Coming to Terms with Your Career

I have written about career before, sharing advice for job hunting and running a side hustle. I’ve also written about strategies for resilience– how to just suck it up and deal, whether you like it or not.

I have followed my own advice, especially applying strategies for resilience and enduring the good and the bad. Here’s what I need to do now: I need to appreciate my career for what it is.

The thing that really makes this difficult work bearable is the knowledge that a) this is temporary, and b) I am learning. Those are the pieces that made other challenges so invigorating! I have been reading the narratives of bloggers from before they got big, and how they got where they are. Both Leandra Medine and Joanna Goddard, basically blog goddesses, pay tribute to what they considered a ‘paying of the dues’… really,  just putting in the time and gaining personal experience. What is motivating about their testimony on gaining experience is that this experience didn’t go on a resume and earn them a promotion… this experience lent itself to each woman becoming a self-made entrepreneur.

But then again, everyone’s job, no matter what it is, is hard. Goddard said as much when we talk about the public perception of her work. Everyone’s life is messy and complicated. Whether we live our lives out for public consumption or not, don’t most of us put on a brave face? “All those Pinterest quotes are so damaging,” she says, listing off clichés like, “Love what you do and it will never feel like work,” or, “You should want to do your job whether they paid your or not.”

“It’s called work; that’s why they pay you for it. It’s not always fun. If your goal is to be eternally giddy about your dream job, I’m afraid you’ll never find it.” That doesn’t mean she isn’t thankful for all that Cup of Jo has brought her, but there is a difference between gratitude and happiness. Gratitude carries us through rough patches, anxiety-ridden days and full-out downhill slides.
Quote from Man Repeller interview with Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo.

Beyond just sucking it up and getting through, something bigger has to happen. I know that to reach the next level of my career, and to be best prepared to switch careers in the future, I need to commit. I’m not very good at doing that! I don’t want to commit because this is so hard and so emotionally trying. I’m afraid. I’m tempted to leave all the time. But if I commit, and deeply invest my time and energy, I will be better at it and better for it. The community that I serve will be better served. I may see growth, but if I don’t I’ll also have one hell of an experience to put on my resume.

Strategies to Invest and Commit in Your Career

  1. Step up and be more active.
    Take on a new role and more responsibility in your work place. The more involved you are, the more skills and connections you gain and the easier the job itself becomes. Sometimes this means volunteering for a job that no one else wants to do, or putting in an extra couple of hours each week.
  2. Seek out professional development
    Maintain a growth mindset and seek out the resources to make you better at what you do. Bonus: these opportunities may give you a much needed break, which will ease the burnout. By taking the time to learn and grow in your field, and stepping away from the workplace for a few days to evaluate your own performance, you will return to your workplace with fresh eyes and new ideas.
  3. Try new things
    This is the easiest way to get out of a rut with anything in life. Do something different! Approach your day differently, adjust your schedule, apply new skills within your work. If you can totally switch something within your job, try it! Maybe move from the desk to the field or vice versa, or changing your focus from one specialization to another.
  4. Explore what will make you long term happy
    When you are off work, try a hobby or new career trajectory that you enjoy- something that brings you lasting joy and peace. Pursue your curiosity in other things! It may be an investment in your future career. You may surprise yourself: as we develop our personal interests and break out of our comfort zone (read: pattern of tv and pizza), often other things (like work) and positively impacted.
  5. Invest in the present while planning the future
    Be really awesome at your current job, and promote your success. This positive attention puts you in a position to continue moving forward. You’ll need those wins whether you are trying to grow in your current career or look for other work.
  6. Be a resource
    After a few years in one job, you are able to be a mentor for new professionals. Apply your expertise and feel purposeful in your work by making yourself or you work available as a resource to your peers. This could be done by circulating a resource you developed within your network or online, even selling materials or starting a website. This will deepen your personal practice as you shift your thinking to “What have I learned and how can I teach it?”
  7. Create opportunity
    Are you bored? Annoyed with the lack of community at work? Change things! Step up, because if you want something to happen differently, it takes an initiator. The break room is sad and uncomfortable so everyone eats alone at their desk? Volunteer to decorate it and start a committee to host fun events with the staff! Basically, see a need, fill a need. You will be happier to be there and will be recognized as a valuable self-starter.
  8. Make new friends and keep the old
    Seek and build a community for yourself. Reach out and start new things with coworkers. Does it feel impossible to spend anytime with coworkers? The internet makes it so easy to search for friends! There are book clubs on Meetup, and women’s events on Eventbrite. Ladies Get Paid is a cool resource to find other career-minded women in your area. I also highly recommend taking crazy classes all the time, like rock climbing, scuba, ceramics, woodworking, dance, improv, etc. You will meet the coolest people, and feel deeply connected.
  9. Reach out
    I always forget that other people have/are suffered/suffering through this and forge a path through it. By reaching out to people who have been there, done that, and finding a mentor or comrade in the field, you are reminded that you are not alone, and may find a greater sense of purpose and interest.
  10. Make it worth your while
    Spend your money on what you really want. What brings you peace and joy and happiness? What makes your daily life easier? Don’t waste your HARD EARNED MONEY on stuff that doesn’t serve you. I am trying to buy experiences over stuff, and stuff that has a specific need. Also, if you what you really want is a different career or a long retirement, then save that money. Make yourself a fuck off fund or carefully pad your retirement account and then leave when you’re ready.

