I’m talking ’bout your generation

Image via Thinkstock

How baby boomers failed us and then blamed us

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 28, 2015

It’s wrong of me to criticize a whole generation of people just because I’ve been noticing some abysmal trends from a few. But if a group of self-righteous baby boomers want to pick a fight, I’ll drop the gloves. Let’s open with this, any problems millennials, or Generation Y, (people born between the 1980s–2000s) have, it’s because of their parents, the baby boomers.

Baby boomers grew up with every advantage in the Western world. A blooming economy, an emerging middle class, jobs with stable income, and enough financial security to buy a house, raise a family, own a couple of vehicles, and set their sights on retirement. How did they get all these things? Were they the most talented generation? Were they the smartest? Or were they simply just the benefactors of their time?

Flip to their children, those like me, the millennials. We were brought up in a pampered sort of way. We were given luxury and opportunities. All of us were raised to believe that we could do anything we dreamed of. If we wanted to be actors, we could pursue that. If we wanted to be doctors, we could do that as well. Then we grew older and reality struck us. Now, we turn to our parents for help and what do they do? They call us lazy. They call us entitled. They call us narcissistic, apathetic, and disrespectful.

It’s harder than ever for a graduate to enter the workforce and even when they do get work, it’s harder than ever to make the type of money our parents made when they were in their 20s. They tell us to pursue school, and then leave us hanging with the debt. It’s our problem, right? Then there is this line that baby boomers often use: “When I was your age, I was already married and a homeowner.” Well, suck it! It’s almost impossible to put down a down payment for a house in Vancouver, let alone consider buying one. Why? Because the baby boomers have closed the door on us, locking us out of what they believed belongs to them. Baby boomers are the most selfish generation currently alive.

I don’t want baby boomers to empathize with us, because that won’t solve anything. What I do want the baby boomers to know is that they are wasting the final ounce of their lives being bitter to people who are striving for their dreams and pursuing what they love in life. Baby boomers are always going to shame millennials for not having this or that, but we have one thing they don’t have: the time to reach our goals. They should resent us. They should fear that we are going to take what is theirs, because we are.

Baby boomers have created a barrier of wealth, hoarding it for themselves. Then, while keeping us at arm’s length they say: “Oh, you should work harder. You shouldn’t have wasted all your time with games and dreams. Oh well, maybe it’s time to go back to college… again.” Our parents set us up for success, but when we failed on our first swing, they wrote us off as weak. Bouncing back gets harder every time without support. But they don’t know that.

It’s the baby boomer’s world, but we don’t have to obey them anymore. The lay of the land is different. We don’t need to listen to their smug comments. We don’t need to make baby boomers proud of us by matching their accomplishments.

Isn’t it ironic

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How to deal with people who don’t understand sarcasm

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 6, 2015

There is nothing better than someone who doesn’t understand sarcasm. Nothing. If you can’t tell, which so many can’t, I was being sarcastic. I wouldn’t say my sense of humour is of the highest level. But I would say a lot of it relies on irony.

In many situations, sarcasm is classified as inappropriate behaviour, as if I’m acting out of line or to offend. I’m not. It’s just my unique way of dealing with an awkward or uneventful scenario. I love using sarcasm to lighten the mood, especially in a social gathering or workplace. Work can get awfully serious if you allow it to, but I won’t. So, when someone tells me to do something, I say: “Never, I won’t! You do it.” Of course, I’m not refusing to do my task; I’m merely making light of the task and their authority. I’m pretty much saying that neither you nor I should take our duties too seriously. I’ll get to the work as soon as possible.

People who don’t understand sarcasm are often those who take everything seriously. Yes, doctors, lawyers, and police officers shouldn’t be making jokes during their job, and that’s what makes them such wonderful satirical characters on television. But, in reality, not all of us have serious jobs—even school is not that serious when you actually think about it. Will anybody die if you don’t finish your project? Maybe your parents, who invested so much into your life, but nobody else. Nobody cares. So have some fun.

