For Business or for Pleasure?

This year, January will end up being roughly 4 1/2 weeks, and for 2 1/2 of those, I will be travelling for work. The nature of my job means that I usually work from home, but about twice a month (this month is more than average), I have to travel to visit clients. Business trips intimidated me quite a bit at the start of my career since I was never quite sure what to bring or how to act, HOWEVER, I’ve been on enough of them now that I think it’s safe to say I have them on lock.

Step 1: Prep

Travelling is already stressful, but once you add in the fact that you’re seeing a new office or new client site that you’re not familiar with to do your job, then you can really drive yourself into severe overpacking mode trying to prepare. If this is your first time visiting this place, bring all the tech you’ve got*. Every HDMI cord, adapter, charger, extension cord, etc. because you might not have the leisure of walking into a modern facility. My clients are split on this, some are very modern and can provide all these things, and some barely even have a conference room, let alone wifi connection.

In terms of personal items, obviously bring business clothes, but try and limit your outfits so that they all go with one or two pairs of shoes. Shoes are the real culprit when you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on. Also, try and bring one casual (but still classy) outfit for dinners with colleagues or if you want to do any exploring on your own (this is usually my travel outfit). For toiletries, start keeping a stock of deluxe samples and small bottles to use on these trips since hotel toiletries can often leave a lot to be desired.

Step 2: Logistics

As I alluded to above, I recommend travelling with only carry-on luggage. I may one-day change my tune about this, but today is not this day. First off, travelling with only a carry-on means you can’t overpack too much, and secondly, it means the airline cannot lose your luggage. I do not trust the airlines to handle my bag and I cannot imagine anything worse than arriving on a work trip with none of the things I need to do my job.

Other logistics are pretty straightforward. Unless you work for a HUGE company, you probably won’t be getting picked up in an Escalade and staying in five-star hotels. So if you are responsible for your own bookings, Hyatt, Hilton, and Marriott affiliates are usually safe bets for accommodations, and you can probably get away with booking Economy Premium flights at most.

Step 3: Arrival

Alright, you’ve arrived at your destination safely, and with all your stuff, so how do you act the first time? This obviously depends on why and where you’ve travelled, but the biggest tip I can give for this is to walk in the front door with confidence and start introducing yourself to everyone right away. It honestly took me a few trips to work up to this since I was so scared to do anything wrong I would wait until my boss introduced me. This is fine but it did not do my credibility any favors. Like always, confidence is absolutely key.

Step 4: Small Talk

You will inevitably have to make small talk. Whether it’s right at the start, at lunch, at a break, it WILL HAPPEN. I absolutely LOATHE small talk but you have to find some way to make it work for you. Because I work in a field where almost everyone is substantially older than me, I will either ask what they do for fun, or I will ask about their kids because EVERYBODY with kids loves to talk about them. If you can get the other person really going on a topic, it is less work for you!

If you can make the four elements I’ve listed here as breezy as possible then you are home free! Oh wait…you still have a job to do right? But honestly, that is the easy part. You already know how to do your job, the hard part is doing it in a new place surrounded by new people. If you can make the travelling and transition as easy as possible, there’s really not much else to worry about.

If you have any questions about business trips or any tips of your own, please message or comment below! I am always looking for ways to make these less stressful!

 

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PC: The ever judgmental Kiki Moussetis

 

*Unless explicitly told what tech to bring beforehand

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Motivation vs. Discipline

One question that I get all the time is “How do you stay motivated?”. I get this question in all contexts —  when I was at school:  “How are you motivated to get your homework done early?” When it comes to fitness: “How do you stay motivated to workout in the mornings?” Working from home: “How do you stay motivated to stay on schedule?”. The answer to these questions is simple: I don’t stay motivated. I stay disciplined.

The thing about motivation is that it is short lived. It doesn’t last long in anyone’s mind no matter how productive you are. You might be feeling inspired and energetic for a few hours at best, and then that energy wanes and you return to feeling just as you did before your burst of enthusiasm.

