Working Remotely + Internships: An Effective Pairing for Valuable Learning Opportunities

By Siobhan Pretty

In the early spring of 2020, as pandemic precautions came into effect and we all retreated into our homes, our relationship with technology became more significant, meaningful, and dare I say, essential. It’s allowed people to stay connected to others, to continue their jobs, and, for my classmates and me, it provided the ability to complete the PWC program’s summer internship.

When the process of preparing for internships began, the concept of a remote internship hadn’t crossed my mind. In all honesty, I didn’t even realize it was a possibility. The notion sent my brain into overdrive with worries and questions. Questions like, “how can an internship be successful without actually meeting people?” (Though the introvert in me celebrated the fact that I could still complete the credit without leaving my home.)

With time and information from Humber and the PWC staff, I prepared for phone and video interviews and to work from home. (And, of course, by searching Google for answers to all of my what ifs.) After putting this prep work to the test, I was thrilled to be offered a content writing intern position with an organic skincare company. I realized very quickly how well suited the tools and skills we learned in our classes were for remote working and being successful in the writing and communications field. 

The internship set-up allowed for feedback on tasks like blog posts, product descriptions, social media posts, and product catalogues from my supervisor by phone and email. Which meant I could improve my communication capabilities, learn new skills, and successfully put together completed projects. The internship turned into so much more than I was expecting when I was offered a full-time position at the end of the work term. 

Initially, my worries became fears that a remote internship wouldn’t be as valuable as an in-office internship. That I wouldn’t learn as much or create any real work connections. But this experience has proved me wrong — much to my delight.

Siobhan Pretty completed her internship in Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program in the summer of 2020.

Holiday Helper: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

Family of 7 infront of a selection of green christmas trees
Remy Martino and Family picking out their tree

Holiday Helper: Picking the Perfect Christmas Tree

By: Remy Martino

December is just around the corner, promising a month of festive family fun. Make sure your little elves are ready to pick a Christmas tree worthy of Santa’s Workshop with these easy tips and tricks.

For many Canadian families, picking a Christmas tree signals the start of the holiday season. Though it’s fun to whip up batches of gingerbread cookies or binge on festive movies, Christmas will never be complete without the warm glow and fresh scent of an evergreen, nestled nicely in a corner, waiting for Santa. By following these steps, you and your family can have a tree worthy of the season.

Step One: Pick a Location for Your Tree

Take a look around your home and decide where you would like to place your tree. Common locations might be the living room or front foyer. Ensure there is enough space for your tree by checking the height of your ceiling. Don’t forget to get out the tree stand, as that certainly adds a few inches! Also consider the height of your star or angel, and have a salesperson cut the tip of the tree to accommodate the topper.

Step Two: Tree Types

There are countless Christmas tree options out there, and all of them are guaranteed to make someone happy. But, what kind of tree does your family want? If there are small children waiting to shake some presents, you might want to avoid a Norway spruce, as the branches may be sharper than those of other trees. If you want a tree that fills your home with the fragrant scents of the season, a Douglas fir might be the tree for you.

Step Three: Pine Fresh

This tree needs to last more than twelve days, so make sure it is a fresh one before you strap it to the roof of your family car or shove it in the Uber. The freshness of a tree can be determined by checking the trunk for sap: you want it to be sticky. If it’s too cold to take off your mitts, you could also take a needle straight from the tree and break it like a pencil. Did you hear it? That’s a good sign!

Step Four: Green as the Grinch

A healthy tree is a green tree! If some of the trees on the lot are faded in colour, they are thirsty; these will not last until Christmas. Try to find a tree that is truly evergreen!

Step Five: Oh, Christmas Tree

If you think you’ve found the tree of your dreams, have someone cut the stump. This does not hurt the tree, and it makes absolutely sure the tree will be able to absorb water once it’s secured in your stand. You will want to water the tree as soon as you can!

Step Six: Smile for the Camera

The best part of the holiday season is making memories with the ones we love. Make sure to take a family photo before leaving the lot!

Step Seven: Tip Top Shape

To keep your tree healthy and happy once at home, remember to water it. The sun will dry out the branches, and the needles might fall off, so direct sunlight is not good. Nobody wants to clean up that mess!

