Career Advice

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Last week, my jaw hit the floor when I received an e-mail asking me for career advice.

“My internship is almost over and I’m trying to get the most from my experience by meeting with some of the global communicators with fascinating jobs. I was wondering if I can call you for a bit tomorrow to informally discuss your background, your job, and how you got here.”

People ask me for advice all the time, normally about food or fashion. I love what I do for a living, but I didn’t realize it was enviable enough to put me in a position where someone might ask how I got there. To be honest, sometimes I’m not quite sure how I got here. It feels like I woke up one morning and suddenly I was 3000 miles from home, with a Virginia voter registration card, a 401K, $50,000 in student loan debt, and a closet full of awesome clothing. Going to graduate school while working full-time can do that to you–it’s like a 2 year roofie.

As I think about it more and continue to watch so many of my friends struggle to find solid ground in the working world, I realize that I’m definitely not the worst person to ask for advice. Without further ado, my words of wisdom for the career-hopeful and newly-employed:

1. Forget Your Dream Job

Stop waiting for “the one.” There’s a very good chance you don’t know yourself very well, so don’t limit yourself to what you think you know. Find something that suits your skills, your talents, and your passion, not just your interests. Just look at House, he may not give a damn about the health of his patients, but he loves solving the puzzles of the human body. Given that you’re not yet set down a defined career path, you still have plenty of time to try out new and different things. Worst case, at least you still have a paycheck while looking for something else to come along.

2. Don’t Suck Up

Sucking up is a great way to encourage all of your coworkers to hate you, while also demonstrating to your superiors that you don’t have a mind of your own. In my experience (or at least in my theory), the best way to get yourself a real gold star in the workplace is respectfully disagreeing, and expressing self-confidence and conviction. Especially with the toughest bosses, being able to hold your own, demonstrating critical thinking skills, foreseeing (their) possible missteps, and having the guts to put someone in their place can go a long way.

3. Act Up

They say you should “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” I think a similar principle applies for your work performance. Conduct yourself as though you have the job you want, and bring ideas to the table that will get you there. Don’t be limited by your job description.

4. Be Lazy

I always think its funny when people say I’m a hard worker. I’m not. I’m a smart worker, and I’m a smart worker because I’m extraordinarily lazy. I like to be efficient not for the sake of efficiency, but because the alternative is a waste of time, money, and energy. Sometimes investing a little extra work and energy up front means you can be so much lazier later. The shortest route between two points is a straight line–exploit the straight line. Be lazy, be efficient.

5. Show Up, then Leave

Show up, on time, even early, and make your presence known. I don’t mean have a parade when you show up for an interview, or constantly talk about how early you got into the office, but do something to stand out. Be proactive in meetings. Be more than a seat warmer. Share a good idea, baked goods, a joke or funny story. Leave your mark on every room you enter, because if they don’t remember you, they won’t miss you when you’re gone. Conversely, when possible, leave. Don’t burn yourself out. When you leave the office and have down time, take care of yourself. You’re no good to anyone if you have no mental energy left. This is also called “work hard, play hard,” but as I said, don’t work hard–work smart!

There you have it. Want to be successful in life? Just remember: forget your dream job, don’t suck up, act up, be lazy, show up, and leave! Also, I’m completely unqualified to provide any advice whatsoever, so I’m asking you to leave a comment, answering:

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received? 

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There and back again

Today, I embark upon a journey. From the muggy swampland of Northern Virginia, I’ll venture to the mystic and plastic land I once called home: Los Angeles. Then, in my golden chariot, I will ride across this majestic country, through 13 states, to return to my Capitol City-adjacent home in Arlington, VA.

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Along the way, my trusty sidekick and I will face perilous obstacles that make us ask ourselves questions we’ve never explored before, like “How much is too much BBQ?” and “How long can I hold it so I don’t have to stop at that nasty rest stop?” Our path will take us through

  • California
  • Nevada
  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia

With stopovers in Las Vegas (Nevada), Denver (Colorado), Jefferson City (Missouri), and Morgantown (West Virginia), it promises to be a thoroughly blog-worthy adventure. Stay tuned to the Star-Spangled Girl and the “Everywhere in Between” tab for more on the sights and sounds from across the U.S. of A.

Nerdtackular Links

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Sometimes I can be a little “geek chic.” It’s been an exceptionally nerdy morning for me out here in DC as I combed through Twitter onto a couple too-dorky-too-ignore links. Who better to share these with than my dear friends at SSG?

  • The Harry Potter Alliance – Mashable featured this nonprofit as one of 9 Non-Profits that Get Web Humor last January. While that’s a century ago in social media time,  I couldn’t help but be impressed with what I saw. After all, they are doing exactly what I want to do–make a difference in the world by getting people to care about the issues that matter by reaching out to them in new, fun ways on issues they already care about. Did I mention it’s fun?

Here’s their mission statement:

The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) is a 501c3 nonprofit that takes an outside-of-the-box approach to civic engagement by using parallels from the Harry Potter books to educate and mobilize young people across the world toward issues of literacy, equality, and human rights. Our mission is to empower our members to act like the heroes that they love by acting for a better world. By bringing together fans of blockbuster books, TV shows, movies, and YouTube celebrities we are harnessing the power of popular culture toward making our world a better place. Our goal is to make civic engagement exciting by channeling the entertainment-saturated facets of our culture toward mobilization for deep and lasting social change.

  • My second nerdtackular link of the day also involves wizards and social media. Facebook founder, Sean Parker got married on June 1st in a lavish Lord of the Rings-themed ceremony. 10 million dollars of elvish lavish. And because everyone hates money when they don’t have it, there was some backlash. In what Social Times called “a Tolkienesque-length novel,” Parker took to Tech Crunch to respond to some of the media reports. Really, though, this is all about the wedding. Jaw. Still. Dropped. I want to go to there.
  • Lastly, and most excitingly, earlier this week Space.com reported that scientists identified 3 potentially habitable planets around the star Gliese 667C, about 22 light-years away from earth. These super-earths could host alien life forms. A couple years ago, I joined tens of thousands of Americans in signing a “We the People” petition asking the White House to officially acknowledge the existence of aliens. My decision to sign was more about the petition process itself than the content (although, um, yeah, obviously aliens exist *scoff*). That said, I was only somewhat disappointed at this response issued by the White House. ET may have phoned home, but nobody phoned the White House–yet. Anyways, promising stuff for Team Alien in the fight against Team Twilight.

Papa Can You Hear Me?

552078_10102161522154096_1903565911_nThinking of my relationship with my father, I’m reminded of a quote by the great American author, Mark Twain,

“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Add 3000 miles to that equation and suddenly there’s an appreciation that’s its nearly impossible to put into words. For my hero, my father, here’s something I put together.

The Secret to Happiness

There’s been a lot of big things happening in my life. Big things lead to big thinking. What’s the meaning of life? What’s my purpose? Which pair of pumps should I wear to work today? And when one starts pondering such questions, there’s really only one place to go to get the answer: Twitter.

I present the #SecretToHappiness…according to Twitter.

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What’s your secret?

How I Almost Killed Myself

Yesterday, I almost killed myself. I sent that message to a number of friends shortly afterwards, without realizing that I’d left out the word “accidentally.” So for all of you who nearly sh*t your pants at that, I apologize. Now, here I present to you, a more accurate portrayal of how I almost crossed the River Styx to meet up with dear old St Pete.

It begins with my psychotic landlord (now former landlord).

  • This is a man who counted the number of wire hangers that were left in the closet by previous tenants, then indicated that number on my lease. I wonder how much he charges for a missing hanger.
  • This is a man who calls me “Ms. Weissenberger” every 10 seconds so that I feel like I’m Neo from The Matrix.
  • This is a man who made me take off my shoes before touring the apartment for the first time.
  • This is a man who asked me if I realized that a lease is binding and I “can’t just decide to leave if it doesn’t work out with my boyfriend.” Which, of course, bothered me for two reasons. (1) Apparently, if a girl has a guy friend who lives close by and comes with her to look at an apartment, it must be her boyfriend. It wasn’t my boyfriend. (2) He must think I’m an idiot for not knowing how a lease/contract work.
  • This is a man who insisted on speaking to my employer on the phone prior to renting my apartment, despite having written confirmation on company letterhead that I was employed.
  • This is a man who I told in my 60 day notice that I’d be out “in plenty of time” prior to my move out date,  and then proceeded to call me three times this month to ask if I’d be out early. Funny story about how I paid until the 30th, and I’ll stay until the 30th if I want to stay. (I’ve been mostly moved out for days…I’m making him wait until the 29th out of principle)
  • This is a man who I just made plans to meet tomorrow at 6pm to return my keys, and then insisted that I call him an hour and a half beforehand “to confirm.” I told him I won’t do that, I made plans to meet him at 6pm, I’ll be there at 6pm.

I don’t know if this accurately reflects the man’s obsessive compulsive nature. Nonetheless, I know him to be an extremely detail-oriented, awkward, intrusive, condescending, sexist, cheap prick. As I was packing up my apartment, I could only imagine the kinds of little things he would try withholding from my security deposit. I took my grocery sack over to Safeway, packed it full with cleaning products that would make a maid blush and made my way back to my studio apartment.

I threw open the windows and like everyone’s favorite housekeeper, Amelia Bedelia, pulled up my hypoallergenic latex gloves and got to work.

After two hours of flying suds, lifted dust, sparkling grout, it still wasn’t quite enough. I could imagine “Dr.T” (as he likes to be called) scribbling down on his sheet that he couldn’t quite eat off the floor. Driven by disdain and determination, I threw down my medical-grade cleaning solution on the floor, because nothing less that utter sterile conditions would suffice. As the chemicals buzzed around my head during the obligatory 10 minute “soaking period,” I thought I’d double down and spritz some of my all-purpose cleaner onto the wall to clean up any remaining splashes from my vigorous electric mixing during baking sessions. It wasn’t until I started to get a wee bit woozy that I realized that the floor solution had ammonia and the wall cleaner had bleach and I might be about to pass out and die from noxious fumes.

I dropped the brush, threw on my pants (what, I didn’t want to get bleach on them), and hopped out the door, down the hall, and out the building to fresh air. I gave the apartment some time to air out while I cursed my own silly naïveté. It’s not that I didn’t know not to mix ammonia and bleach, I absolutely did. Sometimes, I’ve been told, smart people, do stupid things.

It might be fitting though, for that to be one of the last things to happen in that apartment. In many ways, my itty bitty studio in Rosslyn saw me grow up. The walls watched as I set of the smoke detector three times in my first week; pulled all nighters to finish papers; slept a weekend away; primped for nights out; snuggled up for nights in; knitted and baked; cried while watching movies that reminded me of home; learned to unclog sinks, toilets, and tubs; got my first job and subsequently struggled to understand benefits and a 401k; and, eventually, nearly killing myself while trying to move on.

Since moving out to D.C.-and then Virginia-a lot has happened. As new beginnings unfold, I find myself looking back at what I’ve learned and into the mirror–or the sparkling floors of my old apartment–at the person I’ve become. I’m not the person that I was when I moved into the apartment. Maybe I didn’t die, but the girl who moved in is certainly gone, and the young woman moving out is using bleach to dispose of the evidence. Seems fitting.