Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abhay Jain Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

CJ: What does your creative process look like?

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

SS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spencer shores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SS2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spencer Shores Qs

Images by Spencer Shores

EducationSkillsWellness

Essays, assignments, articles, job applications, personal statements, reports, write-ups, presentations. Countless tasks we encounter at work and school require us to write. Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, blog posts. On a daily basis, much of the time we spend communicating with others is used tapping letters into an interface.

All of this occurs by writing.

However, there’s no doubt that the first set of examples is markedly more vilified than the second set. Few would say that they’d rather write an essay over a lengthy Facebook post on any given topic. Writing a cover letter is like getting a root canal in comparison to writing anything on social media.

When considering what it is that separates the two categories, it seems that their largest difference lies in that the one is considered “work” and while the other is considered “play.” Although keeping up with social media can certainly be demanding at times, most of us don’t view it as a job or chore. In contrast, reports and presentations – even for jobs or classes that we enjoy – are often thought of as sheer toil.

So is it the amount of brainpower expended that makes us revile at essay writing so much? Is it the time spent? Or the energy? As humans, we might dislike writing because we want to conserve our limited resources of time, energy, and willpower. Or is it the emotional benefit we receive from social media? In other words, the benefit we get from connecting with friends is typically greater than that spent writing memoirs and memorandums.

The reason why most people dislike writing is likely some combination of the two; the perceived benefit doesn’t outweigh the costs of spending time and energy doing something difficult. However, the fact that novelists, poets, and musicians create their works signifies that there’s something to be gained from writing – they all elevate writing to an art form, using it to express complexity, deal with difficulty, and celebrate what is good.

What it boils down to is that writing can help us think. It can help us flesh out rich thoughts, clarify complex ideas, and parse what is relevant in our multitude of opinions. Who hasn’t experienced a new thought or revelation while writing a thank you note, work memo, important email, or long-overdue text?

If you think about it, we write for pleasure every day. Take blogs for example. Inherently, blogs are supposed to be about things we enjoy discussing: travelling, eating, meeting people, visiting the rare and unexplored, politics, fashion, cooking, TV, movies, literally anything else. Every time we tweet 140 characters, we’re writing for pleasure. Just expand that. Or not. Write exactly that. You don’t always need to tweet about that burrito you had for lunch or how wild your weekend was, but sometimes you do! Just break free of the notion that you have to do these things on social media. Your writing of your thoughts provides more benefit than just updating your friends on what you’re doing.

Start writing on your smartphone at lunch. When you say something witty or insightful, jot it down. Use those notes as a way to delve deeper into those topics. Think about starting a blog. There’s no shame in writing banal and clichéd posts at first. Use them as a springboard to talk about what’s underneath it all.

Once you change your attitude toward what writing is (instead of a chore, think of it as a method to develop your personal understanding), you can more easily make writing a habit. So write it down – maybe you’ll like it. You’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.

Image: Flickr

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.

Katie Brimm - 3

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

We’ve all been there – the weekend finally rolls around but you still have items on your To-Do list and you can’t shake the nagging feeling that you should be doing more. Whether you’re in school, working at a company, or self-employed, there’s always a way to feel like you could be filling your weekends up with work instead of fun (or anything but work). But choosing to let your academic or professional career dominate your life might not be the smartest, healthiest, or most productive way to live.

It turns out that over-working yourself can lead to a higher risk of depression, a disrupted sleep schedule, extreme eye strain, and loads of unnecessary stress. So as tempting as it may be to lock yourself in Friday though Sunday, reconsider that decision using these seven tips.

