Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We recently met up with Tara in New York at a delicious cafe on Mott street to talk more about her upcoming book release, and to get to know her better in person. Her first book is coming out on September 1st, and we wanted to get the inside scoop on her process, routine, and what she’s been up to. Positive, kind, and generous in sharing her advice, Tara is incredibly open and easy to talk to. Her book, Eden’s Wishis about a twelve year old genie who wants to be free from the lamp she’s been kept in all her life and experience what the world is really like. Tara gave us a sneak peek of the book, and we couldn’t put it down. It is captivating, funny, and well-written. We can’t wait to watch where Tara and Eden’s Wish go next!

Name: M. Tara Crowl
Education: BA in Cinematic Arts and Advertising from the University of Southern California; MA in Creative Writing from Macquarie University
Follow: mtaracrowl.com / @mtaracrowl
Location: New York, New York

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

Tara Crowl: Knowing that when you’re young is the time to take risks. As life goes on, your responsibilities will increase. There’s no better time than your youth to go after the things you dream about.

CJ: You majored in Cinematic Arts and Advertising at the University of Southern California. How did you decide what to major in?

MTC: USC has a great film program, so that was a major factor in my decision to go there. I really wanted to make movies, so initially I planned to study Production. But when I got there, I fell in love with the academic side of film—Critical Studies—and stuck with that. (I also learned that I was no good with a camera.)

Advertising was sort of a random thing for me to study. I took a couple of advertising classes and liked them, so I went with that as my minor. It’s a cool type of creativity—learning what people want, and then figuring out how to deliver it.

Although I’m not working in either of those fields now, I’m glad that I studied what interested me at the time. I think that because I loved what I was learning, I retained it and have been able to apply it in ways I wouldn’t have thought of back then.

CJ: After college you worked for an independent movie producer and a literary manager. You then worked in the motion picture literary department of a talent agency. What were these experiences like and what are your biggest takeaways from them?

MTC: Those jobs were two very different experiences within the entertainment industry, and I’m grateful for them both. Each was really challenging and enlightening.

Primarily, I learned about storytelling. During those days, I read and evaluated screenplays every day. When I read a script, I started to see the movie—or the lack of potential for it. That has absolutely contributed to the way I write.

But also, being on that side of the process, I learned the value of being a writer that people want to work with. I think it’s so important to be humble, hard-working, and communicative when you’re in a creative role.

CJ: Where does your love of storytelling come from? What stories have greatly influenced you?

MTC: I read constantly when I was little. I think books played a huge role in shaping my identity and the way I saw the world. And for as long as I can remember, I wanted to write books for kids like me. A couple years ago my mom found my journal from first grade, and I had written that I wanted to win the Newbery Medal one day!

The books I loved back then definitely influenced the way I write now. I hope so, at least, because I still think they’re brilliant. My favorite was A Wrinkle in Time. I loved the Baby-Sitters Club books, and everything by Roald Dahl. Harriet the Spy was one of my favorites too—and also a book called The Mennyms by Sylvia Waugh.

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CJ: You moved to Sydney, Australia, for a Master’s program in Creative Writing at Macquarie University. Wow! This sounds like such an incredible experience. What led you to your decision to go to graduate school for creative writing, and why Australia?

MTC: I liked my job at the talent agency, but something kept tugging at my heart, telling me that my childhood dream had never gone away. At that point I hadn’t studied writing at all, so the prospect of it was terrifying. But I got an idea for a middle grade book, and I took a stab at it. I sent the beginning to a few publishers, and there was some interest, so I decided to give it a real shot.

I knew I’d need to go to school for writing—because I had a lot to learn, but also as a way of fully committing to my dream. I looked at grad schools with the type of program I wanted to attend, and most of them were in places that weren’t appealing to me. One day I started to look internationally, and I saw a program at Macquarie University. Suddenly I knew it was where I was meant to go. I’d never been to Australia, or really even wanted to go there, but I just knew it was right. I applied, got in, and a few months later I went.

I think some of the people around me at the time might have thought it was a strange decision. But my parents were 100% supportive and encouraging. They always have been, and I’m so grateful for that. Leaving everything I knew to follow that dream was scary, but exhilarating—and ultimately, so rewarding.

CJ: We imagine you had a lot of amazing adventures in Australia. What were your favorite things to do there?

MTC: It really is an incredible place! Sydney is unbelievably beautiful, and it was such a special time for me personally. My life opened up and took on a whole new dimension while I was there. I remembered how big and beautiful the world is. I felt like a kid again.

