During the last week, I’ve been unable to come up with any decent writing topics. My first thought was writer’s block, but I’ve realized it’s more than that. It is difficult for me to write about being successful or having a disagreement with a co-worker or finding the perfect career when I know that it is a privilege to have those problems. It is a privilege to be able to do work you love, to have access to the education and cultural capital that is so often needed for one to be successful. It is a privilege to worry about whether your interview outfit is right when so many people worry where their next meal is coming from. It is an absolute privilege to have time to think about our career paths when so many people are spending time taking care of children, working two jobs, dealing with violence…It is all such an absolute privilege.
The reason I became interested in career counseling and development is because I spent a lot of time observing, and then living, what it is like to have so few choices. I was raised by a single mother for most of my childhood, living hand to mouth with food stamps and Angel Trees in government housing projects. Neither my mother nor my stepfather graduated from high school and I saw them come home from work exhausted each day from manual labor jobs.
I spent my late teens and early twenties in a variety of positions that often garner little respect–waitressing, telemarketing, working as a gas station attendant, and being a customer service representative. I didn’t know anyone who attended college and the only professionals I met were my doctors and dentists (whenever I was able to have health insurance). When I was 22, I met a friend, Emily, who was in college and encouraged me to get a degree. From there, I became dedicated to making my life what I wanted it to be and helping others do the same.
I didn’t get an education to become a career counselor–for most of my undergrad years, I didn’t even know career counseling existed. I never forgot, however, what it was like to be at the whim of a horrible boss, to be yelled at by customers, to go without health or dental insurance for years a time. I will never, ever forget what it is like to go to a job I hate because the bills need to be paid.
So many of the things I write about now come from a place of privilege–not necessarily privilege I was born with, but privilege all the same. Though I came from a low income background and am not heterosexual, I have many forms of privilege: I am white, I am cisgender, I am now educated, I do not have any physical disabilities, and honestly, I read as straight in most situations. I can’t say how much more difficult it would’ve been to get where I am now had I been of color, transgender, a single mother, or born into a country where I wasn’t allowed to pursue an education.
Everyone is on a different journey and have varying levels of privilege and disprivilege. I don’t write about dressing appropriately for interviews, negotiating salaries, or following your professional passions because I believe it is easy for everyone to have those things. I know that it’s not. But I believe everyone deserves them. Everyone deserves to make a living wage, to wake up and not dread going to work, to have time to spend with their families and friends without working two or three jobs. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace.
Like the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the events in Ferguson, MO. When lives and liberties are literally on the line, it’s hard to give a damn about job satisfaction. I believe it’s important, but I know there are so many other issues in the world. So my career advice for today? Recognize your privilege, if you have it. Help others if you are able–I don’t know where I’d be without Emily’s help. Seek help where you can–and that includes me. I am willing to help anyone because I know what it’s like to need help and not even know where the resources are. If you are working in a job that allows you to spend time with your family and friends, if you are content with your work, if you are respected in your workplace–please, please be grateful. Not everyone has those things.
We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.
When I think about some of the outfits I wore to my earliest job interviews, I cringe a little on the inside. For example, the get up I wore for my first job interview–a baby pink turtleneck, sparkly flared jeans with pink on the sides and pink sneakers–oy! I was in high school at the time and didn’t start college until I was 22, so there were years where I had no real professional mentors or a university career center to seek out.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to discuss topics like dressing appropriately for job interviews with students, but knowledge can only take one so far. Dressing professionally is not always feasible for everyone–specifically people who don’t have extra income, single parents, those on a fixed income, or students who don’t have their families’ financial support for one reason or another.
For example, my partner AJ works with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) whose families have sometimes withdrawn financial (not to mention emotional) support after learning of their child’s sexuality. These are college students who are working to educate themselves and find the careers they want who face significant challenges when it comes to dressing professionally for a job or internship interview.
Additionally, there are people (often women) who are leaving violent or unhappy relationships and getting back into the job world. Starting over is difficult no matter what, but not having the tools to do so–proper work clothing, interview skills, etc., makes it feel near impossible.
As someone who didn’t have a lot of money growing up who has had to learn important skills–like how to dress professionally, business etiquette, etc., as an adult, I ask you to consider giving back. Do you have clothes that you no longer wear just sitting in your closet? Consider donating them. Do you have the time to take on a student once every few months who could shadow you at work? Consider reaching out to your local college’s career center about offering job shadowing (or even internship!) opportunities. Are you a great presenter who knows what it takes to succeed in a specific career field? Give presentations to local women’s shelters or university career centers.
Giving back doesn’t always mean donating money to a specific cause or volunteering for hours each week. For students, new professionals, and people with low incomes, an outfit could change their outlook on life in some small way.
