How to: De–stress at Work

The last few weeks at work have been in a word, stressful. A lot of changes have come down the pipeline and my team is trying to handle it all in stride. Last week in particular was filled to the brim with challenges, and somehow in a matter of hours I became a little ball of stress. It wasn’t until I got home that I began to slowly feel the stress melt away.

boldI’ll admit, I have never been great at handling stress. I think it was easier in college when I could walk across the quad or down the hall to a friend’s room. Taking a few minutes to get away from the papers, exams, or extracurricular work was often all I needed to gain a little perspective. At work it isn’t quite as easy to find a “sit on the quad and watch the sunset” moment. That being said, I think I’ve found a few ways to help manage my stress.

  1. Walk Away – Going off my trick from college, taking a walk outside or simply to the coffee machine can do wonders. It clears your head a bit and also allows you to avoid the dozens of emails pouring in for a few minutes.
  2. Just breathe – So simple, but something I am not always mindful of when I feel the stress start to overwhelm me. Stopping for a few minutes to focus simply on your breathing can make a world of difference. There are a variety of techniques you can try to find the best fit for you.
  3. Wake up earlier – The most stressful days I have at work are when I am stressed before I even reached my desk. Running late, weaving in and out of slow walking New Yorkers, and reaching my desk minutes before my first meeting doesn’t make for a calm day. Waking up a few minutes earlier gives me time to grab a cup of coffee and go through my emails before the madness of the day sets in.
  4. Snacks – I am one of those people who sometimes forgets to eat when I am stressed. I bounce from one meeting to the other, and suddenly it’s 4pm and I haven’t had lunch. That makes for not only a stressed out Allison, but also a really cranky one too. Keeping healthy snack options nearby makes this step easy and keeps hangry at bay. I also recommend eating snacks away from your desk, find somewhere quiet for a few minutes of peace.
  5. Take your lunch break – Going off the last tip, actually take your lunch break! I know it isn’t always easy to get away for an hour, especially when you are in back to back meetings all day. However, it is so important to go out and grab lunch or simply step away from your desk for even 30 minutes. It is a necessary mental break that will recharge you enough to power through the rest of the afternoon.
  6. Music – Create a playlist of your favorite songs to always have on hand! Sometimes when people keep stopping by my desk and asking me questions, (and as a result breaking my train of thought!) I plug in my headphones to block out the distractions. I always opt for Country music because my Pandora playlist has become the perfect balance of calm and upbeat music. My all time favorite songs these days are Thomas Rhett’s Crash & Burn or Make Me Wanna, I am seriously addicted.
  7. Stretch – Get up and move around every half hour! I have been working on my posture at work and it has made a world of difference. Simply standing up and stretching your shoulders and back can help elevate those stressed muscles.
  8. Add some green I’ve already mastered this tip…have plants at your desk! Studies have shown that keeping plants at your desk can help reduce stress. I keep an ivy plant and a small bamboo plant on either side of my computer. I love these touches of nature, because it makes my desk feel like a happier place to work.
  9. Say No – This is more of a life lesson, but sometimes you just have to say “no”. I am the kind of person who will always take on different projects and tasks, and don’t always realize that I can’t handle it all until I am overwhelmed. I need to remember that sometimes it is okay to say “no” and push back. Stop adding to your stress by taking on things you cannot handle. It is better to reach out to your team for help or to better delegate the work. This will help to elevate mounting amounts of stress.

I hope these tips help you deal with the stress in your own life! Any helpful tips I should add into my own routine?

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Thoughtful Thursday: Passion & Careers

A few weeks ago, my team went out to lunch with an executive at our company. It was very informal and allowed us to openly discuss our department and the different projects we work on. First thing she asked us? Tell her one thing about ourselves that she doesn’t already know. I told her about my interesting experience interning in the fashion department of a magazine. It was a nice change of pace talking about things outside of our industry. It also created a bond with this executive in a very quick and unexpected way. Like, who knew that this woman was also obsessed with the show Awkward on MTV (aka the show that continually cracked me up throughout high school and college!). It was so refreshing to talk about things other than work, and it was the perfect mental break midway through the work day.