  1. Prioritize your To-Do list. If your To-Do list is still full by Friday afternoon, take ten minutes to prioritize the items. Consider what must be done that day, and what can wait until Monday. Break your big list down into a few small ones labeled by day, and if you absolutely have to get something work-related done on the weekend limit yourself to just two items. Otherwise, write them in for Monday or Tuesday.
  2. Make plans with someone. Force yourself to step away from work by making plans with another person. The more pressure you put on yourself to fulfill a promise, the more likely you are to follow through with it. Text or call a friend you haven’t seen in a while (and preferably not someone you work with or the conversation might steer back to work and trigger stress) and set a time to walk around outside or grab a meal. You’ll be less tempted to sit inside if someone else is depending on you. Set a specific time and confirm your hangout near the end of the work or school week.
  3. Have something to look forward to. If you don’t feel like seeing other people, you should still find something that you can look forward to. Block out time during the weekend to go to a concert, try a new restaurant, get some errands done, or go to the park and walk a few laps. Actually write down the time and activity you’re going to do in your notebook or iCal.
  4. Pre-schedule emails and posts. Technology is a necessary evil. Luckily there are ways to schedule emails and posts ahead of time so that you aren’t always logging-in to hit “send.” Carve out an extra hour each week to get ahead on writing emails that need to be sent the following week, and pre-write Tweets, posts, and messages that can be scheduled ahead of time.
  5. Figure out your stress-triggers. Think super honestly about the things that stress you out the most. Maybe it’s having a looming deadline for that term paper, or wanting to rehearse your business pitch a few more times. Whatever those triggers may be, address them and write them down in a safe place. Once they’ve been written down you’re less likely to forget what you need to do. Keeping tasks in your head instead of on paper is a great way to bottle up anxiety about potentially forgetting to do something. Be honest about what can wait, and what needs to get done now.
  6.  Turn off your technology. Press the off button. Shut your computer down. Turn off your phone or leave it at home. Even if it’s just for one afternoon, giving your eyes and fingers a break from the screen and keyboard will do you a world of good. It’s the simplest and most effective way to disconnect from your classmates, professors, and bosses. Limit yourself to checking your phone once a day, and shut it off again when you’re done.

It’s not always the easiest thing to step away from our professional and academic responsibilities, but giving yourself a break means you’re making a decision to invest into your long term health. The better care you take of your body and mind, the more stamina you’ll have to succeed.

Image: StokPic

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

Culture

Innovation today has become an ever-expanding idea and concept that continues to garner and create new and interesting ways of contributing to our evolving societies.

The fact of the matter is, if you are not innovating in whichever field or arena you find yourself dealing with, chances are the spectrum of your work will simply get left behind.

The millennial generation continues to move to places that inspire cultivation; as they remain a leading force of change with more forward-thinking means of living. They are hungry for new, cutting edge technology, infrastructure, design, and overall quality of life.

As they evolve and find the world adapting to the changes of the future, a select group of world cities have emerged to foster the next generation of young leadership. Consistently millennials are on a mission to seek out spaces that they can call our own, which allow for individuality and ability to have dynamic social lives with good work and life balance.

In no particular order, these 14 cities are among the best for innovation for the millennial generation.

Johannesburg, South Africa  

The only African city on the list, Joburg is seen as one of Africa’s most vibrant cities of the future. Bustling with creativity, energy and reinvention, many view the success of this city as the benchmark for the rest of the continent. Home to one of Africa’s largest stock exchanges, the city has a young, dynamic population that adds to its developing attraction for bars, restaurants, and nightlife.

Singapore, Singapore

Having one of Asia’s most innovative economies and diverse multinational populations, this Southeast Asian city often tops many lists globally for livability and innovative practices. The small city-state continues to set the benchmark for innovation and forward thinking in sectors of technology, investment, infrastructure and livability standards.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Known as one of the most progressive cities in the world for ages, Amsterdam is seen as a highly efficient, cutting edge city for its go-green efforts, livability, social policies, and cultural attractions. Amsterdam has a bustling social scene and nightlife, and is also known as the most bike-friendly city on the planet.

Bangalore, India

Though not as widely known as Mumbai, the nation’s cosmopolitan and business capital, Bangalore has emerged as South Asia’s IT hub. Thousands of new startups spring up around the city each year, with clean and modern infrastructure positioning the city to experience rapid foreign direct investment. Today, the city is now known by the west as the Silicon Valley of India, attracting top talent from around the world.

London, United Kingdom

With more foreign tourists visiting London than any city in the world, as well as being named the best city in the world for economic opportunity, it has now unofficially become the economic and cultural capital of Europe. Boosting an array of opportunities in various sectors, as well as a high number of expats from overseas, the city attracts top young talent from around the world. There is a growing and emerging array of global entrepreneurs choosing to make the city their ground to launch new ventures.