Bonus: A Perfect Fit

Christmas trees are personal. As long as you follow the care instructions laid out here, the shape of your tree is up to you. Pick a tree you know everyone will love from the first day of Christmas to the last.

Cannabis and Creativity : How smoking weed makes me a better writer

Cannabis and Creativity

By Maia Leggott


Every single person who smokes weed believes it makes them better at something.

Painting.

Playing music.

Being productive.

Physical activity.

Making sandwiches.

Solving the quadratic equation.

Video games.

For me, it’s writing. There’s something about the laser focus and naked honesty that puts me in the zone. Ideas that were sitting, stagnant, are stirred to life and suddenly get the boost they need to come to fruition. Hesitant hands start flying across the page or the keyboard, unable to keep up with the flow of ideas.

I’ve been using cannabis for a long time – almost half of my life. The frequency varied, peaking in my early twenties and seeing me through some difficult shit. I always loved the way it helped me to relax, encouraged me to putter with painting, crafting, writing and making.

There was nothing better than sharing a joint with pals and waiting for the stories to start flowing: hilarious commentary on the uncanny ability of The Simpsons to accurately predict the future; contemplations on the universe and how humans fit into the chain of being; tales of appreciating the simple beauty of a walk on the beach that cleanses an aching soul.

It always seemed like cannabis elicited creativity in everyone who used it. Musician friends would jam for hours on a wave of inspiration, artists create a stunning canvas, writers fill a notebook with inspiring prose, and anyone could decide it was time to rearrange the living room on a whim.

Think about all of the famous pot-loving creatives out there — Bob Dylan, Carl Sagan, Lady Gaga (“I have to be high to be creative.”), Bob Marley (“Herb is a plant, herb is good for everything.”), Willie Nelson, The Beatles … the list goes on and on. Would “Rubber Soul” even exist without the inspiration-boosting green herb? I shudder to think.

Science Says

A 2011 study actually suggested that the psychoactive effects of cannabis could “lead to connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, an aspect of divergent thinking considered primary to creative thinking.” This ability to associate in different ways is more likely to generate unique ideas by breaking free from familiar thinking. Morgan, Rothwell, et al. called this ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts “hyper-priming” in their 2010 study.

Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty is a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School. Deep brain stimulation is her game, and she is interested in the mechanisms of creativity in the brain. She believes the answer to the cannabis and creativity question may be in the frontal lobe. Highly creative people show more frontal lobe activity than those with less, and cannabis use can stimulate this area. Her most recent research is focusing on how creative types “get in the zone,” she says. And a lot of it has to do with tolerance and dosage: “Somebody who’s trying to boost their motivation to be creative [can go] too far so they can’t concentrate,” she says. “A very anxious creative person may get some benefit from cannabis. In calming them down, it could help their creativity.”

I can definitely vouch for that. It’s not always a matter of being ‘stoned.’ I’m prone to crippling anxiety, about everything I do, and it sends me into unproductive spirals where I end up calling my dad in tears without being able to pinpoint one concrete reason for my distress. Taking CBD oil regulates my anxiety and helps me focus that would-be-nervous energy into something productive. Like overhauling my final project of the semester two nights before its due. Like overcoming the writer’s block that’s been crushing me. Like creating meaningful art.

Astrophysicist Carl Sagan once wrote, “the cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before.” I mean, that seems like proof of concept to me.

Cannabis Creatives

It’s not just scientists who are trying to understand the phenomenon of cannabis and creativity. A search on Leafly’s website reveals the best user-rated strains for sparking creativity–classics Jack Herer, Purple Haze and Lemon Diesel made the list, among many others.

Kevin Smith (the genius screenwriter/director behind Mallrats and Clerks) credits cannabis for getting him out of a creative rut. Alanis Morisette apparently smokes weed to get into the groove of song writing. Bob Dylan growled, “Everybody must get stoned,” and is credited for turning The Fab Four onto the creative benefits of cannabis . In 1988, Steve Jobs declared “The best way I would describe the effect of the marijuana and the hashish is that it would make me relaxed and creative.”

