Happy Halloween! — The Takeaways of Being Terrified

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I hate Halloween.

There i said it.

Ever since I was little I have always been the scaredy cat. I don’t watch horror movies, I won’t step foot in a haunted house, let alone one of those haunted trail things. And I have always hated Halloween — I don’t like being scared and I can’t understand why anyone would.

I’m afraid of spiders and the dark, chainsaw killers and ghosts. You say boo — I scream.

But despite my aversion for peeing my pants in fear, I recognize that if you allow fear to control you, you can’t grow.

If you’re not scared, you’re not taking a chance. And if you’re not taking a chance, then what the hell are you doing? — Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother

Change is always scary, but if you allow fear of failure to stop you from trying, you don’t give yourself a chance to succeed.

Sometimes you have to do something scary in order to move forward.

In high school, a friend of mine used to work at an amusement park haunted house. She knew how afraid I was to go in, and no matter how much I was begged, I would never join my friends on the ride.

One day while visiting her during her shift at the ride, she pushed me and my other wuss of a friend into the seat — leaving us no choice but to enter the haunted house.

After a last minute plea for help, she threw me a flashlight. With our arms wrapped around each other in fear, our cart slammed through the front door.

My friend kept her eyes closed, but I clutched the flash light and pointed it around the room.

My fear began to dissolve as I laughed at how stupid some of the “scary” skeletons and ghosts looked in the light. I urged my friend to open her eyes, and soon we both were laughing and could even spot things before they jumped out at us.

Today, when I face my fears it rarely involves ghosts and zombies.

Most recently, I was rotated to a new position at work, and I tried to resist.

I liked my current role, my boss, and I felt comfortable. But comfortable is a dangerous place to be.

Although I loved what I was doing, I realized that I was also scared of the unknown. When I realized that my fear was paralyzing my growth, I embraced the change and moved forward.

I knew that by trying something new and a little bit scary, I would learn another skill and grow as a professional.

Taking a chance and embracing change was ultimately a good decision for me. It’s been a few weeks in my new role and I’ll admit I’m still uncomfortable, but I know it’s because I’m learning and adapting.

More often than not, your fears are not what they seem. When you take a step back and shed light on what you’re really afraid of you’ll realize it’s not that scary at all.

By facing fear instead of running from it you can erase it  — and THAT is a great feeling.

The Top 10 Pieces of Advice I Stole from Someone Else

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Disclaimer: This advice isn’t an original creation from my brain or tips that I’ve generated based on my own experiences. These are simply snippets of advice that I’ve gained over the years from colleagues, mentors and supervisors. 

1. Run Toward the Fire

Unstable positions are the best experiences. When a company is going through a rough spot, there’s more work to go around, more job opportunities and you learn to work under pressure. So don’t run away from an ideal job description just because the company looks like a mess.

This also applies to internships and jobs that you dislike. You may hate it while you’re there, but I promise you — you learn the most from a bad experience. After a few months doing something you hate, you will know more about yourself and your strengths and weaknesses than any good experience could ever teach you.

2. Say yes/Say no

ALWAYS say yes to interesting opportunities. But say no to crappy assignments and don’t take on things that don’t interest you or seem pointless. I have to admit this piece of advice shocked me coming from a supervisor to a lowly peon.

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I think this is great advice for seasoned professionals —  you have to learn to say no, or you will end up with too much work and not enough time.

But if you’re an intern or a new hire, most  of the time you really don’t have the opportunity to say no. My opinion is that when you’re the low man on the totem pole, you should say YES as often as possible (while still being honest with yourself and your superiors about the amount of time you have).

Even a seemingly silly or useless project could expose you to someone or something that will lead you to a full-time position. As an intern or entry-level careerist, you should soak up as much information as possible and meet as many people as you can. You never know when an opportunity will strike, and it just might be when you’re passing out flyers in the lobby.

3. The myth of 110% — there is no such thing.

Focus on giving 100% and nothing more. Take opportunities when they arise, but also know when a project isn’t a good use of your time. Say no, but offer a solution. Try something like: “I don’t feel like I have time to project manage this on my own, and I want to be fair to you. Could I work with (another intern) or (a supervisor) so we can tackle this together?

