Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to following your heart, Kial Afton knows firsthand just how important that can be. After studying Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College, Kial pursued a role as an NBC page by continually applying for a position and networking with as many people as she could. Her persistence paid off. Kial spent time as a Page and worked her way up the corporate ladder, and she is now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal.

While in college, Kial spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre, in addition to spending a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. Though she didn’t know what to study at Boston College, she took advantage of the core curriculum required for freshmen and discovered topics that she loved and would ultimately major in.

We are inspired by Kial’s drive, her positive energy, and the advice she would share with her 20-year-old self: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Turns out that when you follow your heart, great things can happen.

Name: Kial Afton
Education: B.A. in Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies from Boston College

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Kial Afton: Saying yes to every opportunity that presents itself. Stepping out of your comfort zone. Realizing it’s OK to be wrong – so long as you learn something from it.

CJ: You studied Communications, Philosophy, and International Studies at Boston College. How did you decide what to study?

KA: I didn’t. Boston College has a strong liberal arts, core curriculum required for freshmen, and this was extremely valuable to someone like me who wasn’t sure what to study.

Some of my favorite classes in the core curriculum—philosophy of existence, cultural communications, international conflict and cooperation—laid the foundation for what later became my majors. I took more advanced classes offered by my favorite professors in a few different areas, including those abroad.

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CJ: You’ve spent time studying Greek mythology, archaeology, architecture, and culture at The Athens Centre. You also spent a summer studying art, architecture, and philosophy at Venice International University. These experiences sound incredible! What were these experiences like and why did you choose to spend time in Athens and Venice?

KA: I absolutely studied some very interesting topics in Athens and Venice. What I learned the most from these experiences, however, happened outside of the classroom. Studying abroad for me was less about the topic than learning to understand the environment in which you’re living, growing to understand and respect different cultures, and making interpersonal connections with people you would never otherwise have the opportunity — from Alberto who sold me my daily gelato, to Caroline who had a similar major at her university in Munich!

CJ: What did your career path look like when you graduated from college?

KA: I followed my heart, which was the opposite of sensical. I spent senior year applying to NBC’s Page Program, but when I never got called to interview; I did the “responsible” thing and lined up a Boston-based Public Relations position to begin immediately following graduation. I was not excited for it or inspired by it.

When my sister in New York called to tell me her roommate was moving out, I did the least responsible thing I could image and moved to New York without a job—or at least a steady one.

I landed a part-time PR position immediately, but had to supplement my income and fill my free time with any odd job—extra work on 30 Rock and Law and Order, nannying, foot-modeling, and lastly as a “promotional marketer”—a fancy term for “passing out flyers on the street.”

All the while, I continued applying to the Page Program and networking with anyone in NBC who could stand another informational with me. Finally, it paid off.

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CJ: You spent some time as an NBC Page. What does being a Page mean, and what did your duties involve?

KA: If you’ve ever seen 30 Rock, an NBC Page is a real life version of Kenneth. Wearing Brooks Brothers’ uniforms—adorned with a name badge, pocket square and peacock pins—the primary job of a Page is to proudly lead countless studio tours and coordinate audiences for shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and The Dr. Oz Show. Pages work six days a week, twelve-plus hours each day and practically sleep at 30 Rock.

So why did I try so hard to become a Page? As Stuart Epstein, NBC’s CFO in 2011, told me on my first day, “The grey suit has the power to open any door.” And he was right. As a Page, you also have the opportunity to apply for 3-6 month assignments. I worked as the TODAY Show Green Room Page, and in marketing for NBC Sports & Olympics.

The Page Program exposes you to an array of opportunities and introduces you to some exceptional and influential people.

CJ: You are now the Corporate Events Manager at NBCUniversal. What does your role entail? What do your daily tasks look like?

KA: Building relationships with marketing, sales and top NBC Executives to gain a working knowledge of their needs and their clients’ needs in order to advance key initiatives. Once the parameters have been set, I’m given the creative freedom to research, develop, manage and execute special events across all NBCUniversal properties on a national and international scale.

CJ: You’ve been involved with events such as the Superbowl and the Olympics. What does the process look like for organizing these big events?

KA: One might think it would take an army to organize a 2,000+ client hospitality program. In actuality, it requires significant lead-time and having complete faith in your team and vendors. And adrenaline!

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CJ: What is the best part about your job? The hardest part?

KA: I work with amazing people. Blaise Cashen leads the Corporate Events Team, and is very selective in the hiring process. The team is therefore lean and mean and comprised of some of the most talented and devoted people I know.

The hard part—the hours! Finding work-life balance is challenging in any demanding company or career.

CJ: How do you stay organized and manage your time?

KA: Lists, lists, and more lists! Shared calendars, outlook reminders, a notebook by the bedside, and more post-its than I’d like to admit keep me organized.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

KA: I look to sites like Pinterest and BizBash for inspiration. Developing vendor relations and networking with others in the industry, however, provide the building blocks needed to further my career.

CJ: When you are feeling overwhelmed or having a bad day, how do you like to unwind or reset?

KA: My calm is Murphy, my Dad’s rescue dog. Early mornings in Central Park and late evenings at Tomkins Square Dog Park keep me calm and grounded.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care greatly about? If so, why?

KA: I’m a member of Friends of Animal Rescue (to help others like Murphy) the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (to support my sister, Laine) and Planned Parenthood (I strongly support their mission).

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

KA: I’m working to build the professional confidence I’m capable of projecting but have a difficult time actually feeling. I’m working to remove the inner monologue, and never apologize for my opinions—I now have the experience to have both earned them, and stand by them!

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

KA: Don’t sweat the small stuff. It always works out and fretting about it only gives you grey hair (seriously).

Kial Afton Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

The life of an entrepreneur can be stressful, overwhelming, and busy. It can wear you out, and it’s important to make time for your personal life. Abhay Jain, the co-founder of SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love, knows how brutal the life of an entrepreneur can be. Earning a B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and later receiving his JD from Duke University School of Law and an MBA from Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business), Abhay is no stranger to academia, hard work, and constant learning.

With one more year left in grad school, Abhay came up with the idea for SoundScope and utilized his professors, classmates, and classes to further his business plan and hone his idea. Now he works on his startup full-time in New York City and works hard to make his idea a reality. We’re excited to introduce you to this smart and ambitious entrepreneur – read on to learn more about how he decided what to major in at Virginia Tech, how he managed to earn both a JD and MBA, and which books and resources he finds most useful.

Name: Abhay Jain
Education: B.S. in Bio-Business and Psychology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech); JD from Duke University School of Law; MBA in Business Administration from Duke University – The Fuqua School of Business
Follow: SoundScope.com / @SoundScopeNYC / / @JainAbhayk

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

AJ:  “Seizing your youth” means taking the time to learn about yourself. For me it meant traveling, living in new cities, meeting interesting people, and taking every opportunity that came my way. If you don’t know what you want, try and figure out what you don’t want.

CJ: You majored in Bio-Business and minored in Psychology at Virginia Tech. How did you decide what to major and minor in?

AJ: I was an “undecided major” when I first got into Virginia Tech. When my dad and I went into the academic affairs office he said, “You are at a tech school.  Why don’t you go pre-med until you find something better?” In hindsight, it was a smart move from my dad to lure me into becoming a doctor because I was far too lazy to venture to the other side of campus to change my major. Instead, I just added things that interested me. I thought psychology and consumer behavior were interesting so I took the classes I liked.  Plus, this girl I was crushing on was a psych minor, so that was also a draw. Ha. Before I knew it, I had completed the prerequisites for a dual major and a minor.

In retrospect, I’d like to say I was super methodical in my course selection but I knew my learning style — I just couldn’t excel at coursework I didn’t enjoy.

CJ: You also received your JD / MBA from Duke University Law School and the Fuqua School of Business. What led you to your decision to go back to school to receive these two degrees?

AJ: A bit of serendipity, I suppose. I spent every summer of college traveling and experiencing potential careers. One summer, I worked at a few hospitals across Southeast Asia. No matter how much time I spent with the doctors, I was far more enthralled by the work of the hospital manager. Similarly, I spent a summer at the Department of Justice in D.C. and found the ability to impact organizational change exciting. As you can imagine, finding a legal or managerial job with a pre-med degree is not that easy. So, I leveraged my “pre-med knowledge” to get a job at a, then, fledgling pharmaceutical startup. A great learning experience — I got laid-off after 12 weeks. Fortunately, it was 2008, the markets were tanking and I had seen the warning signs. So, I spent my spare time studying for the LSAT and applying to schools. Within weeks of my forced vacation I had an acceptance letter in my hand, a bargaining chip for other job opportunities, and a modicum of respect from my parents.

CJ: A JD / MBA combination is an interesting way to learn about law and business. What was your experience doing a JD /MBA program like? What does the workload entail, what would a day in your life look like, and how did you manage the stress of earning those degrees?

AJ: The learning Duke provided me was truly life-changing! I went from multiple-choice tests to writing and arguing 50-page papers. The JD helped me sharpen my mind in terms of spotting issues, resolving conflicts, and persuading others of my point of view. The MBA restored my quant skills and brought a piece of practical applicability to my academic pursuits as well as strong Rolodex of Duke Alums.

That being said, the JD was a steel-toed boot to the face. Imagine: being surrounded by some of the smartest and most stressed people you know competing academically in an area you know nothing about, going from the world of black-and-white certainty to shades gray and uncertainty, and reading dense legal jargon for five hours a night and being harassed by former politicians and litigators in a room full of 100 peers yearning to outwit you. It was punishment for six months until I finally got the hang of it. Once I understood the system, however, I really enjoyed the thought and learning involved.

Business school on the other hand was dramatically different education. It was a mix of overzealous networking, excel, calculus, calendar invites, and theme parties. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit burnt out from academia at the time and couldn’t stand lots of my overeager peers for a couple months. However, my last year as it all came together I truly enjoyed both realms of the education and savored the life-long friendships I made at both schools.

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CJ: After graduation, you founded SoundScope, a mobile platform that allows people to choose their night out based on the music they love. How did this idea come about and what were your steps for making it a reality?

AJ: During my grad school experience, I had the opportunity to work in various roles in cities around the country. My favorite of which was New York. My summer in finance in New York meant I had very limited time to go out. I always had a passion for music and going out and wanted to make the right decision since my time was limited. I wondered why there were so many amazing things happening in NYC but no way for people to find them?!?

