Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As food lovers, we try to consume as many food articles and books we can get our hands on. We are big fans of Anne McBride’s writing, and we were very excited for the opportunity to talk with her about her career in the food industry and as a writer. Having grown up with grandparents who were farmers and gourmet home-cooks, Anne has been exposed to the pleasures of cooking and how food brings people together. Being surrounded by food throughout her childhood made Anne comfortable when it came time for her to cook.

We love that Anne is a constant learner and serious about her work. Not only is she working toward a PhD in Food Studies from New York University, but she is also an adjunct professor there. Additionally, Anne is the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective and is the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America. In her spare time, she writes articles and books about food. To say we are impressed would be an understatement! Read on to learn more about Anne’s career, what each job entails, and the skills she believes you need as a food writer.

Name: Anne E. McBride
Education: B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Follow: annemcbride.net / @annemcbride

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

Anne E. McBride: Making the most of all the open doors you face when you are young and at the beginning your career. Not being afraid to take risks. Not over planning the next 10 to 15 years (regardless of which age you are!).

CJ: What did you major in at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette? How did you determine what to study?

AM: I majored in print journalism, with a minor in history. As soon as I decided to go to college (only a small percentage of the population goes, in Switzerland) I never considered another major. I wanted to write.

CJ: What did your post-college journey look like?

AM: I got a job as an editorial assistant at a book publishing company working on cookbooks and travel books (I had blind-emailed them my resume and they called me a couple of weeks later) and stayed there three and a half years. It was a small company and I worked really hard so I was quickly promoted and by the end was running the editorial side, but still had a huge amount to learn. I did a quick stint in restaurant PR, then in communications at the Institute of Culinary Education for two years full time, followed by another five years as a freelancer for them. About three and a half years ago I started working for the Culinary Institute of America.

CJ: What sparked your passion for food and cooking?

AM: I grew up in a very food-focused environment but was not aware of it until time came to look for a job. My maternal grandfather in Switzerland was a farmer and we spent nearly every weekend on the farm (my very first job was picking grapes in his vineyards); he also loved restaurants and took us along whenever we were there. My paternal grandmother in France is a gourmet home-cook who plied us in foie gras, calf livers, heads-on shrimp, homemade mayonnaise, and the likes whenever we’d visit. My mother is a very adventurous cook, and my father loves great food. All this stressed, in a subconscious manner, the importance that food has in creating bounds among people, in this case my family and whoever shared our table, and how much both pleasure and culture can be communicated through food. And always seeing so much cooking around me made me comfortable cooking myself when time came.

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CJ: You are currently working toward your PhD in Food Studies at New York University. What drew you to this program?

AM: I had been looking at a variety of PhD programs, mostly in sociology, for a couple of years, but then I started working more and more around food and meeting people who told me to check out NYU. I sat in on a few classes and there was no question that I had found a home. I wanted to put rigor around my study of (and work around) food, get credentialed for my academic study of it, and commit to food as my career. 

CJ: You are also an adjunct professor at New York University, where you teach classes that include Food in the Arts: Experimental Cuisine, Food Issues in Contemporary Society, and Food Studies and Nutrition Communication Workshop. What have you enjoyed most about teaching, and though others are learning from you in your classes, what have you learned from your teaching experiences?

AM: I love being around the students the most and learn so much from them. It’s so rewarding and inspirational to see former students attaining high-level positions in the food world and achieving great things, whether in their careers or in their personal lives. It keeps me motivated and forces me to constantly see the food world from their fresh perspective, and from a scholarly perspective ensures that I am always up to date on the latest material. I like my classes to be a place of exchange—of course it’s not an entirely equal one since I grade them, but nonetheless I think that the experience is richer for everyone if they feel that they can express their opinions and ask any question they’d like.

CJ: You are the Director of Experimental Cuisine Collective, an interdisciplinary group of more than 2,500 scientists, chefs, media, scholars, and food enthusiasts that examines the connections between food and science. This sounds very interesting! What does your role as Director entail?

AM: This is a volunteer-based organization (our meetings have always been free, since we launched in 2007, since we want to make knowledge as accessible as possible) and it’s really just three of us, so it entails doing nearly everything from finding presenters and working with them on the content and format of their presentations to updating the website and communicating to our members to running errands and picking up whatever we need for meetings. We have presentations on a nearly monthly basis, with the goal of using food to better understand science and science to better understand food. Our speakers and our audience are equally diverse and the content is thorough and serious, so I always encourage presenters to speak at a fairly high level but take questions as they go to clarify what’s needed, which makes for very thought-provoking and engaging discussions.

CJ: You are the Culinary Program and Editorial Director for the Strategic Initiatives Group at The Culinary Institute of America where you work on program development for industry leadership conferences. How do you go about organizing and developing these professional forums, which have included Worlds of Flavor and reThink Food.

AM: The process starts by identifying the theme or areas of focus for each program for that year, brainstorming what this means in terms of potential conference sessions, how it relates to the current concerns and interests of the food industry (all the programs I work on are for industry only), and who would be great presenters for it. Then over several months all of that gets developed further. I reach out to potential presenters, work on the specifics of their contents once they are confirmed, craft the overall program and tweak it as needed. I look for fresh perspectives, whether it’s getting experienced presenters to talk about their expertise in new contexts or finding new angles to cover a well-known subject. I spend a lot of time attending other conferences to add to my understanding of issues and cuisines and to meet new potential talent, and also a lot of time at my desk emailing people. And do a lot of research by reading books and articles on the topics of the programs I work on. It’s a combination of macro, more intellectual elements and micro details and logistics. It’s a very demanding job and because my whole life informs what I do in that role, I don’t get to clock out very often, but I wouldn’t trade any of it and a huge reward is that I get to work with amazing people from all over the world.

CJ: You regularly write on topics related to professional and experimental cooking, and have contributed to Food Arts, Gastronomica, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, and Food Cultures of the World. You write for your blog, Pots and Plumes, and you were the editor and writer of the Institute of Culinary Education’s tri-annual publication, The Main Course, for seven years, and the director of the school’s Center for Food Media between 2008 and 2011. Additionally, you have co-authored many books including Payard Cookies, Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes and Confections for Everyone, Bite Size: Elegant Recipes for Entertaining, Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home, and Culinary Careers: How to Get Your Dream Job in Food. What is your writing process when it comes to articles and co-authoring cookbooks and books?