I’ve known many creative types in my life, and a large majority of them turn to cannabis to get the creative juices flowing. I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and when I’m writing I often get caught up in the fears and expectations of sharing thoughts so openly. Taking a break to have a puff or a vape allows me to approach a difficult project with a fresh perspective and get out of my head.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times I smoke a bowl, sit down in front of my laptop flexing my fingers in anticipation, only to stare at the blinking cursor for 15 (or 45) minutes. But the times I wake up in the morning, have a sesh, a stretch and a (meditative) sit and write nine pages in a notebook without even batting an eye, make up for those moments.

Do you use cannabis for creativity? What else drags you out of productive limbo and encourages you to create?

It’s a New School Year!

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Ah, September. The month of new beginnings, lingering summer weather, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

When new students fill the hallways, attend all their classes, and get themselves acclimated to new teachers and new friends. It’s also when the Humber PWC program welcomes a whole new batch of writers into the fold.

This year promises to be a great one, so stay tuned for more posts thought up and written with love by our PWC students, Faculty, and a few of our veteran’s.

Cheers, and happy writing!

-The Humber PWC team.

 

5 Things Successful Millennials Do Outside of Work

Using your spare time constructively could help improve your work performance and advance your career.

By: Mitali ColabawallaMitali Cover Image

Success has always had an ambiguous definition, but most millennials associate it with happiness, health and social networking, which provide the foundation for a balanced lifestyle.

Work-life balance seems to be especially important to this particular generation, however, only five per cent of 20-somethings are thriving across all these elements based on a 2017 Gallup survey.

According to experts, how you utilize your free time plays an integral role in your ability to have a successful career. Employees who are thriving in their personal life perform better at their daily tasks, miss fewer workdays, and are able to adapt to change at a faster rate, empowering them to stay with companies longer.

In a 2017 interview with Forbes magazine, Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow, said, “It’s whatever allows you to sleep well at night that you’re balancing your wants and needs properly to be a happy person. There is no wrong or right. Time off is important to avoid burnout.”

So, how exactly do successful millennials spend their time away from work?

  1. Exercise.

Good health and regular fitness is a consistent part of a successful person’s lifestyle for mental and physical well-being.

 Mitali Image 1

Exercising everyday forces you to create—and stick to—a routine, which is a versatile mental discipline to master.

Elyse Goetze, 24 year-old nurse at Toronto General, says, “Working out your muscles promotes blood circulation throughout your body improving the overall strength of your heart. I like to call it 30 minute of magic. It’s also a lot of fun, because you can do it with a friend and there’s so many unconventional ways to exercise like hiking, snowboarding, rock climbing…even bungee jumping for those adrenaline junkies.”

Plus, the energy boost provided by eating healthy and exercising daily acts as a stress reliever and makes you more productive throughout the day.

  1. Network.

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Networking is more important now than ever; meeting new people can open doors to exclusive contacts, opportunities, and information.

“I have met a lot of people at my job, but I have met more people outside of it. Networking events are free and a lot of them are well-organized,” 26 year-old financial advisor at TD Bank, Rahul Kanda, recommends websites such as Eventbrite and Meetup for millennials looking to expand their social spider-web.

Millennials also understand the importance of keeping up with their online community to stay connected with their peers, so feel free to Instagram, Tweet, Facebook and Snapchat in the name of success!

  1. Spend time with loved ones.

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Successful millennials take time out of their busy lives to enjoy the people who make working so hard worth it all.

Sometimes we get so consumed with making money and advancing our careers that we forget about the importance of appreciating family and friends.

“I have met people who focus only on work and although they do move up the ladder, they alienate themselves from experiencing the basic human emotion of love,” Elyse points out.

Making an effort to check in with your family and friends can go a long way in your overall happiness and well-being.

  1. Travel.

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Travel is a unique way to push yourself outside your comfort zone and hone your ability to handle change.

Yes, travel can be pricey, but utilizing your thrifty and creative side can help you figure out ways to explore the world on a budget.

Not only that, but travel, especially backpacking, exposes you to a world of problem-solving, team-building, culturally-rich experiences.