Discipline, on the other hand, requires consistency. It’s not that I’m motivated to workout every morning, it’s that the activity has become a habit. There are plenty of days where I don’t particularly want to go to the gym, complete my work to-do list, or really do anything remotely productive. It’s not motivation that keeps me going, it’s sheer willpower.

Willpower, however, is arguably finite. When we wake up in the morning, we have a certain amount of willpower to make healthy decisions for our selves, and as we tire throughout the day it gets more difficult to choose the options that aren’t the easiest. This is why I workout in the morning. I know internally, how great I feel after a workout, and I ALSO know that when I reach the end of my workday, I really don’t feel like going to the gym. Because I know this about myself, I can plan around my own willpower.

The same thing goes for my work. I know myself, and I know that if I wake up without a plan for the day, I will get next to nothing done. However, I religiously make a to-do list for myself the night before, and I also keep a planner with all my work-related tasks up to date. The satisfaction of forcing myself to complete a task so I can check it off my list is so rewarding for me and that is how I stay on track during the day. I even make checklists for myself on weekends so I can make sure I run certain errands or get extra work done.

Working out in the morning, making lists, and a number of other things I do to stay productive are all habits borne out of discipline. Even though they started out as strategies to work with my brand of willpower, they require almost no willpower at all anymore since I’m so used to them. The important thing to remember is that the hardest part of any task or new endeavour is the beginning. Once something becomes a habit, it becomes an after-thought, like brushing your teeth every day.

While motivation can be a powerful tool to get you started on a new undertaking or push you to completion on certain projects, it’s not dependable enough as a way to keep you productive all the time. Use motivation when it comes, but when it goes, remember that it is more important to be consistent. Recognize when you’re naturally the most productive and utilize that time to bang out your most important goals. And if nothing else, do at least one little thing every day to get you closer to where you want to be. Pretty soon, all that consistency will form a habit and motivation will be like the cherry on top of a productivity sundae (wow that sounds like the most boring ice cream creation ever but we could all use some of that, right?).

Let me know what strategies you use to stay on track with your goals!

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The Truth about Self-Help Books

You know those books on how to be more productive, make more money, be smarter, be more successful? I devour those books. They’re everywhere, and I’ve probably read a lot more of them than the average twenty-two-year-old (honestly I’ve probably read more than the average person of any age), and I’m here to let you all know that apart from a few key books that I’ve read in this genre, the rest are a load of bullshit.

Obviously, I can’t speak for every single book in the genre but I’ve started noticing a trend in my own reading each time I pick up a new one. I also want to be clear that I’m not necessarily talking about psychology books, books that discuss scientific studies, or other nonfiction books, we are strictly speaking about books whose supposed purpose is to inspire you to improve your own life.

First of all, most of these books contain very little actual concrete advice. What they DO contain is a lot of motivational fluff about punching up your own life, and supposed success tidbits that could just as easily be found in a BuzzFeed listicle on how to be more productive — Get up earlier, stay disciplined, don’t let the haters distract you — sound familiar? And although this advice might have merit, they provide very little information on how to actually accomplish these tasks.

Secondly, a large portion of these books are written by ‘successful’ people. This is fantastic marketing. Who doesn’t want to know what such and such billionaire has to say about how to become a billionaire? However, the issue with this is that many of these ‘successful’ people are writing their books retrospectively. They’ve already achieved so much and know they can make even more money by dishing out their so-called ‘secrets of success’. But, as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. It is highly unlikely most of these people had their own advice in mind the whole time they were pursuing their success. Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult to actually distill the secret of success but we, as the masses, clamor for these books because we desperately want to know if there is something these ‘successful’ people know that we don’t.

And in the cases where these books weren’t written by people you’ve heard of, who are they? What makes their advice worth taking? Too often, we have no idea where these authors come from, their credentials being flimsy at best, and we believe their advice because it is given in a compelling format with great marketing.

Last but not least, the entire self-help industry preys on feelings of inadequacy. Everyone who reads these books, (including myself) feels that something is currently lacking in their own life, or that they could improve somehow. While this isn’t always a problem (it can be GREAT to seek inspiration from others), it can quickly turn into a spiral of always believing there is something more to seek  and one can quickly become absorbed in trying to discover how other people have gotten ahead, rather than trying to apply some things they have learned and search for their own secrets to success.

