Monday, December 08, 2008

Rambling about work-related things

Twice a week I head downtown during the morning commute for my internship at a human rights nonprofit. Downtown at 9 AM is a completely different world than anything I'm used to. As I walk the few blocks from the bus stop to the high-rise where I work, I pass by people pulling their SUVs into parking garages that charge at least eleven bucks a day, and imagine how they must have commuted from Edina or St. Louis Park. So many people in suits and business attire, and I wonder, what the hell do these people do? They must be part of that miscellaneous business world I always hear about in my alumni newsletters that give me advice about career-building and reference things like company stock profiles, regional training sessions, and presenting projects to a board of directors, and it always sounds so mysterious to me. These suits walking around, are they lawyers? Are they marketing executives? Do they work for Target's corporate headquarters? I see groups of men not much older than me walking briskly down the street, looking all date-rapey with their gelled hair and fancy shoes, and I overhear bits of conversation about heading to some random Irish-themed yuppy bar on the corner for happy hour. It's a world that is totally alien to me.

Where I actually work, though, is different. Even though the staff is predominantly made up of lawyers, people wear whatever they feel like, which ranges from business casual to jeans and a sweater. My real, paying work place is similarly casual, and for a while I found this shocking, because Japan is so formal (remember, it's rude not to wear makeup). I worked with mostly kids, often little kids, often in their homes, but there was only one time I wore jeans to a class, totally by accident because I got almost the whole way to the class before realizing that I'd forgotten to change. When I looked down and noticed I was still wearing my jeans, it felt as if I'd forgotten to put on pants, and I was half naked. I even apologized to my student's mother and offered an explanation, which was totally not necessary. I started watching 30 Rock since I've been back, and I still can't get over how Liz Lemon works for NBC but can wear jeans and hoodies to her job.

By the way, I am so done with internships. They always look like they'll be really cool in the description, but it's just unpaid entry-level labor. If you have a personality like mine, which is to quietly and obediently do your assigned work rather than schmoozing and being a go-getter, internships of this sort do not lead to jobs. It possibly leads to references and definitely something to put on your resume, but I have a LOT of shit like this on my resume. If I wanted a job in this area, I'd either have to go to law school (PUKE) or get some other degree in something like nonprofit management so I can work in fundraising and PR (BOOOOOO).

Also, so much of the human rights community is based on pushing their respective nations to sign whatever human rights treaty put forth by the UN, but these treaties are largely symbolic. There are treaties that are legally binding and those that are nonbinding, but in their implementation, there's basically no difference. For example, the US hasn't signed onto the Convention on the Rights of Women, but places like Egypt have, and I don't think Egypt has such a good record with women's rights. I've been working on a disability rights toolkit here, and of course I'd like the government to sign onto the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. But really, it's just because it would be a nice idea, because even though the rights of PWD are universally way behind, the US has a comparatively good record, and the convention doesn't add much to US legislation on the issue, and the stuff that it does add, the US would basically ignore because it smells too much like socialism. So I don't know how I feel about the pushing legislation part of human rights work, but there's a lot of grassroots level work around the work that really helps. I just don't know how to get involved with that.


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