Monday Mantra: Community Over Competition

Montauk Retreat at Gurney's

I had the best weekend ever! Fern Olivia’s retreat at Gurney’s Resort & Spa was everything I had hoped it would be…and more. I’ll be sharing a full recap on the blog later in the week, but today I wanted to talk about the notion of community over competition.

The inspiration for today’s post came when I was tagging the photo above on Instagram. After spending the weekend surrounded by so many impressive women—who each in their own way embody the definition of girlboss—I knew the hashtag community over competition was most appropriate. Each time I attend one of Fern’s events, I walk away with a renewed perspective and new friends.

From yoga instructors, reiki masters, history teachers, to entrepreneurs, bloggers, and wellness influencers, each of the women photographed above is leaving her own mark on her respective industry. They have each found a way to turn their passion into a paycheck, and are more than happy to share their knowledge and connections with a newcomer.

As a blogger, I am always learning something new and I know that there is always something new to learn. That is one of the things that I find so interesting about blogging—and keeps me from getting complacent. But I also love the sense of community that is fostered through blogging. I have met many incredible women over the last three and a half years. Some have inculcated new knowledge; others have inspired me on my own journey (even if only virtually, and without even knowing it), but all have encouraged me to pursue my passion—especially when the road looks bleak. The community I have cultivated has supported me, made themselves available to me, and are my cheerleaders. For all of those things, I am grateful.

In the age of social media, it’s easy to get consumed with numbers, or to feel that you are only as good as a number. Number of followers, number of readers, number of retweets—you get the point. I have never been a numbers person…that probably explains why I wasn’t good at math. But to me, blogging is not a numbers game. Okay, fine. I used to obsesses a little over my stats when I first started out, but mainly that was to see if anyone was actually reading my posts. I began this site as a creative outlet and resource for people with whom I could share my own experiences. Therefore, I want it to be organic and relatable. And I want to be someone who is approachable and willing to help other bloggers when they are standing where I was three and half years ago. To the women I met at the retreat, I was a blogger who was there to share a day of wellness with them. They weren’t concerned with my numbers, but rather the energy that I contributed to the day and how I shared the space with them. It’s not the number of photos I posted on Instagram, but rather the discussions we had throughout the day that I hope they will remember.

So when I am fortunate enough to attend one of Fern’s events, it reaffirms my belief that in doing what we love, we are all building our own communities. And in building your own community, you never know how you can help someone else build theirs.

What does community mean to you?

Lessons from Nine Years in My Twenties

Nine things I learned in the past nine years of my twenties

As I sit down to write this post, it’s hard to believe that I am entering the final year of my twenties. At the same time I find it difficult to comprehend that I’m only 29. So many things have happened in this decade — some unexpected and others wonderful. All of them have tested me as a person, and have made me a better human being. I’ve joked amongst friends that I feel as though I’m turning 129 (don’t I look good for my age?). This may sound strange, but my life has taken so many twists and turns that I can’t believe I’ve managed to cram it all into 29 short years. Yet I am most grateful for everything that has made up this decade for me.

Of course, there have been hard lessons to learn as I’ve transitioned from college student to working professional, and went from having a 9-to-5 to following my passion for writing and blogging. Below I’ve rounded up nine things I learned in the past nine years of my twenties.

Age 20. It’s okay not to have all the answers. What fun would life be if you knew it all in your twenties? I’ve said before on the blog that I was always someone who liked to have a plan…and usually a couple of them. As I’ve gotten older and changed jobs more than a few times, I’ve learned that it’s okay not to know which road you want to go down, admitting you made a mistake, or wanting to change course midstream. Some of these things you can only learn by doing.

Age 21. Make and maintain relationships with mentors. Just because you are no longer a student it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep in touch with professors who have mentored you during your four-years. If you had no mentor in college, try to find one at your first job, or attend a networking event in your field. Having a mentor to guide you during the early stages of your career is an asset to be treasured. Once you find your mentor, make sure you take the time to nurture the relationship. Whether you communicate through emails, texts, or calls, make it a priority to check in with your mentor and update them on your career successes.

Age 22. Your college major isn’t the key to your first position. When I graduated with a political science degree, I thought the natural path was a career in law or criminology. Every time I tried going outside those fields, I stopped myself because I thought “that’s not what I went to school for.” Your degree gives you the tools to succeed in many fields, and some may even be outside of what you studied.

Age 23. Start educating yourself about money. Chances are terms like 401K, 403B, and IRA Roth are going to be new to you in your twenties. If they’re not, I applaud you for being a studious youngster. Saving money is an important part of being an adult, and the earlier you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. You can begin by reading up on financial literacy and perusing one of Suze Orman’s many books. I found her book, Women & Money helpful when I was starting out.

Age 24. Spend less than you make. This may seem obvious, but too many people violate this principle. I’ve always abided by Suze Orman’s rules: buy needs, not wants and live below your means, but within your needs. If you do these two simple things you will start creating a solid financial future for yourself.

Age 25. Know your worth. It may seem frightening or unprofessional to negotiate your salary when you are just starting out, but it’s important to know your worth. Sites like Career Contessa have great articles with step-by-step guides about how to negotiate your salary, and Glassdoor is another valuable resource to consult when you are in the early stages of the interview process.

