Why Corporate Jargon is Inefficient, Common-Sense Depriving Nonsense of Limited Empirical Value. Or, in Common Speak: Total BS.

Corporate jargon

The job interview: Just like the resume, but in 3D…

If there’s one form of writing I despise with absolute passion, it would be resume writing.

The most deceiving of all official documents, forcing you to cram all those life ‘achievements’, ‘skills’ and ‘talents’ into the space of a few egocentric pages. A document which often translates relatively straightforward and basic information into one big, pretentious farce.

Throughout my teenage years, my hatred of resume writing led me to put off actually compiling one of my own until I was almost 19 years of age and no longer sheltered by the job-free joys of high school life. It was not until I had finished my HSC and had reached a point of desperation in terms of financial independence (i.e. started feeling guilty about sponging off the wondrous financial institution that is the Bank of Mum and Dad) that I finally gave in to the new-world, corporate based, individualistic nonsense that is the resume.

Unfortunately, I was never genetically graced with my dad’s mastery of this ridiculous job market jargon. But thankfully, I didn’t need to go at this dreaded task alone, with this unusually adept resume writer at my disposal offering to help get this 19-year undertaking over and done with.

The whole newspeak of the business world has just never sat well with me. More recently, it’s this type of language that has been exploited and churned out by big business, PR agents and the old crowd favourite- politicians -time and time again. While it’s with some relief that those on the receiving end of this corporate spin have wised up to this subtle yet overpowering manipulation, this language continues to live on through the resume. At the end of the day, isn’t it the subtle manipulation of others to view us in a positive light that we aim to achieve through our professional portfolios, right?

They’re the phrases and buzzwords I now cringe at whenever I hear them uttered- “moving forward”, “thinking outside the box”, “raising the bar”, “spring boarding”… I am struggling to think of any other set of phrases that send deep, tingling chills down my spine quite like these. What a wonderful world it would be if these corporate clichés could be completely obliterated from the English language! But it’s these very words that form the foundation of the prime entry point into corporate communication. Of course, it’s the (not-so-humble) resume.

If I was to compare the resume to a person, he would fall into the category of that irritating, friend of a friend who you can’t seem to get away from at social gatherings. He’ll be the one to boast shamelessly about his absolute magnificence at dinner parties: the academic, jock, prefect, musician and all-round ‘cool guy’. But while he may seem like the complete package on the surface, he’ll rarely deliver on these self-declared ‘skills’ and ‘talents’. In reality, he’ll be a walking Comic Sans, disguised as Times New Roman.

When compiling my resume, I attempted with unrivalled determination to eliminate as much corporate jargon from the document as possible. But somehow, as I typed my final full stop, what lay before me were those creeping elements of corporate pretence. Somehow, during the process, things as simple as “What I’ve done with my life” became “Demonstrated skills and capacities”. “Working in an office filling out an excel spreadsheet” became “Professional administration assistant with a proficient knowledge of the workings of Microsoft Office applications.” A former cash-in-hand tutoring job for a family friend suddenly transformed me into a “Self-employed, educational entrepreneur”. And basic entry-level office administration positions gave me the titles such as “Coordinator” or “Officer”.

So there is was. In the short space of 500~ words, I had become the most darn efficient, time managing, problem solving, team playing, goal oriented person I had ever encountered. And there was no going back. The person I had created was so passionate about customer service, even the least gullible employer would be led to believe I actually enjoy selling mass-produced, unethical, imported goods to the basest human beings ever to walk the earth.

In this process, I never once set out to dishonestly bolster my professional standing through being manipulative or expanding upon the truth. As far as I was concerned, all the educational and work experience I had listed was entirely legitimate. But somewhere in the midst of compiling my own resume, the grip of corporate jargon had taken hold, and the document I had produced was further evidence of its cold, unrelenting grasp.

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“I Don’t Know What I’m Doing”: The Realities of Never Being Too Sure of Yourself

Bean

“I felt my everyday experience was the living out of a Mr. Bean episode”

One of the most memorable compliments I have ever received from a friend didn’t have anything to do with my appearance. It had nothing to do with my personality or sense of humour. It wasn’t a compliment on my outfit or my latest (hilarious) Instagram caption.

At the time, I don’t think my friend even realised it could be taken as a compliment. It was something she said almost ‘in passing’ as we lined up to buy our bus tickets on the way home from uni. Even reading this now, I don’t think she would even recall the seemingly unextraordinary moment.

