Tag Archives: work

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.

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.

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.

Accurate Representation of Millenials in the Workplace?

Check out this clip from a 60 Minutes segment on “Millennials” in the workplace.  Although we’ve heard some of the stereotypes before, the video makes our generation of workers out to be very narcissistic, casual and even a bit lazy.  I suppose this could be an accurate representation of some, but I’m really hoping it isn’t true for all of the workers in the twentysomething age bracket!  Have you ever scheduled work around your yoga class?  I sure hope not!  Or refused to follow the dress code, or stay late once in a while?  Eek!

The video suggests that twentysomethings are all about themselves: their plans after work, their texts, their friends.  That we were raised to do extracurriculars for fun and participation, not to put in hard work practcing and mastering something.

Another very interesting point that I personally resonate with is the fact that many recent college graduates decided not to work traditional summer jobs growing up, but instead volunteer or travel because they feel that it looks better on a resume.  Although  I feel diversifying experiences is very important and these experiences are valuable, many of the best lessons I’ve learned came from working 2 or 3 summer jobs at once- many of which were not glamorous or fun.  Those summer jobs teach you how to be on time, deal with authority, and also motivate you to do great things with your own life so you aren’t stuck working at that type of job for the rest of your life.

I fear that those who spent their college years climbing mountains, traveling, and building homes for the poor may face a huge Quarterlife crisis (or let down) once they graduate and find out that working in an office (or hospital, or wherever you work after college) is not so adventurous and glamorous after all.  That disappointment has the potential to lead to a lifetime of being unsettled and feeling that any job you are doing is just “not enough.”

Let me know your thoughts!

Applying the Law of Attraction to Your Job Search

The Law of Attraction simply states “like attracts like.” According to the theory this means that our current situation is a result of the thoughts and feelings we have each day. So in other words, that means if you have a lot of debt, it’s probably because you constantly think and worry about your debt rather than focus on becoming wealthy. Apply this same principal to losing weight, dating, and landing your ideal job.

The famous book “The Secret” describes humans as magnets that attract back whatever thoughts are “put out” into the universe. Therefore, if you are looking to change something in your life all you have to do is change your thoughts and feelings. Beware: thinking about what you don’t want will give you just that. The Law of Attraction does not know the difference between good and bad thoughts. Rather, it gives you what you are thinking about.

3125019223_9fd22e14ae_mSo, how can you use the Law of Attraction in your job search?

-Pay attention to how you are feeling to ensure you are thinking positively.
-If you are feeling discouraged, think about what you are thankful for to shift your thoughts back to the positive. In Jack Canfield’s words “energy flows where attention goes.”
-Believe and feel that you can get your dream job. Imagine it, think about it and talk about it.
-Don’t talk or think about NOT getting a job.
-Make sure your thoughts and actions are aligned with what you want. For example, saying you want job x, but feeling and thinking that the economy is too terrible for you to ever get it will not work.
-Believe in yourself even when others don’t.
-If you don’t get a job you interview for, think of it as a good thing. This means that it wasn’t the right job for you and the right job is coming, you will find out why down the road.
-Believe and think that there are more than enough great jobs to go around rather than assume there are not enough.
-Be aware of your intuition.
-Write down what you want in a position, and read it daily to keep your specific goal top of mind.

Although this might seem like a tall order, I think you will find that the more you start to think positively the more good things will come. From there, changing your thought patterns will become more natural. Good luck!

Make it a Great Week!

Happy Monday!  Today is the start of the last full week before many of us go out of town for the rest of the year, which means it has to be a super productive week at the office.  I’m sure many of you feel the heat of hitting Q4 goals, tying out the year end financial statements, or dealing with clients who need extra attention at this time of year. 

Thanks to a few of my Twitter friends, here are some tips to help you rock your week so you can enjoy the Holidays without feeling guilty.  Thanks Zach, Allie and Jessica

·        Take some time to plan out this week’s task and project list on Monday morning so you have a clear vision for the week.  Clear up any issues from last week so you have a fresh start.

·        Avoid spending too much time on high maintenance clients who are a detour to your productivity.

