Country’s New Xenophobia

Country music, as of 2012, is now the single most lucrative genre of music in North America, surpassing classic rock as the most popular style of music on the continent. Analysts speculate that a rise in the number of new, younger fans has attracted record numbers of fans to a traditionally “old person” style of music. The surging popularity of country music in the past few years has resulted in the popularity of another trend: xenophobia from “true” country music fans to all the bandwagon jumpers of late.

Many country music fans don't like that the genre has transformed from this

Many country music fans don’t like that the genre has transformed from this

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Into this

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Or this

The new wave of country music has also alienated old fans, who are disappointed that many new country songs have become too similar to pop or rock songs. While this might be great for artists, producers, and concert promoters, longtime fans of country music have been up in arms as of late: it’s another classic case of the city kids vs the country folk.

Country, and to a lesser extent, folk music, have been gaining popularity in mainstream society because of the cultural shift towards all things authentic. This can be traced back towards cultural attitudes such as the organic food movement of the mid-2000’s (which has since subsided), and the the current movement for local food sourcing along with the 100 mile diet. Country and Folk music evoke emotions and thoughts of a simpler time, and this gives consumers that sense of authenticity and coolness that we’ve always sought out. Punk music and heavy metal had their heyday of cool in the ’80s, Grunge had the ’90s, and the ’00s had garage rock -although these years were mostly an eclectic mix as the industry underwent massive changes.  Since the music industry has once again stabilized, country and folk are the “cool” music of this decade. And true country music fans can’t stand it.

Country folk are fiercely defensive about their lifestyle, as they should be. No cultural group enjoys another one hijacking their culture and traditions. African-Americans had jazz, the blues, and rap/hip-hop; and all three times, there was a lot of friction when white folks decided to steal their music and the culture associated with it. Perhaps you’ve noticed it as well: Bass Pro Shops trucker hats are everywhere; camouflage patterned clothing which has no functional purpose being worn outside the woods being worn by people walking the downtown streets; jacking up your truck for no functional purpose; and putting a fish hook on your hat (probably from Bass Pro Shops) for no functional purpose.

Something tells me these girls have never been fishing

Something tells me these girls have never been fishing before

Most customs from the country are heavily utilitarian-based, and it’s insulting to their traditional way of life to do stuff like this. Not to mention it makes you look like a huge poser, which is the opposite of what buying into the “cool” form of music is supposed to achieve. I realize that not everyone who has jumped on the country music bandwagon is guilty of this, but the message remains the same: if you’re going to buy into a new culture, be mindful and respectful of it.

I was raised in the country. My grandparents had an antique farm with 100 acres for me to explore. My neighbour was a farmer (albeit not a very good one), and I literally woke up to a rooster’s cockadoodle-doo every morning. Despite this, I don’t consider myself a country boy. Most of my tastes align with that of people from the city, but I was still raised with a humble nature and appreciation for the outdoors, so whenever I get together with a group of guys from the country, I still get along well with them, and I’ve truly enjoyed the times I’ve spent with them. That being said, don’t think that just because you were born in the city that you can’t or won’t be accepted by people from the country. No one there is looking for a fight, but you have to remember to align yourself with their values. Don’t try to be flashy, quit being so high maintenance, and you definitely can’t be afraid to get a little dirty.

I think the reason why country has become so popular (in addition to the authenticity argument), is that people from the city are depressed with their stressful, cosmopolitan lives, and a country experience offers them some escape from that. You could argue that this is the same reason that we had the cottage boom in Ontario about ten years ago. People needed some escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and a weekend up at the lake provided that. Values are different, living is much simpler, and money isn’t spent on possessions; it’s spent on experiences.

This is also the reason that shows like Duck Dynasty have caught on so quickly in the last few years. The show is a reflection of the values of people from the country. Everyone on the show is relaxed, easy-going, and they approach most problems from a do-it-yourself perspective. Mental health issues in the country are almost non-existent, because the community is so close-knit. Stressful things such as social status, possessions, and comparing yourselves to your neighbours are not part of the culture. People there don’t care about being wealthy or famous. People are measured by their character and how their actions reflect it. All that matters is a simple life, an honest living, and knowing at the end of the day, your buddies will always be there for you.  We need more of that in today’s stress-filled world, but unfortunately, all we’ve been able to take from the country is the music; not the lessons that it preaches.

