Archive | July, 2013

Guest Post: Reflections From a (Formerly) Jobless Girl

31 Jul

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I absolutely LOVE today’s guest post by Abby Cooper. She’s an amazing writer, and today she’s offering some insight on success in the workplace. Read it! I promise… it’s really great 🙂

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I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.

Unfortunately, it turns out that knowing does not get you hired. Sometimes it gets you a fake teacher discount at Michael’s when the guy takes pity on you because you’re doing art projects by yourself instead of with children. Apparently doing paint-by-number alone on a Saturdaynight stopped being cool after age ten. It would have been nice if someone sent a memo or something.

I am about to embark on my junior year of life (aka, third year out of college) and I’m only now starting my first real-life grown-up job. For the past two years, I’ve been trying to get my foot in the door. Any door. I would have happily taken a doggie door had one been open. You get the point.

Through all my door-seeking, I’ve learned a lot about what you need to do to get hired. I’ve also learned that not all doors lead to places that are right for you. Here’s what I know:

1. You have to touch the bugs. I was substitute teaching one day when an announcement boomed over the loudspeaker: “the bugs are here!”

Oh, cool. Kill me now.

The bugs were for the first grade’s insect unit, but these were not your run-of-the-mill ladybugs and caterpillars. We’re talking millipedes (aka worms on steroids) and lifesize killer beetles.

I couldn’t help wondering if the real first-grade teachers had known about this and strategically chosen this day to be “sick”…

The other substitute in first grade couldn’t handle the Monster Bugs of Doom and went home. I couldn’t blame her, but I wasn’t going to hand over my chance of ever getting hired at this school just because there was a strong possibility that one of these things could swallow me whole.

I took a deep breath (and by “a” deep breath I obviously mean like 800), took off my glasses (it wasn’t necessary to see all the details of their slimy bodies) and put the creatures in their cages. It was not pleasant. But guess who got called back to teach again the next day? (Hint: me.)

Whether or not your job asks you to pick up bugs that could eat you for breakfast, I think the important thing to remember is to say yes to whatever seemingly strange requests come your way. Within reason. These are the adventures we have to challenge ourselves to have if we want to get somewhere, and they’re awesome opportunities to show just how valuable (and brave) you are.

2. Speak the language. Or fake it.

I once got called to teach Chinese for a week. I don’t know Chinese. I went anyway.

It’s amazing what you can learn in a class you’re supposed to be teaching. For example, shuttlecock is a Chinese sport, not something scandalous that makes you wonder why they want you to teach it to small children. Also, don’t assume every question a child asks in another language means “can I go to the bathroom?” Sometimes it means “can I throw this shuttlecock at your head?” and you will regret saying yes.

It’s okay to agree to do things you don’t know how to do, like teach Chinese. And it’s okay to admit that you don’t know how to do those things (but you are super willing to learn, in case any potential employers want to know.) Don’t be scared of the unknown. The unknown could pay your bills and also teach you a new sport that will make you very popular at parties.

3. Play the game until it gets creepy.

Ever since I first started working, I’ve noticed that a lot of bosses seem to really, really like the power that comes with being the boss. I don’t particularly care for these people, but I can deal with them. I nod. I smile. I imagine them moving to Australia. Etc.

Every boss has some kind of game going on. And in addition to your actual job, it’s your job to figure it out and play. Until it gets creepy. This is different than “until it stops being fun.” I think we need to accept that first-ish jobs, generally, are not fun.

Creepy happens when your boss yells at you for wearing blue, despite the fact that your office doesn’t have a dress code.

Creepy also happens when your boss makes Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada look like a pretty nice lady.

This is when you say bye-bye-boss. This is also when you change your phone number and quite possibly your address.

I’ve left more than one of these kinds of situations in my day. But I’m not a quitter – I’m a person who’s decided that her sanity is more valuable than a job. And while sadly sanity does not pay my rent, I have learned what I will and will not accept at work, and I’ve learned how to get feet through doors in the process. And these are some really valuable things to know. I am looking forward to finally going through a door at a school this coming August. Whether it brings bugs or shuttlecocks or a really bizarre combination of the two, the past few years of adventure and experience have made me ready for just about anything.