Alright, now that I’ve hopefully made sufficient skeptics out of all of you, I do want to give a shoutout to a few of these books that I feel actually provide real, credible, HELPFUL advice. Many of these are well-known and have been bestsellers, and I’m happy to say that they actually deserve it. This list is purely for the self-help genre, there are a wealth of other nonfiction books that have also contributed to my personal growth and development but would come in the way of biographies, and scientific studies.

  1. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
  2. Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazi
  3. The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferris
  4. Money: Master the Game – Tony Robbins
  5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tyding Up – Marie Kondo
  6. Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg
  7. How to Fail at Everything And Still Win Big – Scott Adams

Let me know if you have read any or what you think of these books!

 

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Most of my books are on a kindle so I borrowed my boyfriend’s hard copies 🙂

 

Read it and Weep

What was the last book you read? Did you choose to read said book by choice? Or was it for something else like school or work?

When my sister and I learned to read, we didn’t just read them, we DEVOURED THEM. I remember most of our Christmas gifts would be books and by the time Christmas break was over, we would have finished a good chunk (if not all) of the books we had just received. We would read everything! We read novels, fantasy, science fiction, history, historical fiction, and nonfiction.

My sister and I are, unfortunately, increasingly rare specimens of people. In an age where consuming information at hyper-fast speeds is becoming more and more important, many people claim they don’t have the time or the attention span to sit down and read an entire book. We favor online articles and social media to consume information, and to be honest, real life has gotten so ridiculous (American politics anyone?) that it may feel like you’re viewing fiction every time you check the news.

But I still think reading full on books and immersing yourself in a story is important. The majority of books I read are nonfiction or science fiction/fantasy. And I think there is a huge benefit to reading a wide range of books for personal growth and development (and to be one of those pretentious show offs at parties). Below, I’ve outlined how I divide the books in my library and why reading books from each of these categories has more benefits than you might think.

Nonfiction books have obvious benefits. They usually fall into two categories: self-help or history/biography. There is much to be gained by reading these types of books. You can learn techniques to directly help your wellness, success, or productivity. Or, by reading history and biography books you can learn about events and people that have shaped the world into what it looks like today and can increase your understanding and perspective on your environment. I know people think these can be boring or cheesy, or like reading a dry, boring history textbook, but some of these are dynamically written and just as gripping as that tabloid article on that celeb that did that thing (you know the one). My personal favorites in this category:

  1. Never Eat Alone (Keith Ferrazzi)
  2. How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams)
  3. Blink (Malcolm Gladwell — actually everything by him is great)
  4. GirlBoss (Sophia Amoruso)
  5. Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)
  6. The Four Hour Workweek (Tim Ferris)

The next category is novels. I define novels as fictional stories that have realistic characters and settings. This category of book is important because it increases your thinking and perception about your world. Even though the stories told in this category are fiction, the struggles of the characters are usually very real and tackle topics that relate heavily with most people. This category of book resonates with me because it helps with my empathy and understanding of people. Going on a journey through a character’s life helps you see things through their eyes, and even though they are made up, that skill can transfer to your own, very real, life. My personal favorites in this category:

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Khaled Hosseini)
  2. Fates and Furies ( Lauren Groff)
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo ( Stieg Larsson)
  4. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini – this guy is a powerful writer ok?)
  5. The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchinson)
  6. The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
  7. Rich People Problems (Kevin Kwan, a guilty pleasure but a fun read nontheless)

The last important category in my repertoire is fantasy/fiction/sci-fi etc. I define this category as stories about things that are completely made up. The setting, circumstances, characters, and story are all completely fictional. These differ from novels because the setting is not real. This is my favorite genre because reading these books is kind of like watching a film for me. They tell these fantastical tales that my own brain can’t imagine and immerse me in a world that doesn’t exist to tell a story that ends up being highly relatable. These books are also my favorite because not only are they the most entertaining for me, I feel like they combine the best of the first two categories into one. Their characters are still intensely relatable which adds the empathy element found in novel studies, and they also encourage outside of the box thinking. In order to truly enjoy a fictional world, you have to understand the fictional rules and workings of that world and that thinking forces you to expand your mind and think about your own world more creatively. My favorites (I have so many here so I’ll only list a few):

