The Interview: A Survival Guide

So, after all you did, you’re finally here.

After weeks of phone calls, emails, and long nights scouring online postings, you’ve reached the most arduous, delicate, and decisive trail before you get that shiny new job: The interview. Your hair is combed, your business attire is clean and pressed, and your breath smells like you’re channeling the god of wintergreen. It’s a good thing you brought that extra copy of your resume! You did grab it off the kitchen table, right?

Right?

Job interviews, much like public speaking and academic exams, are a common source of anxiety for many people, and for fair reasons – your future hinging on the outcome of a 30 minute, closed door conversation with a complete stranger? What reason would someone have not to be intimidated? On top of that, the interviewing process is essentially a contest between you and every other person that got the same call that you did. But here’s the bright side, you did get that call to set up an interview. Which means you’ve already beat-out the 50+ people that didn’t get that call. You’ve passed the elimination round, meaning you’re qualified. Now you just need to prove in person that you’re most qualified.

When you ask around for interviewing advice, someone’s liable to tell you to rehearse. Rehearse? Interviews might be as nerve-racking as public speaking for some people, but you’re not reading from a script or memorizing a speech. Interviews are dynamic and can change course in an instant depending on how you answer (or don’t answer) certain questions. That’s not to say, however, that practice will hurt your chances in there – quite the opposite. But rather than grabbing just anyone and making them uncomfortable as you sit across from them (also looking uncomfortable) as they read from a list of questions you handed them, why not find someone who’s actually done some interviewing in their lives? They can give you a more authentic experience and can change up the routine each time to keep you on your toes. No two interviews will be the same, so why should your mock-interviews?

It may only be a 30 or so minute conversation, but you can learn quite a lot about someone in that time; most importantly, how determined they are to land the job – and by extension, how determined they’ll be to keep it. Along with whatever textbook interview questions you’re sure to be asked, a seasoned interviewer is bond to play mind games with you to test your fragility and try to slip you up: They’ll offer you water, offer a handshake in an odd fashion, or conduct the interview in a restaurant to observe your etiquette. It’s all a test (which is why some of the same people with test-anxiety feel similarly about interviews).

Here’s what you need to remember: Interviewing for a job is like trying to get a girl or a guy you’re sweet on to go out with you. You cannot appear desperate. Desperation in an interview is a telltale sign of a lack of confidence in yourself and in your capabilities. If you’re unsure of yourself, why should the person interviewing you be sure? What’s more, you want your love interest (in this case, job interest) to have an interest in you and peruse you as you pursue them. This is especially useful to those with more experience and possess more sought-after skills. If the interviewer is sure that they have you, they will begin to look for reasons not to choose you. To that end, you must make yourself as indispensable and interesting as you can.

The Block

A bane to writers everywhere, writer’s block can be summarized as a period of creative constipation; where all trains of thought derail and you’re left scrambling to get things back on track before you’re scheduled to arrive.  If you’ve ever needed to write a book report, thesis, or piece of fiction or poetry, then you know this feeling all too well. It may not be curable, but it is treatable; and if corrected in time, you may just save your project (or your job) before it’s too late.

So, what to do? Nearly every source online will tell you to take a hiatus from your work for a while: That you want to go for a walk, meditate, exercise, anything to reset your mind and get back at it with a refreshed perspective. In many cases, this might be all that it takes for you to press past your blockage – if you run into a dead end in a maze, you need to put yourself back to a point in which you have other options. But there’s more than just dead ends to worry about: what if you get distracted in the maze and suddenly forget which way you came from? Which is the way forward? Problems with developing a new idea rather than grinding away with a failed one, is an entirely different matter.

First off, while a distraction might draw you away from a flawed thought in your writing, you can also be pulled away from a thought that might have had great potential. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative, regardless of whatever other methods you take on to mitigate writer’s block, that you take every step necessary to put a lid of petty annoyances and distractions. Close your office door, put your phone away and out of reach, maybe music really doesn’t help you concentrate. Experimentation and modification of your writing methodology is a surefire way to see an improvement in your habits.

Once you feel as though nothing can pull you out of the zone, try looking back on some of your earlier works. How did you overcome this block the last time it happened? Where did your efforts take you? Who’s critiques of your writing did you really take to heart and made for the best changes? Learning from the past, and knowing where you’ve been will help you from walking over your tracks.

Speaking of tracks, if there is one thing that I keep telling myself as a creative, and time and time again I neglect to do when I really need it most, it’s to jot down any and all novel ideas that come to you throughout the day, regardless of what they are – jokes, one-liners, poetic lines, names, otherworldly concepts, anything that makes you go, “Whoa, I need to use that later.” Assume you’ll forget, because you probably will. If the biggest huddle you face in your writing is a deficit of original material, what you need is a storehouse of ideas, something you’ll have on hand at all times once you get use to capturing fleeting, content-rich thoughts.

Lastly, if all else fails, remember who it is you’re writing for. If you’re a columnist or a blogger, then this is obvious, but if you’re writing for leisure and don’t have an audience, find one. Speaking from personal experience, I can confidently say that I’ve produced my best work when I knew that my work was going to be picked apart in a workshop setting. Make a contest out of it with other writers you know or work with and put your pride on the line. Overcoming the fear of criticism and allowing your skills to temper in the heat of competition, just like with athletic ability, will show you exactly how you stack up, where your weakness are, and how to better yourself as you take in the works and techniques of others. Do this, and you just might find that the clogs that make life as a writer bleak, will happen less and less often.

Pro:Up and Out

For many students, high school can feel like just another one of those things you have to do.

You do your homework, pass your classes, and keep your nose clean until you graduate. But while there’s no doubt that a high school education is a crucial minimum requirement in today’s job market, can we be sure that this fundamental education is preparing students for life after grade-school? Is it really enough to allow students to simply go through the motions and hope for the best without making sure that they’ve picked up a good work ethic, personal accountability, or even discovered their passions or latent talents?  Experience is the best teacher, and one local business in the Detroit area is offering students the opportunity to seize that experience – Pro:Up.

