Tag Archives: reflections

The differences between white collar job hunting and blue collar job hunting

White collar job hunting vs blue collar job huntingHere’s a post that’s been percolating for a while, based on observations I’ve made. I’ll broadly differentiate as white vs blue collar, though I’m counting, say, non-office-based sales work here under the blue collar umbrella.

Getting the job

The interview-to-offer ratio

In my experience in the white collar world, employers work hard to shortlist very few candidates and only interview a couple in person. On the other hand, blue collar employers seem to bring people in willy nilly. I am deadly serious when I say T has been to more job interviews in a single week of job hunting than I have in my entire career. So many interviews, so few offers. So much time wasted bringing someone in just for a chat. Ever heard of phone screening?

The sheer difficulty of interviewing

Interviewing when you’re unemployed isn’t too hard, logistically. But if you’re still employed?

Well, for me it’s never been a biggie. I can take my lunch whenever I want and have the flexibility to duck out to appointments during the day if needed, and make time up. For him? Breaks are strictly timed, usually at set times. That makes it pretty hard to get away for an interview during the day, unless it happens to be on the same street. And again, refer to the first point above about the sheer number of interviews required to get anywhere.

On the job

Transport costs

Speaking of that inflexibility, that often necessitates having a reliable vehicle so you can be sure of getting to work on time every day. And if you work anything outside of 9-5, you can definitely write off public transport as an option. Yet it’s probably a struggle – at the very least, when you’re starting out – to afford a decent car. So much irony: low-level job, strict hours, struggling to afford transport in order to keep said job.

Blue collar jobs are much more spread out over the whole city, whereas white collar employment is more concentrated in town. This further complicates the whole transport issue (‘just move closer to work’ isn’t that simple).

Tools of the trade

Even with discounts, we have spent hundreds, if not thousands, on gear and tools and training for him at various jobs. All that on not particularly high wages, really. True, you can take some of these with you to new jobs … but that’s if the stuff doesn’t wear out or break or expire first.

I’ve never been expected to pay for things that I need to carry out my duties at work. There was one time I paid for a design/photo-editing app out of my own Apple account and didn’t submit for reimbursement. DON’T do that by the way! It was certainly not expected, and I kick myself now for that. What was I thinking? (I was thinking that I felt grateful for the salary at my new job and I could easily absorb the cost. NOT the point.)

Sometimes the best parts of life are also the hardest

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Sometimes the most awesome chapters in life are also the hardest

A friend and I were recently bemoaning the fact that life never feels settled. We would quite like things to be stable and boring for awhile, thanks. But it seems adulthood involves accepting that things are never quite that easy.

In fact, some of the best times in my life have also been the toughest in other ways.

A couple of examples:

Last year felt good for me professionally, but was decidedly terrible for him workwise. I didn’t get to enjoy my hefty raise, as it went towards supporting us both.

Italy was my favourite European country to visit – yes, for the sights, but mainly for the food. Oh, the food – it changed both of our lives forever. And yet, it was also incredibly hard at times. We hit two real low points there: an awful train ride where I honestly thought I would need to continue on the rest of the trip alone, and getting lost looking for our first hotel in Naples, ending with a thrown backpack and a subsequent water leak. Oh, and  a couple of days later (still in Naples) I found myself crying on the street … the last straw was something like being unable to find anywhere that would sell me the train ticket I wanted.

Fate – it gives with one hand and takes with the other.

Careers, compromise and capitalism

just a girl in a capitalist world

Time for the latest installment in the ‘loving your work’ series! (Previously: Can we all realistically expect to love our jobs? and The job-that-you-wake-up-excited-for propaganda.)

The TLDR version: It’s hard to not feel a bit hypocritical whenever I write about this, since I’ve always known basically what I wanted to do, followed it where it led and had it work out. BUT! I am married to a textbook Scanner who still doesn’t know what he wants to do for the rest of his life. At last, thankfully, I think we’ve weaned him off the ‘find your passion’ Kool-Aid (it’s so ridiculously pervasive). At some point I think you need to choose: spend a lifetime chasing that elusive and possibly nonexistent thing, or stick with something and be able to fund the other things in life you enjoy or aspire to, such as having a family, playing sports, travel.

