Wednesday, February 27, 2013

From One Paragraph to One Page: How to Beef Up Your Resume

Did you catch the recent Office episode when Pam was applying for a new job? After spending pretty much her whole career at Dunder Mifflin, her resume was a blank page with a few lines on it—text so brief that it “could fit on a Post-it note.”

Sure, it was funny (and yes, she still got the job!)—but for some of us, it hit a little too close to home. You often hear the advice, “keep your resume to one page,” but what if you type out your education and work experience, and you still see a half page of white space left?

Don’t worry. Whether you’re right out of school or you’ve been at the same company for years like Pam, here are a few strategic ways to fill up that page.

See the rest of my latest Daily Muse post here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Racist, Sexist Jokes Aren't Funny, Or My Thoughts on Last Night's Oscars

Mac got a call minutes before the Oscars started and missed Seth MacFarlane's opening monologue. When he came back into the living room, I started in, "Babe, you will not believe what Seth MacFarlane was saying..." and I didn't mean it a good way. I breezed over moments that were perhaps funny or creative (My mom raised me on Star Trek, so I love a Captain Kirk cameo.  I also loved Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum's dance, but I didn't get the joke-- was it that that's what a wholesome Oscar intro would look like and we weren't going to have one?). 

I began recounting the host's unapologetically racist jokes: mixing up Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy and the joke about Daniel Day-Lewis' method acting as Lincoln ("Did he try to free Don Cheadle on set?").  I was disgusted to have to sit through "all black people look alike" and slavery jokes. I didn't think I could be more uncomfortable than I was watching Ricky Gervais' first Golden Globes when the trade off for being nominated was having someone make mean jokes at your expense. But MacFarlane's jokes weren't just racist, they were sexist, as this Grindstone piece does an excellent job of explaining.

I was reminded of the GQ piece on Gaycism: that a show with sensitivity or inclusion for one audience feels that it earns points and can be offensive in its treatment of another group. I would venture that Seth MacFarlane has sat around a table with a diverse group of friends and comics he was close with and these sorts of jokes were a hit--but that's the thing, he wasn't talking to close friends, he was talking to a captive audience who was there primary to see dresses and speeches.

Members of a certain group may bond over the humor of shared experience. And dear friends of other groups may join in on occasion and it's fine. But it's touchy. And it can go awry. And this idea that that sort of humor can be generalized to a greater audience who should know the host doesn't mean any harm is mistaken.

No Seth MacFarlane, it's not funny to call out actors and actresses who speak English as a second language (Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Javier Bardem) particularly when two of them aren't even there, and say we don't understand them but we don't care because they are attractive. We didn't laugh at the John Wilkes-Booth joke because it's not okay to joke about assassination.

Comics play an important role in our society. They can teach us through their humor, and when they do, envelope-pushing is a good and important part of who they are and what they do. But that is all the more reason they shouldn't take their platform for granted and do more harm than good.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

Mac and I met at a Valentine's Day party 5 years ago.  So Valentine's Day is not a Hallmark Holiday for me, it's an anniversary. (And, since Mac was in Maine and I was in New Jersey on our first wedding anniversary, it's still the only anniversary we've celebrated together).

This morning, I was thinking through our Valentine's Days, and realized that we've spent at least one every place we have lived. We met in Lancaster, and that's where our story began. We met at a Valentine's Day Party. Mac was leaving for Bucknell the next day and I never thought I'd see him again. Thankfully, I was mistaken.

I vividly remember spending our one year anniversary at my apartment in DC. I'm glad we have that memory there, because I lived there for less than eight months.(Actually, the "special days" that stick out for me when thinking about my time in DC are more political than romantic-touring the White House with Natalie and M.A., the Inauguration Party I went to with Aunt Alla, Inauguration with Courtney et. al, World Refugee Day...). Anyhow, I remember Mac knocking on my door with red roses and pink carnations in a red vase with love bedazzled on the front (anyone who has known us since then probably thinks of Starbursts when they think of the "love jar").

The next Valentine's Day, we were in Lewisburg.  It was days before Mac got the job coaching at Princeton. When Valentine's Day came, I was the one working the full-time job (at the auto warehouse) and Mac was waiting to hear. It was our first Valentine's Day as an engaged couple, and he knew how much I loved flowers. I remember getting ready for bed, walking into the room, and seeing my childhood teddy bear with a single long stem rose. It was so sweet and so perfect...and I was in complete surprise when the next morning included a bouquet of flowers Mac had hidden (I guess he had practice from hiding the ring of knowing places in the house I didn't check or obviously clean very thoroughly).

The next Valentine's Day was our first in Princeton, and we had our wedding coming up that June. The next was our second in Princeton, and I remember being so excited to shop in the card section that said "For My Husband." This morning, I woke up to Valentine's Day presents in Maine, and couldn't help but reflect on this journey together.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Marketing Majorly Missing the Mark(et)

I have been pretty disappointed with commercials lately. There are the really bad (downright offensive) which I'll get too, but I chose the word disappointed for this post because I'm focusing on brands I believe in that are going off the rails. My qualifications for this post are being a consumer and a woman between the ages of 18-49 who planned my wedding on theknot.com, drinks Skinnygirl, subscribes to Goop, got my Hunter Rain Boots on Gilt.com, watches Downton Abbey, writes at Starbucks, uses BB cream, and eats kale and has a soft spot for chocolate (meaning, I embody the target audience).

Some brands just aren't articulating their worth. Take Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is $80 a year but even unemployed, I believe it's worth it. First, it's free two-day shipping. (Someone's birthday coming up too soon, get a present to them in 2 days without exorbitant shipping...have a party coming up, get something you need in 2 days). Second, there is often Prime (meaning reduced) pricing on many products. Third, Amazon is stepping it's game up to compete with I-Tunes and Netflix. Downton Abbey episodes are $2.99 a pop on Itunes and free to watch in Amazon Instant Video if you're a Prime member. Also they've loaded the songs from every CD I've bought on Amazon (from gifts for others back to boy-band CDs in 1999) into an I-tunes-ish library where I can listen to them. And watch your back Netflix, included in Prime are a growing list TV shows and movies to watch in Amazon Instant Video. But Amazon needs to sell this harder so people don't "cancel whenever the free trial is up."


I have faith in Amazon that they'll get the word out. They've already demonstrated their savvy by using competition to make their product stronger.  If Amazon is using competition to step their game up, Sephora, in contrast, is getting lost. Sephora keeps pushing these damn sample bags and boxes as the special item with purchase (because of Birchbox). I'm guessing Sephora is thinking samples are trendy and they want to get on board. It's a mistake, if a woman interested in cosmetics wants to sample curated products she's not going to spend her money at Sephora for a one-time perk- she's going to subscribe the Birchbox. And this distraction is keeping Sephora from pushing minis- their old stand-by for promo with purchase. Those mini scents and lip glosses and mascaras (not to be confused with samples, which come with an online purchase anyway and aren't worth throwing in your clutch) were like a mini present to yourself if you bought something online from Sephora. You could tie them in a ribbon on a present and it looked thoughtful not throwaway. If anything, maybe Sephora could look into partnering with Birchbox and doing a Sephora product of the month or a Sephora line or an additional Sephora Valentine's Day and Christmas box - but don't compete with the originators if you're not improving on the idea - or else you turn yourself into a follower instead of a leader.

At least Sephora is lost in the Market. Crate & Barrel is just plain lost. I renamed the commercial they ran around Christmas "look how pretty our font is." I wanted to ring my hands (around the neck of their marketing execs!) - commercial after commercial that didn't show their products! Or their reasonable pricing? Just their font! And their Ampersand! Who thought that was a good idea? I have sat around a group of women talking about how over-priced Bed, Bath and Beyond is ("that's why they always send those 20% off coupons, because everything is 20% over-priced!"), and yet these women registered at BB&B. People are mistakenly aligning Crate & Barrel with Pottery Barn (which is significantly more expensive). Crate & Barrel needs to do two things: 1. Recruit the bridal registry industry much harder. Their under $10 and $25 gift categories are wonderful and they should be pushing that brides can add items anyone on their guest list can afford and they'd love to have the items in their homes. (I'd love to see a Crate & Barrel ad like a Houzz app, with a room with price tags all over it- so people see how attractive and affordable the items are). 2. Position themselves with Target. Target's new "everyday collection" ads are brilliant, and Target has brilliantly positioned itself as chic Wal-Mart, when in fact, it's way more expensive than Wal-Mart. C&B needs to focus more on style, affordability and function and less on font and ampersands.

Let's moved from lost to so lost it's unknowingly offensive. Don't worry, advertisers of America, I'm here to educate you. I had an assignment in my freshman writing seminar (Race and Gender in African-American literature) to analyze a print ad for subliminal racial and gender stereotyping and messaging. I got the only A (I also got the Tommy Hilfiger ad). Across America, ad execs are probably thinking they're doing an excellent job of reaching out minorities by casting minorities in their commercials and (here's where the screw-up comes) "speaking their language". I studied code switching and language diglossia and yes, it's true that a group of people may speak differently  around those like themselves than in a mixed group, but by advertisers employing this sort of language, joking, even music in a mixed setting, they're suggesting minorities speak this way all the time (which invalidates the very principles of code switching). Rather than saying, "we get you" it says, "You don't speak like white people. You are different. and we made special exceptions for the language of the people who look like you in our commercial." This misguided attempt at welcoming is fundamentally exclusionary. I'm looking at you, Applebees, your waitress shouldn't walk over to the table with the black family and say "they go old school to decide," which is as racist as your "I can dig it!" commercial. And as my husband yells at this International Delight commercial every time (not a brand I buy, but important to include in this entry), "Because the bouncer can't talk like a person all commercial!"

I'd be off to grab a latte (if it hadn't snowed two and half feet yesterday), and won't hold against Starbucks that it's blonde roast commercials, in trying to reach customers who have historically hated their coffee, have no value add for the long standing supporters such as myself. If I was going by awesomeness of commercial alone, I'd grab a glass of Skinnygirl- well, there was a blizzard and we aren't going anywhere.