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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!

Leave the Drama at Home: Personal Issues and Your Day at the Office

369014983_153e8b24e6_mOne of the biggest challenges young career women face is leaving their personal lives away from the office. Up until your first job, it’s totally normal to vent to everyone around you about the breakup you are going through with your boyfriend, the fight you are in with your best friend, or how rough you are feeling from going out last night. Unfortunately this type of talk is not well suited for most work environments if you are hoping to be seen as a leader and a professional.

It is inevitable that we are all going to go through rough patches at home or in our personal lives. The challenge is not bringing it to the office. Going through some of these things for the first time in Corporate America myself was difficult and taught me some important lessons about balancing personal issues with your job.

First, there will be good days and bad days. The bad days are REALLY bad, and you may feel like you can barely function at work. This may mean catching up on filing or organizing to stay active. Make sure you aren’t doing something that requires tons of “brain power” or attention to detail if you are having a terrible day, because chances are you are distracted and will make some big mistakes, leading to more stress later.

Second, don’t recruit your co-workers to participate in conversation about your personal drama. Women often feel healing through talking about what is bothering them. Unfortunately, this is usually not ideal while at work. Not only do you look stupid, but it’s a waste of time and eventually everyone is going to get sick of hearing the latest update of what’s going on. Soon enough your co-workers will start avoiding you like the plague, consider you immature and unfocused.

Third, as tempting as it is to email your friends and family about how you are feeling all day, you are better off closing that personal email and focusing on work. Why? Because nothing is going to change by 5pm. Also, the more you start emailing, the more you get sucked in. Time will vanish; you will be behind on your work and worse off from where you started. Before you know it, your bosses and clients are upset with you for things you forgot to do thanks to your emailing spree, and you feel even more stressed out and upset then you did to begin with.

Lastly, do nice things for your self to get through the day. For me, this means getting a manicure at lunch, stopping at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks on the way to work, or taking a walk at lunch. If you’re going through a breakup, remember to think about all the movies that feature girls who went through bad breakups and then ended up better off for it (Legally Blonde, The Holiday).

If you’re going through something personal, no one expects you to be perfect. It’s inevitable that people have bad days. Just try your best to put a smile on and stay as focused as you can. If things get really terrible, it may be best to take a day off to clear your head. The last thing you want is for your co-workers or superiors to think that you are incapable of doing a good job at what you were hired to do.

26 Reasons I think America is Great, Weird and Contradictory.

America is an interesting place. In the handful of times I’ve left the country, I’m always so happy to be home and so proud to be an American. Yet at the same time I also observe how odd our culture is.  Here are 26 things I find interesting about America.

1. We have access to some of the best health care in the world yet have a huge obesity rate.
2. Most Americans feel like their pay checks just aren’t enough, yet we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
3. We order Diet Cokes with Big Mac’s.
4. The average American watches about 4 hours and 35 minutes of television per day according to Nielsen Media Research.

5. Dunkin Donuts-I love it and can’t imagine life without it.
6. People can drive Escalades but can’t pay a medical bill without charging it to their credit card.
7. We love Italian food that isn’t necessarily authentic Italian, and Mexican food that isn’t necessarily authentic Mexican.
8. Going on spring break each year of college is normal and expected. (I’ve never understood where the money to fund these vacations comes from?)

 
9. Strip malls and franchises are overrunning our land.
10. Debt is socially accepted as “part of American life.”
11. Disney World is a huge craze, yet when’s the last time anyone has seen Mickey Mouse in a movie or show?
12. Most people know exactly who Paris Hilton is, but don’t know who represents their local and national government.

 
13. Many young Americans consider success getting on a reality show and having their “big break.”
14. CostCo, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club.
15. Generally speaking, America loves quantity not quality when it comes to clothes and shoes.
16. If your kid acts like a normal kid, he will probably be diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin.

 
17. Professional Sports games were created for the average American family, yet most Americans can no longer afford to attend games.
18. 10 year olds have iphones.
19. America is obsessed with celebrities. Perhaps this is why people overspend: are we trying to live the lives of the rich and famous on a dime?
20. High School in America: homecoming, text messaging, MTV, football games, prom and drama.

