Friday, March 30, 2012

Hit me with your best shot [reader survey]

A lot has changed in my life recently and a lot has changed on this blog (or maybe not enough). As I move forward and test out where this blog is going, I want to make sure I'm keeping it relevant to your life and interests as well. You can also email me with suggestions or feedback (please keep it constructive).

It should take less than five minutes to answer the five easy questions below. Thanks, friends!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Internships: The best and the worst

So we’ve talked about finding an internship, getting the most out of the internship you do land, and managing interns. To wrap up this series, I’ve asked some of my fellow career bloggers and Facebook buddies to sound off on their best and worst internship experiences (oh, and I’ll share my experience, too).

What was your favorite internship and why?

One of my favorite internships was the smallest, or so it seemed from the outside of its tiny building in a small city called Lafayette, LA, where I went to college. But the experience and opportunities were even bigger than those I found in my post-grad internship with a global PR firm. My advice to college students scouring for internships: consider small nonprofits like I did where you can wear many hats and have your hands in a variety of projects to truly build a portfolio for the job of your dreams – not just add “making coffee” and “shredding paper” to your resume.” ProfessionGal

Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History! I got to touch Caesar Chavez’s Jacket AND the Indian Jones costume. And other silly fun stuff (like the sex in the city laptop). Internships rock! – Sarah from Facebook (a college buddy of mine)

My favorite internship was with a city government’s public affairs department working on their year-long 150th anniversary celebration. When the in-house magazine editor left for another job, I stepped in and ran the magazine for a few months. Later on the same editor left her next job and, as a recent grad school grad, I again stepped in and took her place (this time as a regular employee). - Me

My favorite internship was by far helping my parents start their 3rd company. I learned more about business that summer than I did in college business courses. - Nicole, Ms. Career Girl

What was your biggest screw-up as an intern and what did you learn from it?

My biggest screw up as an intern was thinking everything would be fun, meaningful, appreciated and glamorous. It was not, and today as a business owner, it’s still not. – Nicole, Ms. Career Girl

While working as an Account Management Intern, the Senior Account Manager went on vacation for a few days and assigned me several projects while she was out, and told me to work with another member of the team. I worked on the projects, and made lots of progress with the other team member, but I didn’t CC her on any of the emails! When she returned, she had no idea about the status of the projects, what was left to be done, or who to follow up with at the client’s company. She told me that in the future, I should CC her on the communication, even though I had a temporary person to work with. This taught me to be mindful of communication, and to think about what information my boss would want to know when they’re out! - Ashley, Consciously Corporate

My biggest screw-up as an intern was when I was reprimanded for spending too much time on personal email at work (pre-Facebook-boom) and had to tell him that I just didn’t have enough to do. Once we were on the same page, I was given a lot more responsibility, and gained a lot more confidence. Since then, I’ve never let spare time at work go to waste…if I can’t find something productive to do, I ask if there’s anything else I can start on, research, or help with. -Me
My biggest screw up during an internship was thinking that I knew everything and trying to change how things were done. I quickly realized that no one liked being told what to do by the intern:) Instead, I decided to gather information throughout the entire internship and put into a paper and presentation format. I then gave it to my boss when I was done and he was amazed with all of the improvement strategies and ideas that I had. – Anna, Classy Career Girl

What were your favorite internships? Any screw-ups to share?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Office supply hack: hemming denim

Though the average American woman is 5'4" and rocks about a 29"-30" inseam, the average inseam of "regular" size denim averages 33"-34". This makes it a lot easier to wear heels with your jeans, but we all need at least a few pairs of pants to go with flats. A few years ago, a friend referred me to YouTube learn how to hem jeans yourself without losing the original hem (like this video). It's easy, especially if you have a sewing machine, but I wanted a more temporary solution.

