Category Archives: Your First Job

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.

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.

The Double Edged Sword of Working With Family

If your family has their own business, the question of whether or not to work with them will inevitably come up at some point. Society has many views on young people joining their family’s business. Some say college grads are under qualified. Others think that the next generation are getting hand-outs, even though they are probably making a modest salary.

As you may know from reading this post my family has their own business so this thought definitely crossed my mind. I also have close friends who work with family and it seems to be both a blessing and a curse.

Many parents won’t allow their children to work for the family business until they have gained the necessary experience and proven a passion for the business. Other parents seem to lay a guilt trip on their children to join the business. It’s a really tough decision to make and it can have a huge impact on your relationship with your family.

59242515_934dbc0711_mIf you are in this situation here are a few things to consider:

-Do you have the skills and desire to manage the demand?
-Are you OK with blending your personal and professional life?
-Do you mind receiving work related phone calls early in the morning and late at night?
-By joining the business, would you be fulfilling your own legacy and dreams or your parents’?
-Would you be more valuable to the company if you got outside experience first, and then joined the company?
-Are you considering working for the family business because you assume you will get more second chances, more pay, more days off, and work less hours? If so, re-consider because the opposite is probably true.
-Have family members joined the business in the past? If so, how did that turn out?
-Can you handle working with people who know all of your “hot buttons”?
-Are you ready to accept criticism for your work from your family?
-Will joining the company continually challenge you, stretch your mind and interest you?
-Are you ready to talk about money daily-the most sensitive topic in most relationships?
-Are you willing to challenge the status quo to make things better, even if it is difficult?

I think the scariest part about joining the family business is the possibility for disagreements to ruin relationships or break families apart. It happens more than you would think. In my family, it caused a six year separation from my immediate family and our extended family. It’s pretty hard to fire a son, or quit your parents’ business because there is so much personal baggage at stake. Yet everyone has to do what is right for them to be happy and advance their careers.

I also think that parents are the toughest bosses (I cannot even imagine working for my parents right now!): they have much higher expectations for you than they do of other employees. Parents are likely to think they have the “right and obligation” to push you harder, to hold you accountable, and to make you learn lessons the hard way.

Again, I think that working for your parents can be the best and the worst of situations. I think that you would learn more about work ethic, dedication, and dealing with your emotions than you would working for anyone else. At the same time, make sure you’re not putting your dreams aside to make someone else happy. Also make sure you have a backup plan if things don’t work out!

5 Reasons You Should Have a Mentor

1529456848_2329b8d616_mHaving a mentor is said to be one of the most important keys to success. I believe this is especially true early on in your career and while you are still in college.

Here is why I believe you should find yourself a mentor:

1. They’ve been there and done that. You can learn from your mentor’s mistakes and avoid making them yourself.

2. You can talk to someone who is an unbiased third party. They see you for you. Your mentor may notice potential in you that you might not see in yourself. Better yet, they are not your boss so you don’t have to worry about things coming up in your review. And, they are not your parents so you can actually listen to them!

3. They have a whole different network of contacts and connections that you don’t. These connections are priceless and can help enhance your career in ways you couldn’t yourself.

4. It’s the best free service you could ever get. AND you’ll probably gain a life-long friend.

5. Your mentor may introduce you to a career path or business opportunity that you did not know existed before.

Now I’m sure you’re asking how the heck you can find yourself a mentor. Well lucky for you I have a solution.

Allie Osmar of thecreativecareer.com is now matchmaking mentors and mentorees. If you are looking for a career mentor, please fill out this form and Allie will get back to you as soon as she finds a great mentor for you.

Allie and I are always available to help too, just ask!

Twitter Your Way to a College Internship

Since I’m being interviewed for a book written on career advice for recent college graduates, I called my sister Ashley this morning to see what she had to say. My sister is a junior at the University of Missouri where she is double majoring in Women’s/Gender Studies and Journalism.

We talked about outdated career advice and what advice is more realistic for the college graduates of 2009. We also talked about Ashley’s upcoming internship search and how she could get started. Talking to her made me realize how much has changed since I graduated only a few years ago in 2006. Here is some of the advice my career center gave me:

1. Take yourself off all social networking sites and never blog because it is unprofessional and could ruin your chances of getting a job and hurt your reputation.