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A List of Things That I Want and Am Not Buying

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I have resolved not to buy anything that I don’t need in order to survive during the month of January. We are halfway through and I’m really enjoying the process. I think through every purchase with so much more consideration than before. The official rule of a spending diet is no shopping- like, no window shopping or internet browsing. I kind of like exercising the power or look but don’t touch here. So here is a list of totally frivolous, unnecessary things that have tempted me.

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This mug

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This fabric for a quilt or dress that I want to make eventually…

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THIS SHIRT. Why do I want this shirt so badly?

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Chelsea boots.

 

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These stoneware meets tinware mugs! It’s like camping in your kitchen!

 

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Ugh. How luxurious. Rose gold makes everything more… dignified.

 

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I would really like this linen/cotton duvet for the spring. Especially with the bed frame I’m eyeing.

 

I really want either/or/both this keyring and wrist strap.

What Purchase Will Help You Achieve Your Resolution?

Last year I had a tiny resolution of cutting back plastic waste- specifically, get really good at not using plastic bags. Conveniently, Chicago implemented a 7 cent bag tax as soon as a chose this resolution, so I could really justify my investment in Baggus. I bought 3 small bags, gifted one, and bought a large bag. If I forgot my bag, I bought a new one and planted it in my car or by the door. And we probably used plastic bags a hundred times less than we did in 2016.

I have been taking group physical training lately, and feeling stronger with every week. I was having trouble holding my feet still while holding planks, and I was finally sick of slipping and struggling. If my feet slip every 10 seconds, how can I hold a two minute plank? Enter: Adidas Crazy Trainers. I am so stable and can feel my strength. I was worried that once my excuse of slippery feet went away, I would discover that I couldn’t hold these poses, but was surprised to discover that I feel stronger and feel like I could hold these moves all day.

What purchases help you accomplish your goals? Is it a new cookbook? Leggings that don’t pull or tear during your workout? A nice laptop case or new backpack to make it easier to get to the coffee shop and work?

Homemade Gifts for Every Occasion in 2018

Who else is tired of buying? I have serious consumer fatigue. I am trying to take a break from spending, for my economic health and just my general sanity. Here is how I will navigate those gifting situations where you normally need to buy.

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Hostess Gift: Homemade No-Knead Bread

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Birthday: To make an easy favorite scrubby face mask, mix together honey, thyme, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

For kids: Did you know you can make your own temporary tattoos??? It looks so easy!

For soul sisters: How fun to make one of these swing dresses together!

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Wedding: A homemade blanket or quilt, or a homemade woven pillow.
A packet of seeds with a loving note and personal illustration.

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Thank You: Cinnamon Roasted Pecans

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Mother’s Day: Handmade Paper Wreath

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Father’s Day: Your top 5 recipes, hand written.

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Valentine/ Anniversary: Home cooked meal with a handmade card

