goodbye college, hello corporate

See where this post originally appeared on The Daily Muse.

This week, universities around the country begin the time-honored tradition of hosting graduation ceremonies. Pomp and Circumstance. Mortarboards. Tassles. It’s hard depressing to think that it’s already been seven years since I finished my undergrad degree, but this is an exciting time for college seniors everywhere.

Or is it?

The transition from college to what’s more commonly referred to as the real world isn’t an easy one. In fact, I can’t think of many rites of passage more shocking to one’s system than moving from life as full-time student to life as a full-time employee.

Sure, most of us worked during college, logging long hours and not a lot of money — but when you graduate — your entire identify morphs into something new. Every decision changes, from the clothes you buy to your bedtime, and it can be tricky to get through this smoothly.

Here’s are some things I wish I’d known when I finished school and first started working, that would have made my life a lot easier:

It’s hard to please everyone. When I started working, I had a lot of friends who were still in school, and I had a hard time balancing my work persona with my former student self. I wanted the best of both worlds: to be able to stay up every night and party, while still being able to wake up and perform at work. It took about two months of this chaos for me to realize, begrudgingly, that it wasn’t going to work. Amid chiding from my still-in-class peers, I eventually started going to bed earlier and found it much easier to play the part of a model employee. This was rotten at first, but after I became more accustomed to managing my time, I found something of a happy medium between commitments.

Health matters. The life of a college student is not always the picture of health. For four years I has been a pro at staying up late, eating whatever was cheap and convenient and taking part in more than my fair share of adult beverages (I gather I’m not alone here…). Once I started working, I had to be on my game, attentive and engaged. All day. Five days a week. This was not possible with a hangover or even without a good breakfast. Little by little, I began to embrace healthier behaviors, as I learned what was required to excel in a completely new environment.

Pride and prejudice. In college, I had an academic scholarship and stayed on the Dean’s List; I graduated with honors and felt pretty accomplished. I was, frankly, used to being recognized for my accomplishments. But this all changes when you start working. No longer will you be rewarded for every achievement, nor will you be evaluated by a simple, consistent system, like grades. Instead, you’re responsible for paving your own way and creating your own success stories. I’m a very structured thinker, and I like clear direction and parameters in my work, which isn’t always an option. I found myself very quickly being challenged in new ways and the uncertainty often made me crazy. Fortunately, I had a lot of positive influences who kept me going, otherwise I may have had a dramatic Jerry McGuire-type exit from my first job.

Friends in low places. In college, I spent 99 percent of my time with my friends, room mates and sorority sisters. I chose who I wanted to hang out with, eat with and socialize with almost all the time. Then suddenly, I was spending 40 to 50 hours a week with a lot of new people…And shockingly, I didn’t like all of them. I felt isolated from my familiar network and didn’t immediately find coworkers I could relate to or feel comfortable with – this was really hard. I soon learned that just because the people I worked with weren’t like my typical friends, they could still be awesome to hang around and I could learn a ton from them. I very slowly but very significantly changed my perspective in terms of who I could consider a friend, which was a tremendous lesson. To this day, some of my closest friends and mentors are people I’ve met at various jobs.

Life goes on. Simply put, life gets a lot harder after college, and it doesn’t ever seem quite as carefree. But – it will be ok. Things change and get confusing, but a lot of cool things come along with being forced to grow up (it’s not just lower car insurance).

If I had known how much my life would change and all the obstacles I’d face after college, I probably would’ve packed up and moved to a remote island to avoid it all. Fortunately, I lacked a crystal ball, so I entered the workforce with rose-colored glasses and expensive new suits.

And despite all the ways I could have prepared and planned for my future, I think that the youthful optimism I had as a new grad was really all I needed.

Cheers to everyone graduating this spring. It’s not going to be easy out there, but it’ll be amazing.

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Made a Mistake? 5 Steps to Saying “I’m Sorry”

Unless you were blessed with super-human powers, you’ve likely experienced an occasional workplace misstep. I’ve made my fair share of these types of mistakes, and have learned that while messing up is hard, learning how to apologize for what’s happened can be even harder.

Chances are, your co-workers will forget what happened faster than you will, but your recovery will be much smoother if you quickly and sincerely own up to your error and find a way to resolve it. Here’s some advice on how to say “I’m sorry” and power through a workplace faux pas.