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Known as an Asian mega-city for several decades, Hong Kong’s vertical ascent into the future began far before several of its emerging Asian counterparts. It has been a massively important port for domestic and international trade, serving as a meeting point for top multinational dialogue. The city continues to reinvent itself with its distinctly Asian heritage and passion for cutting edge design and space-saving efforts. A large group of expats comprises the city’s young professional scene with vibrant social opportunities for all.

Vienna, Austria

Austria’s capital, Vienna, is seen as a massively clean and controlled city. Home to culturally important museums, governmental agencies and boasting amazing public transportation, the city fares well with both locals, expats, and tourists as a popular destination to live and work.

San Francisco, USA

This American coastal city on the Pacific Ocean serves as one of the nation’s most desirable places to live and work. The energy, social scene, diversity, and environment of the bay area make the city a desirable destination for young professionals. In addition, its access to Silicon Valley and vast tech and entrepreneurial startups makes the city flourish as a hot destination for innovation.

São Paulo, Brazil

Considered one of South America’s largest megacities, São Paulo is leading this region of the world, acting as Brazil’s knowledge, innovation and finance market capital. Roughly 20 million people make up the landscape of the city, which has the most innovative universities and industries in Latin America. A growing number of multinational firms and businesses are choosing to make the city their base for further integration into the region. São Paulo also has excellent social and living conditions for young professionals.

Vancouver, Canada

This Canadian city has embarked on a mission to become the greenest city on the planet by the year 2020. It is currently working towards this goal by a water consumption decrease of 20 percent. With access to green spaces and public transportation, the city is also home to a vibrant young professional scene.

Santiago, Chile

Retaining one of South America’s lowest corruption rates, Santiago’s economic capital has launched itself as one the region’s most innovative places for starting new ventures and business opportunity. The city boasts a healthy and stable economy with a strong, expanding network of infrastructure projects.

Boston, USA

Seen as one of America’s most historic and oldest cities, Boston is also known as the nation’s education capital, boosting an array of world-class universities and institutions which are hubs for innovation in themselves. The city is young, dynamic and creative, and it fosters a unique blend of culture, charm, and history.

Dubai, UAE

Now seen as the hub of the Middle East, this oil-rich kingdom has launched its success from natural resources into a tax-free safe haven for expats and multinational investment. Close to 80% of the city is now comprised of overseas expats coming to live, work, and experience the city’s growing clout internationally. It is also home to many Guinness World Record titles, with the 160-story Burj Khalifa, its most iconic structure, as the world’s tallest building.

Stockholm, Sweden

While Sweden’s three largest cities all top international lists as truly innovate destinations of the future, its economic capital of Stockholm has been a groundbreaking destination for innovation and development. A strong culture of innovation has propelled this Nordic nation to the forefront of ambitious research, cutting edge infrastructure and passion for efficiency. Swedes are often described as being the world’s fastest population at adapting to new trends and ideas, and are not only economically and socially liberal, but also among the Europe’s most educated. With a strong reputation for being a high economic performer within Europe, the circuit of young and innovative companies, design, social venues, and people make Stockholm a highly efficient hub for growth for the future.

Image: Pasu Au Yeung

Health

Have you ever come across that person who is always complaining, gossiping, or making negative comments? Before identifying him or her, it can be very difficult to stay away from responding with negativity. Negative people like negative company. Constantly dealing with people who bring negativity into your life or who never fail to bring you down in some way are the kinds of people you should consider weeding out of your life. If these are people you ultimately can’t escape, there are ways to distance yourself without being harsh or rude.

Law of Attraction

The law of attraction notes that “likes attract likes” and if you focus on positive thoughts you will find yourself with a positive outcome. Now, consider applying this concept in another form. If you openly display certain qualities or interests, you are likely to attract people who are also interested in those same things. This, after discerning that you want to surround yourself with new people, is the first step of attracting people who are likely to understand you and who share similar traits.

Farewell to Your Comfort Zone

This one is difficult but very important. Many of us do not enjoy leaving our comfort zones because, well, it is no longer a comfortable place. However, leaving your comfort zone is the only way to achieve goals and stand out from the conventional – it is vital in life. It also allows you to get comfortable with what was once uncomfortable, therefore making your life a constant cycle that pushes you to try new things. Try joining a new club, traveling somewhere with a program, sitting somewhere else for lunch, or even inviting people you’ve never spent time with (outside of school or work) for lunch. Branching out is essential in trying to make new relationships.