AM: For articles in particular, it’s all about wanting to share a great story. I don’t have much time to pitch so don’t write articles nearly as regularly as I’d like to, but the good thing is that I get to only focus on the stories I really want to tell. So it often starts with something in a conversation that strikes me or something I observe when traveling for example. Then I do tons of interviews and research, ending up with way too many notes, and I struggle through it all until an article I’m happy with emerges, which is often the second version of a piece rather than the very first one I write.

For books, it starts by developing a concept with the chef I’m working with or thinking of working with, shopping a proposal, and then once the book is under contract work with them on translating “chef knowledge” into home-cook knowledge. My job is to ask all of the questions that someone at home with no experience would have when looking at their raw recipes and write them up in a way that makes complete sense when you are alone in front of an open cookbook. For that I spend time in the kitchen with chefs but mostly a lot of time alone at my computer. Michael Ruhlman, the food writer, once said that your body has to be capable of being a writer, so being able to sit for countless hours, and that has always stuck with me. I can definitely sit at a computer for 18 to 20 hours a day, which is a very useful skill to have while on deadline for a book!

CJ: What top three skills do you need as a food writer?

AM: Curiosity is huge, it what keeps you asking the right questions—both the fun and the serious type of questions. It’s the base of good researching and reporting, and what ensures hopefully that you keep digging into a story and into a subject. Curiosity also is the opposite of jadedness, which is important to me. Connected to curiosity is food knowledge, or perhaps better stated as a proper understanding of the world you cover. I don’t mean that you necessarily have to have cooked in a professional kitchen, but you need to understand the world that you cover, including its business structure, whether you are covering chefs, artisans, farmers, or corporations. You need to know ingredients, cooking techniques, flavors, etc. You don’t need to be a policy or labor expert but you need to understand the current issues of the food system and know where to go look for answers.

It’s a question of respecting your subjects and also of treating food like a proper beat. And last, you need good writing skills. It sounds idiotic to even mention, but the downside of food being such a familiar, and a popular, topic is that many people feel very comfortable writing about it, and perhaps not everyone should.

CJ: Your book, Culinary Careers, is an incredibly useful read. In it you provide exclusive interviews with people in the food world. What advice would you personally give to a young person hoping to set themselves up for success in the culinary world?

AM: Always remember that it’s a small world, so work hard, don’t burn bridges, and you’ll create a solid network for yourself. You could do lots of things that will make you richer than working in the culinary world. But not many will make you happier or will let you work with better people.

CJ: With everything you have going on, how do you stay organized and manage your time?

AM: My life is run by Google Calendar and my notepad, which has a good old-fashioned to-do list I can cross off as I go. I’m also, for better or for worse, a workaholic, so I just work all the time, which is probably not the healthiest time management or organizational principle but it works for me!

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

AM: I’m trying to carve a little more time for relaxation and time away from my desk. There’s always another email to write (and no matter how hard I try I can’t keep up with the insane volume of my inbox), or more recipes to edit, or more work to do on my dissertation. So going kayaking for a few hours on a Saturday is actually good for my mental health and my productivity, not lost work hours.

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

AM: Don’t stress about things out of your control. Take all the risks you can while you can.

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Skills

Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to interview some interesting, outrageous, and successful people. Whether they practiced medicine, started their own company, or acted in Hollywood, I noticed that their advice had common themes. If you’ve ever read success-oriented books or YouTubed commencement speeches, they all have similar principles. You’ve got “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (1937), Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989), and Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford (2005). These took place at least a decade apart, and still, their messages never centered on a specific industry, but rather universal laws that have stood the test of time. Some are little more cut and dry than others, but generally, they’re the same content in different packaging. This isn’t because they’re unoriginal, it’s because they are different people who internalized the principles differently, and therefore prove they are not exclusive to anyone or any discipline.

Yet, many of us still believe that the advice of wise, intelligent people is not applicable because of our circumstances. They don’t get it. We get caught up in what we can’t do and convince ourselves that while those speeches are inspiring, they “don’t apply to me.” Somehow, accepting the negative things in life is easier than telling yourself you deserve better. You feel like you’re stuck majoring in something you don’t even like, headed for a job you’re going to hate, and yet in our generation, people are making money just by Instagramming. Realistically, you could read all those books, watch all those videos, attend as many leadership programs as you want, and none of them could work. It’s a matter of figuring out what you think is stopping you from being “applicable.” There’s a reason why personal development is a never-ending process, why you can’t “do it all” yourself, and why your life makes your ambition so hard to accomplish: It’s because you’re human.

Just because you’ve figured out your insecurity doesn’t mean that three years later you won’t develop a new one that you’ll have to overcome all over again, bringing a whole new set of issues. The people in your inner circle who support you may not always be there. They might be on their own path that you don’t fit into, which you’ll have to deal with. And your ambition? There won’t always be a spark to keep the fire burning. Some days you’ll be over it and some days you’ll panic at the thought of it being a tragic mistake. But not all hope is lost, I promise. What I’m trying to get at is that being successful takes a lot of flexibility in handling your emotions, decisions, and curiosity. Even people who love their jobs still deal with challenges, because that comes with the territory.

At the end of the day, the only thing that keeps people going is that they believe in the decisions they’ve made. Burning out is much less likely to happen when you don’t feel like you’re forced into the nuances of your day. But if where you are right now is far from what you daydream about, don’t feel like you lost time. You are here on purpose. It’s not by accident that you’re failing class, or are going through something difficult, or have nothing exciting coming up. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, and you can always start somewhere. There is a person out there who wishes they were you, while you’re wishing to be someone else.

So the next time you pick up one of those books about success, or read another blog, or watch another catchy motivational video someone shared on Facebook, ask yourself what’s stopping you from taking their advice. Deciding to change one small part of your life at a time is not as inspiring as it sounds, but it probably seemed just as annoying to Steve Jobs when he was starting out, too. So what’s stopping you?

Image: Gratisography

EducationWork

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

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

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

Image: Getrefe

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Katie Brimm, Food Sovereignty Tours Program Director at Food First and Activist, is well-spoken, thoughtful, and passionate about her work. From studying Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to leading an international education program building food sovereignty, Katie works hard every day to end the injustices that cause hunger. Katie encourages young people to “keep asking questions” and to travel “alone at least once in your life.”

Read on to learn more about what a day in Katie’s life looks like, her top three travel tips, and how traveling around the world has influenced her.

Name: Katie Brimm
Education: B.A. in Global and International Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara
Follow: foodfirst.org
Location: Oakland, California

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

Katie Brimm: Doesn’t youth seize you?

CJ: You majored in Global and International Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. How did you decide what to major in?