For the second half of the year I spent there, I lived in an old house near the beach with a big backyard. I loved going for swims in the ocean, and then coming home and reading in the yard.

CJ: You started writing a book in Sydney that will be published in September called Eden’s Wish. Congratulations – that’s very exciting! How did the idea for this book come about, and what was your writing process?

MTC: Thank you! I was on a plane when I first came up with the idea for Eden’s Wish. For some reason I was thinking about genies, and I started imagining what a genie’s life would be like. There’s a certain allure to the whole thing—the wish-fulfillment aspect, I guess. But when I thought about it, I realized that a genie would be trapped inside an oil lamp until someone happened to rub it. Then, whenever you did get out, you’d have to spend the whole time granting someone’s wishes. You’d be able to give other people what they wanted, but have no power within your own life.

When I looked at it that way, being a genie seemed terrible. So I started to dream up the character of Eden, a twelve-year-old genie who loves the world and hates the life she was born into. And the story took shape from there.

I started writing the book during grad school, and turned in the first section as my thesis. Then I moved to New York and finished it while working various jobs to support myself along the way.

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CJ: Any tricks or tips for writing a book? Do you have a writing routine or a strict writing schedule?

MTC: One thing that’s important for me is taking the time to get to know my characters really well. Then when I place them in different circumstances, they kind of write themselves. My characters don’t come across strongly if I haven’t spent enough time developing them. And without compelling characters, a story isn’t worth reading.

My schedule varies, but I’m learning that you really do have to sit down and make yourself write every day, even when you feel like you have nothing. There’s something to be said for inspiration and the creative process, but at the end of the day, if you want writing to be your job, you’ve got to treat it like a job. You have to put in the time and the work necessary to create a quality product.

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?

MTC: It does depend on which stage of a project I’m in, but basically, the day revolves around writing. I write at home a lot of the time, or in cafes—my fiancé owns a café, so I go there sometimes. I try to go to the gym in the morning, because sitting in a chair all day isn’t great for your body. And I usually do something social in the evenings. I like being alone in my head all day while I’m working, but if I don’t talk to people on my off time, I start to go crazy!

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

MTC: Well, the obvious advice is to read. You’ve got to read in order to learn language, story structure, and character development, and to be exposed to new ideas.

But I’d also say, soak in the experiences of your own life. Let yourself see and feel things, and then practice writing them down. That’s the only way you can write honestly—and in fiction, honesty is essential. The experiences that belong to you alone will give you a voice that’s unlike anyone else’s.

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

MTC: Personally, the Bible. Personally and professionally, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

CJ: When you’re not working on your next book or other writing projects, how do you like to spend your time?

MTC: Being with the people I love. Going out to eat or cooking at home, going to concerts and movies, exploring New York, traveling when I can.

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

MTC: Professionally, using my time more efficiently. When you’ve got a creative job and you structure your own schedule, it can be hard to figure out what’s most effective for you. So I’m focusing on finding and establishing that.

Personally, I’m always trying to be better at loving the people around me. Through my work and through my life, I want to put the best things into the world that I possibly can.

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

MTC: So many things! I was an idiot when I was 20. Basically, be more conscious of what you do and how you treat people.

 Tara Crowl Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

CollegeEducation

Okay, that’s only sort of true. Obviously it matters. Apart from your graduate school applications, some say a GPA’s significance is limited to the three years following graduation, and others argue that it has no fundamental value post-education at all. But before taking sides, I have a slightly different perspective.

While currently working in HR for a global cable & wiring manufacturing company, I find myself on the other end of the scavenger job hunt – I’m now the interviewer. I sift through résumés, interview and screen candidates, and aim to ultimately select the best person with the most appropriate set of skills. During my interviews, I take notes on KSAO’s: knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics that were reflected on their resume. Those “other characteristics” are the real kicker. They can be a variety of details, such as their potential fit to our company culture, for example.

The truth is, whenever I review someone’s résumé, the last thing I look at is their GPA.

I ask myself questions like, “Does this résumé look like they just threw words together and sent them with 50 other applications?,” “Did they make any stupid grammar/spelling mistakes?,” and “What did they do that makes them more valuable than someone else?” It’s never about the number next to their college degree. Sure, putting your 3.0+ is helpful, but quite frankly, unless you can show evidence that you’re capable of getting the job done, it’s only a fun fact. It’s everything else about that application that either gives them the boot or scores an interview.