Make Time for Yourself

Aside from trying out new activities, having some time for yourself is also an important component to this transformative time in your life. Allowing yourself to think alone and reflect on your experiences will bring you to identify the parts of your life you wish to alter. It allows you to make calm, well thought out decisions.

Focus on Work or School

Focusing on work or school is a great way to concentrate on the things that are important. In addition, it only leaves time for few people which allows you realize that quality time is meant for quality people. This is an easier method for not only distancing yourself from negative people, but it is also a great way to appreciate the people who matter most in your life.

Start Acting Positive

Almost like my law of attraction point, you can attract positive people if you begin to act positive. After you hear the typical, “I hate Monday, I wish it were Friday,” you can either not respond to it by changing the topic or you can respond with positivity by noting, “Really? I don’t mind them – they’re like any other day.” Like I previously mentioned, negative people like to feed off of other negative people. You will be surprised as to how quickly people will begin to catch on to this mindset. Being positive can: 1. Help positivity flourish in those around you, and 2. Repel negative people. Both of these are helpful for achieving your goal.

Staying positive is not only a mood booster, but it is also necessary for your physical health. Do yourself a favor and begin changing the parts of your life that will help you become a better person. The steps may be unfamiliar but you can’t go wrong in trying!

How do you add positivity into your life?

P.S. Journaling and living inside out can also help you live a more positive life.

Image: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

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

EducationSkills

The spring semester is going to start soon, and for some, it already has. Many of you might be considering doing internships this semester. A while ago, I did a piece about the end of summer internships. This one is about the beginning of spring ones! Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing and applying to spring semester internships, especially in large cities.

Research.

Think about what type of internship you want to do. Social media, computer science, photography, editorial, public relations, you name it. Do you want to work on something in your field of study, or are you considering trying something new? What do internships tend to require? Experience in certain programs, making tweets, or proofreading? This will help you in your search and it will help you with preparing your resume and cover letter later on. Since you’re in a city, you want to make sure that you also open minded to start­-ups, places outside of your borough or local area, and positions that overlap. You also have to consider whether something is paid or not, if there is credit, and if the two -hour commute is worth it. Can you fit it into your schedule?

“Stalk.”

Said my professor. Yes, you spend a lot of time on the computer when you’re thinking about internships, and a lot of it is clicking around. Once you have an idea of what you want to do and a few companies for which you want to work, you should Google them. For example, if you want to write for a magazine, look up the editors. Look at the company’s mission statement and branch. Find the Twitter or LinkedIn or company website. This way, you will know a bit about the company but also a bit about who you will be working under. At first, back in my freshmen days, I was unsure about this, but multiple professors and people who work have told me it is definitely normal (and even expected) so no worries. You can go take a look at where the office is and see if the neighborhood is somewhere you would be willing to spend your time in. Can you buy lunch somewhere nearby? Is there a train station nearby? What kind of people are walking around? Casual younger people or older people in suits? You’ll be among them.

Create.

Create your persona. Make or edit your resume to suit your needs. Design it so it somehow represents who you are and how you work. Design interns design their resumes to be unique, but multi-­colored resumes wouldn’t work for a finance intern. Check your social media to make sure it is consistent. Get some appropriate clothes for the interview. You don’t have to wear black heels through a snowstorm or a suit in the summer, but make sure your nails are clean, your hair is washed, and your bag is suitable to both hold copies of your resume while looking appropriate for the office.

If you’re in a large city, you might want to consider adding some flair to your outfit so you can stand out. You’ll be competing with all the other university students (as well as people who have already graduated). The fashion interns I’ve met have been pretty unique, but not office appropriate. Again, this is where your research comes in! Maybe that’s alright for where you’re applying for. This preparation helps with interview questions that range from “Why do you want to work with us?” to “Tell me about yourself.”

Getting an internship, especially in big cities, can be pretty difficult. It starts out slow, but once you have a foundation, it becomes easier. It can be scary and it’s definitely competitive, but all of that becomes easier to deal with with practice. When something doesn’t work, try and try again. Best of luck!

