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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

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 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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Better.com CEO fires nearly 900 folks over Zoom, right before the holidays

(NEWS) Better.com CEO, Vishal Garg is no stranger to controversy, but now he emotionlessly laid off 900 employees, effective immediately, via Zoom.

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Better.com CEO Garg

The ironically named website, Better.com, is a mortgage originator with a 4 Billion dollar valuation. Better.com CEO, Vishal Garg is no stranger to controversy not only for alleged fraudulent activities at two previous business ventures and for allegedly misappropriating tens of millions of dollars, but also for the mistreatment of his employees. His now-infamous email, which was leaked by Forbes where he berated his staff, calling them “Dumb Dolphins” and claimed they were “embarrassing him”. One of his “most loyal lieutenants” had to be placed on administrative leave for, surprise-surprise, bullying.

Once again, Garg is making headlines for the mistreatment of his employees. He emotionlessly laid off 900 employees, effective immediately, via a Zoom call. Garg cites “stealing from co-workers and customers by only working two hours per week the as a reason for the mass lay off, claiming that some of his staff only worked two hours per week. What is important to remember, however, is that much of his staff are comprised of underwriters, who are capped at a certain number of files per day, and once they have completed those files, they cannot work again until the next day. This obviously means that “productivity” would look very different for underwriters as opposed to other members of staff.

He also laid off the entire diversity, equity, and inclusion recruiting team, showing what values are actually important to him, and apparently, it is not diversity and inclusion. He claims that Human Resources will be in touch with the recently laid off staff about severance, however, it is unclear what their severance packages will look like. To make matters worse this mass firing occurred just weeks before Christmas. Better.com recently became publicly traded and is prepping to end the year with more than a one BILLION dollar balance sheet.

To treat your employees so callously, and with no regard is totally unacceptable, and the common practice of treating your staff as commodities is becoming increasingly more intolerable. This behavior however is unfortunately not uncommon among CEOs, with an estimated 4%-12% of ALL CEOs exhibiting psychopathic traits, a statistic I was hesitant to believe prior to learning about Garg. And if you feel like you’ve been wrongfully terminated, check out our article to find the best next steps. 

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Business News

Toys R Us is coming back with a vengeance after a rough bankruptcy

(NEWS) Toys R Us is opening their newest store complete with a 2-story slide and ice cream parlor, as well as an exclusive partnership with Macy’s.

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Toys R Us

Millennials rejoice!

Toys R Us is back and better than ever. The toy giant filed for bankruptcy in 2017, which resulted in many nostalgic adults lamenting the loss of their favorite childhood toy store. Not only is Toys R US opening up a new 20,000 square foot location inside New Jersey’s Dream Mall, which will boast a two-story slide and an ice cream parlor, they are also partnering with Macy’s to have products available in 400 stores across the United States, as well as maintaining their presence abroad and online.

This store will be the first Toys R Us owned by WHP Global, who bought a controlling stake this year, but also the only store in the United States. Between big box retailers and one-click ordering with practically instantaneous shipping, many brick-and-mortar retailers just can’t compete. If that wasn’t challenging enough, many businesses face ever-shifting consumer demands, a dragging economy, and a global pandemic, making maintaining brick and mortar stores and businesses, even large ones, incredibly difficult.

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many businesses including JC Penney, J. Crew, and Neiman Marcus have faced the same fate and had to declare bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy is rarely the end for many companies. For companies, bankruptcy can mean many things, from reorganization to liquidation, and in some cases other companies get an opportunity to purchase these businesses, meaning consumers may see their favorite businesses return. Other companies choose to completely eliminate their brick and mortar stores entirely and return solely online.

Many stores and businesses are shifting their offerings, creating limited-edition offerings, and going to great lengths to stay in hopes to compete and stay relevant. For example, PetSmart is targeting pet parents this holiday season by offering matching, customizable pet and human sweaters, and holiday pet portraits. In keeping with the “ugly” holiday sweater craze, Microsoft created and sold out a minesweeper “ugly” sweater. Proactiv, which is a famous skincare brand known for its acne healing effects, is rebranding as Alcheeme and is expanding its product lines to offer solutions to many common skincare issues, including eczema, rosacea. And the Container Store is partnering with vendors such as Circuit, The Home Edit, and Blueland. Their Chief Merchandising Officer, John Gehre, said “Sustainability and the support of small businesses are not only priorities for our company, but our customers, too.”

Businesses are attempting to keep up with the needs and interests of the consumer in many creative and well-researched ways during one of the most difficult times for businesses in history

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Desperate times call for desperate measures. Seasonal employment scams are back on the menu and here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation surrounding the holidays, employment scams typically have a resurgence during this season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions and beyond aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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