Data-driven Insights for Dating

When apps and love come up in a conversation, we ready ourselves for some lame stories of another Tindr swipe gone-wrong or questions of whether we tried the latest contender for OkCupid.  Taking love (and lust) online is fast becoming a need versus a last-ditch option.

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What a meet-cute looks like when J-Lo wears heels. (The Wedding Planner-2001)

There is a limit to how long a man or a woman can honestly expect to bump into the perfect someone in a meet-cute situation (a la rom-com). Thanks, but no thanks, Hollywood. Millennials are taking these matters into their hands – and onto their smartphones.

There is something truly unique in the App Store now, going far beyond the newest Tindr or any of the miscellany of dating or hookup apps. It’s called Evolve. Evolve’s tagline on the website reads “Introducing the world’s first DRM- Dating & Relationship Manager”. Like a Hubspot, a customer relationship management tool, but for courtship, the Evolve App analyzes the data you are tracking, pre-and post every date.

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Evolve allows you to rate your dates, gauge relationship potential, reflect on your dates, see patterns, discover date spots- everything except the actual matching itself. That you figure out on your own. The idea is that once you understand your patterns, Evolve helps you change your behavior and make smarter decisions.

You won’t find any matches here – you’ve got plenty of apps for that. Evolve helps you date with intention. Weigh your options, reflect on your dates, and make the most of your time. Get personalized insights, tips, and discover where the best dates are happening in your city – all backed by data.

Dating behaviour ranges from little understood to completely misunderstood. Once you add in the complexities of online socialization, all bets are off! Data analytics to suss out preferences and concerns – but can this approach work for human relationships as well?

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The question of the day is: Do we need software to analyze our dating lives? 

We use apps to track everything – from fitness activity level, via a pedometer or FitBit app/device to what we eat, or how far we travel in a day. Not only that, we also expect actionable data to result from all the data we are collecting and feeding into these apps.  We expect to live our ‘best life’ and want technology to aid us in the pursuit.

The more one thinks about it, the more natural it becomes to believe that the use of data can ensure a satisfactory courting experience.

That, however, might be because us digital natives have been conditioned to believe that data is queen. Data can do no wrong. Can behavioural science truly help us interpret the quirks of romance in the wild? Outside controlled social experiments? Is Evolve App the missing piece of the system attempting to measure complex social behaviours of contemporary times? Will we ignore the butterflies in our collective stomachs and depend solely on data-driven insights to foster relationships? Evolve App and others like it may be a sign of things to come. 

Catalyst Woman’s research also found that…

  • In the U.S. the online dating industry generated over $2 billion in revenue on an annual basis while in China it has generated $1.6 billion.
  • After young adults, 18-24 year olds, the other largest age group participating in online dating is 55-64 year olds.

Meet the Millennial Asian: Over-educated + Under-employed

If you are a Millennial Asian, the newspapers think you are pretty pathetic. Looking at the numbers, you have earned more degrees than anyone else in your family,  are up to your neck in education debt, you are chronically under-employed and will stay so for the foreseeable future.

Yes. Under-employed.

Investopedia defines this phenomenon like so:

Labor that falls under the underemployment classification includes those workers that are highly skilled but working in low paying jobs, workers that are highly skilled but work in low skill jobs and part-time workers that would prefer to be full-time.

The market has few jobs to offer the growing legions of fresh grads and the ones available fail to offer much of anything: little money, little career growth and little in terms of security. These handful of jobs are not what you aspired to back in college. It is highly likely you will be delivering goods ordered online or managing a social media campaign for the local non-profit organisation until a “Real Job” opportunity turns up.

Let’s suppose that you finally get a chance to interview for a “Real Job”.  As a fresh grad  you are facing competition from the people who graduated years before you and have relevant work experience to show for it.

Jobs available in the government sector are scarce, practically impossible to access unless one has a ‘link’ (how I loathe that practice)  and the benefits hardly ever compensate for the dismal pay.

Gordon Orr warns China’s fresh graduates that even the low-barrier, entry-level careers  in bank telling or insurance agencies are going obsolete. Technologies like AliPay and WeChat have streamlined basic banking tasks and banks will soon be a thing of the past – much like post offices.

…there may be new jobs but they are just not the jobs you set your heart on when you went to university: low pay and low security is a poisonous combination of many of the new jobs in China’s “rebalancing economy”.