Why do I prefer temporary? Pants inevitably shrink over years of washing and wearing and then the hem doesn't fall right anymore (or I'm getting taller, but that's not likely). I usually buy jeans for heel height and then they eventually get transitioned to flat length after a while. The one time I did get jeans professionally hemmed (for heels, mind you), they were too short to wear even with flats two years later. It's not the dryer...I run my jeans through cold wash and air dry them. Does this happen to anyone else? 

My temporary solution: staples

You follow basically the same concept—cuff the pants leg up half of what you want to hem—and use staples instead of sewing it down. This usually lasts me about six months before I remove the staples and re-staple. I don't recommend doing this on thinner or more delicate fabrics; denim holds up really well, though. Here is a messy step-by-step.

The further away you stand, the more seamless it looks (noone actually gets this close to my feet). If you want a more permanent fix, YouTube has some great video tutorials.

Do you DIY your hems?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 03.23.12

I picked up this Urban Octopus print over Thanksgiving in California, but was putting off finding a frame for it (odd size/custom usually = $$$). I haven't been a fan of using hangers to hang art in the past, but this works fine for our little rental. Covers our fuse box and greets you by the front door.

Another week down!

Some highlights (good and bad) of my week: 
  • Having an eczema reaction to my new sunglasses (yes, on my face...eww). Thank goodness for Sunglass Hut's 90-day return policy!
  • Homemade turkey cheeseburgers with mushrooms (on english muffins, because we didn't want to buy a whole package of buns for two burgers).
  • My first Women 2.0 post going up on both the Women 2.0 blog and Huffington Post. Slowly, but surely, I will take over the Internets (...or not).
Lots of good reads this week, too!
  • What do you do with extra office supplies and free time? I'm guessing not this. [via Shoplet blog]
  • Looking to turn your blogging hobby into a job? I offer some tips over on The Daily Muse to help you bridge the gap and get the job. [self-promotion]
This week's reads also included Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman (crass but hilarious...I love Sarah Silverman) and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (interesting insight for my personal experience with my parents...who I guess aren't really "Chinese parents" by her standards).

What good reads did you find this week?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Internships: Creating the best experience for your intern

Today we’re looking at the flip side of internships: managing and creating the best experience for your intern.

A few important things to remember when hiring an intern:
  • An internship should be a learning experience for the student. This position is about them as much as it is about your organization or company.
  • Legally, the intern cannot displace a regular employee. Don’t choose an intern over a regular hire just to save money.
At the point in my career, I have more experience as an intern than as a manager, so I try to apply the things I liked about my managers to my own managing methods.

Get to know your intern. What are their interests? Their goals? Their strengths? Their weaknesses? Depending on the needs of the department and the intern, they may want to use the internship to further their goals or to bulk up areas in which they are currently inexperienced. Gauge this at the beginning and periodically throughout the internship.

Let them in on the process. Especially at the intern stage, the best way to learn is by watching. Let them in on meetings, brainstorms, even editing sessions so they see the thought process that goes into the work. For many students, internships are the first time they’re seeing the inner workings of an office or the industry they’ve chosen, so these experiences are extremely valuable.

Make expectations clear. Although they may be your intern for 10-12 hours a week, the average student has a lot on their mind at all times. Being clear about what you need from them—and when—will keep the productivity flowing and help your intern learn to manage their time. Clarifying expectations will also make it easier to assess the effectiveness of the experience later on. If you’re unsure about what they can handle, talk through it with them and ask them to self-assess how long tasks may take.

Create real opportunities to contribute. One of the main reasons for the legal stipulation that interns cannot displace regular employees is so that students aren’t stuck getting coffee or answering phones for three months so you can avoid hiring a receptionist. Students have a lot to offer—even though the age difference between me and my interns is relatively small, they have different skills, experiences and generational biases that can encourage creativity among others and inspire real change.

Give them some freedom… We all hate micromanagers, and being one can stifle an intern’s experience just as it can a regular employee’s. If you have some smaller tasks or projects in their beginning stages, research and brainstorming are great experiences for interns to not only get a handle on the industry but also to show their creativity. An an editor, I returned interns’ first drafts with comments only (no redlines) to give them the chance to work through things on their own and really show their stuff.

