How to Get a Promotion

When I first started out in my career, I came across a ton of articles about how women were consistently passed over for promotions for a startlingly simple reason – they didn’t ask for them. Whether these articles held much truth or not is another matter, but they affected me in the fact that I became hyper-aware of the promotion structure and my own abilities related to it. I wanted to make sure I was taking my career into my own hands and that I was being proactive instead of simply waiting for people to notice all my hard work. I’ve since asked for and received a promotion and I know this first step when you’re starting out can be hard so I wanted to share how I did it.

The first thing you should do is examine your work ethic. Inventory your recent endeavors and be critically honest with yourself. Have you been putting in the work? Have you been meeting your deadlines and quotas? Do customers and clients like working with you? Are you making the company money? Are you truly adding value? Ask yourself all these questions and examine your answers. You may find that you’ve just been skating by and that means you’re not ready. If not, you should still dig deeper and figure out why. Maybe you hate this job or the company or maybe you’re simply bored, but either way, your work isn’t reflecting what you’re capable of and it’s not deserving of moving up.

Next, try to get feedback from others. Performance reviews can be ideal for this but oftentimes they don’t occur frequently enough to be valuable. Ask people you work with frequently, ask your boss, ask the people you manage. Ask your clients. Whoever you feel comfortable asking – ask them! Tell them you’re always looking to improve and ask what you could be doing better. This will help add color to your self-assessment and help you see if you are giving yourself the same amount of credit others are.

Alright, so let’s say you have been working your butt off, adding value like crazy, clients and colleagues love you and you’re itching to take on more – now you’ve got to pitch yourself. You know you’ve been working hard, other people know you’re good at your job, so you’ve got a solid foundation to pitch. First thing I did once I got to this point was write down all the things I’ve been doing right lately, and I also wrote how they compared to how good I was at them when I started. Showing growth and improvement is a huge plus because it demonstrates that you are coachable and will most likely continue to improve. Have a good handle on all your positives, but also write down the things you can improve on and create high-level plans for getting better at those things. You want to focus on your positives, but you also don’t want to be taken by surprise if someone throws one of your lacking points back at you. You should be self-aware on all fronts before moving to the next step…

…which is is to schedule time with whoever the relevant party for a promotion is. Mine was my direct manager. Promotions and personnel changes ultimately go through C-suite management at my company, but my boss was the one I had to convince to fight for me at that level. I scheduled a specific time with him to talk about my progress thus far. My strategy was to approach this from a learning perspective. I knew I had been putting in good work, but I had to ask how he thought I had been doing, and what he thought was necessary for me to do to progress to the next level.

The thing is, I wasn’t comfortable yet just marching in and saying I deserve a raise and here’s why. Maybe someday I will be, but being so young in my career, I felt it was more advantageous for me to come from the perspective of wanting to improve and learn, rather than seeming entitled, no matter how much I really believed I deserved it. This approach took a little bit longer than maybe it would have otherwise, but it ultimately worked. I got proper feedback on my progress, my improvement points, and was able to prove that I deserved to move up.

Lastly, no matter how great you are or how deserving you may be of a promotion, it’s also important to realize that there might be external factors that could influence your progress. Your company may not have the budget to increase headcount or offer raises at the moment, there may be some management turmoil going on that you’re not privy to, they might be trying to restructure company hierarchy so promoting people doesn’t make sense at the moment. There are tons of things that could be happening so it’s important to be able to have those conversations as well.

If your manager declines your pitch, then you should ask why not. The answer to this question is important, because if it’s something as simple as title rearranging, then maybe you are ok to wait, but if they don’t give you a clear answer or vague feedback, then that could also be a sign that you’re in the wrong environment for your progress. Don’t be afraid to judge your managers and superiors just as critically as they may be judging you. You don’t ever have to offer that feedback, but it’s important to recognize it so you can change your situation if necessary.

Ultimately, if you’re only after a promotion for a title change or more money, then you probably shouldn’t be pursuing it. A promotion usually means those things, but it also usually means more responsibility and you should be ready to grow and change accordingly. This is why I felt it so important to learn about myself from this process so that I could truly be ready for that extra accountability when the time came. If they had given it to me when I hadn’t been ready, then I probably would have floundered under the pressure and that’s ultimately a loss for me and a loss for the company, and nobody wants that.