Granted, your GPA clearly matters when applying to graduate school – but even then, once you’re in, your grade is not nearly as important as the content you truly learn. The phrase “easy A” exists for a reason, and that is exactly what I encourage students to beware of. It looks great on paper, but means nothing. Ultimately, you’ve lost the battle. It sounds like common sense, yet people don’t invest time in their skills that make them employable: critically analyzing situations, strategizing, networking, and communicating, to name a few.

“But I’m still in school and not working! How am I supposed to make myself employable?!” Good question! There’s a plethora of opportunities around you to help build your skills without having to register for a class. The best way? Figure out what you like doing – something that won’t burn you out because it’s a source of joy – and go for it. If you’re a social person, make friends with as many people as you can! Network like crazy. You never know who you’ll meet, who they’ll know, or how and when they may be helpful.

Yes – I’m literally telling you it’s a skill to make a bunch of friends. And if you’re feeling super ballsy, take that class with that professor that everyone avoids because they’re rumored to grade “unfairly.” Challenge yourself to make them like you and help you – prove to him or her that you’re different from everyone else. The ability to understand a really difficult person is much more useful in life than memorizing that one formula that one time in that class a semester ago. You’ll build the confidence to influence people, and the capability to change a person’s mind, attitude, and behavior is priceless.

Needless to say, going out of your comfort zone is uncomfortable and awkward, but I promise you’ll thank me for it!

Don’t stress yourself out over your grades – go do amazing things in real life and have fun doing them!

Image: Flickr

EducationSkills

The almost-there feeling of getting an interview for graduate school is both an exciting and daunting one. You feel accomplished for sending out those applications and validated that you are headed in the right direction. So pat yourself on the back for making it to the next step and get ready for your interview the right way.

First and foremost, be yourself. Your background and interests were what brought you to the interview and now it’s just a matter of figuring out if the program is the perfect fit for you. Faculty, staff, and current students that are interviewing you are looking for students who are genuinely interested in their program and have unique skills and interests to offer. Believing that you are capable and ready is the best way to start preparing. Once you have that covered, prepare with these four tips:

1. Research and Relate

You’ve researched the school in-depth and you know what it stands for. You know the school’s mission and the goals of your program of interest. Now it’s time to familiarize yourself with more specific information. Look into the course catalog and read about the classes you would be taking. Jotting down notes about the learning outcomes for each course can help give you a framework of the “language” and style of the program. Are there specializations that you are interested in? If so, ask yourself why they interest you.

If you are seeking graduate school, there has been some sort of spark within you that has motivated you to learn more. Asking yourself to examine that spark can help you verbalize how your personal history blends with your curiosity for the program. Other details to look for include what types of internship or fieldwork opportunities they offer, graduate assistantships or fellowships, and faculty-specific research interests that tie in with yours. It’s helpful to have this sort of knowledge bank so you can connect what you have learned and experienced so far with what you will be learning in the future.

2. Know the Interview Format

It’s always good to know if you will be in an individual or group interview. In many cases, a program representative will let you know via phone or email what the interview dynamic will be like. If not, it’s okay to inquire with an admissions counselor. Individual interviews allow you to be the main focus of the panel. One of the best ways to prepare is by writing a list of possible interview questions and having a friend conduct a mock interview with you. Pay attention to the length of your answers. Are you being concise or talking too long? Are you saying “um,” “you know,” and other filler words? What are your hands, arms, and legs doing while you’re talking? Have a colleague take note of fidgeting, awkward pauses, volume, and eye contact.

With group interviews, the attention is divided and things can get a little tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to make group interviews go a lot more smoothly. For starters, non-verbal communication can keep you engaged throughout the interview even when you’re not the one talking. Nodding your head in response to others shows that you are listening and open to what everyone is saying. If the panel asks a question and does not direct anyone to start answering, wait a few moments to gauge the room and be the first to answer if you are ready. If another person begins to answer first, do not worry. The most important thing is what you say, not when you say it. If you’re looking for a way to begin your answer, try short starter statements like “I’ll start this one off,” or “I agree with that and have a similar experience as well,” or “I’ve considered this a lot while applying and…,” or “There are a few things that come to mind including _____ and ______.” Statements like these will help you ease into your answer and help you sound prepared and reflective.