KB: I’ve never been a linear person, so choosing a major was complicated. I allowed myself the first year to take lots of different courses, though mostly I was interested in social and environmental science. Honestly, I started looking at the course book and read the descriptions of each class and paid attention to those that made me light up, intellectually and emotionally, and realized that Global Studies allowed me not only to take those courses with incredible professors, but also to craft my own learning and leverage my education to fit the needs of communities and issues I wanted to serve.

I don’t think anyone should be in positions of influence (from politicians, scientists and writers to engineers) without a broad understanding of the interdisciplinary effects of their decisions on our world – ecologically, socially, politically, and culturally. Global Studies demanded that type of nexus thinking that is so central to what I do in my work now.

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CJ: You worked as a communications intern at Un Techo Para Mi País (A Roof for my Country) in Santiago, Chile, and collaborated on a project to create Chile’s first recycling program in slums (Campamientos). That’s amazing! What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

KB: That experience gave me a deep look into relationships of power and foreign interests, no matter how well intentioned they may be. I quickly realized that the rhetoric I had for environmentalism was very US-centric – “Green” didn’t even make sense there at that time. Our first proposals came from our own desires that prioritized more of an environmentalist development agenda, and we had little support. It wasn’t until we gave over decision-making to the matriarchs in the community that the project started to take root – while the communities were not excited about “green living,” what they were excited about was meeting their actual needs: clean water and clean streets.

It was decided that money from the recycling program would go towards building water towers under the direction of these women leaders and the nonprofit would help with logistical concerns. Without meaning to, I got my first induction into the complexities of community-based development.

CJ: You have also had experiences as a 5Point Film Festival Dream Project Coordinator and interning as a policy analyst for Food First. What skills did you learn from these experiences and how do they apply to your work now?

KB: Through both of those experiences I learned a lot of about setting my own deadlines, the importance of creating my own work-plans and goals, and how to work independently while also part of an overarching team. I learned the value of being organized to the point where a third party can easily follow your work and know what they need to do to fill in. I learned how to stand up for the interest and mission of the programs I was in charge of first and foremost.

Most importantly, I learned how to zero in on what inspired me most in the work and let it illuminate the rest of the tasks – all work is going to have parts of it you find tedious or boring so it’s important to sustain yourself with the passion you hopefully feel for the mission. At 5Point, I loved working directly with the young students – their dreams and energy helped fuel me in making the program stronger.

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CJ: You now work as the Program Director at Food Sovereignty Tours, Food First’s first educational travel program. Please tell us more about this great travel program and what your role as Program Director entails.

KB: In 2010, on the heels of a global food, financial and climate crisis, Food First launched Food Sovereignty Tours (FST), an educational program focused on helping activists, researchers and concerned citizens to understand an increasingly complex global food system and engage in informed activism upon their return home, while also magnifying the voices of those struggling to carve out alternative, people-centered food systems around the world.

With a firm commitment to sustainability and justice, the tours connect participants to the farmers, consumers, NGOs, policy-makers and experts working to transform the global food system. On each tour, local hosts also provide an overview of their country’s history, culture, politics, ecology and agriculture. We now go to Bolivia, Cuba, Italy, Mexico, South Korea, Hawaii, and the Basque Country. Drawing lessons from the benefits and pitfalls of ecotourism, agritourism and justice tourism, our program works to emphasize and strengthen social movements as the main force for transformative change.

I work with a team that shifts throughout the year depending on the region I’m working with, so my role is to act as the US “headquarters” for this program: I design our public interface, market and promote each tour to potential participants, handle communications with participants, fundraise for the scholarship program, collaborate to create educational content published through our newsletter, oversee the development of the tour with our in-country Tour Operators, coordinate with Food First Researchers who create the tour focus, itinerary, and act as guides, and I occasionally help lead different delegations. Each tour has a focus that relates to food sovereignty (a social movement centered on people’s right to define their own food systems). For instance, we take delegations to Cuba to learn how the nation converted almost exclusively and successfully to organic agriculture, or to Bolivia to look at how the US demand for quinoa has impacted traditional farming.

We believe that alternative, educational travel is a way to replace feelings of apathy and hopelessness with deeper understanding and empowerment, and we hope that leads to action post-tour.

Katie Brimm - 4

CJ: Food First is an organization that works hard to end the injustices that cause hunger. Why does this issue matter to you and what can young people who are interested in this cause do to make a difference?

KB: At Food First, we believe food is political, so something as quotidian as lunch can actually be seen as a political act that has broad implications. So just by asking questions about the food, the people who make/serve/pick/produce your food, and where it’s coming from, young people can already be on the verge of making big differences. Keep asking questions, and sharing what you learn. That’s a lot of what we do at Food First!

It’s important to remember though that along with small acts and questioning, what we need is larger, systemic transformation, which takes time and people power! What we do as individuals in this lifetime needs to be seen as part of a historic movement and future trajectory – many small radical acts done by many people working together may someday change everything for the better.

Everyone needs food to survive – yet it is treated just like any other commodity traded on the free market. Food and agriculture are a part of every single person’s life, and by using it as a lens at Food First, we are able to also connect to many other important issues from climate change to racism. Working to understand the complexity behind our food system is liberating – change the rules, and we might just end hunger and injustice. Continue with our current system? Well, we can see that’s just not an option.

CJ: You have traveled extensively throughout Europe and Latin America. How has traveling around the world influenced you?

KB: Travel is a complicated beast. On one hand, I feel critical of tourism in general, though my current work is a form of it. On the other hand, traveling at a young age undid my little structured box of reality, making me realize that those walls were made up of assumptions and myths about how the world can work and how people have to relate to each other. I don’t know if I would be doing the same work I am today had I not had those experiences.

This world is also so highly globalized, and so many of our actions (and our governments’ actions) affect communities across the globe. Meals shared with people outside your worldview have the chance to be revolutionary – they can foster a deep connection beyond your own life that can also contribute to solidarity.

Of course, I should note that on a personal/professional level, travel also taught me independence, courage, strength and stick-to-itiveness. But more selfishly and simply, travel has always just brought a lot of joy, rejuvenation, and a deep richness to my life that goes beyond any words.

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CJ: What are your top three traveling tips?

KB: 1.) Take public transportation as much as possible. Not only is it cheaper, you can also tell a lot about a place by its transportation, and you end up seeing what life is really like in the region for the people who actually live there. You also end up seeing parts of the city/region you wouldn’t normally have access to. It always took away my ‘traveler fear’ once I’d figured out how to get myself places on public transportation.