 
21. Physical appearance is a top priority and plastic surgery is becoming the norm. No wonder the diet pill industry is a multi- billion dollar industry.
22. We have a show called “My Big Red Neck Wedding” now?? hmmm…
23. We are obsessed with money and material things and therefore have a love hate relationship with money.
24. Some Americans attempt to find their soul mates on TV shows like The Bachelor. (Guilty pleasure but odd reality.)
25. It’s cool to be unique in America- whether that is your ethnicity, personality, outward appearance or talents/passions.
26. And of course, I can’t leave out American Idol!

Twitter Poll: If You Were 20 Again, What Would You Do Differently?

I decided to conduct a Twitter poll for some research on an article idea I have and found the responses quite interesting.

I asked my Twitter friends what they would do differently if they were 20 again. The rule was that they had to be over 30 to answer.

Here’s what they said:

How to handle debt/money. Ed Gallagher, Author, Blogger, @egallagher2k

I live by no regrets so even thinking about doing it over again doesn’t make sense. We are because of our experiences. Lost in Office Space, lostinofficespace.com, @LIOSinCT

I would handle the politics of my in-laws a whole lot differently….it’s total hell now.  Rachel Martin, mominreallife.blogspot.com, @rbmmom

Wish I’d known how young I was; I made too many decisions thinking there wouldn’t be other opportunities. Ann Smiley, Graphic Designer, @annsmiley

That the choices you make at 20 create your future. Better choices better future. Frumi Barr, MBA, Ph. D, Founder of Frumi & Associates, LLC, @Frumi

If I were 20 again, I would have taken advantage of my school’s study abroad program. Vanessa Abron, @VanessaAbron

If you stop thinking about it and just do it, it will catch on one way or the other. Do more think less. Jack Stands, @LASnark, LAsnark.com

What I wish I knew: If you are qualified and intelligent people will pay you for your services. Leah Dossey, Graphic Designer, Founder of Blueleaf Creative, @CreativeWisdom

And lastly, this response came to me in an email from Farrah Hoehne.

Hi Nicole,

Your blog is great. I wish I would have had access to your blog when I was just out of college!

There are a lot of things that I wish knew when I was in my 20’s!

First, I would have done an internship while I was in college to prepare and leverage myself in my career. Personally I’ve had 7 jobs in 10 years. While each of these positions have been a great learning experience and have allowed me to gain a very diverse background, I wish I would have decided that I wanted to work in advertising first and followed it throughout my career. I feel that I would have been able to work my way up the corporate ladder and be in a better position right now.

In college, I wish someone would have told me that a bachelor of science in marketing with a minor in French is more valuable and goes further than a bachelor of arts in French international marketing.

I started my job within 2 weeks of graduation as well. I went back home which was a great move but I wish that people would have engrained in my head that I should have taken advantage of traveling before starting work. I never thought that I would be working and counting down the days until vacation and just waiting for one day off!

I also wish that I would have decided to get my MBA in my 20’s. After a failed attempt at the GMAT, I gave up and decided to continue working. I would have gone part time while I was living at home. Since getting married, life just becomes more complicated and it is harder to think about going back to school when you want to have a family.

Last but not least, I wish I would have started working with a financial planner in my early 20’s so that I could set myself up for a more financially stable future. I should have been more aggressive with my 401K before 01 and learned how to scale back when the market was crashing. If I invested in a financial planner, I feel that I would have been able to organize my finances much better.   -Farrah

Thanks everyone for such great responses!  I found it interesting how diverse each person’s answer was.  Anyone else?

Come to Chicago’s Crave Party Tomorrow!

Ladies, if you’re in Chicago and free tomorrow (12/9/08) after work please come to Chicago’s Crave party at the Chicago Cultural Center from 5.30-9.00. 

A Crave Party is basically a shopping event full of local female vendors and entrepreneurs.   It will be a great place to get your shopping done in once place while getting glamed up and staying green.  The event is full of awesome ladies like yourselves.  The $20 ticket includes:

-The opportunity to shop locally with 40+ Chicago boutiques, designers and spas
-A 1 year subscription to Time Out Chicago Magazine
-Complimentary Vitamin Water & Rain Organic Vodka Cocktails
-Complimentary Appetizers by Monogramme Events Catering
-Complimentary Photos in our CRAVE Photobooth by Photobooth Express
-Eco-Friendly reusable Yelp shopping tote (for the first 300 guests)
-Free Dove Chocolates
-Complimentary Manis, Facials and Acupuncture by Allyu Spa
-Complimentary Gift Wrapping

I will be working the event and hope to see you there!