Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When we first discovered Diamond Troutman’s photography, we were stunned and impressed. She manages to capture the essence of the subjects she photographs in subtle yet powerful ways. As a content creator, Diamond pays attention to her surroundings, is aware of her senses and observations, and gives herself writing prompts to stay sharp. Diamond seizes her youth every day, and she has a loaded schedule creating content for The Style Line, Conscious Magazine, the French Institute Alliance Française, and Life & Thyme Magazine. Oh, and she also speaks four languages – French, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic.

We’re so inspired by Diamond’s go-getter attitude, discipline, and hunger for knowledge. Read on to learn more about how she organizes her busy days, tips she has for learning a new language, and the advice she has for those interested in being content creators.

Name: Diamond Troutman
Education: Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Literature and Sociology from Drew University
Follow: pariselsewhere.com / @pariselsewhere

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

Diamond Troutman: ‘Seizing Your Youth’ means exploring what makes you happy and chasing after it every chance you get.

CJ: You attended Drew University and studied French Literature and Language and Sociology. How did you determine what to study?

DT: While many know me now as “la parisienne” behind Paris Elsewhere, my life in The City of Light (including my studies at Sorbonne Nouvelle University and volunteer work at Élèves Décrocheurs and Le Club Barbès) was never quite planned. Before beginning college, I was a student of three foreign languages (Spanish, French and Chinese) and upon my arrival at Drew University, I added Arabic language studies to the mix. My objective was to major in Linguistics and minor in Sociology – I soon discovered that the Linguistics major was no longer offered and opted for Spanish, before ultimately deciding on French.

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CJ: You created the travel and lifestyle blog Paris Elsewhere to introduce Paris as you know it: a city of people and businesses participating in communities, relationships, and their own unique stories. How did living in Paris influence you and impact your life?

DT: The strongest influence Paris has had on my life is my regard towards tradition. Since my involvement in the United States as the Director of Communication for the Alliance Française of Greater Phoenix, I have witnessed firsthand the invaluable role tradition plays in unifying people of a shared culture. Coming together to celebrate over food and conversation is health giving and something to be anticipated and enjoyed.

CJ: Besides English, you speak four languages, including French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. Very impressive! Where did you learn to speak these languages, and what tips do you have for those learning a new language?

DT: I was first introduced to French at age 11, when play dates with my friend turned into casual lessons of language and culture with her French mother. I truly believe this was the sweetest way to learn French joie de vivre, as I was introduced to traditional pastries like sablés, clafoutis, madeleines and more, in addition to grammar and vocabulary lessons.

I started learning Spanish during middle school, but it wasn’t until I met my best friend Valeria, that I began to practice the language outside of school. We were the closest of friends, so close that I was considered part of the family. We spoke in Spanish all the time; our friendship indirectly immersed me in the culture.

I picked up Chinese my freshman year of high school and strengthened my studies with weekend sessions at a Chinese school and language camps during the summers.

I was introduced to Arabic at Drew University. I studied the language all throughout my third and fourth year in college and stayed with a host family in Rabat, Morocco for a summer.

What’s my number one tip for learning a language? Immersion! Listen to music, watch movies, join a conversation classes or even travel abroad for a short stay. Put yourself in the setting to live another culture.

CJ: Travel is a big part of your life. How has traveling influenced you, and is there a particular trip you have taken that stands out in your mind?

DT: The first day of my Mandarin Chinese language class was the most challenging yet; understanding characters as references for words required a new sort of discipline and dedication. All the same, my stay in Chengdu, China compelled me to *just do it. I listened to the radio on the way to school, ordered my drinks at Starbucks, enjoyed pastries from the nearby bakery, all in Chinese. The more comfortable I became with the language and culture, the less of a barrier the characters seemed to present.

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CJ: You are a pro at content creation, whether you’re contributing to The Style Line, working as an Editorial Collaborator for Conscious Magazine, or consulting on strategic media and community relations for the French Institute Alliance Française. How do you brainstorm content to create, and what is your process for executing your ideas?

DT: As a non-fiction food and travel writer, my brainstorming is heavily influenced by my senses. Location means everything. If I’m writing a story and hit a roadblock, I’ll complete a writing prompt that challenges my awareness of place and people. I joke, what’s a pen to a person if not to write a story, and interestingly enough, I don’t always carry paper on me and I’m often left to jotting notes on napkins at coffee shops. My approach to note taking and writing prompts looks a little like a crossword puzzle. I write the words that come to mind and find a way to link them together.

CJ: What are the greatest lessons you have learned from your experiences in content creation with a variety of publications, companies, and websites?

DT: I’ve learned that the process to content creation is most valuable. I am passionate about establishing a collaborative client environment to ensure pre-production work aligns with the client’s anticipation and brand identity. It’s rather easy to misinterpret ideas, so I’ve become keen on incorporating a mood board and weekly consultations to stay on the same page with clients.

CJ: You are also an incredible photographer. You contribute writing and photography to Life & Thyme Magazine. What is the process for putting together content for this publication documenting food culture around the globe? How long does this process take?

DT: Thank you so much! Like on any other platform, my process for editorial work is very extensive. My general subject concerns food, lifestyle and travel, so the first step is to begin researching current trends and unique developments in the area. To do this, I will read local newspapers/magazines, observe social media reviews, or what’s most exciting, venture outside of home to see the city for myself. Once I’ve discovered the exact focus of my article, I study it thoroughly to learn and uncover whatever questions I may have. After structuring the interview, I move into determining the visual component to my story. I observe elements of the trade and location, position my storyboard and when the time comes, capture the shot as best as I imagined. Pre-production can take between 1-2 weeks, the interview and photo production could take 1-3 days, and the writing and correspondence with editors could take up to 2 weeks.

I am currently in pre-production for my editorial work with Life & Thyme. While many may find this initial stage somewhat challenging, I am enjoying it to the fullest! Pre-production has allowed me to explore and enjoy the arts and cuisine of Downtown Phoenix, scout locations and provide applications for those interested in participating in the photo shoot(s). Most importantly, pre-production has allowed me to really take pleasure in my work. I look forward to also offering opportunities for assistant production (as a second shooter) on photography assignments.

CJ: From your ‘Kinship by Cuisine: A Conscious Coming Together’ column at Conscious Magazine to Life & Thyme, cuisine and food culture is a big focus in your work. Why are the topics of food, culture, and travel interesting to you?

DT: From EF travels in Italy and Greece, to off-campus seminars in Morocco and China, travel has often been paired with my educational pursuits and has opened my eyes to appreciate cultural differences. Learning has a pivotal influence on one’s values and passions.

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CJ: What advice do you have for those interested in being content creators, writers, or photographers?

DT: If you haven’t already, discover the creative community in your city for friendship and mentorship! You can do this by attending events like Instameets (Instagram-facilitated meet-ups) and Create + Cultivate, in-person workshops with The School of Styling or online courses via Skillshare! Your community will inspire and support you.

When you’re ready, social media is a great tool for introducing your style to a public audience and developing a dynamic portfolio  – I suggest Instagram for photography, Twitter for writing (ie: developing strategy for effective short copy) and Steller for content creation (graphic design, photography, writing).

CJ: With a variety of projects, how do you stay organized and keep everything running smoothly?

DT: While many may perceive the freelance career as unconventional in regards to the flexibility of office hours and work environment, it takes discipline and motivation to structure this kind of business and stay afloat with multiple projects. Currently, I manage projects with a variety of brands and publications. Each month, I have to honor my in-person responsibilities, such as board meetings, client consultations, creative conferences and events, etc. To keep everything running smoothly, I have to coordinate closely with my agenda on a professional and personal basis. For my personal brand, I’m implementing an editorial calendar for more consistent social media and blog posts. For my professional work, I have designated office hours (onsite for the French Institute) and deadlines for work submissions. Having picked up more work for social media content creation this year, I’m in the process of defining client-specific editorial calendars and mood boards, which are accessible via a private page on my website. To plan meetings and shoots, I use Google Calendar, my booking & availability calendar on my website, and my paper agenda.