And this brings me to #4…

4. Team up with peers rather than competing

This is particularly an issue in leadership development programs and summer internships. Everyone is trying so hard to stand out they forget they are also being judged on how well they can work together and as part of a team.

Even when you have a full-time job, you will have to work with people you may compete against in the future for a position. Don’t let competition derail your team work. Peers can be a great source of new skill sets and inside knowledge don’t over look them.

Although I consider myself competitive in many aspects, this has never really been a problem for me — though I’ve encountered it many times throughout my collection of internships. There always seems to be that one intern who wants to stand out so badly, that they’ll step on anyone and everyone to get to the top. But here’s the caveat, it rarely works. Your peers’ perception of you matters whether you like it or not.

5. Recognize your weaknesses and try to work on them whenever possible.

As a young professional you should know your weaknesses. And no, I don’t mean the BS ones that you give in a job interview only to turn into a positive. I mean your real, raw and serious shortcomings. Figure out what’s keeping you from getting your dream job and fix it. Mine are patience and public speaking. In a corporate environment, both of these are crucial and in my current position I am challenging these skills constantly which is a huge help.

But on the flip side…

6 . Recognize your strengths and your worth.

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Know what your good at and don’t be shy about it. Try: “Yes I can do that.” instead of “I think so” when a supervisor asks you to take on something knew. Own your skills and be your own champion. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?

7. Put yourself out of your comfort zone.

This piece of advice really stuck with me. It sounds so simple, but yet it is easier said than done.

For me particularly, I like to play it safe. I know my strengths and weaknesses (see #6 and 7 above) and I tend to choose projects and roles that fit well into what I know I am capable of. I resist change, and I don’t try new things as often as I should — even outside of work! This piece of advice came from a supervisor that I really admire, so it’s something I’m actively working on.

8. Focus on outcomes and accomplishments and not just “doing your job”

To excel and succeed in any position you have to go above and beyond what is asked. I learned this the hard way at my very first internship. It was an unpaid position where I received class credit and thus, a grade.

But when a boldfaced B reared it’s ugly face on my transcript I couldn’t understand why. “I did everything he asked of me!” But that was exactly the problem.

9. Strive for excellence and take pride in everything you do — big or small

As an intern or a recent grad, you’re going to do some less than exciting work and some things that you down right hate. But when you excel at even the most menial tasks, people will take notice and your level of work will increase. Don’t take any project for granted.

And finally…

10. Talent Always Wins

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The right people will move ahead and end up in the best positions.That’s what interview are for and it makes me so frustrated when people obsess over the “perfect” answers to the commonly asked interview questions.

Interviews are designed to get to know you. Not some fabricated version of you that you think is what the HR manager is looking for. The interviewers job is to find the right person for the position.

And if you’re shooting for a promotion, where they already know you — it’s not about who works harder, it’s about who has the right personality, skill set and mentality for the job. Sometimes you may not even understand why someone thinks you’re great at something or not so much — sometimes others can see things about you that you can’t. Learn your strengths by listening to what others have to say about you. Play to your strengths, and as you move up the ladder, you will build a team of professionals that make up for the qualities you lack.

That’s it! I hope some of these tips stick with you like they did with me. Got any other tips to share? I’d love to hear them!

Getting to Know Myself

Learning not to care what others think of you is a part of growing up.
I’ve started following more 20 something Bloggers as I try to build my own blog, and they all offer the same advice: As long as you’re okay with who you are, what others think shouldn’t matter.
Key word here: SHOULDN’T
Because  as much as I believe that, it’s an incredibly hard mantra to live by.