Luckily, I had one year left in grad school so I used my concept for every major class assignment. Thus, I got to use the skills and expertise of my peers and professors to better hone the idea, build a business plan, and connect to people that could help execute.

CJ: What have been the greatest lessons you’ve learned in starting your own business?

AJ:  People are the most important element of any business — I can’t emphasis this enough. Find people that are smarter than you that are reliable and hire them.

CJ: Every day in your life must look different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

AJ: Get up and try to make it into to the gym early. Make a list of all my objectives for the week and what we missed last week.  Get into the office at 9:30. Catch up on emails. Go through what the rest of the team is working on during lunch and then back-to-back meetings ranging from financials to sponsorships.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be an entrepreneur do now to set him or herself up for success?

AJ: Dive in and seek out mentors.  Experience is the best education for an entrepreneur — intern any and everywhere, test out ideas through an MVP, and talk to potential customers. In your spare time, seek out other entrepreneurs to learn from.

CJ: What are some books, resources, and websites that have influenced you – either personally or professionally (or both)?

AJ:  Finding mentors IRL is not always easy. Initially, the web was the best way for me to learn from “mentors.” I really love the Stanford e-corner. They have a weekly SoundCloud segment from successful entrepreneurs that helped me think through tough problems and figure out where I wanted to take SoundScope. Also, Guy Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start” is a good crash course on the current state of startups.

CJ: When you’re not working on SoundScope, how do you like to spend your time?

AJ: Thanks to my iPhone I am technically always working. But whenever I unplug I love traveling, cooking, and listening to good music.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

AJ: I am trying very hard to build a stronger wall between my personal and professional life. Running a startup can be brutal.  It is an emotional roller-coaster that can really wear you out. I am working on keeping more of an even keel and not letting SoundScope pervade things I appreciate personally — whether it’s spending time with friends, going to the gym, or just sleeping.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AJ:  Life and people around you have a way of convincing you that you need to follow a certain trajectory — as in you need to figure out your career by 25, get married by 27, buy a house by 30, and pop out 2.5 kids by 35. Life is short. Do what makes you happy. Everything else will fall in place.

Abhay Jain Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Carpe Juvenis set out to redesign, we knew exactly who to turn to. Spencer Shores, an incredibly talented recent graduate from Cornish College of the Arts, was the person we needed. We were referred to him by Kate Harmer (who you might recognize from her own Professional Spotlight!) who brought him onto her team as an intern and quickly realized he stood out as worth recommending. It’s hard to believe that Spencer is just in his early twenties – he has the professionalism of an ultra experienced pro, and the skill of someone who is able to combine both learned and natural talent to everything he touches. We knew from the get go that we had to share his story and advice with the Carpe community! So without further ado…

Name: Spencer Shores
Education: BFA in Visual Communications from Cornish College of the Arts
Follow: www.spencershor.es

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Spencer Shores: Seizing your youth to me is about finding your path. It is taking on an active role of defining yourself. Fail often and what have you.

CJ: You are studying Design and Visual Communications at Cornish College of the Arts. What sparked your love for design and illustration?

SS:
I entered school as print-maker and a painter. My love for design and illustration was something that grew the more I was immersed in the community. I loved that designers ask questions, whether they have the answers at the time. However, they always planned on finding an answer. Design for me is the perfect cohesion of critical and creative thinking.

CJ: What does your creative process look like?

SS: It really depends on the project.  I like to have a variety of projects at any one time. Some are just visual experiments or technique explorations, while others are highly conceptual projects that tend to be very near and dear to my heart. The visual and technique driven projects usually start with a lot of visual references and lots of sketching, it’s a lot less formal of a process. Some of these projects are just weekend posters or things of that nature. The more conceptual projects starts with a lot of reading, writing, and reflecting. The conceptual projects can last from weeks to even years. There are still visuals and sketching phases, however this occurs much later. The visuals don’t become important until you’re about 80% done with the project.

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CJ: You interned at Hum Creative. What was that experience like and how has it influenced your work (in design and/or business)?

SS:
Working with the Hum crew was a great experience. It was really demystifying of the design world. You hear horror stories while in school of what design firms are like. I suppose I’m lucky, because that was not my experience. Interning and later working with Hum was the first job I’d ever had where I wasn’t counting the hours until I could go home. I vividly remember thinking that this was what people talked about when they said work is never work if you love what you do. Since then, I never approached design as a task, or something I need to do. Design is always an opportunity, an opportunity to make something that matters. That’s a really exciting realization.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being a designer and illustrator?

SS: It is an important and valuable skill to be able to see things that don’t work. I consider myself an optimist, but there are a lot of things in the world that do not work, or at the very least could work better. The greatest lesson I’ve learned as a designer is that the first step of solving a problem is asking the question.

CJ: What is the most challenging part about being a designer and illustrator? The best part?

SS: I think the most challenging part is in fact the best part. Something that doesn’t generally come naturally to people is the idea of collaboration. The best part of being a designer is the opportunity to work with people, but more importantly people that think differently than yourself. Whether it be other designers or working with clients. My best work has come from collaboration and melding of ideas in order to solve a problem. This isn’t always easy, but it is always rewarding.

Spencer shores

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in being a designer and illustrator?

SS: Work hard and ask people questions. You’ll be amazed at how positively people react when you are genuinely interested in what they do. Design/Illustration is a fairly small community, so it goes a long way just to reach out to people. That results in an infinite supply of knowledge and mentorship.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

SS: I try to make a point to ease my way into the week, by ritualizing it in a sense. I make the active choice to get up and get out as soon as possible. I go straight to a coffee shop and get a coffee, being in a new surroundings kick starts my mind. Then I make lists. I love to make lists of things I want to achieve during that day and throughout that week. It’s an important part of my workflow.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

SS: The lists! I make multiple versions of my lists, I keep digital and handwritten copies. Actually physically writing things helps me remember them more accurately. It is also important to have an idea of how much time you can spend on something. It’s a good exercise to time yourself with parts of your day or workflow so you can accurately assess and distribute your time.

CJ: What is a cause or issue that you care about and why?

SS: A point of discussion recently has been the education system. I believe that we systematically approach educating people in the wrong way. This results in the population believing that they are not capable of many things. I believe that people can do anything they want to do. We live in a world where almost all knowledge is accessible and you can learn all about it with the half a second it takes to Google it.

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CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

SS: I’m really pushing myself to be better about being honest with myself and others. Not in the sense that I am a compulsive liar or any such thing. I am more accurately a relentless optimist. I believe that many things are possible and I’m often right, however, I tend to spread myself fairly thin at times by overcommitting to people. At a certain point it is more beneficial to others if I am not quite so drained.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

SS: I go outside. First thing I need to do is step away from what is frustrating me, which typically is work related and often involves a screen. I constantly need to remind myself to go outside, feel a breeze, and take a breath. It keeps my grounded and engaging my other senses takes the focus off of the one point of frustration. I also write my thoughts. It allows me to stop thinking about so many things at once if I can just get them on paper.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

SS: It is okay to question your teachers. They’ll encourage you to do so. It is totally possible to make money in a creative field. Forget about business school. It is also possible to make things that are important and impactful, not just for you, but for others as well.

Spencer Shores Qs

Images by Spencer Shores

EducationWork

Congrats on your new gig! You’re now a real live college grad and super excited that you’ll be able to pay something when your student loans arrive in six months. Whether you landed your dream job or are just starting out somewhere, doing something, that pays somewhat, there are unwritten rules of do’s and don’ts on your first day. I’m not talking about the basics, like being on time (aka early). I’m referring to some of the things that maybe aren’t so obvious to everyone. After all, making first impressions is important, and you want to bring more to the table than just your I-can-do-everything-smile. To make sure you are putting yourself in the best position for success at this new company, consider aiming to accomplish these five goals during your first week:

  1. Don’t share. You may have had an amazing time at the bar crawl last Saturday, but no one needs to know that. They also don’t need to know about your Instagram account full of selfies #summer2015. Even if you’re in a company full of young 20-somethings and hear them talking about their social lives in great detail, don’t be the newbie that tries to fit in by oversharing how much you are just like them. I’m not saying you should totally lie about yourself, but pretend like you’re talking to a 12-year-old: “I love movies, reading, and just hanging out with my friends!” Keep it short, simple, and while I’m sure you’re a smart and responsible person, there’s no need to give anyone the chance to think otherwise. Besides, your goal is to be better than everyone, so don’t act like everyone.
  2. Observe. This is similar to the first goal, only with an emphasis on carefully paying attention to what people are saying and doing. You may not get more than two minutes of interaction with each coworker on your first day, but subtle demeanors can be telling: Who had an obnoxiously firm hand grip? Which people look like they’re in a clique? Who looked like they were bored at work? Who’s got their face buried in their desk? Take a mental note of these things, because the more you know about others, the better you can gauge how to conduct yourself. The truth is, while there’s a possibility of developing real friendships with these people, they are still, first and foremost, your coworkers. Office politics are a real thing and don’t underestimate other people’s motives.
  3. To ask or not to ask (for help). If you’ve never had a job in an office setting before, that’s perfectly understandable! You don’t have to act like you know everything and you should get comfortable with asking your manager or peers about certain things. If you don’t know where the printer paper is located, just ask! If you don’t know where they keep the coffee cups, just ask! If you get asked to do something that you’ve never done before, even if it’s as simple as making mailing labels on Word, I suggest trying to figure it out first. Click some buttons, Google some stuff, and if you’re still clueless, don’t be embarrassed to ask. At least you tried learning on your own first before seeking help! But remember everything you’re taught, because asking the same question routinely within the first month is definitely not a good thing.
  4. Set your ego aside. Chances are, you’re not the boss or the team lead in the company (if you are, then that’s amazing!), so you might find it a little difficult to accept the fact that you are in a different position – socially and professionally. If you were the all-star athlete, honor student, or student government president in school, then starting at the bottom of the totem pole might be a hard pill to swallow. In my first job, my responsibilities included ordering the food for company meetings, ordering office supplies, and fetching office mail. Don’t fall into the mindset that you’re “too good” for it. You are not better than the job. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be, and everything is a learning opportunity. The beginning of your professional career starts with humility and integrity.
  5. Do what you say you’re going to do. There’s probably a good chance that you’re one of the youngest people in the company. That means you have to prove yourself in this new corporate landscape as a reliable, valuable, and impactful team member. Gaining the trust from superiors and peers is crucial, and this is done by doing what you say you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, regardless of the outcome. If you say you’re going to email back, email them back. If you say you’ll look into something, look into it and provide an update. People may forget what you promised, but when you actually do it, it separates you from everyone else as a leader. Branding yourself as the person who doesn’t just say things “just to say them” is extremely meaningful for your career.