3. Prepare with Questions That Ask More

It is common for faculty and program directors to ask questions that dig deeper than the expected “So why choose our school?” question. Rather than asking a question at surface level, they may ask a question with a different angle to examine how you respond to more difficult subject matter. For example, rather than asking about your opinions or experience with diversity, they may ask what about diversity makes you uncomfortable and how you see yourself overcoming that. Rather than just asking what makes you a good candidate for the program they may ask what you have done to prepare yourself for the rigor of graduate studies. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself the hard questions before the real thing.

4. Absorb and Emit Positivity

Although you may be nervous during your interview, good energy can get you through it. Condition yourself with positive thoughts before and during the interview. Having good thoughts about yourself and those around you can show through the tone of your voice, facial expressions, and body language. It can also calm you down if you begin to feel anxious. Feel excited about the opportunity at hand to meet professionals at each school. Feel proud of your accomplishments and thankful for the chance to share more about yourself. Remind yourself that the outcome of your interview does not define you as a person and that whatever comes your way is for your benefit. You have come a long way to now be in a turning point towards graduate studies. Be confident and be you, and the rest will fall right into place.

Image: Flickr

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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When we find ourselves in rooms with powerful, smart, and accomplished women, we take notes. Lots of notes. That’s why when we met Kelly Noonan, Attorney and Managing Partner at Seattle law firm Stokes Lawrence, we had our pens and notebooks in hand and were ready to learn. Kelly blew us away with her thoughtfulness, generosity, and keen observations. From sharing the greatest lessons she’s learned being an attorney to describing her involvement with a neighborhood legal clinic, Kelly is extremely knowledgeable in her line of work and engaged with her community. For anyone interested in a career in law, definitely take what Kelly says into consideration (if you’re starting your law school applications you’ll be especially grateful!). Her piece of advice that we still carry with us to this day: “Try to keep your eyes open and learn as much as you can from every experience.” Now, get ready to take some notes!

Name: Kelly Noonan
Age: 51
Education: BA in English from University of Notre Dame; Doctor of Law (JD) from University of Washington School of Law; Executive Development Program at University of Washington Foster School of Business

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

Kelly Noonan: There are opportunities throughout your life, and I don’t think they necessarily go away when you get older. But certainly, some opportunities are much easier to seize when you are young than when you are older. When you have more long-term financial obligations, when you have a family, when you have commitments and responsibilities that are deeper and more long-term to your community, career, and your family, it becomes harder to pivot. It’s a bit easier to explore and take chances when you are younger.

CJ: Prior to going to law school, you received your undergrad degree in English at the University of Notre Dame. Was law school part of your plans during college?

KN: No. I changed my major a number of times while I was in college. I settled on English, which was a very good choice for me. I was pretty sure I would go to graduate school, but I hadn’t settled on what I would pursue. I considered a number of possibilities. I worked for a year between undergrad and law school, and gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to do long-term.

I thought about what I really like to do and what kind of environment I wanted. I decided that I like studying, learning, and the academic process. Being a lawyer involves a lot of that. You don’t learn “the law” and then go out and apply it. Law is constantly evolving and changing, and almost every case requires that you learn some nuance of law and how it applies to your client’s circumstances.

I also like being surrounded by other people who are intellectually curious and who are interested in growing and developing. I also wanted a career where I could help people, maybe change lives because I had a skill that is desperately needed. I hoped to have some autonomy in creating the career I wanted. I feel fortunate because over time all of these qualities I wanted in a career have proven to be true.

CJ: Studying for the LSAT is not an easy process. What was your experience with the test prep? What tips do you have for those interested in signing up for the LSAT? (How long in advance did you begin studying? Did you take a course? How did you balance studying for the LSAT with your college coursework?)

KN: I did not take the LSAT during college. I took the GRE and the GMAT while I was in college. I took the LSAT in the fall after I graduated from college. I didn’t take a course because I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t have a lot of time with my full-time job. I bought a book and worked through it. I was pretty disciplined. When I knew my test date, I broke the book down into sections and studied a bit every day.

While it’s not how I did it, I would advise taking a course, especially if you’re someone who finds standardized tests challenging. The LSAT is like the SAT on steroids. The process of preparing for and applying to law school is not all that different than the process of applying to college.

CJ: Besides working hard to get a good score on the LSAT, what did you do to prepare for the law school application? Is there anything you wish you had known or that you would have done differently?

KN: The more you can learn about what lawyers do, the better. Talk to as many lawyers as you can – criminal lawyers, commercial lawyers, transactional lawyers, people who work in companies, etc. – because it will help inform your thinking.