  1. The Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling, this is a classic)
  2. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  3. Enchanted (Orson Scott Card, honestly I’ve read all his books)
  4. Game of Thrones (George R.R. Martin, another expected one, but the books are honestly amazing)
  5. Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
  6. Queen of the Tearling (Erika Johansen)
  7. The Selection (Kiera Cass)
  8. The Veldt (Ray Bradbury, this is a short story, but I love it)

I have been a reader all my life. I LOVE books, I’m such a nerd for all kinds of reading so I might be a bit biased, but being a strong reader definitely carries over into other elements of your life. Many people don’t want to spend the time reading or they claim school ruined reading for them, but reading should never be a chore and there are MILLIONS of books out there so there is something for everyone. Reading novels and books not only offers the benefits I described above, but it also drastically improves your thinking, writing, and vocabulary skills. I know I sound preachy, but there is literally NO downside to reading more books. Comment if you can think of one and we can have a lively discussion on the topic!

 

 

Living Up to Your OWN Standards

Every time I read an article about a twelve-year-old who sold an app to google, I die a little inside. Replace that twelve-year-old with a teenager who started a successful company or a young twenty-something who has already achieved millionaire status. It seems like everywhere I look these days, there is somebody younger than me who is vastly more successful and that reminds me just how little I have accomplished in my short twenty-two years on this Earth.

I say to myself ‘what have you been doing, Melina? You could have invented something, made a bunch of money, started a company, saved a species, if you had only tried harder, earlier’ I feel an enormous sense of failure having not done anything that anyone would describe as ‘remarkable’.

This kind of exposure can be tough to take. With social media, you can hear about every hyper-successful up and comer around the world. It is easy to be jealous of their success and to become filled with self-doubt that you’ll never amount to anything because you missed your window or because you believe these types of people are exorbitantly more intelligent or driven than you are.

I suffer from this A LOT. I feel intensely inadequate and like a straight up bum when I read or hear about these kinds of people. Consequently, I’ve had to develop a method to cope with this instead of just giving up on life because I wasn’t a pubescent tech genius.

I’ve boiled it down to the fact that I’m not jealous of these people because they’re successful, rich, famous, or smart. I’m jealous of them because they clearly had a direction. If someone is a world class pianist at the age of 11 or they made a million by 18, they didn’t get there by accident. They believed in a path of life so powerfully that they acted on it and gave their all to it. Those kinds of accomplishments don’t just take hard work and intelligence, they take devotion. To reach the highest echelons of success in a particular area, one has to be devoted to it. And THAT is what I’m jealous of.

For example, I have this friend who is currently finishing up an aerospace engineering degree at MIT. In short, her goal is to be an astronaut. But what is so astounding about her is that she has had this goal FOREVER. She is twenty-one years old, and as far as she can remember, she has had the goal of being an astronaut and has done everything in her power to achieve it. She has direction.

I, on the other hand, don’t have a direction. Sure, I have a great job, hobbies, and friends, but there is not one direction where I would feel comfortable and productive devoting myself to. And that is the part of these peoples’ success that I find myself being envious of. I wish I had a direction for myself because I know that if I had a clear idea of what I wanted to become, I would probably be successful at achieving it. Innately, I realize that aspiring to accomplish the same things as other people is not what I actually want. As cliche as it sounds, I want to be the best version of myself in the end.

In simpler terms, a basketball player would never be jealous of a successful gymnast because they know they have different directions. The basketball player wants to be the best basketball player, not the best at any other sport.

By the same logic, I cannot compare myself to these people I read about online because we don’t have the same goals. I can’t compare myself to the five-year-old boy who performed at Carnegie hall because it was never my goal or direction to become a world class musician. I can’t compare myself to the twenty-six-year-old billionaire founder of Snapchat because it was never my goal to be a tech billionaire (although I wouldn’t say no…). And that is how I have to think. I have to learn to be ok spending this time figuring out a direction and to learn to rely on the idea that when I find my own direction, I’m going to kick. its. ass.