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I’ve always struggled with accepting myself and I think that’s why I pay so much attention to what others think.
I take cues from those around me as to what type of person I am. And I know that is not healthy nor is it an accurate account of my identity.
When I approach a group of people I wonder what they’re thinking about me. When I hear hushed voices in a crowd I automatically assume they are talking about me. I have trouble speaking to large groups of people no matter how well I know the material, because my mind races with thoughts of what the audience thinks of me.
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But this first year out of college has definitely been a turning point for me.
I’m starting to realize what matters to me, what I’m about, and who I am.
But to truly define yourself you must do it in a silo. Regardless of what anyone else thinks — how do you see yourself?
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And remember your passions and what makes you you, isn’t simply about what you want to do with your life and your career goals.
What are your values? Your passions? Your dreams?
Values are the intangibles that mean the most to you. The things in life you can’t put a price on. Your passions might be causes that you care about, hobbies that make you feel good or even a career choice. Dreams are your aspirations. And whether they are rational or not — they show a lot about who you are and what defines you.
Sheryl Sandberg dares readers of Lean In to ask “What would you do if you were not afraid?”
But what would you do if you knew no one else was watching?
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What “Lean In” Means for Millennials

I originally thought “Lean In” was a book for feminists, working moms and female executives — in other words, not for me. I have never felt judged in the workplace by my gender, and I’ve never been held back just because I’m a woman (at least not to my knowledge).

And perhaps this is naivety or a sign of my lack of experience in the workforce. But I was always told growing up that I could do anything, and I’ve always believed that.

So, I really didn’t think I needed this book…

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But, when my boss’s boss’s boss (yes, It is possible to be that low on the totem pole) said the book “changed her life” — I knew it was something I couldn’t ignore.

For the disbelievers out there, I recommend downloading the free sample from Kindle. Sheryl Sandberg dispels most of your doubts in the very first chapter and the next thing you know you’re forking over $12.99 to finish the book.

I am begging you. Add this to your summer reading list. You’ll thank me later.

“Lean In” opened my eyes to all of the sexism that goes on behind closed doors and the discrimination that isn’t always intended, but certainly exists.

Sexism isn’t always as simple as “You’re a girl, you can’t play” and “Lean In” isn’t about blaming men for all of women’s shortcomings. One of Sandberg’s key takeaways is that women also hold themselves and each other back from success.

Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter. 

We’re afraid — and that’s only half the battle. If a women is able to conquer fear and move up in her career, she is typically disliked by the majority of her female peers.

This has to stop.

As females we have to band together and support each other rather than fighting each other to the top. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

This idea in particular is why I think this book is so important for my generation to take in. As millennials enter the workforce and are beginning our careers, being aware of these discrepancies is the first step to fighting back.

I am very aware of the fear that holds me back each and every day.  As someone just starting her career, there is A LOT to be afraid of. But the one fear that I battle most often is the fear of being judged or not liked by my peers and my superiors.

Sandberg, too, has struggled with this, until she received an excellent piece of advice from Arianna Huffington. She said, it isn’t realistic to tell women not to care what others think or say about us — we just can’t let it consume us.

Her advice is that we should let ourselves react emotionally and feel whatever anger or sadness being criticized evokes for us. And then we should quickly move on. 

I like this tactic much better than “In one ear and out the other.”

I can’t ignore what others think about me, but I can learn to let it go. And other women starting their careers should learn to do the same.

If you want to change things you can’t please everyone. And if you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.

It is common knowledge that women make less money than men. In 2010, women made 77 cents for every dollar made by a man.

But in addition to the fear that holds women back, a lack of confidence can also be a major factor. Sandberg’s research shows that women, even experts in their field, do not feel confident in their abilities.

Women don’t give themselves the credit they deserve in the workplace and are less likely to take credit for a success than a male counterpart. Females typically attribute their success to luck, the help of others and hard work — while males cite innate qualities and skills for their achievements.

Do you know a girl who always seems to have it all — the guy? the job? perfect hair?

Her secret is simple…

Confidence.

Confidence breeds success and it helps us get what we want. Even in the dating scene an average-looking girl with the confidence of a 10 gets hit on more than a 10, who feels like a 5.

The way you carry yourself is important.

Sandberg says, when you don’t feel confident, fake it. We’ve all heard the saying “fake it til you make it” — but research actually backs it up. By acting like you have it all together, you will actually become more efficient.

