Lessons I wish I’d Learned Sooner…

So, here I am on January 20, 2014 and I’m just now beginning to reflect on 2013. It was a crazy year for me filled with many good things (i.e., graduating with my master’s degree; getting a job; seeing Josh Groban), and some events that I wish I could erase.  I’m a planner and I pride myself on knowing what to do in these situations. Because things often didn’t go as I planned in 2013, I often found myself a little unprepared for how to handle new and challenging situations. As such, I wanted to share a few of the lessons I learned in the last year, so that you can be prepared in case you find yourself in a similar situation. These lessons aren’t things that you haven’t heard before; I don’t proclaim to be presenting you with rocket science. However, sometimes hearing these things from another person can help them seem more applicable to you. Enjoy 🙂

Lesson #1: Expect the Unexpected. 

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. – Randy Pausch

It’s not rocket science, folks. We all have preconceived notions about how our lives will play out. We get it into our heads that we are going to follow a linear path that will be smooth sailing with very few waves. We’re going to go to college, graduate, meet the love of our life, get married, have kids…and, well, you know how the story is supposed to end, right? Unfortunately, life rarely takes us in the exact direction that we had expected. Sadly, we’re so caught up in how we think our lives should play out that we’re often unprepared when things don’t go our way. In 2013, I was certain that I was going to get into a PhD program…so certain that I never took a second to think about what would happen if I didn’t. This leads us to the second lesson.

Lesson #2: Have a back-up plan.

You can always change your plan, but only if you have one. – Randy Pausch

Because we often have it set it in our minds that things will turn out as anticipated, we rarely bother to have a back-up plan. We don’t think about what will happen if things don’t go our way. This is what gets us into trouble. I know that some people might not want to have a back-up plan because they’re afraid to think about the possibility of having to use it. Or, people might not have a plan B because they’re superstitious and think it may jinx them. I get it. It makes you realize that there’s a possibility that you may deviate from your life’s course and that you may have no control over this. Although it’s hard to admit it, that’s life. Life is full of bumps in the road that throw us off our chosen path. As such, we need to be prepared. When I found out that I wasn’t going to be accepted into a PhD program, I was terrified. For someone who considers herself to be a planner, not having a back-up plan in place was awful. It was scary not knowing what I was going to do with my life, when I’d thought for so long that I’d be spending the next 5 years of my life in school. This is where accepting the next lesson becomes really important.

Lesson #3: Sometimes taking the path less traveled is OK. I promise.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- 

I took the one less traveled by, 

And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

When things don’t go the way you had planned, it’s hard. Really, freaking hard. I would actually consider this an understatement. Because we’ve been following a certain path for so long and weren’t anticipating being thrown-off course, it’s really hard to accept anything other than what we’d always had in mind. We think that our life is going to follow a straight path and that we’re going to get to point A to point B with no problems. We have an idea of how things should be. Unfortunately, when we do face these bumps in the road, it’s often hard for us to accept that we won’t be following our chosen path. For me, I thought that I was going to go to college and straight into a PhD program. Obviously, that didn’t happen. When I graduated from my master’s program, the obvious next step was going for my PhD. Also didn’t happen. Learning to accept that (twice) is something that I still struggle with at times. Now, I’m currently working in a great job with wonderful people gaining invaluable experiences and learning more about what I want out of life. It certainly wasn’t expected and it isn’t what I had originally wanted. It’s not the smooth path that I would have originally chosen for myself, but being on this new path has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities that I never knew existed before.

Lesson #4: Don’t just focus on the short-term, focus on the long-term, too.

The future depends on what you do today. – Mahatma Gandhi

When we’re faced with making a decision that we didn’t think we’d have to make, it’s often easy to focus on how our decision will effect us in the present. Too often, we don’t take the time to think about how our decision will impact us in the long-run, when everything that we’re doing now will affect our future. If I had only been focusing on the short-term when I didn’t get into a PhD program, I would have moved back to my parents house in May after graduation and wallowed in self-pity for a couple weeks…or months. However, realizing that if I had a shot at getting into a PhD program in the future, I needed to make a decision that would help me reach my goal and get me back onto my original path. This is where the next lesson is important.

Lesson # 5: Weigh your options. 