Sarcasm is a great way to break the tension. It’s like a little splash of cold water for those who are serious. Once they realize that my little jokes will not harm them or the task at hand, they tend to lighten up a bit. If they don’t, you probably don’t want to develop any further relationship with them anyway. Their life is probably a straightjacket. You want none of that.

Like strong spice or perfume, sarcasm should be used sparingly when the situation calls for it. Over time, you’ll be able to detect when you are in a situation where you can use it. It’ll show that you are carefree yet daring. Nobody likes a sarcastic douche that can’t take anything seriously, just like how nobody likes an uptight jerk that can’t take or tell a joke.

If you are meeting new people and you want to identify who is conversational in the dialect of sarcasm, present some irony in a group environment first. “Wow! I sure love vegetables at parties.” It really is like another language, and if even one or two catches your drift, they’ll continue the trend and you’ll have suddenly developed a new channel of conversation that isn’t as boring as reading a textbook. Communication should have flavour and sarcasm is a unique spice—and an acquired taste.

For those who don’t get it, luckily for them, they’ll learn. That’s the wonderful thing about languages: they grow on people overtime. As long as it’s presented in a harmless way that is also engaging, people will continue to speak it. According to Smithsonian magazine, those who are sarcastic are highly intelligent, even more than those who are always sincere. If you are able to back it up with hard work, class, and respect, you don’t have to worry—be sarcastic. Yeah, right…

Like a pro

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Why there is only one real measurement for professionalism

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. October 6, 2015

What makes someone professional? That is a question all up-and-coming employees want to know. They spend hours fine-tuning their resume, they buy a new wardrobe, they practice their handshake over and over, and they even show up 15 minutes early for meetings and interviews, but, in the end, none of that matters except consistency.

Being professional is not a switch you turn on and off when you are working. Being professional is an attitude towards all things, regardless if there is a paycheque at the end or not. The ability to treat every task—whether it’s finishing a report, communicating a business plan, or meeting a friend for lunch—with equal importance is what makes someone valued, and therefore professional.

There is nothing more prized in the workplace than an employee who is consistently accountable. If you say you’ll do something, it’s your job to make sure it is done. If you can’t accomplish the task on your own or in time, don’t feel bad. Being professional does not mean that you have perfect foresight.  And being accountable does not mean doing everything yourself. A professional needs to meet hurdles with competency, not expertise. When employers are hiring, they are rarely looking for specialists; rather, they are looking for those with the capability of asking for help when they need it.

If you think being a professional is being a perfectionist, working overtime, and straining over every little detail—like what to wear and what to say—then you will never operate at your fullest potential. The pros know that, given time, opportunities, and experience, skills will undoubtedly form and gaps will fill in. There is raw talent, sure, but in a workplace, repetition and routines rule, and learning a task and accomplishing it with consistency is often what makes you a pro.

Yes, you hate your job and you are finding it harder and harder to apply the same amount of enthusiasm you had the first few weeks after you were hired. I have one suggestion for you: quit. If you can’t apply consistency to your craft—and you should live in a world where every job is a craft, where improvement is as important as completion—you are harming yourself. If work ethic were a tangible object, you’d be smashing it into a thousand pieces.

You hear it every day: the job market is a scary, volatile place. Only the best get hired. That is not true, or in a way, only semi-true. When we think of the best athletes, we think of those who are consistently showing up to every game or tournament. They might be scoring goals, stopping shots, or just making par every time, regardless, you can always bet on them. When people look at you will they bet on you to succeed? Where’s your track record to show it?

Being professional does not start after you graduate or get your job or receive your first paycheque. Being professional starts the moment you wake up every day.

Do it for yourself

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Not volunteering does not make you a selfish monster

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 16, 2015

You used to do it. You used to commit your valuable time helping an event, an organization, or a cause. I know I did. I don’t anymore. I don’t volunteer, not because I’m busy, but because I recall that most organizations that don’t pay for labour are often disorganized, not so flexible, and ultimately lacking professionalism.

I have had bad experiences volunteering, and I believe many people have as well. But we dismiss all the bullshit because we want the goodwill, we want the work experience, and we want to participate and make a difference.

