bow and allows you to shoot right back. Now we’re talking.

One of the biggest benefits of Twitter and social media in general is that it allows a brand to have a conversation with its customers. Instead of broadcasting a message, a brand can actually engage consumers in real-time. Think of it as an always on-call customer service department. If someone has an issue with your product, you can respond swiftly before it gets negative publicity. Compliments about your brand? You can Retweet it to your followers and spread the good news. Customers learn to trust your brand, and good friends are always listened to.

Listen Up Twitter also empowers consumers to have conversations with each other about your brand, increasing Word-of-Mouth advertising for your brand. Twitter lets a brand listen to its consumers in real-time, and provides a constant stream of insights about products, services, and how to improve overall customer service. Twitter becomes the World’s Biggest and Best Focus Group, and your brand becomes the World’s Least-Creepy Eavesdropper.

Convinced?
Twitter matters. In an age where consumers are constantly bombarded with communications they don’t want to receive and can ignore, Twitter cuts through the clutter. Twitter facilitates communication between your brand and its customers, and also internet chatter into meaningful insights. Drink the Twitter kool-aid. Connect to consumers, collect information, and correct mistakes. Join the conversation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rebranding Isn't Just For Brands

Where you come from is gone, where you’re going to was never there, and where you are ain’t no good unless you can get away from it
-Flannery O’Connor

As I sit here on Graduation-Eve Eve, desperately trying to study but ultimately failing (I’m listening to music and my test is about music, so….win?), I find myself thinking about the future. Monday, May 16th is LITERALLY the first day of the rest of my life. Everything’s changing. The only world I know is going to be gone (though I’ve still got plenty of debt to remind myself of college). It’s a little terrifying, but it’s also new, which is incredibly exciting. So, instead of mourning four years of my life that will rank as the most enjoyable, wild, and exciting ever, I might as well see the positive sides of graduating.

Congrats, class of 2010! We each get a graduation present: the opportunity for reinvention. The best brands, products, and services adapt based on changes in culture, trends, and technology. Unless you’re Coca-Cola, you don’t stay relevant for so long by being the same. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to rebrand ourselves.

Rebranding. Don Draper did it (yes, he’s a TV character. I watch TV. Get over it). Dick Whitman didn’t like who he was and where he was from, so he changed into Don Draper. He took the hidden parts of his personality and projected them. Robert Zimmerman did it, too. Here’s a kid from northern Minnesota who decided there was something better out there, picked up his guitar and moved to New York to become Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan is the best example of personal rebranding I can think of. Musically, he went from folk and blues to protest music to surrealist electric rock to country. And that's only the first decade of his career.Hell, if the Rolling Stones can make a disco album, you can change too. Become someone new. Reinvent. The world is dynamic. Not even your personality should stand still.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t whitewashing the past. It’s not even really about looking more appealing to recruiters and higher-ups at your job. It’s about the opportunity to let others see you in a different way. We’re in for a lifetime of first impressions, but in these next few months and years we’re going to be experiencing a TON of them. Make them count. Play around with different sides of your personality, see which one fits. Nobody said you had to figure out who you were yet, so use that to your advantage.

I’m not talking about some extreme, Britney-Spears-shaving-her-head change. This isn’t Urkel making a machine that turns him into a suave, debonair Stephan Urquell (not all the TV I watch is high quality). This is about is taking existing parts of your personality and messing around with the percentages a little bit to let other aspects of your personality shine. Become more outgoing by forcing yourself to speak up at group events, even if it’s a little stressful. Tell more jokes. Argue with people. You’re no longer bounded by everyone already knowing who you are, so there are very few preconceptions about you. Use that. It’s a wonderful gift.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recruitment Rebellion

Some people aren't good at job interviews. I'm one of those people. I see job interviews as first dates: putting on a mask and looking for a long-term relationship by saying what the other person wants to hear for an hour. Playing the game.

Ever since high school, I've been told to play the game, to get involved. The end goal of this, they said, was to have something to put on your college application and your resume. I never liked the idea of doing something or joining anything for the sole purpose of padding my resume. I didn't play the game, but I worked hard and did what I wanted, and I still got into UW-Madison. I'll still get the job I want. Eventually.

Here's what I propose. Call it "Free Freelancing." Give me work to do, for free, and see what I'm capable of. If I'm going to be writing copy, give me a product and a target market and let me work something out. Give me a problem and I'll solve it, or at least try. If you like my work, give me more work. If that work is what you're looking for, we can talk long-term. It's cost-effective, it's risk-free, and I imagine it's a better predictor of future success than an interview. No games, no embellishing, no masks. If formal interviews are first dates, this is having coffee with someone you kinda might be into.