1. React Quickly

Seriously. This sounds simple enough, but after a big “oops” moment (hitting “reply” instead of “forward,” anyone?), our natural inclination is often to freeze, and wish—really hard—that it never happened.

But instead of becoming paralyzed with guilt or fear, channel that heart-pounding energy into a quick response. When you’ve made a blunder, it should be you (not someone else) delivering the news to the people impacted. As frustrating as it may be for your boss to hear from you that you’ve lost the files for the big meeting, it will be a lot worse if she hears about it from someone else first.

2. Just Say No—to Email

It’s awkward and requires some faster thinking, but delivering an apology in-person or over the phone is always best. For one, tone really matters when you’re saying “I’m sorry,” and we’ve all seen how simple email or text messages can be misconstrued. Plus, apologizing to someone in person prevents the dreaded email forwarding cycle, where everyone in the world gets involved. If you’re nervous, prepare by writing down what you want to communicate, and practicing with someone you trust (if you can do so quickly—see #1).

3. BE HONEST

Everyone makes mistakes (yes, really!), so don’t try to sweep yours under the rug or place blame on other people—honesty is always the safest route. Your best bet is admitting exactly what happened, why, and what you’re doing to fix it and prevent it from happening again. You might start out by saying, “I’m really sorry the wrong files got sent to the printer, but I can explain what caused the error and what I’m doing to fix things as quickly as possible.”

4. Be Humble

Along with being honest, it’s important to maintain a sense of humility as you apologize. You don’t need to stoop to the level of groveling or pleading for forgiveness—in fact, don’t—but you should communicate that you clearly understand the impact your mistake has had on others. A calm and straightforward “I realize that my mix-up of the dates really puts your team in a bind, and I’m very sorry” communicates respect and concern for those dealing with whatever consequences your actions have had. Also give the other party a chance to voice any concerns and ask questions.

5. Have a Little Faith

After you’ve made a mistake, it might feel like a monumental disaster—but don’t let it derail you for too long. A single flub won’t define you, and it’s important to move past what happened and get back in the groove of things.

The path toward success is often paved with sharp turns and unexpected bumps. Going through these obstacles is never fun, but it does get easier with the right approach and a little experience. Mistakes happen, but delivering a sincere apology can turn a stressful situation into an opportunity to prove your commitment to the job.

See where this article was posted on Forbes.

some things are ironic

This is ironic:

Ten years ago, if I called my parents from my dorm, I had to preface any negative pronouncement with, “I have some bad news, but I’m not pregnant.”

Now, when I call them with exciting news, I still have to preface it with the same disclaimer: “I have some great news…no, I’m not pregnant.”

My, how things change.

Here’s what else is ironic…

Six months or so ago, I decided I wanted to have my writing published. I didn’t care where or when, but my ultimate goal was to forcefully subject more poor souls to reading my banter.

I really didn’t know how to start the process, but some searching online led me to an interesting list: Forbes Top 100 Websites for Women. My goal was then specified: I want to be published on one of these sites. I don’t care about the rankings, this is my only criteria. A lot of writing and emails later, I’d successfully landed content on several of the sites: Betty Confidential, LearnVest, The Daily Muse and Yahoo! Shine – plus, several pieces on Forbes itself.

But little did I know that within a few more months, I would have an article posted on Forbes that ranked as the number one most-read article. As of this minute it has more than 90,500 views.

I die.

Seriously?!

How does this happen? I’d like to credit myself with magnanimous writing skills and dynamite connections – but in truth – I know I had a little luck on my side. And social media helps.

The coolest part of all of this isn’t the money (since I get nada from it) or the fame (who am I kidding – it’ll be another person in the spotlight tomorrow). It’s the fact that I get so much support and encouragement from family, friends, coworkers and strangers, and you’re all there to celebrate every little victory.

So, here’s to you – thanks for reading.

6 Tips to Leading a Training (They’ll Actually Enjoy)

I was really excited when I was asked to write this post. Really.

Because if there’s one thing I hate — don’t worry – there are actually several – it’s boring meetings and presentations. They make me miserable. Time spent resigned to watching the second-hand of a clock is generally not a quality moment.

