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!

Losing Control

Yesterday…

I lost control.

I let my anxiety get the best of me like I have so many times before. I let it wrap itself around me and smother me.

Like a chain reaction, one bad event led to another and another until I felt completely helpless and out of control.

Any trigger of stress or anxiety, big or small, can start me on the downward spiral.

Just one cookie. I deserve it.

I really should have eaten that cookie. It wasn’t even that good.I wonder how many weight watchers points that was?

At this point I might search for chocolate chip cookie in the weight watchers system, but then give up when I decide there are two large a range of points values for cookies, and I have no way of knowing how many points it actually was.

I guess I won’t count points today.

God, I’m going to get fat.

But, what’s one day!? I’m going to have another cookie.

I can’t believe I had two cookies already — it’s not even lunch time yet. Maybe I’ll skip lunch.

As I try not to think about food, I don’t realize that I’m chewing on my nails in place of a third cookie.

In 10 minutes, all of my nail polish is in a pile on my desk and some of my nails are so short they hurt.

Is my pinkie bleeding? Gross. 

All of my hard work to grow out my nails — gone in a matter of a few minutes.

This makes me feel worse.

Now I’ve classified today as a “bad day”

Co-Worker: “Want to get lunch?”

Me: “Sure” My day’s already ruined anyway

After lunch I have another cookie or whatever else I can get my hands on. And by the end of the day I’m feeling so lethargic and sad for myself the thought of going to the gym is about as appealing as getting a cavity filled.

And at the rate of my cookie consumption that might be in my future, too.

I make all kinds of jokes about it. But the truth is, at the end of the day like this I feel… well, awful.

I feel out of control. I feel fat. I feel unattractive. I feel sick. I feel small (and I don’t mean skinny).

And yet I do this to myself over and over again. I allow one stressful situation to take control of my entire day. I let it derail my health, my mood and my self control

My anxiety causes me to lose control sending me into a spiral of bad habits that cause even more anxiety and stress.

Once I’ve had three cookies, what’s another? Once I’ve bitten four nails, why not bite them all — make them even.

It’s a never-ending, vicious cycle.

I don’t think this is normal. I’m even a little hesitant to post something so personal on the internet, but my hope is that someone who feels the same might see this and not feel alone, and that they might share with me some way to deal with this constant battle against myself.

What I want is to be able to treat myself to the foods I love once in a while without allowing my emotions to fuel those choices and cause me to overeat.

But I’ve always been an all or nothing girl, and learning to do anything in moderation is easier said than done with me.

I don’t know how to fix it, but what I do know is that I can’t keep feeling like this.

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Mid Year Check-In on my New Year’s Resolutions

Everyone sets them. No one keeps up with them.

I don’t know about you — but 2013 has been FLYING by for me!

We’re already half way through the year, and 2012 seems like ages ago. I feel like I’ve grown a ton since then, and I’ve accomplished a lot. However, I haven’t stuck to all of my New Year’s Resolutions that I set for myself.

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My first goal was to “Get Healthy.” I have been doing Weight Watchers since November, and I’ve found it to be a really great system for me.

I haven’t talked about my weight loss a lot outside of my immediate circle of friends and family, but overall I lost about 17 pounds, and I am back to my pre-college weight.

I work out 5 times a week and cook with much healthier ingredients, tracking what I eat and how much.But the key to keeping the weight off for me has been in not depriving myself of the foods I love.

I have a serious sweet tooth. I know everyone says this. But seriously… my boyfriend has to hide his Oreos from me.

I’ve found that if I follow the Weight Watchers point system during the week and go to the gym, I can splurge a little on the weekends.

If I’m invited out for lunch or frozen yogurt during the week I don’t say no — I just make up for it by eating less at dinner time or cutting back on my typical weekend cheatfest — or is it cheatfeast? 

But the great thing about WeightWatchers is that eating what you want a few times a week isn’t cheating.

The system gives you a daily allotment of points (I get 26). Point values are based on the fat, carbs, protein and fiber content in your food.

Then you are also given 49 extra points for the week. Some people spread their 49 points throughout the week — because they like to eat a little extra each day — while others, like myself, save them for weekend getaways and nights out.

I’ve also found that because food is my weakness it’s incredibly important for me to get to the gym every day. I have a weekly schedule and a different workout for every day of the week so I don’t get bored and I can’t skip a day when I don’t feel like going.