Age 26. Don’t undervalue your happiness. I know this is going to sound like a contradiction after my last two points about money, but you can’t put a price on your happiness…or worse, your health. I’ve had jobs where the thought of going in every morning gave me more anxiety than a long-distance flight (I hate flying, by the way). When you remain tethered to a job that makes you miserable it can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally; your relationships suffer as well. We all need money to survive, so please don’t go quitting your gut-wrenching position without a plan in place. But suffering for a paycheck is never a good idea…and deleterious in the long-run.

Age 27. Seek out your passion. Your twenties are the time to try new endeavors, so explore your interests. You may be surprised to find that you are creative (like I did when I started this blog), or that you are good with numbers (unlike me as evidenced through more math classes than I would like to recollect). Whatever you find yourself dabbling in, remember that it is time well spent. It could be a lucrative side-hustle or turn into your primary career.

Age 28. The worst mistake you can ever make is failing to try. One of my favorite quotes is by Erin Hanson and reads “But what if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” We always think of failure, or rather about not failing in our ventures. But win, lose, or draw, failure teaches you just as much as success ever could. Don’t think of failure as the end-all-be-all. Instead, look at it as a real-life teacher that shows you just what you need to work on.

I could go on and on, but I thought I would be pushing my luck (and your attention span) listing 29 things I learned in 29 years. With each year that passes we tend to learn more about ourselves, our passions, and what we want to accomplish in the next year of our lives.

I’ve said this before, but I am most grateful for this creative space, my lovely readers, and those I’ve connected with through the blogging world. Thank you for making this endeavor of mine such a rewarding experience. I look forward to seeing what the next (and final year) of my twenties brings.

Climbing The Ladders

Career Advice

When TheLadders, a career resource for professionals, asked me to share some advice for recent graduates, I was elated. By no means am I an expert on the subject, but I’d like to think that six years after graduating from college I’ve learned a thing or two. I’ve certainly had jobs, changed jobs, and restructured my career path over the years — experiences that have given me insight into what I’m looking for and the type of career I want to have.

If I could go back to my graduation day and do it all over again, here is what I wish I knew:

Research what you want: Before you even start applying to jobs, look at the job descriptions of positions you are interested in. Don’t worry if you aren’t a good fit yet, but take notes on the skills you might need: What interests you about the position? What might your career look like in that field? When I first started looking for jobs, I thought I wanted to be a paralegal. I was a political science major in college and was planning on pursuing a law degree. I figured being a paralegal would give me some experience in the legal field before law school. But after applying and interviewing for a few positions, I realized this career path was not for me.

Find a mentor: Mentors are invaluable and can really help you shape your career. I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of great mentors along the way who have served as sounding-boards for my career goals and aspirations. Mentors can be a college professor, a boss, or just someone whose career you admire. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make connections early in your career. Often, people are eager to mentor others and all it takes is an initial step. Once you’ve found a mentor, make sure you maintain the relationship either through emails or phone calls.

Change is good: Personally, I don’t ascribe to the advice that you need to stay in a position for “X” number of years. While I admire people who graduate college and instantaneously know what they want to do with their career, I was not one of them. Through the path I’ve taken, I’ve learned that it’s okay to change careers. As you get older, you change and naturally your idea of what works and what doesn’t changes as well. If you didn’t do an internship in college, and you are unsure of which direction to go after you’ve graduated, now might be the time to explore your options. An internship can give you a better idea of what the typical day-to-day routine looks like in the field you’re interested in than any amount of research, and it’s a great way to make connections and network.

Have a back-up plan: If you are fortunate enough to land your dream job right off the bat, congratulations! But always make sure you have a Plan B. When I posed the question, “What career advice would you give to recent graduates?” to my friends, they almost all echoed this sentiment. With luck, you will be able to do what you love forever, but the reality is with so many companies downsizing or eliminating positions, it’s become critical to think about your long-term career plans. Whether that means you freelance while working a full-time job, or eventually plan to own your own business, it’s never too early to start thinking about the future.

Never stop learning: If ever there were a time to continue learning, now is it. With the changing technological landscape it’s important to keep up with and learn new skills. Even if your job has nothing to do with graphic design, social media, or front-end web development, these are good skills to have and can set you apart from other applicants when you are searching for jobs. But this bit of advice pertains to any career where you may find yourself. There is always something to learn, and thanks to technology, learning does not require you to even set foot into a classroom. Visit your local library, take a webinar on a topic that interests you, or look into online classes. If you prefer traditional classroom instruction, community colleges are a great place to take continuing education classes and most are offered at convenient evening hours.

Being a recent graduate can be exciting–but also scary and overwhelming. Finding a job is time-consuming, and turning a job into a career takes time, hard-work, and patience. Perhaps you didn’t land a job right out of school. Knowing what you want and how to get there is half the battle. Make sure you utilize career resources like TheLadders at each step of your job search. And although this isn’t technically career advice, start saving and building up an emergency fund when you get your first job. Like having a Plan B, knowing that you have money set aside for a rainy day will make you feel more secure about your future.

And lastly, remember my favorite quote from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”