2. Work at a very large company right out of school so that you have a big name on your resume. “You will be able to work anywhere once your next employer sees that name on your resume.”

3. You should stay at your first job for at least 3 years.

4. You will start out in your first job as being a just a number, your individualism, personal strengths and ideas do not matter so keep them to yourself.

This advice is total garbage for the graduates of 2009 and I completely disagree with all four points!

For this post, I am going to focus on correcting point #1: You MUST use social networking sites and the Internet to let others know about your skills, talents and passions. If you aren’t positioning yourself for others to see online, you are really missing out on great opportunities. How could someone offer you a great job or internship if they don’t know you exist?

images-21I bought my sister her own domain name, ashleycrimaldi.com, for Christmas this morning and suggested that she put a bio, professional picture, resume, sites she likes, a blog and a portfolio of work she has done on her site. I also urged her to start using Twitter to connect with people who shared her interests and career goals. It is amazing how much Twitter “friends” are willing to help each other out in any way they can.

When joining first joining Twitter, use search.twitter.com to search for people who are “tweeting” about things that you care about and then “follow” them so you can read what they have to say on a daily basis. It is also important to send out valuable tweets regularly on your area of interest or expertise and post interesting links so others can read them and share information.

Also, if you like someone’s blog, website, or tweets TELL THEM! Compliments go a long way in making connections and mentors.

Long gone are the days of finding an internship through the classified section of your local paper or even scoring a great opportunity through a huge career site. If you are looking to pursue an internship or job that is in line with your individual strengths, ideas and talents you will have to go get it on your own by reaching out to people like you online.

P.S.- Follow me on Twitter: ExecutiveVision and let me know what you think about this post!

Confessions of a Former Sub-Prime Lender

So most of us are to the point where we can’t handle hearing one more negative news story on the recession, failing banks or the bail out.  Personally, I think we had it coming to us. 

 

I think back to my first job after college where I was selling sub-prime mortgages for one of the largest and most reputable financial institutions in the world.  My experience there is the perfect example of why I feel this way. 

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar, sub-prime lending is when financial institutions give loans to customers with less than ideal credit scores.  These customers are considered high risk and get loans at a higher rate than someone with good credit. 

 

At my job, we were trained to believe that we were doing something great for our customers!  That 12% interest rates plus 3 points (3 points = an upfront cost of 3% of the mortgage amount added to the loan balance) on mortgage refinances was totally normal.  I found this interesting considering the mortgage rate at that time was about 7% with no points. 

 

I was told that giving a hardworking customer a loan for more than their house was worth was GREAT because we were paying off their $70,000 in credit card debt and reducing their monthly payments.  One time, I did a mortgage refinance which used the equity in the customer’s home to pay off their brand new Cadillac Escalade, because the $800 monthly car payments were “really killing them”…(Um hello, do you REALLY need an Escalade?!?)

 

Of course we mainly closed Adjustable Rate Mortgages (aka ARM’s) that I knew the customers wouldn’t be able to afford once the rate adjusted upwards.  We took ALL the equity out of their homes which they had worked their whole lives to pay for which means they’d have no nest egg for the future. 

 

I could go on, but I think you understand why my time at this company lasted only a short time.  Although not all the mortgages I closed were as extreme as the examples above, I couldn’t sleep at night knowing what I was doing to make a living.  Even as a ripe newbie, something just didn’t feel right.

 

Turning on the news almost 3 years later shows that my gut feelings were right.  Americans and their big corporations had this coming.  Credit was way too easy to get, it seems like almost anyone could walk off the street and get a loan- even if they couldn’t pay for it.  The people giving out these loans had no stake in whether or not they were paid back because, in many cases, mortgages were bundled together and sold off like commodities to other huge financial monsters. 


How did I end up at a job like this?!  Well, I had no clue what I was getting into from the interviews.  NO clue.  But that’s another story.  I will say that I was also told that I would “definitely” make $70,000 my first year and that this was the hot new career path for sales-oriented finance majors. 

 

So maybe it’s not just the big companies who are responsible for the economic downturn:  people like me and my sub-prime customers are responsible for the economic downturn too. 

 

I went into this job solely for the opportunity to make a lot of money at age 22: greedy and unnecessary? Maybe.  Were my customers being responsible by allowing themselves to buy Escalades they couldn’t pay for and racking up sometimes over $100,000 in credit card debt and hoping someone could fix their mistakes?  Maybe.

