Category Archives: twentysomethings

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!

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.

Tales of “Woe” from Girls Who Date Bankers

My sister sent me a link to a New York Times article which I found as oddly addicting and bizarre as an issue of US Weekly. The article is called, “It’s The Economy, Girlfriend.”
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The article highlights a group of twentysomething aged women in New York City who started a support group called “Dating a Banker Anonymous” and a blog. The women who started DABA noticed their romantic relationships with investment bankers and traders tanked with the economy. The women said that as the economy went down, the stock market shed points, and jobs were being cut on Wall Street their sex lives, gifts and date nights were cut as well.

Their blog is totally funny and addicting. Women write in to tell their dating stories and misfortunes of having their trips to foreign countries cut, their bottle service being eliminated and how sad it is that someone would want to move to the Midwest for a more affordable lifestyle. There is even a story that mirrors a segment that aired on Good Morning America yesterday which tells the story of a 24 year old girl who is dating a married millionaire who enjoys trips and designer gifts from her “sugar daddy.” When he is faced with having to eliminate 20 people at work, all of which have children to support, she whines that he isn’t getting her enough stuff anymore.

Although the stories are fun to read, they definitely make me question what was significant enough about these stories of “misfortune” and high expectations to make the New York Times?  While most of America is losing their job, their home and their retirement accounts, the New York Times is highlighting a tiny group of twentysomething ladies who are no longer receiving Louis Vuitton bags, bottle service, Manolo Blahniks and trips to Italy from their boyfriends. Seems out of balance. Apparently the public is ready for an escape from reality though, which might explain why these girls already got a book deal.

The concept that the DABA girls created is absolutely entertaining. Unfortunately, I don’t think it promotes financially savvy and independent women. Then again, the girls’ experiences of dating rich men was enough to get them a book deal and perhaps they can start buying their own Louis Vuittons now!

Surviving Adult Children

I came across an interesting press release about a new website for parents who are dealing with immature adult children, called SurvivingAdultChildren.com. It sounds funny that there is now a support group for parents whose adult children still live at home with them, but as we’ve heard it is more and more common for Gen Y’ers to come back home and sometimes never leave. This is an interesting debate for me, because it is one I can see both sides of.

3020643003_76909156d1_mTo illustrate the website’s purpose, there was a video that shows a mother vacuuming, and then her 26 year-old son comes out at noon and basically says “I’m still sleeping Mom! Can you stop that!? Oh and can you help me with my car payment and cell phone bill this month too?”  Eek!!

Now that I do NOT understand! But the point is that there is enough of this happening in America for there to be a whole community created around it. According to the website, adult children who are living at home are causing a serious financial strain on their parents. It also says that some parents are afraid to let go out of “fear of rejection, losing contact with grand children and even physical abuse.” Seems a bit strange, no?

So my boyfriend and I got into this debate yesterday as we both have friends and relatives who still live with their parents. Luckily none of our friends or family are like the 26 year old in the video though! Both of us also lived at home for a while after graduating college and felt it was beneficial to get us started.

Here are a few of my thoughts on the topic:

• If you’re living at home so you can buy more purses, shoes and clothes that is not cool.
• If you’re living at home to save for a down payment on a condo/house, that is awesome! Just make sure you are really saving that money instead of taking your third trip to Vegas this year.

• If you are unsure about your career path or how long you will be at your current job, it might be smart to live at home so you aren’t locked into a lease.  Just remember that eventually you will have to take a risk and decide on something!
• If you live at home, you should pay “rent and utilities” to a money market account so that you become used to the financial burden and budget that living on your own will require when you DO move out. I would prefer if you couldn’t touch or see this money market account so you can’t tap into it. Remember, when you move out, you can’t “borrow back” your rent/mortgage payment.
• Make sure you are working towards an established goal otherwise before you know it the months and maybe even years will pass you by and you will have nothing to show for living rent-free.
• If you are living at home to pay down debt, put your debt payments on auto-debit from your checking account so that each month a pre-determined chunk of your income goes towards those. Don’t wait for the bill to come and “decide how much you feel like paying this month” otherwise you will never get rid of it.

Money and Love

As featured on womenco.com!

For those who follow my writing, you know that I love drawing parallels between things that seem unrelated at first glance. Let’s investigate the ways in which women handle money affects their romantic relationships.

The way women think about money can be very emotional and typically transcends into every aspect of their lives. An underlying theme for many women is dishonesty. Women are often dishonest with themselves about money, saying they don’t need to worry about it or face it. Many women tell themselves “it will work itself out later”, or assume that eventually a guy will take care of it for them.

Women’s relationships with money tend to reflect their relationships with themselves and their romantic partners. We’ve all heard that the #1 cause of divorce in the United States is MONEY. It makes sense. For example, in a time of crisis, some women blame their husbands for not taking better care of things and not planning properly. Managing and planning finances is a lot of pressure for one person! Once something urgent happens, the downward spiral of arguing and personal attacks begins.