It’s not uncommon for people who are interested in going to law school to get an entry level job in a law firm. A lot of people have come through my firm who have been thinking about law school. Some of them have gone on to law school and some have changed their minds and taken a different path. Law school is competitive and expensive, and the job market is highly competitive. The financial commitment to go to law school today is far greater than when I went.

If you are considering law school, be very clear about why you want to be a lawyer. Law school is a trade school. I would not advise going to law school because it is a good foundation for something other than being a lawyer. It’s true that law school provides a strong foundation in logic, research, analysis and clear communications, all skills that have application beyond law, but the mission of law schools is to train future lawyers. Unless you have unlimited funds and time, go to law school only because you want to be a lawyer.

When applying to law schools, be as clear as you can about what you want. You don’t have to know what kind of law you want to practice, but knowing why you want to go and communicating that clearly in writing is valuable. If you can’t do that, then think twice about why you’re doing this. Tell the people you are asking for recommendations why you want to go to law school, what you hope to gain, and what you hope to contribute to the community. It will make it easier for them to provide personalized, positive references.

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CJ: What do you think are the advantages and/or disadvantages of going to law school right after undergrad versus getting work experience?

KN: I think either approach can be okay. I have a bias in favor of working for a while before you go to graduate school, and not just law school. Having some non-academic experiences is helpful in a number of different ways. It can help you figure out what you want

In the second and third year of law school you get more practical experiences, but if your experiences before law school were only academic, your frame of reference is more limited, and understanding how the theory works in the real world can be a bit mysterious. When you have had a chance to step away from the academic, you may bring more to your classwork, get more out of your experience, and your motivations are clearer. As far as what to do in between undergrad and law school, I don’t think you need to work in a law firm or in some other law-oriented job, although that has the advantage of giving you some insight into what lawyers do day-to-day. Serving in the Peace Corp, working for a company or nonprofit or working in the public sector are all valuable, as well. The point is to step away from academic life for a time.

With all that said, there are many fantastic lawyers who have gone straight through from undergrad to law school.

CJ: You are the Managing Shareholder at Stokes Lawrence. What does your role as Managing Shareholder entail?

KN: A law firm is a business, and somebody needs to be focused primarily on running the business. That person is me. My focus is on managing the business of the law firm, similar to the CEO of a company.

I started phasing out of the active practice of law about six or seven years ago. I spend my time focused on our strategies, the competitive environment, how to provide our services so that we are helping our clients to make decisions and succeed, how to train, mentor and develop our people, what we can do to make sure we remain successful and viable, how to maintain a positive and productive firm culture, and what we need to do to satisfy our obligations in the community. I work closely with our administrative managers including Finance and Accounting, IT, Human Resources, Marketing and the administrative practice teams. I love it.

CJ: You’re phasing out of the active practice of law, but when you did practice law, you focused on business advising and commercial litigation with an emphasis on consumer class action defense and advertising and consumer law. How did you choose these topics to practice?

KN: I had a preference for trial work, litigation and working with clients to resolve disputes rather than a transactional business practice. When I started practice, I knew those were my preferences, but there’s a lot of training and learning that occurs once you get out of law school, almost like an apprenticeship. I was trained and mentored by more senior attorneys and they really taught me how to do my job. I became a commercial litigator in part because that’s what I wanted to do, but the emphasis on class actions and advertising and consumer law were driven in large part by our client base and the help they needed. I liked balancing the advisory work with litigation. I am still a lawyer and I still do some advisory work, but all of my litigation matters have phased out.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from being an attorney?

KN: Recognizing that a lot of situations are gray. Very rarely are situations black or white. If it is, frankly, then people don’t need the services of a lawyer. The world we work in as lawyers is many of shades of gray. The law doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in relation to the facts and the circumstances of real life people, real life companies, and real world situations that don’t organize themselves neatly. It’s something I continue to learn as a lawyer.

One of the real privileges as a lawyer is to be able to take a client’s situation and help craft the right approach so they can achieve their goals. There’s not always one path, and it’s not necessarily the most obvious path. It’s critically important to keep your eyes and ears wide open to recognize the opportunities, the potentials, and the pitfalls that maybe aren’t obvious. You need to have a broad perspective but always have your eye on the goal.

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CJ: You are a member of the peer mentoring organization, Women Presidents’ Organization, a non-profit formed to improve business conditions for women entrepreneurs. How did you get involved with this organization and what is your role?