CJ: What are some favorite books, resources, and websites that have influenced you?

DT: For gathering insight from successful creative professionals, I look to The Everygirl. For further guidance on software and approach to business practices, I attend Skillshare courses. As a writer, Writer’s Digest is an indispensable resource. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss is a good read into 2016.

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

DT: Personally, I’m looking to improve on my diet and sleep. The Fitbit Flex has been instrumental in regulating my water intake and sleeping habits. I’m somewhat of a night owl, so when inspiration strikes, I will stay up as long as it takes to make the most of it. All the while, when busy writing or editing away, I tend to not eat as I should.

Professionally, I would love to take up a new course. I’m following along with The Everygirl’s 30-Day Challenge of learning a new skill. I’d love to expand my knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite.

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

DT: Write and photograph more. Get out there! Take the train into New York City more frequently, collaborate with other creatives and attend events to stay motivated. Find any opportunity to exercise your talents; it will pay off.

*Phrase by Nike

Diamond Troutman Qs

Portrait courtesy of Dreylon Vang, Copyright 2015 (location: Cartel Coffee Lab) / Photo speaking with Garance Dore: Courtesy of Paris Elsewhere 2013 (location: Open Studio, New York City) / Remaining stock photography images: Copyright Diamond Troutman 2015 (location: Royal Coffee Bar)

CultureEducation

Our resolution for 2016 is to read three books a month. That gives us a total of 36 books to read this year. We have a bad habit of over-buying books, and each time a new book comes out that looks interesting, well, we just can’t resist. As with any goal, having an action plan is very helpful. To help us actually overcome this problem, we broke each month down with the books we plan on reading. It’s possible things may shift, but this “syllabus” will hopefully keep us on track. When new books are released throughout the year, it’s likely we’ll add those in and bump some down (or try to squeeze it in!). For now, though, this is our list…

January

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Nightingale
 
by Kristin Hannah
How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenburg

February

Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers by Simon Winchester
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

March

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

April

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate by Robert D. Kaplan
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

May

John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk

June

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

July

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin
The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio

August

It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
Liar, Temptress, Solider, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

September

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
The Pearl by John Steinbeck

October

The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Moby Dick by Herman Melville

November

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

December

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
My Adventures with Your Money: George Graham Rice and the Golden Age of the Con Artist by T.D. Thornton

What are you excited to read in 2016?

Image by Carpe Juvenis

EducationSkills

Have a big test coming up? Working on a project with others? Study groups can be a very effective – and fun! – way to further your education. Studying with others provide the opportunity to make sure you didn’t miss out on any pertinent information and to learn from one another if a certain topic is confusing to you. It also allows you to explain concepts to others, which helps you better remember the information.

Run a productive study group with these techniques:

Create a Study Guideline before the Meeting

Email everyone in the Study Group an outline for the meeting. If there’s a topic you’re focusing on, or if it’s a broad overview of everything that might be on a test, break the meeting down by half hour or hour so that you can all stay on track. This way, people know what to expect when they come to the study group. Also, if there are any missing topics or terms, they can be filled into the guideline before everyone meets.

Pinpoint Confusing Concepts

Utilize the Study Group time to focus on confusing concepts. Go over the class lessons as a whole, but spend more time on topics that are more challenging. Try explaining the concepts to each other – saying what you need to know out loud will help you remember it later on.

Arrive Prepared

Don’t show up to Study Groups not having looked over the material. You want to be a participating member and offer your knowledge. Avoid joining the study group just to sit back and check your notes. Help others on topics they might be fuzzy about. Arrive ready to have a conversation and to prepare for the upcoming test or project.

Divvy Up Responsibilities

Before everyone meets for the Study Group, dividing responsibilities is a great way to relieve some of the burden of studying. Each week someone can take on the responsibility of being the leader of the Study Group, or you can designate just one person, and he or she can break down the topics that need to be covered and who is in charge of each one. If one person in the Study Group is more knowledgeable in the History of the Atomic Model, another person is better at explaining the Periodic Table, and you understand the Ionic and Metallic Bonding, you can all work together to teach other these topics. Play up your strengths to help yourself and others.

Limit Study Group Size

To prevent too much socialization and to make sure everyone has a chance to participate, limit the Study Group size to four to six people. This way everyone’s voice can be heard and it doesn’t become too overwhelming. Study with classmates who share the same goal of earning good grades. This isn’t social hour or a gossip group, so choose to study with people who want to focus and learn.

Make the Timing of Meetings Manageable

In order not to get burned out, overwhelmed, or easily distracted, make the Study Group meetings no more than two hours, with a ten minute break. It’s better to meet for two hours twice a week than four hours once a week. You’ll all be more productive and more time to study and sort out what questions you have. Meet in your school’s library, a local coffee shop, in an empty classroom, or outside on the grass – somewhere that is conducive to paying attention and being able to hear one another.

Eliminate Distractions

This isn’t the time for everyone to be on their phones texting or listening to music. Put phones, laptops, and other devices away. Use the time you have to stay focused and on target. This is the time to pick each other’s brains about confusing concepts, so make the most of it!

Bring Snacks

During your short break, it never hurts to have a granola bar or piece of fruit on hand. Stay energized during this power hour(s) of Study Group.

What tips do you have for running productive Study Groups?

Image by Breather

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

Travel

No matter where you live, we’ve all seen them… those people wielding cameras with maps tucked into their fanny packs, possibly wearing destination paraphernalia. Okay, hopefully not the last part few parts, but you never know. Tourists – the near curse word to travelers and locals alike. For some reason, people love to hate tourists’ naivety and childlike excitement, even though they should be applauded for their adventurous spirits. But still, I admittedly never want to appear like one because it’s sometimes embarrassing, it could mark you as an easy target for theft or crime, and is simply not cool. So from my wandering heart to yours, here are my four top tips I use while traveling to minimize being that tourist.

1. “When in Rome” everywhere. I like to think of this as the biggest display of respect to another culture because it shows your willingness to try and understand something new. For example, if you are in Australia and someone proudly offers you their restaurants kangaroo dish, eat it like it’s your favorite food even if it’s not (yes, this really happened to me and turns out, it was actually delicious). If you are somewhere that has many social customs unfamiliar to you, say in an Asian country, don’t be embarrassed to try bowing when it is appropriate. I have noticed people are more receptive to you as a traveler when they can see you are putting forth effort to cross cultural differences.

2. In unfamiliar situations, wear your poker face. It is bound to happen – you make a wrong turn to find yourself lost, get yelled at in a foreign language, or are caught in a weird situation and just don’t know how to react. No matter how frazzled you are, try to remain calm and collected for your safety.

3. Speak the language. Of course you won’t always be able to do this fluently, but it is possible to learn a few useful greetings and phrases in the country’s language. You might have noticed Americans do not have the best traveling reputation. Time and time again my foreign friends have told me that we tend to speak English before even attempting a simple greeting in the local language and this is offensive. Even if you butcher a few words in another language, people will likely just giggle and appreciate your attempt.

4. Finally, pay attention to how people dress. Unless you are actually hiking in the jungle or going on an Archeological dig, your favorite hiking hat might not be necessary for this trip. But, little jokes aside, I have found clothing to be important in some cases. For example, if you want to go to a religious service, make sure you ask a local or research how you are expected to dress. The last thing you want to do is accidentally disrespect anyone or anything.

Hopefully you can try out some of these tips and see how your next journey unfolds. If you have any other tips you use, I would love to hear them. Happy travels!

Image: Gratisography

Skills

Their are many mistake’s you can make, but not all of which you’ll have the chance too make up for.

