Your data is being watched – the Snowden lesson

Some call him a traitor, others call him a whistleblower, but what Edward Snowden has truly done is wake Americans from a dormant sleep of indifference. Snowden’s announcements have been a wake-up call for many Americans that feel safe placing confidential information online. It is a lesson that all individuals should learn; in the era of big data everything you do is being tracked, recorded, and saved for future use.

Many Facebook users, myself included, participate in a “Facebook stalk” – sitting around visiting the pages of your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and random people you met once at a party. Facebook is tracking exactly what you are searching, what you click on, what your mouse cursor moves over, and the photos you view.  Without a doubt, Facebook understands which advertisements work best on you, your sexual preference and individuals you’re interested in, the restaurants you visited and with whom, the movies you watch, the conversations you have, and the places you have visited.

When the Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, I’m sure that someone called up Mark Zuckerberg to ask whether Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev had Facebook accounts. Is there a doubt in my mind that Zuckerberg doesn’t back up data from everything conducted on Facebook? No.

While “deleting your creeper Facebook Search history” may make you feel more secure from the prying eyes of friends and family, it’s just as unreliable as deleting files off of a computer or deleting your Google Search history. Someone has that data. Think about how the computers of sex offenders or other individuals are confiscated and searched for data. Your information is being stored.

Every tweet you send, note you make, trolling you do on online forums, and email you draft may be watched. Think about the downfall of General Petraeus and the email trick that he used, a trick that is used by terrorists and those looking to hide their search history. He left draft emails that he figured would never be discovered. And we all know how that story ended up.

What can you do? Know that what you search, whether at work, home, or even through Google Incognito has the chance of being recorded. Sure, it may not be a secret that the NSA or CIA may be monitoring for, but what you do is never safe. We are all guilty. Don’t trust the Internet because you have a secure password, instead, research techniques that lesson your likelihood of a problem, while also bearing in mind that what you say is being recorded (also, don’t research things that may be compromising). There are more dangerous things in the world than Trojan Viruses infecting your computer.


6 Tips to Avoid the After Graduation Blues

I sat there nervously applying for positions I had no chance of receiving and unsure of where my future was taking me. The only jobs available were for completely unrelated fields with experience requirements that I could only dream of fulfilling. College had just ended and I was feeling down on my degree and upset that my résumé was devoid of relevant Public Relations or Social Media experience.  Living at home with my parents was the new normal and I was pushing myself into a corner that there was no way out of.

For months, I sat moping in the corner as my existence became unemployment. The expected job at the end of the tunnel was a mirage that soon faded as yet another interview came to a dead-end. I mistakenly convinced myself that it was a numbers game and that I would eventually get there. Then one day it clicked… you needed to create your own luck.

My first months out of school gave me the opportunity to learn that I wasn’t entitled to a position simply because I forked over money to an institution and helped me learn the following:

1. “Wake up” early because the early bird gets the worm

Whether you’re commuting for two hours into the city or taking a ten minute bike-ride to work, wake up early. I don’t mean literally the act of waking up (heck, most of us are barely awake as we make our commute to work), but focus on waking up your brain.

It may be tempting to check your email as you first roll over in the morning but don’t. Your productivity may be crushed as you weed through emails and overwhelm yourself before beginning the day. Instead, I run through news headlines and listen to books on tape before walking into the office.

2. An internship isn’t the end of the world (if it’s in your field)

I understand that there is a debate going on on whether interns should be paid (that will probably be a later post), but internships still provide you with something very serious – experience in your field. As someone that has had completely unrelated internships and jobs  before moving into my career field, having that 6 months – 1 year of experience makes a difference. While being an excellent interviewer is important, if you don’t have basic qualifications for a position you’ll never receive a call.

3. Treat your body and mind well

Working out releases endorphins, which limits the depression of the daily monotony of work and life. During the week get sleep and exercise and watch it increase your likelihood of success. Next, eat well. Sure, picking up a Lean Cuisine is easy and looks delicious with those incredible photos adorning the frozen-meal box, but don’t be strayed! Lean Cuisine is neither good for you or advisable if you’re hoping to treat your body well. They may be cheap, but splurge a little and enjoy something fresh or heat up some homemade leftovers. For my next step, I think I’ll take a page from some successful CEOs and pick up yoga.

4. Get uncomfortable and enjoy it

I’m a firm believer that the best things in life make you a little uncomfortable. You don’t simply ask someone out on a date that you feel comfortable dating, that leads to failure. Instead, you take a chance. The same goes for business or the workplace. If you’re not willing to take a chance and make yourself sweat a little, others will notice…negatively. People are rarely attracted to safe. Instead, they return to safe when they fall short of achieving their uncomfortable goal – and that’s totally cool! But if you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know what could have been.

I really enjoyed this piece on becoming charismatic from Business Insider, naturally, getting uncomfortable is part of it.

5. Network your socks off

What’s the best way to get extremely uncomfortable? Treat every opportunity as a chance to network, or as I like to think of it, relationship building. Whether at a networking event or your local gym, treat it as a chance to meet someone new. I often fall into the “I’m too cool to meet someone” mentality, particularly when I’m at the gym. What’s a great way around it? Take off the headphones and say hi.

Nervous about meeting people? Everyone is… but the people that get uncomfortable prevail.

6. Always carry business cards, even you tech savvy Gen Y’er

For unexpected networking situations,  always have business cards available for distribution and note taking. Naysayers believe that business cards don’t work anymore (they still do) as US society is moving away from paper to electronic, but I ask how can you communicate with those that believe in the strength of business cards? “I don’t believe in business cards” is the wrong answer. Adjust your style. Whether you’re a physicist, PR professional, or small business owner, do what you can to meet new people.

So what should you take from this? Learn, get uncomfortable, take risks, and get yourself out there to meet the people that matter. Stop sitting around and make moves, because if you don’t someone else will.