Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Do what you love or love what you do?

As I've been mulling over direction in my career and my random list of life goals, one question that pops into my mind is whether it's better to do what you love or love what you do.

Do what you love advocates following your passion to finding a career.

Love what you do is finding peace and enjoyment in whatever your career may be.

They are not mutually exclusive, but for many people they are different.

Do what you love
Pros: Following your passion to a career obviously has it's benefits—you're doing something you love everyday! It's also motivating to see something close to you come together and succeed, and it's much easier to do that if you're dedicated to it as a career instead of as a side hobby.

Cons: Depending on what it is you like about your love-based career, passion can run out. Committing to something full time can take the mystery and appeal out of a career choice, and it's easy to get overwhelmed by the actual daily tasks involved.

Love what you do
Pros: You get enjoyment out of your career—maybe not every second of every day, but overall, you love what you get to do. You're making a living to support the hobbies you love, whether it be travel, sports or shopping. If your work is a separate entity from your hobbies or loves, there is often a clearer delineation between work life and time and personal life and time.

Cons: This kind of career choice can sometimes lead to feeling like you're working toward someone else's goals instead of your own. You also won't get as much time to devote to your passion if you're working 40 hours a week (plus lunch breaks and commute time).

Can you have both?
Sure. For some careers and passions it will be easier to find the intersection (for example, writing can be a viable career and hobby) and for others it will be difficult (if you're an accountant by day and a musician by night). Also, if you love what you do, it can often begin feeling like you're doing what you love—love can be fostered (in work and in relationships, but that's a different topic).

Personally, I've always thought "love what you do" was more reasonable, but in hindsight, I've actually done quite a bit of doing what I love. Love of magazines—from planning to proofing and everything in between—is what spurred me on to apply to journalism school in the first place (after getting my BA in an unrelated field), and though I veered from the conventional publishing rat race, all of my jobs have had a writing, editing and publishing bent. I guess I'm lucky that what I love is also a conventional career option, and it's been interesting this year to see it from a different angle as a freelancer.

If you're dead-set on doing what you love and haven't taken that step yet, I really like Leo Babauta's Do-What-You-Love-Guide (and his entire Zen Habits blog).

What do you think—would you rather do what you love or love what you do? Or have you found the happy intersection?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Choosing your communication method

Call, email, text, Skype? Far too often I look down at my phone to contact someone, only to get stuck with the question, "Should I call? Text? Email?" With so many options right at our fingertips, what format of communication is best used when? Your distinctions may differ slightly with industry norms, but here is a general overview of when to use which communication method and what kind of urgency is most appropriate.

When to use it: When you need something immediately (a task or an answer) or need to schedule something for the future. Also good for meetings or discussions when getting together in person is not feasible. I've noticed the phone has fallen by the wayside for many people who don't have assistants, but if the person you're trying to reach has an assistant you can call, that's often the most direct route to reaching a real person.

Urgency: Medium to high.

When to use it: When sending attachments, longer explanations, requests for information or to follow-up on a previous conversation or phone call. Email is also a nice format for long form personal communication, like keeping in touch with old friends. Check out additional email tips in this post (one of my first on the blog).

Urgency: Any, but make it clear in the message if you have a deadline or timeline to meet. If you need it within the hour, a phone call would be better—there are no guarantees that emails will be read right away.

Instant Message
When to use it: Some good uses for IMs include asking a clarifying question, prepping for a meeting or making plans (for a meeting, lunch, etc.). If you're asking a question that requires a lot of explanation, just walk over—IMs are best for one or two sentence answers.

Urgency: Low to medium. Since people may not be at their desk or available to chat at all times, you should expect that they'll answer on their own timetable.

Text Message
When to use it: To find someone in a crowd or at an event, or when meeting up outside of the office. Best used sparingly and when you only have mobile access.

Urgency: Medium (though it varies). In my head, I often think of text as the most immediate, second only to phone. Because of this, I have my phone set to vibrate on text, but never for email.

Social Media (Facebook or Twitter)
When to use it: Facebook and Twitter are most useful in a business setting to build personal rapport or to make new connections. When making new connections, use social media to bring the conversation off-line or to more traditional business communication by getting email or phone info.

Urgency: Low.

What is the communications urgency hierarchy in your industry? How do you decide what format to use?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Four questions to ask when you're lacking direction

 [flickr: pursuethepassion]

Like I mentioned last month in my freelance update, I've been thinking a lot about direction. Specifically, I've been focusing on a few questions (and some list-making) to help me along, and boy, has it helped! Here's what I've been mulling over.