Don’t Buy Your Clothes at the Mall

This is not meant to be some anti-capitalist rant; in fact, I am going to encourage consumption throughout this article. What I will try to make you think about is not why you’re buying clothes, but where you’re buying them.

Rapper-producer duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are now world-famous after performance at the Grammy Awards, with respect to both the number of awards they won, and their performance of “Same Love” that evening. However, the duo is best known for their #1 hit “Thrift Shop”, which highlights looking great by wearing vintage clothing purchased at a thrift shop, all by spending minimal amounts of money on it. This is atypical of rap or hip-hop culture, whose artists pride themselves on gaudy displays of wealth and excess. Songs often name-drop certain brands, or the song itself could be about an entire brand or product (Jay-Z’s “Tom Ford”, Nelly’s “Air Force Ones”, and Run DMC’s “My Adidas” to name a few).

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Before “Thrift Shop”, the notion of shopping at a vintage store was largely looked down upon, seen as a place that only hipsters and the less fortunate could ever find sartorial heaven. I would argue that it is not so much a question of class or wealth, as evidenced in Simon Reynolds’ book “Retromania”. In the book, Reynolds describes vintage shopping as an interest unique to the middle and upper class. Because of their (generally) higher level of education, the consumers of these classes have the knowledge to put vintage clothing in a historical context and appreciate its value more than someone who is rummaging through clothing racks at the Salvation Army simply because it is all they can afford. It is the same principle that is applied to antique shopping, or vintage wine collecting. Yet, despite this knowledge of fashion context, our society is still vehemently opposed to buying second-hand clothing. Why?

In 2012, a student at the University of Melbourne named Tullia Jack published a study that examined the people’s habits when it came to washing clothing – specifically, a pair of jeans. When she interviewed over 250 people about why they wash their jeans so regularly, over 50% of the respondents replied that “it was their habit to do so”. The second most common answer was that “the jeans were visibly dirty”, which is surprising; most would expect visible dirt to be the most common reason for washing a garment. Miss Jack used the term “collective conventions” to describe why the vast majority of people wash their clothes so regularly and have a general aversion to dirt. In today’s society, we are conditioned from an early age to be clean, and apparently, we will go so far as to wash our clothes regularly to avoid them becoming dirty, even if there is visible evidence of no such thing! A microbiology study out of the University Alberta determined that bacterial growth on a garment plateaus after 11 days, and never reaches levels that can be deemed harmful to the wearer. So, we fear dirt and disease, even though most of the time it is simply all in our heads.

So what does this have to do with thrift shops? Our fear of dirt and disease prevents us from purchasing clothes at thrift shops because we think they’re just that: dirty. We often forget that after a few wears, all clothing is in essentially the same condition, and only after many years of wear does it begin to deteriorate. So aside from the obvious benefit of saving money on your purchases, what is so great about going to a thrift shop for second hand clothing when you can get shiny new garments at the mall?

Shopping is a temporary psychological reprieve. It offers a rush in the form of a brief search of a largely known commodity, the premise of looking good, but it all goes downhill as soon as you fork over your money. New clothing quickly gets worn, looks wrinkled, and simply doesn’t look as good as it did in the store. At a thrift store, all the potential disappointment created by your garment not being shiny and new anymore doesn’t exist, since everything there has been worn before. Additionally, your search for clothing is full of mystery and intrigue; you simply do not know what is hanging on those clothing racks, so the search is both much more exciting and much more lengthy.

At the end of your search, when you do find something you like, you feel much more accomplished because you put more effort into finding it. Gone is the novelty of something new, but what sticks with you is the experience of searching for that garment. I like to term this approach “experiential consumerism”, where you are more attached to a product based on the effort and experience attached to events leading up to its purchase. This creates more attachment towards the product, and flips the notion of empty, vapid consumerism on its head. You also don’t experience much anxiety in the form of payment since everything at a thrift store is so damn cheap anyways.

Don't turn your nose up at shopping here. It's cheaper, better for the environment, and you'll enjoy your clothes more.

Don’t turn your nose up at shopping here. It’s cheaper, better for the environment, and you’ll enjoy your clothes more.

