Cultural Manifesto for the Millennium Generation
It’s a sick forging of the movies Groundhog Day and Adventureland. Your summer or weekend job has become your job-job. Bitch about the economy. Bitch about the Boomers that won’t die off or finally retire. Wax philosophical about the cultural shift America has made where having a bachelor’s degree now is equivalent to what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. The greatest preparation we got for entering the workforce was “Go to college.” You enrolled and feel like you’ve “ended up” at your cute part-time job at a doggie daycare, or Starbucks, or Best Buy.
But now you’re stuck in a rut. The job intended to keep you in Candies and your Xbox Live subscription has become essential and the most demoralizing aspect of your day to day existence. For the generation that Morley Safer characterized as vapid but ambitious, “expecting to be CEO by Friday,” this is shocking and mean. Life is hard. It’s harder in customer service.
If you’re in a rut with your job and you’re so in it you can’t tell which way the surface is to break free, we’ve got a little methodology that can help you plan a Punkass Job Exit Strategy.
California is still bankrupt, and maybe your dad finally got demoted at work. Or your grades have been shit (you already did the work to get into college, right, why keep killing yourself?), and whoever was shouldering your bills realized they were being taken advantage of. So you got cut off. Maybe you’ve been paying your way all along, but it’s become so ingrained to suffer through the ugliest part of your day as the fitting room attendant at Ross that your dreams have withered and aren’t as clear.
What has happened, or will, is the loss of inspiration. The work started off as a means to an end, the end being maybe a trip to Rome after graduation, a Prius, a hotter girlfriend, but then you slipped into something like highway hypnosis: You can see yourself waking up halfway through your life like Lester Burnham in American Beauty, realizing you’ve been in a coma. What detonates a coma-life? When you get too familiar with The Spark.
Inspiration is a high, like love and meth. And you can build up a tolerance for it. Sure, maybe being able to afford your dorm fees at SCU was the goal, the end to the means of working as a cashier at Costco, but after you drum it in your mind hard enough, it becomes part of the well of your subconscious, and you don’t feel the yikes! kind of excitement associated with that goal. After a while, you’re showing up to work because you’re supposed to, not because it’s a reprieve from chasing down your Real Life hopes and dreams.
THE EXIT STRATEGY PROCESS
What happens on your typical Monday? How about Saturday? There’s work, maybe school, an hour or so of Facebook and NBC, maybe a few hours allotted to standing in the kitchen bitching to your roommate about your psychotic store manager whose existence morally repulses you. What amount of time are you allotting in your average day to averting a rut?
1.) Stop bitching. If you have a punkass job, you probably bitch about it. But bitching is like masturbating without orgasming; the sensation of escaping from your existential malaise is there, but the actuality isn’t. Timothy Feriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek has incredible philosophies about managing time and complaining. If you’re a whiner, his ideas will hurt. One of his blog entries (The 21-Day No-Complaint Experiment) is about what complaining leaches from productivity–NOT necessarily the productivity you’re paid to do as a Best Buy employee, but the productivity you put into actually living the kind of life you want. Any business sav is going to tell you that what makes for a good employee or a productive person is someone solution oriented: if you’re going to note the pain and heartache caused by your store manager, or the girl sitting across from you in Cultural Anthropology, or the astronomical expenses of living in a Capitalist society, you’ll get more out of the complaint if you follow it up with an actual solution. “My manager is a crazy, neo-Nazi bitch that is SEXIST, so… so I guess I’m gonna sign up for that Excel workshop and let some people know I’m interested in finding something along those lines, even if just for really cheap practice.”
It takes more effort finding a solution than bitching. And it definitely has a better feeling as you’ll be setting up a tentative exit strategy. The seed for the Excel workshop is planted. That’s a new feature for your resume, and it potentiates a domino effect: the instructor conducting the workshop has a friend who requires someone with a little Excel proficiency and your number is passed along. In a matter of two months, you’ve got a side project to also affix to your resume. Breaking bad habits is like being the only kid at the birthday party that isn’t whining about getting a turn to swing the bat; when the piñata actually breaks, you can be the first on the candy.