We all know money matters

It may not always buy happiness, but a lack of it is a surefire path to unhappiness. Money, (or lack thereof) more than job dissatisfaction, sex, housework or any other issue you can name,  has always been the toughest issue for us. It’s no coincidence the two times that nearly broke us were during times of unemployment.

As this excellent Aeon piece on happiness/meaningfulness (worth a read in its entirety) observes, “Happy people say they have enough money to buy the things they want and the things they need.”  Security of employment/resources falls in the second most important tier of Maslow’s hierarchy; ‘self-actualisation’ is just the cherry at the very top. 

The intersection of money + career has reared its head for me again recently, with my change of direction and T finding, then losing what seemed to be a 90% dream job, followed by a good job that turned toxic.

T has always worked to live, rather than lived to work.  Certain material things and being able to spend somewhat freely are important. Dog, kids, motorbike, project car – these things all cost money. And here, they boil down to needing to buy a house (not to mention all the other things that make renting here a genuine nightmare). Oh, and that in turn ties back into needing even more money. We cannot afford to wait around for years for my husband to figure out a dream job (which I doubt exists for him), and he knows it.

In short, we have dreams, and none of those dreams come for free.

Find a job that lights your fire? Fantastic, but if not, well, you’re not getting any younger and at some point you need to stick with something. The recession and layoffs aside, you can’t afford to bounce around from low level job to low level job forever, never increasing your income, or your earning potential.

What if you don’t have a passion?

When you know how you like to spend your money, but not what you want to do to earn that money, to me it only makes sense to search out a job that fits your lifestyle.

I rather like the plan laid out by Marty Nemko in Kiplinger:

My advice? Unless you’re a driven superstar, pick a non-glam career that you’d be good at… Pick the one offering as many of these characteristics as possible:

  • Moderately challenging
  • Meaningful work
  • A kind, competent boss
  • Pleasant co-workers
  • Learning opportunities
  • Reasonable pay
  • Reasonable work hours
  • A short commute

At one point in his job hunt last year, I came across an advice letter penned by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame, which seemed like it could have been written just for him. Here’s Mike’s response to a guy seeking excitement and flexibility but with steady pay; a hands-on type of person who hates offices and gets bored easily but wants to have a family at some point. No big ask, huh?

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.

Harsh? Yes. But there’s truth in it. Job satisfaction is complex and happiness is not going to come from trying to figure out some inchoate passion. Every single job where he’s enjoyed the actual work has had major, potentially unsustainable inherent downsides. Lack of money/potential advancement. Physical exhaustion/danger. Less than ideal hours/schedule. And that’s before even getting to peripheral things like bad managers/colleagues.

As Penelope Trunk once wrote of his personality type, or very close to it: “The key to being a successful ENTP is followthrough. Because lack of followthrough is such a huge risk factor for an ENTP, it’s almost more important to followthrough on anything than to followthrough on the right thing.”

Finding happiness at work

Work is about so much more than your actual duties. There’s the environmental factors – commute, your physical surroundings, dress code, etc. The people factors – are you treated like an adult, does your boss micromanage, do you get along with colleagues? All these  intangible elements that can make or break working conditions, and that’s before we even get to whether the job offers variety, autonomy, challenge.

What we’ve come to realise is that in a way, this is a bit of a crapshoot. As my career hero Ask A Manager lays out:

I’d even go so far as to say that there’s no such thing as a dream job that you can truly recognize from the outside. Because as much as you think you might love doing that work for that company, it might turn out that the boss is a nightmare, or your coworkers are horrible, or the company makes you sign out for bathroom breaks and bring in a doctor’s note every time you have a cold, or you’re abused daily by clients, or your workload is so unreasonably high that you end up having panic attacks every morning.

Dream jobs do exist — when it’s work you love, at a company that treats employees well, working for a great manager, alongside coworkers who are competent and kind, or at least unobjectionable — but it’s dangerous to think something is your dream job before you’re really in a position to know.