The first few steps of your professional life can be rocky at first. Social dynamics change and you might find yourself in a lot of awkward moments. But keep these tips in mind and one day you’ll be giving advice to the next newbie!

Image: Getrefe

Skills

Hopefully I’ve won you over in Part I about how informational interviews work wonders for you and your career. Now that you’re ready to jump into some interviewing, I know it can be overwhelming to read through all the tips and tricks of the trade. It’s important to realize that the “right” way is ultimately contingent upon your personality. At the same time, don’t feel like just because you’re an introvert, that you will have a more challenging time than extroverts — that’s certainly not the case! I’m a big proponent of not forcing yourself to do anything you truly don’t want to, but I am also a believer in pushing boundaries for personal growth. It’s simply a matter of allowing yourself to be open to the process.

With that said, here are my 4 tips for conducting your first informational interview.

Do your research. Be honest about who you want to interview and don’t pick individuals whose careers you aren’t sincerely curious about. It will be much harder to come up with interview questions without genuine interest (and it’ll be ridiculously awkward for the both of you!). I suggest researching as many people as you can (via LinkedIn, company websites, etc.) that you can actually meet in person. Search for types of industries, roles, and job descriptions and keep a list of the ones that catch your eye.

For extra points, try to find people through your own connections. They will be able to facilitate the introduction and mention some good things about you, too! But for now, just focus on learning as much as you can about these people: find out about their professional history, learn about their educational background, find the current office location, and read any published articles – you get the picture. This all prevents you from asking obvious questions during your interview, as well as gives you a better idea of whether or not they are the right fit for you.

Introduce Yourself. When introducing yourself via email, keep it short and to the point. This is probably the most uncomfortable part, but I promise it’s a breeze! Here’s a quick example:

“Dear ________, I’m a student at ______ University, majoring in ________. I’ve read some of your articles on __________ and I’m considering a career in ___________ as well. I’d really love to learn more about the work you do as an ______________, and was hoping I can take you for a quick coffee to learn more about it. I noticed that your company’s office is in ________, and I’ll actually be in the area next week. Please let me know when you’re available, I would sincerely appreciate it!”

You won’t always get a response, but you’d be surprised how many people will. After a couple of more email exchanges, send your résumé to give an idea of who you are (even if it’s already on LinkedIn). If you’re a student or a young professional that is just starting out, don’t feel self-conscious about not having a super stellar resume just yet. You’re reaching out to them for help, remember?

The Interview: Be interested, not interesting. Remember, you are interviewing them. Don’t worry about not having much to say – you’re not supposed to! Your job is to learn about their experience, skills, and challenges. Prepare at least 15-20 questions to direct the flow of your interview and be as professional as you would be for a job interview (dress appropriately and make eye contact!). If you promised a 30-minute interview, then deliver exactly that. Prior to the 30-minute mark, kindly mention that you are aware of their busy schedule, and that you’re happy to continue the conversation next time. If they’re still able to continue their time with you, great! If not, it’s a good way to smoothly end the interview. They’ll appreciate your mindfulness and this gives you an open door to reach out to them again.

Seal the deal. Conclude the interview by asking if they have any recommendations on other professionals who you can connect with. When you reach out to these new individuals, you will already have a mutual connection that will make networking easier. At the same time, you will be building a positive, professional reputation for yourself. Last but not least, send a thank you card (yes, an actual card with an envelope, and buy a stamp to mail it). There is no exception!

Follow-up with them from time to time to keep the connection going. Sometimes I like to send a short email update on how their advice influenced my decisions at work or school. Other times, it’s just a link to an article that they might enjoy. Either way, the objective is to remind them of how they helped you and that they are appreciated.

The more you conduct informational interviews, the more comfortable you will be speaking to successful (and perhaps intimidating) people. The amount of knowledge and insight that you gain out of them are immeasurable and can truly change the course of your future. Remember, there’s no such thing as failing or embarrassing yourself when you’re coming from a place of sincerity. Good luck!

Image: Pexels

Skills

Think back to a time when you couldn’t decide which class to take in college. Even easier, think of a time you needed advice on a restaurant to go to for your birthday. What are some things you did to help you figure it out? For me, I spoke with my friends who had taken the class already, and asked for restaurant recommendations. I was definitely not willing to decide without getting the facts first. It’d be crazy to gamble on something so important, right?

The same goes for your career.

Informational interviewing is the most powerful tool you can use to explore if a career or path is right for you. In this scenario, you are the interviewer seeking out individuals who are already in the role or industry that you want to learn more about. Many people use informational interviews for job hunting, while others use them to find their passion. It’s like having a crystal ball and getting to see what your future could look like, without all the uncertainty and jumping through hoops.

By conducting these interviews, you could avoid making huge, expensive mistakes by learning about someone else’s journey. Remember those job fairs or open-house events with all the clubs and societies at school? There’s a very simple reason for them: to learn from people about what they know best. That’s it! And informational interviews are no different. They open doors to meet like-minded individuals, help you gain mentors, and provide unexpected (but tremendously helpful) opportunities you wouldn’t have been given otherwise. People are the best resources for knowledge and everyone’s got a story to tell.

Of course, if you’ve never conducted an informational interview before, I know it can seem awkward and intimidating. We worry about looking silly, being embarrassed, and not knowing how to act or what to say. The reason it doesn’t feel natural is because we’re spoiled by getting what we want without much real-life human interaction. But if you can get past all the excuses that keep you from taking a leap towards what you want, the rewards are worth the risk. Plus, the person you want to interview already knows why you’re contacting them anyway, it’s not like it’s a big secret. I guarantee you they’ll be super flattered!

If you still need convincing that informational interviewing is the fast-track to achieving your goals, here’s what they reflect about you:

  1. You are focused, determined, and results-oriented. (And these won’t just be words on your resume.)
  2. You are fearless. You can prove that your actions speak louder than your words. Think about it – not all people would have the guts to find a specific person, introduce themselves out of nowhere, and ask how’d they get to be so awesome and successful.
  3. You are confident in your ambitions and recognize that success is not achieved single-handedly.
  4. You’ve got goals and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve them. However other people get their information is their business, but you have decided to actively find what you need to know to make your life worth it.

Whether you’re looking for a new job or trying to find yourself, don’t be scared to just ask. You might not learn everything from a single interview, but the process itself is a learning opportunity. Who knows, your first interview could change your whole future (it did for me!).

Image: Unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to girl power, who does it better than the Girl Scouts? We’re huge fans of this empowering organization, especially because the Girl Scouts encourages learning, adventure, fun, friends, and dreaming big. We had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Stefanie Ellis, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington‘s Public Relations Director.

Stefanie is energetic, enthusiastic, and a lot of fun to talk to. Her career came about at a completely unexpected moment, but it turns out life throws curveballs at you and teaches you new things about yourself. Originally attending pastry school in London, Stefanie knew this wasn’t the career for her as soon as she saw a job listing as a writing specialist for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. Stefanie is very inspiring and optimistic, and we couldn’t be more excited to share her story with you.

Fun fact: the above photo is of Stephanie (right) with the country’s oldest living Girl Scout, Emma Otis.

Name: Stefanie Ellis
Education: B.A. in English with Secondary Certification from University of Missouri-Saint Louis
Follow: girlscoutsww.org / 52lovestories.com@stlfoodgirl
Location: Seattle, Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth?”

Stefanie Ellis: I define it as living in the present moment and being very clear about who you are and what you want. Taking time to enjoy the challenges as well as the successes, and not letting either hold too much weight. It’s all about the journey.

It’s about trying, falling – maybe even tripping and ending up on your face – and then getting  back up. It’s about not giving up, not giving in to pressure or stereotypes and doing the things that matter to you. I also firmly believe that seizing your youth never stops just because you age. I’m still seizing my youth this very moment, and I don’t plan to stop!

CJ: What sparked your passion for public relations?

SE: I never set out be in public relations. In fact, I was pretty darned shy most of my life, and tended toward careers where I could play it safe behind-the-scenes. I’ve been a food writer for 15 years, and when I turned 30, decided to go to pastry school in London. I thought that’s where my life was headed, but I was diagnosed pre-diabetic three days before I left so I couldn’t eat any of the pastries.

I came home to Saint Louis and questioned what I was going to do with my life. I saw a job listing for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington as a writing specialist. Instantly pastry-making flew out the window and I knew that this was my job. I moved to Seattle and was a writing specialist for a few years, but then one day we had a big event for 7,000 girls, and I was doing all the marketing for the event.

The CEO came up to me and told me that we had been invited on the news to talk about it, and said they chose me to go. I laughed and politely declined. She asked why I was declining, and I told her I was shy. She told me I wasn’t. I politely thanked her again and told her that I know who I am. She said, “I challenge you to look again. I think that the woman who you really are isn’t necessarily the woman who you think you are.”

I agreed to go on TV thinking that if I embarrassed myself she would never ask me to go again. Turns out, I was pretty good. I would never have discovered that had someone not invited me to challenge my own perceptions. That basically was the changing point for my whole life. Shortly thereafter, the public relations person moved and I was invited to give the position a shot. That was nearly four years ago and I have had to stretch myself in ways I never thought I would.

I had to get over a lot of perceptions I had about myself and my abilities. I have been able to change my thinking, which is exactly the point of Girl Scouts. It allows you to stretch beyond who you thought you were and step into who you really are, while building a comfort level along the way. You get to choose how you’re going to share your gifts with the world. I owe so much of who I am now to Girl Scouts.

Stefanie 1

CJ: As you mentioned, you went to pastry school (Le Cordon Bleu) in London. What was that experience like ?

SE: When I was in high school and college I waitressed, so I thought I knew what the food profession was like. I have so much more respect who are on their feet 18 hours a day, pouring their heart and soul into something for someone else. I learned about the art of creation. For me that happens to be food. I look at art very differently in the museum now.

It was an amazing experience because there were people from all around the world in one place. Everyone had to learn how to work together. I never cut my fingers more in my entire life. Those knives are so dangerous, and I never mastered the art of looking graceful while wielding a finger-cutting weapon!

CJ: What makes young people so important and why has their empowerment become a primary focus in your career and life?

