Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Job Ads Should Look Like

Jobseekers have all my sympathy.

It's a tough market out there and there are so few good jobs and so many people attempting to fill them. And most of these people are the ones who tried to do everything right: go to school, get an education that's highly overpriced, learn to make a resume, get an interview suit, practice saying over and over again that your weakness is that you're a perfectionist without sounding like a teacher's pet (most of us fail). But the reality is that there are not a lot of great opportunities and that the job market is more about who you know rather than what you know.

To compound this already sore situation, all the job help articles online are centered around employers. Rather than have information that is directly relevant to employees looking for a better situation, most of the time, it's holier than thou employers and out of touch HR personnel who write the articles about 'how to get that great job', 'what not to discuss in an interview' and '10 ways you may be sabotaging your chances.'

A lot of these articles underline positivity. All would-be employees are encouraged to use 'positive language' or do 'positive spins' on negative situations that they may have encountered in past jobs to help them seem like the best fit for the job.

While we can all agree that employers would rather not hire Debbie Downer, it seems a bit ridiculous to think that honesty and skills are less important than cheerfullness. Is this survival of the cheeriest? All it brings to mind for me is that one person who wears bright colours and loudly proclaims 'HELLO!' when they walk into a room with a bag of bagels who circulates emails with life-affirming messages and pictures of kittens.

This may be the ideal employee for an employer, but it is generally the nightmare employee for other employees. Some of us just don't have it in us to be bootlickers and Happy-go-lucky silver lining chips off the old block. That doesn't make us poison in the workplace or unproductive gollums. While some people have a toxic effect on their workplace with unreasonable levels of negativity, most of us are in the middle ground of people who just want to work somewhere so that they can pay for their lives.

Wouldn't it be something if job ads were honest? They might look something like this:

Seeking candidates for a job that's already been filled by our boss' friend Bob. You are not Bob. Candidates must be available to participate in a song and dance hiring process for show so that we can prove that we followed the appropriate hiring process and are deemed competitive. Must have nowhere to be on Tuesday from 9am to noon.

Seeking bootlicking positive company man or woman who will accept all managerial decisions without question and bring a smile to the workplace. Proof of positive aura deemed an asset.

Seeking highly-motivated professional to work ungodly hours and be available on call via Blackberry. Lots of travel required. Lack of attachments deemed an asset.

Seeking incompetent middle management to make senior management look good. Assets include inconsistent behavior and nepotism. Inappropriate sense of humour and social awkwardness an asset, but not a requirement, for this job.

Seeking low level maggots to show up on time and wear deoderant. Minimum wage. Your jobs will one day be replaced by India, China or the Cashier 3000. Apply within, you're all disposable anyway.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


It's been over 10,000 reads and 3 years, 282 posts for the Mikey Rants and Raves blog. A big thank you to all the readers and followers who have laughed or been appalled by my biting literary style.

Based on the reads, the most popular topics in the past have been:

Hating Yoga
Turning 30
Bachelorette Parties
Angelina Jolie

Quite a few political and social pieces have been written, but there is definitely an appetite out there for lighter fare and one can hardly argue with that. The news baffles me on a regular basis and the whole bit about life being stranger than fiction is unequivocally true.

When I started my blog in 2010, I needed a creative outlet that was short and sweet. The immediate gratification of expressing oneself and then getting it out there to a potential audience around the world is one of the modern world's miracles. There's also a lot of competition in this virtual space and I know my site is never going to be as cute as cats in boxes, so 10,000 reads is a pretty big deal. And I love cats in boxes.

So thank you to everyone who supported me in my artistic endeavours. I will keep up this blog from time to time, and my past projects are listed on my website www.mikaoehling.com. For my current projects, you can Follow me on Twitter, as I work on new books. And my two self-published novels are available for sale in various formats on Amazon and Chapters. Armchair Senators will be back in the fall, for you sports fans.

Thanks for everything.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Suzuki's 'Scandalous' Anti-Immigration Views

I had to look twice at the title of the article when I saw that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was taking David Suzuki to task about his anti-immigration comments. At first, I thought that it was impossible that the beloved environmentalist and The Nature of Things host that we remember from our childhood could be opposed to immigration, considering his own roots in Canada. But a closer look at the article from which the comments originate show that there is a nuanced, more complex version of Suzuki's comments, a context that is important, and was obviously missed by the Minister.

Here's the excerpt according to a translation by the National Post:

"Canada is full too!Although it’s the second largest country in the world, our useful area has been reduced.

Our immigration policy is disgusting: We plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders, and we want to increase our population to support economic growth. It’s crazy!"