Orr suggests brushing up on vocational skills that may come into play in the emerging sectors, like learning coding or other such I.T. wizardry. If nothing else, it is suggested that a fresh grad like you should start a business and embrace self-employment as your fate.

The fastest growth category of urban employment in recent years has been self-employment.  While some of this is likely a cute way of describing unemployed, the broader trend that it represents is the growth of small and mid-sized enterprises and their importance to job creation in the economy. 

Next up is the “Has Pakistan overeducated it’s middle class?” article that appeared on Dawn’s website about two days back.  The lack of congruency between the education Pakistani universities are churning out and the jobs available is painfully apparent for anyone who been through a hiring cycle. Not only is the quality of education suspect, the graduates are ill-prepared for the rigours of the job-search and interview process. I am in complete agreement that there need to be university-based career prep centres at both public and private universities. Private universities barely scratch the surface when it comes to preparing their students for the corporate/real world. A mandatory 2 hour workshop in the last week of university does not suffice.  I recommend universities to start students on mandatory courses that cover internship seeking, c.v. writing and interviewing skills from freshman year.

The author, Murtaza Haider,  makes a valid point about how loosely underemployment is tallied and also how faulty the premise is regarding what constitutes a ‘living wage’.

My primary concern is about how the state defines underemployment.

The state considers those working for fewer than 35 hours in a given week as underemployed. This definition assumes that those working for 35 hours or more in a given week are gainfully employed, i.e., they are earning enough to support their families.

The under and unemployment figures are quite meaningless for struggling economies like Pakistan. Even by the government’s estimates, 60 million Pakistanis, 29.5 per cent of the population, live below the poverty line. Experts at Oxford University estimate a much larger proportion of Pakistanis (44 per cent) to be poor.

Thus, boasting about low unemployment rates is rather futile because a large proportion of those considered employed by the government are not earning enough to feed and clothe their families.

Lastly, here is an article from the World Economic Forum warning us that for the millennials post-graduate degrees may be a waste of money.  Lux Alptraum shares that despite belonging to a family accustomed to collecting degrees (the way some collect shares) she ultimately decided not to seek a postgraduate degree.  For her, the math simply didn’t add up!

Every time I’ve considered going back to school, I’ve done a cost-benefit analysis—and for me, that analysis has never worked out in academia’s favor. My law school dreams died when it occurred to me that the kind of do-gooder law I was interested in would likely leave me in debt for the rest of my life (and also when I realized that “liking to argue” is but a small part of a law career). My potential public health degree stopped making sense when I realized the small salary bump I might secure wouldn’t balance out the money—and time–I’d spend getting the Master’s.

As a fellow Millennial Asian, I feel your anguish.

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I also sense your need to reach for the nearest tub of ice cream to drown your sorrows.   Hold off on that for a second.  There has to be a Plan B.

Will it be running our very own Food Truck? Maybe.

Can it be starting up a coaching centre for the chronically under-employed and helping them loosen up via improv sessions?  Could be.

The beacon of hope lies in our ability to carve out careers, create brands  and provide services in emerging markets – despite the nay-sayers and dismal statistics. 

Drop me a tweet @marsonearth.

I write about financial empowerment, digital literacy, and educational technology at my blog called Catalyst Woman.  Who am I? I once described myself as a Communications consultant who conducts trainings focused on Women’s Empowerment, Employability Skills and Educational Innovation.

Time to ‘Woman Up’!

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Two quotes from the interwebz – one message – it’s time to ‘Woman Up!’

“Profound change will be possible only if we build a grand female tradition that men are forced to measure themselves against. – Only when a man publicly recognises his debt to a woman’s work without the condescending kindliness typical of those who feel themselves superior will things really start to change.”

In a Manner of Speaking – Interview of Elena Ferrante 

Do you agree? Send a tweet at  @catalystwoman or drop me an email on talktocatalystwoman at gmail dot com.

M.I.A.: Work Culture

First, read this tweet.

When the Wiggle-Room Becomes the Bermuda Triangle 

As social animals, us humans have an inherent sense of how compatible we are with others.  This compatibility does extend beyond the typical domains of romance or familial duties; we have a definite compatibility ratio when it comes to our colleagues at the workplace.

In today’s project-driven offices it is quite common for us to be communicating with coworkers in the next city over or even the next timezone.  Given this reality, despite the numerous advantages of instantaneous connections via the internet (Skype, WhatsApp, Email), colleagues often provide each other some wiggle room when it comes to responding back on tasks that aren’t red-hot, Priority #1.