If it sounds like I'm condemning people for playing the game, I'm not. I'm just looking for a job on terms that are more attractive for me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Talkin Bout My Generation: Who We Are

Millenials.

That's us. It's who we've been branded as by whoever decides what generations are titled. The text generation. The twittering masses. Whatever we are, people want to define us, and sell to us. Those Miracle Whip ads (mayonnaise is HARDCORE) were made to get us to buy it. Everyone seems to have their opinion on us, so let's at least try to bust up some misconceptions.

Entitled. The word we all use for people who get something that they don't deserve. Apparently we're entitled because we believe in big salaries, big job titles, big lives. And you know what, they're right. We DO feel like we deserve all of that. But who can blame us? We're the ones who are paying an incredible amount of money for the same knowledge our parents got at a fraction of the price. We need a big salary because their generation made student loans a HUGE hurdle in our twenty-something lives. We'll be paying our school loans off at the same time as our mortgages. So maybe we do deserve that salary. Why else do we feel so entitled? We're the "good job for trying!" generation that got a trophy for being in last place, just because we participated. If you congratulate every kid for just being a part of something, we're going to want to be rewarded just for being there. Blame's on you, old fogies. And Big Lives? I blame celebrity culture, but maybe that's an argument for another time.

Nine to Five. Does anyone work those hours anymore? They don't make sense anymore, and maybe we're just the first people to pick up on this fact. In a globalized world, there is no nine-to-five. There is only working and not working. The last thing any of us wants to do is be stuck in rush hour, listening to some crappy morning or night DJ, to go into a meeting to accomplish something that could be done just as easily through Skype or AIM.

There's probably some truth to the idea that we're just not as smart as our generational predecessors, without using that darned "web thing." They probably know every state capital, who was Secretary of State in 1956, and how to quickly and painlessly do any long division we throw at them, but maybe that's irrelevant. We have technology, suckas. I bet we can find any of that information out just as quickly using google, wikipedia, or a calculator. So, unless we've crashed our plane onto a remote island and need to figure out who was the Chief of Staff under Hoover, I think we'll be alright.

So, that's part of who we are. I'm sure there's more. We're different, but we'll survive.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Exile on State Street: On Graduation and What's Next

In less than 45 days, I will no longer be a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I will have graduated from the School of Business with a double major in Marketing and MHR-Management. At this point, I'll have graduated without finding a permanent "real-person" job. Let's just all let life sink in for a second.

People keep asking me if I'm ready to graduate, if I'm excited for whatever comes next, etc etc. I never have any idea how to answer them because there are so many emotions associated with it: fear, anticipation, exhiliration, fun, sadness...pretty much all of the above. Most of all, an overwhelming sense of confusion is the way I guess I could describe it, because after graduation life is just one big uncertainty at this point.

I've had my fair share of fun (and your share, too) in the last four years and I'd like to think I've learned a few things in class. But, more than academics, I think the learning has been going on outside of the classroom. Things you learn when you aren't attempting to learn seem more relevant to me: time management, budgeting, social skills, stress management. These aren't usually things I would associate with school, though most of them are applicable to the classroom as well.

The point is, while I'm not discounting what I've learned from school, I've learned a whole lot more about myself and my abilties on my down-time.

What's Next. I have no idea, and most of the people I've talked to have no idea either. I would venture to say 75% of the people I know who are looking for post-grad "real-person" work are stilll searching, still applying, still interviewing. With less than 45 days left, we're scrambling. We're scared, confused, and uncertain. Still, we've survived 4 years at UW and lived to tell about it, so we shouldn't be. We're intelligent, we're talented, and we're adaptable. That should be about enough for anyone to want us.

This all being said, here are a few things I've learned.
  • Interviewing is like bad speed-dating. You go in, talk to a person you've never met about yourself for a half-hour, and then hope they ask you for a second date. There's a fair share of awkward pauses, forced laughter, and plenty of fake smiles. All of this is done hoping you'll somehow make a connection and will begin a long-term relationship.
  • Applying for jobs is a crapshoot. Half of the jobs you want, you'll never hear from. There are scam jobs out there, preying on people like us. It's a minefield, people, and we're all on our own.
  • There's got to be a better way to get a job. Interviews and resumes just encourage us to lie, embellish, and generally act fake. This is all fine and well for speed-dating, but just will lead to disappointment when they learn you aren't who you say you are. With all of the blogs, social media sites, etc available we should be able to be ourselves. People could learn more about me from my facebook, twitter, and writing than through "tell me about a time when..." questions.

I think I like the idea of writing again, so maybe next entry will be something about our generation, the so-called "millenials." There's a lot to be said.