Abby Cooper is a twenty-something living and working in Chicago. Follow her adventures on Twitter  @_AnxiousA_

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How To Be Rich in Your 20s

23 Jul

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Most twenty-somethings have no money. Actually, most thirty-somethings are pretty broke these days too.

It’s always been a goal of mine, to be financially stable. Probably because I’ve known way too many people who’ve struggled with money issues.

To feel like you’re drowning every day? Um, that can’t be fun.

So that’s why debt and I are not friends.

I’m extremely fortunate to not owe any money. Believe me, I know how lucky I am. But that didn’t entirely happen by accident.

Instead, it’s taken a series of smart and sometimes really difficult decisions to get to where I’m at, financially.

So I figured it’d be nice share a few tactics that I’ve used over the past few years to save money. Because if you strategize and prioritize correctly, you really can be rich in your twenties.

1.    Trick Yourself Into Thinking You’re Poor

I lie to myself every day. I make a certain amount of money, but I pretend that I make a whole lot less. And you know what happens when I pretend that I make a whole lot less? I SPEND a whole lot less. And then…there’s a whole lot MORE in my bank account.

So how do you trick yourself into thinking you’re poor? Automatically deduct a certain amount of money from your paychecks each month and send that money to a separate checking/savings account. Then, forget about it. That’s your emergency fund. It can also be your travel fund. But it’s not money that you count on every month, which is good, because you don’t end up spending it on dumb things.

 2. Start the “No-Lunch-at-Work” Diet

Okay, no…I’m not talking about starving yourself. You really should eat at work. Several times. But you shouldn’t BUY lunch at work. Not for $10 a meal. Wake up five minutes early every day and pack your lunch. Or, have a 10-minute dance party before bed and make your breakfast AND lunch. I get mad at my man-friend because he doesn’t do this. And he wastes a lot of money. You know what happens when you eat a $12 burger for lunch every day? You spend $60 a week to gain 5 pounds.

3. Have Ugly Nails

You don’t need a mani/pedi every week. A mani/pedi will easily cost you $40. You don’t need to spend $40 a week-or even every TWO weeks- on your nails. Go to a drug store, buy a bottle of nail polish, and do your nails yourself. Sure, I don’t have THE BEST looking nails, but I DO have $40 more in my pocket every week. And that makes me happy.

 4. Don’t Be an Alcoholic

I don’t think I need to explain this one. I live in Miami. In South Beach, drinks are $17. Just looking at that price makes me want to vomit.

 5. Say Goodbye to Impulse Shopping

I try really hard to avoid impulse shopping. And I do a really good job, but the Internet…it’s so tempting! In 2.5 seconds, I can order pretty much anything that I want. That’s kind of scary.

Before buying anything, I like to wait a couple of days. I’ll see something that I want, sure. But I don’t buy it before thinking about it. If two days later I don’t have the same need for that thing that I wanted so badly, I don’t buy it. And that saves me a lot of money.

Because a lot of times, we see something and we’re like, “OMG this is so pretty I NEED to have it!!!”  *Click*… *Swipe*…purchased. Then, two days later, we look at those new headphones we spent $250 on, and we want to cry.

6. Take As Much Money As You Can From Your Employer

No, don’t steal from your job. That’s bad. But if your employer offers to match your retirement in any way at all, make sure that you’re getting the maximum matching dollar amount possible. Yes, it means that your paycheck will be a little smaller if you’re putting away more money for retirement. But it’s worth it in the long run. You don’t want to be 65 years old and still working. That would be awful.

7. Have a Tiny Closet

The worst possible investment you can make is on new clothes. Sure, you need clothes, but you don’t need a new outfit every week. If you want to save money but you’re one of those “I-can’t-be-seen-in-the-same-outfit-twice” kind of people, you have two options. You can:

     a. stop posting pictures on Facebook, or

     b. stop going to social functions.

If you don’t like those options, then enjoy your trips to the mall and embrace the fact that a huge chunk of your wallet is going on clothes that you’ll likely throw away a year from now.

The tinier your closet, the bigger your wallet. Unless you only shop at high-end stores, in which case, I have nothing more to say.

So there you have it! Just a few ideas to help you be rich in your twenties. Any other suggestions?