…but be available. By far, the most frustrating internships I’ve had are when I was left completely alone to do my work with no guidance and little contact with my supervisor (even when sought). It’s amazing how much some companies will trust a 19-year-old with no experience. Let’s just say neither I nor the company got anything out of the experience. Whether it’s an open-door policy or a weekly check-in meeting, make sure your intern is getting the support they need.

Internships can be valuable for both sides of the relationship, so maximize the experience! What tips do you have for managing interns?

Stopped by for the first time? Catch up on parts one and two of the internship series.

Originally posted here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

In the moment

Some things I'm loving right now:

Gold tone jewelry 

Solid scents 

I don't think I'd let crayons near this thing 

For the living room? Looks a little too polished to me...would love to see something more map-y.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Executive Summary | Links for your weekend | 03.16.12

[Morning treat: S'mores Pop Tarts]

Among the features I liked about my old blog was the weekly link round-up. So here you go! Lots of great stuff this week!

  • It's the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts this week! Check out this list of famous Girl Scouts on Forbes.
On a fun note, I contributed a piece to The Daily Muse this week on what I learned from selling Girl Scout cookies. I also added an album of all my old business casual outfits to the Facebook page (Casual Friday and plain ol' casual albums to come later, too).

What good reads did you find on around the web this week?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Internships: Getting the most out of your three months

Last week, we explored choosing an internship that’s right for you. Now let’s skip forward to your first day of your three-month (or one-semester or however long) gig.

The most important thing to remember about any internship is that you’re there to learn. You might go in with an idea of what you’ll be learning, but keep an open mind. Some more tips to get the most out of your time:
  • Observe. The professional world is very different from the academic environment, so you’ll encounter a lot of unfamiliar situations. There is a lot you can learn just by watching those around you, not just how they do their jobs and the tasks you’re interested in, but also the general professional atmosphere of the company and industry. Pay close attention to how people communicate and work together to help you build your soft skills, too. Make a mental note of what you like or don’t like about the workplace (Is it collaborative or competitive? Supportive or toxic?). 
  • Ask questions. Remember, you’re there to learn, so if you have a question, speak up and ask! It could be about something technical or it could be about something more strategic. This is also a great way to build a mentor-mentee relationship with your supervisor and find out more about other perspectives. If you’re shy in a group, maybe schedule some time with your boss to ask questions in a one-on-one setting. 
  • Volunteer. One of the best ways to learn is to do, so get in there! Volunteer for every opportunity you possibly can, from working events to tagging along to meetings (even if it’s just to run the PowerPoint). This is by far the best way to get exposure to the wider industry that you’re interested in and try out new experiences. 
  • Act like a regular employee. Even if they’re not paying you, you should take your position seriously and treat it like a job. Be punctual, reliable, and professional. Get to know those in your department or desired industry (starting with your boss). When it’s in the budget, companies have gone to great lengths to find a full-time position to keep a great intern. Even if you don’t stay with that company, you want to foster a good working relationship for future recommendations and networking.
Long story short, you get what you give when it comes to internships. So put your best foot forward and take every opportunity with a smile on your face, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come, in the form of great recommendations, industry contacts, and even job offers.

Originally posted on Memoranda

Monday, March 12, 2012

Relationship and career: Not that incompatible

[Me and K. That french manicure now makes me cringe. Photo credit: Sargeant Photography]

A recent article in The Grindstone caught my eye this weekend, titled "I'm Afraid A Relationship Could Hurt My Career." This isn't the first article on the Internets that espouses the professional benefits of being single. And it's not the first article of its kind to ruffle my feathers (exhibits A, B, C).

Some of the arguments are certainly true: it's harder to pick up on a last-minute trip (although not impossible...I love doing that) and relocation is definitely more difficult (but also not impossible). Does this flexibility help in career advancement? Sure, especially if you're in a small market and want to get closer to HQ. But they also may not hurt you as much as you may never know whether the same or better promotion was available if you stayed, and telecommuting is becoming more and more common these days.

