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What Kind of Life Do YOU Want?

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.

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Questions to Consider When Choosing a Career:

  1. Where do you want to live?
    1. 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.
  2. What kind of people do you want to work with?
    1. Laid back? Introverted? Type A? People who joke around? People who take their work very, very seriously?
  3. What kind of supervisor do you want?
    1. 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?
  4. What do the hiring trends for the careers you’re considering look like?
    1. Considering a PhD in 1840s British literature? Great. Will you have a job once you get that doctorate? Maybe not…
    2. Know how fast the jobs you’re considering are growing and what the education requirements will be in the future.
  5. People, things, or ideas?
    1. Meaning, do you want to help people? Come up with new ways to do things? Work with your hands or use machinery?
  6. What DO you want to do all day?
    1. Do you want to be behind a desk? Working outdoors? Networking with lots of people? Do you want a job that ends a 5pm?
  7. What do you really freaking like to do?
    1. 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…
  8. What are you really freaking good at?
    1. 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.
    2. Speaking in public? Taking care of children? Conducting chemistry experiments? Racing motocross bikes?
  9. What kind of life do you want during the workday?
    1. 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?
  10. What kind of life do you want, period?
    1. 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.

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How Social Media Can Advance Your Career

Job seekers are often told to safeguard their social media accounts to insure that they aren’t viewed during the job search.  While this can be wise advice, there is another side to the story:

Using social media to ADVANCE your job search (and your career).

With the majority of professionals (and people in general) on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. these days, being “unsearchable” via social media may be more trouble than it is worth.  When I can’t find someone through social media, I sometimes wonder why–are they making all accounts super private because of something inappropriate? What’s going on?

While it is a great idea to “clean up” your Facebook or Twitter accounts so that potential employers don’t get a negative impression, you can also use social media to your advantage.  I use my Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts to post (publicly–so that “everyone” can see) any major accomplishments, such as receiving a promotion or presenting at a conference.  I also post information about events that my office organizes or articles relevant to my field.

I work in a field that offers great work/life balance but also a good integration of professional and personal life.  Many of my colleagues are Facebook “friends” so I post appropriate personal information as well, like recently buying a home, becoming engaged last year, and birthdays of my nephews and nieces.

I’ve had many Proactive Professional readers find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  I’ve also received emails from professionals who Googled me and found my website and Facebook page.  When this occurs, I am grateful that my public Facebook reflects positive things in my life, an interest in my field, and the work I’m doing in career counseling.

Consider going beyond protecting your Facebook from colleagues, supervisors, or potential employers.  Instead, use social media to your advantage by creating a “brand” for yourself online.  Using social media proactively may convince potential employers or current supervisors that you’d be a great fit within their company–or are ready for a promotion.

Make sure that how you're viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.

Make sure that how you’re viewed on social media is in alignment with who you are and how you want others to see you.

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30 Things Professionals Should Know by 30: The Final Ten

So, I fibbed a little.  I said I was going to have the final installment of “30 Things Professionals Should Know by 30″ up by Saturday, but birthday/weekend me took over and I am just now getting it posted.  I think there’s always a bit of pressure with the last ten (or five, or whatever) of anything because they’re viewed as these are the ULTIMATE things you should know!!!!! Well, I’m here to say that my 30 by 30 list doesn’t exactly go in a particular order–some people may be more inspired, or more connected with, number 26, or number 8.  So, don’t think of these as the absolute last word in 30 things you should know–I’m sure some of you knew this stuff at 22 and others of us might not get there till 65.  These are simply lessons I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way!) and lessons other people have shared with me.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

10. Know that there is NO magic number.

Like most people, I thought of 30 as pretty grown up (read: old) when I was a kid.  After all, my mom was 30 when I was like 12 and she seemed pretty darn grown up to me.  I’ve since learned, however, that there is no magic number or event or epiphany that suddenly turns one from a normal (sometimes immature, not always right) human being into a GROWN UP.  I’m still afraid of scary movies sometimes and I never turn down playing at the park with my nephews and nieces–things my ten year old self didn’t think grown up 30 year olds would do.  We all seem to grow up and mature at our own speed (and some of us never do!) so it’s a little naive to think that a graduation, a job, a baby, an age, or anything else will make us a grown up overnight.  It’s a process and we have to be okay with that.