·        Put your Crackberry away.

·        Take advantage of Tuesday.  It is said to be the most productive work day of the week.

·        Don’t check your personal email first thing in the morning.  All those forwards, you tube videos and interesting articles may end up wasting hours of your day without you even noticing.

·        Work your day in blocks.  Close your email and send calls to voicemail if possible to focus on the tasks at hand.  Give yourself a limited amount of time to finish a task and move on.  This is especially great if you work well under pressure or have a case of ADHD like me!  You can look forward to the small break after that time period is up and be proud of yourself for actually finishing something before jumping around to the next.

·        Have a great attitude.  Research shows that productive workers are happy workers.  You will feel much better when you just get it done than you will when you put things off.

Jump Start Your Career by Becoming a Leader and Decision Maker

Want to kick butt in the career world? Then get comfortable making good and timely decisions. Leaders are known for being decisive and admitting their mistakes if they make the wrong decision. Fear of making a decision makes you come across as a bad leader.

2609730948_7617deb345_mMy motivation for writing this post comes from my own experience of improving my ability to make decisions. Growing up I really struggled with even the simplest decisions of what to order for dinner, what to wear and what my plans were for Saturday night. As I got older the decisions naturally became a bit more complicated. I’ve come a long way since then, but looking back I realize how much time can be wasted and opportunities missed when you’re indecisive.

Start small. Start mastering small decisions because small decisions lead to big decisions. Whatever you do, don’t avoid small decisions at work because they will quickly snowball into big decisions and leave you looking unreliable and unworthy of being a leader. If you’ve heard the expression “putting out a fire” in regards to a tough situation at work, you understand that disasters happen. It is much easier to put out a kitchen fire than a forest fire.

On a side note, I think this is a simple strategy that can be applied to almost any area of your life. I’ve started thinking this way when it comes to decisions about money “Those shoes are amazing, but do I want to deal with the bill later when my goal is to have no debt?” Or relationship decisions “I disagree with him on this so I will discuss how I feel now rather than blow up about it in a week.” Or if you’re single: “Why should I agree to drinks with Mr. Obnoxious when I know I’m not into him and never will be. He’ll probably get the wrong idea and keep calling. I will run out of excuses so I should probably cut off communication now.” Nip it in the bud ladies; start small to avoid being in a big jam later.

Back to decision making in the workplace. Women need to be especially aware of their decision-making ability so they are not seen as pushovers, too emotional or too docile to deal with the aftermath of making a decision. Leaders who make good decisions do so in a timely, decisive and courageous manner.

Another trap I think young career women, including myself, fall into is asking others for their opinion. Keep in mind that these other people are coming from a completely different frame of reference than you are and ultimately this is your decision. Us Gen Y’ers are guilty of needing constant feedback and support. There are going to be times when you’re on your own. Girls with guts get ahead.

Lastly, remember that you do not need to have ALL the information to make a good decision. Having all the information is unrealistic so get used to having ENOUGH information and go from there. There is always more than one answer to any problem.

I will share another personal example. In my first job out of college, I was in sales and would constantly analyze the prospect’s financial situation and start crunching numbers and googling the company they worked at before I picked up the phone. I would waste so much time doing this because I felt that I needed to know every possible fact in order to answer to the prospect’s questions. When I would finally make the phone call, I would get their voice mail 99% of the time while my co-workers had already made 4 phone calls. I was so hung up on knowing all the facts that it ended up putting me behind my co-workers who were willing to pick up the phone knowing enough facts to get through the call.

I came across the following list of skills that leaders use in an article written by Moya K. Mason. I think this is a great list to take into consideration if you want to start being seen as a leader.

1. The ability to accept people as they are, not as you would like them to be.
2. The capacity to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present rather than the past.
3. The ability to treat those who are close to you with the same courteous attention that you extend to strangers and casual acquaintances.
4. The ability to trust others, even if the risk seems great.
5. The ability to do without constant approval and recognition from others.

Challenge yourself to be more decisive today and see how it goes. I have a feeling you will quickly feel more in control and respected by those around you.