Work in a Time of Quarantine

It’s been awhile since I last wrote in my blog. My address has changed. My job has changed. My experiences have changed. My whole life has changed.

Now throw in quarantine to mix things up.

I haven’t written in my blog since 2016. Now I find myself under a blanket, bored on my couch deciding it was time to start writing again. Oh yeah, and we’re in the middle of a national quarantine.

If you would have told me in the middle of February that we were just weeks away from the United States and most of the world being kept at home due to a life-threatening virus, I would have laughed and returned to my laptop to prepare for the first race of the INDYCAR season at St. Petersburg.

But the season never even started. The team traveled to Florida with excitement and months of preparation and game plans ready to go – all to pack it up and go home without ever going on-track.

It’s been more than a month since I’ve been in quarantine – along with most of the country.

My new normal is waking up in the morning and heading downstairs sleepy-eyed to brew a cup of coffee, followed by a pit stop to open up my computer. While I log in and finish checking my first batch of emails for the day, I hear the coffee finish brewing with Dolly Parton in my head singing about her “cup of ambition” as I take my first swig of my favorite vanilla macadamia coffee with a dash of sugar and good pour of vanilla almond milk creamer. Yes, I love vanilla flavoring in case you haven’t guessed.

From there, I begin my long day of working from my couch. I field email after email about interview requests, social media content ideas, updates on the series’ iRacing plan headed into the weekend, and whatever else the day brings.

I’ve traded my four-walled cube heavily lit by a wall of large windows for a giant couch with a more-than-I’m-comfortable-with dent from sitting in the same spot for so many hours. I still have a lot of light from windows at my house but instead of occasionally seeing fans, guests and other employees walking in and out of the building outside the window, I now have a parade of animal guests for my yard including a rather judgmental-looking rabbit that my boyfriend and I have dubbed, “Judgy Bunny.”

Ever seen a rabbit stand on its hind legs and stare back at you through your window? Well, that’s where the bunny’s name came from. It’s almost an adopted pet from our impeding and increasing quarantine-madness as we often watch and comment on the comings and goings of our odd furry friend.JudgyBunny

Remembering my list of tasks for the day, I proceed to knock out email after email. Instead of my daily chats with co-workers in person stopping by their cube or office, or them stopping by my cube, our primary forms of communication are replaced by an instant messenger messages, texts, emails and the occasional Zoom call to remind each other we all exist.

For hours, I type away and strain my eyes on my computer – because I’m stubborn and don’t want to wear my blue light blocking glasses. Occasionally I trade my eyes’ focus on my computer for my phone. I do quite a bit of research to see what other brands, teams, celebrities, etc. are doing on social media in hopes of inspiration to continue to keep our social media channels full of content that engages fans.

At the day’s end, my boyfriend comes down from his makeshift office upstairs and we plan our evening. We find ourselves beginning most evenings by cooking dinner and then deciding to watch something. We have been on a “Game of Thrones” kick as we have been knocking out episode by episode. While I have seen every episode, he is just seeing them all for the first time so it’s been fun to watch his reactions to the show’s craziest and most surprising moments.

Our weekends include watching iRacing for some of the series the team competes in with INDYCAR’s broadcast taking center stage on Saturday’s.

We have tried to make it a habit to take a daily walk when we have the time and try and stay active. We’ve completed a number of projects around the house that would have taken months to had we not been gifted this time of me not traveling. So that has been certainly a blessing in disguise.

For someone who has spent much of their career traveling here and there, with my current role including more travel than ever before until the past month, we have looked at our time as a gift. I have a friend who is a mommy blogger who wrote about that concept and I truly believe that is the best way to look at time under this crisis.

We are blessed to be healthy. Our families far away in other states but are also healthy. We are blessed to both be employed and be able to work at home. We are blessed to have a number of family and friends who check in on us, and we are happy to check on those friends and more in the same way. We’re blessed to afford our rent, bills, food and everything else we need right now. We are blessed to be in a nice, quiet and safe neighborhood that we love. We’re blessed to be in a relatively warm climate so when we do brave the crowds for groceries and other supplies, we don’t have to wear a jacket (although I insist covering up as much as possible). At the end of each day, we are blessed to be where we are in this moment and I try my best not to worry beyond today at a time where that is so difficult to do. There is no way of knowing what will happen next so I am learning to live in the moment like never before.