Not going to lie, having lunch together at Barneys was pretty cool!

Not going to lie, having lunch together at Barneys was pretty cool!

I think the most memorable aspect of this lunch was the amount of passion this woman has. She is truly bursting at the seams with drive, She regularly attends countless conferences and lectures outside of work. She takes digital design classes for fun. Annually she speaks in front of hundreds of college students. She brings the most unique ideas to the table and is constantly trying to push the envelope. It is an infectious quality she has, one that makes me want to work even harder towards my goals.

I think we were all pretty starstruck by her energy and enthusiasm, and couldn’t help but ask how she stays so motivated. She said that it lies in the escape of the everyday. We need to get outside the office and outside our industry, to see what else is out there. We spend so much time focused specifically on our company, that we are missing out on all the incredible projects other companies and industries are working on. Volunteer, read a book, attend a conference on a topic completely unrelated to your department but something you’ve always been fascinated by.

She explained that some of her best ideas have come from experiences you never would have guessed could be beneficial. Getting outside of the things we are hyper focused on during our 9-5 is the best way to embrace creativity and find a little more work life balance. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. So by not trying new things and reading different articles, you are limiting yourself to an endless stream of sameness.

The thing I admired most about this woman?

She brings ideas to every meeting and 9 times out of 10 she is shot down, but she never let’s that discourage her. She is hands down one of the most driven people I have had the pleasure to meet since joining the working world.

As we were talking, she told us the most memorable piece of advice she has ever received. Years ago her boss at an advertising agency told her, “I may not be famous, but every morning when I look in the mirror I can be proud of the person I see.” That struck such a cord with me. I feel like in this generation, if you aren’t a millionaire or entrepreneurial success by 25 you are considered a failure. Well maybe not a failure, but there is this constant pressure to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Lena Dunham etc. And oftentimes that can be a very discouraging measure of success, making us “millennials” feel like failures in our mid twenties for having not accomplished as much. This piece of advice reminded me that at the end of the day, I want to always be able to look in the mirror and smile at what I have accomplished and what I am working towards. I may not be famous, but I can be proud of who I am and the work I’ve done.

All in all it was a wonderful lunch. It was nice to escape the office for an hour, as I am guilty of eating my lunch at my desk while still responding to emails. This was the perfect reminder of the  importance of actually taking a lunch break. When I got back to my cubicle I felt completely refreshed and focused. It was clearly not just the lunch break, but the people sitting around the table that impacted me. There is just something about sitting with a passionate person. Their energy and drive is overwhelming and provides encouragement in a way that is hard to describe.

2016 Desk Calendars

We are almost in FEBRUARY of 2016…where did this month go!? I still cannot believe how quickly time flies. I know that we are almost done with January, but there is one thing for 2016 I desperately need…a desk calendar! Last year, I received an awesome Donald Robertson Desk Calendar at work. This year we received a different gift and although I love it, I am seriously starting to miss my desk calendar.

It’s so simple, but I didn’t realize how many times a day I looked at my desk calendar until it was gone. I hate having to open the little corner calendar on my computer screen and prefer just to glance over at something on my desk. Plus it can be a fun pop of color to include with my other desk necessities. I rounded up a few options, and I’m honestly having a hard time deciding!

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 5.56.34 PMGarance Dore Les Femmes Calendar

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 5.58.13 PM

Eve Sand Colorful Calendar

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.03.14 PMRifle Paper & Co. Travel the World

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.04.41 PMKate Spade Desk Calendar

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.05.30 PMOpenSky

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 6.07.29 PMKate Spade Classic Black

Which is your favorite?