Pro:Up is a new networking platform for connecting high school students with various local organizations and businesses to help them land internships, as well as gain other valuable work-related experience that will help them succeed after graduation. Since its inception, Pro:Up has registered over 2000 members, and is growing by nearly 20 new profiles each week; all for the expressed purpose of sparking students’ interest and galvanizing their path forward in life. I met with Pro:Up Co-Founder, Myles Morgan, for a closer look into the aims and the methods behind his organization.

One question that came to mind early on was, “What incentives are there for business to want to bring in high-schoolers with little or no experience?” Since new hires would certainly be more accident prone and eat-up an employer’s capital in order to be trained from the ground up, right? Myles was cognizant of this dilemma, but was clear on the point that businesses become a part of Pro:Up on voluntary basis – because they want to give these kids a leg up as their adult lives come careening toward them. Myles also commented on the growing disparity of skillsets in the labor market.

“Given the massive technical and soft skills gap in America, employers are providing these opportunities to high school students to develop talent earlier, feed their future talent pipelines, and increase brand recognitions to the next generation of employees.”

 In essence, businesses and organizations choosing to align with Pro:Up to provide these opportunities to teens have a lot to gain on the PR front, as well as the chance build a channel for new recruits to meet their needs as their businesses grow.

Regarding the demand for specific skill sets in the jobs market, namely those skills that don’t require a four-year degree to attain, Myles suggests that most schools in the area are not doing enough to promote alternative pathways through life that do not involve a university for those students who may not be able to afford it, or would simply rather go without it.

“We’re going to say something radical: College isn’t for everyone and it was never meant to be…While college has been the most promising tracks to economic security and mobility in the last few decades, the university pathway is losing its utility for many students in the 21st century…This is where Pro:Up helps. Students need not rely only on their schools or family networks to discover opportunities and pathways that fit them. They have a personalized feed of the perfect opportunities at their fingertips.”

 As Myles mentions, Pro:Up is equipped with a number of tools and functions that allows members to customize their notification feeds to their desired positions and businesses, seamlessly inserting itself into the fiber of the daily digital digest that teens today have made the norm. Myles’ seconds this idea, drawing a parallel between his platform and others. “Pro:Up is designed with high student engagement at the forefront. Existing opportunity boards cater to an older, more utilitarian demographic, people who may be interested in finding the right opportunity as quick as possible. Students have referred to Pro:Up as the ‘Instagram for Opportunities’.”

What’s one more feed to follow if it means a wealth of experience? A line of experience on a resume is as good as gold these days.

There’s a sea of sites online that dedicate themselves to distracting teens from the stresses of their lives, putting many of the more helpful and resources-rich pages on the back-burner. Competition and success are not for everyone; least of all to those unwilling to set aside the time to invest in themselves and in the security that comes with work experience. For those with a plan, Pro:Up is there to help follow through. For those without a plan (or a back-up plan) Pro:Up is there to help make one. True to Pro:Up’s slogan,

“Make moves, not excuses.”

Networking Socially (in person)

Everyone should know a guy who knows a guy.

Having a rich and extensive network of professional contacts is a necessity in this day and age. People that can vouch for you and what you can do may be all that stands between a new job and another trip to the jobs board. But how do you go about shaking all of those hands and getting that many phone numbers?

Naturally, for someone that thrives in social environments, be they parties, sports team, career fairs, or any other gathering that presents the opportunity to mingle, this isn’t even second nature. Those with outgoing dispositions and charismatic personalities can work their way into social circles that can take other people years to be a part of. So, it goes without saying that the many introverts of the professional and pre-professional community start things off with a sizable disadvantage. While stressful, it is crucial that all the wallflowers in the jobs market ballroom find the resolve to engage their peers and get a conversation going. There’s no telling what a talk with the right person could accomplish.

So aside from working toward not being a shut-in, what are some other ways to expand your professional social networks? Social networks? Now there’s an idea.

If you were born anytime between today and every day before today, then chances are that you have a social media profile or, at the very least, are familiar with it in one form or another. If you several hours on Facebook or Instagram anyway, why not spend a portion of that time setting up a LinkedIn profile or a university sponsored careers site? These are some of the best places to research professionals in the discipline of your choice, and since these sites essentially exist for the explicit purpose of reaching out and learning more about employers, alumni, and mentors, you can pour over their info without the shame of feeling like a creep! When you feel like you’ve found someone that can help you out and give you some direction, drop them a line. Asking for an informational interview is a great way to get to know the person and ask relevant questions: What are your position’s responsibilities? What made you want to get into this business? How did you get the job you have now? Where did you work before this, and for how long? These kinds of questions will give you a better idea of what to expect on your road ahead, and tell the interviewee that you have a genuine interest in their profession. With any luck, they might just stay in contact with you.

When it comes to making connections in a university setting, it is astounding how many students completely miss out on all of the free events and services available on campuses. I graduated from Oakland University in 2016, the same year I made my first trip to their careers services center to start mock-interviewing and get some resume work-shopping done. I was the only one there. Out of curiosity, I asked the woman I was meeting with how often students came by. She told me “hardly anyone” came by that entire year. Students will pay thousands of dollars in borrowed money for courses and hundreds more on top of that for a book (or two), but they end up walking right past the offices that will help them connect with professionals after the fact for free. Money on the table. Money and connections.

If you’re a student and have an hour and a half to kill one afternoon, go.

Gorillaz at the Fox – Humanz Tour 2017

It all began late one night on a post-gym trip to Seven Eleven for a bowel ravaging snack. I was just pulling into my parking spot when the ad came on over the radio. I was about to kill the engine, but then I heard a voice. The kind of raspy, gargled, English accented voice your mother warned you about. Murdock. I then immediately decided that whatever was about to come out of that cartoon goblin’s mouth was more important than satiating my own hunger.