If that sentence didn’t make you cringe or shake your head, please keep reading. Poor grammar and spelling are both disappointing and alarming when we look at how prevalent they are. Ever go through comments on a blog post and read a perfectly insightful opinion, but it was perfectly botched with errors? It’s frightening. To casually communicate through text can be relatively inconsequential – skipping your commas won’t rock the boat when texting mom. But some errors have bigger implications, and are worsened when used in professional or educational settings.

Getting into such habits as failing to (or deliberately choosing not to) distinguish the difference between there, they’re, and their or incorrectly using plural possessives (cats’, cat’s, cats) can have repercussions. Here are my top three reasons why you should never make these mistakes again:

1. It gives the impression that you are not attentive to detail.

So you’re typing away and happen to put the apostrophe in the wrong place, or you use your when you meant to type you’re, and you think to yourself  “whatever, they know what I meant.” Sure, the reader knows what you meant, but you risk them wondering what other types of small mistakes you make. When you’re just starting out in your career and earning your stripes, getting it right is non-negotiable.

What to do:

Simply take a second glance at your email. If you’re unsure about a word or phrase, Google it or have a coworker take a look. For extra cookie points, ask your boss’s opinion. They’ll appreciate your effort and can make other suggestions for improvement.

2. It makes you sound, well, not smart.

Whether you’re the CEO, the director, or just starting out as an entry-level associate, the last thing you want is have others assume you don’t know your literary basics (because you do!). You want to be seen as a valuable contributor to your team, and your brilliant suggestions and ideas can be doubted if your emails are flooded with poor grammar and typos. It could discredit you as a source of knowledge and even cause a misunderstanding (you meant to mention your college degree, not your collage degree!).

What to do:

When expressing your ideas, be as clear and concise as humanly possible. State the objective, the procedure (if applicable), and the anticipated outcome. For efficiency, preempt possible questions and include the answers. It’s not a 10-page essay for creative writing, so don’t be afraid to use bullet points. To conclude your email, add “please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.” It shows your willingness to further help explain details as needed.

3. It could cost you a job interview.

Mark Manson (one of my favorite bloggers) refers to grammar mistakes as “basic errors.” In job applications, this faux-pas gets people thrown in the “instant deletion” pile. While he admits to extend some leniency with those who aren’t in the business of writing/editing (such as digital artists), I still personally believe there’s no excuse to mess them up anyway.

What to do:

Proofread! Proofread it a million times, and then have your friend, mom, dad, neighbor, and dog proofread it. You want to have multiple sources to give you the maximum amount of feedback. Make adjustments until it’s perfect.

There you have it! As a warning, beware of those subtle errors that aren’t always staring you right in the face. We’re all guilty of missing the mark at one point or another, but it’s important to try and correct it whenever possible.  As millennials, we are, after all, the most educated generation in history.

Image: Stewart Black

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

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When it comes to leadership role models, Doris Daif is someone we look up to. As Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience, Doris gets to know the people she works with both personally and professionally. She also believes in flexibility and balance. Having studied marketing in college, Doris interned at Revlon and ended up working there after undergrad. After working at Revlon, Doris decided to continue her education and enrolled in Stern School of Business at New York University to earn her MBA. Now at American Express, Doris leads a team of over 130 people.

Throughout our interview, Doris emphasized the importance of passion, hard work, and finding mentors. We not only found Doris to be motivating and empowering, but what she shared resonated with us deeply. When it comes to her advice about living more in the moment and not being so prescriptive, we couldn’t agree with Doris more. Read on to find out how Doris thinks young people can demonstrate confidence and poise, what her daily duties involve, and how she unwinds from an occasionally overwhelming schedule.

Name: Doris Daif
Education: Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Rutgers University; Master of Business Administration in Marketing and Finance from New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Follow: @ddsethi

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

Doris Daif: Seizing your youth means living in the moment and not apologizing or feeling that you should be doing something other than you’re doing at that very moment. At least for me, that’s come as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger there was a lot of “shoulda coulda woulda” mentality around wondering if I was keeping up with what other people were doing or feeling like I was missing out on something. Seizing your youth is about feeling passionate and excited about what you’re doing at that time, knowing that it’s the right thing for you, and feeling comfortable in your own skin.

CJ: You majored in Marketing at Rutgers University. How did you determine what to study?

DD: I didn’t have a great plan when I was in undergrad in terms of what I wanted to do. My parents were both very academic and have master’s degrees, and they both wanted me to be in a stable job that earned money. I was in school in the early 90s and there was a lot of pressure around getting jobs post-graduation. It was a very tough time.

Before I went to Rutgers I thought about going to Carnegie Mellon and studying engineering. I ultimately decided to go to a state school. I may have headed toward marketing because I wanted to study something in business, and I knew I didn’t want something accounting and finance-related. Marketing really wasn’t planned at that point in my life but I knew it would give me the most options.

CJ: What did you do once you graduated from college?

DD: I was interning at Revlon when I was at Rutgers. I helped the chemists in R&D test their products on customers. It was awesome! All these women would come in to test out everything from shampoo to lipstick, and I really started to love the interaction with customers and thinking about what made them tick.

When I graduated from Rutgers, it was a difficult time economically. A lot of jobs available for undergrads with marketing degrees were sales jobs. I ultimately decided to go back to Revlon in a sales role. Going back to what I was saying about seizing your youth, it was not a typical job to start at with an undergraduate degree, so it was a risk but I loved the work and the people. After a few years, I turned the job into a full-blown marketing research opportunity and moved to the headquarters in New York City. I had the opportunity to work under really seasoned market research people where I could take what I learned in the R&D labs and translate it into more qualitative and quantitative market research at Revlon.

It was while I was at Revlon in NYC that I realized that I wanted to go back to graduate school and continue my education. I didn’t want to go back full time, though, so I applied for a part-time MBA program at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Then there was an opportunity that presented itself at Colgate Palmolive, and I got a call from them for a similar role where I would be working on much larger brands and doing more business analytics. That’s really what led me to leave the position at Revlon and go to Colgate.

Doris B

CJ: You are currently the Head of American Express Digital Customer Experience. What does that mean and what does your role entail?

DD: I lead a team of 130 folks located in New York and in the United Kingdom. We have responsibilities for making sure that when customers have a digital experience with us – whether they come onto our website or get an email or a text message – that we’re not only meeting their needs but that we’re delighting them.

We think about features that customers want to see, but we also actually listen to the voice of the customer. We have an internal design team that will sit down with customers and prototype and design with them. When we have a design that we think is really good, we figure out ways to put it into market and test it. It’s a really active place to work and there are no two days that look alike. I work with a really passionate group of people who are excited about what they do. The team ranges from data people to designers to operations people to product developers. There are some people who are in charge of the site or content management or personalization. We all work together to give the customer a great experience.

CJ: In an interview with theglasshammer.com, you noted that “confidence and poise are two of your greatest assets.” How can young people demonstrate confidence and poise?

DD: I’m so passionate about this topic because I didn’t have either of those growing up. I was a very shy, introverted kid. I didn’t fit into a natural clique, so to speak. What’s important to remember is to not put people in a box. People can be in many boxes or not in a box at all, and that is okay. The right kind of reinforcement is important for kids at a young age. Being able to celebrate not just the clear successes but also the effort is very important. You don’t just try once and get something; you have to develop the ability to come back repeatedly. You also have to learn how to step away. Take time to immerse yourself in why something failed, but then get up and try it again the next morning. We’re in a culture of wanting things to happen immediately, but that’s just not reality.

CJ: What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in working in the digital space with customer experience?

DD: During those first five to seven years, you want to work your tail off. You want to create great work that is meaningful and has high integrity. Go into something where you’re going to be happy putting in the extra hours.

Surround yourself with people you want to be like. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a couple of early leaders and mentors who I observed. I watched them in action and saw their mistakes and what they did right. To a certain extent, they turned into advocates for me.