What are you passionate about?
What gets your goat? This isn't quite the same as "what do you love?" (for example, one can be passionate about addressing poverty, but it'd be weird to call it "love"), but also any issues or industries that really get you fired up, angry or excited. It can be as exciting as rocket science or as seemingly mundane as accounting. I also wouldn't choose just one thing...write down a few.

What are you good at?
Let's be realistic: I'm not good at everything and neither are you. Heck, I'm not even good at the things I love sometimes (my dust-covered guitar can tell you that much). Write your strengths down. Now look at your passion list: how do your strengths fit into your passion industries? If you don't know enough about your passions, find out more. A lot of times it's just finding the right company or organization to rekindle your passion and set you in the right direction. Make a list of career options that combine your passion and skill.

Where do you want to be?
This could be a specific location, a specific job position, or a specific industry. It may help to break it down into bite-size time goals, for example, I want to be in x position within 5 years and at x point in my career 15 years from now. This could also include lifestyle choices, such as if you want the flexibility to stay at home part time with children or the freedom and budget to travel to your heart's desire. Compare this to your list of career options...which careers on this list will help you get there?

How do you get there?
Though you may realize where you currently are is not helping you get where you want to be, don't jump just yet. Where do you need to be to get there, and how do you get to that starting point? It could mean picking up a few new skills on your personal time, or just starting to look for that perfect job. Make a plan and a timeline for getting on track.

The issue I often deal with is narrowing down my passions. I'm easily excitable and enthusiastic. The question that helps me most is "Where do you want to be?" My list may be slightly long, but over the past few weeks I've prioritized it so that I can work toward the goal and still have some fallback options.

How did you find your career direction? Any other questions that should be considered?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Work Staples: The Shirtdress

I don't know about where you are, but it is not spring anymore in Miami (it's not full-on summer yet, either, so I'll enjoy the 88 degree/70% humidity weather while I can). Summer in the office can be a touchy balance, but it's no excuse to let your style wilt. I'll be focusing on some summer style staples over the next few weeks (months? We'll see how many I find) and offering some tips to make them appropriate for the office.

First up: the shirtdress.

I've harped on shirtdresses before, but I'd like to add some special summer notes:
  • Length. It is tempting to go a little higher in the hem for summer, but your skirts and dresses should be office-appropriate length year-round. For the most part, this means no more than an inch or two (max) above the knee. 
  • Fabric. Structured fabrics are always chic, but I do think you can get away with a nice silk for summer. Avoid anything too clingy or synthetic (breathable is best). Fabric makes a huge difference and can make a modest dress bearable in hot weather.
  • Sleeves. Depending on your office, going sleeveless may be a year-round thing or a never thing. When in doubt, I'd choose sleeves. To avoid having to take a jacket or cardi on and off all the time, try a cap sleeve or short sleeve. Three-quarter sleeve dresses in a light breathable fabric can be super-chic, too.
  • Double-sided tape. I'm a huge fan of wearing a slip under my dress at all times (or at least a half-slip) but I don't overheat easily. If you absolutely cannot bear to wear a full slip in the summer, make sure to double-stick tape between the buttons. If you choose to go slip-less completely (again, not recommended), I'd double-sided tape the whole way down.
  • Pattern and color. It's summer, I get it, you want to lighten up. Have some fun and bring in some lighter colors and basic patterns, but keep your loud prints and colors for the weekend.
  • Accessories. When wearing a more casual dress, accessories can take the look from one end of the spectrum to another. A structured bag and closed-toe shoes will ensure you don't look like you're on your way to a summer picnic.
Some ideas to get your creativity cranking...

Love a pop of color in the shoe and the light fun print of this dress.

A rosy pink is feminine without being too sweet, and flats are the ultimate practical shoe.

Does your work wardrobe change in the summer? What staples do you rely on in hot weather?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Loves | Links


Brilliance New York lipstick in Blaze. I splurged on this baby back in February, and I am so in love. It is bright and fun when first applied, and then fades to a pretty stain. Perfect for summer.

MWF Seeking BFF.  New city, 52 friend-dates. If I'd seen her blog while she was doing this project and if she lived in my city, I would totally have sent Rachel a fan email. As it stands, I did so anyway after reading the book (hey, she's coming to Miami next week...I have a shot, right?).

Cap-toed shoes. I'm considering DIYing one of my older pairs if I can't find a pair I like in my budget. Any ideas on how to paint leather or faux leather?