KN: Women President’s Organization is a peer mentoring group, and I got involved with it five or six years ago. It’s a terrific organization with chapters around the world. Each chapter is composed of about 20 women who are the owner, CEO or president of their mid-size company. We are in a variety of industries. We meet monthly and have confidential discussions about the business and leadership issues we face. Being part of this organization has really helped me to hone my leadership skills.

I also belong to a WPO Platinum chapter for larger businesses, and this group involves women from throughout North America. I get something different out of each group, and both are valuable in helping me to increase my skills and effectiveness in managing the firm. No matter what you’re doing or what your stage in life, having a peer group is so helpful. A study group in college or grad school can help you learn from others’ experiences and create connections with others in a similar situation.

CJ: You also volunteer regularly at the King County Bar Association Downtown Neighborhood Legal Clinic. How did you choose to get involved with this?

KN: I’ve done a variety of pro-bono work over the years, but I was finding it more difficult to take on pro-bono cases with my other case loads and responsibilities. The Neighborhood Legal Clinic is a great opportunity to volunteer your time and skills to people who really need your help, and the time commitment is fixed. I work at the clinic about once a month for two hours at the King County Courthouse. King County residents can make an appointment to meet with a lawyer for 30 minutes.

Clinic clients are generally very prepared, and an extremely concentrated 30 minutes of helping people with a variety of issues.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be a lawyer do now to set themselves up for success?

KN: Being a good communicator – both verbally and in writing – is a critical skill. The ability to organize your thoughts, combine logic with emotion, and put these thoughts into writing is necessary. If you can do that in writing, you have a good foundation for verbal communications. It’s not about being the loudest debater. Great lawyers are clear thinkers who enjoy the analytical process and who can take different sides of the same issue and make a compelling argument.

If you think you might want to be a lawyer, develop these skills. Take classes where you will be challenged and where you will work on critical reasoning and analytical skills, and where you will communicate and defend your ideas in writing and verbally. Hone these skills. Read with an eye towards understanding the logic involved in an editorial or opinion piece. Be an active learner and enjoy the academic process.

CJ: What was the last book that you read?

KN: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

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

KN: I remember thinking I had to have a plan when I graduated college. Nobody told me that, but I felt I had to get going right away in my “real” life. I would tell my younger self: don’t be in such a hurry to figure out what you’re going to become. The true is, we don’t someday arrive at our adult selves. That’s not the way it works. It’s a journey. There are a lot of steps on the journey. Pay attention to the steps along the way.

After college I got a job as a bill collector, and I remember at the time almost being embarrassed. I felt like I wasn’t taking advantage of my education. When I look back on that job, though, I realize I learned a lot, and some of the skills and lessons I learned carry over today.

It’s amazing what happens when you do your best and try to contribute as much as you can. Try to keep your eyes open and learn as much as you can from every experience. It’s amazing what doors open that you never even knew existed. Be alert enough to recognize opportunities when they come along and to learn from all of your experiences, even if they’re short term or difficult.

Don’t be in a hurry, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Sometimes you just have to jump in and see what happens.

Kelly N Qs

CollegeEducationLearn

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate from college. Some people will jump right into the workforce directly after the college, but the rest of us are planning to continue our educational careers by going to grad school or law school immediately after we graduate. I know a lot of people might not want to think about the next phase of their journeys just yet but it’s important, if you haven’t already, to come up with a list of schools you want to apply to after taking the LSAT, the GRE, and for the future doctors out there, the MCAT. I’m not planning on taking the LSAT until June, but knowing what schools I want to aim for gives me an incentive to study hard so that I can get a good score on my test. We’ll talk about preparing for the test another day, but for now let’s stay on the topic of picking a school to attend.

For the most part, I already have my list of universities written down. This list used to be about a page and a half long but after thinking more about what I want out of a law school, I was able to narrow the choices down. For people who are considering going to graduate school, these tips can still be useful to you, especially if you have a long list and aren’t sure how to shorten it.

One of the most important things to be when making your list is realistic. Keep your GPA and the score you get on your test in mind when researching schools. For example, if I have a 3.0 grade point average and I score a 152 on the LSAT, I’m not going to chance applying to Harvard Law. This is mostly because I know that my grades and my test score aren’t high enough and it would be a waste of money to apply to a school I most likely will not get into. Since application fees aren’t cheap, being honest with yourself will keep you from going broke. I’m not saying that it is impossible for someone who has those scores to get into an Ivy League like Harvard or that they shouldn’t apply, but it’s much more realistic to look at schools that you can get into before shooting for the ones that are much more difficult to get accepted into.