Also, you can’t fake it. Early on in my career I had a very false idea that I’d get one position and do it for two years, and then I’d get promoted and do that for two years. It’s not all that prescriptive, but the common ingredient is passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s way too much time and way too forced to amount to anything. Younger people get caught up in what they should be doing, but this comes back to haunt you later. Knowing that you’re passionate about something allows doors to open that you wouldn’t have expected.

CJ: Finding that passion when you’re young can be difficult. In your experience, how do you think young people can find their passion?

DD: There’s not a magic bullet with this one. Passion can ebb and flow for different things throughout your life. Some of it is not being so prescriptive. If you’re overly sensitive to finding your passion and figuring out a plan, it can get really stressful. I’ve been caught up in that! You learn as you go.

Having great mentors and leaders who have been honest about what I do well and what I don’t do well has helped me figure out what I am interested in. Family does this very well – they will put a mirror up and tell you what you do well and what you don’t. Be receptive to this feedback and ask questions. Sometimes we have a very self-centered view of ourselves. I tap my team a lot to tell me what I can improve upon. What would my biggest fan say and what would my worst critic say?

CJ: You mentioned that you didn’t really fit in with any certain “clique” in high school. It can be hard thinking you don’t belong to a certain group. How did you navigate that when you were younger?

DD: Not well. I latched on to academics. I really worked my tail off. If I had to be 98% prepared, that should have been good enough, but at the time I was so insecure about myself that I would do whatever it took to get to 110% preparation. Looking back, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve been told that I am extremely hungry for the next thing, and I think that resilience comes from the feeling of wanting to excel. The flip side is always having that insecurity of having to do 110% which is not always a good thing.

For me, I love American Express because some of my most formidable years have been at this company. I came in at an entry level job and now I’m running a large team. I appreciate that I work for a company that has put a lot of confidence in me, which helped me build my confidence.

We as a company talk about diversity a lot, which is important. Diversity in terms of the products we offer and the kinds of customers we want to attract. Therefore, your employee base needs to be diverse to reflect that. I’m first-generation American, and both of my parents are from Egypt. There weren’t a lot of other Egyptians walking around in the schools I was in. I don’t know how much that contributed, but I definitely always felt like a fish out of water and that I had to try harder to integrate with any given group of people.

CJ: Leadership plays an important role in your job. How have you learned to lead and how do you bring the community together?

DD: I always make an effort to get to know the people who work for me, both on a personal level and professional level. I think that’s really important. I don’t just get to know my direct reports, but I like to dig in and have deep relationships with all of my people. I like to do it in an approachable style, even if it’s not in-person; using instant messaging is great.

The second is giving people flexibility. Everybody has different needs in terms of what’s going on in their personal and professional lives. One thing I’m extremely passionate about is seeing women advance. Women in particular need that flexibility as children come into the equation.

We afford people the ability to have a full life. I feel like people’s best ideas come when they’re out living their lives and they’re outside doing other things. I try to ensure that people are balanced.

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

DD: There are two areas. When you rise in an organization, you spend a lot of time removing roadblocks for your team. One thing I’ve become aware of is not losing my technical skills, so I’ve been doing a lot in the area of digital technology.

The second is doing even more to figure out how to collaborate with people across different lines of business in the company – that’s a lot more fruitful. A lot of times, rather than going to people when you’re in crisis mode, it should be about how you can help them. This notion of “giving to get” is an important thing to understand, especially for youth. When you’re a millennial, there can be a focus on yourself and how you can get ahead. It’s amazing how much can get sent back to you when you’re outwardly facing and helping other people. When I get stressed out and so focused on my issue, I figure out how to call someone and help somebody with his or her problem. As an old Revlon mentor would tell me, “you get more bees with honey versus vinegar.”

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?

DD: I value balance but for me that balance doesn’t mean I cut off work when I leave the building or vice versa. I self-regulate. There are times when I know work will be busier than other times, but there are other times when I end my day on time and go exercise. I make an effort to be more active. Meditation is something I’ve been wanting to try. I try to maintain connections with people who I’ve come across in my professional life. I enjoy going out to eat a lot. I enjoy reading.

CJ: What is your favorite book? 

DD: The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street by Naguib Mahfouz.

CJ: What is a book you’ve read this year? 

DD: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

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

DD: I would have carried myself with greater poise and confidence. I also would have had more fun and not been so paranoid about what the next thing was going to be. I’d try to live more in the moment and not be so prescriptive. I’d also try not to be as introverted. There are people who are naturally introverts, but I was holding back on a lot of things that were in my head that I thought that no one wanted to hear or weren’t valuable enough to be said or done.

Doris Daif Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

CultureHealth

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been extremely fast-paced. I always expect everything in my life to happen instantly, and my strong desire for instant results often leaves me overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’m a highly competitive individual; I always mange to turn everything I do into some sort of competition by setting sharp deadlines to achieve my goals.

Recently, however, I’ve been self-assessing where I am in my life and where it is I am trying to go.

My answers came from a magazine advertisement I was reading one morning on my commute on the London tube.

It read, “Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day, and Neither Were You.” Inspired by the choice of words, I wrote it down in my notes section of my iPhone of things to look into later that week. Having heard the expression in literature and other numerous places before, I decided to research its origins. I learned it was a French proverb from the late 1100s, and it wasn’t translated into English until 1545.

By relating that phrase to my current life ambitions, I was able to further understand my journey of self-development. My interpretation of the phrase was that all things in life take time to create, and substantial things, such as the great city of Rome, take years to complete.

As humans, we should not set expectations to achieve great successes. We need to rewire how we think about our accomplishments. Ancients Rome’s vast network of developed roads, buildings, and modern advancements were not simply erected overnight. The empire recruited people from afar, and spent years developing into the great power it was known to be. Personal growth is essentially the same way. It takes time and lots of strategic planning, but the time logged pays off dramatically.

The constant search for instant gratification is something that, now being 25, I am getting better at channeling and understanding. Nothing in life comes easily, and the most rewarding things in life require work and perseverance. There are three avenues Generation-Y can relate to directly that include our strong desires for self-development and fulfillment:

  1. Professionally

I often feel the past eight years of my life have been extremely rushed, often making me feel unclear of my life plans. After high school, much like my counterparts, I went straight into university. Not knowing what to do after, I enrolled in a master’s program and soon after found myself working a 9-5 job from Monday to Friday in London. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with my choices, but I often wish that I had taken some time to fully explore my life options and develop my soul and inner character.

At the time, I was in a rush to finish my education and immediately start working. I realize I could have taken more time exploring all my options and really focusing on developing and fine tuning my interests while still in school. I was in such a rush to start making money and live a professional independent life that I sometimes fail to enjoy moments and absorb what I was working towards. Take time to fully develop your interests and life goals early on. There is no rush to finish university and immediately have a job lined up post graduation. This time aids in building character and self-awareness, which is essential in life.

  1. Personally

As any young professional living in a large scale global city has probably experienced before, personal development is an ongoing process in life. We are always changing mentally and emotionally, which directly affects how we feel and how we interact. Our social circles can be vastly divergent from spending time with a significant other, work colleagues, or friends.

Working and living in a new city takes time to adapt to. You need to give yourself ample time to set your foundations to achieve new and great heights. Big cities can often become overwhelming, and often you may feel as if you don’t know how you fit in, but self-development is a cycle of figuring out how your personal growth will continue to morph your life ethos.

Don’t rush getting to understand which social scene you think you belong to, or which Tinder match will become your destined life soul-mate. Live life and go with the flow.

  1. Physically

In the last few years, I have become obsessed with staying fit and maintaining my overall health. Though I have yet to adapt a stricter routine, I used to get frustrated seeing guys at the gym lifting three times more then I could.

Since then, however, I have learned to pace myself towards understanding that I will not have a six-pack overnight. Life is a balancing act where you must make continued and conscious health choices towards adapting a plan that is suitable for your busy and changing lifestyles.

