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

Sing for the Moment

Like most people, I consider myself a fan of music. I’m one of those people that always has music playing be it in my car, apartment, or a friend’s house; I can’t go long without listening to something.

Every time I prepare myself in the morning before an interview, the routine is pretty much the same. Wake up and take a shower while listening to the radio. Put on a suit and jacket, and grab my portfolio. Then, I drive or take public transportation to said interview while listening to a playlist of songs I find inspiring.

Yes, it may be a bit cheesy but it seems to do the trick to get me into the right mindset of not only interviewing well but knowing I will do all I can to impress the interviewer. What’s my song of choice? Well, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem of course.

I know it’s a bit odd. I’m not B-Rabbit trying to rap my way into a better life but the principles of the song are pretty relatable for any job seeker. Knowing that “success is the only option and failure is not,” is a pretty powerful statement to get me pumped.

Another line in the song I love is the introduction: “If you had one shot. One moment. Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

This song became my go-to interview song not long after it came out. However, then it was my go-to song to help me get ready for an audition for a play or a casting call.

Remember that playlist of inspiring songs I mentioned? Well, here’s just a few more of the songs I find helpful to get me pumped before an interview. If you’re a fellow job seeker, I hope these can help you get ready to hit the ball out of the park for your next interview.

In no particular order:

“Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Barbra Streisand from “Funny Girl”

“Shadow Days” by John Mayer

“I Have Confidence” by Julie Andrews from “The Sound of Music”

“Lose Yourself” by Eminem

“The Voice Within” by Christina Aguilera

“Believer” by Christina Milian

“Hold On, I’m Coming” by Sam & Dave

“Sing for the Moment” by Aerosmith

“Soar” by Christina Aguilera

“Best of You” by The Foo Fighters

“Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer

“Dog Days Are Over” by Florence + the Machine

“Baby, Dream Your Dream” from “Sweet Charity”

“Back In Black” by AC/DC

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who

“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen

“Lemon Drop” by Pistol Annies

“Oh Sherrie” by Steve Perry

“The Show Goes On” by Lupe Fiasco

“Fly” by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna

“Moment 4 Life” by Nicki Minaj

“Power” by Kanye West

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”

Working On My Fitness…Sort Of

I have a confession to make; I hate working out.

Thus far in my life, I have been blessed with good genes and don’t really need to work out. However, at some point I won’t be in my 20’s and my metabolism will fail me so I figure I should get cracking.

The problem is staying motivated. I’ll go to the gym and push myself to work out for an hour here and there. Not the smartest thing to do in the world but it seems like that’s a good amount of time. I feel if I force myself to commit and go for an hour, I’ll get into it. I honestly don’t see the point to go for 30-minutes which is normally recommended.

I went to the gym the other day and felt great after working out. I felt like I could take on the world. Best of all, I feel like my ideas start flowing better when I’m working out. I feel that I should make a personal note of that for my next job.

They say every journey begins with a single step. I figure for my workout regime, my “steps” might be a little spread out but they’re all on the same path. I just need to keep moving and pick up the pace.

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…