Here are two excerpts from this particular article that caught my eye. To be clear, I'm only speaking from my personal opinion here.
"Calls during the working day, arriving later or late, leaving earlier and missing work altogether are all ways a relationship can distract a person from work." - Shannon Mouton to the Grindstone
This woman's partner sounds sort of needy and inconsiderate. Boundaries are so important in every type of relationship. Even when K and I lived across the country from each other, we talked once a day, in the evening. Since being married, I've definitely pulled my share of late nights (even all-nighters) alongside fellow married coworkers. A relationship can only cause you to miss work if you let it.
"But these women interviewed above are not saying they were rejected by men because they wanted to focus on their careers but rather they were worried that a man could slowdown their career trajectories. They are in the driver’s seat and contrary to the data and way of thinking above, that can be appealing too."
This statement has its merits—you're definitely sharing the drivers seat in a marriage. There's a flip-side to that, though, that a supportive partner can help in your career. K has been my biggest career champion; sometimes he thinks I'm more capable than I really am, and that support pushes me to do better than I thought I could. On days I feel like giving up, he won't let me. I'm also a big believer in letting your career and life goals evolve; what I want for my life now is pretty different than what I wanted three years ago. I think there's a lot of pressure to aim for something and dedicate your life to it, but there are some of us that just don't work that way. My "career trajectory" changes on a weekly basis (or more like bounces among a few options), and that's OK.

One thing that these articles rarely touch on is the fact that there are quite a few successful women who are, in fact, married, and some of them have been for quite a while. Anne Mulcahy, who lead Xerox for eight years, climbed from sales to the top job while married with two children. Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, has been married to her graduate school sweetheart for nearly 30 years. Their relationships haven't held them back, and yours doesn't have to either (or maybe it's just the fortune of being named "Anne").

I get slightly defensive when I read these articles because of my own experience. I was engaged soon after college and married before I got my first full-time permanent job, so I've never known my career as a truly single girl. Has it hurt me? I don't think so. In fact, I think it's worked to my advantage in several ways. As a young professional with only internships under my belt, being married was a subtle sign that I wasn't afraid of commitment. Socially, being married put me on a level playing field with my coworkers, all of whom were 5+ years older than me; despite the age difference and the fact that I look younger than I am, I was able to connect with them straight out of the gate. I may not have the flexibility of someone without a significant other, but I have the drive and a lot of other great traits that helped me advance anyway.

Of course, there is a lot that I don't know. I don't know where my career would be had I not fallen in love at 20 and married at 23. I don't know where I would be relationship or career-wise if we hadn't decided to weather a cross-country relationship for two years so we could both pursue further education at the institutions we felt were the best fits. I only know my own experience as it played out, and it just hasn't been that bad. Don't get me wrong...I don't think that my path is the best path for everyone or even a recommended path, but it's what I chose and I'm happy with it.

We're living in a different era than our mothers; marriage is no longer a given or even a goal for many women, and that is really freakin' awesome. I don't think it's preferable or not preferable to be in a relationship. All I'm saying is...being in a relationship does not have to be a career disadvantage.

What has your experience been? And I'm curious...have you avoided relationships because you think they'll hurt your career? 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Things I know I know

Warning: brain dump ahead

You may have noticed a little blip on the blog this week. A sign of life, if you will.

That was me, and I'm dipping my toe back in here.

Before you run off and unsubscribe at once (how dare I intrude on your life without me), I just want to say this: it's going to be different.

What? How? Why? Over the past few weeks I've come to a few conclusions.

I am The New Professional.
It's a part of me. A part that I really want to share with you. I tried so hard to squeeze it into a new little spot, but let's face it: The New Professional is here, on this blog, or it's not alive at all. I'm not going to fight that anymore. And at this point in my life, my mind is dominated with professional transitions and exploration, so these topics are more relevant than ever to me.