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The beautiful Calgary Library. I don’t live here anymore, but the library is still kickass

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The Art of Vulnerability

If you’ve met me, even for only a few minutes, the first few words out of your mouth to describe me would not be anything along the lines of delicate, vulnerable, or emotional. You might say that I sometimes come off as a bit…aloof. This is partly because of my appearance (tall, athletic, with RBF of course), and partly of my own making. For years, I thought I had to handle everything on my own without ever betraying the difficulty of doing so. I thought that displays of excessive emotions, whether good or bad, demonstrated a lack of control, and asking for help? Oh my god, that was PEAK humiliation for me. I was pretty much this way all the way through my first year of university. I would bestow tough love advice on friends who got caught up in their feelings, and related the most to people, who, like me, didn’t rely too much on others.

This way of living took it’s toll though. I found that I would put a lot of pressure on myself, and I would implode frequently at home crying with my mom or venting to my sister. I suppose I only allowed myself to be vulnerable with my family because they were the only ones whom I completely trusted to actually support me without viewing me as weaker. In addition, there were many times when relying on others would have helped me do something faster or more effectively, but instead, I viewed it as safer to go it alone.

Then, finally, in my second year of university – two huge things happened.

First, I went to Shanghai to study abroad. I could literally write a book on how much this experience changed me, but for the purpose of this topic, it’s relevant because I couldn’t access my usual support system as easily. The time difference between Chicago and Shanghai is 13 hours so calls could only happen when planned. Furthermore, even though I had already gone across the country for school, it was quite another feeling to be across the globe. In California, I had always had it in the back of my mind that my parents could fly out and get me if things got bad. In China, I felt truly on my own.

The second is that the living situation in Shanghai was extremely close quarters. There were roughly 45 of us in the study abroad program, and we all lived in a couple buildings in our own mini campus. We were pretty much all living right on top of one another. Consequently, it was difficult not to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of every single person. At Pepperdine, there were quiet spaces you could go if you actually needed to be alone, but in Shanghai, even the most private areas were still public to an extent. So if you were going through something, you almost had to share it with at least a few people.

This was extremely uncomfortable for me at first. I felt as though I couldn’t escape the constant clamor of others and I’m sure I came off rude and distant more than once. But slowly, I realized that for the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people who I recognized as happy, disciplined, and ambitious, but who also consistently asked for help, and consistently displayed emotion around others.

Never before had those two ideas been reconciled in my mind. But never before had I been able to observe my friends in such close quarters and truly realize that behind every face, no matter how tough, there is a story.  Nobody can be in control, happy, or strong ALL the time, including myself. The most amazing part was that when I did start opening up a bit more, nobody thought less of me for it. They still viewed me as a capable, strong person.

Although this was a huge personal breakthrough for me, the reason I just wrote almost seven hundred words on it is because this type of thinking is a skill. Recognizing vulnerability in others, and tying it to your own is a form of empathy than can be used in any situation. Of course, this is indispensable when it comes to your personal relationships, but it can be amazingly helpful professionally as well. For example, if a client or boss comes down much harder on you than normal, before getting angry or defensive, just take one minute, sixty seconds, to think about why. It’s actually super easy to do this because (if you’ve done this right) you’ve already spent time analyzing why you yourself get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. If you know that you get snappy when you haven’t eaten or right after you’ve talked to your mom, then you can afford the same grace to someone else. It doesn’t get much credit in buzzy business articles because it’s a soft, subjective skill, but I can promise you from personal experience that when people feel like you ‘get’ them, that goes a loooong way.

 

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You can be strong and vulnerable at the same time.

I Think I’m Becoming Positive

I would never have said that I was a particularly negative person. And yet- my perspectives on myself and what I spend my time doing have, as of late, been negative. I joke that I’m not a real writer, not a real filmmaker, not a real artist, whatever. Lately, I think it’s been getting to me.

I’m not a real writer, so why finish my novel?
I’m not a real filmmaker, so why struggle to make films?
I’m not a real artist, so why call what I do “art”?

I wouldn’t say it hit me all at once, but I kind of came to realize that my attitude was affecting my work. I always prided myself on not being someone who takes themselves too seriously, and to an extent that remains true. I have no intention of becoming some hum-drum that only talks about how messed up the world is. That’s completely unproductive and thoroughly annoying.