It doesn’t have to be a choice between extremes – a $150k job you hate and a $40k job you love – there’s usually options in between. It’s hard to place any hard and fast rules on this kind of thing, but for example, I’d personally trade a ‘dreamy’ $50k job up to an ‘okay’ $80k job any day. (Adjust the numbers accordingly for your area’s cost of living…)

‘Do what you love’ is a nice philosophy and it works for some of us, but I absolutely detest it as blanket advice. At the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.

We rarely hear the advice of the person who did what they loved and stayed poor or was horribly injured for it. Professional gamblers, stuntmen, washed up cartoonists like myself: we don’t give speeches at corporate events. We aren’t paid to go to the World Domination Summit and make people feel bad. We don’t land book deals or speak on Good Morning America.

 
lthough my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates.  I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives.  Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpufAt the risk of aiming too low, perhaps – just don’t do something you hate.

Or how about letting your passion follow you? There is so much goodness to unpack in this Billfold piece on discovering job satisfaction, written by someone who was toying with taking up fulltime work in a field she volunteered in but came to realise that mission and purpose are not everything:

While I had always believed generally in the cause I was working for, it didn’t speak to a deep part of my identity. The day to day tasks, however, did excite me. I liked the variety, the creativity, the people I worked with, and the latitude I had in my role. I recognized that I had a lot more control and flexibility around my responsibilities than I had previously thought. I also loved my work environment, which included wonderful colleagues, a predictable schedule, and natural light. Ultimately, I realized that these elements were far more influential to my overall satisfaction and emotional health than working for a cause I’d believed in since I was a kid, but whose day-to-day responsibilities were a poor fit for my personality.

Life’s too short to starve for passion’s sake. It can be fun when you’re young but it gets old fast. Trading glamour/ego for more money/a normal workload is something I do not regret one iota. It’s also nice being on the side of a growing niche, rather than a struggling one – feeling positive and hopeful about lifetime career prospects rather than depressed.

At some point in my 20s, I came to the conclusion that I don’t believe in soulmates. I believe there are a lot of people out there we could be happy with.  If we waited for total perfection, nobody would ever get married. And likewise I suspect there are a lot of jobs out there that many of us could be perfectly happy with. I was pretty excited about all the possibilities when I started job hunting a year ago, and I hope I get to explore all those paths over the coming years (unless of course I lose interest in some of them, which is always a possibility).

Because don’t get me wrong: I need a lot of variety.  Honestly, even if traditional publishing wasn’t in the state it is in now, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck around forever. I was ready for a change.

Having grown up in this era, I started out with rose-tinted visions of some unicorn of a dream job. Now I’m older and wiser and perhaps a tad more cynical and mercenary.

“The work world has become a battleground for the struggle between the boring and the stimulating. The emphasis on intensity has seeped into our value system. We still cling to the idea that work should not only be challenging and meaningful — but also invigorating and entertaining. But really, work should be like life: sometimes fun, sometimes moving, often frustrating, and defined by meaningful events.” –  Po Bronson

Did you always know what you wanted to be/do?

Although my friends sometimes accuse me of being unromantic, I don’t believe in the concept of soulmates.  I just don’t think that there is one person out there with whom we are destined to spend our lives.  Rather, I feel that there are a number of people out there who could make us happy. – See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2013/09/23/how-to-love-what-you-do/?priorityCode=3969702399&cid=aff_cj_6150161#sthash.Sfp4gCaa.dpuf

It’s not about what you DESERVE

It's not about what you DESERVE

The other day, I had to talk myself out of booking flights to Niue for next month. I tell ya, at less than $100 each one way, it was a tough call. After all, travel is my weakness.

Niue is one of the destinations on my bucket list, but ultimately it just isn’t the right time. Cheap flights are great, but accommodation is pricey (remote island, whoo! Niue tourism is pretty young still from what I can tell). And I’d like to go in whale watching season, which starts in July.

We already have a Japan trip later this year, T isn’t really in a position to take any time off, June will be busy at my job, and hello, recovering from a financial trainwreck. Niue is fairly close, I often see good package deals and I’m sure there will be more in the future.

