Are you cycling, too?

29 Jul

This is a cross-post (edited) from a private blog I keep with my boyfriend. Majority of our relationship is long distance so I write to him via blog posts, he writes back via comments, and it’s much more immediate and convenient for us than letters. Sign of the times, eh. Regardless, please excuse me crossing the professional/personal lines… but I digress…

I think that internships are bad for relationships.

Let me explain.

My generation is growing up in a world that is CONSISTENTLY ending and beginning in a vicious cycle labeled, ironically, ‘growing’. Each year, we start a new grade level, and then it ends. We get to college, and we start new classes: those too end. Finally, when we reach a point where professional learning begins to take place, our internships begin, and just like everything else up to that point in our lives, they end. Therefore, when our first real job comes along, we keep waiting for that moment for the shoe to drop. The one where everyone thanks you for your wonderful work and wishes you the best. But really, that never comes. So our generation is growing up with a mentality of infinite cycles. When the honeymoon phase of a job ends, WE HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO WITH OURSELVES.

About a year and a half ago, I started my first job out of college. I was overjoyed with this step in my career but then slowly I found myself wanting something more. A new way to grow, a new cycle to start, a new huge, different, project to fall into my lap. But it never came. So I grew complacent, then eventually annoyed, and finally indifferent.

To circle (cycle) back to how this works into our personal relationships, growing up my generation learned that life will always spark some new adventure. A new learning phase. A new flame deep inside of us. Because of that, we never LEARN how to be content. We’re always searching for the NEXT, the NEW, the FUTURE. And that plays out in our relationships. Always looking to keep that spark alive by consistently creating the NEW. Whether that be a new adventure, or a new fight, we honestly do not know how to just BE.

I don’t know if this makes any sense but it’s a mindset that I’ve found myself stuck in. Recognizing it however, I plan to take this nugget of truth with me to my next career step and hopefully learn to just live in the moment I’m given and not actively search for the next best things. I’ll be beginning at the Michigan Department of Community Health in just a few short weeks and I’m, once again, eager to grow. Hopefully this time however, I’ll know how to grow and maintain.

Lastly, and on a more personal note, I also want to apply this to my relationships. From romantic, to friends, coworkers, and family, I want to make more of an effort to reconnect and appreciate the wonderful people I have in my life rather than focusing on making only NEW connections. Of course, I’ll always welcome the opportunity, but it’s time I start focusing on what I already have in front of me.

Or maybe, I’m just getting old.

 

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Do you Educate… or Perpetuate?

7 Feb

This afternoon I received a slightly disheartening, mildly pathetic, and seriously troubling email through the contact form for my employer’s website. The message was simple:

I go to school full time and work part time. I need help paying off student loans and would like to intern and/or work for you.

The. End. No greeting, no sign off, no signature. Nadda.

Now, at first glance, my initial reaction was astonishment. Did this person honestly expect that my organization would be willing to hire them just because they needed us to? Lest we not forget, they clearly displayed no attempt to understand what we do, let alone look into whether or not we were even currently hiring.

I let the email linger in my inbox and went on with actual pressing matters.

Then I got home and started to think about where I came from. There was once a point in time when I didn’t know the value of a resume or the proper steps to take in order to land a good job. However, I was fortunate enough to have tools and a network at my disposal to educate me… but not everyone’s that lucky.

Partly inspired by PR pro Becky John’s recent post, Stop Whining and Start Teaching, I decided to take the extra five minutes to write a hopefully-helpful response. I politely thanked them for their interest and explained that we were not currently hiring at this time. From there, I decided to take it a step further and suggest that they circulate their resume on career search sites, or visit the local Capital Area Michigan Works for employment assistance.

There’s no guarantee that they will even read past my first sentence explaining our lack of ability to help them pay for their tuition, however, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Helpful? Possibly.
Necessary? Debateable.
Good? No doubt.

I may have just helped a college student find the correct steps to take in order to land a part time gig. Or, I may have just wasted my time. Bottom line is, those few minutes that I took to write that email certainly didn’t ruin my day.

Maybe it’s the recent grad in me, but I’d rather help educate a student on proper etiquette than perpetuate a bad habit (and stereotype of my generation).  I’m not saying that employers should pull out all stops to make a stranger’s life easier, but maybe they just don’t know any better, and in that instance, as professionals, we can help.

Have you LISTENED lately?

21 Oct

Like, really listened?

I just got done with a webinar put on by the National Association of Counties (NACo) called “Listen to Understand” in which listening as a communicator was discussed. I had an overwhelming urge to tweet each powerful idea that was presented but found that each idea centered around the topic of being SILENT. So, I resisted the urge and jotted down a few important notes throughout the presentation, on paper. Let me outline a few of those below.