At some point, the quarantine will end. At some point sports will resume. Life will never be our former definition of normal but life will go on with whatever our new normal looks like.

Work is not what it used to be but my couch is quite comfy and I can wear literally anything I want to work (which now consists of yoga pants, an old t-shirt and a hoodie). I’d rather be in the rhythm of the season by now having spent a number of weekends at a racetrack with so many great people I am lucky to work with, friends in the industry and crowds of fans too large to count supporting our sport, but here I am excitedly waiting for the all-clear to return to the track and get back to racing.

While quarantine isn’t the most fun way to spend a month (so far), there have been some truly great things to appreciate and I am learning to do just that.

 

Career Day

When I was sixteen years old, I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life.

I dreamed of being the next Tina Fey (my hero at the time) since I was a lifelong “Saturday Night Live” fan and had done a few student written shows. I loved comedy and really enjoyed writing so it almost made sense to me.

But then I realized how that’s a million in one shot of actually happening. I needed a new life plan.

One day, my dad (a motorsports journalist) asked me if I wanted to accompany he and my mom to the NASCAR awards banquet in New York and work backstage. As a sixteen year old kid who was obsessed with all things theatre, this seemed like a golden opportunity.

I knew little about NASCAR by then. I mean, I went to my first race in July of that same year and could name a few drivers but other than that, I was still very much learning.

About a month later, I found myself helping out the NASCAR public relations staff by assisting on the red carpet backstage at the Waldorf=Astoria. I helped escort drivers down camera row to do interviews, was a runner for microphones and other supplies and pretty much just did whatever was asked of me. I was ready, willing to learn and wanted to soak up all that I could.

In a nutshell, that day changed my life. I went from wanting to be a comedy writer to a public relations professional in motorsports overnight. At least one of those dreams came true.

Just a year after graduating high school, I found myself working in my first internship (which later helped me eventually do five more). That ultimately led to the career I have now but that would have never happened had I had that first experience while still in high school.

So for the past three years, I have been a speaker at my high school’s Career Day discussing careers in sports and social media marketing. Having had the opportunity that changed my life while still in high school, I hope to inspire kids to figure out their path by letting them know I was able to do so at their age and that they can do anything they put their minds to.

Over the past three years, I have learned a lot just by presenting.

During the first year I spoke, I learned that all of my research that says high school students don’t really use Facebook is quite true.

I began the presentation by simply asking students by show of hands who used various social media platforms. First was Twitter. About half the room raised their hands. Then I asked about Instagram. Almost the whole room raised their hands. Then I made the mistake of asking about Facebook.

No hands were raised. Instead, one girl deadpans, looks right at me and says, “Um, no one uses Facebook. It’s for old people.”

And with that, I discovered it’s absolutely true that high school students are anti-Facebook.

The second year, I decided to change up my presentation slightly. I changed jobs from the previous year and realized most students not only were not race fans but knew very little about motorsports. Who was the one driver they all seemed to be familiar with?

Ricky Bobby.

So as an ice breaker, I included a quick scene from “Talladega Nights” in which Ricky Bobby tells a reporter he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. That was a hit and from there, I had their attention at least for a bit.

The third year (just a few days ago), I brought some swag which was a handful of items from a program from the year before. I asked students to answer questions at the end of the presentation for a chance to win. Suddenly, I had their attention more than ever.

With each year, I learn a little bit more about how high school has changed since I was a student there. I also learn how much I have changed in the nearly ten years that has passed since I roamed the halls daily.

Ten years ago, I was just getting over being painfully shy. I had an all-star team of theater directors, choir leaders, vocal coaches and so on who helped me go from a quiet kid to a slightly less quiet lifelong theater kid. I may have graduated years ago but I will never forget all of the great memories I have had on the stages there.Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 11.57.51 PM

It was great that I was even able to stop by and say hello to some of those teachers this last time by and thank them for everything they have done for me. I would have never imagined that being involved with theater would have helped so much but I can see in the long-run that it did.

So while my life might be going more than hundred miles an hour sometimes nowadays, I’ll never forget that the road that put me here began when I was in high school.