The Gorillaz were coming to town.

I’ve been a fan of the Gorillaz ever since I first saw the Feel Good Inc. music video back in 2005. I remember being completely blown away, not only by how distinct the sound was, but by the of quality (for 2005) and the use of CG and traditional animation in the same piece. As an eleven-year-old who spent a sickening amount of time watching cartoons rather than learning a skill, the Gorillaz quickly became one of my favorite groups.

Tickets were being released slowly, in small quantities, and at odd times of the day. This made things difficult for anyone who didn’t spend their day staring at a monitor for a living as tickets became available – lucky me! In retrospect, however, I may have been better off not clicking “first available” and not spending roughly $400. But I digress.

Foxtown was booming that night. The Pizzarena was having its grand opening with Kid Rock, and traffic was reduced to a crawl. My friend Nick and I made it to the Fox with minutes to spare.

But then it happened.

Our tickets were no good. I felt sick. I hurried over to the help desk to make my case that the tickets were genuine and that I had the receipt to prove it. As it turns out, my tickets were indeed genuine, but the concert wasn’t for another three days. It was that kind of moment where, despite more logical explanations, you become convinced that the universe itself altered its state of being for the sole purpose of making you look like an idiot.

Seventy-two hours later, Nick and tried again with much more success.

Seated in the absolute back of the venue, we had an amazing view of the entire theater as well as an extremely irritating view of hundreds of bright iPhone screens Snapchating and Instagraming the opening act. I can’t help but wonder how many people spent the kind of money I did and didn’t watch the show in front of them with their own eyes. Sad.

M1A1

The intermission was over. The stage was set. The lights went out and the crowd went ballistic. M1A1 was a good song to start on; it starts out lowkey and builds to a crescendo to hype the crowd for what was to come. M1 is a well known motorway in England, as it A1. They intersect just south of Aberford.  As was to be expected of the Gorillaz, the silhouettes of the animated personas were introduced in a dynamically choreographed visual display on the screen at the back of the stage. We were in for a show!

Last Living Souls

Excluding Intro – the unsettling cacophony that kicks off Demon Days – Last Living Souls is the first real song on the album, and dialed back the energy just a bit. I could never help but feel like a lot of dystopic titles lost out on not using this song to promote their movie or game. This was also the first song of the concert that showcased the six-man chorus that was on stage. The video that played on-screen was of two men with a stereoscopic effect trudging through a desolate wasteland. Many fans of the Gorillaz interpret the song as the beginning of the journey through the dead world built by the album, making it all the more appropriate to be played as one of the first pieces preformed.

Saturnz Barz

Perhaps the most popular and most pushed song from their new album, Saturnz Barz came up third. The official music video has nearly 50 million views as of April, and an edited version featuring Popcaan was played during the performance. Popcaan’s lyrics take some deciphering, but from what I’ve come to understand, the song tells the tale of a man who raises from poverty to prosperity through his music, as well as another man (played by Damon Albarn’s character, 2-D) who seems to be “stakin” Popcaan to pay off a debt and likely intends to kill him for money. If that sounds like a leap of faith, that’s because it is. Despite the hurdles I had with interpretation, I really like this one. It was two district sounds and two district perspectives just like Feel Good Inc., my favorite.

Tomorrow Come Today

An oldie but a goodie; the third track of the very first album. Tomorrow Comes Today was another downshift in tone from the high-energy Saturnz Barz, but was a real crowd-pleaser all the same. For visuals, the band ran a mostly unedited version of the original MTV music video. It isn’t often that I say this, but this song is better when heard live.

Rhinestone Eyes

The immediate reception this song received may have been louder than when the concert began. The lights on stage popped into a bright green and slid to red to match the color of hues of the storyboarded music video that was, sadly, never fully realized. The popularity of this song, it seems, lay in the fact that this song is very significant to the lore of the Gorillaz universe; something that I am not particularly knowledgeable of, but not something that I couldn’t remedy with a quick trip to the wiki page afterward. In a single run-on sentence, the imagery depicts the band’s discovery of the titular Plastic Beach, the battle between the Gorillaz and the villain “Boogieman”, and the return of Noodle after she’d gone missing (presumably after the events of El Manana) and was subsequently replaced with a cybernetic replica (I call her Newdle).

Does the replica go Bladerunner on them afterward? Hard to say.

Though many Gorillaz fans have seen the video dozens of times, it was still one the most memorable performances of the night.

Sleeping Powder

Only the second “new” song played that evening, Sleeping Powder is distinctively a Gorillaz song; being one of only about half the songs on the Humanz album in which Albarn is the predominate singer. I might be misremembering this, but at one point during the song, as the official music video played on-screen, animated pills spun and flew at the viewers. Just in case the message of the song wasn’t clear to anyone.

On Melancholy Hill

Canonically, the events of On Melancholy Hill predicate those of Rhinestone Eyes, so I was a bit perplexed as to why they’d play it afterward – not that I’m complaining. Before the song even starts we get the introduction of the ship that Noodle is on, being attacked by pirates. People lost it – as hard or harder than they lost it when Rhinestone Eyes started playing – once Noodle’s mask was shown. I understand that there’s a certain charm to watching a 90lb girl shoot WW2 era aircraft out of the sky with a full-auto Tommy, but getting that hyped to see a video you’ve seen a hundred times on YouTube seems silly.

In any case, the fact the Rhinestone Eyes was played first had me worried that this song won’t be on the line-up. It is, in my opinion, the best song on the Plastic Beach album. It’s just a simple, short love song with the kind of obscure lines that only the Gorillaz can deliver.

Not sure what the deal with the manatee is, but that’s neither here nor there.