I’m going to change gears a bit, because while I did say that you should avoid malls, the thesis of this article isn’t that you should only shop at thrift stores…

Online shopping has revolutionized the world, and made entire businesses become viable and products become accessible. It has also opened the world up to the world of high-end designer clothing, which was previously only available in the largest cities in the world. Most of my wardrobe consists of items from high-end designers, most of which I purchased second-hand online or at a thrift store. Why the eclectic mix? What ties these two together is the experience and search I had to go through in which to purchase them.

I didn’t walk into Barney’s in New York to buy any of my clothes. I saved my money, waited patiently, searched with great fervency online and eventually found what I was looking for. This might have required a bit more work and input on my part, but it makes the clothes you wear that much more special. Additionally, I enjoy having a unique wardrobe, so if you feel like you are comfortable pulling off some more unique looks, then think outside the mall and be better than the Gap. Ebay is a great start to this, but there are many other avenues with which to procure high-end designer clothes for substantially less than what they retail for.

eBay is one of many online resources for new or used designer clothing at cheap prices.

eBay is one of many online resources for new or used designer clothing at cheap prices.

I’m not saying that everyone should just drop everything and only shop at their local thrift store and buy all of their nicer stuff from eBay – it wouldn’t be practical or achievable for most. I will say this, though: if you find yourself somewhat jaded and in need of “retail therapy”, don’t go to the mall, it will probably make you feel even worse the following day. Instead, take the time to search for some cool things at a thrift store, or surf around eBay and save yourself some money. And even if you could care less for clothing, why not save yourself some money and try looking at a thrift store? If you don’t care much about something, why get ripped off and spend too much money on it? Attach experiences to things you enjoy when you purchase them; you’ll find that you’ll enjoy them that much more.

Date a Girl.

This is my tongue-in-cheek response to all of the “Date a girl who _____” articles that have been popping up lately. I refuse to categorize. Let’s just keep it simple.

Date a girl.

You can do stuff together. Go traveling, or not. Maybe you hate trying new things, and if she does too, I suppose a night in with wine and Netflix will be right for you two. Your girl could be scared of flying, scared of the jungle, or scared of being alone. But as long as you’re dating a girl, just make sure she likes to bone. She might not care about seeing the Taj Mahal, or even Katmandu, and that’s great news if you don’t, too. But maybe she wants to see the world, feel like she’s been changed for the better, and if you’re ok with her leaving, I’d say let her! And if you want to tag along because adventure gives you excitement- go! You’re dating a girl, after all; you can still do that from inside a tent.

Date a girl. You get to impress her with your fancy car or your large collection of books. She could impress you with how smart she is, and how she garners other men’s looks. If you date a girl, you get to spend money on her! New dresses, new shoes, or a new coat made of fur. Perhaps she hates materialism and trying to bought. Or maybe it was that time you cheated and she had you caught. Your girl could like to read classic novels, cook gourmet meals, or knit her friends ugly headbands. Maybe she likes vintage wine, vodka, or just doing keg stands.

Date a girl. She could be a doctor, a lawyer, or a teacher. She could sell real estate, or do research, but I doubt she’s a preacher. Your girl could have a great job, a stressful one, or even no job at all. Regardless of her situation, she’s got you by the balls. The other girls at work could be mean or her boss could be an asshole. Just sit there, pretend to listen to her, and then remind her that the glass is half-full.

Date a girl. Tell her she’s beautiful, she’s not fat, and that you totally want to go with her to hot yoga. Encourage her to try pole-dancing, belly-dancing, and then try find any excuse you can to ensure that you never go to hot yoga. Run or cycle together; get out there and enjoy the beautiful sights that the world has to offer. If that’s not you or your girl’s thing, that’s fine; but at least make it a challenge for your girl to get you off of her.

Date a girl. She’ll tell you that you’re rude, tell you how to dress, and nag you enough about everything to put you in a state of duress. Try your best to put up with it – she does put with you, after all – but remember to put your foot down when she won’t let you watch football. You’ll argue over the toilet seat’s position, who does the dishes, and how many pillows are on the bed. But seriously, who cares about that shit? She’s about to give you head!

Date a girl. She’s probably read Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades of Grey. So if you head back to her house and she wants to tie you up and whip you, start running. Run far, far away. But if you and her are both into that stuff, then I’m really happy that you both share a hobby. Just never bring it up in public; I don’t give a shit how kinky your sex is, Robbie! Find a girl who respects you for who you are, and loves the little things that make you tick. But above all, find a total animal in the sheets, who wants nothing more than your dick.