2.) Before you go, learn about the history and culture of the region, and chart out at least a skeletal idea of where you’d like to be and things you want to see. Once you’re there, don’t check your social media or emails, don’t search the internet or use an app to get you around. Just ask. If you don’t know the language (which, if you’re going to travel somewhere, at least learn a few words!) use props and pantomime – you’ll get a whole different experience.

3.) Try traveling alone at least once in your life.

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?

KB: I usually get treated to a beautiful breakfast from my partner early on Monday, even though he is in a Ph.D. program (I’m very lucky, but it’s also a good reminder that work-life balance can be achieved in small ways).

Then, I try to do some writing and reading to start off to keep me informed of the different issues we work on as well as give me fodder for social media or future blogs. I’m working on a piece now about food justice and militarization in Hawai’i, so I have to carve out time in the mornings to write. I also always create a work plan on Monday for the week to keep me focused and moving on different projects despite the ‘fires’ that might rear themselves that I can’t plan for.

Then I check and respond to urgent emails. I’ll usually have a Skype call with someone in another country to go over itineraries or updates about anything from logistical to political changes in-country that might affect the tour. At the Food First office we have a garden and a kitchen, so depending on the week I may cook lunch for staff and interns, but we trade off.

I will then prep marketing materials and content to go out Tuesday morning (press releases, flyers, contact sheets). Afternoons are usually meetings and participant communications. Evenings we often have local events – the Oakland community is alive with community actions and events around the issues we focus on, and we do our best to help facilitate by co-hosting, organizing, or just showing up in support.

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

KB: I find it helpful to always imagine someone else will be looking at my work – even if it’s just my to-do list, calendar, or Dropbox folders. That way, I have to keep things logically organized. I also try to make daily plans that will be down to the hour and minute with tasks, then weekly work plans to keep me on track, and monthly days devoted to certain aspects of my job.

I wear many hats in my position, as many people do in small nonprofits, so I actually set days like “be an accountant, be a marketer, be a researcher” so that I can shift to different areas of my brain rather than try to keep jumping around all day. It doesn’t always happen that way, but it helps to keep me focused.

I have been also working to understand the difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent.’ I prioritize things that are both, but make sure that I carve time out for work that may not have a deadline attached to it or can be checked of a list, but that relates to our overall mission. This helps decrease the feeling of being too busy or always putting out fires, and helps keep me moving forward on larger goals for the program, like building our scholarship program for young activists, people of color, and farmers.

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

KB: Well, of course Food First’s website and many of our publications – most notably Food Rebellions. I’m currently reading Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver and am so impressed how she weaves critical analysis, creative voice, and ecology into her stories – I’d love to write like that! I’m a part of many different LISTSERVs as well – comfood (through Tufts University) being one of them – it always helps bring to attention what others are working on or concerned/excited about it my field. There are so many awesome people and organizations working on important issues with resources – too many to list here!

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

KB: I go for a walk around the block and try to find a dog to pet. But really, everyone has bad days, and I think rather than focus on resetting, it’s better to just accept that you’re having a bad day and leave it at that, or name what it is that made it bad, voice it (to yourself or to your people), and then let it go and move forward.

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

KB: Not to be a perfectionist. There is something to be said about attention to detail, drive, and producing brilliant work. But there is a sinister side to perfectionism that I think is tied to so much of the stress and anxiety and self-exploitation I see in young professionals. I’m working on this more through making sure I practice self-care and listening to the advice of “don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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

KB: You are enough.

Katie Brimm Qs

Images by Katie Brimm

Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Pexels

Skills

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

The same goes for your career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Unsplash

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

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

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s perfectly fitting that Maurissa Walls, a senior at The George Washington University, is also the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Smart Girls Group (SGG). She’s definitely one of the smartest people we’ve met and undoubtedly has an extremely bright future ahead of her. We found out about this inspiring woman by word of mouth – her name kept popping up in conversation around campus and it was no secret that she was a leader at GWU, making her mark one student at a time through freshman orientations and volunteerism.

As both a student and aspiring market strategist, Maurissa has never shied away from a challenge. For over two years she has strategized all of the marketing and advertising campaigns for SGG, manages a full team of Smart Girls, and even contributes to the digital magazine – The Smart Girl’s Guide. We are elated to introduce to you Maurissa Walls!

Name: Maurissa Walls
Age: 22
Education: George Washington University, Bachelor of Business Administration concentration in Marketing
Follow Personal: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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

Maurissa Walls: Finding the balance between preparing yourself for adulthood and all of the responsibilities and pressures that come with it and being completely spontaneous enough to try as many things out of your comfort zone as you can. I think seizing your youth in this way allows you to make a life out of prioritizing having new, fun, adventurous experiences without compromising being a responsible adult because you’ve already made a habit out of finding the balance between the two.

CJ: What made you decide to attend college in Washington, DC, and how has the experience influenced you as an individual?

MW: I honestly ended up in DC because I was too scared at the time of moving to and living New York. I thought it would be a bit too overwhelming and hard for me to adjust. There’s nothing wrong with pacing yourself, if you know what would be best for you, and I truly believe DC is what was best for me at the time. I really wanted to be in an exciting city , and going to college in DC has impacted who I am today tremendously. Going to GW and living in DC has taught me not only to have an appreciation for culture and people but to also celebrate them. Being here has been an incredibly freeing experience. As I’ve developed and changed here I’ve allowed myself to celebrate my own complexities. I’ve learned from other people here that they can be a professional, and artists, and a mentor, and an activist, and so many things at once. I’ve learned not to limit other people or myself to just one box.

CJ: You are currently the Director of Marketing & Public Relations at Smart Girls Group. What does your role entail?

MW: My role at Smart Girls Group includes overseeing the strategic marketing and public relations vision of the company. I work with a really talented group of social media managers, PR managers, graphic designers, and writers to help drive our branding online and promote all of Smart Girls’ amazing offerings, services, and products.

CJ: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with SGG so far?

MW: Working with my team and our wonderful staff has been my favorite part of Smart Girls Group. I love seeing people grow in their positions. Going back to see work of girls on my team from a year or two years ago looks completely different from what they are able to do now. It’s so rewarding to watch people on my team develop their skills, talents, and professionalism and gain confidence in their own capabilities.

Maurissa 3 crop HZCJ: What has been the most unexpectedly exciting part of being involved with a young and growing company?

