Respect All Careers

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Oh, why didn’t you get into a better field, like accounting or engineering? I was an engineer for almost 40 years and now I’m happily retired with two vacation homes and a boat. Wouldn’t you want that?”
– Male. ≈ 60 years old
“Yeah, PR seems like a good choice for a pretty girl. Not a lot of work involved but to supply a face for a company.”
Male. ≈ Late 20s
“Public relations, huh? What exactly do you plan on doing with that? Are you just going to stay a bartender?”
Female. ≈ 50 years old
“… Why wouldn’t you just get a certificate from community college and save money?”
Male. ≈ Late 30s
“I bet your parents weren’t thrilled with that career choice. Hope you don’t waste their money with that degree.”
Female. ≈ 30 years old

For those of you who don’t know, I work at a high-end restaurant on the waterfront in Boston. As a bartender who thoroughly enjoys my job, I love engaging in conversation to get to know my guests on a personal level to make the experience more memorable. With a majority of our clientele being advanced-degree holding individuals, one of the first questions I tend to get asked by first-time guests is, “Do you go to school?”. And yes, each one of those quotes above is a verbatim response from a person I’ve had sitting at my bar within the past few months.  As the first person in my immediate family to attend college, it’s a question that I used to answer proudly. But as I started having this conversation with more and more individuals, I became increasingly aware of the career discrimination trends in their responses.

Now before I continue, let me make this very clear. This is not written to bring down any one or group of majors/careers. This is written to simply bring attention to a trend that I have personally noticed in my life and that I know others have faced as well.

No, I did not go into accounting or engineering. In fact, I did whatever it took to stay away from mathematics all together to be honest with you. Why? Because that’s not how my brain works. I have taken mandatory curriculum math courses in college, I studied my butt off and I managed a good grade, but did I enjoy it? Not at all. So, that’s why I chose a career that requires skills that represent my strengths: reading, writing, designing and building relationships.

I understand that I may never make as much money as Mr. ‘Two Vacation Homes and Boat’, I may never be able to walk around in a Herve Leger dress with a matching Michael Kors wristlet and sleek Christian Louboutin heels like Ms. ‘Are You Just Gonna Stay a Bartender’ but I’ll be working in a career that makes me happy, one that I enjoy.

To compare careers/majors is like comparing sports. Such as you wouldn’t compare an NFL Linebacker’s slap shot with that of an NHL Rightwing, you can’t compare a computer science major to an advertising major. Each have their own challenges and rewards, to say one is harder or more important than the other is simply ignorant. They are dependent on different forms of thinking but neither requires less effort than the other.

It’s true, as PR majors we don’t have three physics labs to write up a week, hundreds of medical term flashcards to memorize or a calculus exam every Friday like some students. We do however write about 15 pages a week in essays and sample press releases, read dozens of textbook chapters a week, study communication styles and techniques, as well as spend hours on end keeping up with current trends and technologies (all while apparently making it look “easy” to everyone around us). When I enter my first career, I won’t have to write programs for top line security systems or crunch numbers until my fingers bleed, but I will have to use every ounce of energy I have to create the best possible public presence for a company. A company that may be funding that engineer’s salary that laughed my response away. According to Public Relations News,

Public relations is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.
While the public part implies inclusion of things like public affairs, community relations, investor relations, public press conferences, media events, internal communications and crisis communications, it also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes, non-public activity. It could involve simply the writing of a press release, but it could also involve coordinating media contacts for an event or conference, securing credentials, lobbying for article placement and the like.

To the man who is not much older than I, the one who told me that my career is nothing but a pretty face, what happens when suddenly your funding company begins to lose its positive perception to the public and starts to go under? Who’s going to be the one staying late at the office, running off of nothing but caffeine and stress to do anything in their power to handle that disastrous event that ruined the company’s image, submit that one last press release and arrange one more funding event to attempt and keep that reputation afloat? Me.

So, to answer all of their questions:


I would love that! I guess I’ll just have to work my tail off to be as blessed as you.”
“*Insert laughter* Yup.” (Not worth arguing with someone so pigheaded)
“I plan on becoming successful in my chosen career. If I need to stay here for a bit, so be it. Someone needs to make your Grey Goose martinis, right? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being a bartender.”
“I decided to get a degree, not a certificate. They are two entirely different things, one not being any better than the other, just simply a different level of expertise in an area.”
“Actually, I pay for college entirely myself. Even if I didn’t, my parents are supportive and beyond proud of me. But thank you for the concern.”

C’mon people, please, just have respect for one another. You’ll never see me shutting down someone’s career choice, no matter what it is, so I ask you to do the same. Don’t put me down just because my mind may not work the same way yours does. Think of society as a machine, each part is dependent on another somehow, without one the other may not be able to function to its full potential.

