Why must we stay “different” to each other?

My friend Shay aka Black Girl in Maine just wrote a blog post about killing a child’s spirit by letting him or her know that he or she is “different”. Reading the post and about how her adult son observed this sad moment at her daughter’s school made me hurt inside: how is it that we as a society continue to segregate, to draw these silos up and make our peers feel “different”?

Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn't the case.
Thought I had a normal childhood, but my classmates reminded me that wasn’t the case.

Reading Shay’s post made me reflect back on my own childhood and remember how my classmates made sure I knew I was different: the taunts on the school bus of “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these!” and kids pulling their eyes back and laughing at me; my younger brother, Adam, being made fun of by his classmates after school and he was so angry he cried (and I tried to defend him but the kids were relentless); the subsequent visit to the principal’s office to get those guys reprimanded but they were let off the hook (yes, why would people believe the Chinese kids anyway?); and so on and so forth. I could go on and on about all the times we were reminded that we were “different” in our school.

Even to this day (and I know I’ve written about this topic earlier this year) I still feel my “other”-ness reflected upon me in Denver (yes, a major city!). It angers me that, over the course of my life, things haven’t changed for kids. Things are not better in many parts of the country; in fact, they may be worse!

Why must we continue to do this to one another? How can we change the conversation to being more about how we’re more similar than different? Yet we continue to only see our skin colors and make judgments, even on children.

UPDATE: Just read this passage in Eddie Huang’s memoir, “Fresh Off the Boat”,¬†and it really resonates with this post and Shay’s post:

To this day, I wake up at times, look in the mirror, and just stare, obsessed with the idea that the person I am in my head is something entirely different than what everyone else sees. That the way I look will prevent me from doing the things I want; that there really are sneetches with stars and I’m not one of them. I touch my face, I feel my skin, I check my color every day, and I swear it all feels right. But then someone says something and that sense of security and identity is gone before I know it.

 

Injustices of Life: Crowdfunding Version

Joyful Harvest field trip to a local farm. For some of the kids, it was their first visit ever to a farm. Just some of the many experiences the center brings to Joyful kids.
Joyful Harvest field trip to a local farm. For some of the kids, it was their first visit ever to a farm. Just some of the many experiences the center brings to Joyful kids.

Note: Not paid to write about Joyful Harvest. This is a situation dear to me, even though I do not live in Maine. To see a friend in pain, to hear about how the children will lose a safe haven if Joyful Harvest closed down….doesn’t this also bring pain to your heart?

Crowdfunding: it seems to have opened doors for so many. Projects getting funded left and right….dreams coming true.

But, should ALL dreams get funded? Even the ones that don’t contribute to society?

I’ll admit: back in August, I ran my own crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. I wanted to raise money for TAOpivot so I could pay for an intern and ease some of my financial burdens with running the company. I chose the flexible funding option; most of the money I raised was through my loved ones. I did not reach my funding goal, though.

In hindsight, I see that I did not have a strong enough campaign or message to compel strangers to contribute. However, as I watched which campaigns got featured on the front page, I also grew bitter. How come campaigns for making zombie figurines were getting overfunded and mine, a worthy social pursuit, was not?

My friend Shay, aka Black Girl in Maine, recently put up a campaign on Indiegogo to help her nonprofit organization, Joyful Harvest Center, to stay afloat. Joyful Harvest is a safe haven for children from low-income families in the Biddeford area of Maine. I hurt seeing how few people contributed to the fund; I hurt even more seeing how the center could potentially close its doors by the end of June due to lack of funding.

And again, I am reminded of why, many times, crowdfunding is a way to fund everyone’s dreams, but some dreams seem “more important” to the public than others.¬†People would rather see more useless objects in our society than to fund organizations that are trying to improve society/our economy.

And then, these same people wonder why they’re unemployed, or why there is still a high-unemployment rate in the U.S.

Is this how human nature shows its true colors through this new way of funding? Have we, as a society, grown numb to trying to help each other out for worthwhile necessities in life? Have we suddenly decided that funding a statue of a not-so-famous celebrity on a dinosaur’s body is so much more important than helping a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth?

Sure, life is unfair, but if we’re a society built on making the next generation of leaders, why are we turning the other way when it comes to what Joyful Harvest Center is trying to achieve? What other socially-minded ventures are trying to achieve?

(Want to make a financial donation to Joyful Harvest Center?)

 

3 Reasons Entry-Level Work Does Not Exist Anymore

All these people are lined up for a conference, or lined up looking for work...or both.
All these people are lined up for a conference, or lined up looking for work…or both.

Alternate Title: Why Employers are Being Unfair with Their HR Methods

Lately, this topic seems to come up a lot among my peers and my clients at TAOpivot: “Why do I have to have years of experience when it is an entry-level job?” “Why can’t I get paid for my worth?” “Why can’t I get a job out there with benefits, health insurance, etc.?” and on and on.