2.) Get credible. Make yourself look qualified to move into better things. Get special keystones for your resume by accrediting yourself for the kind of work you want to bust into. Tim Ferriss mentions building a “credibility snowball” in The 4-Hour Workweek: The American Independent Writers organization costs $100 a year to join, nothing else required. That’s the case for many, many other organizations that a) offer networking potential, and b) on paper make you look serious and involved in specific work and projects. All it takes are a few nominal fees or attending a one-time orientation or seminar. Investigate the field of your dream part-time job as well; if you’d rather be working in competitive commission-based sales, Google/Bing for the most trafficked blogs of some esteemed salesmen. What do they have to say and what can you do with it?
This step in the process will inadvertently help clarify the job needs that are closest to your heart, the things you expect and require for a place you are wasting (LIVING) your time at. If you feel vague and a little anxious about the idea of leaving your shit-job comfort zone, the small effort of ferreting out materials about potential work interests will be motivating. The Spark will start sparking in a new way. Chase the dragon,
3.) Leverage yourself.
Social networking is the Millennial forte; our Facebook pages show up in our dreams. In all likelihood, you’re acquainted with social media, but not using it in a way to meaningfully affect the quality your life.
LinkedIn: Register if you don’t have a profile, and customize your Professional Headline with keywords that a search engine will like, i.e. “Marketing” or “Publishing.” Refer to yourself as an academic before a student, and only if your inexperience is stark—give yourself time in the process to really build your LinkedIn profile.
Twitter: Micro-blogging is useful to both marketers and poets. Keep followers and anonymous lurkers abreast of your projects and job hunting adventures. Attract followers by signing up for Twitter directories (such as Twellow, or WeFollow), and by focusing on a few choice topics relevant to your work-luv, like sharing URLs, videos, tips, and data.
Google Profile: Will appear at the top of links when someone Googles you. It’s the more-first-than-first impression. Low-key enough to be casual and real about your whole interests and, you know, self. But if you’re discerning, it can be classy and an asset. Facebook: Privatize it. Disable mobile notifications.
Craigslist advertises volunteer and nonprofit opportunities as well as paying gigs. Focus on extracurricular-esque kind of work you can put time into, like volunteering at events. MeetUp.com is also a resource for networking and finding like-minded people that represent thresholds into new opportunities. Many clubs and speakers use MeetUp to build followings and audiences for free seminars and workshops they offer; this is stuff you won’t have to pay for, just show up prepared. The bottom of this article lists some more sites that offer networking potential, as well as links to some of Timothy Ferriss’s blog.
STOMACHING YOUR PUNKASS JOB WHILE RUNNING THE EXIT STRATEGY
It might be unbearable. You might hate your job, your coworkers, the clientele or products you serve, and probably yourself for ending up in this place. Good. That’s healthy.
We are Millennials, the Trophy Kid Generation, and predisposed to think we are fabulous gifts to the world. Feeling that way is part of a conspiracy movement. It was a conspiracy of “enlightened childcare” concocted by academic professionals and lifestyle industrialists that assured our parents it was the distillation of thousands of years of child rearing. The centrality of it was ingraining positive self-esteem early on for a self-confident life. It’s why you went to Kumon when you were still only dealing with addition and subtraction, and it was the impetus for all those Anti-Bullying assemblies. In spite of your perceived inadequacies, you probably still think you deserve better, because you’re alive and, unlike a Darfurian refugee or one of those people working in Nike factories for thirty cents a week, you’re aware that better is out there.
Having a shitty job is average. Average is sloshing around the status quo like you already are. If it’s not good enough, find the way that is. People leading extraordinary lives and doing interesting work are doing so because they know how to lead themselves. The Punkass Job extraction project is to be undertaken by people ready to apply brain matter to their current situation, and find a way to deserve better. The best is not for people that think they’re too good for the worst. The best is for extraordinary people that can be the best at doing the worst.
Timothy Ferriss as a “practical philosophy” resource: