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Finding Your Passion

Are You Ready for New York?

I moved to New York City over three years ago. I'd lived in DC and Philadelphia before, but it took me many months to navigate the city. It took me two months to figure out that cabs with a light on in the middle were empty, a year to learn about alternate street parking for cars (for friends who drive into the city), and one midnight trip on the subway to learn that different stops on the same street can land you in very different neighborhoods. (If you're visiting or new in town, check out for great directions and time estimates for travel)

Living and working in Manhattan can be complicated. As I'm based here, I offer my NYC Job Seekers Meetup for newcomers and veterans of the Manhattan employment market. I also recommend Vicki Salemi's book Big Career in the Big City: Land a Job and Get a Life in New York for emerging professionals seeking their first gig in Gotham.

A former recruiter at KPMG, Vicki recently gave a fabulous talk to my MeetUp group. I asked if she'd share the following quiz with you--for those of you deciding whether to move to New York or not...

What’s Your NYC-ability?

That’s right. I’m talkin’ your Manhattan mojo and moxie. The fire in your belly that simply says it’s NYC or bust, baby! Are you truly ready to become a Gotham gal? Or are you a shrinking violet and more comfortable in the country than the big city? It’s pop quiz time, diva!

1. The thought of getting on a crowded subway during rush hour where it’s literally flesh on flesh with odors of pickle breath or random briefcases shoved into your back is

a. Part of the New York experience! What an invigorating way to start the day. For real.

b. Less than ideal, but hey: If it’s the fastest way to get to work, I’ll have to deal.

c. Gross. I’ll walk or take the bus instead, thank you very much.

2. Paying $1,500 in rent, $15 each day for lunch, $4.50 in subway fares, not to mention other expenses is

a. Worth it. You get what you pay for and NYC is worth every penny.

b. A travesty, but hey: Even though I’ll be broke, at least I’ll be happy.

c. Absurd.

3. The idea of paying a ton of money to live in a tiny apartment with two roommates, a makeshift wall, and the occasional mouse is

a. Your typical no-frills housing situation. Bring it!

b. Ick, but still worth it in order to have my shiny new life.

c. Gross and unacceptable.

4. This Thursday night you can either jet downtown to a cocktail party at a gallery opening, gallivant uptown to a private industry event at a museum, go to happy hour in the Meatpacking District, catch a celebrity book signing at Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue, or chill at home.

You want to

a. Do it all! But alas, that’s not possible. So you’ll pick two events that are closest to each other, like the book signing and museum soiree, courtesy of a quick trip on the 6 train.

b. Take a deep breath and then focus on one event, like the cool gallery cocktail party. Ooh la la!

c. Chillax. Home sweet home all the way.

5. As you’re crossing the street and a messenger on a bicycle speeds past a red light, almost literally knocking you down to the pave- ment, you...

a. Curse him out at the top of your lungs.

b. Shake your head in disbelief and chalk it up to another day as a pedestrian.

c. Curse the dude in the loudest voice possible in your head, curse the city, and make your exit as soon as possible.



Mostly As: Congratulations! A magnificent Manhattan life awaits and you’re clearly more than ready to bite into the Big Apple. The question though: Is it ready for you?

Mostly Bs: You’re almost there. It may take time to feel com- pletely ready to take on the land of the bright lights coupled with roaches, ridiculous rent prices, and a maxed-out social life. Be patient and realize that perhaps you should take baby steps by liv- ing in one of the boroughs.

Mostly Cs: New York City? Fughettabout it. Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but since you didn’t exactly pass the test, there’s no need to push it. If you force it, you’ll be unhappy and home- sick. New Yawk isn’t going anywhere and will be here when you’re ready for its magic.

Find yourself in the A or B category? Let us know how we can help...

On Can Openers and Life After College

You and I like share the same ancestry: We descend from hunters and gatherers, right? But before graduation from college, I was never responsible for hunting nor gathering my own food. For the most part, I was sheltered and fed--at home with my parents until college, as a camper and then a staff member at summer camps in the summer, and in my dear old college refectory (known as "the RAT") in college.Canopener

Suddenly, post-college, I found myself living in Washington, DC with a salary half that of the average starting salary for new grads today. (Actually, to be more accurate, I lived in Northern Virginia and worked in Washington. It was a move to save money initially but it later saved me thousands when I got accepted to the University of Virginia for graduate school--in-state residency was a gift and a lucky career move.) 

My roommate and I found a decent sized two bedroom apartment. On the first day without our families, we unpacked for ten hours straight and then we followed the advice of our friends: we walked to the grocery store, and we bought an enormous amount of canned goods to stock up. Then we came home, had a glass of wine from a Franzia box, and started to think about dinner. My roommate, a native of New Orleans was planning to cook up a pot of rice and beans...and couldn't wait to break out her Tabasco sauce.

We quickly discovered that we were out of options had very little to choose from: As it turned out, we had forgotten to buy a can opener, the stores had closed for the night, and we had lots of beans that we could not open.

So we ate oranges and peanut butter sandwiches with our very fine wine. Then we went out and invested in a can opener and we ate much better after that. We were starving entry-level employees. An English major and a Fine Arts grad.

Obviously, the memory remains, and the experience has ultimated shaped the advice I give to new grads. No matter what you do post-grad, you need three essentials for your professional life: regular access to e-mail, a toolbox (so that you can make a place to hang your hat), and that all important can opener.

Those are my essentials for success, what are yours?

Your Career & The "Premium Rush"

I live one block off Broadway on New York City's Upper West Side. This morning I was on the way to brunch with a friend, and I saw something unusual: two and a half blocks of cabs and cars all lined up on the street. Parked. Only a few of them were there. The street corners were packed with police officers, people wearing orange reflective vests, and people with microphones and wires in their ears.Traffic_blur

I heard one of them say, "How do you spell brunch?" as he typed out a message on his iPhone? And then, many of them came inside the restaurant to join my friend and I. We sat at separate tables.

I asked a few questions and learned that the crowd I saw had gathered together for a common goal: They are shooting stunts for a movie, Premium Rush. The movie is about a bike messenger, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who gets involved in a chase around the city. You can learn more about it on this blog, or via IMBD.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn't in my neighborhood this morning. Apparently the shots that are being filmed are what you will see as he zooms through traffic, but he won't be shooting the stunt.

But before I left the scene, I did take a couple of mental pictures that I do want to share with you. It takes many staff to film a movie...more than I imagined. Did I mention there was an entire side street filled with trailers and production vehicles, too'?

Despite all the job reports--the stories about lack of jobs in entertainment, for recent grads, etc.--there were people of all ages taking place in the shoot. There were people moving large scale equipment, people working to direct traffic, people who specialized in communication, videographers, technicians, and security. If I were in the movie industry, I could tell you who else was there, too. But that's not what I do.

The mental picture I left with is just how many jobs there are--to take part in a big project. Not everyone gets to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt and star in a movie,or to perform stunts, or to work as a senior producer. But if you're in a rush to land the career you want, perhaps a good way to start is by finding out all the task that go into producing the finished product of your dream job--and then look for a side door.

Do you have any experience with this? Share.

To Your Success,


The Year in Review (or Lawn Mower Lessons Part II)

I've lived in Manhattan for almost three years now, but I'm still in a long-term relationship with a lawn mower in New Hampshire. We have known each other for seven years now--and for the past three years I've gained a gradually greater appreciation for this--my personal Yoda. WLawnmowerho knew that a red Craftsman push mower that sometimes starts with a sputter and who smells like gasoline could share life lessons? And even more oddly, would reveal these life lessons over time--when I was ready to learn them.

Seven years ago, in the infancy of our relationship, I was a first-time homeowner. I did what many people do these days in a new courtship--I read a how-to-manual before our first date. I wrote down the operating instructions and followed them to the letter. I remember filling up my plastic gas jug at the Citgo station. The customer behind me in line tapped his foot, and said "Are you finished?" I remember driving home with the window open, and the smell of gas on my hands. It took me at least two and a half hours to mow the yard that summer. I did it two or three times, and then my neighbor, Mike, offered to cut the grass on his riding mower. "It is easy for me to do," he explained. "Especially since your yard runs into my mother's and I cut her grass anyway." I put the lawnmower in the basement.

Several summers went by and Mike's mother got sick. I took a new job as a recruiter for a start-up that was in rapid expansion mode. I had never worked in HR before, and the mower hadn't started the last time I tried. "Put your work first," I told myself. My then-boyfriend suggested that I borrow his push mower. I looked at my three-quarter acre yard, and hired a landscaping company. I traveled frequently for my job. The mower stayed in the basement, behind my tires.

A too-good to be true work opportunity presented itself in New York--a job working with students and international travel. I rented my house out to a female engineer. "You can use the lawn mower if you want. It didn't start the last time I used it, but maybe it will work for you."

The lawnmower worked for my tenant; the job didn't work for me. I decided to start my own new ventureI stayed in Manhattan. There was no need for a lawn mowers and well kept parks within a seven minute walk. The house in New Hampshire was three miles from the "Little Store" which closed after dark. In New York I was block away from a 24-hour-diner, a drugstore, a bodega, and a hardware store.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to house sit in my own house for a month. I was trying to write and couldn't find the right words, and I took out the lawnmower for a spin. It started up immediately, and didn't stop. I decided that the lawn mower was trying to teach me a lesson in time management: If I stopped--even for a minute, it choked, and wouldn't start again. The lesson, I deduced was this one: I needed to keep going. If I started to write, I couldn't stop until I was finished. That was the lawn mower lesson for the summer of 2009.

I went back to New York. I was presented with a wonderful opportunity to co-author a book on Twitter with colleagues. We finished it in less than four months, it came out in March. I slept very little.

My tenant moved out in June, enabling me to spend a significant amount of time at the house this summer. I canceled the lawn service. The first time I mowed the grass, the lawn mower stopped after ten minutes. I pumped the primer three times. I held the handle down, pulled back the throttle and heard no sign of a motor. The lawn mower was broken. I went inside, got a glass of water, and asked myself, "why? Why can't I hear a motor?" My mind did a flashback to seventh grade science class, and I formed a hypothesis, "this must be stuck on something."

I turned the motor over on its side. There were big clumps of wet grass and dirt under the rotating blades of the mower, one of them was preventing the blade from turning. I used my hands to clear the grass from the underbelly of the motor. The lawnmower started again. I went inside, my shoes were green, my hands were green, my thumbs were green. I was covered in grass clippings and required a shower and a post-scrub to rid myself of all the grass. Then I had to clean the shower drain, the floor and the sink. There was grass everywhere. I returned to New York with fingers that were still stained green, but there were fewer circles under my eyes. I was afraid to go for a manicure, but I had learned that I could sleep in the midst of writing.

When I came back later in the summer, my mower and I met again--and again. I explored new strategies for staying "unstuck." I lifted a side door and propped it open with a stick, sending the clippings everywhere and resulting in more Cat-in-the-Hat like cleanings inside the house, but resulting in an interruption-free mow. I mowed the yard more frequently, and discovered the mower was less likely to stall.

Today, I unpropped my stick and mowed the yard, gently lifting the mower up so it could disperse clippings on the grass without sending them all over me. It worked.

When I finished, I cleaned the underbelly of the mower. I wiped down the top with a fresh cloth. And I stored the mower in the front side of the basement.

The next one to use the lawn mower will be a new tenant. This will be her first experience. I look forward to hearing her lawn mower lessons...and what--if anything--they teach her about life.

Did you miss these other lawn mower installments?


Free e-book (Collective Wisdom for Share)

In my spare time, I've been spending time with Narativ, a Manhattan-based organization that helps people tell stories. Not stories as in fibs, but personal storytelling. Narativ teaches the mechanics of storytelling. Take one of their classes, and you'll learn how to nail an interview question, how to tell a story with a Storytelling detail that makes people remember your name--or the story forever--or simply how to keep your audience awake the next time you talk in public.

I digress. In the last paragraph, I intended to share with you one of Narativ's core beliefs about storytelling: Narativ believes everyone is "hardwired" to tell stories. We all want to tell stories, sometimes we just don't know how to start, how to shape the middle, or how to end. Or we don't know who our audience is.

As a writer who talks a great deal about careers, I'd like to think that I'm a decent storyteller. But I recognize that the stories I tell won't resonate with everyone. That's the beauty of an anthology, right? In reading through multiple stories, there's a better chance you will find the story which resonates with you--and which makes all the difference.

I wrote this post to share with you a new resource that has amazing stories. Penelope Trunk and Rich DiMatteo have conceived of and executed on a great, free e-book, especially made for the millennial job seeker. The e-book is called What I Know About Getting a Job and you can find it through the site Corn on the Job.  

There are 18 job search experts on the list, all of whom have been ranked as one of the Top 25 Digital Influencers in HR by HRExaminers. I am pleased to have gotten to know several of the people on this list: Mark Stelzner wrote the foreword for the Twitter Job Search Guide, Jason Alba contributed, and Peter Clayton is a great guy who runs a wonderful career radio show,Total Picture Radio.

You should download this book. Because in addition to having great advice, everyone who is in this e-book tells great stories about careers, and one of them may be just the thing you need to hear right now.

To Your Success,


Alexandra Levit's New Job, New You

A book review to kick off the new year…Alexandra_levit_

If you’re looking for it, there are hundreds of different sources of career advice. What’s important is that you find a source that speaks to you when you need it. Some job seekers prefer straight forward how-to guides. Others prefer videos or podcasts. I’ll read anything, but my favorite sources of career advice are the ones that come with stories attached: When I can see how other people have made a transition, it’s easier for me to see how I might make an adjustment myself. Have you ever found that to be true? What works for you?

One of my favorite sources of career stories is Alexandra Levit, author of “Who Scored that Gig?” and “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.” A career columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Alexandra is also a great story-teller. Today, I’m writing to give a plug for her latest book “New Job, New You.”

Ever experienced a moment in life where your “out of work” experiences make you want to refocus your career priorities? Or simply hit a wall at work and know that something has to change? Such realizations can be exhilarating—and paralyzing, especially when you don’t know what to do next.

Enter Alexandra and her comprehensive conversations. In New Job, New You, Alexandra tackles seven common “game changers” that can lead you to re- examine your career—family, the desire for independence, the quest to learn more, the pursuit of money, passion, setbacks, and sheer talent (or the natural gifts you’ve been given). She ignores celebrities and the “exceptionally lucky” and provides five “real life stories” of career exploration and change for each “ball game” followed by practical advice.  Reading the book is the equivalent of having 35 intimate conversations with people who’ve been there, and then leaving with the “questions you need to ask,” and a short list of resources to get started in forging your own path. Naturally, this doesn’t do your exploratory work for you in your own career search, but it’s a great start and an easy read for 20 and 30-somethings interested in making lifestyle changes or another career transition.

Career Resources for Climate Change

 I am pleased to be participating in Blog Action Day 2009, a unified effort of the blogging community to discuss a common theme. This year's theme is "Climate Change."    

I'll be talking more about the green jobs market in November (stay tuned for Job Action Day from Quint Careers). In the interim, here are three suggested strategies for pursuing a professional career that can make a positive difference in contributing to the health of our environmental climate.   

Educate Yourself

OneWorld Guide to Climate Change (from the UK)

Cuncil on Foreign Relations' Crisis Guide to Climate Change (Council on Foreign Relations)

Climate Change: A Guide for the Perplexed (The New Scientist)

Explore Opportunities

Green Energy Jobs: Careers in Climate Change
Look beyond the introduction page to find information on jobs and opportunities.

Green Biz Jobs
Job listings from renewable energy to sustainability

Making the Difference
A Guide to Opportunities in Public Service from the largest employer in the U.S.--the federal government!

Consider a Trip Back To School

Many U.S. colleges and universities offer state-of-the art programs in Environmental Studies. Here are two innovative programs.

GreenCorps: The Field School for Environmental Organizing

Columbia University
Master's Degree in Climate and Society

To Your Success,


Lessons Learned From Cheering On MLB's Most Lovable Losers

This is the final installment in a three part series from recent grad, sports fan, and PR enthusiastic Megan Ogulnick. Megan is currently searching for her first full-time job, you can find her on Twitter: @MOgulnick.

I was born bleeding Cubbie blue. Cheering on the Yankees or Dodgers was never an option. It was embedded in me like DNA. I had brown hair, green eyes and I was a Cubs fan. At a young age the charm and personality of the Cubs got me and I watched more Cubs games than I did cartoons. The first time I entered Wrigley Field, my fate was sealed. The atmosphere, the sounds, the tastes and smells, the ivy covered walls and the old-school scoreboard. It was enchanting and my heart still skips a beat every time I return. The Chicago Cubs have a power over me that words can't describe. It's a love, a passion, a union that only Cubs fans can understand. They can give me the ultimate high, but have the power to bring me to indescribable lows.Cubs

 I was sitting in section 205 on October 14, 2003 as the Cubs were 5 outs away from making it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. In my face paint, handmade Cubs shirt and Cubs print pants; I hid behind my hands too nervous to watch. Hiding was a good idea. With 5 outs to go, Moises Alou lost a foul ball to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Alex Gonzalez let a ball go through his legs, Mark Prior imploded,  and the Florida Marlins went on to score 8 runs. All with 5 outs to go! This wasn't the only time the Cubs were the reason I cried for hours. Being a Cubs fan means enjoying the highs, but expecting the lows. People ask me constantly, "Why are you a Cubs fan?" Why? Why do I cheer on a team that hasn't won a World Series since 1908? Why do I support an effort that is 101 years in the making? Why do I constantly set myself up for disappointment? I had no choice. I was destined to be a Cubs fan. And while my mom constantly reminds me "Why do you love them so much? They don't give anything back to you!" I know that's not true. The Cubs have taught me the importance of loyalty, dedication and persistence. Being a Cubs fan has prepared me for anything and given me invaluable skills I use daily. Sure I'd like a World Series ring, but a few, good life lessons will do for now.

“If at first you don’t succeed..”

We've all heard the saying, "Practice makes perfect." The great thing about this saying is that it can be applied to anything we do in life from playing sports to landing that perfect job. Practice is the key to success and is something that even the most talented athlete does daily. After an 8-game winning streak the Cubs won't cancel drills just because they're doing well and a player won't just hang out in the clubhouse during practice if he's batting .380 in June. The best keep going. They keep practicing. They keep honing their skills. They try each and every day to better the athlete they were yesterday. Texas Ranger pitcher CJ Wilson said, "We practice every day despite having played the same basic game for over 20 years...Think about how weird that is!"

The same applies to the job search. It is rare to find someone who wakes up one morning and is just naturally good at interviewing.
It's a skill and something we need to practice. Rehearse answering important questions in the mirror, set up mock interviews with family or educators, research keys to successful interviews and go on actual interviews as often as you can. My friend Sarah recently went on an interview with a company that she didn’t know much about. While she was apprehensive at first she saw it as an opportunity for practice. The interview only lasted two minutes, but the point was that she gained more experience and knowledge through it. No harm there, right? You can’t win every game, nor can you knock every interview out of the park, it takes practice, dedication, and persistence. Someday I will have the home run of all interviews and land that perfect job, but until then practice makes perfect.

Perseverance "Yet we still believe it's gonna happen. Maybe this year, maybe next year, maybe in 50 years. We'll wait."- No Love Lost, ESPN

Sports have taught me some important life lessons including, dedication, preparation, practice, experience, and persistence. However, I feel this last lesson is truly the most important; perseverance.
It was Wednesday, October 14, 1908 the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. 101 years ago. Chicago fans are constantly reminded of it and the players are too. Yet at every Chicago Cubs home game you'll be pressed to find an empty seat, the crowd will be cheering louder than even the day before and the players will sprint out there with one goal in mind; win. The Chicago Cubs understand the definition of perseverance. They eat, sleep and breathe it. Regardless of any obstacles, the cynics or their history, the Cubs know that one day they will win the World Series and until then the only thing they can do is put everything they have into every game they play.

The truth is, the job search can be exhausting. Constantly being told "no" by companies can take its toll. And being turned down for positions you've dreamed about can be heart breaking. I know, because the Cubs still haven’t offered me an interview. Regardless, the important thing is to keep going. Never take no for an answer and never accept failure. My dream is to work in sports and I won't stop until that dream becomes a reality. A baseball player doesn't quit after going 0-for-4 in an important game and neither will I. Now, let’s play ball!

Hats off to Megan for this expansive "job series." And if you're interested in hiring her, please feel free to give her a shout!

Networking for Introverts

Today's blog post is authored by Catherine Ho, a recent Stanford grad and fundraising researcher at a large arts nonprofit. She spends much of her time networking, solidifying her long-term career goals, and advancing her interest in brand marketing. I asked Catherine to write a guest post after noticing her ability to ask thought-provoking questions on Twitter.Catherine_Ho (She also has a great knack for summarizing news and sharing interesting trends on Twitter.)
As you'll see, Catherine chose to wrote about a topic of interest to many of the job seekers that I work with--networking strategies for "introverts." (Thanks, Catherine!)

Transitioning into a new industry with little to no experience can be daunting. Over the last 2 years since graduation, I've taught myself the basics of successful networking.
As an introvert, networking never comes naturally. It requires quite a bit of planning and mental preparation. I see too many of my peers dismissing the power of networking as they sit comfortably in their jobs.

Regardless of whether you are job searching or not, networking can open many doors. With a lot of hard work, I've been able to secure a few volunteer and part-time opportunities that will boost my work experience in my chosen industry. If you excel at what you CAN control, you can trust in yourself that key contacts will come out of the woodwork and see you as a dependable, eager, curious learner. Confidence is absolutely key for introverts.

Tools needed: Linkedin, Twitter, resume, professional organizations, and of course informational interviews. The informational interview has been the most valuable for me because it is widely accepted as a way to meet people and receive real insight about a company or industry. Your mileage may vary. Utilize what works best. Here are my five recommendations:
1. Take Chances

When in doubt, take every little opportunity given to you. If you are nervous of the meeting's outcome, just remember that the worst thing that can happen is that he/she says no to your request, in which case you'll move on to the next possible contact. Last month I was given the option of meeting a CEO of a food startup for an informational interview either over the phone or at their office. I chose to go to his office despite the fact that it was all the way across town and quite early before my workday. This decision made a world of difference for me. I was able to get to know the company culture, study their product packaging, and meet one of the CEO's colleagues. I was also less nervous than I would be over the phone. I'm now working with his colleague on a very exciting volunteer project that will give me valuable experience to show to potential employers.

2. Know Your Objectives

Know your objectives before each and every point of contact. Have an agenda prepared before your meeting and do your best to stick to it. Make sure it includes thoughtful questions prepared in advance in addition to your research of a company. During the meeting you can gauge what direction the meeting is going and shift around your agenda as you see fit. To research the company, study the latest press releases, Google News and Finance, note any major changes in investor news and stock prices. A great resource is your local business times, well as Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and other business-related periodicals. If needed, prepare rough phone scripts and key points in notes form. I sometimes get flustered over the phone, so this helps me with my confidence level because I don't have to think on the spot about which questions I will ask. Obviously, this structure requires a bit of effort and preparation beforehand, but it will allow you to guide the meeting with ease and confidence.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

As an introvert, I find that the only way to improve my networking skills is to have more face-to-face time with potential contacts. It has become a skill that I can turn "on" when I'm in the right mindset and about to enter a networking event. Strike a healthy balance of online and in person networking. Joining a professional organization is also a great idea. I'm an active member of a great professional organization called Future Women Leaders in San Francisco. It has helped me learn how to effectively network while learning key business skills in the company of similar young professionals. Develop a busy schedule of networking events, which you can often find advertised online. Practicing face-to-face made me more confident as a person and has positively affected my social life as well, which is a huge bonus for me!

4. Be Professional, No Matter What

Always be as professional, courteous and polite as you would want them to be with you, even if you think the meeting was a flop. Think positively and don't let your own perspective cloud your judgment because you have no idea what the second party is thinking. Apply all the skills you learned about personalized emails, prompt thank you notes, and common courtesy in full force. Always ask if there's anything you can do for your contact. You are not networking just for a job; you are networking to build a great group of trusted professionals you can turn to in future times of need. Demonstrate your maturity level and your awareness in the importance of networking, which is often unexpected in young professionals.

5. Trust Your Instincts
Be prepared for a lot of "no"s and non-answers. Realize that you will not always be able to connect or "click" with a person. Choose to cold-contact strategic people that you feel would be great to have and trust your instincts. Raid your alumni database. If you hear of a name mentioned by someone, research how to contact them. If you read an article by an author you find fascinating, find that person. Be persistent and proactive! It's easier these days to find people with LinkedIn, web search, and email. For the contacts that stick, update them regularly (quarterly is a good rule of thumb) with each major stepping stone or ask them out for coffee and a chance to get out of the office to catch up. This will keep you on their radar. Many people are impressed and flattered to be asked to share their knowledge and advice.


I have met some true gems through my networking, and I will never forget their kindness, taking a chance on me as I navigate into an industry in which I have little to no experience. Most importantly, be sure to pay it forward when you have reached your success! Best of luck.

You can find and connect with Catherine on Twitter: @catherinewithac

On Aspiring to a Career in Sports & "Living the Dream"

I've been lucky enough to meet some wonderful recent grads on Twitter, several of whom have shared with me their goals and aspirations. This is the first installment in a series of three from Megan Ogulnick. As you'll see, Megan is seeking a position which enables her to combine her love of sports with her interest in PR. Stay tuned to follow Megan's adventure on carving a path in a tough market.Megan_ogulnick1

I've been a sports fan my entire life. The earliest support of that is a picture of me at 6 weeks old in a Chicago Bears sweater and Harry Carey glasses on. My dad, being born and raised in Chicago, was a die-hard Chicago sports fan. It was all about the Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks. That being said, it was no surprise I had Chicago Bears Onesies, Cubs school supplies and was able to recite the entire Bulls starting line-up including Bill Carmrine, Horace Grace and Scottie Pipsen (I know now those aren't their names) by the age of 4. My uncle, who now does Pre- and Post-game radio for the Texas Rangers baseball team, was a constant presence growing up, which meant so was sports. I grew up following his career in sports media and admiring him for following his dream. And now, not surprisingly, his dream has become my own. Like family, sports has always been a presence in my life. A presence that has taught me about as much as any class ever as. One of the biggest lessons that sports taught me was one that my uncle learned at a young age; follow your dreams.

Confucius once said, "Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life." In my opinion, truer words have never been spoken. Growing up this was a lesson I was told often; do something you're passionate about. This was one of the first lessons I was taught from sports. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to go to Minor League baseball games. Many of the players were barely out of high school and on their own for the first time. These boys loved the game and you could tell. With scouts watching and local fans cheering them on they put everything they had into the game. Getting paid close to nothing, traveling constantly and staying in motels every night, you knew these boys were there for a reason; they loved the game. It was their passion, their life and they would do whatever it took to make their dream come true.

Some people, like myself, are born knowing what they want to do. Others have to experiment a bit to truly realize what they’re meant for. In difficult economic times such as these many people are settling for any job they can find, but my hope is that eventually they will follow their hearts and do what makes them happy. Everyone’s dream is different. Mine is to work in sports.

But regardless of the shape or size of your dream, all of them are attainable. The first step is simple; ask yourself what it is you really want to do. Has it always been a thought in the back of your mind? Do you have a particular passion? Have you been afraid to try? If you are not sure, do some research! Learn about different career options or paths you could take. Some people need to try a few things before they know for sure. In that case, take a few internships to see what it is you really enjoy. Experience is key to truly learn about a particular industry or career path. Lastly, do what you have to do to make your dream happen. Hone your skills or go back to school if you must. No dream is unreachable and if you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.

My dream is to work in sports. I want to meet new people, travel the country, help others and put my passion to work. I know the power sports can have in impacting people’s lives and I want to be a part of that. New York Mets General Manager, Omar Minaya once said, “We were born with baseball in our blood. It’s more than just a sport. It’s a passion. It’s an opera. It’s just a way of being. It’s almost like breathing.” I was born with sports in my blood. It’s part of what makes me the woman I am today. I know there will be obstacles and I know my dreams won’t come true with the snap of a finger, but I do know that I can make it happen. So for now I’m okay traveling from city to city and staying in local motels, because it will all be worth it when I finally get the call, “You’re goin to the Show.”

You can find Megan on Twitter: @MOgulnick

Lessons from Rocket Scientists

If you're like mRocket_sciencee, you'll end up working in jobs you never dreamed you'd have. I was an English major in college, but spent my first three years after graduation working with rocket scientists. I worked in membership development and communications for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (A-I-Double-A). Would you believe it was actually my job to help them communicate with one another?

As often happens, I learned a great deal from the aerospace engineers and volunteers with whom I worked. In honor of this week's anniversary of "man on the moon," here's a post of thanksgiving and gratitude in honor of my former employer who taught me the value of professional associations, and my aerospace friends who taught me that "no one person is smart enough to be an independent rocket scientist" but that a team of rocket scientists in Reno can help you improve your midnight bowling skills. 

You can read the full post on my other blog, Best Fit Forward.

In case you've long harbored an interest or curiosity for working in space, here's a video series featuring prominent and emerging professionals in aerospace answering the question, "When did you know you wanted to work in aerospace?" As you'll find, "For some it was a specific moment, for others it was a gradual realization that space and flight had captured their imagination and wouldn’t let go."

When did you first know what you wanted to do? And how can I help you get there?

How to Make a Tough Decision (& Choose the Right Job)

I write a great deal about finding a job. Finding the right job that fits your skills and a good work environment that makes you want to stay is equally important. This is why I named my practice, Best Fit Forward: I think it's essential to know your own skills--as well as what you are looking for--throughout the process.

Taking a job is like jumping off solid ground on a rope swing: Once you've made a decision to move forward, you need to ensure a safe landing. As soon as you leap, you have no choice but to hang on with all you have, and pay attention with hope for an easy entry. It's okay to be picky selective in deciding when to jump. You should be. After all, when you accept an offer you are making a commitment. Can you believe you just signed up to spend a significant percentage of your waking hours with individuals who you've only met once or twice? Would you choose to spend over 40 hours every week with a potential partner after two dates?  Probably not. Rope_swing

Recently, I asked my dad an ethicist--for advice on how to weigh a difficult decision. Here is his suggested guide, modified slightly for the job search.

  1. Take the time to write your thoughts down. What are the specifics. Do you have all the information you need to make a decision? Will the position allow you to leverage your natural strengths? Are there aspects of the job that will challenge you to work in ways that don't play to your strengths? (If yes, how will you overcome your weaknesses  compensate or adapt?)

  2. If you anticipate a gap in your job function or potential problems with organizational dynamics--how will you "mind the gap"? Are there people in your current network or in the new organization who can help you? Determine the best way to approach the problem.

  3. Assess the opportunity and figure out where it fits into your overall career "life cycle." It's easy to think about year one, but what are your goals for the next 3-5 years? 5-15? How will this opportunity help you prepare for others? How will your decision affect others in your life--your friends, your family, your community?
  4. Is your opportunity aligned with your values and ideals? Can you imagine yourself working with your potential co-workers? Do your prospective co-workers appear to be on the "same page" as you are in terms of organizational mission, goals, and style?
  5. How can you best manage uncertainty? If you find that the job you've been offered is not the right one for you long term, how will you proceed? What's your game plan for future success--how will you seek out an opportunity that does fit?

Once you've got your "list," mull it over with trusted friends and advisers who know you well and can support you in following through on whatever decision you make.

After you've weighed all your options, lean forward into the decision you've made. You should now have full confidence that you've put your best fit forward.

Do you have any additional criteria you also recommend? If yes, please share!

Onions, Hepburn, & Jr. High: Commencement Wisdom

One of my favorite pastimes in May and June is to read commencement speeches, and scout for anecdotes. Put together a diverse audience of parents, grads, and visitors, combine it with the need to be concise, interesting, and not "too preachy"--and voila--a unique challenge for even the most seasoned of speakers. It's a unique challenge. (Here's some advice on how to do it well if you ever find yourself in this position.) 


My favorite commencement speeches are ones that are short, funny, and provide concise "timeless" advice. Without further ado, here are three of my all-time favorite snippets of wit and wisdom.


During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth, author Louise Erdich worked as a cook for a campus dining hall. Here's an excerpt from her commencement address at her alma mater in which she recounts peeling 60 pounds of onions before going to class--and what the experience taught her.

My problemthat day was that I smelled like an onion.  You know how it is when you smell like an onion.  You can’t smell how badly you smell.  I walked into class and everybody moved away from me.  I was frozen with embarrassment.  Now, I was sure anyway, coming from North Dakota, that everyone was smarter than me.  And at the moment, not only were they smarter, but I was the only one who smelled like an onion.

Lesson?  If you smell like an onion, hold your nose and take notes.  I passed the class, but did not become a philosophy major.  Instead, I became a writer.  Even if people were smarter, I had the advantage of knowing onions.  I had stories.  Most important of all, I had humiliation.  If there’s one this we all have in common, it is absurd humiliation, which can actually become the basis of wisdom.

The experience caused me to invent The Law of the Onion.  It goes something like this:  you have to risk humiliation if you want to move forward.  But the Law of the Onion also states: don’t take things personally.  If other people’s opinions are not personal to you, good or bad, you have a kind of freedom to be who you are.  You have the freedom to do the work that is most meaningful to you.


ABC News Correspondent Cynthia McFadden was the first in her family to go to college. Her father worked for a telephone company in Maine. When she graduated from Columbia Law School, her dad told her: " just remember one thing little girl, you've struggled real hard to get this degree…. Now it is up to you to find work that gives you joy. Anyone can have a job they don't like. " Her advice: Make sure you don't.

In a 2008 Commencement address to Columbia Law School graduates, McFadden provides additional "life lessons" that may play out particularly well in a "down economy" (as many job offers today start out as contract or "temp to perm" assignments). This advice comes from a glamorous source--her friendship with Katherine Hepburn.

I was offered a new job. My first as an on-air reporter.   I wanted it desperately but was afraid I would fail. I went to Kate's (Katherine Hudson) for dinner. --- I told her--- "the good thing is he's offering me a three-year contract--- so even if I stink I am still employed!"

She looked at me with horror. "HEAVENS NO! You must sign for as short a time as you can. If you're good you want them to have to pay you a lot more money and if you're bad you want to be able to get the hell out. "

'When you are young," she continued, " you must always bet on yourself.' I signed for one year. I was good. And he did pay.

So ... Bet on yourself. Take a chance. I hate to quote a greeting card on an occasion as important as this one but here goes "what would you do if failure weren't an option." What indeed.


I'm often surprised by how much "grown-up" life resembles childhood. I've had jobs where corporate e-mails sent by senior leaders ended up in the wrong in-box--and the result has felt like a "passed note" gone bad, and I've worked for companies which have changed bathroom policies based on poor "seat behavior." And, never mind the fun of occasional office politics...

And with that, here's my all-time favorite piece of graduation advice, courtesy of Tom Brokaw's 2005 Commencement speech at Dartmouth College:

..You have been hearing all of your life about this moment - your first big step into what you have been called and told is the real world.  What, you may be asking yourself this morning, is this real life all about?  Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2005 at Dartmouth, it's not college - it's not high school.  Real life is junior high.

The world you're about to enter is filled with adolescent pettiness, pubescent rivalries, the insecurities of 13-year-olds and the false bravado of 14-year-olds. Forty years from now, I guarantee it, you'll still be making silly mistakes, you'll have a temper tantrum, you'll have your feelings hurt for some trivial slight, you'll say something dumb and at least once a week you'll wonder, "Will I ever grow up?"

You can change that.  In pursuit of passions, always be young.  In your relationship with others, always be a grown-up.  Set a standard and stay faithful to it.

What are your favorites? Share...

On Careers in Comedy and a Secret Source of Career Info

Several months ago, I wrote about Alexandra Levit's, How'd You Score That Gig?, a book which includes a great personality quiz, the results of which correspond to cool careers by personality type. It's a great way to jump start your career search if you want to do something new but you aren't sure just where to look yet.741336_innocence_4

But what if you know what you want to do but don't know how to begin? A great way to start is to listen to other people's stories; you can learn a lot by learning how other people have prepared--and trained themselves.

Naturally, there are many books you can listen to, but if you want to shake things up, check out the "Sound of Young America,"  a radio show distributed by Public Radio International. It's one of my new favorite finds, especially because I love the background story and description of the show:

Produced in the Los Angeles living room of host Jesse Thorn, a 25-year-old unemployed receptionist, The Sound of Young America is an edgy, irreverent comedy and arts interview show that bills itself as the “anti-Prairie Home Companion.”

Today, I'm listening to an episode about the careers of comedians and comedy writers Dana Gould "The Simpsons" and John Mulaney "Saturday Night Live."  Check out the Sound of Young America and listen an episode or two.

Do you have any "under the radar" sources of career how-tos? If yes, please share!

An Antidote for the Fever Pitch...

Stress is no stranger to college campuses and to most undergraduate job seekers--especially in a tightCampus_calmjob market.

If you've ever lost sleep over a B-minus on your Economics mid-term, considered a "snow day" as a bonus study day, or found yourself thinking that the lack of a summer internship translates into no hope for full-time offers...then you've got to meet "recovering" perfectionist Maria Pascucci.

A first generation college student, Maria completed her undergraduate degree with flying colors and graduated summa cum laude. She then took a step back and realized she felt completely


After soul-searching, yoga, and counseling, Maria found her way back and has now created a career she loves: she provides resources, advice and concrete strategies through her website and book, Campus Calm University.

Stressed? Visit Maria's website and download her free kit to combat campus stress. Then pick up her book and get a "10-step Blueprint to Stop Stressing and Create a Happy and Purposeful Life" as Maria and friends advise you on strategies from ditching your inner perfectionist and "should dos" to finding out what you really like to learn and uncovering your hidden (PG) passions.

This book has a permanent place on my "recommended list;" place it next to your "must reads" for nights when you can't sleep. It's as calming as a cup of peppermint tea or an extension on the term paper due tomorrow morning...

To Your Success,

Courage (Or How to Ask for Advice)

One of the benefits of maintaining your own blog independently is the freedom to write about issues that rise to the forefront--and are sparked by casual conversation. Today, "Max," a former student of mine wrote to me and raised an issue worth repeating: In a tough market, how do you gauge a safe move? And how do you pursue your career goals when you know what you want to do but the market isn't cooperating?

In Max's case, he spent a year working in a prestigious New York law firm--then decided he was ultimately more interested in working in corporate finance in a role frequented by bankruptcy attorneys. His observation: "I know I don't want to practice law, but if school will help me land this role than that's the path I am going to take--especially since everyone I know who has my "dream job" has worked as an attorney!"

I advised Max to apply the brakes before going to law school and seek out the advice of other people who work in his dream job before applying. After all, law school is an enormous commitment of time and money--and there may be more efficient routes he can take to achieve his career goals.

Over the years, I've found that a vast majority of people enjoy it when you show interest in them and their work. After all, many people love to talk about themselves.

That being said, asking for advice can be tricky and awkward, especially if you are asking people you perceive to be experts. For this reason, and because the following experts have provided insight on this issue with great eloquence and candor, here are three posts I highly recommend.

  1. Be Wary of Pedestals
    From social media guru Chris Brogan (whom I don't know yet but hope to meet soon, and am now slightly less intimidated by--you'll understand why after reading the post)
  2. "How to Ask Questions and Not Be Perceived as a Dumb---"
    Dan Erwin, a management consultant, shares a great strategy for developing relevant questions. Equally important: he provides information on "who to ask," how to "make the ask" and "how to follow-up."
  3. How to Write an E-mail that Generates a Useful Response
    The Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk shares tips on "how to ask by e-mail."

Do you have any additional tips on best practices for asking for advice and information? If yes, please share...

How to Generate Buzz with A Blog

Several months ago, I called David Heiser a rock star. A current student at the College of Charleston, David is pursuing a public relations career in the hospitality with focus, gusto, and an impressive portfolio.David_heiser 

I asked David to share strategies with us, here is the first installment of how David does it:

As a senior scheduled to graduate this spring, I’ve felt the looming threat of life after graduation for quite a while. In an economic landscape like this, where even people with years of experience are getting laid off left and right, it’s a little frightening to be heading into the workforce with nothing but internships under your belt.

For students pursuing a career in public relations, like myself, it is important to have some experience or skill that differentiates us from the hundreds of other individuals who are applying for the same positions.

This past February, I began attempting to differentiate myself by creating and maintaining a blog. I knew a blog would help establish my personal brand and increase my visibility on the internet to potential employers.

When it came time to choose a subject for my blog, I made my decision based on two criteria.

  1. I needed to pick a topic that I was passionate enough about to ensure that I wouldn’t get bored and stop writing in a few months. Too many blogs start out strong, only to fizzle when their author loses interest and stops posting.
  2. I also needed my topic to be related to an industry which I was interested in doing public relations for. This will help potential employers feel confident that I will be able to effectively communicate their client’s messages the media and other publics within the industry.