“Learning is essential to our success, but learning through travel is just plain fun. Even if you’ve somehow become a pro in your field already, there’s always something new to learn and travelling exposes you to things you wouldn’t normally see at home.” Connor Campbell, 28 year-old foreman at Danik Electric, puts aside time to travel every year in order to appreciate everything life has to offer and utilize his money in a productive manner.

  1. Relax and Recharge.

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Being well-rested and focused is essential to success so that your mind is also being nourished and cared for.

Sleep is not just for the dead. Take the time to get some proper shut-eye every night—a lack of sleep results in lower productivity and a higher chance of sickness.

Meditation, yoga, even just a simple bubble bath, are great ways to reconnect with yourself and recharge your batteries.

“Meditating even just 10 minutes a day can help you clear your mind, improve your memory, and reduce stress,” Elyse informs us.

Journaling, drawing, colouring, and musical arts are great ways to unwind and unleash your creative side. Don’t be afraid to embrace any activity that helps relieve stress; there is no wrong answer when it comes to what you need!

But word to the wise, merely doing these things in your spare time does not guarantee success. If you choose to maximize on leisure time, then there is no room for complaints at the lack of accomplishment. However, finding that balance between working and living will help guide you toward a more rewarding professional life—and keep you sane at the same time.

Mitali is a student in the Professional Writing and Communications (PWC) program at Humber College that has always been engrossed in the world of literary fiction and non-fiction. It was at the University Of Ontario Institute Of Technology (UOIT) she was able to seriously start to hone her skills as a writer. At UOIT she realized her talent for research-based writing. This sense of accomplishment and genuine joy led her to Humber’s PWC program. Humber’s PWC program has pushed and pulled her abilities, stretching them far beyond imaginable measures, teaching her that you really don’t know what you don’t know. In short, writing makes her incandescently happy. That happiness inevitably echoes through all paths in her personal life, enriching it entirely. 

Real talk: how the PWC program will actually help you succeed

April 3, 2018 | Laura Billett

For its first three years, the Professional Writing and Communications (PWC) graduate certificate program has attracted many aspiring writers. The program’s value hinges on whether those graduates become what the title implies: professionals. So, before forking out another year’s worth of tuition, you deserve to know: is this program truly what its website describes? Importantly, will you get a job out of it?Home office large

2017 PWC alumni Ardo Omer, Leticia Rodrigues and Sean White share their perspectives on the outcomes of the program.

Omer applied to the PWC program because it offered practical writing development. “Communications for me was more stable. It was a more career-oriented thing that would also give me the leeway to possibly pursue things like fiction,” Omer says.

The program opened her eyes to the nature of a communications role, and it gave her a better understanding of different sectors within communications. She was initially interested in writing for magazines but, after listening to the experiences of instructors and guest speakers, realized that it was not the industry that would bring her satisfaction.

The PWC program’s diverse classes exposed Omer to types of writing that she enjoys and uses in her job as festival assistant in communications with the International Festival of Authors (IFOA). “What you thought wasn’t your thing, becomes your thing. I never thought I would like writing press releases, but I know that’s probably the most fun I had writing anything, and I was really good at it,” Omer says.

In her internship with the IFOA, Omer was responsible for a range of activities—including writing and editing news releases. Now, she leads the IFOA’s social media activities, writes their blog and helps with research and marketing. As one of three on the communications team, Omer says her education brings weight to her voice: “I think both of [my colleagues] appreciate my insights with social media, which from an organizational stand point came from Humber.”

Rodrigues says the range of PWC courses has given her knowledge that helps her succeed. She completed her internship with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) before moving home to Curitiba, Brazil. There, she works as a copywriter for Nossa Causa, writing copy for blogs, email marketing and social media.

“I would say everything [from the program] somehow added up to what I am doing now,” Rodrigues says. “[PWC] helped me with not only my own work, but it gave me the right tools to be able to help other people with their work. For example, we have another person in the agency who is responsible for the planning of the campaigns, and I have things that I teach her from the [PWC] project management class to improve her management inside the agency.”