** Featured image from my most recent experience as a Career Day speaker

I Got 99 Problems and an (Idea) Pitch Ain’t One

At some point in the career of a marketing professional, we find ourselves finding that confidence to suggest the impossible – sometimes even if it seems a bit crazy.

pitch

What’s important is to educate yourself as much as you can in your field and learn all of the variables as to why and why not something might work. As one of the employees with the least amount of experience at my current marketing agency due to my age, I try and to prepare any idea pitch for a social media program or marketing idea with all of the parts and pieces of the puzzle in mind.

Honestly, it has taken me awhile to get here. I completed six internships in college, worked at a midsize agency and major corporation prior to this position. It has take quite a bit of research and understanding to really get ahold of what can and can’t work. These are just some of those things that come naturally with experience but sometimes thinking outside of the box and believing in your wacky idea can get you there faster.

Once, I had what I thought was an insane idea for a theatrical motorsports press conference. It involved drivers dressing up as good and bad cowboys. We’d even have the track owner as the Sheriff and have the reporters sit on bales of hay. As it turned out, the track owner LOVED the idea and was a big fan of western films. It turned into a full ad campaign with print ads, billboards,commercials (I even was an extra in one), and more all about one of the track’s biggest races of the year. This campaign has now been used for two years.  And I thought my idea was crazy…

So, for all of my fellow recent college grads out there, and current college students looking for ways to stand out in their internship, I give you my tips as listed below.

Tips to Getting Your Pitch Heard:

  1. Be fearless. If you’ve ever been a part of a brainstorm, 9 times out of 10 someone at some point will say, “No idea is too crazy so share anything you have.” Don’t limit yourself to this view on ideas just in a brainstorm setting. Sometimes the craziest ideas change our world for forever.
  2. RESEARCH! While you’re busy “dancing in a storm in your best dress, fearless” like Taylor Swift, remember not to present anything without having some knowledge to back it up. If you’re new to a company, see if they’ve tried a similar idea, campaign, etc. before so you’re not wasting anyone’s time – and don’t wind up discouraged. Know your industry and read case studies. You’ll thank me later.
  3. Creativity is key. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel for there’s obvious reasons for that expression. Come with an idea no one has thought of before and you won’t just shine, young padawan – you’ll impress.
  4. Take a deep breath, and let the idea flow. It may sound silly now but if this is the first big idea you’ve pitched, take a deep breath before speaking. It will help you calm your mind, ease your thoughts and communicate in the best way possible.
  5. Don’t forget – you’re awesome. Why are you in your internship or job? Because you’ve already proved you’re a valuable asset to the team. They saw a spark in you based on your experience, knowledge, attitude and drive. So give them what they paid for. Be confident and realize second guessing yourself is unnecessary because you know what you’re doing.

Same Stage, Different Platform

I have a confession. In junior high and high school, I was a HUGE theater nerd. I was one of those kids from “Glee” before it was cool. It was not uncommon for my friends and I to sing Broadway tunes down the halls on the way to class, or opt to improvise a scene about a subject in class rather than pulling together a poster board. In a nutshell, I was consumed by theater.

From a curtain call dress rehearsal of “42nd Street” from my junior year of high school. I’m on the left.

I performed in plays, musicals, and improv troupes. I also was dedicated to choir and even won a few medals from ensemble competitions.

So here I am now as a social media marketer. A month or so ago, I found myself looking for inspiration while working on a client’s posts for the next month. I kept thinking about the customers who typically would go to the restaurant. I thought about what they sounded like, what they looked like, and how the spoke. I thought further and thought what would they expect a person who manages the Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare of the location to sound like. Then it hit me.

I needed to change the way I was writing by creating a “character” for the restaurant.

When I was cast in a play in the past, a common exercise would be to develop the character’s story from inside and out. Everything from how old the character was, to where they were from, and even down to what food they liked. This would all help build the character for the performer. So I did the same for the restaurant’s character.

And it worked! It helped the words flow with a quirky edge that this restaurant fits. Since writing in this way, the page’s interaction has gone up on Facebook in particular, and more customers are commenting.

I guess it goes to show you, you can take the girl out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the girl.

