Earn your stripes

中国日报网 2017-10-24 12:02



Earn your stripesReader question:

Please explain this sentence, “stripes” in particular: “When you come to a large city from the provinces, you know, you’ve got to earn your stripes.”

My comments:

Here, the speaker addresses the fact that people from the provinces often have to work doubly hard in order to prove themselves in a large city where locals tend to distrust and look down upon people from small cities and the countryside.

In other words, you’ve got to earn your stripes, meaning nobody will give you anything, you’ve got to work for everything, earn it.

Stripes refer to the narrow stripes of braid embroidered on the shoulders of army men to distinguish their rank or experience. The higher the rank or experience (length of service), the more stripes one gets to wear. For example, an army man wearing three stripes on the arm is more distinguished than one with two or just one stripe.

In our example, “earn your stripes” is a metaphor because there are no real stripes, stars or badges to earn in an ordinary walk of life in the city. Instead, by saying one has to earn their stripes in a large city, the speaker means to point out that the outsider has to work hard to earn the trust and respect of the city dweller, who may harbor all sorts of prejudices against their fellowmen from the countryside.

In Beijing, for example, outsiders are called “those from other places” and are often jeered and sneered at for things like their different lifestyle habits.

Not to say whether it’s wrong or right, we all understand it’s a fact of life, and the outsider has to work doubly hard in order to succeed in the big city.

All right, no more ado. Here are media examples of various situations where people have to “earn their stripes” or prove themselves, show their skills, etc in order to survive, get ahead and thrive:

1. A tuft of grey chest hair pokes out of the top of Alan Kean’s stripey shirt. It catches my eye as we drink tea amid the deafening chatter and the expensive fig trees in Portcullis House where Alan, 55, is six months into life as a parliamentary intern.

In recent months there has been much gnashing of teeth over young people flooding into these positions, unpaid or poorly paid, with scant observation of working rights, desperate to get a foot on the career ladder. That has left little room for discussion around a lesser-known trend: of the 457,200 apprentice positions started in 2010-11 in the UK, 182,100 were started by people aged 25 or over, according to the Data Service. Five years ago, only 300 people aged 25 or older took up these roles.

Of the overall rise between 2006-7 and 2010-11, 68% were in the 25-plus age group, according to the National Audit Office (NAO); an increase it attributes to Tony Blair's government, which, in 2003, widened the age eligibility criteria for government-funded, private company-run apprenticeships to include over 25s.

Many people presume that interning, or being an apprentice (the two are used almost interchangeably) is for graduates or school leavers only and the newly-launched National Careers Service doesn't disabuse would-be applicants of that notion.

Jobs websites bring up advert after advert seeking “ambitious graduates” with a “work hard, play hard attitude” to fill numerous unpaid or minimum-wage internships and apprenticeships – wording that barely complies with age-discrimination law and makes plain the cultural advantage younger, cheaper applicants have over older ones. Part of the problem is that the National Apprenticeships Service pays up to 100% of the training cost of placements taken by 16-18 year olds, and up to 50% for ages 19-24, but makes only an unspecified “contribution” for placements taken by those aged 25 or over.

“The impression is that the government doesn’t provide routes for older people like that. We know there's no such thing as a job for life anymore, but culturally, we’re yet to develop that broader attitude,” says Rosemary Thomas, a research assistant at the Work Foundation, previously a work psychologist at Jobcentre Plus.

“At Jobcentre Plus I worked with lots of long-term unemployed, or over-25s that hadn’t worked out what they wanted to do. An apprenticeship or internship would have been a perfect solution for them, but it was so hard to come across anything. We tended to guide them down the voluntary route.”

What kind of people make “mature interns”? A Leicestershire boy who left school with no qualifications, Kean fell into hotel work and meandered through “low administrative level” jobs in the NHS and the local branch of the Department for Work and Pensions, later working in the community football stadium in Doncaster where he and his wife relocated, before moving again to London. After a short employment contract with Harrods, he worked as a volunteer with Locog interviewing other potential Olympics volunteers. Then he saw that the Social Mobility Foundation was offering nine-month internships working for parliamentarians, paying £17,500 for that period.