I’m not going to say that volunteering is a waste of time, because in the end, it’s up to you to define what your time is worth, and for you to decide how you would like to spend it. If you have a group of friends volunteering, you might love it—it’ll just be like hanging out. However, if you feel frustrated over the work or lack of communication, or that perhaps there is a high expectation for your role, be on alert.

There is a reason why unpaid internships are illegal now—it’s slavery. While as a volunteer you are there of your own free will, the organizers often make it seem as though they are doing you a favour. If you feel like you’ve been mistreated—whether by the leaders or your fellow volunteers—you can leave. There are literally a billion different ways to make a positive impact in the world, and many will even pay you to do it.

We live in a capitalistic society. If you are working for free, that means other people are working for free, and that is not fair for anybody. The least they can do is offer lunch or an honorarium. If an organization does not have a revenue stream, investors, donors, patrons, etc. why does it still exist?

Moreover, if we look at the world as a whole, we see many young adventure-seekers volunteering to build houses and orphanages in developing countries. Okay… cool… but those people don’t need some 20-something-year-old from Cloverdale to help them build shit. Give them material, and they can do it themselves. If you want to have an adventure, get a job, earn the money, and buy a plane ticket without interfering with other people’s lives. If you want to help build an orphanage in Cambodia, donate money and resources. Start a company that will hire local workers to do the job. Create a self-sufficient ecosystem, not one that nourishes your own self-righteousness.

Volunteering is not sustainable. Eventually you’ll have to eat. If organizations want help, they should apply for grants, have some marketing system, and have some incentive—it doesn’t have to be monetary, but it does have to be worthwhile. Volunteering is not for everybody, so before you think of someone else, think of yourself. You deserve your own precious time.

All work and no love

Illustration by Ed Appleby

How to balance work and relationships

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 17, 2015

There are two key channels in life that we are all sailing through simultaneously. One is the career path we have chosen. On this route we are empowered to catch the wind and ride as far as we can undaunted. The other channel finds us embarking on a journey for love and companionship. Our attitude on this trip, however, is much different. We dock occasionally, testing the waters here and there, uncertain when we’ll reach our destination. As you can tell by my longwinded metaphor, the success of work and love are two separate achievements, both of equal importance. But how do you attain one without losing sight of the other?

While some believe that people should keep work and love separate, I don’t believe that is true. A healthy relationship is built upon support, and a thriving career requires that too. The two channels feed into each other. The time you spend working and the time you spend with your loved one should be interchangeable. It should be teamwork. You and your partner should have careers that feed into each other’s lives; both of you should be passionate about what the other does and sail the same course.

Men are often praised for not bringing work home, but in today’s world what does that really mean? It means keeping a significant portion of the day hidden away. Your partner should be there to encourage you when you have an assignment due, or if there is an opportunity for promotion. It’s a competitive market and having someone on your side is irreplaceable encouragement.

With that being said, dedicating time to your romantic partner is equally as important. While accomplishing work or showing up on time is imperative, time you have away from the office, kitchen, studio, and the like should be portioned appropriately. Here is where you can help your partner better their situation. Help clean, make dinner, or even do some repairs. Life can unravel when there is nobody looking out for you, so do your best and pick up some slack when your partner can’t.

Life is not all sunsets and paycheques. Work is work and relationship is work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. I’m not going to tell you the type of person to date or the kind of job to have, but if you want a fulfilling life, it’s better if the two channels intersect occasionally. Find a partner that cares about your job and find a career that your partner is passionate about as well. Only then will you find true balance between work and love.

Foko Promotes Photo Taking at Work To Strengthen Communication and Solve Problems

Ottawa-based Foko understands that photographs are the new quick, text-free way to communicate.

Whether it’s sharing our vacation photos, showcasing our accomplishments or taking a quick pic of our afternoon snack, our pictures can tell a story worth a thousand—maybe—more words. And that experience should not be withheld in the workplace.

Communication within an organization is paramount to the workforce, but recent trends have shown that internal communication platforms such as Intranets garner little traction. “There is around 10% [of employees at a given company using Intranets],” said Foko’s cofounder and CEO, Eric Sauve. “If you get 20% you are a hero. I came to a conclusion that companies are really missing out on connecting their employees.”