The broad scope of the program could also be seen as a downfall, White admits, but it’s what gave him the skills to succeed in the multi-faceted world of communications. As an intern with Prostate Cancer Canada, he wrote materials like news releases and articles. In his current role as a communications officer with CBC/Radio Canada, he writes more reactive communications, mostly on social media. White says every career requires constant learning, and “I like that [PWC] gave me options. It had a robust description of what the program entailed and that turned out to be really true.”

More than a range of skills, the program provides an opportunity to build a strong network of friends and professional contacts. PWC instructors encourage students to network with professionals in the writing community, but “the best networking is really [with] the people at your level,” White said. “I establish an actual network that is not based on ulterior motives; it’s just based on genuine human connection and friendship, and then that becomes a network.”

When White was looking for work after his internship, it was the Humber network that helped him find opportunities. PWC instructors recommended him for jobs, and friends from the program passed on freelance opportunities. In interviews, “I had a lot of response like, ‘oh wow, that program a reason why we called you,’” White says.

Omer agrees. “I find that a lot of organizations, especially if you’re just starting out in a communications role, want to be able to see that you have that school credit.”

Learning continues after the program, so you’ll have to be prepared to ask questions and show initiative, Omer says, but “[the certificate] is something now that I can go into any organization with, saying, ‘Hire me because I know this stuff’.”

To find out how you can apply to the Professional Writing and Communications Ontario Graduate Certificate, visit our website: https://liberalarts.humber.ca/programs/professional-writing-and-communications.html.

Laura is an aspiring writer and avid reader. She graduated with a BA in English from the University of Regina and is completing Humber College’s Professional Writing and Communications program. Stories have always been a source of inspiration for Laura, and she hopes that her own writing will open new worlds and perspectives for readers.

 

Hashtags and Rabbit Holes: Confessions of an Academic Writer

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope

“I want you to take a Post-It and write, ‘Don’t write like an academic.’” said my new Digital Communications professor. “Stick it on your desk, your wall, your computer. Anywhere you’re working. And don’t forget it.”

I blinked. But, ever the conscientious student, I slowly wrote it out in my notebook. (Yes, in ink, on paper.) I underlined it twice.

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As a mature student, I had enrolled in Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications post-graduate program. I came armed with 6 years’ experience as a teaching assistant in Brock University’s English department, and a Master’s degree which focused on 18th and 19th century literature and gender studies. I loved studying that period, where manicured sentences wound long and lush as a garden path, heroic couplets were the chosen form of intellectuals, and you could stand on a Richardson novel to change a light bulb. Sadly, no one ever did beat down my door after graduation to discuss Judith Butler or Mr. Darcy’s masculine performance in Pride and Prejudice. So here I sat in this classroom, fluorescent lights buzzing, OSAP accruing, determined to bridge the distance between the ivory tower and the landscape beyond.

And, over the next eight months, my writing changed. Write for screens! Know your audience! Drop those adjectives! Bullet points! I ducked red pens and track changes, as my clauses fell away like petticoats. Watched as my murdered darlings dropped breathless to the floor, certain I’d never recover from the sacrifice. In time, I learned to step over them.

But if I bristled at changing my writing, I positively shut down when I was told to sign up for Twitter. As part of a teeny generation that has recently been dubbed “Xennials,” I grew up with the luxury of picking and choosing the parts of digital life in which I participated – and Twitter was not one of them. I dutifully claimed my handle, but I certainly didn’t see how I would ever need it in the workplace.

Is a tweet different than a heroic couplet? Yes, that’s a silly question. And no, it’s not silly at all. Alexander Pope may not have constrained himself to 140 or 280 characters, but he did know how to pack a nice, salty punch into two short lines. I learned to make my peace with the fact that a tweet is a similar burst of information, deliberately chosen to display its author’s worldview. As with any writing, both form and content are debated. Some are written poorly. Some are politically charged. Some will send you careening down a bot-peppered rabbit hole into chaos. Some are profound, impactful, and memorable.

