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.

 

What to Look for in an Internship

It’s that time of year again! If you’re in college or a recent grad, you may be considering an internship. If you haven’t, then you really should.

At my college, an internship was all but required. One internship.

I found myself outside of that norm. By the time I crossed the stage with my diploma, I completed six internships. Yes, six internships.

Some of those overlapped where I was doing two part-time internships at one time but all the while I completed full-time coursework and graduated in four years.

I’m often asked as to why I felt it was necessary to go so far above and beyond. The reason is pretty simple; I wanted to try out as many different things as possible before graduating.

When I first applied to my college, I applied as a screenwriting major (because I wanted to be the next Tina Fey). After being accepted and spending the summer thinking about it, I wondered if that was the best decision for me. Over that summer, I selected coursework that was nothing but public relations, marketing, advertising, etc. thinking promoting or selling entertainment could one day be the right area for me.

I was extremely fortunate that after about a month into my Introduction to Public Relations class that we were asked to interview someone in PR to get an idea of what the real world was like. One thing led to another and after an unexpected shadow day, I found myself with my first internship locked in only two months into my college career.

What followed was the first of my six internships. It was a road I put myself on and never turned back.

I completed internships at three boutique agencies (one in motorsports), one mid-size agency, a television production company and a racetrack (which I would later return to in a full-time role).

Even before graduating I became a big advocate for internships and even held a position on my college’s PRSSA chapter’s board to assist other students in finding internships.

If you’re looking for an internship, here is my advice on some things to look for:

  1. Intern somewhere you would want to work at. This is key. Is there an agency or business you’d love to work for some day? This is your chance to show them what you got. Research to see if your dream internship is out there. If it is, go for it! If not, try and find a company that you could intern at that could be beneficial if another internship opened up at your dream company, or would allow you to gain the necessary experience to apply for your first job after college at that dream company.
  2. A place where you can achieve a variety of experience. Don’t allow yourself to just be a coffee fetcher. When you first apply and get that interview, let the hiring manager know you’re ready to learn and want to get as much out of the experience as possible. By being exposed to a variety of tasks and areas of the business, you can really learn a lot.
  3. Look for a mentor. When you apply, look at the size of the company and culture. Do they seem to advance the careers of their own employees? Do they have a mentorship program? Even if not, when you get to the internship process, discuss with the hiring manager that you are looking for a professional mentor. You might even find your first volunteer! A mentor can be a great resource to have following an internship. He or she can be your go-to for professional advice and who knows – maybe you’ll work together again in some capacity. I have had the luck to have found such a mentor I still lean on occasionally for advice to this day.
  4. Focus on portfolio pieces. Ask what kind of work you would be doing when you make it to the interview. Yes, this is an obvious question but really approach the question and answer following thinking what can you get out of the internship beyond college credit and a few bucks. Strong work examples can be critical for future interviews (internships and jobs) to really set you apart from your competition.
  5. Find somewhere you will enjoy spending your time for most likely little pay. Let’s be honest. There’s no “I Love Lucy” get famous/rich quick schemes that can really pan out with most internships. You will have days that are unbelievably rewarding that make you feel you found the right path. You’ll have days that are just ok. Then, you’ll have days that just really make you question everything and are just plain difficult. Keep all of that in mind. Don’t intern somewhere you want to brag to your friends and family about. Don’t intern somewhere you think will make you look amazing on a resume but actually hate. You are putting in YOUR time for that internship so make sure it is somewhere YOU want to spend your time. College goes by way too quickly (you’ll believe me later) so don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Do something you enjoy. Find a place to intern that makes you want to wake up in the morning and get to work. After all, part of interning to testing the waters in your career so get ready to jump right in – head first.

Wherever the road to your internship search takes you, keep these five items in mind.

Happy searching!

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.

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.

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.