“I did wonder if I was too old to apply because most interns are 18-25, aren’t they?” says Kean. “Once upon a time someone like me would be at the end of their working life. But I’m not ready to lie down,” he adds. “Like most working-class people I’ve not had a career, but I’ve shown in my work that I can do almost anything – I’m flexible and the labour market has a need for that. Being stuck in a rut is a luxury of years gone by. The more strings you have to your bow, the easier it should be to find paid work.”

The forthcoming rise in retirement age makes refreshing your skills and competitiveness important. And while older interns and apprentices are doing that, they’re providing the UK taxpayer with value for money. In a February 2012 report, scrutinising the government’s apprenticeship programme, the NAO found that its advanced and intermediate apprenticeship models produce returns of respectively £21 and £16 for every pound of public funding they receive (the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates those returns at respectively £24 and £35, using a different calculation).

At 27, Ben Harford is an older intern, one of many thousands trying to break into the creative industries, where, though much criticised, poorly-paid internships are all but mandatory. Redundancy last Christmas brought a small sum of cash that Ben ploughed into a career change, retraining from public sector administration to graphic design. A Gumtree advertisement led him to a full-time internship designing sponsorship collateral for a Premiership football club. The commute costs him £500 a month, taking up most of his minimum-wage salary, and he relies on his girlfriend’s income to shore up their living expenses.

The work is enjoyable, says Ben, but could end at any time. “It was meant to be six weeks, but it always gets extended for another week, another two weeks … they keep their cards close to their chest, so you’re always in limbo,” he says. “In this industry you’ve got to earn your stripes by working for not much money. Even junior positions expect one year’s experience. So you’ve got to start with an internship.” His fellow interns, most of whom graduated last summer, “have rich boyfriends or live at home rent-free – they can enjoy being 21 and survive on the minimum wage with their parents’ backup. They don’t have the responsibilities I’ve got.”

- Internships: with age comes the search for experience, by Melanie Stern, TheGuardian.com, May 11, 2012.

2. The roving news correspondent worked his sources in Paris for days, with nary a chance to eat. His efforts paid off, with a couple of exclusive interviews with interesting people affected by the tragic Charlie Hebdo murders. Next he had to prepare to meet with whistleblowers in the United States who were ready to slip him damning details about the way the nation’s government treats its veterans.

Was it CNN’s Anderson Cooper? CBS’ Scott Pelley? ABC’s David Muir? No, this was Ronan Farrow.

If that name is surprising, well, MSNBC hopes it won’t be going forward. Farrrow’s MSNBC program, “Ronan Farrow Daily,” has been dogged by cancellation rumors for months (though none of them have proven out) and that speculation that has been bolstered by the program’s decidedly lackluster ratings. But MSNBC has plans for the Rhodes Scholar and former Obama foreign policy official whose youth (he is under 30) and family background (he is the son of actress Mia Farrow) have brought an extreme degree of attention to his fledgling effort in the world of cable-news.

“It’s about diving in deep,” says Farrow during a recent interview while reporting in Paris. His goal is to travel to places where big stories erupt, then find underreported facets, like discovering individuals whose lives have been changed by the news. He really enjoys “finding the human piece to tell the bigger story and push forward the narrative,” he says.

MSNBC executives acknowledge Farrow’s daytime program has not won in the viewership game, but suggest they see potential, both for TV and for grabbing attention from viewers who watch the news in new ways. Farrow has proven skilled in nabbing interviews with everyone from Mitt Romney to Angelina Jolie to Jeannette Bougrab, the partner of slain Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, who gave a heart-wrenching account of life in the days after the terrorist attack on that publication. “I worked every angle and every connection that I had and ever worked with in government, and knew through random online connections,” Farrow says of his work to secure interviews while in France.

These kinds of exchanges, executives suggest, spread quickly on social media and generate digital impressions that are likely to be valuable as viewers rely on connections other than cable subscriptions to gain access to video. In 2013, according to the Pew Research Journalism Project, 82% of Americans said they got news on a desktop or laptop, while 54% said they got news on a mobile device. Pew said 35% reported that they get news in this way “frequently” on their desktop or laptop, and 21% from a mobile phone or tablet.