100 Little Resolutions

  1. Be Nicer
  2. Try ice climbing
  3. Make pottery
  4. Pay my credit card bill
  5. Get a summer job
  6. Take more weekend trips
  7. Catch some sunrises
  8. Buy less
  9. Make more
  10. Read twice as much
  11. Watch less tv
  12. Spend more time in nature
  13. Break bread with loved ones
  14. Find quiet time
  15. Meditate
  16. Try new things
  17. Try old things
  18. Be more present
  19. Be playful
  20. Smile more often than not
  21. Get good at slacklining
  22. Save 20% of my income
  23. Celebrate my birthday in a big way
  24. Write
  25. Spend more time outside
  26. Listen to more music
  27. Make more music
  28. Learn how to dance
  29. Be more creative
  30. Use divergent thinking
  31. Enjoy running
  32. Try new experiences
  33. Go to community events
  34. Call my grandparents regularly
  35. Get really strong
  36. Give advice
  37. Take advice
  38. Really, really listen to others
  39. Plan travel
  40. Explore locally
  41. Make time to live slowly
  42. Host game nights
  43. Play more in general
  44. Find enjoyable work
  45. Create less waste
  46. Reuse, reduce
  47. Make a plan
  48. Provide support
  49. Try things that scare you
  50. Revisit old things you always loved
  51. Build a foundation
  52. Embrace change
  53. Speak up
  54. Smile lots
  55. Laugh more
  56. Save money
  57. Be purposeful
  58. Learn more
  59. Visit new places
  60. Wander through museums
  61. Explore new food cultures
  62. Stretch
  63. Say “thank you”
  64. Volunteer in the community
  65. Figure out how to compost in the city
  66. Garden
  67. Slow down
  68. Support small artists
  69. Brew my own beer
  70. Take a daily walk
  71. Get up earlier
  72. Buy used
  73. Soak up the sun
  74. Plan for retirement
  75. Eat less meat
  76. Have a no spend month
  77. Journal
  78. Date night with your significant other
  79. Cook more from scratch
  80. Buy local
  81. Plan a vacation
  82. Make your own products
  83. Use the Neti pot
  84. Bake homemade bread
  85. Try a vegan week
  86. Repurpose old clothes and items
  87. Host a craft night
  88. Collaborate with others
  89. Take a painting or drawing class
  90. Visit a farm
  91. Invest more
  92. Drink more tea
  93. Read the ingredients
  94. Eat high-quality, ethical food
  95. Wear sunscreen
  96. Write a research paper
  97. Read more non-fiction
  98. Encourage my family to take a dream vacation
  99. Don’t lose things
  100. Be prepared

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A Case Against the Hanger Trick

Or, “Why to Keep Your Clothes.”

Minimalism is in. Big time. And I am all for it! My family identifies me as a wanna-be minimalist. I talk the talk and pretend to cut back, but I will always be a maximalist at heart. I think it’s genetic?

I’ve used the hanger trick. Haven’t heard of it? You turn all of the hangers in your closet backwards. At the end of the season, any seasonal items that haven’t been turned around go. I use this tactic with moderation. It has helped me pass on beloved dresses and shrunken shorts to my sister and friends, and has moved tees and sweaters that I just can’t let go of back into my childhood bedroom (sorry mom!). I was looking at my closet and thinking about flipping those hangers again, but here’s the deal…

I wear work clothes 5 days a week. When I am not in work clothes, I am usually in workout clothes or pajamas. Sometimes, once or twice a week, I put on “real people clothes.” We talk about dual function, but as a teacher I am expected to dress up and dress conservatively, and frankly when I’m out of school and spending time with friends, I want to do anything but. I want to wear comfortable and flattering clothing.

When I’m teaching, I am moving around all day. I wear large, frumpy clothing so that I don’t have to worry about everything staying in place. I sweat and spill coffee and escort sick children out of the room. That’s why I’m wearing baggy sweaters that were on clearance at target. I would like to dress more like myself at work, but in my current environment I feel like I just can’t do that.

The solution: invest in building my personal wardrobe for when I’m out. It is a small selection, and I repeat favorites throughout the whole season, and then some. So, I’m going to hold onto the little black dresses and bright high heels and delicate caftan because one day, on vacation or date night or at a special event or ceremony I will have the perfect excuse to wear it again. So I’m not going to get rid of those nice pieces, even if I haven’t worn them in 6-12 months, and I will buy one or two more. I went to a special work function recently, where I did not have to adhere to uniform, and I threw on an old waffle knit sweater that I used to wear during ceramics class, and may still have patches of dried clay on the sleeves. It was the nicest looking casual top I could find in my closet this morning. (Yikes.)

So here is a call to hold on to those items that let your personality shine through, and make you feel comfortable and happy and like yourself. Because Friday-Sunday, we can get away from our work identity and rediscover the person that brought us there.

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5 Rules for Your Side Hustle

One way I’ve realized for me to feel more independent and content with a high-stress job is to have a little side hustle running. I tried driving for Lyft, and I am ready to peel off my stickers and downgrade car insurance. It’s a hassle and frankly, I’m overqualified. I can earn 5 hours of Lyft money in one hour of private piano lessons. Here are my strategies for a little money to pad my rainy day/ sunny day accounts.