And as a result of this routine, I’ve found myself actually enjoying gym time for the first time in my life. I like how strong I feel and I like seeing how hard I can push myself

My second goal was to travel. And I have to admit I haven’t done as much as I would have liked. Chris and I just got back from an AMAZING trip to Mexico and that has really been our only big trip.

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But we have been exploring the Jersey Shore while we can — getting to as many different beaches as we can. And getting back to the city is also on our list. We’re always waiting for the perfect time, but I think unplanned excursions can sometimes be the most fun. But for me — and even for Chris — this is no small feat.

My third goal has been a miserable failure. As sad as I am to admit this, I haven’t called my grandparents once a month like I promised myself. I kept up with this probably for three months, but then I got busy, I was tired, INSERT third lame excuse here.

Grandparents are a blessing and when I have the patience and the time, I love hearing their stories of growing up and of my parents as children. Grandparents have so much wisdom to share if you only take the time to listen.

Last time I was home, I went to say goodbye to my grandma and found myself in an hour long conversation about my Mom and Dad and the early stages of their relationship, my grandma’s childhood growing up in New York City and her Mom’s tenacity as a single working mother in a time when most Mother’s didn’t work at all.

She worked on the railroad — yes, really — all the live long day. She was a true bad-ass chick.

But in order to hear more stories like this and to make memories of my own with my grandparents while I have the time — I have to call.

Overall, I think I’ve done fairly well with my New Year’s Resolutions but I have six more months to keep my promises to myself.

I’d like to keep exploring. Even if my trips don’t take me out of the country — my goal of traveling was really about increasing my spontaneity, and I am slowly but surely breaking down those walls of worry and anxiety that keep me from living on the edge.

I hope to keep the weight I’ve lost off and continue with the healthy lifestyle I’ve created for myself. I feel more confident, happy, and I have more energy than ever before.

And finally, I have to make time to call my grandparents. This is a pretty simple goal that I allow to slip through my fingers — but it may be one of the most important.

Where are you with your New Year’s Resolutions?

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Did you accomplish any of the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of the year? Did you stick to the changes you promised yourself you’d make? It’s time to remind yourself of your yearly goals and make things happen. Happy Half New Year!

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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My Parents House — Moving Out and Moving On

This past weekend I went home for Father’s Day — to see good old Dad and spend some quality time with friends and family. I’m always glad to be home, but I couldn’t shake this funny feeling that something was different.

First, I couldn’t connect to the WiFi. Nothing says “You don’t live here any more” like a new internet password.

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Then, unlike when I came home to visit from college everyone seemed too busy to chat about what was going on with me.

And I probably sound like a spoiled brat saying that, but I’m not trying to insinuate that my parents don’t care about me or that I needed more attention. That’s NOT the point.

The point is. Life is going on at home without me. And I am going on with life on my own.

And these weren’t the first signs.

Although it  doesn’t look quite this bad now, a few months ago when I went home, my bedroom looked like this:

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My parents had new carpet installed up stairs, so ALL of our furniture found it’s way into my childhood bedroom. My bed was just a mattress on the floor, and I had three different dressers, none of which were filled with my clothes.

This time, my bed was back in its frame, but there are still quite a few pieces of furniture and packed boxes that don’t belong.

But I’m not complaining.

No really.

I’ve told my parents a dozen times that they should paint over my pink walls, take down my Marilyn Monroe posters and move in to the bigger room. But they won’t do it until I’m fully employed somewhere and out on my own for good.

But in my own mind — I’m already there.

When I was in college, my parents house was still my home.

It was my sanctuary. It was a pace away from roommates, homework and a break from the chaos.

But now, it’s just my parents house.

A place I visit. The place I grew up.

Now — as crazy as it sounds — I feel at home in my tiny, white walled, New Jersey apartment. And while I do miss my family and friends (a lot and often!), I don’t miss my home.

I’m not a person who dwells on the past. I have good memories and like to reminisce, but I feel like I’ve lived every part of my life (so far!) to the fullest.

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“Don’t let the past steal your present.”
–Terri Guillemets

This is the same reason that I don’t miss college.

I often lie when people ask “Don’t you miss Penn State?!” But the truth is… I don’t. I’ve moved on from that part of my life, and I’m happy where I’m at. I’m excited about what the future has to offer, and I would never want to take a step backward, even if I had the opportunity to relive something.

While it may be strange to go home to a place that no longer feels like mine, I know it is all for the best. It’s a sign of growing up and moving on.This is a turning point in my life where I am becoming my own person and starting to build my own family. I will never forget where I came from, but right now I’m more focused on where I’m headed.

 

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?