Monday, October 31, 2011

Wearing Disguises

Gentle readers, today is Halloween.
It's a day of masks and disguises. It's a day of dressing up as someone else.
Sometimes those costumes are aspirational, sometimes motivational, (sometimes just ridiculous).

But we put on costumes every day, don't we?

We show one mask at the office, another to our lover, another to our parents or long-time friends. We put on costumes to steel ourselves against a potentially very bad day. In hopes of making a day better. In preparation for the best and for the worst.

Your MatchGirl, gentle readers, does this, too.

It's only human, I think.

But are there times when this can hurt us? Or, are there times when we should be wearing disguises when we don't have them on?

Your MatchGirl is thinking particularly about the workplace. The average 9-to-5 is not News Radio or Bones or even Cheers. Even if you get along very well with your colleagues, your workplace is probably not where the majority of what's important in your life really goes down. Sure, it's the place where you spend the most time. And it's so good to get along with those people that you are spending 8+ hours a day with. But do you need to show them all of you?

This is something your MatchGirl has been considering lately. When can showing too much of who you are - too much of what makes you tick - be detrimental to you at your job?

Maybe it's good to put on a mask before you head out to your morning commute.
What do you think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ghosts of the Past

Your MatchGirl wrote here, not that long ago, about the ghosts from our pasts. The ones that come to haunt us when we are least expecting them. The ones whose voices stick with us, no matter what we do, as we carry on and keep on moving forward in our lives.

Last week your MatchGirl encountered one such ghost of lifetime past. One who has lingered in her mind - in the things she doubts about herself and in the things she touts about herself - for over a decade.

And here is what I learned:

While it's good to face one's demons, it's even better to face one's ghosts. Because while those inner demons are part of you, the ghosts are from the outside. It's harder to change how those voices affect you because you don't have any control over where those words came from to begin with.

Your MatchGirl, while not on exactly firm ground, life-wise, is at a good place to face those ghosts. She's at a good place with her relationships. She's got forward momentum when it comes to her career. She knows where she wants to go and she can see a path (fuzzy as it may be right now) of how to achieve it.

As for the ghost... well, gentle readers, he was the same person he's always been. And that was good to see. Because your MatchGirl, she's the same person she's always been, too. She's just a stronger, tougher, older, more confident version of it.

What do you think? As you move through your life, do you hear voices of those ghosts from your past? Do you let them hold you back? Or do you use those whispers to help propel yourself forward?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Army Of One

Yeah... you.

You're an army of one.

You're the person who can fix all this bullshit.

You're the person who can fix your own life.

You're the person who can stand up to the bullies.

You're the person who can make the world a better place.

It's not so hard, gentle readers, if you just think about it. You are the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. You are the person who can make the biggest difference in your own life.

Let your MatchGirl share with you a few simple ways you can make a difference in your world.

Vote - not just in the big elections. In the small local ones that effect what happens in your local environment.
Donate - time, money, clothes, blood. Whatever you have. You don't need it all. Donate it to somewhere that can use it.
Speak up - for what you believe in and for those who can't or don't know how to do it for themselves. Engaged in social media networks? Use those channels like a megaphone.

It's simple, dear ones. It only takes a few small actions to accomplish the biggest goals.

And the person who should take the first step? Why, that's you of course.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Generation Gap

By now, gentle readers, you've seen this post: Generation X Doesn't Want to Hear It (if you haven't, click that link and go a check it out. I'll wait). And you've read the comments. And the commentary. And you've formed your opinions on Mat Honan. Maybe you read it as a rant on Occupy Wall Street (personally, your MatchGirl sees how people did, but didn't think about it herself - probably since everyone she knows who is occupying anywhere is well over thirty). Maybe you read something different, something more...

I did.

Your MatchGirl, herself, is very sick of the GenY people who only speak of being GenY. As though that's their accomplishment. That they were born to a certain time. Companies need to bend to them. The world needs to change for them. They can throw a tantrum and get what they want. It's always worked that way, right?

Screw that.

I've got no problem with Millenials (GenY, whatever). A lot of you, dear readers, fit that demographic. Many of my closest friends do, as well. As do some of my talented colleagues and loads of people who I admire and respect.

But here's the difference, those people are out there. They are living their lives to the fullest. They are doing something for others. They are writing code and creating art and making music and changing the world, one step at a time. They are not sitting in their 9-to-5's complaining about how the world is not bending to their needs. They are not sitting there saying that because they are Millenial that everyone should work around them and their needs. They, in fact, don't go around singing that they are GenY from the rooftops.

They are out there.
They are doing.
They are just them.
And who they are is pretty cool.

But that's my complaint about the GenY that we see in the every day. In the media. In the comments of Mat's post.

To those members of GenY, I say: Stop whining. Start doing.

Generation X, of which your MatchGirl is a born in the 1970s, card-carrying member of, doesn't want to hear it. It's true. No one listened to our whining. No one gave us trophies or prizes or a decent living. We make less than our parents did. It's possible, if something doesn't change soon, that our children will be worse off than we are. Our idols are dead. Our high school fashions were terrible. We got a hot five minutes of fame from a book by Douglas Coupland. And then GenY got a little older and, for the most part, Generation X was forgotten.

Your MatchGirl is proud of who she is and where she's from. She's glad of things that she was able to experience, simply by the fact of when she was born. But it's not all that makes me me.

And if you are a member of GenY, it shouldn't be what you're identity is wrapped up in, either. Be you. Shine. Do good. Live well.

As to the rest?
Hell, man, age ain't nothing but a number.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fight For Your Rights

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl is an advocate for standing up for oneself. She offers you that advice on a regular basis.

The thing about advice, dear ones, is that it is always easier to give than to make happen for yourself. And while your MatchGirl has fought and clawed for what she needs in her life, she often wonders if it is really enough. Could she have been tougher? Could she have said no louder? Could she have gotten more had she just asked?

I think maybe.

So, gentle readers, I present to you a challenge.

To ask for something that you want. To say no to something that you simply do not want to do. To be tough and hold your tears in the face of adversity.

At the end of the day, no matter how wide and full of hugs your support system is, you are the one who can fix what's wrong with your life. You are the one who can make things better for you. Sure, you might need a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on. But you are the one who has to make the big decisions and face the hard choices.

You are the one who gets to decide what direction your life will go in.

So stand up.

And fight for it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Want To Be In The Papers?

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl received this email last night and though she would pass it on to you.

My name is C [name redacted]. I am a student at Columbia University's Journalism School and I am also working with the Brooklyn Ink this semester. I am currently working on a story about unemployment in Brooklyn and I came across your "Unemployed Brooklyn" website. 
I was wondering, do you currently know anyone (personally or otherwise) who fits into the following categories (note: they need to fit all criteria):  
  • Lives in Brooklyn (it doesn't matter where) 
  • Is middle class
  • Has been unemployed for 2 years or less
  • Has a family 
  • Is college educated. (i.e. at least some college experience)

What do you say? Can you lend a hand to our intrepid reporter? Message me if you are able and I'll pass you along to C.

Your MatchGirl has been lucky to have received a lot of attention through this little blog. And it certainly helped me to find my voice and tell my story. Now ... I pass that opportunity on to you. Find your voice, Tell your story, and help out our friendly reporter at The Brooklyn Ink.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Gentle readers, when your MatchGirl was unemployed and looking for a new job. Looking to turn her life into a new direction, she had to learn to tell her own story.

And when you are building your personal brand, you need to figure out the best way to tell you story.

Your MatchGirl lectures you here all the time about the best way for you to tell your story. She talks about the two-minute job interview. She talks about how you can sell yourself with a soundbite. And she shares the stories that others are telling - to inspire you to action.

If you're looking for a new job, if you're a freelancer - you need to be able to tell your story and tell it well. You need to practice sharing it. You need to be able to let others know the key points about you.

People are short on time. They are short on attention. So you need to hold on to it.

And, hey ... everyone likes a good story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What Democracy Looks Like

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl, as you know, is not afraid to take a political stance on this blog.

She's not afraid of ruffling feathers. And she's not afraid of asking you all to take a stand.

Your MatchGirl was unemployed for a year and a half. At the height of the recession. And during that time, she worked her butt off. Did she take jobs that paid $8 an hour? No. I was lucky that I was able to collect back on my unemployment insurance and get some benefits. And I knew that if I fell into a job making $8 an hour, there would be no time to look for a job to put me in the right direction. But the reason I was unemployed at all was because the banks fucked up. And the small business I worked at couldn't keep going. I was a casualty. And I rose from the ashes of that company - to push myself into a better place. To help you all get to a better place.

But the world, the one we walk in and out of every day, is not becoming a better place. Not for ordinary people.

I hope that you will all take the time, just 10 minutes, to watch this video, embedded below, by my friend Mike Gill.

When your MatchGirl first saw it, tears came to my eyes. To see the veterans, older men, who served a country they loved and who have watched it fall apart, lock arms, and insist on being the first line of defense against the oncoming police... It's powerful stuff.

"What Democracy Looks Like: The View From Occupy Boston"
from Michael Gill on Vimeo.

Your MatchGirl is a liberal person. You all know that.
I think it's fine for you to have different views than I do. I think as long as you're informed, dear readers, on the full picture, with all the facts, and not just collecting soundbites and parroting them to your friends or to those who disagree with you, that we can agree to sit on our opposite sides.
Your MatchGirl is against war. I have friends who are veterans and not only do I respect them, I am in awe of them. I could not do what they have done. I couldn't carry that passion. I also have family members who are veterans - my dad, of Vietnam, and my Grampa, of WWII - and who are still in the military - my cousin Angus joined the Marines in 1992 and still serves, including as a medic in Afghanistan.

I know people who work on Wall Street.

I know the 1% and I am amongst the 99%.

Your MatchGirl is not occupying Wall Street.
But I have friends at both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston. And I'm proud of them.
They are not "lazy hipsters" nor are they "trust fund kids". They are people in their late 30s and 40s, who have worked hard, who have chased their dreams, who are finding their voice. And who are asking for a better life - for themselves and for those who will come after us.

In "An Open Letter to that 53% Guy," Max Urdago writes:
We can have a reasonable standard for what level of work qualifies you for the American Dream, and work to build a society that realizes that dream, or we can chew each other to the bone in a nightmare of merciless competition and mutual contempt.
I suggest you all check out his letter.

Because whether you want to Occupy (Wherever) or you think it's all a crock of shit, Max makes some great points.

It's all about fixing the country. And fighting to keep it a great place to live and work and raise a family.

It's all about the American Dream being about more than working 70 hours a week for just over minimum wage and not even being able to get your teeth fixed or have a regular doctor's visit.

If we really want America to be great again, we need to remember what made it great in the first place.

Revolution. Equality. And Democracy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pitch Yourself With a Soundbite

It's all about the headline, isn't it, gentle readers? As our connected society spends more and more time online, it's all about conveying your message, complicated as it may be, in the least amount of characters.

If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense.
And, no, your MatchGirl's not just talking about Twitter.

Think about newspapers, tabloids and those trashy magazines you just can't help but pick up when you're waiting in the checkout line. Why do you pick those up? Why are you drawn to flip through them. It's the headline, of course.

The same goes for our digital world. The Tweets that are most clicked on draw the reader in - they make them want to click the link. Your MatchGirl experiments with this all the time. She will send out the same link several times a day, with a different "teaser" or headline to draw you in. And while I'm still figuring out that formula, it's a great experiment to see what tweets are opened versus how much time is spent on those posts. (If I find a perfect formula, I'll be sure to let you know.)

Now, let's get to the soundbite.
Think about what you know about the Republican presidential candidates.
Think about what you know about the demands of Occupy Wall Street or even the Tea Party Movement.
Or, to be frank, anything that's happening in the news right now.
For the most part, unless you've done some research and due diligence, what you know about this stuff has come to you in soundbites - quick and pithy, 30 seconds or less.

People are the same way.
What you know now about your friends, it's all on Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn. It's the soundbites they are choosing for themselves - it's the face they put out to the world. It's the few moments of the best of them that makes you want to read further into their lives.

And the same is true in your job search. We've talked here about the 2-minute interview and we'll keep talking about it. Practicing your pitch - whether your trying to sell yourself or your product - is the best way to get your story out there. People's attention spans are short, and no it's not due to social networks or Mtv, it's because people are, most of the time, really busy trying to figure out what will be best for them. Not you. It's because they have their own agenda. It's because while they're talking to you, in the back of their minds, they are making a grocery list, or going through their agenda for the next day... even if they are paying attention (OK. Not always, but a lot of the time).

So, practice your soundbite. Think about the 30 seconds of your elevator pitch that you want people to remember most. This is your moment to shine. And most of the time, you don't get much more than that. Just a moment.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Liberal Arts View of Technology

Your MatchGirl knows that everyone and their mother has been posting about Steve Jobs the past couple of days. And your MatchGirl, given yesterday's post, is no different.

Some posts have been received in controversy. Some have brought tears to people's eyes.. And no matter what you think of Steve Jobs the man, I don't think, gentle readers, that anyone can deny that his point of view changed the way that millions of people approach - and are able to approach - technology. And through that, the world.

A little story for you, dear readers: My grandfather owned a store in the White Mountains of New Hampshire - it was one of those stores where you could buy your groceries, your snow shovel and a new toy for your kid. It was three stories and served people from the many small towns in the area. And I remember walking into the office one day and there was a computer running the show. It was a Macintosh SE. And, while it didn't last long at the store (I can't recall what followed it), it came home with my family and I wrote term papers, mediocre short stories and my college applications on it over the next five years. I learned to play around on MacPaint and MacDraw and, later, on faster computers (with actual internal hard drives) got pretty good with Quark, too. I wrote my first emails on a Macintosh LC.

That's not really the point of this essay, though. So many of you have had a similar experience. So many of you have a first time-Mac story that is part of your personal history.

The point of that little story about the SE - that's more about my Grampa. He heard that the Mac was the best and he wanted the best. I can't recall why he gave it to us, and he's not around any longer to ask. But I do know that in 1998, when that Bondi Blue iMac came out, my Grampa, aged 78, drove two hours to the closest store selling them and took one home.

Listening to Fresh Air on NPR on Thursday night, they replayed part of a 1996 interview with Steve Jobs, where he said, to paraphrase, that he wanted to bring "a liberal arts point of view to the use of computers." He didn't want people to feel confused when setting them up or using them. He wanted them to be intuitive and part of the whole. A liberal arts education is focused on bringing all the parts of academia together to make a whole, a better, person, and, to me, it seems that's what Steve Jobs wished for Apple to bring to computing.
"In my perspective ... science and computer science is a liberal art, it's something everyone should know how to use, at least, and harness in their life. It's not something that should be relegated to 5 percent of the population over in the corner. It's something that everybody should be exposed to and everyone should have mastery of to some extent, and that's how we viewed computation and these computation devices."
It's too soon, in my opinion, to see what Steve Jobs' legacy will truly be. He's left behind some amazing innovation. He's left us looking at technology, and what it can be, in an entirely different light. But making computers something that almost everyone has, that everyone can figure out how to use, sometimes with just a swipe of their finger, that will be one of them. Making computers things that are not only great to know how to use, but a coveted and cool part of one's arsenal, that's another.

The ability to stay connected to what matters most to us - that's a pretty nice something to leave behind.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have The Courage To Follow Your Heart

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs

image from

A Country Built On Rights

On the subway the other morning, your MatchGirl saw a sign for the Ken Burns documentary, Prohibition. And the words on it struck me, gentle readers, so much, that I thought they bore sharing here with you.

The poster posed this question (to paraphrase): In a country built on rights how could everything have gone so wrong?

Oh my.

I feel like this is the question that the people who are occupying Wall Street (and Boston, LA, Chicago, etc...) are asking. I feel like this is a question that we all need to be asking ourselves. Right now.

The unemployment rate is high.
The income gap is seemingly un-bridgeable.
The world is not becoming a better place.

I certainly don't have it any better than my parents did - in fact, when I look around, at my career, at my life - I have it a lot worse than they did when they were my age.

And things are not getting better.

There is no one who will help. Maybe there is no one who can help.

So, dear readers, I ask you this, what are you going to do for yourself? What are you going to do to make your life better - to make the lives of those around you better and richer and brighter?

Give yourself a helping hand and pull up a few friends along the way.

Your MatchGirl is pretty sure it's the only way we can make the world a better place.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Who Needs An English Major?

This weekend your MatchGirl had the opportunity to hear American RadioWorks "Who Needs An English Major?" on WNYC.

As I've been thinking, gentle readers, about the state of our educational system of late (in posts such as Jobs For The Future? Rethink Education and Higher Education Reform?), this was a special that certainly piqued my interest. As someone who went to a good liberal arts college - a small, private university in New England - this is something I think about and have some opinions on.

I spent most of my twenties trying to figure out what to do next, following my fears instead of my dreams, and not pushing myself to achieve much more than what I was doing at that exact moment. I deferred, though never defaulted, on college loans and, to that end, still have a few years of payments left to go as I approach my thirty-sixth birthday. Sometimes, this makes me crazy.

But then I think of what I got out of that education. Sure. I'm not a doctor or a lawyer. Though many of my classmates are. I certainly didn't marry my college sweetheart, I never really had one. But I learned to be different among people who were the same. I learned that standing out is not so bad. I learned to speak my mind and to question authority. I learned about the power of community and the power that can come from not only common interests, but from disparate ones.

Could I have learned these things at my state university? Sure. I probably could have. A lot of people I went to high school with went on to college in our hometown and have thrived. Though some are still treading water.

But what would not have happened, had I gone to my local university is this - I would not have learned to spread my wings and fly. The school was too close to the safety net of my mom and dad. Too close to the social life of high school. Too close to who I was known to be, not to who I could become.

I don't know if people need to go to small liberal arts colleges, they're not for everyone. They were never meant to be.

But I do know that people need to learn to jump. And that they need to figure out how to pick themselves up when they fall. For me, studying studio art, running a college radio station, booking bands and getting lost walking around Boston in 1993, these are all things that helped me learn to fly. These are all experiences that made me the adult I have become. And will guide me through my future.

Well rounded, intelligent, interested people, they are what make the world an amazing place. And they very often are products of liberal arts educations - not business schools.