Waiting for My Turn

About a year or so ago, I was watching “Piers Morgan Tonight” when the guest was the legendary star, Carol Burnett. She spoke about her career and her life but what stood out to me was the following quote,

“When I was young and auditioning at cattle calls in New York, I got close to getting a few jobs but didn’t. Then I realized it wasn’t my turn. It was that girl’s turn. My time would come so I never got discouraged. You never should. Just wait for your turn.”

Immediately after hearing this, I posted it as one of my favorite quotes on my Facebook page; a sign of my status as a proud millennial. But I just had to. Why? The quote just resonated with me.

It made me think of every time I didn’t get a job I applied for, or every time I didn’t get the part I wanted in a school play. It’s a great philosophy on why some things work out and some things don’t.

Last night, I went with my mom to a show at the Rialto Theater in Joliet, Ill. It was a Q & A session with Carol Burnett. It was basically the live version of that interview I saw a year ago.

A person from the audience asked for advice about how to succeed in comedy. Ms. Burnett once again told the story of the cattle call, and once again, I could relate.

There’s been a number of jobs in the past several months I felt I would be perfect for. I was not only confident that I was everything they needed but I had stellar interviews. I followed up how one should. I did everything I possibly could to get that perfect job. And then I didn’t get it.

Again and again this has happened.

Hearing Carol’s cattle call story again made me realize one simple fact: it was not my turn.

Each of these jobs I thought I would be perfect for were not meant for me. As a big believer of everything happens for a reason, I realized, these did not work out because they were not supposed to.

Wherever I get my next job, I know one thing; it will happen because it’s my turn.

What A Beautiful World With Instagram

Launched in October 2010, it’s interesting how Instagram has changed the way people look at their daily life. Instagram users seem to share a desire to spread the beauty of the world that comes into their daily lives. Be it the flowers they pass on their way to work, their new favorite shoes, or some of their best friends, Instagram seems to be helping the average person look at their world in a new way.

I personally love Instagram for that reason. After moving to Charlotte from Chicago, my entire outlook of how I perceive home has changed. I never really realized how beautiful Chicago was until I moved away from it. I even found myself loving being at an “L” stop in the middle of the winter with the cold wind freezing my body.

As I continue to visit home, I’ve found myself shooting photo after photo on my iPhone for new backgrounds for my phone. I have since posted many of these on my Instagram account: sarahbonk (check it out!). Such as the photo featured in this post.

For marketers, I think this use of Instagram in which users seem to find beauty in their everyday life critical. For brands, users may just snap pictures of their favorite products all on their own. Marketers can find clever uses for their Instagram accounts.

I’ve noticed various sports teams tapping into their fans love of the game to take photos. For example, some baseball teams are taking photos of their ballparks at different angles showing how marvelous a field can be. Some teams are also taking photos of their key players doing everything from interviews, to autograph signings and in-game play. I think this gives fans an artsy, fun way to get a new insider’s perspective of what it’s like to be on a baseball team.

The possibilities are endless. Fashion brands can find clever ways to shoot their new items. Food brands can shoot their newest products to draw more attention to their launch. In short, I am a fan of Instagram and plan on looking for ways to use the application in future positions as it grows.

Instagram makes me think of one of my favorite songs which I think is a pretty good way to sum up this post:

“I see trees of green. Red roses, too. I see them blue for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” – Louis Armstrong

Dissolving Packaging in the Future

I recently finally subscribed to Fast Company. I visited their Twitter, Facebook page and website frequently so I figured it was about time.

Image from Tide’s website

When I received the March 2012 issue, I was fascinated by an article entitled, “MonoSol Creates Innovative Dissolvable Packaging to Combat Waste.” I recommend you check out this article by clicking here.

I remember the first time I discovered what recycling was. I was in first grade and my classmates and I were treated to a “movie day,” in which our teacher showed us a variety of videos about the importance of recycling. I remember the catchy song that played along instructing us, the future generation, to “Recycle! Reduce! Reuse!” To this day, the word “recycle” causes just that part of the song to play in my head.

When reading the article in Fast Company, I found myself watching a commercial for Tide’s new Tide Pods. The second I saw that commercial, my marketer’s brain took over. I thought of a million in one ways they could further promote the new product. Most of all, I thought of myself, I recent college graduate who still has not exactly mastered the art of doing laundry.