Simplicity became Foko’s focus as they tried to understand the barriers of communication in an enterprise environment. The result is a familiar Instagram-like app that enables workers, employers and all other members of the company to recognize each other through a medium that is easy to use.

“We came to photos,” said Sauve, “because you don’t need to know English and you don’t need to be a good writer; you just need a [camera] phone and you can participate. Photo sharing is the consumer Internet, from web apps (Pintrest and Imgur) to social networks to new services—the ones that are growing the most are photo centric—like Instagram and SnapChat. So let’s bring it to companies in a way that they can get everyone involved.”

Entering an ecosystem with so many different photo-sharing platforms, Foko finds its uniqueness in terms of privacy, security, and exclusivity. In another words, Foko caters to a corporate-audience. Ones that understands that when dealing with the behind the scenes photography of Fortune 100 companies, a few potential problems need to be addressed, such as HR problems, IT leaks issues, etc. Foko builds the community around the workers; only allowing those associated with the company the ability to view activities within.

This internal communication enables stores and offices in different geographical areas to work together to strengthen merchandise sales, etc., and colleagues with different schedules to catch up and discuss the happenings at work. In addition, Foko also helps enterprises share and promote events and occasions that stems from the workplace, such as charity events, volunteer opportunities, conferences and company parties. Photos are also a friendly way of introduction and acknowledgement, especially in big companies where workers seldom see each other. The ability to welcome a new employee or to acknowledge an old one is something every company, large or small, should have the capability to do.

The use of social media and other consumer platforms are often frowned upon at workplace. If you spend your time posting pictures on Instagram at work, you are probably wasting time, but if you post something on Foko while working, you are building workplace cohesion.

“It’s all in how you used the social media,” said Sauve. “It’s the fact that it’s private that makes all the difference. If you take a picture at work and share it on Instagram: are you sharing secrets, are you sharing embarrassing stuff about the store and does it meet with the branding guidelines of how we interact with the public? But if you share it internally, nobody cares about that stuff.” Sauve added, “Sharing within a constrained group really changes the nature of social media.”

In the upcoming week, Foko is also introducing the private messaging feature to their application, enabling workers to communicate with individuals in the company. Instead of sending a photo to the entire company, you can select the co-workers you would like to receive the picture and reach out to them privately. Say, they forgot their mints at work, well what better way to notify and reassure them that it’s still there—untouched— than with a fresh picture of it?

Got too much on your plate?

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Save some room for dessert

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Oct. 2013

So now you’re popular; or at least, people are starting to expect more from you. Responsibilities, commitments, deadlines, schoolwork, part-time jobs, and relationships. When you do have free time these days, it fills up pretty quickly. Nobody has to point it out to you—after all, you feel it from the strain of carrying the world on your back—but they do anyways: you look tired and it can’t be ignored. How did this happen? How did you get so much on your plate?

It’s not a question of how, but rather a question of why. Those with too much going on have made a conscious choice to say “Yes” more, and by doing so, they’re receiving more opportunities. The result is far from the worst-case scenario. Sure, you’re thrashing about in the deep end, but what better way is there to learn to swim? Don’t be distracted by the competition; you set your own bars in life.

You are being productive and there is a clear path of progress, but the weight of it all can be damaging. You want to do more, but you’re afraid the standard of your work and the quality of your relationships will diminish, while the amount of rest you get will start depleting. Don’t panic yet: the crisis is all in your head.

Pick your battles. You’ll want to do everything, and that’s respectable, but sometimes it’s impossible. Prioritize your work, and ask yourself what’s most important to you. Sure, money and reputation are important, but it’s still your life and you get to determine how it plays out. Do you want a promotion at work or do you want to ace an exam? Do you want to spend more time with the family or do you want to earn a little bit more for a vacation? Understand what you are working for: by having a clear goal, you can then choose the most pertinent task and accomplish it. Focus on one thing at a time, and if work falls to the back burner, acknowledge it, communicate it, but don’t ignore the loss; someone is always willing to help you or forgive you, as long as you vocalize your issues. Your passion will decide what is most important—not your friends, family, instructors, or employers.

