Monday, January 26, 2015

What I have learned as a young professional

If you read my last post, you are probably wondering why on God's earth I feel obliged to solicit career advice. However, the truth is that despite some small hiccups along the way, I have found my way to a pretty fulfilling career.  Right after college I had the opportunity to work for a big education tech company as an events coordinator.  I traveled a lot, stayed in fancy suites, and I learned that the demands of executives could always be met if there is money to be spent.  I also learned that my obsessive, perfectionist nature made me pretty damn good at managing logistics, but it also yielded many sleepless nights.  I knew after a year that the marketing side of the events was my real passion.  I relocated from LA to Washington DC to work from the company headquarters.  I was soon promoted and later applied for a job within the marketing department.  I left that company a little over a year ago to work for a higher education media publication for university executives and administrators.  There, I am a digital marketing manager and I generally love my job (there are it's rough days of course).  I get to mentor and manage another employee, I get to be creative, and I get to work with a team of people who are genuinely excited about what we do.

Early in my career (some would argue it is still pretty early), I felt pretty lost.  I had no idea how to transition from school to an office.  I used to sneak out to my car on my lunch break to sleep because my body wasn't used to the long days and long commute.  I was pretty unsure of basically everything I did.  I didn't know when to speak in meetings and didn't feel like I had enough experience to contribute anyway.  I was timid around executives and clients, and I was always unsure of what was too casual for casual Friday.

So I thought I would put together a list of lessons I have learned during my seven years in corporate America.

1) Ask questions.  Even if you think it might be a stupid question, seek out someone you trust and just ask.  Even if you think you've been there too long.

2) Do favors for people when you can, but know when to say "no."  If you are like me, you want to please everyone.  Help people out when you can, but don't be a pushover.  If you think the request is silly or if you have too many other tasks that day, find a kind way to decline.

3) Regarding meetings - speak up wisely, there is no need to force your way into a conversation.  People pay more attention to you when you speak less often, but are precise and thoughtful when you do.

I know I said questions are good, but not always in meetings... :)

4) Be seen.  Attend the happy hours, go to lunch, stop by to say "hello" to colleagues.  Become friends with your coworkers.  You spend the majority of your days with them, work is a lot easier when you are surrounded by people you care about.

5) Be yourself.  Everyone brings something different to the workplace, you don't need to fit into a certain mold to be successful.  I have been told that I am too "nice", and because of that I could never manage a staff or become an executive.  But I bring a level of emotional intelligence that allows me to relate to people in a way that brings out the best in them, a great skill for a manager to have.

6) Admit when you make a mistake or when you don't know something.  Rather than trying to cover up errors, address them head on and present the best options for correcting them.  When I screwed up last week I immediately explained what I had done to the directors of marketing and sales and I offered to prepare an apology email to our clients who were affected.  The response I received was supportive, "thank you for the detailed explanation of the issue" were the words of our head of sales.  People are human and they will understand that you are too.  If they don't, they are assholes and you shouldn't work for them.

7) Take the time to look nice for work.  This doesn't mean you need expensive clothes, it just means to take some time to shower, brush your hair and wear an outfit that you put some thought into.  Dress for the job you want.

8) Don't be a corporate ladder climber.  Schmoozers stand out like sore thumbs.  To "move up", the best thing you can do is simply work hard and try to learn something new everyday.  Keep your eyes open for new opportunities, but don't act like the executives' groupie.  However, finding a mentor is a great idea.  Look for someone you admire, who has a position that you find interesting, and ask if they would have coffee with you to talk about what they do and how they got where they are. 

9) Don't complain about how busy you are.  It is good to be busy, it means you have job security, and it means that you are trusted to get things done.  If you genuinely have too much to do, talk to your manager about your concerns in private.  When quantity increases, quality decreases, your manager should be able to help you prioritize.

10) Maintain a work-life balance.  Like everything in life, too much of something can be detrimental to our health and our minds.  Know when to stop checking emails, and don't be afraid to leave some things for tomorrow.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rough Week

I had a shitty week last week.  Shitty weeks bring on shitty thoughts that often result in me replaying events in my head, trying to analyze everything that went wrong.  Narrowing in on these shitty thoughts leaves no room for the happy thoughts about the good things that happened last week.  This post is an effort to get the shitty thoughts down in writing and off of my mind, and to replace them with the good stuff.

The Bad:  I messed up at work.  Like really messed up.  I accidentally inundated 20,000 people about seven outdated emails back to back.  It was an honest mistake that I have 100% learned from, but it also led to an even more humiliating event.  After explaining the mistake I had made to my boss and other executives, I cried.  At work.  And people saw.  I wish I were the type of person who could cover up my feelings, but I felt the heat welling inside of me like a slow simmering pot of water about to burst into a full blown boil.  I sobbed quietly at my desk attempting to hide my face from passerby.  I would give anything to be able to keep it together in moments like that, but the more I fight it, the more ridiculously ugly my cry becomes.  Looking back on the whole event, I don't know whether to cringe, laugh, or repeat the words "you unprofessional idiot" in my head.  Sigh.  We all make mistakes, we learn from them, and we must forgive ourselves and move on.

The Good: That same day I had a lunch date with my two best girlfriends, one of whom was visiting from Boston.  Thank God for this lunch.  It was snowing outside, but I didn't care, I slipped on my sneakers and ran through the streets of DC to Protein Bar like a schmuck.  A schmuck who just lit her office on fire, and decided to ditch the scene to discuss the drawbacks of dating really religious men, and how to ask what constitutes premarital "sex." Ugh, I told the guy not to get my running shoes in the picture.

The Bad:   General feelings of inadequacy.  I think this was probably fueled by the work screw up.  I began doubting myself in other areas this week.  I want so badly to do well at my job, to be well-liked, to be admired. The post-college transition was hard for me, I forgot who I was for awhile.  I find myself looking to others as models for who I want to be.  I feel really lost sometimes.

The Good:  French Toast Sticks.  Are we the only people who have set their alarm after a late night out drinking to make it to BK's breakfast? 

The Bad:  Money.  Travis and I are feeling pretty tight on cash with the wedding and honeymoon expenses on the horizon.  We aren't going to go into debt or anything, but when you are constantly writing $1,000 checks it starts to make you nervous.  Our families are helping with some of the costs, but that stresses me out even more.  I never want them to feel stretched because of us and I worry that they think the costs are excessive.  I mean, they are excessive, but we are trying.

The Good: My birthday is next week and that is the biggest ego-boosting day of the year.  Much needed, can't wait ;)

Have you ever made a mistake and dwelled on it? 
How do you bounce back?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The world moves so quickly sometimes.  It seems like just moments ago I lived on a college campus overwhelmed by the thought of where life might take me.  A blink later I am in a tiny apartment in D.C., worried about whether I am good enough at my job and if I will ever make enough money to afford a home with sunlight.  Things were rushing by back then.  My eating disorder took root. It helped me to slow the world down by giving me one primary focus and calming the uncertainty; it gave me an outcome I could manipulate on my own.

Over the past year, I have found the practice of being mindful key to improving my life.  It was as simple as acknowledging the crunch of a leaf beneath my foot.  Or listening to my own deep breath as I lay awake in bed.  Or feeling the cold air on my skin as I step outside to greet the day.  It is tasting a raisin as it explodes in my mouth with a burst of flavor.  It is looking into my partner's eyes and feeling a deep connection to him.

Making an effort to be more mindful was strange at first, but now it seems natural, and the benefits have been life-changing for me. My anxiety has decreased, and my sleep is better.  The biggest change is my ability to see the world in more than just black and white, which has had the biggest impact on my mood and my happiness.

It is not something that happened overnight.  It was hard work at first to remember to look up at the sunrise on my walk to the gym and to appreciate the way rain feels when it touches my skin... but it has become much easier and more natural over time.  The world moves slower now, and life is too short to have it any other way.

Do you make an effort to be mindful in your daily life?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What it really means to treat yourself

Sometimes I get home from work and I feel lethargic.  I want to put on stretchy pants and an over-sized t-shit, and plop on the couch to watch bad TV. 

But taking the time to do something special for myself keeps me energized and happy.  It could be as simple as taking a hot shower on a cold night. Lighting candles or incense and listening to my favorite playlist.  Stretching on a yoga mat in the middle of my living room. Picking up flowers and placing them in small vases all over the apartment.  Or taking the time to make a delicious recipe.

This week, after a long few days of work, I fought my tendency to throw a chicken breast in the oven, and retreat the the couch.  Instead I decided I was going to take the time to carefully chop vegetables, make a delicious sauce, and complete the steps to actually bread and stir fry the chicken.

The result was the best sweet and sour chicken I have ever had.  The chicken was moist and rich and the vegetables were perfectly crisp.

Sometimes we forget to take the extra time to give ourselves something special each day.  We skip steps to get things done more quickly, trading self indulgence for efficiency.  Remind yourself that you are worth the extra effort.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Why you should love your body

Today I was inspired by a beautiful post from the Militant Baker, one of my favorite bloggers who relentlessly calls out the ways our society enables self-hate and body shaming.  The post is titled This Year Love the Mirror and features what 29 people say about the importance of self-love.

It has been a challenging year for me.  I decided to truly give up a restrictive lifestyle and to abandon my identity as the "fit, thin girl."  Gaining weight had always meant failure in my mind, so to finally be OK with it is something I still struggle with.  Accepting my body as it's going to be (without forcing it through rigorous exercise and calorie counting) is the hardest part of this journey - but I feel like it is the only way to finally present the real me to this world.  It almost feels like I am redefining my entire identity.

This article reminded me that this is something that almost everyone battles. We are told our entire lives that our bodies are flawed and can be made better.  We are told that we must look a certain way to be happy.  We are supposed to cover-up when we get too old, too fat, too flawed.  We are not enough as we are.  If we all can start to change this, maybe we can live in a world where our daughters and sons eat healthy to feel good, run outside because it's fun, and have the confidence to love themselves as much as we love them.

Here are a few of the quotes that resonated most with me from the MB post... 

"But now I accept my body as it is.  As it wants to be."

"My body is my home. It's where my soul lives. It's the vehicle with which I present my voice and vision to the world.  Without love for my body, I'm lost with no place to rest, no place to receive, and no place to believe in everything I have to offer the world."

"Loving your body is the only way you can be you authentic self..."

"I now realize that my best friend would never tell me 'You're not worth looking at' so why do I say that to myself?  I am sad that it took me 50 years to come to this place, but it's never too late...."

"We've got a billion dollar industry out there set on convincing us that we need to pay them to make our bodies better...We'll always have people telling us this stuff, but it only matters if the person in the mirror listens."

Even the most successful, powerful people in the world have a hard time accepting their bodies.
I was so saddened the other day when I watched Barbara Walters' interview Oprah Winfrey as one of her most interesting people of the year.  Barbara's last question was, "What is the one thing you still feel like you need to find peace with before you die."  Oprah replied "...the weight thing."

I was baffled.  How could someone who helps spread love throughout the world not love the very vessel from which so much inspiration grows?  Someone who has overcome so many challenges, and fought her way to the top, still struggles to accept her shape?

We need to stop letting ourselves tell ourselves that we are not enough and we need to realize that this body is the only one we are given.  I shouldn't pretend that I am there yet, but I hope that I can someday be as sure as the men and woman in this article. 

I want to love my body because it is me, because it unlike any other body on this earth, because it carries me through the world, and because it is my one and only lifelong home.