You can easily find the test score and GPA range for all of the universities you’re thinking of applying to online. Just use Google or visit the university’s website and you’ll find all the information you need. Once you have all of that information written down and you’ve figured out what schools you could get into and which ones might be a little more difficult, now it’s time to weed out the right ones in that list.

Many people look at the rankings to determine which school is the best, but really, it’s up to you to make that decision for yourself. Only you know what you want out of the law, graduate, or med school you want to attend. If you’re not sure what it is you want just yet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clue, it just means that you need some help figuring it out.

When thinking about law school, I initially didn’t know where I wanted to go. Then I started thinking about location. Where would I enjoy going to graduate school? Do I want to stay in my home state or try living somewhere new? Once I had a list of the places I wouldn’t mind living, I started thinking about the cost. Graduate school isn’t cheap, but there are some that are less expensive than others. You don’t have to shy away from the super expensive schools because, chances are, you can get scholarship money and grants to help you out.

This leads into the next thing you should look at when making your list – how much money in scholarships does the university give away each year? Once you’ve narrowed your list down by taking out the schools in the places where you know you don’t want to go and you’ve decided what schools are in your budget and offer the most scholarship money to its students, you can start looking into things such as class size, campus environment, programs offered, etc. If you’re going to law school, check to see if they have the clinics that you’d want, and if you know for sure you want to specialize in a particular law, research the classes they have to see if what offer will prepare you for your career.

Other things to consider that are really important are employment rates. Many universities provide information on where their graduates went on to work or if they got jobs at all. If a school has a high percentage of unemployed graduates, then that’s something that you’re going to have to think about. Really, I can’t tell you what school is best for you. Only you know how to answer that question. If you need more help, speak with an advisor and try to visit the schools on your list, if you can. Go to graduate, med, and law school fairs. Ask the university representatives questions and look at countless websites of different universities. It isn’t just the academics that makes a school good, but the campus environment is extremely important as well. If you want a school that’s huge or one that’s small, that’s something else to factor into your search. If you value approachable faculty members, diversity, or anything else you can think of, then take the time to find the schools that fit that criterion because those schools exist. In fact, they’re waiting for you right now. What are you waiting for?

Image: Brent Hoard, cropped

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It’s not every day that we see an illustration, design, or logo that makes us feel something. However, when we see Kate Harmer’s illustrations and designs, we are immediately inspired and moved.  Kate drew constantly when she was a little girl and she hasn’t stopped since. After following her passion and enrolling in Cornish College of the Arts, doing internships, getting job experience in design and illustration, and completing graduate school at Rhode Island School of Design, Kate launched her own design studio, Hum Creative, that focuses on creating and developing brands. More recently, Kate illustrated a fun book based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo.

Kate is not only amazingly talented, but she is smart, kind, and thoughtful. We are encouraged by her self-starter attitude, work ethic, and of course, her creativity. Kate not only has the ability to draw and design, but she also knows how to build an incredible team of people with serious creative skills. Through determination, hard work, and learning how to grow a thicker skin, Kate has excelled in her field, and she generously shares the lessons she has learned during her journey. Read on to learn more about Kate Harmer, a true inspiration!

Name: Kate Harmer
Age: 32
Education: BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts; MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design
Follow: Twitter / Hum Creative / Instagram

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

Kate Harmer: It’s common to hear successful people look back and say, “We were so young, we were so crazy, we were so brave!” They’re talking about times that were challenging, but they are able to look back and laugh. I try to remember that I’m in that time right now for my future self. Knowing that all of these things won’t seem as hard or scary once they’re done encourages me to take big risks.

Yes, I’m 32, but that’s super young! Someday I’ll hopefully laugh at my failures and be proud of having challenged myself. Both are positive outcomes. To me, seizing your youth is embracing that now is the time to be free and brave.

CJ: You received your BFA in Illustration from Cornish College of the Arts. How did you determine what to study?

KH: My career has been a process of elimination. When I was in high school I didn’t know what graphic design was. I just knew that I liked to draw and wanted to do something creative. I went to school for Illustration and worked as an Illustrator for a while. I tried to follow my passion in a broad sense, then tried lots of things to see what I enjoyed and to get more focused.

CJ: What sparked your love of illustration and design?

KH: As a kid I would sit in my bedroom for hours and draw fake advertisements for the commercials I heard on the radio. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was thinking like a graphic designer. I wasn’t super social, so drawing was a natural way for me to process the world and express myself.