As I went about my usual business, rummaging through my bag looking for my student card and spare change, I noticed her from the corner of my eye, observing me with a degree of curiosity. I still have no idea what it is exactly that I ‘did’, but based on her reaction, I must’ve been pretty smooth in that moment.

When we took our seats on the bus, she turned to me, almost in that epic pausy/slow-mo style and said: “Wow. You know what you’re doing.”

That was it.

I knew what I was doing.

I knew what I was doing!

It probably doesn’t sound like much of a compliment. It was vague. It’s something that probably wouldn’t mean much to a lot of people. And my friend didn’t even know quite how to explain it herself. But I can tell you, it’s the most vivid compliment I’ve ever received in my 22 years.

It’s funny because, all these years, I’ve never once felt like I knew that I was doing. I’ve always felt like I missed out on the ‘life instruction manual’ handed out as soon as you exit the womb. I mostly traced it back to my lack of siblings and binge watching of Mr. Bean’s awkwardness during my formative years. I felt my everyday experience was the living out of a Mr. Bean episode. Like Bean, it was as though I too had been dumped onto this planet by a blinding beam on light and expected to know what to do- an alien on my very own planet.

In my mind, the essential ‘learning the ways of the world’ had been bypassed. And I always felt like I would pay the price for it for the rest of my life.

It’s those subtle, untaught things we always take for granted. Knowing how to ‘hold’ yourself. How to interact. Trusting your own judgement. Some may call it self-assurance or confidence. But there’s more to it than that.

It’s learning the rules of how to stay composed in public. Knowing how to be yourself and when. It’s like being able to walk through the unpredictable door of life on ‘Thank God You’re Here’, landing in any situation, and keeping your cool. You just know exactly what to do. A type of intuition, almost.

When going about life, I’m overly self-conscious and socially awkward at best. I’m a pretty harsh critic and probably overthink things just a little, but it always appeared like everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, knew how to ‘do’ life. And here I am, struggling to put the IKEA flatpack of life together without an Allen key.

They’re the everyday moments and situations you find yourself in. Like overpassing someone on a footpath and thinking: “Ok. So how am I going to judge this? Should I speed up now? Should I overtake on the left, or…Oh wait, she’s veering over that side, maybe I should go to the right side. Ok here goes. Don’t trip. Don’t stumble. Whatever you do, don’t slam into the side of her with your handbag and give her a concussion.”

And then, you proceed to misjudge your fellow pedestrian’s movement, overtake on the wrong side, collide and knock the poor innocent victim of your ‘life incompetence’ to the ground. Meanwhile you notice about a dozen or more people observing your social misfortune from across the street.

With this scenario, all I can say is: Welcome to my life!

I have these thought processes about pretty much every daily situation. Older and supposedly wiser folk tell me I’ll grow out of it. When I reach about 45 or so, I’ll stop giving a stuff about everything and instead give life one big flip of the bird. Finally, after decades of stress, I’ll be able to live life in complacent bliss. It will be like taking an ‘I don’t give a crap’ pill everyday. How I wish those things actually existed. Although, I’m told they do exist in various, usually illicit forms already…#420.

In reality though, these tortuous happenings rarely eventuate. They are mostly just figments of my overactive, self conscious imagination.

So when my friend told me out of the blue on that occasion that I just seemed to know what I was doing, I was able to breathe a little. I was able to do a little nod of the head and say: “Yeah, I ain’t so bad.”

It made me realise that even though I may feel like I have no clue what I’m doing in any given situation, it may not seem so to others. Just like I thought everyone around me knew how to do ‘life stuff’, perhaps they’re just winging it too. Maybe we’re all winging it, fooling others into thinking we know what we’re doing. Tricking employers into hiring us, convincing crushes into falling madly in love with us (as an aside, if anyone actually does have this down pat, feel free to flick me an instruction booklet on it, please). Some are just more confident about it than others, and some just have a little more practice in this life trickery.

But I think what I realised most from receiving this compliment, is that it’s actually OK to not know what you’re doing. It’s often easier to tear down those walls of ultra self-consciousness and be open about not having a single clue about anything. For instance, I had absolutely no idea how to use a dishwasher until my intern days made dishwashing inevitable. I didn’t even realise that dishwashing powder had to be used until after a week or so of hijacking the office dishwasher (apologies to all the staff at Mamamia. As the saying goes, what you don’t know won’t hurt you, hey?).