Busted and Blue

Following the sober tones of On Melancholy Hill, Busted and Blue rode the drop-off in energy further down into what I’ve come to interpret as a social commentary. The mentioning of lithium (commonly used in treating bipolar disorder), echo-chambers, and being “asked by a computer” in the lyrics seems to be a reference to the despair and depression typically experienced by those who spend an excessive amount of time online and on social media. That’s all mostly speculation on my part, but it feels very overt.

But only a few seconds into the song, something amazing happened. People in the crowd, rather that filming the concert with their phone, held their phones up like lighters and began swaying. The meme quickly spread, effecting nearly half of the entire audience. I resisted as best I could, but eventually fell under the trance of the hypnotic motion of peer pressure and the visuals of entire galaxies passing by in deep space. The song was new and mostly unknown, but those moments easily made it one of the most memorable songs of the show.

El Manana

Although the lights had suddenly gone from darkness to red and blue cycles to mimic police sirens, the reception to El Manana was fairly tame as it was with Busted and Blue. Perhaps too many lowkey songs in a row? As was the case several times before, the entirety of the animated music video was played. The song itself is reverent, a trend that is found among many songs in the Demon Days album. The video depicts the supposed death of Noodle, who (obviously) made a triumphant return in the following album five years later. I was not bothered by this choice, only by when it was chosen to be played; jumping around the timeline just annoyed me a bit.

Superfast Jellyfish – with De La Soul

We were finally scooped out of the sulking trough of somber tunes and thrust into the fast-lane of Superfast Jellyfish. De La Soul waltzed out from stage left and the rock concert morphed into the rap-rock hybrid Plastic Beach was known as, performing Superfast for the first time since 2010. A homage to fast-food and waste, Superfast Jellyfish brought all the lost energy back to the crowd with a barrage of mock restaurant advertisements. We even had an arm-swaying thing going for a while. It all made me hungry.

Ascension – w/ Vince Staples

Call it a hijack of the platform the Gorillaz provides, but I was really not a fan of this song.

All the energy from Superfast Jellyfish was still very much alive and well, but that energy was channeled into political commentary. Everyone’s entitled to their own take on the zeitgeist, but I think we all get enough of it during working hours on the “news”.

And that one line, “Where you can live your dreams long as you don’t look like me”?

What are you saying, Vince? Don’t you look like you? Why you got to keep people down?

Strobelite – w/ Peven Everett

Like Ascension, this is not a Gorillaz song that can be immediately identified as such. Without Albarn as the lead singer (or at least singing the chorus) or prior knowledge of a song, chances are I’d never guess a song was done by the Gorillaz. Unlike Ascension, this song was good.

The stage lighting really stood out for this song as well; vertical and horizontal flashes created an amazing geometric effect that made the band look like they were in a box. The song itself seems to just be a glamorization of the night-life and clubbing in general. I hadn’t heard of Peven Everett before this, but he made a real impression. It is a shame that they nixed the music video for this song, instead flashing colors in a grid formation – maybe to draw the focus to Everett? Considering that I’ve since been listening to his work, I’d say he deserved it.

Andromeda

The stage became purple and pink, giving it the same esthetic as the planet represented in the Andromeda music video. At this point, it became clear to me that the band wanted to whet the crowd’s appetite with the classic before they went all in on the new stuff. It wasn’t nearly as hopping as the song before it, but it wasn’t putting anyone to sleep either.

To those with knowledge of astronomy, Andromeda is the nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy. But while the visuals in the music video are inarguably referencing this fact with a large, nameless, gaseous planet shown throughout (not shown during the performance), the song as actually written in honor of Albarn’s wife’s mother, who died as the song was being written. Though the song isn’t all that sad – rather, it conveys a more celebratory tone. Perhaps to preserve her memory in a positive light?

Sex Murder Party – With Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz

I’m sure Sex-Murder Parties are commonplace among celebutantes, but it’s a bit striking that anyone would want to get on stage and flaunt it. The title of this song is like something an angsty 14-year-old would listen to and the lyrics are like something those same angsty 14-year-olds might write. When the word “murder” is sung 49 times over the course of 260 seconds, you might think to yourself, “Hmm. What is the writer of this song trying to say here, and why?” I think “Abandonment Issues” would have made a better name for this song. Thumbs down.

Out of Body – Zebra Katz

After Sex Murder Party, I wasn’t quite feeling like I was at a Gorillaz concert anymore; but little did I know that things were about to get a lot creepier. A recording of Kilo Kish came up on screen and I thought, “Alright, she’s about to lay into something good.”

She begins, “We’re here tonight for a very special offering. An offering of our spirits this evening in unison. But first, a word of instruction.” The beat begins and hypnotic visuals swirl behind her. I had to check my ticket stub to make sure I hadn’t accidently walked into a cult meeting. Fortunately, nobody offered me Kool-Aid or “ascended” from what I could see from my seat.

Garage Palace – w/ Little Simz

Officially, this song “features” Little Simz. In reality, this song was just Little Simz pacing back and forth for three minutes while the spotlight followed her and the rest of the stage and the band was dark. I paid to see the Gorillaz play their music, not to see Little Simz sing something that didn’t even make it into the Humanz playlist.

Kids with Guns

As if somehow aware of my three strikes policy, the stage was alight again and the actual “band” came back into play with one of their most icon hits. The crowd seemed to share my sentiment, giving the most earnest cheers that they’d given since Superfast Jellyfish. The visuals, albeit, were about as exciting as the music video itself: Outlines of various firearms. But that didn’t keep me and many others from singing along to this timeless classic.

I’m inclined to believe this song is a message about gang violence but a similar argument has been made about military recruitment. Granted, kids can’t join the military and the guns depicted in the song aren’t exactly standard-issue in the armed forces. Considering the song is from Demon Days – an album with a dystopic theme and corruption close to home – I’m probably right.