Date a girl. Any type, any size, any race, any kind; it shouldn’t matter to you. Whatever the things are that your girl likes to do, she’s a girl, and you’re dating her. Lucky, lucky you.

Go With the Flow: 6 Reasons Why Guys Should Consider Growing Their Hair Out

This post is not to be taken entirely seriously, but I do believe that there is a lot of truth here.

As a guy, it pays to stand out in a good way, and not just for picking up girls at the bar. People will notice you more, and you’ll likely make a memorable impression if your appearance conveys a positive impression. I can attest to a personal transformation as a result of growing out my hair to lengths past my shoulders, so a lot of this is first-hand experience. For me, the decision to grow my hair for over three years has been one of the best things I could have done for my social life, professional life, and self-image. The trend is slowly catching on, and here’s my take on why you should give it a shot.

1)   Long hair on a guy signifies commitment.

Commitment Squared.

Commitment Squared.

You can’t grow your hair out to shoulder length overnight, so if you decide to go through with it, you’re in a long-term commitment, and people will take notice of that. It’s the same basis as making a commitment to working out to reach a target weight/physique. People have to respect the hard work and dedication you put into it. Plus, if you can commit to growing your hair long, that shows you’re willing to commit to other things. Like a woman. And they’ll take notice of that fact. My roommate once had two random girls walk up to him and buy him a jaegerbomb simply because of his hair.

2)   It’s adaptable.

Long hair: now acceptable in a casual or formal setting.

Long hair: now acceptable in a casual or formal setting.

Long hair has, in a traditional sense, been the most popular hairstyle for men throughout history. Historically, long hair has been considered acceptable in both a formal or casual setting. While other haircuts on men also fall into this dichotomy of usage, nothing screams “Let’s get fucked up!” like a guy letting his hair down for a Friday night of boozing. If you move from a night out on the town to a boardroom meeting, long hair tied back exudes an air of sophistication and individuality. Additionally, if you live in a cold climate, you can leave your hair down in the winter to protect your neck from the cold, and tie it up just as easy when it gets warm in the summer.  You simply don’t get those kind of results by playing it safe with short hair. Plus you can rock a man bun.

3)   It signifies confidence.

If a guy is willing to grow his hair out that long, chances are he’s ok with the extra attention that he’s going to receive: it’s a dominance thing. It’s something I like to term “The Lion Effect”.

A male lion’s mane is a symbol of his sexual virility, health, and genetic quality. His quality of mate choice is largely dependent on his appearance. A proud, well-groomed mane will reflect better on the male lion than will a patchy, scraggly mane (or no mane at all), which will likely convey sickness or weakness to potential mates. He will also appear more impressive to potential competitors. This is not to say that simply by having mane of hair, you’re going to be more respected and get a hell of lot more ass, but it will certainly help if your behaviour mirrors your appearance. This also means that proper grooming is in order: you can’t just grow your hair out and not expect to take care of it. Otherwise, you’ll come off as mangy looking. This also isn’t meant to say that guys with short hair are at a disadvantage when it comes to girls, but if those same guys were to grow their hair out, I’d wager they’d see increased success.

If Simba's fight against Scar taught is anything, it's that the bigger mane always wins.

If Simba’s fight against Scar taught is anything, it’s that the better mane always wins.

4)   It’s universally appealing.

Long hair is widely accepted across many countries, so no matter where your travels take you, you’re still going to look good. For some reason, countries all over the world are embracing long hair. It could be the push for a more “authentic” self that has been perpetuated by hipsters and country music fans alike, but the result is the same: long hair is old-fashioned, and people crave authenticity.

5)   No hairstyle has more sex appeal for a guy than a mane of long hair.

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Charlie Hunnam

For decades, male rock stars, artists, and other celebrities have embraced long hair as a symbol of individuality and sex appeal. Girls have grown up with a lot of their celebrity man crushes sporting long locks. Girls have told me that they like guys with long hair for a number of reasons: it’s fun, it’s more primal, or that it gives you an edgy look. Whatever the reason, if you’ve decided to grow your hair out, take advantage of it.

Guys like Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Chris Hemsworth, Jared Leto, and Charlie Hunnam (pictured) have made long hair part of their brand. And women everywhere have rejoiced everywhere because of it. For the ladies reading this, I’m sure you can agree: when a guy with a mane of hair is ravaging you, the option of running your fingers through his hair or grabbing on to it just seems a lot more appealing, no?