Hey, Twenty-Somethings…You Really Don’t Have Much to Lose

18 Jul

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In the spirit of Paul Angone’s new book, 101 Secrets for Your Twenties, I decided to write my own secret, because, well…why not?

If I had to give just one piece of advice to young people everywhere, it would most likely be this…

In your twenties, you don’t have much to lose.

So, you’re a little lost. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Welcome to your twenties!

Are you freaking out yet? Of course you are!

You’ve got tons to do, lots of options, and you don’t know where to start.

You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do for a living. You don’t even know, really, who you are.

But it’s a beautiful thing, being lost in your twenties, because in case you haven’t realized…you don’t have much to lose!

Really, you don’t. You’re twenty!

NOW is the time to take risks. NOW is the time to make mistakes. NOW is the time to jump on every opportunity.

Because if you put yourself out there and it doesn’t work out, you can start all over again rather quickly.

Your twenties are a time in your life when you get to discover who you are. You get to decide who you want to be.

And that requires taking chances. That requires making moves that scare you.

But because you’re at the start of your adult life, you haven’t invested all that much. And that makes any risk that you take a little less risky.

So don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to new opportunities.

Because you have everything to gain. Yes, everything…

And not that much to lose.

A Book For Every Twenty-Something: 101 Secrets for Your Twenties

15 Jul

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Paul Angone, creator of All Groan Up, just released his first book… 101 Secrets for Your Twenties.

I’ve been following Paul’s blog for a while now, so when I heard about his book, I knew I had to read it ASAP.

Because he’s awesome.

So I DID read it and I’m really glad that I did. I only wish that I had read this 3 years ago…that would have been great.

Below are a few of my favorite “secrets” from the book, and how I feel about them.

#2: The possibility for greatness and embarrassment both exist in the same space. If you’re not willing to be embarrassed, you’re probably not willing to be great.

In order to be great, you’re going to have to take risks. And when you take risks, it’s likely that you’ll fail. And when you fail, it can be really embarrassing. It sucks, I know. But on the flip side, the complete opposite can happen. You can NOT fail and achieve awesome things. So understand this going into any situation and embrace it. Understand that the possibility for embarrassment and greatness go hand-in-hand. And usually, that potential for embarrassment is totally worth it.

#4: Your 20s are about having the courage to write a frightful first draft.

Did you understand what you just read? FIRST draft. Not FINAL PUBLISHED draft. When we’re in our twenties, we tend to think that everything will be perfect. Especially those of us OCD over-achievers.We’re going to graduate college and land our dream jobs and have everything figured out. But that’s not how it happens. In our twenties we just start working on these things. It’s a first draft. Our lives will be tweaked and reviewed and edited to perfection. But that takes time…and it’s okay.

#6: Life will never feel like it’s supposed to.

If there’s one thing that I struggle with, it’s this. I really shouldn’t have watched so many Disney movies growing up. I really shouldn’t have watched ANY movies growing up. Growing up, we’re exposed to movies and books and songs that fool us into believing that life is supposed to feel a certain way. And then, when life doesn’t turn out to be as awesome as we thought it’d be, we’ve severely disappointed. When we find ourselves not working at Facebook or Google, we feel like we’ve somehow failed. But life will never feel like it’s “supposed to”, because there IS NO “supposed to”, because there’s no ONE way to live life. So give up that fantasy and you’ll be a whole lot happier.

#34: Sometimes the most proactive thing you can do is De-Plug.

Turn it off. Everything. Phone. Computer. Ipad. Ipod. Everything. Go take a nap.

You need some time to be alone with your thoughts. You need some time to think. Or not think. Whatever you want to do. Sometimes you just need to unwind so that you can rest and catch up. And when you do this, you’ll find yourself with a lot more energy.

#36: Your 20s might be less about finding out what you want to do, and more about finding what you DO NOT want to do.

You don’t know exactly what you want to do. Congratulations! Welcome to the club. I am the president. I may not have an exact idea of what I want to do, but I definitely have an idea of the kinds of things I DO NOT want to do. And I’ve learned that over the course of the past four years. With every job that I’ve taken, I’ve come closer to understanding what I want to do with my life. But I’ve only understood that by trying different things. By experimenting with different opportunities, I’ve discovered that there are a certain things that I DO NOT LIKE and DO NOT WANT TO DO. And for that, I am thankful.

