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Career advice to millennials: a job is just a job, just get started

Whether you’re a frustrated millennial, or someone reconsidering your career, Maggie McGary offers up sound, no-nonsense advice based on her long, winding career path.

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maggie mcgary

Advice from an industry veteran

You probably know Maggie McGary from her 10+ years in the association world, or you may have seen her on stage talking about the state of affairs of both non profits, social media, and the intersection between the two. But McGary didn’t graduate college and immediately land in her current career, no, like most people, it was a diverse path that has gotten her to where she is.

Millennials are one of the most under-employed groups in America, and many are frustrated, but we look back at McGary’s lengthy career, and she advises flustered millennials to just get started, and while the job landed today may lead to a dream career down the road.

Q: Tell us about your current work – what do you do?

A: I’m the online community & social media manager for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a professional association representing more than 150,000 speech-language pathologists (SLPs), audiologists and speech, language and hearing scientists. I’m responsible for all facets of social media: strategy, training, implementation, monitoring and daily management of ASHA’s social media channels and blog.

Q: How did you get into your current role? What was that path like?

A: I started at ASHA as a web content developer, a skill I was forced to learn on the fly in my previous job as web content coordinator. At that point, I was a personal blogger with a passion for social media, and managed to morph my role away from web content and into social media management.

The path has been interesting and challenging; what started out as just pure fun and a hobby is now the way I earn a living… which is both good and bad. Good because, well, who wouldn’t want to get paid to do what they do anyway in their own time, but bad because now that it’s a job, when I’m doing it for fun, it feels like I’m still at work! But all in all, I definitely can’t complain (although I need to find a new hobby!).

Q: What were you doing at age 21?

A: I can’t even remember, that was so long ago! Ok, I have a vague recollection of being in my first job out of college, secretary for the trade association representing the nuclear power industry (how I wished the title was at least “administrative assistant” so I didn’t feel like I’d totally just wasted four years getting a college degree. But, secretary it remained until I successfully lobbied to change it to “media relations assistant”…or maybe that’s just what I put on my resume?).

I was, in fact, a media relations assistant, in charge of preparing the daily “clips” package for the media relations staff – a task that consisted of reading about 10 newspapers, and cutting out any/all articles that in any way related to the nuclear energy industry then gluing them onto copy paper and, once the whole chore was complete, making copies and distributing them, and I monitored the AP wire as it came in over a dot matrix printer, assembling press kits, answered phones, and also word processing, as it was called back in the day.

That was my first inkling of techie-ness, as I was pronounced the Wang expert in the office (for those of you who think I’m just being rude, Wang was the 1990’s equivalent to Microsoft) and tapped to be trained as the Wang administrator. At the last minute, they decided that the mail guy deserved it more and I was left to my clips package and coffee making duties. Just as well, because today, being a Wang adminstrator would be a useless skill, while coffee making is something I still do daily… but just for myself.

Q: How has your professional life evolved since then?

A: Well, no more Wang, for one thing. Or dot matrix printers, or cutting and pasting newspaper articles. Now, they have this thing called the Internet and I spend about 16 hours a day on it. I did manage to work my way out of the secretarial pool, and up to a managerial position with my own office.

Of course, now I’m in a cubicle again, but I also have a job that can be done from virtually anywhere, and stuff like my title or where I sit doesn’t really matter to me anymore.

Something I never dreamed I’d be doing back then is something I do frequently now: public speaking. My degree was in English and I always thought I’d be a writer, which I’m not, exactly, although I get to do a decent amount of writing between my personal blog, blogging at work, and writing occasional articles for ASHA and other publications.

All I can say is thank god for the Internet – it has opened up a career path for me that I’d never even have been able to dream of back when I was 21, because it would be another five years before I’d even hear about “the worldwide web,” and another five to become totally addicted to it.

Q: What career advice do you have for millennials?

A: The main thing I’ve learned in the 20+ years I’ve been working is that all you need to do is get a job, somewhere. It doesn’t matter doing what, because most of the opportunities that arise come from already being inside a company. Whether it’s meeting people you learn from, seeing other jobs you never knew existed and deciding that’s what you want to do–or never want to do, or being able to try on different hats before committing to a certain career (or even just doing that particular job for a year or two), you can learn a ton just from working, period.

I’ve done many different things over the past 20 years – planned and run meetings, edited, created websites, fetched coffee and lunches, sat through a billion meetings, traveled, met a ton of cool people, and made some good money. I cared a ton about my title at various times, but in retrospect, it doesn’t matter what it was at any point along the way, or what it is now, for that matter.

What matters is that I’ve managed to figure out a bit about what I hate doing and what I like doing, and what’s important to me versus what isn’t. I still don’t know where I’ll end up, but at least I know there are a lot of choices out there.

Also, remember that a job is just a job – there is always another one out there, even if everyone says there isn’t.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. jessicanow

    November 5, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I couldn’t agree more.  My first job in 1999 was an executive support person at a big technology and business consulting firm during the internet bubble, after three months I was getting more opportunities within the company through networking internally.  The only advice I would add is that if you can’t expect to get advancement if you don’t ask for it. And by asking for it I mean talking to your manager and saying, “I’m committed to the success of our organization and I would love to map out a plan to grow…can we map out a growth plan so I know what milestones I need to reach in order to be promoted?” That will start the conversation but make sure you back that up with working hard and going above a beyond…an “it’s not part of my job description” will counteract any of those efforts. @jessicanow

  2. maggielmcg

    November 5, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    @cmcniece thanks!!