But man, sometimes it’s hard to make the smart choice.

Don’t I deserve a break after a nightmare year?

If only life worked that way.

Doesn’t T deserve an awesome, secure, full time job?

Don’t I deserve a decent home to live in after enduring years of terrible rentals?

Hell fucking yes. But this ain’t the movies and people don’t always get what they deserve.  (It’s particularly galling when people around us have houses bought for them when/because they only have four grand banked or an unplanned kid on the way. That’s never going to happen for us.)

It goes both ways, too.

Did I really deserve to get paid more per hour to run around and stick up flyers at my first office job, compared to when I typed documents and made up invoices back at the office?

Did I really deserve double pay on weekend shifts at my first editorial job? (God bless unions.)

Did I really deserve not 1, not 2, but 3 dream jobs in a row?

But back to my original point. Much as I’d like to indulge in a tropical getaway right about now, working towards getting into a stable home where we can have a family and pets is way more important. EYES ON THE PRIZE.

When you get right down to it, we all deserve better – a better car, a better house, a better holiday – whatever does it for you. You deserve better. We all do.

That said, we also need to make savvy decisions about what and when we’re going to spend. The timing’s got to be right – otherwise we end up dissolving money in the near term and turning our backs on the opportunities we can take up for the long term.

– Sorted.org.nz

Wise words, right there. It’s hard to say no, but Future Me will be grateful for it.

What’s your ‘big prize’ right now?

Let’s be friends:


Is it time to start planning for kids?

Is it time to start planning for kids?

It’s really hit me that one of my best friends will most likely be off overseas post PhD – quite probably for good. ALL THE SADS.

I’ll miss him dearly, and he would be such a rad uncle, it’s painful to think he’ll miss out on that.

Aside from a few months back there when I was still on a post-travel high, for most of my 20s I’ve been sure I wanted kids. That’s really ramped up in the past few months. I can only assume it’s largely driven by the ever growing number of people around me getting pregnant and having babies – we’re entering that phase in life, I suppose.

I ain’t got baby fever yet … but to be quite honest, if our circumstances were different, I think I’d be just about ready to try. (Cannot believe I just admitted that.) It is so weird – like a switch flipped almost overnight.

But it’ll have to wait till we get many practicalities ironed out, which is still a while away, since I like being free of money stress a shitload more than I like, well,  just about anything else in life. (Yes, I know, there will never be a good time to have kids, but right now is definitely down the bottom of the charts. Regular readers know.)

I wholly believe reproducing is a privilege, not a right. That said, I was pretty horrified to realise that New Zealand does pretty poorly on the paid parental leave front – some other countries put us to shame.

Here, to the best of my research, are the parental allowances for NZ, Australia, UK and Canada compared. It’s all super confusing, so any corrections/clarifications gratefully accepted. (And yes, of course there are employers here and around the world that offer additional benefits privately – this is only the minimum allowances as per legislation.)

Parental leave - NZ, Australia, UK and Canada compared

** I don’t know any women here who haven’t taken at least a full year off

Sources: NZ / Australia / UK / Canada

The older I get the more I realise NZ doesn’t actually do very well on this whole welfare state thing. But I’ve known that ever since 2009, when T’s employer went out of business. I was a student making maybe $15-20k a year between student allowance and work, absolutely nothing in a city like Auckland, yet he couldn’t get unemployment. There was no way I could support a partner too on that kind of money, but basically if one person is working at all, the other is SOL. (Thankfully he got a sympathetic case manager and something was worked out.)

Anyway, circling back to my original point… The prospect of kids is still terrifying in oh so many ways.  But I’m starting to feel ready to tackle it. If nothing else, this was oddly reassuring.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

 

The hysteria around these choices is off the charts. People will say, “Oh lots of parents regret having kids, they just don’t tell you about it.” Or “Working women are miserable” or “Kids with working mothers are anxious and unhappy” or “Kids will destroy your career” or “If you can’t give your children every ounce of your energy you shouldn’t have kids at all” or “You can’t be a real artist and have kids” and all kinds of other completely black-and-white, fearful, conflicted nonsense. I’m not inside other people’s heads, but the close friends I have who are in good marriages (like yours) and have kids AND engaging careers are some of the happiest people I know.