If you want to achieve great things in life that garner longevity, much like the city of Rome, then perhaps consider reconditioning the ways you go about your daily life. Better ways of channeling your thoughts and desires are the key factor in establishing and setting yourself up for success. Good things take time, and rushing to reach the end is not the best solution.

Image: Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

When Genna Reed discovered her love for biology after whale watching in Cape Cod as a kid, she pursued that passion in high school, college, and graduate school. It wasn’t until Genna took an environmental policy class that she realized she wanted to shift gears from science to policy and advocate for environmental change. Genna started working toward her Environmental Policy master’s degree the fall after graduating from college.

What we love about Genna’s story is that when she recognized what made her excited, she followed those instincts. When a class re-awakened her interest in environmental policy, she turned that passion into further learning and ultimately, a career. Genna now works as a researcher at Food & Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization and consumer rights group that focuses on corporate and government accountability relating to food, water, and fishing. She spends her time researching and writing materials to support Food & Water Watch’s campaigns, specifically their GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling campaign.

Genna provides insight into how she spends her days, what it’s like being a researcher and advocate for the environment, and what the important things to know are when it comes to genetically engineered food. We’re inspired by how determined, passionate, and knowledgeable Genna is, and she really captures the ‘Seizing Your Youth’ spirit.

Name: Genna Reed
Education: B.A. in Biology and Psychology and M.A. in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University
Follow: @gennaclare / foodandwaterwatch.org

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

Genna Reed: Youth is an advantageous time in a person’s life because individuals are most open to exciting opportunities and big changes, while also being resilient enough to manage these changes with ease. This flexibility begins to fade with age. It is absolutely essential that young folks take advantage of their freedom and explore new passions and interests whenever they can. Unless you happen to be Benjamin Button, you’re not getting any younger, so take advantage of it!

CJ: You majored in Biology and Psychology from Lehigh University. How did you decide what to major in?

GR: I have been very passionate about biology ever since going on my first whale watch in Cape Cod as a kid and becoming an instant die-hard humpback whale advocate. I was always more interested in my science and math courses during high school and carried that with me into college where my course load was predominantly biology and calculus courses. I was on the pre-med path until my senior year when I took an environmental policy course that re-awakened my interest in advocating for environmental change.

CJ: You also received your master’s degree in Environmental Policy Design from Lehigh University. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

GR: I realized at the end of my senior year of college that I wanted to shift gears from science to policy. I had worked at an environmental chemistry lab at the Meadowlands in New Jersey for two summers extracting very high levels of pesticides and other contaminants out of soil and water samples. I realized just how badly humans had polluted the environment and how essential it is that our society work to clean it up. Although I enjoyed working in a lab, I wanted to help work on concrete changes at the policy level. It just so happened that Lehigh had started up an Environmental Policy master’s program that seemed like a great fit for me. I began the master’s program the fall after graduating from undergrad at Lehigh.

CJ: You worked as an intern at the Wildlands Conservancy where you led environmental education programs and handled live animals including turtles, lizards, snakes, and owls. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

GR: I really loved working at the Wildlands Conservancy because I got to share my excitement about the natural world and environmental conservation with kids. I learned how incredibly important it is to expose children to environmental experiences at a young age and to teach them how they fit into the biological cycles and what they can do to help protect the environment. It’s really fun to channel kids’ energy and enthusiasm into becoming mini environmental stewards!

Genna 2

CJ: You were a National Network for Environmental Management Studies (NNEMS) Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. What was this experience like and what did you do as a Fellow?

GR: While I was completing my master’s thesis on wetland regulation and preservation, I was lucky enough to get a temporary fellowship position in Philadelphia with the EPA’s wetland division. I was able to apply things I was learning about wetland biological assessments into the policy world and to see firsthand how regulations are enacted. I spent my time with the EPA comparing and contrasting different ways to assess the health of streams and wetlands in order to find the best way to determine how these bodies of water can be protected from pollution and degradation.

CJ: You now work as a researcher for Food & Water Watch where your focus is on new technology issues within the food system. What does your role as researcher entail?

GR: I spend most of my time researching and writing materials (reports, issue briefs, fact sheets, op-eds, letters to the editor, blogs and testimony) that support our campaigns, specifically our GMO labeling campaign. I also work on federal comments on issues relevant to genetically engineered crops and animals and present our research at certain science and policy forums, stakeholder meetings and public hearings.

CJ: What are the three most important skills you need as a researcher?

GR:
1. Patience. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for.
2. Versatility. We have to be able to write about food policy to a range of different audiences.
3. Positive Attitude. Working at an organization that attempts to protect our food and water, we are up against very strong corporate interests, which makes it difficult to win our campaigns. We have to remain positive and keep on keeping on.

CJ: You research genetically engineered foods and the impacts that the technology has on farmers, consumers, and the environment. For people who are starting to learn more about genetically engineered foods, what are the most important things to know and keep in mind?

GR: The first thing I always tell people that are just learning about genetically modified foods, or GMOs, is that the way that this technology is currently used is first and foremost a moneymaking scheme for biotech companies that own seeds as well as the herbicides that are used with them. Herbicides are poisons, and their use has increased since GMOs were introduced. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the safety of GMOs and the herbicides that are used with them, and we have been the guinea pigs for this experiment since these crops and associated chemicals have been used for the past 20 years and foods made from these crops have been sold without labels the entire time. We should all be outraged at the lack of accountability and transparency from our regulatory agencies that have been keeping us in the dark about what’s in our food for far too long.

CJ: Food & Water Watch is an advocacy group with food, water, and environmental policy campaigns. Why do these issues matter to you and what can young people who are interested in these causes do to make a difference?

GR: There is not a single person in the world that is not affected by food, water and environmental issues. I have always believed that we have to take responsibility for the way in which we’ve treated our natural resources as commodities since humans began colonizing this planet. It’s high time that we begin thinking about the environment as having its own intrinsic value. Interested young people should get involved at the local level in their communities by getting educated on issues and joining with other concerned individuals to demand change.

Genna 3

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?

GR: Monday mornings are spent drinking earl grey tea and going through my emails from the weekend and my to-do list that I’ve written on Friday afternoon. I start the day off finishing quick research tasks and then move on to longer-term projects as the day wears on. I try to do my writing either first thing in the morning or right after lunch, when my mind is the clearest.

Throughout the day, I usually have a couple of calls with our organizers on the ground to discuss campaign details and how we can work together to advance our cause or with representatives from other organizations who work with us in coalitions in order to build power to affect change. Hopefully by the end of the day, I have checked more things off the list than I have added.

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

GR: Having an inquisitive mind is a great way to begin preparing to be a researcher. Research is really just the process of finding an answer to a question or a set of questions. Another good skill to start honing is the ability to distinguish between good sources and questionable sources. It is essential that good research be backed up by solid fact and discerning between what is credible and what is not is imperative in this line of work.

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

GR: E.O Wilson’s Biophilia was incredibly important in shaping and affirming my own opinions about the importance of protecting the environment and the role of humans in preservation. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was also very influential for me.

CJ: When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to reset?

GR: I usually go for runs to clear my head. After that, I spend time cuddling with my two cats, Jack and Willow, for comfort (if they’re in the mood, of course).

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

GR: As a researcher with a dual monitor computer set-up, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed with inputs. Growing up in the age of multi-tasking and short attention spans, I sometimes struggle with devoting my full attention to individual projects as I’m working on them. I’m attempting to be more mindful of this and to fully immerse myself in one task at a time rather than spreading myself thin on a bunch of tasks.

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

GR: I probably would tell 20-year-old me to spend a little bit less time studying and more time exploring the state parks and natural beauty around Lehigh and farther out into Pennsylvania.

Genna Reed Qs

Images: Genna Reed

HealthLearnWellness

Nature has an incredible way of creating and rebounding. There are countless lessons we can learn from nature if we just look close enough. At times, it’s hard to accept what happens in our lives. We begin to draw inwards, closing ourselves off from what’s going on. Looking outside, however, could be just the thing we need to help turn things around.