9. Don’t compare yourself to others.

In the same vein, don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.  Maybe in your mind, someone your age should have a house, a career, a child, a sports car, or a stamped up passport.  So? I guarantee you, everyone your age does not have any of these things–and some of them don’t even want these things.  In our current Facebook/Twitter/Instagram inundated world, it can be difficult to not compare ourselves to our 400 or so “friends” who seem to constantly be on trips or getting promotions.  I started college at 22 and didn’t finish my Masters until I was 28.  I graduated and began my job search with classmates who were 23 and it was a little daunting at times.  But I know that I learned so much during my twenties–through mistakes, second chances, taking risks–and I wouldn’t trade those things for a Masters at 23.

8. Know what you’re working towards.

We work so hard to find a job and make money, and often, we have this sort of vague idea of what we want to accomplish by having a steady income.  But on days when you’re feeling a little burned out or annoyed by some work policy, it will be important to remember exactly what you’re working towards.  Maybe for you, it’s a house to live in with your partner, a baby by 32, or early retirement so you can travel the world.  Knowing what you want outside of the office can make the world of work much more enjoyable.

7. Figure out your priorities.

It’s funny–at twenty, it can be easy to blow off class or be distracted during a test because you’re thinking about a crush, a breakup, or a great first date.  At 30, it can be just as easy to come home to your partner late everyday for a week because you’re so engrossed in work.  Life will always be about balancing your needs and goals with the needs and goals of those around you–especially those you care about.  The ending of a three month relationship at 21 can seem devastating, but man, there are more important things–like that math test.

6. Figure out why you work.

For money.  That’s the most obvious answer, right? Personally, I understood at an early age that getting an education and a job I cared about would mean freedom for me.  Freedom to do the things I enjoy.  Freedom to make decisions based on my happiness and not because I’m struggling financially.  Free to be with someone, not because I’m dependent upon them financially but because I love them. 

Why do you work?

5. Learn where to get the help you need.

Whether it’s financial, career, or relationship counseling, find resources and use them.  Figure out which supermarket offers the best value for your money.  Figure out which mentor to go to with an issue.  Figure out an alternate route to and from work in case a random tornado comes (hey, it happens–trust me). 

4. Don’t be afraid to learn new things.

Last year, I knew very little about social media marketing or website design.  But I really wanted to start this blog–so I figured it out.  I’m not super technical, but I know that I have to be willing to learn new things to continue growing.

3. Learn the art of patience.

There were times in my twenties when I felt like college would never end.  Working for minimum wage would never end.  Bad dates would never, EVER end.  But, you know, they did.  They ended sooner than I thought and taught me more than I’d planned.  So be thankful for the times that feel like they’re never ending-maybe they’re leading to something else entirely.

2. Don’t feel guilty for your success.

It can be hard to feel happy or proud of our accomplishments when other people we know are hurting or in a bad place.  But remember, you earned this.  You worked hard, you set goals, you figured out your priorities, and you were patient.  Everyone has moments of greatness–celebrate yours.

1. Know that this list might just be a bunch of crap.

Steve Jobs once said something along the lines of, “This thing we call life–these rules and ways of being that we think we have to adhere to–were made up by human beings just like us.  So don’t live someone else’s idea of life–go live your own.”

These were my lessons and I am happy to have shared them.  Now, stop reading my little list and go live your life. :)

 

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Spend Time Working on Your Strengths!