What to Wear: Office Holiday Party

Tonight is my company’s annual holiday party! Every year they invite the employees to a nearby Manhattan private social club for the festivities. It is a HUGE event filled with tons of food, drinks, and lots of dancing. I am really looking forward to seeing my friends from all different departments/offices in one place. Dressing for an office holiday party is never easy so I decided to round up a few great options. Through my constant Pinteresting, I was able to find choices for every type of office holiday party, from formal to more casual!

For the girl on her way to the corner office:

Fanciful shine

Elegant Polyvore Combinations For A Holiday Office Party:

Sleek LBD

"Office Christmas Party" by bcsmith on Polyvore. THERE IS LEGITIMATELY NOTHING I LOVE MORE THAN THIS OUTFIT.:

Sleek and sparkly

office holiday party work outfit sequin skirt

Plaid and sequins

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f8/ed/4c/f8ed4c1649bba08719d571364cf2b1a4.jpg

Pop of red

 I hope these picks help spark a few ideas for your own office holiday party! And if you are ever stumped for what’s best, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or your manager what the dress code is typically like!

Why I turned down a job when I was unemployed living at home with my parents

I’ve mentioned before in an earlier post that I received a job offer before accepting my current job. At the time, I had no other offers on the table and was still living at home with my parents in NJ. Saying no was not an easy decision, so in an effort to explain this choice, I thought I’d write a post about it!

unemployedlivingathomeparents

This was taken last summer when I was sitting on my deck applying to job after job.

First things first, last summer I spent hours applying to job after job. I made multiple trips into New York City for both interviews and informational coffee meet ups. I made countless phone calls with family friends’ connections, to help me get one step closer to finding that great first job. After what felt like forever (which in actuality was only 4 weeks after graduation) I was extended a phone interview with an organization that is dear to my heart. I excitedly took the interview and afterwards was extended a follow up Skype interview. Both went extremely well, and I was hopeful that something seemed to be moving forward in my career search. At that point, I was just glad that after throwing so many applications against a wall, it looked like one was finally sticking. It was evidence of progress in a way that I so desperately needed at the time.

Within a week of the Skype interview I was extended an offer. The position was located in Columbus, Ohio. When I initially applied for this job, I thought it was a remote position, but quickly learned after the Skype interview that I would be expected to relocate. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against Columbus, Ohio. I actually have a significant amount of family who live within an hour of the city. So I knew that if I decided to move there I would have a great support system nearbyThe other comforting aspect of the job was the opportunity to be alongside many other recent college graduate women. I reveled in the idea that I would have an immediate group of new friends in this new place as I started this next chapter of my life.

However, after receiving the written offer that laid out my salary and expectations, I started to second guess this job. I think the main reason I was so excited initially, was that this again was the first true sign of progress in my job search. It showed me that I was capable of finding a great opportunity. That being said, deep down I knew that this wasn’t something I wanted to do in the long term. It wouldn’t help me reach the lofty career goals I’ve set for myself, and would in all honesty make it trickier for me to get back on track towards those goals. At the same time, I was scared that nothing better would come along. At the time it had only been a month since graduation, but I was going nuts and I was afraid to say no to this opportunity.

Thankfully, I have incredibly understanding and supportive parents. They have always pushed me to work hard and believed in me no matter how many obstacles have come my way. I owe a lot of my inner drive and determination to the two of them. I had promised myself senior year, that I would get out of my parents house as soon as possible after graduating. And I was determined not to let it get to the point where they felt the need to kick me out. When I received the offer, I remember sitting on the front porch steps reading everything over. Right then and there I knew in my gut that I shouldn’t take the offer.

I called my Dad, who listened to all the pros and cons of this job offer. I think he knew in my voice that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. He also reassured me that this position was not going to advance my career, and that it was in a city that I did not desire to live in. He had faith in me that I was qualified enough to find a better fit for me. Although I cried during that phone call, scared that I would not ever find a job that fit me, deep down I knew he was right. It also reassured me that both he and my Mom knew I wasn’t just sitting around waiting for the “job fairy” to extend me the perfect job, and that I was actively working towards it. I think my parent’s belief in me gave me the strength to say no. It also gave me the piece of mind that I could keep searching and living at home, instead of jumping at the first opportunity to leave just so I would be out of their hair.

