Learn to stress less with PIE

Two Saturdays ago I was at the airport, all lined up and ready to board the plane, when the gate agent announced that we couldn’t board just yet because we were waiting on a flight attendant. Oh, and that flight attendant was currently on a different flight that hadn’t landed yet.

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As we continued to wait, I could hear people around me start to grumble about the delay. What is taking so long? How late are we going to be? I hope I don’t miss my connection. How will I alert my friend who’s picking meup?

And then they started to grumble about anything and everything. Ugh, there’s a baby on this flight – it better not cry the entire way. My battery is dying; why does my phone suck? I have so much work to do, but instead I’m stuck here waiting in this dumb airport.

I was pretty proud of myself for tuning them out and staying in zen-mode, but two years ago I probably would have been with them, letting travel hiccups create stress.

For the longest time, I led an unnecessarily high-stress life. Continue reading

Now it has become your job to pass on that lesson

Yesterday at work, my team was interviewing job applicants for an open position we have.  The standout comment someone made during the debrief was:

“Hey, you know that website that one candidate said she co-founded?  It’s actually real!”

It’s a pretty cool website, too.  It’s called thanksforteaching.us and it’s a site where you can post quick thank you notes to teachers.  It reminded me of a thank you letter I sent last year:

Dear Mr. Varela,
 

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Defusing the I-need-a-job-freakout

Let’s be honest.  Two years ago, after I graduated without a job,  I had days when I freaked out.  Last winter, months after my friend also graduated without a job, she freaked out.  A few months ago, when my boyfriend realized that his under-employment was not sustainable, he freaked out.

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We’re all bound to go through it: the “I need a job!” freakout.

It’s ok.

Freaking out can be legitimate. We all have bills to pay in order to maintain life’s necessities, like food and shelter.

Freaking out can also be therapeutic.  If you’re around a bunch of other people who don’t have jobs, it’s something you can commiserate about.  Aaaah freakout! Le freak, c’est chic.

But there’s a point where all that freaking out isn’t healthy.  And I doubt it’s making you happy.
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How to answer the question “What kind of job are you looking for?”

***DISCLAIMER: The following dialogue is a dramatization, and in no way reflects how much whining my boyfriend did in the early stages of his job search.***

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“Arrrrrrrrrgh!  I don’t know.  Why do you keep asking me that?”

My boyfriend, now employed, told me that getting him to answer that question was the single most helpful thing I did during the months I coached him through his search for a full-time job.

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.  I just want to find a job.”

Well, babe, it’s kinda hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.  More importantly, it’s especially hard for someone to help you find something when you can’t define what it is you want to find.  Continue reading

Networking: Getting Started (Part 3)

Many of us grew up knowing networking was a good thing, and that it had something to do with having or getting a lot of contacts, but what we’re supposed to do with all those contacts may have been a little unclear.

A few months ago I was explaining the concept of informational interviews to my boyfriend.  He was in the midst of a full-time job search, and I had encouraged him to try a networked job search, in addition to doing the respond-to-job postings thing.

I walked him through Part 1, “You have an entire fan club of folks who think you’re awesome and want to see you succeed!” and Part 2, “You just need to let them know what you’re looking for and tell them what specifically they can do to help you.”  Now it’s time for Part 3: how to conduct an informal career chat (a.k.a informational interview).
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Breaking a bad habit

Even though I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions (you can read my new year’s post to find out what I did instead), there is at least one bad habit I’d like to break. There’s something I say all the time, without thinking, and for no good reason.

My boyfriend pointed this out to me, a couple months ago.  I had the refrigerator door open for about a minute when he asked,

“What are you doing?”

“I need to figure out what I want to eat.”

“Do you? Do you really need to?”

“Huh?”

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New Year’s List and the Law of Increase

The holiday season is officially over and it’s time to return to my regularly scheduled life.  Around this time, it seems like everyone is making lists, and I am no exception.  I feel compelled to make lots of lists: of things I would like to do differently, of places I would like to go, of people I want to see, of things I want to make, and all sorts of other stuff.  It’s not even a new year’s thing; I just like to make lists.  Lists make me feel like I have a plan, and crossing things off my list makes me feel like I’ve achieved something.