What I learned from taking part in a study about Facebook

What I learned from taking part in a study about Facebook

 

I don’t like talking about myself very much IRL, but in the name of research? Sure.

The other day I took part in a study about Facebook usage by young women (for a Master’s project) – here’s what I came away thinking.

I don’t post very often

At least half of the posts on my page are by other people (mostly one of my best friends who is a power user, posting links multiple times a day). There’s a surprising proportion of posts and pictures from outings with people from work. I’m definitely closer to my workmates here than places I’ve worked before, plus there’ve been a few different work trips away.

Personally, I’ve only posted a few photos/photo albums, interesting links, asked a couple of questions and fed through a couple of Goodreads reviews. The past year in particular has been pretty quiet. I didn’t have much to share and just generally stepped back from socialising IRL and Facebook browsing. Avoiding other people across channels was a coping mechanism – their happy and successful lives only made me feel worse about mine.

And yet … it’s difficult to imagine life without Facebook

One question posed to me was: how do you think we would communicate today if Facebook wasn’t around? I couldn’t come up with a good answer – I really struggled to imagine.

It’s so pervasive – I take private messages, photos, events and more for granted. It’s the easiest way to share news enmasse, make announcements, communicate with people overseas (so glad my friends who once deleted their accounts are back on, especially now they live abroad). It’s how we organised our recent Tongariro Crossing trip. Cutting Facebook out and relying on phone and email (because none of my closest IRL/local friends use Twitter) would be nothing short of crippling.

What about life before Facebook?

Facebook for me basically coincided with university – that’s when I graduated from Bebo to Facebook. Life pre-uni isn’t really reflected at all.

Two of my very first friends ever (as in from the Kuala Lumpur days) found and added me, sure. But so many of my friends from my school years, I’m not connected to. Friends from my first primary school and friends from my intermediate school. My one-time best friend and technically first boyfriend. The random guy I once befriended at my call centre job who I think would have been a really awesome mate (that said, he had a crush on me so not sure we could have actually been friends). Various penpals and email pals from the early 2000s, even. All people I think about from time to time.

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, setbacks and an unplanned move

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, financial setbacks and an unplanned move

At the end of 2015 we’ll celebrate 10 years. But today it’s two years of being married. Year 2 has been fucking hard, thanks to all the curveballs life bowled at us. (If I hadn’t made those vows, I’m really not sure I could have stuck it out.)

Unemployment is the root of all evil. Financial stress is the worst. Everything builds on from there.

Is it sad that money (or lack of) could take such a toll on our relationship? Sure, but it’s not love that makes the world go round – it’s money.

Our opposite personalities normally complement each other, but during this time they put us at odds.

Emma Lincoln has it right. Fear is the problem. I was constantly stressed, and my body started coming to pieces in response. I was afraid, on a daily basis, for so long.

I’m still scared. Terrified that the curveballs are only going to come harder and faster in the future.

It would be cruel to have to endure another year like it. But anything can happen. More than one person has reminded me recently that ultimately much of your life is beyond your control, and grand plans are often going to be derailed. The rug could be pulled out from under us at any time, and I’m trying to be okay with that. (It so nearly was just the other week. The joys of temp life.)

I want to say that I feel hopeful about the future, but I’m reluctant to tempt fate (that is just asking for trouble) and thus, even though I’m feeling pretty happy on a day to day basis, that’s probably not going to be reflected in my writing. For now at least, as long as money’s coming in and I have a somewhat dry and warm house to live in, that can be enough.

On the plus side, I’ve finally got around to getting our wedding photos printed. Waiting on them to arrive. Hurrah!

Feelings, why you be so confusing?

i've been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be

Have you ever had to rethink something quite fundamental in your relationship? Had emotions/opinions you didn’t know you had start to reveal themselves?

Let me try and put some of these thoughts into a vaguely coherent order.