Image: Chris Isherwood

Education

Let’s face it, we all spend a lot of time getting work done at a desk. Typing, writing, drawing, and organizing our way to the next deadline. Your work space can even be seen as an interesting reflection of yourself. So why not cater your desk to how you work best?

desk 1

For the simple and clean go-getter. There’s no need for unnecessary supplies or distractions. This worker is anti-clutter and prefers having only what’s needed to get an assignment done.
MUST HAVES: portable items such as a foldable book stand, small notebook, and an easy-to-carry thermos.

Desk 2

You appreciate visual company at your desk. Having inspiration at your fingertips is a necessity and your selected pile of books and magazines are always on rotation.
MUST HAVES: just the right lighting, background music, and a new stock of inky pens on standby.

Desk 3

The one that schedules time to schedule things. People ask you for the stapler, the post-its, and index cards. You are the constant email checker and enjoy the list-making efficiency of Wunderlist.
MUST HAVES: color coded agendas, caffeine, and a fully charged laptop.

Work space styles are endless, but once you figure out what your go-to items and settings are, you’re more likely to stay focused and motivated. Plus, spending some time to transform your space can add a little joy to your day to day. And behold, desk jobs can be fun!

Image: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Education

Autumn has finally rolled around, which means that in addition to leaves, sweaters, and the smell of cinnamon and maple in every coffee shop, we are also about to be hit with hard deadlines, stacks of work, and plenty of assignments with overlapping due dates. That calls for a playlist that can get you settled in and ready to accomplish your looming tasks.

If you’re anything like me, you like to get work done in different kinds of environments. Sometimes I need complete silence, other times I perform well when there’s a miscellaneous ambiance of strangers, and once in a while I like to throw in some headphones and mark off my to-do list with the help of an awesome playlist.

The playlist below has been carefully curated by yours truly (but I won’t be offended if you switch out or remove any of these selections). I like these tunes because they all have a steady but upbeat vibe, and flow together well when I don’t want to be distracted by the sudden jolt of a Top 40-get-up-and-dance jam.

(Click on the photo to view in full screen.)

workplaylistcarpe

Good luck with your exams, papers, deadlines, and meetings this season. You’re doing amazing things!

For more daily inspiration, follow Carpe on Twitter. See you there!

Image: Death to the Stock Photo

CollegeEducationLearn

I don’t know how many of you out there are working on a senior project, but let me tell you something: it’s hard. It’s really hard. On a scale of “ugh” to “I’m going to drop out of school and move into a forest to be a hermit,” I’m pretty close to the latter. For those of you who are going to wind up doing something like a senior capstone or a thesis (or for those of you who are in it and are suffering like me), here are some things you should keep in mind:

1. It’s never too early.

I so regret not starting my project half a year ago. You’re thinking, how can you plan a project or a paper or something half a year ago if you don’t even know what you’re doing? Well, that’s when you should start thinking about it! Spend your winter vacation or summer vacation reading up on what you’re doing your project on. If you’re a literature major, you can start researching authors, writing snippets, and outlining a draft. If you’re in the arts, you can start looking for influential artists and start messing around with various materials or techniques.

2. Talk to people.

Tell them you’re doing a thesis. Ask for their opinion. Be open to references or new ideas. I’m working on a photo thesis and a large point of it is process, progress, development. If you’re stuck with tunnel vision, your ideas or projects can’t really grow.

3. Try new things.

Another way to being open to ideas is gaining more experience. Go gallery hopping on the weekend with a friend who would appreciate contemporary art. Wander through a new section of the bookstore you never really thought you’d like. Wander around and study the architecture of your neighborhood, and stop by a cafe you’ve probably passed every day but never bothered to go into. If you’re stuck on an idea, a refreshing environment might help.

4. Be honest with yourself.

Is this project too easy? Is it too ambitious? Do I have the skills? Do I have enough information? Do I believe what I’m saying? Will I be willing to work on this for four months straight? Eight months straight? How much do I care about this? These are all important questions that you need to truly consider. Be brutally, objectively honest. You’ll save yourself trouble, embarrassment, and time if you admit to your weaknesses and find your strengths.