Either way, I was glad to hear more of the old stuff.

We Got the Power – w/ Jehnny Beth

Without even knowing that We Got the Power was the last long on the Humanz album, you do get a sense of finality from it. An obvious choice for the “last song” of the Humanz tour performances; its optimistic, jovial, and Jehnny Beth’s voice matches with Albarn’s like coffee with salt (don’t knock it). What I did find off-putting, however, is the choice of pairing the visual a bustling motorway, congested with traffic during rush hour (from the music video) with a song that’s telling you that you can basically do anything. Maybe it’s intended to be ironic? Regardless, it was a song that was unmistakably Gorillaz – a subtle collage of assets and themes from other songs in the album. A kind of synopsis that most other Gorillaz albums have.

The lights came on and the crowd gave out an applause that was thoughtful yet reserved. Nobody was about to buy that that the show was over, and I wasn’t about to leave without hearing Feel Good Inc. It wasn’t long before the lights dropped once again. I crossed my fingers and held my breath. Surely everyone else’s love for Feel Good would have already predetermined the encore, right?

Stylo – w/ Peven Everett

Devastation.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea; this is in my top five, but when I heard the thump of that funky synthwave and saw the sight of that Camaro’s bumper with the word Stylo my heart sank while the crowd exploded. Stylo is the Feel Good Inc. of Plastic Beach, as I see it, but it just isn’t Feel Good.

As I listened, however, I was amazed at how alike the live performance was to the studio edited version. My disappointment melted away and I quickly got into the groove. Bobby Womack and Mos Def, it seemed, could not attend the show to sing their parts. So who comes from back-stage to fill the part? Peven Everett. The one featured artist from Humanz that I liked, and that just killed it with Strobelite, was out singing Stylo? That was pretty alright. I also realized that Bruce Willis was in the music video – I don’t know how that had gotten past me before.

Full discloser: I don’t go to a lot of shows. In concerts past, bands have come back out for one extra song to appease chanting fans. In an age where Marvel puts a little something extra at the end of every movie, I’ve come to expect that the end of the show isn’t always the end. But I couldn’t be prepared for what was about to happened next.

De La Soul came back on stage and had a playful exchange with Albarn – affectionately referring to him as Murdoc (that confused me a bit at the time). “Detroit!” He exclaimed, as he began to stretch his neck and shoulders, as if bracing himself for something. At that moment, I realized that, in fact the encore had not ended. Then it happened. Soul let out a loud, bellowing laugh.

Feel Good Inc. – w/De La Soul

Dreams do come true.

The one song I absolutely needed to hear live, the song I’ve loved since its release was playing out right in front of me, music video and all. Going back over the videos I took, I can actually hear my own cheers over the roar of the audience and the booming speakers. Soul and Albarn rocked the house; Albarn put in his work in the second verse and the chorus before Soul jumped in and wrecked face in the third and fifth all while providing supporting vocals. The first chorus even got its own applause. It was unreal. My goal had been achieved, a bucket-list item stuck down.

In hindsight, I guess I really shouldn’t have been so afraid that Feel Good Inc. wouldn’t be played – being that it is the bands most beloved song. Encores are, after all, the grand finally where you bust out the big hits. But the thought of going without was too much at the time. I thought for sure the show was over now.

Clint Eastwood

But the rock just kept rolling.

This one came as a complete but pleasant surprise to me. Clint Eastwood is probably the only other Gorillaz hit that even comes close to matching Feel Good Inc. in its popularity and recognizably of its music video, even though it came first. Del The Funky Homosapien was only present as a recording, unfortunately.

What this song did have on Feel Good was audience participation. More people were singing along from start to finish than any song before it. Russell’s ghost got cheers, the dancing Gorillas got cheers, even the line “It’s all in your head” was cheered for. The contentment and gratification in the air was palpable. At this point, I wasn’t sure just how long the band was willing to indulge the audience. How far were they willing to go? What was left?

Don’t Get Lost in Heaven / Demon Days

[I lumped both of these songs together because, as I see it, they are two halves of the same song.]

One’s about a cheating woman and the other is a poetic commentary about the world at large (presumably). The last two pieces were equally lowkey and softened the hype that had been unleashed by the encore. The stage was kept dark from one song to the other. It was as if the band was toning things down while the six-man chorus sang us to sleep after a long day of play. On screen, we were treated to a stylized stained-glass mock up that depicted the animated band members in an evangelized glamor. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect end to a most excellent concert.

No songs from The Fall album though. I wonder why…

The Gorillaz thanked Detroit, Detroit cleared the Fox, and Nick and I discussed the show over Crack Fries at Hopcat before finally heading back. He and I both got what we came for; Nick got his Clint Eastwood, and I got my Feel Good Inc and a $20 24×36 keepsake that any reasonable person would have bought online for $12. Before the show, I could count the number of groups I’d pay to see live on one hand; and now, having seen the Gorillaz at the Fox, that’s still the case (It’s just a little easier). The best things in life might be free, but the occasional expensive memory can be just as good.

If I had only one regret, I guess it would be in finding that the Gorillaz aren’t actually cartoons – that part of my life has been a lie.

To What Degree: How Much Education is Enough Education?

We’re told from the beginning; if you what to be successful in life and persue your dreams, you need a good education.

That all the doors to the best career paths and opportunities only open to those with the keys. In many ways, this is true – top paying positions in the sciences, mathematics, health services, and engineering are typically well beyond the grasp of those without a degree. But in some fields, positions are even being withheld from graduates with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees as employers are beginning to seek those with master’s and doctorate’s degrees exclusively, leaving many students with little more to show for their time than monthly payments.

So, what are you to do?

