Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On job longevity, job hopping and being the change

Back in July, when we were in California, we had a brief family reunion with cousins from all over the U.S. We've always been very spread out so reunions are few and far between.

A conversation with my younger cousin really got into my head. She just started a new job in a new field, and I asked her what her career plans were. She said she wanted to stick it out "for a while" and see, but she was enjoying it so far. I asked her what "for a while" meant—three years? Five? The answer: a year, maybe two.

Millennials are known for job hopping, expecting to stay in each job for less than three years. It's a generalization I cringe at and that should be taken with a grain of salt. As a Millennial, I know many others in my generation that have succeeded in and greatly enjoyed being part of a company for much longer than that. I was at my last job for nearly four years and contracted with them for a year after; I could easily have imagined myself staying for much longer if we hadn't moved. Yes, the days of staying with one company your whole career are gone, but must we jump to the other extreme?

Why do people move from job to job so much? Usually it's one of three reasons: the workplace is toxic/stagnant/unfulfilling, a better opportunity arises elsewhere or life takes them to a different place (philosophically or geographically).  The second and third are fine reasons to leave a job, but the first is the one I'm curious about.

In a bad job situation or workplace, you're probably not the only employee tempted to leave. But you have a choice: do you jump ship or do you lead toward change? Sure, it seems intimidating as young professionals to try and turn a moving ship, but it can also be an opportunity to make an impact and learn valuable professional skills.

When is it worth it to stick it out?
  • When you have influence. You may not be in a managerial or executive position, but is your opinion sought after and heard? This is an opportunity to make your mark.
  • When executives are headed in the right direction. Sometimes, what goes wrong is somewhere in the middle. Is there someone trying to lead that you could team up with? If you can stick out the transition with professionalism, there may be a better spot for you when things are on the up and up.
  • When you're actively searching for your next job. Having no income sucks, and in these economic times, it's hard to anticipate how long you may have to go without one if you quit your job without another one lined up. If you're applying and interviewing, a new job could be on the horizon. A little patience can stave off a lot of financial insecurity.
  • When you have a good mentor at work. If you're getting good guidance, you're in a better position than many. While I don't think this is the best reason to stay on its own, it could be a factor in your decision. Mentors can extend beyond job relationships, however, so a new job doesn't mean a severed mentorship.
How long do you stick it out? That's up to you. And there are definitely instances where running for the hills is the best option. (In fact, job hopping is supposedly seen as a plus in start-up culture.) A workplace full of folks trying to bring you down or management mired in legal troubles are big red flags that sticking around is a bad idea.

Have you ever stuck around in a job you weren't sure about? What factors did you consider when quitting a previous job?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Navigating a new dress code

I touched on some new job jitters, but I'm starting to get settled a few weeks into the gig. Though I'm in roughly the same industry as I was back in California, I have noticed some notable changes in the dress. The differences are due in part to company culture/environment and in part due to the different sartorial sensibilities of Miamians (vs. Sacramentans).

My observations so far:

Dresses – A popular choice around the office and a good go-to option. Hemlines are also a little more relaxed here.

Walking-friendly shoes – It's a big campus, and I learned quickly to wear comfortable shoes. Those blisters from week one are still fading.

Color – A Miami thing, perhaps? There was a lot more black and gray in Sacramento.

Suits – A rarity in our office, even for VPs. I wore one for the interview and again last week (for a photoshoot), and totally looked out of place.

Jeans – We have casual Fridays, but folks rarely wear jeans. I need to get some non-jean casual pants (do these black skinnies work?).

I've spent most of this first month erring on the conservative side, and it still remains to be seen if and how my old work style will change. Some of it is just personal preference. My wont for a crisp button-up isn't echoed much in my office, but reflects my personal style, so that's something I'll likely keep. 

How much do you change your work style from one office environment to another? What regional/industry differences have you noticed?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Why I liked being a freelancer

While freelancing wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, but it wasn't all bad, either. There were actually quite a few good things that came out of freelancing.

Finding community and building a network
Prior to moving to Miami, I did not know a single soul here. I had heard about a cousin on K's side of the family, but that was it. So I got to work. I began volunteering at Dress for Success Miami. K and I got to know the long-lost cousins and got plugged into a local church. Now, a year later, I can say that I have some very dear friends here in Miami—people I can text for a quick dinner or shopping trip. Friends (yay). I also got to make connections that weren't only personally fulfilling, but also professionally beneficial. Not only was I finding people who could toss some opportunities my way, but I was also building up my ability to be a resource for others.