Working in Pakistan there are times we are dealing with choppy internet, poor bandwidth and plain ol’ power breakdowns; to battle all this, Pakistani professionals make it a priority to build in a cushion of time/space to ensure work gets delivered on-time.  We also invest a hefty sum of money in back-up power and multiple internet service providers;  I would specially give credit to our independent freelancing professionals who maintain this high-level of responsiveness without the buffer of a mega-corp or the mega-corp budget.

Going back to the compatibility aspect, we usually have a good sense of who will not exploit the wiggle room given; until that wiggle room becomes the never-ending Bermuda Triangle. Something inexplicable happens and the perfect syncopation fizzles out into unanswered emails and missed deadlines.

I write this only to trigger a conversation about this phenomenon. What makes us, all of us, lose steam during a project? Is this an indication of poor leadership?  Aside from the obvious communication breakdown, are there expectations from the project associates that aren’t being met?  How to jump-start such failing connections?

Is this a failing of our national work culture?  Can work culture even be generalized to include multiple industries across a beautifully complex and rapidly metamorphosing country like Pakistan?

Note: I am sure I am not the only one who has experienced this phenomenon in the workplace. If you have any stories, please leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman

 

Needed:Co-working Spaces in Lahore

My headphones are plugged in to what I imagine a shoreside picnic coupled with thunderclaps and slight rain shower sounds like. If you have ever wondered who is lame enough to actually use a rain sound app, that would be me. It can also be you, too, if you were camped out in a busy cafe in Lahore’s commercial district. 

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I’m attempting to stay focused on the upcoming meeting, while the couple at the table on the left has once again asked me for the wi-fi password.  Such interruptions, while normal if one is in the mood for people-watching or idle posturing in a swanky eatery, are frustrating if one is waiting to meet a client to finalize terms on a contract.

photo-1429681601148-75510b2cef43Office-less, officially, when it comes to our consulting work, my partners and I feel the need for a formal meeting room or conference room at least twice to three times a month. While that seems quite frequent, when we calculated the math, it still doesn’t make sense for us to invest in a permanent office in the near future.  Reasons being that some of us are still working traditional 9-5 jobs while others prefer the convenience of flex-time and telecommuting afforded by the consulting work-life.

What Lahore desperately needs is an affordable Co-working space which is open to all types of professional, techies and non-techies, entrepreneurs, freelancers, cottage-industry workers, bakers and yes, even musicians. 

What should the co-working space consist of? The usual, a conference room, a small kitchenette, desks or cubicles for hire by the hour or the day, reliable wi-fi/internet connection, a tv lounge/reception and a printer/fax machine corner to round off all the mundane necessities of grownup, office-life.

Let’s step beyond the vomit-inducing, Silicon Valley-esque marketing gibberish that immediately gets plastered upon the advent of a functional service idea.  This is not a recommendation for all of you sitting on your butts to open up 5 co-working spaces right across from each other in Bahria Town  and begin hosting ‘entrepreneurship workshops slash mentorship sessions slash fireside chats’  on the regular.  I am not claiming to be your guru for new-fangled business ideas.

What I am recommending is a more holistic, survey-based approach to solving challenges  your peers and neighbors are dealing with in your immediate vicinity. If you solve that challenge successfully, and lucratively, good on you!  If you fail to solve that challenge the first time around, no problem; you’ll have earned goodwill in the community. Rest your bruised ego, keep your eyes and ears open, and rise up tomorrow with the intent to put your education and initiative to good use.

Note: I have heard inklings of a co-w0rking space popping up in my hometown, but I’m curious if there are any others on the horizon. If you know of any, leave a comment or drop a tweet at @catalystwoman

 

 

Stop Outsourcing Your Decision

“What advice do you have to offer someone who is just starting out? The biggest piece of advice I would give to aspiring writers is: if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. You don’t need anybody’s permission to start living your dream; the only person’s permission you need is your own. It’s your decision to make, so stop outsourcing it to other people.”

Excerpt from Interview of Ashley C. Ford

Stranded in Career Hell?

Slowly but surely, your career search is starting to resemble the Sahara Desert *- miles upon miles of punishing expanse with no guarantee of relief. Interview calls that never arrive – CVs and resumes that illicit no response – the future looks bleak and lifeless.