On the one hand, this looks like a terrible thing to say. The interviewer for the French magazine l'Express, then proceeds to ask Suzuki if this is an unfair attitude to take, shutting the door on others when he himself is one of the fortunate few to make their lives in Canada. Suzuki then responds that Canada should always open its door for humanitarian reasons, and even refers to a time when Canada allowed the boat people into the country and refers to this moment as a moment he was the most proud to be Canadian.

It helps to read the entire article before taking to Twitter to make comments about how anti-immigration Suzuki is. First of all, he does not believe that immigration itself is wrong, but is probably an opponent of how immigration is currently being done by the conservative government, which has focused its agenda around attracting business class immigrants who will better the economy. Suzuki also points out in this article that the Metis and Aboriginal population are some of the worst treated in Canada, which is probably an extension of this thought that the government should focus on taking care of its own people, rather than recruiting more business people.

Suzuki's comments about the government's bad sense of priorities is probably the real issue. He is highly justified in his criticisms of the government's refusal to keep to its promises and help protect the environment. As such, it makes sense that the Minister would jump on any occasion to twist his views and make him seem like an anti-immigration monster. Kenney also wants to know why the media's not having a field day with this; maybe the media bothered to read the entire interview before making the decision that this was not newsworthy.

Kenney himself is making an error if he thinks that directing attention to this issue is going to help his cause. If anything, it will encourage people to read the interview in its entirety and realize what a failure this government is on the world stage in regards to its environmental track record. Suzuki does not mince words in his criticism and the shame really belongs to the government.

Misplaced Blame in the Obesity Game

It's incredibly shocking to know that 90% of Americans recently surveyed think that schools have a responsibility to fight childhood obesity, but only a slim 19% believe that it is a personal issue. Where is the sense of personal responsibility? Could it be that overworked, guilt-ridden parents would prefer to pass on their responsibility to schools when it comes to their children's health? So much easier to blame the cafeteria lunch of pogos and fries rather than admit that you don't like brocolli anymore than your kid does.

It may be that not everyone has the common sense health knowledge that they should have, such as eat your veggies and fruits, drink water, exercise, try to get a decent amount of sleep every night. And even those who know the basic rules are not so good at applying them. Fair enough. But to think that it isn't a personal issue to deal with obesity is just plain stupid.

Of all the things that you can control in your life, what you consume is about as close to 100% as you can get. Sure, make the arguments that food companies are evil, food is not as good as it used to be, farming is going out of business in favour of products, produce is too costly- but take the blame for the choices that you make. In North America, there is an abundance of fresh food- fruits, veggies, fish, lean meat, eggs, meat alternatives, bread, etc. Generally we get water out of a tap and don't have to walk a few miles a day with a bucket on our head. So let's drop the excuses, because we have the choices.

Education starts at home. No matter how much parents rally for gym classes, play parks at recess, sports, better quality lunches and ban soda machines, it is still what they are taught at home which is the most important life lesson. Children generally become the adults that they grew up with, which means that if you are setting a bad example as an adult, namely, eating bad food and not exercising, they are likely to do the same.

Obesity is very much a personal issue. If you do not take personal responsibility for your own health, you will never become a healthy person. You will never shake yourself of the excuses or the obstacles, and you will be your own worst enemy when it comes to positive change. It is what every athlete and personal trainer will tell you: they cannot MAKE you do anything. The food industry is not force feeding you. The treadmill is not making itself inaccessible. YOU have to be the change. YOU have to make the choice. And you are 100% liable for the choices you make when it comes to what you put in your mouth.

Obesity is quickly becoming a public health issue as well, with the overwhelming costs of healthcare due to issues directly related to obesity. But it is first and foremost a personal issue and if we're looking for the source of the problems associated to our body weight, all we need to do is look in the mirror.

You don't have to follow a supermodel diet or run a few miles to make things better for your health. Just make better choices and stop shifting the blame. Be a better example for your kids and the people around you. You may not be able to fight climate change, bring justice to the world, make policy in a foreign country, but you absolutely 100% can make better choices for yourself and your body and the trickle down effects into other aspects of your life will be incredible.

It really is that simple.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Be Canada

The conservative government's latest decision to remove the maple leaf from the uniform of the Armed Forces and reinstate British ranking, terminology and designations is not making big headlines across the country, but it should. Not just because this is a costly and unnecessary change that appears wasteful in a time of fiscal constraint, but also because it shows just how out of touch the conservative government is with Canadians.

We are not British. We do not need to pay tribute to our British roots beyond what we already have. Sure, we all pay passing attention to Kate and Will and their baby when we stand in the grocery store check out line. We hardly pay any attention at all when we hand over bills with the Queen on it- how many of us actually use cash anyway? But for the most part, Canadians feel Canadian, not British. And that's the right way to feel.