  1. Ask what you deserve. 
    There is no better time than when you are your own boss. This work is your overtime, and if you are going to put in extra hours you might as well earn what you deserve. If I am going to spend 2 hours teaching piano after 8 hours of butting heads with students, then that money best be worth my time, because it’s going to take a lot of energy and patiences.
  2. Don’t hate it. 
    You had a food service job in college and it drove you crazy. Don’t go pick up an evening shift at the place down the street! For the love of all that is good, find work that you can at least tolerate!
  3. Don’t let it interrupt your main gig (unless that’s secretly the plan)
    Look, for now teaching provides health insurance, a somewhat reliable income, and summers off. I am not going to jeopardize that consistency unless I have a solid footing for another career in place. That doesn’t mean I won’t explore other skillets and options, but it does mean I won’t pick up any crazy night shifts that will affect my ability to work the next day.
  4. Promote yourself
    Just like when applying to and interviewing for jobs, you are your own best advocate! Tout your skills and achievements loudly and proudly, because you deserve to make gains from your accomplishments.
  5. Schedule on time and off time
    Extra work and money can be a little addicting. When you start lining up your new opportunities, be sure to schedule solid time to yourself. Solid time doing what you love, like hanging out with friends or having dinner with your partner, but also some time to yourself. It’s healthy. You need it. Don’t go crazy with your side hustle.

 

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Changing Mindset

I want to change my circumstances. The people who love me insist that, while my circumstances are not ideal, they are bearable. They say I need to change my mindset.

How does a person change their mindset? A way of thinking feels like something you acquire and can barely and gradually adjust, like posture or breathing. You carry yourself in one way, behave this way always, and never notice it. And you notice it so rarely you can hardly change it.

I feel angry and anxious when I think about the circumstance I want to change. I also feel, in small parts, grateful to be self-sufficient. Proud to be independent. Loving towards the people I care for. In small parts.

So perhaps the way to change the mindset is to make those small parts big parts. Grateful to be self-sufficient. Self-sufficient enough to buy something I really don’t need, but really would like. Proud to be independent. Free to take a trip over the weekend, just because. Loving towards the people I care for. I can reward those people, thank them, care for them in more loving ways. If I make the small parts big parts, maybe the big parts (anger, anxiety) will become small parts.

Maybe not. Maybe I will bribe myself with presents and distract myself with outings to get through this. That is not changing my mindset, that is enduring. But I already know that I can endure.

So, maybe if the small parts are big parts, then the big parts will be small parts, and I will be happy again. Maybe I can change my mindset and accept my circumstance.

 

Dress for Success: The Professional

This post is a part of our Professionals series.

Sometimes, you have to fake it till you make it. There is definitely merit in putting your best face forward when interviewing for new careers or asking for a promotion. Additionally, if you win that job or upgrade, you should probably treat yourself to something nice. Bonus points if you can wear or use it at your place of work! Here are some upgrades I have my eye on.

Tech Upgrade

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Engraved Leather Laptop Case

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Foliage Laptop Skin

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Rose Gold Macbook

Dress Up

I love Madewell’s central shirts and can’t wait for these central drapey shirts to go on sale!!! They look so comfortable, and like they would flow over your skin in a very flattering way, where many dress shirts will puff out awkwardly.

I like pairing luxe silk camisoles and tanks with a conservative cardigan or relaxed blazer.

Imagine this jumpsuit with this bold blazer… the ultimate power suit!


Classic Loafers and Chelsea Boot

Flats are a quick finish to any business outfit, and most importantly, they allow you to move around comfortably. Here are four selections: Classic CognacRose MetallicVelvet Mule, and Leather d’Orsay.

 

Grooming

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Debaser Pocket Perfume is my favorite luxurious perfume right now.

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This NYX Drop Foundation can mix with lotion for a personal tinted moisturizer or be applied alone. Best part? It lasts all day!

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My favorite peppery deodorant.

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Really curious about this gold-plated safety razor. Definitely a great gift for the high-class professional in your life (if you can afford it!)

Related: 10 Ways to Get Ahead and Get the Job and 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Applying for Jobs

 

10 Ways to Get Ahead and Get the Job

This post is a part of the series, Professionals.

As a young professional, I have received varied advice from teachers and mentors for how to get ahead. Compiling them here is a good reminder for me to put my best face forward during career transitions, and I hope that the advice is helpful for all of you.