5. Don’t give up.

Now this one is important. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out the first, second, third, or fourth time (I’ve had to modify my idea that many times… ugh). Sometimes you’re just scratching the surface and you realize that after some trial and error. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but do try to learn from them. Keep going at it, you’ll definitely get it. Everyone works at a different pace, so just work at your own.

All of you out there working on your long­term projects, good luck. There is a long road ahead, but it will be rewarding. Have faith, don’t lose hope, and keep that chin up. See you on the flip side!

CollegeFinanceSkills

It’s time for college. It’s also time for budget crunching, piggy bank breaking, as well as money saving. Our wallets tend to go on a diet when we go to college, but here are some tips to keep your wallet saturated with healthy greens and to make yourself happy with those few extra bucks.

1. Price Comparisons for Textbooks

Unless you cannot find a book anywhere on the Internet, go to the student store on your university campus. Word on the street is that the student store charges more than the retailer themselves. Use websites like SlugBooks to buy cheaper priced books.

2. Go for Paperback Books

Paperback or hardcover, you’re still getting the same information, aren’t you? You don’t need the hardcover book. Find a paperback and use it whenever you can. Besides, paperbacks are much lighter on your back.

3. Renting Textbooks

Have a general education class such as Economics 101 that you’re taking to fulfill some requirement? Never going to open that book again once the class will have finished? Rent the book. Do not buy it. Though you cannot make too many marks (or any, depending on the rule), renting your textbook can save you over a hundred dollars. You can use it and access it at any point after it is delivered to you, and then you just have to ship it back on the due date, so make sure you take note of that!

4. Use Public Transportation or a Bike

Do not bring your car with you to campus, especially if you are a first-year. Paying for parking is quite a hassle, and can drain your wallet instantaneously. Use buses; they’re quite popular on college campuses, especially with universities that are small cities, such as Chapel Hill. Students usually ride for free, which is awesome because who doesn’t like free services and goods? Also, you’re doing the environment a huge favor by not emitting exhaustion gas into the atmosphere. Bikes are another good idea, as this investment can go very far, literally and metaphorically. Bikes are street safe and walk path safe, and you’ll be on-time to class almost every time.

5. Sell Your Old High School Stuff

I, for one, had a lot of old Advanced Placement (AP) guidebooks left over from high school. Though some are still useful references to me, a lot of them were not, especially for the classes that have nothing to do with my intended major and that I had placement credit for. I just sold it on Amazon and made almost a hundred dollars. Don’t limit yourself to just books—sell anything that you simply cannot use anymore (within reason of course).

6. Make a Budget

Try organizing your spending and income into a table such as this one:

Money Spent Item Bought Service Spent on Earnings
$3 2% Milk
$40 From Tutoring
$10 Getting Eyebrows Done
$100 Selling things
$50 Textbook

This is just a neat way to help you keep track of everything! You will never have to wonder where that one dollar went, and you’ll feel more in control of your money.

7. Work Study, Jobs, and Internships

This is perhaps the most obvious way grab ahold of fortunes during high school. However, it should also be remembered that jobs teach you the value of money. For some people, it’ll send the message of “Do I need to buy that Sephora lipstick? I have to use MY money.” You’ll rethink buying some of your coveted material objects, but in the end you will be glad you thought some of your monetary decisions and purchases through.

Money is all around us. We just have to know how to hold on to it. Learning how to be responsible with your money now can truly benefit you in the future. When there’s an economic crisis in the future, you’ll know how to handle it from your experiences during your youthful years. Best of luck to those of you going to college or are in college, and always have a positive mindset!

Image: 401kcalculator.org

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?

ExploreFinanceSkillsTravel

Most of us want to travel the world, yet so few of us actually do it. We plan to save up, but somehow we just can’t stretch our dollars; we spend them on stuff before we can spend them on trips.

Having traveled through much of Southeast Asia (and a few other countries) on a very limited budget, I have met travel experts with lots of advice, and developed my own money saving tricks. Next week I will share my budget travel tips, but this article is about traveling with almost no money and either cutting out certain expenses (accommodations, food and transportation), or earning money while traveling.

I read a very accurate quote that went something like, “if you want to travel, you either have to spend time or money.” If you’re willing to sacrifice a little time so you can soak in unfamiliar cultures, see the world, meet new people and grow, these options could be for you.