However, with these new Tide Pods I could not only have a pre-measured amount ready for my disposal, but it’s cute, fun packaging would add a little bit of umph to such a tedious chore. I also thought of all the college students across the country who would be able to save themselves from the fate of some of my clothes and get it right the first time.

Tide Pods are brilliant for that reason but the fact that they can revamp the world of packaging is sheer genius. Although the concept of dissolvable packaging is not new, this new use could mean endless possibilities as more companies look for ways to cut down on packaging costs and when examining their carbon footprint.

These little laundry wonders have introduced the world to dissolvable packaging which could be critical to a world constantly battling pollution. If we could manage the damage we have already done and stop producing more waste through clunky packaging that takes a million years to disappear, the world would be a better and more healthy place.

As I read Fast Company‘s article, I was fascinated by MonoSol’s work. Especially when I saw this image.

Although this image is a concept, I have to admit, the idea of vegetables in dissolvable packaging does not sound too appealing and a bit space aged but who knows. Maybe they’ll develop packaging that seasons vegetables as the packaging develops in the future.

It’s an interesting concept that is gaining traction through Tide Pods but can only grow and develop. MonoSol also currently has dissolvable packaged oatmeal, hot chocolate, and laundry detergent pods.

Staying Motivated

*Photo: RyanSecrest.com

About a week ago, I hit the six month mark. It was six months since I got laid off due to downsizing.

The moment I got the news, I convinced myself I’d get another position in less than three months. It didn’t happen. Then, I decided I’d get something after four months, and so on. But here I am. Six months in and still looking.

I read an article the other day that said one in two recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. What a scary statistic. However, in an odd way, it’s almost comforting for the sheer fact that it’s a reminder that I am not alone. Thousands of other recent college grads are still looking for that first post-college job, might have only found internships, or may be like me and just have awful timing.

So here I am, six months into my latest step in my career’s journey. What I believe is most important is staying motivated. I’ve known a number of people both older and younger than I who have been laid off.

Recently, I found myself talking to a marketing professional at a networking event. She told me her story about how she worked for years interning and interning (like myself) and by the grace of God, stumbled into her dream job. She loved it and couldn’t believe her luck and was proud that her work finally paid off. However, after a few years, she found herself cleaning out her desk due to a lay off. She was stunned.

She spent the next few months bouncing between cities, couch surfing from one friend’s place to another, and eventually spending a few months at home. Then finally, she found a job. Not her dream job but one she enjoyed and felt would lead her to a better place. A year into that position, she found an opening for a job even better than what she thought was her dream job. She now holds the position at a job even her dreams couldn’t make up.

Her story truly touched me. With details a tad different, her journey was not unlike my own. The only difference is, I’m still searching for that next gig. She inspired me to change my thinking that wherever I might wind up next might not necessarily be “the dream job” but it could sure as heck lead to it.

I’ve always been a big believer in the notion that everyone comes into our life for a reason. Be it your best friend, or your favorite college professor, or even the clerk at the grocery store, the Lord puts their world together with ours for a reason.

I kept this in mind after meeting and speaking with that professional. I felt as if God wanted us to meet to benefit us both. She was trying to tell a story to let me know I’m not alone, and for me, I couldn’t be more grateful to know that this stage of my life won’t last. It will get better.

I also couldn’t be more grateful for my network of friends across the country. Especially my friends in Charlotte and Chicago.

Recently, I stumbled across a new song on the radio. The song is called, “Shadow Days” by John Mayer. The first time I heard the chorus, I teared up because like John in the song, I feel, “my shadow days are over.” This song not only motivates me but reminds me this is just a phase.

The lyrics below are from this fantastic song:

“I’m a good man, with a good heart
Had a tough time, got a rough start
But I finally learned to let it go
Now I’m right here, and I’m right now
And I’m open, knowing somehow
That my shadow days are over
My shadow days are over now”

Laughing and Learning

I’ve always been a huge fan of comedy. I love the feeling of laughing and even more so love making people laugh. I remember being little and sneaking into another room on Saturday nights to watch “Saturday Night Live” when staying at my grandpa’s house. He thought it wasn’t exactly the best thing for a 6-year-old to be watching but these were the days of Mike Meyers, Chris Farley and Will Ferrell. I might as well been watching the best cartoons ever because they all put their all into every sketch.