But I think I ought to give myself a little more credit than I do. I’ve made half a dozen or so short films, and worked dozens of hours on sets. So yeah, I’m a real filmmaker. I’ve written hundreds of pages of this damn book and I’m so close to finishing a draft that I can taste it. So yeah, I’m a real writer. Writing and filmmaking are art forms, so hell yeah, I’m an artist.

I think I’m becoming one of those ~positive people~. And not in the way that I have been, which is where I make jokes when things are terrible. (The more terrible things are, the more jokes I make. I can draw a graph, if that would help.) And definitely not in the *everything will be okay* way because that’s impractical and dangerously reductive. I mean genuinely positive. Like, I think I know what I want to do with my life? And maybe… how to do it? I know it’ll be hard but I feel like I… can handle it?

Halfway through film school and I finally feel like I really know where I am and where I want to be. Maybe it’s a passing thing, and tomorrow I’ll wake up feeling lost again. But if anything, that makes writing this down now all the more important, so when I start to doubt myself again I can look back at this and remember that yes, I do know what I want to do, and yes, I am doing it right now. Literally, right now. I’m sitting in class as I write this. (Maybe if I were really doing this right I’d be paying attention.)

But for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I feel so confident and so right with what I’m doing. I want to tell stories, and I know how to tell them. And it’s a good feeling. I hope that you can find that same sense of purpose, dear reader, in something important to you, whatever that may be.

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Not pictured: Me
Pictured: my sister, looking cool on a bench in Greece while I sacrifice proper exposure for that JJ Abrams Lens Flare

How to Get People to Take You Seriously

I work at a consulting company that is about 80% male and 90% consultants with over a decade of experience. In my work, I have to go in and run discussions with CEO’s, CFO’s and IT directors who are almost always male and around my father’s age.

When I first started working here, the demographics I described above really got to my head. I felt like I had no place at the table since I was so young. How could I possibly tell these 50-year-old men how to run a business project? And how could I possibly do that task with any amount of credibility backing me up? How the hell could I get people to take ME seriously?

To be honest, it took a while to get there. I was unsure of myself for a long time at the start. But lately, I feel like I’ve really been hitting my stride. And I think my confidence boils down to a few simple things that I remember every time I go to work:

First off, this is my JOB. I have shit to do. Things have to get done. A client has hired my company, and by proxy, ME, to do a job for them and I can’t let my own insecurities get in the way of completing a task at hand. If there’s one thing I’ve always been good at, it’s been getting things done efficiently. It’s like a sink or swim situation: if I don’t do a good job, I’ll get fired, so I better figure it out.

Secondly, I know my stuff. I didn’t at first, obviously. But I took the learning process seriously. I took notes meticulously, I studied, and I practiced. I realized it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, there will always be a learning curve for any job. There will always be new cultures and new information to study. What matters is how fast you retain and apply what you learn. Now that I’ve done my due diligence, I can walk into a room and feel confident that I can back up what I’m saying.

The next attribute was luckily something I already possessed: being articulate. I don’t know if it was from all the books I read or my grammar obsessed mother correcting my speaking all the time, but either way, I speak clearly, concisely, and with purpose. In my opinion, a common fault of consultants (and salespeople) is talking too much and saying very little. I have a more straightforward approach to conversation and I’m able to convey my point clearly without coming across too harshly and that approach earns me a lot of respect when others are constantly beating around the bush.

I won’t lie, I’m nervous almost every single time I have to go in to see a client or have a heavy conversation with my boss. I have to write out a bunch of lists of points to cover and literally psych myself up beforehand (this includes practicing conversations in the mirror with myself). However, each time, I remember that I really do have things to back me up. I get things done, I learn fast, and I have a lot of poise.

Every time I walk into a room, I have to remember that no matter how old or how male the other people in the room are, I have a lot to lean on in my own arsenal. I learned over time that the more I feel like I’m at a disadvantage, the more confidence I have to exude in the room. And you know what? Faking it until you make it really DOES work.

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In other news, I’m still looking for suggestions on what to focus my blog on. I want to focus on maybe three to five major areas so let me know if you have any favorite articles of mine or if there’s a topic you’d love to see me write more about!

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

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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