But for the first time, I kind of just brushed it off. I accepted the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing. And for the first time, I was ok with that. After all, it’s these kinds of situations that make for the best “There was this one time when…” stories. Maybe I can retell one of these stories when I find myself in a future awkward situation and it won’t be all that bad.

I mean, according to the wisdom of my elders, it will be another 20 years or more until I stop caring so much. So why not make light of it in the meantime?

Over time, I’ll gradually get more practice at this ‘life’ thing and hopefully one day, I’ll be able to trick people into thinking I actually have a clue about a thing or two. Or, I’ll just continue going through life not having a clue but not even caring about it in the process.

Total. Complacent. Bliss.

Destination Divorce: The New Kind of ‘Getaway’ Taking the Tourism Industry by Storm

A recent article I had published on ‘Debrief Daily’. Check out the website here:

http://www.debriefdaily.com/relationships/what-is-a-divorce-hotel/ 

Divorce Hotels: A different kind of 'getaway'

Divorce Hotels: A different kind of ‘getaway’

Weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries have long been the stuff of big-spending dreams for the tourism and hospitality industries.

Now Dutch company Divorce Hotel has turned its attention to the other end of the relationship spectrum. Under its concept, couples check-in married – and check-out divorced. The concept is rapidly gaining global traction.

Divorce Hotels offer couples all-inclusive divorce packages that help them end their marriage in the most stress-free way possible. Mediators, accountants and brokers are on hand throughout the weekend ‘getaway’ to ensure a successful split.

The stay is anonymous. Divorcing couples enjoy hotel facilities alongside regular hotel guests to distract from the somewhat bleak experience.

It might sound grim, but the Divorce Hotels website offers a surprisingly upbeat vision, positioning divorce “not only as the end of your marriage…but as the beginning of a new phase in your life”. The company’s founder, Jim Halfens, says the concept of Divorce Hotel is about make a split as positive as possible for those involved.

By providing neutral territory for the divorce, the hotel aims to provide a “professional, fast and affordable service” for the separation, void of interference from “unprofessional family members or friends”.

Most guests reach settlement within 48 hours.

The US based Divorce Hotel, which operates out of the Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa in New York, began offering divorce packages to guests late last year. It was previously known as a premier wedding destination in the picturesque holiday region of Saratoga Springs.

(Note: a place called Lake Desolation, which is a short 20-minute drive away, could provide guests with an additional place to reflect on the weekend’s proceedings.)

The process will set clients back about $5000, and the divorce packages come with a welcome basket brimming with Divorce Hotel branded pens, mousepads and beach bags.

With a TV series already developed for Dutch television, Divorce Hotel has set its sights on American TV. Operators are also looking to move beyond weekend ‘quickie’ divorces to mid-week offerings and multi-couple mediation sessions.

At least when the honeymoon period really is over, couples will have another excuse for a vacation…

An Instagrammed Life

Instagram: where the grass is always greener

Instagram: where the grass is always greener

In the digital era, our mobile devices have become faux limbs and our days have come to revolve around our news feeds. In the process, it’s increasingly difficult to detach from social media. The lines between cyberspace and reality have become blurred as we share more of our private lives online. In many instances, it’s through Facebook that friends and relatives derive important information about one another, often before hearing it directly, in-person from the source.

As a twenty-something at the heart of the digital native generation, I’ve become an avid user of social media since first signing up to the nostalgia-evoking, tween-esque platform ‘Bebo’ in my early high school years. As time has passed and social media has further developed, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become integral to my social life. And at many times, these sites constitute the entirety of my social life.. (Ok, perhaps not all of it, but a significant portion, for sure).

News or gossip about the latest engagement or relationship break-up is first heard on social media. It’s rare to see a day through without at least one pregnancy announcement, European holiday album upload or a new job placement. But with all these life event-based posts, comes a load of excess dribble. It was only the other day the extent to which such unnecessary social news has come to implant itself on my brain became fully apparent.

As my friend and I were discussing our shared envy over an old high school acquaintance’s endless travel adventures, we both realised the alarming amount of trivial facts we had retained from the hours spent mindlessly scrolling through our social media pages.

“Is Sandra still dating that guy with the facial tattoo?”

“Yeah, they’ve been together over 5 years now. She travels interstate to see him all the time.”

It may sound rather mundane and irrelevant to our lives, and that’s because it is. But how did we know all about this? Facebook. We both haven’t seen or conversed with Sandra in about 6 years, but thanks to the wondrous pool of wisdom that is Facebook, we know all about her life and her relationship with guy, who to us, is a perfect stranger marked with overly conspicuous ink. And it gets worse.