SE: I believe everyone has a voice and sometimes young people don’t think they are allowed to use it, which is unfortunate to me. Organizations like Girl Scouts help young people see that they have a voice and gives them so many opportunities to practice using it. I didn’t find my voice until my thirties, but I spend my days watching everyone from age six to 18 develop skills, talents, find their strengths, and become empowered. They are the ones who will be leading us into the future, and we have a responsibility to nurture and support them in their journey.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the world of public relations?

SE: Talk to everybody everywhere you go. Even if it’s at the grocery store or in the aisle of a hardware store. Ask questions and make observations. Practice active communication. Communicating is something we’re born knowing how to do but not necessarily a skill that we develop, especially now with texting and social media. I truly believe these things can be a detriment to our ability to form and nurture relationships. I straddle both worlds, but prefer to live on the side where people actually sit across from each other and look one another in the eyes. I see so many people eating dinner together, but texting. We can’t lose conversation! We can’t lose real and meaningful relationship building. This isn’t just about PR – it’s about connection. I also believe these natural practices will dramatically influence how effective you’ll be in your career.

Stefanie 4

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

SE: An unexpectedly amazing part of my job that I don’t think I’d experience if I did not work where I work happened when I accidentally ran into Dave Matthews at the gym. My co-worker and I had been trying to figure out how we could incorporate him into our campaigns for years. When I ran into him I was unprepared, and knew I only had 15 seconds to ask him something!

I walked up to him and said, “Hey Dave, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Yeah, sure!” And I said, “Would you ever consider dressing up as a Girl Scout Cookie?” He said, “I can honestly say that’s never been a dream of mine, but I love making people’s dreams come true, so I’ll think about it. Can I ask why you asked me that?” I was so caught off guard that I forgot to tell him where I worked! When I told him, he just smiled and said it made a lot more sense now. I love that I have a job where I can ask people silly things. I love that I can bring people cookies, and use my creative mind to dream up things that make people smile.

CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on your projects and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

SE: There’s no typical day in my job, which is what I love most about it. I might go on TV to talk about cookies; work on organizational campaigns and initiatives; build partnerships and collaborative opportunities with folks in the community who share our mission; pitch media stories about amazing things girls are doing; interview Girl Scout alumnae for our Awesome Woman series; write scripts, and coach girl speakers at our luncheons or give talks about Girl Scouts. Sometimes I dress up in a cookie costume just because it’s a Tuesday.

CJ: Leadership skills training is an important focus in the Girl Scouts – what are some ways young people can become better leaders?

SE: Join groups that focus on topics you’re interested in, and volunteer to have a lead or supervisory role. Talk to everyone. Watch the people who are heading things up, and see what they do. Make note of what you like and don’t like about their style. Same goes for when you’re in the work force. Watch people around you. See who inspires you the most, and take notes! Better yet, ask to interview them or go for coffee, and ask them for pointers and guidance for how you might get to a similar place in your own career.

The best things I learned about leadership came from my bosses. They were my best mentors. I loved how they were clearly in control, but never made big decisions without group input. They were fair and open. They wanted to see me succeed, so they asked me how they could help me reach my goals. It was amazing. All I had to do was watch and absorb. Then I learned how to be the kind of leader I admired, while sticking to my own personal style. That’s maybe the most important part: Don’t ever give up who you are! Just pepper who you are with awesome bits and pieces from those around you.

Stefanie 5

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

SE: For me it’s not to take anything personally. That’s one of the most difficult but simple things for most of us. I’m working on it one day at a time. In this line of work, you ask people a lot of things. I don’t believe that any dream is too big, so I ask everything. You ask and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.

Sometimes you get attached to an idea and it’s a bummer when it doesn’t work out. Who knows why someone doesn’t agree to do something? It could be for a number of reasons. As long as you try and as long as you ask, you’re golden. If someone says no or doesn’t respond, move on to the next idea.

It never hurts to follow up, though. I always tell younger people to politely bug people they want to talk to. There’s a right and a wrong way. As long as you are kind and gracious and can respect personal boundaries, most people won’t mind. I never mind it. When I’m busy and forget, I appreciate when people remind me.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

SE: I cook and bake. I cook dinner every night no matter how stressed out I am. I eat chocolate. I lay on my couch and call someone I love. I always plan a reward for myself. At the end of cookie sales, for example, I’ll treat myself to a trip somewhere. Or I’ll look forward to my favorite tea when I get home.

CJ: If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?

SE: Oprah Winfrey. She is a powerhouse, and she worked very hard and for a long time to get there. She never gave up, and look where that got her. She’s the poster child for tenacity, and I’d want to high five her, then ask her for advice!

CJ: What is your favorite book?

SE: Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

SE: Stop worrying! Just go with the flow a lot more. I was and still am ambitious and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I worked really hard. But I don’t think I allowed myself enough grace and room to relax and breathe. I was maybe too focused on all the things I needed to do, which really took me away from focusing on the present moment, which is all we have. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or planning for the future, but a lot of times it can take you away from where you are right now. Mellow out a little bit, darling!

Stefanie Ellis Qs

Images by Stefanie Ellis

EducationSkills

There are literally one million ways to concoct a stellar résumé, and another million ways to mess it up. Developing a résumé depends on the role you’re applying for, the company you’re applying to, and where you are in your career (to name a few). Plus, if you think that living breathing HR employees are reading them, it’s not always that simple anymore. Many companies use programs to scan résumés and search for keywords and phrases that match their job opening. Times are changing, and so is the recruiting landscape.

In a previous article I mentioned some of the different factors that create a successful résumé. But to be more specific, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the do’s and don’ts. To be fair, there are certainly many other reasons why your résumé would be at risk to be voted off the island, just as much as the reasons below might not matter to some companies. But based on my experience these are the best ways to ruin your chances of getting your dream job. Beware!

  1. Using silly font. This is obvious but I’m going to say it anyway: Stick to the Times New Roman-Calibri-Arial family. This is not the time to whip out Comic Sans or Century Gothic. They give no added value and can be distracting to the hiring manager. I’m not sure what type of company would be enthusiastic about someone who uses Lucida Handwriting, but I’d be interested to know if there is one! I suggest just keeping it simple. Additionally, it may give the impression that your focus is not on the main objective of the résumé (which is to hire you!).
  1. Not proofread and making typos. I also mentioned this before in another post: By sending in your résumé it is assumed that you (and others) have proofread it repeatedly and decided that this final copy is your best. If there is a spelling error or grammatical mistake, it screams carelessness. Not to say that you are careless (we’re all guilty of errors), but play it safe and triple check.
  1. References Available Upon Request.” Years ago, including this phrase at the bottom of your résumé was popular, but not anymore. There’s LinkedIn, Facebook, and other ways of learning more about candidates than just their résumés. Plus, if a company truly wants this information from you, they will ask (and it’s usually on application forms, anyway). At that point, I’d assume you’d readily provide it. If not, be prepared to explain why. My standpoint is to either include your references with their contact information already on your résumé/on a separate sheet or don’t mention it at all.
  1. Filling up space with irrelevant/excessive information. We’ve all been there: crafted one big, perfect, I-can-do-everything résumé and went on an application spree. It’s not a bad résumé, so someone has to email you back, right? Wrong. Your résumé should be aligned with the job description, as well as the company’s mission and values. Even using the same words as the job posting is helpful. If you’re applying for an administrative job, there is no need to include your membership to the Art Club in 2010. So unless you did something spectacular that makes you more productive in the desired role, nix it. As for the length of your résumé, that is widely debated. I don’t have a right or wrong answer. But my opinion? Keep it at one page, unless you have over 10 years of professional experience. As a young 20-something, pick the top three or four things that scream “HIRE ME I’M AWESOME” and leave the rest out. Brevity is key.
  1. Using terrible descriptions. Imagine a résumé that actually represents your skills and accomplishments? Crazy, right? Hiring managers want to know what you can do and what is unique about your skills. You have one page to bait the company into asking you for an interview. Consider describing the changes you made in your role, what you learned, how you can apply it elsewhere, the projects you worked on, and how you did it. For example, if you were an Office Assistant, listing job duties like “answered phones, retrieved office mail, supported other departments” is not helpful. It says nothing. They know what office assistants do, so don’t regurgitate job tasks to them. Better descriptions would be: “Provided excellent administrative support between departments” and “Effectively responded to all incoming calls regarding the company mission, as well as provide exceptional customer service to additional inquiries.” It gives a little oomph to your rap sheet, despite how simple your job was. It at least shows that you cared enough to phrase your words eloquently. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this.

Image: Startup Stock Photos

CultureEducationExploreWellness

If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a ton of articles about finding the right career path or how to pursue your goals. You know the articles I’m talking about right? The ones that list pointers and ask you to write down what you’re good at (you have no idea), your interests (Netflix?), and visualize your ideal work environment (wherever you get paid). Then they tell you to “go for it” and “have courage” because the future is yours! It all sounds dramatic and you write down a solid to-do list, and you’re like heck yes. You take a second to check Facebook, text some friends, and a few hours later, your roadmap to success has transformed into another scrap of paper. You’re over it.

For some people, finding their passion came naturally. They sang in talent shows before they could even walk and now they’re on Broadway. Meanwhile, you’re having a quarter-life crisis wondering why you haven’t figured it out yet. Deep down, you do want to have those sleepless nights with bags under your eyes, working toward something you love. The issue isn’t your willingness for grit, it’s that you don’t even know where to start.

The truth is, it’s easy to get caught up in what you think you’re supposed to do or where to be – especially when your parents have expectations or when the goal is based on the size of your paycheck. On top of that, social media makes you painfully aware of the differences between your life and the lives of others. But it’s okay to be unsure of where you’re going. It’s okay that you don’t want the same things other people do. In fact, not all dreams should be pursued, and not all passions should be made into a career. On the flip side, just because something isn’t a career path doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it for the sake of pure enjoyment. The best part of not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, is just that – you don’t know where to go! It doesn’t have to be dreadful or frustrating, it should make you excited about life.

Fortunately, there are a million ways to stumble upon your dreams. Personally, I’m a big fan of wandering. This doesn’t mean you have to travel the world because let’s be honest, that’s pretty unrealistic. You’re not Julia Roberts in Eat.Pray.Love. What I mean by wandering is simply being open to what’s new and interesting, whatever that may be. If you’re in school, check out some new clubs. Not in school? Join Groupon & try new activities! Pick a non-profit that you believe in and volunteer! I think one of the best things you can do is to conduct as many informational interviews as possible. Expand your network. Not only can you gain mentors this way, but it will help you learn (without experiencing it firsthand) if the path could be right for you.