It’s starting to sound as if, as the demand for higher and higher level degrees outpaces graduate school turnouts, that a student may be left to take on the types of jobs one would expect a high-school graduate (or a drop-out for that matter) to maintain. This is hardly the kind of thing that college-goers want to hear; but the reality is that just because you have a degree doesn’t mean that hiring managers from fortune five hundred companies are going to come crawling out of the woodwork to find you. A degree is a fancy plate, but experience is the meal.

Speaking from experience, I can say that the majority of entry-level positions are anything but a glamorous millennial fantasy. Odds are that you’ll hate the first job you get out of college, but you have to keep it in your head that it won’t be the last job you have. Just like college, think of it as just another learning experience, only this time you’re actually making money being there rather than spending it. You take the experiences of that job to get a better job, and then a better job. Keep in mind as well that many companies reward loyally: Opportunities for advancement aren’t likely to be offered if your boss suspects you won’t be sticking around! It might take you ten years, but after all your hard work, patience, and networking, you will very likely find yourself where you want to be, and still only be in your 30’s!

Experience is the best teacher, and a classroom setting can only teach you so much. Too many students make the mistake of assuming that their schooling alone will be enough to land their dream job, and completely overlook the opportunity to gain extracurricular experiences through student-lead organizations, apprenticeships, or chances at professional networking through meet-and-greets, career fairs, or as a teacher’s assistant. Proving that you can do more than follow APA formatting rules or read twenty-six pages of a text book in two days is what separates the good students from the great ones.

This where many people who hold off on college have an advantage: Say you enjoy fixing cars. You spend your high school years fixing friend’s cars and get hired by a friend’s dad to work in his auto-shop. Five years go by and your job is really more of a career. The money is good and you’ve worked on every kind of car out there, but you don’t want it to stop there. You decide you want to be able to design an engine instead of just fixing them as an automotive engineer. Not only has that five years of experience likely made your schooling more of a breeze, but you have the money to actually pay for it! And some may decide they’re well-off enough that college would just be a waste of time, which may very well be the case. Who wouldn’t want that?

We live in a meritocracy: People who take on more work than the person next to them and can manage it all are going to stand out, get the job they want, and make more than someone who decides to produce simply what is expected of them. To be a success is to exceed your own expectations, not just those of the critiques and doubters. A lot of people get by on being “okay” at something, but they could be better – and they ought to want to be.

Pa$$w0rD_PRob3Ms_$0LveD

Managing your email and passwords is an essential part of your professional life:

Prioritizing important work-related messages and clearing your inbox of spam and junk-mail, all the while ensuring that your email address stays your email address. All too often you’ll hear about people – executives and students alike –  that come to find that their email had been compromised, their password forgotten, or how an important message was overlooked in a stream of garbage special-offers. So, what can you do to ensuring that these issues don’t find their way to you?

Let’s start with organizing your inboxes.

While it’s true that most email services today have many tools and filters that allow you to categorize your mail and sort out what’s important and what isn’t, there’s still one problem – all your mail is in one place. If you’re familiar with the old saying, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” then it ought to be obvious why this is a bad idea. However secure you believe your email to be, if you lose your account, you lose it all. The solution? Have three accounts: A work account, a personal account, and a throw-away account.

The Work Account:

Probably the most self-expletory of the three, the work account is for one thing and for one thing only – work. This is where your colleges and your superiors will go to get ahold of you. Under no circumstances should you ever use this email address to sign up for services or newsletters, nor should it be given to anyone outside of your professional circles. Depending on where you work, your employer may provide you with a work email. If not, make your own.

The Personal Account:

This is the account that you want to use for financial handlings, newsletters, and other personal messages that aren’t work related. This is the one you’d give your friends, if friends still emailed one another.

The Throw-Away Account:

An account for everything else. Need to sign up for something on whim, but don’t want to commit? Shopping sites are a particularly good place to use a throw-away account, especially if you don’t care about the special offers and sales that you’ll inevitably be reminded of on a daily or hourly basis. If you ever have the sneaking suspicion that you’ll be bombarded with mail you don’t care to read, whip out the junk account. The only time you’re ever going to login to this account is to actually verify that it’s yours.

Coming up with the right password is where a lot of people come up short and make a lot of the same mistakes. I shouldn’t have to say this, but making your password “password” is the worst possible password you can use. It is the very first thing ID thieves will try, right next to “password1” (don’t use that either, or any variant of it). You also want to avoid using the name of the site as your password, using your username as your password, and using the same password for everything. That’s right, you really ought to use a different password for each and every login screen you’re familiar with.

All this may sound like a hassle, but there’s a very easy way to generate and store important passwords.

  1. Open a blank text file.
  2. Randomly type out a stream of characters including special characters (@,$,%, ect.), numbers, and capital letters. Can be any length, though some sites may have character limits.
  3. Title and save the file.

From then on, all you need to do is open that file, copy your very long (but very secure) password and paste it.

And of course, be sure to logout of any accounts that aren’t being used and to change your passwords every so often. Keeping your mail sorted and protected will a unique and cryptic password is one of the very best ways to protect yourself in this digital age. A stitch in time saves nine: Put in just a little time to tighten your personal security today to avoid much more costly problems in the future.

Conducting Yourself in the Interview

In previous articles, we’ve covered the basics when it comes to being successful in an interview, but only from one side of the table. Being a hiring manager means that it falls upon you to line your business with people of the best talent and character that you can find. People as good, if not better, than the ones they’ll be replacing. Hiring the wrong people can cost you money, time, and your reputation as a business. How can we prevent this?

Before you even put the word out about a job opening, you must decide exactly what it is that you’re looking for in a candidate. What made the last person to hold the position successful or a failure? How much experience are you looking for in a new employee – how much time will it take to train them? As you brainstorm qualifications, be sure to do so with all those involved in conducting interviews so that everyone is on the same page and will be working off the same criteria on which individuals will be evaluated. Not only will you ensure that interviews are consistent, but that they are also reliable as well as viable. Viability being a measure of how accurately your criteria encapsulates the desired employee, and reliability being a measure of how often the criteria in your interview (as well as the requirements posted online) produce the desired results. Any good test needs both.