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When Mentoring Goes Wrong

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg’s book on women and work, a chapter is devoted to why women should have good mentors.  Sandberg encourages new, and even seasoned, professionals to build relationships with mentors who may help guide their career. She states, however, that many female professionals are approaching their mentor/mentee relationship in the wrong way.  Instead of utilizing mentors as an excellent source of advice on workplace culture and professional advancement, they treat them as surrogate mommies and daddies, asking their permission before making major life and career decisions.

The problem with this approach is two-fold. First, we are not children and do not need another adult’s permission before making a decision.  Second, our mentors are also mere mortals–they are navigating the professional landscape just like we are, and they don’t have all the answers.

There was once a time when I was at a professional (and personal) crossroads.  Any choice I made would involve both benefits and consequences, so I sought out two of my mentors for advice.  What I didn’t understand until later was that I’d already made my decision and really only wanted their permission before declaring my choice.  One of my mentors agreed with my decision and our talk felt uplifting and validating.  The other disagreed, which made me question my choices, as well as my character. 

The problem was that there was no clear answer.  No choice would create a disaster or a happy ending–at least not immediately.  I soon realized that the decision was mine to make and that I was the only one capable of doing so.  My decision strained my relationship with the second mentor somewhat, but led me to an important realization: I am responsible for my choices and I am the one who has to live with both the benefits and the consequences.  No one can make major life decisions for me.  It’s perfectly fine to ask a mentor for advice, but it’s really, really important to make it clear (to yourself and them) that you are not asking permission.  Asking permission of someone who doesn’t have any power over you gives them power–by taking yours away. 

That doesn’t mean your mentor is a power crazed maniac; they may not even remember the conversation in six months.  They may never know that you’ve given them this power–but you’ll know.  You’ll know when you doubt yourself and you’ll know when you second guess your life choices.  The best mentoring relationships give you a more experienced point of view, they provide you with greater insight and a sounding board.  So, when discussing issues or decisions with your mentor, make sure that you clearly state what you’d like to talk about (i.e., “have you been in a situation like this previously?” and  “what was your decision process like?” NOT “should I do this?” or “would this be a mistake?”).  Trust that you can (and will) make the best decision you can with the information you have.  It’s your life–make sure it’s one you want to live.

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Leaning In

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My partner, AJ, is very in to this phenomenon called “microaggressions.”   To quote Wikipedia, a microaggression is:

Microagression usually involves demeaning implications and other subtle insults against minorities, and may be perpetrated against those due to gender, sexual orientation, and ability status. According to Pierce, “the chief vehicle for proracist behaviors are microaggressions. These are subtle, stunning, often automatic, and nonverbal exchanges which are ‘put-downs’ of blacks by offenders”.Microaggressions may also play a role in unfairness in the legal system as they can influence the decisions of juries.

Here are some examples of microaggressions: automatically locking your car doors because someone of a different race walks by, asking a woman if she has a boyfriend or husband—therefore assuming she’s heterosexual, seeing someone of a different ethnicity than you and assuming they were not born in the U.S.  Microaggressions are awful and they are pervasive in our society—yet so subtle at times that Microsoft Word makes a squiggly red line each time I type the term.

My specialty is women and work, however, so I’d like to talk today about something I’m terming “micro-retreats.”  The definition of retreating is as follows:

Move back or withdraw, esp. so as to remove oneself from a difficult or uncomfortable situation.

Thus, a microretreat is a subtle, everyday way to remove oneself from an uncomfortable situation.  I’m thinking of female students who patiently raise their hands in class, only to have their answers usurped by their male counterparts who call out the answers.  Beginning a sentence with, “I’m probably way off the mark here…” or “I may be wrong, but…”.  It’s not saying anything when a co-worker makes an insulting or suggestive mark by rationalizing that he must be kidding.

Perhaps this is why I’m so interested in Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Leaning In.” Because leaning in is the exact opposite of moving back.  It’s taking up space, it’s joining the conversation, it’s calling out ignorance and injustice.

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