We’ve had joint finances to one degree or another for years. I’m not gonna lie; when I was benefiting from that arrangement – me studying and T working full time – it was great. He clocked a lot of hours and earned a good wage. I didn’t give it a second thought, though I was aware in the back of my mind that I’d be in a slightly tight spot if we broke up.

NOT that I would want to return to that state of affairs by any means, but right now the situation is reversed and it has been for a long time. While I’ve progressed steadily, he’s basically been treading water – particularly accounting for inflation. Highlights: A job that was meant to lead to apprenticeship and qualification, and even better money, evaporated in the GFC. Another job promised advancement and promotion but failed to deliver, so he quit outright when we went travelling. Upon our return, two jobs turned toxic and fizzed out suddenly. (The first of those could have seen him pulling in six figures…)

For the first time in awhile, there is no longer the shimmer of a high(er) income around the corner. The current state of affairs is not totally settled, so I won’t go into any detail, but it is not lucrative, nor is it likely to be. I’m cool with that – right now I just want consistency over everything else.

While I do consider all money ‘ours’, that hasn’t sat all that well with me lately, as I’ve had to support us both through months and months of unemployment – for the better part of a year, in fact. Over time I became quietly, seethingly resentful, and that’s an uncomfortable feeling to have.

We are a team. We’re married. I am well aware of this. As a work buddy wisely pointed out, the pendulum swings back and forwards at different times. Her relationship balance is about to swing as she stares down the barrel of maternity leave, and leaning on her fiance for financial support.

I’d always expected T to eventually return to outearning me, but the way things have panned out, it looks like I’m going to continue to be the main earner forever. Which is fine, since I’m also the more career-driven one. But I can’t honestly say this sits completely well with me either, and that’s a feeling I’m struggling to come to grips with.

One astute commenter on this fantastic post at A Practical Wedding, On Marrying Down, really nails this dilemma. I can’t put it any more succinctly than this:

I’m also the more career-oriented partner and I’ve struggled with the idea of “marrying down” in some ways. It’s hard for me not to judge my husband according to those social standards of how men are “supposed” to think about work. But the truth is that if he was as ambitious as I am it would probably produce a lot of strain navigating it. I just don’t know how to let go of my preconceptions about what I should want as a woman and make space for both of us to just be who we are.

It’s not like I grew up in a household that fell strictly along gender lines; as far as I know,  my mum has been the main earner for years, at least recently. Also, while I (consciously and unconsciously) chose a partner who is the opposite of my dad in every way, another weird way I’ve wound up emulating my parents is that our financial roles seem to be the same – the wife being the go-to money person. (The one difference is my dad spends nothing while T definitely like stuff.)

On the other hand, out in the working world I seem to be surrounded by women with higher earning partners – and in the spirit of full disclosure, the bitter half of me silently snarks ‘that must be nice’.

I guess I have a strongly ingrained sense of fairness geared towards total equality that runs deeper than I thought.

Here’s a silly yet telling anecdote. Our house always had a well stocked biscuit tin. When I was about 9 years old, it came to my attention that my little brother had been eating more biscuits than me. I started keeping count, my eagle eye trained on him and that cupboard. Let me tell you, he absolutely ripped through them. He got up into the  double digits within a few days. At that point, I complained to my mother, who told me to drop it and get over it. Sulkily, I complied – but that always stuck in my craw.

Well, in the words of Coldplay… Nobody said it was easy. Heck, even Farnoosh Torabi (author of When She Makes More) has said she’d love for her husband to be the breadwinner. It’s something I’ll have to work through and process this year, as the trauma of the past year hopefully fades.

More reading on this topic:

I make six figures, my boyfriend is a poet (Reddit)

How income disparity affects our relationship  (LearnVest)

The weaker sex (The Atlantic)

When love crosses class lines (The Billfold)

Will our class differences tear us apart? (The Awl)

Webstock 2015: Three takeaways on life, writing and equality

Webstock 2015 highlightsI don’t think I’ve ever attended a conference purely for the sake of attending. I’ve always gone wearing a media pass, keeping an ear cocked for tweetable quotes and story angles that might justify my presence, to be typed up furiously in the breaks in between.