Covering your ass is not a bad habit. A little safety net while you work can help reduce stress. Always communicate with clients, employers, and everyone else in your life. Update them on the progress of work—honesty is the best policy. If they don’t appreciate you then, in my opinion, they aren’t worth working for or hanging around with. Keep the onus on you, and don’t be pushed around by others. Work hard, but do it because you want to do it, not because someone else demands it.

Treat yourself, because after a long day of toiling, you’ll need to recharge. Take a breather or a day off. Work and school are important, but you need to find time for friends and family. Watch a movie, go on a trip, and make plans that will break you from the norm. Schedule them in and treat those enjoyable obligations like they’re a paying job, because when it’s all said and done, that is what you’re really working for: the sweet reaping of fun.

Water Street Profile Expands Workspace to Create Passion and Inspire Meaningful Projects

“Space matters,” said Kevin Penstock, founder of Water Street Profile. “The philosophers in Greece did not just hang out at someone’s place and discuss philosophy, they built structures that people were in awe about. Space is important, architecture is important. People want to work in amazing places.”

There are over three billion people in the world with jobs and one third of them are independent workers. According to Statistic Canada, Vancouver has about 150,000 people working from home, coffee shops or some alternative space.

In 2008, Penstock was one of those nomadic independent workers trying to be productive in his living room or subletting space from a law firm. The idea for Water Street Profile, a co-working business club, materialized after several businesses sharing the Gastown office suite with Penstock moved out. He began managing it and saw an opportunity to develop an inspiring office space for diverse professionals who want to create passionate projects and coexist with other supporting workers.

“One of the sacrifices you make when you are a startup is that you don’t work in an organization with a support system,” said Penstock. “When you are working in an organization you are accountable to several different departments and several different lead heads. If you are working on your own, you’re missing a lot of that. At least in a co-working space you get to know your neighbours. You’ll get really excited and you’ll tell them about your startup. They’ll come in one week and ask, ‘did you get that thing launched?’ Suddenly you are accountable to someone.”

A workspace can be any place with a desk and a chair, but Water Street Profile aims to be more. The objective is to create an inviting community for each unique profession, whether they are artists or technology experts. Work/life balance is a core value and that is why the company has designed the space to be more than a collection of cubicles. Café and lounge areas allow workers to take a break from the sometimes engaging, yet sometimes monotonous job of running a growing company.

However, managing a business is not all fun and games. Building a startup can be an intimidating task. Water Street Profile recognizes the important of having a premium business profile; they are after all named after it. They offer all the help young companies need to start their business, from implementing front desk services, handling couriers and other basic business services.

“If you are a startup there are a lot different things you need to do,” said Penstock. “You need to get your business incorporated, print business cards, design the website—all that kind of stuff. But what address do you put on it? Your home? That is not a good idea. Lets say you are an artist and you live in Burnaby, but I Google ‘Vancouver Artist,’ I’m not going to get you. I may find you, but I’ll look at your Google Places and zoom in and see that you are in a cul-de-sac. If you join the club here, you get to rent one of our unique suite addresses at 375 Water Street. You can use that prestigious address for your business.”

Water Street Profile’s recent expansion has doubled their size to 10,000 square feet, totaling their working space to 35 hot desk, 22 private offices, eight board rooms and meeting spaces, a bike room and two cafes.

“The interesting thing is if I’m a software developer, you’re a book writer and he’s an architect, that is fine we’ll have our specialties,” said Penstock. “But you might give me some advice to run my business that I never thought about before and that is very interesting—versus I’m always working around software developers. The disadvantage is when we have too many of one.”

Although co-working spaces such as Water Street Profile are a pretty new concept, large corporations around the world are embracing the structure after seeing positive results from mixing up individual workers on each team.

When it comes down to it a good workspace is a place you feel comfortable in and a space that inspires you to do the best work possible. It just so happens that The Landing, built in 1905, one of the oldest buildings in Gastown, Vancouver is contributing to the growth of the cities rising startups as well as sustaining the quality of work from established companies.