Burying Vs. Planting

When you think about burying versus planting, two very different meanings arise. While the former implies death or stowing away, the latter suggests the opposite with feelings of new birth and growth. Yet they are essentially the same action. The process of digging something up allows for many things to happen. It is preparation for both endings and beginnings, decay and development, vulnerability and hope. We often times bury things in our own lives. Pressing our fears, disappointments, and anger into the backs of our minds or the depths of our hearts in order to hide and forget that they are there. We bury goals when they seem out of reach to save ourselves from being exposed to embarrassment or regret. We cover up as much as we can but by doing so, are mistakenly blinding ourselves from nature’s true process at hand: the growth of perspective.

Sometimes it is necessary for one thing to close for another to open, whether it’s letting go of certain ideas you have grown up with, choosing to say goodbye to negative people, or moving on from an upsetting event. Experiencing any level of loss reminds us of the value of those around us, the time we have, and the opportunity to seize every moment. Burying and planting come hand in hand, and it’s learning the rhythm between them that can help us adjust our thoughts and become hopeful for whatever comes our way.

The Ripple Effect

Like the proverbial pebble dropped into a still pond, the impact of our actions can reverberate outward into reaches far greater than we know. Knowing our capacities to influence the people around us, there should be a conscious and cautious effort towards making that influence a positive one. So much of what we say and do can be channels of inspiration, encouragement, and support for others and even ourselves. Being the first to forgive can help start mending a broken relationship. The mindset you choose to have in the morning can alter your whole day. Journaling can turn into writings for a future novel. Sometimes there are clear intentions with our actions and sometimes there are not. After all, the only thing we have true control over is which pebble we choose to throw. It’s at least understanding the scope of our impact, the fact that our behavior in the present can sway events in both directly and indirectly, that we can begin acting in ways that are most likely to bring positive change.

Timing

Human beings are constantly fighting against the one thing that nature whole-heartedly accepts, understands, and obeys: life’s timing. There are birds that consistently follow migratory patterns throughout the year, flowers that only bloom in favorable seasons, and fish that survive in shallow streams until they’ve grown enough to swim into deeper waters. Nature always follows the progression from waiting to changing. People find it difficult to wait and are uncomfortable with change. It seems unnecessary sometimes to have to postpone plans, or move from one place to the other, or spend time working for others when we could be working for ourselves. All of this, however, is exactly how nature survives and thrives. It’s a lesson we can all learn from. There is a sense of collaboration with time itself when we allow it to just happen, when we accept that certain seasons must precede the others. Just as one chapter in our life can be dedicated to preparation and reflection, the next can be for action and transformation.

Nature is one of life’s most important teachers and its curriculum will always be the same. It’s about embracing the light and the night, knowing how to rest and store our energy, and blooming into our best selves whenever the time is right.

Image: Grzegorz Mleckzek

CultureLearnSkills

Being a leader is not easy. There are countless factors and people to consider at any given moment. Being a leader, however, is a life-changing and life-steering opportunity to positively influence other people. As a student leader, you have the privilege to impact peers, the community, and your campus every day. Having any sort of reach to influence others is a great responsibility and understanding the meaning behind it is essential for everyone. Leadership styles are all different, but here are four traits that every student leader need not forget:

1. FULLY PRESENT, FORWARD-LOOKING

Sharing a vision and fostering its growth with relationship-building and goal-setting.

Leaders are bifocal, always looking at both the process and outcome. They understand the details of working with people and how their opinions must be heard and considered before making further steps. They take time to get to know the people on their team to gain insight on their strengths and potential contributions. Think of a leader as a conductor of an orchestra. They oversee the pace of the music, paying attention to various sections of musicians while working towards an engaging and emotional performance. Conductors are able to think notes ahead, anticipating the turns of tone and guiding musicians to change tempo if need be. Similarly, student leaders are in rhythm with the interactions on their team and the overall project development. If something begins to sound off key, leaders are the first to respond with some fine-tuning, knowing the desired sound and sharing that vision with everyone else.

2. TRANSPARENCY

No hidden agendas. Consistent openness and a willingness to show your true self.

Gaining trust from a group of people can be difficult, keeping it can be harder. Student leaders accept this challenge by being transparent and conveying clear, direct, and honest information. Even more than that, they feel compelled to do so not in their own best interest but in the best interest of their organization. Especially when leading peers your age, it is essential to be seen as the real you. If there are conflicts among team members, rising concerns over new policies, or a personal dilemma, people will respond better if the news is shared in a sincere and straightforward way. By doing so, you are showing people respect for their time and their thoughts, allowing them to know about a situation and to make up their own minds. Being transparent tells people that your concern for the group is a priority and that you are willing to sacrifice self-importance and self-perception for honesty. True emotion and vulnerability do have a place in leadership and often times that’s what makes leaders even stronger.

3. FIRM STANCE, FLEXIBLE GRASP

Rooted in personal and organizational values while having the ability to accept change.

Just as important as having your own principles is the open-mindedness to value those that are different. People look to leaders to gauge situations or make the first move, and there are reasons why they have been chosen to do so. Anchored in ideals like social justice, collaboration, mentoring, or community involvement, leaders identify strongly with their core values and show people where their actions are coming from. The extension of this quality is being able to make choices when their values are tested. For this trait we can think of a leader as being their own solar system. They are centered in their world of values and cannot choose what goes into their orbit. Sometimes, collisions of ideas happen when they’re least expected. When this happens, leaders must accept the change, learn how to listen to conflicting opinions, and gather the information needed to make an unbiased decision. They may be unwavering in their central ideals but are always ready to listen to the input of others and apply new knowledge.

4. LOVE AND LIGHT

Creating a loving and supportive atmosphere by empowering others to rise to their best selves.

Forbes contributor Meghan M. Biro describes this quality as “something that transcends the every day ordinary and the practical, they engage you on an emotional level.” As described in the Harvard Business Review, there are multiple studies to back this up, showing that “employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork.” Student leaders are not just called upon to run meetings and make decisions. They are called to create a warm and inviting environment for their team members to feel secure and heard. Remember, those who feel encouraged to do their best are more likely to excel. A smile, a thank you note, a friendly follow-up, a motivational email, or a team retreat (that’s just for fun), can help boost morale. It’s about making spaces that are conducive to conversation, safe from judgment, and inspiring to be in. Student leaders have a lot to do, but it’s the way they do it that makes all the difference.

Image: Startup Stock

CultureLearn

If Ireland is on your list of places to go, take some time to read this combination of Irish authors, history, memoirs, and fictional tales before your travels. Reading about a country you will soon explore will make your adventures rich with knowledge and more fulfilling. Whether you’re reading a book by an Irish author or learning about how the Irish used to live in the 1900’s, there’s nothing like learning as much as you can before a trip to get the most out of it and see those stories come to life.

ireland 1ULYSSES BY JAMES JOYCE

Ulysses is considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature. In this classic novel by Irish writer, James Joyce, the encounters of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on June 16, 1904, are chronicled. Though lengthy, this book is a must-read.

 

ireland 2HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION BY THOMAS CAHILL

If you’re a history buff, this untold story of Ireland’s role in maintaining Western Culture and how Ireland helped Europe transition and evolve from the classical age of Rome to the medieval era will be right up your alley.

 

ireland 3A SECRET MAP OF IRELAND BY ROSITA BOLAND

Rosita Boland takes readers on a tour through Ireland’s 32 counties and shares her extraordinary (and very unusual) travels.

 

ireland 4TO SCHOOL THROUGH THE FIELDS BY ALICE TAYLOR

A charming memoir by Alice Taylor who shares her Irish childhood and the memories that accompany it.

 

ireland 5LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN BY COLUM McCANN

Though this novel takes place in New York City in the 1970’s, Irish author Colum McCann’s writing is worth getting to know before making your way to his homeland.

