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Op/Ed

Your career depends on you, and the mentors you select

(EDITORIAL) Moving up in your career can be dependent on your drive to be better, but improving does depend on who you choose to teach you

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career mentor

Remember when you were younger and were encouraged to join extra-curricular activities because they would “look good to colleges”? What if the same were true for your career?

While applying to a university may be a thing of the past for you, there are still benefits to having extra-curricular activities that have to do with your career. Networking is a major piece of this, as is finding mentors who will help point you in the right direction.

These out-of-office organizations or clubs differ for every industry, so for the sake of this article, I will use one example that you can then interpret and tailor towards your own career.

The Past President of the national Federal Bar Association, Maria Z. Vathis, is someone who has taken the extra-curricular route throughout her entire career, and it has paid off immensely. Working as an attorney in Chicago, Vathis joined the FBA shortly after beginning her legal career and now is the Past President of the almost 100-year old organization.

She started working her way up the ladder of the Chicago Chapter of the association, and eventually became the president of that chapter. At the same time, she was also becoming involved in the Hellenic Bar Association, and would eventually become national president of that organization, as well.

“Through these organizations, I was fortunate to find mentors and lifelong friends. I was also lucky enough to mentor others and to have opportunities to give back to the community through various outreach projects,” said Vathis. “As a young attorney, it was priceless to gain exposure to successful attorneys and judges and to observe how they conducted themselves. Those judges and attorneys were my role models – whether they knew it or not. I learned how to be a professional and how to work with different personality types through my bar association work.”

Finding people in your industry – not just in your office – can be of great help as you go through the journey of your career. They can help you in the event of a job switch, help collaborate on volunteer-based projects, and help collaborate on career-advancing projects (like writing a book, for example).

And all strong networks often start with the help of a mentor – someone who has once been in your shows and can help you handle the ropes of your new career. Most importantly, they’re someone who you can seek advice from when you’re faced with someone challenging – either good or bad.

“I have been unbelievably fortunate with my mentors, and I cherish those relationships. They are good people, and they have changed my life in positive ways. I still draw on what they taught me to help make important decisions,” said Vathis. “My career success is due in large part to the fact that my mentors took an interest in my career, had faith in my abilities, and supported me while I held various positions in the organizations. Not only is it important to continue having mentors throughout your career, but it is important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you will learn something from, so it’s important to remain open. Also, after you become seasoned, it is important to give back by mentoring others.”

When asked why it’s important to be part of organizations outside of the office, Vathis explained, “To build a book of business, you need to be visible to others.” She also stresses the importance of putting yourself out there for new affiliations and challenges, because you never know where it may lead.

If you’re unsure of how to start this process, try asking co-workers and other people in your professional life if they have any advice or recommendations of organizations that can help advance your career. Another simple way is to Google “networking events in my area” and see what speaks to you. In addition, never be afraid to reach out to someone with a bit more experience for some advice. Take them out to coffee and pick their brain – you never know what you may learn.

Staff Writer, Taylor Leddin is a publicist and freelance writer for a number of national outlets. She was featured on Thrive Global as a successful woman in journalism, and is the editor-in-chief of The Tidbit. Taylor resides in Chicago and has a Bachelor in Communication Studies from Illinois State University.

Op/Ed

Social isolation can literally kill you – we need each other

(EDITORIAL) Social isolation and aloneness have bigger consequences than most people realize.

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introspection ask yourself

Can isolation kill you?

Starling birds are often considered a pest because these birds are abundant and usually come in mobs.

Researchers studied the effect of isolation on common starlings and found that when the birds were separated from the flock, it caused increases of the stress hormone, corticosterone. These gregarious birds did not handle isolation very well.

“We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct,“ said Dr. Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey.

We need other people.

Loneliness and isolation have the same effect on humans. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that loneliness increases the risk of mortality by about 26 percent. Social isolation has a little higher risk, 29 to 32 percent.

Most people tend to feel lonely or become more socially isolated as they age.

Some experts believe that middle-aged men are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling, and it’s just as damaging as being socially isolated.

The researchers pointed out that someone who is happy to be alone still suffers from social isolation and thus, the increased risk of death.

On the other end of the spectrum is a person with a lot of social connections, but who does not actually connect with another person face-to-face. This loneliness is not good for people.

When you’re feeling lonely, it’s not enough simply to interact with others. You have to make an emotional connection. People cannot read your mind.

When you’re lonely, you have to let others know.

If you have a support group, reach out. If you don’t have a network of friends and family, you are going to have to create one. For me, it’s my church and community organizations.

You might find friends at the gym, in a theater group, or through volunteering at your local animal shelter.

Go and play cards with a person in a nursing home or just talk. You might be saving their life through your connection by keeping them from feeling alone while also helping yourself.

This story was first published here in 2018.

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Op/Ed

Career pauses can feel painful but can lead to new avenues

(EDITORIAL) My job pause(s) lead to a complete career change…maybe. While at times nausiating, they can lead to refreshing new outcomes

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Career change

What’s worse than stand-still traffic?

The start-stop traffic.

In a standstill, you know where you stand…still. In stop n’ go n’ stop again traffic, you have no clue. You go from 5 to 50 again for all of three feet then back to 5. Eventually, you don’t even care about getting to your destination anymore just so long as the tedium ceases.

My jobs went almost exactly the same way.

Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. And each time I had to take a pause, I didn’t have enough time, money, or interest to keep up with the rising trend of ‘content creators’ who can film, edit, script, photograph, edit THOSE, AND do blogs and emails replacing copywriter positions. So I just stayed scrambling until I could ‘relax’ into a career gig that ended shortly for one reason or another.

