Day 15, or ‘I’m So Over This’

Try to think back to an unpleasant day you had at work.

Maybe it’s not a difficult task. Maybe it is. Depends on how you would describe unpleasant.

I’ve had unpleasant days where co-workers have flat out yelled at me for minor discretions. I’ve had days where I’ve dropped IKEA furniture pieces on my feet. And then there are those days I’ve been called in to plunge the toilets in the men’s restroom.

Yet, nothing is coming quite near to the feeling I’ve had this past week, having returned from spending the holidays at home with my family.

I haven’t had one of those typically terrible days at work where all I’ve wanted to do is crawl home and lick my wounds. Instead, my days have become…mundane. I’ve come to the realization that I am ready to move on from my current job.

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Somebody needs to update her resume…

Immediately after concluding this I felt dread, anxiety, and guilt. I think in America we’re conditioned to firstly, work constantly, and secondly, have an undying gratitude to our employers. I remember as a kid going in to work with my mom on occasional Saturdays, just so she could make sure she was ahead of the game come the following week. She was incredibly passionate about being a dedicated and productive employee.

I feel guilty for wanting to trade up my position and for wanting new challenges. It’s almost like a betrayal to the company that has taken such good care of me for the last year. I don’t think these feelings will ever go away completely; I’m a people pleaser and I do very much adore my current workplace. However, I don’t want to be someone who stays where they are because they’re too afraid of hurting others or of new opportunities.

In times like these, I find it helpful to go straight to the worst-case scenario. If I found a new job this year, what would realistically happen?

What if my boss gets upset? Ultimately, she should not have final say over my life choices. She’ll have to deal.

What if the new place ends up being a terrible fit? Hopefully interviewing with the company will weed out any major warning signs, but in the end it’s a gamble. I know that I can handle whatever obstacles that are thrown at me, and if I need to move on then I will.

What if I can’t actually find a new job? Sometimes our imagined timelines don’t always pan out, but it’s important to never let the goal fade. I would keep searching in earnest, reimagining a new deadline or plan if the first couldn’t be reached.

I have learned so much in the year plus that I’ve spent in Los Angeles, and especially with my current employer. I plan on staying on a little longer in 2016, but I’ve got a lot of career ahead of me that I think I’m ready to take the next step on, despite how nerve wracking it already feels. In the mean time, I want to dedicate myself to learning as much as I can from my mentors, as well as developing relevant skills on the side (hello web design!).

Have a great weekend everyone 🙂

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Workplace Warfare

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I love my job, but work isn’t always fun. Especially when things aren’t meshing well with your fellow co-workers. T is about my age, and has worked with us for many months now, and is hardworking and funny. Except when something bothers her. Which seems to be a lot of the time. Little things easily aggravate her, slow drivers make her see red, and watch out if it’s just a bad day – you become her verbal punching bag.

On top of this, it’s become difficult to see where my job ends and hers begins. Technically speaking, she’s the assistant to the assistant (me), but my boss has been taking to treating us as the same person. This is problematic because some days I catch her doing my job for me, and not necessarily doing it well.

I hemmed and hawed over what to do about this for a while. I asked my mom for advice, I complained in hushed whispers to other co-workers, and silently fumed, but this was getting me nowhere.

Getting my professional game face on!

Getting my professional game face on!

Finally, I did what I should have done all along: I asked my boss if she and I could have a sit down. To prepare, I made a list of everything that was not working well for our department, and some possible solutions. I tried not to focus on specific incidents that had happened, but larger, overall trends. This meeting wasn’t about my feelings, it was about how we could better our office and improve cohesion.

When we chatted, it was a private talk between just my boss and I. I broached every subject from an angle of ‘this is what I noticed, how can I help improve this?’. The meeting was incredibly productive, with my boss listening intently to my issues and promising to make changes on her end.

Of course, there were changes to be made on my side as well. She pointed out many factors I hadn’t even noticed before, little things that had helped get us to where we were now. I tried not to take it to heart, though. Again, this wasn’t personal, it was professional.

Know that like in your personal life, the relationships in your professional life can and will be complex at times. There will be friends made, and there will be enemies made. Unlike your personal life, though, your professional life has to remain just that – professional. Had I punched T in the face following her volley of rude remarks, I would have been fired.

Your job is never to suffer; if things are so bad in your office that you consistently hate going to work, you might want to dust off that resume and find something else. If you’re having trouble with only a couple people, remember that you’re there to enrich your professional life and to help your company succeed, not to make BFFs with everyone and the receptionist. If you can, keep your distance, but more importantly – keep your cool!
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Half-Assing All the Way

Last week at work, I had a revelation of sorts. That afternoon, we had just wrapped up feeding forty or so people Indian food and were in the process of cleaning it all up. In a nutshell, it’s a super sloppy job to do. I kept bouncing back between wrapping up leftovers, wiping down the table, organizing the dishwasher, etc. Eventually I noticed how frustrated I was getting with my lack of progress. The place had remained messy, despite my efforts.

That’s when the eureka moment hit.

I have never before known Indian food to be a stand in for my life, but there it was. In cleaning as in life, I had been putting myself into too many tasks and not been seeing results. I had been half-assing everything from my DIY projects to my coupon cutting to my writing and fitness goals. The intentions were there, but my many and varied plans had fallen by the wayside.

My word for 2015 was ‘follow-through’, as I’ve been known to flit from idea to idea without ever finishing it. My closet at home is full of dead craft projects and unfinished story ideas; when the going got tough, I quit and started something new.

Thanks to my goal setting workbook that I completed last month, I have narrowed down my official goal “categories” to writing, getting in shape, being financially responsible, expanding my resume, and traveling. Having this list taped to the inside of my planner has been instrumental in keeping my ambitions focused, but now is the time to revisit them and re-plan for them afresh.

Words to live by!

Words to live by!

It can be overwhelming to take on such a task – especially if you are revisiting your goals only because you were getting overwhelmed by them in the first place. I recommend that you:

1) Take a deep breath, grab a refreshment (may I suggest a giant cup of caffeine) and find a quiet place to settle in for a while.

2) If you haven’t already, I recommend you figure out your top five goals like I did using this workbook. Once you have them, take the goals and break them into smaller chunks by category.

3) One by one, focus on each chunk and come up with a plan to see it actualize into something that’s achievable. Under my category of “getting in shape”, I wrote that I wanted to be able to run two miles without stopping. To achieve this, I’ve created a workout calendar that’s devoted solely to my exercise routines.

4) Implement those plans, but one at a time! Instead of trying to run two miles and learn how to dead squat, I’m going to focus on them one at a time, at least until I feel comfortable enough to move on or add more to my goal.

This slower pace can seem incredibly frustrating. After all, we live in a world where the McDonald’s drive thru can have a delicious McFlurry awaiting you in a second’s notice (I don’t recommend those if your goals include fitness…or living past 25). We – myself included – want things and we want them now!

But taking it one goal at a time can ensure a success that half-assing everything can never do for you. The wisdom you can find in Indian food!

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The Beauty of Busy

If there was one thing I learned waiting tables through college, it was this: never pull a plate away from somebody unless you were sure they were done eating.

Just kidding (half kidding). The most valuable lesson I learned was that free time is never an option. While you’re on the clock being paid, you should always find something to do. I think this overall has made me a better employee; I try to never be the one you find sitting around on Facebook in the office.

Right now, though, things at work are slow. And by slow, I mean really, really slow. Normally my workplace is bustling with people and projects, but we’ve entered a quiet season, and the place is a ghosttown.

Don't let boredom get you down!

Don’t let boredom get you down!

The change in pace has made checking Facebook so much more appealing, but remembering the “always find something to do” rule has kept me on my toes and away from the computer. My first thought every time I’m faced with downtime is, “What can I do?”

Luckily, I found this very simple checklist online. It’s geared more towards people at their first professional job (such as myself), but I think that it can be applicable for anyone.

1. Double, triple, and quadruple check your work.

2. Look ahead at your deadlines for the week.

3. Ask one of your coworkers if they need help with a project.

4. Organize your workspace.

5. Take inventory of your accomplishments.

6. Organize your emails and desktop.

7. Create a to-do list for tomorrow and the upcoming week.

8. Build your knowledge.

9. Complete a back-burner project.

10. Get involved with another team project.

Looking this list over helped jog my memory about deadlines I needed to schedule out, the clutter around my desk I’d been meaning to clear, the emails I could finally delete, and the many little side projects I’d been too busy to do – until now.

I hope this helps motivate you to stop Facebook stalking that old high school friend & get to work!

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Standing Standing Everywhere, and Not a Place to Sit

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There have always been – and most likely, will always be – health crazes and fads. From early tonics that promised instant cures, to the Shake Weight, there are new trends starting every day. This time around, I’ve decided to board the bandwagon on one.

At work lately, there have been a string of my coworkers who have begun to use standing desks. It started with one guy in the creative department, M, who claimed that he preferred standing to sitting when he drew. He propped up his laptop and accouterments on some cardboard boxes and voila! A standing desk was born.

M’s desk remained homemade until work hired a new executive, who had back problems and couldn’t sit for long periods of time. And as an executive, there was no way he was going to be greeting clients with his desktop sitting on a Goldfish box. Several standing desks were purchased, along with some mats to ease the pressure on their feet.

The craze was moving along at a solid pace when my coworker, B, and I finally thought we wanted to give it a try. I

My homemade standing desk, don't mind the mess!

My homemade standing desk, don’t mind the mess!

actually prefer to stand to work – it makes it easier to dash out the door when anything arises (and let me tell you, a lot arises).

Because we were only testing the waters, we took the homemade route; my keyboard is resting on a paper holder, while my mouse is on a plastic drawer set. B’s setup involves several boxes at key heights. Luckily, the company had ordered some extra mats for us to stand on.

After a week of no-sitting, B and I agreed on a few things:

  1. Our legs weirdly feel more toned. Though in my case, I emphasized they were a little more stiff.
  2. It does make it easier to walk in and out of our office to do tasks.
  3. We don’t feel as sluggish and bloated in the afternoons following lunch

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 6.34.45 AMSo far so good. Then B texted me the link to an article one night about the real health benefits of standing desks, versus the hype. It spells out that standing desks aren’t the magic antithesis to sitting. In reality, too much of anything will kill you, and standing too much can be painful and cause heart problems and varicose veins. Yikes.

Standing desks can be apart of a solution, though, when placed into a life routine that additionally include
low-intensity physical activity. The key is to make sure you’re doing it correctly! After reading the article, B and I adjusted our setups to make sure our standing – and sitting – positions were correct.

As she and I begin week two, we’ve begun to allow ourselves to sit whenever we feel uncomfortable or tired. The key is balance, balance, balance.

Until tomorrow, when B brings in her new weighted hula hoop for us to try. 😉

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Climb to the top

Everyday, I am thinking about my next move. Whether it be my daily to-do lists or my lifetime goals. I am constantly thinking of what is next or what is to come. More recently, what is next in my career has been on the forefront. I think of what my next job prospect will be, but also how I will get such prospect. The hardest part about applying for the job is getting the employer to be able to see yourself in the position the way that you do.
On the way home from work, I listened to a very inspiring Ted Talk. Susan Colantuono spoke about three essential components that women need to climb up the leadership ladder. Yes, I am not in that place yet, but I believe this understanding should be built into all job searches and professional development opportunities regardless of what position or management level you are looking to enter.
 In a nutshell, she spoke about how we can harness our skills, ability to work with others and what she calls “ability to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes” to be able to land that next step in our careers. The main point of this talk was to highlight the ability to achieve these “outcomes” and how this piece of advice has been omitted from any of the advice given to us, especially women. Colantuono even emphasized how being able to showcase this understanding of outcomes will break the glass ceiling and increase the odds of us landing those positions.
 It is time to get to work. My resumes, cover letter, LinkedIn have all focused on 2 of the Colantuono  points I essentially need to rework my professional brand. I couldn’t tell you how long I slaved over my resume and cover letters only to hear nothing back. My biggest flaw is that missing component. I can talk about my skills and personality all day but I don’t talk at all about how I can be a positive beacon for  financial or business success for the company.
So before you hit send and relinquish control of your application, check to be sure you covered all of your bases. Make sure you can say ” Hey, I am amazing and I will be the best business and financial decision you will make all year.”
Check out Susan Colantuono’s TedTalk here.

Jess (2)

Let’s Get Hired

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Recently, my company has begun hiring new interns for the spring, and I have been apart of the hiring process! In some ways, this type of interview process isn’t new for me. At Emerson, it was tradition that more experienced Resident Assistants helped choose the new batch of recruits. Here, though, it’s just myself, my boss, and the usually very nervous individual interviewing to be apart of our team for 10-12 weeks.

Before I was hired for my current company, I was temping there, subbing in for a friend who was pursuing other temporary work. I had been in LA only a few weeks, and was happy to be making an income. While I temped, I went for multiple job interviews. Some seemed to go better than others; some, I walked away unsure. Now, being on the other side of the table, I’ve been able to identify a lot of things interviewees do wrong, which I myself have definitely been guilty of. I’ve also seen a bunch of candidates pull out some very impressive stops.

So, in the spirit of making that career move or graduating and looking for your first real job, here are a few helpful hints I’ve accumulated. Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list, I am not an expert, and some of these tips will greatly depend on who is interviewing you.

1) When applying, follow all posted rules and don’t forget to spellcheck. One of the first things I look for in an application is whether or not the candidate has taken the time to look over the requirements I’ve requested. Their resume came as a Word document rather than a PDF? I toss their documents into the digital garbage can. It seems cruel, but when I’ve got fifty people applying a day, I need to get nit-picky.

Additionally, don’t forget to look your resume and cover letter over for comical errors. If you can’t take the time to put the effort into your application materials, I can’t take the time to read them.

2) Really do your research. I can tell from skimming a cover letter on whether or not someone actually knows what our company does, or what work we’re known for. This is true even for the in-person interview section; I’m always impressed by someone who can name our directors or some of our past projects, and discuss them.

3) When you apply, be persistent, but not annoying. If you don’t hear anything back after your initial application, it’s okay to fire off one follow up email. If there’s nothing after that – forget it. But if they respond and say, “We’ll get back to you,” don’t send a thing. The ball is in their court. Hopefully their decision will be swift, but do not pester them for an answer.

4) After scoring an interview, it’s usually a good idea to confirm your appointment time. You know, in case you’ve accidentally scribbled it down in your calendar for the wrong week.

5) Don’t just be prompt for your interview, be early. It gives you time to adjust yourself (especially if you sweat a lot like I do), go to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, chat up the receptionist. Just don’t be too early – I’ve had candidates come twenty to thirty minutes before we’re supposed to meet. Honestly, I’m busy right up until your appointment time, and having you sit there for eons makes me uncomfortable and rushed.

6) Remember, dress for the job you want, don’t just dress up. One girl walked in with full club makeup, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how out of place she seemed.

7) Bring extra copies of your resume, but if you see they already have a copy in their hands, don’t give them another one. We’ve killed enough trees as it is.

8) Just be yourself! Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to take a deep breath and relax. Wow them with your personality, your passion, your know-how, and your confidence. Nothing is a bigger mood-killer than interviewing someone who is so terrified they can’t meet your eyes or get a word out. In a very short span of time, we’re trying to sum you up by your personality and your skill set. It’s now or never to dazzle!

9) You are a unique individual, so don’t hand me your resume in the same format your school’s career counselor chose for you. Give it some personality and pizzaz, but again, don’t go overboard, and try to match it for the career you’ve chosen. Check out this Buzzfeed post for some inspiration!

And while we’re on the subject of resume’s, don’t fill them with all of the projects and clubs you’ve done at school, unless they directly relate to 1) something you’re currently passionate about, 2) awards and recognitions, or 3) have a direct correlation to the job you’re pursuing. Otherwise, employers don’t care that you were in the band. Unless, of course, you’re interviewing for a symphony.

10) Lastly, follow up is always appreciated. Send a handwritten thank you, or even an email will do. It keeps your name fresh in an interviewer’s mind.

Let the hiring begin!

 

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