Saying no was by no means an easy decision. But at the same time, I think it gave me the dose of confidence I needed to find a great job fit for me. I kept at the job search for the following three months. I cannot tell you how many break downs and freak outs I had during that time, but I think that is all part of the process. Questioning the offers I was extended and interviews I went in for reminded me that ultimately this was my decision. I kept thinking of tip #3 from my sorority recruitment post, that even though I am going in for the interview I still had the ultimate control in where I ended up. I was holding more cards than I realized.

Saying no to that first job offer was just the beginning of the journey. Had I said yes, I would not be anywhere near where I am today: living in NYC on the Upper East Side working at a job I truly love. At the end of the day I went with my gut and it (as always!) led me in the right direction.

The one time it is okay to cry at work

If you have to cry, go outside! by Kelly Cutrone is at the top of my stack of Career Must Reads. It is a motto I have kept in mind since the beginning of the job search process to one year into my first real job. Lately, however, I have found the one exception to that rule. I mentioned a few months ago that my manager and mentor was leaving the company to pursue other opportunities. This came as quite a shock and definitely put our team on edge. We had been uncertain about our future and what was to come, especially as her last day loomed ahead. I think our team is nervous to lead ourselves while HR looks for the right fit, knowing that finding someone can be quite a lengthy process. In the meantime, we have all met one on one with our manager to help with the transition.

When I met with my boss individually, I told myself over and over again that I would not cry.

I won’t let it happen.

Not here.

No.

Well…let’s just say I failed.

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As I sat in her office, she began to talk about my role here as her assistant. Hearing someone I admire and respect speak so highly of me and the work I have done was overwhelming. It is such a strange moment when someone you respect and admire speaks of you with so much appreciation, knowing that they will no longer be in the office in a matter of weeks. I was surprised by her thoughts of me as her assistant, because in the real world there are no grades, so it’s sometimes hard to tell where you stand. So lets just say I was caught off guard by all the kind things she said. And then my eyes started to well up with tears. I kept hearing Kelly Cutrone’s voice in my head to wait until I was in private to cry. But I couldn’t help myself.

These were not tears of hurt or anxiety, but ones of true sadness that I was losing such an incredible mentor. She has guided me throughout the past year and has allowed me to take on so much more outside my job description. She never treated me as just her assistant, but as a valuable member of the team. I cannot even put into words how grateful I am to have had a manager that was such a strong, poised, and widely respected woman in the corporate world. She treated our team like family, but also always encouraged us to push ourselves and do more. It is rare to find a mentor so early on in your career, so I am thankful to have found such an incredible one at the get go. I know that this is not goodbye, she will forever be my mentor. I am looking forward to seeing what adventure she takes on next, because any company would be lucky to have her.

A few months ago an executive at my company and I were chatting at a photo shoot and he asked me what I wanted to be “when I grow up.” I paused, smiled, and said I wanted to be just like my manager. It sounds cliché but it’s true. I hope to one day be the kind of mentor she is, someone who is widely respected, strong, talented, and kind. This is a rare combination. She took a chance on me. Most executives tend to hire assistants with more experience, not a recent college graduate. My manager, however, recognized the dilemma so many post grads face. How are we supposed to get a job if we have no experience? She understood and looked for someone she could help grow and I will be forever thankful to her for hiring me and for mentoring me over this past year.

I will say, I definitely do not recommend crying at your office. Especially if you are upset or hurt because of a coworker’s comment or manager’s frustration. Those are the moments you go outside and take a walk, or even just duck into the restroom to cry for a few minutes, never in your managers office. But I think tearing up in my boss’s office showed how much I deeply respect her and how grateful I am to her for all she has given me. And hey, I’m only human!