What about women who were taught that “money is the root of all evil”?  Last time I checked, if you want to provide opportunities to your family, you need money. If you want to care for your sick relatives, that healthcare costs money. If you want to send your kids to a better school or live in a safer neighborhood, you will need money. There is nothing greedy about wanting to take care of your family. Why are so many women conditioned to think that discussing money is inappropriate?

Are women afraid of being “too powerful?”  If women were brought up to believe in Cinderella stories, and taught that “money is a man’s job” or that “money is evil,” perhaps women are afraid that if they take control of their finances, they will be seen as too greedy or self-centered.

Women love getting others’ approval and making people happy. Are we afraid that if we get smart about money, we won’t be loved as much?

I am here to say that you can have a relationship with money and with your partner at the same time. In fact, psychologists say that “when a woman becomes financially independent, she gains self-assurance and peace of mind, and her relationships become healthier and more mature.” (Stanny, 50). Psychotherapist Annette Lieberman says, “those who take charge of their money develop the same qualities people need to enjoy sex: higher self-esteem, a sense of mastery, confidence and permission to enjoy pleasure.”

If your relationship with money is struggling, and you also hope to improve your love life, I hope you will relinquish the Cinderella myth and get real about your relationship with money. Stop waiting for someone with an extra piece of anatomy to take care of YOUR money and YOUR future. Stop blaming others for your relationship with money and start believing that YOU can do it!

Dad’s Career Advice From the Trenches

I just got back from a great family vacation to Florida where I shared many laughs with my amazing family. Getting the five of us together for a week is a hoot: we are all very hardworking, loud, opinionated and ambitious. We think it’s totally normal to be this way.

While we were at the pool one day, I asked my Dad to help me come up with some topics to write about. Our conversation offered some great career advice.

My Dad came from humble beginnings. He was one of six children and had been working since he was 9 years old. His summers consisted of getting woken up at 4am to go shovel concrete with his Father without pay, no questions asked, no complaining allowed. He was very shy and struggled academically throughout his childhood, opting for a work-study high school program. In High School he was already working so many hours that he out earned his teachers and therefore couldn’t take high school seriously.
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Perhaps my Dad’s story isn’t glamorous, but it sure is entertaining. My Dad was the guy who rode his dirt bike illegally on the streets-sometimes dodging the cops- to see my Mom as a teenager, he got fired for lying about his age so he could work as a dish washer at 13, he put Corvette engines in old cars and sold them for a profit, he jumped rows of garbage cans on his BMX bike, he punched his principal to stick up for a friend, he ran a gas station, and spent many years as a manual laborer. Who knew he would end up where he is today, and have three daughters who are so thirsty for success and education.

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My Dad admitted to me that until the last 2 years, he always felt disappointed with what he did for a living. He is the only one in our neighborhood full of accomplished doctors and lawyers who doesn’t have a college degree, and he is the only one that drives a pickup truck, which is parked in the driveway.

He said that he finally realized that you can still make it if you aren’t a doctor or a lawyer, and that it’s not your title or what you do for your money that makes you successful. I asked him what advice he would give to people just starting out in their careers. Here are some of his answers:

• Your twenties are all about learning lessons. In order to learn the lessons, you have to pay attention and watch for them every day.
• Be patient and it will come. Don’t waste time being disappointed with where you are right now: keep working and keep looking ahead.
• Remember that we all have the same amount of time given to us, but it is what we do with our time that will set us apart in the end. Use your time wisely and make the most of it.
• Little things become big things in your job. Although not calling someone back, not being prepared, or forgetting your client’s request may seem small, it could be a huge impact on you and your career down the road.
• Don’t blow your money. You will have nothing to show for all of your hard work and the years will pass you by.

I think my Dad’s career advice is very wise and very applicable to all of us. My Dad earned his education through long hours of hard work. In my opinion, he was very lucky. He was lucky that he was smart enough to see the lessons that most others did not. He knew he would make it somehow, and he took advantage of opportunities that were given to him even if they required more energy, time and sacrifice.

img_0454My parents now run a successful drilling equipment business, Rig Source, together which serves a niche market to customers all over the world. If it weren’t his days of coming home with burnt hands from welding or frostbitten feet from drilling in the middle of a cornfield for 16 hours on a January day, I’m not sure he would be where he is today. He is an example of someone who always saw the glass half full, who kept on plugging away, and set his eyes on his goals. Perhaps he is a real life example of “the survival of the fittest.” I’m pretty sure most of us today could not survive working conditions like his and come out on top.

Thanks Dad, for your example of the strongest work ethic I’ve ever seen and for doing what ever you had to do to send us to our college of choice. Thank you for leaving a legacy for our family and for everyone around you to see. You are one in a million and I am so lucky to call you my Dad.