In high school and college, I took improv and wrote sketches for different shows I was in. I loved being able to write sketches and use them as an outlet for my creativity. When I applied to my college, I even ended up applying as a Screenwriting major because I wanted to be the next Tina Fey – before she was considered cool. But after spending a summer following my motorsports columnist father around, I switched my major to Marketing Communications/Public Relations so I could one day work in motorsports public relations.

About a year ago I started taking improv classes at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte, N.C. I took classes in improv before but never like this where everyone in the class was an adult. It was awesome! Unfortunately, I have only done one round of classes thus far but plan on taking classes again as soon as possible.

The Comedy Zone hosts various stand-up comedians from around the world monthly. Last week, I was able to go with some friends to see one of my favorite comedians, Lynn Koplitz.

With a sharp tongue and a unique sense of humor, her jokes about life and people are simply hilarious. Throughout her set, she would “teach” the audience humorous facts about life through various observations. And every single one of these observations were 100-percent correct.

When I first began gaining an interest in improv, I purchased a book written by i.O. (Improv Olympic) in Chicago’s founders, Charna Halpern and Del Close.

The book called, “Truth In Comedy” is essentially a manual for first time improvisers. It discusses various improv games, techniques and more. The key to all of improv is simple: agreeing on a truth. The truth is on-stage agreement between performers. Without that truth, jokes don’t work and the audience just feels uncomfortable.

I’ve always tried to look for the humor in life. I’m the person who goes through a bad situation who not only looks for the positive side of things but the humorous side of things. The truth about life is the worst things to deal with can be easier to deal with if you have a sense of humor and look for the positive.

I guess you could say I approach life with an improv performer’s mindset but hey; who wants to be down about the bad things forever? Sometimes you just need to smile.

I think Bob Newhart said it best by saying, “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.”

My, My… How Technology Has Changed Since I Was In High School

Now that I have been spending more and more time at my parents’ house in a southwest suburb of Chicago, I find myself more and more reminded of my high school years.

While living in North Carolina, I occasionally had the opportunity to come home and visit my friends. Many of these friends I have known for 10 years or close to having met them during high school. I also seem to keep running into other former classmates through my outings with friends that I haven’t seen since 2006.

Again and again, as I would exchange stories with former classmates, I am reminded of how technology has completely changed since my freshman year of high school in 2002-2003 to my senior year of 2005-2006.

Those were the days were MySpace was a social experiment and Twitter was just a sound a bird made as it flapped its wings. I even remember when I purchased my first iPod for my fifteenth birthday.

After going to an Apple Store with my parents, I returned to my classes the next day with my cool new gadget in hand. What I will have to one day tell my kids and grandkids is that in March of 2003, iPods were something very new and almost seemed odd.

“So this is an iPod,” I said as I showed a friend the device and scrolled with the wheel. “I can keep EVERY song I own on it. I have somewhere around 1,500 songs or so on it already but I have a lot more CDs to add to my computer. It’s just a pain because you have convert all of the audio to mp3 files.”

I was pleased to be able to jam to my favorite songs from Kelly Osbourne, Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, the Backstreet Boys, and Lilix. Yeah. It was that long ago.

My friend looked at my little white jukebox brick with a puzzled look as she scrolled through the songs. “I have a Walkman CD Player,” she said almost insulted that such a device existed. “Why would I ever want to carry all of my music on me?”

Funny enough, in April 2003, Apple unleashed the iPod Color onto the world. This smaller, more colorful device was much more affordable than the $400 or so I shelled out for a 15GB device. They ended up becoming a hot new trend. A year later, just about everyone I knew either had an iPod or had plans of buying one in the future.

My mom now works at the high school I attended as a teacher’s aide. She regularly tells me how she has to stop kids from texting, tweeting and posting on Facebook on their cell phones.

Once again, I remember being considered overprotected for having a cell phone so I could call my parents when I would stay after school for theater, taught swim lessons or to work on a class project. I had a few friends that also had cell phones for the same reason but not many.