Networking Emails: The Dos & Don’ts

Lately, I’ve been receiving tons of emails asking for career advice and after the first few I realized it might be beneficial to bring this topic to the blog. Over the past two years, I have gone from a senior in college who had absolutely no clue what she wanted to do to a Digital Marketing Assistant in the beauty industry living in an apartment on the Upper East Side. To say that it has been a weird couple of months is a major understatement. It has been a strange transitional time between being a student to an “adult” navigating the job search process and networking opportunities.

Since I moved to the city, I have started attending different Bucknell Alumni Career Development events (mostly at the constant urging of my mom) where I have met tons of current Bucknellians. I tell them about my job and what I went through last summer while searching for the right fit. I get tons of questions because what I do is pretty unique, especially right out of college, and I am always more than happy to share my advice. After these events, I have received multiple follow up emails both thanking me for my advice and asking additional questions. Now, to preface the following tips, I am ALWAYS happy to take the time help students at my alma mater because Bucknell will always hold a special place in my heart. However, that being said, there are many things I have noticed in these emails and things that I have learned from writing my own networking emails that I hope help you when you sit down to write your own.

email-mistakes(image)

Do: Always state the full name of the event where you met

I have gone to several different events this summer so when someone emails saying they met me at a Bucknell event, it’s not always easy to immediately recall who this person is. Thankfully I use LinkedIn or Facebook to help jump start my memory, but it makes things 10x easier if you say “It was so great meeting you at the Bucknell Summer Career Fair at the so and so hotel in June…”

Don’t: Assume they will remember you

Okay this point is a little harsh, but it’s true. If there is one thing I have learned from emailing people I’ve met at events and students now emailing me, people will not always remember you. I physically cringed when someone emailed me “As you will recall” because in all honesty I hadn’t the faintest idea who they were. So going off this point…

Do: Try to give context or a memorable story

Some conversations are more memorable than others, but try to pinpoint something you talked about at the event. It gives context and will help in focusing in on what we discussed. It also helps to remind me of your career goals or future aspirations. For example, someone I met 3 years ago, remembered me when I tweeted at her a memorable story from the first time we met!! (Still in shock about this!)

Don’t: Write a novel

Although you should always give context, try to keep the email concise and to cut to the chase. The most valuable thing someone has is their time, so don’t waste it. For example, instead of being vague or throwing out the idea of getting coffee, be succinct and ask if this person is available for some time to meet with you about career advice/to learn more about their company/etc. Don’t make it hard for people to know how they can help you.

Don’t: forget to SPELL CHECK!

My inner English Major cannot help but silently correct misspelled words or incorrect grammar in emails. Take the extra 30 seconds to read through any networking emails you write. Sending an email with multiple errors or even just one, may make the person you are asking for help potentially feel less inclined because you didn’t take the time to write a professional email. Going off that point…

Do: Flatter your new connection, it is never a bad place to start

Lets face it, feeding someone’s ego a little bit is always a nice start! Don’t overdo it, but a compliment can go a long way!

Don’t: Forget the Thanks You

Always thank the person you met for their time and for their advice at the event. I think “Thank you” has somehow been pushed to the wayside and it has become more about what the other person can do for you. Be respectful and polite and never forget to thank someone for their time.

Do: Give first, and expect nothing in return

And lastly, there is nothing worse than an email that has no thank yous and simply assumes that the other person will help you. Remember that networking is a give and take, and try to focus more of your energy on establishing a connection with this person. Networking is about meeting new people with the long term goal of helpful contacts down the line. These initial follow up emails are not the time for you to ask a random stranger for a huge favor.

I hope these tips help you write your own follow up emails from Networking Events. These are by no means hard and fast rules to networking emails, but I have found them beneficial in the last few years. What are your tips for writing networking emails? Do you have any questions about writing your own follow up emails?