“Have you been keeping up with Nicole’s (another high school acquaintance we both haven’t seen since our foetus days) travels?”

“Last I saw she was in the Greek Islands. Oh and her parents celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary the other day.”

“Yes, I saw. Wow, it seems like only yesterday they were celebrating their 19th…”

And that’s when it hit us. Recalling the wedding anniversary celebrations of an old high school acquaintance’s parents (whom we have never seen or met in person) is definitely a little concerning. It’s one thing to track the global movements of a travel bug-infected acquaintance on their Instagram account; but the incognito recognition of their parents’ relationship milestones, is another story.

It’s this very information that has come to overload our social media accounts, and now too, our brains. Fortunately, in the meantime, it’s all just something to have a laugh about, but it’s a timely reminder to avoid becoming too immersed in our social media contacts’ business. For the most part, things aren’t really that much greener on the other side of the Instagram post.

Dr Strangetown: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and ‘Love’ Blacktown (Part 2)

'I Love Blacktown': a rarely uttered phrase indeed

‘I Love Blacktown’: a rarely uttered phrase indeed

Up until my early teen years, I had been oblivious of the stigma that overshadowed my local community. In the years that followed, the media stocked me with reports, outlining the details of everything crime related in Western Sydney. The local weekly newspaper, the Blacktown Advocate, with front-page crime reports, provided further fuel for the fire that was my loathing of Blacktown. Bad things happened all over Sydney, but the good rarely filtered out to us in the West.

During this time, my entire conception of my local area- a radius of about 5km- was formed through a self-created ‘dodginess scale’, which mapped the various streets, reserves and laneways that I deemed either safe or off limits. The western side of Blacktown Road, where many of my school friends called home, was close to a series of walkways and reserves which cut through to nearby bushland, the scene of the infamous Anita Cobby murder. This dense bushland, which stretched along both sides of the Great Western Highway, ranked highly on my ‘dodginess scale’. Ironically, last summer, this very bushland became the site of Sydney’s newest family tourist attraction- Wet’n’Wild.

These initial naïve fears for my safety ebbed and flowed during my high school years, occasionally resurfacing after watching a sensationalistic news piece, but quickly fading into the background within the space of a few days. As I reached my senior high school years and moved to a school beyond Blacktown, my new-found freedom helped quell my contempt. I began to un-bookmark real estate websites I had frequented in my attempt to convince my parents to move suburbs. I ceased putting my energy into the Blacktown newspaper crime reports. I instead began to experience the suburb for myself as a young adult with a mature state of mind. But I still sought an escape; not out of loathing, but in search of opportunity.

Last year, I set off on my first overseas journey to America’s West Coast with a close friend and fellow Blacktown resident. On the day of our departure, I left Blacktown with an impression of the world formed through a lifelong exposure to American media. I had browsed through towering piles of travel magazines and followed the activities of my favourite American musicians and actors as they boasted about their perfect Californian lifestyles on Twitter and Instagram. When we booked our grand American adventure, these manufactured images danced around in my mind. As I sat in the travel agency, I traced my hand over our scheduled tour route on a ceiling-high world map. I imagined the stark white Hollywood sign nestled snugly in the L.A. hills and the contrast of the red ochre Golden Gate Bridge against the deep blues of the San Francisco Bay.

I wasn’t entirely naïve though; my mother had attempted to prepare me for the scenes I was about to encounter during my travels. Influenced by one too many Louis Theroux or Ross Kemp documentaries on gangland USA, my mother, in the months leading up to my travel, called me into the lounge room on numerous occasions to show me the latest American crime story or underworld exposé. She’d look on at the TV screen, shaking her head in dismay. Apart from the guns, the sights I saw on TV didn’t differ all that much from Blacktown; I believed it couldn’t be much worse than what I’d known for the past 17 years in Western Sydney.

Upon my arrival in Downtown L.A. at the start of my American adventure, I came to observe a new and unfamiliar way of living. There were signs of glamour and ridiculous wealth, everything I had come to expect in the Hollywood city, but there were equally just as many signs of crime and poverty. Dilapidated buildings, urine-coated footpaths and deserted city streets. Even McDonalds employed round-the-clock security. On my first morning in L.A., I sat in a Downtown McDonalds only a few blocks away from the poverty-stricken Skid Row and watched on as scores of homeless men and women filed into the restaurant, using any spare pennies, dimes and quarters to purchase some sort of nourishment. I was confronted and saddened as I bore witness to this average day on the streets, experienced by over half a million Americans.