If you have questions about someone’s career, just ask! If it’s something they are passionate about, chances are they would love to chat. It’s 2016, let’s learn to not hate … just appreciate 🙂

5 Tips to Spark Creativity

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In our society of constant tweeting, blogging, posting and hashtagging, there are times where it’s hard to find those ‘awe-struck’ moments of inspiration. As a communication person, there are very few things that are more frustrating than creative block. You quickly realize that drowning yourself in coffee while staring at a blinking cursor of a Word document or the outline of your Illustrator artboard won’t help you, no matter how long you try. So I compiled a list of my top 5 ideas to kick your creative juices into gear.


1. Get the tunes cranking

I’m not saying to drop the bass and turn your desk into a concert venue, the accounting department doesn’t need to hear your guilty pleasure music stations, but there’s scientific proof that listening to music can actually improve brain function. According to Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist and author, “Music can alter the state of our brainwaves, as well as trigger neurotransmitters, like dopamine, that alter our mood and reward us for creative breakthroughs” [1] Personally, my music choices change depending on the project I’m working on. Alternative rock, reggae or country are my go-to when working on graphic design projects (and an occasional Bieber tune, I will admit) while instrumental jazz or acoustic covers works best when writing articles or press releases. Whatever music floats your boat, I suggest sticking your headphones in and getting lost in the creative world of riffs and drum solos.

2. Take a break

Sometimes you need to minimize the screen and change the scenery in order to get back on track. Taking a walk or even doodling on some scratch paper for a little while can result in a creative revolution. Our brains have two main modes of functioning (have I mentioned I’m a psychology minor?), “focused mode” which is our brain condition when we are doing things such as writing, studying or reading and “diffuse mode” which is our more relaxed, daydreamy state of thinking. While you may think that you should try and maximize focused thinking, it may have a negative effect on your critical thinking and imaginative thoughts. Dr. Barbara Oakley, the author of A Mind for Numbers, talks on an episode of Inquiring Minds podcast saying “When you’re focusing, you’re actually blocking your access to the diffuse mode. And the diffuse mode, it turns out, is what you often need to be able to solve a very difficult, new problem.”. [2]

Oh and just a FYI for anyone who lives in one of the participating areas, Uber offers a service called “Uber Puppies” where you can have puppies brought to the office for a small “snuggle fee” that goes straight to a local shelter. How adorable is that? ♥

3. Ask for feedback

When I’m super stuck on an assignment, I find that having an outside perspective can freshen up my point of a view and help steer me in a new productive direction. Every individual has a unique point of view and experiences that may spark some solutions.

4. Get rest

I know your to-do list is 7 miles long and you still haven’t visited grandma this week, but get some sleep. A well-rested brain is going to work a lot better than a tired one. Aside from significantly cutting down your caffeine intake, sleep is a way for the brain to store information and boost productivity due to the phenomenon of “sleep spindles”.

5. Brain dump

Originally, I started doing brain dumps at night when I had a hard time falling asleep. Like many college students and young professionals, my brain doesn’t have a properly wired ‘off switch’. By writing down a bunch of gibberish that I had swirling around my brain, it helped me relax my noggin enough to fall asleep. I found that by re-reading these blurbs of nonsense written in my semi-conscious state at a later time helped spark unique ideas that I may not have come up with during the day. Similarly, when I’m sitting at my computer without an idea of what to write or how to approach a design, jotting down some random thoughts helps spark the creativity to a successful post.


 

I hope these tips help you the next time you find yourself at a creative standstill. Comment below with any other ways you find inspiration!


 

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-fitzpatrick/music-and-creativity_b_2253464.html
[2] https://soundcloud.com/inquiringminds/45-barb-oakley-the-science-of-learning

Struggles of a Working College Student

I write this post while sitting at a local bar devouring some buffalo wings with a cold mug filled with a local brew waiting to take the train home after classes. I guess one could sum this up as ‘#CollegeLife’. It’s the most exciting time in a young adult’s life. You’re living on your own surrounded by a community of peers your age, with parties every weekend and exciting career-developing opportunities at every turn. You’re school meals are paid for and mom has packed you enough Easy Mac to last a zombie apocalypse “just in case”. Your major obligations include keeping your grades up, making sure you don’t forget your flip-flops when you take a shower and attending your R.A held monthly meetings to avoid being hunted down. You get to live on your own terms and “find yourself” along the way. By the end of your four years, you’ve become a well-rounded, culturally diverse, mature adult with a clear idea of your life goals and a solidified career in something you love, with memories and friends that will last a lifetime. Right?

Welllllllllll ….