1. Hostel Work Exchange

These jobs often offer free housing (and sometimes meals) in exchange for work, or they will simply pay you hourly. Hostel jobs are fairly competitive, so if possible, it is suggested to arrive in a location a bit before peak seasons for less stress. (i.e. before May or June in New York)

This site offers forums for job seekers and hostel employers to post opportunities. Hostel Management is another good hostel job search site.

2. Teach English Abroad

Teaching is quite a commitment, so this option is not for those who are iffy about that.

Most salaried positions last at least a year. Many schools will pay for housing among other amenities, and some (primarily in Asia) will even cover the flights to and from the host country. Some locations pay better than others. I have friends who have paid off student loans and traveled Asia with the salaries they made in South Korea.

Getting a certification to teach English (TEFL) is not always required but will both prepare you and bump up your salary. The following sites can get you certified and/or placed:

Oxford Seminars: Awesome. Pricey TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification, but it includes classroom instruction, a practicum, a massively extensive database of schools in hundreds of countries and three textbooks to help you along the way. Plus, awesome like-minded classmates that can become travel buddies. As a former Oxford Seminars student, I recommend this wholeheartedly.

CIEE: I haven’t used this, but it’s a very reputable and reliable program that many friends have used to both teach and study abroad. They provide training and an optional TEFL certification.

People Recruit: This sends people directly to South Korea. A friend’s brother used this and had a great experience with it. It does not include a TEFL certification as Korea doesn’t require it.

3. WWOOFing

WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It pairs travelers with hosts and allows them to work on a farm, co-op, garden, or related space in exchange for food and accommodation.

WWOOF website for more information.

4. Odd jobs

These include working as a server/bartender, laborer, au pair, tour guide, and more. When you arrive in a location, look for “hiring” signs. Hop into restaurants and offices, bring your resume and be prepared to spend a little time unemployed and searching. Business cards help, too, but be sure they’re simple and universally useable. Additionally, highlight language and professional skills, and ensure you’re easily reachable within your host country (local phone number, provide email, etc.). This option requires more spontaneity, but it’s very doable and will offer some pay to live off of and travel with.

5. Working Holiday Scheme

Several countries offer working holiday visas and the opportunity to take on low-wage, seasonal jobs. The visas are available for people under 35 and typically last up to a year.

6. Skill-based jobs

You can do more than wait tables or answer phones if you want. It may take more digging, but will pay better and utilize your skills and any education you’ve received.

Alliance Abroad offers work placements before departure and provides accommodations. I’ve never used it but have heard it recommended before. They provide placements for business, event planning, food preparation and other skilled positions, as well as internships and general service positions.

7. Couch Surf

Couchsurfing allows you to link up with hosts in any country in the world and stay with them for free. Be sure to check up on the local culture’s etiquette so you know whether to bring a gift, buy meals, etc. Couchsurfers and hosts are generally open-minded travel-lovers who enjoy making new friends and helping others enjoy their cities. The database offers extensive reviews on hosts and ways to connect with other surfers.

8. Home Exchange

Swap apartments or houses for a trip. This allows you to stay, rent-free, in someone else’s home in your travel destination. HomeExchange is a good option for this.

9. Yacht or Cruise Ship Jobs

These are paid positions that include free room and board, meals and other expenses. These opportunities often go overlooked. While not a piece of cake, it is easier than one would think to find a safe, reputable job on a yacht or cruise ship.

Some good sites for finding service jobs on yachts or cruise ships include Crew 4 Crew, Jobs on Yachts and Cruise Ship Jobs.

Traveling with little money requires the traveler to let go of hard plans and remain open to sudden changes. It means time spent. It also often means no frills: hostels, street food, homestays, and sometimes a lack of western amenities. Challenges are part of it, though, and the memories and growth that travel create are incredible!

Plus, who knows? You may find your passion is teaching, farming, boating, or something you never dreamed of!

(Aside from friends and personal experience, Nomadic Matt had some great tips that helped with this article. He’s a fantastic budget travel blogger.)

What are your tips and resources for traveling paid or without significant expenses?

Image: Garry Knight, Flickr