  • The Paradigm of Listening:

o   Ineffective: ‘I listen with the intent to reply.’

o   Effective: ‘I listen with the intent to understand.’

o   In order to fully understand what we listen to, we need to approach each conversation from an angle of wanting to understand, not wanting to respond. Once we allow ourselves the appropriate amount of time to understand what it is that we are being told, only then can we formulate a complete response.

  • Multitasking:

o   One of the first things the audience was asked when the webinar began was ‘what is the biggest problem when you listen’ and overwhelmingly, 86% answered (myself included) that we multitasked when we should be listening fully.

o   Point is, in good listening situations, you MUST stop multitasking when someone needs you to listen. Make time for them.

  • Empathic Listening:

o   IS reflecting what is said and saying it in our own words.

o   IS NOT advising, counseling, replying, refuting, solving, fixing, changing, judging, agreeing, disagreeing, questioning, analyzing, or figuring out.

  • WAIT:

o   “Why Am I Talking”

o   If you find yourself talking when you should be listening, WAIT. Ask yourself, why am I talking? The answer is that you should not be, now go back to listening.

o   If there is high emotion in what you are listening to, stop talking. Wait until the emotion is down or you are asked to respond. Until then, just listen.

  • Don’t Be Afraid of Silence:

o   It’s ironic that both LISTEN and SILENT have the same letters, just rearranged.

o   As communicators, we are taught to respond, to communicate, to fear silence. However, we need to remind ourselves that sometimes it’s necessary to be silent in order for us to be completely effective at our job.

o   Being an effective listener allows us the chance to be an effective communicator, one that provides the complete, correct message in return.

Finally, one last tidbit that I would like to share with you is the Chinese symbol that means “To Listen With a Virtuous Heart”. Note that the symbol contains the following symbols: Ears, Eyes, Heart. It does NOT contain however, the Mouth.

Effective two-way communication is becoming the norm for companies nowadays. It’s not just about pushing out a message, but also about answering questions and listening to what our audience needs and wants. In all honesty, the information in this webinar was total common sense but it opened my eyes. Well done, NACo. We all need reminders like these.

When Will I Be “Old Enough”?

31 Aug

Isn’t that a perpetual question in life?

“When will I be old enough to see a PG-13 movie?”

“When will I be old enough to drive?”

“When will I be old enough to vote?”

“When will I be old enough to drink?”

Well, I’m at another ‘when will I be old enough’ point, only this time there is no definite number that can answer that question. This is where you come in.

I’ve been at my job for almost six months now, and I’ve earned the respect of my co-workers, and slowly, the respect of others in my industry. I know I’m still a young professional, and I would never deny that I still have much to learn, but when I’m asked something and find a definite flaw, when will my suggestion be considered valid? When will I be old enough for my opinion to count?

I’m going to try to be as nondescript as possible about this scenario, but I need you to understand. I was asked to proof a PR piece today that was not written by me. According to what I was taught just a couple short years ago in college, there were more mistakes than I cared to count.  I mean.. if I had submitted that to a professor, it would have come back to me looking like this:

I know that this PR piece was written by an older professional, and I know that if I were to mark the hell out of it, my opinion would be snubbed. So what’s a girl to do?

When will I be old, or maybe, experienced enough, before my opinion counts?

How Personal is Personal?

4 Jun

One question that constantly needs addressing in the social media world is the question of personal versus professional interaction.

Especially lately with all the uproar over Facebook’s privacy policies, I’ve always been one to blend my personal and professional lives on my social media accounts. Even now with my current position, when commissioners request to friend me on Facebook, usually I tell them that I don’t have anything to hide and I don’t mind accepting their requests. Because in all honesty, I really don’t. I don’t party hard, I don’t engage in embarrassing activities after work hours, and I have found that my friends are all people I really am proud to say I know.

However.

Last Friday, something happened in my life that I could not bring myself to share with everyone. I wanted to tell close friends, but I could not do so without alerting everyone in my social networks. I chose my words carefully, and I posted very little to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. All I wanted to do though, was break down and tell a few close friends and family what was really going on and how much I genuinely needed support.

My 20 year old cousin very unexpectedly passed away and my entire life was put on hold. I don’t exaggerate when I say my family is my rock and when something such as death breaks our strength, my whole world came to a stop even as life went on.

So.

This past weekend has propelled me to question just how ‘personal’ I am on these social networks. Yes, I accept both professional and personal friend requests and yes, I do post content that relates to my job as well as my life as a recent college grad, but really… I’m not sure if I’m genuinely close with 90% these people.

In a time where I needed love and support from just a few select close contacts, I found that my networks were TOO big and TOO impersonal. In other words, while I use social media for personal as well as professional interactions, these networks are not my real personal connection to people.

* Thanks to those who gave their love and support over this past week. I truly appreciate it.