About a year later, almost everyone I knew had a cell phone. This was still long before the days of song ringtones, affordable internet access and the ability to play mp3s on your phone, and the only games you had resembled an updated version of Tetris.

MySpace was new but few people used it. Unfortunately, my high school ended up being one of the first in the area to crack down on students (especially athletes) who foolishly posted photos of them drinking or partying as if no one would see it. Some of those kids even got expelled.

It’s funny to think how different things would have been if I was in high school right now. I could easily exchange artsy Instagram photos with friends from our trips to downtown Chicago. I could tweet about how bummed I am to have to study all night on Twitter. I could exchange photos of my celebrity crushes with friends on Pinterest, and they could repin the photos on their boards.

My, my… How the world has changed in less than 10 years.

Holy Pinterest!

While visiting a friend who had a work engagement pop up, I found myself in northern Illinois with nothing to do. I was five minutes from the Wisconsin border and two hours away from most people I know. In a word, I was trapped. 

Then, I decided to finally see what Pinterest was all about.

Why did I wait almost a year since I first heard of the site to check it out?

Pinterest, is a website full of images. It reminds me of a digital locker – or in my case, it reminds me of the back of my closet door. Growing up, I was a big fan of magazines. I’d pull quotes, photos, stories, images and more and tape them to the back of my closet door. Images of Tina Fey, Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys still hang there today. Mostly due to the fact it would be sad to see so many years of work go to waste.

The website appears to be much more female friendly than anything. With Pinterest, a woman could like images and post them to her own board (a way to sort your favorite images). Topics of images range from food recipes, to hairstyle ideas, to outfit ideas, and just plain, old, adorable pictures of animals.

It’s a great place to share images with friends and give each other ideas.

Personally, one of the things I love the most about the website are the images of positive quotes. These uplifting images of quotes by celebrities, philosophers, musicians, personalities, or the unknown. After reading and collecting a variety of quotes for my own board, I felt uplifted and better even at a time when I feel as if I’m waiting for my life to start again with a new job.

As a woman, I feel this website could be used for so much but especially sharing ideas with other women and provide each other with support. It’s as if the Spice Girls’ mantra of “Girl Power!” became a website. Their image on my closet door would be so proud.

Then, I started to think as a marketer. Marketing, PR and advertising professionals commonly have what some call their idea box. The Idea Box contains a variety of items which can help inspire creative ideas to help them get their next great event, press release, etc.

I believe Pinterest could be a digital version of the Idea Box but kicked up a notch. Imagine a world where PR pros could share their boxes digitally with the co-workers and trusted friends to inspire each other?

I guess for me, I feel the greatest unintended use for Pinterest is to inspire. So many of the images on the website are art. In this way, art can breathe life into our creative abilities in new ways.

In short, I’ve already liked Pinterest on Facebook.

Check out my Pinterest page by clicking here.

Christmas and the Nook – My New Job-Seeking/Marketing Research Device

Maybe it was my parents’ way of saying I need more to do, but this year for Christmas, they bought me a Barnes and Noble Nook Color.

At my last job, many of my co-workers used their iPads for meetings, reading books, note-taking and more. I dreamed of buying my own after saving up for a few months while working there. Then things changed.

While I was home during my Thanksgiving break, I found myself on the L after leaving a friend’s apartment. While on the train, I saw a woman who inspired me. She was professionally dressed but in the cutest way possible. She had a great briefcase/purse, a warm but light white-and-black tweed coat, and her Chanel sunglasses tucked in her brunette mane. While standing on the train as it twisted and turned its way toward downtown, she effortlessly read a novel while on her commute to work on a Nook.

Having found myself on the fence about moving back to Chicago or trying to stay in Charlotte, this woman represented not only who I could be but who I wanted to be. Why couldn’t I find myself reading a cheesy romance novel on my way to my fabulous new PR or marketing job and looking cute while doing it? In that moment, I decided I wanted to get a Nook or some sort of e-reader.

I told my mom what I saw and a few weeks later, I found myself lucky enough to be holding a Nook in my hands. My mother later said she hoped it would bring luck so I could be the girl on the train.