The thirst is unbearable, the need to live, truly live and regain control, even for the simple things, paying the bills on time or buying your sweetheart their favorite book, has reached it’s pinnacle.  You reach for a glass of water only to find it empty – the last drop long evaporated in this never-ending summer.

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Any hope of a viable career opportunity has long abandoned you. Panting, dusty, and covered with the stench of failure, you drop to your knees in the burning sand and squint upwards into the Sun.

Should you wave the white flag?  Settle for the ‘job-you-can -get’ versus the ‘career-of-your-dreams’?

Continue reading “Stranded in Career Hell?”

Career Success in 2016 (1/3)

CW FB Post Winter- season for planning

GOT A JOB?

The job market is rough. There are no two ways about it. You may get the phone call but the interview gets postponed indefinitely. The first interview goes well, apparently, but you never get a call back. You settle for a role that you are overqualified for ( as well as a drop in the take-home salary) but it’s a part-time gig that costs considerably in petrol and petty office politics than your nerves can bear. Your Elance work is pays reasonably; however, you are so busy focusing on the live job search that you only pick up short-term projects. If you focus any further on Elance, you are afraid of losing out a wanted ad that fits your experience in the neighborhood.

Over the weekend, let’s explore ways to ensure Career Success in 2016 in this blog series.  There is no magic wand to waved. These are tried and tested methods to set yourself up for maximum positive employability going into the new year.

 

#1 One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

Blog Series: 10 Reasons For Millennial Women To Be Financially Literate

Are you Financially Literate?

Being financially literate goes beyond knowing how much savings one has in the bank; it means possessing the ability for informed financial decision-making.  I will be sharing the top ten reasons why Millennials Women MUST dominate their finances and what that looks like – beyond the jargon.

The Number One Reason for Millennial Women to be Financially Literate

#1 – FOMO is a Trap

FOMO.  Fear of Missing Out.  According to the dictionary :

FO·MO  ˈfōmō/   noun informal     noun: FOMO

  1. anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”I realized I was a lifelong sufferer of FOMO”

The important words in the definition are “social media” and “anxiety”. Social Media posts by other people, especially acquaintances or the random troll,  can be annoying, but Anxiety-Causing?   Turns out this is a real issue – we can literally feel disconnected and dissatisfied with life due to the perceived success and contentment of our peers and idols.

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There is nothing wrong with staying up-to-date with our friends’ lives, but when FOMO sets in, we start comparing and evaluating our lived experiences – unconsciously. That is damaging behaviour.
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If you have ever felt the need to constantly check your Instagram or Facebook Timeline while out with friends, that is what FOMO looks like. The theory is that social media, with its sheer speed and glossy selfies, overwhelms users with imagery that is picture-perfect. In-fact, that is exactly what it is – Too Good To Be True.

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While our rational mind is well-aware of the fact, the subconscious gets triggered by these posts and creates a nervous energy – a nervous energy that is often channeled, at a HUGE disadvantage to your wallet, by going shopping.

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See enough pictures of your ex-boss’s new Ferrari and chances are you are gonna want to a) Buy a Ferrari  or b) Realize you can’t afford a Ferrari  and eat a tub of Chocolate Ice Cream or c) Go shopping and buy yourself another scented candle set to gloss over the feeling of overwhelm.  If this happens enough times, you will be making decisions triggered by outside influences – including how you spend your money- rather than by rational thinking and planning for what suits you best.

Still not convinced that FOMO is dangerous to your financial health?  According to Yahoo Finance, the need to keep up with friends has resulted in 56% of Canadians aged 18 to 30 to live beyond their means.  Their purchasing decisions are the result of social pressure from Instagrammed selfies and Snapchat clips, often with luxury brands popping up.

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So, the number one reason that Millennial Women should be Financially Literate is that FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is a trap.  It is an anxiety-ridden behaviour that often results in overspending that ruins your budget and fills nothing but your closet.
Coming Up Next –>   Cut It Out!  The Expenses! Stick to a Budget! 
Like what you read? Want to ask me a question about personal finance? Drop me an email at talktocatalystwoman @ gmail.com or visit my Facebook page

Why Are You Scared of LinkedIn? (Real Life Scenarios)

I recently heard of a young man who is facing a tough time finding a new job, while in a role that was about to end.  Shahzad is currently working at one of the leading hotels in the country in the Marketing department. He holds a North American undergraduate degree in Marketing and about 4.5 years of work experience, to-date.  Here is where the challenge is: Shahzad recently got married and is looking for a position with significantly more responsibilities as he wants to diversify his work experience and a higher salary package. Since moving back Pakistan after completing his studies, Faisal admits he hasn’t networked much professionally.