Wardrobe Oxygen's "What Not To Wear Your First Week of Work" is useful well beyond the first week, in my opinion.

Glass Heel's Molly Cain shares the 8 things you're doing wrong on LinkedIn over on Forbes.

Is the power suit for women dead? The Grindstone chronicles its decline. I love designer Rachel Roy's take on it best: "Power shouldn't come from the clothes, but from the person."

Summer heat can make business casual unbearable. The Daily Muse shares some great dos and don'ts for summer dressing in the office.

I'm loving this multifunctional armchair on Apartment Therapy for casual computer work, but I'm a desk girl myself. On a similar note, Flavorwire rounds up some amazing unconventional workspaces (my fave is the cardboard pop-up for looks, not utility).

Written communication in business is crucial (seriously...count the number of emails you write compared to phone calls you make these days). Forbes offers 10 great tips for better business writing.

A note from Hillary to Jason.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A review of the performance review

[Flickr: jennifertomaloff]

It's probably one of my least favorite times of the year because of the stress, but the annual review process at work can be a great opportunity to reassess your job and your work goals. Everyone's process differs, but most include a self-evaluation and some sort of review meeting with your manager.

Whether your reviews are done at the same time each year (all employees in July, for example) or on your particular start-date anniversary, it can be daunting to go through a whole year of work. Keep track of projects and results throughout the year to make it easier during this already-stressful time. Some folks like a notebook, but I keep running Word docs listing program (our nonprofit had many), project, specific tasks I performed, and results. I also list any trainings or conference I've been to, awards I've won, and trainings or other service type things I've done for the organization (that aren't in my job description). I print out a few copies of each year's list for my own records, my boss's records and HR's annual review files.

If you're not already in the practice of honestly evaluating yourself, this can be hard. This is not the time to be humble, but it's also not the time to blow yourself up without supporting evidence. Most evaluations include some kind of sliding scale (usually ranging 1-5 or weak to strong) and space for comments. I recommend adding comments in every category to support your rating. If you run out of space, make notes on another sheet of paper. It helps to grab your job description and use that as a measuring tool. If you find that you're doing a lot outside of your description, write that down, too; you can address that at your meeting.

For your face-to-face meeting, prepare your list of accomplishments (from the Prep stage above) and any revisions or changes you've seen to your job description. I also make a list of project ideas for the coming year and any issues I want to discuss with my supervisor (suggestions for better communication, better work processes, and any areas I could use more support in from her or the team). If there's anything that's been weighing on your chest, this is the time to get it out, although I would refrain from straight out venting—I subscribe to the school of every-complaint-should-come-with-a-helpful-suggestion.

The meeting will often include you and your supervisor going over the evaluation together. Pay attention, and if you have any questions as to why you received a rating you did, ask then and there. Your supervisor should be able to list reasons, and you may have a chance to present information to support your self-evaluation, or you may gain understanding and self-awareness of your work that you weren't able to see before.

The Money Talk
Annual reviews are also common times to evaluate your position and salary. Some companies have salary talks every year (formal or informal); others are on a more sporadic or inconsistent schedule. If it is something you want or something that is an option, do some research on what changes you would like seen made to your job description and what type of compensation you would like to negotiate (websites like are a good place to start for a target salary, but you can also consider asking for schedule flexibility, more vacation, etc.). Be clear and present tangible reasons from the employer's perspective for why you deserve the raise ("Because I've been here two years" and "Because I'd like to afford a nicer apartment" are not good reasons; "Because I've added value to this organization beyond my paygrade and would like to continue doing so" or "Because I'd like to take on more responsibility in an area that the organization needs help with" are good reasons). If your supervisor hints that the timing just isn't right or that you're just short of being ready, suggest a mid-term review in three or six months to reassess and reconsider.

You should come away from your review with goals for the next year (agreed on by you and your supervisor) and an understanding of where you can improve (yes, every one of us has something). If you go back to your set ways without adjusting, you'll just be back in the same place next year (slightly worse, since you should know better). Take any constructive criticism or suggestions and apply them; if there are areas of specific concern, don't be afraid to ask for extra training or referral to resources that might help.

Some additional resources in prepping for your review: Forbe's article "How to Ace Your Performance Review" and the Grindstone's From Review to Raise series.

How are performance reviews structured at your workplace? How do you prepare for them?