6)   Long hair will gain you respect among the guys as well.

Troy Polamalu's hair made him (even more) rich and famous. What could your hair do for you?

Troy Polamalu’s hair made him (even more) rich and famous.

Troy Polamalu is famous off the football field due his locks and Head & Shoulders commercials (and the company has even gone so far as to take out a $1 million insurance policy on his hair). Guy Lafleur’s famous mane would flow behind him as he flew down the ice in the bygone helmet-less days of the NHL. In short, long hair has been admired by (and marketed at) men for quite some time.

When you’re going out downtown, I can tell you from personal experience that you start getting a lot of recognition and respect from guys for having flow, and as long as you have the great personality to back it up, it can really net you a lot of new interactions and potential new friends.

In short, if you can commit to it, growing your hair out is a great decision that every guy should consider while they’re still able to (i.e., before you need to keep your hair cut trim if you have a client facing, “real job”).

Long hair isn’t for everyone, but if you were thinking about doing it, there’s no time like the present. Make sure you have the personality to match, but you’re going to have a few years to work on it anyways while you’re waiting for your hair to grow. Long hair will not magically transform you into a sick beauty overnight, but it definitely helps.

In closing: ladies love the flow, bro.

What I learned from listening to metal

Music is an incredible thing. It can unite us, inspire us, or even frustrate us. One of the more demonizing forms of music in existence today is metal. This brutal type of music is divided further into numerous sub-genres, including: death metal, melodic death metal, and the infamous black metal. While not all metal is scary sounding (DragonForce is technically considered a metal band), the genre has been largely shunned from the public eye due to the perceived “dangers” of exposing children to its enraged overtones, resulting in violent, difficult, or depressed children. I mean, look at this excerpt from the song “Fermented Offal Discharge” by the technical death metal band Necrophagist (which literally translates to: “eater of the dead”)

The casket is exhumed, turfs piled beside the grave
A stagnant mass awaits me, deep in the gloom
The boxes lids I open, distraught desecrating
The fumes are penetrating, I am eructating… I vomit…
I initiate eager exhuming despite bad scents…
I dig up cold earth, exhumed turfs I disperse…
I initiate eager exhuming despite bad scents…
The open casket reveals the rot
Into weak stomach I slide my hands
Intensifying fumes I like to snort

My goodness, what an appalling lyrical arrangement! How could anyone possibly enjoy this?
Well, Fermented Offal Discharge happens to be my favourite song. The complex drum arrangements, the incredible bass work, and of course, the trademark guitar virtuosity of lead guitarist Muhammed Suicmez really bring the music to life. I’ll include this incredible video of someone playing the entire lead part of the song on a clarinet. Skip to 3:00 to hear the solo.

Sounded almost…classical didn’t it? For those that have not been exposed to the world of metal, it may shock you to learn that most metal musicians have extensive classical music training. The gruff, aggressive lyrics of a typical metal song may give the genre a very rough look on the surface, but if you delve deeper into the actual music in each song, you’ll find that the compositions are rather intricate and incredibly hard to play. That being said, metal is an acquired taste, and it’s definitely not for everyone.

So what have I learned from listening to metal? It produces a lot of really shitty people.

No, really – despite the praises I’ve just sung for the music, the people can really ruin it for you, and they’re really a bummer to discuss music with for the most part. A study out of Warwick University determined that the most intelligent students in their study generally listened to metal. The reason? To cope with the burdens of being talented; essentially, listening to metal was an outlet for their frustrations. Many metal musicians are also highly educated. The aforementioned Muhammed Suicmez? A mechanical engineer. The lead guitarist of Behemoth, Nergal? A master’s degree in history, and a museum curator designation in his home country of Poland. Yannick Bercier, lead drummer of Canadian metal band Quo Vadis? A Ph.D. in physics from McGill. However, do not confuse intelligence with happiness or overall pleasantry.

When I got really into metal in the summer of grade 11, I started to close off all other genres of music, because I adopted the classic “metalhead” mindset that all commercial forms of music are bad, the musicians aren’t talented, and that they’re all fake. I didn’t really have much to talk about with regards to music aside from metal, but finding other people who liked it were few and far between. And even when one metalhead finds another, they often butt heads because they might not agree on band choices! It became a very dire situation, and realizing that there was more to music than simple musical talent was quite the revelation.