If you don’t know where to donate time or clothing, here are a few resources:
1. Contact your local colleges and universities’ LGBTQ and women’s centers about holding a clothing drive or simply donating some of your own pieces.
2. Contact local women’s shelters and Dress for Success centers.
3. Contact homeless shelters–in many cities there are shelters specifically for homeless men where your old suits/business casual clothes would be greatly appreciated.
4. Ask your young colleagues and interns if they’d be interested in some of your clothing.
5. Contact local university career centers and workforce readiness programs to find out if you could talk with students about your experiences or invite them to your workplace to job shadow.
6. Contact local non-profits such as food banks and soup kitchens to see how you can help.
7. Ask churches, synagogues and other houses of worship in your area if there’s anyway you can help their members professionally.
No matter who you are, or what fields you’ve worked in, you have the ability to help someone else. Meet with a student interested in your career, donate some clothes to women getting back on their feet, or come up with your own ideas of how to help. Most of us have had some help along the way–an interested teacher or professor, a good boss or mentor, or a cool aunt who bought us our first interview outfit. Perhaps its time to pay it forward.
In ten days I turn 31.
And this is what I’ve learned after 30 years and 50 weeks of being with myself 24/7: I’m good at doing, not so good at being. When I resolve to do something or change a thing, I make it happen. In high school, I decided that I wanted to lose weight. Within two years, I went from a size 24 to a size 10. When I was 22, I decided that I wanted a college degree; I graduated with my bachelor’s at 26 and my Masters at 28. Getting a job, finding a home, adopting a puppy: I make [stuff] happen.
What I’ve learned, though, is that life isn’t all about setting goals and accomplishing them. Losing weight, for example, isn’t the beginning and end of good health—nor is it the answer to struggles with body image. Buying a house isn’t the same as making a home. Planning a wedding isn’t the same as creating a marriage.
So here I am, almost 31. I have a house I really like, a fiance I’m pretty darn fond of, an adorable puppy, and a career I chose in a city I love. (Cue the closing credits, right?) My brain has been humming for weeks: What’s next, what’s next, what’s next???
Here’s what is next: NOTHING. Nothing goal oriented, anyway. Instead, I’m going to take my time and make my house the home I want it to be. I’m going to enjoy every afternoon with my puppy and watch her get bigger (and bigger…and bigger…she is a Great Dane, after all). I’m excited about having a wedding, but I’m much more excited about spending the day with my loved ones and continuing to create a life and a family with my fiancé. I’m focused on being a professional—not on how to become one. I’ve signed up for a yoga class and I want to take horseback riding lessons and walk my dog—in other words, I want to enjoy my body for its own sake with no focus on some numbers on a scale.
Maybe this will all work beautifully—a semi orchestrated balancing act of creating a happy life. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll be on to the nextnextnext thing before I know it. Or maybe I’ll sit back and relax into what is looking like my best decade yet.
When choosing a career, most people consider these things: What they’re passionate about, how much money they’ll make, and what they’re good at. These are great starting points, but they are not the end of the career exploration journey. The following questions will help you determine not only what you’re good at or will get paid for, but what kind of LIFE you want.
Questions to Consider When Choosing a Career:
- Where do you want to live?
- Close to family? In a rural setting? Somewhere international? Determining where you want to work geographically will help you determine what kind of work you want to do.
- What kind of people do you want to work with?
- Laid back? Introverted? Type A? People who joke around? People who take their work very, very seriously?
- What kind of supervisor do you want?
- Do you want a supervisor who doesn’t mind when you take a couple of hours for doctors’ appointments or your kid’s recital? Do you want a supervisor who is quick to praise? Do you want a supervisor who gives you honest feedback? A director who is very clear about expectations?
- What do the hiring trends for the careers you’re considering look like?
- Considering a PhD in 1840s British literature? Great. Will you have a job once you get that doctorate? Maybe not…
- Know how fast the jobs you’re considering are growing and what the education requirements will be in the future.
- People, things, or ideas?
- Meaning, do you want to help people? Come up with new ways to do things? Work with your hands or use machinery?
- What DO you want to do all day?
- Do you want to be behind a desk? Working outdoors? Networking with lots of people? Do you want a job that ends a 5pm?
- What do you really freaking like to do?
- Confession: I really like to sing. I have fun singing with my friends or just in the car by myself. Problem is, I’m not so great at it AND I don’t have the passion to devote to a singing career. We often think that, just because we like to do something, or just because we do something well, means that we should turn it into a career. Hobbies are great—they provide a wonderful break from your 9-5 job. So maybe I’ll never be a famous rock star—I’ll always have my car radio…
- What are you really freaking good at?
- Like I said, I like to sing. Sadly, I’m pretty certain no one will ever pay me for it. Why? Because I’m no Christina Aguilera. You can really love anything: soccer, psychiatry, mechanical engineering, but if you don’t have the talent for it, you should probably consider another career path.