Because I drew constantly, I had good foundation of skills by the time I was looking at colleges. I definitely think most things can be learned, but you have to put in the time.

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CJ: You also received your MFA in Design from Rhode Island School of Design. Why did you decide to go to graduate school, and would you recommend it?

KH: I went to graduate school to learn new skills and jump start the next phase of my career, which was more about design than illustration.

I would recommend graduate school, but only for people who are really ready for change and have fully explored on their own first. I don’t think graduate school is required to be successful, and some life experience first is key. You can create a condensed learning experience on your own, but some people need help. I needed grad school to push me.

Graduate school was both awful and great. The workload was almost unbearable at times, making it one of the toughest experiences of my life so far. It was a critically intensive, so I graduated with a much thicker skin. I also made amazing friends, learned a ton, and I felt empowered to do what I do now. It was a full, amazing experience.

CJ: You are the Principal and Creative Director at Hum Creative. What do your roles as Principal and Creative Director entail? 

KH: When I first started the company I was doing a bit of everything – designing, sweeping floors, and writing invoices. Now my role is to think about this entire company as a design project. I am responsible for our overall strategy and goals, getting the best team of people together, and directing the creative process. I also play on our kickball team.

CJ: Before Hum Creative, you were a designer at Starbucks Creative Group. What kinds of projects did you work on at Starbucks?

KH: I got to illustrate coffee bags, draw lots of little croissants and coffee mugs, and help design seasonal merchandise and packaging. I was fresh out of school and supported senior designers and creative directors with illustrative tasks that were needed to fulfill their vision.

I think about that job every day while building Hum Creative. When I was at Starbucks, it really felt like everyone was happy with their jobs and coworkers. A lot of what I learned there has stayed with me.

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CJ: You illustrated the book Tween Hobo, which is based on the popular Twitter feed @tweenhobo. What was that illustration process like?

KH: Alena Smith knows the Tween Hobo character so well. I flew down to LA to brainstorm initial ideas for the book with her, then worked remotely for the next few months. Alena sent me in-progress chapters every couple of weeks. I would read them and keep a running list of possible visuals. We would Skype to discuss and narrow them it down. Most of the process was brainstorming with Alena. I would sketch the illustrations in pencil first, and then once they looked good I drew over them in Sharpie.

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

KH: Professional creatives need to be open to criticism and flexible to change, but they also must stand up for what they believe in – when it really matters. Grad school and client work has helped me grow a thicker skin and to understand that everyone’s input is valid. You can’t be too precious about your work – sometimes people won’t like it. That’s okay. Not all battles are worth fighting… when you do push back, it should mean something.

CJ: What is the best part about being a designer?

KH: The best part of designing for me was seeing my work out in the world, successfully doing its job. As a creative director, it is so fun to see this whole group make work that they’re proud of. Knowing they worked hard, made beautiful work, and enjoyed the process is hands down the best part about what I do.

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

KH: My day involves a lot of time reading emails and meeting with our internal design teams to check in on projects moving through the studio. I also meet with clients often to present work and discuss feedback. Some days are spent on the set of photo shoots or visiting the printer for press-checks.

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CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an illustrator and designer do to set themselves up for success?

KH: Make a lot of work. We look at a lot of portfolios here, and the people who really stand out have been making up their own projects and designing things on the side. Drew Hamlet, a Lead Designer at Hum, started an online radio station in high school and he designed the branding, website, and collateral for it. I’m very impressed by self-motivation. You learn so much by just being active in your field, even if it’s just practicing. Don’t wait for people to ask you to do something, just do it yourself.

It is also important to have a sense of the design community and what has come before you. Look at blogs, read design books, and absorb a design education as much as possible.

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

KH: I work long hours and am a homebody when they day is over. My husband and I love to cook and enjoy big dinners outside, then take our two French bulldogs on long walks.

CJ: What motivates you in your everyday life?

KH: Professionally, this team motivates me. The responsibility of having people who come to work in an environment that I make is both very intimidating and very inspiring.

My husband is very motivating and inspiring outside of work. He is a creative that has worked really hard since he was a teenager and he’s done well. He’s always wanting more and imagining fun things he can do. He’s constantly learning and dreaming. He’s a really good reminder to keep your mind open and active.

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

KH: I’d tell myself to be braver sooner. It took me a little while to start realizing that taking risks almost always pay off in some way. It might not always be in the way you planned, but taking on challenges is the fastest way to grow.

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