There was a point where I became disenchanted with the education system (I despise academic language, and the inaccessibility of academia, but we can talk about that over a few beers) , switched out of a Liberal Arts program and found my way into political science. I left the wonderful world of Boethius and Neo-Platonism to join those who are still trying to comprehend the US electoral system. After 2 weeks, I was already mind numbingly bored of the topic, but I knew it would be worth something in the long run. That summer I made the switch to Political Science, I picked up an introductory course to Communication studies. It was one of the most popular courses at Carleton University, so I thought I would give it a try.
I have never fallen in love with anything so quick in my life.
I remember sitting in the back of the room thinking YES THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE and HOLY SHIT, CULTURE DOES EAT STRATEGY. I had fallen under the spell of the Toronto School and everything that Communication studies fed me. I learned more about the concept of advertising and branding and had one of those oh shit moments. You know, like that moment where you see something and Bohemian Rhapsody starts to play in your head and you question if this is the real life, or only fantasy? That moment. But this time I finally had a rough understanding of a career that seemed appealing beyond others.
When I started university, I was afraid. But now, as I finish my university career, I'm fucking petrified.
In two months, I will walk out of an academic institution with a piece of paper that states I am fit for the workforce. Yes, I am being cynical and overdramatic but that is essentially what is going to happen. I'm going to be honest, I'm terrified to graduate. The economy doesn't look like its going to pick up anytime soon and an Arts degree isn't going to be more valuable tomorrow than it is toady. I always heard people around me say, get a degree, you'll get a good job! For a long time that was the motivation. To apply some simple math, in my mind:
Degree = Job
But what I didn't factor in was x (I was never good at math). x = experience.
Let's backtrack, for a second. I am a political science major who wants to go into brand management, do I have relevant experience? N-o-p-e. I had two options, I could sit here and complain how the world expects too much from 20-somethings trying to find a job and continue living the frivolous lifestyle that will land me in a lot of credit card debit that will hang over my head even when I no long have student debt. Or I can make it experience. So I began my first endeavor in the world of branding.
I started to brand myself.
This time last year was when I began this odyssey, but the only Homer that would want anything to do with it would have been Homer J. Simpson. I attempted to brand myself as a productive expert. What does that mean? To be honest, I think it's just a fancy way of saying I know how to be lazy without looking like it (like Homer does every day at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant).
My about page (which was captured by the devil known as archive.org) told the world the story of a boy who got his first AOL CD-ROM and changed his life. Ask me what I did online when we first got dial up? (Arif! What did you do!) I sat on stupid online flash games and played Lifesavers mini golf.
I posted articles about 'productivity' technology such as Evernote and Todoist and how they help me pretend like my life isn't in shambles all the time. I wrote an article on Buzzfeed's Cute or Not app that I wasted 4 hours on one day because I really like cats. My all time highpoint on arifjaffer.com? I wrote a list of 10 days to make your morning more productive. It got some traction on Reddit and I hit a high point in traffic that day.
I did a thing. A thing I thought was going to land me a job.
But I didn't get any call backs.
I though I was doing everything right. I talked about relevant technology, I disseminated it on all the right channels. I joined conversations on Twitter and would hashtag all my posts as #productivity or #marketing. I thought I did everything I could possible do to impress employers on all networks. But then I realised what I was doing wrong.
I was lying.
I was telling potential employers "Look at me! I hashtag! Hire me!" and "Hey prospective recruiters! I love mornings! Here are a list of 10 reasons why I love mornings!" I fucking hate mornings. I hashtag to make stupid jokes. I was telling employers these stories that I made up about myself. Then it hit me.
I was lying to myself.
I let myself believe that I was a so-called productivity expert. I let myself believe that mornings were for cool kids so I should be up in the morning and go for runs and get a morning coffee with that family down the street who always seem to be on their patio listening to jazz with a glass of red wine ( read: retirement goals).
I told everyone on the internet I was a robot, instead of a 20 year old who really likes making stupid pop culture references, craft beer, podcasting and just living the dream. I did this because I thought that the person I really am was unemployable. No one wants to sit with a guy who talks about how he wishes Ira Glass would notice him, or want to talk about how the only season of the Simpsons that matters is season four, or how I could school anyone at Euchre.
I was too obsessed with tracking to catch the attention of employers who looked for people who are #hashtagrobots. You know, those people who will #marketing and tell us about their love for #socialmedia. I was one of those. And those people make me sad. Behind the hashtag, there is a person with personality. Someone who loves stupid things too, but are too afraid to show the world who they are because for some reason we crave genericism.
A year ago, I wanted the internet to believe that I was that generic robot that they wanted instead of the person I want to be. But guess whose back with a brand new track? This guy. Culture eats strategy and what isn't more cultural that a 20-something second generation Canadian trying to define what his own culture is by channelling his inner Aziz Ansari but couldn't land a Netflix deal so he dished out cash for a Squarespace blog instead.
That reeks of culture.
ps. Happy Twin Peaks day