When I did my internship at House & Home Media, in the third term of Humber’s program, I was surprised at how many of my days were spent focused on their social media and online presence. From there, I did a short contract at the Toronto International Film Festival, where my work was solely for web. And when finally, happily, I was hired for the Journals Division at the University of Toronto Press, it was as their Digital Marketing Coordinator. Now, one of the largest parts of my job is to run their Twitter accounts. And I’ve been pleased to find out along the way that Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu both have hashtags, and that a “Swiftie” not only refers to songstress Taylor, but satirist Jonathan.

I slid back into the academic world like a hand finds its glove. I knew this world. I loved this world. But what was different now was that I knew how to promote this world. And I also knew that, in some ways, it would be a challenge. Part of each day is spent finding newly published contributors on Twitter in order to market their articles and gain a wider reach. I search for the handles of their university departments. I track and promote the work of grad students. Though they are often quite sparing with their words, I try to get scholars talking on social media. Much like I once balked, some don’t see the point of being on the platform at all.

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As humanities majors, we’re told we have a wide variety of skills; we just need to market them. But we are rarely taught how, and many of us are more comfortable curled up with a good book than we are singing our own praises to potential employers. One week into my job at UTP Journals, I went home to my own academic, a quiet historian who’s writing his dissertation in Russian history, and told him to make sure he uses social media to promote his research. That when the time comes to apply for one of those coveted academic positions, to show not only that he can write, teach, and produce, but that he can help promote the department on its digital platforms. Useful advice? Academics on hiring committees would know more than I.

Is the debate about writing for social media similar to the heated debates about the potential dangers of the novel when it first appeared? Poetic license with the sonnet? The modern, post-Victorian aesthetic?

Today I saw a man reach out to another I follow on Twitter: “It grieves me that I’ve had to degrade myself to contact you over Twitter. Is there really no other way to reach you?” I trust by this point you know I understand the sentiment, but here is the truth, the raw truth for those of us who, as author Tim Bowling puts it, are “dragging the bloodied pelt of the twentieth century” behind us: social media is simply an exchange. A hand reaching out across a shrinking globe to create and participate in community. How does Alice not fall down the rabbit hole? If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. Sometimes I feel like I’m leasing space down there.

But here is what I also know to be true, as the world in which I once belonged shifts shape into something new: there is a way to marry the two, and still retain the integrity and traditions of the former.

I was recently in Washington at the American Historical Association meeting, and my colleague was attending the Modern Language Association convention in New York City. As I was tweeting from both, what struck me was just how many academics were reaching out to each other in kind and positive ways. During the worst of the January storms, there were offers of child-minding services for presenters if daycares were closed, promises to post grad student papers online if they couldn’t attend their sessions, and gentle reminders to tenured professors that a drink and a chat with a vulnerable adjunct can go a long way.

Can you fall down the rabbit hole, Alice? God help you, yes.

But you can also find support in an online academic community that will help you market your research, increase your career options, and put you in contact with new publications. You just need to make sure you’re opening the Twitter handle to the right door.

Tanya Rohrmoser is the Digital Marketing Coordinator at University of Toronto Press Journals, a freelance writer, and a graduate of Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications Program. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from Brock University. Tanya currently lives in Toronto, Ontario, and is a lover of basil, toile, and William Morris wallpaper. You can follow her on Twitter at @TanyaRohrmoser.

Calling All Greasy Girls!

How women can and should be in control of their car’s maintenance

Google “girls and cars,” I’ll wait. All the hits are not safe for work, right? The narrative of girls being the ones who wash and model cars is indicative of a larger idea: women don’t know as much about cars as men do. I didn’t want to believe it — what does my gender have to do with anything? — but I was proven wrong at my car’s last six-month service appointment.

In early October, I took my 2016 Hyundai Elantra to the dealership for its regular service. In the final year of a three-year lease, I’ve had no issues with these services in the past.

During my appointment, the waiting room was unusually warm, like the temperature outside, and the seats as uncomfortable as expected. Just as I was getting drawn in to the CP24 story of Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper being in Washington at the same time, they said my car was ready.

“Hey Savoula, everything looks good,” the ever-affable Ben reported. I had to give the guy kudos—he repeated my difficult name a lot.

“Since I put on my winter tires last week, you guys didn’t charge me for tire rotation, right?” I jumped in.