  1. Put your photo in your resumé
    Almost every application today is done online. In order to be memorable, even during a quick scroll through many applications, add a photo of yourself at the top of your resumé. My resumé has my name and contact information as a heading in the top left of the document, and a headshot taking up a similar amount of space in the top right. The entire heading takes up less than one quarter of the document, so as to leave room to fit the rest of the relevant information. The headshot that I use is a simple photograph of me, sitting in front of my instrument, with natural light and earth tones. It is subtle, but colorful, and a face is always more memorable than a list of black and white words. It sounds extreme to non-performers, but this advice was given to me by a banker, who said it is how she got her job.
  2. Every document should fit on one page
    One single-spaced front side only piece of paper. This does two things. First, it forces you to be selective. The only skills listed on your resumé will be relevant and recent. The second is that it makes all of your documents neat and easy to approach. The trick to this is not to minimize your font size and scrunch the words close: you must be selective and commit to that size 12 Times New Roman, or whatever your standard is. If you are handing a resumé or cover letter that is carefully constructed, your potential employer will have an easier time skimming your documents and finding your relevant skills.
  3. Well-organized skills and achievements
    (Your attributes… the “For Dummies” version!)

    Just as each document must be neat to fit into a single page, it must be well-organized, and not redundant. My resumé has a clear heading and headshot in the top quarter of the paper. The next segment has all of my directly applicable work experience (and this is the bulk of my resumé). The bottom half is divided between education and unique experiences that don’t directly fit the category of education or work experience. For me, these are labeled as “Culturally Immersive Experiences” because they were all study-abroad or similar experiences.
  4. Follow up in person
    If you can! The best way to follow up is to stalk the company. I asked an accomplished radio host once how she got into the industry, expecting years of studying media, or a transition from journalism. Instead, she said she just kept showing up until they hired her! Make your face a familiar (and pleasant) one. Be sure to carry 3 copies of your resumé and cover letter. If there is no way at all to show up in person, call. Even if you don’t have access to an HR number, you can often find contact information for the department head online. Smile while you talk on the phone- people can hear your smile. Trust me.
  5. Make a thank-you note before you interview
    Okay, okay. I got this from Grace on Grace and Frankie. Before you go in to your interview, write a card thanking them for interviewing you. If you have the name of your interviewer, use that, or leave it blank and fill it out immediately afterwards. Address the envelope, put a stamp on it, fill the card with polite and tactful gratitude. As soon as the interview is over, put your interviewers name in the card, seal it up and drop it in the mailbox! The card will arrive in the next day or two, and your interviewer at least won’t be able to forget you.
  6. Do your research
    Your cover letter and introductory email should never say “to whom it may concern.” In the age of the internet, that is lazy, and it shows little time and effort on your part. Before the interview, know a few things about the company, like the demographics of the community or awards that the company has received. Beyond that, know what the average salary is (Glassdoor is perfect for this) and what benefits to expect when it is time to negotiate.
  7. Envision yourself in the position (and be prepared to negotiate)
    Read through the entire job description, qualifications, and desired skills. Research the company culture, learn the expected salary and benefits. Picture yourself doing this job. What would your day look like? Are you sitting in an office, or out on the floor? Envision yourself in this position and in the interview, find a way for your interviewer to envision you in this position. Statements about what you will do at the company, or what ideas you already have. If the job offer comes, maintain that confident vision of you in the position and negotiate. Glassdoor has a “know your worth” calculator that takes your experience and education into account. If you can’t negotiate the salary you would like, especially if you are leaving a higher paying job than this one, negotiate vacation days or benefits. Keep that image of you in this position and harness the confidence that comes with it.
  8. Prepare specific questions for the end of the interview
    It’s the end of the interview and your interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” Yes, you do! Before you go in, commit questions to memory specifically for this period of the interview. These questions are specific, gleaned from your earlier research of the company. Ask specific questions regarding the goal for your position, or about expectations for company culture. For example, is the company looking for independent workers or team players?
  9. Apply even if you don’t meet every single qualification
    One of the leading reasons for the gender wage gap is that men will often apply to jobs even if they don’t meet the full list of qualifications. Often, women will not apply to a position unless they meet every single qualification. Some things may be non-negotiable, like the required college degree or a specific and necessary skill. Other things can be flexible, such as years of experience or a helpful language skill. In the instance of language or other learnable skills, if asked about them in the interview, you can volunteer a plan for acquiring those skills. If Spanish proficiency will make your job easier, volunteer to enroll in a beginner Spanish course.
  10. Carry examples of your work Just as you need to carry your three copies of your resumé and cover letter, you should also be prepared to submit examples of your work. Sometimes, this is unnecessary. I have carried a bound portfolio to interviews that never came up and stayed in my purse. However, this can also seal the deal. If the interviewer asks what sort of resource you would provide for a specific scenario, and you’ve made one, imagine saying, “Actually, I have already made one. Of course, I would tailor this document to the company’s specific standards, but here is an example of how I would approach that.” You’re in!

 

Related: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Applying for Jobs

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