“Lean In” is a call to action — and Millenials are a very important part of the change that needs to happen for women in the workplace.

We must begin our careers without fear, exude confidence in everything we do and take the credit we deserve.

But most of all, we have to come together as women. We have to hold the ladder for other women on their way to the top, in the hopes that someone will be there to hold it for us in the future.

I hope that you  — yes, you — have the ambition to lean in to your career and run the world. Because the world needs you to change it. Women all around the world are counting on you.

So ask yourself what would I do if I weren’t afraid?

And then go do it.

Things everyone should do — or not

All my life, someone has been telling me what to do. When I was young, it was my Mother, and with the benefit of hindsight, I’ll admit she was right most of the time and had my best interests at heart. But as I grow up and am transitioning into the “real world” — as if the world I lived in for 20 years was fake – people are constantly telling me things that I have to do.

Young PR professionals should start in an agency.

I majored in public relations, and as I was beginning my job search everyone — from fellow students to seasoned professionals — said I should start at an agency, find my niche and then go in-house somewhere. But after an internship with a pharmaceutical company the summer before, I had already found my passion in health care.  I also knew that I worked better on one thing at a time and I wouldn’t be great at balancing multiple clients. I like stability and routine. I knew what I wanted to do, and agency work didn’t appeal to me. But my peers and mentors insisted.

“Agencies are more fun”

“Agencies are full of young people”

“You may think you know what you want, but you may change your mind”

“You don’t want to work in an agency in your 30s, so you should do it now.”

And on and on and on…

I made the mistake of listening to that advice and tried an agency for a summer. It wasn’t for me. I learned some valuable skills and lesson, and I wouldn’t take the experience back, but it wasn’t where I belonged. I ended up taking a fellowship in corporate communication, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

20somethings should be single and dating, not tied down.

My boyfriend and I have been together since high school (cue head tilt and cooing noises). When I tell people how long we’ve been dating, this is always the reaction I get. They look at me like I’m adorably naïve, and that I am wasting time with a high school sweetheart when my soul mate is clearly in a bar somewhere.

People think we should date more and meet other people, because how could you possibly know?! Without getting too mushy, because that is NOT my style, I can tell you that Chris knows me better than anyone else, sometimes better than I do. He’s been with me through some of the biggest challenges of my life and has always supported my dreams. After four years apart at separate colleges, I accepted a fellowship in New Jersey. Without hesitation, he made a leap of faith and followed me here. He sacrificed a lot to come with me, and someday, I will do the same for him. We rented our first apartment together here and we are really, truly happy. We are great together, and though we’ve had bumps along the road, like any couple, I just know.

Everyone should live in the city at some point in life.

I grew up in a small town. No really, there are two red lights and my high school was in the next town — we’re talking about a population of less than 4,000.  I recently moved to New Jersey for work, and I’ve had more opportunities to visit New York City for my job and for fun. Now, don’t get me wrong — it’s a beautiful place to visit, but I could never see myself living there. I still get starry eyed when I go into the city, and I know that living there would take away the luster of it all.

But people keep telling me that I should really go live in the city while I’m young. Let me make this clear – I am destined for suburbia – I love shopping malls and Target, I love driving my car to work and being able to leave town without public transportation, I hate crowds and I can’t hail a cab.  Maybe I’m not cool enough for the city, but the truth is, it’s just not me.

And I think that’s okay.

I’ve always struggled with the fact that I haven’t chosen the normal path for a 20something PR professional, but I am coming to terms with the fact that my dreams are different. And I’m not knocking anyone who has chosen this path — there’s a reason that so many people give this advice — it has made a lot of people happy, and you may be one of them. I don’t claim to have it all figured out by any means – in fact, that’s what this blog is all about.  But what I do know is I’m happy where I’m at and who I’m with, and I’m comfortable with where my career is headed.

We’re all just trying to figure out what it is that makes us happy – I’m just taking the road less travelled by.

What cliché advice have people given you in your 20s? Did you take it?