Trying new things
There were a lot of firsts during my year as a freelancer, though not all work related. Sure, there was my first BNI meeting (which was great, but I already knew I wasn't staying freelance and it is pricy). My first business proposal. My first homemade gnocchi. My first diaper change. My first speed-friending session and first speed-friending friend. My first nonprofit board experience. My first book proposal (still in progress). And my second in-person glance at a Kardashian.

Refocusing my career
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, freelancing gave me a much better picture of what I want to be doing in life. I learned (a bit late in the game) that I hate grantwriting. It makes me tear my hair out. And just because I'm good at it and it pays well doesn't mean it's what I should be doing. My freelancing experience also reminded me of how much I loved working for a nonprofit that aims to serve others and bring about greater good. While much of my freelance work was still with nonprofits, it also required a lot of time spent concentrating on myself and my business, which to me was a distraction.

Free time
Let's face it. The best part about freelancing was the free time I had when I (1) wasn't drumming up business, which I hated doing, and (2) wasn't working, which I didn't do much of because I wasn't doing (1). This was free time to make our place a little more homey, try out some new projects, hang out with new friends and really just hang out. I was a stay-at-home mom with no kids (and a husband who does his own laundry and ironing—score). After several whirlwind years of full-time work, freelancing on the side, blogging, serving in church, being a wife, flying to see family and friends frequently and other commitments, I was beat. So tired. The past year was pretty refreshing, but I'm ready to get back in the game.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On seasonal dressing (or not)

[My seasons are all mixed up. February | August]

Seasonal dressing  usually comes more out of necessity than of fashionability. But some things are purely aesthetic, and personal tastes and temperatures can vastly affect what is wearable at certain times of the year. Add to that useless fashion "rules" based on time or month, and really, who can keep it all straight.

Some common conventions or rules based on season or time, many of which are outdated now. These are some I've heard of/observed, not conventions that I follow or advocate.
  • No white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
  • No sequins in day time.
  • Espadrilles for summer only.
  • Boots are for fall and winter only.
  • Lace is for evening (or summer weekends).
  • Florals are for spring and summer.
  • Wooly fabrics and tweeds are for fall and winter only.
With temperature control nearly everywhere (and not in a bad way—watching baseball in an air-conditioned dome is awesome), seasonal dressing doesn't mean the same thing it used to. My arguments against seasonal dressing:

Changing times
Lace and sequins are everywhere nowadays, from pencil skirts to otherwise demure flats and pumps. Though it may be temporary, the rules governing those items just aren't the same right now. It's just the nature of the beast.

Cultural norms
In Miami, white is acceptable year-round (though it might be because our winters are still warmer than summers in San Francisco). As are open-toed shoes and slightly shorter skirts. Many style conventions evolve or become moot due to a specific culture or climate in an area.

Indoor climate
Sure, it may be extreme outside, but indoor temperatures rarely vary from season to season. For those of us that spend the majority of our time in temperature controlled buildings, there is much less outdoor time to account for.

Personal preference
Everyone takes to climate differently. Some are comfortable in t-shirts at 60 degrees, others not until the temp hits 85. Some people can't bear to have their toes constricted in the summer, while others wear sneakers or boots year-round.

Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this because I am always cold. Even in the summer (especially when there's a/c). Even in Miami. I spend as many summer days in pants and sweaters as I do in shorts and a tee and am just as likely to wear boots as flip flops with my shorts. I change out of my work clothes in the evening into sweat pants and a sweat shirt (yes, in the summer). Does that make me stand out? Sure. But at least I'm comfortable, and that's more important to me.

What does seasonal dressing mean and look like to you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Denim, art and other questions about starting a new job

A new job is a welcome escape from the uncertainties of the job market, but securing a job opens up another realm of uncertainties, big and small. A sampling from my mind this past week:
  • Which piece of art do you bring to decorate your space? 
  • Are jeans allowed on Casual Friday? Is there Casual Friday?
  • How long do you wait to update your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles?
  • Bring lunch or buy lunch? What's the overarching office culture?
  • Where is the closest Starbucks?
  • Will folks enjoy or bemoan my sense of humor?  
  • Headphones or ambient music? Earbuds or over-ear?
And most importantly...
  • When is it safe to bring out the brass knuckle mug?
[photo credit: former coworker B]

What questions burn when you start a new job? And really...what about the mug?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Why I went back to the office

As you may have seen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I started a full-time job last week. I haven't really given an update on my freelance adventure since April, but soon after that update—well, to be honest, even before that post—it was evident that I wasn't happy being a freelancer. I was happy with the flexible schedule and with the ability to choose my own projects, but I didn't feel like I was furthering my career goals. I'd always been drawn to the office environment, imagining myself in a bustling workplace, getting stuff done. In sixth grade, I dressed up as a businesswoman for Halloween (mom's suit, dad's briefcase).