” I just jumped at the first offer that I received. Seeing that I had only a 3 months internship experience, I was relieved to find my place in an established organisation so early on in my career.”  That’s Shahzad speaking, by the way.

He shares that he has not had much luck while looking for a new position.  I asked what his strategy is.  Shahzad says that he has been spreading the word amongst his friends and family members that he is actively searching for a new job. Also, he says that he religiously scans the classifieds section in Dawn and other major national newspapers every Sunday morning.

“And…?”  I ask.

“That’s about it. I have been at it for months now and frankly, I’m getting worried.  I recently got a call from HR for my exit interview. ” responds Shahzad.

It was clear that Shahzad had skipped a few crucial steps in his job search, so I sent over some recommended sites. Using online job boards and social platforms, including even Facebook and Twitter, are no longer optional for jobseekers. You need to be online.

“I see.  Can you do me a favour? Set up your profile on the following websites.  Begin with LinkedIn and then move on to Rozee.pk. If you are interested in working in the Middle East, I would suggest signing up on Bayt.com as well.”

“LinkedIn? Why LinkedIn? A few of my friends have sent me invites. I just never got the point of it. ”  answers Shahzad.

“Easy. LinkedIn is currently the best social platform to network with professionals from all over globe.  Think of it as your virtual Resume that is open to recruiters and  HR managers actively searching for new employees.”  I respond eagerly.

Why are You Afraid of LinkedIn?

For those who are unfamiliar with LinkedIn, logging on for the very first time CAN be an intimidating experience.  I have found that if you approach such sites with a positive attitude, it is easier to see the benefits of an untraditional job search approach.

Afraid of Linked In

LinkedIn puts you in the driver’s seat of your job search. You are no longer passively waiting for someone to pluck your resume out of the hundreds (even thousands!) received in an HR Manager’s inbox.  You are opening up a window to allow potential employers and recruiters to see your career ambitions and accomplishments in an interactive environment.

Why is Shahzad scared of LinkedIn?

A few days later, I gave Shahzad a call to check on his progress.  “How’s it going?”

” Still not sure about LinkedIn, it is so busy!  There are company pages popping up all the time and then I was asked to list my volunteering experience. How will all of that help me get a job in Marketing?!” inquires a clearly frustrated Shahzad.

” Hold up! Take it one step at a time.  Let’s go over the facts:

Did you know that 92% of Fortune 1000 companies are LinkedIn customers? Your profile needs to be on LinkedIn so the chances of being recruited increases. Not only that, being on LinkedIn gives you a chance to do a targeted search for the type of role you are looking for.

Add on friends and colleagues on LinkedIn – it is a great way to practice your professional networking skills. If someone from your industry writes an insightful blog on Pulse, leave a comment or share on your profile. It is pretty similar to Facebook in that way!

During your job search, you must have come across a company or two that you aren’t too familiar with? LinkedIn’s Company pages provide you the background information and allows you to browse the list current employees. All of this information can you help you determine the culture of an unfamiliar organisation before you apply.

As for volunteering experience, that shows more about your personality and the causes that you believe in.  Talent hunters are looking for the right person to fit the work culture at their organisation – that means they need a complete a 3-dimensional view of who you are!  Ever spend time tutoring at a local orphanage? Or  go door-to-door raising money for a Build-a-School campaign?  Stuff like that counts!.”

“Hmmm. That makes sense.  For  starters, how do I add you on LinkedIn?” asks  Shahzad.

“Scroll over to the Connections tab in the top bar and click on Add Connections.  Choose an email account to sync with and you are good to go! You will see all your contacts who are already on LinkedIn. ” I answer.

Stay tuned for the next instalment, where we will compare and contrast using LinkedIn and Rozee.pk during a job search.

Oh, also  we will get an update from our friend Shahzad!

Good luck to all of you on the Job Hunt!

Ambitiously Yours,

Catalyst Woman

If you have a question for Catalyst Woman, email me here:  talktocatalystwoman@gmail.com .  I will try to answer it on here a.s.a.p.!