I needed a break.
After over a year and a half of basically the same blog format and features, I needed to break free of what the New Professional had become. So I stepped away, cleared my head, and branched out. Running away may have been the easy way out, but I'll say it again: it was necessary, good and productive. It gave me a chance to assess things without any pressure or timeline and to refocus my life. I trained for and ran a half marathon and got reacquainted with reading and writing for pleasure. Good stuff.

It's not about what I wear.
This blog began with outfit posts, but right now, dressing up doesn't really factor into the equation. Two months from now? Who knows. I still love clothes and dressing up, and that will still be part of this blog. I still believe there's a lot of progress that needs to be made in encouraging and enabling women to dress appropriately for the workplace. I'm just not sure I'm the best model. Plus, I ended up with hundreds of outfit photos, but not a single usable shot for the Christmas card.

I've changed.
Early 2010, when this blog started taking shape, seems like ages ago, and I've taken quite a few turns in life since then. I'm not much of a shopper anymore; the whole idea of going out and buying things has lost its appeal. I'm on even more of a budget than I was before. I've taken more of an interest in my health and have been exploring my new city and where I fit in here. Change is good. I'm embracing it.

I have the right to change my mind. 
This is how I'm feeling now, but I am a woman of many moods and many ideas. Who knows what the future will hold? I'm still interested in the style and fashion side of things, especially on a budget, so they'll probably make their way in. Will I add new features? Probably. My plan is to throw a bunch of stuff on the wall and see what sticks.

So I'm taking a fresh look at the blog and starting from square one. What will this blog become next? I'm not quite sure yet, but I hope you stick around for the ride.

I'm back.*

*Not every day, not with outfit pics, but definitely with the professional stuff, style topics and a bit of life thrown in.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Internships: Experience now, pay later

There’s been a lot of hullabaloo lately about a former Harper’s Bazaar intern’s lawsuit against the company. A brief synopsis: this college grad was not receiving pay or academic credit and was expected to work 40-55 hours per week. It’s an all around messy situation.

Luckily, not all internships are that demanding or scandalous. Some even pay. In my 5.5 years of college and grad school, I logged in four paying internships (including one at Hearst competitor Time Inc.) and one unpaid. My duties ranged from creating PowerPoint presentations and processing freelancer invoices to performing full traffic impact analyses and stepping in as an interim managing editor for a quarterly magazine. The experiences were invaluable, and really bulked up my marketable skills.

What to look for in an internship:
  • Academic credit or pay. If you choose to forgo either, just keep in mind you are a volunteer with a fancy title (which isn’t to say it won’t be a good experience, but you’ll have much less leverage). There are some opportunities to get both, though they’re a bit harder to find.
  • Industry exposure. How involved is the company or organization within its industry? Will you have a chance to work with corporate partners or subcontractors, or attend events?
  • Hands-on experience. Find out what your tasks will be. If it’s all coffee-toting and phone-answering, you might have a nice line on your resume but few skills to show for it.
  • Mentorship. Who you will be reporting to is just as important as what you will be doing. Your direct supervisor directly impacts your experience, beyond just what tasks they give you. Always been observant…you’ll learn more than you can imagine just by watching.
  •  Potential job opportunities (bonus). Is the company in a position to potentially offer you a part- or full-time offer after graduation or at least connect you to companies that do? This isn’t a make or break type of requirement, but you should keep it in mind. Two of my internships led to job offers.
What if academic credit isn’t an option?
Say you’re a recent college grad stuck in this economy that needs experience (like the HB intern in question). You don’t qualify to receive academic credit, but are having a tough time finding paid internships in your field. Try looking at related industries that may offer paid internships to keep you close to your desired field. Freelancing and volunteering are also great options to expand your network and get your name out there.

It’s up to you whether you want to try out many different internships or stick to a few longer-term ones. Just don’t let internship horror stories discourage you.

Originally posted here. I'm doing a little experimentation with what goes on the new blog and what might be more appropriate heading back to this little blog. Thoughts?