Even after I'd made my decision, I wanted to see the one-year of freelancing through. The plan was to begin looking for a job when the year was up in August, but I saw a very enticing job posting in May, and I knew I'd regret it forever if I didn't apply. So I went for it. I didn't get the job I applied for, but we started a really interesting conversation that led to a new position, which I started last week.

There were a lot of factors that influenced my decision to go back to 9-to-5 work, but here are a few of the big ones.

Coworkers with common goals
Sure, I've bemoaned all types of annoying coworkers before, but I missed my downers and oddballs. Especially in my communications work, my piece of the project was usually just that—a piece. It was passed to me with clear directions (though sometimes open-ended), and it was handed back when complete, never to be seen by me again. I was part of the work, but not part of the team. And for me, that made it a little less fun. I yearned for true collaboration, for differing opinions, for seeing things through from conception through the end.

After-work hours
One of my favorite things about graduating from school and hitting the working world was getting off of work and having the rest of the evening to myself. No homework. No required reading. Being a freelancer put a damper on my me-time, or at least having regular hours. Though I'm on the East Coast, my "work hours" were still more aligned to West Coast time just because that's where my clients were. This did give me some before-work time to myself, but also meant I was sometimes doing phone meetings after dinner.

Stability and once-a-year taxes
Though I've cried and moaned every April as I've tackled taxes, I never knew how easy I had it as a regular employee. If your tax prep involves waiting for your W-2s and other statements to come each January, consider yourself lucky. A regular paycheck doesn't hurt, either, especially as we save for a house and I continue driving my 11-year-old car into the ground (I'd like to be able to pay cash when it comes time to replace it, and that kind of savings takes pre-planning).

I have plenty more to share about my decision and all the other considerations that led up to it, but I'll spare you today and spread it out over the next few weeks. As with before, I won't be discussing the details of my day job here. On the plus side, you'll be getting more outfit updates on the Facebook page (if you're into that kind of thing).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Loves | Links


I bought this Divoga faux leather envelope for a job interview this summer and now use it daily at work. It holds more than a padfolio and looks like a chic clutch. It's not online, but I found it at OfficeMax for less than $20. (Check out Runway DIY's fun twist on the same piece here.)

Green Day is back with a trifecta: Uno, Dos and Trey. Their single "Oh Love" is a current favorite (stream it on their site and try not to love it), and I can't wait until September 25 for Uno. Fun fact: American Idiot came out on my 21st birthday and my party was "green day" themed...I wore green, we played football at the park, and topped off the night with appletinis (well, part of an appletini for me).


Office politics are a landmine, but Forbes offers some tips on how to navigate them successfully

Small talk can be painful. Here are five questions from Fast Company that will get you more than a one-word answer and help break the ice. (Note: The questions are in the sidebar below the main photo, not in the main article text. I almost missed them.)

Kyle Wiens makes a great case for good grammar being a job requirement over on Lifehacker. I'm not sure about his zero tolerance rule, but it is important.

Classy Career Girl's Anna shares her job search formula and how she ended up sending 25 applications and getting 5 interviews and 1 job offer.

I love Selena Soo's positive take on turning 30. I've always imagined 30 would be my favorite birthday (and I'm starting to plan more than a year in advance to make sure it is), and that it would be the start of a great period of life. [via Forbes]

The Grindstone offers some easy to apply tips for dressing for work if you're busty.

What are you loving and linking to these days?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

One year ago today...

One year ago today, this is what I set my foot into for the first time: our apartment in Miami. We had just come off a 17-day road trip across the country and were finally setting eyes on the place we leased sight unseen, after hunting down banks and FedEx offices in Reno, Nevada. It would be 29 days before any of our furniture arrived, and in that first month without most of our belongings we celebrated our four-year anniversary, K started his new job, and I settled into my one-year freelance experiment.

In our first year we finally bought some real furniture (couches and a dresser to replace hand-me-down futons and rolling plastic drawers), found a group of insta-friends (magnetic happy feelings and all), and scouted out all the best cheap places to park on Miami Beach. Though K has yet to adjust to Miami summers, I am happy as a clam in this climate; in fact, I'm convinced I was made to live in Miami, and am happy to be rid of winter.

Miami feels comfortable. California is comfortable, too, but Miami is no longer a wild card. For the first time in my adult life, a move has not come with an expiration date (graduation). For all I know, this is where we'll grow old and raise children, and though that realization is totally foreign to me, it's not an unpleasant thought.

So here's to Miami, and any place you've adopted as your home. I'm ready to shed my newbie status and embrace being a local.