MW: I didn’t think it would be possible to grow such strong bonds with people online through emails and video conferencing. Those of us on staff are at several different colleges around the US and had never meet in the same room before. When we met for the first time all together at our first conference last summer, it was hard for us to convince people we were physically meeting for the first time. We get along and work so well together. We’ve created such strong bonds and I didn’t expect that to happen. Seeing this come to life at our conference for so many other girls that work together was so rewarding. It definitely proved to me that big results and big impact can come out of small packages.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move forward?

MW: Remembering that I’ll still be alive in the end. There’s nothing more humbling and no easier way to calm yourself down than using a birds-eye view on a tough situation situation. My tough situations don’t even seem valid, considering what is going on in the world. Nowadays I’m usually laughing at my problems. There are some tough times that are harder to laugh through and I will just let myself feel what I am feeling for a moment. Crying, yelling, or whatever I need to do to get it out. But ultimately I realize I can either let myself just exist being upset or I can take action by doing the best that I can. The next day is probably coming, difficult or not, whether I like it or not, so I can at least try to make the best adjustments that I can to make it better.

CJ: What two main pieces of advice would you give to an incoming freshman college student?

MW: I told all of my new students the same advice all summer: use your resources and just take as much stuff as you can. You don’t realize how many “free” things that you are paying for in college until you start budgeting for life after. Then you realize how much free stuff and helpful resources that you left behind. There are so many departments at offices and schools that are begging for students to use their services and as a freshman I thought that I needed to work my way up in order to take advantage. Obviously that’s not true, you can jump in and start taking advantage. That’s not limit to school resources. I encourage freshman to apply for that internships they don’t think they can have or visit that place that they don’t think they can go to. The world is very forgiving of college students – especially freshman.

CJ: You are an aspiring marketing strategist. What originally drew you to this career choice and why?

MW: I’ve wanted to be in marketing since the 6th grade. I liked a writing project that we did where we had to design an ad and create the copy for a cereal commercial. I learned through that project that I like to influence people and I’ve kept with it because I realize there are multiple ways to do it. I’ll be going into buying in the retail industry, and that still feels like marketing to me, because I am in a position to influence and shape people’s experiences when they walk into a store. I like that marketing challenges you find new ways to influence because people are changing all the time.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

MW: My dad always told me growing up to stay connected with people. It’s becoming harder to do as you get older and busier, but I think it is extremely important. When people that I meet abroad, at school, or in programs have a real impact on me I try to stay connected to them. I think it helps to keep you aware of what you learned and how you’ve grown by be surrounded by the people that have helped to get you to that place.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MW: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Maurissa Group HZCJ: How do you stay organized and juggle all of your responsibilities? Are there specific tools you use?

MW: I’m not a master yet, but I have system that seems to works for me. I use a combination of iCal, a plan book, and a clipboard of to-do lists. I’ve found that it helps me to have multiple touch points. If I have something on my iCal for the day with a notification before, see it in my planner, and have it on my to do list it usually will get done.

Color-coding is also really important and I make sure that I use the same color codes across my three planners. I like being able to look at my schedule at the beginning of the week and visually see that there are a lot of orange student org activities and know that it will be a fun week or to see a lot of blue academic slots to know that I have to crack down early in the week.

CJ: You will be graduating from the George Washington University in 2015. What are your next steps?

MW: I’ll be working in the Merchant (buying/planning) executive program at Macy’s HQ in New York. I am really excited about my job, I think it is well suited for my skills and it will challenge me in new ways. I think it will be a more creative and challenging way for me to use marketing to influence people.

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

MW: I would tell myself that I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I’ve mostly had the same personality, spirit, and energy my entire life and I’ve always known that. I would tell myself to keep listening to myself. I’d promise myself that I would be really grateful for being exactly who I am later down the road and that it is for a good purpose.

Maurissa Walls Qs

Photos courtesy of Hannah Ziegler, Emily Raleigh, and Veronica Graves

EducationSkills

It’s daunting to have to present yourself to the workforce via one sheet of paper. A resume is a job-seeker’s initial introduction, showing proof of interview-worthiness. So although we cannot have our resumes talk on our behalf, vouching for our righteousness and go-getter attitude, there are actual ways to properly prepare them for the hiring world.

Highlight classes that are valuable

For college students, sometimes there isn’t time or even transportation to juggle multiple off-campus internships and side jobs. If you find yourself completely swamped with your academic load alone, highlight classes that are appropriate for the job you are applying for. Under your Education section of your resume, include a line entitled Relevant Coursework. Simply list off courses that you have taken that 1. Are applicable to the job and 2. Consist of material you are well-versed in. Let’s say our student-job-seeker is looking to get involved with a non-profit health clinic. They want to make sure that hiring managers acknowledge the type of material they are familiar with. Here’s a quick example of what that could like:

EDUCATION
University Name                                                                                                                       (Expected) Graduation Date
Degree Type, Major(s) & Minor(s)
GPA/Academic Distinctions (Dean’s List)
Relevant Coursework: Health Behavior Theory, Nutritional and Global Health, Introduction to Grant Writing and Research Proposals, Administrative Health Policy

That’s why it’s so important to choose classes you can confidently talk about! You never know, you may get called in for an interview and be asked to elaborate on what you’ve learned. Depending on how much space you have to fill up a 1-page resume, listing 4-5 courses can help focus your interests.

Don’t underestimate projects

Whether you major in engineering, biology, studio art, psychology, math or environmental sciences, there are opportunities through classes and clubs that require hands-on projects. Individual or group projects can be research-based for a senior thesis or as final exams in certain classes. Any relevant project that you have devoted a substantial amount of time and effort in deserves to be featured on a resume. Things to remember:

  • Quantify as much as possible when it comes to how many people worked on the project and if there were numerical results from your project/study
  • Give your project and yourself (if possible) an understandable title:
    • Health Sector Management Class Project, Team Member
    • Art in Living Spaces: Senior Thesis, Group Leader
  • As with all other experiences listed, have at least 3-4 bullet points to elaborate on what you contributed to the project

Watch your verbs and their tenses

Hiring managers on average spend only six seconds looking over your resume. Yikes! With such a fast overview, you want to make sure your bullet points flow well so everything is easy to read. Start every bullet with a strong verb. Some call these proactive verbs, some say action verbs. Use appropriate verbs and depending on your work history, apply the proper tense. For present jobs, present tense. For past jobs, past tense. Easy enough, right? You’d be surprised how many people forget to update their verbs as time goes on.