So what did listening to metal teach me? Being elitist is a recipe for disaster, especially with something as subjective as music. It sows the seeds of misery all around you, and the further you delve into the metallic underground, the harder it is to find your way out. Being elitist with anything is a bad idea, plain and simple. It conveys a low level of self esteem, and you project unhealthy, negative emotions on people. That’s not to say negative emotions are bad, but when you can’t even go out to a party or a bar because you “think Top 40 sucks”, or “all the people are fake”, you really start to become a shitty person to be around. While many metal heads prefer a life more prone to solitude, I feel as if they are hiding. Hiding because they are scared, hiding underneath an armoured veil of this…music. Today, I’m glad I don’t exclusively listen to metal, or EDM, or any other type of music where elitism runs rampant. Think of the time when you had a conversation with someone who was a musical elitist, where their only goal seemed to name drop more bands than you could, or maybe turn the number of concerts they’ve been to into an impromptu dick-measuring contest. It probably wasn’t a very enjoyable conversation, and you were praying that it would just end.

What musical elitists seem to forget is that 99% of all people don’t care about how intense or underground the music you listen to is. What they care about is being exposed to new ideas or new thoughts on the subject of music. When your musical tastes become secular, so does your life. Open your mind to new sounds and new experiences. You don’t have to like everything, but at least gain an appreciation for the craft. Hate rap? Fine, but at least try to gain some respect for the talented lyricists of the past, or the producers of the present.

Listening to metal taught me the value of having a good pair of headphones, and knowing which kinds of music that I should keep confined to them. No one wants to hear a death metal song, unless they also happen to be a metal fan. Popular music is popular for a reason: it’s actually pretty good if you just learn to relax and get into it. Try it sometime, you’ll be amazed at how much happier you feel.

Why the “Underemployment” Crisis for 20-somethings is a myth

Almost thirty years ago, the unemployment rate in Canada was almost double what it is today (a staggering 13%). Twenty years ago, it took another spike and jumped to 12%. Today’s unemployment rate of 7.2% is, in historical terms, very good, and among the lowest it’s ever been since these statistics were first recorded by Statistics Canada back in 1966. So why are we constantly bombarded with sob stories from twenty-somethings about a bleak future, no available jobs for university graduates, and “underemployment” for that same demographic? Countless articles, blog posts, or even entire blogs are dedicated to the woes and the awkward growing pains that encompass the life of the 20-something, yet the data suggest otherwise.

The reality is, nothing has changed in a historical sense; every generation of 20-somethings has a difficult time coming to grips with the post post-secondary life, as it is not the gold-paved highway painted for them throughout their youth. The key difference in our generation is that we have what I like to call “unfiltered public communication” about our hardships, better known as a social media.

This could be your post-grad life one day. This should not be a scary thought. Embrace the challenge.

This could be your post-grad life one day. This should not be a scary thought. Embrace the challenge.

Social media and the ease of assembling a blog have catalyzed the trend of the hopeless 20-something (and in my case, catapulted the movement to try to end it). Yes, it is true that more students in North America are attending university (albeit at a higher cost) than ever before. But did we ever stop and think: the age at which students are attending university hasn’t changed, so why should the maturation process? The real value of education comes from life experience gained along the journey through a university degree, not from memorizing countless facts or rapidly writing an essay.

Life experience wise, the average 21 year old today is no different from a 21 year old back in 1983; they’re both equally as hopeless and confused about life as the other. The only notable difference overall would be the slightly inflated sense of entitlement in the former due to a higher chance of that individual being educated at a university. I would argue that a 21 year old who has spent 4 years of their post secondary life slugging it out in a minimum wage job has more intrinsic value than a university graduate of the same age.

Life experience will far outweigh education when it comes to employability; the only difference being the level of position at which you can be employed. However, I would like to point out that while the university graduate may command a better salary (and employment potential) in the long run, this would by no means make them a better employee than someone with life experience and a sensible work ethic. The education or knowledge might not be there, but the quality of their work will be evident because in my experience, most people not in school are thankful to have a job, and perform better at it.