I eventually settled on restaurant reviews (I also write movie reviews, but that is mainly to insure that I have a steady stream of content). I went in this direction because I’ve always been interested in food and the restaurant industry. I love going out to eat and I’m the one my friends turn to for restaurant recommendations. I’ve also worked in restaurants and for restaurants for years, so it seemed like a logical choice.

In the nine-plus months that I’ve been writing for my blog, I’ve written 88 posts and slowly crept up the Google results for my name (I’m currently in fourth). I’ve had my reviews syndicated on two local news websites, which has helped to increase my site’s visibility. I’ve also made sure to keep a consistently updated resume, a variety of writing samples, and a current list of all of my social media profiles easily accessible for anyone (especially potential employers) who may be interested.

To help push my blog entries out to everyone in my network, I have used a variety of social media tools. First, I set up an RSS feed and an e-mail feed, so visitors would have multiple ways of subscribing to my site. I use TwitterFeed to send a tweet every time I make a new post. Facebook’s Blogcast application and MySpace’s RSS Reader share my entries with my friends on each site. Most people (even your close friends) won’t check your Web site every day, so it’s important to make it as easy as possible for them to know when you’ve produced new material.

While a blog/Web site won’t get you a job by itself, it can certainly increase your chances. You will still need to have a well-crafted resume, network like there’s no tomorrow, and prepare for interviews like they are midterms if you want to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. So, how is it working for me? Well, I don’t have any offers for after graduation yet, but I have managed to leverage my blog experience to help land three internships. From here, I just need to keep up the hard work and hope my effort pays off.

Many thanks to David for sharing his expertise on blogs, and stay tuned for more information on how his job search progresses. I'm predicting big things.

Where the Jobs Are, How to Stay Out of Your Own Way

This fall has been fascinating, challenging, and occasionally exhausting. Living in New York, I've had a front row view of domino-effect of changes on Wall Street which has been supplemented through work with individual job seekers and a consulting gig at a university with a strong Boa_Constrictorcampus recruiting program.

On occasion, I've been at a loss for words. Many of the "safe industries" that I have traditionally recommended to students and young professionals--healthcare, government, biomedical, IT--have also taken some very public hits. (When Dow Chemical announced major layoffs, it really made me nervous--especially since chemical engineers had the highest starting salary of any 2008 graduates due to the "need" for their skills.) 

I've spent a lot of time talking to individual job seekers, and I've noticed a similar response to the economy, "I'm going to stop looking now, because I don't see how I can possibly find a job in this market." I've heard this response from current college students, young professionals, and the recently laid-off. I call this response, the "boa constrictor" because it reminds me of Shel Silverstein's poem about being swallowed by a giant snake:

I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff . . .

It's easy to personalize the economy: i.e. " layoffs and hiring freezes at <<insert company name>> mean I'll never land a new job. I'm going to get clobbered in this market. I have no chance."

DON'T LET YOURSELF THINK LIKE THIS. It is the equivalent of letting yourself get swallowed by a boa constrictor.

In reality, employers are still hiring. Perhaps not in the same volume or with the sexiest salaries ever--but there are still opportunities. And pursuing new opportunities is much better than staying home and putting yourself out of the game altogether.

In that vein here are two great posts providing tips on "where the jobs are" :

Reasons to Give Thanks: There is No Shortage of Jobs for Young People (Penelope Trunk)

Bright Spots in the Bad Economy: Five Places to Look for Jobs Right Now (Lindsey Pollak)

And one article on how not to stand in your own way.

Ten Ways You Stop Yourself from Getting the Right Job (Sital Ruperalia on Career Hub)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what's working--and what hasn't worked.

To Your Success,

The Value of Being Curious

One of my favorite lines from Alice and Wonderland is "Curiouser and curiouser." I've forgotten when she says it in the story, but I'll never forget when my cousin, Zoe, first heard the phrase. Even at the tender age of five, she just knew it was important--and fun--to be curious. "I'm curiou-ker and curiou-ker" she shouted as she ran around the house.

She's held onto that idea. Last week, I talked to her after her basketball practice and she told me all the things she was learning to stay on top of her game. On Sunday, I talked to her mom and she told me she'd been the star player in her latest matches.

In my own life, I'm  "curiou-ker and curiou-ker" about careers. I love to ask people what they do, what they like about it, and to investigate pockets of supply and demand in terms of job functions and the overall employment market. I call it fun.

I also read blogs about careers, and one of my favorites is Penelope Trunk's The Brazen Careerist blog. She always makes me think, and so do the Gen Y bloggers at her company. I've never met her, but I love her voice. She's got a great style, and she seems to say exactly what's on her mind--especially when it's controversial. I love that, but am more deliberative by nature and nurture. (I was born in Texas and own multiple pairs of boots, but worked in academia for years and became cautious about what was "said" and what is left "unsaid."). In spite of--and perhaps because of--our differences, I love reading Penelope's work. Sometimes I disagree with her, but often I think she's spot-on in her advice.

Today, she writes about learning--and the value and importance of being curious in our current recession.

People who are always curious and always learning are keeping the recession from killing their career trajectory. You don't need to have a job to be learning, you don't need to have a great title to be stretching your skills. And really, really, you don't need to go to graduate school and earn a degree to prove that you are learning.  In fact, maybe you need to take a job you're not thrilled with, but remember that no one can dictate your learning curve. You control that.

I couldn't have said it myself. What are you curious about? And how do you show the world about your curiosities?

Decision 2008 (Yours to Move Forward)

I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to participate in Job Action Day, a pre-election event hosted by The purpose of the event is a "call to action" for job seekers by sharing resources written and recommended by career experts.

Here's a link to more information about the event (as well as tips provided):

Lindsey Pollak, my colleague, friend and author of College to Career, recommends taking one small step each day to further your career. This week--I challenge you to do the same; for seven days put your job search in the same must-do list as brushing your teeth. Keep a list of what you do, and watch what happens next...

Contact me and let me know what you've done and how you've seen progress. Any strategies you recommend or don't recommend for other job seekers?

To your success,