Here’s a link to where my article appeared on Forbes and on The Daily Muse.

Are You Shopping for the Wrong Reason?

This article originally appeared on Betty Confidential, see it here:

As I was shopping last weekend, I came across a killer deal. A new Coach bag marked half off, from $300 to $150. Floored, I snatched it up like a prize and marveled at my incredible luck.

A few minutes later, some initial doubts set in. The purse wasn’t a one of my favorite colors, and was a little bigger than what I typically like… plus, $150 was a more than I should have been spending.

I still wanted it, but did I really need it? As I started to reconsider my purchase, I played a classic game of rationale. Picture a cartoon angel and devil on each of my shoulders:

You work hard – you deserve this bag.

This is a frivolous purchase – you should put down the purse.

You don’t have very many nice bags – this is a good investment.

You already have 20 purses you don’t use at home.

…And so on, and so on.

After a few deep breaths, I gingerly returned the purse to its home. And as I did, the rush I initially felt subsided into an icky feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t figure out why I had felt so passionately about buying something completely unnecessary and why it actually made me sad to put it back on the shelf.

The whole thing made seemed a little silly.

I started to think about what I’d felt throughout this experience and why this was causing a dramatic internal conflict. Why did I immediately feel that I had to have this purse – one that I wasn’t looking for and absolutely didn’t need, just because it was a fancy brand and on sale? Was I buying it because of what it was, or because of how it made me feel?

Marriage and family psychotherapist Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill has seen excessive shopping and the associated consequences ruin relationships and tear families apart. She explained why buying things can make us feel happy. “Shopping provides a high in the moment while actually in the process of the shopping, but it doesn’t last, which is the problem that causes long-term issues.”

Clearly, I over thought my own purchase a bit, but it’s an interesting point to ponder. Why so many of us feel a compulsion to have more, more, more. And why certain things make us feel better about ourselves because of the designer or brand.

According to psychotherapist and author Tina B. Tessina, PhD, shopping can even be linked to innate human behaviors. “Shopping syncs with the primitive “gatherer” mechanism in the brain, giving us the gratification of seeking and finding a treasure.” Which is exactly what I felt when I found the purse. An instant rush as if I’d struck gold.

Tessina also explained that the emotions we feel while shopping can be heightened by the way stores are designed. “Retailers are clever, and have done their research, so stores are arranged to be attractive and create a fantasy world we can escape to when life is not giving us what we want.” Though I certainly didn’t enter the store that day looking for a fantasy, I had made the decision to go to the mall when I was feeling out of sorts. And it worked. Shopping provided an easy distraction from the way I was feeling and a justification for spending money.

This experience isn’t going to make me stop shopping. That would take a stronger force of nature, but I am reconsidering what I’m drawn to buy, and why.

I’m not suggesting we eliminate all the non-essential purchases from our budgets (cough, cough…this wouldn’t have been my only designer bag), but maybe we should reconsider why we’re inclined to buy what we do. Is it because it’s something that we love and need, or just something that might temporarily make use feel more worthwhile?

6 Tips for Leading a Training (That They’ll Actually Enjoy)

We’ve all been there—trapped in a cold, windowless room with 50 of your nearest and dearest colleagues, listening to some presenter drone on about who knows what.

As you’ve probably gathered from that poor soul, it’s not always easy to lead a training session, conference, or large meeting. In fact, it can be quite the balancing act to keep an audience entertained (and awake) while covering all the necessary information.

…Read the rest of this article I recently wrote on The Daily Muse

And then he said…

Bobby Valentine, on Kevin Youkilis:

I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.

Kevin Youkilis, on Bobby Valentine, on Kevin Youkilis:

I’m more confused than anything, because I think everyone knows I go out and play the game as hard as I can. That’s just my style of play. I never was blessed with the raw tools … so I’ve always had to use playing the game as hard and with full effort my whole life. I don’t know any better, so that’s just the way I play.

Dustin Pedroia, on Bobby Valentine, on Keving Youkilis:

I know that Youk plays as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. I have his back, and his teammates have his back. We know how hard he plays. I don’t really understand what Bobby’s trying to do. But that’s really not the way we go about our stuff here. I’m sure he’ll figure that out soon.