Think of this as a deductive process: keep checking things off that you don’t like, and as a result, you’ll be many steps closer to finding what you’re looking for. Safe to say, this is not a passive kind of wandering. You have to make sure that you wander honestly and unapologetically.

By that, I mean it’s not always fun or easy. Many times when people talk about pursuing dreams, they paint a pretty picture: Follow your heart, work hard, and you’ll live happily ever after. Yeah, sure. What I never read about is the emotional toll it takes on you and your relationships. You may find yourself feeling guilty, anxious, or even wrong when making decisions that are for you, and not anyone else. It’s the scariest thing on earth, but that comes with the territory. You can’t find your passion by lying to yourself.

While you are beginning to change and finding your place in the world, the people you love may not be down for the ride. You can’t blame them – they didn’t sign up for it, they didn’t agree to it, and it’s not their path. Because of that, their opinions can hold you back despite their best intentions. The more you grow, mature, and learn more about yourself, the more you may realize that some people around you aren’t meant to stick around. Brace yourself for the possibility that you may have to go through the journey without their blessing, but it’s only meant to make room for new people who deserve to be in your present and future. That’s not a comfortable idea, especially when “where you are” isn’t even bad at all. But if you want to be 80-years-old and in awe of the life you’ve lived, settling won’t get you there.

I can’t say there’s a “right” or “better” way to handle those situations, because the solution lies in your own personality, values, and what you can handle. All I can say is try to make the right decisions for you and be prepared to trust them wholeheartedly when they are questioned. Trust that they will lead you to where you belong. Trust that they will cultivate a life filled with love and genuine happiness in whatever path they take you. Trust that by being yourself, you will naturally attract others similar to you, and will push you to be better at whatever it is you embark upon. Success and happiness is different for everyone, so define yours. Just look at that girl who quit her $95k job to live on an island.

There’s a famous saying, “If you don’t write your own story, someone else will.” So make some big decisions and make some small ones that feel purposeful and fulfilling to you. Learn to take one fearful step in front of the other, and I promise the next step will be less wobbly than the last.

Image: Unsplash

LearnSkills

“A single fixed identity is a liability today. It only makes people more vulnerable to sudden changes in economic conditions. The most successful and healthy among us now develop multiple identities, managed simultaneously, to be called upon as conditions change.” – Gail Sheehy, New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time

After reading One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Work Model for Work/Life Success, the once overwhelming and seemingly unfeasible concept of multiple professions turned into an attainable, practical, and unifying option in life. Author Marci Alboher is proof of living out a “Slash Career.” Upon leaving a career in law, she is a regular contributor to the New York Times, as well as a renowned speaker and writing coach. The book is chock-full of real life examples of the journey to slash careers and guidelines to follow when considering a slash for yourself. To start off, here’s a list of some featured slash-ers and their chosen professions.

Dan Milstein, computer programmer/theater director
Karl Hampe, management consultant/aspiring cartoonist
Grace Lisle-Hopkins, Assistant Dean of Admissions/photographer
Robert Sudaley, teacher/real estate developer
Sally Hogshead, branding expert/author/consultant

GROWING A SLASH

The people in Alboher’s book did not find the way to their slash(es) all in the same way. It’s different for everybody. Sometimes people have a solid foundation or experience in one thing, such as having a degree in a certain major and getting a job in that field. Having that background, they are able to sustain themselves financially while garnering more skills for a second career. Think of this as already having a tree to live in, but then planting a new seed right next to it, watering it as it grows. You’re preparing and consistently attending to this second interest. “Watering the seed” can look like taking photography or writing classes on the side, training for yoga instructor certification, or spending weekends traveling and blogging on a personal site.

These side projects are essential to growth because you can choose the amount of hours you spend cultivating your slashes and can tweak your journey if you realize certain aspects aren’t working. Alboher sums this up well when she explains that “the place that something occupies in your life – the paycheck, the gratifier, the giveback, the passion – is all up to you. In a slash career, you can control what goes where.” Forming multiple identities through slashes is in your hands. The choice to add or subtract slashes can allow you to feel more in control of your biggest interests. You’re testing out a menu of careers before you order.

USING A SLASH TO CHANGE

Sometimes slashes help people transition from one job to the other, even if they are completely different. Two things every transitioning slash-er needs: 1) Self-awareness and 2) Preparedness. This is especially true for individuals who have started careers that are time-sensitive. For example, athletes and dancers cannot and should not rely on their physical abilities to sustain them forever. Pursuing slashes during their starting careers will safeguard the switch. And before you think otherwise, it can be done. Tim Green, former NFL player for the Atlanta Falcons, worked on earning a law degree during his off-seasons. It took him eight years, but he did it and secured post-football work. He has also written best-selling suspense novels so if you need a slashing muse, he’s a good fit.

LITTLE SLASH NOW, BIG SLASH LATER

“The fact that an opportunity presents itself isn’t enough of a reason to take it on. It has to fit in with the rest of what you want to be doing. At that moment.” Alboher talks about the importance of being aware of a slash’s place in the now. Let’s say someone is an accountant or lawyer, but they volunteer as a firefighter or police officer on evenings and weekends. Volunteering may be the only channel at this time to successfully balance the slashes. However, upon retirement, placing more precedence on community safety will be the best time for that commitment. The different stages in life are wonderful places to revisit slashes. It’s an on-going path so there is no need to feel confined in how or when you add or change careers.

GET STARTED

Alboher urges her readers to think about their lives and distinguish their anchors and orbiters. An anchor is what she defines as a job that you’re getting your health insurance from, or a steady income, or a place that requires you to show up in person or travel on behalf of a company. Orbiters are the slashes that you find are able to orbit the anchor activities. She shares that typical orbiters could be writing, building websites, or anything that can be done at any time of day.

Now it’s your turn. Create a simple chart with a Column A (anchors) and Column B (orbiters). Writing out this list is the first step into the world of slashing.

The slash is a reminder that there are no excuses to limit yourself. It is also a call to action, to reflect on what you want the big picture of your life to look like and to work through the details now. If you’re seeking wholeness or dynamism in your work/life, living out a slash may be just what you need.

Image: Unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met up with Ian Manheimer on one of the coldest days New York has seen in a long time. A leader in youth empowerment and an entrepreneur, we were extremely excited to get the opportunity to meet Ian in person. Ian is currently the Vice President of Product Management at Charitybuzz where he improves user experience and exercises his leadership skills by managing a team.

Ian is also the founder and president of RFK Young Leaders, a program of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. When he’s not busy creating new relationships at Charitybuzz, helping young human rights defenders take action for social justice and human rights, or generously helping those he’s met reach higher goals, he can be found working on some seriously cool projects like a book about pizza in NYC. Carpe Juvenis is excited to share the Spotlight of the inspirational and talented Ian Manheimer!

Name: Ian Manheimer
Education: BA in Communications and English from Tulane University
Follow: rfkcenter.org@ianmanheimer

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Ian Manheimer: There’s a famous speech Robert F. Kennedy gave called “Day of Affirmation” that was given to a student group in South Africa during apartheid. It goes:

“This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease.”

He’s talking about a quality of youth where you’re willing to take risks and live in a much more open world of possibilities. Something happens when you get older where those possibilities become less, so he’s talking about trying to spread that spirit around the world to all people. Robert F. Kennedy is a huge part of the work I do and his shadow looms large over it.

CJ: You studied Communications and English for your undergraduate degree at Tulane University. How did you determine what to study?

IM: I love to read. I was always educating myself and reading books, even if they weren’t in the syllabus. They were the books I wanted to read. My major came from a passion of reading, writing, spreading around ideas, and having the boldness to think that I had an idea or two worth sharing at the time.

Communications and English are about expression. I love journalism, and the intersection of media and democracy. A functioning press in critical to democracy. In 2005, I graduated and a couple big, old newspapers were starting to shudder. I was writing in New Orleans for a couple of papers, but I didn’t think it was the right time to stake a career in that industry so I sat on the sidelines for a bit. I fuse those journalistic practices that I learned into my career.

CJ: You co-founded Glassbooth.org, a nonprofit site to help people decide who to vote for in public elections, when you were 24-years-old. The success of Glassbooth.org inspired you to pursue another online model, Measy.com, that could help people make decisions. How did you know when the right time to take the risk of starting your own company was?

IM: That was a really intuitive jump where I wasn’t the most informed or most capable, but there was an earnest feeling that if I made something I wanted to make and use, there would be others who also wanted to use it. I thought it could be a real thing of value, and then I went for it really hard. I had nothing to lose, and I still try and live as if I have nothing to lose. “Why not?” is always a great question, and a great way to overcome fears. I just grabbed some of the talented people around me and asked, Why not? For me, going from nothing to something for the first time just let me know that I was capable. You just have to jump in.

CJ: You are the founder and president of RFK Young Leaders (RFKYL), which is dedicated to empowering young human rights defenders and motivating a diverse community of young people to take action for social justice and human rights. What has it meant to you to be someone who is inspiring youth and helping people put into action what they want to do?

IM: It’s been humbling and amazing to be able to carry the torch for the work Robert Kennedy started. When he was killed, rather than build a huge monument to his person, his work lives on through his foundation and it allows his vision and dream to extend past his early expiration. Being able to carry that mission out to new generations has been amazing. It means a lot to me.

For me, what means the most is to bring young people into their first experience with social justice and civics, and for them to have a positive experience, and realize their power. This experience leads to a lifelong practice of civics and social justice. When I see those things happening, and those light bulbs going off, that’s what gets me excited.

We’re an all-volunteer program so I also have a day job. My role at RFKYL includes extending campaigns, like our main campaign, which is organizing New York farmworkers. Working with farmworkers, meeting with farmworkers, meeting with advocates of farmworkers. We’re growing the organization and opening new chapters across the country. We meet with young leaders across the country and connect young people with human rights defenders out there to spread inspiration and get young people excited about social justice issues. We’re trying to capture an entrepreneurial spirit of our generation within the confines of foundation’s work.

CJ: You are the VP of Product Management at Charitybuzz. What does your role entail?

IM: I’m responsible for internal products and the products you see on desktop and mobile. I extend business goals via our digital assets and try to create a better experience for our users. We work on making their lives easier and help them find the awesome things we have to offer. I lead a team of developers and designers. It’s a lot of interdisciplinary work bringing a whole company together around our main business goals as they manifest in digital.