The conservative government has been trying to rally Canadians around this idea of our shared past with the British, like being a colony was some kind of honour. Canada didn't need a bloody revolution to separate itself from the British like our American counterparts, but that's also a part of who we are: a well-governed nation that doesn't need to be defined by glory in battle or a glorious past.

If the government was truly interested in what makes people feel Canadian, they could just ask us. And the majority of us will not say our British colonial past nor our non-Americanness. A lot of us will say that the things that define Canada are its most understated and least glorified things about it; our universal healthcare, immigration, multiculturalism, religious tolerance, peacekeeping, hockey, enduring winters, being a hardworking group of people who pay a lot of taxes so that the collective can benefit. Most of us are proud that our famous Canadians are smart, inventive, diplomatic and just good people with a wicked sense of humour.

Why is it so hard for Canada to just be Canada? Why do we define ourselves around our colonial past and our neighbours to the South? Why do we think that we're going to be better defined through corporate marketing for bad coffee and diluted beer? Is it because it's so hard to sift through the many cultures and little known contributions to the world, or because it's not glamourous to be a good person?

The maple leaf is humble, but it's proud, and it's an internationally respected symbol. It used to be that if you sewed a Canadian maple leaf patch on your backpack while you travelled, people would think, hey, there's a nice guy right there. The kind you can trust to watch your bag if you go to the washroom, the kind who will not give you the cold shoulder if you have a question.

I think the main problem is that this government is neither interested in what we want or who we are or what we want to be known as. There's nothing glorious about being a good guy; they want glory for this country by extolling its history in battles like 1812 and through association with a greater empire, namely the British. There's nothing glorious about goodness. Goodness, to me, is what defines Canada, the fact that we want our society to be inclusive and our people to be taken care of and recognized. Goodness is what we are. And I see no reason to be ashamed of that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What People Actually Want from Airlines

The airline industry is on the rise and on the decline at the same time. While it's become (somewhat) more affordable to fly to more and more destinations, the lure of travel is such that many of us are willing to put up with a lot to see the world. It's not just the trial of security screenings and sneaky fuel and airport improvement charges that balloon discount pricing on advertisements; so much of the travel experience today is downright awful.

Which is why it's mind-boggling, to say the least, to see airlines revert back to sexist policies regarding their attendants. Recently, GoAir has decided to implement a policy that they will only hire women attendants, seemingly because of weight restrictions. Others have enforced strict makeup and weight restrictions to keep their attendants attractive and somehow happier, perpetuating the old 'sky waitress' stereotype of Pan Am days.

This sounds a lot like one of those policies that only applies to business class douches. While they recline and ogle pretty women with trays of champagne, the rest of us are crammed like cattle in ever smaller cabins with virtually no aisle room. Our luggage is misplaced or abused, the airline wants credit cards for movies and pillows and people of average height finally get to experience what life would be like as an accordion.

Look, the public is not hard to please. While it may seem like we're a sweating mass of lowlifes who need to be medicated, our demands are not terrible. Most of the public can agree that they just want the following 3 things out of a flight:

1- Get us and our luggage to our destination relatively on time.
2- Don't kill us.
3- A sky toilet.

Nowhere on that list are there demands for attractive wait staff. Quite frankly, most of us would be happy with vending machines on board, so long as they didn't take up too much space. If it wasn't for the fact that they are supposedly trained to assist us in emergencies, we wouldn't bother with staff at all. But the very fact that they can assist in emergencies makes them so much more valuable than sky waitresses. So maybe they should use those qualifications instead.

Nobody ever says this after a flight:

"Man, that was horrible! We were 6 hours late, a baby screamed in my ear and I paid 6 bucks for a soda. But man, did you see how hot that stewardess was?"

The hunt for profit in the airline industry is killing it. Lower fares are not the answer when you oversell flights, cram people and their stuff on too small planes causing weight issues, and undercut your staff because you think of them as smiling serving trays.

Personally, I would pay more money and go on less and better trips if only the airlines would make the trip worthwhile. Widen the aisles, put in less and more spacious seats, make the sky toilet slightly larger than a Manhattan apartment and stop cheaping out on extras that make flying tolerable, like movies and pillows.

Normally, I would add 'treat us like human beings' on the list, but really, that's not all that important. If the flight is (relatively) on time, the luggage makes it as safe as I do, the seat and aisles have space, the toilet is clean and the plane arrives without exploding, I don't really care if the attendants answer my questions or bring me potato chips. That is all I'm paying for and that is what I'd like in return. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.