Friday, May 4, 2012

How To: Barely there manicure

Sometimes less is more, and I think that is especially true for nails. Clean, well-kept nails are appropriate for any situation, and definitely for the office. Some women have a standing nail appointment to keep their pointers on point, but I prefer a DIY approach.

Everyone has their own nail preferences of shape, length and color. As long as your nails are clean and tidy, any length can be appropriate for the office (as long as they don't get in the should be able to type just fine).

My nails are uneven and the cuticles are a little scraggly. I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles, so they're often rough and messy. They're also longer than I prefer (I usually cut the whites off completely).

Cut. I like to use a large nail cutter. I think they're designed for toenails, but they're much flatter in curve than the typical nail cutter, so I use them to get a flatter shape on top. Still, there are usually some weird angles sticking out here and there, which leads to the next step.

File. This is where the shaping really comes in. File in a sweeping motion from one consistent direction; don't saw at your nail! I usually do a few up-strokes along each side, too. Do this over the same paper/basket you cut your nails over, to catch the nail dust. It's ok if the edge is a little rough...we'll take care of that in the next step.

    Buff. I like this buffing block (and its sister, the buffing stick) because it's super easy—just follow the numbers! Side 1 cleans up your filing job and Sides 2-4 are for your nail bed. If you buff your nails often, go easy on Side 2: Smooth Nail, because you don't want to wear through your nail bed. Since I do this on an almost-weekly basis, I only swipe 2-3 times per nail, and in the same direction all times (sort of like filing).

    Condition. Rub the cuticle cream into your cuticles on all sides. If you have not touched your cuticles in a while, start with cuticle remover (follow directions on package; this stuff can be potent) and follow up with a cream for moisture.

    Push back. Using the flat end of the orange stick, push your cuticles back gently. I do not recommend trying to clip or trim your cuticles; it can lead to infection (and that is not healthy). After the cuticle is pushed back, I rub any excess cuticle cream in again for good measure.

    Clean the nail. If you plan to leave your nails bare, you can skip this step. But if you want to polish them next, use nail polish remover and a Q-tip to clean the cuticle cream off your nail bed (try not to get too much on your cuticles...they're still moisturizing!). Any residue on the nail (even hand soap) can weaken the bond to your polish, which results in peeling.

    From here, the world is your oyster. I stuck with basic nail hardener today. Much better than before, wouldn't you say? And not bad for just a few minutes of work. Because I keep my nails short, I cut them once a week (usually Sunday afternoons while watching whatever sports game is on), but your home manicure will last longer if you're not always picking at your nails like I am. In between manicures, if I'm just relaxing and reading a book or watching some TV, I'll rub in some cuticle cream (right on over any polish) to keep things smooth.

    Are you a home manicure girl or do you prefer the full service treatment? Share your nail tips and tools below!

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Book Review: All Work, No Pay

    Last month (just after the internship series on this blog), I was sent a complimentary copy of All Work, No Pay by Lauren Berger (The Intern Queen) to review. If you're a student, chances are you've either secured your summer internship or are in a panic looking for one. Either way, I would pick up a copy of All Work, No Pay to get you geared up for your new adventure or the internship search.

    Berger was an internship machine, completing 15 gigs before graduating from college, including several out-of-state internships. She is savvy and dynamic, and, frankly, it inspires me to be that way, too.

    Internships were instrumental in laying down the foundation for my career. I had my first internship the summer after my sophomore year of college (I spent the first summer loading up on summer school...23 units!), and had six internships over the course of college and grad school, two of which led to job offers. My internship search spreadsheets were a color-coded thing of wonder, and all that interview experience continues to pay off. Even though I was already an over-preparer in my internship days, I wish there had been a book like this one—I knew nothing about out-of-state internships, but would have loved to pursue one had I known it was an option.

    The book covers it all, from convincing you to find an internship (if you're not already convinced) to how to wrap up your internship. It progresses logically from the internship search to applying and interviewing for the job, appropriate dress and communication. There is also a great section dedicated to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the U.S. Department of Labor guidelines for unpaid internships, which is extremely useful if you're in that situation (know what you're getting yourself into).

    This book is great for the college student without a clue. It offers tangible tips and steps to follow, including helpful charts to fill in during the search process. I would have loved to see some more industries discussed (the book drew heavily from Berger's experience in entertainment and public relations) and it was very wordy, but the book is an easy read with a big pay-off.

    Disclosure: The Intern Queen and 10 Speed Press sent me this book free of charge for review, but the content of the review is all mine. No compensation was provided, and no agreement was made to guarantee a post or positive coverage.