I felt proud for knowing what usually comes in these six-month services. Truthfully, my knowledge of cars isn’t as detailed as I want it to be, so whenever I’m dealing with car-related checks, I pay close attention.

“Don’t worry, we didn’t rotate the tires. Here’s your total.” Ben showed me the invoice and I nodded. “Savoula, just so you know, usually every two years, cars have to go through a more extensive service where we perform a lot more maintenance. It’s usually $2,000 of work. Since you’ve reached that point in your lease, I’ll go ahead and add that total here and schedule you to come back.”

My eyebrows hit the ceiling; I couldn’t pick which expletive to start with. He spewed out words I didn’t understand, trying to explain why my car needed several different fixes. Ben’s geniality levels plummeted like a rock climber on a slippery foothold when he told me it didn’t matter what year the car was made—this service was standard procedure.

Thoughts 1 through 10 ran through my brain at the same time: should I just agree? But why wasn’t I warned about this upcoming $2,000 service before today? Is he just doing this because I seem naïve? Is it because I’m a girl? Wait…why is he typing right now?

“Sorry, Ben, I’m not going to be paying extra today. I need to think about it. Is there a pamphlet I can take home?” I meekly asked, feeling like not even his thick-rimmed glasses could shield the skepticism in his eyes.

“Sure, but you’re going to see it’s the right thing to do. Give me a call when you change your mind,” he replied, looking back to his computer and dismissing any other questions I might have had.

 

I couldn’t help but wonder if the same thing would have happened if I was an older driver. Or a dude.

Savoula - Girls and Cars - Photo 3.jpg

I’m not alone in feeling like my gender played a role in how I was treated that day. Studies still show women leave dealerships feeling uneasy, uncomfortable and uneducated about cars.

A study released in December by CDK Global highlights 43 per cent of women who completed online reviews for dealerships found their experiences differed from the experiences of men. The most common words used in their reviews included “stressed,” “overwhelmed” and “panicked.” Rather than wait around for a dealership services manager or mechanic I found trustworthy, I put faith in myself and got educated (largely with the help of WikiHow).

Most recently with the bad weather, I found where the washer fluid reservoir is under the hood of my car and learned how to replace the fluid when I run out. I also discovered where to get fluid from (you can’t just mix soap and water and use it as fluid….I asked).

Ladies, try a more worthwhile Google search, like “girls learn cars,” and arm yourselves with knowledge from like-minded women. Those Google hits look more encouraging: let the Vroom Girls share how much to pay a mechanic; watch Jessica Chou show you how to negotiate the price of a car; or read Grease Girl’s Garage DIYs on how to perform some simple service tasks for yourself.

If more girls learn the basics about car maintenance, we can hopefully make a dent in the current narrative and prove women can be just as knowledgeable about cars as men.

Spoiler alert: my car is still surviving without the $2,000 service.

Savoula Stylianou, Author 

Savoula is a writer, traveler, music lover and Harry Potter fan. She graduated from Queen’s University with her BAH and MA in Religious Studies before entering Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program this year. The thing Savoula loves most about writing is finding the most creative ways to share an experience with readers, as so many writers she loves, like Judy Blume and Alice Munro, have shared with her.

Millennials in the Workplace

Integrating a blend of older and younger workers in a workplace presents managers with unique challenges.  Differences in values, interests and communication styles are just a few of these challenges.  A lot has been written about the generational clash that’s occurring in work places today as the boomers struggle to accept millennial hires.  For the first time in history, there are five generations of employees sharing office space: traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X, millennials, and generation Z, so it’s bound to feel crowded.

The dynamics have shifted as many boomers are reluctant to retire and are working longer than ever before.  The latest census data from Statistics Canada show more and more Canadians are working past 65 “whether for their health, their finances or just for the fun of it.”  This means that there simply hasn’t been as much room for millennial hires, and that the lucky ones who do get hired are unlikely to be making salaries commensurate with their qualifications.

It is unfortunate that millennials have gotten the short-end-of-the-stick so to speak.  Adjectives such as “lazy,” “disloyal,” “self-interested,” and “entitled” are used with abandon.  The reality is that millennials are the best-educated yet worst paid generation, and they are the ones with something to gripe about.