This may be a very accurate description for most students and if that sounds like you, right-on! I envy you immensely and respect you 100%, having the skill to healthily balance schoolwork and keg-stands is one that takes a lot of self-will and late night cram study sessions to figure out. 

For some (myself included) we don’t get that ideal college experience. Our university years are spent working full-time to pay for our overly priced apartment rent, school books and loan repayments in between maintaining a scholarship required GPA trying to squeeze in time for some sort of out-of-work interpersonal relationships before spending our rare downtime trying to network ourselves in the professional world so we can PRAY to get a job as soon as graduation (Which is in 6 months, mind you! Where did my first three years go?!) so we’ll never have to hear the words “Can you pick up another table?” again. Oh, and yes we still need to eat and sleep like any functioning human being. britney-spears-umbrella-3

Suddenly the infamous 2007 Britney meltdown doesn’t seem so psychopathic as we had once thought.

So what advice do I have for those who can relate to my mildly complain-y rant? Well, you know (or will soon) that it is tough. Running off of 4 hours of sleep with only coffee and instant oatmeal while looking like an acceptable form of society isn’t the easiest thing to do.


You will get pissed and that’s okay

There’s almost nothing worse than scrolling through your Instagram feed after a 13 hour work shift to see pictures of all your newly turned 21 besties and their roommates rocking their new NYX contour palettes at the club, hastagging their way to 200 ‘likes’ while you’re sitting on the train wondering what that weird stain is on your pants and what you did to deserve the 11% tip at table 14.

You fall into self-pity and suddenly the world is ending:

Why am I working my life away just so I can afford to go to school and get a job so I can CONTINUE working?! I don’t want to work anymore,  I just want a roommate to share dresses with. Not that I’d ever get to wear them .. BUT STILL. Ugh, I’m never going to have a ‘forever’ college friend. Wait, what if I don’t have enough friends for a bridal party? Let alone, how am I even going to find a husband??? OMG I’m going to become a single cat lady… I’m allergic to cats though… I’m just gonna be alone with 45 turtles. I will become a turtle lady. Okay there’s a solution, maybe I should cut down hours and earn money another way. *Googles how much you can sell a kidney for on the black market* Hm, this could be a possibility. No, Jesus, get your head straight, you can’t just sell your organs. BUT I JUST WANT A CONTOUR PALETTE.

Hey you know, mild inner dialogue style mental breakdowns are okay from time to time. You’re not alone.


Schedule and plan ahead.

It’s all about scheduling. I know it sounds easier said than done, but there are ways. Trust me.

First things first. Take advantage of colored hilighters/pens and organize your planner, even if you have an elephant-like memory. As soon as you get your work schedule, write it down. Find out when your first test is? Write it down. Have a meeting? Yup, write it down. It will help you have a visual representation of your day making things easier to plan.

Always stay on top of your assigned class registration times. Setting up a solid schedule is the first step of a more relaxed semester. As a commuter I do everything it takes to make sure my classes are condensed to 2 – 3 days, are back to back, and do not start too early in the morning. This semester for example, I’m on campus two days a week from 2:30 – 5:30 and I’m taking two classes online. Since I have a hard time getting work done at home, I go to campus a few hours early or stay a few hours late these days to get my online classes done while on campus.

Also, if your work allows you to be flexible with hours or if you work in a restaurant, try and keep your shifts to the afternoon/night. I know this is a bit of a buzzkill but building your resume is one of the best things you can do and internships or volunteering are the best ways to do it. Typically theses positions fall in the 9 – 5 category, so having a few mornings off a week will help make you more available for these opportunities.


Don’t do it alone

Having a support system will be your number one reason for succeeding these difficult years. You can’t have your friends or family do you school work or go to work for you, but they can help in other ways. Learn to accept it. This was difficult for me, I am a stubborn individual and accepting that you cannot do it all was one of the hardest yet most important lessons I could have learned. Having a supportive family and boyfriend (along with his whole amazing family) helped me realize that although at times I feel like there will be no light at the end of this long dark tunnel, there absolutely is; and those around you cant wait for you to reach it just as much as you.

In addition, make connections at school! There are a lot of students that are going through the same thing. I know I went on and on about how its hard to find time for yourself but try and connect with some other students on your campus. Chances are you can find a few minutes before or after class to grab a coffee or a quick lunch with a fellow student to build on-campus relationships, even if you can’t commit to going out every weekend. It’s nice to have a handful of friendly faces to see as you’re walking around campus.


Remember, this WILL pay off

Think of it as biking up a really steep hill. If you pedal hard now and don’t stop, soon enough you’ll be able to coast down the other side. 

Your hard work will not go unnoticed. When it comes to working in the ‘real world’, you will already have the hardest part down, managing your time and developing a strong work ethic. Just take a deep breath and remember how far you’ve come. It can only go up from here.