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Ending a dismal year, Samsung says goodbye to CEO

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following a tumultuous year, Samsung now must face their CEO, Kwon Oh-hyun, stepping down.

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Among exploding phones, recalled washing machines and an indicted former chairman, Samsung has had a rough year. Just as they start to get back on track, they have one more crisis to deal with.

Kwon Oh-hyun, Samsung CEO, has officially announced his departure.

In a letter to the employees, Kwon announced his plans to leave the company by March of next year. His words touch on all of the typical sentiments, like that he “had been thinking long and hard about (leaving) for quite some time,” and that he wants to “move on to the next chapter in his life.”

What Kwon doesn’t make clear are his exact reasons for leaving.

He mentions that Samsung is in an “unprecedented crisis inside and out,” without sharing any specifics. Via his own words, Samsung needs to reshape their company to keep up with the ever-changing IT industry.

Kwon believes that young, fresh leadership could be the answer that Samsung needs.

Though Kwon’s departure may seem like another hit for the company, it could be a new chapter for Samsung as well.

And it is a change they desperately need. Recently, Samsung has made the headlines with scandal after scandal.

Earlier this year, Jay Y. Lee, former Vice chairman, was found guilty on multiple charges of bribery. The charge, which Lee is now serving five years in prison for, also resulted in the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Samsung also lived through two major recalls this year. They officially took the Galaxy Note 7 off of the market after various accusations of batteries overheating led to fires.

Samsung also recalled 2.8 million washing machines because their “violent vibrations” caused some users to be injured.

Major scandals like these are enough for any company to flop. However, Samsung is still in the game. Kwon’s letter calls for the company to start anew, which is exactly what they need to do to stay afloat.

Of course, creating devices that do not cause injuries and fires will be a start. In addition, new leadership will keep the company relevant and hopefully, revive their reputation.

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Business News

Identity-protecting roller stamps are a must for any office

(BUSINESS NEWS) Your identity is one of the most valuable things, that’s why Guard Your ID has created a stamp for when shredders won’t work.

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The massive Equifax hack made nearly everyone feel vulnerable, but the truth is that every day we knowingly engage in activity that puts our privacy at risk.

Just think of how many times you give up your telephone number when signing up for a new magazine subscription. Or the numerous times you thoughtlessly threw away mail containing confidential information.

There are so many opportunities to accidentally reveal private information but luckily, there are an equal number of ways to prevent it. Though you may think that identity theft could never happen to you, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Of the various tools invented to help you protect your identity, one of the newest is actually very simple. The company Guard Your ID has recently introduced privacy protection rollers and stamps. These gadgets are simple, quick and effective to help shield your identity on virtually anything.

The oil-based ink works on both glossy and non-glossy surfaces without smearing or rubbing off. These stamps work by creating an encrypted pattern which makes text unreadable.

Though shredding is another effective way to protect your identity, the rollers and stamps are more environmentally friendly. At some centers, shredded paper cannot be accepted as recyclable material. In addition, you can stamp more things that you can shred.

For example, you may want to cover up a label on a prescription bottle. The protection stamps are more versatile than shredding, and also more cost effective.

An Identity Protection Stamp can be purchased for under $20 and has a shelf life of 2-3 years. A wide format roller is also available for larger surfaces. In addition, refillable ink can be bought for the wide rollers.

It may seem like a nuisance to start stamping every label, bank statement and mail that contains any piece of private information on it, but in the end, it may be worth it. Just think of how much time you will spend freezing your accounts and recovering your identity if it is stolen.

It may seem silly, but today even a simple stamp goes a long way in protecting your identity.

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Business News

Zuckerberg used VR to highlight hurricane Maria destruction

(BUSINESS NEWS) Mark Zuckerberg tapped into his Occulus VR conference abilities to highlight the damage Hurricane Maria did to Puerto Rico.

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We know at this point that Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, but it can be difficult to understand the true extent of the damage without being there. We’ve seen some images and some video but Mark Zuckerberg is taking it to another level.

In a new partnership with the Red Cross, Zuck is taking to virtual reality to assist relief efforts.

In a presentation from Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, Zuckerberg took Facebook users on a 360-degree tour of the hurricane destroyed island, using a combination of artificial intelligence and satellite imagery to determine areas with the most significant need.

Explaining his use of technology and its purpose, Zuckerberg said, “We use artificial intelligence to build what we call ‘population maps’ so you can look at satellite imagery of an area and get a sense of where it is that people actually live and the density of different places and where there’s infrastructure going to in those places. That’s going to help the Red Cross figure out where people are who need help.”

He also went through Facebook’s plans to restore internet connectivity on the island, which has been struggling to get power and resources back after the category 3 hurricane slammed the island with 125 mile per hour winds last month.

Zuckerberg said his company has already sent employees to the island to investigate damage and get networks working properly.

Speaking on the importance of internet and its integral role in the island’s ability to communicate domestically and abroad, he said, “When you are in the middle of a disaster like this, it’s really important that people have access to the internet. But it’s also important so that when relief workers go down there, they can coordinate with each other and know where people need help.”

There has been a bit of blowback from the VR tour though. A few of Zuck’s critics are calling him “tone deaf” saying that having the avatar chit-chat in front of flooded and destroyed home made it seem like he was cashing in on a natural disaster to plug his Occulus brand.

While his intentions were probably in the right spot, no matter how it came off, this is the first time that VR has been used for disaster coverage and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

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