Three weeks later, I arrived home in Blacktown wearing my Los Angeles sweatshirt. Behind me, I dragged a large suitcase filled with the American-themed merchandise I had collected during my journey. But what I didn’t notice at the time was the additional souvenir I brought home with me- a feeling of gratitude and dare I say it, local pride.

While the Sydney turf wars continue to be fought on the battlefields of suburbia, I still struggle to confess my deeper appreciation of Blacktown, but the horizon has been broadened. Although I surely won’t be adorning myself with an ‘I Heart Blacktown’ t-shirt any time soon, I won’t be burning one in a blazing bonfire either.

Dr Strangetown: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and ‘Love’ Blacktown (Part 1)

Something about this just isn't t-shirt worthy...

Something about this just isn’t t-shirt worthy…

Nothing has ever quite intrigued me as much as American ‘hometown patriotism’. Differing from the overbearing George Bush Jnr-style nationalism of the 9/11 era, this form of geographical pride ranges from the small towns to the big cities. It’s not uncommon to see people proudly profess their hometown pride by adorning their bodies with city-themed t-shirts, tanks and sweatshirts. The ‘I Heart NY’ shirt is a wardrobe staple on the East Coast, while for the Southern Californian, at least one item of clothing is sure to have a classic surfer-esque beach print. But what has intrigued me further, is the fact that it only seems to work for American cities and towns. Why are Brooklyn beanies and Compton snapbacks so much cooler than a Hobart-embroidered sweater? The fundamental question of our time…

A few years back, my local council attempted to induce some of this American-inspired pride amongst the Western Sydney suburb of Blacktown. Within a few weeks, Blacktown’s infamous Main Street was decorated with ‘I Heart Blacktown’ banners and the odd sticker affixed by young hooligans to the occasional telegraph pole. The bumper stickers, however, weren’t so much of a hit. Only on rare occasions did I notice such a sticker proudly stamped across a car bumper, and that was usually on late model government cars as they left the Blacktown Council car park. The ‘I Heart Blacktown’ enviro bags evoked a similarly lacklustre response, reserved for use by pensioners during their weekly shopping errands.

As a 17-year-old high school student at the time, operation ‘I Heart Blacktown’ represented little more than a contrived attempt to repair the area’s widely known image problem. Upon announcement of the campaign, I took to social media and swiftly seized the campaign’s comedic potential. Contrasts were quickly drawn between the hugely popular and even trendy ‘I Heart NY’ campaign, while the criticisms voiced by TV personality (and Eastern Suburbs resident) Deborah Hutton drowned out any lingering praise. It was clear: Blacktown’s morale-raising attempt didn’t stand much of a chance.

This wider sense of contempt towards Blacktown was deeply embedded in my own psyche from adolescence. For years, I refused to consider myself a Western Sydney native and instead clung onto my infant years spent on NSW’s Mid-North Coast. At social gatherings and parties, the stock-standard icebreaker question of “Where are you from?” resulted in me subconsciously bypassing my 17 years in Blacktown and consequently recalling the few hazy memories from my infancy. To this day, on social media, there’s also little trace of my Blacktown inhabitance, with the ‘Hometown’ tab on my Facebook profile proudly listing my birthplace of Port Macquarie. I’ll change it, but maybe when I celebrate my 20th anniversary as a Blacktown resident in 2017…

The word ‘bogan’ had not entered my vocabulary until I was well into my teens. Used to describe a (typically Anglo-Australian) ‘working-class’ person of uncouth character, the ‘bogan’ is the Australian equivalent of the American ‘redneck’. The epitome of unsophistication, the bogan is bad, brash and Blacktown-dwelling. The ‘bogan’ quip has since become a main weapon in the Sydney turf wars, deployed from the arsenal of rival Northern and Eastern suburbs residents. In Sydney, the boundaries of the North, East, South and West are clearly demarcated by the land’s natural topography of coastline, rivers and mountains. In this landscape, anything west of Parramatta is declared as bogan territory.

As I approached adolescence, media-fuelled representations of the bogan deepened the shame I felt growing up in Blacktown. Even if I wasn’t categorised as bogan myself, it was my fellow supposedly criminal neighbours that were. And it was through mere geographical association that I too, became bogan….