CJ: In many of your roles it sounds like you take on a leadership position. What are two of the biggest lessons about being an effective leader?

IM: One thing I’ve learned about being a leader is that you have to let people create their own boundaries and then let them excel or fail within those. I never give someone a deadline, ever. I always ask when they think they’ll be able to get a task done and then hold them to their own expressions of what they’re capable of. It’s always better to give people the autonomy to succeed.

For me a leader is really an administrator and has a certain role, but he or she doesn’t have more votes than anyone else. It’s my role to inspire and to help people become their best selves. I love to invest in people and help them grow. It’s always a team. You’re a leader, but it’s no different a position than a designer or developer.

CJ: How did you go about learning the logistics of starting your companies (logo design, website/e-commerce platform, marketing, finance/budgeting, etc.)?

IM: I’ve never done anything that’s just me. I don’t think you can ever be successful when it’s not in a team. Everything you do will be the success of the team. For me it’s always been sourcing and aggregating talented people. I’m a bit of a generalist and I don’t have too many technical skills, but I can get a team together, chef it and whip it up, and it comes out great.

I have deep respect for technically talented people and always want to respect their craft and learn as much as I can. While I’m not a developer, I’m constantly learning everything my layman’s mind can take on. With anyone I work with, I try to understand what they do, out of respect.

CJ: What has been one of the most unexpectedly interesting parts of your career to date?

IM: I worked for this very ambitious organization called Dropping Knowledge and it was a combination of a team at MIT and artists in Berlin and they were trying to create this global knowledge platform. It was weird and wild and wonderful. I spent a month in Berlin with people who had open lifestyles, and it completely opened my horizons. For me that was an opportunity to do this wild thing, and that alone was enough for me to want to take that on.

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

IM: I love products and tools to help you make your life more efficient. I surround myself with an ecosystem of products that will do the work for me. There’s a hubris people have about their own sense of time and concentration that leads to failure. For example, if you have a thought and you tell yourself you’ll remember it later, how many times do you go to conjure that thought and it’s gone? Having those things around you to manage your life is helpful.

For my daily management I use a tool called OmniFocus, which takes the Getting Things Done methodology and puts it into software form. It’s about getting the thoughts out of your head immediately and then sorting them later. There is one tool that I love called Boomerang, and what it does is ping me if I haven’t heard from you after sending an email. I then don’t have to remember our conversation and stress about it because the email will come back to me so I can keep the conversation moving.

CJ: What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

IM: If I’m looking to make a hire at my organization, their interest in becoming better at the thing they do, is the number one quality I look for. I believe that you don’t have a mind that’s in a fixed state. I’m interested in growing my mind and being with other people who have that same appetite for self-improvement.

I’m interested in self-improvement in the form of expanding my mind through meditation or just trying to grapple with new concepts that are foreign and difficult. If I read an article about mathematics I won’t grasp too much of it, but it will challenge me in a way that will create new neural pathways. I’m constantly trying to immerse myself in some challenging things. Right now I’m learning how to code, which is challenging, but the challenge alone is the value.

CJ: Having a loaded schedule can sometimes be overwhelming. What do you do when you’re having a bad day and need to unwind or reset?

IM: My approach to mood is psychosomatic – there’s a mind body bridge. I try to be aware of that. I love to play basketball, do yoga, and these types of things to treat my body well and get as many chemicals firing in my brain. At the end of the day, gratitude is the most grounding concept that you go back to. If you’re having a bad day, think of someone having a worse day. It always works.

CJ: What book influenced you when you were younger?

IM: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

IM: Nothing I’ve done has ever been just me. At a young age, I would be mindful about people around you who are great at the thing that they do. Be good to those people and do things for them and stay in touch with those people. Grow your network. After years of that practice, you can activate on anything.

I would also put a couple of dollars away. A couple of dollars when you’re 20 is a lot of dollars when you’re older. Think about your future self. I have a character who is Future Ian and I’m also thinking about this guy.

Ian Manheimer Qs

Image: Ian Manheimer; unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Grace Gordy at a Seventeen Magazine internship in college. We worked together in the fashion closet, and it was clear that this girl had an eye for style. Flash forward years later, and Grace is running her own clothing store, Honey and Hazel Boutique, in Georgia. A surprise? Hardly. Grace has serious determination and a passion for creative endeavors. It’s not every day you hear about a young twenty-something opening up shop with trendy (and affordable!) contemporary clothing.

Grace opened Honey and Hazel Boutique with her mother, and this power duo is impressing us with their positivity and desire to learn more through their experiences. From an early age Grace knew that she wanted to be involved with fashion, and daily she makes her dreams come true. After spending time interning in the fashion industry and working for other clothing stores, Grace learned many skills along her journey and implements them on a daily basis. We’re excited to introduce you to our friend, style inspiration, and total #girlboss, Grace Gordy.

Name: Grace Gordy
Education: BFA in Fashion Marketing and Management from Savannah College of Art & Design
Follow: Facebook / Instagram

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’? 

Grace Gordy: To me, seizing your youth is all about creating your own path in life (or “march to the beat of your own drum”) and not worrying about what others are doing. I used to get so caught up in what I thought I should be doing at a particular age and always felt behind in my “career path,” but now I realize how thankful I am for all of my experiences because it led me to my ultimate dream come true.

Also I think seizing your youth means taking advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way. Your youth really is the best time to explore, be creative, meet people, make memories and experience as much as you can. Just live life with no regrets.

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CJ: You majored in Fashion Marketing and Management from Savannah College of Art and Design. How did you determine what to study?

GG: From a very young age I knew I wanted to be involved in fashion. I used to study fashion magazines from front to back and was determined to work for one so choosing a major was never any question; it was going to be fashion! I grew up in a small town where no one understood how you could make a career in the fashion industry and was actually told by teachers to go into a more “realistic” field, but I never let them sway me. My parents have always been so supportive of my choices and me and have always told me to follow my passion no matter what.  I couldn’t be more thankful for them! For anyone interested in majoring in fashion I would certainly recommend that you look into SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). It was the most challenging four years of my life, but it paid off in a huge way. They have wonderful professors and a very well-rounded curriculum!

CJ: That’s incredible. You definitely put that education and the skills you learned to good use. Together you and your mother opened Honey & Hazel Boutique, a trendy contemporary clothing shop. We love that! What does your role entail and how do you and your mother divide up responsibilities?

GG: We are both co-owners so our roles basically entail everything! We both have total input into everything we do and are both always in the shop whether that means being on the floor helping our customers or in the office doing paperwork. She’s better at keeping up with the books and I handle most of the social media and marketing. We are very fortunate to have the kind of relationship we do; we are best friends, business partners, and mother/daughter. Opening this boutique together is such a great way for us to spend quality time together and do what we do best, which is being creative!

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CJ: You’ve done many interesting things throughout your career such as interning at Seventeen Magazine, working as a stylist, working in marketing, and being a logistics and operations coordinator. What have you learned from these experiences and how have they influenced you with opening your own shop?

GG: Having numerous jobs and internships since college really helped me to determine exactly what I wanted to do. It has always been a dream of mine to open a boutique. However, I thought it would happen MUCH further down the road. There have always been so many facets in the fashion industry that I was interested in and thankfully I was able to work and dabble in different areas to know what I did and didn’t like. Earlier I said that working for a fashion magazine was my goal and I was so blessed to get an internship in New York City at Seventeen Magazine. It was the most amazing experience of my life thus far, but it definitely taught me that that is NOT the place for me.

As much as I loved New York and loved the idea of having a fashion job in “the big city,” I knew I wasn’t cut out for it. I like the south too much, what can I say? After graduating I ended up moving to Charleston, South Carolina where I absolutely fell in love with the town and its charm. I had a few different jobs there, but my favorite and the one that ultimately led me to where I am now was being an Assistant Manager at a little boutique there. I loved the team of girls I had the pleasure to work with and loved the smaller feel of a boutique atmosphere. I’m definitely a people person and it gave me the opportunity to get to know our customers, as well as do the fun stuff, such as merchandising and being creative. That job definitely made me realize I was ready to have my own store!

CJ: That’s really inspiring. As great it is to figure out what you do love to do, realizing what you don’t want to do is just as important. What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your boutique?

GG: Always work hard, be kind, and have patience! Also I’ve learned when you’re feeling overwhelmed, just stop and take a breath. Everything will be okay! Running your own business is a TON of work, but it’s extremely rewarding!

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CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening Honey & Hazel Boutique?

GG: Oh gosh, I wish I knew more about the accounting side and obviously that’s a HUGE part of having a business. Numbers and analytics have never been my thing. I’m a visual, creative person, but I’m certainly learning more every day.

CJ: What can a young person who is interested in owning a boutique do now to set themselves up for success?

GG: Get as much experience as possible! I interned at many different places to figure out what was best for me and what I wanted to do.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

GG: Starting a business is scary and I honestly have learned so much over the last year that I never knew about before. My mom and I took the leap based heavily on faith. We were and are extremely passionate about what we wanted to do and believed in our idea. We just figured there’s no time like the present so let’s just work our hardest and see what happens! So far it’s going extremely well and I couldn’t be happier!

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CJ: Every day in your life must be different depending on what’s happening in the shop and the time of year, but what does a Monday look like for you?

GG: Typically Monday isn’t a super busy shopping day so it’s a good time to re-merchandise the store, order inventory, clean, and meet with my Mom about what’s going on that week or what we need to get accomplished. We normally have a gazillion emails to respond to and plenty of bills to pay! I’m always Instagramming our new merchandise and coming up with new ways to showcase our products. Trust me, there’s ALWAYS something to do!

CJ: What are your time management tips? How do you stay organized and efficient?

GG: I’m a big proponent of making lists, writing things down, and having a planner with me everywhere I go. I have the worst memory in the world so if I don’t set reminders on my phone and or write it down I will be sure to forget! Plus, it’s a good excuse to get cute organization supplies!

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CJ: We agree! What is an area, either personal or professional, that you are working to improve in and how?

GG: I definitely struggle with trying to do everything myself and it can be really stressful and overwhelming. I am trying to work on how to better delegate tasks and jobs to different people. Especially as our business grows and we build a bigger team through employees, I need to learn how to not try to take on everything and let others help me. That is something I’ve always struggled with. It’s even harder now because my boutique is like my baby!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

GG: I would tell my 15-year-old self to not stress and worry so much. Everything works out the way it’s supposed to and you just have to have faith and follow your dreams!