“When you have to make a hard decision, flip a coin. 
Because when that coin is in the air, 
you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.” – Anonymous 

Despite not having a back-up plan, I had a wonderful support system to help me think through my options. What were my options? What did I want to do? What option would serve as the best stepping-stone to get me to where I wanted to be? I was fortunate enough to have a few job interviews and even more fortunate enough to have a few offers. Making a decision was challenging because it had to be done rather quickly. However, by weighing my options and looking at the pros and cons of everything, I was able to make the best decision for me. And if you’re still having problems determining what you should, just a flip a coin and you’ll have your answer.

Lesson #6: Learn to be OK doing things alone. 

If you make friends with yourself, you will never be alone. – Maxwell Maltz 

Sometimes when we are thrown off-course, we’re often forced to do things and move places that we never imagined. A job may be available, but it may be in a city where you know very few people. Speaking from experience, this can be very difficult. When you’re used to spending all your spare time with friends who you can call on a whim to go out, it’s a stark contrast to being in a new city with few friends. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I think it’s important that you accept that it’s OK to do things alone. You might be lonely at times and it might be difficult, but it will give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself and focus on yourself and your interests.

Day in the Life: Student Affairs Professional Seeking a Job… Any Job.

Going on three months ago, I graduated (for the second time) as a proud alum of Youngstown State with a Masters of Science in Education, specializing in Student Affairs. I had chosen this field largely because of my extracurricular involvement as an undergrad and my interest in organizational politics. After five semesters of 14 hr days, often keeping me on campus till 11pm, hundreds of pages of papers, detailed projects, writing about my feelings, and a three and a half hour comprehensive written exam, I was qualified to cross the stage again, and this time, with a really fancy hood.

To be completely honest, the last three months of my life haven’t been particularly great. I won’t go into detail, but I’m still searching for my first post-college, adult job that requires one of my degrees. Yeah, it’s been frustrating, and I have been utilizing all the resources available to me. At times, its hard not to be discouraged, especially when its feels like the universe is rubbing it in my face that I don’t have the job yet. However, the family members, friends, and mentors I have reached out to have been nothing but supportive as my search continues. (Thanks, everybody!) A friend and former instructor put it to me this way: I may be perfect for a job, but the job just might not be perfect for me. I know I have a lot to offer any employer, and I would love to work at a college or university, helping students have the same kind of positive experience I was lucky enough to enjoy.

So, you may be wondering… what have I been doing to keep busy? Well, blogging here, to start. I won’t lie — it has been really nice to relax and do the things that I want to do on my own time. I wouldn’t trade my education for anything, but it didn’t leave a whole lot of time for activities. I’ve been catching up on TV via Netflix and Hulu Plus, getting out and walking, and reading the things that I want to read. The great thing about getting a degree, though, is that no matter what, no one can take that away. Regardless of what I’m doing, I’m still a Master of something, which is pretty neat to be able to say. I could tell you about all the things that I’ve been up to now that I’m a Master of Science (which is rather ironic for me, actually… I can’t science anything), but I thought it would be more interesting to show you….

Almost every morning, just like this. Since he’s a small dog, Toby actually makes for comfortable snuggling, unlike all those pictures out there of German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers pushing their person out of bed.

1. There are soooooooo many things on Pinterest…  2. That looks cool. Could I make that? 3. Nah, moving on.

Then I go on Pinterest for a while… a long, long while. There’s hot chocolate in that mug, I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I think I should try to get another degree in Pinning and Board Curation.

Toby has his own YSU leash. He majors in naps, with dual minors in lap-sitting and giving sad puppy face whenever you eat chicken.

If I’m at Brian’s, I’ll take advantage of the pool. Someday, I’ll have some semblance of a tan.

Gotta level up. I never really played video games when I was growing up. I was always too busy with school stuff and I didn’t find them that interesting anyway, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

1. Let’s see here.. what new positions are up?   2. Hmm… this one sounds pretty interesting…   3. Yeah, ok, I’ll apply for this one.   4. Ohmyglob, why are cover letters so exhausting?

This is pretty much how it is.

I’m not giving up just yet. I’m applying outside the world of academia to other jobs that suit me, and I’m considering selling some of my crafts online. (Let me know if you’re interested!) If things look up for me, I’ll let you know where I’ll be taking my talents through a LeBron James-style TV special. Check your local listings.

Fighting Imposter Syndrome and “Knowing Your Value”

As Abbie and Jeannette have stated in their posts this we Dames have been on a little bit of a hiatus. For myself, life has simply been unbelievably busy. I’m happy to report that my M.A. thesis is completely written and that I’ve passed my comprehensive exams. I still have to finish thesis revisions, but graduation is getting more and more tangible by the day.