So try things. Try lots of things. And figure out if you like them. Every time you discover something that you DON’T like, you’re that much closer to narrowing down your interests and figuring out what you DO want to do.

If you want to read more secrets, you can buy Paul’s book on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.

I’m not even kidding. Every 20-something needs this book! So if you know anyone in their twenties, buy it for them. If you have no money or just don’t like them enough to spend money on them, tell them about it. Because it’ll make a difference in their life!

When we’re in our twenties, we kind of have no clue what we’re doing.

That’s obvious.

BUT THIS WILL HELP!

Paul is a great writer who offers down-to-earth, no-BS advice for anyone who’s feeling a little lost and confused.

So do yourself a favor and take the time to read it.

It’s a quick read, and could very likely save you years of therapy.

And in case you’re not aware, therapy is VERY expensive.

***Paul and his publisher have been nice enough to host a give-away of the book on this site. Leave a comment below for a chance to win a free copy of 101 Secrets for Your Twenties.

Leadership and Influence at All Levels

8 Jul

When you think of leadership, what comes to mind?

A senior manager?

A CEO?

A closet full of perfectly-tailored suits?

I guess the notion of leadership often coincides with this pretty crazy idea that leaders are always at the top.

Leaders are the ones who go to meetings…

Leaders are the ones who tell us what to do…

Leaders are the ones with fancy titles…

But really, it doesn’t work that way.

Because it’s simply just not true.

Leadership has absolutely nothing to do with position.

Leadership has nothing to do with age.

And because of that, leaders can be found at all levels.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that best leaders are the ones that don’t even realize that they’re leading.

They don’t have a corner office.

They don’t attend hundreds of meetings.

And they don’t wear the perfectly tailored suits.

But they DO want to make a difference.

And they inspire OTHERS to make a difference.

And because of their passion and determination, they’re successful.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m a huge fan of Rotary.

Because they believe that everyone can make a difference.

Through their youth programs that emphasize service and leadership, they focus on building the leaders of tomorrow.

And I think that’s really cool.

Because they acknowledge the fact that even young professionals can be leaders.

And they give young professionals the opportunity to make this world a better place.

Take Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign, for example.

We’re SO close to completely eradicating polio.

To date, Rotary and its partners have reduced polio cases by more than 99 percent worldwide and only 3 countries remain polio-endemic. 

Now, a 99 % reduction is huge! A 99% reduction is significant!

But it’s not 100%, so we’ve got more work to do.

Today’s young professionals have the chance to help finish this fight. Within the next five years, we can make history. We could possibly rid the world of the second disease ever to be eradicated and that, my friends, would be awesome. Because at the end of the day, by joining initiatives such as End Polio Now, and fighting for causes that we’re passionate about, we can all be leaders.

Fancy title, or not. So today, I’m being a leader.

I’m joining the World’s Biggest Commercial because I believe in the cause and it’s my way of making a small difference. I’m officially one of over 31,000 participants from 149 countries!

Look!

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And now it’s your turn.

Find something that you believe in and fight hard for it.

Be a leader and make a positive impact.

Because the world needs good people and the world needs good leaders. And they’re not always on top, they’re at all levels.

YOU can make a difference, so get to it.  

Here’s How You Can Help:

  • Make History. Visit EndPolio.org and take part in the World’s Biggest Commercial in a show of solidarity and raise awareness for the complete eradication of polio. People around the world are uploading their photo making a “this close” gesture to join the commercial, and sharing the news with their blogs and social networks to make sure that we finish the fight to eradicate this terrible—and completely preventable —disease.
  • Generate Social Media Buzz. Tweet using the hashtag #EndPolioNow and including the EndPolio.org URL to help raise awareness.
  • Give Financially. Visit EndPolio.org and make a donation. Just $.60 can protect a child from the disease. Every $1 you donate to Rotary will be matched with $2 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, up to $35 million/year.
  • Share the good news with your community. Inform your social circles that we are “this close” to ending polio, encourage them to join the World’s Biggest Commercial and make history, and share these actions items with them for ways in which they, too, can help.

While this post has been sponsored by Rotary, I’m proud to serve as an ambassador for their End Polio Now campaign.

 
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