 

ireland 6THE BACK OF BEYOND: A SEARCH FOR THE SOUL OF IRELAND BY JAMES CHARLES ROY

A noted authority on Irish travel and history, James Charles Roy guides readers (and in the book, a group of Americans), through the backwaters of ancient Ireland.

 

 

ireland 7GULLIVER’S TRAVELS BY JONATHAN SWIFT

A classic of English literature, this novel by Irish writer Jonathan Swift is a satire on human nature and a parody of the traveler’s tales sub-genre. For a literary adventure, pick this book up before your real-life adventures.

 

ireland 8DUBLINERS BY JAMES JOYCE

In Joyce’s collection of short stories, he describes with great detail his observations of the life of Dublin’s poorer classes. As Joyce brings Dublin to life, there’s no way you won’t be immersed in lives of Dubliners in the 1900’s.

 

ireland 9A SHORT HISTORY OF IRELAND BY RICHARD KILLEEN

For a quick read about Irish history. A good starting point and overview before your travels.

 

 

ireland 10THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY BY OSCAR WILDE

Irish writer Oscar Wilde wrote this philosophical novel in 1890, and it’s worth reading before traveling to this author’s homeland.

 

ireland 12THE MODERNISATION OF IRISH SOCIETY: 1848 – 1918 BY JOSEPH LEE

For history and political fans, read about how Ireland became one of the most modern and advanced political cultures in the world at that time. Get a more in-depth look at Ireland’s history and how it modernized.

 

What books on Ireland have you found interesting? Happy reading and safe travels!

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Nick Rubin is one seriously impressive 17-year-old. We met up with Nick for coffee in Seattle and discussed the many amazing projects he’s working on, including the app Greenhouse (which he built himself), a youth-run organization connector called YouthCorp, and his college applications.

As a high school student, Nick has loads of homework and the typical stress that comes with being near the end of your high school career. But Nick is approaching his time in high school differently by making the most of his time outside of class. He partakes in extracurriculars, spends time pursuing hobbies such as graphic design and photography, and makes time for himself by going on hikes and bike rides.

Nick undoubtedly seizes his youth. Read on to learn about how Nick learned to code, the inspiration behind his projects, and the top tips he would give someone who is just about to enter high school.

Name: Nicholas Rubin
Education: Lakeside School
Follow:
nicholasrub.in / @nickrubin / Greenhouse / Instagram

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

Nicholas Rubin: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as taking advantage of the many opportunities that being young offers. For example, free time. We tend to have more free time than adults, which gives us time to focus on our passions and interests. Many people say that kids can’t make change, but I think that the opposite is true. I think it’s easier for kids to make a change – not only are we able to focus on what we’re interested in, but there’s something about youth that’s special.

CJ: You are the creator of Greenhouse, a free browser extension for Chrome Firefox, and Safari that exposes the role money plays in Congress. What inspired you to create Greenhouse?

NR: Ever since giving a presentation in a 7th grade social studies class, I’ve been really interested in the issue of money-in-politics. It’s not usually something kids care about, but even though I’m 17 and can’t vote for another year, I wanted to change that. I thought that the information about sources of funding of members of Congress wasn’t being made accessible to people, to the average citizen. It’s being buried away. The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) is the agency that’s in charge of making this information accessible to the public, but they aren’t doing a good job. It’s tucked away, and since most people don’t know where or how to find it, I wanted to put it where it’s more useful – on the web pages where people read about the actions of members of Congress every day.

CJ: How did you go about actually building Greenhouse?

NR: When I first came up with the idea, I didn’t really know how to code. I taught myself using a series of online resources, and this year I’m taking a formal computer science class in school. There are so many great instructional websites these days – Kahn Academy, Codecademy, and my favorite, Treehouse – which are all geared toward youth, so it’s easy to understand for a beginner.

I spent about 10 months and 400 hours working on Greenhouse. For the data itself, I’m collecting it from an organization called the Center for Responsive Politics, which takes the FEC data and makes it available to developers.

CJ: What cause or issue do you care greatly about and why?

NR: I’ve been working on one other important project since this summer. In August, I went to the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, and met 200 other kids from all over the world who all shared a passion for change and global affairs. Four of us recognized this, and we started something called YouthCorp. It’s an organization that connects youth-run nonprofits, projects, initiatives, and companies and combines their resources to fight a common issue.

We’re still figuring out the details, but in the first two months we’ve had around 20 youth-run organizations join us from all over the world. It’s great, and is something that I’ll definitely continue working on.

Nick Rubin d

CJ: You are also a photographer. What sparked your interest in photography and what camera do you use?

NR: I don’t really remember exactly when I started photography, but it’s been a long time. Back in middle school I went to a camp in the San Juans that had film photography as an activity. I learned how to use a manual camera, develop film, and more. Ever since then, I’ve loved it. I got my first point-and-shoot in 6th grade, eventually graduating to a film camera, and then a DSLR. Now I’m in my third year of photography at school, where I do both film and digital photography. My favorite type would probably be travel photography and portraits. They’re both fun to take.

CJ: You have done quite a bit of design work. Where do you draw inspiration and what tools do you use for your design work?

NR: I’ve been interested in design since a 7th grade art class, when we did some linoleum printing. I wasn’t much of an art student, but I really enjoyed carving out and printing shapes. I like simple, minimalist design, and use Photography and Illustrator to do most of my work.

CJ: You were a Top-10 finalist at MHacks IV for Quink, a free browser extension for Chrome and Safari that lets you read the news faster without leaving the page you’re on. What was that experience like and what advice do you have for pitching and making it all the way to the Top 10?

NR: It was an amazing experience. A 36-hour programming competition with almost no sleep may sound miserable, but it was actually tons of fun. Hard, but a great experience. The community tends to be more about learning, rather than competition, so it creates a great environment. Some hackathons have cash prizes, but many of these events are turning away from that and discouraging people from only going with the prizes in mind. Most people go for the experience, and that’s really what makes these events special.

My advice for kids interested in these events is that you don’t have to be an amazing coder, or even know how to code at all. Many attend as designers or simply attend workshops and learn as they go on.

CJ: How do you stay organized, and what are your time management tips?

NR: Truthfully, I’m not the best with organization and time management, but there’s an app called Things that has basically saved my life. It’s a to-do list, where you simply check things off when you’re done. I could probably work to be a bit more organized, and use things like calendars, but something simple like Things is enough for me. I don’t like being too structured.

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

NR: On a typical Monday, I wake up at 7AM, drive my sisters to school, and go to my classes. After school, I continue to dedicate a quite a bit of time to Greenhouse, even though the attention surrounding it has died down a bit. I’ll spend an hour or two every day working on updates or responding to emails. Other than that, and my homework, I like to play tennis and go on hikes and bike rides.

CJ: What three tips would you give someone entering high school?

NR:
1. Try to make free time for yourself. School may be tough with homework, but it’s possible to have free time if you manage it properly. That’s what makes youth special, having time to do what you want. Making that time is important.

2. Don’t worry too much. That’s something I struggled with for the past few years. I’ve toned it down now, but don’t spend a lot of time stressing about school and your social life.

3. Do what you’re interested in, both in school and out. Pick classes and extracurriculars that interest you. For example, computer science is an elective course that I’m taking. Use your school’s resources to further your interests.

CJ: The college application process is ahead. What are you doing now to prepare for that?

NR: The process is just starting for me – I was actually assigned my college counselor yesterday. I’m probably planning on going on a school tour during spring break. I haven’t given the process much thought, but one thing that I’ve heard from people is to definitely start early. I may procrastinate with school assignments, but with something as big as college essays and applications, I’m going to be sure to start as early as possible.

CJ: What is one of your favorite books?

NR: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

CJ: What is a book you read in school that positively shaped you?

NR: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

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

NR: Communication and reaching out to people. There are definitely a lot of people who could be useful to me and the projects that I’m working on, and reaching out to some of them would be really beneficial. When I need help, I tend to refrain from asking others, but I definitely want to change this.

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?

NR: Whenever I’m having a bad day, I try and find something to get my mind off of it. I like to play with my dog, or go on a hike or bike ride. Leaving things behind and not letting them get to me is important. Being in nature and spending time away from society really helps, and it puts me in a good state of mind.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

NR: My parents and grandparents always told me before tests, “Good skills” instead of “Good luck.”

CJ: What advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

NR: Don’t worry as much! I worried about everything, and it would take up a lot of my time. I would spend more time worrying about an experience than actually enjoying it. This definitely could have changed earlier on.

Nick Rubin Qs

Image: Carpe Juvenis

HealthSkills

Wisdom works best when shared. Sometimes all we need are a few words of newfound perspective to navigate through life. Here are 10 pieces of advice that have provided encouragement and much needed clarity:

“Always assume you don’t have all the information.”

I see this as a way to not take anything too personally. When people act or react in ways that are unwarranted we are quick to judge. However, it’s nearly impossible to fill in the blanks without knowing more information. This is particularly valid during fights and disagreements. Instead of pushing your view and knowledge of the situation, question what you don’t know and instead, assume that they are seeing something that you are not seeing.

“Never pass up a chance to learn something for free.”

Our capacities to learn are endless. There are free E-courses online spanning anything from finances to interior design. Maybe a friend invites you to a free yoga session or you’re curious about slam poetry – take the first step in learning more about it and experience it for yourself. The best part about this kind of education is that it can be found everywhere, plus there’s no tuition.

“Create and maintain a morning ritual that you love.”

Starting your day with a ritual can energize you and help you be more productive throughout the day. Whether it’s brewing a cup of coffee or making tea, spending a few minutes meditating before heading out the door, or going on a morning run, take that time to activate your senses and set a happy tone for the rest of your day.

“Sometimes you need a little crisis to get your adrenaline flowing and help you realize your potential.”

One guarantee in life is that it’s unpredictable. Sometimes it seems as though the universe conspires to overlap as many dilemmas and challenges for us to face all at once. When crises happen, it’s helpful to remember these two things: 1) You are not alone. We all have our fair share of catastrophes. 2) Consider it your chance to challenge yourself for the better.

“Never lie in bed at night asking yourself questions you can’t answer.” Charles M. Schulz

What is it about the moment when your head hits the pillow that ignites a flood of worries and second-guessing? Sleep is essential and we all need to allow ourselves to relax when we can. So silence the motor in your mind as you hit the hay, it’s one of the only times that thinking less should be a priority.

“What are you going to do about it?”

Advice in the form of a question, gotta love it. Whenever I hear this it’s a reminder of the fact that although I cannot choose what happens to me, I choose what happens next. We are in control of our own decisions and sometimes what we really need is to ask how we can help ourselves.

“Measure twice, cut once.”

My best friend is an expert in calculated risks. He seems spontaneous and fun-loving but is actually extremely careful and a ferocious planner. Through him I’ve learned the value in being able to safely execute decisions. Approaching important situations with thorough research and credibility will allow for life’s big moments to go a lot more smoothly.

“Never offer advice just to appear concerned.” Jack Gardner

We all need to hear this. Although we always want to say the right things and help people when they’re down, be mindful of what it is you’re saying to them and why. If your advice is mere conversation filler, it’s better left unsaid. People have a tendency to project their own versions of help from their personal histories that often don’t reflect the person in need at all. So be wary of “saving the day,” sometimes the best way to help people is to just listen.

“Being in a relationship doesn’t entitle you to anything. You don’t get what you expect, you get what you create.” Steve Maraboli

Having a relationship is having an on-going learning experience. One of the biggest things to learn is to never mistake having a relationship with possessing a relationship. It is not an opportunity for an individual to control another with their expectations but rather, an invitation to grow with someone and share the same effort towards happiness.

“Go in the direction of where your peace is coming from.” C. Joybell C.

This one is from my all-time favorite poet and kindred spirit. Life’s pushes and pulls lead us to places and decisions that don’t always work out. The only thing we can really try to be consistent with is finding our purpose. Whatever it is that provides you with that feeling of peace and wholeness, follow it and rest assured you’re doing life right.

Image: Picography

Skills

For many of us, public speaking had us quivering in the back of the classroom crossing fingers not to be called on.  Speaking in front of a large crowd can definitely be intimidating, especially if it’s not your forte. However, hopefully remembering a few of these tips can help you master this skill in a heartbeat:

1. DO: Embrace Your Nervous Energy

Nervous energy can be the first barrier that a speaker encounters with a crowd if not grounded in a proper way. “How to get rid of it?” you may ask yourself. There are many ways of doing so and one of them, contrary to popular belief, is by making yourself vulnerable. Walking up to the podium and making a light joke about the spilled coffee on your shirt or throwing in a “I’m nervous so please bear with me,” may just save your speech. The audience is not against you; in fact, they are with you. People know how nerve wrecking it can be to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers, and allowing them to identify with you is key.

2. DO: Outline Your Talk

It is vital to begin your presentation by introducing yourself and addressing the purpose of the speech to make clear what you hope your audience will get out of your talk. Who you are is very important and the audience wants to know that. Giving them an outline also allows your audience to create reasonable expectations with what it is you are willing to provide for them.

3. DO: Make Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the most human ways of connecting with other people. Of course, it is obvious that one cannot make direct eye contact with every single person in the room, assuming your audience is impressively large. But as you introduce your speech, make sure to begin by turning your head to look at the person farthest on your left to slowly scan the room all the way to the person farthest to your right. This creates a way for you to comfortably glance at different areas of the room while not excluding the people that may not be in your direct field of view. Also, if you are uncomfortable making direct eye contact, try slowly moving your eyes above various heads. It reliefs awkward eye contact and creates the illusion that you are making it.

4. DON’T: Speak in Up Tones

You may not have noticed this, but your tone of voice is representative of how people will “secretly” view you. There are two kinds of people: the kind of people that speaks in up tones and the kind of people that speaks in down tones. It is most common to hear a teenager speaking in up tones while older people tend to speak in down tones. An up tone is the tone of your voice when you are asking a question while a down tone is the tone of voice you use when you are stern. Throughout your speech, especially when you introduce yourself, make sure you always use down tones. Practice it throughout the day to help you achieve this is as your dominant tone. It allows you to sound more confident and legitimate.

5. DO: Utilize Pauses

Pauses are not a sign of weakness. A few seconds of silence may be uncomfortable for you but hold it out – the silence captures the audience’s attention. Silence is power. When you are trying to make a relevant point and have just said something that you want to be remembered, pause and wait for that message to sink in. In addition, if you have forgotten a line or a point, pausing is a great way for you to compose yourself. Pauses are also great for replacing fill-in words: “ummm,” “eeeh,” “errrr,” “mmm,” “uhhhh,” or even the stretching of words. You may not notice it right off the bat, but dropping just one fill-in word is a call for catastrophe. It sets a tone of insecurity and boredom. Practice using pauses instead of fill-in words and you will note just how powerful your talk can be.

6. DO OR DON’T: Use Gestures

There is a common misconception that gestures during a speech are a must. However, one must realize that everyone is different. There are people who convey powerful messages by simply standing still with hands folded in front of them as their words capture the audience. Others have a musical voice which can easily be supported with beautiful hand gestures. It all depends on the person because if a person forces gestures and pacing, it may come off as awkward and stiff. It’s important that every person embrace his or her own style.

Public speaking can get your knees weak – it does for me! Public speaking can be a nerve wracking thing, though it really doesn’t need to be. Overcoming these fears is the key to effectively conveying any message in front of a public audience.

Are you ready to take on this challenge? How do you combat your public speaking nerves?

Image: leahbraun.net