Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unemployed vets, liberal arts majors, and understanding the economy

A few months ago, I read an article on the increasing unemployment numbers for military veterans, especially those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. According to David Lerman of Bloomberg News, these veterans, especially those ages 18 to 24, have faced an increasing unemployment rate, “even as the national jobless rate declines”.

Lerman writes about several young military vets in the combat arms who fail to find gainful employment because their job skills don’t transfer to the civilian economy or they fail to communicate what skills they have to civilian employers.

Although I feel bad for anyone who wants to work but can’t find a job, here is the problem: too many recruiters are pushing kids to military jobs that have no bearing on the civilian economy. Jobs such as infantry, artillery, or even military intelligence are not jobs that translate well in the private sector. Without attractive private sector skills, young vets are forced to lean on leadership, discipline, and other intangible factors of their time in the military.  Their rationale is that those skills are so important, people would rather hire them and train them for a specific skill than hire someone with the skill who needs to be groomed to be a leader.

From my private sector experience, that’s not exactly true. Not all companies are looking for a military-style manager. And depending on what type of position needs to be managed, military management might not fit. Even as a manager, you still need to speak the language and understand the culture of the civilian job. Those are things people expect new managers to understand, otherwise you start at the bottom, where basic skills and not leadership experience are more important.

The ill fit of recently discharged young vets is not unlike those who graduate with Art History degree who wonder why the private sector doesn’t want to hire them. It’s because their skills are not marketable or they are not looking in the right places for their skills. Both of these groups, the young vets and the arts & sciences majors, need to understand what the economy needs. It needs computer programmers. It needs engineers. It needs scientists and mathematicians. It is also hiring financial experts, doctors, and web designers.

One should not aspire to be a middle manager without a niche.

In both cases, I blame the recruiters or the counselors. These are the people who should guide young people towards a career they will enjoy, yet one that fits the outlook of the nation. Too many of them are guiding people towards dead end jobs or degrees that are nearly impossible to fit the private sector.

Although they are only 18 to 21, individuals who sign up for the military or who are in college need to consider the economy when making decisions that will affect their future job potential. Especially if they think they will be moving on to other positions eventually. If a soldier loves being infantry and wants to be infantry for 20 years, God bless ‘em, that’s a career move. But if they are only considering being infantry for three or four years, and have no plan beyond that, like the art major who only takes classes because they are fun, that’s a problem.

Now before anyone criticizes me for being anti-military or anti-liberal arts, I am exhibit A on what I am talking about. I did four years in the military then received a degree in English/Creative Writing. Both of which are completely not useful in the civilian sector. I have only worked outside of the Department of Defense or affiliates for my time in college and four months. If I wanted a job in the private sector, I know I would need additional training. And that’s what the money from my trip to Afghanistan will probably go towards.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DJing, Wrestling, and the Art of Illusion

A few years ago, I saw DJ-entertainer RJD2 in concert in Ybor City in Tampa. I was not impressed. In my YouTube review, I said it was boring and all he was doing was pushing buttons. I didn't see the point.

A few weeks ago, highly famous DJ-producer-entertainer Deadmau5 dropped a bombshell on the Electronic Dance Music community when he claimed too many big-name DJs are only on stage pushing buttons. At first, I'll admit I was happy to read someone in the industry agree with me.

However, I am not so sure. Since writing an article on dubstep for the local newspaper and getting to know some DJs, I've grown to appreciate their art. In the last year, I've been to old school hip-hop shows where I could watch old school DJs spin vinyl and big dance/rave/EDM shows where I can't even see the DJ amidst the light flashes and masses of dancing bodies.

Right now, dance music is in. And that's ok. People want to go to a club to forget the outside world. A majority don't care what the DJ is doing. It's just like a wedding DJ in that regard. You don't see wedding DJs trying to steal the show from the bride and groom. The people want to party and that's what the DJ is there for. To put on a good show.

Some fans however, like to know how the trick is done. These are the fans who really don't care about the people, the crowd, or the lights. Those are nice, but these fans want to get down to the source. They want to see what buttons are being pushed. They want to penetrate the mass entertainment illusion and see where the magician actually hid the rabbit. For them, it may or may not be about reveling the trick, they just may want to appreciate the art and give the DJ credit where credit is due. Some might call them fan-boys, others hardcore fans, whatever their name, they are a demographic.

The same dilemma exists in pro wrestling. Like the new wave of EDM shows, most people go to see a pro wrestling show to be entertained. They want good guys and bad guys, storylines and surprises. Give them a good show and they are happy, whether the show is in a backyard or a major civic center or stadium. It's all wrestling to them.

However, like in EDM, there exists a demographic of wrestling fans who want to know how the soup is made. They don't just want to be entertained, they want to discuss storylines and characters, and analyze movements in the ring. They are the fans who chant "you fucked up" when they see a possible flub in motion. They look at wrestlers for their technical ability in the ring, not just how many people like or dislike them. As a matter of fact, more often than not, these fans look down on fans who don't view wrestling as they do. They project elitist attitudes to those who want only to be entertained. Sort of like what Deadma5 did for the EDM scene.

However, it's one thing for DJs to call out other DJs, just like it's ok for wrestlers to call out other wrestlers. It is a bit of hating, and probably shouldn't be done in Rolling Stone or other public venues, but it's inter-business talk among the profession. Especially where illusion is involved.

The public airing of dirty laundry in an entertainment field only feeds to the masses of fans who enjoy dissecting performances. Once that demographic becomes the majority, and the masses see the emperor has no clothes, then the party is over of the entertainment field. Those in the field, especially those who have made it while others are still trying to get theirs, shouldn't try to tear the house down from the inside.

And I don't think it is ok for fans to use the comments of performers to question another performer's ability. Especially if they have never been of the status of the original commenter. If a wrestler says John Cena can't wrestle or a DJ says Skrillex is performing by rote then that is their opinion based on being in the industry. Knowledge adds perspective and credibility.

I might not have liked RJD2, but I am just some guy with a blog. My opinion does mean squat compared to the opinions of one of his peers.