Be consistent with your labeling and format

This one gets overlooked way too often. After you have tweaked your resume to your liking, the best way to check for errors is to print it out. Have some friends act as spelling and grammar police, searching for any errors you might have missed. For your own proofread, here’s what to look for once you have a printed document:

  • Do the margins cut off any text?
  • Is your name easily visible?
  • Is your contact info up-to-date?
  • Are the dates you have listed all aligned?
  • Did I list all of the locations of my experiences?
  • Is it one full page?

Remember, resumes change with you. Updating and changing things up can help keep your information fresh and relevant. For you college students out there, take advantage of your campus career center and get the resume critiques you need to feel confident in your job search. It’s never too early to start building your resume the right way!

Image: Flazingo Photos

Skills

Not only does the end of summer mean shifting back into school-mode, but it also means saying goodbye to your bosses at your internship and job. As you wrap up work, don’t forget one very important thing: thank you cards. When you give a thank you card to your boss, mentor, or a peer who helped you, it should look professional. Leave a good impression on those you worked with by writing a few sentences about what you learned from them, why the experience was so meaningful, and that you’d love to stay in touch. Either give these cards to your bosses and mentors in-person, or simply mail it to the office a couple of days after you have cleared out. Here are 5 professional thank you cards you can use to express your gratitude to those who have had an impact on your life. Not only will it demonstrate your professionalism and thoughtfulness, but there’s also nothing like good ol’ snail mail!

1. Navy Strip and Gold Foil

2. Minimalist Thank You

3. Classic Thanks

4. Black and White Thank You

5. Quiet Thank You

What professional thank you cards are you sending to your bosses and mentors? What else are you doing to express gratitude?

ExploreInspirationLeadershipLearnSkills

If you’re reading this, it’s not likely because you’re a slacker or a procrastinator. Most likely, you’re the type of person that is kept up at night worrying about the future. You’re the type of person that’s invested in self-improvement, always trying to find ways to better yourself.

These are all good traits, but may work against you…especially when the anxiety begins to weigh you down. You may work hard, have talent and be intelligent, but these aren’t the secrets to success; they’re merely tools. It’s handy to have them, but you have to know how to use them in order to reach your maximum potential.

Between training for tennis, managing my academics and securing an internship, I’ve been discovering new ways to uncover my own untapped potential. Here are some of the methods I’ve come up with:

1. Embrace Your Individuality

This is a hard thing to do when everyone around you is trying to get you to conform to a particular mold or stereotype. Especially in the crucial stages of adolescence, it’s important to understand what makes you you. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, talents and interests are all part of embracing your individuality.

If you have a knack for arts and crafts, it’s easy to accept your talent as useless or listen to the critics that tell you it’s a hopeless line of work. But if it weren’t for the people that like to paper mache and refurbish wood, we wouldn’t have beautiful, handcrafted journals or uniquely refinished furniture. Places like Etsy wouldn’t even exist.

In the book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer discusses the secrets to creative success. He conveys how the interchange of ideas between professionals in varying fields helps stimulate creativity. Differing beliefs, interests and talents, as well as a healthy dose of the unfamiliar, are what produce some of the most successful innovations.

2. Take More Risks

It seems the initial reaction of young professionals is not to speak up, as if keeping quiet is the road to a promotion. While this may apply to some situations, you can’t dismiss the fact that your ideas may be as good as any of your coworkers, or that any question you may have is likely thoughtful and valid. The issue is that the fear of failure always seems to override the chance to succeed.

Nine out of ten times, your question won’t be stupid…your idea won’t be considered dumb. For the one time it is, don’t sweat it. Few people are fired over dumb questions; a lot more are promoted due to sharp ideas. And most importantly, you don’t want someone else to come up with that same idea later on and reap the rewards. The “what ifs”are always the worst.

3. Don’t Worry About Things Out of Your Control

This is a big one for me. There will always be that one teacher that is determined to give you a B no matter how much you deserved an A. Some days, the traffic may be so bad that it takes you two hours to get home from work, even though you live five miles away. You’ll be sick during finals week. You’ll be judged for how you look. People close to you will change.

The key is: Life happens. While it’s easy to fret and blame others or ourselves for the things that are inevitable, it doesn’t help get us anywhere. Most importantly, it doesn’t help us grow as a person. Why give yourself early gray hairs for something you couldn’t have helped?

As much as people tell you otherwise, you have control over your happiness. While you can’t always control the bad things that happen to you, such as being dumped by a boyfriend or a family member passing away, you can control how you respond. While you may grieve for a while, how you channel your emotions afterward is what’s important. You can lock yourself in a room for a week or you can go for a run; the choice is yours.

This idea also translates to the professional world. When you don’t get a promotion, you can mope around feeling sorry for yourself or you can work even harder. You can handle criticism with a heavy heart or you can use it to fuel your ambition. The people that make it to the top get there because they never gave up.

The most important thing is entering a new situation without too many expectations. Expectations are the surest route to disappointment. This doesn’t mean undervaluing yourself, but diving in with an open mind and open heart. Oftentimes, the things we have planned for ourselves don’t turn out to be as great as the paths we happen upon by circumstance.

Whether you’re graduating high school or starting a business, your potential is something that should always be ruminating in the back of your mind. Ask yourself what your goals are. They could be as simple as writing in your journal that night, or they could be as big as being hired by NASA. When you ask yourself, “Is it possible?” know that the answer is always “yes.”

Some people believed I would be a strong, high school tennis player. Others believed I would go pro. The only thing that ever mattered to me was what I thought. And when people asked, “What’s your goal?” I’d always answer: “To see how far I can get.”

Image: Unsplash

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Being an architect requires much more than just designing buildings. Being an architect involves understanding a vision, asking lots of questions, and turning all of that information into a reality. J Irons, the interim executive director at the American Institute of Architects in Seattle, does exactly this. He asks questions, evaluates each situation, and turns ideas into a reality. J’s road to architecture is unique, and it took a lot of hard work and soul searching for him to realize his passions. J’s advice and thoughts about what it means to be an architect in this day and age is remarkable and thoughtful, and those interested in architecture as a profession or a hobby can learn a lot from his insight. Read on to learn more about how J got to where he is today, the advice he would give to those who are interested in architecture, and what he would tell his 20-year-old self…

Name: J Irons
Age: 39
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Landscape Architecture from University of California, Berkeley; Master of Architecture degree from the University of Washington
Follow: AIA Seattle / Design in Public

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Capitalize on inspiration. There are lots of opportunities to explore the world. There are always more questions than answers. What stops most young people from really exploring those opportunities are preconceptions they have about what friends or family might think. It’s really important to respond to an inner voice and drive and take some chances.

You attended University of California, Berkeley and majored in Landscape Architecture. How did you determine what to study?

The road to Landscape Architecture actually went through an engineering field. I thought I was going to design sailboats. Instead, I started to go down a different path. Landscape Architecture was the perfect cross-section of creativity, working with people, and being outside.

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How did you become interested in architecture?

One of my professors pulled me aside and suggested I might try architecture, and he asked if I would consider switching to the architecture program. It’s really flattering to have a professor take an interest and to think that I had some aptitude. I didn’t end up taking him up on it during my undergraduate studies.

The longer backstory to becoming an architect is that in the time between undergraduate and graduate, I was doing some soul searching. I was a foreman on a small crew and I was asking myself bigger questions – questions that couldn’t be answered on a residential scale. I decided to revisit some of my undergraduate teachings and discovered co-housing. One of the founders of the American CoHousing movement, Kathryn McCamant, gave a lecture that I saw. I phoned her up and asked about the internship program, met with her husband, and he decided to take me on for an internship. However, he encouraged me to get a degree in architecture.

I went from their office to the Berkeley campus admissions and asked for an application packet. I sat down and filled one out. I realized through the course of that internship at the CoHousing Company that architecture represented the next obvious step in my development as a professional.

You studied architecture for your Masters degree at the University of Washington. Please tell us about that experience.

I started graduate school in 2001 after moving up from San Francisco. I started studying Architecture in the three-year program, which was for people with non-Architecture backgrounds. I knew already that I wanted to become an architect.

What does it mean to be an architect?

Helping connect people’s ideas to change in their environment. For most of my professional design career I’ve worked with individuals on behalf of organizations, which is a more complex challenge than helping individuals translate vision into reality. Being an architect is really about deep empathy. It’s about expansive creative thinking. It’s about iterative process. It’s about leaving your ego at the door.

Successful design is not about the architect, but instead it is about the process that is created around the challenge of architecture and design. For me, being an architect is about asking expansive questions. It’s not about relying on the tenets of architecture, but it is about relying on commonly held principles that span the fields of design. I am constantly searching for opportunities to help resolve issues which are inherently interdisciplinary in nature and require a collaborative team effort to achieve.

What does being an Interim Executive Director at AIA Seattle entail?

It entails running two organizations, AIA Seattle and Design in Public. AIA Seattle is a 501c6 and Design in Public is a 501c3 so they have slightly different implications based on their tax designation. There is one staff, two boards of directors, and two organizations with distinct missions. I am responsible for the finances of both organizations, working with the boards of directors to enhance revenue, managing expenses, and thinking strategically about current and future programming.

I am also responsible for enhancing membership, working with components outside of AIA Seattle, maintaining our relationship with our state component, and dealing with a whole range of various member issues. I’m where the buck stops when it comes to people who have problems with how the organization is being run or with their member services.

Lastly, I have the great pleasure of working with specific member committees that are charged with everything from public policy to diversity in our profession to honoring our Fellows and others through our various awards programs. I also maintain a relationship with the University of Washington.

AIA Seattle

Before becoming Interim Executive Director at AIA Seattle, you were a Senior Associate at Mithun. The types of projects you were involved with included K-12 Education, Environmental Education, and Adaptive Re-Use. How did you decide to focus on these projects and what were your roles and responsibilities?

I happen to gravitate towards education and other mission-driven project types. Within mission-driven you have everything from environmental education to community facilities to religious facilities to tribal facilities to K-12 and higher education. I gravitated towards those projects as a natural outgrowth of my desire to connect with others in an environment that was mission-focused. I make decisions based on that value set, and I felt it most rewarding to engage with others in that design conversation. Those are the client types that really resonated with me, and it just so happened that the folks I enjoy working with are also mission-driven. We tend to get along great.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being an architect?

I realized how little I know about the world and how it works. There is something amazingly humbling about talking with people about their experiences, their challenges, and how they express those through design conversations. I was asking what the role of the architect is in society from the very first class I had in design. Where does design fit in conversations that are held in society in general? When you start to elevate individuals to certain professional designations, what does that really mean? What conversations do they then serve as facilitators of, what results do they serve as authors to, and what is the course of their evolution in terms of becoming more effective at doing what their title says they do?

What I’ve learned about the role of the architect in society is that contrary to how architects saw themselves historically, architects today see themselves very much as an integral component and a steward of conversations around the built environment. We’re no longer in positions of chief authorship. We’re in a position of a more horizontal structure of a whole variety of disciplines from finance, building, engineering, ownership, and the sciences. In order to be successful, the role of the architect really needs to find the most advantageous ways of engaging those perspectives and leveraging them to bear on the challenge at hand.

What advice do you have for teenagers and young adults interested in being architects?

There are a couple of things and this changes as I go through my professional life. At this moment, I would seek out opportunities starting in junior high school which can put you in contact with any conversation about design. It’s not so much about to start practicing as it is to start learning how to ask questions and how to hone perception. Those are skills that really can’t be taught, but they can be learned and facilitated at an early age. Junior high school is a really great place to start. Students generally have the maturity and focus to be able to engage in complex issues, and adults see students of a certain age as being capable of absorbing new information and listening to stories.

The other thing that I would do is to really start to figure out what motivates you about the world. How do you engage with the world and how do you begin to find a voice for that? I’m painting architecture to be a very neutral discipline, floating in a sea of other disciplines. The talents of an architect are most effective when that person is aware of the difference between the inside and the outside, how the inner voice compares to and contradicts the outside voice.

Having a strong inside voice and a strong sense of self is something that if you can begin to consciously pay attention to earlier, it will naturally grow with you. It will also serve you incredibly well in any conversation around design because you’ll always be conscious of the voices telling you something in your head versus the voices around you that are informing what it is that you are doing in the world.

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

I was doing everything that I thought I should be doing at the time. I was exploring my world and challenging my perceptions. I was constantly experimenting. If anything, I might temper the creativity with an eye for the marketplace. I don’t mean that I wish I had created products for sale, but more to be conscious of the market dynamics in which I was starting to work. I was so heavily focused on design, materials, craft, culture, and history that I wasn’t able to really embrace business and the marketplace.

I think I might have started my own company and I’d be in a really different place right now. If anything, I’m offering that advice to my 20-year-old self as an experiment because I wonder how that person’s life would have turned out if there had been more of a balance between business and practice.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As Online Content Lead at General Assembly, Candace Williams has a lot of responsibility. She keeps the content moving along, interacts with all of her teams, and has long days that vary in tasks. After spending time earning her Masters in teaching from Stanford and then becoming a teacher, Candace knows quite a bit about education. Paired with her love for technology, Candace is a perfect fit as an Online Content Lead. Candace advises to not stay on one path, to take advantage of opportunities, and to hustle hard. We are inspired by Candace’s work ethic and her passion for both teaching and learning. 

Name: Candace Williams
Age: 27
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Claremont McKenna College, Master of Arts/Teaching Credential from Stanford University
Follow: Twitter / General Assembly

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means trying new things and hustling hard on something. Even if it doesn’t work out, try new things and learn about yourself. Be willing to push the envelope.

What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and how did you determine what to study?

I applied to Claremont McKenna College for the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program. I loved the tutorials, and the amount of writing that we did upped my writing skills. PPE was one of the main reasons why I applied to CMC.

Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

I didn’t study abroad, but I worked abroad a lot.

Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

I have interned at a lot of places. My first internship was during the school year at Claremont McKenna College. I did tutoring and was a lab tech and resident tech assistant. During the summer, I worked for my Congressman at his campaign office in my state. I got that internship through CMC’s career services. I looked through the postings, applied, and they gave me a stipend and class credit.

The second summer, I was a teacher at a juvenile detention facility, and CMC gave me another stipend and a fellowship. I wrote papers and got some class credit. After that, CMC gave me a grant to work in India for human rights work.

I graduated the following summer and went straight into my teaching program.

candace1

What were you doing before General Assembly?

I was in social media, so basically I was paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day. Before that I was an elementary school teacher and I taught K-5 science in the south Bronx. Before that I went to grad school while teaching at the same time. I have a Masters in teaching.

You are an Online Content Lead for General Assembly. What does being an Online Content Lead mean?

It means that I am an instructional designer. I make sure that what we put out online really helps people learn. I also help source instructors and I am like the glue that holds our teams together. There are a lot of teams that put our content together. There are video teams, the design team, marketing efforts, and I am the person who keeps the content moving along.

What does a day in your life look like?

It really depends. What I really love about this job is that it is so flexible. Yesterday I was in Washington D.C. I got up at 5:30am, went to Penn Station, and took the three hour train to D.C. I met with people there, filmed at the New America Foundation, hopped back on the train, and got home around 8pm.

The day before that I was at work filming something until 9pm. During the day I have a lot of meetings and we talk about the redesign of the website. Sometimes I come in early, sometimes I come in late. It really just depends.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an online content lead/producer do to set themselves up for success?

The number one thing is to hustle hard and work hard and to seek out different opportunities. I wouldn’t get trapped in one path. It may seem like everyone is doing the same thing, such as finance or going to the same college, but I would actually look for things to do that are different and that are off the beaten path so you can learn about yourself. People will take notice.

I never imagined that I would be an online content lead, but it really fits my experience because I’m passionate about tech and teaching. When you’re passionate about something, those jobs and opportunities will open up, but you have to show that you are passionate. You have to find the right opportunities.

If you were hiring an intern, what are the top 3 traits that you would look for?

1. Working hard. That doesn’t even mean staying at work until it is late, it just means doing a task and doing it well.

2. Collaboration. I want people who work well with others.

3. Being a fun, nice person to work with. At work you should be able to enjoy spending time with people.

You’ve been out of school for five years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

I think school life is real. If you’re creating the right life for yourself at college, it should be hard and it should mean staying up late and working. I feel like the things that I did at school were not that different than what I do now. At school, I was waking up early and going to work and working on a lot of different projects. I had a lot of deadlines and worked with many people. Be flexible and realize that you’re going to be terrible at a lot of things.

You went to the Stanford University School of Education. Where does your interest in education come from?

I’ve always been into education, even in elementary school and middle school. I always tutored kids and had an interest in education. I’m very passionate about it.

How did you decide where to go to grad school?

I care about education so I took some classes at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and it was going really well. When Stanford came to campus, I was on my way to England for a debate tournament. I had my big suitcase but I was the only one who showed up to meet them. I met the head of admissions and she was excited to meet me. They had to sell me on the program, like why would I go to a program that was more expensive?

It came down between Stanford and CGU, which are both great programs. For me, I realized that their ideology was the same about teaching so I decided that it was time to try something new and get out of Claremont.

What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

A lot. I was president of the tech association, editor of the paper, I played the bassoon, and I volunteered a lot. In college, I was involved in debate and tech. With debate, I started teaching kids who were new to debate. I started debate my first day of college.

What motivates you in your everyday life – at the office and/or during your personal time?

I like feeling like I’m making stuff that matters. I like to have fun and I like to be with friends and family. I like feeling like I’m connected to people.

Who is your role model?

My mom, of course. She’s awesome. She works very hard, she’s smart, and she works very well with kids.

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

Nothing. I made mistakes, but you just have to do it.

Skills

Often times we are inclined to view professional questions and inquires as risky, when in truth they might be exactly what you need to solidify your position within a company or stand out among the rest of your peers.

It is important to distinguish between calculated risks and frivolous risks. In general, calculated risks often yield a higher payoff, and that certainly hold true in a professional setting. While you should be willing to take risks to stand out and further integrate yourself with a team, you also want to make sure you have committed enough hours and effort to make sure the risk has a higher chance of success. For instance, you may be enthusiastic the first day of a new job, but think long-term: is a first-day risk better than a thought-out one that can be executed further down the line?

However, if you have a strong feeling it is time to take a risk, go for it.

For example, volunteering to take on an important role for a big project might seem risky, but if you are confident in your ability to successfully to complete the task at hand, then you should put yourself out there and make your abilities known. Showcasing your enthusiasm and hard work are vital parts of pioneering a young career, so step up and show them what you’ve got!

Another well-known and easily recognized situation in which we often do not take risks but should is in the money-department. As a young professional (whether you are an intern or full-time employee) you may feel as though inadequate work benefits and minimum wage pay are normal. While this might be the case for the first few months, it is essential for your future success that you start to consider yourself as an important player and integral member of whatever team you have joined. If you are working hard and proving yourself, you should never feel embarrassed or greedy to ask for better pay or benefit. While you may assume that your work speaks for itself, never assume that people are listening; you must become your own advocate. Speaking up for yourself can be risky, but it is a risk that might be worth taking so you can earn what you deserve to achieve your personal and professional goals.

Sometimes you need to go with your gut. Be confident and be thoughtfully risky.

What is a professional risk that you have taken?