 

No one forced me to take that job, nor my customers to make their excessive purchases.  For some reason we, as Americans, felt the need to prove something to keep up with the “Jones’“.  Yes, technically financial institutions let us take it too far but in the end, we were the ones making those decisions.

 

And now the bubble has burst and everyone wonders what happened.  The good news is that even the wealthy can feel the effects of being greedy this time.  The recession is affecting everyone and I think it has caused all social classes to take a step back and re-evaluate their basic needs and values.  I hope America learns a lesson from this rather than allowing the cycle to repeat in the future.

 

Where Does Your Day Go? Tips on Time Management.

2206899341_5944935e33_mA majority of both recent grads and career veterans would agree that time management is their biggest obstacle. Ever thought, “There never seems to be enough hours in the day!” or “Where did the time go, I haven’t finished any of the tasks I started today!”

Time management is a tough thing to figure out. Even the best laid plans can slip over time, so its good to revisit how you are managing and maximizing your time at the office.

I have been struggling with time management at work lately thanks to my creative “innovator” personality type, which is not necessarily ideal for staying productive in the banking world. For example, I love talking to and connecting with my clients, even if that means a long conversation that strays away from business. I never finish one project or task before starting the next, and I am admittedly addicted to my blackberry.

My distractions lately have led to guilt about not finishing things as early as I would like, disappointment in myself and fear that I am letting my team or clients down.

So first, I identified what distractions I could cut out of my workday to free up more time.

1. Blackberry. Rather than answer every single personal message that comes in throughout the day, I now keep this lovely device in my bag or in a drawer so I can’t see that obnoxious little red light blink every time I get a twitter direct message, blog comment, facebook message, text or email. I can’t even tell you how much this has helped me focus and stop de-railing from tasks. Your personal stuff can wait a few hours, I promise.

2. Personal Email. I used to keep my gmail up all day every day. Now I check my personal email a handful of times each day and then close it. Same goes for g-chat, time to retire from staying logged in all day and checking distracting status messages non-stop.

3. Facebook. Don’t do it. It is like an addictive drug. It will suck you in and you won’t even notice how much time has passed. You are not being paid to creep on facebook. That is what you do AFTER work.

Cutting personal technology addictions is the first step. From here, I had to figure out how to maximize my day. I had to do some reading on this topic and here are a few helpful suggestions I found:

Plan out tomorrow’s task list before you leave work today. That way no little detail or client request will be forgotten. If it is a simple task, do it before you leave because you will probably forget or disappoint someone if it isn’t done.

Review this list first thing in the morning each morning. This gives you a direction to start your morning. Crossing things off that list in the morning will give you a sense of accomplishment which will motivate you to continue being productive throughout the day. Apply the same technique to Monday Mornings on a larger scale, map out what projects you need to complete that week and get started. Don’t rely on random thoughts to guide you to productivity.

Procrastination is like smoking, quit today. It’s addictive, toxic and doesn’t lead to anything good. Keep up with work emails, if something is required of you that you can’t get to right away, print it out and leave it next to you so you can’t forget it. If it is an “FYI email,” read it and move on- don’t leave it in your inbox unread.

Respond. Call your clients back within half a business day even if you don’t have an answer for them at that moment. Call people within your organization back within 1 day at the latest, be a team player and don’t make people wait on you. Not responding will just eat at you anyways so pick up the phone.

Just say No. Women, this one may be a shocker: Remember that you do not have to do EVERYTHING requested of you. Its ok to pass it on to a team member once in a while or let someone know that it has to wait. Better that than having a meltdown later.

Routine. This one is almost impossible for me, but all my sources say this is crucial. Apparently we are not supposed to rely on our mood, the luck gods or the rush of realizing a deadline is approaching to maximize our day. Who knew?! Having a routine allows you to plan for interruptions in your day and make sure you are planning ahead enough to get things done on time. This starts from the moment you wake up. For example, I’m always late which makes me start my day off in a panic-adjust your morning routine to avoid this.

Looks like I have a lot of work to do but I think it will pay off and make me feel a lot better about myself at work. I’m already on the right foot today considering I woke up at 6am rather than 7.30 to accommodate writing this post on time management and getting to work on time!

Make it a productive day!