Even though I left each advertising job under different circumstances, in late 2019, I realized ‘Okay, maybe it’s ME. Maybe if I’m this frustrated with the traffic, I need to pull off the road.’

The last shift saw me go from copywriter, to house cleaner, to heavy metal head shop gal, to moderating freight brokerage in the span of two months. Hell of a detour…

Of course now that I’m out of full-time work in the field I sold my credit score to break into, the guilt of having left a career I soured on to break into a field I didn’t need to go to college at all for is…crushing. And new beginnings, with wages to match, are hard no matter who you are.

However, this shame and heaviness is all coming from the inside. My parents are proud, my friends are happy for me, and I have yet to hear anyone actively dumping on my decision to purposely exit the salaried copywriting field. And even if everyone sucked about my choice, it wouldn’t change the fact that so far it’s the best one. At some point, you gotta shake yourself by the shoulders, borrow from Mrs. Knowles-Carter, and scream: Suck on my job cause, I’ve had enough.

Why deal with a stigma when you could deal with stigmata, right? Those are way cooler. And I’m pretty done with wounding myself either way.

Multiple small, panicked hiatuses taught me something. Some things. First thing: truly powerful screaming comes from the belly, not the throat. Most relevant thing: I don’t want to write for other people, nor for brands that can’t use some variant of my own voice.

I thought I was a copywriting mimic octopus who could change colors, shapes, and textures to suit an environment, but this whole time I’ve been a chameleon— always keeping my funky fresh shape, and only changing colors to suit how I feel, or to attract mates. Gentlemen.

I’m not going to act like career pauses are some great thing in which to discover yourself and do some eat, pray, love BS. I quite literally almost died of a bad infection during a time I was on a pause with no heath insurance. The pauses were financially and mentally draining, and if it weren’t for extreme strokes of good fortune in several places, I wouldn’t be in a position to write this piece.

What I will say is that I was able to bid the misshapen phoenix cycle I was on a phrantic pharewell, at least I think so. Anything’s liable to change, such is life.

For now, there is only to bag up the ashes and try to use them in fertilizing my next steps.

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Op/Ed

Women empowering phrases can hurt if they’re not authentic

(EDITORIAL) Who’s the Girl Boss? If you have to ask, it isn’t you…and if you have to answer, it’s not you either. False empowering words for women hurt too.

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women inspiring shirt

Pinkwashing. Noun. The practice of cynically plopping of a pastel shade, a string of lace, or a little glitter on absolute Grade-C bull$#!+, and using it to pry open the wallets of women.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. I’m too Deep ™ to enjoy a little fun flashiness or high-femme shenanigans, so I’m invested in raining on your parade, but I assure you this next truth bomb is coming from my heart, not my massive superiority complex.

“Girl Boss, Fempire, Boss Babe” and more are all empty ass phrases designed to separate us she-beasts from our money, our time, and our sanity as business owners.

I’m not against a bumper sticker or enamel pin here and there, don’t get me wrong. If you think for a second I wouldn’t own a shirt that says ‘Boss Bat’, and wear it to literally every business-type meetup under a blazer, you’re just mistaken.

BUT, I’m not here to rant about trinkets and tees this time. That’s the icing.

The moldy, thumbtack-filled cake we’re slicing up here is about the deeper issue of a toxic ‘hustle culture’ being marketed to women, and how insidious it can be for those of us who have to push back not just against the competition, but the idiotic stereotypes about our gender.

As difficult as it can be for even the straightest, whitest of men to start a business without also being rich, the fact that women still need to prove ourselves in a man’s world is an added hardship.

And now that people have realized there’s money to be made exploiting the railing against that hardship, the same dangerous crap being marketed to business owners has now taken on the mask of feminine solidarity.

‘Babes, it’s SUPPOSED to be this hard, stay up the extra 48 hrs and slap on a sheet mask, you’re building your fempire’.

‘Hey, chica, you can’t let the boys see you slip! Get that mani-pedi while you reschedule your pap smear around your conference calls for the 15th time!’

‘Sis, the only source of light you’ve seen in the last month being your computer screen reduced your fine lines and wrinkles! You GLOW girl!’

This is a gaping, gangrenous wound, and a cute lil hashtag-bandaid isn’t going to help matters.

We are literally breaking, bankrupting and KILLING OURSELVES for this ideal.

Know why selling Scentsy is so difficult? It’s not because you’re on your ‘lady-grind’, it’s because it’s a damn pyramid scheme, and you’re not supposed to do well at it.

It’s girl power to study by the lights in your car so you can pay for that “empowering (prerecorded) womens’ webinar’ in the first place right? Dude…no.

Now look.

I recognize that it’s important to make a big deal out of hardworking, successful women, because we’re still, some-crazy-how, not expected to be successes in the first place. It’s not just tempting to stand tall with your feet on the bloody backs of whatever you’ve conquered and scream ‘The best revenge is my paper and your DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM’, it’s necessary.

We’ve not only got the onus on us to make it happen against the odds as A: An entrepreneur, B: A woman, and C: Any other marginalization “points” you might have, there’s the added responsibility of not being allowed to be quiet about how well we’re doing.

Dangit, someone has to pass the torch. Someone has to be the name little girls pick when they’re asked to name a recent example of a “small-brained femoid” kicking entrepreneurial ass. Someone has to support other gals on their come-up, and take the publication photos, and give the Big Sisters – Little Sisters benefit banquet keynote speech, right?

That’s all very true! The spotlight can’t be abdicated frivolously, though I maintain that we’re ALL due for a vacation.

But we women have to also recognize the difference between being catered to and being sold to.

Having the same fast-fashion, peely-print t-shirt as a whole half the planet sucks anyway.

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