When all is said and done and you have a crop of desirable candidates to choose from, the interviewing process can get underway. But before anyone walks in, you need to familiarize yourself with each applicant prior to your first meeting. Their resumes and cover letters will give you valuable insight into their past experiences and talents, as well as to help indicate what types of informational questions to include in the interview, which will be discussed in part two of this article. The provided resumes can also serve as note paper, as it is very important to take specific notes on each interviewee so as not confuse your experiences. In other words, unless you record your impressions, you may not remember any of the candidates well enough after the fact when it comes time to make any final decisions.

At last, it is time to conduct your interviews. Throughout this process, you have two goals; follow the established criteria to focus on your desired qualities, and foster rapport with the candidates (a trusting and professional relationship). If applicants feel apprehensive or otherwise uncomfortable with you, it will be more difficult to coax honest responses to your questions and will actively diminish their desire to work with you and, by extension, your business. Speak in a leveled, but firm tone and not too quickly. Small talk to break the ice is always a good way to start. But as the interviewer, your speech should pertain primarily to the questions, interjecting or follow-up questions, the occasional comment where appropriate.

In part two, we will take a look at what types of questions will be involved in the interview, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Now that we have a better understanding of the procedural framework involved in screening and engaging your applicants as part of the interviewing process, next comes the more substantive component – what to ask them? Granted, what exactly you’ll be asking as it to pertains to the opening in question will vary from business to business, each having individual standards and expectations, and from position to position, requiring different skills and degrees of experience to be filled effectively. What we’ll be discussing next is the kinds of questions you should be asking and what you can expect to get as a result of each.

First are the fact-based informational questions. Where did you work for your first job? Why did you choose that school? How many years did you attend? All information that could be gleaned from a resume, but may need more clarification finds its way into questions such as these. Asking informational questions will help to get a better sense of why an applicant was drawn to the position being offered, as well as their intended, future career path. Knowing this, should things work with them, you’ll have a much better idea of where they may want to be transferred as they move up in your organization. Informational questions are appropriate at any point during the interview, but are perhaps best used early on. The only real drawback being that you may come off as being ill-prepared should you ask for something that blatantly obvious and printed in bold on the resume; such as “What did you get your degree in?” The objective here is elaboration.

Next comes what might be the most useless type of question if used incorrectly – the hypothetical. Questions like these best used to test the knowledge or problem solving skills of an applicant, rather than to gauge their character. Some hiring managers make the mistake of asking something along the lines of, “Say you see a co-worker stealing something in the office, what would you do in that situation?” “I’d report them to their supervisor” is exactly what any applicant with any scene is going to say. Would you expect a different answer? Naturally, they’re just going to respond with what you want to hear and you get no value from the question. Instead, try something along the lines of, “Say you overhear two members of your team in a heated argument and confront them, how would you go about diffusing the situation?” By asking for a solution rather than inquiring on morality, you get some insight into how your applicants tend to approach different and, sometimes, high-stakes or abrasive scenarios. Again, questions such as this are best used when someone stresses a skill of theirs.

Speaking of stress, stress questions are the third and, as the name implies, perhaps the most unpopular type of questions among applicant (especially ones lacking experience to fall back on). That does not, however, make them unnecessary. A stress question is imposed in order to lightly grill the applicant into a state of mild anxiety. Questions such as, “It doesn’t look like you have a whole lot experience with the Microsoft Office applications. You are aware this is a writing job, yes? Do you see this being a problem for you?” By taking a jab at what you perceive to be a potential (but not disqualifying) shortcoming in the applicant’s qualifications you put them into a more stressed state of mind and are then allowed to see how they are under pressure. The intent here is not to insult the applicant, though some may perceive it that way (which is telling as well). Applicant that maintain their composure and calmly acknowledge your supposed concerns and offer a reasonable explanation have passed this phase of the interview. It goes without saying that questions like this should be used very sparingly, perhaps only once or twice, as they can be damaging to rapport. Stress questions are particularly useful when interviewing people seeking customer service positions.

The last and most important category of questions you’ll be asking are behavioral questions. Most of the interview should consist of these, with the others spaced around them where appropriate. Behavioral questions are basic but demand the most robust responses from the applicant. For example, “Tell me about a time when you needed to step up and be a leader.” If the applicant has done their homework, then their (possibly rehearsed) response ought to adhere to the S.T.A.R. method, which we discussed in an earlier piece. The applicant will first state what the particular situation was as well as any relevant details, followed by the specific task that needed to be completed, the actions taken to accomplish that task, and the final result of their efforts. Covering both knowledge and character, behavioral questions are the best questions to ask by a mile; aiming to help you predict a candidate’s future successes by evaluating their past successes. So ask away!

Broadcast Yourself: In Memory of Old YouTube

We’ve all thought about it at one point or another, “Man, I should start a YouTube channel. That’s got to be some of the easiest money you can make.” While it might be true that the platform’s biggest names could support a comfortable on ad revenue alone, those channels that have actually been able to be profitable did so early on. It has become far more difficult in recent years to get the kind of traction you could get ten years ago, or even five years ago. If you’re passionate about making an online debut with the intent of making money, it’s important to understand what a steep uphill climb it has become to be a sensation on the site and to make enough for such an investment to be worthwhile.

The first hurdle a new channel on YouTube will face is something I call the 10,000 View Threshold. Only after your channel has racked-up a lifetime total of 10,000 views will your content be eligible to be monetized. It may not sound like much, and if you’re a real talent or personality, this might not be a problem for you; but for most people, meeting this minimum quota could take several weeks or possibly several months. The reason for this change is said to be that YouTube uses the time between a channel’s beginning and the channel’s 10,000th video view to assess the legitimacy of the channel – whatever that’s supposed to mean. These ambiguous guidelines that determine the worth of a channel’s content leads me to my next point – the reason why these guidelines are getting stricter.