Grace Gordy Qs

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Image: Grace Gordy

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Marla Beck on a rainy day in downtown Seattle. As Founder and President of Andelcare, one of the Seattle region’s most recognized and award-winning home care agencies, Marla is one busy woman. However, when we sat down to chat with her about why she started Andelcare, how she learned the ins and outs of business, and advice she has for youth, she was generous with her time and wisdom. Marla is passionate about helping others, caring for loved ones, and traveling the world. Read on to learn about how Marla seizes her youth, the greatest lessons she’s learned from running her own business, and the greatest moment of her career so far…

Name: Marla Beck
Age: 56
Education: Business and Accounting degree from the University of Washington
Follow: Andelcare / Twitter

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Marla Beck: Doing things that bring me passion and that I enjoy. I’m pretty spontaneous. Even if it’s just watching a bug crawl across the patio – just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you can’t do things you enjoyed doing as a kid. I try to enjoy the moment.

CJ: What school did you attend for undergrad and how did you determine what to study?

MB: I went to the University of Washington (UW) because I almost go into the Naval Academy and wanted to major in International Relations, but the economy was really bad. I didn’t get an eyesight waiver, so I couldn’t go. I went to the UW because it was close. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I was highly motivated not to live at home. I noticed that people getting jobs were the business and accounting majors, so I became an accounting major. Accounting is a great skill to have and it’s very practical.

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CJ: You started your career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). What was your first job out of undergrad?

MB: Auditing for Arthur Anderson. At the time it was a big accounting firm. It was not very exciting and you look at spreadsheets all day. I made sure that things added up on the spreadsheets. I only did that for a year, and then I moved onto tax.

CJ: You are the Founder and President of Andelcare, a premium home care agency providing companionship, homemaking, personal care, nursing services, hospice care, nurse advocacy, and care management. What motivated you to start Andelcare?

MB: I started Andelcare because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to try something different. My business acquaintance also wanted to start a company so we looked into senior care, which was just starting out. I think I got to where I’m at now because I learned to delegate things that I’m not good at. I couldn’t have grown without my team. Starting my company was a gamble and a little out of character, but I just needed to do something different.

CJ: How did you learn the business skills you needed to run your company?

MB: I went to classes. I joined an organization where you pay to get trained. I learned more about business framework, business plans, and procedures manuals, and I went to every seminar and webinar. I basically learned as I went. I had the business side down with the accounting background, but there was still a lot to learn.

I also belong to the Women’s President’s Organization, and I asked a lot of questions. I was working seven days a week with no time off. The main thing was that if I provided the best possible care for senior citizens, that’s the goal. Remember that and work backwards.

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CJ: What does your role as President entail?

MB: I delegate as much as possible because I don’t want it to be all about me. In case something happens to me the company can keep going. I still deal with the high level finances, and other smaller tasks, such as renewing the liability insurance. A job for a leader is to be more of the visionary and the cheerleader. I make sure my staff knows that I appreciate them, and I also want them to grow in their jobs. I do marketing and finance, but a lot of it is making sure the ship is on a path.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

MB: Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. When you run your own company, you have to do some soul searching and realize your strengths and weaknesses. I have more perspective about things and try not to take things so personally.

It was also really important for me to find a support group. Find your posse that you can exchange ideas with. I found that with the Women’s President’s Organization.

I’ve also learned to be grateful for what I have. If I’m having a bad day, then I try to remember that in an hour it’ll be better. Focus on the positive.

CJ: What are some ways young people can become better leaders?

MB: Watching who the leaders are in your life and deciding what’s working and what makes you feel good and bad about them being the leader – those are important things to note. Read leadership books and attend seminars. Leadership is also human nature. People like to work for people that they like and trust.

As a leader, you still have to get your job done, but if you let your people know that you trust them and are letting them make their own decisions, that’s great. Set clear goals and provide the freedom for people to find the best way to do their job. Let people know that if they need help, they will have support.

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CJ: How do you stay organized?

MB: I multitask a lot. I wish I could say I wrote everything down, but a lot of it is in my mind. I’m better organized because I delegate everything. To guard your time, you have to be laser focused and determine what’s important and what isn’t. My Outlook calendar keeps me the most organized, and it syncs to my phone which is convenient.

CJ: You are also the former President of the Fred Hutch Magnolia Guild, which benefits Fred Hutch’s mission to eliminate cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death. Can you tell us more about that?

MB: We help raise money for Fred Hutch cancer research. We bring treats to the cancer patients and help with the Chef’s Dinner event that is put on every year. We’ve raised almost a million dollars for research.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to run their own company do now to set themselves up for success?

MB: Work for as many companies as you can. You’ll learn a lot working for someone else. Try to do everything in the company and ask a lot of questions. Work in the industry that you’re interested in.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

MB: The first thing I start my day with is coffee. Some days I’ll workout in the morning. Then I’m in front of my computer checking my emails and calendar. Sometimes I’ll have speaking engagements, meetings, or office work. It really varies and my days are a lot freer than they used to be.

Marla Beck Quick Qs

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

MB: Getting recognized for being a woman business owner and having my mom there. I was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Washington State Business Person of the Year in 2012. My mom is supportive and the hard work paid off. As a woman business owner, I can still do it my way and still be successful and be recognized for it. Having my mom, friends, and staff there was so exciting.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

MB: Try to enjoy the ride a little more and don’t be so self-critical. A lot of stuff that seems important in your twenties really isn’t. I also would’ve started asking more questions at a younger age. It would’ve been nice to have an older person or mentor to show me the ropes.

Image: Carpe Juvenis

LeadershipLearn

As young adults, we constantly ride the gap between wanting and doing. While some people have their school and work trajectory completely aligned, the rest of us wonder whether or not we are pursuing the right career field yet alone taking the right classes. A common cause for those “what am I doing with my life?” moments is the fact that people don’t like asking for help. I blame that on the romanticized notion that really successful people get to top-tier positions and life satisfaction all on their own. While I’m sure there are people out there that have pulled off a solo trip to success, I stay firm in the belief that those numbers are few and far between. People need mentors. Albert Einstein was a genius and he had a person to turn to, a mentor named Max Talmey. Bill Gates found a mentor in Warren Buffet. Even Warren Buffet was advised by an influential economist named Ben Graham. This pattern of mentorship works for a reason and here’s why:

Specific and Structured Guidance

Having a mentor allows you to ask questions about school, internships, research, networking, and practical steps relevant to your field of interest. Mentor figures can be teachers, professors, club advisors, supervisors, and employers. Let’s say you meet a professional at a campus career fair or through LinkedIn and you find that their past experience or current position are where you want to be in the future. Strike up a conversation and plan an informational interview to get to know them. Ask them if they are able to provide mentorship and have a clear plan of how you want that mentorship to look like. Will you have monthly meetings to go over next steps? Will you email one another weekly to talk about post-graduation job prospects? Seek out your person. Do the research on who knows what you want to know and has the time to engage with you. Just like any other relationship, make sure to maintain a connection so that you and your mentor can both track progress. Creating a plan for you and your mentor to abide by will make their guidance easier to manage and apply in real life.

Talking Things Through

There’s no better way to confirm your understanding of a subject than being able to speak about it. The same goes for analyzing your current situation and preparing for your future. A mentor can provide that space of communication, listening to you verbalize your thoughts on what skills you have and how to best employ them. Mentors can even conduct mock interviews with you before you go in for the real thing, prepping you with tough follow-up questions that are catered to the industry you’re most interested in.

A Flashlight, Not a Crutch

Consider a mentor to be a flashlight, shedding light on a situation and showing the way toward a specific job or goal. They are encouragers, listeners, coaches, and confidants. However, mentors are not a crutch. Relying on a mentor for everything will only stunt your personal and professional growth. Avoid expectations that a mentor is a pseudo-genie, able to solve all of your problems and hand you magical opportunities. They provide that extra bit of reality that will bring you closer to the dreams you have defined for yourself, and that’s important to remember. Who wants their success spoon fed to them anyway? It’s much more rewarding to create your own success (with some help along the way).

Image: Career Girl Network

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We first discovered Katie Leamon’s gorgeous luxury cards and stationery during a trip abroad. When we stumbled across her notebooks, we were immediately smitten. Based in England, Katie runs her own company devoted to making beautiful paper goods. Having studied art and design in school, Katie followed her passion and turned it into a successful brand. We adored learning more about the woman behind the stationery, and Katie is hardworking and very sweet. Katie shares a glimpse into her busy days, how youth interested in running their own business can set themselves up for success, and her favorite things to do in London.

Name: Katie Leamon
Age: 29
Education: Loughborough University Woven Textile BA Degree; First Class Honors
Follow: Katie Leamon | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Katie Leamon: Be open minded, try new things, challenge yourself every day, believe in yourself, and take the opportunities that life throws at you, and if it doesn’t then go and grab them yourself!

CJ: You majored in Textile Design at Loughborough University. How did you determine what to study?

KL: I loved art and design at school, and I concentrated on textile design throughout my foundation course so it was the next natural step. I then choose to specialize in woven textiles because I wanted to learn a new skill while I was at university which would not be overly accessible following my time in school.

CJ: You are the Director of Katie Leamon, a company devoted to making gorgeous luxury cards and stationery proudly made in England, which you launched in 2010. Where did your love of making beautiful stationery come from?

KL: I am a bit of a perfectionist and pay a huge amount of attention to the detail of a product, so when I set about starting my own thing, it seemed clear to me that it was going to be a high end product. Initially it was just about the design. I didn’t think about starting a stationery business, I was just building my portfolio and getting back into drawing. I have always loved paper products and stationery seemed like an obvious avenue to try and an accessible one for a young designer, so that’s where I started!

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CJ: What responsibilities do you have as the Director?

KL: I am directly responsible for the design and finish of a product, but as it’s my company, all major responsibilities come back to me. We have a great little team, but I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my work and I still take on a lot more of the daily responsibility than I should!

CJ: How did your education and past work experiences prepare you to start Katie Leamon?

KL: I worked in a small fashion design company for two years before starting up on my own and the experience of running a small company was invaluable. I did a lot of the wholesale side of things which helped when I first set out, and the design experience throughout education and work was all influential in my first collection, and continue to be.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from running your own company?