From first glance, it looked like a giant Android phone. Same OS. Same user-friendly design. Then, I found myself clicking the “Shop” button. I was a goner.

Book after book, I found myself clicking “Purchase” or “Free Sample” a few too many times. I decided to purchase one book for fun (Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster – about a woman who was laid off and looks for work in Chicago based on the author’s life), a book about job-seeking (Killing the Cover Letter by Gene Kincaid – a book for PR/advertising majors) and a book about fun PR stunts (Can We Do That! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work – And Why Your Company Needs Them by Peter Shankman). And that does not include all of the free issues of magazines I received since they offer a free trial of any magazine.

These books not only will help me pass the time but will also help with my job search – and best of all – all of these books are one size physically and all fit into my cute little e-reader.

Then, I started exploring the free trial issues I downloaded of various magazines. I downloaded issues from Vanity Fair, Glamour, and Wired. As a marketing professional, I was fascinated by how each magazine’s articles were optimized to connect readers with the websites where they could purchase various items.

As the daughter of a journalist as well as the owner of a PR degree, I’ve heard for years how print is dying. I think with the optimization of magazines like this, print is not dead – it’s just wearing a new coat. With so much of a magazine or newspaper depending on ad revenue, this is the way publishers can garner more ad dollars as new ideas for optimization begin to roll out.

I don’t think I have realized just yet all of the capabilities of my new favorite device but one thing is for sure – I can’t thank my parents enough for it.

While looking for a quote for this entry, I admittedly searched for a good quote. I’m not afraid to admit it but I felt this quote is the best explanation of what the experience of reading a book is like:

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” – Edward P. Morgan

A Trip Home to Chicago

About a week ago, I returned home from a trip to my hometown in the suburbs of Chicago. I spent almost three weeks at home. I ended up deciding to go home in the early hours of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. After about four hours of sleep, packing and picking up a rental car (because my poor 21-year-old T-Bird probably would not make it back), I was on the road in a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu.

For the first time ever, I drove all the way back home by myself. It was almost 800 miles – and I managed to drive straight through. Somehow I managed to do this without coffee and was fueled by a desire to go home — and Dr. Pepper.

It’s funny how losing a job, and what feels like everything else, can bring a fresh perspective to your life. I found myself appreciating the drive home in a way I never have before. Driving through the mountains of North Carolina and in to Tennessee, I was reminded of how vast and beautiful this country of ours really is.

The only downside to the trip was my usual luck. Somehow, I wound up with the only rental car on the lot that must have had a small whole in its right rear tire. I had to stop about five times along the way to fill up the tire with more air but I was determined like Steve Martin in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” to make it back home to Chicago for Thanksgiving.

By the time I arrived back home, it was 3:30 a.m. CT on Thanksgiving. I made it in one piece!

Had I not been laid off, I would have not been able to have gone home since I would have had to work Black Friday. In some ways, it was a blessing in disguise. It was great to have a home cooked meal with most of my family (my dad had to work) and just feel truly at home.

I spent the next couple of weeks meeting up with various contacts to see what jobs may be available back home in Chicago. I was hoping for something with a PR or marketing agency working with sports or entertainment, but really anything would do.

During college, I worked my butt off interning as much as possible. In the course of three years, I managed to complete six internships. I feel this truly paid off by being able to meet with so many wonderful people who were ready and willing to give advice and let me know if anything is available. I feel truly blessed to have people like them in my life.

Also while I was home, I was able to catch up with many of my friends. Maybe it was just what the doctor ordered but being reminded of how many great people I know back me who support me in anything and everything I do, really helped me feel more motivated to continue my job search.

With a trip to Outback with my best friend, a night out on the town in the city with another, and numerous other outings with friends, I found myself missing home more than ever since I can’t see so many of my closest friends as often any more. I started to wonder if maybe God’s plan is to bring me back to Chicago in some new, fabulous job? Only time will tell.

After a couple weeks of seeing family, friends and former colleagues, I found myself back on the road but this time going back to Charlotte. Somehow I managed to once again drive straight through all the way back to Charlotte.

Feeling more motivated once I returned back to Charlotte, I was reminded of a quote from Lance Armstrong, “Never lose your beginner’s spirit.”

Time to get back to the job hunt…