- Speaking in public? Taking care of children? Conducting chemistry experiments? Racing motocross bikes?
- What kind of life do you want during the workday?
- Do you want to be outside most of the day? Are you perfectly happy sitting in front of a computer all morning? Do you want to attend daily meetings? Do physical work? Have close friendships with your colleagues? Never come out of your cubicle?
- What kind of life do you want, period?
- Do you want a big house, expensive vacations, and financial security? It’ll probably require working 80-90 hours a week as an investment banker or a surgical intern? If you don’t mind, then you may have found a great career path. Do you want 4 kids and plenty of time to take them to Little Gym? Perhaps you should find a company or career that provides more work/life balance. Are you a night owl who’d prefer to work 3rd shift? It’s important to understand yourself, your needs, and the needs of those you love when considering a new job or a career path.
If you follow my search for the perfect concealer (y’know, one that actually conceals something…) then you know that I do a lot of online research to find the perfect makeup. I check out blogs, customer reviews, and make bi-monthly trips to Sephora or Ulta so that I can test it all out firsthand. Finding great makeup with a not so great budget can be a challenge, but it’s doable. The following are my tips for a fabulous look that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Know what your investment pieces should be.
My most important makeup products are brushes and primer. (Lots of people add lipstick to the “investment pieces” list, but I rarely ever wear it, so it’s useless for me to allocate that much of my budget to it)
My favorite makeup brushes are Bare Minerals. My best friend Eric bought me a Bare Minerals gift set for my 25th birthday and I still use the brushes every day (I’m 31 now!) Bare Minerals brushes give you lots of coverage and blend everything together really well. I especially love the eye brushes and foundation brushes. (Note: they need to be cleaned every week to keep your face from getting too many yucky germs or a color you don’t want—there are high end makeup brush cleaners, but I use the blue Dial antibacterial soap)
For primer, I haven’t found anything better than Smashbox Photo Finish primer (I use the clear one). My friend Cara gave me a bottle of this as a graduation present and I’ve loved it ever since—in fact, those graduation pictures remain some of my favorites and that’s partially due to the Smashbox “glow” I had going on!
I’ve tried other primers in the past—Urban Decay, Benefit’s Porefessional, the primers by Loreal, Revlon, and Maybelline, but Smashbox remains my favorite. It has a thick, almost oily consistency, but can be used on acne prone or sensitive skin and doesn’t look oily once your other makeup is applied. It also doesn’t settle into fine lines or wrinkles.
Know where you can save money.
A lot of beauty bloggers place high value on expensive foundations, but I don’t think that’s necessary unless you have issues like acne, rosacea or generally sensitive skin. I’ve tried many foundations, but always come back to Loreal’s True Match, which is about $9 at Wal Mart or Target.
If your budget doesn’t allow for more expensive brushes, ELF brushes are super cheap (usually $1-2 dollars per brush) and work really well. I use the ELF smudge brush for eye makeup and a slightly larger one to fill in my brows.
Speaking of Loreal, I usually use one of their eye makeup quads for everyday makeup. Currently, I love “I’m worth it!” a collection of neutrals with a slight shimmer. It isn’t too glittery, the color is pigmented enough to stay on all day but relatively easy to remove at night, and it’s just a great set of neutrals. For special occasions or if I have a work presentation, I bring out the big guns: Urban Decay’s Naked Palette.
These days, there are a lot of primers and creams on the market that are supposed to be used in conjunction with all the other makeup we throw on—eye shadow primers, under eye primers, CC creams, BB creams, hydrating primers, color correcting primers, highlighters, sculpting creams, lip primers, eye lash primers…the list really does go on and on. I’ve tried a few of these (okay, more than a few) but I’ve never noticed enough of a difference to justify spending a small fortune on them. Chapstik primes my lips just fine, thankyouverymuch.
Blush/lipstick. Honestly, I often use my lipstick as a blush. I have a few blushes that work okay—ELF’s blush is one of them—but I think using a lipstick as a blush creates a more natural look (and saves money!)
When it comes to makeup, everyone is different. I don’t pay a ton of money for moisturizers (I just use Olay) but I do buy Neutrogena 100 SPF sunscreen—I’m hoping that’ll save me a fortune in dermatologist fees later! Some people have incredibly thick, dark eyelashes (lucky!) and buy the cheapest mascara available. Some people have no use for concealer. It’s all about figuring out where you want to invest your makeup money—there is absolutely no need to spend a fortune on a bunch of cosmetics, primers, and brushes you don’t need. Take note of your beauty routine, think about what you want to emphasize or de-emphasize, and buy accordingly.
What’s YOUR investment make up product? Which products do you think are totally overrated? Let me know!