 

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Smile to keep from dwelling on the confusion of your own life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Career Freshman

Many of my friends are graduating soon (SO EXCITING) which means they will be entering the workforce in just a few months. One of the I hardest things for a fresh grad to do is get a job. I know first hand that it is absolutely EXHAUSTING getting a job, and even more so when you’re just out of school and have to prove yourself to everyone.

I know from my own experience how demoralizing it can be to apply to those black hole job portals only to never get a response. Here are my numbers: I applied to almost 100 jobs. I got about 20 phone screenings/interviews. I got about 9 formal interviews. 4 follow up interviews. 3 ACTUAL job offer letters. That comes out to just over a 3% success rate. And I consider myself LUCKY. Finding a good job is HARD, so you’ve got to do whatever is in your power to make sure you find something that doesn’t make you hate your life. There are certain things that can make this process slightly easier and I’ve listed them below:

  • Do your prep work. If you’re reading this and you’re not a senior, then you still have time. Get ANY EXPERIENCE YOU CAN. If you prefer to join societies or clubs at your university, then make sure you have a leadership position or have taken on a lot of responsibility. However, it is even better if you have a few internships under your belt. Many times, companies hire straight from the intern pools, but at the very least, you can actually say you have work experience in a relevant work environment to your field.
  • Apart from prep work, start applying EARLY. Huge companies (Fortune 500, I’m looking at you), hire very early. They are recruiting at colleges constantly, but if you know you’re graduating in the Spring of 2017, for example, the applications for these companies could have deadlines as early as September or October 2016. I know this because I was totally in the dark about this, and when I started applying in January, I realized I had missed my window for those companies, so I’m WARNING you now so you don’t commit the same mistake.
  • Spend time developing a quality Resume and CV. You should adjust your resume and CV to fit whatever job you are applying to. It WILL be time consuming but it’s worth it. You want to make sure your info matches the job description and you show that you fit the position because these documents are often the first look a company gets of you. Unfortunately, what’s worse, is that they spend about 10 seconds on each resume so if you don’t have the buzzwords they’re looking for, you won’t even make it out of HR. HOWEVER, it is MUCH easier to make adjustments for each job if you develop a high quality base Resume and CV to work with.
  • You’re not too good for anything. By all means, apply to the Fortune 500 companies, but don’t consider yourself ‘above’ being an assistant, an associate, or any ‘bottom of the heap’ position. I don’t care what firm you end up at or how welcoming/inclusive they are. You’re the newbie, you’re the inexperienced one and you have to own that. I hate to break it to you, but your degree doesn’t make you special anymore. Unless you have some really great prior experience, you ARE the bottom. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has to start somewhere, just don’t let your arrogance get in the way of what could be some good starting points or opportunities. ProTip: In interviews, say that you are looking for a position that will allow you to learn a lot and improve your skills. Tailor it for the company you want of course, but in saying you look forward to learning and improving, you humble yourself, and show the company that you are willing to work hard and learn about their business.
  • Aim for quantity. Once you have your quality documents as per number three. Just apply, apply, apply. Scour job boards, your college boards, LinkedIn, everywhere. And apply to ALL of them. Apply to anything and everything you can reasonably argue that you’re qualified for. You never know who will respond or who will end up being the right fit. I’m a perfect example, I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and I work as a Software Consultant now. But my company liked my previous experience and the skills my degree gave me. Presto, I work in tech now. You’re only denying yourself opportunities if you limit yourself by position, your degree, or even geography. Don’t be afraid to move or be flexible. A job is a job, and beggars can’t be choosers.

Honestly, the job search is filled with tons of dead ends, unanswered emails, and rejections. I was rejected 97 times and I consider those GOOD odds. So don’t get discouraged when it feels like you’ve applied to every job out there. There are tons of jobs and tons of applicants and everyone is just looking for the right match. Do the work, and something WILL happen for you. Good luck!

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