However, a lot of the cultivation-of-happiness work I’ve done this year makes me feel like creating another list of things to do isn’t the best course of action.  One of the lessons I learned in 2011 is that I spend far too much time thinking of the past and the future, and not enough time in the present.  So instead, I’m going to apply one of the lessons that popped up in a number of things I read this year.  Srikumar Rao calls it:

The Law of Increase
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The most useful concept I learned in undergrad

“So, I ask… any words of advice?”

I didn’t know what to write back.  I was excited by but also unprepared for the overwhelming response I got after my talk at UC Berkeley.  I poured out my story to a group of strangers, in hopes that they would open up and ask questions they may not have asked otherwise.  And they did ask.  But even after this one girl took a risk and poured out her own story into an email, I didn’t know how to answer her question.

I can talk about my own experience, and I can pass along advice that I’ve found helpful, but sometimes it seems like people really just want to know what they should do.

I can’t tell them. I wish I could, but it’s their decision to make.  The most that I can do is help people sort through their thoughts and help them come to a good decision, using one of the most useful concepts I learned in undergrad.

Decision analysis. I love this stuff.  According to Answers.com, decision analysis “offers individuals and organizations a methodology for making decisions.” Continue reading

Advice for my undergraduate self

About a month ago, I received an invitation to speak in front of a group of undergrads.  I had spoken on panels before, but I had never been asked to give a talk, by myself.

The invitation asked me to talk about my MBA experience and the type of options my MBA allowed me to have after my graduation.  Doing that could take less than ten minutes.  I had up to an hour to fill.

Q&A could fill some of that time, but what could I tell them to ensure that they would have questions to ask?  And be comfortable enough to ask them?  I began to think about what would be the things they may not think to ask.  What were the things I would not have known to ask, when I was their age?

It occured to me that many of the students in my audience would be freshmen and sophomores, and it’s been a full ten years since I was in their shoes.  I crafted my talk around what would have been helpful for me to hear ten years ago, as a freshman in college.

Here is a recorded, condensed version of the presentation I gave at UC Berkeley on Monday, March 14th, 2011.

Networking: Getting started (Part 1)

My cousin goes back to San Jose State’s college of business every semester to talk to juniors and seniors, and one of the things he stresses to them is the value of networking.

My cousin and I, like many people, didn’t really get into networking until we needed a job.  It’s too bad, because it was at that point that we realized we should have started much earlier.  And so we go back to colleges to tell juniors and seniors to learn from our mistakes and begin to network while still in school.

Many students I’ve talked to recognize that this is good advice, but don’t know how to act on it.

“But I don’t have a network.  Most of the people I know are my age.”

You do have a network.  Remember, a network is a set of interdependent relationships in which people will want to help you and have the means to help you.  I can think of at least one person who will want to help you. Your mom.

I bet there are others who would be happy to help you: your dad, your siblings, your extended family, your neighbors growing up, your old coach, your favorite teachers from high school, your spiritual leader, your current professors, friends from the class that graduated above you, etc.

“But none of those people are doing things I’m interested in.”

Remember that networking is not just about who you know, but who *they* may know. Maybe your dad plays tennis with someone who studied the same thing you’re studying.  Your grandma’s friend from church just retired from being the head of a big company.  My boyfriend’s mom trains in kung fu with a woman who gave me great career advice (true story).

Yet all these people who would love to help you, may not know that you need them to, or how.  You have to tell them.

“So what do I ask for?  I don’t event know what kind of job I want.”

You don’t have to.  That’s why you need their help.  Besides, you’re not asking for a job.  You will be asking your network to put you in touch with people who can provide you with information, advice, and more people to contact. The goal is to have your network put you in touch with people with whom you have a 20-30 minute conversation, often called an “informational interview.”  These informational interviews are a way for you to learn about what options exist for you, and what it takes to get there.

“Ok. But I feel bad.  Why would someone want to take time out of their busy schedule to talk to me?”

Here’s the biggest secret about informational interviews: People love talking about themselves. They LOVE it.  Trust me.  I admit it.  I love talking about myself.  And wow, if talking about myself can *help* someone?  AWESOME.

I hope I’ve dispelled any mental blocks you’ve had about networking, because it’s time to get started.  Next post: How to write that letter asking for help.