2010 So Far… Part 2

11 Mar
Gee, thanks, Facebook.

Gee... thanks, Facebook.

@beckyjohns: I think Disney movies have given me unrealistic expectations about love. And hair styling.

Amen, Becky. Amen.

But really ladies, does that make you love romance any less? Not me. If anything, it makes it worse for the men in my life because they will never be able live up to the ideals that Eric from the Little Mermaid or Prince Charming in Cinderella, have set. The bar is too high; no man will ever have to swim through an ocean to save me from an evil sea-witch. And I don’t own glass slippers for the safety of my feet.

Obviously, this post is about love/relationships/dating, or the lack thereof in my life. Since 2010 began a short three months ago, I find that a number of my good friends have become engaged and a much smaller portion of my friends are enjoying the single life nowadays.

It’s weird to say the least, to be the only single PERSON, not Bridesmaid, but Person, out of an entire bridal party. It’s also strange to see my friends wearing gorgeous rings that, yes, I’ll say it, I’m quite jealous of. Now don’t get me wrong… I love my friends and I honestly couldn’t be happier for them. Those who have gotten engaged, I completely agree that they should marry their significant other, but we’re still young, and while I’m happy they’re truly, madly, deeply in love, it still feels plain weird.

So what’s a girl to do when going out means you’re always the third, fifth, or seventh wheel; or when people are grasping at straws to set you up on blind dates; oh, and all those Facebook ads trying to get me to sign up and ‘Date the Millionaire’; or how about lastly, when my favorite Disney characters that have stuck by my side since I was toddler, are able to reduce me to tears.

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m not about to do: I’m not about to feel sorry for myself and neither should anyone else who is not in a relationship. It’s difficult to be surrounded by so much love but not be in love, and speaking from experience, the older you get, the harder it becomes. Family get-togethers or reunions, running into old friends: those are the worst. That’s when you get the ‘so have you met someone yet?’ question.

Well, no, but I have graduated from college, started forming a career, and got a perm. So I’m doing great.

Going back to Becky’s original statement- Disney movies make me feel really alone sometimes but I just need to keep reminding myself that despite not being in a relationship, or content with my hairstyle, there still are great things in my life and even better things headed my way. And yes, this is an ode to my single girlfriends who have contributed to many aspects of this post 🙂

2010 So far… Part 1

19 Feb

There have been a few heavy things on my mind since 2010 began. I have a strange obsession with numbers; specifically even numbers and 2 and 5. So 2010 looked as if it had all the potential to be a great year for me. I graduated in December and it seemed like every relationship and path in my life was going in the right direction. Well, people disappoint, and life throws you curve-balls so it’s time for me to spend a series of posts explaining myself not only for my sanity, but to possibly help you through a few tough times if and when they present themselves.

The first topic I want to address is health. My personal health is in great shape, thankfully *knock on wood*. But I’ve found that the health of others, especially those close to you, weighs heavily on your emotional well-being.

My mom’s best friend is her closest friend since middle school. Needless to say, our families have grown up together and developed a close bond. When 2010 began, my mom’s best friend’s son went to the hospital to see if he had a sinus infection. A sinus infection diagnosis lead to a chest pneumonia diagnosis lead to a chest ‘cloudy spot’ diagnosis lead to a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma… attached to his heart, lungs, and spread throughout most of his chest… diagnosis. He’s a senior in high school. It’s not good.

I don’t think I need to spell out how devastating a cancer diagnosis is. I also think you can imagine how painful it is to see someone so young and otherwise relatively healthy, go through cancer treatment. What I wish I could spell out however, there are no words for.

I cannot for the life of me express how heart wrenching it is to call just to say hello to someone and hear physical, excruciating pain in their voice. Its world shattering, and I hope you never have to experience it.

Reality is though, you probably will. Everyone knows someone with cancer and its devastating effects can be seen worldwide. People cannot hide from it, and as of right now, we cannot stop it. While I hope my blog posts inspire you to think about something, today I am going to ask you to do something. Michigan State University’s Relay For Life is coming up in April and I’m on the committee as the public relations chair. More importantly however, I am attending the event in honor of some very dear people in my life. If you can, I ask that you please donate to the American Cancer Society and join in the fight against cancer. You can do so by becoming involved in a local Relay For Life, or by simply donating to my team on my Relay For Life fundraising page. No matter what you chose to do, thank you.

To sum, health is often taken for granted. Sometimes, we beat up our bodies and are shocked and disappointed when they get hurt. Other times, out of the clear blue, a fluke trip to the doctor can shatter your world. Never take something or someone for granted and value your interactions with everyone because when the day comes that health has an adverse affect on yours or a loved one’s life, you will feel it. Both physically and emotionally.

MSU Relay For Life 2009