I’ve been wanting to tackle this issue for quite a while now. If you look at my Facebook "Info” page you will notice that there is one key piece of data missing that everyone else seems to have displayed: my birthday!
There’s a special reason for this. In addition to thinking that it’s not very relevant to anything, I also abhor the idea of people saying ‘happy birthday’ to me on my wall. I’m not going to pretend that I have never done this myself but I think it’s firstly, lazy and secondly, so low effort that it means almost nothing to the recipient.
When you see birthday messages on your wall from 100s of people do you sit there thinking, “Aren’t I popular, look at me, I’m a person of the people, loved by many…” You really shouldn’t; those message are very low delta. People write them almost on autopilot: rapidly drafted without the writer even thinking that it is YOUR birthday. They probably write exactly the same thing for other people. They might even have a message they just copy and paste from one wall to the next!
Furthermore, wishing someone happy birthday on their Facebook wall can’t be used as a means of ‘showing off’ that you remembered their birthday because the fact is, you did not. Facebook alerted you to the event and you took out 15 seconds from your precious day to write on the person’s wall.
If I care about and appreciate someone and assuming I haven't forgotten(!), I will make contact with them via the email, text, telephone or the Facebook INBOX. I will let them know what I wish for them on this special day and I’ll find out what they have planned for the day. If I write on your wall and you haven’t also received a message via one of the aforementioned platforms, I am probably not that into you. This probably applies to all the other folk that wrote on your wall.
Let’s think about this in a real life context
Assume you live in a little village where a birthday-board is put outside people’s doors on their birthdays. Would you just walk past and scream happy birthday across the fence? I assume you wouldn’t.
You would probably enter the front lawn (their personal space) for a short while have a quick chat then be on your way. You might even give the birthday guy or gal a small gift – a fresh banana or peach from your land, a handmade card or simply a pleasant wish.
The Facebook inbox or email inbox is such an intimate place. If you are going to send someone a personal wish you have to think a little about it. It’s less transient and that is exactly why most people don’t do it.
This year, I am going to do something different. I will put my birthday up on Facbook a week before my birthday and simultaneously disable my wall. I would really like to see how many people take that perilous journey to my inbox. Why don’t you try the same, if I get even 10 messages, I would rate that as doing very well and I will respond to each message in turn: a personal message deserves that respect.
Is it because I is Black?!
The pace of modern life means you need to be able to juggle many things at one time without stumbling, getting confused, angry or annoyed. Tall order? Yes, it is.
The comments on this article are even more interesting and insightful than the article itself. One anonymous comment reads: “My son recently went for a minimum wage menial job interview. He dressed smart casual - no jeans, ironed shirt, neat haircut and the rest. He didn't get the job but at least the manager took the time to write to him and commend him on his appearance and enthusiasm in the interview.”
That’s just it, right? If you receive a gift that’s been neatly wrapped and ‘ribboned’ you will take more interest in it that a carelessly packaged box wrapped in newspaper. The same applies at interviews. Even if you are applying for a low-skilled job dress smartly, smile and act enthusiastic. The very fact that this employer took the time to commend the young man for his presentation shows he was pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I would say that if you are highly numerate, literate, fluent, learned, disciplined, organized and well-presented and you still can’t find a job, it’s possible that it’s because you is black! Whatever the case stay positive.
Nowadays so many people have great GCSEs, great A-levels and a university degree so if you don’t have the same, it will count against you.
A couple of boys admitted to having a criminal record. One paragraph in the article read: "'I’ve been looking for a job for almost seven years,' says Gogo, 28, who served three years in jail in his teens for what he describes as a number of small offences. 'I would take any job, I don’t really care, I’ll take any job — but once you get a criminal record, even a minor criminal record, it’s hard to get any jobs.'"
Let’s be honest, if you were about to employ someone you would want some sort of signal that they are disciplined, right? That they will get to work on time, that they won’t be dishonest and overall that you can trust them to do right by the firm. In times of such high unemployment, when employers can afford to be picky, they will take a criminal record as a ‘signal’ of poor discipline. If someone has a criminal record the best they can do is admit to it before it’s ‘discovered’ and try to explain it away.
If an employer discovers the record on their own they are more likely to think you lied than if you are upfront about it. Everyone knows that having a criminal record does not in itself mean you’re a bad person but it’s part of your profile and as such indicates something about your character. Like as not, the signal is not usually a positive one although rarely it can be (see Nelson Mandela). Most applicants competing for the same job will not have a criminal record.
On 26-Mar-12 the Evening Standard produced a highly emotive article about the unemployment levels of young black men: Young, Black and Shafted. The interviewees were all from the low-income neighborhood of Dalston. Personally, I don’t think that this story reflected the unemployment levels of black people from wealthier and more educated neighborhoods.
Growing up in Malawi, the concept of race and racism almost never traversed the contours of my brain. As a result, when something bad or negative happens to me, I almost never think of it as “racism”.
I don’t argue that racism does not exist but I think this article lacked balance because it left some important areas unexplored. It entirely focused on race rather than the issue of: what are employers looking for and are these qualities lacking in the interviewed cohort? What is it that these lads can do to make themselves employable? And, if you can’t find a job, have you thought of creating one? I want to tackle the issue of employability in this blog.
WHAT EMPLOYERS WANT:
You don’t have to be a super mathematician but basic mathematical skills are needed in almost any job. I am not talking about simply adding up but being able to understand ratios, proportions and if you are in a desk job formulae in Microsoft Excel. A surprising number of people are severely lacking in this area. If it can’t be done on a calculator, they get stuck.
Literacy and Fluency
Being brought up and bred in Britain doesn’t immediately imply an ability to fluently speak in English. Many people’s grammar is all over the place. Hand them a piece of paper and ask them to write something and in the absence of a spell check the piece is riddled with spelling errors. It's also likely to have misplaced commas and full stops, a poor flow as well as an incoherent structure.
If the job involves writing to and communicating with clients this simply cannot do! You need to speak and write well, your grammar needs to be in check and you have to space your paragraphs. Effective communication is a must.
I understand that a top City law firm had to provide elocution lessons to a few of their new graduates because customers complained about their Estuary English.
By Heather Katsonga-Woodward
I'm always thinking, debating, considering and revising my views - some of those deliberations will be shared right here.