Webstock – probably best described as the conference all the cool kids are at – was a pretty good intro to conference-going in regards to, y’know, being a regular member of the audience. I picked up some digital goodness that’ll be useful in my line of work, but also some nuggets of personal inspiration:

Elle Luna

There is dignity in all work. Doing something for money doesn’t make it dirty.

A job, a career, and a calling are all separate beasts.

I’m glad that we seem to have progressed past the simplistic DO WHAT YOU LOVE movement and toward something more realistic. Your passion may not be what you do for a living, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing –  or, conversely, that your 9-5 isn’t worthwhile, either.

And I loved her tip for tapping into your ‘must': Think back to what you loved to do as a child. Ask your parents, if you can’t remember!

Kate Kiefer Lee

Say what you mean, and say it nicely.

Words to live by. As she pointed out, Maya Angelous famously said that the one thing people will never forget is how you made them feel. I am definitely guilty of letting my moods spill over into curtness in emails from time to time.

A handy tip for getting started writing when you’re stuck: Pose the topic to yourself as a question. Think of it as a conversation with someone. Write out what you would say as an answer. And then you’ve got a first draft!

And one for editing: Take out the boring parts, and the lies (courtesy of writer Anne Lamott).

Janet Crawford

A study found that mothers overestimate the crawling ability of male infants, and vice versa for female infants.

Talk about a punch to the gut – gender bias runs so deep in our society. Hers was a rousing call to action, a reminder that simply believing in gender equity isn’t enough – and women are fucking tired of carrying that mantle.

Tips? Check your job descriptions for gendered language – you might be surprised what you find upon closer inspection. Consider the types of social activities your workplace does. And think about your office setup/decor – this too can be pretty exclusionary.

Overall, I appreciated the mix of male and female speakers, and the fact that there were a few local as well as international talks. Designer Kris Sowersby’s self-effacing presentation (I still don’t quite get the technical, optical stuff, but I learned something about typography!) had us all in stitches, while  architect Nat Cheshire’s quietly devastating prose sent chills down many a spine and brought tears to my eyes (now we just need that kind of obsessive creative nature turned toward fixing the housing crisis). Oh, and learning about Banqer, a new startup that’s all about financial literacy – founded by a woman, to boot! May they be crazy successful.

What was the last conference you went to? Is there one you dream of attending? (Mine’s probably SxSW)

Will you be better off than your parents?

There’s been lots of talk about how our generation may be the first to be worse off than that of our parents. I’m fairly certain it’s going to be true in my case, and Christmas really cemented for me how huge that gap is.

I swear, I am going to lose it if I hear one more thing along the lines of how we should just buy a house. For the love of god. Anyone who keeps up with the news knows what’s going on, and the latest round of updated council valuations backs that up. My parents’ property is now worth more than 3x what they paid for it – and that’s just the council valuation, which around here is always less than actual market reality. Have incomes also tripled/quadrupled/etc? No, no they have not. I’m not saying it was easy back then, but it is a hell of a lot harder now. There is no way I will have a paid-off house by my 40s in Auckland.

It was a hard year for me and T, and while our family are experts in Not Talking About Things, it doesn’t take a genius or a mind reader to figure out that we’re still nowhere near a down payment, particularly when I VERY OBVIOUSLY shut down the idea of affording a house every time the topic comes up (which has been constantly since we got back to NZ).

Look, there are some things my parents went through that I will never understand. Leaving home and going to university in a strange new country. Being denied promotion outright because of my skin colour, in the country of my birth. Reaching the point of frustration in my marriage where I’m making inappropriate disclosures to my teenage daughter (that’s what professional therapists are for, guys).

Likewise, they won’t understand the lack of job security today, or what it’s like to enter the workforce during a global financial meltdown. And to be fair, I’m not immune either. A growing part of me sometimes just wants to scream ‘how have you gone on that many interviews yet still don’t have a job? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?’

Really, I only feel comfortable discussing successes with them, and there haven’t been any of those to report on in a long time. Maybe it’s a terrible reason to avoid my family, but it’s a sanity-saving defence mechanism.