I won’t lie, I have mixed feelings about graduating. I’m extremely happy to be moving on to something new, and I’m looking forward to exploring different job opportunities and just seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, I will not be attending a Ph.D. program next year. I’m okay with this though. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and after going through the process of researching and writing a thesis, I’ve come to realize that I need a break. There are so many things I can do, there are so many ways to find happiness — and I can’t wait to find out what that might be.

I had some trouble getting my thesis started back in February. Unfortunately, when I write I have to start at the beginning. I can’t write the body of a paper first and then go back later and write the introduction. I have to write the intro first, even if it means completely re-writing it later. Once I did get going though, I wrote, edited, and re-wrote almost non-stop — to the point that I almost made myself crazy. I constantly second-guessed myself, stressing about every little detail, worrying that my readers would think I was a fraud, that my argument made no sense, that what I was saying was a bunch of crap. I’ve decided that I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”

Everyone has insecurities about a variety of things, but school has always been a major part of my life. I mean, let’s face it, I’ve been in school non-stop since age 3. That was 21 years ago. (God, I feel old — haha!) So, I forget sometimes that I’m not just a young student who has no authority. I have a Bachelor’s degree, I’m an adult, I have experience. I need to start remembering that and acting accordingly. Just because I’m still a student doesn’t mean that I don’t know things with relative certainty.

It’s the same idea with jobs. I’ve been looking around at different possibilities in between working on revisions. There are a lot of different jobs that I have the education, skills, and experience to do. But, I just need to remind myself that Ican do them. Yeah, they’re not “history” jobs — but that’s perfectly okay. They don’t need to be. I am not an imposter, in history or in terms of my other abilities. They’re not going to look at me immediately and say,  “You? Hahaha. We don’t think so.” I am not an imposter.

In addition to reminding myself that I am not an imposter, the process of writing my thesis also provided me with some insight on knowing my value. Even though I wrote almost non-stop for a month and a half, I didn’t write 24/7. In my downtime, I read a book called “Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth” by Mika Brzezinski (co-host of Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC).

In her book, Mika Brzezinski discusses how she was re-hired at MSNBC in 2007 after losing her job at CBS. Grateful to have any job, Mika took what she could get — even if that meant only working a few hours a day for paltry pay and working the worst hours. A twist of fate resulted in Joe Scarborough singling her out as his desired co-host for a new morning show, but even with her new gig, she was still working on a host of other assignments for the network for far less pay than her Morning Joe co-workers. Upset with her unfair treatment and unequal (or, really in the same ballpark) pay, Mika when to her boss to ask for a raise. Her request was rejected.

This book, and my discussion of it, is not entirely about politics or the gender wage gap. Believe me, that gap is a real issue — but women’s consideration of their own value is equally as important in the equation. Mika, with the help of other famous friends, describes how many women (and some men too) lack the confidence of their own value in the workplace.

Instead of  asking for a raise in a confident manner,  Mika identifies that she went into the meeting with an apologetic tone — that she was sorry she had to ask, that she didn’t want to cause waves, that she understood money was tight and times were tough. She focused on the idea that she was so “lucky” to be on this program and to have a position at MSNBC — that she was grateful.

There’s nothing wrong with humility. But, at the same time, gratefulness isn’t confidence. Mika learned that she had to remember she deserved a raise. She deserved to be there. She was more than qualified for her job. She was valuable.

Here are some great quotes from the book:

“The problem is, a woman is socialized to accept that which she is given. So if somebody tells you that you can’t, you believe it. If somebody says you’re not worth it, you believe it.” – Suze Orman

“The key is to do your research. The most important thing that people don’t realize, especially women, is you can’t go in [to ask for a raise] expecting people to take care of you and that they’re going to be fair. They’re going to try to get the best deal they can.” – Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More

“Assuming power is everything. You have to assume it … [don’t] wait to be asked.”  – Tina Brown, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast and editor-in-chief of Newsweek

“A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand. . . . If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to get the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Imposter Syndrome and not knowing your value go hand in hand. I myself am gulity of feeling lucky or grateful for simply being given the consideration for something. For downplaying my own achievements or my own intelligence to not stand out too much. Even to my own eyes and ears now, these statements sound a little arrogant. But they’re not. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has weaknesses. But we are all valuable in different ways.

Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not valuable. You are.