Which leads me to the case of “underemployment”. Nothing more than a buzzword created by 21st century article writers. Why should the fact that you have a university degree dictate that you deserve a better job than someone who doesn’t? What value do you possess that they do not? After all, employability is ultimately a question of valuation. At the age of 21, do you offer more value than your competition? The answer is probably not. What many people in university seem to forget is that the times have changed: you’re not a special flower like your parents were if they went to university. We are basing our case for “underemployment” on outdated metrics. Think about it: we are “underemployed” based on what our parents’ situations were like when they were our age. Our parents’ generation had a formula for success: go to university, graduate, get a job, get a nice house with a white picket fence, have kids; rinse, repeat, retire. Unfortunately, 3 factors contributed to this “underemployment” situation we see today.

1) The baby boomer formula for success was no longer a secret. Every parent now had the idea in their head that they needed to send their kids to university to ensure that their child was destined for greatness.

2) University is a lot more accessible nowadays thanks to wide-spread student loans and lines of credit.

3) High schools started grossly inflating grades to the point that almost anyone with a pulse could be an honours student.

This is not meant to discourage those in university: clearly having achieved the academic results that you possess, you likely have a commendable academic work ethic and relatively high level of intelligence. But to think that the journey is over once you’ve graduated is a terrible assumption. Once you leave school, you are at the bottom of the barrel again, degree or no degree. You will have to work long hours, probably at a crappy job not even related to your field of study, and you’ll make enough money just to get by and tough it out for a good many years. It is during these years that you will define who you are.

The most critical period of growth and cognitive maturation is from the age of 18-27, where you become the adult you’ll be for the rest of your life. During these years, your social and professional maturation are imperative to your success and progress throughout the rest of your adult life. It is this time that you will form habits that will shape the very foundation of your being. The best part is, it is completely up to you on how this plays out.

Research has shown that the top performers in every field are not the most intelligent or the most educated; once IQ and ability reach a certain level, progressing beyond 1 standard deviation above that is not as valuable as developing good social habits and work ethic. Daniel Goleman is a pioneering author and psychologist, and his work details the importance of emotional intelligence with regards to success in the workplace, which is essentially self-reflection combined with life experience. The more you know yourself and others, and know how to apply that to work well with others, the greater your chances of success are.

Working a job like this will give you humility, life experience, and people skills necessary to land your first "real job"

Working a job like this will give you humility, life experience, and people skills necessary to land your first “real job”

Think about a time when you worked at a really crappy job. You liked the sense of being employed at first, but then you quickly felt underappreciated and hopeless in the shadows of your temperamental manager and greedy boss. How did you react? Did you fade into the background and let your work ethic fall off because it was “pointless” since you were in university and you’ll be out of that shithole in no time? Or did you accept your standing in the company and make a commitment to improve your skills and abilities? This scenario will present itself over and over again at each level of your life. It is the way that you embrace these challenges that will define your future.

If you challenge yourself to be better at your job, you will start to enjoy your job more. When you enjoy your job more, your sense of happiness improves, and not just when you’re on the clock. If you’re happier at work, you’re happier at home. When your sense of happiness improves, your job performance will as well, and your superiors will start to notice your great attitude matched with an even greater job performance. It’s only a matter of time before you advance in the company, even if it’s whatever minimal promotion you could achieve as a part-time student employee. And then the cycle begins once more at your first “real job”, but since you’ve done it before, you’re more prepared to do it all over again.

If you’ve cultivated a sound work ethic, you will likely be more open to gaining new skills or developing your existing ones. One of the trends occurring now is non-traditional education. Workshops, certifications, or schools dedicated to teaching skills such as project management, team-building, or the all important language of coding have sprung up in recent years, and their graduates are at a significant advantage because they offer more value to the company. These highly-driven people recognized that their skill set and marks provided by university didn’t factor as much as knowing their strengths and developing their out-of-classroom skills.

Every success story follows a similar path. No one is born a billionaire, or millionaire, or any successful person for that matter depending on your definition. Success is earned, not handed out. In terms of educational opportunity, we have it better today than many of our parents did back in the 80’s when they were searching for work, and better than many of our older peers did in the early 90’s. We are not a unique generation; we just have more outlets with which to complain about it.

So instead of reading every new article complaining about how bad the job market is, or how tuition fees are an injustice, or joining in with all the naysayers that they feel “underemployed” considering their “intelligence” and “education”, take a step back and remember that you’re no different from a 20-something thirty years ago. Accept that, move on, and do the shit out of every job you get.