All very valid questions and I completely understand the frustration; I experienced this in my own job search after I got my Bachelors degree. I moved to San Francisco, naively thinking that, despite no relevant work experience I was sure to land something entry-level.

I did and I did not: I was left with a lot of the same questions I listed above. The catch-22 of a job-seeker with little to no work experience: how to gain experience if nobody is willing to hire and train me?

I believe these days, entry-level work does not exist anymore. Three reasons why:

  1. Company staff are running lean; they do not have the time or money to have a staff member train a new employee, especially one without experience. The company must focus on how to utilize their available staffing in the most versatile way.
  2. Because companies are running lean, they feel that inexperienced candidates would only cost the company more (time, money). These companies may or may not have perpetual “interns” who end up doing too much of the slush work.
  3. Saying “entry-level” in a job posting plus “5+ years of experience” will certainly lure someone more experienced to be paid at an entry-level position…..because everyone falls for that, right?

The three reasons may all sound the same, and they pretty much boil down to one main point: the economy is still pretty crappy. The way businesses are run is changing in this new landscape where no longer do people stay at one job all their life: they may end up job-hopping a lot before they find a job that they will stick with. Employers are not happy with this kind of landscape because they could lose valuable talent right away if a better offer comes along.

But, these reasons should not cause for employers and HR managers to shy away from adapting to the new environment. And, most certainly, I find when job postings state both “entry-level” AND “requires 5+ years of experience”, that that is just unethical.

I know that companies are running lean; even my own startup is lean. But at the same time, I believe that the many jobless job-seekers out there can really help the economy if a few more employers actually played fair and were open to taking on entry-level/newly graduated job candidates and pay them their proper share.

The economy is not going to fix itself with a magic wand. We must make incremental changes in our own mindsets and how businesses are run in order to give our fellow Americans work and allow them to help alongside and fix our economy.

Thoughts on Restaurant Service

Places put effort into their decor; however, what about their service?

During this past week in Indiana, my sister reminded me of our restaurant days; she worked the longest at our parents’ restaurant and has a lot of colorful stories to share from that experience. She got me tuned into restaurant service quality by her complaints over the service at all the restaurants we went to.

I have to admit, the first impression I got when I arrived in Indiana and went to a couple of restaurants was that service was rather sub-par. The first night, we went to Steak N’ Shake and the server didn’t bring me a glass of water even though I requested for it. Luckily I could quench my thirst with the cherry limeade.

Over and over during the past week, I was appalled by how slow service went….during non-peak hours. The worst experience we had on my visit was at an Italian restaurant: the server came and took our appetizer order….and then FORGOT ABOUT US. Oh! We were sitting there munching on the paltry portions of the bruschetta and looking around the restaurant: customers were slowly trickling in, but it wasn’t SLAMMED (i.e., it wasn’t a landslide of people walking in). At one point I turned to find our server just standing in the back of the restaurant with hands on her hips. Uh…..

What made this situation even worse was that the server FINALLY came to our table and even told us to our faces, “I TOTALLY forgot about you guys!” Wow, way to make us feel appreciated. You don’t tell customers that you forgot about them; you can definitely forget about their service then!

After that terrible meal, I told my sister she should make a list of things servers shouldn’t say to their customers. One thought she had during the week sums up the whole list for now:

“These servers don’t realize that we grew up in the restaurant industry. When they give us excuses, we can definitely see through their BS.”

Now, after reading this post, you may be more alert with your next outing at a restaurant/bar/etc.

Time & Priorities

Time is money, right?

In this past week, I’ve noticed more how people are with their time. I’ve been running a cynical joke in my head about the difference between graduate students and “real world” people: graduate students think their time is so valuable that they cannot make it to a mentor meeting or what-have-you. “Real world” people, i.e., other businesspeople, meanwhile will make the time for important connections….even informational interviews.

I say this as being cynical because I notice how some of my peers have acted with some invitations. Yes, time is money, but would you really turn down a valuable connection’s invitation for lunch? Dinner? With the excuse of “I’ve been SO busy.”

Do you think that your time is that much more valuable than your connection’s time?

I had sent out an email to a colleague earlier this week asking to see if this person had time to meet this summer for lunch or coffee or whatnot. This person replied saying the same thing as above: “I’m too busy.”

I understand that people have packed schedules. I have a crazy schedule, too. Thank goodness for Google Calendar; it keeps all my appointments, engagements in order. I’ve had scheduling issues with a few of my connections, but we have volleyed emails back and forth to find a time that will work for both of us. THIS is how you should handle time issues: don’t just walk away and say “I’m TOO BUSY” and make the other person feel like their time is not valuable. Work out a time to meet with that person, even if you believe you will not do business with them in the future.

I find that many people don’t realize the power of connections. Say “no” to one person, and you could be closing the door on many opportunities. I don’t like being treated like a commodity, so I value all the connections I make, no matter big or small. People are … human. We’re not commodities. So don’t treat your connections, colleagues, etc. as if they’re commodities.