KL: Don’t try and run before you can walk. You can kill your company by moving too slowly and equally by moving too fast and making bad, ill-considered decisions. Things have a way of working themselves out so don’t lose too much sleep about things out of your control. Also, don’t hold back on making decisions. As long as you’re making decisions, they won’t be the wrong ones – the worst thing you can do is stay still.

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CJ: What is your design process? Where do you find inspiration?

KL: My design process is a little back to front… I tend to visualize a finished product and then work backwards to get it down on paper and make it a reality.

I am constantly being inspired, and normally have too many ideas, often unrealistic, running around my mind! I can be looking at patterns in the pavement to latest fashion trends, and think of something that could transfer to paper. Sometimes I don’t think we are even aware of many of our influences. I take intentional inspiration from vintage typography, I scour secondhand shops, and the images and style are always inspiring.

CJ: How did you go about the process of selling Katie Leamon luxury cards and stationery in high end retailers in the United Kingdom and across the world?

KL: I was very lucky in that my first stockist was Liberty of London; I was a successful candidate in their Open Call day in early 2011, and following that success gave me the confidence and money to try a trade show and I gained another few stockists, including Selfridges so it grew organically from then on. I think you need to know where you want to pitch your brand before you start, there is no point designing a high end product and targeting mass market chain stores.

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CJ: What can a teenager or young adult who wants to start their own luxury card and stationery company do now to set themselves up for success?

KL: Work hard. There is no way around it, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. I think it’s also very important to experiment and know your brand identity and style before you pitch to the market, have a strong unique product, and target the right places.

CJ: What would you say to people who are uncertain about starting a business? What motivated you to take the leap?

KL: I wanted to work for myself and I wanted to make beautiful things. It’s very hard at first, you’re on much less money, if any, than all of your friends, but the hard work is starting to pay off now and I would always recommend doing it if you can. I was working on such low money before I decided to start my own thing that I decided I had nothing to lose, I’d always wanted to do it, I am self-motivated, and I work hard, so I wanted to reap the benefits of working that hard for my own thing! I could get the same money from a part-time job initially, so I did that for the first couple of years while the company grew. I also had the support of my family, I shared my studio with my brother, and he paid the rent for the first couple of months and they were all so supportive. They helped me take that leap so I was very lucky.

CJ: What is the best moment of your career so far?

KL: That’s a hard one, I have a couple. My success at the Open Call day at Liberty was really the start of it all so that was a huge game changer and a huge accomplishment for me. Also, the building and opening of our production studio in Essex. We built the studio as a family, and now my mum and sister run all our production from there. It was a real “Wow, look how far I have come” moment for me.

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CJ: Describe a day in your life.

KL: My day varies largely depending on the time of year and on how close we get to a trade show! But generally speaking, I arrive at the studio at about 8-8.30am, and run through my emails while eating my breakfast. When my assistant Georgia arrives, we will run through our current projects and where we are with them. I will then catch up with my mum and sister who run the production studio in Essex and iron out any issues that might have come up and discuss any projects or new accounts that we are working on.

I then try to concentrate on the design side of things. Whether it’s working on new design projects, selecting and sampling colours and paper stock or actually getting my head down and doing some drawing. I always start with doodles in my sketchbook, then edit and try things on the computer. As to be expected with a small company, my day is interrupted with various queries, but I try to structure my day around our current projects and deadlines. Currently I’m trying to finish off our catalogue for Top Drawer, so I’m finalizing samples for a photo-shoot next week, and selecting some new envelope styles for a limited edition run of neon!

CJ: How do you balance your career roles and goals? How do you stay organized and efficient?

KL: Luckily I am naturally organized. But as a company we plan our weeks with what needs to get done and other things we want to achieve with the tasks at hand. I think you need to be flexible, you can’t plan too far in advance or you might miss an opportunity. Up to now I have let the business dictate a little of its own path, stores have approached us which has led to new and exciting things, and we obviously have goals but I think they are constantly changing and evolving. We evaluate things as often as possible and try to identify as quickly as possible if we are going off course.

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CJ: How do you like to enjoy your free time?

KL: I am a bit of a foodie so I love eating out with friends and trying the wealth of London’s food markets! I also love being outdoors and keeping active so I love camping, going to the beach, and keeping fit.

CJ: Which book had the greatest impact on you?

KL: Gone Girl, I was thinking about it for ages after I read it!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

KL: Work hard but worry less. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

EducationSkills

Last week I talked a little bit about building your brand and how to do it. Even if you’re still trying to figure out how to market yourself, the best time to make a LinkedIn profile is now. Think of it as your lemonade stand where you can set up all of the ingredients you need to be the best lemonade stand you can be. Okay, maybe, that isn’t the best analogy in the world, but the point is that in order to get people to buy what you are selling, you have to let employers know that you are on the market.

It doesn’t matter if you’re still in high school or in college. There is an internship out there waiting for you and you’re only a LinkedIn profile away from finding it. Don’t waste anymore time; if you don’t already have an account, sign up! It doesn’t hurt to have another social media outlet. Don’t panic if you’re not sure where to start. I’m here to help!

While I was building my profile, I did a lot of research on how to make my profile look as professional as possible. You don’t have to read countless articles on how to make a good LinkedIn profile – here are the 10 things that you should include:

1. Professional photo: LinkedIn may be like Facebook in the sense that it connects you with other people, but that doesn’t mean the profile picture you use for Facebook (the one where you’re making silly faces with your friends) should be the same one you put on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is like the more conservative cousin of Facebook. Whereas Facebook is for personal usage (though this doesn’t mean you should post anything and everything), LinkedIn is the Internet’s door to the professional world; a place where recruiters from different companies look at the profiles of students just like you.

Keeping that in mind, don’t let their first impression of you be a picture of you sticking a finger up your nose. Instead, use a headshot that has a plain background. If you’re like me and can’t afford to have a professional photo taken at the moment, take the picture yourself with your phone or camera in front of a white wall. Or, use an old picture and use Paint (or any equivalent program) to cut yourself out of the original photo and paste it on a white background. The second choice is really time consuming, but is ultimately can be a good option for the time being.

2. Summary: This is the section where you talk about yourself. You don’t have to share your entire life story, but it may be good to talk about your college major or write a paragraph about what your future goals are. You can also mention your purpose for making a LinkedIn profile, i.e.  to find an internship in [insert field]. Remember to keep the summary brief since recruiters won’t spend an hour on your profile. You want them to get past the summary and onto the good stuff, such as your work experience and courses that you have taken.

3. Collegiate/high school experience: The four years you spend in high school and in college tell a story. Whether you participated in after-school programs or in clubs, it doesn’t matter. Document it all! If you held any leadership positions, that is especially great.  These are the kinds of things you should put on your LinkedIn profile to let everyone know that high school and college isn’t just about the academics for you. Don’t forget to list all of the relevant courses you have taken so far. This means any business, language, major, etc. classes you have under your belt. Displaying a sample of your work (i.e project, paper, etc.) in this section might also be a great idea. Or, if you don’t want to do that, make an online portfolio and link it to your profile. That way you can have a separate space for all of your work.

4. Skills: We are all good at something, whether it’s having great written communications skills or being good at building websites. There is an employer out there looking for someone with your expertise, so make sure you list the things that you have excelled in. If you can get endorsements (people who can attest that you possess said skills), then that’s even better! The more endorsements, the better. Try not to have more than ten skills on your profile though. Only list the ones that are important and the ones that you think will make you stand out from the crowd.

5. Awards: Are you the student who gets good grades or is a star athlete? Good for you! List all of your accomplishments in the awards section. Let people know that you have rewards as proof for outstanding work.

6. Headline: A headline on LinkedIn is like the headline of a newspaper article. It’s the attention grabber; it’s your chance to send out flares to recruiters so that they can find you more easily. You can constantly change your headline to fit your liking, but if you’re not sure what to put there, start off with ‘Student at [insert school].’ or ‘Intern at [insert company]’. If you don’t have an internship and would like one, try using ‘Aspiring [insert profession] seeking an internship in [insert job/field].’ You could use a combination of the three, just play around with it and look at other profiles to help and inspire you.

7. Contact info: You don’t have to provide your phone number (and I advise against putting your phone number online) but what you can do is put your email address on LinkedIn. This way, recruiters or anyone who is interested can contact you through email. LinkedIn may be a professional site, but you always want to be careful with who you give your information to.

8. Groups/companies/universities: The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can join groups that fit your career interests. LinkedIn groups, once you become a member of them, give you access to thousands of people that otherwise wouldn’t show up in the ‘People You May Know’ section. Getting involved in discussions will get you noticed, and you may even learn valuable lessons from professionals that you aren’t connected with. Also, ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ the companies that you would want to intern for or possibly work for in the future. If you want to go college or graduate school, ‘Follow’ your dream universities to stay on top of what’s going on.

9. Connections: Make sure to only add people you know. If you do get those few random invitations, make sure to check out their profiles first before you add them. It’s good to have a lot of connections, but it’s not good if you don’t know your connections. That said, connect with professors, teachers, old friends, family members, people you’ve worked with, etc. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but WHO you know. Keep that in mind as you navigate the networking realm.

10. Alumni tool: LinkedIn has become more accessible to college and high school students alike in recent years, especially with the addition of the alumni tool. Here you can see what people who graduated from your university (or your dream university) went on to do with their degrees. You can also look at their profiles for tips on how to structure your own. If you have any specific questions, you can message them. I love the alumni tool and it’s certainly something you should check out if you’re new to LinkedIn. Go to ‘Connections’ and click on ‘Find Alumni’ to access that tool, and for more information on a particular university, go to ‘Interests’ and click ‘Education.’ Both of these can be found at that top of the page.

I hope that this list was helpful to those of you new LinkedIn users who don’t know where to start. I don’t want to tell you how your profile should look because not one profile should look the same. I do, however, want to give you a sturdy foundation to build your profile upon. Just remember that you don’t have to get it ‘right’ the first time. You can always edit your profile to your liking. With that said, make sure to keep it updated. If you get a new job, update your experiences on your LinkedIn profile. Or if you’re unemployed but you have an internship or are involved in a club, let it be known that you are staying busy even if it’s not a job. Also, if you haven’t participated in a lot of extracurricular activities, internships, or jobs, don’t let that discourage you from not making a LinkedIn profile. Maybe that blank profile can be what motivates you to get more involved. Who knows?! Just don’t wait to create your profile because you won’t know how successful your lemonade stand will be until you build it.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr