6e609595

Rockstar Entrepreneurs: Beware the Narrative

Post originally appeared on RocNext blog.

Localized small business is the antithesis of vogue; today, the rags to riches entrepreneur—the Open Source American Dream—is what’s trending. 500,000 startups are launched each month in the United States, and popular culture is actively responding.

We see ABC’s Shark Tank. We listen to startup podcasts. We read magazines (and some of us dream of making INC’s annual 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs list).

And while the myth of the young adult entrepreneur as the dominant demographic has been busted (over 80% of new entrepreneurs in 2013 were age 35+; 67% were 45+), one cannot deny the impact young entrepreneur success stories are having on other young adults: Mark Zuckerburg, Drew Houston, Jordi Munoz.

Instead of learning guitar, writing music, and starting garage bands, millennials are now learning code, writing software, and starting garage businesses.

This is good, of course.

We want our young people innovating and raising capital. We want our young minds creatively destroying customer pain.

But the rags to riches narrative, left unchecked, can mislead some talented young business men and women down distracted paths, blinding them for many years to more immediate, local opportunities. (more…)

photo-1418479631014-8cbf89db3431

Why English Majors Should Pursue Business Careers

As a full-time English major who freelance writes for businesses, I often forget that I am an anomaly. Businesses everywhere are looking for writers and clear communicators; I’m surprised, however, that all my classmates have no idea how desperately they’re needed.

Last week, I was sitting in my creative writing class, killing time before the professor showed, and I overheard a conversation between a few students. They were discussing the frightening realization that college will soon be over, and that their academic security blankets will soon be ripped away, like a determined mother fed up with a binky, et cetera, et cetera.

They talked of the real world:

“What will you do?”

“I have no idea.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

“What will you do?”

“Me?” I paused, searching. “I’ll be looking in marketing, probably Seattle, San Francisco. Pull from my copy editing, blogging, freelance work. I’d love to find something in digital media, though I would settle for pure technical writing. Ideal, for me,” I continued, in the zone now, “a project manager or business development position within a small to mid-range company.”

I stopped because I sensed the whole room was now listening.

“Wow,” some girl said. “Aren’t you an English major?”

This is a problem.

Private academia can often coddle its college students. English majors, especially, are trapped in this bubble: canons, anthologies, theses. We read the world’s greatest literature spanning from Beowulf to Blood Meridian; we explicate and extrapolate; we read between the lines and find messages that the average reader misses; we communicate clearly, or edit and elucidate incoherent documents into well examined ideas with organization and structure.

English majors have no idea how well their skills translate into business.

I’m an English major and a business major, so I have love for both studies. That said, if I had to pick between hiring two different candidates—all things considered—I would choose the English major. Hands down. Every time.

Let’s make some sweeping statements. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about business majors: (more…)

URG2BbWQQ9SAcqLuTOLp_BP7A9947

Beowulf and the Ever Growing Resume Hoard

I’ve been reading Beowulf. Correction: I am taking a class on Beowulf. That’s right. One whole semester on an English story written about a Swede who goes to Denmark to fight a monster.

We’ve bounced in and out of various translations: Liuzza, Heaney, Tolkien.

There’s this part where, when Beowulf is first introduced, he goes to speak for the first time, and the author says that Beowulf opens his “word-hoard.”

The eldest one answered him,

leader of the troop, unlocked his word-hoard (Liuzza, 258-59).

Old English is a fascinating study. It forces the reader to consider where words come from and what exactly they mean, and how these words have evolved through translation overtime.

Apparently, word-hoard is the forerunner to “vocabulary.”

Tolkien, in his Beowulf translation, says “store of words.” The idea is the same.

Old English was very object-oriented. People didn’t just have a vocabulary, because to them that wouldn’t make sense. They would need a physical place, or structure, to store the words. It’s interesting because, now, we don’t even consider what we mean when we say “vocabulary.” We just know that somewhere in our brains we’ve hidden all the words we know.

Personally, I’m going to say “word-hoard” from now on.

Segue Hoard

This is probably the worst segue of all time, but I checked my resume folder in Google Drive the other day, and I found about twenty resumes, all made within the last three months.

“Resume-hoard,” I said in an Old English accent.

The accent was more Scottish, but I do a terrible Scottish accent, so let’s just call it Hackney.

The point is this: I’m graduating in May. Since the start of the year, I’ve already applied to over thirty jobs. I feel like I should have some serious leads but I don’t. My wife and I are hoping for either Seattle or San Francisco. Only God knows. It could be Lithuania, really. (more…)

0001-59972452

Survivor: Internship, New York—The First Month

Internships are like the awkward preteen years of your career. You’re underdeveloped (in skills), you’re new to the office, you’re not making any money. Nobody understands you.

I’m in the first two weeks of a new internship, and I’m struck, again, by how uncomfortable the whole situation is. I have three months—like a year condensed—then it’s all over.

For most, three months is what it takes to acclimate to a new job. It’s that magical time: anything is possible and coworkers are friendly; supervisors are forgivable and amiable. But when three months pass, the boss says, “Charlie, hurry up already with those projections, huh? Time is burning. And what’s with that tie?” For me, time has already burnt. There were expectations when I walked through the door. I am to make the most of my time, to launch, refine or develop new or current projects. No dilly dallying, procrastinating. No strolling in late with a latte.

But I’ve been here before. This is my third internship, hopefully my last, and I know the drill.

I need to be on the ball. I need to be completely aware of my surroundings. I need to impress and smile and network and work hard. Truth be told, I thrive in this environment. I love the high stakes nature of it all. I love finding an unmet niche in an overworked department and solving problems they didn’t know could be solved. Still, if my tone reads as exhausted, it’s because I am. I’m ready for something permanent, a place where my accomplishments can truly disrupt the system and change it for the better. I’m tired of joining a team, and leaving still. (more…)

Screenshot-at-Jan-08-17-18-50

Job Interview Horror Stories: Reader Email

Last week I posted Job Interview Horror Stories: AT&T Ret(hell), a brief look at one of the most uncomfortable job interviews of my life.

In response, I received some fantastic reader email. People sharing stories, feedback, and ideas.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Andy in California shares an enlightening trick from the interviewer’s perspective:

Receptionist-Male

One time I moved my secretary to my desk and when the interviewee walked in I greeted him and told him to have a seat. He proceeded to ask me all about the joint, how the pay was, benefits and all that stuff you don’t ask. Then he mentioned that he’d tried sales once and really sucked and hated it but was desperate for a 3 month gig or so.

Then the phone rang and I answered it, “Andy, can I help you?” I’m not kidding, his skin tone changed like four different shades and ended in a ‘I’m gonna puke white’ look.

I stood up, shook his hand and opened the door and said, ‘Best of luck on your job hunt!’

Thanks, Andy! I’ve heard of scenarios like this, but I never knew anyone to actually try it. Kudos.

Here’s a hectic tale from Bethany in New York: 

(more…)

large_15518999970

Job Interview Horror Stories: AT&T Ret(hell)

“I’m a customer,” she says. “Approach me.”

I hate role playing.

“I just walked in,” she says. “I’m looking at phones. Okay. Come over.”

If I had to choose between job interview role playing and polishing a trumpet while the trumpet player is trumpeting, I would choose the trumpet. Every time.

“Hi,” I smile, but oddly, like someone is holding a shiv to my side, “can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a phone,” she says. Her name is Sally. “Something new. Something really cool.”

“Do you like iPhones?”

“Okay. Stop right there. Ask what she currently has.” This is Sandra. She’s watching from the side, a few feet over at the table we were all just interviewing me at. “Meet them where they’re at.”

It’s always wise to learn from mistakes.

“What phone do you currently use?”

“The Dell Aero.”

“Oh.”

Some mistakes I’m happy to leave behind.

“But I don’t want the Dell Aero anymore.”

“Right,” I say. “Do you like iPhones?”

ikea-job-interview

My job hunting and interview history has left me with many regrets. Like, for instance, the time I applied to AT&T as a retail representative, somewhere in Washington state, circa 2010.

It didn’t start off very well either. (more…)