Category Archives: career

From Lost to Found: Chapter 1 of Amanda Miller’s Career Journey in NYC

amandaBy, Amanda Miller

Hi, I’m Amanda Miller and here’s my story.

I was a Communications/Journalism major in college and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself when I graduated. I tried dabbling into finance-needless to say, that was definitely not my true calling. I quit the job 3 months after I graduated with no backup plan, had just signed a lease on a new house in Queens, and had no idea what it was I wanted to do with my life. I had to survive and pay my bills, so I started picking up odd jobs to get by while I feverishly searched for my dream career. After the horrible experience I had at my first job out of college, I swore up and down that I wasn’t going to just settle for anything. That is single handedly the best career advice I could ever give to someone just out of college. My biggest mistake was taking the first job that was offered to me, even though it wasn’t a good fit. DON’T DO IT!

I started out waiting tables at an Italian restaurant in East Hampton, which, long story short, lead to me finding a part time nanny job in the Upper West Side. This connection was probably the most powerful one I had made during my search for my new job. The mother (who also happened to be from the Midwest, like myself) was 51 years old, had dedicated her life to her career, and had just started her family. She gave me great advice and encouraged me not to settle until I felt that the job was worth it.

This woman gave me enough hours to make ends meet, set me up on play dates with mothers who were significant career women-bankers, attorneys, producers, power brokers, entrepreneurs- all with the purpose of helping me discover what direction I wanted to take for myself in the career world. I took every job interview I was offered, but if I didn’t like it, I wasn’t afraid to say no.

After 6 months of dead ends, I was getting frustrated. Nothing seemed to work for me and I couldn’t figure out how someone with a 4 year degree and all the confidence and stamina to succeed in the business world was making a living wiping noses and singing along to Nick Jr. But giving up was never an option for me. Out of the blue, I got an e-mail from a grade school friend to check out the company that she worked for in Manhattan. After reading about the job openings, I applied, figuring I had nothing to lose.

I had no idea that I was going to fall in love with everything about the job. I aced the interview, loved the casual, laid back work environment, and was so excited to grow and learn in a career that was related to my degree and the root of my passion. I had never been so sure I wanted something more and was willing to do anything to get this job. In 2007, I made the move from professional stroller pusher and Mommy & Me attendee to Media Buyer extraordinaire.

My responsibility is to negotiate advertising rates and purchase ad space for two well known consumer packaged goods companies and a global office supplier with a variety of magazines, trades and newspapers. I also help to create unique advertising campaigns and programs to help promote my brands (I currently have about 30 active at the moment) and leverage my clients’ presence on both a national and global level. Don’t let that description fool you-nothing about this job is boring (and it’s not because I work in the heart of Times Square, either). In addition to my responsibilities, I also get to attend magazine launches, parties (which are usually client sponsored), mingle with some of the industry’s top marketing and publishing executives in the world, get on site continuing education through a media school program and have met some of the most inspiring women in the industry.

Advertising is so much more than an ad in a magazine or a billboard in Times Square-there is research, calculation, planning and loads of intelligent people behind each and every one. There is a job for every single aspect for an advertisement-buying, planning, creative development and implementation…I could go on and on. Despite the recession, two of my clients are planning new product launches, re-introducing brands that had been hibernating. Clients are still spending money and agencies like mine still need people-one media career site posted 2,000 new jobs in the past month!

If I could say anything about the road to finding my true calling in the career world, it is to seek the advice from women who have had years of professional experience. I came from a small town in Wisconsin, had no professional female role models, no contacts at all when I first came to New York. Without the advice and guidance from the woman I nannied for, the women I have met while job searching, and the professional women I am still meeting and engaging with on a daily basis, I would have never made it to this point.

No matter what the circumstance is, NEVER SETTLE and NEVER GIVE UP! Do not make excuses for yourself-whether you want to blame the struggling economy, the fact that you can’t find anything that doesn’t feel right, that the perfect job does not exist, whatever! Set the bar high and make goals for yourself. You are the only person that can make yourself happy and successful, so whatever you need to do to get to that point, make like Nike and just do it.

Talk to other professionals, network, be willing to try new things and do the unexpected. We all have it in us to succeed, we just need to have the courage to act on the unknown, conquer our fears and not be afraid to lean on others to propel us forward.

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Resilience in Times of Economic and Career Crisis

I received the following Facebook message from someone I went to High School with today:

Nicole,

I am finding that my motivation to do my job is falling off little by little every day and the push to keep going and insure I am the best is becoming a greater challenge every day.

I am telling you this in hopes that you- one of the very few people who may understand my mentality that anything short of the best is not good enough- could offer some words of wisdom or bits of advice on how to push through it.

I find myself day dreaming of what it would be like to have a normal job, one that does not include the responsibility of keeping others employed, or having to continuously be an ass, or worst of all put up with two moron bosses that never communicate. You know, the kind of work where I have a few simple tasks a day and maybe a slightly difficult decision from time to time, and then I can go home to an average life…

Well hopefully you have some words of wisdom, because I’m running out of them…

-C.

I asked my friend if I could use his message for a post, because I’m almost positive a majority of twentysomethings feel hopeless about their job and career path at times.

First, the news has becoming depressing. Hearing about friends and family members losing their jobs and getting pay cuts is sad. Feeling the slow down of being in an industry that is highly dependent on the economy is scary. Seeing huge financial institutions fail, and their CEO’s making millions of dollars a year is bizarre. The fact that America is now considered “debt nation” and the government has to bail us out is awful. All of this “doom and gloom” has probably led many people to a small case of temporary depression!

As far as offering advice to this common situation, my first suggestion would be to take a few days off. Or maybe more if you can. Perhaps a little vacation would give you time to get your head together and either cope with the situation or pursue a new path.

Second, if you’ve determined that you are truly miserable accept that only YOU can change your situation. This may require going back to school, moving to a new city, quitting your job to pursue a new one, etc. Usually you will know if it is time to take the leap. My guess is that you will feel a million times better once you do.

Lastly, I think C.’s email brings up a VERY important topic: resilience. When talking to my business partner, Blake, over the weekend we emphasized how important this trait is when facing the challenges of building a solid business or career. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it- right? C. mentioned that “anything short of the best” is not good enough for him. If that is the case, he may need to accept that either a. he is not in the right job at all, or b. that being the best, or accepting the most difficult challenges are usually the most daunting and the least fun.

So why is resilience so important? Resilient people bounce back and don’t quit or give up easily. Their ability to keep going will eventually lead them to success. Resilient people can thrive and progress in difficult circumstances, and tend to get ahead when less adaptable people won’t.

After receiving C’s message, I wrote back and asked if I could post a response to his dilemma. He agreed and then wrote the following:

I asked my friend yesterday if he thought what is going on around us right now will affect the way our generation saves, works, changes… The way I see it is that we turning into our grandparents’ generation, that of the depression era. The mentality of working until your eyes are burnt, fingers are bleeding, and thoughts are worthless all to go to bed and wake up the next day to do the same thing. And for what? The fear that we will lose our jobs and be out of work for years to come?

That is a very interesting question that I hadn’t thought about before, but really it makes perfect sense. Living our twenties-a vulnerable time period in it self- while in a time of economic hardship and turmoil must affect the way we handle risk, finances and career choices. It seems that many of us are becoming paralyzed by fear, and therefore settling in many areas of our lives. It sounds like people like C. are hoping to hold on to anything that is stable and secure, even if it makes them feel like they are dying inside.

Gen Y is said to be a self-centered, free thinking and entrepreneurial generation. It’s almost ironic that Gen Y is also living through the present conditions we are. Perhaps it’s a big lesson we needed to learn.

Either way, my advice is to make choices that make you happy and keep looking forward. Be resilient and know that we are only in our twenties and have the rest of our lives to pursue more glamorous ventures.

Good luck to C and all others who are feeling this way!

How Do You Stay Organized?

 By, Jessica Lawlor

As a student and future career woman, it’s extremely important to learn the fine art of organization.

Here are the three main ways I stay organized:

1. Planner– I write down everything in my planner: school assignments, meetings, appointments, weekend plans. I check each item off as I complete them. My planner is weekly, so I am able to look at the entire week ahead. I use my planner as an overview of everything I need to accomplish in a week.

2. “Everything” notebook- I have a medium sized notebook that I carry everywhere with me that I have fondly named, “my everything notebook.” Each week, I create a detailed to-do list with absolutely everything that needs to be accomplished before the week ends. I love the sense of accomplishment when I cross an item off the list. My to-do list differs from my planner in the fact that my list is more specific. I also write down possible blog ideas, story ideas, and general notes to myself in the notebook.

3. Google- I can’t even express how much Google has simplified my life. I am obsessed with my Gmail account, and use it to keep my e-mail organized. Gmail allows users to create labels for different activities or tasks. For instance, I have a label for homework, PRSSA, PRowl Public Relations, internship, and sorority. When an e-mail comes in, I tag it with a label, and if I ever need to find that e-mail again, I know exactly where to look.

I also love the ‘archive’ feature. I leave everything in my inbox, until I’ve replied or done whatever the email is asking, and once I’m finished with it I archive it. If there is something in my inbox, it means its unfinished business or I need to reply.

Also, the Google calendar feature is a heavenly application that allows you to color code activities, meetings, or events and place them on a calendar.

These are only three small methods I use to stay organized, so I took to my Twitter account to find out how some of my followers keep their lives together.

@daydreamwriter says, “A planner and a desk calendar.”

@mattsnod says, “My life exists on my iPhone. I’m so forgetful, I’d be lost without my iPhone synching my life.”

@jamielovely says, “Color coded tags in Gmail saved my life! It’s the only way my inbox stays somewhat organized.”

@courtney903 says, “There is ALWAYS a to-do list on a dry erase board in the house. That way I can erase and add and it never looks overwhelming.”

@jennips says, “I started using a DayTimer planner last year. I’ve been using it & it helps me keep track of things better so I get less sidetracked.”

@tomokeefe1 says, “Calendar, stickies, bookmarking, writing things down, and periodically cleaning everything up! Oh, and having a good memory.”

@heatherhuhman says, “Organization is all about knowing what you have to get done and by when – prioritizing is key.”

@kpricester says, “I keep a constantly updated calendar on iCal that I keep synced with my smartphone. And I plan every minute of my day, including TV.”

@jesshatchigan says, “I use Excel to track progress/action on multiple ongoing projects, and make daily to-do lists.”

What are the ways that you stay organized?

Jessica Lawlor is a public relations student at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. She is currently the Director of Public Relations for PRowl Public Relations, Temple University’s first and only student-run PR firm, and serves on the executive board of Temple’s PRSSA chapter.

Follow her on Twitter: @jesslaw
Check out her blog: PRowl Public Relations blog

Career Lessons from Two Great Quarterbacks

America is inevitably a bit groggy today after an absolutely fantastic Super Bowl Sunday. This year’s match up was a great one. I found myself torn between which team to root for. On one hand, I’m a Miami of Ohio alum who had the honor of seeing Ben Roethlisberger play while I attended Miami. On the other hand, I have a huge crush on Kurt Warner and his story.

I respect both quarterbacks a lot. Probably because I feel that they both overcame the odds to get to where they are today.

imagesFor example, Ben Roethlisberger did not play the quarterback position until his senior year of high school. He didn’t even know he had such talent for the position until he was 17 years old! Ben is from a small town called Findlay, Ohio, a place that could be easily passed over by recruiters. Thanks to going to a summer camp at Miami, an assistant coach spotted his talent and watched his senior season. By the time the big schools picked up on Ben, he had already signed with Miami. Although Miami is a Division 1 school, it is part of the MAC– which is not a flashy conference by any means. Yet Ben’s record and reputation quickly rose to the top and he became the youngest quarterback to ever lead a team to a Super Bowl to victory.

images-3Kurt Warner is another talented quarterback who did not start at the top. Kurt played football at the University of Northern Iowa where he wasn’t given the chance to start until his senior year. Since he couldn’t land a NFL try out after college, Kurt joined the Iowa Barnstormers, an Arena Football League team. He then played in Europe until finally playing for the NFL in 1999. Many people admire Kurt for the story of how he met his wife Brenda while working as a shelf stocker at an Iowa grocery store. Kurt is now one of the oldest quarterbacks playing in the NFL.

Learning more about each quarterback’s story points out some great observations.

• You don’t have to start at the top to end at the top.
• You don’t have to go to the best college to be the most successful.
• Your attitude, perseverance and passion for what you do will carry you through until the end.
• Your personality radiates in everything you do in your career. People are more willing to give you opportunities, and to follow your work if you are someone they admire and like to be around.
• Hard work is not always glamorous.
• Especially in the case of Kurt Warner, having a great support system is very important. When the times get tough, you remember who you are working so hard for.

So if you didn’t go to an Ivy League college, or perhaps you feel like you may be playing “the wrong position” at work these days remember that perseverance and hard work will lead you to the top, even if you started from humble beginnings.

Raise Your Hand!

479567869_1175a2d9ef_mMy friend Allie and I went to coffee the other day and she casually mentioned that she spoke at her college graduation ceremony. I’m not talking small tiny college here: she spoke at Michigan State’s commencement- WOW! So I immediately interrupted her story and asked HOW she was able to partake in such a great honor. I assumed she must have been valedictorian or student body president but she wasn’t. She simply said, “I just raised my hand.”

Apparently she found out about the opportunity and volunteered. Perhaps no one else had the guts to represent but either way she had the great honor of representing her class.

So we got on the topic of how important it is to raise your hand in life. We agreed that it is especially important when first starting out.

Allie told me another story about someone she knows who randomly decided to email the President of a large, well respected international company when she was in college. The email suggested that they should go to lunch when the president was in town presenting to her college. They went to lunch and the person has been employed with the company ever since.

The moral of the story here is, don’t be afraid to take on a new challenge. Raise your hand for a new project. Volunteer for the opportunity to present to new clients or your company’s executive board (even if you are terrified). Send an email to someone you dream of working for. Ask someone you admire to lunch. Reach out to those who intimidate you because most others won’t. The simple action of raising your hand can lead to many exciting new partnerships, adventures and opportunities.

Applying “The ‘Next!’ Principle” to Rock Rejection

The fear of failure is the #1 reason most people never reach new heights in their personal and professional lives. Perhaps people feel that too much could be lost if they try something different or get out of their comfort zone. The truth is, nothing is lost considering you never had what you were looking for in the first place.

Think logically about a very simple example for a minute.

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Going on a blind date. The cost is the initial discomfort, being nervous and possibly being bored for a few hours at dinner. The benefit is meeting someone new, overcoming a fear, enjoying a new restaurant, and potentially building a new relationship. Why focus on the cost of the initial 30 minutes when you could focus on the possibility of a new friend.

And so what, he never calls again. Who cares?! You overcame your fear of going on a blind date, you learned about his random career that you never knew existed before, you tried duck for the first time and realized you had a mutual friend from college who you end up re-connecting with. It sounds to me like you gained something rather than lost it.

But then again, that’s all up to you and your perspective.

 
Plug in any relevant scenario here: Getting a D on a huge exam (been there more than once), being deceived by someone you love (experienced it) or having a less than stellar performance review at work (umm guilty).

When I was in college, my best friend Katie and I had this funny little thing we would do when we were at2391037726_277a933af6_m our favorite bar Brick Street (which now has 90’s night-how bizarre) our senior year at Miami. We would meet new guys, chat with them for a few minutes or maybe even dance to a song or two, then give each other the signal: “Next!” We would take a break for a minute, then move on to mingle with new people. If we weren’t impressed (or if they weren’t impressed with us) we would just laugh and shout “Next!” and move on without taking anything personally or thinking twice about it.

I must say, Katie and I still apply “The ‘Next!’ Principle” to our lives today. We’ve both had jobs that didn’t work out and dated guys that didn’t work out. We never sat and sulked in what happened or viewed our decisions as mistakes. We just said “Next!” and moved on to the next adventure.

In order to apply The “Next” Principle, you must be willing to take responsibility for yourself. This means no blaming, no complaining and no trying to change others. You also must view failure as a huge opportunity. If people say your idea stinks, think “wow, I must be on to something!” If a prospect says no, consider it a maybe.

 
Understand that failure is a huge illusion created to hold people back. This is probably why there is only a small percentage of really successful people: those are the people who were able to take risks to reach greater heights.

 

Katie decided not to go to medical school after spending 4 years studying her butt off in pre-med. She could’ve sulked about the money and time that was spent on her pre-med education. Instead, she picked herself up moved to Chicago and started a new career path for herself without looking back. She is now a Registered Investment Advisor who owns her own successful company. Yes, she deals with the stock market and manages a growing portfolio even in a turbulent economy. I too decided to start my own business at age 24 while working full time when several people told me I am way too young and inexperienced and could never pull it off. Here I am.

If Katie and I let our fear of failure get in the way, I highly doubt we would be dating great men, loving our careers, and living in Chicago.

So when the going gets tough, just say “Next!” and leave the past behind. Life will always present you with new obstacles along with plenty of rejection and disappointment, but it is all how you choose to move on from those situations that will determine your outcome.

3 Economic Principles You Can Apply to Your Life

Time to rewind back to Economics 101. The beautiful topic of Economics is based on the principal of scarcity: we have a limited amount of time and resources available to us and must make choices of how to allocate what we DO have. In college, this means balancing the 3 S’s: Sleep, Studying and Socializing. Take a look at the following three principles and think about how you can apply them to your own life.

Opportunity Cost

This balancing act presents an opportunity cost: what you need to give up to attain what you2384185522_71ae7b4334_m want. For example, you can choose to study for an exam or go party with friends. If you choose to study, your opportunity cost is partying with friends. Opportunity costs do not always have a monetary value associated with them, rather, the cost is: anything of value to the person assessing the situation including energy and time.

We are faced with many situations where evaluating opportunity cost can be very valuable. Here are some examples:

-Should I go to grad school that costs $X,000 per year, or continue at my job making $X,000 per year?
-Should I save that extra $100/month or put $100/month towards my high interest credit card debt?
-Should I go out to a trendy new restaurant with friends, or stay in to work on my freelance projects?
-Should I grow my side business, or put more hours in at my day job?
-Should I stay at this job or should I find a new one?

These are not questions that other people can answer for you. In order to make better decisions, you have to figure out what you value first. Perhaps easier said than done for most twentysomethings, when we are still in the stage of figuring out what we want and value. We are so accustomed to listening to our professors, parents and bosses. But, at some point we need to figure out what WE value and want for ourselves.

Sunk Costs

Sunk Costs are costs that are already incurred and cannot be changed regardless of what action we take. For example, a gym membership that you’ve never used or a car you’ve already purchased. A dangerous trap is the irrational thinking of “well, I’ve already put so much money and time into this so I might as well just keep going.” In many cases, this type of thinking leads to throwing “good money at a bad investment.”

Instead, it is more economically rational to think of your decision going forward and leave your past expenditures out of it; your money and time are already gone. From there you can determine your values and use the principal of opportunity cost to make your decision.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

1933599909_d5dde5519e_mThe law of diminishing returns states that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will relatively decrease after a certain point. “For example, if more and more laborers are added to harvest a wheat field, at some point each additional laborer will add relatively less output than his predecessor did, simply because he has less and less of the fixed amount of land to work with.” (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-diminish.html)

Here are some real life examples that might make more sense:
-Eating your 4th hot dog brings you less satisfaction than your first or second did.
-A drug addict needs more and more of a drug to feel the same pleasure he did from his first high to get the same effect.
-An extra hour of studying at 2am is less productive than your 1st hour of studying at 9pm was.
There are mathematic ways of calculating the point at which your action has less of an effect. The truth is, being aware of this basic principle should help you keep things in check in terms of spending money, buying too many new shoes, over eating, sleep, work etc. At some point the things you do in your daily life have a diminishing return.