“We have to look beyond cable ratings,” says Izzy Povich, vice president of talent and development at MSNBC, in an interview, adding , “Ronan is somebody who really can be a content provider on different platforms, and I do think that’s the future of where we are headed.”

Even so, viewership for “Ronan Farrow Daily” has been disappointing. In some months since the program launched, it has not been able to attract on average even 50,000 viewers between 25 and 54, the audience most desired by advertisers in news programming, according to Nielsen data. In contrast, Farrow’s feed on Twitter has 272,000 followers. In December, “Ronan Farrow Daily” lured an average of 206,000 viewers overall, according to Nielsen, and 41,000 in the demo. Rival programs on Fox News Channel and CNN performed significantly better.

MSNBC’s plan sprouts alongside a January unveiling of a new streaming-video hub, Shift, which offers programming and personalities not typically seen on the cable outlet. Other TV-news networks are trying similar stuff. CBS News has launched CBSN, a daily broadcast sent via streaming video that emulates something one might see on a cable network. In both cases, the media outlets are stocking the venture with new talent and contributions from staff already in place.

The anchor says he’s just getting the opportunities he has craved after working hard to establish himself in a new milieu since the launch of his program last February. “It’s a completely hectic, makeshift process. You are building the airplane at the same time you are flying it,” he says of getting started on his own hour-long show. Even so, he’s had the same aspiration since he began on MSNBC: “I want to be on the ground and connecting with people, and I want that to really be reflected on the show.” Still, he acknowledges, “you can’t just jump into the deep end like that. You’ve got to earn your stripes.”

- Ronan Farrow Charts New Course At MSNBC, Variety.com, JANUARY 22, 2015.

3. A SWEDISH model and social media influencer has revealed she nearly died while training to become a mountain guide.

Adventurer, mountain guide and model, Melissa Miller, 31, from Brolange, Sweden, says she grew up with “nature as her playground.”

After travelling the world, from Bali and Thailand to Iceland, Ms Miller went to Norway to become a mountain guide.

To earn her stripes, she attended a tough winter expedition in the Norwegian mountains, which led to her contracting hypothermia.

“At the time, I was studying to become a mountain guide and it was the first winter I had experienced in seven years. Well, you can say that I learned my lesson,” she said.

“The group I was with were travelling by touring skis with skins and sleds, going uphill a lot, and a few days into the expedition we got caught in a white out, where we could hardly see our hand in front of us.”

She continued: “The wind was hard and the temperature dropped quickly. This forced us to stop and orientate a lot, checking the map and compass to make sure we didn’t go in circles.

“At the time, I wasn’t used to the cold and rough weather conditions, as I had spent seven years abroad in warm countries.

“This resulted in me doing my first mistake. I didn’t temperate adjust — I became sweaty when we skied uphill with our heavy sleds, and when we stopped to navigate I became cold due to the wet clothes.

“Then I made mistake number two, I didn’t change my sweaty clothes to dry ones.”

Her body soon started to shut down.

“Eventually we had to stop and dig emergency pits to wait out the storm in, but as I was sitting in the pit with my friend, with the red tarpaulin shaking from the wind over us, my body started to shut down.

“I remember how scared I was. I couldn’t get warm.”

Then suddenly Ms Miller’s shivering and shaking stopped, which is a late sign of hypothermia.

“I thought about my mum, my dad and strangely I started to feel better, almost warm,” she said.

“I started to open my jacket, leaning back. My friend told me that my last words before losing consciousness were that I was getting hot and that I was going to sleep a little.

“Luckily my friend reacted to this and immediately took action — he shook me, dragged me out of the pit, dressed me with all the clothes he could find and the whole group started the rescue.”

Ms Miller is now studying fitness and health, while working as a model and a blogger.

She has also lived in 11 different countries and taken part in a range of adventurous activities, including river rafting, sea kayaking, diving with sharks, snorkelling, bungee jumping and has even driven a quad bike on a volcano.

- Swedish model almost died while training to become a mountain guide in Norway, News.com.au, October 6, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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