Derek Thompson, a contributor to The Atlantic, writes in his article “The Unluckiest Generation: What Will Become of Millennials?”, “Finding a good job as a young adult has always been a game of chance. But more and more, the rules have changed: Heads, you lose; tails, you’re disqualified. The unemployment rate for young people scraped 18 percent in 2010, and in the past five years, real wages have fallen for millennials–and only for millennials.”

Wynne - Chalkboard

Millennials are a by-product of an unstable job market where part-time and contract work proliferates.  Companies downsized drastically in the second half of the last century and this trend continues today.  Only this past October we were reading about Loblaw laying off 500 office workers in an effort to cut costs.  Millennials have heard the message loud and clear; job security is no longer the norm.

Gone are the days of defined benefit pensions that workers can count on in retirement.  The Sears fiasco illustrates this uncertainty as long-time Sears employees learned that their severance and pension payments are in jeopardy and that it’s very likely they won’t be able to recoup the full amounts owing to them.

In her Toronto Star article “Will the defined benefit plan disappear?” Vanessa Lu writes,

“Things were good in the 1980s and 1990s, but after the 2008 financial crisis, companies were hit with huge deficits thanks to poor stock market returns, and many employers got out of the defined benefit pension business.  Some switched to defined contribution plans, where individuals have investment accounts, but the payout at retirement depends on how those investments fare.  Other employers simply don’t offer a pension plan at all.  Nearly 1.3 million workers in Ontario do not have access to any type of employer-sponsored workplace pension.  In Canada’s private sector, only one person in five has a workplace pension.”

It’s clear that times are tough and millennials are feeling the pressure.  They have been forced to adapt and have come to see themselves more as freelancers.  This doesn’t make them disloyal; it makes them adaptable.  Although they value job security, they have low expectations, and who can blame them?

Adding insult to injury is the cost of post secondary education.  As millennials well know, a bachelor’s degree is often no longer enough and a master’s degree is no guarantee.  This phenomenon is called credential inflation and its costing millennials big time.  A recent survey from the Bank of Montreal found that most students expect to graduate with more than $20,000 in debt, and more than a fifth are anticipating debt of more than $40,000.

A 2012 HuffPost article entitled “Generation Y vs. Boomers in Canada: Is it Tougher for Millennials to Get Ahead Today than Past Generations?” summarizes as follows:

“Yet a high school diploma today is hardly a guarantor of success in the workforce, as most are well aware. So Canadian millennials now face a new financial obstacle in life: While their predecessors struggled with the costs of housing and transportation and food, millennials find themselves struggling with the cost of education as well.”

By the time millennials enter the work force it’s likely they have at least one degree and a variety of jobs under their belt that helped pay for that degree.  They have also likely worked for free as they completed unpaid internships.  Boomers tossing around the word “lazy” should keep these things in mind.

Shawna Wynne - Pre-promo post image

Millennials have a lot of positive traits to bring to the table.  They are collaborative by nature and work well with diverse groups of people; they are tech-savvy and multi-task with ease, and they care about the kind of work they do and want work with a purpose.  Unfortunately, a large percentage of millennials don’t feel they are being used to their full potential and say there’s a lack of mentorship available to them.

The problem stems from the top and it’s not the boomers or the millennials fault that the system is broken.  Issues like ageism, internal competition, and a fragile sense of job security are infecting workplaces.  Companies are focused on profit margins, not people.  As Dani-ElleDubé writes for Global News, “Companies decided it wasn’t worth investing time and money into recruiting and retaining millennial employees.”

It’s therefore high time the boomers cut the millennials some slack and stop making them the scapegoats.

Shawna Wynne, Author

Shawna is a Humber graduate who has worked as a legal assistant since graduating from the paralegal program in 2013.  The part about law she enjoys most is writing, and after careful consideration this past summer she decided to pursue a career in writing, as opposed to becoming a licensed paralegal.  When she is writing, she is content and utterly in the moment.  She also enjoys reading and reads a bit of everything.  She’s read thousands of books throughout her life and always has one (or two) on the go.

PWC information session June 12

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