In a statement released by YouTube on its creator’s blog last March, YouTube outlines in plain language its latest efforts to moderate content in order to satisfy the demands of its advertisers.

“…there’s a difference between the free expression that lives on YouTube and the content that brands have told us they want to advertise against.”

The statement goes, already feeling ominous.

“Our advertiser-friendly content policies set the tone for which videos can earn revenue, ensuring that ads only appear where they should.”

In short, YouTube has outsourced its standards to special interests and large advertising companies. So unless you make the videos they want you to make and say the things they want you to say, your revenue dries up. A deeply disturbing precedent.

Do you remember when YouTube was just starting out? When every channel had its own unique content, and complete nobodies became internet hallmarks seemingly overnight? It was like a gold-rush. My feed used to be populated with the best animators of my generation: Egoraptor, OneyNG, Harry Partridge, Hot Diggedy Demon. Now Partridge has all but abandoned YouTube, Diggedy does movie reviews (though they are animated as well, and the general tenor of his content is virtually unchanged), and the other two are Let’s Players now. But that’s where YouTube stands now. You can be the funniest, most talented artist on the internet, but you won’t get a tenth of the traffic that someone who records himself watching an anime fight or records themselves getting spooked playing Resident Evil 7 will get.

It’s sad to say, but as someone who still spends a great deal of time on the site (and I’m sure you do as well) I can definitively say that YouTube just doesn’t endorse creativity like it used to. We’re dealing with a platform that dishes out to those that produce quantity rather than quality. As a result, the media-marketplace has been completely saturated in Let’s Plays, make-up tutorials, opinion channels, and clips of television shows and other channel’s videos (what is essentially theft). If you’re new to YouTube and you have a new and original idea, it’s not likely to stay that way, as it is common practice for copycats with a larger following to simply rebrand your concept and sell it as their own.

It. Is. A. Mess.

But there is hope. Many of YouTube’s contributors have adapted to the times and have chosen to supplement their ad revenue with viewer donations via Patreon. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, there are indeed alternatives to YouTube are far less populated and not as well known. Sites like Vidme and BitChute could be just the place for new and aspiring content creators to gain a foothold on the web and earn a reputation. Also, if you’re tired of Facebook and Twitter who also suffer from many of the same issues as YouTube, then I would suggest checking out Minds – a monetized and community owned social media platform currently in beta – and GAB – an Advertisement-free social media site.

Earlier I referenced the Gold-Rush: A time when people took a chance in parts unknown to make their fortune.  YouTube is well known, but what we know isn’t good and it’s not getting better. We can admire those that made it to the top, but that doesn’t mean those at the bottom have to settle for making and consuming mediocre content. If you have great ideas and the drive to see them become more than ideas, than those channels at the top should be all the proof you need that it can be done. Though best it be done elsewhere. And in memory of the YouTube that used to be, we should never forget the words that used to sit beneath its logo.

Broadcast Yourself.

Balance: Work vs Play

Balance – a virtue that is culturally universal:

Yin and Yang must always be in harmony, angels and demons forever locked in a constant struggle, and the Jedi – well, they didn’t really get it until it was too late. Regardless of your outlook on life, balance is a fundamental principle that we all rely on. Too much on one end of the scale sends everything out of whack, especially when it comes to the issue of work and play.

Now, for those rare few who are absolutely in love with what they do for a living, work and play are one in the same, rather than the two extremes. I say, good for them; that is the end-goal after all, right? To find yourself in a place where “work” and “play” are interchangeable? Some people are just predisposed to finding career-nirvana, apparently. So how do they do it? Here are just a few simple steps you can take.

Do you believe in multitasking? I don’t, to be perfectly honest. I think it’s one of the biggest lies people tell themselves. Sure, you can walk and chew gum at the same time (hopefully), but can you really work on several projects at once? No. When it comes managing a workload, it’s important to realize that you need to focus down one whole assignment at a time, otherwise you’ll just end up chipping away at a few things without really accomplishing anything. Maintaining your concentration on one task allows you keep your train of thought, rather than constantly stopping and starting and asking yourself, “Wait, where was I?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing something, went to do something else, and then completely forgot the deep or witty line I was going to write next. It’s infuriating. So the next time you feel like you can do a hundred things at once before you go out or take a break, start with one, finish it, and go to another.

What is easily one of the most recognizable interferences in our daily lives, both professionally and socially, is our phones. Our phones have become the locus of our attention, given the absolute volume of features and functions they now have. If you’ve ever gone without your phone for a period of time, whether because it was forgotten at home, out of power, or you just straight-up lost or broke it, then you probably get that feeling; the one where you feel like you’re missing an appendage, or like how a diver feels when he comes to the surface and his boat is gone? That feeling? Yeah, when you’re so dependent on something that you’re prone to false phantom pains and conniptions, something’s not quite right. Yes, our phones may play an important role in our professional lives as well as offer an entire catalog of escapes when we need them, but there has to be some kind of compromise. Unless you actually need to call people (you know, like on the actual “phone” part of your phone) then chances are that Siri is more intrusive than she is helpful. Try keeping track of the number of times you check your phone in an hour, then try to lower that score in the next hour.

Remember planners? When you got that little book in grade-school so you could write down what needed doing and by when? What is probably the easiest way to draw a line between crunch-time and you-time is to make yourself a reasonable timeline – what is becoming a dying practice these days. Installing some punctuality into your workday can turn an otherwise ambiguous can drastically cut down on wasted time as well as expletives from your boss. And all that time in between those assignments? That’s all you.

The struggle is real, but it’s a good struggle to have. Learning to manage your time so that work gets done and so you can afford to not work every now and then is one of the most vital skills you can have. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work, well, then he’s just kind of a tool.